Experience, Learn, and Love Life

Sunday, October 19, 2014

18 October, 2014 - Home again, home again, jiggity jog.

This morning we left Rawlins and headed for home. It is a bit fitting that the first night of this trip was spent in Rawlins, as was the last.  When we started out on this long trip and stopped here for the night,  we found that there were no good places to eat in the town and the one place with a 4 star rating had gone out of business.  This night coming home, things hadn't changed. There was a recommended Mexican place, about 6 miles out of town, but not much else.  So we had a good Pizza Hut pizza in the room and called it a night.
The drive from Rawlins is easy on I-80 and we just put it in gear and headed out. This is country we have traveled many times and so we did not have a lot of new stuff to see that was within reasonable distance from the freeway.  I must confess that today we did not look too hard for something special.  I took no pictures but we stopped in Green River to find a photo op for Freddy the Falcon.  I was surprised to see a number of sculptures along the main street and we found a great bronze horse for the photo.  We also took a shot of Freddy at the Utah Visitor's Center west of Evanston in Echo Canyon.  Otherwise, it was make it home.  We are now back in our lovely home, happy to be here.  We left on September 22nd and returned on October 18th, a total of 27 days.  It was a great trip (and listen to Mom roll her eyes) and I could go again very soon.  But for now, we will stay home, get ready for the winter and the holidays and rejoice in seeing family again. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

17 October 2014 - Wyoming before home

We left Kansas today and entered into Colorado.  As we passed through such a large section of Kansas, the terrain was nearly flat with fields and farms, and according to Ronda, rather blah.  But that is the nature of the Great Prairie.  We looked to see what we could find of interest and came up with Goodland, KS.  It is billed as the sunflower capital of Kansas.  We pulled off the freeway and the first thing we saw was this.

 An artist painted and donated to this city a massive copy of the Van Gogh painting of Sunflowers in a Vase.  It must be about 4 stories high.  It is a good reproduction and well done.  However, when we went into the city, we could not find much at all about sunflowers.  We were surprised at the lack of sunflower emphasis in the "Sunflower Capital".  It was interesting that the main street was paved with bricks for blocks. If they had been yellow instead of red, we would have been looking for Oz.  The town is sleepy and not much going on; rather cute but did not have much to offer. 

However, as we left the town to return to the freeway, we found an old Mobile Gas Station that is in the process of being restored.

Itr had the old sign and nearby were a number of signs from other old, now defunct, oil companies.  This restoration is still in process, but was a delightful find.

On the wall of the station was a small sign from a company I had not heard of, White Oil Gasoline.  I enjoyed this find.

When we left Goodland, we crossed the border into Colorado. The eastern portion of the state is but a continuation of the flat plains like Kansas.

We put the Yukon in cruise control and let the miles flow past.  We reached the outskirts of Denver and could see, through the haze, the beautiful Rockies lifting high in the distance.  We turned north and moved into Wyoming, near Cheyenne.  From there, it is I-80 towards home.

We drove perhaps the longest distance of the trip.  We covered most of Kansas and Colorado today and well into Wyoming, all the way to Rawlins.  Tomorrow we plan to make it home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

16 October 2014 - Into Kansas

Beautiful day today with bright sunshine and moderate temperatures.  It was good to get on the road again with dry concrete and mild traffic.  We left Columbia, MO and continued west.  It did not take too long to cross the rest of Missouri with its rolling hills, trees and fields.  We drove into Independence and saw the KC Royals Stadium and the KC Chiefs playing field.  The Royals are now in the World Series.  We crossed the Missouri River and into Kansas.  We did miss a poorly marked turnoff in the midst of a construction  zone and found ourselves headed south toward Witchita and had to stop, check the map and make a correction.  It went well and we found ourselves back on I-70 heading for Topeka, Salina and points west.
I-70 starts in Kansas City and stretches west until it ends near Richfield, Utah.  The road was smooth and only a few short areas of traffic cones.  However, from KC to Topeka, it is a toll road.  It is well maintained but we found no Welcome Center for the state and none of the service plazas had a map of Kansas.  So we used what we had and Ronda got on her cell phone to check out points of interest along I-70.  The first spot we found was Boonville, KS. Bet you have never heard of it, we certainly hadn't.  It was founded on a site where some sons of Daniel Boone found a salt lick and set up a process to make salt to ship up and down the Missouri River.  Eventually it became a large railroad hub.

Now it is a sleepy little town that once was a major center of commerce.  This railroad depot was built and was a stop for the MKT Railroad. That stands for Missouri, Kansas, Texas Railroad.  Products on the river and the railroad met here to be dispersed or sent to other locations.  Because of the Texas connection, the depot had a bit of a Spanish mission design.

One of the last old cabooses on the line was restored and now kept at the depot as a small railroad museum.  They have done a good job in this caboose and the depot. We met a lovely lady that was so helpful in telling us about the town, the depot and caboose and where to go to get good photos of the Missouri River for our Freddy Photo.   We drove to the highway bridge across the river to take pictures.

Where we parked, an old building had an interesting mural, painted to reflect points of history in the town of Boonville.  You can see Daniel Boone, ox drawn wagons of the pioneers, the old time railroad and the riverboat steamers.  It also showed Indians and Pony Express Riders.  This quiet little town has had a very fascinating history. It is remarkable the things you can learn about the history of this country when you don't fly by on the freeway, but take a little time to explore.  We enjoyed a brief visit to this town and the quaint buildings and homes, dating to the pre-Civil War days were great.

Here the Missouri is wide and it is easy to see how it could be a major commerce route.  In the background you can see the old railroad bridge, no longer used.  It was made to rise to allow ships to pass under. Now it is part of the Katy Trail, a walking trail along the old rail right of way. Katy is short for the KT Railroad.

Leaving Boonville, we stopped at a bakery that said they had Kolaches.  However, they only had some with sausage and jalapenos so Mom got a fritter and I succumbed and bought a maple bar with bacon on top.   It was like eating bacon and pancakes.  I have noted that as the trip has progressed, my diet has suffered.  I will have to really repent on my return and be much stricter about what I eat.

Further along we turned off to visit Wamego, KS, which has the Oz Museum.  In fact, the 10 mile road from the freeway to the town is labeled "The Road to Oz".  We found the museum in town and it was a cute little place.  Inside were all sorts of memorabilia from the Wizard of Ox.  I found a complete set of the Oz stories by Frank Baum and bought it to share with all my grandchildren.  Other places in town also use the Oz tale to tout their businesses such as Toto's Tacos and The Wicked Stitch, Yarns and Fabrics.   

The window of the museum had a phrase on it from the Wizard of Oz story. I am not sure if the reflection of Ronda has any significance.  I did try to get her to buy a T-shirt with the statement on it: "Life just has not been the same since that house fell on my sister."  I could not convince her.

Inside the museum they had displays from the story including a monster Tin Man, trying to look happy but perhaps a bit scary.  I love the eyes on this figure.   It was here we took a Freddy Photo.

On the way back to the freeway, we found the Mt. Mitchell Heritage Prairie Site.  It is a relatively small place where the terrain has been left untouched to be an example of how the prairie looked when the pioneers rolled over it. There are even some old wagon ruts in this area. It is waving grass and occasional small groves of trees, like you see here.


We also passed an  old, abandoned one room school built in 1928.  The bell is still in the tower, it cannot be rung, but it was a cute finding.  We then continued west and tonight we are staying in Hays, KS.  We had a great dinner at a BBQ Steakhouse with some of the best BBQ Ribs I have had. Literally fall off the bone tender and a great flavor.  Dietary disaster!!  Oh, well.  We will be home soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

15 October 2014 - Across three states

Like yesterday, today dawned rainy and gray, but without the thunder and lightning and the rain was light and gentle.   We started the day in Clarksville, TN and soon after hitting the road, crossed into Kentucky.  The rain and overcast skies continued almost the whole day, giving way to sunshine only during the last hour of our drive.  Nevertheless, this was a fun day and pleasant. The temperatures hovered in the mid 50's and we both broke out our jackets to keep warm for the first time on the trip.
We wanted to find a place to take a picture of Freddy, but we only traveled through the western end of Kentucky.  As we looked at the map, we noted a little tiny spot of a town near the Illinois border that caught our attention.  We pulled off the freeway for a short loop drive to see the town and the area.  We were surprised to find a number of chemical plants located between the freeway and the Tennessee River.  Then we found the town.  Nearby was a little lane and we took it to see the woods and foliage.  The lane was called Vaughn Chapel Road and at the end was a lovely little church, the Vaughn Chapel, complete with a bell tower playing chimes and tolling the hour.  The road was wonderful, even in the rain.

It was quiet, serene and so green.  Rain dripped off the leaves and as the bells rang at the little church, it was almost reverent. We were able to get a picture of Freddy here to represent Kentucky.

Little side paths led off the road, littered with leaves and nuts fallen from the surrounding trees.  We could not really identify the tree.  The nut looked a lot like an acorn but the cap was covered with scraggly, soft spines and the leaves of the tree were not oak leaves.  We asked some locals if they could tell us what it was and they were stumped.  The nuts and the trees were all over the  place so it is a mystery yet to be solved.

I loved this lane and it seemed so inviting, like a path to a peaceful place.  We loved this little area.

The town we sought was just up the road and around the corner.

In fact, the town sign was at the end of the road.

What a fun name for a town, Possum Trot.  We asked at the local Quick Mart about the nuts and they were so nice. The lady at the counter could not give us an answer so she called her dad to ask him.  He thought it was a chestnut but decided to come to the store and show us his example of a chestnut to see if they matched. While he drove over, we bought a piece of local made pecan pie to share.  It was absolutely delicious.  Another great find!  When the man came, it was obvious that it was not a chestnut, but even he did not know its type.  So we went on. 

They were so nice at this location that we took a photo of the sign over the door so that if you find yourself in this location you can also enjoy a wonderful piece of pecan pie.  We were also delighted to find a ward of the Church just down the road from the store.  We think it is the Possum Trot Ward.  I wish we had a name like that for our Ward.

We loved seeing the local decorations for Halloween.  Some were a bit elaborate and some were just plain fun such as this painted hay bale.

This was a well appointed entryway for children to brave to get some candy on the special eve.

All over the south and central part of this great nation we have seen churches large and small.  Some of them are quite creative in what they post on their signs.  We really liked this one, it made us laugh and also think about the things going on in this country, especially with our government.

We moved into our third state, Illinois, crossing the Tennessee River.  Just over the river, we found the city of Metropolis.   They have adopted the "Man of Steel" for their town, justifiably based on the name of the city.  In the main downtown area, you can find a great statue of Superman, staring down the street, prepared to fight crime and defend "Truth, Justice and the American Way".

I made it a point to stand near him in the hope that something might rub off. 

We also left the freeway in the middle of our transit across Illinois to take some back roads and see the heartland.  We passed fields of soybeans and corn, little towns and lovely fields and pastures with cattle and even goats.  We took a Freddy picture with a field of corn, dry and ready to harvest.  We also saw the farm homes, well cared for and many of them proudly displayed flags and showed a sense of pride in this great country.

We continued on I-64 heading toward the border with Missouri.  Traffic got heavier and heavier as we neared St. Louis.  Some areas of construction slowed us, but we did just fine.

When we went from Kentucky into Illinois, we crossed the mighty Ohio River. It was essentially as wide as the Mississippi and another major waterway for commerce. 

We also later crossed the Mississippi and moved right through St. Louis, just ahead of the rush hour and made it to Columbia, MO where we will spend the night.  It was a good drive and especially nice to leave the freeway a couple of times and feel of the fun and greatness of our wonderful land.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

14 October 2014 - Lovely Tennessee

For the first time on our trip we awoke to heavy rains, lightning and thunder.  A major storm front formed in the Mississippi Valley when a cold air mass from the north and moisture from the gulf met.  Strong winds, huge storm cells and tornado warnings were spawned by the storm.  It began to move east and north and marched over our area during the night.  The thunder was deep and throaty and the flashes of lightning woke us up.  When we started driving, it was with the wipers going max  for a while.

As you can see, when Mom took a photo while we were driving, the rain was heavy.  I was able to negotiate the roads and traffic without any problems, but it did slow us down a bit.   We had to pay close attention to exits and freeway choices.  We drove in this heavy weather until about noon and then things started to improve. We knew we were driving through the storm but that it was moving east and we went northwest.   We drove through it and moved into better weather.  We rolled out of Georgia and into the lovely state of Tennessee.  It is a beautiful, lush green place.  We stopped at the visitor's center and got information and a map.  As we looked at things, we identified the "Pie in the Sky" scenic byway, and took off the freeway for a 30 mile drive through this scenic area.  The leaves were starting to change for fall, but only in the early stages.  We looked for a place to photograph Freddy the Falcon so the school kids can follow him out of Georgia and into Tennessee.  We stopped along the byway and found a nice spot.

Mom took a photo and sent it off on Instagram and an e-mail to Sami and Ali's class.   Here Mom is fixing the Freddy photo.

We stopped at the South Cumberland State Park to find the foliage.  We saw a lovely tree with red berries and changing leaves.  The ground was littered with acorns from large oak tress and fallen crab apples. The air was much cooler now and quite refreshing.

We passed large stretches of deciduous forests and small homes and mysterious lanes, stretching into the woods.  It felt so nice to be away from the crowds and into this hill country.  I expected to run into Hillbillies at every turn.   We passed interesting signs such as Johns Bones Lane and Fiery Gizzard Road.  We drove past cute houses,  small farms and horse country-like mansions.

This home had large, manicured fields on either side of the lane leading to the home.  Most attractive and welcoming.

Along the street, these white fences marked the edge of the property.  They should have had horses feeding in the fields, but these fences just ended and really did not enclose the pasture.  We also passed places right out of the "red-neck" instruction manual, true "white trash" homes, cluttered and looking like a disaster in process.  I wish we had stopped to take some pictures of them to set a visual comparison.

Some lanes were so intriguing that we drove one and it was quite, peaceful, with thick surrounding woods and the colors becoming more intense. Autumn is in the air and the feeling nice.  We continued on past Nashville and are staying on the Tennessee/Kentucky border in Clarksville, TN.   I don''t know if we will make it back by the weekend or not until Monday. We will see how much ground we can cover and still see some fun things.

Monday, October 13, 2014

13 October 2014 - Into Georgia

Our stay in Florida has been delightful.  It was full of warm weather, warm ocean and warm people.  We enjoyed the visit very much, but now it is time to leave that great state.  Florida is such a flat state, no real hills or mountains and it seems, therefore, there is almost a constant breeze blowing from either the Atlantic or the Gulf.  Sometimes it is so pleasant but other times seems overwhelming. 
We drove onto I-75 again and it was a very pleasant road, wide, smooth and easy driving.  Mostly traffic was not heavy and we left Florida and crossed into Georgia.  We began to encounter more hills and fewer palm trees but beautiful countryside.  We saw fields and forests, pastures and small towns.  We stopped at the Georgia Visitor's Center, after we passed the border and got a new map and information about the state.  Georgia is known as the "Peach State" and a major source of pecan nuts.  We stopped at a souvenir shop and considered buying an alligator head to keep in the office, but decided against it.  I am sure the grandsons would use it to scare and intimidate the granddaughters.  Probably not the best idea.

We did stop to scope out the pecan groves, fields of cotton and learn more about peanuts.

We saw a number of fields of cotton as well as soybeans.  The cotton is coming close to harvest and a lot of the bolls have opened and the soft cotton, still with the seeds in it, makes white puff balls in the fields.

We could see the fields extending off in the distance and some still green and some brown and many with the white cotton showing.

We also saw fields of low growing plants and had to ask what they were.  We should have known but they are peanuts.  I have never seen them before and it was a fun thing to learn something new. 

This is a field of the peanuts, low growing rows of green  

Here we have a closeup of the plants, thick green leaves in bunches. 

I found one plant growing as a volunteer outside the rows and decided to do a little pulling to see what the growing peanuts looked like.  The soil was  extremely sandy and loose, which makes a lot of sense when you remember that the shell of the peanut is thin and if the soil hard and compact, they cannot form.  The same thing with potatoes.  You can see the peanuts forming on roots of the plant. We pulled them off and opened one. The peanuts inside were soft and white and, amazingly, tasted like fresh peas. Perhaps this is where the name originated.

We also saw beautiful pecan orchards and pecans are a major product in Georgia.  We tried to learn a bit more about how they are harvested.  You can see from this picture how manicured the orchards are.  The trees in orderly rows and mowed grass under the trees.  There is a logical reason for this.  Harvesting pecans is a unique process.  As you can see from the next picture, the nuts grow on the branches enclosed in a green husk. When the nuts are ripe they use a "shaker".

The "shaker" is a machine that grasps the trunk of the tree and literally shakes the nuts loose.  They fall to the ground and then the farmers use a "sweeper" to clean them up off the ground.  That is the reason for the well kept lawns under the trees.  It makes it so much easier to use both the "shaker" and the "sweeper".

We stopped at the Ellis Bros. Nut Store.  They had  all sorts of pecans and peanuts prepared in a multitude of ways.  You could buy bags of pecans in the shell, shelled, in bits or pieces, with chocolate covering or yogurt covering, fixed praline style, etc.  We bought some shelled pecans to share with others.  It was fun and amazing to see and we delighted in tasting a lot of the chocolate covered nuts.

You can see that they are proud of being "nuts", sort of like the Keddington family is proud of being somewhat "different" or "special". 

Further on we stopped at the Lane Orchard Store and had some wonderful peach cobbler, a peach fritter and tasted some delicious peach salsa.  We saw fields of peach trees and you can get almost anything made with peaches.  A very "delicious" store.   You can see that the peach is very prominent here.

We had a good stop and continued on to Macon, GA and we will stay there tonight. Tomorrow we go across the rest of Georgia and into Tennessee.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

12 October 2014 - Starting home

This morning, being Sunday, we followed our usual pattern and sought out a local ward to visit so that we could attend Sacrament Meeting.  Love the Church's website.  I was able to locate the nearest ward, the Homestead Ward of the South Miami Stake. It was only a short distance away and we were able to drive right to it.  We had packed up all our things because, as we looked at time and distance, we felt we needed to put some miles behind us today so that we were not pushing too hard to get home. 
The building was lovely and located near the outskirts of Homestead, in some agricultural and suburban areas. 

We got there right on time to attend the Sacrament Meeting.  We found a pew and sat down and a lovely sister introduced herself and then suggested to us that we pick up a receiver and headset for each of us, as the meeting was going to be bilingual, in both English and Spanish.  The Ward is a mix of white, Hispanic and Black.  We enjoyed the meeting and they had a brother sitting on the stand, off to the side and back doing the translating.  If the talk was in English, he translated to Spanish and if in Spanish, he did it in English. You only had to choose whether to wear the headset or not.  They had hymnbooks in the pew racks in both languages.  You could sing in either one.  The translator would sing the hymn in Spanish, not always in tune, but a nice try.  I sang the first 2 hymns in English and then tried to do the interim hymn and closing hymn in Spanish.  I am sure my pronunciation was not the greatest, but it was fun to try.   The Counselor in the Bishopric made announcements and conducted switching back and forth between the tongues.  We used the headsets and were glad we did.

The Sacrament prayers were in English for the
 bread and Spanish for the water.  I really enjoyed the meeting and we even had little children in front of us who wanted to hand things to us and then take them back, dropped binkies on the floor and tried to grab the sacrament trays.  Just like home.

After the meeting we went out to the car and started to head north.  As we were driving toward the Florida Turnpike, we passed some fields and plants which intrigued us.  At first I thought we were seeing avocado trees, but on closer inspection I could not tell what the fruit is.  Look at the pictures and see if you can tell.

Planted in rows and looking like tropical plants with the fruit hanging from stems attached to the trunk of the tree.  The fruit is of different sizes at the same time as if each piece is developing independently.

To me they are not bread fruit and do not look like avocados and the skin is not smooth or pebbly like you find on the 2 types of avocados found in the stores.  The large fruits are the size of footballs. If you know what this is, let me know.

We also passed some palms that I thought might be date palms, but the fruit hanging down was not dates.  It is some sort of palm fruit but I do not know if it has any specific agricultural value.  If  you know about this also, please let me know.  My curiosity is aroused.

At the same location we found a tree, growing by itself which did not appear to be part of the farm or cultivated area.  It had a fruit or nut growing on it as well.  It is a bit bigger than a ping pong ball, with slightly fuzzy skin and faintly lobulated appearance. I got out and reached out to hold one and it came right off the tree with the stem attached, just as if a ripe pear would do.  It was also a mystery fruit or nut.  We kept the one I picked and if we can get hit home intact, perhaps we can ferret out this conundrum as well.

I have included photos of the fruit and the tree as well, if it is helpful.

After this encounter we drove onto the turnpike and put the pedal to the metal.

We drove for about 4 1/2 hours, stopping only for bathroom breaks and tonight have found a place to stay in Ocala, Fl.  We had a nice dinner and will try to get a good sleep and head further north and west tomorrow.  We plan to go up to I-70, west to Denver and then north to I-80 and home.  We think this route may give us the best opportunity to see changing leaves in Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri.  We will not try to go as fast as possible, but enjoy the return drive.