NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cherokee Trader Mural

I tried to find information on the internet about this great mural but came up empty.  The Cherokee Trader in Cherokee, North Carolina was the site for this mural.  I liked the old neon sign just as much so included it.

The Smokies seem like a dream already with the kind of unseasonably cold weather we've been having. Not only will the high be barely 30 here all week but I woke up to snow on the ground for the second time this year already! I hear the weather is colder than normal everywhere this November, bundle up everybody!  More murals at Monday Mural.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Belated Anniversary Acknowledgment

Our 24th wedding anniversary almost went unnoticed by both parties this year.  We tend to think about it a lot in the month leading up to it and then halfway through the day either finally remember or someone calls to congratulate us early before we remember on our own.  This year we forgot completely, not getting a reminder until Katrina called us at 9:00 p.m. with her good wishes.  She finds it charming that we pay so little attention to things most people mark and celebrate.  We are a sociological anomaly.

So young!

We've actually spent so much time this year thinking about our 25th wedding anniversary next year that I never gave this year much thought.  We used to always go out to dinner for our anniversary, but the last few years we even stopped that practice.  Somewhere along the line we both agreed that for us, it was mostly just a day on the calendar and that the real thing to be excited about was the fact that after so many years we are not only still married, but very happily so.  Something that seems to be in short supply in the couples in this day and age.  We try to celebrate that in small ways almost every day.  For me that means making an effort to be nice when I feel like being cranky, to take the time to consider a request to do something that is asked of me instead of just immediately saying no.  This year I've made an effort to accompany Wayne on a few neighborhood summer driveway visits instead of just staying behind.  It's the small things that add up, the little sacrifices we make to keep a connection alive and the longer we've been together the more I keep trying to be a better companion.  Each person finds their own way to say they're still trying - for me it's as simple as tolerating social group interaction when often I'm just as happy with my own company or cooking breakfast when I'd rather be watching a movie.

One of my efforts included visiting Stewart-Haas Racing.  I got a great t-shirt too!

Last year we decided we would actually do it up big for our 25th,  make an effort to mark the occasion.  When I started putting forth trip ideas for a November trip Wayne kept countering with a trip in August.  A trip in August?  That's just like any other trip!  No, if it is going to be meant to mark our anniversary, it needs to at least be in the same month!  Taking a trip in late October that will linger into mid-November is a sacrifice Wayne is making for me when he'd rather be home and not worrying about weather on our way back home.  Here's a link to a blog I found of a couple that visited Palo Duro Canyon on our anniversary last year. Hopefully the last leg of our trip that puts us there next November will turn out just as nice.

Other things Wayne does for me are small to some, but mean the world to me.  I have a lot of food sensitivities and trouble with fragrances and chemical odors.  He is the first one to say let's leave a place that is difficult to breathe in and sometimes the first to ask the waitress if a dish contains any offending foods.  My physical comfort affects him too, and he does his best to make sure I am warm, dry, and that I don't forget my little tushy cushion to protect my tailbone when we leave home.  Of course there is some self-preservation in these actions as an uncomfortable wife doesn't make a pleasant companion, but it pleases me just the same when he looks out for me.  He also doesn't take it personally when I leave him behind on our trips to do my own thing, as I encourage him to pursue his own interests.  That kind of security in a relationship is even rarer than happiness and I treasure it.

So, to all you happy couples out there on the road or battening down the hatches for winter, celebrate it however and whenever you like, but take a moment to acknowledge the fact that a long and happy marriage is something to be thankful for.  Even if it's a few days late, like me!

P.S., thanks to Donna Cave for unknowingly prompting me to make this public acknowledgement after reading about her own 44th anniversary this week!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Also Seen

This is my last post from our recent trip.  There was  a smattering of photos that didn't really belong anywhere, but had their own stories to tell so they wound up here.

Seen on a fence at the Roaring Fork exit
While in Cosby we searched out the Carver's Apple Orchard.  They were very busy, but all I bought was a jar of jam.  I can't resist, it's a sickness.  I would've bought that large metal rooster pictured below if he was for sale!

One thing we noticed while in the Smokies was quite a few Amish visiting.  Not only did we see them on the hiking trails, but shopping downtown Gatlinburg as well.

5 young men and one young lady on Chimney Tops trail

This botanical specimen I saw quite a lot on the ground.  I don't know what tree or shrub it belonged to, but something about its shape kept snagging my eye.

While in Townsend we stopped into a wood carver's shop.  There was  a lot to see there!

Cory was the one who pointed out that the "man" figure was probably a "gearhead".  Ahhh...makes sense now!

In Gatlinburg there are a lot of artisans at work, and we saw this woman carving a couple of different days that we walked through town.  Farther out from the main drag is the Arts and Crafts Community, a loop road near our campground that is 8 miles long and has shops for 120 different craftsmen.  We took a quick look through, but we're not shoppers so I'd say we were out in less than 20 minutes.  I did like the fall version of Santa at the Santa's Klaus-et.

Can't visit Gatlinburg without buying some moonshine at the Smoky Mountain Moonshine shop.

Wayne was tempted to buy this, but I talked him out of it. 

We did buy one other thing besides the moonshine.  We finally got a sign for our campsite!

I'm rocking the one-glove-and-pajamas look in this photo.  Don't hate me because I'm beautiful!

I have 11 mural posts in reserve, 1 video I have to cobble together from our hike to Chimney Tops and I've started some "flashback" posts of our 2009 trip but am now otherwise all caught up.  The weather here has been horrendous - lots of wind, cold and rain.  The forecast for the next 10 days shows highs ranging from 19 to 47.  You'd think it was December instead of November here this year.  Hopefully I'll get out soon and get some more blogworthy photos.  I'm jealous of my fellow bloggers who are exploring the desert, you know who you are!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Eagle Dancer Bear, Cherokee, North Carolina

Here's my contribution to Mural Monday this week.

It's another bear that is part of the Cherokee Bears Project in Cherokee, North Carolina.  The artist is Lora Powell and is titled Eagle Dancer Bear.

While searching online I found a YouTube link for an eagle dance from the Unto These Hills performance in Cherokee.  Maybe next time we go through Cherokee we'll consider attending.  Pretty cool, check it out!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Home of Lee Majors

When we visited Cumberland Gap National Historic Park on our daytrip we stopped in the town of Middlesboro to have a look around.  It's the hometown of Lee Majors, dontcha know.  Not a lot to see in Middlesboro, Kentucky, but we did the best we could.

Their county historical museum used to be a Carnegie library, so I couldn't pass that up.  Not a lot to see inside, but admission was free.

We laughed about the whole Lee Majors thing, but checking his filmography I realized we've seen him recently on one of our favorite TV shows.  He played Burt's dad on "Raising Hope".  Watch the clip from the episode Burt Mitzvah featuring Lee Majors at
New season started November 15th but I haven't watched the episode yet, I'm sure it'll be great!

Just down the road from the museum was the Coal House.  It was built in 1926 from 42 tons of coal.
Located in an outdoor display is some mining equipment from the 1960's.

On the same street were two interesting buildings on opposing corners.  I have no idea what the "cutout" design is called or why it was built that way.  I know in Chicago they bumped sections out overhanging the sidewalk to have more space while paying less taxes, but these buildings are purposely subtracting space.

Those two buildings were the exception to architecture in Middlesboro, and in nearby towns in general.  As we travel around I am coming to realize how lucky we are in Wisconsin that we've taken such good care of our architectural heritage.

 Most of the rundown buildings downtown were empty, all the activity was out on the main highway with every chain restaurant and discount store represented.   We had a hard time finding locally owned family restaurants on this trip which we prefer to frequent those few times we eat meals out.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pinnacle Overlook

Two days after we arrived in Corbin the fall color was way past peak.  We got here on what was probably the last day to see anything decent, it appears.  I'm thankful we got to see what we did, and that we got an opportunity to swing back by the Cumberland Gap National Historic Site even though the fall color was past peak.  We drove up to the Pinnacle Overlook for a look around.  The road full of switchbacks opened to the public in 1929.

The view at the top is one of the best I've ever seen!  The lookout itself is located in Virginia, overlooking the gap that separates Tennessee and Kentucky.

While we were walking back to the car I saw a sign for a trail that wound down to a parking area about halfway down the mountain.  I told Wayne I'd meet him there and headed into the woods to try to capture some of that fading fall color.

The trail was carpeted with a beautiful assortment of leaves, but I had to watch my footing since they covered up rocks, roots and at times even the direction of the trail itself.

As I neared the end I saw some man made stone structures a little ways off the trail and popped over for a peek.

Cumberland Gap was an important spot during the Civil War years, both armies fighting for control of the area.  Only one railroad crossed the Appalachian Mountains and linked the two largest Confederate armies.  Troops, ammunition and food was funneled from one side of the Confederacy to the other here.  It wasn't usable as an invasion route, but obviously controlling supply routes could be critical.

In the parking area where I met Wayne there was a small stairway that led to a cannon.  The cannon was made in 1861.  If you want to know more about the history of the area I found a good link here.

We also drove through the park's campground and declare it a winner.  It's first come, first serve only, but does have electric hookup and we're looking forward to coming back and camping and hiking here.

On our way out we saw a lot of police vehicles in the park and on the highway, as well as signs on the roadside warning that vehicles could be stopped for search.  A drug K-9 vehicle was also on the side of the road.  Something going on in the area we don't know about??

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Whooo Did We See in Greenbrier?

There we were, driving down the road to exit the Greenbrier section of the GSMNP.

Wayne suddenly hit the brakes and backed up, saying he thought he saw an owl in the woods.  Sure enough, an owl was perched on a branch a few trees in from the road. says that Barred Owls live in dense forests near water and roost quietly in trees during the daytime.  On the other side of our truck was a large creek so that sounds about right!

We backed up and parked in a pullout, closing the doors quietly.  Wayne armed with binoculars, me with my Canon SX50, we walked down the road to where we had spotted the owl. 

While I was trying to get some shots that were somewhat focused, Wayne slipped a little further along the road.  That owl's head turned and kept its eyes on him the whole way.

My poor arms got tired of holding the camera up, and then I noticed that it looked like the owl had seen something and was kind of hunching down.  I turned my setting to video and then he was in flight!  It was so great having the opportunity to be a part of his day, and now that's two owls I've watched during the daytime. If you listen closely you can hear me whisper "I got him!"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

These Boots Were Made for Squishing

We only got a chance to wander around the Greenbrier section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park once while on our trip in October.  We drove out to the end and parked at the Porter's Creek trailhead.

I spent some time turning over smalls rocks and rotting wood looking for salamanders but only saw one tiny guy who was so small and fast I almost missed seeing him at all.  Mostly what I saw was leaves.  And rocks.  Big rocks.

I even thought ahead and brought my boots, but no amount of squishing around in mucky spots produced the salamanders I was looking for.  It was fun looking though.

We also made a quick stop to the spot where you can turn off and go over the bridge to the Ramsay Cascades trailhead.

I pulled my boots back on and waded out into the water for some special views you can't get from the road.

I never would have been able to get out in the spring, it was above my boot tops and a little fast even at this time of year in spots.

We also had a wildlife spotting after we got back in the truck and were leaving.  More on that later!