Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Point Pleasant, West Virginia and the Mothman

Our plan was to leave Fort Knox and drive to Huntington West Virginia but the Behemoth had other ideas.
Nearing Lexington, Kentucky a coolant light went on and the engine went into protection mode. Fred got us safely onto the shoulder of the road where we waited for roadside assistance. A mobile tech was unable to fix the problem so our home had to be towed to a local Cat dealer for repairs.
Not a good feeling to see it traveling down the road not under its own speed.
The repair shop was a busy place and was not able to get to us for several days. They did allow us to stay with the coach in their parking lot and even had the tow truck put us near a power outlet.
The folks at Whayne Caterpiller were very good to us. The coolant leak turned out to be from a cracked hose that they had to access through the floor of the bedroom closet.
Fixed 3 days earlier than the original estimate, we headed out toward West Virginia.
We arrived in Huntington in the late afternoon and pulled into the Robert Nealon Air and RV Park just in time to see members of the skydiving club float down. This interesting RV park is a combination of small craft airport and RV park. It is home to the West Virginia Sky Diving Club. The owners were friendly and enthusiastic about their operation. There is a great restaurant on site...airport themed of course.

The purpose of our stop in Huntington was to visit Point Pleasant West Virginia, home to the Mothman legend.
We have been intrigued by the Mothman legend since seeing the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophesies starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney.
The book and movie are based on events that occurred in Point Pleasant in the weeks before the collapse of the Silver Bridge on December 15, 1966.   The Silver bridge fell into the Ohio River during evening rush hour traffic and was responsible for the deaths of 46 people.

Mothman Statue, Point Pleasant West Virginia
Strange sightings of the Mothman as well as lights in the sky and visits from men in black were all reported to local police and written about in the Point Pleasant Register.
The Mothman Museum has copies of the newspaper articles on display as well as copies of witness accounts of the sightings.
There are many props from the movie on display as well as a collection of original art that is Mothman themed.

Original artwork on display at the Mothman Museum
We enjoyed spending an hour walking through the museums exhibits before walking down to the Riverfront park.  Point Pleasant is protected from the Ohio River by a 20 foot flood wall that has been painted with murals that depict the history of the area.

The flood wall mural includes George Washington and Daniel Boone.
We made one stop on the drive back to Huntington.  Hillbilly Hotdogs is a local favorite that has been featured on Guy Fieri's Diners Drive-ins and Dives. You cant help noticing it since cars line both sides of the road and a line stretches out the door waiting to order.

It is a hot dog stand with counter service in a setting that looks like a hillbilly yard sale. There are 2 old school buses retrofitted with tables where you can sit to eat. The outdoor seating area includes fun little signs and yard ornaments to look at.
Hillybilly Hotdogs is home to the Homewrecker, a one pound all beef hot dog in a roll topped with cole slaw and jalepeno peppers. If you can eat it in 9 minutes they will give you a tee shirt to celebrate that accomplishment.
We didn't even consider it.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fort Knox, Kentucky

The United States Bullion Depository
We left Cave City and headed north about 60 miles to Fort Knox Kentucky. Camp Carlson Army Recreation Area which has a beautiful campground was our home for 4 nights. The Army Base at Fort Knox is adjacent to the United States Bullion Depository. That impressive fortress is surrounded by tall fences and guards. It looks more like a prison than a bank.

The Gold Vault is located on the road that leads to the main gate at Fort Knox.  On base you drive streets called Gold Vault Road and Bullion Blvd.
I was hoping for a closer look at the Depository building but the security is pretty extreme. We learned that not only are there no tours, you can only visit the Depository with an order signed by the President of the United States.
Later that day we had a chuckle as we drove though the town of Radcliff near by and saw a half dozen pawn shops with signs like these.

Things that make you go hmmmm.
When we had dinner with Joe and Brenda a few nights before they recommended the Whistlestop Cafe as good place to go for a meal.
We decided to combine that visit with seeing another National park and headed out to The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in Hodgenville.

This small and impressive National Park is located in a rural area that makes it easy to imagine life as it might have been for the Lincoln family on what was then a frontier. The Memorial is built on high ground uphill from Sinking Spring which provided drinking water for the family. Sinking Spring is still flowing. We enjoyed walking down the stone steps into the cool cavelike area and seeing another example of Kentucky's famous Karst topography.

The first Lincoln Memorial
They call this the First Lincoln Memorial. It was completed in 1911 to house a reconstruction of the birth cabin of our 16th president. The memorial designed by John Russell Pope and built by the Lincoln Farm Association was funded by a public campaign that raised $350,000 from the American Public. That was an impressive amount of money in the early 1900's. Over 100,000 Americans contributed to the building fund.
We enjoyed a stop at the visitor center before walking a trail to the top of the hill to see the log cabin inside its climate controlled marble and granite enclosure.
The 56 steps that lead to the memorial are being repaired this year. We were happy to see the work being done, to preserve our National Park but it was disappointing not to be able to approach the memorial by walking up the steps.

Part of the log cabin inside the memorial.

Hungry after our tour we headed down the road to Glendale and lunch at The Whistlestop. This family style restaurant is located on Main Street right next to the Railroad tracks. It was established in the 1970's as a sandwich counter in the Hardware store and was so successful that by 1979 the family sold off the Hardware stock and used the entire building as a restaurant. Southern cooking with home recipes made from scratch have made it a local favorite. When you go try the fried chicken and lemon meringue pie. You won't be sorry.

Fort Knox is not far from the Jim Beam Stillhouse in Clermont. We spent the next afternoon at the distillery sampling and learning about the process of making bourbon. The people that work here are so happy and enthusiastic about their product. They obviously enjoy their work but maybe, just maybe it has something to do with all the evaporation of alcohol and that Angels Share they keep talking about. Just breathing the air in the Stillhouse makes you happy.

Sampling Knob Cteek straight from the barrel.
We had a glimpse of the process from corn and sourmash to the opening of a barrel of Knob Creek that was designated single barrel status. We observed and participated in the bottling process, marking and washing our bottles (with bourbon) and watching them through the line, then sealing them with our thumbprints in the wax.

Fred holding the bottles of Knob Creek that we processed.

Bourbon Dispenser in the tasting room.
The tour ended with a unique sampling experience.
In the tasting room each person in the group was issued a card giving credits for samples. The Bourbons were all in dispensing machines like the one above. To receive a sample you have to insert your card into the machine, hold your glass under the spigot and push the button of your choice. My card and glass were empty much too soon.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cave City Kentucky

Next stop Cave City Kentucky.
Kentuckians are proud of their states Karst topography, that geographical wonder of dissolving limestone that leaves it full of caves to be explored and sinkholes to be avoided.
You probably remember that collapse in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green a couple of years ago. The security video footage of the event was spectacular. The pit that swallowed 8 classic cars was a sinkhole formed when the roof of a cavity collapsed under its own weight.
We tried not to think of this fact as we walked into the Visitor Center at Mammoth Cave National Park and signed up for the 4 hour Grand Avenue tour.
Grand Avenue is the longest tour in the cave system at a little over 4 miles, and it takes you through both wet and dry portions of the cave.
Fred and I have toured several caves including Howe Caverns in our home state of New York and the spectacular Luray Caverns in Virginia. They have all been wet caves so the geology of Mammoth Caves was a new experience for us.

Climbing down to the cave entrance.
The tour was great. It was advertised as difficult but we did not find it any more taxing than a 4 mile hike in the mountains. There were a few steep inclines with stairs where necessary but we made it just fine. I was always at the back of the group but it was because I was stopping to look at and photograph the rock formations and staying too long.

Rock formations in the dry cave
Dry caves are a very different experience. There are no stalactites or flowstone to look at. The beauty you see is in the different kinds of rock and the way that it has eroded to form openings. Creative lighting showed those formations in a dramatic way. 
We were able to see gypsum flowers and snowballs in the dry cave, stalactites, stalagmites and flowstone formations in the wet portion of the cave. 

Gypsum flowers on the ceiling
Mammoth Cave has been open to tourism for decades. When you walk along Gothic Avenue it is possible to read cave graffiti, written with smoke and soot from candles, with dates from the mid 1800's. 

Antique Cave grafitti
We enjoyed the tour as well as a ranger lead discussion at the visitor center. It was interesting to learn of the continued exploration of the cave system and of how a passage was being sought to join Mammoth Cave to a nearby cave system. 

Flow stone in the wet cave.
We had the pleasure of meeting up with RVing friends Brenda and Joe Coates who invited us to their house for dinner. It was a great evening. We had fun catching up on one another's adventures. 
Joe is a fantastic furniture maker. It was a pleasure to spend time in their home and to see all of the custom cabinet work that he has done.
Cave City is also home to one of the few remaining Wigwam Village Motels. It was fun to see the formations as we drove along North Dixie Highway in search of a grocery store. 
Time to put the Kentucky sticker on the map.

Wigwam Village Inn #2

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bubba Bear

We lost our beautiful Bear today. He has been a part of our family since the day we were walking through an ASPCA adoption van and he reached out and grabbed Fred by the arm. His request could not have been clearer.
Bear was never what you would call a normal cat. He lived his first 2 years in a no kill shelter and when we brought him home it took him a while to get his bearings and to learn how to move around a large space. We had to teach him to climb stairs!
He never developed catlike grace and was forever falling off of the back of the couch or a window sill. His rolling gait and lack of stealth earned him the nickname Bubba.
Bubba may have lacked graceful moves but he made up for it in love. He was a wonderful snuggler and loved nothing better than to curl up in Fred's lap and take a nice snooze. His purrs were amazing.
We worried about taking a blind elderly Bubba on the road with us when we started living in the RV 2 1/2 years ago. He adapted just fine, claimed which couch was his and learned where the sun spots would come through the windows each time we stopped.
He has been an integral part of our family for 15 years. We will miss his purring nudges to get up in the morning and his wailing demands to be fed at exactly the same time every day.

We love you Bear and will always remember you.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Traveling North

Space Camp
It is hard to believe we have been back in New York for a month already. I have been so involved with catching up the family that the blog has gone dormant. I will catch us up over the next few days.
We left you in Huntsville, Alabama a fantastic small city with a thriving downtown that is home to a number of coffee shops.

Our coffee collection grew in Huntsville.
Honest Coffee Roaster was in a temporary location on Clinton Ave. It was not hard to find on the second level of U G White Mercantile. We enjoyed their ethically sourced Colombian blend as walked around the interesting mercantile shop that features made in Alabama products.  
Down the street and around the corner we found Kaffeeklatsh a shop that features coffees and teas and a professional tasting staff. I had consumed enough coffee for the day but Fred enjoyed a cup of the Costa Rican blend and liked it enough to bring a pound home.
We enjoyed walking through the downtown area and up and down many of the cross streets of the Historic district. There is some great architecture represented with homes dating from the 1820's. There were ornate Victorian and Queen Anne structures and homes in the Greek Revival and Federal styles. We enjoyed the gardens and landscaping as we got our steps in for the day.
We enjoyed lunch at a great little bar that we passed signs for on Clinton Ave.  

Pints and Pixels is located on the third floor of U G White Mercantile building. We climbed the stairs and passed through a steel door to enter a unique bar full of vintage pinball machines and video games. 

It was very nostalgic to listen to the bells and pings and we enjoyed our lunch while sitting at the bar. We earned tokens with by purchasing food and drinks. It was a great excuse for another round of craft beer.

Huntsville Veterans Memorial
On our way out of town we passed the Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial Park. It is an impressive structure of walls and fountains that drew our eyes and compelled us to stop. The main component of the memorial is a horseshoe shaped wall that provides a timeline of all American Wars from 1775 to the present. The dates of the conflicts and the casualties associated with them are inscribed on black granite markers that sit in front of the wall. The names of Madison County residents who died during these conflicts are also inscribed on the black granite.
The park contains several impressive statues and more are in the planning stages. 

Rocket Park
Our reason for stopping in Huntsville and the highlight of our trip was to visit the US Space and Rocket Center home to Space Camp. The facility is adjacent to Redstone Arsenal where the Marshall Space Flight Center is located. 
We had been intrigued by this facility since the 1980's movie Space Camp and were glad to have a chance to visit. 
The Space and Rocket Center museum has an extensive Rocket Park. There are 27 rockets in this collection that astronaut John Glenn once called "the finest rocket collection in the world"

A separate outdoor exhibit called Shuttle Park features a fully stacked STS (Space Transportation System). Orbiter Pathfinder sits atop 2 solid rocket boosters and a genuine external tank with main engine nozzles. It is huge and impressive. In case you don't recognize the shuttle name, Pathfinder is a test simulator constructed by NASA in 1977. It is made of wood and steel and is approximately the same size as a working shuttle. It was used to figure out methods of moving and handling a shuttle without potentially damaging a working unit.
Indoors the exhibits get even better.

International Space Station Sleeping Berth
ISS: Science on Orbit is a life sized exhibit of what life in and on a the Space Station is like. We saw a sleeping berth with personal items strapped down around it. Imagine sleeping in an upright position and strapped into a sleeping bag so you don't float away! There were also replica racks of the Payload Operations Center where astronauts co-ordinate the care of science experiments. 
We spent a while speaking with docents at a mockup of the Huntsville Operations Support Center. The support center monitors the astronauts on ISS and guides them through caring for the experiments on board. 

Celestial Dreams collection by Kathy Chan
One of the Special Exhibits currently on display is called Celestial Dreams. It is a Space Jewelry collection designed by artist Kathy Chan who is inspired by the cosmos that surround and include the earth.
Part of the Saturn V displayed on the ceiling of the Davidson Center
The exhibit the Huntsville facility is most proud of is its Saturn V Dynamic Test Vehicle. The Davidson Center for Space Exploration was built to house it. As you walk through the Davidson Center the rocket is suspended above you with its stages exposed. You can walk right underneath the immense vehicle and gaze into all of its various parts.
The Davidson Center is like a timeline for the space program. We were amazed all over again looking at all of the exhibits and remembering the accomplishments of the the last 50 years. 
It's all here. 
The fears of the US/Russian Space Race with duck and cover drills and backyard bomb shelters.
President Kennedy's inspiring speech of the early 1960's that set a goal of manned lunar landing  by the end of the decade.
The Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
Celebrated astronauts are honored and lost lives are remembered.
Our visit was everything we hoped it would be.

US Space and Rocket Center
1 Tranquility Base
Huntsville, Alabama

Pints and Pixels
115 Clinton Ave East
3rd floor
Huntsville, Alabama

Honest Coffee Roaster
114 Clinton Ave
Ste 106
Huntsville Alabama

103 Jefferson St N
Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Madison County Veterans Memorial
200 Monroe St NW
Huntsville, Alabama

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jack Daniel Distillery Lynchburg Tennessee

The Welcome Center at Jack Daniel Distillery has a collection of old bottles.
While visiting Huntsville Alabama we took the opportunity to drive into Lynchburg, Tennessee and tour the Jack Daniel Distillery.
The place is huge, so big that there are shuttle buses circling the parking lots to drive you to the Visitor Center if you don’t want to hoof it.
The grounds are lovely this time of year. Everything is lush and green with flowers blooming and half whiskey barrels overflowing with blossoms and vines. Stone fences surround much of the property and were beautiful to see.

These barrels can only be used once for making whiskey.
Jack Daniel Distillery established in 1866, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Those that work their are proud of that heritage and are happy to share stories of Jack and his legacy.
We opted to take a 1½ hour guided tour through the distillery and to see the operation in progress while listening to some of those historic stories.

The color of whiskey changes as it ages
Tours begin at the Visitor Center where we purchased tickets for a Flight of Jack experience. There are some interesting displays to look at while waiting for your tour to begin. There are cabinets of old style bottles, a variety of vintage Jack Daniel merchandise and explanations of the distilling process.
We met our tour guide Leslie and climbed onto a bus for a ride to “the top of the hill”.
Leslie was charming and enthusiastic full of stories about the history of the distillery and about making whiskey.
The top of the hill is where wood is cut and dried before being turned into charcoal. Hard sugar maple pallets are burned here 3 days a week to be used in the filtering process.

Fred and the Vintage REO Speedwagon Firetruck
There are vintage fire trucks near by, a reminder that whiskey making is a very flammable process.
Leslie led us to a cave with a spring, the source of all of the water that goes into Jack Daniel's whiskey. We learned that Jack Daniel grew up learning how to make whiskey and by the age of 16 had founded his own distillery using the water from Cave Spring Hollow. Leslie told us that in whiskey making water is everything and that the limestone in this cave filters iron from the water while imparting other trace minerals.
Cave Spring Hollow, the source of all water for Jack Daniels Whiskey
We walked through the office where Jack Daniel worked and where he reportedly kicked a safe in frustration because he couldn’t get it to open. That injury and the resulting infection would eventually take his life. Leslie was delighted to show us a picture of Jack Daniel. She reported that he was no taller than her own 5 ft 2 inches but that his big personality and manner of dress made him an impressive figure.
We walked upstairs and into a filter house where enormous vats of hand crafted sugar maple charcoal give Tennessee whiskey their “extra blessing”.  Every drop of Jack Daniel Whiskey spends 2 weeks in a charcoal mellowing vat before finding its way to the barrel. The smell was amazing. We were told that this charcoal filtering process also called the “Lincoln County Process” is the difference between whiskey and bourbon.

Whiskey Barrels
We toured a barrel house where 7 floors of barrels rest and wait for the perfect time to open them. Barrel house climates are not controlled. Top floors are hotter than bottom floors. Inside rooms are cooler than outside walls. Jack Daniel Distillery does not move the barrels once they are placed The blending of those varied barrels by a master distiller is what makes a consistent product. Master Distillers also choose which barrels are perfect all on their own and earn a designation of single barrel select.
Our Sampler
Our tour ended with a treat. We sampled 5 different whiskies. Gentleman Jack, Old No. 7, Single Barrel Select, Tennessee Honey and Tennessee Fire.
The Single Barrel Select was stellar and both of us enjoyed it the most. I did not care for the flavored whiskies although Fred enjoyed the Tennessee Honey. We left the White Rabbit store with a bottle of White Rabbit because you can only buy it in Tennessee.

The Lynchburg General Store now sells Jack Daniel Merchandise
The distillery is right in Lynchburg so it was a short walk to town where we saw a few restaurants and gift shops. We stopped at the hardware store to see a large variety of games, furniture and other items that are made from whiskey barrels. The barrels are hand crafted for use in the aging process but can only be used once. Many are sold to be used to mellow other liquors and even wine and hot sauce but some find there way to local craftsmen that use them to make beautiful things.

Fred with Gentleman Jack.
Jack Daniel Distillery
133 Lynchburg Highway
Lynchburg, TN
open daily 9-4:30