Sunday, June 30, 2013

Back Roads

Even with our compressed schedule, we vowed not to do a “Forced March” on the Interstates.  We wanted to see the changing countryside through Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio even if we couldn’t tarry. We were spectacularly successful; in close to a thousand miles we rode less than 70 miles on Limited Access roads.  We scribed each Rand McNally Scenic BywayIMG_8813 that halfway led us to our goal and in the process learned that scenic often means narrow and twisty and hilly with no shoulder and often drop-offs or stone walls to add a little excitement. It was grand! Driving that requires close attention but pays dividends in sleepy hamlets, clear streams and tidy farms. There are, however, fewer pictures to share, but we know exactly where we’ll return to snap the scenes we still hold in memory.
The purpose of  all this hurrying was to welcome “Our Sister” Beth at the Pittsburg Airport.  Recently released from captivity at the Medical College of Milwaukee, she will be with us for the next two week or more.  We call these the “Driving Miss Daisy Tours” whereby both Pat and Beth giggle continuously in the back seat while Al drives, occasionally tips his cap and says “Yes' am”.
Outside Pittsburgh we “Courtesy Parked” with our good friends Bill and Nora, where we were warmly welcomed, fed sumptuously and often.  Laughter and Airstream stories filled the comfortable front porch and the Golden-doodles seemed to like the extra attention. 

“If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Courtesy Parking at Bill & Nora’s
Is that a BRAND NEW Airstream??
Why yes. Yes, it is.
With Bethy on board and checked out on all things Airstream, we followed Bill over hill and dale to a lovely lunch at the Foxburg Inn.  Bill learned these Pennsylvania back roads on years of classic auto tours. He showed us hills and mountains, the oldest golf course in America, old churches and vistas of every shade of green. (It’s been raining A LOT lately.


By mid afternoon, we were slipping into Penn Wood Airstream Park and another warm gathering at the totally unofficial “Pre Bash”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Into the Rift, or Not

It is a long trek from Montgomery to the edge of the Cumberland plateau near Chattanooga, but we were anxious to take a big bite out of the miles we needed to cover by July fourth.  Three hundred miles on back roads and blue highways brought us up the Sequatchie Valley, a narrow knife cut on the Tennessee topo that runs toward the Alabama line. It is seldom more than five miles wide and bounded by bluffs 900 feet tall.  For years I had believed that this was one of the world’s rarest features  --A RIFT VALLEY. 
OH, If it were only true!  We  could conjure up visions of huge Tectonic plates spreading apart and leaving a fiery wilderness that, in the fullness of time, would be the birthplace of a completely new species.  That species might grow, develop advanced abilities, spread across the continents…Dr. Leakey would come….
But SCIENTISTS are an unromantic lot and they have shelved this theory and replaced it with anticlines, and headward erosion and “underground solution of structurally elevated limestones”.  REALLY?!  
I cling to my Rift valley fantasy where a new species –- we could call them “Tennesseans” –- would gather in huge numbers for fall games.    They would adorn themselves with Orange baseball caps…

Why, you might ask, would any species choose to remain in a Rift Valley (excuse me, a plain old garden variety erosion ditch) when a climb up the Plateau walls brings cooler temperatures and a lovely breeze.  We did that and entered the gates of the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau Club (TCPC) Airstream Park, passed along smooth pavement  through meadows of lush grass and mixed hardwoods, along the edge of Running Deer Lake and into a circle of 100+ Airstreams sited semi permanently around a large welcoming  clubhouse.

In a few way-too-short visits here, we have picked up a little of the history; in my mind, it is not unlike my Rift Valley fantasy. Over forty years ago a hardy bunch of Airstreamers from the lowlands, seeking a cool summering ground, attacked  300 acres of grown-over woodlands with brush hooks and enthusiasm.  They were (and are) a varied group with a multitude of talents which they lavished on the land and on each other.  The group and the land have prospered.  It seems to us as sometime visitors that the requirements for membership here are a sunny disposition  and a shiny trailer.  We are constantly delighted by both.
As brand new Airstreamers, we sat at the knees of Sages, learned the basics of ownership and some exotica best not disclosed.  As travelers, we have crossed paths with several who call this their “home Place.”  Most of all, here we enjoy a full measure of that special Airstream feeling we get in the presence of really experienced travelers who generously share their adventures.
Yesterday was typical. We checked in with our friends Jill and Harry, learned about new additions (mostly four legged) subtractions (trailers and some few lots on the market) and were encouraged to stay (lots to do around here).   We circled the park admiring the shiny trailers of every Airstream vintage and the personal landscaping and amenities each owner added.


After settling into a guest lot, we rigged fly rods and exercised the bass and bream until the sun went down.

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Heinz and Linda introduced themselves on the way to the mailbox and we talked into the wee dark hours about their twelve years full timing the whole continent, our lives on the road, advice and hysterical tales, tips and confidences, mutual friends and more.  (No pictures, this was conducted at the picnic table  illuminated only by fireflies. 

In the misty morning, more fishing was planned but when “the Trail Lady” offers to show us the Fox Den trail, Rule 26 (Try hard to always say YES) prevailed.  Susan has lovingly tended trails to the geologic features in the park (in addition to providing a Guest Book outlining  trips to great places nearby.)
We met near the new mailbox array which she may also have had a hand in.

..and proceeded, with hugs and giggles, 


…through mixed hardwoods while Susan identified each species…
…Cumberland Azalea (different from the the Flame Azalea of the mountains)…Rattlesnake Plantain, and mountain mint and Indian Paintbrush, a showy one framed by a rock “tunnel” that delights children…


The trails were delightful Susan, as was the company.  Thank you.

The visit to TCPC was too brief.  We hurriedly hitched up and were underway when the first of many showers opened up on us. Blue highways (and some so thin they might not have had color) held our attention.  TN 330 between Oliver Springs and Lake City followed the path of Molly’s Cow up and down, twisting and turning even though the tiny valley it traversed held a nicely graded railroad.  (No map reconnaissance can replace seeing it for yourself,  Rule 12)

By mid afternoon we coasted into Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, a place that feels like home.
see a few days at Cumberland Gap in 2011

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Biking Again

airstream postcard
You may have seen the iconic Airstream Postcards…the  shiny Airstream sited along a flowing stream (alone), the fly fisherMAN in thigh deep with the sporty fishing cap waving to the adoring family… or the one with the Manly fisherman clad in plaid and a sporty fedora displaying his catch to HERSELF on the chaise lounge in a spring skirt and upswept hairdo…

IMG_8572Nothing like the scene this week at Chief Ladiga Campground near Piedmont 
Alabama except


…we were camped broadside to the beautiful Terrapin Creek whose soft murmur soothed us


…we were ALONE, the only camper on 70+ acres bounded by the creek on one side and the Chief Ladiga Bike Trail on the other

…there were fish, lots of them and we met many of them.

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The third highest “mountain” in The State is visible from our campsite, but not a single light (if you turn off the porch light at the superb modern bathhouse, which we did).

Now it could have been hot there, except for the nicely spaced shade trees and it could have been  a little buggy except for the near constant breeze.   
There are no “hookups” there but the nights were in the low seventies and we even turned off the Fantastic Fans…
Most of that Postcard came to life with one exception… it was Patty who was doing all the fishing and there was no Spring skirt or chaise in sight.

lady fishing airstream

It was a lot more like this…

IMG_8547 …AND there was biking for the TWOBIKES crew  --short ones, to build up after the recent cardiac unpleasantness, but lovely short rides on the paved bike path. 
This was the last section completed on the nearly 100 mile Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga trail  stretching from the Atlanta Suburbs to near Anniston, Al.  This was the most rugged piece with some road cuts and several crossings of lovely Terrapin creek.  A few quiet road crossings, and some bottom land fields add interest. There is plenty of shade on this section.


We rode in the mornings and again (after fishing) in the evenings sighting hawks and crows, rabbits and a friendly snake or two.  We couldn’t immediately identify the little guy who was crossing the trail into the corn field; so we labeled him Southern (bound) Corn Snake…kinda like the LGB (Little Grey Bird) we see so often.
We intend to return to this place often; we had to leave way too soon.  It may never be this perfect again, but it just might…I’ll look around for a chaise lounge.