January - 2011
On January 6th Betsy and I departed Morgantown. Our mission? To find a place where two newly fledged snowbirds could roost for the winter of 2011/12.
Pursuant to that goal we left Morgantown, and hopefully, the snow behind.
Below is a photo sampler of that trip.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
Typical limestone wall construction for this region. The Bluegrass Heritage Museum is in the background.
The old theater in downtown Winchester is still open for business.
After our stroll through downtown we met Bob and Nancy Strosnider for a visit and dinner. Bob is a long time cyclist and we have been on some fun rides with him.
During our dinner conversation Nancy mentioned we were heading into Dolly Parton country. I told her I had once dated Dolly to which she replied. "You wish!"
We stayed at the Best Western in Winchester.
I thought this was an interesting way to tell their guests: "If you steal our shit, you will pay for it!".
See!! I do know Dolly!! She had agreed to meet me at the Tennessee Welcome Center for a big "Howdy! Hug".
Betsy added her form to this sculpture by Phil Vander Weg.
Plaque at the I-65 Welcome Center.
Our next stop was Nashville TN to visit long time friend Robert Doherty. We got to his place on Friday the 7th and were soon having a fine meal at Korea House.
The four of us, Bob, Carol (Bob's girl fiend), Betsy and I had quite a feast!
This is the view from Bob's 8th floor condo on our first day. A bit wet and dreary, but that soon changed.
I wanted Betsy to see the famous sculpture "Musica" on Music Row where Division Street meets 17th Avenue South. It was quite controversial when it was installed in 2003.
Next it was on to Yazoo Brewery for a tour. I spotted these murals on the adjacent building and took some quick snaps.
This carved wooden plaque is on the wall of the bar.
Our tour guide did a good job giving us a history of the brewery and thorough explanation of the brewing process. He also served us 4 different beers to sample. All were tasty.
The two small tanks in front are part of the first brewing rig the owner put together.
After the tour we headed over to Bosco's Brewing located near Vanderbilt University in Hillsboro Village. Here we snacked on tasty "gourmet pizzas" and brews.
Afterwards we made a quick stop at Trader Joe's for a Pound Plus chocolate bar, multi-grain tortilla chips, cheap beer for me and " Black Toad Dark Ale" for Betsy.
Saturday morning broke clear and cold. It looked like it was going to be a good day for a hike up on the Cumberland Plateau.
Bob had graciously turned over his condo to us during out stay so Betsy was able to lounge about and work on her journal until Bob and Carol arrived. When they did we decided on a place for breakfast and then a plan for the rest of the day.
Carol and Bob recommended "Athens" as a good place for a hearty breakfast.
Our waitress offered to take a photo of the four us and I am glad she did.
After a filling breakfast Bob drove us up to the plateau where he gave us a great tour of the area including a cabin which he hoped to be the future owner of. Bob does a lot of hiking in this area and really loves it. It only takes one visit to understand why.
After the cabin tour it was off to the Carter State Natural Area for our 4.5 mile hike.
This is Karst Country. Limestone everywhere you look and walk.
This limestone pavement was part of the trail surface. Pretty cool...
See all these white blotches?
They were ice crystals growing out of the soil and looked just like some crystals I had seen in a cave once but I cannot remember the name of the mineral.
They were gorgeous! We all speculated on how they might have formed. Can you enlighten us??
Soon we would be hiking through a landscape the likes of which I had not seen before.
Here is some Little Grey Polypody growing on limestone. To me, this was a most unusual place to see it growing.
A close-up of the Little Grey Polypody.
There was limestone everywhere in this woods. It was quite striking.
The trail made its way to a limestone bluff which dropped precipitously to the rushing stream below.
As you can see, it was a cold day and the temp hovered in the 20s all day.
As expected, we saw some nice specimens of the Walking Fern.
This is the first of the 3 cave entrances we visited which are all within several hundred feet of each other.
"A significant cave system extends from Lost Cove to the head of Crow Creek. The stream systems draining into Lost Cove disappear into the Lost Cove Cave at the Big Sinks and travel underground for over a mile, emerging at the main entrance Buggytop Cave. This impressive cave entrance is 100 feet wide and 80 feet high. Peter Cave is the other main cave entrance. There have been considerable archeological artifacts of the Woodland and Mississippian period excavated from the entrance. The artifacts are on display at University of the South in Sewanee." - Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation
This sheltered overhang and constantly flowing warm air from the cave made a nice place for lunch.
The stream bed below the entrance of Peter Cave. All the water sinks into the cave system below. Again, I had never seen anything like this before and I was really diggin' it.
Soon we would see the source of this white water.
And here it is - Buggytop Cave. Awesome!
Here Bob, Carol and Betsy are dwarfed by the impressive cave entrance which is 100 feet wide and 80 feet high.
Here, Betsy scrambles back up the trail from Buggytop. This short pitch was close to a 5.2 - not!
After this fab hike it was back to Nashville for take out pizza from Michaelangelo's washed down with Betsy's retirement bottle of Caymus Cabernet and cheap beer.
Ugh! Monday morning in Nashville was starting to look a lot like home.
Too messy to hike so we headed over to Star Bagel for breakfast and coffee.
This print by Mark Monsarrat was on the wall of the men's room at the Star. Nice. Made me home sick.
We then took a tour of east Nashville - Carol's 'hood. Bob provided us with a few exciting moments by coming close to ditching his Rover on one snowy street. It was messy out there.
Being a tourist ( and a tour guide) is hungry work so Carol steered us into Pied Piper for deep fried okra and pickles. YUMMY!
Gone - but not forgotten!!
It is now Tuesday, January 11th and time to move on. Bob and Carol stopped over to see us off and we were on the road around 9 am. Next stop: Texarkana.
But first we had to get there. This meant taking I-40 to Little Rock and then picking up I-30 to Texarkana. The leg to Memphis was uneventful but the further West we travelled the more snow we encountered. By the time we got to Little Rock the traffic had thickened and in some places slowed to a crawl. I had never seen so many big rigs on the road before. Looking over at the west bound lanes we could see semis nearly bumper-to-bumper and moving at a snail's pace. Over in our west bound lane things were not much better.
We began to see an increasing number of vehicles which were abandoned. Some on the berm or over into the ditch. Some in the median strip. Some were smashed up, others just parked because the drivers could get no further. We saw tractor trailers abandoned as well. One rig had the tractor smashed and stuck in the trees up an embankment. The trailer was ripped and broken into several pieces. The boxes of cargo from the trailer were strewn about along the edges of the roadway and into the median strip.
Seeing all this and being in the thick of it made for hair raising driving. Traffic stayed slow for many miles. There were numerous places where there was packed ice and snow which made for treacherous driving. At one point we stopped off near Malvern AK to gas up.
Bad move. I saw too late the ramp was backed up almost to the interstate with exiting tractor-trailers. We finally got off the ramp, crossed over and made out way back onto the roadway. Both sides of the exit were jammed with semis waiting to fuel up. I had never seen so much truck traffic anywhere before and could only speculate it was from all the trucks which had been forced off the roadway by the snow and were now getting back on the road. It was a mess!
We got to Texarkana around dusk. We found all the exit ramps torn up and the frontage roads a maze of traffic cones and barricades. For some reason there were many millions being spent on this section of roadway.
Betsy had Pricelined us a room the nite before and we finally found our hotel, a Day's Inn (47.95) and settled in the for the evening.
We dined on Trader Joe's mixed baby salad greens with added cherry tomatoes and dressed with TJ's Tuscan Italian dressing. This was to be our standard fair for dinner while staying in hotels. It is quick, easy and healthy.
Wednesday the 17th and we hit the road at 7AM and continued west. From here on out our trip would be interstate free - at least until we got to El Paso.
We left Texarkana behind, but not the snow. We picked up US 270 at New Boston and drove through the snowy countryside of northeast Texas.
We passed by or through Annona, Clarksville, Paris, Bonham, Sherman and then on to Gainesville. This is Red River country which we would soon leave behind.
At Gainesville (due north of Dallas) we picked up Farm Road 51 which trends southwest and then we hooked up with US 380. After about an hour or so heading south the snow finally thinned out and disappeared. Good riddance.
While I drove, this is how Betsy kept herself occupied between naps.
Since my first ERT through here in 2005 I have always stopped at this spot. It is just to the east of Throckmorton. Those gorgeous trees which are shading the new ERT-mobile are Texas live oaks.
Fallen leaves of the "Throckmorton Oaks".
From here we made our way west through Haskell, Rule, Post and then on to Brownfield where we picked up US 62 to Seminole. We cruised around Seminole and found the Black Diamond Motel which had two facilities - new and fancy and old and plain. Betsy got us a room in the old section for 40 bucks and it was just fine.
We unloaded the van and then went our for a brisk, windy walk along some back streets. The temp was barely into the 30s and dropped into the 20s that nite.
The next day, Thursday the 13th, we pulled up stakes and headed to Las Cruces via Carlsbad, NM. Here the time zone changed and cell phone kept switching between the two.
This is the access road to Carlsbad Caverns. There is a pullout and interpretive sign about this seep. I had never seen it frozen before. Pretty wild.
This was shot from the pull off for the springs and shows some of the countryside in the Caverns area.
This was our destination. I had hiked the trail the previous year and loved it. Now Betsy would get to enjoy it.
Here Betsy is flanked by two yucca plants which are quite common in the area.
Betsy starts the hike down into the canyon. This was the first and last time we saw any water.
The warm and sunny day was made more beautiful by the desert scenery.
Here Betsy stands next to a scrub oak which was common in the canyon.
Mighty small acorns!
This clump cactus, perhaps a Mammillaria species, was scattered about on the higher rock banks of the canyon.
Our lunch spot in the lower part of the canyon.
After lunch we started up out of the canyon and we were both huffin' and puffin' by the time we got back to the top. We started back west on US 180 and past Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas and then through Guadalupe pass and the long and beautiful decent down into Salt Flat.
This was taken at the roadside rest on the way down the mountain.
Back to civilization.
This was taken outside of Akela Flats near Deming New Mexico.
Roadside rest along I-10 in New Mexico. We say a young lady packing up a sleeping bag when we got there and later spotted her walking along the interstate.
A look through one of the ventanas in the picnic shelters.
Zero visibility here could be deadly...
Hard to read but the signs say: "<= Passing side Suicide =>"
These shots are from the Texas Canyon roadside rest in Cochise County Arizona. The rock formations and boulders are mind blowing!
From here we drove on into Green Valley where we would spend then next five days with Bruce and Mia while we looked for our future winter roost.
Although Tucson was the original focus of our search, Green Valley looked like it would suit us better.
Bruce and Mia treated us like royalty on our visit and helped us in any way they could. It really made getting to know the area a lot more fun.
Next installment: A look around Green Valley with photos by Betsy.
'Till then... Adios!
~ Mike and Betsy