Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chesapeake revisit a good stop

My wife and I scratched another itch this past summer on a rerun of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia.

On a previous trip, we failed to stop at the Chesapeake Grill for a meal, but decided if we ever returned, that was one of the things we wanted to do.

Why? I really don't know.

A wedding brought up back to the area, so we decided to give it a try.

Maybe it was because of the location, that being on a bridge-tunnel highway that was so unusual.

Maybe it was for the expanse of water one could view from the tables along the wall of windows.

Maybe it was wanting to just sit there, trying to feel how it would be to experience gale-force winds howling across the open expanse of water with waves kicking up over the highway.

We survived the July day, as waters were fairly calm, the sun was shining brightly and there were a few boats skimming over the waters and a few tankers waiting to get into Chesapeake Bay.

The cost of the food is incidental since one has to pay about $15 alone to just get on the bridge. But I was willing.

My wife and I enjoyed the outing and decided that the expansive “water view” across the bay and fishing bridge was exceptional.

Next post: Oct. 20, 2017 (We’ll be out in the wilderness for awhile.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lake Watauga -- a great place to picnic

On a summer trip to a wedding in Virginia, my wife and I drove Highway 321 east from Gatlinburg, TN and about lunch time, started looking for a place to picnic.

After scouring the countryside and a couple of spots, which we didn’t like, we  continued on. We were half expecting to have to pull off to the side of the road to eat our picnic meal.

And then we traveled alongside a lake and came across the picnic area called the Watauga Point Recreational Area. It was one of a few facilities along Watauga Lake, which was formed in 1948 to help control flooding.

We usually look for a picnic table with a shade tree, a nice restroom and perhaps a good view.

Well, the recreation area just happened to fit what we were looking for. It wasn’t too far a walk to the table, and the view was worth it.

Mountains surrounded the giant Watauga Lake on which a number of power boats were operating. The temperature in July was pleasant.

I made a few trips carrying various picnic supplies to the table and then my wife and I just enjoyed the food and the view.

The drive around the picnic area takes one close to the edge of the lake which is in the Cherokee National Forest. The Watauga Reservoir is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority,

Next post: Sept. 19, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Irma or Uncle Sam? Closures possible

Vacation travel is sort of on hold for a lot of people in the southeastern United States.

Hurricane Harvey walloped the Houston, TX area pretty hard recently with devastating flooding results.

Other cities in the area also suffered.

And now, the lookout is for Hurricane Irma, which is potentially to have a heavy impact on Florida. Although at this time Tuesday night, there is no forecast that everyone seems to agree on as to where it will finally make landfall in the US, if at all.

Hopefully it will take the track some are anticipating and make a northeast turn before coming into hard contact with Florida. That would push it out into the Atlantic.

A cool front moving across the US could enhance the storm's move to the east, depending on when the front arrives in the Southeast.

My wife and I are planning on heading out during the last week of this month to make our annual camping trek to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A bigger problem than the hurricane could affect our plans. Senators and congressmen will be fighting over increasing the country’s debt.

If that problem isn’t quickly resolved, the national parks would probably be shut down. Such a situation occurred a number of years ago.

We were headed to the mountains and got to a trailhead/picnic area called Panther Creek in northern Georgia.

Before getting out of our vehicle for a picnic, a couple local guys in a government truck pulled up and told us, because of budget problems, they were closing the place down. And quickly padlocked the facility.

Our meal was enjoyed just down the road where we pulled off.

Whether it is hurricanes or the government, the best plans often end up changed because of things out of our control.

Next post: Sept. 12, 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer break

Taking a summer break, please check back on Sept. 6, 2017. Thanks

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mississippi heat stirs thoughts of California

Golden Gate Bridge, looking toward San Francisco

What to do?

Would one want to live under what may be considered a warm wet blanket for three or four months?

Or spend time in an atmosphere that in the past made one feel anew, refreshed, and full of life?

All too often, it is not what we would like to do, but the reality of the situation.

There is home, family, routine. Everyone becomes comfortable with the everyday.

But that’s not to say, one doesn’t think about other options.

On coastal Mississippi, when the nighttime low temperatures start staying in the 70’s, summer has arrived. That’s usually early to mid-May. 

And those low temperatures hang around, often through September and into October.

And daytime temps usually hit the high 80’s to mid 90’s or higher sometimes.

That’s when my thoughts, though not often as much lately, turn to California Dreaming, and along the Coast, with lows in the 40s and 50s and highs usually in the 70's with low humidity.

I would now change that title to “West Coast Dreaming,” because when I bring up California, a lot of people refer to it as a place inhabited by fruits and nuts. Flyover country residents don’t take a liking to the Left Coast.

But I can’t help it. The West Coast still beckons.

Just this past week, for the first time in ages, I told my wife I had a hankering to once again see the Pacific Ocean.

“Are we going to fly or drive?” she asked.

Let's see, eight hours in the air, or drive seven days out, spend seven days there and take another week to get back home.

Flying would seem to be the best option. And when the costs are added up, would probably be cheaper.

But health issues come into play.

It’s been about five years since our last excursion in that direction and I’m getting the itch.

After all, we are retired, don’t have to answer to any bosses and can chart our own course.

The West Coast is getting closer all the time.

Next post: June 20, 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sometimes a little push is needed

Sometimes the body just doesn't want to do what the mind tells it.

"Go ahead, you have got to do a blog post tonight." the brain said.

"Why?" my body asked.

"Because you post almost every Tuesday night. You know. It helps keep you motivated to maybe do some more serious writing in the future."

"But that's in the future," my body responded. "I'm tired. It's not that I don't want to do it, but tonight I am just plain lazy. Well, not lazy, I just haven't done anything or want to dredge up something from the past concerning any of my travels."

"Well, haven't you done any traveling lately?"

"Not really. That is unless you can call going down to the beach a travel event. Yea, that's what I'll do. I''ll call my beach excursion a travel event. Well, I did take a few pictures. I'll put them on this post and with that I have finished out my weekly requirement.

"Now that wasn't that bad after all."

Next post: June13, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Time for lunch in small town Americana

When traveling, people usually want to try something new.

New, that is, as far as a place to eat. There’s that adventure aspect.

But that goes against the grain sometimes when not in somewhat familiar territory or a town big enough to have a “fast food row.”

On a recent trip, on a road in Alabama never traveled before, lunch time arrived when we were in what some would call the “middle of nowhere.”

Well, it was somewhere for those who live there. But to us, there wasn’t a lot of civilization 20 or so miles before we arrived, and upon leaving, it was the same way in the other direction.

I can’t remember the name of the town, but I believe it was Grove Hill. We had gotten off the main highway to take a break and check out our GPS to see how to get where we wanted to go.

After a few minutes of checking and not arriving at a different decision about how to head north, my wife and I decided to have some lunch.

But where.

The road we took off the main highway into the town took us along the side of a courthouse complex. It was a rather large building. This had to be the county seat, I guess. I didn’t know.

We were traveling on the road parallel to the front of the courthouse, but about a block away. We turned toward the building wondering what was in the neighborhood.

The road curved to the right and away from the courthouse. Before I realized it, we were already back to the road we had come into town on.

But wait, there was a restaurant to the northeast of the courthouse that we had just passed. I figured they had to have somewhat decent food. We turned around and decided to give it a try.

I found out that not only did the Courthouse Square Deli and Bakery serve good and reasonably priced food, but they were located in a building that once housed the Clarke County Democrat, which apparently was a weekly newspaper. I once worked on two weeklies.

The paper served the area from 1856 until 1941, al least that’s what the lettering on the building indicated.

As usual my wife got a salad and water and I had coffee and a Philly cheese steak sandwich.

There was a homey atmosphere to the place, and since it was early afternoon, the courthouse workers had apparently already made their appearance at the regular lunchtime hour.

There were a few patrons in the spacious building, enjoying the socializing that comes with a small town restaurant.

We enjoyed the meal and soon set out upon our adventure.

Next post: June 6, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Opryland resort offers unique experience

Opryland Resort complex at Nashville offers abundance of flowers, walking space

The first time I ever saw the outside of the Ryman Auditorium building in Nashville, TN was back in January of 1967.

It was a very inauspicious occasion that took me to the front of the facility that housed the Grand Ole Opry.

Earlier on that particular day, I had hopped on a Greyhound bus in Hattiesburg, MS, heading north. North into the unknown. North to Fort Campbell, KY, where I would undergo eight weeks of basic training.

The bus station in Nashville was close to the Ryman. It was sometime around 2 or 3 a.m. when we arrived in the city. There was about an hour or so wait before the next bus. 

Some others who were also headed to Fort Campbell all decided to walk down to the famous building.

The middle of the night was cold, but I can’t remember it being bitter cold. We just sauntered down to it, walked around and then went back to catch the next bus.

That was my only personal experience with the Ryman until a couple weeks ago.

On a trip to a college graduation in Louisville, KY., my wife and I spent a couple nights with a relative in Bowling Green. The next day we went back to Nashville, taking in the gigantic Opryland Resort Complex and then driving to downtown Nashville.

After a couple hours of walking around the resort, we weren’t much into walking around Nashville so we just did a drive-by sighting of the Ryman and other downtown spots.

The older one gets, the fewer are the places that one wants to spend time walking around and seeing. Our sightseeing nowadays is more akin to ‘one and done” which means giving our attention and energy to just one location.

The Opryland complex was a delightful surprise with all the walking paths, flowers and plants, and open spaces under those giant domes. The waterfalls were great.

I just loved that aspect of it, being able to be outside while being inside.

We spent so much time browsing around that we decided to enjoy a meal at one of their “outdoor” spots before heading out for a driving tour of the town.

Next post: May 30, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Still recovering from the longest day

How long does it take to physically get over an 800-mile day trip?

Well, so far, it is three days and counting for this driver.

The older one gets, the harder it is to recover. At least, that is what I am finding out.

A one-week trip from home for a college graduation some 800 miles away had a few challenges.

The first, of course, was the first day out when we had a flat tire on the vehicle we were renting and easily swapped it out at another rental location on the road.

But the last day, what turned out to be the 6th day, wasn’t what we had in mind.

Unfortunately, my wife had a medical condition that required an emergency room visit of about five hours on day 5. (She missed seeing her nephew receive his diploma.)

Having somewhat recovered from that, the decision was to get back home as soon as possible in case there was another flareup. We wanted to be close to her personal physicians.

There wasn’t another incident, but it was a long day.

Traveling from Louisville, KY to Ocean Springs included another challenge. Just below Birmingham, AL traffic ahead of us came to an almost standstill.

Traffic was barely moving. 

A month or so earlier, we came upon a traffic slowdown and after getting through it, realized that whatever had happened was cleared up and the slowdown was just a long chain reaction to get back to normal speed.

What was the Alabama situation?

After eventually arriving at Alabaster, AL, we saw ahead that traffic was being re-routed off the interstate onto Highway 31. Vehicles were backed up in all directions.

The officer at the off-ramp said there had been a diesel spill a few  miles down the interstate. Both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-65 were re-routed.

After a short stop for a meal, we headed back into the traffic and edged our way through Alabaster. There was a sign pointing to an I-65 connection.

We took the turn, but there wasn’t anyone following. Did we make a mistake?

After about a three-mile distance, we saw the on-ramp to southbound I-65 and easily got on to it.

It was clear sailing. A mile or so down the road, we saw the on-ramp where most of the other vehicles were getting on the southbound interstate.

The two-hour or so delay resulted in our not getting home until  about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, a long way from the 9-10 a.m. start.

All in all, it was a long, tough day, and I am still feeling some of the effects.

Next post: May 23, 2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trip's first day: A challenge overcome

Sometimes things just don't go as expected.

Like, our current one-week trip.

I picked up our rental car on Monday morning and within a couple hours my wife and I were on the road.

We planned a two-day trip to our first destination up in Kentucky. Looking at a map, there was the thought that taking a different route other than an interstate would be interesting. Well, interesting sounds good until something goes wrong and one ends up with more mileage to cover with less time.

Well, we decided that we would go up Highway 43 from Satsuma, AL and when it intersected with Highway 5, we would take that road to I-20 into Birmingham and then northward on I-65 to Kentucky.

That's the way it seemed to be working. That is, until we hit Mobile. A warning message on the dash signaled that one of the tires was losing pressure. What to do? When a tire is losing pressure that means, of course, that it must be going flat.

Arriving at the rental car franchise in Mobile, the tire was checked. Sure enough, it was low. The car maintenance person spread some soapy water on the tire to see where the leak might be.

The water started bubbling. There was a nail in the tire where the air was escaping. 

The rental car representative at that location quickly offered another vehicle for our use and then we were on our way with only a minor delay.

The rest of the first two days went as expected. Tuesday afternoon we pulled into our first scheduled destination for a short visit.

Life does have its little surprises, but often they can be overcome. Especially when a company's representatives work quickly to help solve a problem. 

Thanks, Enterprise!

Next post: May 16, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Not once, not twice, but three times

Sometimes one just doesn’t plan right.

Take, for instance, this past Sunday.

On  a trip 150 miles to the west over the weekend to Baton Rouge, LA, our plans were to head back home on Sunday morning.

As most everyone who watches the weather can recall, Sunday was not a walk in the park for a lot of people.

High winds and tornadoes resulted in the deaths of a few. Buildings and homes suffered damages. The front extended from the Gulf of Mexico up to the midwest.

My wife and I had a three-fer that day.

Getting up a little too late, we decided to stay put and let the storm front pass through. There were high winds, lightening and some very heavy rains.

We survived.

But then, we did what some would call a stupid thing.

After the major part of the front passed through, we decided to head home.

The storm was heading east. We were also heading east.

Somewhere east of Hammond we caught up to the major portion of the storm. Yes, the winds were heavy, the lightning was there and the downpours were ferocious.

At times we had to cut down to about 45 miles per hour because the rain was so heavy and it was difficult to see more than 100 or so feet ahead.

But we persevered. Others slowed down with a lot of them having their emergency blinkers flashing. The more adventurous just passed us on by as though nothing unusual was happening.

We managed to get ahead of the front and decided to stop for a rest break, knowing that we didn’t have much time to take care of business and get back on the road.

As we were heading out of the gas station, the edge of the front was moving in. The rains began as we got into our vehicle and continued east on I-12.

A few miles down the road and we were out of the weather.

But then again, we weren’t really.

After getting to our home in south Mississippi, we settled in for what we knew was going to happen again.

The bad weather showed up an hour or two later, bringing with it the expected thunder and lightning, high winds and heavy rains.

So, in one day we experienced the same storm three different times.

Just goes to show what can happen when one doesn’t get up early enough to get ahead of  a system.

Next post: May 9, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

LeConte Lodge readies for summer hikers

Mocha and Flash take a break from eating their LeConte salads atop the mountain

Due to circumstances, like lack of stamina, weak legs and knees and perhaps a weaker mind,  I haven't hiked the trail up to LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a long time.

Matter of fact, it has been bout 20 years since we have put ourselves to the test. Seven years ago, my wife suffered a stroke which keeps her off the trails.

The current test for me is seeing how I feel climbing two flights of stairs.

There is a little pain in the knees and legs and the mind says, "Your best days are in the rear view mirror. Forget about it."

But I do  admire those who can muster up the energy for such a task.

And I do admire those who operate the lodge atop the mountain.

During late spring, summer and early fall, hundreds, if not thousands, make the trek, with some spending the night.

The above picture, which I procured from the site www.highonleconte.com, shows a couple pack animals used this month to take supplies up the mountain. Helicopters are also used to supply the lodge.

I've never spent the night there, but have enjoyed snacks purchased on the top of Mount LeConte.

For those who like hiking mountains and the idea of spending the night atop one in a lodge, take a gander at their website on which someone posts about daily activities throughout the year.

Next post: May 2, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sweet Home Alabama does it up big

It is really “Sweet Home Alabama” at one of that state’s most recently finished replacement "Welcome Centers."  The facility is located along Interstate 10 near Grand Bay, AL just east of the Alabama-Mississippi state line.

The state just in the past couple of months completed what I thought was about an almost year-long project on the new building.

My wife and I pass the welcome center often when either going to visit relatives in Georgia or just enjoying a trip to the neighboring state.

We have another relative that works at the center, but she was off the day last week when we passed through.

Watching the tearing down of the old facility, we didn’t know exactly what was planned for the new one which was situated farther off the interstate. 

But the new digs were worth waiting for. We didn’t stop on our first chance since we were in a hurry and didn’t realize that it had opened up.

But we found that Alabama put  a lot of forethought into the building and decided to make it a multi-purpose facility when needed in that it is large enough to be used as a staging area when the need to respond to hurricanes occurs.

It is a huge facility with high ceilings and a light and airy feeling.

There are numerous displays in addition to the traditional tourist information. Picnic tables still dot the landscape and there are wide walkways, with an incline that allows for handicap visitors to easily maneuver into the area.

Its all new, clean and spotless.

Next post: April 25, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Well, the sign says it all

Sometimes laziness hits.

And it shouldn't really, but everyone wants to blame something for not doing what they should.

Therefore, this week's post is just about a sign.

We were on a trip to New Orleans recently and stopped in at a new restaurant. I've already published a story and pictures about the place, but I was holding back the above sign for a time like this.

It is not really a sign of the times, it is a sign for all times, especially Down South, and said in a milder manner.

Grits are one of my favorite breakfast foods, usually accompanied by eggs, bacon, toast and coffee.

I guess someone way in the past didn't want to get too vulgar, but wanted people to know how they felt.

And "Kiss my Grits" has a nicer flavor than the other.

Next post: April 18, 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Atlanta I-85 fire fails to slow us down

Concerning flying anywhere, my contention is that the best time to do so is immediately following and incident concerning an airplane.

Why? Everyone at each carrier should be on heightened alert concerning their own craft and therefore paying more attention to detail as far as maintenance, safety and weather.

Based on that: What is the best time to drive through Atlanta?

How about the day after a major fire that causes part of the interstate to collapse and that part of the highway is closed down.

My wife and I were already planning a trip to Marietta, GA, just north of Atlanta, last weekend when we heard about the fire.

Some people have been arrested and charged with starting the fire under a section of the elevated Interstate 85 that resulted in a portion of the highway collapsing.

I know Thursday night and Friday morning was probably a mess in the city with people trying to find alternate ways to get to work and then get home.

Some schools closed. Some businesses told employees to stay home and try to tele-commute.

That was OK for them, but what about us.

Our options were to not take the trip, find another way around the city or roll the dice and travel the way we normally go.

Prior to heading toward Atlanta on Friday morning, I looked at maps and alternate routes.

We had done something like that before and ran into a lot of traffic and plenty of traffic lights.

I figured that the area around Atlanta was going to be crowded and it would take two, maybe three hours to do that.

We decided to roll the dice. 

Our normal route from Ocean Springs, MS is I-10 to Mobile; I-65 to Montgomery, AL, and then north on I-85 until we hit the Atlanta I-285 bypass. We then head east on I-285, go north on I-75 and travel along the combined I-75, I-85 corridor until it splits north of downtown.

We stay on I-75 up to Marietta.

All I can say is that we made the trip through Atlanta faster than usual.

Traffic at the time, around 5-6 p.m., was rather light. I guess a lot of people got off early and headed home by the time we arrived.

The only bottleneck was when we arrived at the point where the two interstates separate north of downtown, near the location where the fire had been.

I-85 was blocked off both north and southbound. The slowdown was when the I-85 lines were blocked off and people had to merge into the I-75 lanes.

After a momentary delay, although still on the move, we resumed full speed ahead to Marietta. The I-75, I-285 bypass intersection north of town was not that bad.

Having such good luck, we decided to retrace our route on Sunday as we headed back home.

Traffic was at a brisk pace and there was no backup.

But then again that was the weekend.

I guess Monday morning, commuters faced chaos once again as Atlanta tried to get back to the “new” normal.

Next post: April 11, 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A taste of Bay St. Louis at The Buttercup

On a previous trip to New Orleans, we passed through Bay St. Louis, MS and saw a lot of activity around an older house that had apparently been turned into a restaurant.

So on our last trip West, we decided to stop and give The Buttercup a try.

It is located on Second Street just a few blocks away from the main touristy commercial area called Old Town, just a few blocks from the waterfront.

Our noon Friday meal consisted of a shrimp sandwich along with a side of cole slaw. My wife had water and I chose coffee.

My wife and I have gotten into the habit of sharing a meal because, nowadays, a lot of meals tend to be more than large enough for one person. We made the right choice and were very satisfied.

Apparently a few interior walls had been removed to open up the dining area in the house. There was adequate table space inside, along with an outside dining area.

The Buttercup offers a wide variety of foods and is sure to satisfy all taste buds.

We enjoyed the airyness of the restaurant and enjoyed checking off another place that we felt looked intriguing.

Next post: April 4, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The past relived via credit card payment

Throwback to the past -- wife Linda shows an
old paper form used to pay with a credit card.

My wife and I had a small taste of the past, this past weekend.

And that taste of the past of which I am referring, happened like some 20 or so years ago.

Just exactly was it?

Well, it was the old way of paying by credit card.

We had visited an eatery on our way to visit relatives in Baton Rouge, La., and decided to stop off in Bay St. Louis, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

We ordered and shared the meal. When it came time to pay, the waitress caught us a little off guard by what followed, since it was so unusual in this day and age.

Her credit card reader, which was used when patrons made a payment, was not working.

So what did she do? She pulled out the ages-old paper form and wrote down our name and our credit card number on it.

My card had raised letters on it, but I guess she didn’t have the little contraption that allows pressure to be used to make an image of the credit card number.

She wrote the number on the old form, gave us a copy and we were on our way.

The event was a throwback to the “good ole days.”


Next post: March 28, 2017