Sunday, June 27, 2010

Kentucky -- quick trip to bluegrass country

Colorful candy at Habegger's Amish Market outside Bowling Green

Quick trips can be fun and interesting.

How about a 1,150 mile roundtrip in four days.

One day going, two there, and one back.

It was not so quick (about 11 hours each way) and easy from our home in Ocean Springs to Bowling Green, KY to visit an aunt (just six months older than myself) and her husband during a jaunt last week.

The route was I-10 east to I-65 in Mobile and north to our destination.

Relaxing was the name of the game while there, with a little bit of touristing to get a feel for the area.

Thirty three years earlier my wife and I made an excursion to the area during a year in which we quit our jobs and took a year off work to travel the country in an old van.

At that time we helped harvest tobacco plants and hang them in a barn for drying. That was quite an experience. A rainstorm came through and seemed to heighten the smell of the tobacco. 

My wife couldn't deal with that and turned her own shade of green. An up and down ride over the hills on the way to the house enhanced the experience and she needed a bucket which helped keep our van a little cleaner. 

Nowadays there are very few people who grow tobacco in the area.

During our recent trip we took a basic driving tour of the city and then went out in the countryside to a produce stand and a business that were operated by Amish and Mennonite residents.

Downtown Bowling Green was lovely and then we did an almost drive-by shooting (with a camera) of the Corvette Museum in the city.

The town is also home to the headquarters of Fruit of the Loom. A funneral home was the former home of Duncan Hines, a giant in the food industry.

Relatives lived out in the countryside and most of the 

(Photo above right and immediate left taken in downtown park)

byways there were a lane and a half, making going up hills interesting.

Were drivers coming from the opposite direction looking out for us as much as I was looking out for them.

And them before we knew it, we headed back home with good memories and a few pictures.

Habeggar's Amish Market offers wide variety

Another produce stand has its own feel

And . . . a field of flowers on the way back to my aunt's

Next post: Sunday July 4, in the pm

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Foley, Ala. -- full of hot air

A lot of hot air but no liftoff

Unpredictable winds, according to one enthusiast,  were blamed for keeping the hot air balloons from lifting off on the afternoon of the third day of the Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival.

The 6th annual event was held on Fathers Day weekend in southern Alabama at Foley, some 90 miles east of our home. It took close to two hours to get there after making a couple stops and going through a few thunderstorms.

The Foley Sportspark, located on US 98, west of town, was the location of the event that had as many as 44 balloons registered for the competition flights during the event that ran from June 17-20.

Festival-goers could get filled up on a variety of different food items and drinks, browse the Arts and Crafts Village  or be entertained  by a variety of activities that included bands, the Disc-connected K9s World Famous Frisbee Dogs or visit the Antique Tractor/Farm Equipment display.

Youngsters could visit the Children's Village where they were entertained by Sunshine the Clown and Gertie the Clown. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo was  represented and children could be seen with their faces painted.

Free shuttle bus service was offered from locations in town. Parking at the site was just $2 per vehicle.

Skies went from partly cloudy to cloudy as the afternoon wore on. The schedule called for the balloons to land at the area beginning at 6 p.m., but earlier in the day the decision was made, that because of the weather, to scrap the landings.

Nonetheless, a few teams took the time to inflate their balloons to at least give festival goers a good look at the real thing.

Just past sundown, as the balloons were being deflated, winds from the north whipped into the area scattering festival-goers with the threat of rain which was only a few minutes behind. 

We had decided to visit just that one time and therefore didn't get to see any of the balloons in flight although competition flights were scheduled on other days. Well, there's always next year.

Sights of the festival

Come on, honey, its hot out here

Next post: Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Smokys remain favorite spot


I love the Great Smoky Mountains.
Why else would we go there not only once a year, but sometimes as many as three times. And this has been going on for more than 30 years.

We like to camp -- Elkmont Campground is our favorite. It is located up in the mountains about six miles outside of Gatlinburg, on the Tennessee side.

And then again, sometimes, on a quick trip to the area, we forego the camping and opt for a motel room.

(Photos left and immediately below taken on Little River Road between Gatlinburg and Townsend at different exposures to show effect on dripping water.)

Our basic plan is usually to camp in July. That's when, about two or three months ahead of time, we reserve a campsite, usually for a week.

Years earlier, we would stay at Elkmont for three nights and then head over the mountains to Smokemont Campground, which is about six miles from Cherokee on the North Carolina side. We would usually spend three nights there and be able to get back home to Mississippi in one long hard day.

Over the past 10 years we've added another routine which is going to Boone, NC to snow ski. And of course, we have to go a little out of our way to end up going through Cherokee and Gatlinburg.

Back when we first started going to the mountains, the highway from just north of Atlanta to Cherokee was mainly two lanes of traffic. Now, there is only about a four mile stretch that isn't four-laned. It is much faster.

But sometimes we turn off and take Historic US 441 which meanders through a number of small and quaint towns.

Lately we've been going in the spring, this year at Easter break. We stayed in a Gatlinburg motel for the duration, and at a price of under $40 per night which we thought was pretty good.

The motel was located on Airport Road less than a mile from the main drag, Some of the reviews on the Internet weren't too complimentary. But we decided to bite the bullet.

It turned out to be a good move. The first night, there was a little bit of extra noise because of a convention of young people in town. But the rest of the week was pretty quite. Our third floor room had a panoramic view of the downtown area and the mountain ridge to the west.

The temperatures started out on the coolish side for both day and night and then warmed up a little later in the week.

None-the-less, the trip was an enjoyable escape with two or thee days for photo safaris for my wife Linda and myself. She likes taking pictures of flowers. I attempt to do scenics and get some motion into river shots although I did add a few flowers to my portfolio.

That was our first trip of the year.

Our second trip is set for early July. We already have reservations at Elkmont.

And then the third trip. We haven't decided on a definite timeframe, but there's always Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.

The big U-turn on US 441 near the Chimneys picnic  area 

Three following photos: Different exposures, different feeling

ISO 250, 1/8 sec, F20, 90mm on Nikon 28-200
ISO 250, 1/3 sec, F36, 90mm on Nikon 28-200
ISO 200, 1/3 sec, F32, 90mm on Nikon 28-200
Traditional shot when visiting Smokeys

Two photos below taken at Chimneys picnic area

Timed exposure below taken on Porter's Creek 
Trail in the Greenbriar area east of Gatlinburg

Next post: Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bluffs reach for the sky in Utah

Bluff, Utah -- Where does it get its name? Well, just look around.

To the north of this western town are the magnificent and majestic sandstone bluffs that  jut some 300 or more feet into the northern sky. They run as far as the eye can see from the east to the west.

Two of the behemoths have their own moniker, the Twin Rocks. And sitting almost directly below them is the Twin Rocks Cafe.

The small, but historic town, sits along U.S. 191 in the San Juan River Valley. The Navajo Reservation borders the town and to the east lies farmland.

A visit to the area offers a panoramic view of the west from prehistoric times (1300 A.D.) when two tribes (Baket makers and Cliff Dwellers of the Anasazi culture) inhabited the area, to nomadic tribes of Paiutes, Utes and Navajos in the late 1500s. 

Then there were explorers and pioneer groups and eventually the founding of the city in 1880 by the expedition of Mormon pioneers who attempted to establish a farming community.

Figurine at Twin Rocks Cafe

Through the years the area saw its share of mining ventures in coal, oil and uranium along with the challenges of cattle ranching and farming.

The Bluff web site also describes the area as  an active center for artists and crafts people.

A short visit to the area for my wife Linda and I included a stop at the Twin Rocks Cafe and the Barton Cabin, which is all that remains of the original Bluff fort built upon the arrival of pioneers in 1880. 

And then there was our trek into the surrounding countryside to the west of town in search of hieroglyphics. We were told of a place to park our vehicle and to head into the arroyo and follow it to the hill that we had to climb.

Pictures above of the Barton cabin area

Directionally challenge, our trek took us in a roundabout way to our final destination  that offered the cliff drawings. But then again, we wouldn't have wanted to have it any other way. The path and its ensuing beauty was spectacular.

Looking back, I think I didn't give the expedition its due. I feel like I didn't enjoy the moment enough. 

Factors included the time element of the daylight growing short, our needing to head to the Grand Canyon and trying to find a site to camp.

We sort of rushed through the magnificent countryside, not sitting down to fully take in the time and place.

Then there is, possibly, the next time.

But there are always the pictures

Next post: Sunday, June 13, 2010