Saturday, April 30, 2016

On The Road - Again

Nomads Don and Dorothy searching for bop, kicks, speed and the night. We wish. Staying up beyond 10, is difficult.

We have names for all of our trips. No names any import, but names that keep the trips distinguishable to us. In 2007, everywhere we went in the desert SW and Baja cactus were in bloom. That one we simply call the Cactus Trip.

Counting since 2006, this year’s adventure will be the 19th. It will be the 10th long distance - long duration trip. The other nine trips were shorter distance/duration trips. Some years, we did two short trips, other years, we combined a short one with an extended version. Wanderlust knows no bounds with us. 85,000 miles on the RV, 50,000 on the Liberty and 10,000 on the Rubicon. Bite our large carbon footprint.

The tentative name for this trip is North By NW. Our goals include avoiding driving through Texas, finding folks that are doing something a little different and chat them up. Like finding a man riding a lawn mower in the street in “downtown” any small town, Iowa. It would have be the mayor going to the office for a minute on Saturday and we wind up eating dinner at his home. Pork chops, beets and rutabaga’s. How about the couple setting up a tent in the desert who arrived in a 1957 Caddie convertible. I knew there was a story waiting to be learned. And there was.

This will be our third time through the upper tier of states. SD, MT, ID and WA. We hope the weather will be kind to us as we will be pushing the season. Both times we have been to Glacier there was snow on the Going To The Sun road in mid July.

We both hope the green landscape will not bore us, for we so love the exposed rocks of Utah. We will get there in September, the rainy season, hoping we can miss the fall rains in our trade for missing the high winds of the spring. There are two areas there, I have tried to photograph the last two Springs. Both times haze or air born dust made it impossible. 

We managed to get on the road the next morning before 11 and drove north on US27. It winds though the hollows and ridges of the Cumberland Plateau. We stopped at the VC for the Obed Scenic River. We enjoyed a long chat with the ranger there. I know he was glad to see us as we were the only ones there. We watched a film on the scenery of the river canyon and decided to pass on the river. First, it looks much like Little River Canyon in Alabama and more importantly the rain in the area has been so low that not only is there no white water, you have to portage a good bit. Getting in and our of our yaks becomes more of a problem every year.

The trees are in full leaf here, the pollen is dealing us fits, but the vibrant green of the leaves is gorgeous. I suppose we will be dealing with pollen for the next month or so.

The scenery may not be as spectacular as is found in the western states, but it sure beats, crossing Mississippi, Louisiana and especially Texas to get west. So it’s a treat to follow the winding roads and look at the greenery.

Friday, April 22 - After a hectic two weeks, we finally departed Montgomery.  We drove all 90 minutes to Hoover before stopping at Olive Garden to have lunch with my cousin.  Then we went to visit our friends Frank and Sandy in our old neighborhood, We spent the night in their driveway.  

Saturday, April 23 - We had lunch at Bonefish with our sailing friends, Walter & Nancy Bailey.  Food was very good and we stuffed.  Then it was on to Gadsden, AL where we stayed at Noccalula Falls CG. According to legend, Princess Noccalula was promised by her father to a warrior in another tribe as part of a peace treaty. She was in love with a brave from her tribe and on her wedding day, she jumped to her death at the falls. Alecia, Lee and grandchildren joined us and we drove to Attalla for a family reunion. It was good to see the cousins that I spent so much time with during my youth.  It makes the years disappear.

Sunday, April 24 - We finally left Alabama and arrived in Kingston, TN to visit with our long-time friends, Terry & Betty Wood, that we met back in our sailing days. Love spending time with our best friends.

Monday, April 25 - We continued north on US27 into Ken-tuck stopping for lunch at a roadside BBQ truck. There were 18 wheelers and a sheriff there, so we figured that it had to be good - and it was. The buns were stuffed with tender pork and a decent sauce.

We parked at the Blue Heron CG which is in the Big South Fork NRRA. It’s a large park along the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. One long name. The CG has 47 W&E sites which are paved and mostly level. There is a dump, 3 bars of LTE, free firewood in every site and PBS and the CW channel. All for the low, low cost of $8.50 on the geezer card. There are four other folks here on a Monday. A great place to decompress, look for the cell modem that went missing Saturday night and wait out the front moving through.

The mailing address for Blue Heron and it’s environs is Strunk, KY. Not Stunk, not Skunk, but Strunk. The family is still a part of the community as we noted the funeral home bears their name. And now you know.

Devils Jumps Overlook is a huge deck on the side of a canyon and would make a great place for a party.

Our park service built a Hollywood style set to depict the structures and life in the mining towns that were all over this area of Kentucky. This is a replica of a tipple, a machine that sorts coal by size. The different sizes fall into the train cars under the tipple.

Interesting Paint Job

Our Site At South Fork. Perhaps one of the best sites ever.

Cumberland Falls in Kentucky

The state park at Cumberland State Falls was the worst we have seen. It should be closed. The one at Red River Gorge is much better. Along a road, but the babbling stream drowns out all traffic noise.

We spent the rest of the week, staying put when it was raining and peering into canyons on the sunny days. April has been a wet month for most of the country. One of the areas we checked out was the Red River Gorge. Yep, it’s a canyon, filled with greenness with a murky stream at the bottom and occasional rock out-croppings on the cliffs, There are dozens of hiking trails, enough to take a month or so to pace all of them. We yawned. We are jaded from our western adventures, where the canyons are nude, almost devoid of green. 

In other news, oil is up to $47 a barrel and gasoline jumped 25 cents overnight to $2.37.  Oh well, our energy stocks are up and we are paying more at the pump.

It’s dawning on us that we are in Appalachia. The impoverished section. We have not seen any unpainted clapboard homes as were photographed during the Johnston years, but many are not far removed from that look. Of course poverty is different now. Then, an electric washing machine was a luxury. Now, multiple cars and TV’s are normal.

What we have noticed is the look of generations of inbreeding. The look of mental illness. We have seen pockets of this before, such as one town in Idaho, just large enough to have a Walmart. A town surrounded by mountains. Much like the lower hills here. Does geography contribute? It has in the past. Today “there are still at least four known communities in Eastern Kentucky that have families that have inbred children. One particular county still has quite a high inbreeding rate of 95%. These particular children have been reported with severe medical problems.” It is telling that the three states with highest failure rate on the Armed Forces entry exam are Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky - all Appalachian states.

There is more to traveling than scenery for us. There is understanding.

Sunday we plan to move a little west to the Kentucky state capital.

You did get the reference to searching for bop, kicks, speed and the night, didn’t you? Do show your expansive literary knowledge with a comment on the source.


  1. Yes, Cumberland Falls was horrible. They let us take up two tent sites since we couldn't fit in any others, it rained, and was muddy.
    Jack Kerouac, On The Road. See, I'm smarter than you think ;-)

  2. Glad to see that you're on the road again. After cancelling our trip to Spain, we will be heading out in the RV to the CA central coast, redwoods and Southern Oregon before heading south again via US 395. Enjoy your trip.

  3. The kayaks look good on the new rack!