Wednesday, August 26, 2009


As Jeff Wilson can attest, our screened porch is a “tree house” to us. Judy probably spends more time out there than I do, but she is more allergy resistant!

However, we both love napping, reading, and watching the wildlife from that lofty perch. We see rabbits, squirrels, owls, hawks, and deer from our hidden vantage point. We also love watching the seasons change from there. It won’t be long before the leaves will begin to change and the colors reflecting off the water will dazzle us once again.

When Jeff or my brother-in-laws come over, we indulge in our favorite libation and listen to rock/blues music I have piped out there from my computer. There’s nothing like it to sooth the soul, and I often took advantage of the solitude on Friday evenings when I worked. Nothing could relax me more and I did it regardless of the temperature! I loved to bundle up, light a cigar, and sip a couple of hours away.

I don’t do it as much since retiring, but we do often have breakfast out there, and relax with a good book. As soon as this humidity slides on away for the year, I’ll be back out there. Beats TV anytime!

Today I captured some new wildflower shots, a dragonfly, and my “mud bug” towers in the backyard. There are several more photos, larger sizes at Flickr!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Today was the second time Gary Baker and Dr. Julian Ahler have invited me on a “road trip” with them, and I was honored. The two have been friends a long time and have made many trips over the years, usually on a Saturday when their wives are busy doing something else. There is no set plan, destination, or other agenda, but the goal is always to have a good time and see something different and interesting before returning home.

The first time I was asked to tag along there was a mission: find watermelons for the annual “Music and Melons”. The “Babahatchie Community Band” holds a concert each year around the middle of August, at the Riverfront Park in Harriman, Tennessee. The local band, many of whom were “in band” together back in high school, provides free music and watermelon for the enjoyment of local residents, and anyone wishing to attend!

Yes, it can get pretty hot some years, but just the sight of watermelons floating in tubs of ice-water can cool you right down. We found the watermelons at a nearby truck market, after having driven about a hundred miles out through the country. However, we didn’t care; it was just the enjoyable part of the whole process.

Today they asked me if I knew somewhere we could go, and I asked if they had ever been to Black Mountain, and neither had been there. I’ve posted about Black Mountain and/or the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail before, so I knew what a surprise it would be for them.

All along the narrow road to the top of the mountain, we could see many varieties of wildflowers, and Dr. Ahler began naming them off. He’s a walking encyclopedia, and not just on the subject of wildflowers. Having been a doctor in the East Tennessee area for several years, he’s been on just about every road, trail, and path there is in the area. He keeps us entertained with his stories from the past. He seems to know who lived, lives, or wanted to live in houses and on farms up and down the highways and back roads. It’s really a hoot to hear the old stories and listen to him chuckle over his memories.

At the top, we start down the main trail to the rock outcrops and he continues educating us with flower and weed names. He even stops occasionally to point out the same flowers to see if we remember! There will be a test later,” he often teases!

We pass the old home places, marked only by the stone chimneys, and they marvel over the “spring house” and the large cavity carved in the spring’s bedrock, just the size of farmer’s milk can. Just think, it was less than a hundred years ago when the “spring house” was someone’s refrigerator!

We stood on top and surveyed the Grassy Cove valley below us! It was a beautiful day, low humidity, with lots of sunshine and big puffy white clouds against a deep blue sky. We tried to imagine how many eons of rain, wind, and ice it took to layer the sandstone with the pea-gravel, and carve out the many hydraulic holes, cracks, and brain cortex-like shapes in the huge rocks. It all made us feel very insignificant in the scheme of things.

Down along the face of one outcrop, (note the overhang in the background of the large photo) we thought about the days when this shelter protected Indians and settlers out on “long hunts” from cold winds, summer heat, and pouring rain. The temperature in the shade of these rocks was a good ten to fifteen degrees cooler than down in the valley. It made us think of the fall coming, and how much more we would be able to explore without the threat of bugs and snakes!

We’ll have to come back soon,” Dr. Ahler promised, “there’s a lot more to see!

God willing, we’ll all make the trip.

Friday, August 21, 2009


On a recent trip from Harriman to Memphis, I noticed all along the way that city police either had vehicles stopped along I-40 or were just sitting, sometimes in groups up to 4 cars, in the median watching the traffic go by. My question is why?!

Why should local law enforcement, city police units, be patrolling the Interstate? Is this a new revenue source for the small towns?

It was a city police officer that pulled my friend Jeff over this last trip. He was following me, and did, because the cop was riding his bumper, move over out of the way, probably cutting in front of a semi just a little too close. However, it appeared to Jeff that the police vehicle wanted by quickly!

It seems to me that local police should only be patrolling and protecting the citizens that pay for their services. The Highway Patrol organizations are paid to patrol the state and national highways! Aren't they?

I know that the Interstate system is used to distribute illegal aliens and drugs, but our local police forces aren't paid to do the policing. Are they?

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


My wife and I never saw the officer as we passed, so we weren’t sure if it was a City of Harriman Police car, or the Tennessee Highway Patrol, but a dark gray late model Chevrolet, with 2 flashing blue lights in the grill had a car stopped at the top of the hill coming out of Harriman, just across from Goldston’s Service Station on Monday. Whew…that was a long sentence! The vehicle had no identifying marks other than the grill lights; no blue lights on top, or even on the dash.

It was around noon, and the clean and shiny waxed vehicle, with very dark tented windows, sat just behind the stopped car, while the officer apparently wrote a ticket in the AC comfort of his/her vehicle.

My wife commented that she wasn’t sure if she would stop for a vehicle as unmarked as that one, especially at night. I thought about it as a man for a few minutes, and decided I agreed with her, which she would say was unusual!

I told her that the Harriman Police HQ was just over the hill and that if she was unsure, she should drive there before stopping.

I’m sure it means a lot to the coffers of the state and/or city, but for women this type of vehicle does create a conflict in their minds, and I don’t blame them. During the day, you could wait until you see the officer and his uniform before rolling down your window, but at night that’s impossible until he/she is standing just outside your window, just a reach away.

We’ve had such vehicles for years, both working for the state and cities across the country, but with more and more evil doers in the world these days, it’s hard to just pull to the side of a dark highway or street and wait and see what happens next. Maybe if we all just start driving “over the hill” to the police/THP/or sheriff’s office for proper identification of officers, they might start putting something on the vehicles to readily identify themselves as true officers of the law.

Maybe they could have gotten a strip across the upper windshield, stating their authority, while they were getting the illegally dark tint applied!

What do you think?

Friday, August 14, 2009


I went to lunch today with my wife and daughter, and it was our first time at Redbones on the River in Kingston, Tennessee. The luncheon turned into the day’s big meal!

The old home, situated across from the Kingston City Park on Watts Bar Lake, has been turned into a very nice looking restaurant, with beautiful shiny wood floors, dark wood tables and chairs, with just the right amount of light coming in from outside. You can also sit outside, on one of two decks (upper and lower), if you prefer the summer heat to refreshing air conditioning! Not us, we appreciate old fashioned AC!

There are sitting areas all over the place, including upstairs near the tastefully decorated bar, which features a good selection of pulls, including my favorite – Fat Tire? After the wonderful meal, I sneaked up the stairs to get a “bar shot” for my bar collection on Flickr.

We ordered the fried green-tomatoes as an appetizer and, wow, they were fantastic! They were those droopy, soggy kinds you get some places, these were crunch fried with a horseradish dip. They were simply a wonderful way to prepare your palate for your entrée.

Judy and I ordered half-rack of Baby-back Ribs, baked potato, and Spinach Maria, while Tracy wanted the Chicken Alfredo with broccoli.

We had thought about a club sandwich, a burger, or a salad for lunch, but after seeing all the steak, seafood, pasta dishes, we decided that lunch would be our dinner meal as well. There was no forcing us to only eat one meal today either. After finishing the generous meal, we were too stuffed for dessert, even though the Chocolate Bar Cake kept calling our names!

So, the next time you are looking for a classy place to eat, or just have drinks with friends, but don’t want to drive the 40 miles to Knoxville, check out Redbones on the River in Kingston. You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


About 45 minutes west of Harriman, up on the Cumberland Plateau, is Cumberland Mountain State Park. We have gone there for years starting way back in the 60’s. It’s a lovely little state park with gently rolling hills, deep untouched forest with winding trails, a lovely lake brimming with fish, a huge swimming pool, lots of cabins and camping sites, and rustic sandstone lodge sitting right in the middle. Inside this main building is a wonderful kitchen that turns out delicious food almost every night, served up buffet style.

No, it’s not an ordinary buffet where all the selections taste like all the food was cooked in the same pot. This buffet has never failed to please all my senses: my vision, my olfactory, and my gustation! Seriously good tasting chicken, roast beef, BBQ, catfish, with all the vegetable and bread trimmings! Tuesdays are set aside for a seafood bonanza that includes: fried and peel-and-eat shrimp, scallops, fried and baked catfish, crab legs, and salmon cut in the shape of a crab shell and stuffed with crab stuffing! OMG folks, it was all great…and then there were the hush puppies!

The other offerings were coleslaw, a pea salad, a salad bar, chocolate cake, banana pudding, and soft-serve ice cream! Tuesday is not the only fantastic evening either:

Cumberland Mtn. Restaurant Dining Schedule - Open 7 Days a Week

Monday - Saturday: Lunch - 11:00 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. - Dinner - 4:00-8:00 p.m.

Sunday: All day - 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Tuesday - Seafood Buffet with All You Can Eat Crab Legs - 4:00-8:00 p.m.

Friday - All You Can Eat Catfish (baked or fried) - 4:00-8:00 p.m.

Saturday - All You Can Eat Rib Night - 4:00-8:00 p.m.

Well, I jumped right to the eating part, and left out the visiting Neena and Ron at their campsite! Their grandson Chandler (“Chan Man” as we call him) has been visiting with them this past week and so they took him to Cumberland Mountain State Park to camp, swim, hike, and eat!

Charlotte and Gary drove up to the park as well. We had a great time visiting before and after the feast. It was very pleasant today with the temps in the high 70’s to mid-80’s and bearable humidity. We were also thankful that the only bugs we saw were a few flies that only visited briefly.

We all got a kick out of Chandler climbing around on everything and playing in the campfire. It reminded us all of our own youth and how the fire always seemed to be the center of the camping trip. We would play in it, disregarding the warning that we would “wet the bed” if we played in the fire! It was something my grandmother always threatened me with so that I would not poke things down into her wood stove, or spit on the top to watch the water dance off into oblivion!

You can also see that Judy was trying to excite me with her tongue-to-straw-action! It worked!

Ron and Gary both have campers, Ron’s, as you can see is a “pull behind”, while Gary’s is a mid-size motorhome. Judy and I struggled with the idea of getting one as well, but after a couple of weeks of agonizing over it we came to the conclusion that an RV was just not for us. It was amazing how relieved we both were to finally come to that decision.

However, Ron/Neena and Gary/Charlotte all seem to love their campers, so more power to them.

We can hardly wait for them to camp at Cumberland Mountain again, so we can drive up, eat, and come home!

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Jeff met us at the house Wednesday morning and we headed out for Memphis. We made four stops on the way down, making the trip in about five and half hours of actual driving time.

The first stop was for a Hardee’s biscuit, the second stop was a “pause for a cause”, and the fourth was for gas. The third? Well, the third had my butt clinched while I watched a local cop talking to Jeff in my rearview mirror. Jeff had apparently cut in front of an 18-wheeler a little closer than the officer liked, so he pulled him over. I pulled over about 50 yards in front of them and sat there watching, waiting for the cop to discover Jeff’s M-16 in the trunk!

Fortunately the cop only wanted to warn him about cutting over in front of folks, and jaw about Jeff’s “Proud to be and asshole” bumper sticker, and about the flavor of his cigar! I had noticed big white clouds of cigar smoke bellowing from his sun-roof on occasion, so I knew he was puffing away, probably “toking” away from a butt at the end of his Texas size toothpick!

Soon we were on our way and talking about what was said on our cellphones.

We both stayed at the Westin Beale Street, so we checked in and headed for “the street”!

The first order of business was to get something great to eat, and we knew it had to be barbeque ribs! We ate at the famous Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous located in the “Downtown Alley”, which is across the street from the Peabody Hotel. The Rendezvous does a “dry rub” finish on their ribs and, man, they were delicious! However, it turned out that Judy is fond of “dry rub”, but she did finish her half slab, while Jeff and I polished off full racks with Yuenglings!

We were then ready for the strip, and we headed for BB King’s for some blues/jazz music and more Yuenglings!

It wasn’t long before Chuck Atkinson, another long time blogger and Facebook buddy buzzed Jeff, and was soon on his way down from the Doubletree on Union Street. Chuck used to post regularly on What’s ‘Up Chuck”, but is so busy with his traveling job that he mostly post on Facebook these days. Anyway, Jeff and I both had wanted to meet him for some time. Chuck, and his wife, is from Tennessee, and he is almost always seen wearing a UT hat, but he now lives near Birmingham, AL. Since his sales job requires he travel to many large cities, he drove up explicitly to meet us, but, he did have a client meeting scheduled on Thursday morning.

We recognized each other instantly and greeted each other with warm handshakes and hugs. I think Judy was a little nervous meeting Chuck for the first time, but within the next hour she grew to like him very much. Since the music was too loud for us to talk, we left BB’s and went across the street to the Beale Street Tap Room.

The Tap Room has 27 beers on tap, but I settled on Fat Tire for the evening, while Jeff and Judy stayed with Yuengling. Chuck, well Chuck tried several things, including buying a round of Jim Beam shooters for us.

We had a good time talking and bringing each other up on our lives, beginning with the log-cabin where we were all born! I’m not sure what beer number I was up to by then, but whatever the count was, it was just enough to get me into Coyote Ugly just about block down the street! Luckily for me, I did not get involved in any of the “belly shots” the gals were selling, but most of the rest of us did, and I have photos to prove it, but you’ll not see them here!

My thanks to Chuck (especially Chuck), Jelvis (yes, Jelvis, a stage name for sure), and Lolo for the great time we had there.

Judy, bless her heart, had as big a time as any of us guys. I’m blessed with a great lady who enjoys live and hasn’t got a jealous bone in her body. She is great, and I’m just the same with her as I am without her along. We have no secrets and take the greatest pleasure in seeing the other have a great time.

Some time way past my bedtime, we all parted company and went back to our respective hotels. I found it hard to go to sleep, with all the excitement from that evening dancing in my head. However, I was soon asleep and feeling fine!

The next morning Judy and I met Jeff and we had breakfast at the Hard Rock Café on Beale…it was actually our lunch, and the burgers were perfect!

We three then headed out for Sun Records, which turned out to be at least a mile walk, and by the time we arrived the humidity had beaten us down pretty good. We cooled off in the café there and bought tickets to the museum and studio. The tour was great and we all enjoyed the memorabilia, history, and music. It was kind of good to stand where Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and other modern day acts had stood while making their recordings. I know I’m no Elvis, but it felt good standing there, and it was all I could do NOT to break out in “Hound Dog”!

Check out all my Memphis photos on Flickr by clicking HERE!

The way back was just a far as it was there! We finally made the hotel for a quick cool shower and about an hour’s down time. We then met in the lobby where I called for my car.

I popped in the GPS and we were off to Stax Records, a museum for SOUL music! I didn’t take any photos there, mostly because you have to check your camera before you’re allowed inside!

The museum there is quite large and full of clothes, records, recordings, photos, and Isaac Hayes’ “Gold Cadillac”! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, right up until the tornado sirens went off!

The staff hustled us inside a long inside hallway, where we stood until the all clear. It turned out that a tornado touched down about 2 miles away, tearing up a shopping mall where the stone exterior of Kohl’s Department Store was torn away. The rain came down in buckets and the sky was very dark outside the Stax building, but finally the rain broke enough that we made our way to the car and left the area.

With the GPS guiding us (what a wonderful invention they are), we arrived at our next adventure…more BBQ! This time we tried Neely’s Bar-B-Que on the West side. Jeff got the beef ribs, Judy got BBQ spaghetti, and settled on pulled pork! Man, it was all terrific and beat the Rendezvous’ hands down! It had that sweet BBQ taste!

In 1997 a local media TV station held a BBQ contest for the best ribs, along with other local top BBQ restaurants in Memphis, which was featured on “The Today Show” with Al Roker, Neely's won hands-down! We found out why!

Chuck had by then called to say his meeting had been canceled and he was on his way home. Home time is important to a man that spends most of his work time on the road, so we understood.

Back at the hotel, the rain was still coming down. By 8 o’clock, I called Jeff and told him I was staying in for the rest of the evening, so we said good night. However, Jeff later went out and bought up half of Beale Streets’ t-shirts and CDs! I regret not going with him, but I really didn’t know his intentions, but Judy and I were pretty tired after the day’s activities anyway.

So, we got up Friday morning and found the nearest Cracker Barrel, which turned out to be across the Mississippi on the Arkansas side. We had a great breakfast and last few minutes together, reminiscing about the week’s events. We hugged and parted, knowing that there would be another time to come.

Thanks Jeff…and Chuck…for a great week!

Jeff went on to visit our friend Bruno in Missouri, and Judy and I made it home in another 5 and ½ hours, but only after stopping at Cancun’s on Peavine Road near Crossville, Tennessee. Our last great road-trip meal for awhile!