Saturday, October 31, 2009

From Spartanburg, South Carolina

How quickly plans can change.  Last evening we got a call that my aunt had passed away.  This was not unexpected as she has been in failing health for some time.  After a long drive today, we are in a small campground near Spartanburg, South Carolina.

This has not been the uneventful day that we hope to have on any travel day.  It actually started with last night’s thunderstorms in Nashville.  The wind blew and the rains came and we got up this morning to a soaked carpet under the dining table.  Of course, we did not have time to deal with wet carpet this morning, so we busied ourselves with readying the trailer for travel.  Expecting to have today to do these pre-travel chores for our trip to the Smokies, Gene was out before daylight with a headlamp airing up tires and stowing the ladder in the bed of the truck.  Somehow we managed to pull out of our campsite by 8 AM.

Under normal circumstances, we would travel to Spartanburg via I-40 through east Tennessee to Asheville North Carolina then down I-26 to Spartanburg.  However, a few days ago there was a rock slide resulting in the closure of I-40 at the TN/NC border.  We had a couple of options, and we selected a series of interstates routing us through Chattanooga and Atlanta.  It was not a bad drive and we made very good time.  We made a couple of quick stops and one longer break.  We pulled into our campsite about 6 PM for the 430 mile drive.  Traffic was light, even near Atlanta, there were no major construction zones, no accidents, and the weather was mostly good.  We had a few areas of light rain to drive through.

The water on the carpet was somewhat of an issue during the day.  It was still raining early this morning, so when we brought the slides in they were wet.  I got a towel and wiped them down as much as I could reach, but the top of every slide was still very wet.  With the trailer closed up all day, all that moisture that was evaporating was condensing on every surface inside.  There was nothing that was not damp.

Even with the humidity off the charts inside, we were still feeling pretty good about the day.  That is until we got to our site.  I was driving the last leg of the journey, so I was the one parking when we got to the campground.  Gene got out to inspect our position in the site and give me those “fine tuning” instructions.  That was when he noticed that there is a scratch/dent some 20 feet long along the lower panel in the drivers side of the Everest.  One running light is broken and the back end cap is slightly damaged.  We have absolutely no idea how or when this happened.  We were never both away from our rig at the same time and neither of us felt anybody hit us or noticed that we had hit any thing ourselves.  Needless to say, this was not the highlight of our day.

One of the last things Gene said before we pulled away from our site this morning was, “the main goal is our safety”.  Humidity in the house and a little scratch on the fender we can live with.  Thank you, Lord, for a safe trip today.

Once set up in our site, we cranked the AC down to arctic and turned on all the fans we own to try to take care of the wet carpet.  Gene is bundled up in a hat, a fleece vest, and a blanket.  We sent the wet towels I used to blot up all the water for a spin in the dryer.  After a couple cocktails, Gene thinks with a little elbow grease, he can make most of the scratch disappear.  Life is good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What Did You Say?

For some time now, maybe two or three years, I have noticed that Gene doesn’t seem to hear as well as he used to.  He has increasingly been asking me to repeat myself.  Occasionally, I get a comment or answer to something I’ve said which has nothing what so ever to do with what I was talking about.  Those comments or answers can be pretty funny and our conversations are at times quite entertaining.

At my urging, he made an appointment with an audiologist and had his hearing tested yesterday.  We were not surprised to learn that his has a 33% hearing loss in each ear.  What did surprise us was the audiologist called that a “mild to moderate” loss.  Seems to me like one-third is more than moderate.  I’d call it significant.  Anyway, he got the low down on the types of hearing aids, their costs, and their expected length of usefulness before they need to be replaced.

We were not surprised to hear the numbers since we have several friends and family members with hearing aids.  It’s funny, but ten to twenty years ago we knew hardly anybody with hearing aids.  They are expensive--from about $3,000-5,000--depending on what type and how many “special” features they have.  If you’re lucky, they may last and/or be effective for about 5 years.  Unlike eye glasses, there is no price on earth that will make you hear like you did in younger years.  Given all this encouraging information, Gene inquired if he might not just go down to Dick’s Sporting Goods and purchase one of those “deer stalker” sound amplifier things.  I can’t say the audiologist was much amused.

We met my folks for dinner last night.  Since both my parents can barely hear anything (my mother doesn’t have hearing aids because they don’t go so well with her outfit, and my dad turns his off in any public place because the background noise is so irritating), Gene has a “mild to moderate” hearing loss, my mother can hardly speak above a whisper any more, carrying on a conversation was somewhat challenging.   I did not laugh out loud when Gene asked my dad about his cough and he replied, “Oh, that was just an excuse to talk to you about the surprise party.”

After another dinner in which we ate far too much food, we felt the wisest and best use of our time this morning would be to get a little exercise.  We grabbed our packs and headed over to Beaman Park for the 5 mile loop.  That was certainly worth the effort.

I’m sure this was the last day for the fall leaves.  A big storm is headed our way and the wind has been blowing pretty hard all day.  Lots of trees have shed most of their leaves.

Tomorrow, we will spend preparing the Everest for travel.  We have been sitting for several weeks and have been a little lax about putting things back where they belong.  We need to be sure everything is in a secure place for travel.  Sunday we will be heading to east Tennessee to do some hiking in the Smokies.  We are looking forward to that week long trip and are anxious to see friends we haven’t seen in a while.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meriwether Lewis on the Natchez Trace

One of the nicest drives to see fall color near Nashville is along the Natchez Trace Parkway.  The Parkway is operated by the National Park Service and consists of a two-lane scenic byway connecting Nashville to Natchez Mississippi, a distance of 444 miles.      This stretch of “road” is not new.  Originally, it was hunting paths for local Indians.  Later, the French and Spanish used the paths as they explored into the interior of the continent.  Andrew Jackson used the old trace road to move his troops to New Orleans during the War of 1812.  We probably best associate the Natchez Trace with the farmers who floated there crops down the Mississippi River to Natchez.  Since they sold everything they brought, included the flatboat, they had to walk or ride a horse back north.  This was their “road”.

Along the length of the Parkway are numerous turnouts to overlooks and scenic vistas, historic landmarks, campgrounds, and trailheads for hikers and horses.  The Meriwether Lewis Site is one of these features and is located at mile marker 385.9, about 60 miles south of the northern terminus at Nashville.  That was our destination for today.

Meriwether Lewis, in 1809, was on his way to Washington, DC when he stopped over for the night at Grinder’s Stand.  The Grinder family ran a small inn for trace travelers.  During the night, Lewis was shot.  There is much controversy, and the case is still a mystery, as to who fired the shot that killed Lewis.  He was buried near the Grinder Stand.  Near the middle of the 1800s, a monument was placed at the gravesite to commemorate this great man of American history.  The Grinder’s inn no longer exists, but a small 2-room cabin similar to other cabins of the period along the Trace has been erected and houses a small museum.

The Meriwether Lewis site also has a campground.  We did the grand tour and are pleased to report that it will accommodate large rigs.  There are several back-in sites and several of the semi-circular pull-thru sites.  It is a campground of the National Park type--lots of trees and no hook-ups.  However, it is free, as are the other campgrounds located along the Parkway.

We were not disappointed in our drive along the parkway.  The fall color, though past its peak, was still fabulous on this overcast day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Last of the 50 Series

Today marks the last of the birthdays in the 50 series for me.  59 is not so old in this day and time--at least that is what I keep telling myself.  I really don’t feel like I imagine “old” to feel like.  I can still do all the things I have been doing for the past 40 years--clean the commode, dust, run the vacuum, and cook dinner.  I can also still hike, although my feet and knees complain from time to time.  Of course, my feet have been complaining for 30 years and I just ignore them.  Gene never  complains about dinner, but if he did, I’d ignore him too.

My day started out well.  Peanut wanted to get things underway early with his breakfast at 5 AM.  That was kind of a birthday present in a way.  Sometimes he wants his breakfast at 4:30.

Gene even got up early to help me get started with my celebrations.  Between 5 and 6:30 is my morning quiet time for devotion and meditation.  This morning Gene read to me from Backpacker Magazine (on-line) about avoiding problem bears.  Since I have lately been reading from Leviticus, the knowledge that numerous studies show bears to have an aversion to stinky hikers was a bit more interesting that the instructions for offering guilt sacrifices.  I will not even mention the birthday card he gave me with a picture of a run down old hag on the front with sagging boobs and pot belly, wearing a pink nightgown, blue robe and slippers with the heads of mallards on the toes.  The back of the card, which normally gives some glowing credit to the artist, begins with something about sad-eyed, swaybacked horses.  I stopped reading after that first sentence.

Not long after breakfast, my mother called to wish me a happy birthday.   After saying “happy birthday”, she asked several times during the course of our conversation if I was going to the monthly trails meeting tonight.  I kept telling her “no” which was the same answer I gave her yesterday when she started asking this question.  I eventually learned why she was so interested in my attendance at the meeting and her seeming inability to understand the meaning of “no”.  She had planned to have a little surprise celebration with cake complete with 59 candles.  There are always refreshments following the meeting so she thought the cake would be a nice refreshment.  That’s true and it is a thoughtful gesture, but one must be careful when making plans for other people.  Besides, the meeting is held at REI and the fire produced by 59 candles could potentially set off their sprinkler system resulting in ruining their entire inventory.  It’s probably in the best interest of REI and all their members if Gene and I continue with our plan for a romantic dinner out and mother leaves the candles at home.  By the end of our conversation, it was my fault for spoiling the surprise and the meeting (not to mention the fact that she still has to make the cake because she volunteered to provide the refreshments) by refusing to come.  There is no other birthday wish like a mother’s wish.

I am sorry to miss the cake, however.  I generally don’t get cake on my birthday.  We are usually not back in Nashville this early and Gene is not one for baking cakes, for birthdays or any other time.  The closest I have gotten to birthday cake in recent years was the gift I got from very dear friends, Charlie and Jennifer.  Two years ago they gave me a cake mix, a tub of frosting, a box of candles, and instructions for making my own cake.  

So, my birthday has gotten off to a good start.  I’ve spoken with friends and other family members, gotten e-cards and paper cards, and expect the trend to continue throughout the day.  On this rainy day, Gene and I are going to our favorite used book store to stock up on reading material for the long winter days ahead.  Well, that’s not really true since we plan to be in sunny Florida, but we’ll need reading material anyway.  Then it’s dinner out, just he and I, to round out the perfect birthday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

TTA Hike at Montgomery Bell

This was one of those absolutely gorgeous fall days.  There are precious few of these picture perfect days in middle Tennessee, so it is best to enjoy them when they occur.

Our chapter of Tennessee Trails Association had a hike led by Diane Manas at Montgomery Bell State Park.  Diane is very active in the club and leads several hikes each month.  This is the same Diane that hiked with me for a section on the Appalachian Trail in 2008.  This was the same hike Gene and I did a couple of weeks ago.  We even stopped at the same log for lunch today that he and I had used on our hike.  However, the hike today was much more dramatic since the leaves are in peak color.

There were 4 ladies plus Gene and I in the group.  Since we usually hike alone, it was a real treat to have others with whom to share the experience.  We have known all these ladies for several years, so it was also nice to have a chance to catch up with what everyone has been up to lately.

The hour ride home in the truck has left my body in a somewhat crippled condition.  My grandfather would say I am “stove up”.  This old body got a workout today.  I’m going to shuffle around the kitchen long enough to get dinner on the table, then I will take to my recliner for the duration of the evening.

Enjoy the photos of fall color reflected off the surface of the lake.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

God Works in Mysterious Ways

I think this may have been the busiest week we have had this year.  We have been on the go every day.  Mostly, we have been helping Jack and Ansley with the household chores and meal preparation.  We have about learned not to say what we intend to do before we get to their home.  If we say ahead of time we are going to run the vacuum or do the laundry, Jack busies himself with getting it done before we get there.  The new family is getting along well and the new parents are settling into to the routine of having a baby in the house.

On Thursday evening we gathered with several others from the Nashville chapter of Tennessee Trails to assemble and prepare the monthly news letter for mailing.  That is always a fun event even though there is a lot of work involved getting a 12-page newsletter out to about 700 members.  The camaraderie, food and wine help the work slip away unnoticed.

Friday afternoon we went on a mission to find a lampshade to replace the one that disintegrated last month.  I had already looked at Wal-Mart and yesterday we went to Target and Hobby Lobby.  At Target they were all too large; at Hobby Lobby they were all too small.  I guess I’ll have to go to a lighting store.  We found the other items on our list--new pillows, a silk flower arrangement, and yarn for a new knitting project.  I also got a square of polyfoam.  For several months I have been trying to think of a way to store my glass wine glasses so they will ride safely when we are traveling.  I finally came up with the idea of cutting circles the size of the glass rim in a piece of foam.  I got  the foam and cut the circles.  Now I am anxious to see if it works.

This morning we did a quick 5-mile hike at Beaman Park. That was the first time I have been out since last Friday.  It felt good to stretch these old legs.

Sometimes when we get so busy it seems we are meeting ourselves coming or going, I get frustrated with all the activity and aggravated with myself that I can’t seem to get it all done.  Often at those times, something out of the blue happens to lighten my spirit.  This morning as I was wondering how I was going to get through today, I looked down and saw my sweet Peanut perched on the commode.  It made my heart smile.  Thank you, Lord.

This afternoon we are off to REI to pick up a pair of hiking pants I ordered and Gene wants to look at packs.  We won’t stay long, because this evening my family is getting together for dinner.  This will be the first time we have seen most of them since we got back into town.  We’re looking forward to that.

A busy week--but fun and exciting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

RV Cooking

We spent last evening with a group of hiking friends whom we hadn’t seen in almost a year.  Of course, that was fun and our discussions seemed to include every imaginable topic.  Naturally, there were questions about our most recent loop around the country and, invariably when we are with non-RVers, someone has a questions which pertains to the lifestyle.  The question most interesting to me last night was “do you eat out all the time or do you cook like you would at home?”

This is another one of those questions like “do you do laundry and clean house?”.  It arrises from the perspective of the traveler on vacation.  My answer was “we eat out very little.”  Of course, that is the same as what we did before we ever thought about an RV.  Some of our RV friends like to eat lunch out and do that nearly every day.  Some of our RV friends enjoy trying the many locally owned restaurants around the country and make that a big part of their RV lifestyle.  For us, though, we eat at home most of the time.  That is because I love to cook.  As Gene likes to say, “she loves to cook and I love to eat.  That makes us a perfect couple.”

The friend’s question has been on my mind, however, and as I’ve thought about what and how I cook now, I’ve come to the conclusion that I cook differently than when we didn’t live in an RV.

I have always enjoyed reading cookbooks and trying new recipes.  I still do that and have something new at least once a month.  But now I look for recipes that require a limited number of ingredients and I especially like things that can go in the crock pot.

Since “I like to cook and Gene likes to eat” that was a major consideration when shopping for an RV.  Some dealer told us early on in our shopping process to have what you like to do best in the rear (for a 5th wheel).  In other words, the rear living models give more living space; the rear kitchens give more kitchen space.  Our Montana had a rear kitchen and I had a lot of storage as well as work surface.  Now, there are many models of 5th wheels with large kitchens located in the center of the units.  That is what we have with the Everest.  I don’t have quite as much storage as I had in the Montana, but I have a double refrigerator.  I still have the cooktop and gas oven and I also have a large combination microwave/convection oven.

I had one complaint about the kitchen in the Montana--the microwave/convection was over my head.  I was always afraid I would spill hot food on myself.  I had to use a step stool to remove hot dishes from that oven.  My microwave/convection oven is lower in the Everest, but I still have one complaint about the kitchen--the gas oven is situated in such a way that it is very difficult for me to light the pilot light.  I’ve remedied that problem, however;  I just don’t use it.  Many of the new RVs, especially motorhomes, come with cooktops, microwave/convection ovens, but no regular oven.  I decided I could learn to cook exclusively with the convection oven.  So far, it has worked out great and after some practice, I turned my regular oven into the storage cabinet for cat supplies.

Even though we have a large kitchen by RV standards, I still don’t have the storage space that I had in the condo we moved out of.  Because of limited storage, I don’t have near the number or variety of cooking pots, pans, or casserole dishes I used to have.  Neither do I have the large pantry I once had so I don’t keep on hand a lot of spices, a variety of flours, 5 lb bags of potatoes or onions, and especially not what I would consider staple canned foods like tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Because I don’t have a lot of ingredients on hand, meals require a little more planning  to be sure I get what I need at the grocery.

I think we eat well.  We don’t spend too much on eating out so I have the extra money in the grocery budget to buy fresh vegetables and better cuts of meat.  I like to take advantage of locally grown produce wherever we are in the country.  Of course, we eat more shrimp when we are along the Gulf coast, more salmon when in the northwest, more lobster in Maine.  That is another of the great blessings of the RV lifestyle--enjoying local specialties whether you prepare them yourself of go to the local restaurant.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Afternoon With Fellow Travelers

One of the great blessings of the RV lifestyle is the wonderful people you meet along the way.  Last January, while we were in lower Alabama at the Escapees Rainbow Plantation, we met Darrell and Judy Patterson.  They, like ourselves, are full-time RVers.  As it turns out, they have children (and grandchildren) in the Nashville area.  They are parked at Cedars of Lebanon State Park this week to visit with family.

We drove to the park this afternoon to see these fine folks and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.  This was a beautiful day in middle Tennessee--a perfect day to sit outside and visit with friends.  I guess this was like one of what Darrell likes to call a “chat and chew”.  We chatted for a while then Judy brought out a nice tray of cheeses, crackers, and grapes.  As we enjoyed these delicacies we swapped RVing stories and future plans.  I guess you could say we “chewed the fat” (a good old southern expression) for the better part of the afternoon.  Time wore on far too quickly and we had to say our good-byes.  But, as they are heading south and we are too, I’m sure our paths will cross again very soon.  Thanks, Darrell and Judy, for a wonderful afternoon.

If you have time, check out Darrell’s website at Wandering America.  It’s top notch.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Real Wal-Mart Experience

Our local Wal-Mart is one of those big supercenters and since our “short” list ranged from transmission fluid to salad greens we opted for one-stop shopping.  We’ve been to Wal-Marts before, in fact, we go often when we’re on the road.  We’ve even spent a few nights in their front yard.  I cannot say, however, that they are my favorite place to shop.  I much prefer Target, but they’re not just everywhere like Wal-Mart.

Anyway, today’s experience was one to write home about.  Let’s start with cat food.  The Peanut likes a snack mid-afternoon.  He’s rather a picky eater--he won’t even eat tuna.  What kind of a cat won’t eat tuna?  He likes chicken flavored treats and of the 8 or so varieties of treats, chicken was the only flavor that didn’t come in the small package.  I don’t like to buy the large packages because they get stale and I end up throwing away more than he eats.  He got seafood this time.  All I can say is he better like it.

On to the automotive department.  Gene needed automatic transmission fluid for the hydraulic stuff.  He found the section within the automotive department called “automotive chemicals” with all the fluids--every fluid ever used by any car or truck ever made.  Well, every fluid except transmission fluid.  Just before giving up on his search, he decided to wander around the rest of the department.  He came upon oils--oils of all weights and probably colors.  A thorough search of the oil department revealed automatic transmission fluid.

While he was on the search for transmission fluid, I was on the search for a new laundry basket.  I like the mesh collapsable type; the oblong one, not the tall one.  The tall one is taller than me almost.  I found the overhead sign that directed me to laundry and storage.  There was a whole aisle of laundry baskets--all kinds of fabric collapsable kinds, kinds that hang on a metal frame and roll around the laundry room, and hundreds of plastic baskets in every shape, size, and color.  Well, everything except what I wanted.  Unlike Gene, I gave up and went on in search of a pizza pan.  As I wandered down the next aisle, I found my laundry basket tucked in between sterolite storage containers.

I found the pizza pans right away.  I wanted about a 12 inch pan to bake cookies on in the convection oven without having to turn the turntable off like I do with a regular cookie sheet.  My cookies are always too brown on one side.  Anyway, they had pizza pans, but they were huge.  They had several different brands, all huge--far too big for my oven.  The only 12 inch pan they had came as a set with a huge pan.  I refused to buy something I cannot use.

While I was in the kitchen department, I decided to look for a bottle brush.  Gene has started taking a gatorade bottle filled with green tea on the trail.  I wanted a brush to clean those bottles.  You know they didn’t have one in the kitchen department.  They had various sizes and shapes of brushes to scrub pots or potatoes, but not bottles.  I went to the baby department where I found bottle brushes, but they had some sort of sponge, that will probably never dry (how sanitary is that for the baby’s bottle), attached to the bottom.  I left the brushes hanging there and decided to look for what we called “changing pads” 30 years ago.  I hadn’t seen any among Ansley’s stuff and I thought she’ll need some. They were nonexistent (unless of course, they were in some other department, maybe hardware).  I gave up on brushes and pads.

On to the grocery department.  This at least was a little easier.  I found everything, including bottle brushes, tucked away next to the mops.  Gene washed his bottle using the brush after our short hike today and proclaimed it “first rate”.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Doing What We Do Best

As you can imagine, we went to sleep last night thinking of Kayley and awoke with her occupying the first thoughts of the day.  Mom, Dad, and the baby are all doing well; for that we are thankful.

We wanted to be in Nashville, especially for the birth, but also to be available for all those sometimes little, sometimes big chores that need to be done that the new mom and dad don’t have time or energy to do.  If you know us at all, you know we are handy at getting chores done.  Perhaps that is our calling.  One thing is for sure--we have been called into service.

Yesterday afternoon after leaving the hospital, we stopped by Jack and Ansley’s to run the vacuum and take care of anything that didn’t get cleaned up from the bonfire the night before.  We also took care of a little laundry.  Now the house is all ready for the family to come home.  Hopefully, that will be tomorrow.

This morning, both Gene and I tried to get caught up with the things which were on our own lists that didn’t get done yesterday.   Our home is also spic and span, we have a full tank of propane (we’ve used a lot these past few cold days), the hinge on one of the cabinets got a shot of WD-40, and we have a fresh batch of cookies in the cookie jar.

This afternoon, we had to get another granddaughter fix.  Kayley slept through our visit.  It was good to see Ansley talking, laughing, and eating--generally feeling better than yesterday.  Jack is real pleased with what he is calling the “free” hospital meals.  He’s hoping to stay an extra day so he can try more of the menu items.

This evening, we are planning a quiet evening at home watching the travel shows on PBS.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Moments in our Lives

From time to time there occur moments in our lives which are truly memorable.  Sometimes, they just happen without warning and at other times you anticipate the occurrence well in advance.  Some of these moments are funny, some are sad, some are awe-inspiring, some tug at your heartstrings, and some seem to grab you by your very soul.  They are those times you never forget and they are retold for years to come.

We had one such moment this afternoon when we got to see (and hold) our new granddaughter for the very first time.  God is truly great and we are grateful for the blessings of a healthy baby today.  Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Busy, Busy

I’m not sure I have adjusted to being back in Nashville.  With family and friends, we have something going on all the time.  It is like this every year; I guess I forget between visits.  I think we tried to do to much this week.

Yesterday, we did another hike.  We went over to Warner Park again and were virtually the only ones on the trail.  It was a cold, dreary day and anybody with any sense was inside.  We are desperate to get back in shape and have set a goal of hiking 3 times a week.  We got behind for this week and tried to make it up by hiking both Thursday and Friday.  In retrospect, that was a mistake because I have been too rushed today.  However, as far as the hike is concerned, we really felt good about it.  We trudged through the mud for 9 miles, and though we were pretty tired when we finally got back to the car, we were not totally exhausted.  Our exercise program is obviously working.

Perhaps I should explain why we are trying to hike so much.  We have a tentative plan to hike a little more of the Appalachian Trail this spring.  We get all excited about this trail and it has been (or will be by spring) a couple years since we have been out there.  We got down the maps and guidebooks one night last week just to see how often the trail crossed a road.  It turned out to be very often.  Then we got to wondering how many of those roads were open to the public (not forest service roads) and had room to park the truck.  To our surprise, we actually found a website that listed all the parking areas along the AT.  Gene printed off the pages for the section we are thinking about doing then we compared that with the maps and guidebooks.  We discovered for the 280 or so miles we want to do, there are parking areas at least every 16 miles and usually about 11 or 12 miles.  This was great news because it will enable us to day hike instead of backpack.  However, hiking 12 to 16 miles a day is not something we want to jump into cold so we plan to hike often this winter to get in shape for those high-milage days.
Along the old Natchez Trace
By the way, Warner Park is a real jewel in the Nashville community.  Yesterday, I had planned to write a little description of Warner Park for this journal.  By the time we got home, I got a shower, fed the cat, fixed our dinner, ate, and cleaned up the mess, I had no more energy to do the research and write the story.  So, that will have to wait for another day.  It really is a story worth telling.

Today, we got out early to the grocery.  I didn’t want to be there with the Saturday crowds and we successfully avoided that.  Along with the regular shopping, I got ingredients to made deviled eggs and chocolate chip cookies to take to Jack and Ansley’s annual bonfire tonight.  This will be the first time we have been in town for this event and are looking forward to the festivities.  I suspect us old folks will leave before the real party gets underway.  Our bedtime is much earlier than when we were 30 something.

After lunch, we drove over to my aunt and uncles’ home.  They are proud new great-grandparents and wanted to show off a few photos of their new great-granddaughter.  I had received via e-mail a few photos also.  Over coffee and muffins, my uncle regaled us with stories of his younger days when he went to work for the railroad in Anchorage, Alaska during the late 40s.  This was somewhat of a surprise to me since I have thought for the past 50 years or so that he was in Alaska during his time in the Navy.  We had a great visit and I have several stories to include and some revisions to make in my family history project.

Now I must get ready for the bonfire.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bledsoe Creek State Park

Located northeast of Nashville in Sumner County, Bledsoe Creek State Park was our hiking destination for today.  It has been years, possibly even a decade, since we had visited this park.  Bledsoe Creek flows into the Cumberland River, but many years ago, the Cumberland River was dammed creating Old Hickory Lake.  The park, which borders the lake, was established as a recreational area for campers, boaters, and fishermen.  Hiking trails were eventually installed, but it is still primarily a campers park.

Despite the heavy rains (and I mean a real gully washer) overnight, we decided to hit the trail anyway.  At least the radar indicated the rain moved out of our region.  We knew the park was undergoing a campground renovation, but the official state park website clearly stated the trails were open.  You can imagine our surprise when we saw the barricade with the big “closed” sign at the trailhead.  Gene called the park office.  As it turned out, the handicapped accessible trail was being repaved.  The trail from the parking lot connected with the handicapped trail, so it was closed also.  However, we were advised to walk along the road to the main entrance and access our trail from there. Everything worked out just fine and we had a good hike, even if it was a bit muddy on the ridge and soggy along the lakeshore.  In fact, the lakeshore trail in places was flooded.

We got some first hand information on the campground renovation.  We ran into Tommy, a park employee, who seemed to know all about it.  He seemed to know so much we decided he has taken ownership of the whole project.  The original campground had small sites and catered primarily to tent campers and pop-ups.  The whole campground has been revamped with 65 foot long by 25 foot wide paved sites (some back-ins; some pull-thrus) with water and 50 amp electrical hook-ups.  No sewer, but they do have a dump station.  Actually, I think he may have said they have 4 dump stations.  Anyway, the sites are huge.  The project is far behind schedule due to record rain the summer.  The original opening date had been set for November, but Tommy said they now didn’t expect to open the park until spring.  Tommy wanted our feed-back and took us to the one site that had been completed.  Tommy is an RVer, also, and didn’t need our input; he was just being nice. Besides, he was eager to show off “his campground”. That didn’t stop us from offering our opinion and we ended up talking to Tommy for several minutes.  A very nice guy and oh so proud of the new facility.  When finished, it will be a very nice campground.

Having walked all the way around the park to the point where we ran into Tommy, we found the trail too flooded to continue on.  We could see the truck, but it was across the inlet from where we were.  Not being able to walk on water, we turned around and headed back the way we had come.
Bledsoe Creek
We had parked at the boat ramp parking lot, so the lake seemed the perfect place to rinse the mud off our boots.  That done, we put on dry clothes and headed home along scenic route TN-25.

Even though there were heavy clouds all day, temperatures in the 50s, and a light wind making it fee pretty chilly, we had a great day outside.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Catching Up With Friends

Yesterday was a very relaxing day at home.  Gene took care of a few chores regarding the outside of the Everest which got him primed for an afternoon nap.  He continues to study the maps, internet, and travel magazine articles as we develop plans for our trip to Florida.  I spent most of the day working on my photos.  No matter how much time I spend each day after downloading photos to the computer, I can still find pictures that are not completely labeled, are not stored in the correct folder, or are otherwise needing attention.

Like most of the nation, we are getting plenty of rain.  Yesterday was cloudy with a few sprinkles during the day--a good day to stay inside.  The rain started in earnest late yesterday afternoon, continued most of the night, and off and on during the day.  The rain, however, did not stop us from our appointed rounds.

Camping World has been high on our agenda for a long time.  I can’t believe we’ve been less than 15 miles from Camping World since we arrived in Nashville and haven’t been there yet.  Today was the day.  I only had a few things on my list, but it was fun to look around for things I didn’t know I needed.  Luckily, I didn’t find anything.  In fact, I was a little disappointed in the lack of merchandise they had and the seemingly jumbled up mess it was in.

After wandering the aisles at Camping World for an hour or so, we drove over to Opry Mills Mall, located where the old Opryland Theme Park used to be, to meet good friends, Jim and Jenice, for lunch.  We met this wonderful couple several years ago through our hiking club and have been on numerous hiking trips, club activities, and social events over the years.  We have even been seen together on a miniature golf course and at a bowling alley.  They also enjoy RVing and wander around in their Airstream from time to time.  They brought along Jenice’s brother, visiting from Oklahoma.  It was nice to meet Kenny.  We had a wonderful lunch together catching up on what has been happening with each of us over the past year.  We look forward to seeing Jim and Jenice several times over the next couple months at the various TTA functions we’ll be attending.

After lunch, we took the opportunity to look around in a few of the shops at Opry Mills with my mind on holiday gift giving.  We also spent a couple hours sipping coffee and leafing through books and magazines at Barnes and Nobles Bookstore.  Oh, that was nice.  It is one of our favorite things to do and it has been so long.  I think it may have been Portland, Oregon at Powell Books the last time we were in a bookstore.

It is leftovers for dinner, so no cooking tonight.  If the rain will let up, it will be out to another nearby state park tomorrow for a hike.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Montgomery Bell State Park

Montgomery Bell State Park, located in Dickson County about 30 miles south west of Nashville, is what the state calls a “resort” park.  There are 7 parks which fit into this classification and they all have lodges, golf courses, trails, and campgrounds.  In other words, they offer more activities than the non-resort parks.

A side trail led to this grave of a small child
At Montgomery Bell the lodge has recently been remodeled and has modern hotel rooms and a wonderful common area facing the 26-acre Lake Acorn.  At the lake there is a picnic area, a sand beach and swimming area open during the summer months.  They also have canoes and paddle boats for rent during warm weather.  Those, of course, were closed today.  There are also two “group camp” areas with small cabins for rent--great for church or club retreats.

View from our lunch log
We were surprised to find the campground crowded until we remember that this is a 3-day weekend for those whose employer is closed for Columbus Day.  The campground is typical of many state parks--large gravel sites with lots of trees.  All of the sites are back-ins, but there are some with full hook-ups and large enough for big rigs.  One side of the campground borders the creek.  There is a large play ground and a softball diamond.

It is one of our “regular” places for hiking.  There is a large 12-mile loop which has a 7-mile option.  We did the 7 miles today.  There are several shorter trails within the park as well as an orienteering course.  We have been going to Montgomery Bell for a couple of decades and have seen some great improvements to the trail system.  My favorite improvement has been the bridges over several creeks.  Many of these bridges have been designed, constructed and installed by boy scouts. Today, we were happy to see the old overnight backcountry shelters are being refurbished.

The area this park occupies has a rich history.  Very near where we parked for our hike today is a replica of the dogtrot style home of Samuel McAdow, one of the founders of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Rev. McAdow and a couple of friends organized the church in 1810.  Some 150 years later, a small church was erected as a sort of “shrine”.  The church is still active and is a popular place for weddings.

Mr. Montgomery Bell, for whom the park is named, went into the iron business in the middle Tennessee area in the early 1800s.  The Laurel furnace was located on land which is now the park that bears his name.  The ore pits, resembling hugh sink holes, are still visible although they are now grown over with trees.

It was a great day to be outside communing with nature.  Although there was rain in the forecast, we either avoided it or it didn’t happen.  We even got a few glimpses of blue sky.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Joelton, Tennessee

The metropolitan area of Nashville, Tennessee has many suburbs, one of which is Joelton, located at the northwestern edge of the county.  The small OK Campground in Joelton will be our home until after the holiday season.

Those who live here say Joelton sits on top of a ridge.  From Nashville, you do have to come up the hill to get here, but I think it might be more accurate to say Joelton sits at the edge of the Highland Rim before making the drop down into the Central Basin.

Joelton’s population of about 10,000 to 12,000 is a mixed of upper and lower middle class families.  There are a couple established subdivisions, but the homes you see are mostly on large lots of anywhere from half acre to several acres.  It is not uncommon to see a corn or hay field, a barn, and a horse grazing next door to a multilevel modern home.  Suburbia seems to be intermingled with rural farmland.  The homes range from a few frame homes typical of those from the 1940s to several small brick homes typical of the 1950s, to the multilevel “mansions” which have been popular over the past several years.  I think the type home most common in the Joelton area is the single-level ranch of the 1960s and 70s.

May be the oldest structure in town
There really are no businesses to speak of in Joelton.  There is a small grocery, a couple gas stations, a Mexican restaurant, a bank, an independently owned drugstore, and a scattering of small beauty salons, auto repair shops, a florist, and a hardware store.  The most popular places in town are the McDonalds and the new Dairy Queen.  Folks who call this home go to Springfield or closer to Nashville to shop.

Most of those who work commute to Nashville for their jobs.  I guess they’ve chosen this  sleepy little community to escape the crowds, the noise, and the crime of big city Nashville.  I can’t say as I blame them.

With easy access to I-24, we can easily make connections with the other interstates through town and the inner and outer loops around town.  We find ourselves going to Springfield, about 10 miles northeast, for grocery, Wal-Mart and Lowes.

We like this community and are happy to call it home.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Reflections on the RV Lifestyle--Domestic Chores

Having been out and about every day this week, I had to spend today catching up on household chores.  The question of house cleaning has come up a few times by various friends and family members.  Some have seemed shocked that we have to run the vacuum and go to the grocery.  Others understand the need for cleaning and have wondered how many minutes it takes.  I can understand where they are coming from.

Most of our friends and all of our family, even those with RVs, are not full-timers.  When they travel it is for a week or two, perhaps even a month.  They are on “vacation”.  While on vacation they usually don’t clean, cook, or do the laundry.  Since that is their only experience with travel, that is all they can relate to.  I understand that--I was the same way until we started full-timing.  This Everest is our home and we have to carry on with all the domestic chores we would have with a house or condo.  The only thing we don’t have to worry about is maintaining a yard.  Of course, we didn’t do that when we lived in a condo anyway.

I, myself, have wondered if we spend more or less time with those chores than we did when we had a stick home. Certainly, it takes much less time to run the vacuum over 380 sq ft than it did over 1500 sq ft.  However, in the condo we didn’t track in as much sand, gravel, leaves, grass, etc as we do now.  I have to vacuum at least twice, sometimes three times a week.  I also clean the bathroom more often.  I love my new refrigerator, but the freezer is not frost free so I have to do that chore once a month.  I hadn’t defrosted a freezer since frost free was invented who can remember when.

The outside of an RV is a whole different ball game from a house.  This thing is like a car--it needs to be washed and waxed.  Gene does that about once a year and it seems to take forever.  When we’re towing, the front end cap can almost be black with bugs.  On our trip from Washington back to Tennessee, he washed that about 3 times.  Also when towing our outside windows get road grim on them, especially when it’s raining.  It is a constant battle to keep the windows clean.  Occasionally, we have been in campgrounds with dripping pine trees.  The pine sap has to be gotten off, as well.

We’ve already had the discussion about the time it takes to do grocery shopping.  That is also true with laundry.  Since we don’t have a washer and dryer, I use the campground facilities.  I can usually put two loads in at a time which is quicker than doing one at a time in my own washer.  However, I usually stay with the laundry rather than throwing a load in and going about some other activity.

So even though it doesn’t actually take as long to do the chores, I think we spend as much time doing them as we always have.

Today was chore day for me, but I might as well do chores since it is a drab, rainy day outside.  Gene has spent much of today doing some preliminary research for our Florida trip.  Now, that’s a worthwhile chore.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Hike

This turned out to be a wonderful day.  I knew it would be when we made arrangements to have lunch with our long-time hiking buddy, Herb.  We were both really anxious to see Herb so we left a little after 9 AM for our noon lunch appointment.  We arrived a little early, so it was easy to spend the hour and a half in REI, next door to the restaurant.

At REI, the door had not closed behind us before we saw another hiking buddy, Sue.  We waved and hugged and talked for the next hour.  We really went there to do a little shopping so we finally tore ourselves away.  We’ll have to get back with Sue later, because we have many more things to discuss.  In the few minutes we now had before meeting Herb, I managed to find a pair of hiking shorts and also a pair of zip off hiking pants.  They didn’t have the pants in my size, but they were very happy to order them for me.  Gene looked at a few day packs, but decided to wait until this weekend to decide whether he wants to purchase.  The sale is this weekend anyway; he could save 20%.

Our lunch with Herb was great and we got caught up with what he has been up to.  His hiking activities often included other of our hiking friends, so we got caught up with them, as well.

Both Herb and Sue had done sections hikes on the Appalachian Trail this summer.  Sue with her son on the southern end of the trail and Herb in New Hampshire.  Those discussions, along with being surrounded by hiking equipment in REI, made us yearn to be on the trail again.  We have a tentative plan of going back to the AT in Virginia in the spring and now we are all the more anxious.

If there is anything that is a true passion for us other than traveling, it is hiking.  I got started hiking in the early 1980s.  After a difficult divorce, one of my uncles felt I would be well served by getting out in the woods and close to nature.  That medicine certainly cured my depressed spirit, but with the side effect that I fell in love with hiking.  A few years later my parents became members of Tennessee Trails Association and encouraged me to join.  That was one of the best things I ever did.  TTA offered me the opportunity to hike with a group almost every weekend.  Now I could hike trails all over Tennessee that I had been too nervous to tackle alone.  I met Gene through TTA and he introduced me to backpacking and long-distance hiking.  I fell in love with that, also.

Gene has been hiking a little longer than I have.  He got started by going camping in the mid 1970s.  He loved the whole idea and experience of pitching a tent, sitting by the campfire, and spending the weekend outside.  To help fill the time during the days, he went on a short nature hike.  He liked that, so continued doing short hikes when he went camping.  When you have the car to carry all your stuff, it is easy to add a little more and a little more.  His car was soon loaded to the gills for every camping trip.  He had heard about backpacking and bought a couple backpacking magazines and ordered a couple backpacking gear catalogues (one from REI).  His idea was to use backpacking equipment which was smaller and lighter to reduce the amount of “stuff” he was taking for a camping weekend.  He eventually left the car behind at the trail head and walked with his backpack to the campsite, even if that site was a hundred miles away.

Our discussions with good hiking buddies today has us looking at the AT Data book and surfing AT websites tonight.  Oh, to be on the trail again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Radnor Lake State Natural Area

Today was a beautiful clear sky day with temperatures in the low 70s--a perfect day for a short hike.  We are very fortunate in Nashville to have a fairly extensive greenway system as well as several parks which have hiking trails.  Our destination for today was Radnor Lake.

Radnor Lake was built about 1914 by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company to supply water for their steam engines.  After the demise of the steam engine, the lake was no longer needed by the railroad.  During the 1970s, area residents started a campaign to “save the lake”.  State and local governments got involved and this was the beginning of Tennessee’s first State Natural Area.

This 85 acre park is really just a walkers park.  Being a Natural Area, there is no fishing in the lake and the surrounding wetlands and forest are too fragile to allow playgrounds or picnic areas.  There are several trails which meander through the woods, over the ridges, and around the lake.  Each winter, there are collections places around town for discarded Christmas trees.  These trees are shredded and the huge pile of mulched bark and pine needles are shared by several parks, Radnor being one.  These hiking trails in spring are a soft cushion of evergreen bark with the aroma of a northwestern forest.  The hiker may also see the occasional bit of tinsel that was left on the holiday tree.  Because there is no jogging or bicycling allowed on the trails, Radnor Lake has become a tiny sanctuary for walkers and hikers who seek the peace and quiet of a woods walk.  It is also a popular place for bird watchers.  Shortly after the lake was made, the birds discovered its existence and started stopping by on their migratory journeys.

The street which was once a busy thoroughfare for those wanting to cut across from Franklin Road to Granny White Pike has been permanently closed to traffic.  This stretch of road is now used by joggers, mom’s pushing baby strollers, and those walkers who prefer asphalt to dirt trails.

On our 5 mile hike today we climbed both ridges in the park which gave our hearts a little workout.  We saw 11 deer and heard the resident owl.  We were actually surprised at the number of people in the park today.  We didn’t expect to have the place to ourselves, but we also didn’t expect the parking lot to be full.  Then again, it was a great day to be out for a walk.

Tomorrow, we are having lunch with one of our good hiking buddies and will take the opportunity to stop by REI while we are on that side of town.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Service on the Everest

I am happy to report that almost all those things that were not working properly, fell off during the trip from Washington, or were otherwise broken are now fixed and in proper working order.

Like an automobile, RVs go into the service bay for repairs rather than the service man coming to you.  Of course, there are mobile repair services, but for our warranty work we needed to take the Everest to an Everest dealer.  The closest one was in Columbia, south of Nashville.  Our appointment was at 10 AM, so we were in the tail end of morning rush hour traffic.  Traffic thinned out south of the city and we had a pleasant ride on into Columbia.

Since we purchased the Everest in Albuquerque in April we have been compiling a list of things that needed attention.  About a month ago Gene emailed the list to the service manager and he ordered all the parts which we needed.  Even though our list was pretty long, most everything was minor and they were able to complete all our work by mid-afternoon.  The only thing which didn’t get fixed was the hinge on the cabinet.  Keystone (the manufacturer) had sent a door hinge instead of a cabinet hinge.  It is really a simple task, so when the cabinet hinge comes in we will pick it up and install it ourselves.

The dealership was small and didn’t have the waiting rooms like large dealerships or Camping World, so we drove over to McDonalds.  We spend some time in the truck with the Peanut.  For lunch we went to Cracker Barrel.  We had heavy rains this afternoon, but they had passed out of the area by the time we were hitched up and driving back through downtown Nashville.  Thankfully, we were just a little ahead of the afternoon rush hour.

We are once again set up in the site we left this morning and plan to stay here until after the holidays except for a short trip to the Smokies the first of November.

Not a very exciting day but certainly one that needed to the done.  Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny; we’re planning another hike.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflections on the RV Lifestyle--Grocery Shopping Across the USA

We all have to eat so we all buy groceries.  For the RVer, this mundane, routine task can become a real adventure or a source of frustration.

One of the great things about traveling around America is being able to experience the many different cultures from cajun to Italian to German.  Local markets in the various regions of our country provide the foods eaten by the people of those regions.  One of the things we like to do is browse through the supermarkets to see the products not available in Tennessee.  We were astounded to find chicken feet in a small grocery in South Carolina.  I’d never seen chicken feet for sale in my life.  I have to admit I did not search out and did not try a local recipe for chicken feet.  I remembered, as a child visiting my grandparents, that my grandmother would kill a chicken for Sunday dinner.  When the parts were divided up among the animals, the cats got the feet.  I can only hope the feet being sold in that market were for the farm cats of the area.

Last year in New York we were delighted at the bagel selection in all the grocery stores, large and small.  Of course, we have bagels in Tennessee now (I can remember when we didn’t) and a few stores carry a few varieties which they sell individually.  Walking into the groceries in New York was like walking into a bagel factory and most had a counter where you could purchase a cup of coffee and get a cream cheese spread to go with your warm bagel.  Also in New York was the first place I had seen fresh pizza dough for sell.  Boy, was that easy and it sure beat the ready made crusts or the box mix I sometimes get when I’m trying to fixed a more heart healthy pizza.

In Texas, we were amazed at the selection of all manner of Mexican food products, both prepared foods in the delis and boxed and canned products on the shelves.  In southern Alabama, we liked being able to get fresh gulf shrimp at small seafood markets.  You get the idea.

There are a few disadvantages of shopping around.  Being southerners, there are regional foods we like to eat which are hard to find outside of the deep south.  Can I mention black-eyed peas and turnip greens again?  I have learned a valuable lesson from our friends Gordon and Juanita (Seeing the USA in our Chevrolet) who discarded their sofa in favor of a small chest freezer.  They put away a stash of their favorite foods from various areas of the country and they are there handy when that particular urge strikes.  I’m not quite ready to give up the sofa, but I do have a larger freezer now that can be put to better use.

Another disadvantage is never being familiar with a store.  I spend umpteen hours grocery shopping because I never know where anything is.  The other day, at my old familiar Kroger, everything on my list was in my basket within a few minutes.  This is usually not a big deal, but occasionally I want to just run in to pick up a can of chicken broth (to boil those chicken feet in) and end up walking about a mile before finding the soup aisle.

Just a few thoughts relevant to RVing.  I may have other thoughts on another day when I’ve stayed inside and accomplished almost nothing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Busy Sunday

Well, this has been a non-stop day.  Almost immediately following breakfast, Gene went out to rub on the Everest some before it started raining.  Meanwhile, I did a few house keeping chores inside and tried to catch up on e-mails and other computer stuff.  This campground doesn’t have WiFi, so Gene and I have to share the air card.  It’s hard coordinating that schedule sometimes.

Clothing sorted by size
We had an early lunch, then headed over to Ansley’s so Grandpa (or Big Dad as he wants to be called) could finger all the new baby things.

moss on Mossy Ridge Trail
Even though it was raining we wanted to get in a hike this afternoon, so from Ansley’s we went to one of our favorite parks in the city--Percy Warner.  We did a 4.5 mile loop along Mossy Ridge Trail.  As the name suggests, there is a large patch along the ridge which is covered in moss.  For the past several years, the moss has been brown and dry because of lack of rain.  That has not been a problem this year with rain several days a week and the moss was thick and lush.

Dinner was not a disappointment--BBQ ribs from the grill, baked sweet potatoes, green beans, baked pears, and brownies with ice cream.  Yum, Yum.

This day just about wore out these two senior citizens, so that’s all for today.  We’re off to beddy-bye.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Family Matters

The agenda for this weekend is all about family.  This is the way it is every year when we get back to Nashville.  We are so anxious to see everybody that we can’t see everybody for trying to see everybody.  We just love it!!

Tomorrow, we are scheduled to have dinner at my parents’ home.  This will be the first time over there since Christmas.  That really seems a little strange to say since we used to go at least once a week.  At least we had the opportunity to see them when they came for a visit while we were in Washington.  We enjoy going over there to eat.  My mother is a great down home country cooking cook and if she has a speciality, it is pie.  We have our fingers crossed.

Even before tomorrow gets here, I can already tell you that the highlight of the entire weekend was Ansley’s baby shower this afternoon.  The big event was hosted by her mother-in-law and a large number of family and friends gathered to shower the mother-to-be with everything she will need to take care of the baby.  In fact, she got so much stuff, I’m not sure where she’s going to put it all.  I’m quite certain that if she were to change the baby into a different outfit every hour of the day, she will have plenty to last until kindergarten.  It was thrilling to see Ansley opening all those gifts.  It is also thrilling anticipating having a baby in the family real soon.

Before going over to my folks for dinner tomorrow afternoon, we are going over to Ansley and Jack’s so Gene can have the thrill of seeing all her stuff.  I think he may be the one who is excited the most about “his granddaughter”.  He wants to be right there in the big middle of what’s happening.

These are busy times, but what could be better than being with family.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ashland City Bicentennial Greenway

With our exercise goals in mind, we have agreed to walk or hike three or four time each week.  We selected the Ashland City Bicentennial Greenway for today.  This is a rail-trail conversion, so it’s nice and flat.

All over the country there has been in the past several years an effort to convert abandoned railroad beds to trails.  After a rail line has been abandoned, the right of way comes into possession of a governmental unit.  If there is interest in an area for a trail, the governmental unit (state or federal) may be approached for the land.  Through the efforts of volunteers and outdoor enthusiasts groups, the old rail bed is converted to a trail.  The Ashland City Greenway is paved, but many, especially the longer trails, are crushed stone or even dirt.  Having been an old railroad bed, these trails are generally very wide and moderately flat.  Because they are wide with gentle elevation grades, they are popular with bicyclists.  One very popular trail in the east is the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascus, Virginia.  The trail in Ashland City is only 6.5 miles in length, but there are rail-trail conversions that are hundreds of miles long.  The Katy Trail in Missouri comes to mind which runs from Clinton to Machens, a distance of 237 miles.

Bridge over Sycamore Creek

The Ashland City trail has been converted from the old Tennessee Central Railroad and passes through hardwood forest with limestone bluffs on one side and Sycamore Creek (which runs into the Cumberland River just out of sight of the trail) along the other side.  Railroad ties, rotting and moss-covered at the edge of the trail, are reminders of days gone by.  The path crosses several creeks and the old trestles have been left to support the new wooden bridges. The longest bridge which crosses Sycamore Creek still has the old steel-frame span in the center.  We saw two great blue herons from our vantage point on this bridge.

We stopped at the 4 mile point and had our picnic lunch before turning around and heading back to the truck.  The last time we visited this trail, it had a dirt surface.  We were quite surprised to find this length paved.  Expecting dirt, we had on our hiking boots and were carrying our trekking poles.  We would have been much better off without the poles and wearing tennis shoes.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed our walk and plan to return when the leaves turn.