Looking for a warmer place

We are on our way to Florida and for the last two days we have been in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. Last night it got down to 27 and I had to winterize the tiny house. The sun is out this morning and we are heading for Orange Beach Alabama. Ah to be warm again.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

Off to see the “Big Tree” in Goose Island State Park, and hopefully see some whooping cranes that are in the area from late October to mid-April.  The big tree is the second largest tree in the U.S., 11 feet across the trunk, 35 feet around, and 44 feet tall, 89 feet across the crown, and the most amazing fact is the tree is 1,000 years old.   We did not see any whooping cranes around Goose Island so we headed for Aransas Wildlife Refuge

 

as National Wildlife Refuge.   Aransas hosts the largest flock of wintering whooping cranes in North America with over 250 birds. By mid-April they depart for a hazardous journey of 2,500 miles to nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada.

Even with 250 birds in the area one is still lucky to see cranes feeding in the marshy salt flats in the refuge, and we were indeed fortunate.  We took off on the Heron Flats trail and spotted a pair feeding.  Whooping cranes being 60 inches tall and with white feathers were easy to spot against the green/brown marshes.  The birds were elegant and gorgeous, a thrilling experience.  Luckily Lonnie had his camera because I forgot mine and when I walked back (a very short distance) to get my camera the birds had flown away by the time I returned.  And added plus on the walk down the trail we spotted a few alligators sunning themselves on the shore line.  The park rangers told us to keep Vegas on a short leash because the alligators like puppy dogs for snacks.  So glad the gators kept their distance.

Corpus Christi Trip

Lonnie’s brother and sister-in-law (Dan and Barbara) who live in Arkansas would be visiting their son and daughter-in-law (Greg and Cathy) in Corpus.  Great reason for a road trip, so off we went.  We had dinner at Snoopy’s, a popular restaurant on intercostal canal, luckily they had a large roaring fire pit inside to warm everyone from the misty cold weather outside.  The next day we were able to visit with Greg and Cathy whom we haven’t seen a several years and it was wonderful to spend time with family.

After the family visits we took off to Padre Island National Seashore, Malaquite beach.  We were very fortunate to find a great camp site with an ocean view and a very short walk to the beach.  Vegas truly enjoyed running in the sand and chasing the birds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

THE PARKS

We stayed at a number of lovely parks along the way home; three that stand out the most were Hartwell State Park, South Carolina, Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in Birmingham, Alabama and Tyler State Park in Texas.

 

Hartwell State Park is a sleepy little park right off the highway 85 on our route to Alabama.  The RV sites are on a peninsula of a large water reservoir so that each site has a water view.  It was a convenient respite from a long day of traveling.  In the early morning there was a fog or as I like to call it, smoke on the water that gave the area a wonderful mystical feeling about it.  At one end of the park was a very nice open area for Vegas to have a little off leash time to expel some energy.  She was running around at full speed until she came to an abrupt stop just short of going over a 20-foot drop off the cliff into the lake below.  I think we both almost had a heart attack, I know I am still traumatized by the event.  Needless to say, she was quickly put back on her leash and we headed back to the RV to get ready to depart for the days travel.

 

Tannehill is the site of an ironworks facility that produced the major supply of pig iron to the confederate army during the civil war.  Portions of the original ironworks structure still stands.  There were several large log cabins and a pretty little stream running through the park.  The Park also holds a Halloween Festival each year and campers had already claimed there spots and put up elaborate decoration displays.  It was like walking through a trail of lights Christmas display except it was all Halloween themed, orange twinkle lights, laser lights, blow up spooky creatures and graveyards.  It was quite something.  In fact, we stayed at several parks in Kentucky and Tennessee that also had a Halloween theme going on with most having trick or treat Saturday nights.  We did not experience this in the Texas parks.

 

Tyler State Park is a large park north of Tyler with a 64-acre spring-fed lake and 100 foot tall pine trees.  We were looking forward to renting a boat the morning before we left but a cold front moved in with rain.  We were disappointed but really enjoyed the evening before looking out over the lake and the tranquility of the park.  We definitely want to return to Tyler State Park in the future.

 

This marked the end of our October 2017 travels as we arrived home to Austin the next day.  We had a fabulous trip and are already looking forward to planning another adventure.

THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS

Our time in Kentucky has come to an end and we are beginning our return home.  We decided a route through Tennessee, Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to Texas.  First, stop to the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.   Upon arriving, we were totally overwhelmed with the number of people who had the exact same idea as us.  It was a beehive of activity with people swarming everywhere.  It was so crowded we decided to just drive through the park to enjoy the scenery then keep going to a more tranquil environment.  The Smokies had the best change of season colors we had seen on the trip as Kentucky who normally would have been at peak season by this time was experiencing a warmer fall than usual.

KENTUCKY HORSE FARM

The Kentucky Horse Farm is located in Lexington, Kentucky and was open to the public in 1978. This farm is dedicated to the history of the horse and man’s relationship with the horse through out the ages. They have two museums; my favorite was the International Museum of the Horse.  The farm houses up to 2,000 horses at times of special events and they offer various attractions through out the year.  The day we were there, we saw three attractions, the Hall of Champions, The Parade of Breeds, and the Draft Horses.  The Hall of Champions provides stalls and care for retired champion thoroughbreds. A couple of the horses brought out for viewing were Da Hoss, the pretty chestnut horse (harness racer) and Funny Cide (Kentucky Derby winner), the one with his tongue hanging out. The Parade of Breeds showcased various breeds of horses from around the world and explained the history and purpose of each particular horse, all gorgeous.  The Draft Horse exhibition displays the largest and strongest of the horses.  The size of these animals is beyond belief, true giants.   The largest one was over 2,000 pounds and 18 ½ hands high.

 

The Kentucky Horse Farm has a convenient and very nice RV park adjacent to the farm, so we stayed there for a couple of nights.

 

We enjoyed our visit to the state of Kentucky very much.  There are many things to do there, the state parks are very lovely, and the state overall is very attractive.  I highly recommend a trip to Kentucky

CHURCHILL DOWNS

After so many years of watching the Kentucky derby on TV we were excited to visit this beautiful historic site.  The walking tour of the race track and grounds was very impressive.  They said 165,000 people come on Derby day with the general admission open gallery area costing $80 per person.  We of course had to have the official drink of Churchill Downs, a Mint Julep.  It was very, very tasty.  They told me it was made with Old Forester bourbon infused with mint, it is the Old Forester Mint Julep label.  It has made me wanting another one.

 

KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL

Jim Beam is located south of Louisville on 25 acres and is very picturesque and well organized for people to tour the facilities.  The Bourbon Chase, a 2 day 200 mile relay race along the bourbon trail started from Jim Beam’s this day, making our visit very festive with loads of people and music.  We took a great tour/tasting, had a BBQ sandwich for lunch and a delicious bourbon ice cream sundae for dessert.  A very enjoyable day.  Well worth the visit.

Wild Turkey is located in Lawrenceburg about 20 minutes west of Lexington.  We had a great tour of the distillery, barrel aging facilities and tasting.  My favorite was the American Honey Sting a liquor with honey and an infusion of pepper – that’s the sting – very tasty.

TENNESSEE AND KENTUCKY – LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES

 

The Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area (LBL) spans both Tennessee and Kentucky.  The first night we stayed at Paris Landing on the Tennessee south end of LBL.   There was an identical Leisure Travel Van Unity just like ours park in a couple of sites over.  We do not often see LTV’s so we where excited to meet the owners.  We had a very nice visit with Alan and Dee that evening trading LTV travel stories.

The next day we drove the 40 miles through the Land Between the Lakes, stopping at the Homeplace a 1850s Farm.  We were excited they allowed dogs on the farm, so we enjoyed walking Vegas around seeing all the farm animals. The black ducks were very attracted to Vegas following after her.  The farm had original and replica homes and barns as well as woodshop and tobacco barn that would have been on a working farm in 1850s.  It was a very tranquil and educational visit.

That evening we stay Canal Campground, the northend which is in Kentucky.  We were very fortunate to get one of the last campsites and it had a very nice view of Kentucky Lake.  This week was winter break for the Kentucky school system which meant all the parks were very crowded and sites hard to come by.

The next day we drove to Hodgenville, Kentucky to visit Abraham Lincoln National Park and see the Lincoln Memorial and his birth cabin.

ON OUR WAY TO GRACELAND

 

Last night we stopped south of Little Rock at Willow Beach COE.  Willow Beach was a true delight, one of the best campgrounds we have stayed on any of our trips.  The park is located on the banks of the Arkansas River with large oaks providing plenty of shade and wide spaced RV sites.  It was also one of Vegas’ favorite sites as there was a large open space for her to run, run and run so more.

Today we arrived in Memphis, Tennessee to tour Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland.  We are staying the night at the Graceland RV Park located on Elvis Presley, Blvd., within a short walking distance to the Graceland Mansion.  I never knew how Graceland received that name, but the mystery has been revealed to me today.  The land was inherited by Mrs. Ruth Moore from her aunt Grace and the Moore’s built the large home on 13 acres and named the residence in memory of Grace – i.e. Graceland.  Elvis purchased the home in 1957 with a purchase price of $100,000 at the age of 22.  The mansion is extravagantly decorated in what was the most popular 1970’s décor.  Very interesting tour.

On The road

Off on the road again, we are heading to Kentucky.  The first night we stopped northeast of Dallas at a US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Lavonia Park located on the beautiful Lake Lavon.   We enjoyed gazing at the lake from under the large shade tree on our camp site.  The next day we continued north and stopped south of Texarkana at another COE, Malden Lake Park.  Malden is a campground near Maud, TX on the Wright Patman Lake.  We were interested in exploring this park because we enjoyed our stay on the other side of the lake at Rock point on our last travels.  This must be a fisherman’s paradise because just about everyone here has a fishing boat and each campsite has a fish cleaning area.  It is truly a beautiful park with tall pines and large oak trees, it looks kind of mystical when the light filters through the trees.  So relaxing – especially a little nap in the hammocks.  Off today toward Tennessee….

 

CRAZY HORSE

Crazy Horse Memorial when completed will be 563 feet high and 641 long.  It was started decades ago by Korczak Ziolkowski and his children are working on the sculpture today.  The face was completed in 1998.  The purpose is to provide a memorial to not only the great leader of the Lakota tribe but also to be a remembrance of Native American History in the Black Hills that are dear to the Lakota.

MOUNT RUSHMORE

Next it was onto Mount Rushmore which was just a few miles down the highway.  Impressive, spectacular, and amazing does not begin to describe the feelings we had gazing upon that mount. The wonderment of how they were able to carve such a massive sculpture with such fine detail visible from such a far distance is mind boggling.  The gallery describing how this endeavor was accomplished was just as impressive as viewing the 4 presidents.  A true wonder and well worth the time and distance to get here.   A valued testament and tribute to our great leaders.

BEAR COUNTRY

We got an early start this morning to go to Bear Country, a drive through wild life park that is located 8 miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota.  There is a collection of all the local species and they are kept in large open space where they can roam yet strategically separated so they do not prey on each other.  They had elk, various species of deer, wolves, mountain goats, big horn sheep, mountain lions, and lots and lots of bears.  The bears where roaming on the road and around the cars seemingly undisturbed.   It was awesome to see so many bears especially in the safety of our car.

STURGIS

Off to Sturgis to see the town where the largest motorbike rally is held every August, but first a stop in Wall.  Wall is a very small town off Hwy 90 that has a nationally famous drugstore/café/gift shop that is a city block long and offers 5 cent coffee and fresh homemade donuts.  We saw advertisements for it as far back as 200 miles.  We just had to stop for coffee and donuts which were actually excellent.

Onward to Sturgis for lunch at one of the biker restaurants.  We ate at Knuckles which was the number one on TripAdvisor and were not disappointed.  Now we can say we have been there.

After lunch we proceeded to Deadwood with hopes of stopping for a walk around town but there was a classic car show going on with roads blocked off and no place for us to park.  Oh well, we were growing tired and needed to stop for the night.  We found a nice little park near a creek called Fish N Fry where you can catch your own fish and they fry it for you.  We didn’t fish but decided on a salad after all that eating earlier.   Tired and ready for bed.

Minute Man Missile National Historic Site, Sturgis, and Deadwood S.D.

The Minute Man Missile site is located about 5 miles outside the Badlands National Park on Hwy. 90.  The nuclear site was disabled by Bill Clinton’s administration in an agreement with the Russians to decrease nuclear armament.  It turned out the missile silo was located about 15 miles up Hwy 90 literately less than a mile from the highway.  Amazing that so many people for so many year drove right pass this site never knowing it was there.  In the agreement signed the U.S. was allowed to keep a couple of sites intact without the warheads obviously for historic and educational purposes.

We then drove a little further to the Air and Space Museum to see the control room for the minute man missile which is now manned by a dummy.  There were various aircrafts and missiles on display.  Very impressive and scary considering the current tensions with N. Korea