Sunday, November 22, 2020

Strafing The Boll Weevils

As we drove back toward I-10, we were treated to an air show, a crop duster (a Kruk model? Air Tractor?), making apparently dry runs over the field we were passing. I stopped for some pix and to marvel at the speed and maneuverabilty of the craft; and the daring of these pilots.

Our other thrill of the day, still in Alabama, was finding diesel for $1.64/gallon

Cote d'Alabama

We left Knoxville November 16th, amid worsening COVID-19 reports everywhere, some state closures already, and some thousands of miles to go back to California. We'd thought of pressing further east and seeing Charleston and the Sherouse ancestral home of Ebeneezer, near Savannah, and then maybe even further into Florida. But reason prevailed and we decided that we had pressed our luck about as far east and south as we should. Besides, temperatures in Knoxville were falling below freezing, not good for RV water tanks and plumbing. Our plan was to head south from Knoxville and then ride I-10 all the way back to CA, stopping here and there to rest, resupply, and refit. 

I was excited to think we might get to the Redneck Riviera, but then deflated to learn that said "Riviera" occurs just on the Florida panhandle coast. Stops at Pensacola. So instead we found the Cote d'Alabama, Gulf Shores and such, and Mobile. We spent a few nights at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation campground, repairing and refitting, and seeing friends and fellow travelers Kathy and Rick...whom we've met on a variety of occasions Kissimmee, Amsterdam, Chianti, Mantua, Mountain View, and name a few. It was good to see them again, to catch up, commiserate, and reflect on our great fortune in having traveled so widely the past decade and more.

We've been there before department: Marie and Vicki at the USS
Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, 1976; Norm was an instructor
at Pensacola in those days

USS Drum, SS-228, a Gato class sub, same as my favorite, 
USS Wahoo, SS-238, sunk departing the Sea of Japan in 1943;
after hurricane damage in the years following 1976, the Drum
is now on display on shore

From the bridge of the Alabama

Now at Gulf Shores, 2020

Yours truly; the beach is beautiful, the water
not so much, the place developed here and
there, pretty much deserted the day we passed

Looking east

And west

Excellent signage

Our encampment at Rainbow Plantation; perhaps they'll be
changing the name soon (yeah, sure)

Hurricane Sally had passed through some weeks before, and the
devastation, particularly in the pine forests, was still visible;
trash-hauling, logging, roof-repairs, etc., are probably good
trades to practice in this region, with serial hurricanes coming
through almost annually

Despite the devastation, the fields of cotton seemed to be
doing just fine; we hadn't seen cotton since Turkey in 2010

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Ascent Of Look Rock

So on November 10th, Vicki and I, our hosts, Norm and Marie, and their daughter, Stacey, set forth on the drive via the Foothills Parkway to Look Rock. The Foothills Parkway is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park: a beautiful scenic drive in the foothills, now just past the fall foliage peak, but impressive nonetheless, not least in that it is rarely as crowded as other highways in the Park. Look Rock is a knob (elevation 2,650) on Chilhowie Mountain, with nearly 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and valley. From the parking lot there is a paved trail to the summit. Signs say it is 1/2 mile round-trip. We five-some hiked up, had a pique-nique lunch, looked around, took pix, and then drove back to Knoxville. A fine outing.

Along the way, by Calderwood dam, on the Little Tennessee River
You have been warned

Checking air quality at the Air Quality Checking Station on the ridge
leading to Look Rock; seemed kind of smoky to me

Look! Rock!

Climbing the ramp up to the observation deck

View from the heights, toward the valley

Looking toward the bigger mountains

(Not) why they're called the Smokies; actually, it's all the stills

Actual natural summit 

Closer up

Summit ascent team

Saturday, November 7, 2020

In Washington, DC

After Fallingwater we drove on to Burke, VA, where we put Le Sport into storage. Daughter Rachel and her husband Will met us there and drove us back to their house in DC, where we spent the next 2+ weeks, house- and pet-sitting, catching up on TV, and visiting with our hosts as well as with old friends and former colleagues. We took some walks but didn't go in anywhere except for groceries and flu shots. It was the 2020 COVID-19 version of what has become an annual extended visit with Rachel and Will. Hopefully, our 2021 visit will see things return to normal.  

Our attending a protest at the SCOTUS did not go well...too
many steps...(it's a long story)

It was a great party, evidently, on 1st Ave., NW

Our two feline wards, Bianca and Peter; Bianca attempting to
get into the cat food bin as Peter offers moral support

Peter attempting to don a mask

On a long walk with Esther Mack, the dust-covered man on a
dust-covered horse, my favorite Washington monument, my
favorite American, guarding, as always, the Capitol, the

Parking on the Mall (not us)...haven't see this in years

Parking on the mall, 1974...that's our VW camper

The Mall on a Tuesday afternoon in 2020, scarcely a soul in

Best Halloween couple, Will and Rachel

Best Halloween yard decor (actually in German Village,
Columbus, Ohio, across from Schmidt's)
Best political yard sign

Camping at an Appalachian Trail parking lot en route to
Knoxville, where we are now
About as close as I will get to walking the Appalachian Trail

Friday, October 30, 2020

More Falling Water

Ever since we began this blog in 2008, I have been waiting for some pretext to post about our former Montana home. It was not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and could not be described as "organic," but it did have a significant water feature, added c. 2003, described below. Water indeed fell.

We bought the house, a 1994 Rocky Mountain Log Homes design, built by a forest service threesome on spec--the flooring and cabinetry and doors all from ponderosas on the five acre property--in 1997. It was our Montana dream home, on Horseback Ridge of Black Mountain, overlooking Missoula Valley and facing the Mission Mountains. We proceeded to decorate it with every item of Montaniana we could acquire. Within the first couple years we decided further changes were in order and proceeded to remodel the principal (formerly "master") suite, much enlarging the bath, installing a jacuzzi, a see-through fireplace, and a door to the outside deck's hot tub. Among earlier additions were the deck itself, two giant windows to let more sun into the great room, a "character log" that was its central post, more built-in furniture, and so on. It was after the big remodel that we decided we wanted a water feature.

Unfortunately, the closest water was our 477 foot deep well. No creek nor stream to divert. We wanted a waterfall and a pond large enough for fish. As we researched matters, it became clear we would need a second, upper, filtration pond ("Hidden Lake"), a short watercourse ("Horseback Creek") leading to the waterfall ("Broken Finger Falls") and the pond itself ("Blue Pine Lake"), which needed to be at least three feet deep to allow the fish to survive the winter. It took us two seasons to do all this. Digging down into the layered sedimentary rock on our hillside was aided by use of a rental jackhammer. The big rocks came via truck, forklift, and come-along; the smaller ones gathered mostly from the North Fork of the Clearwater, just over the hills in Idaho, and hauled back in our trailer. And I finally found a better use (than fishing) for my waders and boots. But by 2003 it was finished, and we were to enjoy our falling water the next several years. Among the additional features the Kaufmanns didn't have at Fallingwater was a timer on the recirculating watercourse/filtration pump (and thus the waterfall) and a motion detector-operated sprinkler to keep animals away from the lower pond (and fish) and the raspberry patch adjacent to it. We made many other improvements to the house and property in subsequent years, but the waterfall and pond were perhaps the most memorable. 

Our Montana home, which we dubbed Blue Pine, after the blue-
stained pine from which much the interior was constructed; the
trees used had already succumbed to pine beetle attack; the stain
is part of the trees' defense...

The Missions, from our upper porch; snowbound 8-9 months
every year

We lived there in the winter, too

Great room and character log

Interior renovation under way; we took it all right down to the logs

Digging the lower pond


Laying the pond liner

Not as easy as it looks

Fine tuning

Broken Finger Falls, from the deck

Blue Pine Lake, from the raspberry patch

Visitor helping himself to a slurp at Hidden Lake

"Broken Finger Falls" because the first summer working on the
waterfall I broke a finger; that halted the project temporarily,
and we headed off to Alaska for a month; that's our rig parked
at the Sign Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon