Tuesday, May 31, 2011


We traditionally take Katie Bug (our oldest granddaughter) on a special vacation, just the three of us, each summer.  She always decides the destination, and likes places "old people", like us, enjoy.  We have such a great time, mostly watching her excitement as she learns about the bigger world around her, clowns around, or as she chows down on some crab legs!

This year's trip was just a four-day tour of Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia.  It was about 7 and a half hours from Harriman, straight down Interstates all the way.  Judy did all the driving there and back, while I was saddled with the 'round-town driving.  I think I would have much preferred the Interstate!

Savannah is an easy place to get around, once you discover that the town was beautifully laid out in perfect squares with straight streets that lead to an from the Savannah Historic District.  Of course, the first thing you have to get used to are the squares, or little parks that are placed at every intersection in the historic district.  This squares are America's equivalent of Europe's "round-abouts".  You must slow down and follow around to your right in order to continue on your straight journey downtown.
Most of the "squares" contain a fountain, a statue, or monument dedicated to someone or some past historical event.  These squares broke up our straight trip up and down Abercorn Street each day as we traveled from our hotel to the downtown sites.

Judy picked out our hotel blindly on the Internet, so it was quite a distance from downtown, but the place was nice so we decided to stay put and just enjoy the trips to and from our planned destinations.

We loved walking on Bay and River Streets, watching vacationers and following them into various shops and restaurants.  River Street is like a little Gatlinburg with lots of unique shops and candy kitchens, and great places to get in out of the 90+ degree heat, cool off, and eat.

The Cotton Exchange Tavern Restaurant and Fiddler's Crab House were two of our favorite places.

The walking isn't hard, after all your are at sea level, but during the hot summer months you want to be sure to carry water with you, and you need to find a place to cool off frequently.  The heat is a "wet heat", very humid, so your body will know when it's time to take a break!

Katie loved the old buildings and cemeteries, and often said, while following me, "Papaw, do you have a duck in your pants!"  I told her no, but she would reply, "I don't know...I can hear it quacking!"  Sorry...I had to add that, she has a unique sense of humor!

We toured Bonaventure and Colonial Cemeteries and took loads of photos, but we never let our car get too far out of sight.  The heat was oppressive and we enjoyed the cool while relocating within the 600 acres!

Tybee Island was another great place to visit and shop, or to take a tour of the Tybee Island Lighthouse, or the beautiful grounds of Fort Pulaski.  Katie asked lots of questions and I answered or made up answers to every one!  It was quite interesting to see this bit of history.

We also toured the Sorrel-Weed House.  This house has a lot of history and even boast of having been a frequent lodging for Gen. Robert E. Lee when he was in Savannah.  The house is also reported haunted, which fascinated Katie.  She talked about seeing the house on TV and about the "orbs" that had been photographed there.

I tried to explain that "orbs" are nothing more than specs of dust that are captured by the reflecting flash on cameras.  However, she preferred to believe, and I did capture some "orbs/dust reflections" while in the basement!  You can see those and my other photos on my Flickr page. 

Katie was also impressed by the old deep south "pineapple" tradition.  Home owners would show off their wealth by going out and buying a very rare pineapple when ever visitors came to stay.  They displayed them on their mantels to show how welcome their guests were.

The pineapple stayed there during the entire visit.  However, if the guests overstayed their welcome the owner would simply take the pineapple down from the mantel and serve it at the next meal.  That was a signal for the guests to make an excuse for them having to leave.  Nothing had to be said, just put up or take away the pineapple!

Robert E. Lee, however, often carried extra pineapples with him.  So, if he got up one morning and the owner's pineapple was missing, he would simple place one of his own there!  Who knew he had a sense of humor!?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Judy and I still count ourselves blessed that Katie Bug, soon to be 19, still likes to come and spend the night with us.  As usual, she and Judy stay up late jabbering about boys, school, and watching "intervention" shows on TV.

Me, well, I'm in my room trying to go to sleep, knowing that breakfast is all on me...usually pancakes when she comes!

This past week she spent two nights and days with us, but on Thursday, the last day, she got bored and needed for us to come up with something to do.  So, I suggested a hike...and food out!

The idea was an immediate success, so off we went to Black Mountain.  They wanted to see the big rocks and cliffs in the fresh green foliage, and I wanted to see the Pink Lady Slippers.

Unfortunate for me, the Slippers had all finished blooming about a week ago, while we were on vacation!  However, I found one lonely little lady that was just about to deflate for another season.  It was kind of sad, but I counted my self lucky to have at least seen one in bloom this spring. 

There were lots of Fire Pink, Golden Ragwort, and a thick crop of Hawkweed blooms to satisfy my "wildflower" craving, so the day wasn't a total loss.  I noticed that the Mountain Laural is almost ready to reach full peak, so I'll probably go back in another week...if I get back from Savannah in time.

The girls played and posed around the rocks and under the bluffs for awhile, until the itch to move on spread among us, so we moved on down the mountain and back to HWY 70.  Judy had never been to the fire-tower on Roosevelt Mountain above Rockwood, so that was the new heading.

It was about then that I discovered that Katie had never been to Ozone Falls.  Wow, how did that happen?!

I thought I had taken her to just about all my favorite places back when she was under 10 and we on "ventures", as she called them, a lot.  Oh well, there was no time like the present and we were just about there by the time all the "yesterdays" had played through my mind.

She was quite nervous approaching the ledge that is some 1 to 150 feet above the fall pool below.  I can't blame her though...I have a strong respect for heights myself!

We took a few shots there and headed back down the mountain to Roosevelt and up to the fire-tower.

On top, I was relieved to see that the old tower was still standing, although a little worst for wear and tear!  The steps have almost all rotted off, but somehow graffiti still gets painted on the sides of the observation deck.  Who are those crazy kids?!

We later made our way down to the railroad tunnel, where neither girls had ever been.  Just as we walked up to the opening I suddenly stopped and said, "Listen!"

The tunnel cuts beneath Roosevelt Mountain between Westel and Rockwood, Tennessee.  The old Tennessee Central Railroad Tunnel still allows trains through the mountain, off the Cumberland Plateau, and into the East Tennessee River Valley.

They thought I had heard a train, which I hadn't, but just the thought made them nervous.  So, it was now time to eat.

We were all starving by the time we made Los Primos, and the chips and margarita tasted so good!

Back home, I decided to let her do something else she had never done...cut my hair!  The picture included here isn't the best, of me anyway, but you get the point.  She started out reluctantly, being afraid she would cut me, but as the learning curve topped out, she began to apply the appropriate pressure and made all the right moves.  After all, how hard is it to shear an old man nearly bald!?

It was a great day, and it was hard to see her leave for home. 

However, we are right now enjoying her company on a little trip to Savannah, GA.  There will be lots to talk about and more photos to share when we get back.

See you then...

Friday, May 20, 2011


Most of you already know Judy and I took a Caravan Bus Tour of the "Big Hole" country almost two weeks ago.  Seems like it has been longer, but time passes so quickly at my age!

We left Nashville on a Thursday, with Frontier Airlines and worked our way through Denver and on to Phoenix, where we arrived a day earlier than the bus tour was to begin.  The plan was to take a hot-air balloon ride, but the prevailing winds blew that dream away in a cool desert morning about 50 miles outside Phoenix.

The only way to the pick-up area, which was a dark Safeway parking lot, was by taxi.  We had to be there by 5:30 in the AM, and it was a 50-mile one-way ride in a smelly old taxi.  The driver seem reluctant to drop us in the dark, in a near empty parking lot, but he took our $70 and pulled away.  We watched his taillights fade into the distance, back toward Phoenix, and that was when the "sucker" feeling first came over me.

I half expected his friends to pop up and rob us, but nothing happened for the longest time.  Then a white van pulled up and stopped on the far side of the lot and turned off its lights.  We stood waiting for movement for a few minutes, and after two other vehicles pulled in, we walked the 75 yards across the lot to see if this might be our ride.

Well, it was our ride, but we were greeted with, "Well, here's the bad's flight has been cancelled.  Wind is up and blowing in the wrong direction."

My heart sank, then sank again when I realized our cab was gone and we were without a way back to the Doubletree in Phoenix!  Then I thought about another $70 trip back to the city without my bucket list ever being checked off!

I was talking to the cab company when "Captain Tom" asked, "Did you just get dropped off?"

"Yep...right after I paid the seventy-bucks!"

Captain Tom (the balloon pilot) kind'a shook his head and thought for a minute before saying, "I'm going back through Phoenix anyway...I'll give you folks a ride."

I quickly told the taxi lady on the phone "never mind" and began to feel some better.

Captain Tom was a great guy, all dressed in his khakis, looking like he should be working for Marlin Perkins, or something, and with his salt and pepper pony tail.  Quite a cool dude and someone that was about to save me $50!

Turns out he's from North Carolina originally, and Judy's southern accent, coupled with our "it ain't your fault" attitude made him compassionate to our circumstance.  The fact that the New Jersey woman before us had chewed on him harshly for something he had no control over.

We talked about everything and anything all the way back to the front door of the motel, where I made him take $20 for his trouble.  Thanks Captain!

Judy and I spent the rest of Friday at the Desert Botanical Gardens, boning up on our cacti and butterfly names.  It was a very interesting day, to say the least, and I got some great shots at the gardens. (CLICK HERE TO SEE MY "BIG HOLE" SHOTS!

That evening with met, for the first time, the other 45 members of the planned tour group, and our tour director Mike.  He laid out the rules of engagement for the next 6 days, and handed our our luggage tags.  The next morning we sat our bags outside our room door and went to breakfast.  When we came back to refresh, our bags were by then on the bus waiting for us.

This was the routine each morning.  We put the bags out before breakfast and the next time we saw them, they were in our next motel room.

So, we were off!  The big coach (not a bus) glided along the roads effortlessly and giving us the widest possible views of the country side.

It's really the only way to trailers to pull, no big RVs to muscle along and fill up and dump, just a relaxed feeling...leaving the driving to Jack, our trusted driver.

As the photos will attest, we hit all the high spots I'd heard about since I was a kid...Painted Desert, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park, and all tiny points in between!  

Unfortunately, it came to an end in Las Vegas, amidst the heat, and the hustle and bustle of airport feeding frenzies, and the inevitable re-acquaintance with our luggage.

We stayed an extra night in Vegas...mostly for my benefit, but it turns out...Vegas is not my kind of town!  What happens in Vegas can stay in Vegas, as far as I'm concerned!

We did see two great shows while there, "Vegas - The Show" and the "Beatles - Love", the latter of which was right in the Mirage where we stayed.
Judy lost her usual $80 bucks, while I sipped the free scotch and watched the young gals parade past.  

It was quite a shame too, dresses up to their butt cracks, walking awkwardly on their platform high heels, trying to keep up with punks dressed with baggy pants and sideways ball caps!  Why do they dress up when their "boy friends" dress like their going to a drive-by!?

Thankfully, we made some new friends, ate some wonderful food, rode some kind old mules, and filled up our brains with the images of some of God's great creations!  It was a wonderful trip, but I will not make it again.  Like Jack, our driver, said, "One rock begins to look like every other rock!"  

True, so many rocks, so many different colors and textures, but I've seen it and I've documented it with over 900 photos (since turned into about 65 merges and paired down to about 700).  It's done!'s on to Savannah...making more lasting memories and bonds with our granddaughter Katie Bug!