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!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cedars of Lebanon and Gatlinburg At Last

We arrived at Cedars of Lebanon just as it got dark on Thursday, so it wasn't until Friday morning that we got to see the park.  We rented a 2 bedroom cabin for 2nights at $110 night, but besides the wood floor in the living room it was very basic and even though the view out all the windows was nice it made it hard for the vaulted living area ever to feel warm even with the heat set at 74F.

We were also unlucky enough to share the cabin with some cockroaches.  I killed a few and the rest I reported to the park office so hopefully they will go in and finish murdering the rest of them. People wonder why I like to RV and to tent camp and I'll tell you right now I never had a cockroach in my tent and even if I did it would be pretty darn easy to evict him and any of his friends!  Once I zip that zipper ain't no bugs getting in!  We kept most of our personal items in the car so as not to encourage hitchhikers.

 We saw the deer a couple of times during our short stay, and they kept a watchful eye on what was happening on the road but were not skittish.  Smart enough to be leery but not incredibly wild.

reindeer lichen

I dragged Cory onto the Hidden Springs trail yesterday which is a 5 mile loop.  Since Cory doesn't hike or do much any thing resembling it I broke him in slowly.  We walked for half and hour in and then half an hour back out on the flat limestone littered trail.  There was quite a bit of reindeer lichen growing.  I figure we did just about 3 miles because we kept a steady pace.

limestone everywhere

He was pretty tired but I forced him past what he thought his limit should be.  We have a lot of hiking ahead of us on this trip and it doesn't get easier if you start out too slowly.  Besides, we had to give those new Keen hiking boots a good breaking-in!

I didn't have my track expert with me, so I'm guessing raccoon on the muddy print above.  Anyone able to confirm that?


We spent the rest of our time yesterday hanging out at Panera sucking up their free wifi and then I darted in to Dillard's in Murfreesboro to snag Cory some Woolrich flannel shirts on clearance.  Score!

trail to the right, sinkhole to the left

This morning after I loaded most of the stuff in the car I decided I had enough time to scoot over to the 1/2 mile Limestone Sinks trail which was right across from the cabin area.  Be careful where you walk, they don't call it Limestone Sinks for nothing!

they went that-a-way

 If you're uncertain which way to go you can follow the blue blazes, or try the direction the bump on the tree is pointing.

The exposed limestone along the trail is covered in a variety of crustose lichens, all you have to do is lean in and look.   Bifocals may be necessary for those over the age of 40.

My no-line bifocals aren't doing their job very well lately, time to bump it up a notch

It was only 30F so my walk was almost a run, and at the end I noticed something I had missed during my hurried tour.


At first I thought it was ice, then a closer look revealed...what?  I still don't know.  But once I saw them I saw there were a lot of them, some just barely emerging from the ground.  Obviously some plant that left behind that brittle stalk is making its way back above ground.

I would sure love to know what the heck it is, so any help appreciated!  I also swung through the campground really quick to see what it was like in case Wayne and I return to the area.  The sites are very long, room enough for a truck in front AND behind a fifth wheel or class A easily.  However, they are not very widely spaced, which may be typical of Tennessee state parks I'll have to do more investigating.  Overall though not bad, better than most private pay parks.

And now we're in Gatlinburg after an unusually uneventful drive.  I took the Chapman Highway and then skipped Sevierville and the Outlets area by taking the River Divide Road to Henderson Road.  I ended up coming out onto the main drag just before The Christmas Place in  Pigeon Forge and it was worth the detour.  The roads are very twisty, definitely not for night driving or RVs, but it was quick and easy in the daytime in a car.  We even made it through Gatlinburg fairly quickly and are settled in to our rental house after a short walk near the Sugarlands Visitor Center and a visit to The Sinks.

our home for the next few days

Friday, January 30, 2015

No Termites Here

Turkey Run State Park is located in Clarke County, which claims to be the covered bridge capital of the world with 31 existing bridges, 21 of which are still open to vehicle traffic like the Cox Ford Bridge pictured below which is on its western edge.  The road to the bridge is a narrow dirt road but well maintained and there is a parking lot right before the bridge.

Cox Ford Bridge, 176 feet + 2 overhangs that measure 8 feet each

I jumped right out of bed when I woke up, not as early as Sherry did in a recent post of hers I'm sure, but 8:00 a.m. without an alarm in the winter ain't too shabby.  I knew the weather wasn't going to hold so I wanted to see if I could get any good light at all.  Turns out I got the last 10 seconds of light from the road approach in the picture below and then it just got cloudier, colder and windier over the next hour.

Burr arch truss design

It was 45F with a light wind when I got there, but by the time I went back to get Cory up it had dropped to 37F and the wind had picked up quite a bit.  I had the bridges all to myself though, even if I wasn't up as early as the birds.  I heard a few, mostly geese.

As I was entering the bridge in the car I noticed a sign that said "Cross this bridge at a walk" and it felt like my heart stopped.  The car did at any rate.  All I could think of was that scene in "Funny Farm" where the moving truck driver says "This ain't a bridge, it's termites holding hands!"  Like stopping the car would fix things if the bridge was going to fall apart, right?

Of course I'm sure the sign is there because otherwise people might trip on the uneven boards.  I made it across without incident and then walked back onto the bridge to check out the view of Sugar Creek from one of the openings.

Sugar Creek

Cox Ford covered bridge is actually unique because it was built to replace a steel bridge that washed out in the flood of 1913, and the arches used in this bridge were from another one that was 60 years old and washed out in the same flood.

The other bridge I visited was the Narrows Bridge at the eastern edge of the park.  It was built by the same guy and of the same style, but is 31 years older and only open to foot traffic.  Historians believe that it may be that this bridge was the first he built in his career.

Narrows Bridge, 121 feet + 2 overhangs that measure 8 feet each

There wasn't a parking lot for this bridge so I parked at a pullout on a side road on the other side of the bridge pictured below as seen from the opening in the covered bridge.

Doesn't this look like a great place to go kayaking?  There was a canoe outfitter across from the park campground and I bet it's fun to go down the creek and see all the bridges in the summer.

I climbed down the hill and made my way down to the underpass of the bridge so I could get a closer look at the graffiti down there, as well as the ice formations on the sandstone ledges.

Narrows Bridge and its lovely coat of red paint 

I liked the little people holding hands, and even though graffiti is wrong, I also grudgingly admired all the names and initials carved in the sandstone below the bridge.  Tradition is tradition, and it looks like hanging out under the bridge has been a local tradition for the young people for a long time.  Besides, sandstone is soft and all those initials will easily wear away with a little time.

that's a lot of initials carved in the rock!

I would have explored the area longer but the wind was getting brutal and my exposed hands were bright red and getting unresponsive.  Rue didn't mind the wind, she had her scarf and could have hung out all day.

I know you were wondering if she fell off a cliff (or a bridge) somewhere, but she's still hanging around with me.  Yesterday she spent the day in the dark camera bag after we left Turkey Run.  We had a long drive to Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Tennessee which we didn't get to until right after dark.   Along the way we stopped in the towns of Terre Haute and Vincennes, Indiana and found some unexpected surprises.  More on that tomorrow!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Turkey Run State Park on Ice

Just steps from where we parked the car at the Inn at Turkey Run State Park is the trailhead for Trail #6.  The trail is really just a short path down through the hemlock trees to the sandstone ledges in the ravine where apparently turkeys once roosted.

I'm finding it hard to picture turkeys roosting in this spot, but the exposed sandstone is beautiful and the bridge built overhead ain't too shabby either.

Old highway bridge over Turkey Run 

We had to be careful and watch out for slippery spots.  I was almost a goner when I slid a few inches on some ice that was covered in a dusting of snow coming down the side of the ravine.  Cory somehow didn't slip at all even though he was wearing loafers.

 We went out and bought him some Keen hiking boots at Gander Mountain the other day.  He's in trouble now, I'll be dragging him all up and down the mountains soon now that he'll be outfitted properly.

I loved the icicles hanging off the ledges, this was the kind of thing I was hoping to see on this trip.  It seems like all I have to do is make a wish list sometimes and then I easily find just what I wanted.  Maybe I should wish for harder things?  This park would be great for Wayne and I to return to with the fifth wheel for a long weekend to hike the trails which look really interesting but besides this little path I did not have time to check them out.

Turkey Run flowing under the ice

I got up this morning before Cory and checked out the Narrows Covered Bridge, the Cox Ford Covered Bridge which bookend the park property and then took a quick look at the campground before we had to move on to our next destination.

site 105

A few sites looked big enough for the fifth wheel, including the 55 foot pull through space in site #105.  Most sites are 45-50 feet long.  They are adequately spaced but not as roomy as some state parks.  The ones in the woods on small loops were very nice but we would never fit in those, I especially liked site 34 but it's only 48 feet long.  Maybe Wayne will tell me we can fit after all if we park off to the side.

I'm sure somebody out there is saying to themselves, "Umm, hello?  Where are those covered bridges you mentioned?"  You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Half an Hour in Lafayette

At the last minute my mother decided she wasn't coming along on the late winter road trip so Cory and I took our time and we got on the road about 10:00 a.m. this morning.  Total driving was about  4.5 hours today with a half hour stop for some lunch at Panera and then another half hour stop for a quick architecture walk in downtown Lafayette, Indiana.

The Ross Building and First Merchants National Bank, Main Street

Why would I stop in a town that was less than an hour from our destination?  Why, they had a U.S. Post Office mural, of course!  Turned out there was more to see than that so I walked around for a few blocks while Cory waited in the car.

Ross Building, monks on corners originally held lanterns

Built in 1918 the Ross Building pictured above is a good example of Gothic Revival.  Right next door and a strange neighbor to be nestle up to was the vault style First Merchants Bank built the same year. Generally two to three stories high, the vault has a facade penetrated by a large, tall and generally narrow central opening, and occasionally smaller ones on either side.

First Merchants

I walked the square around the Tippecanoe County Courthouse and saw many things to catch my eye, including the coolest bench ever.

The courthouse was a beauty too, Finished in 1884,  it's built of Indiana limestone and is two-and-a-half stories tall on a raised basement. Architecturally, it is a mix of styles including Second Empire, Beaux Arts, Baroque, Rococo, Georgian and Neo-Classical.

Indiana limestone

It was a pricey courthouse to build and included 100 columns and nine statues!

I really enjoyed the massive wood doors. You don't see 'em like that very often.

500 lb walnut doors at each of the 4 entrances

Inside the guards were friendly and I was told I could take all the pictures I wanted as long as I didn't take any in the courtrooms, standard for the courthouses I've visited.

looking up into the rotunda

A cool feature on the inside was the elevator, installed in the early 1900's.

Also on display was a couple of paintings on the first floor depicting historical scenes.

Quite a lot to absorb in just half an hour!   I could have walked around longer but I wanted to get to Turkey Run State Park before dark.

 Cory and I have a room at the Inn that has windows that open...always something I'm looking for in case I have to air the room out.  I'll take an older building any day over a newer one.  Definitely well kept up though for an older building and no pesky odors to bother my allergies.  The room is really large and quite a bargain for only $75.

We had time for a short walk before settling in for the night.  I'll tell you more about the park tomorrow, and I'll share the post office mural on Monday probably.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kenosha Visitors Bureau Mosaic Murals and a Sculpture Too

Some mosaic murals are just outside the entry to the Kenosha Vistors Bureau.

I know it's not Monday, but I've got a big back log of stuff like this.  I took these almost 2 years ago.  Where does the time go?  While poking around their website I discovered they have a winter Snow Daze Festival on Valentine's Day that includes ice sculpting.  Now I'm glad I'm returning from my trip a few days earlier than I had originally planned.  It would be a good date but Wayne takes his annual ice fishing trip with the boys that weekend!

When I was there the sculpture “Heels Overhead,” an aluminum piece by artist Paul Bobrowitz, was probably just installed.  The sculpture is 7 feet tall and is only on display until sometime this year and they will replace it with another one.

If  I make it down there for Valentine's Day I'll check out their lakefront Sculpture Walk too.

After work today Cory and I are heading over to my mother's to spend the night and get an early start on our journey south tomorrow!  Road trip, Baby!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Spiced Rum Mural

I've had this one sitting around for awhile, just waiting for the right day to post it.

It was on the side of a building in Milwaukee and I captured it last spring when I was walking around on a Sunday morning.  I thought it was appropriate since I'm going from the cold climate here in Wisconsin later this week to warmer places down in Tennessee and South Carolina.  Not so warm that I get to dress like the gal with the ukulele, but I don't think it would ever be warm enough you'd be able to talk me into dressing like that.  Maybe in my single days with a little too much rum in me?

Linking up to Monday Mural.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Testing Cameras

When I decided to buy two different waterproof point and shoot cameras and test them I made sure to test them under a variety of conditions.  While most likely I'd be using this type of camera for museums and the occasional hike too strenuous or wet to take my DSLR along I want a camera that could perform as a backup if needed. After reading favorable reviews for the Canon Powershot D30 and the Nikon Coolpix AW120 I bought both of them on Best Buy's website and had them delivered to the house.  The price is great and they have a liberal 30 day return policy on camera equipment which I've taken advantage of to make sure I really like an item before keeping it.


On Friday Katrina and I drove in to Milwaukee because she had a job interview and I tried the camera out at the Milwaukee Public Library.  I thought both cameras performed similarly indoors except the Nikon corrected the lighting a little bit, removing some of the yellow tone that was actually really there.  However, the pictures still looked very nice except for when the flash automatically went off in the picture of the display of Nancy Drew books.  In the future I would turn that off, in my opinion most pictures suffer when flash is on and I only use it when absolutely necessary.


Now of course I didn't take the camera for an actual underwater test, which both cameras are rated to handle and even have a separate setting for.  The closest I got was a foggy cold morning in Twin Lakes down by Lake Mary.


I tried to use the macro feature but truthfully may not have engaged it correctly since I didn't check the manual first and was more concerned with getting my gloves back on my cold, damp hands.


As far as ease of use goes I thought the waterproof compartment hatch easier to manipulate on the Nikon but liked the adjustable wrist strap and hand holds on the Canon better.

I'm leaning toward the Canon but truthfully like them both enough that I don't trust my instincts.  The Canon is $100 more, is it worth it?  Thoughts?