Visit with Felicia and Laura in Lone Tree, Iowa

We had a terrific visit at Felicia's - but way too short since we are now on a timetable with reservations to get us through the summer and a deadline to reach Washington State for Gary's family reunion.
Felicia's old farmhouse is big and beautiful - they really have it fixed up nicely...and you could live for a year on all the wonderful home-canned goods in their basement! They sent us off with some homemade goods (corn relish, salsa, relish, peach and grape jam) plus other goodies like coffee and tea, not to mention some garlic chives in a pot, which we will be enjoying for a long time to come (provided I don't kill the poor plant with my notoriously black thumb). Hopefully, our next visit will be during the Trek Fest in Riverside, IA which sounds like a lot of fun.
From Felicia's, we went across Iowa to the western border north of Omaha, Nebraska and spent one night at Lewis and Clark State Park, before moving on into South Dakota. We are now in the Badlands of South Dakota and going from here to Custer State Park, then Sturgis / Deadwood. Will post again when the opportunity presents itself.

Goodbye to the smokies...on to Kentucky

We were sorry to leave GSMNP which is now one of our favorite places. We ventured north from there to the beautiful "horse capitol of the world" Lexington, Kentucky. We stayed for 2 nights at the Kentuck Horse Park Campground, which was a great deal considering the stay in the CG included discounts and free parking for the Horse Park. If you love horses, you can't miss this, where amongst many other things, are the graves of Man of War, War Admiral, and John Henry. Also, both Funny Cide (Kentucky Derby winner) and Cigar (winningest horse ever at $10M, pictured below) reside.

The 2010 World Equestrian Games will be held here, so they have built a fabulous new outdoor arena, and a huge indoor arena is under construction. When we left Lexington on the way to Indiana, we pulled into Louisville for a brief visit to Churchill Downs.

Unfortunately, out of Kentucky, across Indiana to an overnight stop just west of Indiannapolis (small town of Crawfordsville, IN), we had a flat tire on the 5th wheel, so spent a morning there getting all new tires on the 5th wheel (knew it was due but were hoping to make it through the summer). They didn't tighten the hub caps properly and we lost a hub cap from there on the way up to Iowa (that's just salt in the wound). What followed was a couple more huge expenses - the next day our 23-month old HP laptop dies (Geek squad in Iowa City said it was the mother board) so we had to buy a new laptop), then the day we left Iowa, the truck lost power, we milked it back to the GMC dealer in Iowa City and got a new "fuel injector assembly" ($500) on our truck which barely has 35,000 miles!!! Yikes, it was an expensive few days.

More from the Smokies...

It was periodically rainy and cloudy during our stay in the smokies with very brief periods of sunny we were very lucky to have a clear day for which we rushed up to the "Top of Old Smoky" - Clingman's Dome - where we walked a bit of the Appalachian Trail and talked with a guy who was doing a "short" 160 mile portion of the 2100+ mile trail which runs from Georgia to Maine (read Bill Bryson's "Walk in the Woods" for the most entertaining tales of this trail). It was so clear that day, we could see further than the display pictures at the top of the tower...the rain had cleared out all the haze. We also visited Gatlinburg (like a wild mainstreet Disneyland - you could spend days!) and Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood and a seemingly endless selection of miniature golf courses; a parade was happening for Dolly Parton who was returning home that day - so we high-tailed it out of there to not get stuck behind the parade crowd).

Here's me and Rexie next to the over-flowing creek going through our campground, and Gary at a local woodcarver shop - we really enjoy checking out wood-carvings and would love a big black bear carving, but where on earth would we put it???

Smoky Mountain National Park - Cades Cove

We stayed nearly 2 weeks in Cades Cove Campground, on the Tennesee side of GSMNP, also making a brief visit to the eastern side in Cherokee, North Carolina. Cades Cove is fabulous for both historical value and wildlife viewing; though Elkmont campground is also nice, I highly recommend Cades Cove CG for it's proximity to the cove loop. At night, the 11-mile loop is closed to vehicles, so we made some late evening / full moon bike rides, where we once had a very close encounter of the bear kind (bear cub ran right in front of Gary's bike while mama bear shuffled up a tree right next to my head!)....yikes....but all was fine. We loved the cove, and also had some less "intense" bear viewings, plus lots of deer, wild turkey, and a brief encounter with a Red Wolf. Red wolves were reintroduced in GSMNP in the 1990's, but interbreeding with Coyotes caused the park service to cancel the program; most rangers will tell you that all the wolves were trapped and removed, but one admitted to me there are still some remaining, and particularly some coyote-red wolf crosses. What I saw was definitely not Coyote. But it was so shy and fast, there was brief eye contact from 30 feet away and then it was gone; even if I'd had my camera on that hike, I would not have got a shot.

Here's Gary riding on the Cades Cove loop; note the beautiful dogwoods which were plentiful.

This momma bear had a hard time convincing her 3 young cubs to come out of the tree; she had to climb up and nudge them. We had a great show from the cove road 50 yards away as she coaxed them down and walked them across the field into the woods.

On the Road to the Smokies

We left Mom and Dad's in late April. It was a nice long visit and they were extremely accommodating and helpful in countless ways. I know it is very lonely there now particularly after having so many visitors there in April, but they must be enjoying the peace and quiet for a while now. I miss the relaxation because now we are go go go! We hit the road and headed east across Missouri across the corner of Kentucky and into Tennesee. Here's Gary relaxing at our first top - Missouri's Big Spring State Park. It was absolutely beautiful, the water was an unbelievable turqoise, and we had the place to ourselves. I highly recommend this stop, though the road in is 3 miles of big steep hills up and down.

We went from southeastern Missouri across the Missisippi via the 60 hwy (scary bridge, very narrow!), touching down on the peninsula for about 100 feet and then immediately on another bridge across the Ohio - neat to see where the two rivers join - and into Kentucky.

Our next stop was Nashville, Tennesee area where we stayed at J Percy Priest lake, at the Seven Points Campground, with spots backed up right to the water. We stayed a few nights here while we explored Nashville area, including LP Stadium where the Titans play, Wildhorse Saloon, and the Charlie Daniels Museum. We didn't ride the General Jackson paddleboat, but did watch it cruise by and turn around in the Cumberland River. Here's a shot of our spot in Seven Points:

Finally able to post again....PICS of family

We're finally able to get logged on again. Will try to catch up on some recent events. Here a few shots from our family gathering in April in Missouri. We enjoyed a 2 night visit to Branson (kids enjoyed the indoor pool) and a stop at the nicest fish hatchery I've ever seen (Roaring River State Fish Hatchery in Missouri). Easter was a bit rainy but Steve and Diane's girls had a good time easter egg hunting despite the drizzle.

Here are Ella, Lily, Anna, and Sammy all together playing in the boat. The girls all had a terrific time at Grandpa's, especially driving the lawn mower.

We were really glad Dan and Ganya made it out in their motorhome. Dad, Mom (with Yorkie Tutti), Ganya and Dan: