A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cool Times in the South

Elk Store, Arkansas
 Walnut Grove Freewill Baptist Church and Cemetery

This was an idyllic scene as we came over a rise in the road but I had someone on my tail and wasn’t even able to slow down for this picture.  Thus part of the window frame is in it.  To crop it out I’d loose some of the headstone markers.  And there are reflections from the glass plus a bug splat.

When you cross the state line into Missouri, there is no doubt about it.  Just look at the difference in the road condition.  This is looking back into Arkansas.

A few miles further just west of Myrtle, Missouri

I wasn’t looking forward to entering Missouri all that much because of the roads (I doubt there is a level road at all in the state – up and down, up and down) and places to stay are few compared to all the states we’ve been in the South.  I want to visit a nearby Civil War battlefield tomorrow and have to overnight at a Wal-Mart once again.

I learned from talking with a couple of ladies yesterday that I picked a good time to visit the South.  “It has been unseasonable cool for this time of the year.”  I thought it was always like this in March/April but they told me not so.  When I return next year at this time I may not be so fortunate and suffer with the humidity.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Church for Sale

 Cord, Arkansas

Now you too can own your own church, never have to pay taxes again, and can put catchy little phrases on the sign out front like the one I saw today – “God Receives Kneemail”.

 It comes with history too.  That is a For Sale sign in front and those are Christmas lights hanging from the roof edge.

 It looked pretty good inside.  I found a sign laying in the grass and it appears the previous owner was using the church as an antique and gift store but like so many small businesses I've seen on the trip, they just couldn't make a go of it in these hard times.

 Now while you are working on it fixing it up and all, you can stay at one of Arkansas’s fine State Parks, and I mean that with all sincerity.  All their parks that I have stayed in are well cared for, clean and up to date.  Just wonderful.  And get these rates – last fall I paid $14.  Last night, $13.13 and today $10.13.  You will NOT be able to find a State Park in any other state with camping fees that low.  I get an out of state old person discount so do not know what the regular rate would be for a local.

Here is a charming little fix ‘er upper in Cord.  No for sale sign but still a neat old house in its day.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Southern Pride

Middle of Nowhere Arkansas

It is a darkly overcast day, rain drizzling off and on when all of a sudden I see up ahead a dark object in the road.  Here is this guy riding along, no lights, no reflectors, no bright colored reflective clothing, not the easiest thing to see through a rain splattered windshield.  You can’t see it here but his dog his running alongside (on a leash) to the right.  He cannot move over for the rumble strip on the side of the road would rattle him senseless.  Unfortunately I hit a bump just when I clicked the shutter and cannot make out the all the wording on his sign.  It is a website to donate for breast cancer research but the rest I couldn’t make out.  

While reviewing this I noticed I happened to catch a couple of the tilting telephone poles in this shot.  I was talking with two couples from Georgia the other day and they told me to watch for the leaning poles.  These are survivors from Hurricane Katrina, the ones not blown over completely or snapped off.

I saw on my map Louisiana Purchase State ParkI checked it out.  You drive in two miles off the highway into a swamp.  I was liking this already.  Park then walk a few hundred yards on this boardwalk deep into the swamp.  This is more than I could have ever hoped for!

It was so quiet except for the birds; birds making strange calls from somewhere for they were not to be seen but their sounds carried through the swamp.  The boardwalk took you to a stone monument marking the initial point from where the 1815 Louisiana Territory land survey began.  More on that later but I just had to show this much for now.  
I had the whole experience all to myself too.

 As for the Southern Pride, I realized today while driving along that I have not see one person standing on a corner holding a cardboard sign begging for money since I’ve been in the South.  In California it is a plague of them out there on every street corner.  No doubt there are more people here in the South without jobs, existing at poverty level, way more than in California but these folks have pride.   

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mennonites on Vacation

Pontotoc, Mississippi

Seeing the kayak on top of the buggy was something out of the ordinary.  Towing a trailer was also.  Upon closer inspection I saw not only the ice chest but a smaller ice chest, a large water carrier, two fishing poles and other items which really looked like all for camping.  They were a young couple.  You couldn’t tell so from the guy with his long beard but ever once in awhile the woman would turn around to look and see how much traffic was backed up behind them and she was just as cute as could be with her little straw hat on.  The line was me, a logging truck and then a long string of cars.  I was in no hurry and enjoyed admiring the cute Mennonite.  Finally after about a quarter mile or so of crawling along they pulled over and the logging truck pushed me on around them.  Incidentally that left rear wheel on the trailer was really wobbly.  
Fun to watch when I wasn’t looking at her.

It was a leisurely drive on the back roads of Mississippi this day coming across many interesting sites purely  by accident.  The plan was to stay at a State Park along the Mississippi River that afternoon but when I pulled in two bicyclists waved me to a stop.  They informed me the park was closed.  “They have it barricaded off.”  We figure they expect the flood waters coming down the Mississippi from up north (a few days away yet) to inundate the campground and naturally they don’t want campers in there.  Bummer for me as I had to drive an hour north to find something else and it was already tea time.  Worse for them as they were on bicycles and already had peddled over 50 miles for the day.  I told them if I were on a bicycle I go in there and camp anyway in some secluded spot.  No one would ever know and who would run a pair of cyclists out who were just staying for the night?  Anyway, short post today because of impending flood waters, not good wifi where we are for the night and I’m tired.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Remember Those Lost

Settled in for another day’s drive.  Some of you mentioned getting a harness for Sinbad so as I don’t have to hold onto his tail when he’s hanging out the driver’s side window.  Well he does have a harness.  That is what he wears when roaming around outside at camp or when we go for walks.  But to put it on, snap on the lead all while driving is too much trouble.  I think he likes the feeling of being safe and secure with my hand on his tail.  It works for both of us.

Hamilton, Alabama.  I stopped to get something to eat.  This was the first time I had difficulty understanding what was being said to me by not only the cashier, the manager who gave me my food, but two of the customers who were in there at the time with me.

As I was nearing Hamilton we drove through a hilly area where there were all these downed trees pointing in the same direction.  It was very much like the blast zone where Mount St. Helens erupted.  I wondered Tornado?  I saw a damaged house spray painted "4-27-11 Remember those lost".  I looked it up.  Two years ago starting today, over a four day period was the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded with a total of 358 tornadoes confirmed from Texas to New York.  348 people lost their lives with 238 of them in Alabama alone. Although the weather now is ideal, reading this stuff makes me a wee bit uncomfortable.  I wish I had taken a picture but I was too amazed at the sight around me to think.

Near Tupelo, Mississippi.  I am following this guy who is riding a motorcycle of small displacement.  The little engine was wound tight trying to make headway into the wind.  We passed a State Trooper sitting in his patrol car on the other side of the road.  The motorcycle rider thought it best to toss his half drunk beer off to the side of the road, beer can and beer foam cart wheeling through the air.  He must have been holding it between his legs.  If he'd put some air in that rear tire the motorcycle might go faster.

Trace State Park, Belden, Mississippi, another outstanding camp.  Hands down, the South has produced the best camp scenes of all of our travels.  I put a bit of the back end of the Little House on the Highway in this shot just so you know I am not taking these campsite photos away from where we actually are.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sweet Home Alabama

We are back in Alabama.  When I checked in at the campground that night the woman was having a time on the phone talking to an internet tech person.  We all know how that is.  Evidently they had an electrical storm three days earlier, lightening hit a nearby tree and things got fried.  A Comcast guy had been out to repair the cable but there were still issues.  Aren’t there always even after the Comcast guy has been by?  The lady told me the tree that got hit was right across the road.  I looked the next morning there it was.  You may be able to see the splinted pieces of wood lying about on the ground.

Oddly there is a much taller cell phone tower less than 50 feet away.  Why was this poor tree singled out?  I am just glad we were not in the campground when the storm hit.  Poor Sinbad, he hates thunder.

Sign seen in Huntsville, Alabama:  LOUD CAR STEREO UNLAWFUL.  FINE $400
And some people say the South is behind the times.  
Huntsville is setting a standard for the rest of the country.

We drove the back roads in a hard rain looking for whatever there was to see.  I saw on the Alabama map some points of interest and we visited the Jesse Owens Museum in his hometown of Oakville and Helen Keller’s birthplace in Tuscumbia, two most remarkable people.  More on each after we return home.

I stopped to get fuel in Tuscumbia and as I was leaving I saw this small stack of newspapers on the counter – The Hard Times with the headline Busted in the Shoals.  Underneath were a series of mug shots and I thought that would be fun reading for the night so picked up a copy on my way out.  Later in camp, and another lovely spot it is right out our door…

…I was having my tea and looking at the front page of this week’s edition.  There are 25 pictures and 21 of the individuals are white which I thought most interesting.  I opened the paper and holy cow every page has mug shots!  There are so many that I am not about to count them all.  Each page is broke down to drunk driving, theft, possession of drugs, failure to appear, child support, etc.  Then there is a “wanted” section mostly for bad checks and restitution.  The last page is “public intoxication”, all of these with their pictures and names.  I closed the paper back to the front page and only then did I notice up in the corner “Only $1”.  Oops!  I thought they were free.  I could be in this paper next week.  Tomorrow we move into Mississippi.  They will have to start a new page “Wanted: Transporting stolen goods across state lines. Interstate flight across state borders.”  Now the Feds will get involved.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jack Daniel's

Lynchburg, Tennessee

We were going nowhere special so when I saw a sign showing the Jack Daniel whiskey distillery 18 miles north, I figured Why not?  I don't drink the stuff but being so close I ought to at least take it look.  It is a lot like checking out the small town downtown area even if you are not going that way.  You never know what you will find.

Incidentally, these are all iPhone photos.  It was a very nice place in a wonderful setting.

Here's the product.

Now they give tours and I was considering it on the drive in but I changed my mind once I was in there for several reasons.  1. A tour bus just pulled in. Bad timing.  2. It was an hour and forty five minutes long.  That is too long to be with a tour bus crowd. (5 minutes is too long!) 3. The next tour would be a hour later.  4. It cost $12 and if I were into whiskey drinking then okay, but I don't drink.  5. Just really wasn't that interested.

Soon after the tour left the tour guide came back and was talking to the coordinator.  There evidently were some problems early on.  I over heard her say in her smooth southern drawl that there was one individual with a walker and several with canes and this was going to hamper the pace of the tour.  I believe she was asking the coordinator if she would call Billy Bob in to help out or at least take the stragglers off her hands.  Well just by accident I happened to capture the walker guy in the background of this shot.  I knew I made the right choice by not doing the tour, but bless the old guy's heart for wanting to go for it.

I did read a bit inside I thought interesting.  It seems that Jack when he was a young lad was interested in distilling and used to hang out with a preacher who made whisky.  He learned from him the process and then one day the preacher's wife said he had to make a choice - preach the word of God or make whiskey. "You can't do both".  He chose God and sold his still to young 13 year old Jack.  Jack moved the still to nearby Cave Springs to use that water, refined the process and the rest is history.

Back to the parking lot for lunch.

I drove on over to neighboring Lynchburg and made a loop around the plaza.  My Tourist Trap Meter went biszerk on me and I immediately left town.  But I did get this on the fly as I was leaving.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Another Tennessee Day

A Tennessee morning while leaving camp.

Driving in Tennessee continues to be a wonder and entertaining.  On this day were on our way to Shiloh National Military Park, another scene of Civil War carnage.  Clair, our GPS Aussie girl, sends us on Finger Road otherwise designated as Tennessee Highway 199.  Don’t let the label “Highway” fool you; it is a narrow two lane country road with nary a straight part to it.  Up and down, round and round with a posted speed limit of 55 mph.  Remember, in Tennessee that refers to the minimum speed.  There is no shoulder to the road except for the 4 inch wide strip on each side with the painted white lines.  Now throw in some logging trucks coming at you at top speed and it is all great fun.  We’ve stayed in three Tennessee State Parks and I could write a bizarre story on each one.  Last night was at David Crockett State Park.  I was hoping for a coonskin cap along with my camping fee but no luck.  Tennessee has got to be the goofiest state I have ever been in and I’m enjoying every bit of it. 

Shiloh NMP was the most beautiful tranquil place you could imagine.  It was so difficult to imagine the chaos, destruction and death that took place there 151 years ago this month.  As I drove around I wondered how I could avoid being killed.  Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide.  Play dead?

One of the battlefields.  Try to picture hundreds of dead or dying young men lying out there.  Also dead horses, mangled guns and cannons, and personal effects strewn about.  Hard to do isn’t it?

This is what I have to deal with while driving slowly around these parks with the window down.  Same for driving through the campground looking for spot #64.  Oh yeah, he attracts attention for sure.  Just what we both don't want.  In case you are wondering, I have a hold of his tail so he doesn't fall out.  He did one time in the desert falling out of the Land Rover on a rough dirt road.

Of course I’ve been missing out on a lot of great photo opportunities all along this trip just because there is nowhere to pull off, or nowhere to turn around and go back or some other reason.  Like the photo of the farm scene the other day.  I am taking the picture and all of sudden someone is laying on their horn.  I thought I’m off the road far enough.  I turn and look and the dumb dog across the highway decides to come over and greet me and nearly gets run over.  He turns and goes back, then tries again and another car locks them up blowing the horn.  The dog goes back home again and then goes for a third attempt to come over and I see these cars barreling down upon him.  I quickly got back into the vehicle and left before I became responsible for killing a dog just for being on the other side of the road taking pictures.  Anyway, today I decided to try a new tactic – I’ll take pictures of old shacks, abandoned gas stations, barns and farms on the fly while I am driving.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait until I leave Tennessee before I begin doing this.

Okay I did practice a little today and caught this “typical” Tennessee home.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Always Go Into Town

Trenton, Tennessee

Continuing along with the theme of yesterday regarding driving in Tennessee, consider the speed limit upon entering Trenton.

I was suppose to turn and follow a highway to my next point of interest and decided at the last moment to go on into town just to see what there was to see.  I learned this on the Great Plains Tour - always check out the town before continuing on.  Boy, am I glad I went into this one.  It was Sunday and not a soul was around.  There was a round-about the Gibson County Courthouse and what a beauty it was.  It almost makes a feller want to get in trouble with the law just to go to court in this building.

On the corner was a nice monument to the Confederate Soldiers of the area.

I also found one of the most fantastic murals I have ever seen, but that one will have to wait until I get back home and can once again participate in Monday Mural.

Then walking around I discovered this.  How cool is that?

A few miles down the road I found us entering Crockett County and I got to wondering Maybe Davy's birthplace is around here.  I pulled over, got online, researched it out and learned he was born in Greene County on the other end of the State!  Oh well, all of Tennessee is wonderful country especially this southwestern portion we're in now.  If you ever drive through this area, be prepared to wave at everyone you see because they'll be waving at you.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tennessee Observations

Sparta, Tennessee
Home of Lester Flatt  (of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs fame, bluegrass music)

This is not Lester’s home.

Or maybe it is for all I know.

Driving in Tennessee one gets to know what it would be like racing Nascar, especially on the Interstate.  For example if the sign states Speed Limit 70, this is referring to the minimum speed allowed, big rigs included.  In spite of the tremendous speeds on all the highways and Interstates, Tennessee’s highway fatalities for 2013 stand at 227.  This is the lowest I’ve seen posted and a testimonial to the driving skill of the people in Tennessee.  Most likely most of those 227 were out of staters (like myself) who got in the way driving 65mph.  On a side note, I have been in the state for two days now and have covered a few hundred miles without ever see a policeman, state trooper or highway patrolman.  Also when crossing the border no signs informed me to Buckle up – It’s the Law.  And it evidently is okay to talk on the phone and text while driving.  Everyone is.

I stopped to buy groceries in Crossville, Tennessee at Food City, a very nice market I might add.  At the checkout I was asked if I had my Food City Club Card.  I gave him the usual answer when asked “No, I am just a traveler passing through”.  This time I tacked on “...but I’ll take the Food City Club Card discount if you want to”.  He went over to the other checker and got their card and swiped it.  I saved $7.03!  Thank you Andrew.

I was in a museum and the lady meekly asked me if I was of age for the senior discount.  I say meekly because she didn’t want to insult me based on my youthful looks.  I looked at the sign and admitted I was a few months shy of the age requirement.  “...but I came all the way from California to see this.  That must be worth a few months, no?”  I got the $2 discount.  Just to make it clear, it’s not about the money but just the fun in playing the game for me.

The South is beautiful.  One of the things that make it so is the absence of highway billboards.  There are hardly any to be seen once off the Interstates.  So I take to reading the church signs for entertainment.  Some are pretty clever with their messages for salvation.  And with all the Baptist churches there are in the South, there’s a lot of enjoyable reading to be had while driving.  The best one so far I saw at a Baptist Church in Georgia – “Sign Broken.  Message inside this Sunday at 10:30am.”

A stroll along the Georgia beach

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Our World Went Upside Down Today

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

We entered Tennessee through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as another one of those storms I’ve been dodging blew through the area.  My destination was Pigeon Forge.  Now with a name like that I figured Pigeon Forge would be a cute little Tennessee country town at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains.  How wrong I was.  I felt like we were driving down The Strip in Las Vegas.  It was a six lane divided boulevard lined with tourist attraction theme parks, hotels, theaters, entertainment centers and shopping boutiques.  If that wasn’t enough, we hit it at the beginning of some weekend vintage car sale event.  For several miles on both sides of the boulevard parked door handle to door handle were classic old cars all with for sale signs in the windows.  Some were restored; some were rusty heaps sitting on trailers.  If you were thinking of getting a classic and couldn’t find it there, you best rethink your dreams.  Needless to say the traffic situation was horrendous.  All I wanted to do was put Pigeon Forge in my rear view mirrors, so I blew off the site on my list.  And then all of a sudden, there it was, on the boulevard no less.  I wheeled into the parking lot, got my picture and left.

Wonderworks is an interactive experience with games, science, weather, etc. geared for kids and the whole family.

I have to say there was another place we passed by as the traffic mass pushed us along, it may have been a hotel I am not sure.  It had a life-sized creation of King Kong hanging from the top of one wing of the hotel which I think was created to look like the Empire State building, but again, I barely caught a glimpse of it.  And if I am not mistaken King Kong was holding a crushed, again life-size, bi-plane in his arms.  For all I know, Fay Wray may have been laid out on the edge.  It was ever so much as impressive as is the upside building but no way could I change lanes, turn around and get back to it.

Okay, I found it for you.  It is a new Hollywood Wax Museum attraction that is opening soon if not already.

(off the Internet)

If you are thinking I should have went back the next day, it was only going to be worse.  People were camped out or I should say had their spots all saved for what most likely would be a huge parade of cars going up and down the boulevard all day Saturday and Sunday. Think Hot August Nights in Reno, Sturgis in South Dakota or Motorcycle Week Daytona Beach and you get the idea.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Another Motorcycle Museum?!!!

Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Wheels Through Time

This man had a collection of collections.  Most were Harley Davidsons from 1903 on.  Some so rare that no documentation exists.  The best part is 99% of them run.

This is just a small part of over 300 machines.

Many were of this vintage.  So very rare.

Look at this beauty in his shop.  
He has several at a time in restoration and usually completes one a month.

Most though are left with their natural patina of rust, dirt and grime making them that much more valuable considering he has gone completely through the motor cleaning the insides and getting it back running.

He had several "shops" set up just as if you walked into a garage 70 or 80 years ago.

He even had a nice place for the all-too-soon bored wives to sit and relax, as long as you didn't mind the smell of an old service station garage and the occasionally firing up of a motorcycle with no muffler.

Here you go, ladies.  Here is a turtle from our last camp site.

Okay, no more motorcycle museums until I get to Kansas.  There's suppose to be another one there.

If you want to see more of Dale's collection go to 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Little Leila

Piedmont, South Carolina

On a corner with only a street sign for company sits little Lelia's monument. 

Little Lelia is buried alone here, if she is here at all, no one knows.  It could be a simple memorial like we see so often along the road these days, which are usually a cross.  If that is what this is, it could very well be the oldest memorial of a roadside accident.   What happened to little Lelia?  Did she fall off a horse or out of a wagon 154 years ago?  I thought it remarkable the marker has stood unmolested all that time.

Here are some sunset photos from camp #64.  These are for Little Lelia.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

South Carolina

Just as we crossed into South Carolina I pulled over for some lunch and had an opportunity to photograph some of the flowers I've been seeing along the highway.  Of course as always, there never is a place for me to pull the Little House on the Highway safely off the road to take pictures.

Sinbad can smell it in the air, we're in a new state.

All of these are unfamiliar to this California Boy.

Is this Dogwood?  

I've been seeing it in most of the states.

This stop was the first place I saw this.

This also.

We stayed in Calhoun Falls State Park last evening.  
The ranger said "I'll give you the best site in the park."

#64 and I agree.