Monday, June 24, 2013

Reach Out and Touch-A-Bear

Last Wednesday was supposed to be a beautiful day, cool and low humidity.  Sounded like a HIKE day to us.  We had never made it to Laurel Falls which was on our list of things to do in the Smokies, so that was the chosen spot.  It's a 3.6 mile hike round trip to a pretty waterfall.  Since it is so popular, the paths are even paved.  Easy.

We did not get an early as I wanted to start, and the entrance was about 20-25 minutes from our campground, so the small parking lot was full,  we drove about 100 yards further to a pull-off and parked the Jeep.  I had packed a lot of snacks and water thinking we'd find a place around the falls to eat, and Gary grabbed his hiking pole.  He needed to get another medallion for Laurel Falls, so it needed to go with us to qualify!

It was a pretty walk up hill for the first mile with a steep ravine drop to the left of the trail.  Tiny waterfalls (or leaks) through the rocks were siphoned off under the walkway.  The tree roots had made a mess of the path in some areas, so it was still necessary to watch where you were going, that and the other hikers, kids, strollers and running teenagers.  It wasn't too quiet, unless you found yourself alone at some point.

I was looking at the ravine, and something large and black caught my eye.  It moved and two small black spots moved behind it.  A mom black bear and her two cubs.  It was on the other side of the ravine, and I started pointing them out to other hikers.  They ambled along down at the bottom, so we carried on up to the falls. 
Soon we could hear the roar of water, and looking down, saw the rapids at the bottom.  Another 200 feet up, and we heard the roar of the waterfall and lots of talking.  People were taking pictures of each other standing in front of the falls on a convenient rock sticking up in the pool.  So we asked a young lady to take ours, too.
It was a pretty waterfall, and very active with all the rain recently.  There was absolutely no place to sit, and too many people milling around, so we decided to stop on the way home at a quiet place.
On the way back, a crowd of people were on the pathway, a certain 'there's something there' signal.  Sure enough, the mama and her two cubs had worked their way up this side of the ravine and were really close to the pathway.  Now that mama didn't need to bring her cubs that close to the path.  She couldn't have crossed over and gone further up the mountain, as it was sheer rock.  Two rangers were watching carefully, but most people were taking pictures.  Mama had sent her kids up a tree and they were very young, but knew how to go up and down.  They were just as curious about us as we were about them.  So, what was Mama's purpose?  Did she want her cubs to get used to people?  Was she (rightfully so) showing them off to us?  Were the cubs curious and begged to 'go see people?' 
Whatever the reason, she was about 5 feet away from the pathway on the other side of the rangers.  That was close enough for me, and we moved on after taking a few shots of the cubs playing on the tree.  Always a nice surprise to see wildlife, especially babies.
We hiked down the trail, jumped in the Jeep, escaped the crowds and parked at the entrance to the park at a pull off.  We took a few steps down to some huge rocks, opened our eggs and fruit and had us a quiet little stop at the river's edge.
Not being in shape from any hiking anytime recently, we thought we might be a little sore, but cleaning out the bays made us more so. 
Friday we had another nice day washing Bella (the coach).  Then it promptly stormed.  Checking the radar, the storm was just over us.  Hmmm. 
Saturday I had planned to go to a card making class with my friend Brenda.  Gary had gotten bit by a gnat washing the coach, and like last year and the year before, his face swelled up closing his left eye.  So he stayed home until he could begin to see again.  Brenda and I had a great time catching up and making a beautiful birthday card.
I was also in luck because the teacher, Janet, was teaching a class on Sunday called Christmas in June.  So we signed up for that.  I had to take a photo of the cards we made, because they are so beautiful.  It took three hours to make two cards using watercolor paper and paper napkins.  Labor of love.
Meanwhile, Gary was feeling a lot better, so he hung out with Larry, Brenda's husband, while we had fun creating.  They we all had dinner at their house (steaks on the barbee) having had for lunch pulled pork sandwiches a la Brenda.  Delicious!
We needed to leave early and get to bed early because today Gary was scheduled at 6:30 am to be at the hospital to get his PowerPort removed.  The surgeon agreed to remove it because it wasn't needed anymore for chemo, and we continually needed to find someone to flush it once a month.  Not an easy task for an RVer.  Even though it takes, literally, 30 seconds, there are the forms, talking to the Doctor, waiting, waiting, and finally the 30 seconds of flushing, and we can leave.  Since he hasn't needed any treatments of any kind for more than 16 months, we consider ourselves cured, and will be footloose and fancy free for the future. 
The surgery was done under local anesthesia in 20 minutes, and after another 20 minutes to make sure he was OK, we walked out into beautiful sunshine.
Life is Gooooood!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Back in Pigeon Forge, TN

Arriving at a campground that you have had a lot of history with is like coming home.  Thus it was with Eagle's Nest in Pigeon Forge when we arrived on Monday, June 10.  We were welcomed by an old friend, Rodney, who checked us in at the office.  We got a great spot, settled in, and then Lance checked out the river for a good fishing spot. 
He found one, dropped a line and settled down.  It's rained the past few days, and the river is up, but we call him No Fear Lance until..
he spots a snake heading towards him.  He drops the pole and jumps out of that river so fast, he left dust in his wake.  I rescued the pole (never did see the snake), and that was the end of fishing for that day.
The next day was a Cades Cove drive, picnic and Wonderworks visit.  Lance enjoyed the top down in the Jeep on our drive.
Usually if there is a traffic jam on the 11 mile loop around Cades Cove, it means something was spotted.  We sat in line, waiting to move up to see what it was all about (if it was still there), when all of a sudden a baby bear came running down the side of the road, right past the Jeep and into the field.  I wish I had seen him coming, but all I could get was this photo as he ran past.
Cute little thing. 
We stopped at the Dan Lawson house, my very favorite on the route, and I snapped this photo of Lance in front of his ancestor's home.  Should do some research into that, but it could be.
That little bear and a wild turkey were the only wildlife on the tour today.  We reached the half way point and had a little picnic under a huge oak tree.  It was a beautiful day, but we spent the rest of it at WonderWorks, which you couldn't miss in any touristy area.  It's a huge white pillared building that is upside down.   It's an interactive attraction that is fun for any age.  We had a lot of fun, but we loved the laser tag the most.  Then it was home for a campfire and marshmallows.
The next day started out beautiful, and Gary and I had managed to get two cancellations at the denstist's office.  Lance was great, sitting in the waiting area reading until we were done.  Then we made a stop at Walmart.  The storm clouds had gathered, and there was a huge downpour and we waited at the pharmacy till it stopped.  It was very fast and furious.  Walmart announced over the loudspeaker that there was a tornado watch, and to please wait in the store till it was all clear.  The sun peaked out and we headed back to the campground.  Soon we saw leaves all over the road, and trees down along the side.  Pulling into the campground, people were standing around surveying the damage. 

Fortunately, we escaped any damage, and the campground staff and campers, helped clean up the mess. Except for the water and leftover leaves, it looked much better. Sure glad it happened today, because the next morning we were planning our big adventure - zip lining!
Friday dawned beautiful and clear and a little cooler.  We needed to be in the parking lot at 9:30 - easy.  We waited for another family, and then we were off up a rutted road to the top of the mountain in the pick up truck.  We got fitted into our gear, had a small lesson and trial zip, and then we were ready for the real thing.
We loved it.  No Fear Lance wanted to go on the Extreme Lines, but no one else did.  So our guides, Mater and Buford, took him all by himself.  We gave him our little Kodak video camera, and if I could load it here, you could see what a half-mile long zip line looks like in the tree tops of the Smokies.  Awesome job, Lancer!
That was the first time he flew that day, as his mom flew up to Knoxville to pick him up.  With hugs and promises to have fun this summer, we parted until the fall.
It's great to have grands on adventures.  They keep you so young. 
So we were all alone.  Except for the two mice we had to track down and catch.  Cleaning out the bays and reorganizing (my favorite thing) we had more room than ever!  Our kayak said 'hello, when are you going to use me'??  So hopefully we will pull that out one day and hit the water. 
Today it poured all day, and the river is waaayy up the banks.  We might have to wait a few days. 
Tomorrow Gary is going to persuade his surgeon to take out the power port he installed almost two years ago for Gary's chemo.  Since Gary hasn't had chemo in almost two years, he might not have to persuade too hard.  But this means a surgery date, and we were hoping to leave next Monday.  We'll see what will happen tomorrow.
Anyway, today, life is good.  The engine light on the Jeep even went out for a couple minutes! Ha.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's Back Up

I'll try to catch you up since the beginning of May, now that I have good internet and Google fixed my photos.

 After we left Bastrop, Texas, on May 7 our next stop was Lavon Lake COE CG in Wiley, TX where we met Donna and Ron after our gate guarding experiences.  While we parked there we drove in to Ft. Worth to see the long horn steer cattle drive down the street.  They were very docile, but still very large. 

This guy was saddled, but we passed on him. Ten dollars for a photo.  Poor guy.

The cowboy and his gal:
 These guys decided to have a Buffalo Butt Beer while sitting on saddles at the bar.  Apparently the beer is not recommended. They said it tastes like buffalo butt.  I don't know how they know that...

The next day we drove into Dallas.  Dealey Square was our first stop, and below is the Book Depository where supposedly JFK's assassin fired the fateful shots.  Our tour guide, Sherman, had a lot to say about that, and we debated the facts and fiction near the wooden fence.  We toured the memorial, the first house in Dealey square (a little log cabin) and the courthouse. 
Driving home an hour in the rain and dark was not pleasant, but I'm glad we got to see all we did.

It was time to move north again, to visit Ron's brother, Willis near Paris, Texas.  We were very kindly offered a spot in their yard and had 30 amp.
our site
Cowboy Up
The weather turned beautiful, and we were excited because Gary was hoping to ride a real horse, not a stable horse.  With permission, he and Willis saddled up Noah and Mouse and off they went.

Dixie and Donna did the honors for this picture of Paris's Eiffel Tower with its Red cowboy hat.

low cal chicken fried steak

Where can one find this delicacy?  At Weezy's, in downtown Paris, of course.

We enjoyed our stay even celebrating Mother's Day (happy belated Mother's Day to all moms) at Willis and Dixie's daughter's home with a BBQ.  Thank you, all of you, for your hospitality.

Normally we don't drive more than four hours a day, but this was a special circumstance, and we needed to be in the middle of Missouri by Friday.  That was a long haul, but they are worth it, and we made Ron's Doctor's appointment for Friday morning.  We were parked at their daughter, Lorisa's beautiful farmhouse in a country setting, but it was a challenge to get there.  Gary did it just fine!

our new spot

the view out our side window
There was a lot of severe weather threats, and a tornado did touch down in St. Charles, where their other daughter lived, however their home and family escaped harm by 1/4 mile.  We drove out to see the damage one day.  It was not pretty, and similar to hurricane damage which we had seen plenty of.
One sunset out of only three we saw all two weeks.  But it was a pretty one.
We had lots of ruby-throated hummers so three feeders were necessary.  Even so, six little gluttons were at this feeder on my window.  We had to refill the feeders every day.
On Sunday, June 2 we drove near to St. Louis and parked in an Elk's Lodge in O'Fallon.   We met some of their family that night at Macaroni Grill which was delicious and fun! Then we toured some of the tornado damage in St. Charles, where fortunately, no one was killed.  Lots of homes need help, though. 
There is a delicacy that you should not miss if you're near this way.  It's called Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, and is something to write home about. 
Here we are enjoying a delicious cup of creaminess:
Soon it was time to ride over to the airport to pick up our grandson, Lance, for his two week adventure with us.  He arrived all by himself (he's 12) about an hour late at 9:30.  It's an hour time difference from Tampa, so he was a tired puppy by the time we got him tucked in.
The next day we had planned to visit the St. Louis Zoo and the Arch, but we could not get anywhere near to finding a parking place.  It was jammed everywhere, so we abandoned the zoo idea and went straight to the St. Louis Arch.  At first we watched the very informative and beautifully done movie about the Lewis and Clark Expedition, then our journey up into the arch in this tiny thing:
Lance was a little claustrophobic, but he manned up and decided to go for it.  It was a 4 1/2 minute ride and dark and noisy, but we made it up to the top at 630 feet.  
And what a view! 
Busch Stadium (red)

Court House (green dome)
On the Missouri River side, it was not as pretty.  So much rain had flooded the river way over its banks (although not as much as other times), and a lot of things were under water:
notice tent roof? steps are covered to it.
So, how did they build this amazing structure?  We saw a 40 minute film describing the initial concept to completion, and it was truly amazing.
We still had some time, so we chose to see the Cathedral of St. Louis begun in 1907. 
 There are 83,000 square feet of mosaic art created by twenty artists and installed over a period of seventy-five years.  Two chapels on the west side were created by Tiffany.  Forty-one million, 500 thousand pieces of tesserae in more than 8000 different colors are on almost every surface within.
To get married here (if you are a resident of St. Louis) will cost a mere $2000, but get on the waiting list now.  It's over 5 years long.  Truly a magnificent piece of architecture.  The lighting (which was not on by the time we arrived) costs the church $31 a minute. 
The next morning (we're up to June 5 now) we parted ways with Ron and Donna, as they went home and we traveled east towards Kentucky.  Our first stop was in Indiana at Diamond Lakes, a PPA campground, and it had lots of things to do.  All Lance wanted to do was fish.  So fish he did, and he was very successful. 
Bass pro
Gary had corvettes in his youth, including one of these.  We had wanted to tour the GM Factory Plant, but tours were cancelled until the fall.  So the boys went to the Museum, hopefully to see a 1963 split window coupe stingray, one of Gary's former cars.  However the gentleman who loaned it to the museum was caught with evading taxes, so had to hand it over to the IRS.  Bummer.

However, Lance liked this model and decided to go for a spin.  (not)  Looks good, though...
At our next stop, Singing Hills RV campground in Cave city, KY, there just happened to be another pond with fish in it, so Lance was there with worms.  Again, he was successful two seconds after he cast his line.  We'll never get to eat any as it's catch and release.  OK with Gary - he dislikes cleaning fish.

A little one for Poppy
 Then we did more fun things:  Golfing,
 Driving cars,

Going up high and coming down fast:

And then stopping at the bait store for more worms.   Back to the lake for more fishing. 
Now you are caught up on our adventures.  Tomorrow we will be moving again into Tennessee this time where our destination is Pigeon Forge for a few days before Lance goes home on Friday. Hopefully we will get in some educational stuff too.  So much to do, and so little time. 
Thanks for hanging in there for this long blog.  Because right now, Life is Good!