2011 - Flooding on both the Mississippi river and White River in Tennessee / Arkansas

Our return drive home from Gatlinburg to Missouri was a challenge. Every possible route included flooded areas. Our original plan to go the 60 Hwy through Cairo where the Ohio River feeds into the Mississippi, was completely out of the question, as that juncture was completely flooded. So we had to take the southern route through Arkansas. Unfortunately, the White River in Arkansas was also overflowing and they had closed down a large section of Interstate 40 which was flooded. We had to take a long scenic detour, and saw flooding up close along the way.

Flooding at the pyramid in Memphis; these townhouses were just above the waterline, which has not crested yet

Crossing into Arkansas; we've been here before, and there's lots of water where there shouldn't be

Warning sign for the I-40 closure, for those who've been living under a rock (you can stop at the "afle" house if you're hungry)

These horses barely have any pasture left...

And this house and barn have run out of pasture completely

2011 - Meeting up with the Gillespies in Gatlinburg

We met up with Brett and Olivia and had a great time exploring Gatlinburg and the smoky mountains. Really glad we spent some time in Gatlinburg, though it is such a crazy tourist trap in contrast to the all-natural, quiet and serene National Park.

Looking for some good wings

Free samples at Ole Smoky Moonshine

Had a great time miniature golfing, both outdoor and in

The outdoor course actually included historic buildings on the hillside, like this original schoolhouse

Brett scored some "treasure" in Cades Cove

The real treasure was the bear mother and cub

Checking out the cool goods at a chainsaw carving show

Another stop for free samples - we only went there twice!  Honest!

2011 - From Florida Space Coast to Gatlinburg, Tennessee

We had a very long drive from the space coast to Gatlinburg; originally had scheduled 2 days to make the trip, but had lengthened our time in Florida by 2 nights when the shuttle launch was first postponed. Now it was postponed again, and we had to scoot; a 12-hour drive through five states - Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and into Tennessee!

The view down the street of our little timeshare stop in Gatlinburg - the trolley system was handy

The next morning, we discovered the Motor Nature Trail into GSMNP, which started just up the street from us

Awww, the beautiful trees

And old historic homesteads...

And running streams...

Hiking in the smokies

a very rocky, climbing trail

quiet woods all the way, a nice respite after having spent the whole previous day in the truck!

2011 - Florida Kennedy Space Center, waiting for Discovery launch STS 134

Finally made it to the space center, with the launch scheduled for the following day! Media and spectators everywhere. Unfortunately, the launch was postponed and the cheap little motels' prices went up to $299 or more per night (gouging?) so we did not try to wait it out, and headed up to Gatlinburg Tennesee for the last stop of our trip. Turned out to be a good decision since the launch did not go for another 2 weeks or so.

Really enjoyed our visit to KSC, was a great day and long list of cool things to see!

First one at the ticket booth when it opened!

The entrance to KSC

Excited to see all there is to see!

Just typical tourists

The original Astrovan

The Shuttle Launch Experience was terrific, very entertaining and educational, plus there is a "non-motion" alternative for folks who don't want the "ride", although I found it very mild and easy

What a great mural!

The shuttle model you can walk on

The real thing - Discovery - on the launch pad for STS 134

The view from Launch complex 39 looking back towards the Vehicle Assembly Building

The launch we were supposed to see!

2011 - March at Kissimmee State Park, Florida

My favorite outing in Florida (besides the Space Center, of course) was our early morning hike in Kissimmee State Park. The wildlife was plentiful, including many groups of deer, turkeys, the ever-present vultures, a bald eagle, a racoon, a variety of other birds, plus a scary-looking alligator floating just along the shore of the lake.
Sunrise on our way to the state park

Waiting and watching

that's a big bird

turkeys in the picnic area

walking the sandy path to the lake

lots of deer in the morning

this handsome guy decided to pose for the camera

yes, that is what you think it is, just off shore

florida sandhill crane in flight

ibis doing some early morning foraging