Tuesday, February 28, 2006

06-26 Last Report of the Season, Helen Georgia

This is my last report of the season. I’ve really enjoyed having you along with me on my journey across the country and have truly appreciated your comments and messages along the way. It made it seem as if your were right here with me on this most fun journey.

Without your messages, I truly would have been alone on my journey.

I traveled from Ashville thinking the 170 miles to Helen would only take a couple of hours. But going through the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains was quite the challenge. Besides being beautiful the mountain driving had me driving at a much slower speed.

Helen Georgia is in the north east corner of Georgia. I can see why my friend Tom Hooker and his wife have a cabin in the mountains of Georgia. What a pleasant surprise. It was due to his descriptions of the area that I came here.

Helen Georgia is a re-creation of a Swiss Mountain village. Campers will love the area as there are tons of State parks, State and National Forest campsites and commercial campgrounds in the area. A couple of Alpine lakes surrounded by the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains really makes this an outdoor mans paradise. Fresh Trout is served at many of the local restaurants, with a couple right on the Chattahoochee River.

You’ll find lots of snowbirds from Fla. here for the summer. I’m staying at Unicoi State Park just two miles from downtown Helen. Besides all the hiking and other outdoor activities, I found a small wooden covered bridge in the area, an Indian mound and a real grist mill still in operation just outside of Helen. One could also take advantage of the longest Oktoberfest in the world. Going from August through October! What a refreshing fun place to explore.

Keep in mind, a Google search will provide lots more information on any of the places I write about.

Further on down the road, I’m taking 441 through the center of Georgia. A quiet two to four lane country road. Pleasantly straight with gentle hills to travel over. Quite a difference from all the mountain driving I’ve been doing.

I’m staying at a Passport American park, Piney Woods Lake RV park in central Georgia. Cost, $12.00. I met the farmer, a true straw hatted, overall wearing farmer, who made the decision to create an RV park on his farm because he was loosing money each year and would have lost the farm without the conversion. It now has acorn trees along each row of campsites and a man made lake for fishing. The lake is surprisingly large and I’ve enjoyed walking around it in the later afternoon. Farmer John has two Bluegrass Festivals each year. Oct 5,6,7 and April 5,6,7.

It’s also a great hunting area if your into deer hunting. I not only saw a dead dear on the side of the road, but a few minutes later I had two deer run out in front of me as I drove down a country road. Thank goodness someone had told me a while back, that if a deer runs across the road ahead of you, slow down, because they always run in packs and another one would surely run across the road a minute later. As it did!

I’ll be heading out west again next year and sure would like to take you along on my journey. Hope to hear from you this fall and winter and please feel free to give me ideas out my upcoming trip in 07. From Arizona, New Mexico, I’ll be heading more northerly in the spring and summer to Wyoming, Montana and who knows where else.

Have a great fall season and hope to hear from you along the way.

06-25 Ashville North Carolina

Ashville North Carolina (week one)

I’m in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. Driving from Virginia into North Carolina was a combination of mountain driving, fog thicker than pea soup and a light gray rainy day. I drove as cautiously as possible, and after a number of trucks continued to wiz by, I noticed there was quite a line behind me. Using my large RV tail lights as a beacon through the worst part of the weather.

Safely arriving at my small campground called Hominy Valley RV park. Only 6 campsites, but all pristine new sites hugging the backside of a mountain. The only extra is a viewing platform at the top of the mountain. Ekk! I had a field mouse get in the camper, apparently through the hole for the kitchen sink pipes. Cute little fella though. But, I had to evict him anyway. And the hole is now blocked. Whew.

I traveled the back roads past numerous apple farms, deep valleys each with their own stream or river flowing over huge boulders, on my way to Chimney Rock. A great mountain look out with a 26 story elevator inside the mountain to the Chimney Rock viewing area. Everyone ohing and awing over the views. One man asking if someone was from Florida and stating how much he hated it. Would never go back. Me thinking, thank goodness. We don’t need people who hate, in Florida, thank you very much.

News Article in the Asheville Citizen Times, Mountain News. Sept 15, 2006. Parents of a local football team tried to raffle off an Uzi rifle. Publicity killed the idea. The parents (75 of them) stated, “the only ones losing at this are the children”. “Nobody disagreed with it”. Yah right, Get a clue!

Ashville is a very fast growing town surrounded by the Appalachian mountains. Many retirees are moving here and homes typically run from the low $200K to the mid 10-20 Million dollar range. Land is very expensive and you’ll see many mobile homes on the outskirts of town. Affordable housing for the local workers.

I took a trolley tour of the downtown Ashville area and was very disappointed in the tour. Relatively little to no history and a very unforgettable guide. Basically the town built up as a sanitarium for the healing of consumption, later known as TB and mental illness.

The Biltmore Estate being the major attraction in the area. And well worth coming to this area. The Biltmore being the largest privately owned home in the U.S. The other homes in the area are beautiful and the Grove Park Inn is the best example of Park Lodge style hotels on the east coast. An awesome structure. I’ll be taking another tour of Biltmore later this coming week. I’ve been there a couple times already. The wine is wonderful.

For the outdoorsman, this is definitely an area worth exploring. With the Blue Ridge Parkway running through the region, Mt Pisgah, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and so many other parks in the area, I could spend weeks just exploring the hiking trails alone.

Oh, the National Park system has re-introduced elk to the area and they are thriving. It’s estimated that over 250 are now in the area.

I should mention the shopping. My friends, Bob, Mark and Pat, oh and Canadian Jimmy, would go crazy in the downtown area with all the shops, boutiques and cafés all surrounded by a high concentration of art deco buildings. The largest TOPS shoe store, Mast General stores, a huge independent book store and of course the famous furniture factories and stores (Tyson’s with over 300 brands) are all in the area. The area has exploded in regional and fine art within the past ten years. I was talking to someone touring the area and they said they saw the biggest concentration of “hippies” since the 60’s and 70’s, apparently at some art event.

My Roving Reports are coming quickly to an end. I sure hope you’ve enjoyed them and have gotten some ideas for your own travels and adventures.

06-25 Bonus Report, Tupelo Honey, Asheville North Carolina

Bonus Report

Tupelo Honey

Folk Art Center

These are just a couple of misc. thoughts and ramblings.

I was in a coffee shop the other day, and two gentlemen were discussing business, with their Bibles out very prominently on the table. One looked my way and smiled as I was on the computer sending out one of my reports. A conversation quickly ensued, and as usual with a situation like this, I was asked if I “knew the Lord” and had I been saved?
Just a thought, but my Mom always taught us that our connection with God should be private and between the Maker and ourselves and not flaunted to the world. If you have any idea how I should respond to such questions, I’d appreciate it.

Toured downtown Asheville the other day and ate at Tupelo Honey’s. THE place to go for breakfast in Asheville. I had hotcakes made with a mixture of sweet potato’s , cinnamon, and walnuts on top. Double Yum.

Checked out a couple book stores (Malaprop’s) and then went up the Blue Ridge Parkway (it’s only a couple miles from downtown) to get to the Folk Art Center. Now I have to be honest, I thought I would just see some “rustic” folk art, smile nicely and be on my way. Was I ever wrong! Now my photo’s unfortunately could not show much of the art museum’s works, no pictures allowed, but I was able to take pictures of the items in the store. The museum had some of the most wonderful new contemporary quilts, total pieces of art in themselves along with a history of mountain folk art. Absolutely beautiful. Many of the newer artists are from all over the country including Canada. Each having migrated to the Appalachian area, with that inner drive to be a part of the folk art created in the area.

Inspiration for anyone of an artistic bent.

I particularly liked the one of the two black women, the girl combing the mothers hair and thought of my good friend Dixie. I wish I could afford to buy all of the wonderful things I saw at the Folk Art Center and give something to each one of you. But my pictures and descriptions will have to do.

Visited the Catholic Shrine. At least I think that’s what it’s called. There are something like 38 in the U.S. It has an awesome free standing vaulted ceiling, totally unsupported by any bracing. I’m not sure if it’s ok to do this, (so don’t tell anyone) since I’m not Catholic, but I light a few candles for family members that have passed on and for those who have died of AIDS and a final one lit with a prayer for peace.

That’s a picture of Hominy Valley where I’ve been staying for the past week, as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Pretty cool hay?

06-23 Somewhere in Virginia to Lexington Kentucky

Wondering the byways.

Somewhere in Virginia…. Lexington

When you travel the highways and byways as I do, you sometimes never know where you’ll end up. After leaving Pennsylvania, I continued on hwy 81 into Virginia not knowing where I would land. After a couple hours traveling parallel to the Blue ridge Mountains, constantly shrouded in that famous blue mist, I’ve ended up in Lexington VA. It’s home to Washington and Lee University and VMI, Virginia Military Institute. It’s oozing historical charm in this most southern town with it’s brick buildings from the 1800’s, steeply rolling hills, the two colleges side by side. One a liberal arts college, the other filled with athletic minded military men in their red running shorts or dressed in full military uniform. I’m almost inspired to go jogging.

Stonewall Jackson’s only home that he ever owned is in Lexington, where he had gone to VMI and eventually became a teaching professor. Not an easy task for a self educated young man who entered after much determination into VMI and worked his way up from the bottom of the class to 17th upon graduation. One of his favorite axioms which he collected, was “You may be what ever you resolve to be”. By the way, he was a horrid teacher and the students revolted a number of times.

I tend more towards natural wonders in nature, but also like to hit some of the more interesting historical homes and museums. I always learn something along the way. While on the tour of Stonewall Jackson’s home, I learned that a rope made of tobacco leaves, about 6” long and twisted into a loop, was used in clothes closets to keep out moths. And it really works. And much of the parlor furniture which was very low to the ground, was probably that way to help keep a person below the smoky haze that quite often filled a room.

Or that although he “owned” 6 slaves, he was one of the few that taught all of them to read and write and encouraged them to attend daily Bible lessons. So many reminders of the changes that our country has gone through.

Getting back to natural wonders, I visited the Natural Bridge formation, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. First surveyed by George Washington. I was able to touch his initials that he chiseled into the stone as a surveyor. You can’t get much closer to history than that! Later, the land in the Shenandoah valley, was purchased by Thomas Jefferson who built a small cabin near the bridge so he and others could come and visit the site. Viewing the Natural Bridge, just as Jefferson and Washington and the Monacan Indians before them had.

And one of my favorites, architecture. Poplar Forest. Thomas Jefferson’s retreat outside of Lynchburg VA. One hundred miles from the more famous Monticello. Jefferson designed Poplar Forest in 1812. The villa, designed after the inspiration of Andrea Pallidio, is an octagon with a perfectly square center dining room.

On my way back from Poplar, I traveled a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and as if on cue, a spotted deer was there to great me on the side of the road.

Mans ingenuity, natures wonders, history you can touch and feel both physically and emotionally.

Side notes:

You can get “fried bologna” sandwiches in these parts. Yuk! I didn’t try it. Let me know if you have.

My concerns over the devastating condition of our farms barns was explained the other night on the nightly news. Appears that the large corporate farms have taken control of most of the smaller farms. And because of that, they no longer need to use the barns for their type of corporate farming. Thus, the barns are left to rot. The report went on to state that in one state, 3,000 barns had dwindled down to about 300 remaining in less than 20 years. Sad. It makes a huge statement on the land as I travel across it.

06-22 Pennsylvania to Gettysbury PA



Leaving Upstate New York, I’ve taken hwy 81 which crosses into Pennsylvania at a 45 degree angle. It follows the long mountain ranges of the Appalachian mountains. Each row of mountains is divided by a gorgeous long narrow valley. I’ve been able to see many of the coal and iron ore mines, many high on the mountain ranges, with their coal or iron deposits piled high, waiting for trucks or trains to haul it away.

Usually I have no problem with finding space at any campground, but with Labor Day approaching, I’ve had to settle for a primitive campsite at Caledonia State Park. Odd, because the brochure has “Modern camping” in bold print. Yet 90% of the campsites have no water, electric or sewer. Hmmm.

It, like so much about travel, is accepting and experiencing the unusual or different. After all, if I’d wanted “same” I could have stayed home. Besides, I get a chance to see how long the batteries will last in the camper, and how often I need to run the generator to charge them.

Pennsylvania looks much more prosperous than New York. The farms are well kept and I haven’t seen dilapidated barns and outbuilding like I did in NY. The towns and surrounding small suburbs, which are gradually encroaching on the farm land, look to be new and well tended. All mixed in with old historical brick homes, some of stone, weathering the changes of time.

Caledonia State Park has an historical iron furnace and a blacksmith shop from the late 1800’s. I’m only about 15 miles from Gettysburg as well, so lots of historical sites to tour.

A memory brick at the local library had, “Grandma’s wisdom. Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe”. That’s for my friend Ruthie.

Ah ha! I just got moved to a site with electric. Yippee! It’s going to be cold and wet this weekend, so it just makes life that much more pleasant. Amazing how something that simple can make you feel like you’ve won the lottery.

Someday I’ll have to talk about all the electronic gadgets I have for travel. You’d be amazed what help some of them can be.

Gettysburg PA. A battle to free slaves. A battle to make the Constitution valid for everyone. How important was it to our country? Not one statue, but 1,400 monuments are on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Representing 152,455 men and their regiments who fought, the 51,000 casualties including 5,000 horses, Neither side able to claim complete victory, yet leading to an eventual win for this country. The war continued for two more years. Four months after the battle, President Lincoln arrived to dedicate the Gettysburg National Cemetery and give a two minute speech, The Gettysburg Address… dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Will other countries we are currently fighting in, understand this principle? Will they be able to grasp this principle and make their neighbors, other religious groups, husbands, wives equal? Hard to say isn’t it.

Visiting historical sites makes them real. It reminds us of who we are and how we got here. It was appropriate that I first visited this site on a gray rainy day. It is not a place to think lightly of. It is a place to reflect and try to learn from the past. Big lessons, life lessons. To stand on the same spot that Lincoln gave his famous address.

While at the campground, I learned about Thaddeus Stevens. Businessman, lawyer, congressman and father of the 14th Amendment. During the Civil War, it was Stevens who kept pressure on Lincoln to use African-Americans as soldiers and to free the slaves.
Standing on the site of his Caledonia Furnace for the making of iron and the Blacksmith shop, I feel as if I’m getting to know the people who helped make our country.

Oh, and the Lincoln Highway built in 1913. Now Route 30 through Pennsylvania. It’s the first coast to coast highway stretching from New York City to San Francisco! Even though Route 66 is more famous, it’s awesome to be able to drive one of the first highways of our country. And in PA, it still looks much as it did when first opened to traffic. So if you ever want to travel a truly historical route, get on the Lincoln Hwy. Now that’s a road trip!

06-21 Gay Report, Adirondack Hike, New York

Adirondack Hike

Great Camp Sagamore

Rainbow Woods, A Gay campground

This is the final Northerly destination before I begin my treck back south. And what a great way to complete my northerly journey. I’m up here to visit with Peter and Michael at Rainbow Woods. A unique gay campground on the river. I rate it a true woodsy campground. The campsites are all tucked away in the surrounding forest, with dirt roads winding and twisting around and between the trees. I was surprised to see so many campsites. I didn’t get a chance to experience the campsite that much, but did get a walking tour of it (mosquitoes and all) and the neat sandy beach along the river that boarders one side of the campground. There is a “straight” campground across the river, also owned by the same couple that owns Rainbow Woods . They co-mingle for a summer party once a year.

My timing was perfect, as Peter and Michael had friends, Keith and Tom coming in from Albany for the day and I was invited to join them for a hike in one of the many state parks in the Adirondack park system. The hike consisted of a trail through the Adirondack mountains, along some hilly terrain, pine nettle blanketing parts of the trail to our destination of two lakes, Heart and Lilly Pad Pond. We hiked in for about an hour and a half. There were a fair amount of other hikers along the many trails, as the weather was perfect. Partly cloudy, sun peaking out periodically, low temps for the most part, making for perfect hiking weather. A picnic lunch, some of the guys swimming in the Lilly pond. Michael brought his Hagen Recorder (a type of flute) and played it along the trail and at the lakes. What an awesome sound, bouncing off the lakes with their bolder and tree covered islands and surrounding mountains. Like being in a nature concert. Too cool.

The lakes are being restocked with trout and other fish and it appears that they are recovering from the years of acid rain, devastation brought on by the coal burning electric plants and factories.

The next day Peter (Peaches), Michael and I went to the Great Camp Sagamore, in the heart of the Adirondack park. Sagamore was originally built by W.W. Durant during the gilded age, and later was purchased by Vanderbilt in 1897. It was a “rustic” camp, with all the amenities discreetly hidden to make it appear as if they were roughing it. Giving the guests the feeling of going back to nature without the harsh reality of actually having to living it. Each guest had at least two servants to take care of them, games to play throughout the day from crocket to bowling and the outdoor sports of fishing and hunting. Lavish French dinners sometimes using the game acquired during those hunting and fishing expeditions. We had a great tour guide in her second year of college for design and history.

The locals who live in the Adirondacks still having an ambivalent feeling towards outsiders coming in to their pristine mountain retreats. Needing the tourist dollar, but not necessarily liking the trapping that come with them. I was constantly awestruck by the gorgeous lakes along the way with their log cabins and boat houses on the edges of the lakes. Those awesome islands dotting the lakes, making for a perfect destination to go to in a boat for an afternoon of frolicking.

A final look at the mist hanging on the mountain tops and creeping down into the valleys as evening gradually descends on this enchanting land.

06-21 Erie Canal to Whitehall New York




I decided to stop in the beach town of Sylvan and stay at Treasure Isle, another Passport America campground. $14.00 a night. A sleepy little beach town along the eastern end of Onieda Lake. A couple restaurants, small amusement park, the beach and a liquor store with grocery store. Oh and one gift shop. Just a line of small beach cottages and motels.

I was surprised to find out that the Erie Canal dumps into Onieda Lake. Well ok, not exactly dumps, but is becomes a part of the waterway.

My excursion in the area brought me to a part of the original Erie canal, completed in 1825. The original canal is no longer in use, but has a number of historical towns along it’s path, and the new Erie canal which parallels the older canal was completed in the early 1900’s. It now consists of 5 canals crossing the state of New York, the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, Cayuga and Seneca.

I stopped to watch a new catamaran with 3 bedrooms, large top deck lounge with dark tinted wrap around windows go through lock #21. The couple told me they just retired and the wife assured me, this was not going to be a full time endeavor. They were coming from New York and were heading to the Great Lakes and onto Wisconsin. Now that’s traveling. They both agreed it was a relaxing and peaceful way of traveling (slowly) across much of the country. Can you imagine, stopping along the 524 miles of canals and spending a night looking up at the stars, far away from homes, towns, roads, civilization. Or pulling up to the dock in a small town along the canal, having dinner and stretching your sea legs with an evening walk before a peaceful night on board your boat.

Another couple were on bicycles and were biking the path along the canal over the summer. They had to double back each day to pick up their car. And me, traveling in my 5th wheel camper. Just another way to experience the Adirondacks.

Whitehall NY. Now isn’t this interesting. Another town that I’ve been to this summer, with the same name. I was in Whitehall Michigan just a month ago. But this Whitehall has tons of history behind it. It’s on the southern end of Lake Champlain in the Adirondacks and is the Birthplace of the U.S. Navy!

Benedict Arnold, before he was disgraced, was a very patriotic Captain of Militia who with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys fought back the British. He took control of the schooner from Skenesborough (later known as Whitehall) later he was put in charge of building of about 5 small ships used to hold back the British on Lake Champlain. They lost the battle but held back the British.

Through some political maneuverings against Benedict Arnold, he was not promoted and many of the men that served under him were. Along with not getting paid or reimbursed for many of the expeditions that he financed, Arnold became resentful and disillusioned with Congress. Having also fallen in love with a young British gal, and marrying her, his feelings of being treated unjustly by the U.S. made him turn to the other side. Just another side of history. He was both a hero and a villain.

People I’ve met. A retired couple living in their travel trailer full-time. I was able to help them get set up using wi-fi. Wireless Internet. They’ve had it for a couple of years and didn’t even know it was available on their computer. Now they will be able to cancel their lan-line service and save over $120 a year.

A young boy riding his bike in Whitehall. I was taking pictures of some of the old building, and he told me he used to live in the older one (4 stories) with his mom and dad and sister. That is, until the roof caved in. He told me his sister had fallen through one of the stairs earlier. He couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old.

The woman who owns The Captains restaurant, who described living in Whitehall most of her life and how she remembered it as a thriving town, having a dime store, two grocery stores and lots of other shops. Now, most of them closed. Tourism with the boating and Champlain canal and a local metal factory that makes things like the newspaper stands for dispensing papers are about the only businesses in town.

The couple, Faylene and Karl, who own The Good News Griddle. They met while in college. She, having raised 3 kids and decided to get an education. He was going to culinary school and working in Saratoga Springs. They served up an Italian Porchetta Sandwich, made with an herb and garlic Pork that had marinated in red wine for 3 days. A Big Yum! Along with a cumber and onion salad in a dill and vanilla yogurt dressing. Double Yum. Hope their new business takes off. During the winter, they stay on their farm and make maple syrup. I sat in their dining room lined with windows overlooking the waterway and bridge.

Or the customer at Bruno’s Repair shop (I was getting an Oil change) in Vermont. He told me of a friend of his who had an apple orchard a couple of years back. The farmer had hired a 727 along with a couple other farmers to bring Jamaican’s to NY to pick the apples. It became so difficult to get help, that he finally had his entire orchard cut down and transformed it into a Christmas tree farm.

A number of older buildings in Whitehall are being restored with Government grants. There’s still a chance for this small town at the end of Lake Champlain.

06-20 Angelica New York

Angelica NY

Letchworth State Park

Well I’ve finally made it to New York, my furthest destination on this summers trip. It’s taken quite a while to get to upstate NY and if you’ve been following my journey, and of course you have, you know I’ve gone north, south, west, more west then finally headed north again into Michigan, across into Canada to finally ended up in New York.

What a great way to journey through life. In a self contained camper, being able to travel anywhere the roads will lead. Exploring, discovery, taking the time to find life at a slower pace.

My friends Doug and Steve who own a campground near Angelica NY were surprised when I called them and told them I was finally heading into NY from Canada. After all, it has taken me all summer to get up here. They set me up on one of their HUGE campsites on the lower end of a large sloping open expanse of grassy campsites. Beyond my campsites, the heavily wooded campsites begin, down along the creek that runs through the property.

Touring a new area is half the fun. Driving along rolling mountains, forest and farm country, about 20 minutes north of the campground is Letchworth State Park. The Grand Canyon of the East. Now you’d think after having seen Niagara Falls I wouldn’t be interested in another water falls, but Letchworth has three very impressive ones. What a great way to get some exercise, hiking along the trails throughout the park, leading to the Upper, Middle and lower falls. Seeing the stone walls, bridges, and picnic pavilions that the CCC built years ago. The water falls cutting a gorge through the stone walls along the river. Learning the history of the man Letchworth who discovered this region after it had been decimated by the lumber industry. Still able to see the beauty in it and gradually restoring and replanting the trees that had been cut down along this now beautiful tract of land. Or about the White Woman of Genesee, Mary Jemison. A young 15 year old girl from Ireland who was captured by the Seneca Indians and raised by them and remained with them the rest of her life. So many stories that make up the fabric of our country.

Oh, and a tip if you go to Letchworth St Pk. Your $6.00 entry fee will be reimbursed if you have lunch at Glen Iris Inn located in the original summer home of the Letchworth family in the park.

Exploring the T-tiny towns of Houghton NY (which I had to see since I grew up in Houghton Mich.), Fillmore (they have a laundry mat, grocery store and Dollar General), Angelica with it’s antique stores and Cuba and Olean down the road a piece.

Steve, one of the owners of the campground, pointed out the longest wooden bridge just outside of Angelica. This is one of those things that you’d never know, unless you could read the small sign next to the bridge, or someone told you about it. It looked like any other flat bridge from the surface. I drove back to it on my way to Angelica for a bit of antique shopping the next day and was blown away by the beauty of the bridges struts and enormous curved wooden arches. Looked like something Frank Lloyd Wright would have designed. Or the town circle that contains 5 churches with an old fashioned park in the center. A pleasant walk around the circle after shopping a couple of the great antique stores in this quiet NY town.

Steve and Doug have restored a 1954 Half Moon trailer and of course I got a grand tour of it. That’s the one they used in the Lucile Ball movie, “The Long Long Trailer“. What an awesome job of restoring a vintage trailer. I was envious of this gem they’ve restored.

Summer. Fresh air, big blue skies with white puffy clouds, cool crisp evenings around a crackling campfire. Time to nourish the soul.

06-19 Niagara Falls, Canada and Border crossing

Niagara Falls, Canada

Boarder Crossing

Traveling across Ontario, I’m amazed by the extremely well kept farms. Barns, outbuildings and homes are all freshly painted and the fields are filled with all types of crops. Everything from corn to tobacco. Many of the farm houses are of a light colored brick, with a white brick pattern along the eves. The small towns along the way, vibrant, no Wal-Marts in this part of the country.

I was going to head for Strathroy, Ontario, where my Rv was “born”, but when I called they told me that the plant was closed for 3 weeks. It being a unionized company. So I headed toward the south and east. I stayed at a country campground surrounded by farms just outside of Woodstock. I drove into town to my new favorite place, Tim Horton’s for coffee, and passed through an old residential area that had the most spectacularly maintained historical homes I’ve ever seen on one street. Big homes many of brick with turrets, porches, and awesome landscapes with huge old trees and flowers. Each home uniquely different.

All the secondary roads are so good to travel on, I’ve not used any of their major highways like the QEW. I stayed at one of my Passport America campgrounds, Windmill Point Park. It’s outside of Fort Erie. Turning off of Dominion Road, CR-1, I would never have stayed at this place by it’s entrance. Off a dirt and gravel road, past a couple of wrecked cars and a maintenance shop, then across a well maintained “rails to trails” path, the park opens up and is a great little gem of a park. I particularly liked the spring fed old rock quarry lake. A real old fashioned swimming hole, right on the parks property. A refreshing dip and swim out to the floating dock and the travel miles just melt away.

Niagara Falls is about a 20 klm drive from the campground, and I could see the high-rise buildings of the city sitting on a bluff overlooking the falls from miles away. I drove along the Niagara Parkway past the falls, getting my first glimpse of the falls then headed up the bluff to the city. Thousands of people walking along the promenade overlooking the falls. Ekk, I had lunch at a TGI-Fridays and it was $22.00 American. Yikees. The only good point is, I was able to leave my truck in the parking lot and walk about a mile or so to the falls.

I rode the incline rail down the cliff to the falls overlook and was greeted by a huge spray of mist from the falls, as the light breeze drifted the spray over the crowd. What a great way to experience my first time seeing the falls from the Canadian side. A short while later, after walking along the promenade, the breeze shifted and I was able to view the falls and the great rainbows.

Both the American and Canadian side get hydro-power from the falls, but looking at the massive amounts of water going over the falls, one has to wonder how much power is being wasted by not capturing even more of it for electricity.

Oddly, I think some of my best pictures of the falls are from way on top above the city, rather than from the edge of the falls themselves. But the excitement of feeling the mist, hearing the roar of the water going over the falls and being among a crowd of enthusiastic spectators adds to the whole experience.

I’ve been told that the tall hotels and casinos on the Canadian side are changing the way the mist from the falls forms. Thus blocking the views of the falls. I was lucky that the mist and spray changed coarse while I was there, so I had some great views of the falls. Though the mist sure does block much of the falls from below. Overall the Canadian side is much more spectacular than the American side. Being able to see both falls from the Canadian side.

Crossing the boarder in Buffalo on the Peace Bridge, I got in the wrong lane and drove through the truckers commercial lane. The patrol guard was not happy, but hay, the other signs said “cars only” and I sure wasn’t driving a car, now was I??? Apparently there was a new lane for RV’s, but I didn’t see it. Opps. After the guard had done his job harassing me, I was permitted to go.

Back in the U.S.A.

06-18 Sault Ste Marie Michigan to Bruce Peninsula Canada

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Ontario Canada
Bruce Peninsula
Lake Huron

I left my hometown of Houghton Michigan with a bit of sadness. But the road was calling me on and I traveled across the U.P. once again and headed for Sault Ste Marie. It is a very active set of locks that connect Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Of course I had to take a ride on the Hiawatha. A tour boat that goes through the locks. Quite a cool way to experience the rising and lowering of the locks first hand. The U.S. has the largest locks which are used by all of the large ships and did you know the service is free! The U.S. doesn’t collect a cent for operating and maintaining the locks which were built by the Army Corp of Engineers. Hmmmm. Not a cent.

The U.S. side is a small town of only about 30,000 max. The Canadian side is very active with industries and a population of over 150,000. The Canadian side is much more active because of their ability to have iron ore processing plants and other industries that our country has limited due to the heavy pollution standards imposed by our country.

The Canadian side even takes heavy advantage of the hydro power in the area. The U.S. side has one hydro power plant and the large original Edison Power plant sits idle and unused. Of course that could have something to do with the fact that Edison built D.C. power plants instead of A.C. power. Quickly making his plant obsolete.

I also had to get my trucks front end aligned. After having that done, I discovered that that was only part of the problem, as another tire on my truck had problems with excessive wear and a bulge in the tire. With two new tires and the alignment, I’m back to driving a well running truck.


It was exciting crossing the bridge in Sault Ste Marie into Canada. No problem. It took all of about 5 minutes going through customs and I was on my way, traveling along Kings Highway 17 on my way to Manitoulin Island and the ferry Chi-Cheemaun (Big Canoe) that would take me to Bruce Peninsula. What fun. This is the first time I’ve traveled with my truck and camper on a ferry. Cost about $175.00 Canadian for a two hour ride. But it saved me a couple hundred miles going around to the peninsula.

It doesn’t take long to realize gas prices are higher (purchase at gas bars) , food prices are higher and I wasn’t able to use my debit card to get any Canadian currency. Oh well. So far the credit cards can be used to purchase most everything except small items along the way. Which I’m basically doing without at this point. The only other problem being, that I was unable to call Direct TV to have my service turned back on. I had had it put on hold until I got my satellite dish back and didn’t need it until I reached Canada. Unfortunately, Direct TV will not permit me to even call them from Canada to reinstate my service. So I’ll just wait until I’m back in the states.

The best thing about being on the Bruce Peninsular is that I’m visiting the Lakeshore Rainbow Rv Campground and my friends Chip, Bill and Ray. I of course met them while at the campground in Florida this past winter. They sure know how to welcome a guy. With pizza the first night as I came in rather late in the evening. The ferry ride having taken much longer than I expected. Then a great steak BBQ the following night. Good conversation, a little beer and wine, great views of Lake Huron, right from the second floor deck of the main store/game room/check-in/house. We’re also on the 45 parallel line. Exactly half way between the equator and the north pole.

And what storms come across Lake Huron! Whew! Luckily, the campsites are well protected from those fierce lighting and thunder storms by a row of evergreens. Looking down the short road to the office, it looked like the rain was coming horizontal. It even blew over their flag poles out front! What excitement! Haven’t see a thunderstorm like that in ages.

Chip and I took a trip down to check on his home and visit his mom in Orangeville Ontario. Along the way we stopped at their famous TIM HORTONS. A coffee shop where I ordered a caramel cappuccino and a blueberry fritter. Thanks Chip, now I’m addicted to caramel cappuccino’s and cigarettes! Well not really, Chip is a heavy smoker so I think I had a pack or two of smokes on our drive down back. Air out the camper!

Meeting his mom, Dorothy, was a treat. A true Canadian who still lives in the brick home the family built years ago. Filled with wonderful sleek modern furniture from the 60’s in the formal living room with paneling everywhere and big plushy sofa’s and chairs with a country floral pattern in the family room. Many of the cabinets hand made and painted bright cheery turquoise blue in the kitchen along with the other pine cabinets. They have one of the few swimming pools in the area as well. Chip and his father owned an electrical company in town.

The roads and towns throughout Ontario are all on a large grid pattern. The Queens Highways being the larger highways and the Kings highways being the smaller roads. Straight roads going north/south and east/west with wide gravel shoulders passing through miles of farm land with family names printed across the barns, many are Mennonite farms, always painted in green. We passed a Mennonite family ,the women with bright bonnets on their heads, driving their “going to visit” black buggy. We drove past a large wind farm. Where all the wind powered windmills were lined up along the hills, collecting free renewable power for the area. No pollution and the windmills are a true piece of art on the landscape.

Ontario’s northern region is called cottage country and that’s where all the city folk have their second homes, cottages. So every weekend they migrate like Canadian geese north to their cottages. I’m staying on the Bruce Peninsula which has many hiking trails, great country roads to ride my bike and many rock and sandy beaches to cool off with a dip in Lake Huron or the Georgian Bay.

The Canadian geese are practicing their line formations in anticipation of their flights down south for the winter. And the squirrels and chipmunks are gathering bedding for winter. All indications that it could be an early and cold winter this year.

My time ends on Bruce Peninsula. Once again I’m filled with warm thoughts of my visit with my friends Chip, Ray and Bill and all the great seasonal campers at Chip’s park. Evenings and dinner on the second floor deck overlooking Lake Huron. The feel of a strong breeze off the lake, chilly, yet the sun feels warm. The sound of the wind through the cedar trees. The crispness of everything. Whitney, Chip’s dog, a real guard dog, who’s decided she likes me. Sitting at my feet, leaning against my leg, looking up at me with a smile on her face. Wagging her tail. Friends.

(17) Hancock Michigan, U.P. visiting Sister Ann

Hancock Michigan
Houghton, the gateway to the Keweenaw Peninsula
Visit with my Sister Ann.


After leaving Cadillac Michigan, I began my trek to the U.P. Crossing the Mackinac Bridge, one of the most stunning, huge and impressive bridges in the world, I once again was heading to my homeland and the Copper Country. I traveled along hwy 2, now you know your at the top of the country when the highways are such low numbers! A beautiful drive along the top shores of Lake Michigan. Quickly becoming less and less populated with each mile traveled. Sand dunes, young forests from past years of heavy logging the U.P. Over 80% of the U.P. is Sate, National or Forested land held in trust.

I then head Due north on US hwy 41 to Marquette and onto Houghton and Hancock, my destination for this portion of my trip. The roads have been improved over the years, wider paved shoulders and most of the bad concrete thumpaty, thump roads have been replaced with asphalt. Thank goodness. As I pass Marquette, the last large city in the U.P., it seems like I’m on a road leading to the ends of the earth. Fewer and fewer homes are seen. Traffic is lessened for a while, giving the appearance that my thoughts are correct. When I used to live up in this region, we often talked about living at the end of the earth. The only way out was to go south.

I’m now in the mountainous region of the U.P. The road boarders Lake Superior and inland lakes that have that deep deep blue color and are surrounded by what else, evergreens, stately old spruce trees, a few are dead and turned to a brilliant copper color and birch trees with their white bark showing off, I drive up curving roads with those trees seeming to close in even more.

At one of the many Wayside Rest areas, with their modern outhouses, hand water pumps and picnic tables covered with many layers of shellac to protect them from the winters up here, I see a sign for Canyon Water Falls. What a treat to be able to stretch my legs and walk through the woods, along creaking boardwalks over boggy terrain that finally leads to the rock outcroppings and sounds of rushing waters. Through the thick pine forest, I get glimpses of the shale and bolder strewn river leading to the water falls. Then around another bend the sound becomes louder and the viewing area overlooking huge slabs of shale, flat rocks that appear to have been sliced from large walls of stone line the canyon that the water fall descends into. A rush of joy being able to see a wonder of nature in a perfect setting. Unspoiled by the trappings of more famous natural wonders. This one is still surrounded by thousands of years of nature that created it.

After leaving this most refreshing sight and the vacationers I met while viewing it, I’m begin my final leg to Houghton/Hancock. I begin to see places I remember. The old beach we used to go to each summer. Mikes bar, now a restaurant where my Dad used to go every weekend for a drink and a game of pool. Past the site of the Copperama, the tourist site and restaurant that I worked at from age 12 ½. It’s now a gas station. Past the Douglass House Hotel in town with it‘s stately bar with the green Tiffany lamps and dark mahogany trim, the place I was named after.

I’m back home. What a feeling. After 35 years in Florida, I’ve come back. Retired and bringing my home along with me. So for a week, once again I live in the U.P.

It has changed somewhat. Michigan Tech, MTU, is much larger than when I lived here. It’s now looks like a small city as you enter Houghton and skirt around it on my way into the old downtown area.

The downtown area is looking more active. They removed the awful metal structures that covered many of the parking areas. They have an internet Café on main street which still has one street light.

Lots of newer chain restaurants and stores like Wal-Mart are up on Quincy Hill. Condo’s and new townhouses along with a marina sit along the Portage canal. But there is still much that hasn’t changed. The old buildings in town of native sandstone with trim painted a dark brown and so many older homes still stand with their worn asphalt or asbestos siding. Dating back to the late 1800’s and early 1900‘s.

I’m visiting my sister, Ann. She works for a Senior Citizen home where the residences have their own apartments. It’s hard work and she often puts in 50 hour weeks. Not easy work, but she’s very good at what she does.

Oh and temps are in the mid to high 70’s during the day and mid to high 50’s at night. Crisp fresh air. It hit the low 80’s the other day, so it does get warm up here in July.

My alma mater, Suomi College has become a university. The Finlandia University and I was thrilled to pick up an FU T-shirt, baseball cap and coffee mug. Yup, I’m a Yooper with a FU degree and darn proud of it.

No trains come this far up north any more. I road my bike on the beginnings of a great rails-to-trails route from downtown to the old Houghton beach. A super nice bike ride along the Portage canal. More like a lake surrounded by the steep hills on either side. What a fun way to spend a morning in the U.P.

Ann has joined me at my campsite at Hancock City Campground a few evenings, as we sit out watching the campfire. I have a crab apple tree and three Christmas trees on my corner of the campground. We get to watch other campers walk by with their dogs and children, out for a stroll.

RV tip. the Hancock City sites are $16.00 a night includes elect and cable TV. The beach is within a short walk through the surrounding forest. Sewer and water available as you enter or leave the park. The city of Houghton’s campground is right on Portage canal with the sites going for $22.00 a night incl. full hookup and cable TV. All sites are right on the waters edge or one row behind, all with great views as the second row is elevated.

I couldn’t leave the copper country without visiting my parents grave sites tucked away on top of a hill, in a peaceful setting. Peace be with them as they are surely in a better place with the Lord. Lutheran of course.

Oh and I went down to the Dee Stadium, where professional hokey started in the U.S. I remember going to a number of hockey games and even playing a few games myself. During the summer they have a huge historical display of photo’s of the area in the stadium. Copper mining, forestry, Iron mines and fishing, pictures of all the towns and how they got started. Finish, Swedish, German, Italian all ended up here in the U.P.

People I’ve met. The 96 year old man, Adalfo, at Sandy Shores Rv park in Manistique, Mi. He holds 13 patents for improvements to the fireplace. The most notable one being the damper system to stop cold air from coming down the chimney when not in use as well as the heat air exchange that draws cold are from the sides of a fireplace and pushes out hot air from the top.

Hancock Mich. Jim, my sister Ann’s friend, was a CIA agent (but for years thought he was part of the Navy) was on a secret mission during WWII. He saw the Andrea Doria on a radar screen about to collide with another ship, but because his ship was supposed to be invisible to all ships, they were not permitted to warn the Andrea Doria that it was about to collide and sink. The next day, through the fog, they saw dead bodies, luggage, etc floating in the cold waters from the downed ship. They were not permitted to stop and retrieve any of the dead or debris. Their ship continued it’s silent surveillance, undetected by friend or foe.

Or the story Jim told about the time a while back that he a few others were down in an old Copper mine up on Quincy hill and saw a huge piece of copper that was wedged on the side of one of the mining tunnels. It was so large, you could see where they miners had dug around, down and above the huge slab of copper trying to loosen it‘s grip, many thousands of pounds in weight. It still remains in the mine to this day, because there is no way to get the solid piece of copper out. It remains, a huge shining piece of copper as if someone just finished polishing it, waiting to be removed.

Donna, Ann’s neighbor who was ready to start traveling with me at the drop of a hat.

Henry ( a.k.a. Richard), Fred and Donald Palosaari. Three cousins I’d never met while living in the U.P. Henry lives on Palosaari Road in Laurium Mich. He’s the one that did so much work on our geneology work and completed a book on the subject. Fred owns his own business, Palosaari Contracting. What a pleasure to meet relatives and find out a bit more about our families past and present!

A trip into the past and exploring the life of those who still live in the Keweenaw Peninsula. A place that once had a sign declaring, “You are now breathing the purest, most vitalizing air on earth”. I think it still is.

06-16 Cadillac Michigan, visiting friend Ron

(16) Cadillac, Michigan
Visiting Friend, Ron

North Central Michigan, still in the lower peninsula, I’ve stopped to visit my friend Ron and see his pottery store, Earth and Fire, in Cadillac. It’s a most awesome building in an old wood church. The space is really open and aerie, filled with pottery from over 50 local area artists. Ron has some great displays, like using his grandfathers wooden boat, built from a kit. The Church was moved a couple blocks to make way for a new church many years earlier. It makes a great pottery store.

Ron gave me a great tour of the top part of the lower peninsula ending up in Traverse City and visiting one of the lighthouses there. We even visited a huge metal health sanitarium that is being rebuilt for housing and mixed use on many acres of land. It was spooky due to it’s past, but the yellow brick buildings were stunning to see on such a huge scale. Acre after acre of buildings, some whole blocks long! Surrounded by acres of park land, including many acres used for farming, as the place was considered fully self supporting. Imagine the people who were held here. Some deformed or mentally ill, others perhaps years ago, just because they were to have a child out of wedlock and who knows what other “crimes”. A husband who wanted to “get rid of his wife”. Hmmmm.

As we came back, we went through a huge thunderstorm. Rare for the area. We saw downed trees all along the way including a big one that we had to maneuver around on our route back to Cadillac. Fortunately, the RV park I was in did not get the brunt of this storm. Ron, however, had a downed tree leading to his home and the tree also knocked out power to his home and surrounding area.

I learned a lot about the area through Ron and he filled me in on some of the history and what life is like in the area. Surrounded by lakes with summer homes and cottages, more cherry orchards and the Traverse City area is becoming good wine country as well. The area has a number of manufacturing plants that don’t distract from the beauty of the area and they even have a power plant that uses the waste debris from the logging industry. Huge piles of chipped wood is fed into the modern power plant to produce virtually free electricity since the waste material burned would normally just be left in the forest to rot and decay. Leaving better acreage for replanting.

The park I stayed in was really redneck in the small hamlet of Irons, Mi. They had a small zoo of birds, chickens, a mule and about 6 deer caged in super high fencing. Kind of sad to my way of thinking. The town consisted of two banks, two churches, gas station, two restaurants and a taxidermy shop.

Corn will be, knee high by the 4th of July.
Weeds cut in June will die soon, weeds cut in July will surely die.

Next stop the U.P. and a visit with my other sister Ann. J

06-15 Whitehall Michigan Visiting my Sister

(15) Whitehall, Muskegon, Michigan
Doug’s Birthday, July 10th

Visiting my Sister, Dorothy and Brother-in-Law, Dave. It’s not only a tour of Lower Michigan, but I’m here to visit my sister, Dorothy. You can bet on one thing when you visit the Wilmer’s, Dave is going to cook up one good meal after another. Chicken and bean burrito’s, fish, BBQ’d spare ribs and spicy southwest pasta salad. I know I’ll have to go on a diet, or do a heck of a lot of hiking after this visit. Yawh… (said with that famous Finish accent).

I did a boo-boo the other day. I left my portable satellite dish at the last campsite. Having already traveled a couple hundred miles, I received a call from my camping buddies, Jimmy and Larry, informing me that I had left it behind. They indicated that they couldn’t take it with them as it wouldn’t fit in their truck, so they left it. After trying to make arrangements to have another friend go and pick it up, I was once again taught the lesson, “if you want something done, do it yourself”. UPS will be mailing it to my current site for about $14.00.

Michigan is a land of lakes. Really BIG lakes. My campsite at the county park, Pioneer Campground, is right on Lake Michigan. It’s like being on the ocean, without the saltwater. A bit too many families with kids for my taste., The campsites are stacked like dominos in row after row, but again, we are only feet from the sand dunes and that huge lake. Water temp. approx. 67 degrees. Sandy beaches for miles and miles and miles. there are lots of State Parks along the coast line, but unfortunately, they are booked quite often a year in advance plus you have to pay an $8 entry fee on top of the $30+ campsite fee if your from out of state. So Rv’ers check out the county parks, they’re your best bet.

Black squirrels, boys playing street hockey on roller blades, families herding small children on bikes with training wheels, street lights dangling over cross streets on wires, chilly breezes and warm sun, lakes bordered by marina’s and sail boats, wayside picnic/rest areas, all make up Michigan.

Dave, Dorothy and I had a great Saturday drive through cherry orchards brimming with bright red cherry’s, ripe for picking, green apple trees, asparagus fields at the end of their cycle having been picked in April, May and June. The asparagus is hand picked in Michigan so only the freshest edible portion is picked and the remainder of the plant continues to grow until winter eventually sets in. We stopped in a couple country farm stands and picked up all the great produce, fresh blueberries, Michigan Maple syrup, and horseradish to be had. Oh, including a great hand dipped ice-cream cone. Yum!

The huge sand dunes along Lake Michigan (Silver Lake Sand Dunes) can be explored via dune buggies and by jeep! No ones worried about these huge dunes being harmed by dune buggies or wind. I love all the summer cottages, some more elaborate than others along the shore line. My favorites are the older small cottages with small paned windows and the chocolate brown log cabins. They fit the land so much better than those mega mansions and seem to blend in with the trees and sand dunes that seem to engulf them.

In town there are many small homes for sale, some available for as little as $30,000 on up to the low 100’s. Many with flower gardens bursting with color.

CHORES. I’ve had lots of chores to do on this leg of the trip. Making arrangements to have the satellite dish sent here, getting my mail sent here as well, fixing the wall that got damaged from someone (Larry) rocking back in my recliner, the usual laundry and house cleaning chores, oh and I need to get two propane tanks filled. Needless to say, I’ve done more than my share of the usual “one chore a day“ routine! Whew, I need a vacation!

Oh that’s right, Dave has been cooking every evening and he’s making a special dish for my Birthday tonight, sweet potato sticks, chicken cordon blue, and awesome coleslaw by Dorothy. so I guess I’d better not complain. I’m a lucky dog, lucky dog.

We toured some more and even hit the Indian Casino. Dorothy loves to play the slots. I played until I was ahead about $22.00, then quit. I like to stop when I’m ahead. I won on the Price is Right slots (5 cent slots)… Lots of fun and even got to spin the wheel, that’s when I won the $36.00 that put me in the black. Yippee!

I drove down to Saugatuck and Douglas the other day as well. Saugatuck is a great little resort town with a great sand dune State Park as well.

Heading to Cadillac Mich. and the U.P. Tomorrow…

06-14 Eureka Springs Arkansas

(14) On The Road Again
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

11 days in Eureka Springs. Discovery is what it’s all about. The Ozark mountains are a special blend of low ancient mountain ranges. Much older than the Appalachian Mts. which are young in comparison. Heavily covered with chestnut trees that create a colorful display in fall. The roads follow the ridges and tight valleys in a swirl of curves and turns that would make any rollercoaster enthusiast envious.

It’s been one discovery after another. The town of Eureka Springs has about 6-8 natural springs throughout the town. They are all small springs coming out of the rock cliffs, many surrounded by small park settings. Some can be found inside the shops in town! The town itself is unlike any I have seen in the states. A unique mix of Victorian architecture and late 1800’s stone buildings. The town’s roads wind up and around the surrounding mountains with the log cabins, shops and homes hugging the sides of the tree covered hills. Eureka Springs has a 30% gay population making for a very diverse culture along with the country, hippy, new age, artists and Christian elements. This band of “misfits” are fiercely proud of their friendly cooperative nature.

RV’ers INFO. I’m staying at a small Passport America campground, Beaver Cottages and RV park. But, wouldn’t recommend staying here. For the Rv’er, I’ve found that the Army Corp of Engineer campgrounds on Beaver Lake or Beaver Campground (City owned) would suite most campers who like to be on the water. Trout fishing is fantastic up here. The water a constant 48 degrees. Keep in mind, those campsites would be a long treacherous drive into Eureka. Although Beaver campground (City owned) does have a pleasant back way into town. In town, the Kettle Campground and Cabins would be my choice the next time I come by this way. It’s just on the outskirts of town and has a trolley stop out front.

The town itself has tons of gorgeous cottages and motels that would suite anyone on vacation. The town’s only industry is tourism, but most people fall in love with the beauty and immediately think what it would be like to live in such a beautiful place. I actually hate to even write about the place because it is such a treasure and I know I’ll be coming back. And I hate to think everyone I tell about it may come as well.

Traveling through what has historically been called the Bible Belt and still is, I have been inundated with almost too much religion. The folk music is heavily saturated with old time religious tunes. The radio and even talking to local folks quite often is blended with heavy religious overtones. But with all that said, my most memorable experience follows.

Without even knowing it was in the area, my friends Jimmy, Larry and I discovered Thorncrown Chapel. I had seen it in Architectural Digest and knew it to be a top award winning design. It has won over 4 major Architectural awards including The number one, Top 20th century design award for contemporary Architecture. . So of course I insisted we tour the chapel. It is a chapel built in the woods and is built with all wood struts and glass. Over 6,000 square feet of glass and simple wood struts open the chapel to glorious views of nature. The choir director presented a 15 minute presentation of the building of the chapel and then sang a song which I requested, “In the Garden”. It has always been a favorite of mine from my Spiritualist days and I must admit, for some reason many of us found ourselves gushing tears. As soon as my friend Jimmy heard me request the song, he thought to himself, “Oh Lord, that’s the song we requested for his Mom’s funeral.“ He then did everything not to look at me, knowing I would probably have a few tears and he didn’t want to get caught up in it too. Her voice was so pure and clear in that awesome space. Her talk was the most inspirational talk I’ve heard in years. Telling of the creation of this gem of a Chapel.

I will not tell the story hear, unless you write to me specifically and ask, as I feel that you should try and come here to experience this place for yourself. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do that, let me know, and I will then share this most inspiring story.

Needless to say, I will remember my time at Thorncrown Chapel for the rest of my life as the closest I have ever felt to God‘s grace and love. I have tears in my eyes, just writing about this special place.

Oh, and before getting off of the religion thing, we visited the “Christ of the Ozarks”. One of the 4 largest statues of Jesus. It would have been a bit taller, but as they were building it, they realized they would need to put a red light on Christ’s head because of the airplanes flying over. So they shortened his neck so He wouldn’t have to wear a red blinking light on His head. Still, a neck bending tall statue.

Jimmy, Larry and I have had some great times touring the area and even visiting my friend Chuck on Sunday. He had a great campout on his farm land, next to a creek. I splashed around in the water and we all sat on the edge of the creek, enjoying our picnic and the quiet solitude of this wonderful wooded setting.

There are many caves to visit, but since I’d been in a couple recently, Jimmy and I opted to visit “Natural Bridge and Pivot Rock” . $3 for a nice walk along the edge of cliff and gully. Past the natural bridge and of course pivot rock. The rock formations along the top of this mountain ridge were really cool. Speaking of cool, the path was lined with wonderful shade trees making the steamy 90 degree weather bearable.

The holiday weekend ended with Jimmy and I going to Lake Leatherwood in the evening for music and fireworks over the lake. A nice way to cap off my time in Eureka Springs. Kids having one last swim as dusk set in. A band on the hill playing Scottish and New Orleans music with a tinge of folk sound mixed in. An odd combination that seemed to fit the crowd.

This leg of my journey is just about at it’s end. I’ll be leaving my friends behind and heading NE on my journey to visit my sisters in lower and upper Michigan. It’s been great to have company for part of my journey, along with meeting tons of new people along the way.

06-13 Little Rock Arkansas and the Ozark Folk Center

(13) On The Road Again
Little Rock, Arkansas
The Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View

I had a nice early start this morning, heading towards Little Rock on hwy 40. But I didn’t enjoy much of the drive. The highway is in bad shape much of the way, including some much needed road work being done. Big pot holes in the concrete sections and bumpy sections leading into Arkansas across the Mississippi River.

RV note: Arkansas does permit overnight camping at the rest stops. I’ve never done it, but I’m sure there are many who take advantage of it. And Burns Park, which is on the north side of Little Rock, is the largest city park, with camping, in the south. Exit 150 on hwy 40.

My first impression of Little Rock has been good. It’s a charming small city nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks. With a river walk along each side of the Arkansas River. They even have a small electric trolley going between North Little Rock and the old part of town that has been recently renewed in Little Rock.

Of course, my goal in stopping initially, is to go to the William Clinton Presidential Library. As an architectural statement, it is stunning. It represents a bridge, reaching out from the present to the future of our nation. The setting along the Arkansas river with an old lift bridge near by is gorgeous.

It is inspiring to see the accomplishments of a President, through their eyes.
One gets the impression that Bill Clinton is most proud of his work with bringing more equality to blacks, the disadvantaged, minorities or all types. I particularly liked the quote:


I feel I’m a prime example of that quote in all respects and thankful that I had those opportunities here in the U.S.A.

The Library is beautifully designed . With wonderful displays of time-lines showing the accomplishments over the 8 years President Clinton was in office, his accomplishments along with individual alcoves specifically on things like The Economy, Education, the Environment, World Diplomacy, etc.
His accomplishments in balancing the budget and creating a surplus has got to be a high point in his presidency. Creating legislation for retirement savings, the ability to transfer retirement accts and protecting the environment as well.

The library has a recreation of the Oval office and Cabinet Room as they appeared during President Clintons time in office.

For the traveler, North Little Rock is completely wi-fi accessible. I met the two business men who set it up. It provides them free advertising in all the shops. Since it’s been so hot here, I took the River cruise on the Arkansas Queen. Another great way to keep cool on a hot day. The breeze from the top decks was refreshing and the a/c in the main salon for dining felt great as well. A hour and a half later, I had a different perspective of this beautiful gem of a city. By the way the city is approx 173,000 strong, with another 75,000 in North Little Rock. Their state capital is an exact replica of the United States Capital in Washington D.C. except it’s 4 times smaller. Looked pretty big to me!

Now you’ve probably figured out I love music and have gotten into folk music quite a bit lately. As I was perusing the state parks in Arkansas, I discovered The Ozark Folk Center. A state park in Mountain View Ak. They have an Opry Land type theatre, Craft Village and the town has lots of shops and music venues including free jam sessions around the court house in the center of town.

I wend to the Folk Center last night and for $9 had a great evening of listening to the best banjo, fiddle, guitar and dulcimer music in the Ozarks. All in air conditioned comfort! The PA system was awesome and all the music was acoustic. A couple of the singers had voices that would rival any top singer on the charts today. The Nelson family in particular had voices that needed no microphone. Ron and Peggy Taylor did some great humorous folk songs, Mulligan Stew, Leatherwoods, Jo Fudge, Jim and Wanda Sanders and all the rest filled the evening with real old time music. My favorite was hearing the old gospel tune, “I come to the Garden alone”.

RV note: The Ozark RV Park backs up to the Ozark Folk Center. It’s a Good Sam member campground, $17.50 a night. Walking distance to the Folk Center and restaurant. They have wi-fi as well. Including free folk jam sessions in the rec hall.

Oh, I should mention I took a “scenic” route 9 to Mountain View. Campers know that the term “scenic” usually means, winding, hilly, dangerous road. Well I discovered the truck and camper can do just about any hill or mountain, which is a good thing. Though I’ve got to tell you, going around some of those steep banked turns, where I could see the back of my camper in front of me, was an image I’ll never forget! When the road signs say “caution, steep dangerous hills and curves ahead”, they mean it. And even though I had fun on the road, I think I’ll take the “less adventuresome” road out as I leave town.

06-12 Scottsboro Alabama Unclaimed baggage Center

(12) On The Road Again
Scottsboro, Alabama
Unclaimed Baggage Center
Cathedral Cavern
Memphis Tennessee

Another 165 miles up the road to Scottsboro, tucked in the north east corner of Alabama. The drive was mainly along hwy 431, a mostly two lane road, with a couple nice sections of 4 lane newly paved road as well. The road gradually began to climb larger and larger rolling hills, each with a passing lane for each slightly steeper grade until finally reaching the top and then a quick decent down the other side. Northern Alabama appears to have lots of forest and not too many farms.

I was able to get the only campsite available at my Passport America campground and signed up for three days. The small campground has each campsite hugging the side of a steep hill. There’s also a State Park and county park close by for camping.

I went to the Unclaimed Baggage Center which the town is famous for. That’s where all the lost luggage ends up and everything is for sale. They basically price everything at about 50% off the original price, which in many cases, I find a bit high priced, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good bargain. I bought a 128 mgb jump drive for my computer for $8.00. You name it, they have it, Cd’s, Dvd’s, clothes, digital and 35 mm camera’s, books, even a kitchen sink.

Scottsboro and hwy 79 leading into the town is along the Tennessee River and 69,000 acres of gorgeous lake. The lake is dotted with wonderful islands covered in hardwood forests, which make them look like floating islands. The lake is surrounded by rich green covered mountains shrouded in mist that makes the area look romantic and mysterious.

The next day I traveled to Cathedral Cavern State Park. The third largest cavern in the U.S. after Mammoth Cave and Carlsbad Cavern. The entrance, which is natural, is the largest entrance to a cave in the world. Going caving on a hot summer day is a great way to do something cool. It’s not the most beautiful cave I’ve visited. But the size and scope of the cavern really is impressive. And the drive from Scottsboro was like a Sunday drive in the country. Seeing those rolling mountains off in the distance and the roller coaster drive along country roads to this secluded site really make me appreciate the country more and more.

I discovered back in town a great store on the main square of the town. The town has the county courthouse in the center, with the town square surrounding it. The store is called Hammers and has everything from clothes, lots of jeans and stuff, fabric remnants, fun stuff you don’t need but just have to buy. Like solar yard lights or crocks. I bought a designer shirt and a c/w straw hat.

Time to head west towards Arkansas. Have to meet up with friends in about a week. I’ll let you know how that leg of the trip goes in the next installment.

ZIPPING ALONG. Talk about traveling, I crossed the northern portion of Alabama, Mississippi and into Memphis Tennessee, using hwy 72. It’s a secondary road that’s very good for the RV traveler. Much of it is a 4 lane divided highway that I was able to travel a leisurely 55 to 65 mph through rolling hills with great vistas. It took all of 6 hours to travel 270 miles and I was at my campsite and set up by 2:30 pm. Felt great to put some miles under my belt.

I’ll stay in Memphis for 4 days then into Arkansas to meet up with my buddies Jimmy and Larry who are traveling from Florida and will only take about 2-3 days to get to our destination in the Ozarks.

And what a different sense of the city this time around. I was approached by a vagrant the first couple of minutes after stopping for directions. An overall nice guy who was down on his luck. I gave him some fig-nutons and $3.00. When I got to the campsite, I heard on the news that a bit earlier, there had been a fatal car chase and crash on Winchester, the street I used to get to the campground. This morning, as I was driving downtown, I noticed a number of police cars with their blue lights flashing and a person in handcuffs on the ground.

A stark contrast to the posh areas of town I then toured. Back on the main entrances to town and I was back in the gritty rundown areas of this working mans town.

After leaving the downtown area, I decided to take in the Graceland tour of Elvis’s home. Nice tour even after having to wait in line for over an hour. $30.00 included the home, his car collection, what a super collection of cars including the original pink Cadillac. Oh and his two private planes. The big one named “Lisa Marie”. Visiting the house was cool man, really groovy. Talk about a time warp back to the 60’s and 70’s! But I really felt like I was in Elvis’s home, where he lived and sang all those great tunes. The main rooms were surprisingly tasteful for their era. The jungle room and TV room were, well, you need to see them for yourself.

Elvis tidbit. Lisa Marie is the sole heir to the home. She still owns the home and the 13 acres of land it sits on. She sold the tour operation for $100 million dollars to the creator of the American Idol. The upstairs is not on the tour and only the family has access to it. Seeing his grave along with his mom and dad was emotional and a bit bizarre with an Elvis impersonator looking on at his grave.

Second Elvis tidbit. Elvis was a voracious reader. Much of it spiritual. Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet, Siddhartha, Science of the Mind , Karate, and the Bible of course. Side note: I’ve read many of the same books.

Camper Info: MILEAGE. Ok, since this report is already long, I’ll add a note about gas mileage. Last year, towing my 29 ft, 6,500 lb dry weight, 5th wheel camper, I was getting between 9-14 mpg towing and touring. Average 10.53 mpg

This year, towing my 32 ft, 8,500 lb dry weight, camper, I am getting between 8.8-12 mpg , using a new air filter that a friend, Tim, told me about. Because the new camper is heavier and larger, I feel the mileage has been aided by the higher capacity air flow of the new air filter. It’s not much, but when compared to towing a “cottage” last year, to towing a “house” this year, I think overall I’m doing really well with the mileage. Average 10.11 mpg

06-11 5 Points Alabama, Ruth and Ray Hemrick Visit

(11) On The Road Again
West Point, Alabama
5 Points, Alabama
The Ruth and Ray Hemrick “Estate”

I’m staying at an Army Corp of Engineers campground on West Point Lake.

Friends. I remember Oprah saying one time that a person is lucky if they had 2 close friends. Maybe even just one. Well anyone would be lucky to be able to call Ruth and Ray their friends. On my trip heading north, Ok, I’m a bit slow in getting up north, but when I had an opportunity to visit with Ruth who I worked with over a couple of years at NAWCTSD, and her husband Ray, how could I by-pass such an opportunity!

Sitting out under an arbor with a springy porch swing, surrounded by what, 4 or 5 gardens filled with wonderful flowering plants, vegetables, and who knows what else, I was able to get reacquainted with two wonderful 5 Pointers.

They moved from Orlando, as many of us have, and ended up in 5 Points Alabama. A short distance from Rays brothers and sister. A yellow blinking light, a post office and one or two small shops. That’s it. They’re the second house in town. With a “new” 3 car garage.

Ray and Ruth are working their pattooties off making the place into a House and Garden Home. It looks like it came out of the pages of an HG magazine. Though I’ve got to tell you, they’ve got to learn how to take time off and enjoy their new life in 5 Points. What they’ve created is truly a designer home that’s over 100 years old, with all the charm of bead board ceilings and walls, 5 fireplaces, yellow pine floors polished so brightly you can see yourself in them.

I’ve seen beautiful furniture, but theirs fit’s the home like it was designed by the best designer from N.Y. Atlanta or Charlotte, antiques and new furniture from the best stores in Highpoint N.C. This is no shabby sheik home. Best of all, it’s a warm home with sunny glassed in porches, a master suite with separate sitting room and on suite, and the lounge off of the sunny kitchen.

But we gravitate back to the outdoors to sit and talk, surrounded by those gardens, under the tree. Cows in the pasture beyond, a couple riding their horses past the house, black neighbors waving and giving morning greetings.

We take a ride in the country, past Baptist Churches on every corner, well kept homes and old worn out homes, still filled with character and charm. Their weather beaten siding and brick foundations holding up for one more year. A bridge over a cascading waterfall with a water wheel next to an old mill that now houses weekly antique auctions. Winding roads that hypnotize one into feeling that life should flow to a different rhythm than most of us lead.

The best of conversation with friends that share their new life with you and you with them. The scandal of them being Republican and Catholic in a Democratic and can we say heavily Baptist community. And me a Democrat and Spiritualist and free thinker being a friend of theirs. Wonders never cease.

So how do you top an day with the Hemrick’s ? You Have them over the following evening to the campground (to visit the La Casa Grande’ Del Sole De Doug) for cocktails (they brought the wine) a few munchies and then off to the Marina to the Key West Restaurant for dinner and music. Kind of fun. Patio dining overlooking the harbor with the red and white striped light house off in the distance on the peninsula opposite the boat docks. The sun finally setting after a hot day.

Our keyboard player did some standard songs as we ordered BBQ chicken, pork and quesadillas. And I’ve gotta tell you, the prices were very reasonable. $21.00 for three meals and ice tea.

So do we make an impression or influence each others lives? I had to laugh when Ruth told me after our conversation the other day about how I only do one chore a day and give myself the rest of the day to play and explore life. They telling me how they have been working non stop on their home, 7 days a week without hardly a single break.

Well, after I left, the next day, Ray and Ruth decided to enjoy a bit of their new “retired” lifestyle and not only sat back and enjoyed the day, but actually took in an afternoon nap for the first time in over a year! Ruth said they were actually giddy about taking a nap. Makes me kind of proud that I’ve been able to share a different perspective on life to two very hard working friends. As I told Ray, only doing one chore a day still adds up to 365 chores a year and that’s a lot! Now if he’ll take the time to get that boat out in the water, I’ll truly know I’ve made an impact!

Alabama Note: Alabama has a about a dozen covered bridges through the state and they are clearly marked on the official state map.

06-10 Florence Marina to Kolomaki Mounds Georgia

(10) On The Road Again , Georgia

Florence Marina S.P. w/camping and cabins
Providence Canyon St Conservation Pk
George T. Bagby S.P. , lodge and cabins
Cotton Hill Park, an Army Corp of Engineer campground
Kolomaki Mounds S.H.P., w/camping

Hwy 39, south/west Georgia

Up the road a piece through T-tiny towns like Plains, Preston, Richland, Lumpkin and Sanford Ga. And past acres of tree farms, I arrived at my next destination, The Florence Marina St park. I picked this park because it was close enough to tour some of the other state parks on the western edge of Georgia and Alabama border.

I don’t have a boat, so can’t really take advantage of this park and the wonderful swimming pool wasn’t opened on Mon and Tues because they don’t have short on lifeguards. But I finally got to go for a swim on Wed. A $2 charge to use the pool. Oh, and the tennis court is in major need of repair, leaving only the miniature gulf course available for recreation. But this park was not on my list except as a place to stay. Good shade trees in the campground. My real destination was Providence Canyon and Kolomaki Mounds State Parks.

I loved Providence Canyon. It’s like a miniature version of the Grand canyon, with much brighter colors. And only about 8 miles from Florence. So if you live on the east coast and want to see a canyon, here’s one real close by. There are some great hiking trails, averaging 3 to 9 miles in length at the bottom of the canyon which is completely covered in trees, so there was lots of shade for summer hiking. Unfortunately, that also meant that you didn’t have a view of the canyon walls until well into the hike.

It was all created by recent erosion of the soil due to poor farming practices in the past 100+ years. With the planting of trees on the bottoms of the canyons, much of the erosion has been stopped. But that also means that the wonderful views of the canyon walls are being gradually hidden. So if you want to see some great scenery, go now before the vegetation takes this spectacular scenery into hiding.

My next visit was to Kolomaki Mounds State Historical Park. About a 50 mile drive along county hwy 39, more rolling hills covered with forests and dotted with farms.

The seven Indian mounds were built by the Swift Creek and Weeden Island Indians back in 250-950 A.D. The Great Temple Mound is the oldest one in Georgia and is considered one of the 7 wonders of Georgia. It’s the steepest and tallest one I’ve seen so far. The museum has some great pottery on display, even though some of the figure pottery was stolen in 1978.
How often do we hear of past mistakes. Before the state took over the site, people used the mounds to race cars up and down them and a school football team who practiced on the open grounds around the mounds used to perform running drills up the slopes. Both did their share of damage to such a historical site. Restoration continues and the site will continue to be improved.

Oh and the campsites at this park are awesome. Many right on the Lake. One site even has it’s own boat dock. I’ll definitely come back to this state park to camp. Oh and their swimming pool was open as well.

I stopped at the George T. Bagby Park on the way back from Kolomaki to have lunch in their Lodge. Good food, very reasonably priced. I had slow service, but the views out the huge lodge windows of the lake were very nice. George T. Bagby has a great fishing lake and what I’d consider an old fashions beach for swimming! If you know me at all, I love the water and love to swim in a great lake. This place had it all. Nice shade trees to get out of the sun. Wonderful lawn with picnic tables and small strips of sandy beaches that you could pick to have your own little beach area.

Cotton Hill Park, an Army Corp of Engineer campground. Now I didn’t go into this park, but did note it was just up the street a couple of miles from George T. Bagby park and would make a great campsite since G Bagby only has the lodge and cabins.

The only town with any shops, restaurants, a small Wal-Mart is Eufaula Alabama, just over the River on hwy 82. The Jameson Inn has free wi-fi, so sitting in their parking lot or across the side street will get you access. Oh and they are on Central time zone, so plan your lunch time an hour later. Can we say starving!

Alabama’s coming up next!.

06-09 Americus Georgia to Plains Georgia

(9) On The Road Again
Americus Georgia, Plains, Ga

Home of Jimmy Carter

Just up the road a piece, about 175 miles and I’m in the heart of Georgia low country. It’s steamy hot, so most all activity is done early morning or in the evening. The middle of the day is reserved for writing these reports or leisurely porch swing naps.

After exiting the main hwy, 75, I pass through Cordele and onto Americus to the Brickyard Plantation Golf and RV Park. The folks are super friendly and I’m invited to enjoy a Bluegrass band jam that evening at the park. You’d think after three days of Folk music the previous weekend that I’d be tired of it. But these guys and one gal had such passion for their music you just had to get excited all over again. Not bad for a Thursday evening at a new park.

Friday, I’ve been having a great time exploring the small town of Leslie and the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum. Absolutely one of the finest museums I’ve seen in a long time. A tour guide is available to tell you the history of the rural phone company and show you the most awesome display of old phones you’ll ever see. From the old fashioned switchboard used in Plains while Jimmy Carter was President, to the first (white) touch tone phone installed in Plains for Rosaline Carter. A collector would go ape over the collection of antique phones.

Well now you know, being so close to Plains Georgia, I just had to go tour everything Jimmy Carter. If you haven’t read his most recent book, Our Endangered Values, you really should get it and read it. It’ll put your mind on the right track and hopefully the countries. President Carter is truly the story of a simple farm boy growing up with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to do good in this world.
From Habitat for Humanity to his never ending quest to bring stability and peace to the world, he truly is a man to emulate and learn from.

Friday evening is happy hour of course. Many Rv parks have a happy hour once or twice a week. The Brickyard does it up right. Bring your favorite beverage and something to share. Good conversation. Ok some people don’t like Jimmy Carter. Too political? How is that possible? Habitat For Humanity, trying to aid in calming down the worlds hot spots? A major environmentalist. Well, I could go on, but you should discover who the man is on your own.

I’ll be heading west to the Georgia/Alabama border to check out some state parks.
P.S. I did some work today. Washed the camper. Many parks don’t permit it, so when one lets you clean the camper, ya gotta take advantage of it. Well, my works done for the week.

06-08 Florida Folk Festival, Steven Foster St Park Florida

(8) On The Road Again
The Florida Folk Festival, Steven Foster State Park

White Springs, Fl

I’m back in White Springs for the Folk Festival. I road my bike in the first day, and wondered between the 12 stages listening to musicians like Vicki Genfan, now living in N.J. Marie Nofsinger a Florida award singer, Panama Red with his really died red hair but what a singer. Groups like One Street Over and Lucky Mud. Bobby Hicks told Florida stories through his songs and sang about the Michigan family coming to Florida in their Winnebago. Seems most Fla. folk singers dislike “Northerners”. And tolerate us as long as we don’t tell them how to do it better, or complain about the heat etc. I particularly liked Mathew Sabatell and the Rambling Gamblers. He, with his dark long hair and smooth rich deep voice that commanded attention when he sang. Unlike some of the other musicians, he wasn’t afraid to use the mike and belt out a good tune.

Oh, Marie Nofsinger sang a song about a guy in her town who wasn’t quite right. You know, the one that’s in every town, he gets along, but has his own “problems”. No one ever knows what they are, Drugs in the past, Vietnam, or some other problems to big to handle.

It reminded me of Penny Annie. An old lady in my hometown of Houghton Michigan. We kids would see her when my Mom would take us downtown. Penny Annie would be searching for pennies fallen around the parking meters or phone booths. Us kids made fun of her and our Mom let us know that we were never to make fun of Penny Annie. That what ever caused her to have to look for pennies to buy day old loaf of bread or such, we had know right to put her down. And even though we’d look for pennies ourselves from that time out, we knew not to take them, because they were for Penny Annie.

Strange how something like a folk festival in Florida can bring back memories and lessons in life from Michigan.

On Saturday, I spent the whole day at the festival into the evening. It’s been pretty muggy and hot the past couple of days, so I went down to the Suwannee River and jumped in the river to cool off, along with dozens of kids and folks ready to cool off for a while. The water was warm as the river is barely flowing and dark as black tea with all the tannin from the trees.

All my buddies from The Great Outdoors Club came up and we had a grand time wandering in every direction possible. Meeting up every so often to talk or listen to a group. John, Katie, David L and David B, Manny, and Mario and Kim.

The lead act in the evening was Rosanne Cash, she was late getting on stage so we opted to listen to another group called the Haitian Voduo Pop group hosted by Papaloko and Loray Mistik. An interesting group mixing Haitian drums, electric guitar, rhythmic dance and a high priest dressed all in white. They were from Miami and some of my buddies had just driven up from Miami. How odd is that?

I listened to the Florida heritage awards, including the fiddle contest winners. It was kind of sad listening to the heritage award winners, as there were none originally from Florida that I could tell. A sad note on the vanishing heritage of Florida. One of the winners was originally from Michigan (of course) who learned to make utilitarian duck decoys from his grandfather. Bringing back that skill with him to Florida. Thus, making him a Florida heritage winner. Even the native Seminole Indians were absent this year.

The singer, and I’m sorry I don’t remember her name, who finally had the guts to sing a song about being glad she wasn’t a native Floridian. Her song told of the non-native Floridians for helped save the Everglades when the “native” Floridians let it be ravaged and other non-Floridians who love this wonderful state too and are willing to shed blood to protect what’s left of it. It validated who I am and many non-native Floridians who love this state so much and want to help preserve the best it has to offer. Helped to offset the “humorous songs” about us “northerners” coming to Florida in their Winnebago’s.

Note: The Steven Foster State Park celebrates the life and music of Steven Foster who made the Suwannee River famous with his song “Way down upon the Suwannee river“ which I think the actual name of the song is “Old Folks Home“. Steven Foster probably never saw the Suwannee river but you can learn more about his music and songs at the museum, see some pianos he used to compose some of his songs and view the wonderful dioramas.
On the last day, Sunday, I went back to the Festival, even though it was super hot out. But I did get a chance to hear a who slew of country singers including Mathew Sabatell again. He sang some really great old songs you may remember. Like, Jimmy Crack Corn, The Old Grey Goose, and Oh Susanna by Steven Foster of course.

Memorial Day Fun! Wow, then I met up with my Great Outdoors buddies for a grand trip down the Ichetucknee Springs River. It’s just north of High Springs Fla. and is one of those wonderfully canopied spring fed rivers. Cool crystal clear water. It’s famous for tubing down the 6 plus miles, or you can do the 3 mile run as well. Rent a tube outside the park, then the park provide shuttles back up the river, so you can tube it all day long. What an awesome way to spend a Memorial Day weekend. Good friends, cool water, laughter, slowly gliding down the Ichetucknee, the Real Florida. Afterward, a great BBQ topped of with apple pie and ice-cream. Yum!

A great ending to my stay in Florida before heading up north.