Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco

What a treat, a new Umberto Eco novel, Numero Zero. Many years ago I stopped watching the news and only watched Stewart and Colbert for my news. Then they moved on. I listen to NPR in the car as I drive and even Rush like talk radio for entertainment. No more network news for this cowboy, it is all crap. After a few dozen pages of this new novel, I was in stiches with laughter as Eco has done such a great job of capturing the shady practices of news dispersal by print and media in this brilliant parody of the news business. “It’s not the news that makes the newspaper, but the newspaper that makes the news.” I know it’s an old adage or joke. “But in fact the newspaper is transmitting an idea, an alarm signal, a warning…And in any case, think of the reader: each of these items, taken individually, would have had little impact, but together they force the reader to stay on that page. Understood?” Eco has aroused that curiosity again about how in fact we get news. I like that he is using a newspaper rather than a more current transmitter of news.
Just as Eco had done in Foucault’s Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, Eco follows an idea about Mussolini and crazy notions involving secret police, the Mafia, the Vatican, and other Italian agencies to device an entertaining story using hard facts but bending them to create a hilarious thriller of paranoia and suppositions that bring the newspaper to its knees and leaves us with one dead newsman. This is a great parody of his own work and others like it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Going Home

I had a beautiful week in New Orleans. The weather was beyond expectations, especially after I read dire news the week before I was in NO. I only had one rain event and that was Sunday evening and ended Monday morning. Well, on this last day, I woke to rain, heavy at times and in a break, I broke camp and after showering and hitting the road the clouds opened up. I took 46 to 47 as I did coming in and joined Rt 10 where I got off and headed west to 410 to 10 to 61 North, the River Road, littered with Plantations. I left NO in dense fog and hit some heavy rain on 61. It was so intense; I had to stop twice because I couldn’t see the road. I stopped in Natchez and had a Po Boy and glass of Lazy Magnolia Pecan Ale. I was able to take a growler of the Pecan with me. While there I had fun conversations with a couple of drinking patrons about NO. I left town and continued up 61 to Natchez SP and got a lovely site. I didn’t disconnect, since I plan on leaving early. No sooner was I settled in, and then it started raining again. I’m glad I stopped here instead of moving on since it was raining and getting dark.
I woke at 6:30 and made breakfast and slowly broke camp. I was out of there by 7:30 and headed north on 61 to TO Fuller State Park just outside Memphis, TN. The drive was beautiful as I traveled alone over hill and dale through cotton field after cotton field and plantation after plantation. There was the occasional hay field. I gassed up and did my grocery shopping before getting of 61 and onto Rt 1 along the River.  Not much access to the Mississippi or even sighting because of the levees. What many people think about driving Kansas can be said of Mississippi in the Delta. It is all cotton as Kansas is corn. No wind turbines or solar farms here though. This might be a missed opportunity for Mississippi. Also I now see the red mud everywhere.
I listen to local radio and enjoy learning the culture of the area. I spend time with the NPR stations and I also like listening to the talk radio shows in this neck of the woods. Some make Rush look tame. Rush is on most of the stations. I love walking in local shopping markets and hanging by the tomatoes or laundry soap listening to conversations. I am learning so much about us; it is remarkable.
Gas prices have been very erratic during this trip. They are low. In Bernard Parish in LA, I saw on the same road to NO and within an eight-mile stretch the prices range from $1.68 to $1.98. All these stations had customers. Also the prices changed on a daily basis and were especially high on the weekends. I bought gas at one shop for $1.68 and the next day it was $1.78. Gas and camping fees make this a very economic trip. In St Bernard SP I paid $24 for the first night and $18 for the next five nights. In Mississippi I paid $13, because I was a senior. In Tennessee I paid $10. I get water and electric and a heated bathhouse with showers and laundry facilities. And I am only 30 minutes from all the action. I did a laundry and made dinner before heading into Beale Street.
Oh one more thing, it is colder. I left NO in shorts and my sleeveless dress bike white oxford. I woke Thursday to a chilly day. I put on my long chinos, a Burley long sleeve, a flannel shirt, and socks. When I arrived in Fuller SP, I put on my hooded sweatshirt. As I was listening to NPR in Mississippi the weather ranged from mid 60’s in Gulfport to low 40’s in Northern Mississippi. I was further north in Tennessee. I still need to go further north tomorrow and the next day as I return home.
After dinner, I dressed warmly: gloves, knit hat, coat, socks, and usual suspects. The drive in took me by the road I need tomorrow, 240 East, easy peasy. A direct drive in, but the parking was non-existent. I put the car in a lot at the Front St end of Beale St. Beale St is only a few blocks long. It is like Frenchmen In that the clubs are only on a few blocks. It was cold as I started down one side and after three blocks; I crossed the street and walked back. It was 6:30 and the only place with music was on a corner, so I went in. I don’t know the name of club or band. The bar was open air, so it was chilly on one side. The band was okay, not into it as it was cold and I was the only patron. Eventually more folks showed up and the band got more into it and they were descent. At the end of the set, I walked back to The Jerry Lee Lewis Club, where a trio was playing a mixed bag of music. I stayed for two sets. After they played “Can’t You See” and “Little Wing” beautifully, I had to leave since they couldn’t get any better. Going back from whence I had come, I passed the early music hall and the same band was playing to a medium size crowd. At the next corner a melodious sound drew me in. Good blues with as harp to die for. I stayed for two sets and was not disappointed. The drive home was easy enough. This is even easier than in New Orleans. Both State Parks are perfectly located for me to enjoy the fruits of each city. Nice!! Tomorrow is going to be a long day as I plan to drive across Tennessee to the Virginia border. Nashville doesn’t have any state or federal parks for camping nearby. I will need to do more research on camping in and around Nashville.
I drove from the southwestern tip of Tennessee to the northeastern tip, Colonial Heights. I stayed in Warriors Path State Park. I passed Davy Crockett SP and almost went there. I needed to make this a long trip to cover some ground. I want to spend Saturday in Staunton and maybe catch the Christmas Carol performance and enjoy Staunton. I like the town.
When I was in New Orleans and was planning the trip home, I debated over the more southern Rt 20 over the more northern Rt 40 because of the possibility of snow. All indications said the northern route would be okay. As I passed through Nashville and got to the other side the road was swirling. I realized it was snow. An ever so gentle light snow was falling. Yikes had I made a mistake? Onward and upward I drove on. I was glad to get to the campground in the light. I chose a spot and just parked everything and without unhitching, I did a minimum of needs for the overnight. I turned on the heat in the Scamp and then took a shower in the heated bathhouse, which was across the street from me. The hot shower was so needed. When I returned, the car had snow on the roof, but the Scamp was toasty warm for me. During one of my stops I took chicken out of the freezer for dinner. I grilled outside in the light snow. By the time I was done the picnic table and benches had a layer of snow. It was very pretty. I have very little to do tomorrow to break camp. I will sleep late and take a leisurely drive up to Staunton and be there in 4 to 5 hours. And then another 4 to 5 hour ride home on Sunday, to Berlin.
When I came up 40 and joined 81, I completed the circle I had begun on November 10 when I left home. It was at this juncture in the middle of Nov that I went east on 40 to Asheville and the Smokies from 81 South. In December, a month later I go through the same juncture but in the opposite direction, 40 East to 81 North. Staunton is also a common denominator in this scenario. I should be home on Sunday, December 20.  It was a great trip. A lot of memories, places to return to, places to go to that I missed, places to miss. Again, I have to make adjustments, improvements, and rethinking about future trips and what I take.
I woke with snow on the ground and car. I started breakfast to kill the chill in the Scamp. The heater did yeoman’s work last night and made it very comfortable all night. I had a leisurely breakfast as this was going to be an easy drive up 81 to Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA. After breakfast and before cleaning up, I started the car, to warm it up. Since this was an overnight without unhitching the striking of the camp would take 20 minutes. After scraping the ice off the windows of the car, I took off up 81.  It was the Saturday before Christmas and all colleges were out; Rt 81 was packed.  Again it was an easy drive as I drove at 65-70 in the right lane and let everyone pass me. I arrived a little after noon and set camp on the same site I had before, 45. I set camp and settled in and did some Internet work since I had WiFi here.  After lunch I headed into Staunton.
I bought a ticket to A Christmas Carol at Blackfriars for the 7:30 show. I then went to Red Beard Brewing Co. I took a growler of the Black IPA and a 32 of the Pumpkin Porter. My next stop was Shenandoah Brewing. When I walked in, the barkeep recognized me and asked if I wanted the Valley Rye? Yes I did. I took a growler of the Rye with me. I dropped my growlers at the car and went to Zynodoa for dinner. I got a table with a clear view of the bar and front of the house. I got the bisque and trout. This is an excellent farm to table restaurant. The bisque was sublime. I loved the presentation of the trout. It was on its side and not on a side. It looked like it was swimming. I arrived at the show just as it was about to begin. It was a wonderful rendition by an ensemble I saw do Shakespeare. What a treat. After the show, I went back to the car and picked up two empty growlers and went back for more of the Valley Rye. There was a guitar player playing some pretty tunes, so I stayed and eventually the place filled up. It all ended at 11 and I went home. It wasn’t as cold as it was last night. I went to bed knowing this was my last night on the road. 
I broke camp and was on the road by 9. I followed 81 to 66 to 495 to 50 and home. I stopped at Burley, had a couple of casks, saw Brian and his son, showed them the Scamp. It is always good to be home.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Orleans

While the clothes were drying and after I posted the last post, I wandered to the raw bar a couple of doors down in this row of stores just off highway 98 and had some oysters and seafood gumbo for lunch. They were Louisiana oysters, They weren’t as salty as previous oysters and they were plumper and very good. The gumbo was hotter and definitely had a Louisiana flavor about it. After lunch and collecting my laundry, I set out for my first stop, Props Craft Brewery in Fort Walton Beach, FL. It was so easy to find. Just as I crossed the causeway and entered solid ground again, the first building I saw was painted white with big, giant black lettering announcing it was a Micro Brewery. As it turned out there was a Publix in this shopping mall, too. Two birds with one stop, food shopping and beer shopping. I went to the brewery first, of course, and got a flight of their rye, porter, stout and IPA. All were good and I walked away with 2 64 oz growlers (rye and IPA) and 2 32 oz growlers (porter and stout). Restocked with some of the essentials, I headed on down the road to Pensacola Bay Brewery, which also easy to find as it too was on Rt 98 and in plain sight as I turned a corner and stopped at a red light and there it was off to the right. Here I found a good pale ale, and amber ale, and a smoky porter. I love smoked brew. Here too I walked out with 3 big growlers and left most of my cash there as it was cash only. As I got closer to my next park, Big Lagoon SP west of Pensacola and in the direct flight pattern of the Naval Base, which is very active. I found a bank and restocked my cash and lucky I did, because as soon as I turned to the entrance road to the park, a man was selling firewood, red oak and pine. I got a load for twenty dollars and was set to camp. I found a lovely site, 44, and set camp and walked about. They have 75 sites and about 15 are being used. I made a chopped salad for dinner and then made a huge roaring fire, drank some of the beer and listened to John Lennon all night. My friend, David sent me a picture from Strawberry Fields showing the massive crowd there to celebrate John. It is December 8, and since the night of his tragic death until I left NYC in 2012, I always went to Strawberry Fields (Dakota before SF made) on Dec 8. This day now holds even more tragedy for me as my good friend Amanda lost one of her twin boys, Rob,  22, in a skiing accident on Dec 8 a year ago. Amazingly enough, he was also born on the same day as Lennon, Oct 9. He was a musician, too, a double major, engineering and performance music. He played the bassoon and was awarded a full scholarship to Univ of Colorado, Boulder. An amazing kid. A day that will live in infamy for me.
Before I went to bed, I sprinkled some birdseed on the ground and left some peanuts. In the morning, the yard was filled with chirping and feeding birds and a squirrel cashing in on the free food. After breakfast and the morning show, I hoped on the mountain bike and cruised the park. I enjoyed the privacy of the place. I rode along and explored the different offerings and not a person or car around. I ended up at a marsh walk that had a tower in it. I walk the boardwalk above the marsh watching the stilt legged birds walk the water for food. Varieties of birds I know not the name and then those that I did know. They were feasting. I climbed the tower and stayed up there for an hour or more. I watched the birds, the water ripple, the far side toward the Gulf. I asked a ranger about that land later on my ride and he told me it was the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Assateague I thought immediately. As I rode to the tower I saw hundreds of pinecones along the road. I also knew there was a boardwalk from a few campsites from mine, that’s why I chose it, that came out right in a prime place for the precious cones. As it happened that was a seven mile bike ride and on the old mountain bike, different from my road bike. I showered and took a ride in the car to the gulf road. I went over the bridge I saw from the tower and found the road to the National Seashore. It was probably a six or seven mile road like AI. I decided I’d come back with the mountain bike and ride the road and spend a couple of hours on the beach. I left and drove down Rt 182 through Perdido Beach. It reminded me of South Florida with all the tall 30 plus story towers for snowbirds. This went on for miles into Alabama where it got even more flagrant and over the top beach bum like condos and beach houses. Al of them on stilts, but still with that opulence we have grown to love from South Beach. The colors, the architecture, the variety and all of these houses were on stilts. It was so bizarre. Some of the stilts were wrapped in brick to provide a proper foundation for the shingle edifice or the southern plantation above the brick. I reached the dead end and turned around and went home for lunch, a grilled ham and cheese and rum and tonic. I dressed for the beach and put the MB bake on the car and drove over to the seashore. I parked in the lot and took the bike down and saddled up for a ride to the end of the road and a walk on the beach and a swim. It was a glorious time as found an empty beach and a hot day. I took a swim and it was wonderful. Not warm water, like the Lakes in Michigan in the summer.  I languished for a couple of hours and rode back to the car and then drove back to camp. I took another shower and split some wood. Dinner tonight was fresh caught red snapper, succotash, and my onion-mushroom-spinach fry up. I looked at the weather in New Orleans and discovered the weather was going to go south on Sunday evening, the day I was planning on arriving. Upon further reading, I saw rain and high winds in the forecast for the rest of the week. Bummer!! I decided that I would go directly to NO tomorrow and enjoy four days before the rains come. In fact the drive home was altered from a Rt 40 way home through Memphis and Nashville and then the mountains to a more southern route on Rt 20 to 85 to 58 and home by way of Chesapeake Bridge and Tunnel instead of Bay Bridge. If this rain is snow up there, yikes. I had a grand fire and finished the Rye from Props.
I woke at 6:15 and got up and broke camp after breakfast and then showered for my four-hour drive to New Orleans the fast way. I stopped at Lazy Magnolia Brewery in Kiln, MS before heading to St Bernard SP a half hour from NO in the SE direction on the Mississippi River. I set camp and headed into Nawlins on Rt 39 because that was where the shops were. I found a Chase and a great market, Beaux Mart and got some local catfish, which I’m grilling for dinner with some asparagus.
After dinner, I took on NO per Tim’s suggestions. Tim is my friend from Berlin who loves New Orleans. I found a parking spot easily enough on Elysian Fields Ave between Burgundy and Dauphine and walked around Washington Square to Frenchmen and the Spotted Cat Music Club. I walked in just as the band was taking a break. So I went across the street to DBA and a country western quintet, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Review were ripping up the place. A female vocal and drummer and three dudes on lead, bull bass, and rhythm, all with cowboy hats. They were fabulous. At their break I went back to the Spotted Cat and that sextet, a female vocal, two trumpets, a guitar, piano, and bull bass was getting back to it. They opened with blue skies and took off from there with some lovely and soulful jazz. After the set I strolled Frenchmen and found Vaso, which was pushing some fabulous blues out the door, and it drew me in. I ordered some jambalaya and enjoyed my third musical treat, a simple trio of guitar, bass, and drums and the night was still young. I was planning on being at Vaughan’s lounge by 10:30 to hear another band Tim told me about. Vaughan’s is very funky and the group that night was all funk. The lead played trombone and was accompanied by a violin, alto and tenor sax, trumpet, drums, piano, guitar and various singers and others from the audience. It was a happening place and the sets of funk were mind blowing. I didn’t get home until 2 AM. Four fabulous music shows and all different styles in such a small area. Amazing is too calm to say about the experience. And there is dancing, fabulous dancing in all these places. I have to thank Tim for the start on my adventure in NO.
I woke late and drag myself out of bed at 8:30. After breakfast I took a great bike ride along the levee of the Mississippi on Rt 39 from the park. I was on a road below the water line. This was terrible during Katrina.  The rebuilds were similar to the Gulf Coast, everything on stilts. I walked up to the top at the ten-mile mark and was amazed that the river was right there and I’d be in water over my head. It was weird that folks lived like this. The ride was fabulous and now I’ve passed over the river in Minnesota and down here as well in other places along its long journey. More to come as I plan on driving it up to Memphis on my home or I may do Rt 20 across Mississippi and Alabama on a southern route home and save that other trip fro warmer days. Decisions, decisions, decisions. After the ride I split all the wood and took a shower. I headed into town on a brewery tour. My first stop was Lafitte Brewing Company. It didn’t exist. My next stop was Nola Brewing Company, which gives everyone two free beers from 2-3 every Friday. I gave my chits away and got a flight of beers not available with the chit. I tasted two collaborations, which came in 750 bottles, a beet wheat, and a brown ale. I ordered a pulled pork and had a curry brown ale. I took a growler of the beet wheat and got one each of the two collaborations. My next stop was a dud, like the first, it didn’t exist. I moved on to the fourth brewery Courtyard Brewery, which only had five of their own beers but some great beers mainly from California. I knew them but was interested in Courtyards stock. All were good and I took the Hibiscus Wheat home. I had toured a part of NO, that the tour buses don’t go to. I saw mansions, Tulane, poverty, the docks, and the inner city as I used Rt 10 to and from. I went by the WWII museum, the Superdome, and many other tourist sites. Beer is good; you see so much finding the breweries. It is so weird getting home at 5:30 and it is dark. I hate it.
Another fabulous night in NOLA. I arrived at Chickie Wah Wah in time to hear Susan Cowsill and the band do the rod Stewart tribute. She had good guitars, but a superb fiddle player who brought the house down each time he played. I got a taste of Second Line Brewery IPA while listening to the tunes. Second Line is on the roster for tomorrow. I’m meeting then most interesting people in these venues here in The Big Easy, they are so friendly. When the band stopped I headed off to The Maple Leaf to hear Bonerama. Now this is a unique band. A sextet: a drummer, a lead guitar, a bass player who doubles on the Tuba, and three, yes three trombones; hence Bonerama. They sing, too. They produce such a unique sound and make funk a cultural event. They of course in all their purity, called the Tuba the sousaphone. I didn’t home until 2:30 and in bed by 3 after consuming a ham and cheese sandwich. I woke five hours later to the beauty of the birds. I put out birdseed to attract them and to provide me with their music. This is a wonderful campground. One thing I have noticed as I am traveling at this time of year, the camps are empty and I can find the best sites and keep them in mind for next time. I hope there will be many next times for me here in Nawlins. I spent a lazy morning at the site planning the day.
I drove into town to go to two breweries and spend some time on a Saturday in the French Quarter. I know, crazy, but it has to be done. I know how to get to and from Big Easy without GPS. I find a good parking spot Esplanade Ave and walked down Royal through the heart of the Quarter. I was heading for Crescent City Brewing and lunch. Royal is a very fancy street south of Bourbon and is filled with fancy shops and art galleries. A street fair was about to happen and the streets were blocked off. When I got to St Louis, I ran into Usher, what a surprise. He was climbing out of his huge SUV with two bodyguards and of course everyone around was going crazy and snapping pictures. I’m a NYCer, what’ the big deal, haha. I got down to Decatur St, which is so commercial and jammed with great Mardi Gras shops. I found  a place at the bar at Crescent City and ordered a flight of five beers and a half dozen oysters followed by fried alligator. The food was grand and different from what I have had before, definitely a creole attitude. The beers were German primarily with a very good Belgium Bock as the month special. I took a growler of the Bock home. While there, a father and son bellied up next to me and we got to chatting. They are on a field trip and Asheville wasn’t on their itinerary. They were not familiar with Asheville breweries and so I showed them on my Brewery maps App and the son’s jaw fell open. I did some explaining and they rerouted their trip to Asheville. They also were disappointed in Bourbon St. I told them about Frenchmen St and all the clubs, thanks Tim. Satiated, I walked down Bourbon for kicks and oh how it has changed and so trashy compared to what I remember from years ago before Katrina. Anyway, got to the car and moved on to my second brewery, Second Line. This is a new brewery, open for only four months. They had a neat outside area and the bar. No toilets yet, so they had those outside toilets, they didn’t have glasses for beer or flights. Definitely in their infancy. I couldn’t even get a growler because they are not producing enough for that. They are in some restaurants in town, because I had it in a club. I hope they make it because it seems about half the breweries I sought were closed. Crescent City, NOLA, and Abita seem to have the market here. Done for the day I arrived home just as the sun was setting. I took a short nap for energy tonight. I made a chopped salad and headed in about 8:30 heading Frenchmen. Again parking was easy on Elysian Fields Ave again as the other night. When I got to Spotted Cat and DBA, I texted Tim about the venues and he suggested the Cat all night, so I paid the $5 cover and entered as Panorama was beginning their second set. They were featured in the December Offbeat magazine. A fun group with a a very animated clarinet player, who quite frankly reminded me of Pee Wee Herman. The accordion player gave the old time jazz band a polka or WWII European version of American Jazz. At the end of the set, I headed down Frenchmen to people watch and take it all in. I felt like I was on Duval St in Key West, it was wild and crazy with some of the most bizarre sightings of bizarre behavior. The tourists and young kids were enthralled. I headed back to the Cat and the place was packed. I saw one of the three trombone players from Bonerama on stage. I went and said hello and we got to talk. As the other players assembled to hear Jazz Viper, I found a seat on the piano bench next to a young lady and her friend on a stool. The seat was available so I sat. Front row seats!! The band was killer. The young lady next to me was intrigued by the dancers and asked one of the guys to show her the dance steps. She was fabulous. As it turned out these two young women were teachers in San Diego in NO for an IB Conference. The dancer, Danielle, was a first grade teacher and the other one, Katie, was a third grade teacher. During the second set and the place was still packed, when four sharply dressed women walked in. They all wore tails and fancy decorated hats and all had moustaches painted on. They were Chaplin. And then they started to dance and they were incredible. First the four danced with each other and then paired up with the better dancing men. What a show and the band responded perfectly.  Danielle was intrigued with one Chaplin who stylized well and she went and spoke with her. Suddenly they were dancing and she was learning. The ladies left after the second set as they had conferencing in the morning. I had given them tips on Sunday venues, thanks Tim, which they planned on for their last night in NO. I, too, left soon after that after paying respects to the band, knowing I was going to see them again on Monday night, since they are regulars at the Cat on Mondays. The ride home was easy and I was in bed by 1:30. An early night, which was muchly needed after my first two nights here.
On Sunday, I woke at 8 and did some cleaning up. Stripped the bed and hung linens on line to freshen up in the stiff and steady breezes. Did some stowing away of souvenirs and general reordering of things. Since the park has Wi-Fi and I’m the only one in my area and only about five other campers in a 50-campsite area, the streaming is good so I watched the Spurs tragically drop one to Newcastle. It is their first loss since opening day and when they are doing so well in the Europa league. I took a twenty-mile bike ride. I altered the route a bit and went around the famous English Corner. It is said that in 1699 a Frenchmen convinced an Englishman to turn around and leave the area as it was French. The Brit left without a fight. I can feel the rain coming and am glad for it and to get in a ride before hand. The Scamp could use it too. I grilled some catfish and made some succotash for lunch before an early start into town. That was the plan. After dinner I lay down for a sec and ended up waking at 8. Missed the two ladies Tim suggested I see sing. The rain woke me. It rained all night and so I listened to the last part of The Big Broadcast and heard It’s a Wonderful Life done with Jimmy and Donna. Fell asleep after it and slept until 8:30 when the sun sent its rays into the Scamp to wake me up. I must have been exhausted to have slept so much. I’ll see them next time.
I did some chores: Post office for more stamps; Beaux Mart for more food; and Chase for more cash. After putting the groceries away, I took off down Rt 39 the other way, down the peninsula into the bayou. This is rural, rural, rural. The levee on one side and the other side is the Mississippi. The stark difference between those who rebuilt and those who didn’t is amazing. The junk still from the flooding is evident. The new stuff is up on stilts or on more cinder blocks I would suspect. All the mobile homes are new. Then I would turn a corner and see the remnants of what was destroyed as it sat there as testament to the disaster. The most amazing sight was the Phoenix High School built on stilts. It was absolutely stunning and otherworldly. I discovered that the ferry will take me across for free and bring me back for a buck. I will check this out next time as I want to explore that other side and drive further down into the Gulf and the Bayou. I went back into town to get postcards and just to walk around the same streets that were wild and crazy on Saturday to see them in a more calm and empty state. I sat in a couple of cafes writing postcards, listening to jazz, and sipping a beer. I could have been in Paris. I heard French from quite a few couples walking by me. After posting the cards in a mailbox at the corner of Royal and Esplanade, I retrieved my car on Elysian Fields, my favorite parking place, and drove home to make dinner: grilled steak, fried mushroom-onion-spinach, and steamed carrots in a butter and maple syrup sauce. As dinner was being readied I decided to eat outside and have a fire. I haven’t had a fire since I’ve been here. Since it gets dark so early and I will be done with dinner early and won’t be going into town until 8ish, why not have a good fire. I’ve got the wood. As the fire roars; I ate, cleaned up, and got dressed for the night, it is a bit chilly. I get my favorite parking place on Elysian Field Ave by the park. I walk around the corner to Frenchmen and start with the Cat and work my way down Frenchmen until I arrive at Maison and hear a melodious sound wafting from the establishment and stop, look in and see a brassy band wailing, so I enter said establishment and see a spot right at the bar in front of the band. It’s available so I belly up to the bar and again I’m in a prime place to see and hear music. The place is packed, so that’s a good sign. The group is Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses and they are kicking it. She is fabulous on soprano sax and as I look at her I recognize her from Panorama, where she played tenor sax. Tonight she has the soprano and alto Saxes with her. They are very fluid and have an odd and enjoyable discordance about them that is always smoothly brought back to the familiar refrain. What a lovely surprise. At their break, I walk back towards the Cat and listen to the sounds exiting each establishment as I stroll and it seems every band is on break, except the band in the Cat. I enter and again find a place behind the pole facing the band of two Saxes, two trumpets, Tuba, drums, and guitar; they are Dominic Grillo and the Frenchmen St All-Stars. Knowing I have to be at my next place, Sydney’s Lounge to meet up with Tim’s friends Carol and Terry to hear King James and the Special Men, at 10:30; I can sit and enjoy this new sound and group. Since it is only a six-minute drive to Sydney’s I relax and enjoy this group until they finish. Perfect, I will be at Sydney’s by 10:15 to find Carol and Terry. As it happens that is just what happens. As I walk in there is carol at the bar and we meet. I recognize her from a photo she sent. As we sit at a window overlooking the band and the dance floor, in walks Dominic Grillo, who was the lead in the last band I just saw at cat. Terry tells me these guys play in four or five bands and two or three times a night just to make enough to live. That explains why I’m starting to see familiar faces in different bands. This band has a following and the dance floor is undulating all night long. The three of us really can’t talk, but then we are there to listen to the music. They leave early as well, after the first set. I hang in a comfortable couch during the break and enjoy the last set from my perch, as the mosh pit is alive and swarming. Another successful night in the Big Easy.
My last day here. I start it off with a good twenty-mile bike ride. I decide to take the ferry to the other side and follow Rt 23 to Venice. I get the 12:45 and am on the other side in the time it takes to listen to Stairway. Immediately I know this side is different from the east side. Here a four lane road; there a two lane road. Speed limit is 55 here; there it is 45. The houses are land dwellers; not on stilts.  Perhaps one reason for this difference is the damning being put up by Corps of Engineers. This side is much more peopled. There are lots of schools. At first it is very suburban and then instantly it is rural with all of the agriculture. This was followed by industrial parks with oil refineries and helipads for service to the platforms out in the gulf. The parking lots were filled with the trucks and cars of the folks working out there. At first I thought it might be a car depot or a used car sales, but then saw signs indicating otherwise. When I finally got to Venice, I was introduced to hundreds of shrimp boats. This west bank of the Mississippi River south of New Orleans is the industrial backbone for the state. I like the other side, the east side better. I make it back for the 4:45. Dinner is started by 5:30. I have the last catfish fillet, which I grill, some baked beans and my mushroom-onion-spinach concoction. I’m rushing cause I need to get to the St Louis Cathedral for the “Oh shit it’s Christmas” concert, which is given every year now for seven. As luck would have it, Terry and I meet outside the Cathedral where at least a thousand people listened to the splendid Christmas concert with the NOLA accent. We walked over to Coops, on Decatur, where we had a beer and he some chicken, which is great at this eatery. We walked and talked awhile when he got on his bike and I headed down Royal into the belly of the beast. I stroll around the FQ for ¾ of an hour or so before I refreshed at the car and went to the Cat. The early group was on and I settled in to listen. After half an hour they took a break and I strolled up Frenchmen and discovered a good blues band and stayed for a set or the set being played. At the break, I headed to the Cat to hear Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses. It was a good send off for me from NOLA and good memory in anticipation of my next visit. Off to Natchez.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Forgottern Coast

I arrived in Ochlockonee River SP, known for the white squirrels,  in Sopchoppy, FL at 1:30 PM on Monday November 30, 2015.  I left Cait’s 7 AM and followed 75 to 300 to 19 to 319 to get here. The week with Cait and George and Tommy was great. We went to great restaurants that Cait and George had planned for as well as breweries. We took some great hikes in the mountains of GA. Thanksgiving was glorious, calm, and peaceful. Planning next steps as Cait prepares to give birth in March.
The drive was eventful as I passed a horrendous tracker trailer accident on the opposite side, 75 North. Once I left 75 at 300 I was in rural GA and saw cotton fields ready for harvesting and harvested; cotton gins well stocked with picked cotton; pecan trees surrounding houses and fields of pecan trees at the National Pecan Company; men in orange cleaning the roadways; and rural, rural, rural. I saw a derailed freight train. It was Monday after Thanksgiving and the roads were mine. When I arrived at the SP, the place was empty. I took a site facing south and set camp. I walked around and found the beach on the river, the bathhouse, and the nature trails. I checked in for three nights and collected maps and info about the area, The Big Bend Scenic Byway. Tomorrow I will do a day trip back to the beginning at St Marks and the lighthouse and work my way back to SP. After checking in and getting some wood, I rode the mountain bike on one of the loop trails in the pines and found huge pinecones to start the fire. I came upon a fox and surprised him. Deer crossed my path. Good exercise. I haven’t done much biking lately; just good long walks with Cait, George, and Brady, their Labradoole. We had a beautiful sunset.
When I arrived at Ochlockonee River SP, the temperature was above 80 degrees. I changed out of my shorts and t-shirt into my bathing suit to set up camp. I developed a quick sweat. When the sun fell, I had to put on sweatpants and my long sleeve white bike shirt, just like I would at Assateague. The sky was brilliant with stars and the pinecones I collected, they were twice as large as my pinecones from home, helped make the fire bright and constant.  The moon rose very late and lit up the campsite beautifully.  Before the moon appeared the camp was pitch black. I wore my cashmere to bed and slept well. After breakfast, I set out on my day trip to Bald Point SP to enjoy the Gulf and the scenic roads. I toured around roads, going down dead ends and around communities. Houses are built on stilts to protect them from rising water. The Coastal drive is fine. The drive down Alligator Drive to Alligator Point was fun, beautiful, and isolated. Katrina had an affect here. I roamed on the Coastal Hwy to Catrabelle and turned around. That was enough for today. I stopped at The Pearle Restaurant and had a dozen local Apalachicola oysters, which were fabulously meaty, and the blackened Sheephead fish, a local white fish. What a delicious local meal. I got some more wood and repaired to the Scamp.
After a chopped salad dinner, I built a fire and went to the hammock and enjoyed some good beer as I gazed above at the pinpricks in the fabric of the universe.  So very simple and primitive. That may be the best description of where I am, the “Big Bend” south of Tallahassee on the panhandle of Florida. Every store and fish house I enter is so rustic and primitive. So much character and how relieved the locals seem to be rid of the crowds, a short respite until the snowbirds descend after the holidays. The campers here are from New Brunswick, Canada; Wisconsin; Michigan; Minnesota.
I woke to heavy dew and fog. I was expecting rain. After breakfast and cleanup, I headed out to follow the road around the forest to the beginning of this Coastal Hwy at St Marks Lighthouse. I left camp at 9 and as soon as I turned onto the forest loop road to the lighthouse the heavens opened up. Better to be in the forest than the shore during this deluge. It was tranquil as I listened to classical music on NPR from FSU. It was like being in Montana; nothing but beautiful scenery and no cars. I’m in a tropical locale though. The road to the lighthouse was magical, a road to OZ. The road snakes between Gulf and bay. Water nearly to the road edge at times. Birds, wildlife, primitive landscape all around.
It’s pouring when I get to the lighthouse. I’m alone. I get my felt hat for the rain and my raincoat and walk around the lighthouse. It has a rich history, including a Civil War history. I am in a different world from the one I know. St Marks is an angler’s paradise, like West OC in MD. The rain stopped as I pulled into a roadside shack called Ouzts, Too. I saw raw bar and stone crabs on the Marquee. I got some Stone Crabs for lunch. I got four whole legs with a pair of pliers. This is what I mean by simple and primitive. I got all the meat without a cut on my hands. Still on a mission to find postcards, I was persistent. Postcards are not to be found here. I finally found free ones at the Visitor Center for Wakulla, FL. I absconded with 30 and left them proper remuneration. Instead of cooking dinner this Wednesday evening, I decided to go out. I chose the Hamaknockers local BBQ joint. I’ve passed it so many times, I had to try it. I’m glad I did. The pork and chicken were fabulous. It was dark when I got back to camp at 7PM. I’ve gotta go to the Southern Hemisphere in the our winter. This early darkness is just too unnatural. I had another good evening by the fire.
I woke early and after breakfast, cleaning up, and doing some packing; I got the road bike down and took a 20-mile ride up the road to through the forest. It was like biking in Berlin, no traffic and beautiful. I broke camp, showered and bid adieu to this pleasant campgrounds. I followed the Coastal Hwy 98 to St Joseph Peninsula SP and found site #13 to my liking. It is set way back and I was able to turn the Scamp so the door is facing the water and the back is facing the road. Perfect privacy since I also have privets on each side blocking sites on either side. The water is an estuary that leads to a bay from the Gulf and is filled with waterfowl. To the West is the Gulf and the beach is wide and long. Great walks in store. There is an Outer Banks feel about the place, especially with all the dunes.
The ride was very pretty as I passed through Carrabelle and over a bridge to a very exclusive and dramatic drive right along the Gulf. On the left were camper resorts, resorts, and private summer homes. When I got to Eastport, I went over a long bridge, like seven-mile bridge in the Keys, and came into Apalachicola, a quaint gentrified, an upscale town. I was looking for a brewery in the town, but it was closed and did not open until 4PM. I won’t be driving the thirty miles back. I gotta move on. Lots of road work being done, so I had long delays. Once I turned off to the SP, I noticed a bike path on the side of the road. The path went all the way to the Park. I have found my 24-mile ride. The temperature has dropped about 20 degrees from when I first arrived. Now I’m in long pants and shirt with my hooded sweat shirt and cap.
The weather sure does change rapidly down here. Saturday morning was cloudless and without a strong wind. I got my shorts and t-shirt on and set out on a walk on the beach. The beach is clear from here to the tip, seven miles away, no houses, no roads, no jeeps on the beach. The walk reminds me of North Uist in Scotland, a wide beach bereft of people. I walk this windswept, pelican rich beach for 2 ½ hours before I turn to go back. I could have been on a deserted island for five hours. It wasn’t until I returned to the walkway to the beach did I see a person and she was setting out on a walk of her own. I showered and cleaned up before heading out for the day. I got some propane and headed back to Oyster City Brewing Company in Apalachicola. I found a parking spot right in front and went to the raw bar next door for some lunch. The Hole in the Wall was a very funky place and I got the last seat at the bar. The oysters and seafood Gumbo were excellent and the atmosphere was grand, everyone was talking to each other and with the guys shucking. I spent a goof hour or more in this fine establishment before I went next door to imbibe in some good beer and take more home. They were out of growlers and a young man was disappointed. I gave him one of my Burley Oak growlers, even though he was wearing a hat with that B on it. He didn’t buy it was for the Bronx Bombers. I made my way home through the road construction and had my last trout from my home freezer and a grand fire for my last night.
Sunday was supposed to be small craft warnings, but it wasn’t and after breakfast I took a bike ride before breaking camp and moving on. I ambled down 98 West and stopped at Shipwreck again for a dozen raw oysters and a small gumbo. Fortified I came upon Mexico City, a real development with lots of beachfront and homes. The road became two lanes soon as I approached Tyndall AF Base and then three lanes and at one point four as I passed through Panama City. The place reminded me of the Ft Lauderdale.  As I moved on the road became calmer with two lanes and large snowbird residences along the way. I arrived at Grayton Beach SP at 2:30 and realized I was now in Central Time Zone. The scenery and development really changed once I got to Mexico City. This is different for some reason and doesn’t really live up to the Forgotten Coastline, as it is very developed.
I walked to the beach for the sunset. It was a long walk and cold on the way back. The heater in the Scamp was on when I got home. I dressed appropriately and proceeded with cocktails by the fire as dinner marinated. More found wood allows me these luscious fires at night. At some point I was bit by some fire ants in my left foot. During my sleep I awoke with a terrible itch and took some Benadryl. When I woke in the morning, my foot was swollen and I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. As it happened this was a perfect beach day, light wind and clear skies. The temperature was in the 60’s and climbing. I took up a spot behind my camp and enjoyed the pleasures the Scamp offered while on the beach. I needed wood for the night fire and rushed to collect it at the ranger station. Instead of going home I drove to the sunset beach spot. The sunset was one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. The sun was a bright blood orange and the only clouds on the fringes of the sun were various shades of purple as the sun descended. I was blown away by the beauty of this sunset that rivals Madeket, Mallory Square, Cooper Harbor, and others. My foot is feeling better as am I as I prepared dinner.
It was a rough night with my foot flaming up again and thoughts of Amanda her her day of mourning. When I wake I feel a bit better, speak with Amanda and take a bike ride to clear my head and enrich my soul. The 20 mile ride takes me through an interesting community along the Gulf on 30A. Another beautiful day in the Panhandle as I head out for Big Lagoon SP and stop along the way to do a laundry.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Great Smoky Mountains & Asheville

I left Staunton/Walnut Hills KOA at 10:30 AM. I traveled 81 to 40 to 74 to 441 and arrived at Smokemont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains at 6:30PM. The drive was very pleasant with very little traffic and no delays. I stopped often. I don’t push it. It was a long day in the car, but I’ll be here for six days enjoying the park and the AT as well as drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway and of course all the breweries in and around Asheville. One of my favorite breweries, Innovation, is in Sylva, which is 20 minutes away. It is at least 10 degrees warmer here. I’m comfortable in a t-shirt.
I didn’t have a fire, because instead I crashed. Eight hours in the saddle demands sleep. First I ate, drank and was merry. I didn’t unhook the trailer from the car, because tomorrow I will find a better site. This one is in direct site line of the lights in the bathhouse. The sites here are backwards. The fire pit and table are on the driver side of the camp, which means they are on the backside of campers, whose p-doors open on the passenger side. At daybreak, I made some tea and walked the campgrounds. I found a perfect site, which would allow me to use the Scamp to block the bathhouse. I did the switcher-ohh and set up on B-29 for the next five nights. Done! After setting camp, I drove up to Clingmans Dome. Halfway up I was in the clouds. I turned around and saved this for another day, I have five more. I set off on a brewery tour. I first stopped at Food Lion to do some shopping. My first stop would be The Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in Franklin, NC. It was a nice drive on familiar roads, then new ones to Lazy Hiker, a neat setup with a food truck, an outside band shell, ample parking, and outside seating. I had a flight. I took a growler of their Amber Ale.  I drove this far distance so now my trip is home and I have another stop, Innovation Brewery, one of my faves. I found it easily as I came in from another direction, but immediately recognized where I was. I had come out this way once before on my way to Atlanta. Parking and walking into Innovation was like walking into Burley Oak. I was home. I immediately asked if they had any smoked beers. “No” was the barkeeps reply and “sorry about that” he added. “I have missed it too,” he added. I got a flight and took the un-smoked rye home. Their midnight rye is to die for. While at Innovation the other bar patrons provided great conversation and the name of a new brewery down the road, The Sneak E Squirrel Brewery came up. I remember driving by it and chuckling about the name. I didn’t get to the part of brewery and pub below. I saw this on my second passing and looking for it, since I had just heard about a new brewery in the Asheville area, surprise, not. I got a flight. Yes, I’m flying. I’m having a great conversation with the barkeep when the two of the guys from Innovation come in. We acknowledge our mutual surprise at seeing each other again. They are opening a new brewery soon, a year or two, and are doing research. They had been to OC and had missed the whole RT 50 brewery collection.  One of the things I live about touring is visiting breweries along the way. By the time I got home it was 6:30, twenty-four hours later. I set my trophies, the three growlers, on the picnic table.  Yes, three growlers. I know I came with two. At Lazy Hiker, they wouldn’t fill my growler, so I had to buy one of theirs. I have to remember to carry the growlers of the places I will be visiting. Or not. It was dark when I got home. Since I forgot to get something out of the freezer for dinner, I made a chopped salad. It’s time for a fire and a growler.
Since I’m in the western part of the Eastern Time zone, my sun in the morning appears later and sets later. I’m quite a distance from Berlin. I woke at 6:30, it was dark and very lightly sprinkling, barely noticeable. I went back to sleep. I woke to harder rain at 10:45. I guess everything is catching up to me.  Went back to bed and stayed there in the warmth till 12:30. The rain had stopped and I needed breakfast. I put on water for tea and went to put up the awning so I could sit outside. It is balmy and comfortable, except the light misty rain or heavy mist. I have breakfast clean up in the breaks of rain. Accompanying the rain has been at times heavy winds that swirl around driving the leavers this way and that way. A pile of leaves over there in a few minutes is now in another location. Tree twigs are everywhere, so I walk around a gather them and fill the fire pit.   I eventually have more than can fit so I make a pile next to the pit. As I’m sitting under the awning reading, the rain gets heavier. I cover the wood and fire pit with a tarp and repair to the Scamp. I get back into my PJ’s and get into bed to read. I read, I nap, I read, I nap. This is a very civilized day in spite of the rain and wind.  I grill a trout and have some asparagus and potatoes to accompany the fish. No fire as it is pouring now. I can hear the stream even more and the rivulets by the Scamp and off the Scamp provide a jazzy percussion. In bed I read and turn out the lights and lay there. Maybe I sleep, maybe not. It is dark. The sound of the stream is melodic and hypnotizing; and oh so soothing. Since I’ve left the curtain open the sun wakes me at 6:45. It’s not up but it light is present and the sky is clear. I bound out of bed and go outside. WOW!  Wet but warm and the sky is clear. This is going to be a good day. I clean last night’s dishes, clean the Scamp, hang the rugs on the line, hang the tarp, and the rope mat in front of the Scamp. I put the awning away and have breakfast outside. After cleaning up, I take off on a pretty little hike behind the campgrounds along the Oconaluftee River. I feel as if I’m walking on the set of The Last of the Mohicans, which was filmed here in the Smoky Mountains. The melody of the river, newly swollen from the heavy rains that started at 4 and ended at midnight. The birds skittering about and the ubiquitous rhododendron played beautifully with the music of the river. After this invigorating 2 hour sojourn, I came back replenished the water and then took a shower. It was early as I headed up Newfound Gap Road, the road that goes through the Smokies from Cherokee to Gatlinburg. I stopped along the way. I had abandoned this trip on Tuesday because of the fog. No fog today. The vistas were spectacular. The road was a good NP road like all of them. Logging was a blight on the Smokies until they became a NP, just like out west. We may be getting better about commerce and the environment, or least more aware. Today I was headed to Clingmans Dome. The seven-mile ride from the main road was a roller coaster ride. The hike and I mean hike up to the Dome from the parking lot was killer. It had to be ¾ of a mile at an 8% grade. There were many benches along the way for the wayfarer to rest weary legs. I enjoyed the task as I had already had a good hike, so I was warmed up. I kept a steady pace all the way to the top and to my surprise the Dome, which looked very much like the platform at Shark Valley in the Everglades. I walked the circular ramp to the ultimate goal, the Dome and the 360 view of the Great Smoky Mountains NP. I picked the perfect day to be up here. I could see forever. Since it was getting crowded with all the folks I passed on the way up, I descended. I continued on the Newfound Gap Road until I came upon a gaggle of cars whose occupants were pointing and oohing and aahing about something, so I stopped. A bear was foraging in the woods. I chuckled as I had stopped to see a bear as people in Assateague stop to see the ponies. I drove to Sugarlands, which is the Tennessee side of this road. I turned around and drove home.
The night sky was full and the fire warm as I killed the three growlers. Friday was another glorious day. I did some chores in the morning and then headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Smokies to Asheville, 87 miles away. It took me 2 ¼ hours to get to 12 Bones, which was my first stop for lunch and their great ribs and sides. I love the ambiance, too and the crowds always out the door. I headed to Wedge, just across the river and again the place was closed. Their hours suck, for me anyway. I’ve only been to Wedge once and like the whole atmosphere, but it is on the outskirts of town and not walkable. I drove into town and found a 24 hour parking lot for three dollars across from the bus station. First I went to Cucina24 to make dinner reservations for 7:30 at the Chef bar. From there I walked to Wicked Weed and sampled a few new brews and grabbed a four pack of Tyranny. From there I found the bookstore and got George Ted Koppel’s new book, Lights Out for his birthday. After that I headed to Lab, one of Cait’s favorite spots and enjoyed a flight there. Nothing to take with me from there. After that I was heading to the car when I saw that Thirsty Monk was open, so I went in. Downstairs was a Belgium tasting room, while the ground floor was NC and American brews, and upstairs a specialty cocktail lounge where the bartender made her on tonics and sodas and wild drinks, a true mixologist. I enjoyed an excellent flight and found the Rye on Rye dynamite. Unfortunately for me, they did not allow growlers and didn’t have what was on tap in bottles. The Thirsty Monk is an all day kind of place with the three floors of distinct beverage offerings. It was my first time there. It was across the street from Jack in the Woods a bar with good music I was going to after dinner at Cucina 24. I dropped my goodies off in the car and watched the dramas unfold at the bus station. Asheville is an interesting town with an obvious gulf between the haves and the have-nots. With all the breweries and restaurants and fancy shops, it is bizarre seeing so many homeless and down and out in the streets too rubbing elbows with the musicians who are everywhere. The whole inner town reminds me of Times Square, but with hills. It is action filled, busy, at times loud, but always going. The other thing I will never get used to about Asheville, is that when you immediately leave the town you are on a two or three lane highway going 70 MPH. I can only reiterate I’m glad I didn’t retire here, I couldn’t have stood the NYC atmosphere. It is certainly a great place to visit. After a quick rest, I walked the block to Hi-Wire and walked away with a couple of 750’s of the Russian Imperial Stout and a six-pack of the Rye IPA. Instead of walking with them, I took them back to the car and grabbed a bag to carry my loot from the next four breweries I was heading towards. My first stop was Twin Leaf Brewing, which I had visited just after it had opened. I got a growler of their Old Gaffer, English style ale, which is very good. From there, I walked down the block to a new brewery for me, Catawba. It was quite the place, huge and packed. The only thing I could get there was a six-pack of White Zombie, a satisfying white ale. I walked around the corner and there was Green Man, a real hippies kind of place with International soccer on the televisions screens. Slim pickings in the carry out area, so I just got a three-pack of their Leaf Blower. My last stop before dinner was Burial, another new brewery for me. This visit was a total leap of faith in that I couldn’t taste a beer that looked intriguing, Scythe, Rye IPA, while I did have a taste of the Hermit Saints Saison. One note was the labeling at Burial was brilliant and worthy to show the gang at Burley. It was seven and I walked back to the car, deposited my loot and changed for dinner and the music club afterwards. Cucina24 is a lovely restaurant and I was seated at the Chef bar by the open fire pit, warm and cozy. I could see the whole operation from my seat and that was fun. I saw a head chef, a sous-chef, a salad and cold plate chef, and a pizza and brick oven chef. The coordination was superb. A waiter took my order and I had a Tyranny from Wicked Weed. I started with a local duck country pate, followed by a local beet salad, and finally a rabbit for dinner. Dinner was fabulous. I walked around the corner to the Jack in the Woods and got a seat at the bar at 9. I ordered a Rye Girl, one always needs a Rye girl. A female singer was warming us up for the band. She had a guitar that looked as if she should be playing Bonnie Raitt music, but instead she was wailing and moaning through songs like a weak Joni Mitchell. Not the stuff you need to hear, unless you want to slit your wrists. Disappointment was further met by the main group that took forever to get ready and then get their beers. I left, knowing this was not going to be good, especially from what I was hearing as they warmed up. Since I had a long drive home, about 1 ¼ hours, so instead of one more, I left and got home at midnight and had a fire and enjoyed the last of my Bunker C from Burley and then headed to bed as the moon descended behind the mountain on another clear sky filled with stars.
It has been so nice returning to the Smokies every night. The cars on the road can’t be heard because of the roaring stream and they look like fairies with the white lights passing along and broken by the trees and adds to the magic. Saturday was another glorious start. The sun cleared the eastern mountain at 9AM. Being in the valley provides protection but not full light since it goes down the western mountain at 4PM. Not much sun during the day, like Yosemite. I had decided to tour breweries west of Asheville. I drove to the furthest destination, Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City. I liked the brown ale and Spearfinger, which I took with me. I had a good conversation with the brewer and we discussed their expansion and plans. I have loved the positive attitude these small businesses have.  I still have a bottle or two of their Trail Magic Belgium ales, so I just tasted them this trip. Potent beers these Trail Magic Belgiums.  I headed back to Sylva to get a couple of growlers of Innovation’s Rye and an elk burger and another growler of Prison Shank from Sneak E Squirrel. I drove to Waynesville and started my tour at Frog Level Brewing, which has a beautiful location on a river and they use the backyard fantastically. I took Nutty Brown Ale and Salamander Ale with me. From there I headed into town to visit Tipping Point and Boojum. At Tipping Point I had a flight and left with their Rye IPA. I walked down the pretty Main Street to Boojum, a new brewery for me. They had lots of experimental beers and stouts. All were good. I took the Imperial Pumpkin Ale and the Dark Zone Milk Stout. My last stop was BearWaters Brewing where I had a lovely Sunburst beer and took a growler of it home. Beer touring was done and it was time to go home. I decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway back to camp, thus avoiding Cherokee. I love driving this road as I feel as if I’m in a low flying plane as I look down into the valley. I got home in the dark, made a fire and sat and had a beer, Innovation’s Rye. That’s why I got two growlers. I prepared dinner and did some clean to start my departure for Cait and George’s house Sunday morning. It was cold and even colder when I woke up Sunday morning. I quick and easy pack up and sorting of beers and I left camp at 9:30. I took a road that had me drive through Nantahala National Forest and a gorgeous white water rafting river. The drive the Marietta was easy and I was at Cait’s house by 1:30. My daughter looks so beautiful and pregnant. It was good to be with them and share our stories of their trip to Thailand and with the elephants and me and my trips to the Great Lakes and this current one.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A weekend in Staunton, VA

I arrived at the Staunton KOA in Walnuts Hills just before noon on Friday the 13th. Four Shakespeare plays in three days, Yippee! So far on this trip I haven’t had the door of the Scamp facing south, which would be very advantageous this time of the year. In fact both sites had be facing due north. Advantage is sun rises on bedside of Scamp and it sets on tableside. This is a very nice campground. I have easy access to Staunton, which is what I wanted and easy access to road to next destination, the Smokies. After setting camp and taking a shower, I headed to Staunton, easy peasy, 15-20 minute ride. Got reacquainted and on way to the brewery I knew was across from the Black Dog Bike Shop, I found another brewery, that had a parking spot available in front of it. Shenandoah Valley Brewing was across from the railroad station and the Depot, a fun restaurant. I had a flight and took a growler of their Valley Rye IPA. I do love rye beers. There was a hint of smokiness to it. The owner was an old Navy guy who retired here to brew beer. Refreshed, I went to the glass blowing studio and perused their floor stock that was for sale. I walked next door to the brewery and it was closed. They open at 4PM. I didn’t want to wait. Tomorrow they open at 1PM, so I’ll wait till then. I drove home and had a glass of Rye IPA and some Taramosalata on rosemary crackers while sitting outside in the brilliance and warmth of the sun as it set. Then without warning the chill descended and drove me indoors to enjoy the western sky from the cocoon I call home. All in all, the Scamp is very comfortable in these conditions. The hi’s are mid 60’s while the low’s are low 30’s. Again glad I’m going south and out of the mountains. I will be returning back through the mountains in mid December though.
I drove into town about 5PM, little to no traffic. I get into town and onto East Beverley and find a parking spot. I decide to go to the Redbeard Brewing Company, the one I missed earlier and have waited for since I heard it was going to be a brewery, two years ago. The place was packed. It turned out they were introducing a trio of Moriarty beers, all at 10.0% abv, YIKES! I had three small glasses of their normal beers and loved all three. I had a tasty English Brown Ale, A Black Rye IPA, and a sweet potato IPA. I will go back for the Rye and taste the deadly trio. One of them got great reviews from those around me. I left there, reluctantly, and headed to Zynodoa for dinner. I sat at the bar as I had last time I was here. I sat on the corner next to a very lovely couple from Washington and had a house here. Zynodoa was their favorite eatery and they knew everyone. Ironically they always ate the same food, so when the oysters they normally had were replaced by scallops he was flummoxed. I had the duck pate to start and a Covina prepared with local veggies. We had a grand conversation and the time flew. At 7:20 I headed to The Blackfriars Playhouse to enjoy a performance of Antony and Cleopatra. I know the play, but have never seen it performed. The playhouse is magnificent. It is a bit different from the two theaters in England. The stage has a flat back with two big grand wooden doors on either side of a large opening in the middle draped with large velvet curtains. Above, three balconies from which musicians are playing as entertainment and accompaniment for the pre show buffoonery that usually mark a Shakespeare play. A man and a woman on stage and she is trying to clean up his act, his mouth as it were, so he promises to keep it clean and of course she takes over as a bawdy wench. He of course must bite his tongue. This serves as a great segue for them to remind us that we are about to see an adult love story, not a childish churlish romance like Romeo and Juliet, but an adult love story. When the play opens A&C are frolicking in a tame Plato’s retreat environment, with a eunuch fanning the pair as they roll around on a large fluffy rug and lots of pillows speaking of politics as they enjoy each other, sex and politics, strange bedfellows. Around them watching and partaking themselves are aides from both A&C entourages. It is quite the hook to capture the audience. The story we all know all too well unfolds and concludes, as we know it must and will, and always has. The production was first rate and the cast obviously enjoyed itself as they interacted well with the audience. Their wasn’t a groundling area per se, but they did have 6-7 chairs onstage on either side. It was to these audience members the cast interacted. After the play, I came home; I was exhausted so I fell right into bed. I sleep better on the road it seems. I woke twice to my own heater going on, though I was snug as a bug in a rug. I didn’t wake to hear campers leaving. I crawled, not hopped, out of bed, it was 8:30. I made tea and oatmeal, which always warms the camper instantly. I stepped outside, it was very cool, but not as windy, but still windy. I’m in a valley now so there is more protection. The sun is bright and warm in a cloudless sky. I take a walk bundled up. I forgot my scarf, damn!!! I just forgot to pack it. I have to put a scarf in the Scamp and leave it here! I walked by the playground, the pond, to the bathhouse and spoke to one of the owners. He and his wife had worked a KOA in Delaware Water Gap before coming down here to run this one. I knew the area, not the KOA, well since I used to canoe from Milford to the Gap and beyond once to Washington Crossing. I strolled back to my site and noticed the fire of the campers who had just left was still going. I grabbed my shovel, gloves, and fire tongs and went over to collect all the burning and none burned wood in the shovel and brought it back to my pit which was filled with twigs I had gathered. What a treat to have a little fire, because I wasn’t planning on making a fire until Sunday, since I was doing these plays all night. I got my chair and tea and sat facing the fire with my back to the sun, delightful.
Big day today, two plays, a matinee and an evening show. I didn’t plan on coming back between shows so I packed clothes for the evening performance. I started the day at noon at the Shenandoah Brewery and a glass of the Rye to start the day. I had a nice chat with the owner and his wife. A dream comes true for both of them. They have a great brewery in a fabulous location. I strolled the back streets of Staunton and arrived at the Bistro for lunch. Satiated, I ambled to the theater and enjoyed the pre show entertainment and prepared for another viewing of The Winter’s Tale. The staging was fine, Time was hilarious, and Autolycus was brilliant. Having seen Jeremy Irons do this in Stratford in 1986, I have a high bar for this play. The performance was very satisfying. After the show I went to the car for a growler and walked to the Redbeard Brewing Co to get a growler of their Black Rye IPA. I tasted the deadly Moriarty trio of a Jim Beam Aged, Hillcrest Aged, and Beam aged with coffee. All three are out of my league as for taste. Burley would love it. I had good conversation with fellow travelers enjoying a flight and some locals hankering after the deadly trio. I went back to the car to drop off my bounty and to change for the evening.  I found my way to Aioli, a tapas restaurant and sat at the bar. Soon after I arrived the place filled and more than half the folks were going to the theater. I’m glad I got here a bit early so I can eat leisurely. I liked this place when I was here before and it was even better this time. It isn’t easy finding good tapas, but I’m lucky here. I have plenty of time to stroll to the theater and enjoy more of the preshow and the assembly of the audience. Saturday night at The Blackfriars, what an event. Tonight’s show is Henry VI, Part 1.  I saw this as part of four plays, All three parts of Henry VI and Henry VIII, in London a number of years back. This cast had fun with it and all the swordplay and use of entire stage. A beautifully action packed and sensitive play all at the same time. A tricky job well done. Rather than hang in Staunton, I drove home to have a fire and enjoy some good beer calmly. I slept through the night again except for one time when the heater came on. I woke and jumped out of bed at 8:30 to start the tea and make my oatmeal. It is another cloudless sky and warmer day than yesterday.  It’s Sunday morning and the campers are scurrying out and heading home of to next destination. I love sitting in my cabin enjoying tea or a book or the computer and watching the rigs exit and the morning activity that wanes at about mid morning when the camp settles in for some calm before the afternoon influx of new campers.
Two observations: airplanes and railroads. The highways are ubiquitous, thanks Ike.
Wherever I camp I hear the railroad horns over and over and over again.  All through the night as I sit by the fire or lie in bed, I hear the freight train passing through. Also The nighty skies are filled with airplanes, not like at home in Berlin. The airplane traffic makes the night sky different.
I woke at 8:15 very refreshed and ready to head to the Smokies. My last day in Staunton was glorious. I visited the glass blower again and then proceeded to the Depot for brunch before the show. I then stopped across the street at the Shenandoah Valley Brewery for a glass of Valley Rye IPA and a growler of same said beer. I deposited my booty in the car and walked up to the theater. Today’s performance was going to be packed as the bus unloading students from a local high school. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was on stage for today. The perfect way to end this culturally delightful weekend. I love this play for so many reasons, the biggest being the year we performed it at MBHS. There was a good audience and Bottom did not disappoint the demanding crowd. After the show I drove home and spent the night at home, having a salmon and zuke dinner followed by a roaring fire and the Big Broadcast as I enjoyed my Black Rye IPA. Now it’s off to the Smokies.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 Trip

The packing for these trips is getting easier and I’m developing a system to make the packing more efficient. Now when I look at a place in the car or Scamp, I know what I need to pack to fill that space. One thing is certain, I’ve packed less. Trying to make it simpler.  This trip is going to take me out to the Virginia mountains, let me enjoy some Shakespeare, drink some beer in Asheville while residing in the Smokies. From there to my daughter’s house, in Marietta, GA, to enjoy Thanksgiving with her, her husband, and my son. I haven’t seen her since she told me she is having a baby boy at the end of March. After that I’m going south through Tallahassee to the Gulf Coast via Panacea. I’ll be following the coast to New Orleans and then follow the Mississippi to Memphis and on through Nashville and home by December 19. That’s the plan any way, let’s see what happens.
After I had considered the car and Scamp packed, it started to rain. It rained all night and very hard at times. I still had to put the bikes on the roof and last minute stuff, always. The rain let up enough so doing the last chores was easy peasy. I took a shower and hit the road at 8:30 AM. I had to stop at the Labs to give blood, but it was on the way. The trip was foggy and misty and heavy at times. One thing I’m not used to is almost seeing the gas gauge move down. It is like I have a gas leak or something. I realize as I get gas and watch the mileage, I’m fine. I’ve been driving the other car for so long I’m used to better gas mileage.
The Skyline Drive is shrouded in fog with a trace of rain. Every once and a while a clear patch happens and then back under the shroud. The view to either side is like looking into a steaming cauldron. The trees are pretty striped of leaves, especially after this rain. The leaves abandoned the trees around my house, so I knew it was time to go south. The rain helped out here at Shenandoah NP’s Big Meadows campground.  The section that is open is a third full and I find a sweet spot with access to walking trails. The rain has stopped. It is very foggy, but not cold. I’m in a t-shirt and long pants. A sweatshirt makes it more comfortable, but not necessary. I’ve set camp, turned on the heater, and made lunch.
At 4:20 the clouds cleared and I saw blue skies. Since it is getting darker earlier, I started dinner: succotash, grilled trout and asparagus. The sky was so clear, every star was visible. Fall camping requires that one be vigilant about the fire. I would have slept through the night had it not been for the wind rocking the awning. I debated putting it away and nixed the idea. In the morning, I relocated the clothesline and dispatched the awning. May need it tomorrow as I hear it may rain in the afternoon. 
I packed lunch and snacks for my hike to Rapidan Camp, Hoover’s retreat. I packed a banana, a PBJ on raisin bread, a YooHoo, a hard-boiled egg, two Nature Valley bars, and water. Hoover created this place so he and his cronies and other political leaders could discuss matters in a relaxing atmosphere that included fishing. One of the cabins on the camp is called The Prime Minister’s. Streams were created to provide the president and his guests access to fishing spots.  It is a unique camp and a precursor to Camp David. The hike took me along the AT, Appalachian Trail. I left the AT to follow another trail to Rapidan Camp. I found a silver lining in that rain from yesterday. The Rapidan River was running violently and loudly, lucky me. When I hike I have a pair of ski poles. When I hike I am concentrating on making each limb do twenty-five percent. Once upon a time I’d end a hike and my legs ached. After a time, I started using ski poles and found my legs didn’t ache. Now I feel like a hike is a full body workout. When I arrived at the Camp, I was alone. I walked around surveying ‘my’ grounds. I decided to lunch on the Prime Minister’s Porch because it overlooked the President’s cabin and most of the camp. When I went to see what time it was, I saw it was Wednesday November 11. I was doing Vet’s Day at Hoover’s Camp, Cool.  I have always loved this camp. I was introduced to it twenty years ago. Since then I have gained a whole bunch more respect for Hoover after reading the President’s Club. After the hike, I drove back to the store for supplies. I picked up more postcards, stamps, and wood; and then after getting water from dump station; I finally returned to camp. I only had a couple of hours of daylight left. I set my outside kitchen with the water, split more wood, and prepared the table for cocktails. I started a fire. I assembled some wild boar pate, rosemary crackers, and a Burley Oak beer. As I sat by the fire I wrote postcards and enjoyed happy hour. As the sun was setting the sky was gentle, not ravishing I was reminded of my recent trip to NYC where I went to a soup and salad place I used to go to when I lived in NYC. I got a chopped salad and it reminded me about how I loved them, how I was not eating as much salad as I should, so I decided then and there to eat more salad, chopped salads. So in the past week, I have been eating salad. Tonight was to be a salad. I made a monster salad of spring lettuce, spinach, tomato, celery, carrot, onion, mushroom, hard-boiled egg (from lunch), tuna, herbs, oil and balsamic vinegar. I didn’t finish dinner.  After dinner I spend some time gazing upwards, but even with a good fire and good music, I must go inside for it is getting cold out and I’m glad I’m going south. I am in the mountains so that adds to the chill, too. Being inside the Scamp is so luxurious. Read myself to sleep. The harsh winds woke me at around 2AM. I’m glad I put everything away and kept the awning down. The Scamp was rocking a bit as the wind howled and I could hear the tree limbs swaying and rubbing. I left the curtains open facing east and the sun woke me me, the wind was still howling and blowing and the morning was rough. I went out to watch the sun rise and the sky was a glorious pink and absolutely beautiful, which told me the day was going to be a challenge, but I knew that already. After enjoying the sunrise, I went back to comfort of my bed and slept till 9:15. It was grey and windy as I made breakfast. After breakfast I washed last night’s dishes and this morning’s too. I took a walk around to see the hearty souls, especially those in tents. Some young children were running around chasing leaves and laughing and frolicking as their grandparents looked on.  Since it started to rain, I decided to take a drive into the Shenandoah Valley. I went back north on the Skyline Drive to 211 and into Luray, when the rain stopped. I followed 340 South eventually to Eakins, though Stanley and Shenandoah. I passed over many creeks and the Shenandoah River until I got to 33 East and to the Park entrance. The sky had cleared and bright blue skies were finally overhead and it was filled with wispy white feathers of clouds. The passage on the Drive today was clear and those vistas were visible and I enjoyed them on my drive along the Drive.
It’s 6:23 PM. I have just finished cleaning up the dinner dishes. Everything is done from dinner. It feels like it should be 9 PM. Fall camping is different. What I like about camping is the fact that I have to be vigilant always. I have to be aware of the weather. I live outdoors; the weather is crucial. I may have the Scamp, but most of my living is outside. I have to be aware of everything from water to propane to groceries, to wood, to gas, etc. It is being constantly on. The result means that because I’m so on, I’m also on with my senses like sight and the beauty around me, sound when I hear a hawk or waterfalls or the owl, the smell of a fire or fresh rain, the touch of setting camp and the wood, the taste of food cooked outside. Since my return, I’ve read some, I’ve chatted with the camp host and his wife, I’ve puttered about, cooked and cleaned up dinner. Now it is time for a fire and to gaze at the stars. It is a brilliant evening and it is only 6:42 PM. Had a great fire and retired early. Did some reading and slept through the windstorm. When I woke people’s stuff was all over the place from the wind. Still windy and more for the rest of the day. Packed up and hit the road by 9AM. Had a lovely scenic drive down Skyline Drive to Waynesboro and a short hop to my next campground. I chose a KOA because it is close to Staunton and none of the SP’s were open. This KOA isn’t bad and I have a sweet spot pretty much alone as the big rigs go for the bigger sites. I can go where tenters would go. It’s noon and camp is about set. Off to take a shower and prepare for this big Shakespeare weekend in Staunton.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Huron and Erie

As I drove down 123 South, I passed a lone bicyclist. At the junction of 28,I found a dozen more, an army of cyclists. They were going north and I south. It was a worthy hand off. They north and me south. I was heading for Lake Huron via the bridge. Got some smoked, fresh and spread trout. Funny how this works. Trout on both ends of Superior tour, but not in middle. Took 23 South after the Bridge. Getting passed all the schlock, I found a steady pace and fine road. Some overlooks, but they were occupied. Stumbled upon a public beach that was not announced. I did a U-Turn and backed the Scamp towards the beach. I used the Scamp to change from street clothes to beach clothes. Back on the road, some chores and heading to Harrisville SP. Stopped at a quarry view overlook. Amazing how the land has been carved out for calcite and all the freighters in harbor. Moving on to Alpena, I was looking for a brewery, but it was closed and another one was a month from opening. Nearest brewery 20 minutes south of Harrisville.  A man could do well with a brewery here, unless the folks here don’t drink beer. When I finally arrived at the SP, I was very lucky to get the last spot on the beach. I faced the Scamp East so I could enjoy the sunrise from bed. After setting a minimal camp, I took a walk and then a swim. I grabbed my book, a beer, and a chair and spent the end of the day on the beach with the sun warming my back. Dinner was fresh trout. I cleaned up and broke the minimalist camp and headed to Oscoda, 20 minutes further south to the only brewery in the area, Wiltse’s Brew Pub. It was Monday night in America. The place was packed and apparently they were down two servers. It took fifteen minutes before I could request a flight and fifteen more to get it. Forty-five minutes later I leave with a growler of good ale. Forty-five minutes??? Should have been more like fifteen. I got back to camp, set a good fire and lay out on the table looking heavenward. The sun woke me as planned and I hurried to the beach to watch it ascend from the lake. Magnificent!!
When I went out the seagulls en masse greeted me. Last night I skinned and boned four chicken thighs. I took the skin and bones out to the beach and fed the gulls. It was glorious and chaotic as they laughed and laughed. They were disappointed with my banana skin.
I went back to sleep until 8:30, had breakfast and took a swim. I read some and then took a shower. When I started to break camp, I discovered I had a flat tire on the Scamp. I changed into working clothes and found my Jeep Lug wrench didn’t fit the Scamp lugs. I borrowed a lug wrench from my neighbor across the street. Changed the tire, broke camp, set up everything to hit the road, and took another shower. Within a couple of miles out, I found a shop to fix the tire. While that was happening, I walked to NAPA, down the road, and bought a lug wrench. Got back and tire was fixed and I hit the road once again. I was an hour and a half behind intended time. I was heading to Caseville and a brewery named Thumb Brewery. When I got there at four, I found they were closed for the season. There are not many breweries in this area. Also driving Lake Huron is frustrating because when I am on the lake, I am looking at houses. The entire shore is house after house after house. BORING!!!! Lake Huron is like the East Coast. I really miss Lake Superior. And no Breweries!!! Lake access is very limited and exclusive. Seems like the temperature has risen ten degrees from my last three weeks. Doing one night stands to get through this non-scenic route around a lake. I found Sleeper SP, which was empty and took whatever site I wanted. In this case 150, simply because it was in the middle of it all. I had lake trout for dinner, the Yankees in Tampa, and a fire. I have a tree cover so not a good look at the evening sky.
It has taken three days to civilize me. After three weeks on the savage and wild Lake Superior, crossing the bridge has been life altering. Lake Huron is a different lake. It is civilized. Also the first four breweries were either closed or not opened yet. The flat tire, well I was not in good spirits. Lexington Brewery was closed and it wasn’t until Port Huron did I find some brew, Thumb Coast Brewery. Good stuff and spoke with the brewer. Tasted a new brown ale with maple syrup not yet ready for sale. Very good!! He told me about a new brewery down the road on my way to Algonac SP. Took a Lost Souls growler with me. Harsens Island Brewery didn’t have a license to fill growlers, darn. Drove by the campsite and got a view of possible sites. One I spied was available; took it. Big, very big ships going by on the way to Lake Huron through Lake St Clair from Lake Erie. I am looking at Canada. This is what I mean by civilized, especially after my Lake Superior experience. I am going to be blowing through Detroit and Toledo to get to the East Harbor SP. Then I blow through Cleveland to get to Geneva-on-the-Lake SP. Civilized.
I had the Scamp facing east so the sun would wake me. It rose over Canada. Had breakfast and took a sweet twenty-mile ride. I got home, took a shower and broke camp. Did some shopping before I hit the Interstate hell known as 94 and 75 heading through Detroit and Toledo to the sanity of Erie Circle Route 2 to 163 and East Harbor SP. Stopped briefly at Ottawa NWR and saw lots of pretty birds including some eagles. East Harbor SP has 600 campsites!!! I found a beautiful site away from it all facing east and with some shade. In another part of the park 300 seniors are camping together as some festival, but it is on the other side and mostly this weekend, though they are coming in. I’m in a section usually used by tenters and folks who don’t need full hookups: electric, water, and sewer. I’m happy with just electric or nothing. Being with those big rigs is weird and scary. Hung up my bike clothes, which I washed this morning and my other wet things. I had lunch, I set up the hammock and took a nap. Very delightful. Took a walk, had dinner, listened to the game, had a fire, the moon appeared. Woke and took the route around the peninsula of Marblehead and saw the lighthouse. Headed to Geneva-on the Lake. Drove through Sandusky, so depressing and then to the opulence of Amherst. Went through Cleveland to drive by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as one does through Springfield Mass. I follow the coast road stopping here and there. All the history I took and literature I have read is coming at me on the road signs and historical markers. Saw some eagles. Stopped at Willoughby’s Brewery in Willoughby, Ohio. Took away lots. They had a very good smoked porter as well as other tasty beers. I get a sweet spot at Geneva. Since it was Friday I knew the two breweries in the area would be open. After a swim and dinner I headed out. First stop was the Cornerstone in Madison, Ohio. I took away a lovely white ale. Reminded me of Iceland and Sweden. The next stop was though hither and yon on such backwoods roads I couldn’t believe there was a brewery here with music as advertised. When I came over a hill, I saw an establishment that could only be a brewery and the parking lot was packed. I wandered a curious path from the outside patio, which was packed with folks dressed as if they were at a wedding to a bar that was a bar and not the tasting room, adjacent, that I was looking for. I got a ten selection flight. Took it out to the patio, where the action and the band was. It was a freaking wedding reception. How wonderful. Theater and beer. No a wedding and a beer. Same same. After the bridesmaids had there dance, the bride and groom danced for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. After that, the band took a break and I left with a six of IPA from Cellar Rats Brewery in Madison, Ohio. . Had a fire and as I went to bed, I felt some raindrops. Good, bedtime anyway. No sooner had I cleaned up, secured everything the winds kicked up, the temperature dropped and it poured. I adjusted the awning and dove inside to close all windows and vents. Then the thunder and lightning came. The heater came on. I went to bed. I woke to a soaked campsite. After breakfast I walked down to the lake and took a swim. I love the water after a rain, cool and so refreshing. Got back to camp and finished the Willie’s Long Story. Brilliant!! I looked up and saw black clouds. Cleared the clothesline and secured everything out to in or under awning. Another deluge. Lucky the Yanks had a day game against the Mets. After the Yanks won and the rain tapered off, I took a nap. I woke at seven to clear skies and warmer air. Had a great fire and good beer and music on this Saturday night. I woke early Sunday with the sun coming in at my feet. I break camp and wander up Route 5 to Presque Isle SP. This is such a pretty and unique peninsula. It makes Erie PA, Erie PA. A perfect harbor. I continued up Route 5 to Evangola SP. I get a very sweet spot overlooking Lake Erie due west. The sunset was spectacular. I was wrong when earlier I said The sunsets over Lake Superior were in the water. The sunset tonight was into the water and a lot clearer than in Lake Superior. Lake Superior sunsets were hindered by the fires out west. Had a great fire and view of the moon over Lake Erie. I woke and left early; I had a long drive ahead of me to Taughannock Falls SP on Lake Cayuga, near Ithaca. The SP is in Ulysses, which seems obviously appropriate, as it is where I will end my travels. I plan on being in Berlin tomorrow night. I left Lake Erie at Blasdell, nine miles south of Buffalo, which I could see from the lake road. Followed 20A and 20 across to Seneca Falls and followed 89 to the Falls SP. The drive along 20A was over hill and through dale. It was a meandering path with steep hills in both directions. Warsaw was particularly interesting since trucks had to by pass it because of the terrain. I went through pretty little towns along the road when I discovered the Naked Dove Brewery in Canandaigua, NY. I got a flight that they served like a winery, one pour at a time with an explanation. I took a growler of their unique Local Hop beer, which is excellent. Once I got to 89 South, I came upon one winery after the next. WOW!!! Then I came upon the Boathouse Beer Garden overlooking Lake Cayuga. They had 21 taps of local NY beers. They were planning to host their first Oktoberfest and soon will be brewing their own beers. I took away a lovely IPA from a brewery in Honeoye, NY. I took a site at the Falls SP and then headed out to see these fabulous falls. I followed a very unique and well-marked and annotated trails through the gorge to the falls. These are spectacular falls that remind me of some spectacular falls out west and in Iceland. I was amazed they were here as well as this gorge. A miniature Grand Canyon, very miniature. This is good place to end my journey. I split the log that I have used for splitting other wood that I picked up at Presque Isle  early in my travels. I also cut up the emergency wood I had. Big bonfire tonight.
I woke early and drove the eight hours home.