Saturday, September 22, 2007

Maine - Sept/Oct 07 (1)

(Anything underlined has a reference link by double clicking.)

Sat, Sept. 22nd 07

Today began the first day of our Maine adventure. The goals; to visit two friends in Peru, ME, to collect National Park stamps along the way and, hopefully, catch the fall leaf season throughout the New England states. Secondary goals include riding two lane roads as much as possible and to add to my sign collection.

To date I have visited more than enough National Parks and states to earn the Ironbutt GOLD Master Traveler Award, with one exception. I need a National Park Stamp from the state of Maine. Hopefully we will accomplish that when we visit Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME.

My wife and I left Paducah at daybreak and rode to the Beaver Dam, KY rest area before we stopped for breakfast and a break. We rode slightly more than four hundred miles the first day. The weather was beautiful, although a bit hot towards the end. We arrived in Huntington, WV early with plenty of time to rest.

The oil refinery at Ashland, KY (as seen from WV) Carolyn, taking a break in the misty West Virginia mountains. Fall View, West Virginia Our first National Park for this trip was New River Gorge at Glen Jean, WV on Day Two.This bridge is amazing. It is so high people base jump off of it each year on "Bridge Day" Leaving West Virginia we made our way into Virginia to The Shenandoah National Park at Front Royal, VA. This was our third trip to The Shenandoah so we only rode about half of the Skyway.

The Dickey Ridge Visitor CenterDay Three: We crossed back into West Virgina to pick up Harper's Ferry National Park. Just a few miles later we entered Maryland and on to Antietam National Battlefield. Antietam is the site of the bloodiest battle ever fought by US forces. Twenty three thousand people lost their lives during the three day battle. Antietam is a solemn place that reminds us that true freedom for everyone in this country comes at a very high price.

“There are no gains without pains.” ~ Benjamin Franklin ~

Friday, September 14, 2007

Florida - Stamp Hunting / Fishing (3)

Sept. 13th, 2007 - Columbus, GA.

For some unknown reason I woke up earlier than usual this morning. I have always been an early riser so that was not a problem. It didn't take long to shower, pack up and head out. My first stop was for a biscuit and coffee, considering it was still 45 minutes before the first sign of daylight. I had no desire to ride the foggy, deer infested backroads of southern Alabama in the predawn darkness.

The Chattahoochee River, which forms the border between Georgia and Alabama, was shrouded in a light mist as I passed over just after daybreak. It was a short 55 miles to Tuskegee, Alabama, the home of the Tuskegee Institute and University.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the time zone change and quickly found I was now back on Central Time. That meant I was more than an hour early before anything opened. I took that opportunity to gas up, grab a second cup of coffee and explore the University and town.

Tuskegee, Alabama is one of the most desperately poor towns I have ever visited. I was saddened to see the deterioration of the secondary roads within the city and almost all of the private buildings. The University itself seemed well taken care of and in reasonable repair.

One other thing that caught my attention was the visible police presence. There were easily more police in that one town than I had seen on the entire trip, times ten. I even wondered at the time if something special was happening.

The George Washington Carver Museum, located in the center of the Tuskegee University campus, houses the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, as well as the park stamp.
After touring the Museum, I crossed town and stopped at the Tuskegee Airman NHS, on the way out of town. This is the airfield where the Tuskegee Airmen were trained, and is a seperate location with it's own stamp.
After leaving Tuskegee, I was treated to a scenic 40 mile ride over to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park near Daviston, AL. This is yet another beautiful southern park, situated along a river in a large forest.

"Go Home" was the next command to Miss Garmin. She promptly informed me it was 422 miles to Paducah and about 95 miles of two lane roads, or so, to Birmingham. I arrived home around 6 pm after riding 520 miles today. The entire round trip total was 2,163 miles.

All in all, a really fun trip. I especially enjoyed the fishing and riding the piny hill back roads of southern Georgia and Alabama.

"Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch. Freedom is a well-armed sheep contesting the vote." ~Unknown~

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Florida - Stamp Hunting / Fishing (2)

Fort Matanzas National Monument is located at the southern tip of Anastasia Island, about 20 miles north of Daytona Beach. It was my first park today but did not open until 9:00 am. This left me with a great opportunity to explore Hwy 1 down Flagler and Cresent Beach.
The surfers were out bright and early. It occurred to me while I was standing here watching the surfers that it sure was a long way to the Yukon River... LOL
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is an original Spanish Fort located in historic down town St. Augustine. I find a lot to like about St. Augustine, unlike most of Florida.

The fort commands a view of the inter-coastal waterway. It is easy to see why it would have been so strategically important.
As I was leaving Florida via I-75, I collected the Florida welcome sign for my collection.
It was on to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, GA. Plains is the very definition of rural Georgia.
Andersonville National Historic Site is located near Plains and is the home of the National Prisoner of War Museum, as well as a large civil war cemetery.

Many northern states have placed memorials at Andersonville honoring their fallen civil war POW soliders. This is Wisconsin's monument.
Andersonville is a quiet and peaceful place.

After a beautiful late afternoon ride through the Georgia Piny Woods, I have stopped for the evening in Colombus, GA., near the Alabama border, about forty miles from my next park in Tuskeegee, AL.

"Every exit is an entry somewhere else" ~Unknown~

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Florida - Stamp Hunting / Fishing (1)

Recently I was invited to join my cousin and a couple of his friends on a salt water fishing trip in Suwanee, FL. This fishing trip would work well with my ongoing National Parks Tour. With that in mind, I left Paducah Friday, September 7th. My first stop was The Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville, KY. This park, along with several others, commemorates the Cherokee Indians forced migration to Oklahoma and the many trials they suffered along the way. This park is primarily funded by a yearly Pow Wow which was taking place the weekend I visited the park.

I left Hopkinsville riding northeast to Leitchfield, KY and then southeast, entering The Mammoth Cave National Park through the back entrance. A light rain was falling as I entered the beautiful forest that makes up this park. Wild turkey and deer were at every turn, seemingly oblivious to my presence. The road I was traveling eventually dead-ended at The Green River, where I boarded a small ferry to cross. It was only a short ride from the ferry to the Mammoth Cave Visitors center.
I departed Mammoth Cave NP and rode due south to Nashville and on to Murfreesboro, TN where I visited Stones River National Battlefield and Cemetery. I found the cemetery a solemn and peaceful place. Reading the plaques gives one a greater sense of the magnitude of the death and destruction of the civil war.

While in Murfreesboro, I spent the night with my daughter and her family. Saturday morning I delayed my departure a bit to spend a bit more time with my grandson.
It was a short trip to the Alabama state line and on to Russell Cave National Monument. Once again I was treated to a back door entrance, over a windy, gravel/semi-paved road, about the size of a small driveway to arrive at this park.

I have learned when working in Map Source if you drag an established route over to include a new stop, Miss Garmin will take the shortest route possible. It might not always be a road you would normally ride. This can be avoided by establishing a way point and letting her route between each way point or, simply picking the route yourself.

In this case it led over a beautiful wooded mountain and was well worth the effort to ride. It was very similar to riding some of the gravel back roads of The Land Between the Lakes. Miss Garmin favored me with a more civilized road for my departure.

Crossing the Georgia state line, it was on to Fort Olgethorp and Chickamauga National Battlefield.
Leaving Chickamauga National Battlefield, I rode due south on I-75 to Atlanta, then southwest around the by-pass to Peachtree City, where I spent the night with my cousin, Dwight Wilson.

Sunday around 1pm, after church, we departed for Florida. The three of them, and all the gear, in Dwight's van and me following on my V Strom. It was slightly over 300 miles to Suwanee, Florida and Captain Howard's Fishing Excursions. We arrived around 8:30 pm in a light rain.

The next morning we boarded the boat before daylight and were fishing for Speckled Trout and Redfish soon thereafter. Monday was a beautiful day to be fishing, and it wasn't long before we caught our limit of trout (5 each) and other assorted fish. That night we had a great seafood dinner at Salt Creek, the only restaurant in Suwanee.
Noel Foster and the infamous "Mackerel Man" Butch Kendall
The bright sun made it very difficult to get a good picture.
Noel Foster
Captain Howard at the helm.
Speckled Trout on light tackle can be a lot of fun to catch, to say nothing of being delicious to eat. Sea trout are toothy, hence the careful approach to the business end of this fish.
Dwight Wilson
The first day's catch.
Mike Blevins, Dwight Wilson, the infamous "Mackerel Man" Butch Kendall, Noel Foster

We had thunderstorms Monday night and awoke Tuesday morning to dark skies and lightning off in the distance. Forever the optimist, we loaded our gear and headed out to the flats, only to find the fish were not cooperating, and the weather only got worse. Eventually, we were surrounded by looming thunderstorms and repeated lightning. Discretion became the better part of valor as we called it a day, leaving Suwanee in a steady rain around 1pm.

I departed the group 30 miles later at Old Town, Florida and headed due east, riding two lane roads across northern Florida, through the many small towns.

I arrived in St. Augustine too late to visit the next park. Tomorrow I will visit two parks in the St. Augustine area before I turn northwest on my return trip.
"Of all things, good sense is the most fairly distributed: everyone thinks he is so well supplied with it that even those who are the hardest to satisfy in every other respect never desire more of it than they already have." ~René Descartes~