Mount Desert Island

Venus looking down at the entrance to Bar Harbor at 04:05. 

Movin on up the road

Yesterday we parted ways with the Ohio River at the point where I could no longer follow it up river to the north. When it turned to the east (up river) I continued on to the north. Next stop is Niagara Falls. We went straight up through Ohio until we ran into Lake Erie. 

Then we followed the shoreline to the east and finally stopped for the day at Presque Isle Casino in Pennsylvania. Yeah, I know. . . . Casino? Hey, if it isn’t a destination and I need a relatively safe place to stop for the night I’ve found that many casinos have decent parking and security patrols. After all, we are self contained and only need a level place to park that feels safe.

I’m dragging my feet this morning as Buffalo NY is only a couple hours away and I want to check it out in the middle of the day. I’ll also top my diesel tank near Buffalo. It seems that fuel in this part of NY is fifty cents a gallon less than where I am in Pennsylvania.

Oh and speaking of destinations and casinos, I’ll probably “camp” at the casino just a couple blocks from the falls at Niagara. While it isn’t a campground, it is only 2 blocks from the falls and I can walk back and forth while I’m there. That is unless I find a better alternative.

Cheers!

Paul and HeyLeigh the wonder dog.

Wheeling WV – a sneak preview

What an awesome morning it was.  The overcast skies were gone and the sun was bright and warming.  Wheeling West Virginia is absolutely delightful.  Take it from someone who rides a seriously underpowered trail bike, the 25 mph speed limits are a joy.  I rode just a couple miles south to Benfield where I had spied an old, no longer used bridge across the river when I drove into town. Found it.  Pictures will have to wait until I get home and refview them on a decent screen.

Meanwhile, here are several from todays explorations.  I’ll have more once this Roadtour has ended and I find time to sort through them.

The diverse architecture here is a marvelous sight. Every Block brings new and different styles. I can’t put my finger on it but for some reason Boy George came to mind when I saw this. Not exactly Ybor city but still….. A lot of cigar business has been conducted here.Wheeling is the home of Swisher tobacco. Their advertisement is painted on numerous buildings.  thanks to the Federal Government, the signs are disappearing and cannot be repainted or replaced.

Wheeling and beyond

Wheeling WV was one of my goals on this RoadTour. I’d driven through a couple years ago when I bought MOBI and wanted to return with time to explore. I spent 3 days there. I deployed the trail bike and investigated Wheeling Island (where I asphalt camped at the casino), Wheeling and a couple neighboring towns. It was a good stay and I satisfied my curiosity. For now.
Not long after leaving Wheeling, I left the Ohio River behind and headed to Lake Erie. At North Kingsville Ohio, I could go no further north. I was on the shore of Lake Erie. It’s pretty amazing, standing on a bluff overlooking a lake and not being able to see the far shore.

We headed East along the shore and found a spot for the night at Presque Isle race track and casino in Pennsylvania. The next morning dog and I pressed on to the east through Buffalo N.Y where we stopped for lunch. I enjoyed Buffalo wings at the famous Anchor Bar, the establishment where Buffalo wings originated. Of course I washed the wings down with a local brew. It was perfect.

After that, we went to Niagara, one of the 4 actual destinations of this trip. Again, a spot we stopped in for a night on the return trip when I bought the RV. By the way, if you are one of those folks who must have white noise (we all know someone), come to Niagara Falls. It’s everywhere! The sound of the falls echoes off every surface. Just open a window. You can’t miss it.

The first three days the wind roared out of the south west at 20 knots whipping up spray from the falls and depositing it on everything including my camera lenses. The wind was so strong that even with the weight of my camera bag hanging beneath my tripod I couldn’t keep the camera still for some long exposure shots. Oh well.

The first morning I went to Goat and Three Sisters islands where I grabbed a few photographs and repeatedly wiped spray off my lenses. That afternoon I walked across the border into Canada where the foolishness of my younger days once again caught up with me. Immigrations detained and we had a most delightful chat about yesteryear. We parted on good terms and they opened the door for me to walk into Canada.

 

I have to say that the view from the falls is something you need to enjoy if you are ever in the area. Again, I shot tome images but between the wind and all the tourists I didn’t capture any artistic shots. It was Sunday. Monday had considerably fewer tourists!

I road the motorbike across loaded with camera gear. This time I passed through without a hitch. Guess I should have placed a bet or two at the casino as it appeared luck was on my side this time. It was still windy, even more so I believe and hot as the dickens. I rode to Niagara On The Lake, a pleasant drive. Again I stopped several places but did not see any images that called out to me. Or I simply was not in a spot where I could grab a good shot.

The weather has changed a bit. It was rainy earlier. Not heavy but enough to keep me and my cameras in. The wind has laid down and is supposed to shift more to the north. Maybe I’ll give it another shot and grab a camera.

Tomorrow I’m rolling on. So until I figure out where I’ll land next and find something to talk about, dog and I will just keep moving.

Cheers.

Main Street America

As I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve driven down numerous small town Main Streets. The pride these Americans who live in small communities have in their people, country and home is almost always evident. Even in areas where the economy is hurting, communities honor their country, veterans, first responders and heros and it is usually most evident on Main Street.

Benwood WV

Old Steel Bridge in Wheeling WV

This old bridge hasn’t been used in years but it’s still standing.  It crosses the Ohio River at Benwood WV.

CASH FOR BARLEY

Just a couple blocks from the Ohio River sit the remaining buildings of Greiner’s Brewery.
In 1854 Mathew Greiner moved his brewery from Cincinnati to Madison Indiana. Two years later he built this three story building (four stories if you count the hipped-roof tower). Prohibition sent the brewery into bankruptcy and was dissolved in 1918. For the next 6 decades the building housed a grocery, a farm and dairy supply store, and Madison Machine Products and finally Mayflower Transfer and Storage.  It has been converted into an artist’s studio and gallery.
The historic “Greiner’s Brewery, Cash For Barley” sign that graced the front of the building during the 1870s has been repainted on the side facing Park Avenue.
The Greiner Brewery building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Landmark.

Memorial Day

Very early Memorial Day morning on Reelfoot Lake.

Two Weeks In Tennessee. 

Two weeks in Tennessee is how I began RoadTour 2017. As usual, I left home with no plan. Well, I knew I was going to hit the Mississippi River and travel north and then follow the Ohio River into the top of West Virginia. After there, who knows??? Possibly Niagara Falls and Canada. I honestly didn’t think I’d be in Tennessee more than a couple days. Non-plans change!

I hadn’t been on the road more than an hour or two when I decided my first stop would be Lynchburg. I enjoyed the Jack Daniels distillery tour the first time I was there years ago, why not again? The first time was a day trip from my mountain home in Georgia so I didn’t spend much time in the town. Since I was riding a BMW K1200rs, I was able to cover a lot of ground in short order so a day trip was possible (140+mph that day). This time I was determined to stay and look a little closer.

Lynchburg has a small city park just off the town square that has RV hookups. It’s nothing fancy but one can walk to the distillery from there and being on the square all the quaint shops and restaurants are right there. It costs $20/night. I stayed two days and toured the distillery and spent time talking with some of the business owners there on the square. All the people I encountered were friendly. The distillery tours are no longer free. The basic “Dry county” tour is $14. Ha. I’ve learned to ask for senior discounts. I paid $11.20. They call it the “dry county tour” because you do not get to sample their whiskey. I figured that since I was going on the first tour of the day (0900), I could forgo the tasting at that time of the morning. The other tours include tasting at the end. Perhaps I should have waited until afternoon and enjoyed some of Jack’s creations.

Where to next I asked my self. I grabbed my handy iPhone and checked the AllStays Camp &RV app (my first and best resource for finding most things a traveler needs along the way). There! I’ll head to Land Between The Lakes up on the Tennessee-Kentucky line. It began to rain just after I broke camp and headed out so I took my time and drove carefully (slower than usual). By the way, I’ve begun to get the hang of using my new Garmin GPS. I can “shape” my route simply by touching spots on the map. This way I can avoid congested highways and towns.

But wait. . . . I took a second look when I stopped for fuel. I discovered Natchez Trace. Three campgrounds exist along the Natchez Trace Parkway. They are FREE. All nicely paved and reasonably level. While there are bathrooms and water, these campgrounds have no hookups. I decided to change course for the Meriwether Lewis campground. It is at the final resting place of the explorer of Lewis and Clark fame. It was a nice quite place and well shaded so I decided to stay awhile. Awhile became four days. The only drawback was that it was so shady that I couldn’t get very much sunlight for my solar panel. So after four days I decided I needed to move on and get my batteries charged.

Again, it began to rain as I departed. As I meandered northwest on Tennessee back roads I happened upon Loretta Lynn’s ranch. Well, I have a close friend (Ken Tate) who has, with fondness, relayed to me his experiences there at Loretta’s ranch. Would I ever come this way again? Heck, could I ever find it again? I decided that I’d be remiss if I didn’t check in and hang out a day or two.

Well, a day or two became four. I stayed Thursday through Sunday and I’m glad I did.

When I arrived it was raining and very few campers were there. I drove through, circled back and picked a spot. Only 3 or 4 other RVs were there in the “not full hookup” area. You see there are full hookups (includes water, electric and sewer connection) and then there are water and electric only and then there are primitive sites that simply offer ground to sleep (or park) on. I generally opt for the water and electric only. In this case, the ranch had a large bathhouse with hot water showers and toilets. Besides, they have a “dump station” where I can empty my holding tanks on the way out.

Once again, good fortune smiled upon me. This time in the form of good neighbors. Not long after I got set up, people began to arrive for the holiday festivities and concert. Yes, concert. There is a large open auditorium on the property (only a couple hundred yards from where I camped) and quite often Miss Loretta or her family and friends will play and sing in the evenings. Many holiday weekends have scheduled concerts. This was one of those weekends. It was Memorial Day weekend. However Loretta is recovering from a stroke so her band and family took the stage. More on that later.

As I said good fortune and neighbors. One of those large horse trailers with living quarters pulled in next to me. Heck, within hours these horse trailers were all over the place along with horses, mules and wagons. A big trail ride was scheduled just a few days later and horses with riders were arriving. The fellow with the horse trailer next to me was none other than Larry Van Bailey. Who you ask? Well if you don’t know Larry Van, you are in the minority. I mean, everyone there knew him. Everyone! Loretta’s ranch manager and crew knew him. Loretta’s kin knew him. The wranglers knew him. Everyone knew and liked Larry.

Larry is one of those folks who likes to feed people when he’s staying in camp and it seems he took a liking to me enough to invite me to all his feasts while I was there. Larry’s family and friends pulled in all around us. They were all good fun people and they treated me like family. Larry has a well used smoker which he put to good use. He also has a propane burner and a cast iron pot. We enjoyed ribs Friday night. Saturday night was a fish fry. I know Larry’s secret recipe now. He fried up a mess of bream and crappie. Sunday he smoked a pork butt. His friends and family all put food on the tables as well. All of the food was delicious. Heck, I even went on a two mule covered wagon ride around the ranch (with beer). My stay at Loretta’s ranch will be a memory I’ll enjoy over and over. Now Ken Tate and I can swap stories about her ranch. Oh…. a heck of a storm came up about 30 minutes into the concert. The rain blew hard enough to soak folks standing in the center of the building and the concert was cancelled. Perhaps I’ll return for another concert one of these days.

Monday morning was Memorial Day. I headed out early. This time I had a plan. You see, Larry and several of his friends told me about a place up in the northwest corner of Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake. The top of it is in Kentucky. Not very far to the west of it are the levees of the Mississippi River. Since I wanted to hit the Mississippi and follow it to the confluence of it and the Ohio River I thought that Reelfoot Lake would be the perfect place to kick off my Ohio River odyssey. A Tennessee state park covers a lot of the area and it offers two campgrounds. One is just a few sites at the small airport on the north end. At the bottom (south) end of the lake is a fairly large campground with many water and electric sites. It is right on the shore. Some of the sites are on the water others are just off the water.

I know. It was a crapshoot at best. After all, it was the Memorial Day weekend, just one of the biggest outdoor holidays in the country. Every campground was full! I rolled the dice. Oops! When I arrived, the CAMPGROUND FULL sign was out. I parked, walked into the office and said “I’m a photographer and I was told this is a wonderful place to photograph wildlife” and I asked if there were any open sites. The lady said no, that they were full. I said that I hated to miss an opportunity to get some good photographs. I told her that I might just park outside and wait for someone to leave. I guess she took pity on me because with a knowing look she checked the computer and said there was one site. I said I’d take it for two days. Yay! Water and electric again. That afternoon I jumped on the motorbike and scouted the lake. They have a visitors center about two miles away where they rehabilitate injured wildlife. Several eagles and owls were in residence as well as some fish and snakes. A wooden boardwalk winds in and out of the huge cypress trees along the lake’s edge affording some wonderful views of wildlife and habitat as well as the lake. You can also book a boat tour for a reasonable price and they have guided walking tours. Except for the boat tours, there is no charge. Awesome!!!

Now I had a plan for the next morning. I set my alarm for 0400. When I awoke I made coffee and sat outside playing fetch with the dog while enjoying my fresh brew. About 0445 I jumped on the motorbike and headed toward the visitor center. Along the way I spied what looked like a good spot. It was still dark so this was yet another crapshoot. I grabbed my flashlight and camera gear and headed to the edge of the lake. YES! I was able to capture some nice shots and am looking forward to my return home where I can review them on a good quality screen and perhaps tweak them a bit if necessary. From there I went on to the visitors center but didn’t get any good photographs. The next day I went back a little later in the morning and shot a few more frames. I’ve one in mind to review later. Maybe it is a keeper.

By the way, the mass exodus on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning was insane. The campground went from full to ghost town just like that! I practically had the place to myself.

Wednesday morning was when I departed Tennessee. Golly, in two weeks in Tennessee I spent more than three times the number of nights hooked up to water and electric than I did in two months and ten thousand miles on RoadTour 2016 (Heartland Rewind). I hope I’m not spoiled.

I am however spoiled from the hospitality I received throughout Tennessee, most memorable will be at Loretta Lynn’s next door to Larry Bailey.

Cairo Illinois – a modern ghost town

Cairo is the southernmost city in Illinois. It is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  Not really having a destination in mind, I crossed into Cairo over the Ohio River from Kentucky.  My goal was to explore some of the towns along the Ohio.

Judging from the architecture, Cairo had once been a thriving town.  Unfortunately most of it is in disrepair, falling down or already demolished and the ground scraped clean.

7th Street and Commercial Avenue

While walking around I spoke with a river pilot.  He was buying buildings in anticipation of a new, modern seaport being built in Cairo. I wished him luck.