MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Road Trip To Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina

Four-thirty in the morning sure isn't as easy on an old body as it was back in my working days, but that's when Judy and I struggled out of our warm beds and prepared for an all-day road trip to Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina; one hundred and thirty-six miles east of Harriman, TN.

First stop heading east was the Sevierville, TN exit off I-40 for some coffee, eggs, grits, bacon, gravy, and biscuits!  That's a must if you are going to last most of the day in the wilderness.  Incidentally, that Cracker Barrel was very friendly and the wait was minimal; unlike the week before at the Strawberry Plains exit where we waited and waited until even the later arrivals had been served, before leaving; walking right past the waitress who had apparently forgot to turn in our order.  I told her, "Thanks for the coffee," and we left, stopping at a Hardee's across the street!
 
Anyway, at around 7AM we arrived in Cataloochee Valley.  The sun was just peeping over the eastern mountains and illuminating the hillsides on the opposite side of the valley.  At the first field we stopped and waited in the "magic hour" light, but there was no elk to be photographed.  "Where are they," we both thought?

The Cataloochee Valley consist of about three fields in an almost straight line about two to three miles long.  We ventured further west up the valley, passing things I wanted to shoot later when the light was better.  
 
Finally, we came into the last field, which is much larger than the others.  It's stretches for about three-quarters to a mile and is about three to five hundred yards wide.  That's when we saw the parked vehicles along the last two hundred yards of the field, and across the field, were the elk.  I was amazed at the number, maybe two or three dozen, consisting of mostly cows with three or four bulls.
There was one obviously dominate bull standing tall against a backdrop of fall leaves right in the upper most part of the last field.  We quickly parked and I got out; grabbing my monopole; which turned out to be a minor mistake.  I got some decent shots, but all were, at least to me, sub-par due to "long lens shake".  In retrospect, I should have set up my tripod, but I was excited and was afraid all the elk would scamper away any moment.
 
 
 
They don't scamper away, like the deer all did, because they just aren't afraid of "man"!  They stood proudly and grazed unconcerned; even venturing up to smell the hoods of a couple of trucks parked along the road.
The main road into Cataloochee ends at the far end of this field.  So you have to exit the way you came in, or take a long route back toward Cosby and eventually Gatlinburg in Tennessee.  The road winds forever, at least that's how my wife described it, and is a bumpy gravel road.  However, the views in fall made it bearable, and we even stopped along the way, in one of the many curves where the road widens out, to have a "pickup picnic"!
To me it was worth the early rising and the winding and bumpy roads.  The light, the frost on the grass, the fall colors, and the rising fog in the valleys made for a great adventure.  It's one I won't soon forget, and at least one of us will go back one day.

Lessons learned: 

1.  Return the way you entered (unless you go in from Cosby).  Get off Exit 20 on I-40, which is about fifty miles west of Asheville.

2.  Take the time to use a tripod...the elk aren't going anywhere!

3. Arrived at or near first light.  The elk seem to know you're coming and enter the field right on the sun's cue!

4.  Oh yeah, be sure you have a large memory card or two in your camera.  I heard a couple of people who were having to delete frames in order to continue shooting.  Shoot lots and delete later.  You never know which snap is the frame you will want to sell or frame!

You can see a pictorial tour of my trip by clicking HERE!

Monday, September 22, 2014

On The Back Roads Again This Past Saturday

We were back on the road again this past Saturday, and as usual, no particular destination in mind.  We just head out and when we come to side road, we turn.  We don't like the main roads...too much traffic, and no scenery at all!

The direction we turn is determined by asking if anyone has been down that road.  So, we go down the one that no one has been down, or at least has forgotten!

Sometimes we begin to pass things we remember, but coming from a different direction, so we begin looking for an unknown road.  Often Dr. Ahler will tell Gary to do down a road because it's either heading to or away from "the river or mountains", or better yet, "follow the creek", and here we go.

Somehow, Saturday we ended up in Loudon and Monore County, TN, in the towns of Philadelphia and Madisonville.  Soon we saw a sign directing us to Hiwassee College, and we all remembered there was a "balloon festival" going on there.  

So we follow the signs, missing one due to construction midtown Madisonville, and somehow make a circle and come back to the same intersection we missed, only from a different direction.  This time we see the sign, and finally make it to the campus.

Neither of us had any idea about the timing of the event, but had we just thought about balloon festivals, we would have known that most of the colorful action occurs after dark.  The burners then light up the inside of the balloons.  However, we get there long before dark-thirty and there was only one balloon in action; giving short tethered rides up and down.   There was a second one, but the basket was still in a pickup, and the balloon itself was barely unfolded on the ground.

Now, this would not have been too bad, except that we had already paid (rather Dr. Ahler paid) $5 a head for us to get up the hill to the parking area.  Over about a quarter of a mile, on what seemed like the main campus, were festival vendor tents, and blow up bounce-houses, etc., but it would a long hike for aging hips and knees.  Besides, neither of us wanted to bounce!  Food and drink would have been nice, but we had to park too far away to make it worth the hike.

So, we stood beneath the single colorful balloon, that frequently rose with a blow torch sound, and descended to the shouts of the ground crew.

I snapped away, knowing that this was all the action I was going to get, and I got a few good shots.  It was rather colorful against the bright blue September sky, but we soon grew tired of starring up.
 We passed a couple of barns, an old mill, and a large orchard of "crab apples".  Neither of us had seen so many in years, and so I hopped out and hiked back down the road to the fence line just feet from the trees.  Not the greatest find in the world, but hey, I didn't have an "Osage orange" tree in my wildflower database.  Now I do!

You may know this ugly fruit by one of these other names: Maclura pomifera, commonly called hedge apple, horse apple, monkey ball, bois d'arc, bodark, or bodock!
I remember chucking, and having them thrown back at me many times when I was young!  They are heavy and hurt like the devil when they hit you right in the middle of the back!

We made two other stops of interest; one was a Eve Mill near Philadelphia, TN.  The old mill structure was painted a bright red and trimmed out in white.  The actual mill building is overgrown and hidden beside the mill dam; which you can see from further down the road.  The waterfall was pretty, but it would have been much more scenic with a big water wheel.

The other stop was at a little general store, where three young girls were just about to close.  However, they let us come on in to get a drink and something to snack on.  It was great to see young folks actually working, and being very sociable.  We left them a good tip for staying open an extra 10 minutes.

So that was our Saturday...not much to young folks these days, but when old buddies are cruising down the backroads of East Tennessee, these old men think there is no where else in the world like it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More Saturday Road Trips In East Tennessee

I've done several "road trip" post in the past, but this is about a couple of recent excursions into the East Tennessee countryside.  Search "road trip" to see past postings.
Sometimes it's more than the three of us, but normally the central occupants of Gary's "bow-tie" pickup are Gary, the driver, Dr. Ahler, the navigator and historian, and me, the historical photographer.  

The three of us rarely know where we're going until we finally leave Dr. Ahler's house and turn onto the main road.  He then almost instantly knows where he'd like to go, which way he wants to get there, and what he is looking to obtain!  Having traveled the main roads, the back roads, and even the deeper less-traveled gravel roads of East Tennessee during his "circuit riding" doctoring days, he pretty much knows his way around the area.  At about 81, he still has a sharp vivid memory of the directions, farms and houses along the way, and even names of families, and acquaintances, he encountered in his travels to and from various hospitals in the area.

He directs Gary along the route he wants to go, and sometimes argues with the female GPS voice coming from the dash!  He is often right too, but he has not yet given in to trusting all the "newfangled" technology.  He relies instead, on directions from the rising or setting sun, mountain escarpments, big oak trees, property lines, ponds, lakes, and gut feelings.

I sit quietly in the back, listening to his tales and yarns from yesteryear, knowing that this elderly gentlemen has had a colorful life, and isn't giving up easily to his aches and pains.  He has and will live his life as aggressively as possible.  While he's doing this, Gary and I are reaping the benefits of what he's seen and what he wants to see before his time is finished.  Therefore, our lives will also be blessed by his knowledge, conservative views, and friendship!
A couple of Saturdays ago, which is generally the day we travel, four of us, that day we included Benny, a childhood friend, and ended up at the Mayfield Dairy Visitor Center near Englewood, TN.  Our primary goal had been to reach a new Mennonite store near that community.  After picking up some vegetables and a watermelon apiece, the Visitor Center was just an added surprise for me.  


I had no idea where I was, and they weren't really sure, but all of a sudden we turned onto the blacktop and there was "Maggie" the cow!  I knew then I was about to sample some great ice cream!

Supermarkets in East Tennessee are full of numerous varieties of their ice cream, but at the visitor center you can sample experimental flavors that are either not yet in stores, or may never be in stores.  It's always a treat!
Dr. Ahler and Benny enjoyed a quiet moment sitting in the shade finishing off their dip choices.

This past Saturday, even Dr. Ahler was not sure where we were.  We had made so many twists and turns that he was confused, but only for a few minutes.  We are never lost, but we do, on occasion get turned around.  

This trip we were on an apple hunt!  There are several stores, fruit markets, and stands all up and down most all roads in Tennessee, and East Tennessee roads are no exception.
Finally, we turned down one last road and there was one of the biggest in the area.  Wooden's Apple House, in Bledsoe County, has many varieties of apples and their orchards stretch right up to the parking lot.  Picking your own is prohibited, but who cares when the store provides all you could ever eat or even carry!

They also have a bakery inside where you can sample apple turnovers and other treats made on premise, with their own apples.
On down the road, we find other stands, wholesale/retail warehouses, and fruit markets to tempt us into buying more than we need.  
All along these back roads we are slowed by the trucks carrying empty baskets and Mexican field laborers.  Some of the people in the area are transit workers, but many came long ago and set up a good life in the American economy.  They own most of the wholesale warehouses, and while stopped at one, I watched workers in the hot fields working on their Saturday.

These fields stretch for acres, with more tomato plants than one could ever count accurately.  I wondered how many of us would work these fields today, especially on a "football" Saturday.  Us "white folks", and even some of us "black folks", have just become too soft; not willing to work for minimum wage at such menial tasks, in hot dirty conditions.  Sounds like Roman history to me!
Anyway, we came away with plastic bags of corn, peaches, Mutsu apples (even a one peck box), and huge tomatoes; one of which I just had with cottage cheese!  One of the peaches was my breakfast, and it was so juicy and sweet.
We wind our way back home, down different roads, hoping to surprise our wives with the bounty that we've piled into the backseat.  Of course, sometimes we buy too much and have to give some away, but that's the way it is, and always has been, in the South. 

It won't be long before we eat our way through our produce and plan another trip to somewhere, yet to be determined; but rest assured Gary and Dr. Ahler will get us there by an interesting circuitous route! 

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Little More Than I Planned

I'm beat, or I feel like I've been beaten!

I have recently started to eat better and am exercising a little to try and get over the up and down swings in my blood sugar.  It seems to be working.  I've resorted to a modified Atkins type regiment; basically more protein than carbohydrates.  Once you start getting the shakes from a low blood sugar of 40, or the weird feeling of a high of 180+, then you start paying attention!

The exercise is not a lot, just a fast mile on the treadmill, but it's more than I was getting!  Summer heat and humidity, plus old knees and legs, have curtailed my usual mountain hikes to anytime the thermometer is below 75 and above 25.  That's quite a range, actually, but in East Tennessee those are the few days it isn't raining, or at least threatening.

However, that isn't the reason I feel rough as I write this.  The reason began last night as I tossed and turned from 1AM to 7:30; thinking about all the things I wanted to accomplish today.

The first one was to load up my lawnmower and get it to the local John Deere dealer for some major work on the deck.  A support strut under the deck, right at the exit shoot, that had broken again and needed attention.  Naturally, as long as that had to be done, the mechanic might as well sharpen the blade, change the oil, squirt a little grease here and there, check the filters, and see if the front tires need tubes or replacements!  I can't get those front tires to hold air anymore.

In preparation of my busy day, I got up and ate a hardy steak and egg breakfast, had my second cup of coffee, and proceeded to getting the loading ramps out of the basement, and move the truck to the front hillside.
Loading is generally routine, as the above photo shows from past experience, but today there was a small hitch; the mower would not start!

Now, I don't fancy myself a mechanic.  I stopped working on cars about 1973, when you were no longer able to put at least one foot on the ground beside the engine.  Air conditioning and power steering, to name a couple of modern automobile enhancements took up all the roominess under the hood.  So, I proceeded to do what little I know about why an engine fails to fire.

I fumbled with the spark plug; finally removing it after loosening a couple of bolts from a protective housing, and reconnected it to the wire.  Luckily my battery was new, so it had the power to wait out the delay in starting until I resolved the problem.

I turned the engine over and saw that there was a good spark at the end of the plug.  Scrapping my knuckles again putting it back in and tightening it.

All the while it's 85 with high humidity, and my yellow "White Mule" t-shirt from the Downtown Grill and Brewery was getting soaked down to my waist.  

I haven't done well in heat and humidity since 1959, when I nearly died from sweating nearly all the sodium from my body.  You can read that story by CLICKING HERE.  My folks were surprised I didn't die in Vietnam, just from the loss of salt!  Me too!

I disconnected the gas line from the fuel filter and noticed that there was no flow of gas.  Therefore, it was safe to assume that was the reason the mower failed to fire.

I went back to the basement, that being my fourth trip, filled it up and hauled up my 10 gallon air compressor.  I had two flat tires anyway, and proceeded to blow air up the gas line.  I heard bubbling after a short pause, so I figured the blockage was gone, and sure enough, when I shut off the air flow gas gushed out on my leg!

Putting everything back together, I was confident that I had the issue repaired.  I did.  It cranked as soon as gas refilled the filter bubble; none to soon because the battery was finally beginning to weaken.  I could hear Judy cheer from the backdoor!

With tires inflated, I rolled the L110 onto the truck and we were off to Rockwood to leave the other issues to Bowman John Deere.

I was a dirty, greasy, sweating mess, but I was so relieved to have the mower running and delivered.

I was now looking forward to getting back home, showering, eating a Wendy's Grain Salad with chicken and pineapples, while we watched another episode of "Boardwalk Empire" (season 4).  My troubles would be behind me and I would once again be clean, full, and ready for my daily 6:30pm to 7 news time nap!

So, I go into my library to sit down and relax a couple of minutes before stepping into the shower, when I decided to take advantage of the delay and clip off a nail I had messed up at some point in my previous ordeal. 

I laid the clippers on the sink and reached for the file.  In the process I knocked the clippers down into the sink.  Grabbing at it, like a kitten playing with a ball of yarn, my hand knocked off the little filter screen I keep on the drain.  My heart sank and my temper rose as I realized the clippers slipped neatly, barely touch either side, and disappeared down into the trap!

Try as I might, I could not loosen the second trap joint nut!  Even my pipe wrench, which, I was surprised to find, was almost too heavy for me to hold steadily now, would not budge it.  I'm telling you, getting old is no fun!

So, I resorted to going to the dirty clothes hamper and getting out my cleanest dirty t-shirt for a halfway respectable trip to Lowe's!  I started humming "Sunday Morning Coming Down".

I drove the 8.3 miles (both ways) and located a "claw tool" to see if that would retrieve my clippers.

Back home, I found a way to kneel on a sofa pillow and hunker down under the sink again.  I've found my right leg will not bend all the way under me like it did just 1 year ago!  Age again!

I put the claw tool down into the trap and on the third try it came out with my clippers!  Yea!  Now I could shower, eat, and rest.

So, that was my day.  I had hoped last night that the mile on the treadmill would be all the exercise I would need for the day.  Nonetheless, greater powers decided I needed humpteen trips up and down the hill and stairs to basement. 

So, I didn't get the other items on my "do list" completed today, but...who's counting!

I am a little beat tonight, but it's no secret that I need a little extra each and every day, but God, can't I do that on cooler days?! 

 
 

Friday, June 06, 2014

VA Turns Down $1/year Lease Offer! Why?

About two years ago I posted this about a possible VA Hospital in Harriman, TN.  That proposal was declined.

  
I'm bringing it up again because of the recent scandal involving the Veterans Administration.  It seems they can't handle the number of veterans needing their assistance at VA Hospitals across the country.

True, they have certain internal policies and staffing issues that need to be addressed in the very near future, but it seems to me a few more hospitals would ease the burden. 

That's why it aggravates me to no end to know that there is a perfectly good hospital building, recently vacated, sitting in Harriman, Tennessee that the city has offered to the VA for $1 a year!  

Harriman's Roane Medical Center closed last year and moved operations to a brand new facility in Midtown (about 5.3 miles away), which centralizes their services to Roane, Morgan, Rhea, and other areas in East Tennessee.  There is nothing wrong with the old facility, and would make a great hospital for VA services.  

City Officials offered the facility to the VA and they came and toured, but declined the one dollar a year lease offer.

Frankly, especially after the recent scandal, the area is shocked!  Why is this perfectly fine facility not being used, when there clearly is a dire need for doctors, beds, and services?  It is estimated that this Roane County facility could serve up to 100,000 veterans in Anderson, Blount, Cumberland, Knox, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Rhea, Roane and Scott counties, and save them hours of driving and fuel costs driving to get help.

And, it's true, Harriman needs the help in bringing money and commerce into the area, but when there is a clear need for this VA facility, it's a win, win, for everyone.

If you read this, please try and get the word out to congressmen, both city, state, and nationally about this issue.  It seems this is one way to stand up for our servicemen!

Here are a few places to start getting attention to this problem:


Don't forget Facebook and other social media pages.  Spread the word far and wide!



Monday, May 26, 2014

"The Three Soldiers" Replica Dedicated In Memorial Day Ceremony

As a follow up to my previous post, Roane County Veterans, and their supporters, came together Monday (Memorial Day) to honor all veterans, and especially the fallen, by dedicating a replica of the statues that compliment the "The Wall" in Washington, DC, "The Three Soldiers".

The Three Soldiers (also known as The Three Servicemen) is a bronze statue on the Washington, DC National Mall commemorating the Vietnam War.  It was created and designed to complement the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, by adding a more traditional component to the Memorial.

That replica, sculpted by Greg Horak of Harriman, now stands in Riverfront Park in Harriman, Tennessee.  It is believed to be the largest replica of the memorial in the state, if not anywhere outside DC.

Roane County now has a place to go and remember those veterans that gave some, and those that gave all.

The effort to get the memorial financed and installed was a join project for American Legion Post 232 and the Newman-Davis American Legion Post 53, both of Harriman, TN.  At the ceremony Monday, both organizations participated in the formalities.

On hand were Post Commanders Bill Copeland (53) and Greg Love (232), Adjutants Cliff Cole (53) and Bronce Cleveland making sure Legionnaires knew their ceremonial duties.  Second District Commander Dennis E. Moldenhauer came to represent the American Legion Department of Tennessee.  
The event was kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance, and a moving rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" by Pastor Alvin Douglass, also a member of Post 232.
 
 
The memorial was unveiled and formally dedicated by speeches from Gary Todd, Finance Officer of Post 53, Greg Love, Commander of Post 232, Janice Black, representing the Avery Trace Daughters of the American Revolution, and Cliff Cole, Adjutant of Post 53.

A wreath was posted in honor of the fallen of Roane County, and members of the Cunningham and Cleveland families were escorted to and from the presentation.
Various members read the names of Roane County fallen, each name followed by a ring of the American Legion bell.  Following this reading, which, by the way, was surprising long, was "TAPS" played by Perry Hawn.  

We seldom stop long enough to realize how many Roane County lives have been sacrificed for American freedom.  However, the American Legion knows every name and just how special that sacrifice was/is.
 
After all was said and done, the two Legion groups did a fantastic job, and the members stay a long time mingling and getting to know their Legion brothers, and other Veteran brothers.  It's good to see progress in the community.
All Veterans came together before of the "The Three Soldiers" memorial for a shoulder-to-shoulder photo to remember the great thing they had witnessed.
 
Also, on hand were members of the Vietnam Vet/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club, Chapter H of Tennessee.  

Next up?  There are plans for a Korean, a WWII, and a "War On Terror" memorial that will join this memorial around the fountain in Riverfront Park.  It's good to be remembered for a job well done! 

It took 6 long years to raise enough money for the Vietnam memorial, so it is hoped the public will see fit to donate more toward the future plans.  We don't need to wait 6 more years...Veterans are dying every day, and memorials give them some bit of healing from the scares inflicted by war.  They sacrificed for us, so let's sacrifice for them...NOW! 

Give to the local American Legion for the memorial fund.
Here are various other photographs made during the ceremony.  Hopefully, you are among those attending!
 
 
 
 
Sculptor Greg Horak gets a round of applause!