Saturday, June 30, 2012

two years of waiting

Before our big day I was supposed to do what every girl does and get all glammed up in her dress to take photos by herself. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn't want to take pictures alone. I had no idea what I would do with all of those photos of me by myself in my wedding gown. Besides the obvious choice of creating my own shrine to myself. So I did the only other obvious choice. I made the hubs get all dolled up with me again after the wedding to do a post wedding photo shoot. Well, just a short year and a half later, we have the photos from our photographer. I admit, he takes forever, but it's oh so worth it.
After hours of being serious in serious attire, our true side came out.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Noticed I’m getting a little testy here

With temps topping out around 107* today, I wasn’t very interested in doing much of anything.  My patience wears very thin when it’s that hot.  The AC machine is as stressed as I feel, as it could only keep things down to 87 most of the day.  It was still 101 when I took a dip in the pool this evening around 7:45.  That settled me down quite a bit.
I guess it’s a good thing that I can talk about yesterday afternoon’s trip, as I don’t want to talk about today. 
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When I finished the post last night, Emma and I were enjoying our lunch at a nice picnic area.  My plan was to take the Balsam Mountain Road on a loop around the southeastern part of the National Park.  I was not aware that this was an unpaved road once you left the picnic area.  As we took a little walk down the road, I was skeptical as to whether or not my little Ford Focus was up to this challenge.  I think it was a 28 mile drive to the town of Cherokee, and my guide said it would take an hour.  It looked pretty lumpy to me, and I had observed quite a few folks turning into the drive, but then backing out.
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As I read further into the auto touring guide that I had purchased, it said that the road was maintained for passenger cars in the summer, so I thought, “What the heck.  I’ll give it a try.”  I’m glad I did, but I wished I had been driving a jeep or truck to be honest about it.  It was mainly a downhill drive in the deep forest of the park, so there were very few opportunities to find scenic views of the Smokies.
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It was too late to observe all the spring wildflowers, but I did find enough blooms along the slow going road to keep me interested.  I’m not sure how anyone could drive this road in an hour.  Granted that I stopped for pictures, but it took me almost three hours to do it.
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There were some places where I could pull over, and I took those opportunities to walk Emma up and down the road.  This certainly was a road less traveled that I had chosen.  I imagine it is much busier on a weekend, but I thought it was wonderful on a Thursday afternoon. 
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On the second half of the drive, we followed along a nice creek bed.  The roadway was a lot smoother along this section, and I rolled down my window to enjoy the sound of the rushing water.  It was pretty warm, but at least it wasn’t in triple digits.
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I didn’t see any wild life until I rounded a bend and found this ruffed grouse about to cross the road.  I’ve seen a lot of ruffed grouse in my time, but they’re usually only fleeting glances as the birds explode out of the dense forest in a flurry of wings.  I had a full couple of minutes to enjoy the gorgeous plumage of this bird before it casually strolled back into the forest.  What a treat.
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As I finished the drive on Balsam Mountain Road, I ended up at the back end of the Cherokee Trout Fish Hatchery with no idea which way to turn.  I chose to turn right, which was a mistake.  I eventually turned around here, and took a picture of this sign to show what Dave Watty Rd looks like printed in the Cherokee language. 
Being rather lost, I decided to plug in Jack-in-the-Box so he could direct me home.  Nice idea, but it took forever to gather the satellite  signal because of the mountains and dense forest on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  Uf-dah!  It eventually directed me down a road with multiple speed bumps.  This can’t be right.  I hailed an elderly couple riding in a golf cart and told them I was lost. 
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With their help, I was able to drive seven more miles to the town of Cherokee, leave the reservation, and eventually make my way home through the driving nightmare of Pigeon Forge.  It had been a long but exciting day of travel for both Emma and I.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

letters/10

dear korea, i love how all of the rice paddies are no longer muddy patches but instead, layers of green. it's a beautiful reminder of where i live. dear hubs, the other night you asked me to list all of the countries that i want to travel to. you finally made me stop and list my top five. you laughed when i had difficulty narrowing it down. but when i asked the same of you, you had equal difficulty. i love that one of our largest things in common is the love and desire to see the world. dear weather man, (because you're the one that makes the weather right?) please make sunshine on saturday so we can go cliff jumping. i'm all for relaxing at home with a movie while there's a typhoon outside, but not two weekends in a row ok? dear koreans, thank you for finding your slightly used sofa unfit for your apartment and politely setting it outside. it looks great in our living room.Photobucket

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A hot day for a black dog

The forecast for today was temps at 100+*, so early on I packed up Emma and my lunch and headed for the mountains.  It turned out to be an excellent decision.  I wanted to visit some areas I hadn’t been to on my trip to the Great Smoky Mountains last week. 

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My destination was the Balsam Mountain Road in the North Carolina portion of the National Park.  Little did I know that it would involve 225 miles of driving, getting lost (once again), and a real adventure on some roads less traveled. IMG_9072Of course, I couldn’t resist stopping for some more stunning views of the Smokies along the way.  Photos just can’t really capture the magnitude and peacefulness of these old mountains that just roll on and on and on.

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In order to get to the road I wanted to investigate, I had to slip out of the National Park for a bit and traverse a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Yahoo!  One more thing checked off of my bucket list.

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What a great name for this parkway!  This photo is not enhanced at all.  It truly does have a blue hue as the mountains spread out as far as the eye can see.  The Blue Ridge…different than the Rockies, but breathtaking in a different way.

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As I came to the border of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park once again, I visited the Mason Marker.

_MG_9098I don’t know much about the Masons, but after reading this sign I could surely appreciate the significance of this marker.  I found it amazing how the different stones came from so many different places.

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Emma and I stopped for lunch at a picnic area along the Heintooga Ridge Road.  Unlike our experience on Father’s Day, we had no problem finding a rustic table to enjoy a peaceful repast.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but this National Park does not charge an entrance fee.  There are no gates to go through where you have to pay or produce your senior pass.  First time I’ve run into that.  It seems when the park was formed, it was decided there would be no charge since families had to be removed from their homesteads.  It was felt that there shouldn’t be a charge for these folks to return to visit the graves of their ancestors, so we now all benefit from that decision.  I’m sure many of the people that had lived in these mountains when Great Smoky Mountain National Park and The Blue Ridge Parkway were formed resented having to abandon their homes.  I’m happy to visit here, but sad for the families that were uprooted to provide these treasured places.

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Now to the highlight of the morning on this glorious day.  As Emma and I were coming down the trail from the picnic area, a bird flushed in front of us.  I recognized it as a dark-eyed junco, and had a feeling that I might find a nest nearby.  Sure enough, I found three eggs in a little nest on the ground tucked into the side of the trail.  I took a quick shot and we continued on our way to the car.  Later, I returned, without Emma, to find mama junco back incubating the eggs.  How cool is that?

_MG_9138Unless you know what you’re looking for, you’d never see this well camouflaged nest.  Mama junco is sitting on the nest just to the right and a little bit down of center.  Can you find her?

This afternoon held more adventures, but I’ll save that for tomorrow since this post is long enough.  It was 101* when we got back to the rig at 6:30 tonight.  Thank goodness the pool was open tonight so I could cool off!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emma’s home

I couldn’t pick Emma up yesterday from her stay in the kennel for two reasons.  First, I didn’t get home until after the pick up time, and secondly I wanted her to have a bath, nail clip, and gland expression (what ever the heck that means).  The groomer has Tuesdays off, so I opted for a Wednesday pick up. 

She was happy to see me for about 30 seconds until she noticed others in the room.  That’s the way she is.  She’d readily go live with someone else, anyone else.  A Lab she’s not.  I suppose we fit well together since we’re both of a sort of independent nature.  It’s just that my nature has slowed down a bit, and she’s still gung ho no matter what.  Oh well, we headed back to the rig and she collapsed in the bedroom to sleep the afternoon away.  She always comes back exhausted from her stays at the ‘spa’.  She sure smells good, and her hair feels fluffy.  It’s kind of ironic that her stay in the kennel was more expensive than what my trip cost me including gas money and the expensive motel.  I think there’s something wrong with that picture.

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Parent Eastern Kingbirds were busy this evening feeding this year’s crop of young in the campground.  The red lining in the young bird’s mouth elicits a feeding response from the adult. (not a very good photo, but it’s a good demonstration of an adaptation)

As I expected, my sister Pam was not interested in just sitting around a campground for a week at Buckhorn COE park.  Stanley also wasn’t too thrilled with my description of the drive on the route they would be taking.  So today we went to plan B.  While I was wandering around on my way home yesterday I picked up quite a bit of info on eastern Kentucky.  I cancelled my reservation at Buckhorn, and made a new reservation at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Kentucky for a week.  There’s lots to see in the area, and since it’s a resort park, there’s even a matinee Broadway musical performance during the week we’ll be staying there.  In all of my travels, I’ve never seen a musical theater production at a state park before.  An additional perk was that Kentucky gives a 10% reduction in campground rates for seniors whether or not you are a state resident.  I appreciate that.  That means I’ll have a pull-through site with 50 amps and water for $19/night.  Cool beans!

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Like much of the rest of the country, we’re experiencing a heat wave in Tennessee.  The temp at 8:00 tonight was 86*, so I donned my swimsuit as I’ve been accustomed to doing here and headed for the pool.  When I got there, it was locked up.  What’s up with that?  I’ll check that out tomorrow as the temps for the next four days or so are supposed to be 100+! 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It’s good to be home…I think

After my expensive, quiet motel last night, I decided to pass on having a room service breakfast since it would have cost me about $15.  Instead, I had a sausage McMuffin for $1.06.  Winking smile  I was leaving Lexington by eight in the morning and thought I’d take a little detour on my way back to check out the COE campground where my sister and I have made reservations for the second week in July.  It’s on Buckhorn Lake in Kentucky.

“Jack-in-the-Box” agreed with the directions to get there in my COE book, so that was a good thing.  I imagined myself to be my brother-in-law, Stan, driving his motorhome since this is the route that he would take from the north.  Even in my car it was a slow up and down, very curvy, skinny 50+ miles through the mountains of eastern Kentucky.  Occasionally I went as fast as 40 mph, but most of the drive was in the 20-30 mph range.  When I finally found the campground, it was a little less than I expected for a COE park.  The sites were quite close together, and not very long.  I thought they’d border Buckhorn Lake, but they didn’t.  I’m not sure where the lake was.  I never saw it.  The waterfront sites that we reserved are along a small river. 

It’s also really located in the middle of nowhere, and it would take hours to get to any place to visit or tour.  I’m sure it’s quite nice if you are a fisherman, but none of us are.  I’m having second thoughts about meeting there and am looking into other possibilities.  The route I would take there from here only involves about 20 miles of tortuous driving, but I think I’ll go with my gut feeling unless Pam and Stan just want to stay in camp and relax for a week.  I’m glad I took the time and the extra 120 miles to check this place out.

When I got back to the Escapees Raccoon Valley park, I was relieved.  There’s nothing like coming home.  It’s nice to visit family and stay with them, and I occasionally enjoy a stay in a motel, but nothing beats my own bed and routine.

While I was at Robyn’s, I had my mail delivered but didn’t really go through it until today.  June is when my insurance on the rig and toad are due so I planned to take care of that this afternoon.  When I opened the bill, I almost passed out.  It was more than 80% higher than I’ve paid for the last six years!  I gave my agent a call in Sioux Falls, and he’s going to get back to me tomorrow after he investigates it.  Yes, I had a claim last summer when I got the rig up close and personal with a tree, but that hardly seems reason to me to almost double my cost.  Isn’t that why you have insurance?

I managed to get most everything unpacked from the car this afternoon.  You know, when I go to the Chicago area I have to pick up some special items that I can’t find in other areas of the country.  I bought a small Styrofoam cooler so I could transport some great cold cuts, good rye bread, and Italian beef back for my freezer.  There were a few other items also.  I sure did come back with more than I left with.  Smile

As I went to store my suitcase under the bed, I noticed some evidence of some unwanted residents.  Upon further investigation, it seems a family of mice had found some green sponge like stuff and made a not so little nest in the past.  I’m guessing it happened while I was at Anahuac NWR last winter.  (I don’t use the stuff under the bed very often)  The green foam came from an ironing board thingy that I had for when I used to iron my clothes.  I gave that up some time ago, but kept the pad just in case.  So, out came the vacuum and I sucked up the debris.  Yuck!  I had to get out my rubber gloves to dispose of a couple of petrified little bodies.  Apparently I had trapped the mother.  It was a disgusting task, but now I guess I’ll have to give up ironing for sure!  All’s well that ends well…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, June 25, 2012

A better choice

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to look up a motel to stay in for tonight.  Thankfully, Dennis refreshed my memory about how to go about doing that.  Being the frugal person I am, I told Robyn I was choosing the cheapest place listed ($42) to stay in Lexington, KY.  I’m taking two days to get back to the rig, and Lexington was a distance of about 330 miles.  Before I made the reservation, Robyn suggested that I read the reviews on this particular motel (Microtel).  I certainly don’t have dumb kids.  Here’s what I found:

Buddy D. from Elkhorn City, KY – Wouldn't stay again

Stayed Jun 2008, 1 day

Close Full Review >

I should have know before checking in here witnessing a man enter his room with what appeared to be a prostitute. Mind you this was really late at night so it more then likely was. Room was way too much for the room and amenities offered. Would recommend the motel 6 super 8 or even knights inn at this same exit. These are all cheaper cleaner and with more friendly staff. Parking lot was dark and appeared dangerous. Parking lot was full of beat up broken down cars and panel trucks. Made me feel a child molestor could pop put at any minute. Room key would only open outside entrance 5/10 times made quick entry from scary parking lot near impossible. Rooms are old and dated thought they have new spreads and carpet but 80s feel overall. My room had semen stains all over them and the window bench. Bathroom had paint all over the floor I assume they had just painter the bathtub or something. Worst of all was the smell of cooked heroin emitting from the room was almost unbearable. Toilet was stopped up from brown present left in it. It was late so i decided to just tough it out for a few hours and then get back on the road. Would never stay again front desk was very unhelpful and unfriendly would not let met make an late checkout as I arrived late. However this may have been a blessing as the room was from hell. Definitely do not want to linger or sleep here neighbors were loud all night with their tv and talking. This was on a week night I can't imagine this place on the weekends. Total dump for non dump prices. How they get away with it is beyond me.

The more I read, the more we laughed.  I could just picture myself in this horrible circumstance.  Lest you think this was just one disgruntled customer, the other three reviews were negative as well, but this review was a beaut!!

I’ve ended up at the Four Points Sheraton for more than twice the price, but Robyn can rest easy that this is a very clean motel in a clean neighborhood, and just off of the interstate.  If I had more ambition, I’d use the workout room and the pool, but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen.

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Since I wasn’t driving the whole 520 miles in one day, I contacted Nan and John Talley about meeting for lunch as I drove through Indianapolis.  Many of you know how fun it is to meet fellow bloggers, and put real faces to our cyber friends.  I was shocked when they gifted me with that Giuseppe Armani Bald Eagle sculpture that you see in Nan’s hands.  It is beautiful.

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We then had lunch at the Fireside Brewhouse in Greenwood, IN.  The food was very good, and way more than I could eat.  Thanks Nan and John.  It was great getting to know you, and I wish you Happy Trails as you begin your fulltime journey in about a week.  Open-mouthed smile

I so seldom stay in motels that when I do, I like to take advantage of room service if it is available.  Sorry to say, that late lunch was so large and filling that I just can’t think about eating this evening.  Ah well, maybe for breakfast?

Just think, if I had made a different choice, I could be shooting heroine or watching hookers tonight instead of the calm TV watching I’ll be doing…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

bamboo forest

We heard that a new bamboo forest park just opened up on our island so we jumped in the car with our friends Mike and Alissa and went to go check it out. You can see bamboo trees mostly everywhere you go here but it is in sparse bunches that you would have to hike to in order to go through a few feet of them. So we were pleasantly surprised when we found the bamboo forest to be a thick forest of them throughout the entire trail. I don't know what it is about bamboo, but it's like a 'knock in the head' to remind you where you live but at the same time a peaceful and relaxing feeling when you're walking through a large group of them.

they also included a ropes course through the trees that the boys got to enjoy. i wore sandals that day but brought my keens along in the car. of course i looked down and thought "oh my sandals will do just fine on the trail" and completely forgot about the course. ah well, just an excuse to go back again.instead i hung out with this cutie and waited for our hubs to finish. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What a party!

You can probably guess how I spent my time for the last three days.  Friday was busy getting everything ready for Robyn’s retirement party, Saturday was the party, and today was cleanup from the party.  Whew!

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One of the things I helped set up was the remembrance table.  Robyn had kept a scrapbook of her Army years, there were a couple of framed pictures, and we configured the soldier saluting the flag in the middle.  On Friday night, my oldest son Dan with his wife Crystal, my youngest son Andy with his daughter Ruby, and my ex-husband arrived from Minnesota.  Dan and Crystal camped out in a tent in the back yard while Andy and Ruby joined us to sleep inside the house.  We had quite the boisterous group, and I had all three kids to visit with.

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We put up a canopy in the driveway with tables and chairs underneath.  There were more tables in the garage, and plenty of seating in the back yard around the pool.  The d├ęcor was decidedly patriotic. Tons of food had been ordered, and many relatives and friends brought scrumptious dishes as well.  The cake depicted a set of dog tags with her entry date and retirement date along with her Sergeant First Class stripes.

The set up was running pretty smoothly until we opened the box with the cake.  Can you believe they spelled her name wrong?  On the right hand section it read Robyn Lark instead of Robyn Lapko.  You can bet that a last minute run back to the cake maker ensued for the correction.

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The hours for the party were from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., and it wasn’t long before people started showing up.  I’m certainly not going to tell you who all the people in this and the ensuing pictures are because I didn’t even know most of them.  I will, however, point out some for you to take note of.  Winking smile That’s my youngest granddaughter, Ruby, in the pink dress in the middle bottom row with her almost worn out, but proud grandmother in the pic to the left.  Very bottom right is my son, Daniel, and his wife, Crystal.

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That’s my sister, Pam, and b-i-l, Stan, in the top left picture.  Retiree Robyn along with Phoebe in the bottom right.  I think Dennis’ latest estimate of how many people attended is about 82.  That’s a lot of folks!

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Tons of kids were visitors, and you can see where all of them ended up.  Andy and Ruby are in the top middle.  With that many kids and the pool being used for about nine hours, it wasn’t a surprise that the water was looking a bit cloudy by the end.  Confused smile  I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out why.

It was a great party, and all of us were pretty done in by the end.  I’m very proud and thankful that Robyn was willing and able to serve her country for twenty years.  Because of her and countless others that have been committed to defend our freedoms, we continue to benefit as citizens of what I think is the greatest country on earth.  (Being the mother of three children that have either served or are still serving, I am admittedly biased and make no excuses for that.)

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy