Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Crystal River State Archeological Site

From Monticello we turned south and headed or a short drive to Crystal River. There we hoped to kayak with the manatees but upon arrival we discovered that the water was too warm. We were told that the chances of seeing the manatees were about fifty-fifty, so instead we opted to visit the Crystal River State Archeological Site.
Jen and Eric drove up from St Petersburg and we first drove around checking out possible launch sites for future paddles. The private boat launch raised their launch price to seven dollars per kayak. It’s a handy placer near to the Three Sisters Springs but there were several other launch ramps so that’s where we are going to launch from now on.
Deciding to discover something new we headed for the Crystal River State Archeological Site. The site has a visitor center, staffed by an extremely knowledgeable volunteer. He told us of the history of the Temple and Burial mounds and directed us to displays of artifacts dug from several of the sites.
After studying the finds, after all you never know when you may come across an artifact while paddling or hiking, we headed out to the First Temple and Burial mound. On the way we passed a small stele which is a large rock set in place and inscribed with runes/drawings. However the marks are covered in lichen and so were not visible.
Climbing the fifty stairs to the top of the Temple we looked across the Crystal River. There the volunteer told us other mounds had been located, all on private land. If I remember right he said there were a total of twenty seven mounds in this multisite complex.
It reminded us of the Iowa’s Effigy Mounds along the Mississippi River and the large mound complex along the Natchez Trail. Further along we stopped at Stele 1, where a face had been engraved.
It has been suggested that these Steles were placed by early Mayans and the other Stele has an apparent blood groove, yikes human sacrifice?
We really enjoyed the other State Site and would definitely recommend it if you are in the area. The next day we headed south and are now parked, for the next two months, in St Petersburg, Florida.

Clear skies

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tallahassee Nature Nuseum

From Chattanooga we headed south west. While it would have been shorter to drive through Atlanta, but we have heard nothing but horror stories and so our drive took us to Montgomery, Alabama and then to Tallahassee.
On the way to Tallahassee we spent two nights at one of our favorite campgrounds, Gunter Hill. It’s run by the Corp of Engineers and is the best campground we have ever seen. Our next stop was at a campground near Monticello, Florida. We have friends we have met on the road, Bob and Sue, who were full timers like us but now own a beautiful Airstream and travel during the summer.
They suggested we visit the Tallahassee Museum. It’s a wildlife museum and zoo in which the animals are in a natural swamp setting. Huge cypress provide the shade from the forest canopy, heavily draped with long beards of grey Spanish moss.
Paths and elevated wooden walkways took us through the zoo enclosure, (you don’t want to visit this place on a rainy day), and after passing some aviaries, with birds of prey we came to the main enclosures. There red wolves, a Florida panther, grey fox, and a black bear.
Now we have seen grey wolves and so to actually see a live red wolf was really neat. At first it lay there watching us, before rising and walking along a path it had made through the detritus on forest floor. The wolves here provide a breeding stock that has been used to allow reintroduction.
Today the red wolves only exist in the wild in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. They range had extended from Pennsylvania to Florida and west into Texas. There are about fifty wild red wolves and about two hundred that are in captivity, providing breed stock for this rare canid.
A little further a Florida panther stood in a corner, hoping for a meal as it’s handlers worked on the outside of its enclosure. I am sure it’s a special treat when the predators managed to grab one of the many wild squirrels inhabiting the zoo.
Another enclosure held a large black bear, resting comfortably in a hole it had dug. It reminded me of why Wall Street refers to bears and bulls as the two types of investors. It also reminded me of a large wild/feral hog.
The next enclosure held two grey fox and they were resting about twenty feet above the ground in a large cypress tree! I never knew that grey fox could climb trees so now I must look for patches of grey fur while birding. One of the sly foxes narrowly opened its eyes watching us, before it decided to go back to sleep.

Tiring, we all decided to head back to Bob and Sue’s house. They told us of two houses for sale nearby but we have no desire to own another house, or to give up our lifestyle. When we started to travel, nine years ago, we thought that we would find a beautiful spot to someday settle down but the problem is that there are too many beautiful spots! Thank you Bob and Sue! Clear skies

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain, Part 2

It was about a seven mile drive from Lookout Mountain to the Chickamauga Battlefield. We had stopped at the Visitor Center the day before so we drove to stop number one, dialed the phone number and listened to the recorded message.
It was basically the story of the first days fight where the Confederates had been delayed by the lighten brigade allowing the Union to establish a defensive line. Stop two told of the next day’s attacks, all repulsed. The lines here were well marked with monuments to the opposing forces, including the largest monument named the Georgia Memorial.
Stop four was where disaster overtook the Union forces, when the Union General, safely far back from the fighting pulled troops from the center. He had made the mistake thinking a gap existed on the left where none existed and crated a huge gap in the center. The Confederates attacked, found the gap and split the Union Army/
When the Confederates came out of the woods by the Union Generals headquarters he mounted his horse and rode off with other generals telling his staff it was every man for himself, (he rode off to Chattanooga and made no attempt to rally his forces.
The right side of the line was held by the Lightening Brigade, a Union Mounted Infantry Brigade armed with Spenser Repeating rifles. They held off numerous attacks before being forced to withdraw and their position is dominated by their Memorial to Wilders Brigade. It’s a high tower and you can climb the stairs to the top.
As the Union forces were being routed, the only remaining Union Major General, George Thomas, pulled troops together and formed a line along the Snodgrass form.
He set up his headquarters about one hundred and fifty yards behind the lines which he established along a horse shoe shaped ridge.
There he rallied forces who then held off attack after attack allowing the retreat of the main Union forces to Chattanooga, (and he was given the name the Rock of Chickamauga).
Later he and his troops would distinguish themselves when they took the right flank of Seminary Ridge. In that Battle Sherman’s Corp had been stopped in their attack up the left flank. Thomas’s force was order to simply take the rifle pits at the bottom of the ridge but instead fought their way to the top, taking the cannons and routing Braggs Confederate Forces, (Braxton had made a mistake and put his defense on the actual crest of the ridge instead of on the military crest and so his forces couldn’t fire down on the attackers.
We have been to many of the Civil Wars major battlefields including Shiloh, Gettysburg, and Antietam. All are sites were men fought with honor and courage and all are hallowed ground. All are places people today should visit.
Perhaps then the idiots here who call for succession and the idiots in Congress would spend their time trying to heal and fix what is wrong with this country instead of simply fighting against anyone who suggests hope. These are the people who Roosevelt talked against when he said,”the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Clear skies 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lookout Mountain

I was lucky enough growing up to have lived close, six blocks, to a Carnegie library. As a small child, I remember the day when I was old enough to check out books at the adult library. Flying up the stairs I got my adult library card and decided that I would read every book on the shelves.
Of course I never had a chance but I did read every science fiction and history book I could and if I hadn’t become a science teacher my next choice would have been history.
So since we have been traveling, we have now been on the road starting our ninth year, I have tried to visit places I have taught or read about. You can probably guess why we were in Chattanooga, I wanted to visit the Chickamauga Battlefield and Lookout Mountain.
Stopping at The Chickamauga Visitor Center we were given a map, detailed directions, and told of the new phone guided tour number. It would allow us to dial a prerecorded number, enter the site number, and get a description of what we were looking for at that stop. Wow did it work great!
So the next morning we got up and hurried off to Lookout Mountain. Now the battle for Lookout Mountain took place after the Battle of Chickamauga but there was a reason for the order. From the Lookout Mountain’s Point Park one can see Moccasin Bend, Chattanooga, Seminary Ridge, and Browns Ferry.
Lookout Mountain actually fell before the final battle when the Confederates withdrew their troops and cannons, trying to shore up their defenses on Seminary Ridge. The drive up to Point Park was over narrow and winding roads that were not easily navigated by out truck, (we got there early and were able to get a parking spot behind the visitor center, and we would not have fit in a street parking spot).
Looking down we could see Browns Ferry, which Grant’s troops secured, relieving the Federals troops besieged by Braxton Bragg, (the Confederate General). Inside the visitors center is an amazingly detailed and huge painting of the Battle of Lookout Mountain.

It is so detailed that you can actually see the rings of smoke from the cannon fire and see how the up slope wind carried the smoke rings up the mountain. After studying the painting we next walked to the Peace Monument and then to each Confederate Battery.
At one of the viewpoints there were displays of signal flags and hardtack, a whole case! Time however was not on our side and so we returned to the truck and headed down the mountain to the Chickamauga Battlefield. End of part One. Clear skies

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Brief Stop In Nashville, Tennessee

We left Keosauqua intent on taking it easy. So we drove to Mount Vernon, Illinois, spent the night and then drove to Nashville, Tennessee. Having stayed at Nashville before, the reason for our stop was to visit the antique store, made famous on the show Antique Archeology.
Leaving the campground we drove across the city, past the Titans football stadium, and through the downtown. As we neared the store we hit an area of closed roads undergoing construction, but we eventually found the shop.
It had just opened and already the parking lot and surrounding parking spots were filled with the shows fans. We finally found a parking spot big enough for our truck and it was only two blocks away! Having heard that there were often waiting lines to get into the store we were pleasantly surprised that we were able to walk right in.
The store was crowded, but we were still able to move around and admire the displays. A lot of the items were not for sale, but almost everything was recognizable as items we had seen on the show.
The back of the store was occupied by three employees selling t-shirts and souvenirs, (hm maybe we should sell t shirts).
Our favorite display was the Indian Motorcycle. Renitas Dad and Mom had owned one years ago and if you ever rode with her Dad I am sure the ride on the motorcycle must have been thrilling to say the least, (he also drove a cab in a city and was an aggressive driver to say the least).
There weren't any rocks for sale or even any fossils, ( I don't think the mummified body from South America was real), so we passed on buying anything. Still there was a beautiful wood jukebox that drew our eyes and the giant pigs head hovered over the door. The store was actually filled with more people than items and it must be difficult to keep it stocked with the huge crowds.
The rest of the old factory was filled with some smaller shops, which Renita of course visited. I stood out in the hallway however as many of the places had such strong potpourri that my allergies went off. I really hate shops that feel they must fill the store with heavy sweet smells.
We also planned on visiting a rock shop but it turned out to be a rock and roll shop. Having little interest in visiting another place that had minerals infused with spiritual powers, (believing that all healing comes from God's grace), we drove back to the campground.
The excitement of the day wasn't over yet as my grilling of pork chops was interrupted when two bears drove up in a golf cart. Its bad enough being bothered by bears in Yellowstone so I told Yogi and Boboo that I wasn't going to share our dinner! Clear skies

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Family Time in Keosauqua and a Day in Bentonsport

We left Waterloo and headed south. Our destination was in southern Iowa and so after a short drive, (169 miles), we arrived at Lacey Keosauqua State Park. The timing was perfect and we just managed to get our favorite campsite. The leaves were less vivid then usual but it was still beautiful as we hurriedly set up camp.
This was the last day of the Fall Foliage Festival, held in the Villages of Van Buren County and Renita's sister and brother in law had a booth set up in the fire station. The small town was so busy that we had to park three blocks away from main street. One reason was that the town was also hosting an antique car show and we later learned that there were over one hundred entries!
After the hugs we talked of our travels and shared stories of rocks and shows, (Roy also does lapidary and make jewelry), Taking a stroll through all the displays we saw a few others who made their own jewelry but none that did their own lapidary, (no surprise there).
Returning we helped them carry their displays to the car and then had a carry out picnic at our campsite. I opted for another tenderloin while Renita had a burger, I do think she was tenderloined out.
The next day Pam picked us up in her car and we traveled to Bentonsport, Iowa. There they are members of an artists coop. In the coop we especially loved the display of Douglas Adam's wire trees. We have never seen anyting like them and purchased one last year for Matt and Patty.
Walking around town I took images of the historic bridge. A cold north wind was blowing as I headed down to the waters edge to look for coral fossils. Finding none I climbed up the bank, slipped on the leaves and fell face first in the dirt bank.
Luckily the camera took the brunt of the fall and even luckier neither the camera or I were injured. I should know better than to walk and gawk at the same time as I also tripped earlier this summer while wade fishing and fell face first into the Greys River.
One of my favorite shops in Bentonsport is the iron foundry and pottery shop and I actually purchased a forged iron poker. It will be perfect for the occasional campfire and should acquire a nice rust patina this winter on the Gulf Coast.
Back at Pam and Roy's house Roy showed me some of his new rock acquisitions  and lapidary equipment. He's been taking a silversmith class and he demonstrated some basic silversmith techniques. Now I know a little bit about how to start using some of the equipment we bought at the estate sale last fall!
They also showed off their new motor home! They have upgraded their traveling with a 2001 National Caribbean Diesel Pusher! Time flew as always, and the next day we said our goodbyes and continued our drive to Florida. Our next stop is going to be a brief one in Nashville, Tennessee. Clear skies

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Catalpas, Harvest Time, and Reconnecting With Family

Leaving North Platte we and made a series of short drives. Along the way the corn and soybean harvest were in full swing and we passed many trucks carrying the harvest to the elevators. Crossing into Iowa we spent a night at a beautiful campground in Waukee, Iowa.
The private camp ground was dominated by tall Catalpa Trees and while I had seen them before, I had never seen so many! The trees seemed to take on an almost human form and some seemed to show their personalities in the gnarled and bent branches.
There were also apple and crab apple trees, all laden with unpicked fuirt. Perhaps the owners were waiting for the first frost After frosting the apples are imparted with a special flavor and are used to make a special brewed cider.
Our next stop was in Waterloo and Cedar Falls.  There we drove to the house where Renita grew up and it brought back memories, so many memories.
We stopped to pray at our parents graves and I was surprised to see that my folks headstone had been placed on the website One Billion Graves. I really think its a good service, this website provides and encourage you all to consider registering your families graves. I have so many Aunts and Uncles and if I could easily find their graves, I would try to visit them.
We next stopped at our Alma Matter and bought sports wear for the upcoming basketball season, "Go Panthers, (the University of Northern Iowa)"! Another task was to find the best pork tenderloin and we ate three monster sandwiches in four days.
The rest of the time was spent visiting family and we didn't have time to visit them all, (My parents were both farm kids and between the two of them had seventeen brothers and sisters, producing about ninety three first cousins). Still we reconnected with several families on my Dads side and were able to learn and discover what had been important in their lives.
Too soon it was time to head south to spend a few days with Renita's sister Pam and her husband Roy. They live in Keosauqua, a place filled with peace and Iowa's quiet beauty. That story is for another entry and so its time to sign off in this one. Clear skies.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Rocks, Potatoes, and Rainbows:Heading East by Southeast

Before we could head out, driving south by southeast, to escape the winter snow, we needed to make one more drug run to the Walmart at Idaho Falls. On the way down the canyon we had to stop as a scaling operation was taking place. Scaling is the road work that occurs when rocks are threatening to fall on the road way. Here the Idaho Crew had placed dynamite and brought down huge boulders. I was reminded of the warning signs, Watch for falling Rocks!
We also had to dodge falling potatoes as the potato harvest is in full swing! Trucks are everywhere, in the field following the harvesters, plying the roads to storage bins, and unloading potatoes in the earth berm storage beds. We have never seen so many potatoes in our lives and yes there were potatoes falling off the trucks  and rolling down the highway!
Saying our goodbyes we hooked up the truck and headed south to Lyman, Wyoming. There we parked at a campground and unhooked. The next day we drove to Salt Lake City for Renita's last doctor checkup and got great news so the winter's travels were definitely a go!

Returning up the Canyon, east of Salt Lake City we hit a torrential downpour! The road was awash in places and we both worried about a flash flood or mudslides. Cresting the pass the rain eased and by the time we reached Evenston, Wyoming it actually stopped so we headed to the local rock shop.
We had tried to stop there earlier this summer but the owners wife had fallen and cut her arm so we had driven her to the hospital.The owner told us she had required thirty stitches and that she had healed without any complications!
Of course we had to look at the rocks and we found some nice pieces of dinosaur bone! When we tried to pay he told us the rocks were on the house, more dinosaur bone! Picking up a pizza, (first pizza in five months, (yes we do have a pizza place near us in Star Valley, but we are not crazy about their pies), we returned to our campground and the next morning we were rewarded with a rainbow.
Hooking up, the rain returned and we drove across the state to a campground we use in Cheyenne, Wyoming.On the way we crossed two passes and the last one almost overheated the truck. We had to put on our flashers, slow down, and put the heater on high to keep the engine out of the red line, (a common ploy if your engine overheats when you cross a steep mountain pass).
From Cheyenne it was all downhill as we stopped at North Platte, Nebraska. Tomorrow we will head further east, stopping at our hometown and then turning south. We might stop at Nashville and then Chattanooga, before crossing Georgia and on to St Petersburg. However as our friends Joe and Marsha would say travels plans are written on an "Etch a Sketch", and constantly change. Clear skies and safe travels.