A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Springfield, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln's Tomb

Yeah, it was kind of creepy inside.  Back in Indiana we came across Abe's boyhood home once the family left Kentucky.  From then on we've been following Lincoln stuff ending up at his resting place at Oak Ridge Cemetary.  I have lots to share about the Lincolns from the past couple of days. 

Yes, that is a big storm system off in the distance and fools that we are, drove right smack into it. When crap starting blowing horizontally across the road we took refuge in the Beardstown Grace Baptist Church parking lot while the locals continue driving like it is no big deal.  With tornadoe watches all around us until 7pm we're staying put in a Walmart parking lot for the night.  There's no mobile home trailer parks nearby so we should be okay.  At least the lightening and thunder have stopped for which Sinbad is very grateful. 

Tomorrow we will be in Iowa.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Poor Little West Virginia

If you look at a map of West Virginia it is a funny looking state.  It appears to be made up of bits and pieces it's neighboring states did not want.  We drove the small back roads of the state passing though mostly all coal mining towns.  Many had mountains of coal piled high waiting to be shipped out on railroad cars and at one place on river barges.  It is a hard life and the living conditions these poor people have...no one should have to live that way.  The above photo was one of the nicer towns and I was able to get a photo on one of the few straight and level roads this state had.  This road looks nice but many miles of road were mined with potholes that would have jarred the Little House on the Highway to no end if I hadn't drove as if I was on an obstacle course, which I was.

It is beautiful country and its a shame that the favorite pastime for the locals seem to be littering.  I've not seen so much litter along the roadways since being in Mexico.  I tried to get some pictures but failed turning this way and that trying to keep on the road and avoid potholes.  I really don't understand why they just don't toss their empty beer bottle, soda can, Big Mac wrappers on the floor or in the back seat.  To see some of the homes, they chuck everything out into the yard.  Why not empty your car out in the yard when you get home?  And their run-down homes and beat-up old trailers, I wondered how they survive through the winters?  They are a tough breed.

At the little town of Kermit (no sign of the famous Muppet to be seen)  we crossed a small bridge into Kentucky where West Virginia's steep mountains, narrow valleys (and litter) leaked over for a few miles and then the land opened up as if West Virginia had been a messy bed that was shook out and made up.

Here is a photo of us in a funeral procession we were in for 10 miles or so.  I considered going to the graveside service but they turned left and we right.  I suspect these are a common sight given the poor quality of life the West Virginian has.  You can see a little bit of litter here but being in a town it was kept under control some.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I've been to quite a few places in America but I have to truly say the drive through the Appalachian Mountains was one of the most beautiful areas in this country that I have ever seen.  I say this when the trees haven't even leafed out yet!  This picture is one of the rare straight stretches in the road and I was able to get a half-way decent picture without the camera focusing on a bug on the windshield.  The rest of the drive was two hands on the steering wheel going up and down, twisty curvy.  The poor Little House on the Highway really got a workout.  No, there was never a place to pull off and stop for some good photos.  It killed me, believe me.

Early on in the drive the road crossed the Appalachian Trail and there was a parking area there for hikers.  I wheeled over across oncoming traffic, stopped and fulfilled a dream I've always had - to hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Even though it was for only a few miles (the entire trail is over 2100 miles long) I enjoyed every step.  This was one of the highlights of this trip and like many other events, I hadn't planned this.  Here I am enjoying the view into the valley below.  
Yes, I got myself a souvenir rock.

We are now camping in West Virginia for the night.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jamestown, Virginia

The first English settlement in what would be the United States of America.  Again, this was not in my plan (not that I travel with a plan anyway).  I was looking at the map one evening...and like the Wright brothers site, "Hey, I'll go there".  It was fascinating and overwhelming both.  Way too much to see and read about in one visit.  The visitor center and museum was excellent.  As I walked around the grounds I thought back when in school learning US history and Jamestown being an important part.  I'm sure little Johnny never thought about going there someday at that time. 

Rest assured that when we get back home I will have more to show and say about the places I show on the blog.  These posts I am doing now I do with the iPad using my little 3G telephone to connect up.  So its all my little phone can handle.  If I ever stay somewhere with some internet connection I can do more (with the laptop) plus respond to some of the answers asked in the comments.

I will say that so far I am finding the Virginia countryside simply wonderful.  It's got Florida beat by a country mile. The area is full of history and the roadsides are littered with historical marker sign posts.  Of course there is nowhere to pull off the road but that is okay.  If I were stopping to read them all I'd never get anywhere. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kittyhawk, North Carolina

I was driving along in South Carolina and the car in front of us was from North Carolina. Looking at the license plate it read "First in flight".  I thought 'That's where I'll go, to where the Wright brothers first flew a power-driven plane'. It took a lot to get here but finally we made it on a cold blustery day with rain coming down. So happy to be here for I never planned on it.  It was the North Carolina license plate that did it.

We've had enough of following the coast ever since Corpus Christi Texas. We'll cross over into Virginia soon and stay inland from now on.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


mos-qui-to (me sket' o) noun, pl. -toes or -tos
small biting insect that sucks blood from John in the matter of seconds once he steps out into the open

I had a few encounters with these little buggers while in the Everglades and that was to be expected. But good grief, the further north I go the more plentiful they are.  At this camp in south Georgia they were so bad I couldn't go outside for more than a minute before they swarmed me.  I sent Sinbad out on his own and he was happy to just sit there, without me.  A fur coat is good mosquito protection.

The next morning I stopped to see the ruins of an old sugar mill.  I didn't finish reading the first sentence on the historical marker sign before they were on me, but I was not to be denied.  I ran the 100 yards into the woods to see the ruins and they were even thicker there!  Hastily I snapped three pictures and sprinted back to the Little House on the Highway.  Score 3 bites for the mosquitoes.

Today in South Carolina I stopped at an old southern mansion.  It was raining with a slight breeze "I should be good here".  Nope!  They nailed me right away.  Back to the LHOH.  Score 2 bites for the mosquitoes.  Smashed one of the little bastards against the driver's window.  Score 1 for John.

Tomorrow the uniform of the day is long sleeve shirt and gloves (I am already wearing long pants)  with bug juice on face, ears and neck.  Maybe I'll put the bug juice on my hands instead of gloves.  No need to attract attention.  And the people here live with this day to day!  Unbelievable.   The interesting thing is that some of the areas we've been in are the same ones we were in this time last year and nary a skeeter was seen on that last trip.  As I drove away from the plantation I reflected on the 100 some slaves that worked the rice fields for the plantation owner and the misery they must have suffered from just the mosquitoes alone.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hey Lighten Up on Florida, Okay?

The Everglades was the redeeming part for Florida.  Going there made the long drive down through the state worth it.  We left the Everglades Saturday and made our way back north up the eastern half of the state staying inland from the coastal mayhem of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, etc.  This portion of the state proved to be more scenic than the west side interior.  Here you could see things, faraway things too.  So Florida isn't all that bad, but I still probably will never come back.  The panhandle of the state is a whole other world and I'd have no problem touring through it again.

One of the "things" I wanted to see was Lake Okeechobee.  I got a fleeting glimpse of it while going up an overpass.  The lake is like a huge inland sea.  You can't see the shore on the other side it is so big.  The rest of the 46 mile drive along the shoreline the lake was hidden behind a tall levee.  But at least I got to see it...a little bit.  Just north of the lake is Orlando.  I stayed far away from it at Disney World.

This morning before leaving Florida behind I took a little drive through America's oldest city St. Augustine, founded in 1565.  I think that was what the sign read as I drove by.  There was no place I could park the Little House on the Highway.  That was okay, I just wanted to see it and say I've been there.  The downtown historical district was a little bit too touristy for my liking but that's just me.  If you are ever close by St. Augustine I'd suggest check it out.  A few miles further we were in Georgia (whew!) and pulled in to Crooked River State Park.  I ate lunch, cleaned up the house (and myself) and will take it easy before we begin the second half of our odyssey.

Meanwhile, as the case has been for the past week or so, no or very poor Internet connection.  So this photo is about all I can get downloaded for this post.  This what Florida weather does to your automobile.  Termites do about the same thing with your home.  The mosquitoes and little bitety things you can barely see do it to you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gators Galor

We are on Highway 41 that crosses Florida through the Everglades.  Alligators are on various spots all along this road and we're only a third of the way across staying at an Everglades National Park campground (only one other camper here).  Camping alongside of a lake I have two alligators along the shore less than 50 yards from camp.  Yes, I am keeping 'gatorbait' inside the motor home.  This photo above I was able to look right down upon him from the road.  At one stop I had to look around and reassure myself I wasn't in some sort of tourist alligator farm as they were lying around as if in captivity.  They weren't.  They are all free range alligators.

The sad thing is gift shops and the tourist boat ride places have alligator heads of various sizes, skulls, teeth, alligator tooth necklaces, knives made from alligator bone, etc.  As much as I'd like to head or tooth, I'm not buying any and supporting the killing of these magnificent reptiles.  
I am happy with my pictures.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Not Liking Florida

People say driving across Texas is boring.  Well I say driving down through Florida is boring.  It was like this for hours upon miles yesterday.  The picture shows a more cleared view to the sides.  Some long stretches had tall trees on both sides.  It was like being in a green corridor. 
In Texas you can see for miles and miles.  In Florida you can see for feet and feet.

Today has been like driving in southern California's Los Angeles County.  I'd been driving for two hours when we first started this morning and covered only 30 miles.  It was maddening.  I gave up, headed inland for 25 miles just to get on Interstate 75 and leave the stop and go traffic behind us.  Once on the Interstate it was a slow crawl for miles and this was just approaching Tampa. 

Yep, so far Florida would rank at the top of my list of states I'd never return to.  It is too much like California.  The gas prices are the same.  The weather is the same but here you get humidity and hurricanes thrown in as a bonus.  The people drive like those in California.  But I have gone this far and I'll press on to see the Everglades.  The return trip north up the east coast does not look all that promising in any sort of improvement of my opinion of Florida.  
That drive may be entitled Escape from Florida.

The above was composed and posted when I stopped to eat breakfast (so much for that early start advantage I thought I had) and now, having stopped for the day I see the post never took so I can add this.  Things only became more dismal looking as the day went on.  I wanted to stay near Naples before heading east through the Everglades leaving that for a slow day's drive to enjoy the sights.  A check of camping: Two state parks nearby.  One closed under reconstruction (nice timing) and the other reserved out full (naturally), or so said the reservation site.  Private parks are all in the $50 range!!  You gotta be kidding me.  They obviously do not want riff-raff like Sinbad and I staying there.  There are some National Forest Campgrounds on the stretch of road across the Everglades but all are small or for tenting only.  There are 6 Walmarts in Naples and all have no overnight parking.  That's not Walmart  but some ordinance by the city of Naples.  I was gearing up for a long day, not getting to see the Everglades as I had hoped but instead as I drove madly on through the evening towards Miami.

We came upon the turn-off for the first State Park, the one that was reserved out full.  It was only 2 miles off the Interstate so I pulled off for just the heck of it.  Pulling up to the kiosk I asked the ranger if they had a spot for one night.  "Yes, we do.  Pull over there and park and come on inside."  I couldn't believe our good fortune.  Inside I told him how I had checked online and couldn't make much sense of it as it showed everything was reserved.   He said they can't make much sense of ReserveAmerica.com either.  So I get my leisurely drive across the Everglades tomorrow and maybe, with a little bit more luck may get to camp in one of the small National Forest campgrounds.
After that, it will be The Escape from Florida.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Got My Gator

Gulf Islands National Seashore
Davis Bayou near Biloxi Mississippi

We've had poor or no Internet for the last few days thus why no posts to the blog.  We'll probably stay here through the weekend before moving on into Alabama then Florida.  With Mississippi having only 72-75 miles of gulf coastline road to follow and Alabama even less at 67 miles we are taking it real slow, much like at an alligator crawl.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gator Huntin'

I went out for a couple of hours looking for an alligator.  I didn't see a one.  
They probably saw me though.  I did see a turtle...

and this heron.

I forgot my bird book back home so I cannot tell you what kind of heron it is.

And there were these vine flowers I saw in South Carolina last year but have forgotten their name.

Somebody makes these little mud castles.  They are all over.  
I am so out of my element here in Louisiana.  I don't know anything.

I do know though that for some people, living life along the bayou must be pretty darn nice.