Our 48th Wedding Anniversary

>> Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On July 19, 2012 Connie and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary.  We got away for a couple of days.  On the 18th we drove over to Cumberland Falls State Park for a return visit to the falls.  We had been there about 5 years ago and although we enjoyed it very much, the water in the river was quite low and there was not enough water going over the falls to fully cover all of the rocks.  We had kept promising ourselves we would go back.  So, finally we made it.  Although the summer has been quite dry there had been some rain in the local area that had the river running at normal levels.


The falls is 125 feet wide and 68 feet tall at normal pool.  If you look closely you can see several people on the left of the falls.  This will give you a bit of an idea of the size.  The falls is referred to as the “Niagara of the South,” as it is the largest waterfall south of Niagara and east of the Mississippi river.

There is one thing that occurs here and in no other place in the entire western hemisphere.  Only at night during a full moon  one can see a “moon bow.”  This is much the same as a rainbow that is seen on most days but is an arc of white light.  We have never seen this but maybe sometime!

Leaving the falls we drove to near Knoxville, TN and spent the night.  We had made reservations at a unique “bed and breakfast.”  Here is a picture of the sign in front of the place.

IMG_0958We found the name of the place to be quite interesting since we live here “on Cedar Ridge.”  The cabin was moved to this location from about 3 or 4 miles away and was modernized.  It has central heat and air, a full bathroom and modern kitchen.  We opted out of the breakfast and took food and fixed our own—steak and eggs!

IMG_0953This picture is of the exterior of the cabin.  All of the logs in the walls are original.  The setting is very nice, quite a ways off of the main street and was very quiet and peaceful.  Below are a couple of photos of the inside of the cabin.

IMG_0945A very large and working fireplace is the central point in the  cabin.  Unseen in this photo is a nice sofa in front of the fireplace.  The white cabinet to the left in the photo is an entertainment center with TV and VCR.

IMG_0948This picture was taken from in front of the fireplace, looking up into the loft where the king-size bed was located.  After a good breakfast the next morning, the 19th, we spent several hours at the Museum of Appalachia, which was virtually next door to the cabin.

The museum was founded by John Rice Irwin in 1969 with one log cabin.  It is now a non-profit organization and includes dozens of historic log structures and exhibit halls with thousands of authentic artifacts from the Appalachia area.  Mr. Irwin traveled the many back roads collecting these items, items used by and often made by the mountain folk of the Southern Appalachia area.


The view above is of part of the 60 acre museum grounds. 

IMG_0966The tiny building in the photo to the left is the smallest dwelling  in the museum.  It was moved to the museum in 2007 from nearby Beard Valley, in Union County, TN.  This was the home of an old bachelor by the name of Tom Cassidy.  He is reported as saying,  “I’ve got that little cot in there, a chair, a stove for heat and cooking, a frying pan, a bean pot, on old dresser, my fiddle and my pistol;  what more does a man need?

IMG_0973This cabin is known as the “Mark Twain Family Cabin.”  It was moved to the museum from Possum Trot, TN and once was the home of Mark Twain’s parents and some of their children.  Mark Twain (Samuel Clemons) was born 5 months after the family moved from Tennessee in 1835.

As I said, we spent several hours there but one could spend even more time looking at all of the interesting exhibits and reading the information that has been written about them.  We returned home that afternoon, having had an enjoyable break and a good anniversary.


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 13 Recap

>> Sunday, July 22, 2012

As the title says, Connie and I were gone from home for 33 days (and 32 nights).  We drove nearly 7000 miles, by actual odometer readings it was 6731 miles.  We crossed or drove through a portion of 17 states.  Including Kentucky, where we started and ended up, we drove through Kentucky, a corner of Indiana, across Illinois, Missouri, a small corner of Iowa, across Nebraska, Wyoming, part of Utah, across Idaho, through much of Oregon, into and back out of Washington, down through California, across Arizona,  New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and half way across Tennessee before getting back to Kentucky. 

Of the 32 nights we were gone from home we spent 10 nights at our son’s home, 8 nights with friends, 1 night in a motel and 13 nights we slept in our van.  9 of those nights were spent in the auto parking lot at “truck stops” or as they are called most often now, Travel Plazas.  1 night was spent in a Wal-Mart parking lot and 3 nights in campgrounds.

If we use the amount spent for a motel for the one night as an average figure the 13 nights spent in the the van saved us almost $1000.00.  I mentioned in part 1 that we tried to figure all the ways we could cut expenses.  One way we did that, in addition to sleeping in the van, was to invest in an America the Beautiful Senior Interagency Pass available for those over 62 years of age (and it is good for a lifetime).  The pass is $10.00 plus a fee of $10.00 when ordered by mail, as I did.  With the pass we were able to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and the 3 national parks for free.  Two of the campgrounds we stayed in were in national forests and we got 50% off of the normal fee.  By my calculations we saved about $85.00 after deducting the cost of the pass.

I had mentioned that gasoline would be our big expense.  The lowest price we paid was $3. 299 a gallon.  Most was in the $3.50 to $3.65 range.  It was much more expensive in California and parts of Oregon and Arizona.  The most we paid was at a station just outside of Yosemite National Park, and I only bought $20.00 worth.  Regular gasoline there was $5.099 a gallon.  When I figured everything up on our return I found that we paid an average of $3.82 a gallon.  Our van performed well and we averaged 24 miles per gallon for the trip.  I felt this was quite good considering we were driving 70 miles per hour on most of the interstates and we were driving in the mountains for many of the miles.

We thoroughly enjoyed our road trip but perhaps the most beautiful thing we saw was this.


Yes, home sweet home.  (This photo was taken last Fall so we didn’t have the color change of the leaves greeting us on our return.)


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 12

>> Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I mentioned at the end of part 11 that we drove to Hondo, TX on day 27 of our road trip.  For the only night of our trip we had reserved a room at a motel.  As far as I could determine there was no truck stop in or near Hondo and since the temperature was quite warm we desired to have a good nights sleep and a shower before we began our busy day, May 19th.

We arose early and ate a bit of breakfast, then drove the 3 or 4 miles out of town to the Ruben Torres Unit.  We arrived a little before 8:00 A.M. and found that there were 15 or 20 vehicles already there waiting.  And, we all waited until 8:00 A.M. when the guards manning the guard shack began their shift.  Each vehicle went through the security check and was allowed to proceed to the parking area.  From there we were processed through the security entrance and moved on to the visitor area.  Finally, a little before 9:00 A.M. our actual visit with Juan began.

We had called earlier in the week and requested a 4 hour visit, the normal visit being just 2 hours.  That request was granted and the guard on duty in the visitor room situated us to the far corner, away from much of the noise of the contact visits.  Ours was a non-contact visit since we were not family.  We were not prepared for the visit to be by telephone, only being able to see Juan through the glass.  We had experienced that at the McConnell Unit last October but it was a maximum security unit.  However, we managed fine, except for the time a couple with small children or babies were seated just down the way from us.  The little ones made quite a bit of noise and even Juan could hear some of it through the phone.

Due to  the timing of an inmate count and the guard just not being strict with the time our 4 hour visit became 4 hours and 25 minutes.  And yet, it seemed to fly by.  The visit was about a 20 on a scale of 1 to 10.  All three of us enjoyed it greatly.

The man we visited at the McConnell Unit last Fall has been paroled and is living in the Austin, TX area.  We had contacted him and told him we planned to stop for a few minutes and see him.  We called him from the parking lot at the Torres Unit and let him know we were on the way.  About 2 and 1/2 hours later we were visiting with Robert at his niece’s home.  Our visit was short, only an hour or less, as we still had several miles to drive.

By about 7:15 P.M. we arrived in Bryan, TX at the home of Thomas and Raquel, the founders or Broken Vessels Prison Ministry.  They set some food before us and we enjoyed some good conversation before it was time for bed.

The next day, May 20th, the 29th day of our road trip, we were up and away early, driving to Navasota, TX to the Pack Unit where we spent most of the day.  We first visited Troy, who we had visited last Fall, for a bit over 4 hours.  We exited the unit, ate a sandwich in the parking lot, and reentered to visit with Wesley B.  Due to the timing we knew we wouldn’t be able to get in a full 4 hours with him, but due to his leg bothering him and needing to get back to his dorm we cut the visit short after about 2 and 1/2 hours or so.  Both visits were very good.

After returning to Bryan we accompanied Thomas and Raquel to the home of Rebecca, whom we had met last October.  What we didn’t know until we arrived in Bryan was that Rebecca had married Wayne a bit earlier in a civil ceremony and they were planning a “religious” ceremony while we were there.  As it turned out I got to walk the bride down the “aisle.”  I put that in quotes as the ceremony took place at the picnic area at Lake Bryan.  But, I’m getting ahead of the story.

Wesley T., that we had met last Fall, lives in the trailer park that Rebecca manages so we were able to see him and visit a bit that evening.  Of course we got to meet Wayne and we all enjoyed a bit of food together.

The next day was a bit of a relaxing day.  Connie and I spent a couple of hours with Wesley T. in the morning before he had to go to work and then just rested most of the rest of the day.

May 22nd, our 31st day, was busier.  We all had to drive out to the lake and help get things prepare for the wedding service.  Everything went well and following the ceremony we all enjoyed a good meal that had been prepared by some of the wedding parties relatives.  A little later Thomas, Raquel, Connie and I had the privilege of baptizing Wesley T. in the lake.

May 23rd Connie and I headed on toward Kentucky.  We had a good day, driving about 560 miles.  We spent the night at the Flying J Travel Plaza in West Memphis, AR.  The following day, May 24th, our 33rd on the road we drove the rest of the way home.  We arrived home by about 2:00 P.M.  It was good to be greeted by 4 enthusiastic grandchildren and their parents.  We felt like maybe we had been missed a little bit while we were gone.

I’ll bring this whole story to an end in the next part as I try to recap and summarize a bit.

IMG_0883This picture was taken at the Flying J in West Memphis, AR


Our 33 Day, 6731 Mile Road Trip–part 11

>> Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Following our visit with friends in Cottonwood, AZ we were back on the road on May 16th, day 25 of our road trip.  We had no further plans to visit national parks or scenic areas but were headed to Texas.  As I posted last November Connie and I had become a part of Broken Vessels, a prison ministry.  Our intent was to visit some of the fellows we had been writing to behind the razor wire as well as spend some time with Thomas and Raquel, the founders of the ministry.

Before we left our friend’s home they tried to show us on the map and tell us of possible routes we could take to avoid Phoenix.  However, I felt that based on the time we were getting onto the road and the distance we had to travel that we would arrive in the Phoenix area in late morning, well past the morning rush hour.  And, that proved out to be true.  Even though there are 6 lanes of traffic each direction in parts of the city we did not experience any major difficulties.

We had checked the Pilot Travel Centers/Flying J directory found in the back of each months issue of Challenge Magazine (which can be picked up free at any Pilot or Flying J location) and had made Lordsburg, New Mexico our goal for the night.  There was a quite nice Flying J there.    The picture below was taken the following morning before leaving.


Day 26 of our trip, May 17th, we travelled on toward Texas and actually got into the big state about mid-day.  We drove about 400 miles that day, stopping for the night in Fort Stockton, TX  There was no Pilot or Flying J close but the Kwik KIng, Oasis Travel Center in Fort Stockton was quite nice.  Shortly after arriving we got to see something of interest.

A truck pulling a low-boy carrying a wide–load pulled into the truck lot, and I mean a wide, wide load.  It was of interest because of what that load was.  On that low-boy was the bed of one of the large mine trucks like we had seen at the Borax mine in California.  I was able to walk over and take a couple of pictures.  You can see the huge size much better than trying to picture in your mind what a truck bed 25 feet wide and 45 feet long looks like.  One of the escort vehicle drivers told me they were headed to a testing facility in Arizona.


The following day, day 27 of our trip, May 18th, we drove the remaining 300 miles or so to Hondo, TX, our goal for the day.  In part 12 I’ll tell you of our visits in Texas.


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