We were back on the road again this past Saturday, and as usual, no particular destination in mind. We just head out and when we come to side road, we turn. We don't like the main roads...too much traffic, and no scenery at all!
The direction we turn is determined by asking if anyone has been down that road. So, we go down the one that no one has been down, or at least has forgotten!
Sometimes we begin to pass things we remember, but coming from a different direction, so we begin looking for an unknown road. Often Dr. Ahler will tell Gary to do down a road because it's either heading to or away from "the river or mountains", or better yet, "follow the creek", and here we go.
Somehow, Saturday we ended up in Loudon and Monore County, TN, in the towns of Philadelphia and Madisonville. Soon we saw a sign directing us to Hiwassee College, and we all remembered there was a "balloon festival" going on there.
So we follow the signs, missing one due to construction midtown Madisonville, and somehow make a circle and come back to the same intersection we missed, only from a different direction. This time we see the sign, and finally make it to the campus.
Neither of us had any idea about the timing of the event, but had we just thought about balloon festivals, we would have known that most of the colorful action occurs after dark. The burners then light up the inside of the balloons. However, we get there long before dark-thirty and there was only one balloon in action; giving short tethered rides up and down. There was a second one, but the basket was still in a pickup, and the balloon itself was barely unfolded on the ground.
Now, this would not have been too bad, except that we had already paid (rather Dr. Ahler paid) $5 a head for us to get up the hill to the parking area. Over about a quarter of a mile, on what seemed like the main campus, were festival vendor tents, and blow up bounce-houses, etc., but it would a long hike for aging hips and knees. Besides, neither of us wanted to bounce! Food and drink would have been nice, but we had to park too far away to make it worth the hike.
So, we stood beneath the single colorful balloon, that frequently rose with a blow torch sound, and descended to the shouts of the ground crew.
I snapped away, knowing that this was all the action I was going to get, and I got a few good shots. It was rather colorful against the bright blue September sky, but we soon grew tired of starring up.
We passed a couple of barns, an old mill, and a large orchard of "crab apples". Neither of us had seen so many in years, and so I hopped out and hiked back down the road to the fence line just feet from the trees. Not the greatest find in the world, but hey, I didn't have an "Osage orange" tree in my wildflower database. Now I do!
You may know this ugly fruit by one of these other names: Maclura pomifera, commonly called hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, bois d'arc, bodark, or bodock!
I remember chucking, and having them thrown back at me many times when I was young! They are heavy and hurt like the devil when they hit you right in the middle of the back!
We made two other stops of interest; one was a Eve Mill near Philadelphia, TN. The old mill structure was painted a bright red and trimmed out in white. The actual mill building is overgrown and hidden beside the mill dam; which you can see from further down the road. The waterfall was pretty, but it would have been much more scenic with a big water wheel.
The other stop was at a little general store, where three young girls were just about to close. However, they let us come on in to get a drink and something to snack on. It was great to see young folks actually working, and being very sociable. We left them a good tip for staying open an extra 10 minutes.
So that was our Saturday...not much to young folks these days, but when old buddies are cruising down the backroads of East Tennessee, these old men think there is no where else in the world like it!