Sunday, September 30, 2012

Davidson River Interlude

IIMG_3509t just feels comfortable here.  It’s a great campground, laid out on a long flat bottom along the Davidson River among tall Pines and Hemlocks.  Each of the several loops seems its own quiet place with deep paved pads and adequate privacy.  The Camp Hosts are the best we have ever experienced, well trained in people skills and welcoming to all.
After two earlier visits in Spring, we felt right at home and, strangely, less inclined to wander off to the many local waterfalls and other attractions.  We just “settled in.” 
The water is historically low and the trout stocking has been on hold for a couple months  The fish still lurking about are now well distributed and acting wild.  We caught mostly Browns, veterans, with no fins scraped white from living in concrete pens.  It is humbly stated that AL caught the lunch specials until that last afternoon when Patty scored nine great fish in about 20 feet of riffle.  This was, of course, in the Catch and Release water: her new hypothesis:
“These fish can read.  They see those yellow/red diamonds on the trees and they know I have to throw them back.  They learn it in fish school…”
There are  five miles of flat pavement in the campground so we took several training rides to test Patty’s shoulder; so far, so good. Besides the ebb and flow of campers in each loop, we also crossed paths with a white squirrel and a sassy young copperhead basking among the fallen leaves.
On the last night, the predicted rain began.  We were nearly packed and ready, so there were no worries about unsecured gear.  We lay there thinking about all the other rainy nights we had spent under canvas.
The patter of raindrops on a tin roof has its attractions,” he thought, “but the best part is not having to get up every so often to check for leaks.”
Just to be sure we both moved away from the edges…

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Silver Cabin in the Woods


When You are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of the shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;


                                          --W.B. Yeats 


Davidson River NC September 27, 2012

When I was in college (and studying Yeats) and Patty was still in St Louis fending off med students, a torrent of letters flew back and forth.  After years of hanging out together as “just Friends” , we were debating if a life separated by 500 miles was even tolerable and whether a long life together was a workable plan.  It was not an easy conversation given the myriad distractions in our lives, the still liquid state of our individual dreams.  Once, along the way we dreamed together of our older selves growing old in a cozy cabin in the woods, warm fire burning,  snow banked against the door.  All the unsettling dramas of mid life now behind us, we would just be together as we longed to be at that time.  We held onto that vision and  muddled through the many joys and sorrows of mid life and, today, nestled warmly in our cozy Silver Cabin in the woods, it is hard to even consider that bike trails beckon and fish flash in eddies just yards away and we may need to replenish the groceries.  In the quiet woods locations that change every few days and in sunshine and maybe just a little snow, we are together and it feels right.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Airstream of consciousness…


Smokemont morning…crisp and dewy…packing up…saying goodbyes…Oconaluftee…strawberry preserves…yum…Friends of the Smokies, re-up…pulling up the Blue Ridge Parkway.. smooth, powerful…transmission temp, OK…Big Witch Tunnel eleven foot ten inches…Thelonious  “Around Midnight”, so cool…35 MPH, not holding anybody back…sometimes 30, bothering nobody…AIRSTREAM, new one, probably 23’, passing ships, Hi brother…

Colors… starting…muted golds…big patch of red Sumac…Green mostly, steep and deep…Higher…Green evergreens…maybe they won’t all die…Rock faces…road cuts and landslides…Balsam Fir…OVER THE TOP

Now down, burned here, many years ago, to the bedrock…scrubby, more rock faces with fringes of yellow and red…rocks weeping and falling down close to the road edge…

Turning here… down 276…new surface…”Unmarked Pavement”…”Loose Gravel”…shoulders dusty…Second gear…winding down…35 MPH, bothering nobody…water is low…sparkles…Davidson River CG…friendly…set up… feels like home…fishing…water low…caught two…dinner…yum…

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Italy Revisited

A few days at home and the taste of Italy still lingering, we headed for the mountains.  Avoiding Atlanta traffic has always been our goal, so it was LaGrange GA, then North -- Carrollton, Bremen, Cedartown (where the Silver Comet bike trail runs), Rockmart… ROCKMART!! SILVER COMET!! FRANKIES!!!!
When Frankie Pence rented a defunct bike shop along the Silver Comet trail and moved into the apartment  upstairs, no one was quite sure a quality Italian restaurant catering to cyclists and the downtown lunch business of a very small town was a really good idea. These were folks who haven’t tasted Frankie’s  Lasagna or experienced the genuine warmth of her hospitality.

When we parked our own “Silver Comet” along the tiny park across from the restaurant, the bike racks out front were overflowing and a swarm of colorful cycling jerseys brightened the sidewalk.  Inside, Frankie was perched on a high stool chatting up a Harley riding couple. She points at Pat, still in the doorway taking in the walls full of event jerseys and pictures of customers.
“Alabama”, she says emphatically.  “And something else..”  Pat reminded her of the Professional mugs we once traded her for dinner and she was into total recall.
We shouldn’t feel special; she seems to remember EVERYONE and has a genuine, totally welcoming grace that extends to everyone that works here.
  IMG_6298We took the traditional Frankie-and–bikes-and-customers picture to go on the wall and sat down to eat.
Ah yes, the FOOD!  Big crisp salads with creamy garlic dressing, hot breadsticks, Lasagna with Italian sausage for Pat and the signature chicken, spinach Florentine lasagna for Al. (We didn’t have to worry about riding our bikes after this.)  We showed Frankie and Harley friends the Silver Comet and pulled out of the near deserted town square, our Italian cravings once again satisfied.

IMG_6304IMG_6301                                                                                                                                                                                                           The rest of the drive was on pleasant cruise control. We arrived at Smokemount Campground in GSMNP just at dusk. It was 59 degrees. We slipped into a site we hoped would provide full sun.  Predictions are for 34 degrees  tonight.  We have a full battery, a furnace that works and the test of the new propane fired generator was A-OK.  Life is Good.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blue Angels, Pasta and Porpoises

Al really doesn’t LIKE the beach; he barely tolerates it unless there are Beach Toys, preferably grandchildren. Long walks on the beach stooped over looking at flotsam and jetsam, Agates or even gold doubloons, not so much. So this little adventure has been classified as a trip to repair the carnage to our awning –- don’t ask-- or, perhaps a purely scientific inquiry into the rate of dune rebuilding since the last visit.
In his defense, this is what they built back after the hurricane tidied up the mess a few years back…

But this is what
we saved…  notice the
IMG_6254dunes are filling in…

And the remaining trees are filling out as well.  This is the part Al Likes….


    He Likes this too.

So while waiting for our camper repair, Patty found Petrella’sIMG_6229, a family place with rave reviews and seven dollar lunch specials.  Wow!  We split and were planning our next visit as we waddled out the Door.
The Gulf Island National Seashore appears just at the edge of the condo jungle.  It’s a mile or so along a thin ribbon of sand before you even reach the gate, where Ranger Douglas gave us the warmest greeting we have Ever had at a Federal facility.  It’s another three miles of beach before you reach the old Coast Guard station which serves as the camper registration and perhaps another mile to the campsites.

DECOMPRESSION  , and a IMG_6262chance to speculate about the eight foot mounds of sand along the road.  The park was closed several days to clear the overwash of sand from Tropical Storm Isaac.  And WE believe that the surf is a little closer to the road that it was…IMG_6263
We settled into  site #6 (with a lovely bit of shade), met some  truly nice folks, and didn’t even stray over the boardwalk to the beach.
Next morning, the Blue Angels were practicing and we were amongst the standing room crowd watching the spectacle. Standing allows the freedom to swing around and watch as the elements zooming in from all angles.
“Here they come.  Oh wait, that’s a dragon fly.. Oh, there they are.  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!”
As the planes landed and rolled out, a mature Bald Eagle which  had been circling  just off the airfield, moved over the center of the quiet landing area, climbed to 600 feet  in a tight spiral and just held there.
        “ROLL CREDITS.”
The Naval Air Museum is a must see, even though we have been here several times.  (Patty has a LITTLE crush on the Blue Angels.)  This time we strayed off the main hanger floor into a bulkhead to watch a film on qualifying carrier pilots on an old refitted side-wheeler off Chicago!  Who Knew?  The film outlined the recovery of some combat veteran Aircraft from Lake Michigan and the five year restoration.  The plane, a ABD Dauntless Dive bomber was instrumental in winning the Battle of Midway and has a tiny family connection.  Carl Meyer’s first task as a civil engineer at McDonnell Douglas during the war was to engineer/reengineer the tail hook.
“We want it strong, Carl. Lives depend on it.  But, it’s not a bridge.”
Amazingly, nearly 6000 were built yet none were available for display before the restoration on the proud ship sitting here.  We stroked her quietly while a Navy veteran carrier pilot of a later era, recounted the Battle of Midway. 
“Can we go back to Petrella’s ?  Sure.”
Later we found the beach. 
“Yeah, still here.  Can we ….?  NO!
A single Porpoise brightened Patty’s day and she “walked” it down the beach till she was out of sight.
Later we biked until sunset with no noticeable effects on the sore shoulder. (That would show up later.) Patty was full speed from the start and seemed to enjoy the flat terrain, great pavement and balmy temps.
The Osprey nests that were so plentiful in snags last year were destroyed by the winds.  Only a few left.  There will be a building boom next spring.  This is too good a fishing ground to abandon.
Next day the Porpoises were here –- in droves.  Seems that about 3:30 they run East along the beach and play with anyone who can reach them.  Today a pontoon boat accompanied them and, from our distant vantage, seemed to be able to make them jump and cavort by swinging her arms overhead?  It was quite a show, probably as many as 12-14.
Even cooler the last night. The CG was emptying out in the morning as the Grey IMG_6273Hairs moved on and the sites filled with young folks in tents getting settled for the De Luna Music festival over the weekend. One last Breakfast. 

“What’s the Friday special at Petrella’s?”
“Flounder stuffed with crab in a white sauce.”
“It’s on the way….or will be.”
So, the perfect beach trip.  A lovely place, a density of 1-6 people per mile of beach, warm water, pleasant breezes and time equally divided between beachcombing and Italian food.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ice Through the Door


Yes, I AM the guy who can spend up to a year choosing a new backpacking stove –- months of catalog reading, price comparisons,  a few hours of peering over fellow hiker’s shoulders at dinner time and suffering several cuts and puncture wounds from constructing little alcohol stoves from cat food cans.

  “Who do we know that owns a cat…?”

So it came as a surprise to see  the lovely faux stainless glow of a new refrigerator staring back at us as we returned home last month.


“The old one died just before we left two trips ago.  We just cleaned it out and left .  We bought this one when we got back last time.”

Apparently I can part with enough cash to fund several months on the road (even at these gas prices!) and forget it completely. The Ice Through the Door is cool,  though not enough to hold us in thrall as the leaves begin to turn. 

We are planning to Head Out, first  South to tag the Gulf Beaches and measure the rebuilding dunes, then North to where trout fin quietly over stony beds and bears forage for Winter.  We will join family and friends at the National Storytelling Festival at Jonesborough TN in early October and then file our flight plan “in the air.”

Patty has begun therapy for her long neglected shoulder and, star patient that she has always been, is making measurable progress; she expects to try out the bike on this southern swing and in mountain campsites chosen for their level bike trails. When the Physical Therapist asked what her goals were, she replied, “to ride my bike, and  bump a volleyball with my grandchildren” 

“…and were you able to do this before…?”

Al got his bike out at home and reports that “getting back on our bikes” will entail a little more than just adding them to the traveling payload. Wow, those first few miles after a long layoff are like starting to run again –- painful.

In retrospect, we have named our last four month tour to the “shores of Gitche Gumee" and back as the “NO BIKES TOUR” , the first long enforced separation from our bikes since we were dating; who knows what this adventure will bring?  For now, we are calling it ESCAPE FROM ICE THROUGH THE DOOR.