QUOTEWORTHY: “There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.” ~Walter Cronkite

In the previous blog I talked about going to Gadsden, Alabama, to pick up Priscilla. On the way down, we made a repeat stop at Desoto State Park on Lookout Mountain. This 3,502-acre park takes full advantage of the beautiful area with more than 25 miles of hiking trails and 11 miles of biking trails. Developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it is a really nice place. Amenities include a store, restaurant, meeting rooms, pavilions, swimming pool, picnic area, playground, interpretive center with animals, and an accessible boardwalk trail. Kayaking, fishing, swimming, hiking, biking, repelling, picnicking, You can also check out the CCC Museum, Desoto Falls, Little River Canyon National Preserve, and Fort Payne, Alabama, home of the super band Alabama. For lodging options, there are chalets, cabins, and a motel. The campground has 94 full-hookup sites, and there are also primitive sites and two back-country sites with shelters. This is a really nice park that is well laid out and wooded. We will definitely come back if in the area. For this stay in November 2023, we paid around $48 a night for a 50-amp, pull-through site. NOTE OF CAUTION: Do NOT follow your GPS directions to this park when towing as there are some tricky roads. Check out their website for the route in.

On the way home, we stopped in at the 1,200-acre Harrison Bay State Park in Harrison, Tennessee, on Chickamauga Lake. We only spent one night at this park, but it was very nice. Developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the 1930s, it became the first Tennessee State Park in 1937 and is a true resort park. Amenities include a Visitor Center, several gift shops, bathhouses, a camp store, the Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, a 4.5 mile loop hiking/biking trail, rental venues and pavilions, and a full marina with paddle board, kayak, and canoe rentals, and a restaurant. The campground offers 128 sites with water and 20/30/50-amp electric, a few of which can park up to 65′. There are also 27 tent-only sites that have gravel pads in the shade, grills, a fire ring, and water nearby and a group camp area. For this stay in November 2023, we paid almost $32 per night for a pull-through site. Sorry for the lack of pics. We were out early that morning.

One of the best things about going on a trip is coming back into eastern Tennessee. Every time I’m in awe of the beauty that tends to get lost in the every day when we’re there for a while. This year we made it back in time to catch the last of the fall color, too.

Before we left last Spring, we had people lined up to remove the debris from the abandoned trailer across from the new driveway. According to our neighbors, it had been sitting there for 20 years or more just deteriorating. The job was not completed when we got back from the big trip, but we were happy to find it done this time. I got it seeded before we headed out again, too.

After returning with Priscilla, we had just enough time to get the imperative things…moving the rest of the stuff in, organizing, and securing it all…done before our annual trip to Georgia for Thanksgiving. There we stayed at our regular campground, Rocky Mountain PFA (reviewed here), and spent time with Mom, Dad2, Aunt Pat, and Uncle Russ. My cousin Bill, his daughter Alina, step-sister Tracy and her husband Bo are Thanksgiving regulars, but this year we had the added bonus of step-sister Laura, whom we don’t see often. MW and I also visited Armuchee Baptist Church, which was a really nice little place. Oh, and he spent some quality time at his favorite bookstore downtown in Rome, Georgia, Dogwood Books. I like it, too, but he can spend hours in there!!

One of the best things about being in Tennessee is catching up with friends and making new ones. I particularly enjoy the ladies groups, which get together often for book club, bible study, movie night, etc., and getting to catch up with my handful of special friends. Here I’ll hit a few highlights…

  • For my birthday in December we headed over to Bristol for a nice supper at 620 State (delicious) and a ride through the Speedway in Lights at Bristol Motor Speedway. If you’ve never been for the Christmas lights, it is worth the trip. You drive all along the parking areas, drag strip, concession areas, and on the speedway. This year we were able to go to the infield area, too, which has a ride or two for the little ones and a couple of shops and food vendors. We really enjoyed it. There might have also been some ice cream from Southern Churn downtown before we headed to the hotel in Newport, too. The next morning we came out to a darned cool sight…a Blackhawk on a flatbed. I talked to the driver who said they transport them all the time. There was another truck following him with the rotors. Awesome! Of course, Army-Navy was on Saturday, December 9, so you know our afternoon was spent watching the game. Sadly, it did not go our way. Boo….Hiss!! It was a bitter pill, but one that Navy hasn’t had to swallow as often as Army. Plus, we still have the 14-year winning streak in our favor. Just sayin’. Go Navy! Beat Army!!
  • We had a terrific ladies Christmas gathering at the home of Mandy Seal. We all bring food to these things, so I planned on taking a Lemon Curd Pound Cake. Yum!! It has been years since I made one, and I was REALLY looking forward to it. Working in the barndominium, I got everything together and in the oven only to find it partially baked when it was supposed to be done. WHAT??!! It seems my oven has a persnickety temperature gauge. I had committed to dessert, but what to do. It isn’t like you can run out to a bakery in Sneedville!! Thankfully, I had an extra box of See’s Candy from a Christmas gift order, so the ladies were treated to the best chocolate in the country!! Incidentally, there was another disaster involving Cherry Divinity and a burned out mixer over the holidays. I think that kitchen doesn’t like me. MW should probably take over the cooking duties, don’t you think?
  • We got to spend a lot of time with friends Janice and Don, including several terrific meals. The most fun, though, was when Janice and I left the guys and went ROLLER SKATING with the youth group. Yes we did!! First, we both learned that we are not smarter than 7-year olds, much less 5th graders!! We rode with a couple of Sneedville’s finest who just blew us out of the water. Whitney Cantwell started a trivia game to calm them down on the long ride to Morristown. These are LITTLE kids. I expected stuff like “What is 4 + 5?” or “What is the dinosaur with tiny little arms?” (Thanks Toy Story.) What she asked was more like “How many planets cannot be walked on and why?” WHAT???? Not only did those boys jump in immediately with “four, because they are gas giants”, but they also named them…Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. You might think that was a fluke, but those boys answered questions on a variety of subjects for about 15 minutes going and 50 minutes returning. I don’t know about you, but we did not study that stuff in the first grade. I learned to read very early and was considered “advanced”, but these boys would have knocked my socks off!! As for the actual skating, I expected that to be a breeze. Back in the day, I was pretty good. Backwards, forwards, twirling, and dancing into my late 20s when I took my kids every week. Ahem…I busted my butt within minutes of standing on the wheels. Thankfully, it only happened once, and Janice didn’t fall at all. At least by the end of the night I was able to move to the music a little bit, but backwards was out of the question. Before even leaving the rink I discovered muscles in my legs and hips that I did not know were there! That took a couple of days to work out. LOL. I’m going to get Janice to go with me as soon as I get back to Tennessee, though!
  • Our Georgia Boogers came to visit over the long weekend in January. The oldest grandson had to work on Friday night, so they arrived Saturday after lunch. It was beautiful, and we had a nice cookout over the fire pit and spent the evening outside. Sunday we all went to church, then headed over to Shelly Belle’s Restaurant in Tazewell for lunch. On the way back to the barn we checked the weather and found that the snow that was projected for Monday morning as they hit the road had been moved up to Sunday before bedtime. Temps were supposed to get very cold, which would make for terrible roads in our mountains. Sooooooo…they packed up in a hurry and headed back to Georgia after only ONE NIGHT!! We were all bummed! I’d much rather that, though, then have them driving in the mess that followed.
  • Speaking of that mess…it really was a mess. We saw temps in our valley as low as -5 (you read that right) overnight, and it was below freezing for at least a solid week. It snowed like crazy through Monday, leaving us with about 8-9 inches. (I know that’s not much to a northerner, but we aren’t set up for hard freezes in the south.) Because I can’t sit still for too long and we needed a couple of things at the store and post office, I headed for town on Wednesday. I had a huge container of Pimento Cheese that I made for the Booger visit and forgot to send home with them. That left MW and me with more than we could possibly eat, and it doesn’t freeze well. I called Janice and said that, if the roads looked okay once I got out, I’d bring some by her house on the way back. (She LOVES the stuff!) Our road was white but not slick and everything else was clear. Easy peasy!! I’ve always been a fairly confident snow driver, because I lived in Maryland for several years. Keep your speed slow, don’t use your brakes, and keep your right tires in the rough if the road is slick. Black Valley appeared to be the same as our road and was fine for the first few minutes. But the slickness was revealed when I was about 3/4 of the way up a long hill and NOT in the rough. I began to slide backwards, and that was a problem! To the left was a 12’ish drop-off through a wire fence into a cow pasture. The better option was the 1-1/2′ drop-off into a ditch on the right, but that is not the way the car wanted to slide. I said a prayer and called Janice: “Two problems. First, you are not getting any pimento cheese today. Second, I’m stuck on the big hill on Black Valley and my car REALLY wants to slide off into the field!” She put Don on the phone while I tried to slowly roll back, then control the slide as soon as it started. At one point it slid a lot, and Don got an earful of “sh*t, sh*t, sh*t”. So sorry!!! Ugh! He drove down in his truck while Janice stayed on the phone with me, talked calmly, and prayed. I have to say, I’m usually the girl you want around in a crisis. I don’t panic, and keep my head. While I didn’t completely lose my stuff and was able to get the job done, my heart was pounding just about out of my chest!! I REALLY thought my car was going off that hill, and I had no way to get out first! I slowly worked my way backwards…rolling, sliding, stopping, rolling, sliding, stopping…until I had a little steering control. I wasn’t truly relieved, though, until I saw Don’s smiling face. He guided me as I backed down, keeping me in the rough, but out of the ditch. Whew!! In the end, I delivered the pimento cheese to Don, thanked God again for keeping me out of the pasture, and headed back to our place.
  • You thought that was the end, didn’t you. It wasn’t. By the time I made it back to our road, I decided that I should stay in the rough just in case conditions had deteriorated there. Everything was going well, and I made it down the steep hill. Then I hit a soft patch and the road edge I was driving on collapsed. Boom! My front right tire was in the ditch. Stuck…AGAIN!! I called MW to let him know and called our neighbor, Jerry Lee, who has big equipment. He was off helping another neighbor feed cattle, but his son, Kobee, was feeding at their place. This kid is one of my all-time favorite people…funny, hard working, and nice as the day is long. He has always kept an eye on our place when we aren’t around, does some work for us here and there, and even checked to make sure we were okay in the RV after the big snow. He came rolling up a few minutes later on the big tractor, and had me back on the road in no time. My HERO!! I was pooped by the time I finally made it home!
  • When the snow began to melt and the grass started peeking through, we were amazed at the number of deer showing up in the field. Those babies were hungry!! One afternoon there were FIFTEEN grazing at one time!! Shortly after that, the entire field was covered with robins and Carolina Bluebirds looking for their meal.
  • When the snow finally cleared out, our friends Chuck, Dempress, and Bobby came in from North Carolina for a couple of days. We all went into Morristown for supper at Tennessee Jacks, followed by the Dodge Ram Rodeo. Y’all know that anytime you can mix broncs, bulls, and cowboys, I’m a happy camper. I think our company enjoyed it, too. No good pics, though. :-(. If you’ve never been, they have rodeos twice a year at Walters State’s Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center.
  • In March the Bailey crew came up again from Georgia, this time to pick up their new truck, Brutus. They also loaded up a few of their things from the barn. It was a quick overnight, but I enjoy any time I can get. Oh and just after they got back home Booger Butt turned 16 and got his first set of wheels!
  • Also in March a group of us ladies headed over to Morristown for supper at Olive Garden and to check out The Ark and the Darkness at the theater. We had a terrific time, and if you didn’t catch the movie, we all loved it. Then just before I headed out, the Women’s Bible Study group hung out at Jovonni’s place. All of these ladies are very special to me.
  • Our last visitor before we headed out again was my BFF Tina and her Mr. Wonderful, Keith. We had an awesome time hangin’ around the fire pit for several nights. They also came to church and The Diner with us on Sunday. (By that time, MW and I were getting that delicious fried chicken as often as possible, knowing it would be sorely missed on the road.) When we got back to the barn, a black canine was laying in the field. He immediately jumped up and headed to the edge of the woods. We couldn’t tell whether it was a dog or a black coyote. (I’ve only seen a stuffed one of the latter, but know they exist. Later I pulled the pic up on my computer. The photo viewer pops up identifications for various animals and plants, and is sometimes very handy. In this case, though, it said it was an “American Black Bear”. Honestly, skinniest bear I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a bunch! LOL.) Our final night visiting was the best. Bible study was the last in a series that I didn’t want to miss (plus I promised Janice more pimento cheese…LOL), so Tina went with me. When we got back, the boys had the fire roaring and were already chowing on oysters. They also had the water ready for the boil. (There is a great spot where they live to get seafood, so they brought a mess of oysters, plus crab legs and shrimp! We’d been popping oysters open over the fire for the last couple of nights. Yum!!) The next 90 minutes or so were spent standing around the table filling our faces on the seafood bounty plus potatoes and corn. Can’t get much better than hangin’ with those two PLUS a low country (almost) boil!!

Time off of the road is also filled with doctor’s appointments and chores in our little valley. We did accomplish a few things this time:

  • We cut back the tree limbs down the driveway and Brewers Chapel Road, which we have to do every year or so to be able to come and go.
  • We FINALLY planted a weeping willow in the low area behind the dam. That is my favorite tree, and they always make me smile and remember the one at my Grandma Sara and Papa Peyton’s place when I was little. We used to LOVE hiding among the willow branches! I talked to a guy in Morristown and got the largest one I could at about 12′ tall. That is still a pretty skinny little tree, but the two of us wrestling that root ball off of the truck and across 25 yards of muck was ridiculous! Glad they didn’t sell a bigger one!!! Assuming it lives in the REALLY wet ground, it will be a beautiful sight as we come up the driveway.
  • I put up some pickles so I could take them down to my Mom.
  • The last chore was definitely the biggest. After purchasing some adjacent property last year and rerouting the driveway, MW moved the old gate out to block off the old driveway and installed another gate at the road on the new one. Then he installed fencing to keep those who would simply drive around it through the field. Seriously, who does that??? He preferred to dig the holes by hand, which made it a really tough job over quite a few days. The man is CRAZY, but the fence looks really nice.

Last up, we took three trips. The first was a road trip after Christmas to visit our Pennsylvania Boogers. We try to get up there at least once a year to hang with Angel Booger and Missy Booger. This time we all played tourist in Scranton, checking out the Electric City Aquarium, taking them on their first train ride on the Reading Blue Mountain, and watching the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins whup up on the Charlotte Checkers. We also took in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. The best part is always just spending time with them, though.

In February we headed out for a three-fold purpose. First, there were a couple of warranty repairs that needed to happen on Priscilla, so we dropped her off at the dealership in Gadsden, Alabama, for what we hoped would just be a week or 10 days. Next we headed over to Savannah, Georgia, to catch up with the Bailey Boogers for a long weekend. There, in addition to a lot of fun and laughter, we walked around the waterfront and the beach at Tybee Island and hit some other sights. We also took a ride out to Pembroke, Georgia, so I could show them the first house my parents ever bought. (I went to 4th grade there.) Below are some highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be):

  • One of the first things on all of our must do lists was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Booger Butt had been there before on a school trip and said that it was an absolute must. He was spot on. When this congregation first began meeting in Savannah, it didn’t have a fancy church. Fears of Spanish allegiance caused the English to make it illegal by colonial charter for Roman Catholics to settle in the city. That changed after the American Revolution, and they built their first church on Liberty Square in 1799, then a second at the corner of Drayton and Perry in a larger building. The original congregants were mostly French Catholics that fled Haiti during the slave rebellions, and in the early 1800s, the original church was used by free blacks from Haiti. After Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Savannah in 1850, it was clear they would need a cathedral. The Right Reverend Ignatius Persico led the construction on the current church on Lafayette Square in 1873. It was almost destroyed by fire just 25 years later, and the restoration was completed the next year. The High Victorian Gothic structure was designed by Ephraim Francis Baldwin and is the first built in Georgia of brick (later stuccoed and whitewashed). The spires (added in 1896 before the fire) stand 214′ tall, and there are 16 gargoyles and 81 exquisite stained glass windows. The beautiful cathedral was consecrated in 1920 by the Bishop of Savannah, Benjamin Keiley, after retirement of its debt. I love looking at churches, and this one is totally worth the time.
  • We should have known to take a pass on the Graveface Museum (I’m not even going to give you a link to this one) when we saw Lucifer parked outside. An interest in the psychology of cults and serial killers sucked us in when we saw it on the Trip Advisor list. A couple of folks in our group are fascinated by true crime stories. It should be interesting, right?? Well, there were a few things similar to a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not like shrunken heads, side show stuff, and items recovered from crime scenes. But…there was also a section devoted to devil worship, which was not mentioned on their website. We didn’t even glance at that! The cult stuff was okay, but the sections about serial killers Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy were entirely too gruesome and mostly focussed on sensationalism. The one interesting part of the Gacy exhibit was his artwork, which was not particularly good, but he apparently sold it to help pay for his defense. Overall, this place would be on my NO GO list. MW said it would appeal to a very narrow part of the population. I felt like I needed to go to church to wash the yuck off.
  • On the other end of the enjoyment spectrum was the Wormsloe State Historic Site. Noble Jones first arrived in the area with Georgia’s founder, James Oglethorpe in 1733. A man of many talents…physician, carpenter, surveyor…he leased 500 acres a few miles outside of Savannah on Isle of Hope. He named his new place “Wormslow” and farmed and raised cattle on what would become a large plantation. As many as 1,500 slaves are known to have worked there between 1750 and 1859, and some of their descendants lived at Wormsloe until the 1900s. The original fortified house was built of tabby, a mix of sand, oyster shells, lime, and water that can be poured like concrete. In addition to his duties at Wormsloe, the original Mr. Jones was active in the community, serving as a constable, surveyor, soldier, and Indian agent. He also served as colony treasurer, Assistant to the President of the colony, Royal Councilor, and Justice of the Province. Sounds like a busy Englishman! Eight generations of Noble’s family have watched over Wormsloe. The 5th generation, Wymberley Jones De Renne’s stewardship can still be seen today. He planted the over 400 live oaks lining Oak Avenue and had the entrance archway built. A dairy farm that began in 1910 was the last agricultural use of the plantation. In 1927 his son, Wymberley Wormsloe De Renne, opened the property up to visitors. In the 1970s the property was donated to the state and became a State Historic Site. Today about 40 acres of the original land is still owned by descendants of Noble Jones. Wandering around in the shade of those massive oak trees there are plenty of things to see including the superintendent’s cottage, all that remains of the route of the Great Savannah Races (1908-1911), a museum, tabby ruins, the gravesite, and living history camps. This is definitely one we all recommend.
  • According to legend, if you kiss the Cloch na Blarnan or Blarney Stone, you will be blessed with the gift of gab. What does this have to do with Savannah, Georgia? I’m glad you asked. Savannah is home to the South’s largest St. Patrick’s Day events and a large community of Irish descendants and enthusiasts. To celebrate that community and culture, a 600-lb block of stone was brought over from the Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland. Instigated by Dr. Sidney and Colleen Smith back in 2009, the huge chunk showed up unannounced about 10 years later. If you feel that you need help in the communication department, it is easily accessible and just waiting for your lips. Plus, any donations you wish to give will go to Savannah charities. Several in our party partook, but MW would not let me near it. Those of you who have spent any time with me know why. LOL
  • Several of the places we have been to over the years are purported to have ghosts, and Savannah is no different. In fact, they say that it is the most haunted city in America. (I’m not sure who “they” are, though.) So, this trip we decided to take a haunted tour AT NIGHT!! The kids were all excited to spend 2 hours hunting ghosts, and the guides we went with increased their anticipation. We got our briefing in Wright Square where the equipment was passed out. I thought the ghosts would just pop out and say “BOO!”, but apparently, we needed tools. The guides began by passing out Dowsing Rods, which apparently can help detect and communicate with spirits. Then there was an Electromagnetic Field Detector which measures fluctuations in the EM field that may signal a spirit’s presence. Finally, and most exciting because she gave it to Cutie Booger, was the ghost or spirit box. This little electronic contraption was supposed to pick up words that the spirits all around us were trying to send. Okay, now for clarification, all of this crew believe in Jesus, Heaven, and hell. I’m uncertain whether some souls get caught somewhere along the way or not, but will say there have been a few instances in my life that are unexplained. That said, I think the absolute best part of this walk was watching Cutie Booger. She was absolutely enthralled! At one point I touched the back of her hair, and she just about came out of her skin!! She kept reading the words that came up on her screen and saying things like “Breathe, abacus, nightlight…what are they trying to tell me???!!!” Among other places, the tour took us by 17 Hundred 90, where it is said the ghosts of a woman scorned, a slave cook, and a servant boy are all said to haunt. We stopped in there at about the half-way point in our walk for drinks. Let me tell you that place was so crowded that a ghost wouldn’t have been able to hear itself think! We also checked out the exterior of the Juliette Gordon Low House. The house remained in the Gordon family until it was purchased by the Girl Scouts in 1953. It is said that, as the famous Girl Scout founder’s mother, Nelly, lay dying, she suddenly sat up and greeted her dearly departed husband, William Gordon II. Her daughter-in-law Margaret was agape at seeing him walk into the room. Later as Juliette was letting the rest of the house know her mother had died, the butler was aghast. He had just seen Miss Nelly walking out the front door arm in arm with Mr. William. Today her ghost has reportedly been seen looking out the windows, sitting at the dining room table sipping tea, and playing the piano. Hmmmmmm. So would I go on a ghost tour again? Only if I could go with tweens who totally buy into it, at least temporarily. LOL
  • Sunday morning we headed over to Christ Church Episcopal for services and to cleanse the stank from that yucky museum! Founded in 1733, this “Mother Church of Georgia” was the only community of worship in the fledgling colony. Original services were held in English, French, and Italian to make everyone feel welcome. While the first building was begun in 1744, the current one is the third structure on the site and was begun in 1838. The Reverend John Wesley was once rector here and during his tenure began the earliest form of Sunday School and published the first English hymnals in the colonies. He was followed by George Whitefield who founded Bethesda Academy, the oldest home and school for boys in the United States. Although not visible from the front of the church, one of the towers still houses the Revere and Son of Boston bell that was originally rung in 1819 and continues today. This is a beautiful church with a lot of history, and we really enjoyed our visit.
  • We also sampled pizza at Riverboat Pizza Company and hit Lizzy’s Burger Bar. Both were fabulous, but I think the kids liked the Pirate’s House best. Oh, and it is purportedly haunted, too! Parts of the building are over 250 years old, including the Herb House that dates back to 1754 and is thought to be the oldest building in Georgia. Back in the day when this building was a hangout for the unsavory, many a man came in for a drink and woke up on a ship offshore…shanghaied into service!! There is a tunnel in the cellar (now covered over) that ran out to River Street and was used to carry them out!! Today they say shadowy apparitions have been seen walking through the dining rooms, the sound of boots on the plank floors is common, and an old time seaman catches people off guard, staring them right in the eye. We didn’t see or hear any ghosts, but did witness some kitschy servers in pirate gear and consume a lot of good food.

With the kids on their way back home, it was time for part three…a visit with the Florida Joneses in Pensacola. Since they work during the week, we drug our feet for a couple of days in Panama City. There, while out doing laundry, I got sand in my eye. If you have read much of this blog, you know that my eyes were a constant issue for many years…corneal tears, abrasions…not fun! I even had the entire cornea scraped off of my left eye ON PURPOSE, in order to let it heal properly. I thought all of that was behind me and was even back to wearing contacts. This time, the grain was lodged in my eyelid (not the first time that has happened, either) and was cutting the surface of my eyeball to ribbons every time I blinked. I dropped off the laundry and removed my contact. MW found an eye doctor nearby, and we headed over as soon as they could see me. Dr. David Edinger at The Eye Center of North Florida confirmed what I already knew, checked to see that the sand was out, and gave me some antibiotic eye drops with pain stuff. Awesome! He said that, if it wasn’t improved in a day or so, go to another doctor. The next day while getting dressed, I found a piece of contact lens on the bathroom counter. Bummer!! I was trying them out, so that was the only pair I had! We went on over to the Jones abode in Pensacola. My eye was a little less angry, but not getting much better. I couldn’t sleep for the ache, and when I was awake, I kept feeling like I was being stabbed in the eye! I took a pic. What is that in the corner? Is that the other piece of my contact lodged in there??!! We found another eye doctor who, despite me saying more than once that I thought a part of my contact was in it, said it was all just very swollen and angry, and changed the antibiotic. Honestly, she was an arrogant young woman who didn’t really listen to a word I said and treated me like an idiot. I DO NOT like doctors like that!!

Despite the above irritation and with the help of a bunch of ibuprofen, we still had a good time with the Florida Joneses. We walked on the beach at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, spent a couple of hours at the National Naval Aviation Museum at NAS Pensacola, and climbed all 177 steps at the Pensacola Lighthouse. We also had a late birthday celebration for Jennifer at The Original Point Restaurant. On Monday it was time to head north, so we swung through Gadsden, Alabama, to pick up Priscilla. My eye was a little less red, but was still killing me. Thankfully, I had a contact lens fitting appointment with my regular doctor at Smoky Mountain Eye Care in Morristown, Tennessee, on Tuesday. After I told him the entire story, it took him all of 5 SECONDS to find the contact lens piece that was embedded in the outside corner of my eye. SERIOUSLY!! As bad as it was when I went to the first doctor, I’m sure he couldn’t possibly see it. The second one, though, Dr. Brittany Hogan at Clarkson Eyecare, was told at least twice AND shown the picture. There is no excuse for her putting me through 5 more days of serious pain!!

Our last outing was a final shakedown cruise now that all of our mods on Priscilla were complete. We headed about an hour away to Natural Tunnel State Park for a couple of nights. Thankfully, everything worked well. While there we did a little hiking and headed over to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, to have lunch at Big Cherry Brewing Company, a definite thumbs up. I also got in a little practice with my new camera setup. My Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX400V started acting up near the end of our great Alaska trip. It worked well close up, but when you zoomed to the 50x optical, it got pretty fuzzy. The additional digital was virtually unusable. To be fair, I’m hard on cameras and have carried that thing all the time for about 4 years. Initially I planned to buy the same one, because I loved that thing. Sadly, it is no longer made, and I couldn’t find a used one that was in great condition. So I searched around and finally settled on a Nikon Coolpix P950. This baby zooms to 83x optical and double that digital! You can actually take pics of the full moon and SEE THE CRATERS!!! Now to learn how to use it. On the way back to the barn, we took the long route to rack up some towing miles. Chevrolet told us we should put about 1,000 miles on Big Jake before towing, then another 500 or so at 50 mph. We typically tow at 63, which is much slower than a lot of folks, but we sure wanted to get the 50 mph behind us.

As for Natural Tunnel State Park, it was very nice. Its 909 acres center around a natural tunnel carved through a limestone ridge that is 10 stories high and 850 feet long. It sits in a wide gulch with near-vertical stone walls. Facilities include a Visitor Center, gift shop, meeting facilities, a restaurant, an amphitheater, picnic shelters, and a chairlift that runs down into the gulch. There are over 6 miles of trails in the park for hiking and biking, too. Lodging options include cabins, lodges, yurts, a primitive camping area, and two seasonal electric campgrounds with bathhouses. Cove View has 16 20/30-amp electric sites, and Lover’s Leap has 18 20/30/50-amp electric sites. All sites have water hookups, fire rings, grills, and picnic tables. There is also a laundry in the Lover’s Leap bathhouse. We really liked this campground and would definitely return. For this visit in March 2024 we paid almost $45 per night.

Well, that gets you to the beginning of the next big adventure. There will be lots to see and do, so stay tuned! See you on the path!!


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