Camping on a bayou
The picture at the top of this page is a panorama of the bayou that is just off our campsite. We have a great spot in Bistineau State Park with this being the view from or deck. There's also a small pier just steps away that leads to a platform large enough for two comfortable lawn chairs. I took the picture from the platform.
Thank you all for wishing Lauren and I a happy birthday. We treated ourselves to a night of food and music at Hal and Mal's in Jackson, a movie and of course, ice cream. As the banner above reads, Life is Good!
More importantly, God is Good.
"In every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong; honor that; try to imitate it, and your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes."
– John Ruskin
Hi Y'all. We're in Jackson, Mississippi and having a great time. This quote has particular meaning for me this week.
I want to say something about people in the South that we've met so far. Yes, they talk funny, well at least to us northerners. But the thing that I've noticed even more so than an accent is the gentleness that these people have. They are not in a hurry, either personally or professionally. Whenever we strike up a conversation with someone, the person takes the time to really talk to us. I like that a lot and it is a characteristic that I would like to have, and need to cultivate within myself. How often have I really stopped to talk to someone or see how they are? I know I've done the standard "Hi, how are you?" when I passed someone in the hall at work and, quite frankly, never stopped long enough to truly find out. I worry about all this social networking that our young kids (and even some of us oldies) are into these days. Are we losing our ability to communicate in a heartfealt manner because of it? When was the last time you looked someone in the eye when you spoke to them? Enough of the lecture. Just think about it.
Ok, back to Jackson. LIke I said, we are having a great time, well at least when it's not raining. Geez, we've had what seems like a lot of rain down here but it may be a good thing for this area. I cannot even count the number of rivers or creeks that we've driven by or over that were almost completely dry.
Since we have had so much rain, we didn't get to do too much in MIssissippi, but what we did do, we absolutely enjoyed. Steve and I were able to visit Vicksburg, the sight of one of the worst battles of the civil war. There were some 20,000 casualties during the 6 weeks of major fighting in this area. We drove through the Vicksburg National Military Park which is much like Gettysburg. This park, established in 1899, includes the entire extent of the siege and defense lines for both the armies of the North and South. There were about 100 markers within this park that highlighted key points of the battle and the strategies of both generals as they fought for control of the Mississippi River. Should the North gain control, they could shuttle troops and supplies up and down the river at will. They could also isolate Texas, Arkansas and most of Louisiana, which would give the North even more power and greater strength in their efforts to win the war.
By late 1862, Vicksburg stood as the lone Southern port left to be captured by the Northern armies. In May, 1963, the North came perilously close to taking the city and it was finally surrendered on July 4, 1863. The town itself was almost completely destroyed, but several buildings were saved, one being the courthouse. Each of the states that participated in this battle had major monuments erected to honor those men who participated in the battle. The troops from the North were mostly from Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan.
One of the coolest parts of our trip around this battlefield was our stop at the USS Cairo, a restored Union ironclad gunboat that sank after hitting a torpedo during this battle. It was raised 100 years later and restored as best it could be. I knew about the ironclads but had no idea how huge they were. We were able to walk around inside to see the canons and enormous steam boilers that were used to power the paddlewheel that moved them up and down the river. Unbelievable! There is also a museum on site that contains artifacts found on board the Cairo.
Our entire visit to Vicksburg was not focused on the war, however. We drove around the town to see the beautiful antebellum homes (antebellum means "before the war"). Vicksburg also has a stretch along the Mississippi River that is dedicated to various murals that depict the glory of Vicksburg past and present. The murals were absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed them very much.
One stop that we made in this quaint town was at the Biedenharn Candy Company. This adorable little shop became the first bottler for Coca-Cola in 1894. Prior to this time, Coca-Cola was only available as a fountain drink. But thanks to Mr. Biedenharn's idea of putting it into bottles, Coke is now marketed around the world and he served as the cornerstone for the establishment of a network of independent bottlers who distribute Coca-Cola globally. Another example of how one person can change the world!
Steve and I also took a drive south on the Natchez Trace Parkway to spend the day in Natchez, MS. Before I get to our visit to Natchez, let me say a few words about the Parkway. This "highway" runs 444 miles between Natchez and Nashville and was the main thoroughfare in the South for quite some time. There are numerous historical monuments along the way such as Indian burial mounds and even some interesting geological sights. Along the way, Steve and I stopped to see an Indian burial mound and passed by a pasture where the cows had escaped from the fence. Steve managed to "steer" them back into the pasture with his cowboy talk and we then fixed the fence so they couldn't escape again.
Ok, back to Natchez. We both absolutely fell in love with this town. It's the oldest settlement on the Mississippi River, established in 1716, two years before New Orleans. The city once boasted over 500 millionaires and has the largest concentration of antebellum homes in the country. The downtown area itself is just the coolest. It is definitely one of those towns where your workplace and home are within blocks of each other -- exactly the kind of place Steve and I want to settle in. We took a carriage ride around the downtown area and were treated to the wit and wisdom of Jack, our driver. He shared many stories and fun facts about Natchez and of his horse, Jake, who he "rescued" from the Amish. Funny man. There are tons of restaurants and cool shops with a really quaint, sort of old school feel to it. The day we were there, Natchez was kicking off their Christmas celebrations and even had a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the main street. There was just so much to do in Natchez and I wish we would have had more time to spend there. I highly recommend it to any of you interested in both US and Native American history. We're sure you'd fall in love with its charm just as we did.
And don't let me forget to tell you about Hal & Mal's Big A** Turkey Bash. Steve and I went to downtown Jackson for this little bash and had a blast. We started with dinner which was great. Steve and a shrimp Po Boy and I had a muffaletta. MMM MMM MMM Good. Love that stuff! Anyway, our waiter was Taylor, the son of Hal (one of the owners). He's in town on break from Mississippi State where he is studying anthropology. He gave us the lowdown on the bands we were about to hear. Hal & Mal's had 5 bands playing that night, three of which we listened to. The first one we heard was Passenger Jones, which Taylor said was Southern Rock and I would agree. They reminded me of the Almann Brothers (although not quite as talented). The next band was "surfer music". They played songs like Hawaii 5-0 and Wipeout. They also did a medley of other surfer tunes and incorporated some Christmas Carols into them, which I really enjoyed. The main band of the night - The Kudzu Kings - were, according to Taylor, "older guys who used to be really popular in the South, but they stopped playing and went on to teach and stuff." Not an exact quote but pretty close. Steve and I asked for clarification, thinking that they were in their 50's or something. Taylor laughed and said "no, they are 30 or something like that." HELLO! OLDER GUYS? REALLY? Anyway, they were awesome. They had the standard guitars, keyboards, and drums but included a trombone, saxophone and trumpet. They totally rocked.
The rain kept our outdoor activities limited so we went to see a couple of movies. Steve went to see "J. Edgar" and I went to see the new Twilight movie. Steve gave his movie a thumbs up but I HATED the Twilight movie. I would have left halfway through but Steve's movie was going to run 30 minutes longer than mine so I would have had nothing else to do anyway. Oh well. We stopped at Baskin and Robbins afterwards and I felt better. :)
Today is Sunday so we've got our usual schedule - - church, laundry, homework and football (since Nascar is on hiatus until February 26 when the Daytona 500 kicks off the new season). Church today was at Lakeshore Church and we had a VERY moving message from Pastor Jay Frazier. He talked about the importance of "Being Thankful for a Future to Long For" - - meaning our eternal lives in heaven. Steve and I have been so blessed to have been led to a number of different churches along our journey. Each has had its own unique personality and charm and we've enjoyed meeting so many nice people as a result of being a visitor. God's presence is very much alive and well in the churches we've visited and that is heartwarming to see, especially given the state of our nation these days.
Alrighty then folks. That's a wrap for the week. I have two more weeks in this semester so I need to get cracking and hit the books. Those papers don't write themselves, you know.
Until next week, think about this - - "If you woke up tomorrow morning and the only things you had were the things you thanked God for yesterday, what would you have?"
Peace out kids! (Ugh. That's so last year, Lauren!)
"The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labour is immense."
– Arnold Bennett
Ok, let's chat about Alabama. First off, we stayed in Clanton, Alabama which, to the complete surprise of Steve and I, is both the pecan and peach capital of this country. Yeah, that's right. We are surprised too. Of course when you think of peaches you think about Georgia, but apparently Clanton produces more peaches. Who knew. We didn't get to sample any of Clanton's claim to fame because it's November and peaches are out of season. I did, however, have some absolutely delightful homemade peach/pecan ice cream and can attest that it was undoubtedly the best ice cream ever (except for the gelato we had in Italy, but that was 11 years ago so my memory could be foggy).
Our first stop was to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The only thing I can say about this experience was "WOW". The Institute put together such an incredible exhibit about the fight for equality that the African American men and women endured during the 1950's and 1960's. The story of "separate but equal" is such a sad one for this country. But the strength and courage of those individuals who fought the battle for equality was so overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful that both Steve and I were little humbled by the strength of their conviction and their willingness to sacrifice all to right a terrible wrong. The museum begins with an exhibit of a number of "separate but equal" situations that occurred through the country. Then it moves into the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement and then includes exhibits on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (which Martin Luther King was involved in before he took his campaign national). I wish we had pictures to go along with this blog this week, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take any during our visit. Should you wish to see pictures of the exhibit, please visit Google Images and enter "Birmingham Civil Rights Institute". If you are ever in Birmingham, please take the time to visit this Institute as you will be very impressed and, like I said earlier, humbled.
Across the street from the BCRI are two other very important landmarks in the fight for civil rights in Birmingham. The first is the 16th Street Baptist Church which is Birmingham's most famous civil rights landmark. On a September Sunday morning in 1963, four African-American schoolgirls were in the basement of the church just prior to the Sunday service. A bomb set by Ku Klux Klansmen ripped throught he side of that church killing four girls between the ages of 11 and 14 years. The bombing was a turning point in the status of race rlations locally, nationally and internationally. The sanctuary of the church contains a beautiful stained glass window that was given to this church by the people of Wales following the bombing. Jesse, a very nice homeless man who lived in Birmingham during this time period, offered to give Steve and I a tour of this church and he shared with us his story of life during this time in history.
Then kitty-corner (or catty-corner, depending on where you're from) from the church and the BCRI was Kelly Ingram Park. This park served as a staging area for demontsrations in the early 1960's including those in which police dogs and fire hoses were turned on marchers. Images of those attacks haunted Birmingham in the decades that followed, but they were the same images that were instrumental in overturning legal segregation. Scultpures flanking the park's Freedom Walk vividly depict the events of the 1960's. It's definitely worth a visit as well. There are pictures from this park and the 16th Street Baptist Church in the gallery.
Steve and I also visited the McWane Science Center. We went there specifically for the model train show they were having but were pleasantly surprised by the content of the entire museum. Before I get to that though, let me talk trains. There were some absolutely spectacular exhibits on display and I was mesmerized by a couple of them. My favorite was an exhibit that contained a track that was about 200 feet long and had so much detail to it that it took forever just to walk around and look at it all. We talked to one of the guys that put it together and he said that it took his train club 12 years to finish it. I can believe it!!!! I loved the little billboards they had in this exhibit and you can see those in the gallery. There were little people all over this exhbit doing things like hanging laundry, fixing a car engine, sitting by a campfire, water skiing behind a boat, and even peeing in the woods. The exhibit also had little signs all over for the kids (like a little scavenger hunt) that had them looking for particular details of the display. It was an absolute hoot. I just love these things! Anyway, the rest of the museum was well done too. They had sections dedicated to the dinosaur fossils found in Alabama, the fish of Alabama, numerous science experiments on physics, weather, etc. We had a great time there and if you have kids are in Birmingham, take them to this museum!
Our last stop in the city of Birmingham was the Peanut Depot. This little shop is on historic Morris Avenue, which was a very bumpy cobblestone street that had buildings on it that were absolutely stunning from an architectural perspective. (If you are into architecture, let me know and we'll start including pictures of those buildings that we find to be particularly noteworthy). Anyway, we met the owner Lex and his sidekick Harrison and were given the entire story on roasting peanuts. Did you know that the peanuts you eat that are still in the shell are not from Georgia, but from Virginia? The Georgia peanut is very oily, because of the clay soil that they are grown in, and are used for things like peanut oil and peanut butter. The Virginia soil provides the peanuts that can be eaten as it comes out of the ground. And speaking of coming out of the ground, did you know that they are grown on a vine underground and are considered a vegetable? Yes, I was shocked too, but it's true. So here's the process those peanuts go through in order to make them the fun snack you get at the ballpark. First, the peanuts are boiled for 8 hours in very salty water. The salt permeates the shell and that's how the peanut gets its flavor while still in it's protective shell. After the boiling, they are put into a vacuum to completely remove all the water and then frozen overnight if not roasted immediately. If they are lucky enough to make it to the roaster that same day, they are cooked over a gas flame in those huge vats (see the gallery) for about 90 minutes. They are then cooled and packaged for selling. That's a lot of work for a peanut snack.
On Wednesday of last week, we had a tornado. Well, we didn't actually have a tornado but they were all around us. A huge and terrible storm system came across the entire South which forced Steve and I to spend the morning in the tornado shelter at the campground. We were sitting in our trailer, planning to head to Montgomery, when the announcement came over the loudspeaker telling us to seek shelter immediately. HOLY COW! So we head to the laundry room (dirty laundry in tow) and shower facility which would be our safe haven should we experience a tornado. Steve and I were pretty sure we were going to be okay until a woman carrying a dog that looked just like Toto came into the shelter. Yikes, is that a bad omen or what?????? Anyway, after a few hours, the storm passed and we were able to go back to our trailer. We suffered no damage at all but apparently just north of us there was a decent amount of damage. Thank you Lord for sparing us because as you know, tornados tend to target trailers for some unknown reason.
Speaking of Montgomery, let me just say that this is an absolutely adorable town that is rich with history and architectural charm. Steve and I spent the day there walking around the downtown area. There were times on our walk that I could swear we were back in the 1950's with the way the streets looked and the mom and pop storefronts that lined them. Absolutely charming. While in Montgomery, we visited the Rosa Parks Museum and learned more about the Montgomery Bus Boycott that she started. Honestly, this woman was one seriously courageous individual. She was 42 at the time of her refusal to give up her seat. She was jailed and prosecuted for her "crime" but that one act sparked a protest that brought the city of Montgomery to its knees. Again, I was humbled by the power of conviction of one person and how much can change because of it.
After that, Steve and I stopped at a little park and ate our lunch under the the Hank Williams monument. We then visited a museum dedicated to his life and work. And when I say work, it was a huge body of songs produced in a very short career. Hank Williams was 29 years old when he died of heart failure, yet he left behind a library of work that is just amazing. The museum was a bit of a disappointment so I do not recommend spending the $8.00 per person if you are in Montgomery. But I did enjoy learning about him and his incredible talent that is still impacting country music to this day. Lastly, Steve and I visited the Baptist church that Martin Luther King served for the six years he was in Montgomery. We also saw the house that he lived in while he was in the city.
Our last adventure while in Alabama was to visit Talladega. As diehard Nascar fans, we couldn't go to Alabama without seeing the king of race tracks. It was a very interesting tour and I wish now that we would have spent the $195 for the four lap drive-along they offered. It would have been great to get up to 175 mph and hit those turns that are banked at 33 degrees each. We did, however, visit the winner's circle and had our picture taken. We visited the Motor Sports Hall of Fame which is located on the track property. This museum was dedicated to all motor sports, not just Nascar or stock car racing, and was pretty interesting. But the best museum of the day was the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum that we stopped at on our way back to Clanton. This museum is home to the world's biggest and best motorcycle collection with some 1200 vintage and modern motorcycles. They also had a collection of open-wheel Grand Prix race cars and Lotuses (is that how you make a Lotus plural?). Steve was in his glory! The cool part for me was that while we were there, they were having an event for the local BMW and Porsche club in which the club members were allowed to race their cars on the world-class, 2.3 mile road course that was right behind the museum. It was a blast watching these people drive like crazy around this track. This track is home to the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama and apparently also has a racing school. COOL!
This was all we were able to accomplish while we were in Alabama, well with the tornado and all . . .
We are currently in Byram, Mississippi and will be here until Monday of next week. We are going to visit Vicksburg to learn about the horrible battle that took place there during the Civil War. We also plan to attend Hal & Mal's Big A** Turkey Bash for Thanksgiving. They are serving turducken (a chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey) and the bands featured for this bash are the Kudzu Kings, Bailey and the Squids and some other great sounding groups. I can't wait to report back on this experience!
So that's it for this week. Again, sorry for the lateness of this post but school is KILLING ME! Both Steve and I hope that you all will be spending some quality time with your families this holiday weekend. We are all so blessed in this country and have so much to be thankful for. Take a moment during this holiday to count those blessings and thank God for them!
Ok peeps, later!!!!!
"The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started."
– Norman Cousins
This week's quote goes out to several people that Steve and I know who are struggling through some personal issues. To those individuals: Please know that we are praying for you to find some comfort during your difficult time. We love you!!!!
Ok, this week was interesting. We spent the week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which I told you we would be doing last week. Initially, it was on the short list of cities that we thought about settling down in post-world tour life. I have been to Chattanooga before with my friend Cece to attend a women's conference and I had such a great impression of the city that I insisted that we come back. Well, strangely enough, neither Steve nor I feel like it is a place we could live. What's strange about that is the reason: the city is too big. I mean, we're not talking about Chicago or New York City here. But even Chattanooga felt too big. Go figure! It's really too bad because the city is situated in the middle of mountains and has a number of bodies of water around it so outdoor activity is hugely plentiful. There is also a significant amount of cultural activities to take advantage of as well. A great place to visit but as Steve and I drove around the city this week, the hustle/bustle and traffic was just not appealing. So, we continue our search.
While we were here, however, we did have some fun. We first visited a place called Rock City, which is located at the top of Lookout Mountain. Rock City was established by the family of Garnet Carter and in the late 1920's, Frieda (Garnet's wife) began marking a path and building gardens around these awesome rock formations. This place is called Rock City because the original discoverer's of these rock formations said that they were situated in such a way that they reminded him of a city with tall buildings, streets and avenues. It's really quite cool and very scenic.
There are three trails that you can walk through these gardens (which, by the way, are absolutely gorgeous) which lead to a viewing platform from which you can see 7 states: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. Ok, granted you have to use binoculars to do it, but they are out there. It was really quite breathtaking with the fall colors running down the mountain. Steve and I have been so blessed this fall because the color change has followed us south. We saw the beginning of it when we were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and have seen it every day since then. Sweet!!!
In addition to these rock formation and garden tours, Frieda created a very interesting museum dedicated to fairy tales. Inside the mountain itself is a cavern that she used to create a very unique experience. Along a pathway inside this cavern were little crevices that had fairy tale scenes built inside of them. She used black-light paint to create each of them so they were extremely bright and colorful. Also, the attention to detail was remarkable. This tour was an absolute delight and I highly recommend a visit to Rock City should you be in Chatanooga.
Another cool stop we made here was Ruby Falls. Eighty years ago, Leo Lambert was busy trying to find a way to connect an elevator shaft to the Lookout Mountain cave because he felt that he could make this cave a tourist attraction. In the process of digging 1000 feet down to reach the cave, he discovered an air pocket. He followed this air pocket 17 hours in a space that was only 2' x 4' until he came to an underground waterfall, which he named after his wife, Ruby. Steve and I took the tour to see the falls and boy, was that worth the trip. We passed a number of stalagtites and stalagmites which of course had goofy names (like Elephant's foot, bacon and eggs, etc.) but when we arrived at the falls, we were absolutely awe-struck. The water falls, which is located 1100 feet underground, plunges some 145 feet into a large pool of water. The company that owns this attraction does a nice job with lighting and music to really make the Falls a spectacle to see. Another highly recommended tourist attraction.
I believe that I told you last week that one of the things we would do while we were here was to pay a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium because it is absolutely world class. There are two separate buildings for this attraction, one dedicated to to the river and one dedicated to the sea. The trip through the aquarium is set up nicely because you start at the top (via a three story escalator that fascinated Steve to no end). Once at the top, you take a series of ramps down passed a number of tanks holding different species of fish. The displays were awesome, especially the one that housed the sea dragons, which happens to be my favorite. We were really missing our grandsons on this visit because they would have absolutely loved both sides of the aquarium for sure.
Also, while we were close to Huntsville, Alabama, we paid a visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center where Space Camp is located. I have been fascinated by the space program since I was a little girl so I was just giddy about going there. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down. UGH! I don't know what I was expecting - - maybe something more akin to the Kennedy Space Center (which I have visited about 10 times and love it every time), but this was no KSC. They had some cool displays but it was primarily devoted to the Space Camp experience, which Steve and I were not allowed to visit. Again, thoughts of our grandsons came to mind because we could see them doing Space Camp. There were several groups of kids walking around doing the various skill tests they had to go through. Rock walls and flight simulators were the things we could see. What we couldn't get close to was the replica of a space shuttle (to scale, not a reduced in size version) that they used in their training. Man, I would have loved to see that. One touching thing we saw was at the grave marker for Ms. Baker. She was one of the monkeys that went into space before we sent up manned flights. Anyway, the kids from the Space Camp program had signed a banana and placed it atop the grave marker.
As I mentioned last week, Steve and learned to play disc golf. We attempted to play again this week but had a mishap. Steve is actually pretty good in terms of his distance throws but his accuracy needs work. On one occasion, he threw the disc right into some very tall weeds. He and I spent about a half hour looking for this disc and then only after does he tell me he was worried there could be snakes. SAY WHAT?????????? That would have been good information BEFORE I stuck my hands in the grasses looking for his $15 disc. Oh well. We laughed about that but for sure I am going to keep my eye on him going forward!
The rest of the time here was spent hunkered down in our trailer. I am a bit overwhelmed with school this semester as I have the equivalent of 4 classes worth of work. I definitely bit off more than I should chew right now so I feel a little badly about how much time Steve has been ignored. He's been a trooper though. He even went with me to a Jewish temple this week so that I could witness a Shabbat ceremony. One of the requirements for my World Religions class is that I have to experience the worship service of three different religions. Steve attended a Mormon and Jewish ceremony with me. My sister Lois and I went to a Jehovah Witness service. Those experiences were very interesting, to say the least.
Ok, that's it for week 10 of our journey. As of this week, we have officially traveled 2,000 miles on our journey. Those are just "pulling the trailer" miles and do not include the mileage we've expended for tourist activities. If we include those, we've done close to 8,000 miles. Yes, our gas budget is taking a beating, but we are having a good time. Tomorrow we leave for Clanton, Alabama which is located between Birmingham and Montgomery. We plan to spend some time learning about our civil rights history and have some local Thanksgiving celebrations that we plan to attend. Should be interesting having Turducken for Thanksgiving. (We hear that's a southern thing).
Take care everyone! Jeremiah, Darius and the Peanut - - WE MISS YOU TONS!!!!!!
Love you all,
Lauren and Steve
"Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to do what they want to do."
– Kathleen Winsor
Ok, how many of you can relate to that quote? I know I could up until a few months ago. Trying to live up to everyone else's expectations of me, including my own expectations of me, was exhausting. This journey that Steve and I are taking is teaching both of us more lessons about life than you can imagine.
First, and the one that I want to share with you today, is the difference between "need" and "want". Prior to making the decision to go on this trip, Steve and I had a beautiful historic farm house that sat on a beautiful piece of property. Steve had a Harley Davidson and a boat. We had more "stuff" than we could ever possibly use and some "stuff" we even forgot that we had until we had to pack it up and move it somewhere. And all those things we thought we needed (house, toys, and stuff) just kept us focused on them and not on what is really important - - living!!
We never had time to really enjoy life because we were always either in maintenance mode on the stuff or working at a stressful job so that we could continue to afford the stuff. So, as you all know, we sold the "stuff" and hit the road in an 8 x 34 trailer with only one vehicle, two bikes and hiking shoes as our modes of transportation. Are we happy we did that? Absolutely yes, and friends, it is exceptionally freeing. Do we miss the stuff? NO. People we talk to are surprised when we say that but we are sincere when we do. Having the freedom to do what we want whenever we want to do it is so much more valuable to us. What we now consider to be our treasures are great sunsets and vistas, strenuous hikes in the beautiful country that we live in, and time to just "be". Think about it. You'd be surprised at how much less you can live on and still really "live".
Ok, that's it for the lecture. Now back to the fun.
Where did I last leave you? Oh yeah, in Kentucky. Steve and I left Louisville and traveled to Slade, Kentucky where we stayed for a few days to see the eastern part of the state. Slade is home to the Natural Bridge State Resort Park (where we camped) and the Red Rock Geological Area, otherwise known as "The Red". WOW, talk about some beautiful country! The formations include the Natural Bridge, Whistlers Arch, Angel's Windows, Chimney Rock and Princess Arch. All are must sees.This area is comprised of a ton of sandstone cliffs and arches and other rock formations that were made during the melting of the ice from the last ice age. We did some absolutely fabulous hiking in here and Steve has a nice bunch of pictures in the gallery so check those out. This area is not too far from Toledo/Detroit, where most of you reading this blog are from, so here's a potential vacation spot for you. There is a ton to do here as it is very close to Lexington as well. Hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, golf, etc. are all plentiful, to be sure. But this area is also rich in history and some real southern culture as well. They say you can't come to The Red without enjoying some pizza and Ale8 at Miguel's. It's a hot spot for hikers and climbers to hang out.
If you like horses, like I do, you can take a 50 minute drive into Lexington and get your absolute fill. Which we did, of course. Steve and I spent the day at the Kentucky Horse Park. This park, and the name does not do it justice because it is not a park, is dedicated to all things horse. It has an incredible museum that takes you through the history of the horse in man's world -- from its time as a beast of burden, to mode of transportation, to treasured race and show horse. That was very interesting. The displays in this museum were fascinating and well worth the time. Next, we walked over to the show area where they did the parade of champions. Here we got to see some retired race horses - - Cigar, Funny Cide, and others who competed in such races as the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, Belmont Stakes and the Breeder's Cup. These horses were absolutely beautiful. What surprised Steve and I was that they really weren't that tall. To be sure, they were a minimum of 15 hands at the shoulder (yeah, horse talk), but when we stood next to them, that really wasn't all that high. This just goes to emphasize how small those jockeys really are because when you see them on TV, the horse compared to the jockey is really large. Anyway, after that we went to see the Parade of Breeds. This was fascinating because I didn't realize how many different breeds of horse there were. Did you know that there are over 80 different breeds? Well now you know. The parade is done several times during the day and at each parade they feature different breeds. At this parade, we saw a Palomino, an Arabian, a Gypsy, and an Andalusian. We also learned about thoroughbreds and how their bloodline can be traced to three foundation sires.
Next, we hit the museum that was dedicated the Arabian Horse. WOW was that cool. This museum did a great job showing bedouin society and the efforts that have been made to keep this horse line pure. The exhibits were beautifully done and also very interesting. Steve engaged in one of the games designed for children and became a white Arabian named Kahmila throughout our visit. He got a little certificate at the end for completing all of his required tests. :)
Lastly, Steve and I walked around the rest of the grounds. We peeked into the Farrier's shop (where they shoe horses) and the tack shop. The property has a number of old barns that we could walk through as well. In one there were a number of horses who are dedicated to mounted police. This barn had bagpipe music playing overhead which we thought was interesting and kind of weird to play for horses. Percheron and Clydesdales and Belgian horses were housed in a great old barn that also housed a bunch of old carriages that were cool. Geez those horses are absolutely huge and incredibly powerful but very docile. One team of Clydesdales can pull the equivalent of 5 cars worth of weight!
Our final stop for the day was a museum dedicated to the Saddlebred horses. These are the horses that have what seems like a funny, high stepping, gait to them and they are dedicated strictly for show. What Steve and I were most surprised about was that William Shatner is a national champion in this breed as well as Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). Who knew??????
On Thursday morning, Steve and I packed up and headed to Damascus, Virginia to see our oldest son Terry and his girlfriend Jill. We haven't seen him in a year so we were very excited to get down there for a visit. What a great time we had visiting them. Terry even taught us how to play disc golf which was a total riot. It's like regular golf with frisbees, and instead of a hole you put a little ball into, there are baskets into which you throw a frisbee. It's not as easy as it sounds but we had a great time. We really didn't do any sight-seeing while we were in Damascus because Steve and I are both familiar with this area already (I lived here for a while when I was with Dana Corporation). Our goal was to just spend time with Terry and Jill, which we did. These two are preparing for a hike on the Appalachian Trail next year and we will be seeing them periodically as they take their 2,100 mile trek from Georgia to Maine.
This morning we are packing and moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee this morning. We will be there for an entire week as we intend to do some house-hunting while we are there as well as sight-seeing. Chattanooga is a really cool town (did you know that it has a world-class aquarium?) and is one of the places we think we may settle longer term.
Ok, that's it for this week. Until next time, be good!