Friday, December 18, 2015


Hopefully the updates to LiveWriter will work for the blog.  I had used in the past and then something – technology changes or my inability made it impossible.  Will hope it works because it certainly made blogging entry easier. 


Church Circle at Night

Church Circle in Kingsport TN at Christmas.


Merry Christmas to anyone who happens to see this!!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fall Color in North East TN and Western NC

We had been waiting for a short trip for viewing the color in our beautiful area.  The trees were late turning color this year but we chose this weekend and could not have made a better choice.  Our goal was to see the color, enjoy some good food, and travel on roads we had not been on before as much as possible.  We both grew up in East TN and have lived here off and on for 70+ years so we thought it might be a challenge.

We drove on I 26 to Erwin and took 19 E to Mars Hill NC along the Cane River.  The color was good in the trees especially the reds.  They were nice along the river.

Mars Hill was really hopping with a huge craft show and a big football game at the College. Mars Hill is mostly the college - nice small town and a very nice campus.  We drove around and around but never did find a place to park so Jane got out and walked to the BBQ tent at a Baptist Church and got a "take-out" plate of BBQ, Beans, Slaw, and cornbread.  It was a huge amount of food - very good in fact!  We drove down the road a ways towards Marshall and stopped to eat.

At Marshall we picked up NC 315 and followed the French Broad River to Asheville. The French Broad is indeed that - broad - and the colors again along the river were beautiful. There were no high mountains as we were following the river. Lots of curvy road tho.  We came into Asheville and through town quite differently than the normal way along the interstate.

We drove through town and found our way to the new Outlet Mall.  Jane thought she wanted to visit several stores.  First up was the Dillard Outlet. Now Jane is not a patient shopper and it was Saturday in late October in a shopping outlet open only a few months!  The Dillard store was huge - rack after rack of various type clothing - men's shirts, men's pants, women's slacks, children's this and that and on and on....after about 30 minutes of looking and picking out one shirt....that was enough.  Another 20 minutes in line to pay - the shirt was a great bargain $28 original price for a mock turtle neck knit shirt - was marked down to $8.50 and my price to pay was $4.50!  I guess it was worth nearly an hour of time.  That was the end of shopping - Ben had had a nap in the van!

We found our hotel which was nearby and had a little rest.  Then we headed out for dinner.  We selected P. F. Chang's and found it easily in a new development on I 26 towards Hendersonville.  Biltmore Park was a new area with a "down-town" area with shops, restaurants, a huge Y, a college, various offices, apartments, a medical complex, etc.  The shops included an Orvis and an REI.  Have to come back here for shopping!

For dinner we selected the Chang's dinner for 2.  Our dinner included Hot Sour Soup and Crab Wontons - both very good.

You selected two entrees and we chose Honey Crisp Shrimp and Ginger Chicken and Broccoli.  When they came the waitress told us they had chosen to give us an additional complimentary entree - Sesame Chicken.  They were all good with our favorite the Ginger Chicken and Broccoli.  Needless to say we had enough leftovers for our dinner tomorrow night!

For dessert we had several options and we sure chose the right one!  We had banana spring rolls with coconut pineapple ice cream.  The banana spring roll was good but the ice cream was outstanding!  Even as full as we were we ate every bite!

After a good night's sleep we were up and ready for breakfast - Jane had chosen Another Broken Egg for our restaurant and it was located again in Biltmore Park.   Sorry no photos - forgot but we enjoyed an unusual breakfast of Corn Beef Hash, City Grits, and Biscuits.  By ordering two side dishes and splitting them it was "just right" - not too much or too little.  And the coffee was great!   The shops in this area open at noon on Sunday so we found our way to the Farmer's Market and bought apples, sweet potatoes, and some butternut squash.

For the drive home Ben selected US 25 and 70 to Weaverville, Hot Springs, Newport, and Morristown.  We did drive on I 26 to Weaverville where we got on US 25 and 70.  We had been to Hot Springs once before but not on this road.  Again the colors were pretty especially in the Hot Springs area but with no sunshine; the colors were not as brilliant.  We saw the Iron Horse Station Inn where Robin and Sarah had spent a couple days hiking last summer.  Neat little town but we did not stop.

While we did climb some and passed by an Appalachian Trail Crossing the mountains were not as high as crossing the mountains on I 26.  Coming down the TN side we crossed Douglas Lake which had a very low water level. Drove through Newport and White Pine before coming to an exit on I 81 and back to roads we are very used to driving on!

Home again to our own bit of color!  Cheese, Crackers, and Apples for lunch and then our leftover Chinese feast for supper!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


We arrived home at noon on Monday. Pleasant drive from Chattanooga.  Obviously there had been a lot of rain late yesterday and overnight as all the creeks were high.  One exit was closed for flooding.  Our total mileage was about 3,000 miles.  The other measurements are of the priceless variety - beautiful flowers seen and enjoyed; enjoyed visit with friends; and lots of great food eaten.  Another measurement is 5 loads of laundry - we usually wash every 9-10 days when on the road but since this trip was about 2 weeks we packed not to do laundry - worked fine!

Glad to get home in time to enjoy our dogwoods.  Think they are as pretty as they have ever been.  Quite a few flowers blooming too. Oh my the grass and weeds have certainly grown in 2 weeks! Good to be home.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jackson MS to Chattanooga TN

On the road by 8:30 ready for a 400+ mile day.  We considered driving all the way to Kingsport but since we are a day early anyway why make it a marathon driving day.  We made a reservation in Chattanooga and headed out. The sky was gray and we heard of tornadoes somewhere in Alabama.  We were unable to find anything in the areas we were headed for so started out but were keeping an eye on the weather.

Interstate driving is really boring after all the beauty we have seen the last couple weeks. We still had about 1/3 of Grey Mountain to hear.  There were still lots of flowers along the highway just not in the numbers that we had seen in TX.  All the creeks and rivers were full to overflowing.

By lunchtime we were in Tuscaloosa AL and saw the sign or the original Dreamland BBQ.  So we headed the couple miles off the interstate to find the BBQ.  We had read about it on our trip down to the gulf coast a couple years ago and it was well known in the state.  The original location only serves ribs and sausage - so that's what we had.  The ribs were pretty good but the sausage certainly did not measure up at all to the links in TX.  I guess you should not measure one type BBQ against another....It was crowded with all the tables full mostly with families at Sunday lunch.

Back on the road the sky continued to look threatening.  We were in and out of rain all afternoon.  Finished Grey Mountain - John Gresham tells a good story.  We are now listening to the beginning book in the CORP series by W E B Griffin.  I have read several of his books but not any of this series that tells the story of the Marines.

We are at a Red Roof Inn Plus in Chattanooga - brand new and seems nice,  We have never stayed in a Red Roof Inn before - using up some of our "points".  Not very hungry after the BBQ at lunch we went to an Applebee's  for Ben to have wings and Jane a salad.  During dinner we watched a severe thunderstorm.  Black skies and when we came out the sun was shining brightly and there was a huge rainbow.  Should have thought to take a panorama photo!

Tomorrow we head to home having our fill of driving, BBQ and maybe even flowers for a while! No, more flowers would be fine: but no more BBQ or driving for a bit.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Starting Home - Ennis TX to Jackson MS

Hard rain during the night!  About 10:30 several additional campers came in and set up camps.  Surprisingly when we were out for a few minutes and were amazed to see the sky lit up with lights from Dallas.  We then closed up for the night and the rain began shortly after.  Going to sleep with the rain on the metal roof is not a problem at all.

Dallas lights at High View Campground

This morning some of the campers from last night were gone - guess the rain did them in - but we had 4 other campers for the weekend.  It was clear when we got up but by the time we were leaving Ennis at 9:00 clouds were beginning to roll in.  I don;t believe I mentioned the bluebonnets at our campground.  They were blooming in most of the open fields in the park.
Blue bonnets at High View COE Park

 We headed northeast on TX 34 towards I 20 and our destination Jackson MS.

There were still some wildflowers along the interstate but primarily crimson clover and paintbrush - nothing to take photos of compared with yesterday.
Back to our book - we finished one book and started on John Gresham's Gray Mountain. Interesting book about coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains.

We stopped at an interesting spot for lunch - Counter Culture in Ruston Louisiana,  We had some excellent cajun soup and yogert.  Strange lunch you may say but it was tasty and we did not want anything heavy.

We caught up with the rain from last night and drove in rain most of the afternoon arriving about 3:30 in Jackson and our hotel room.  We did not see any restaurants near us that looked interesting so we drove to the nearby Cracker Barrel. Always easy to find something to eat there.

An early evening with posting the blog and maybe watching the news - have not really seen any news in a week! Nice vacation!

Dallas - Bush Library Museum and Ennis Blue Bonnets

We slept until 8 AM when Ben’s phone rang.  Being the only campers in an entire area makes for quiet sleeping.  The sky was gray but no rain expected – so we ate our wonderful kolaches from the Village Bakery and enjoyed leisurely cups of coffee and a walk around the loop.  There were already 3 sets of fishermen out on the lake.  We have certainly not missed out on any sleep on this vacation!

By 9:30 we were on our way into Ennis to get information on the Blue Bonnet Trails. They have a north and a south loop mapped out with a nice map and they say there are signs so you can’t get lost…there were two busloads of seniors coming in to the visitor center just as we left – seems they have been busy for weeks with visitors. 

There was not going to be sunshine today so we headed north about 35 miles to Dallas to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library.  We have worked to avoid cities on this trip but it was unavoidable if we wanted to visit this museum. 
Dallas in Gray Fog
There was surprisingly light traffic up I 45 through Dallas to I 75 and our exit a SMU.  We drove right into the parking area, got parked and were in the Library-Museum in no time.  
George W. Bush Library and Museum
The exhibits were excellent and certainly brought back memories of times gone by – many that were very emotional – 911 and Katrina were both extremely difficult for our country. 
From 9 11

There was an exact to scale replica of the Oval Office.  I took photos but even tho they would photograph you or you could take your own photo at the President’s Desk – just did not seem right to sit there.  The room was smaller than I had expected or perhaps it was because there were a number of people in it. 

There were a variety of exhibits – serious, informational, as well as several that were funny.  One the daughters narrated that included lots of funny photos of their Dad was cute.  Technology was used throughout the exhibits.  One that was especially interesting was the Decision Points exhibit that discussed several of the difficult situations George Bush faced during his presidency.  Everyone in the room had a monitor and first voted on which situation to discuss….the majority of our group selected Katrina.   So Katrina was our situation.  Each of us had to use the monitor to listen to various opinions and information on our screens, occasionally we were interrupted on a big screen with updates on the situation. Then we had to vote on what we would decide to do- then last we were given the decision Bush made and why.  Certainly made you look at all sides of the situation. 
We had an excellent lunch at the 43 CafĂ© just outside the Library and returned to finish the exhibits. By about 2:00 we were finished and headed back through Dallas towards Ennis.  The sky had remained gray all  day and as we checked weather it was not going to be any better tomorrow- in fact might be worse.  So we checked the map and got off the Interstate at the northern end of one of the bluebonnet loops and drove it backwards towards Ennis.  We were not expecting much to be honest and were blown away with the fields of bluebonnets.  There were so many that we could even smell them – sort of like a heavy honeysuckle smell but very pleasant.  We enjoyed the drive and the flowers and scenery. 

In fact we even finished the southern loop too.  Finishing up about 4:15 back in Ennis at the Kolache Depot Bakery for more kolaches to have for breakfast tomorrow!

Back at camp we relaxed a while and cooked dinner – I brought 4 dinners to cook – my one pot variety for camping but we have had so much leftover BBQ that I have not needed to prepare any dinners until tonight! 
We had expected this campground to be filled for the weekend when we drove back in – still not one other camper in our loop.  As I am tying this at 8:30 two other groups have arrived so we will not be alone tonight.  The sites are spaced well though so we do not feel at all crowded like in some private RV parks.  Since it is probably going to rain tomorrow and we have driven the trails we are going to head home a day early.  Ben has a big inspection mid-week and this will give him a day to rest up from the driving.

Lockhart TX to Ennis TX Thursday

Quiet night and sleeping was great.  We left camp and headed to the McDonalds so that Ben could send a couple work emails and Jane could post the blog.  Last long trip we were on, McDonalds WIFI did not work where ever we were, – today it worked great.  A cup of coffee and 30 minutes of internet work and we drove back to Smitty’s.  Ben has a friend that begged him to bring some brisket to him – so we stopped and brought brisket and some links to put in the freezer – and since we were doing it anyway why not some for ourselves!  We came in a different way and saw the large smokestack on the back of the market.

Into the GPS went the address of High View COE Park near Ennis and off we went.  We programmed it to take back roads so we did not have to follow the interstates all the way.  We drove through Elgin, Taylor, and Temple.  Stopped for lunch under a tree in front of a Lutheran Church in a little town and then took I 35 right through the center of Waco.  There were Bluebonnets, Paintbrush, and Indian blanket as well as other wild flowers along the road.  Really pretty drive through rolling pasture land. Primarily ranches with corn and cattle.  Ben thought it was strange to see a cowboy riding along on his horse talking on his cell. 

One of the disadvantages of not being on interstates is occasionally you get behind something strange - we were behind 3 very long tractor trailers with bridge trusses for some time.  Finally they left but only after blocking the entire intersection for about 10 minutes.  I would not want to be driving one of those trucks.

Just north of Waco in the small town of West we stopped at the Village Bakery.  This is an area of Texas settled by the Czech and the Village Bakery was established in 1952 and claims to be the oldest Czech Bakery in Texas.  It has quite the reputation so it was on “the list” of places to stop.  My photo is poor but the baked goods are fantastic.  Jane has Apricot Kolache and Apple Strudel.  Ben has Strawberry Kolache and a Cherry Buchta – we only tasted as they are tomorrow’s breakfast!  Well Ben also had a Blueberry Scone that he ate on the road. Glenda you would have loved this place!

Just past West we left I 35 and headed east towards Ennis arriving at High View about 3 PM.  Our campsite is on a thin bit of land jutting out into Lake Bardwell.  We are right on the edge of the water in a lovely site.  There are two parts of the campground – one for larger RV’s with 50 amp power and then the area with 30 amp power.  We selected the 30 amp area and are the only people in the 15 campsite area.  So we have a quiet area with no one to share the nice bathhouse with!

About 4:30 we saw the sky getting very black – the wind blew hard – lightening all around us – there was some rain and lots of whitecaps on the previously peaceful lake.  After about an hour it was gone and the sun came back out.  There remains some wind and the temperature is much cooler than last night.

Supper was leftover Cooper’s Brisket and beans with one sausage link from Smitty’s.  Excellent the second time around! 

We made a thorough search to find the lost items and found them both in the trash can!  Luckily they were in the trash can in the front that had only some empty water bottles and a few other things in it.  How we did that I do not know – Jane’s chambray shirt and Ben’s bottle of TUMS !!!

Wrote the blog and will watch a movie from Ben’s computer and read tonight.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Lockhart TX

After our wonderful breakfast at Granny D’s we visited a little while more while Jane posted the blog.  Not sure when we will have an internet connection again.  We had a great visit with Tom and Mary Ann in Spring Branch and certainly thank them for their Texas hospitality.

We plugged Lockhart State Park into the GPS and off we went now east across some of the middle of Texas.  We still enjoyed paintbrush and bluebonnets along with other wild flowers all along the roads.  We passed by a couple lakes, through several small towns and the large town of San Marcos and finally arrived at Lockhart State Park. 

This is a rather small park with only 20 campsites but has a pool (not open yet) and a nice looking golf course. 

  Why did we pick out this out of the way park?  BBQ – Lockhart is one of several BBQ capitols of TX.  There are 4 major and several minor BBQ restaurants in Lockhart and a couple more in the nearby town of Luling.  We are maybe 60 miles east and north of San Antonio.  Maybe 50 miles south of Austin.  The state park has a map all printed up with the hours of each of the major BBQ restaurants and can tell you a bit about each.  Several are all run by members of the same family – we selected Smitty’s which is in the original building where BBQ has been smoked for generations. 

We selected a site and checked in – rested a while – read books – and really did nothing until about 4 when we drove into Lockhart – about 4 miles and got our BBQ.  We had brisket and some “hot links” their own sausage cooked over the coals.  Again you ordered directly from the pit and your meat was weighed and then you went inside with your meat on paper.  Inside a long room with tables and chairs you could select any sides you wanted – white bread, jalapenos, onions, beans, avocados, slaw, potato salad, and sauce.  We had seen people eating jalapenos straight before – but here they were just biting off the whole jalapeno – that was a first.  We had some beans, potato salad, and our meats.  The brisket and sausage were both good.  The sausage extremely good – never tasted anything like it. 

Made a couple phone calls while in town as the park has very spotty phone service.  Back at camp we finished our books, walked around, talked with people about our TN flag again and finally about 8:00 ate a few snacks and settled down to watch a TV show or two that Ben has loaded on his laptop. 

It is very quiet here.  Maybe 10 of the 20 sites are occupied.  Clear sky with lots of stars. 

Posting from McDonalds on Thursday morning.  We are headed to a Corp of Engineers Park on a lake near Ennis.  Ennis is south of Dallas and we will use it as a home spot to visit the George Bush museum on Friday and a Blue Bonnet Festival on Saturday .  Then we head east towards Tennessee. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Travel Day and Visiting Friends

We were up and away from Fredericksburg by 9:00 with two immediate goals. One the handle on our port-a-pottie broke forcing us to look for a new one - I guess 9 years is a good life.  So first stop was Wal-Mart in try the bigger Wal-Mart in Boerne.  We drove through some very nice TX ranchland passing by Luckenbach .  If you had not visited it is worth a stop but we had been there. On we drove to Boerne and another Wal-Mart  - still no port-a-pottie.  This is TX with ever so many campers!  Next stop was a Bass Pro Shop which was sure to have one - but it is much too near San Antonio for us -- but we found it - in Fiesta - do you know what is in Fiesta TX - Six Flags Over TX - wow everything is there!  We had lunch in the Bass Pro restaurant and then found the Port-A-Pottie. Success on task one.

However before we left the Fredericksburg area we had a second goal - visit Wildseeds - a wildflower seed farm and store.  It was outstanding with fields of bluebonnets, poppies, and ever so many other flowers.  They had everything bluebonnet you could think of to purchase and an entire room of seeds and I bought entirely too many.  Let's hope they grow in TN - they did have wildflower seed packets that would grow in each part of the country.
Nice stop but you could have spent way too much $$$$!

Back to Bass Pro - lunch was great and with our shopping done we headed to Spring Branch and a visit with a couple that Ben had known since college days at North Carolina State.  We arrived in Spring Branch to spend some time with Tom and Mary Ann.  What a nice home they have with more bluebonnets in the yard!  We enjoyed conversation, a great dinner and a quiet night sleeping in our van beside their home.  They had traveled the country in their RV so installed an RV camping spot beside their home for their traveling friends.

Wednesday after a great nights sleep we drove to nearby Canyon Lake to Granny D's for breakfast.  We had been warned to only order one pancake and that was all anyone could eat - thank goodness we listened.  What pancakes they were - we each had one - some Carrot Cake, some Carmel Apple and mine Cinnamon Roll - and although we tried we have half of one pancake left for tomorrow.  I give them a 5 of 5 for pancakes!

Nice visit with Tom and Mary Ann but we were off for more TX adventures.
We are headed towards Lockhart which was a recommended BBQ stop by John and Dale.  Another beautiful blue day with temperature about 70 - what could be perfect. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Second day in Fredericksburg

What a beautiful day!  We had rain off and on all night and a very heavy mist hung in the air as we relaxed drinking coffee and planning our day.  By the time we were back at the Nimitz Museum to finish our tour it was beautiful. Quite the comparison to the gray skies of yesterday. You can just catch Ben as he heads in the door of the museum.

Being able to break the museum into two days really made a difference. More places like this should allow a two day window as it it difficult to absorb so much at one time.  This new gallery begins with the situation between China and Japan and clearly explains the world situation leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Then it takes you through all the battles and ends with the surrender and dropping of the atomic bombs.  It is very well done.  Throughout the entire time you are reminded of the situation in Europe and back home in the USA.  Nimitz was the commander  of one portion of the Pacific and MacArthur another part. Maps clearly defined the area for people like me who have trouble with keeping it all straight.  It certainly was well done in Jane's opinion and Ben said he felt like it told the story better than even the WWII Museum in New Orleans. It is highly recommended if anyone is in this part of Texas.  Being able to concentrate only on the Pacific made it simpler.  I took some photos but my museum photos are never very good.

About noon we headed north on Rt 16 back towards Llano looking for the Willow Loop.  This was a small road leading to a tiny town of Willow and then looping back through the backcountry to the main road.  It was said to have beautiful bluebonnets.  About 12 miles out of Fredericksburg we turned on Willow loop and were in for about 2 hours of beautiful scenery and flowers.

We stopped along a fence with bluebonnets and longhorn cattle and settled down for a relaxing picnic lunch. After lunch we continued on for 13 miles with many a stop along the way to view and take a few photos.  I can't imagine what the traffic would have been on the weekend - because it was fairly heavy for a back road today.  I will let a few photos tell the story.

This last photo is white poppies as far as the eye can see. It was a beautiful drive with so many varieties of flowers we could not begin to list them all.

Finally we drove back into Fredericksburg and made a stop at WalMart to buy a new TV remote.  For some reason ours was not working even with brand new batteries.  

Our last stop was at St. Mary's Catholic Church in the downtown area.  The original church was built in the 1800's when the area was settled. The larger one was built around 1900 and was built and decorated to resemble the painted churches of Europe.  While not as ornate as some I visited in Germany it was very beautiful with at least 10 very beautiful stained glass windows and some paintings on the ceiling. 

Back home at the RV park we got the remote working, read about the German restaurants in town and organized things.  It seems that after about day 3 it is time to reqroup and reorganize things.  

We drove back the few blocks to the Main downtown area and selected Der Linderbaum for our dinner.  Jane enjoyed a Schnitzel and Ben  had a pork dish that was the special - it had a mustard sauce and some wonderful German potato salad.  Everything was great. 

One interesting conversation - well really two different conversations today. We always fly our Tennessee Flag from the Sprinter when we are parked in RV or State Park Campgrounds.  Usually someone asks us what kind of flag we are flying.  Evidently it was the topic of discussion at the 8 AM coffee group this morning.  One guy came by this morning and asked Ben - said he thought it must be from one of "those Asian countries".  Then late this afternoon a couple stopped during their walk around camp to ask what sort of flag it was...he was nice enough to invite Ben to come to the guy's coffee group tomorrow morning!  It is so interesting that most people do not recognize the flag of our great state of Tennessee.  Of course here in Texas it always leads to a tale about TN guys coming to help at the Alamo!

A really great day !!