Coming Soon!

Jiang Li, Warrior Woman of Yueh is the companion novella to My Adventures As Brother Rat. Jiang Li is now available; for a signed copy, please contact me via my website Contact Me button. Price is $7.00 plus s/h of $2.20 for envelope and postage, or $4.90 for Priority Mail (6 copies will fit in a Priority Mail envelope).

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Photos for Galax &c

OK, we now have photos!

(Library 15)

No photos this time. iWeb won't publish to the web. Sigh. And for whatever reason, I can't upload to the blog.

After getting little to no sleep at the hotel in Elkins/Jonesboro (or wherever) due to the freeway noise, we drove to Independence, VA the next morning. It turned out to be a short trip, and we could have easily done it the night before, and slept in a much quieter motel.

Anyhow, we got there before the Courthouse was open for business, so we wandered a bit, and then went back to the old Courthouse. While Kay talked to some folks in the Heritage dept, I wandered over to the gift shop. Then, we walked up to the NEW courthouse that is behind the old one, and Kay went through several records looking for, and finding, records of her family Isom. We then went to Grandma’s Restaurant for a cuppa and they let me go through their phone book, so I copied out 2 or 3 gazillion Isom names and phone numbers, and then we went to the Library where Kay did some more research, and I bought a hardback book, and a murder mystery at that! Kay researched, and I detected.

We drove around looking for, and finding, old cemeteries, but none with Isoms in residence and finally we stopped to do a bit of grocery shopping and to have lunch. By now, it was mid afternoon, and after not much sleep, I was beat, so suggested that if we got a hotel room in town (we were now in Galax, where 98% of the Isom family lives) she could call all those folks. Galax is pronounced: GAYlex

The first hotel we stopped at used something to clean the rooms, or had mold in the a/c, but as soon as we walked into the room, we walked out. My allergies kicked in big time. Needless to say, we didn’t stay there. On our way out of town, we saw a sign for Knight’s Inn. We followed the directions, and on a hillside overlooking the valley, was the motel. It’s an older, family operated one, all one level, and very long. The rooms were clean, and very, very quiet. We stayed the night and slept all the night through. The family who owns the motel are very friendly, the rooms clean and large, and should you make a trip through the Blue Ridge Mountains, I strongly urge you to plan a layover in Galax, and stay at Knight’s Inn!

Kay called one Isom, and that Isom gave her another Isom to call, who is the Keeper of Knowledge on the local Isoms. Wanda Jean gave Kay all sorts of information, including directions to the cemetery where a lot of Isoms are buried. The next morning, we found it—and solved a mystery at the same time.

Kay discovered, in her prowling of the records that the Isoms served in the Confederate Army, but not in any later wars—the cemetery is at Mountain View Friends (Quaker) Church. Apparently the Civil War was enough, and they all became Quakers. Enough was enough!

We left Galax and drove for quite a while until we came down off the Blue Ridge Mountains, then across Virginia to Emporia where we took a left and headed north. We got into Warsaw in the afternoon. I have a good friend who lives in Hague we will meet for lunch today, and another good friend who lives in Springfield who, if it rains there and cancels the softball game will come see us this evening.

At Danville, we found a Virginia Information stop, and had a lovely talk with Lisa, who generously posed for a photo with Ms. Flat Stanlietta. She gave Stanlietta a bookmark, some postcards, and a bumper snicker to take home.

Tomorrow, we head north, to Annapolis, going up the back side of DC, then across the river at Annapolis to Delaware where we’ll catch a ferry to Cape May, NJ to spend some time with my ‘twin’ Stephanie before heading up to Princeton to meet another friend also named Kay.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Blue Ridge Mts, Great Smokies, and Catawba Reservation

Photos at:
(Library 14)

So, here it is, Monday, the 27 of April, and we are in Elkin/Jonesboro, North Carolina on our way to Independence, Virginia.

We spent a really nice time at Jan’s and Lori’s in Travelers Rest. Jan was so excited to see us, and took us sight-seeing. On Friday, we went to the Subaru dealer in Henerson and got Suvie her 7500 mile check-up (although she only had 7200 miles on her at the time). Hendersonville by the way, is pronounced Hendersonville. Ashville and Greenville are pronounced Ashvull and Greenvull. Don’t ask – I don’t know why.

When we got home from Hendersonville, we went out to see an old bridge, an old covered bridge, and an old mill that has been turned into a nice privately owned park that is open to the public, and often used for weddings and family gatherings.

The Poinsett Bridge was named after the gentleman who was an ambassador to Mexico, and brought back the Poinsettia flowers, which were named after him. The bridge is a beautiful example of old stonework, and was never covered, though the sides are high. The road is rough and narrow, and used to be the main highway. Although it was hot, and the sun was fairly high, the shadows were quite dark.

Lori made homemade strawberry ice cream that night that was beyond wonderful! I’m not a huge fan of ice cream, and strawberry ice cream is, at best, ok. This was wonderful! I ate my share and then some for the next three nights!

One of the ghostly, or is that ghastly? sights we saw, were buildings, fields, trees, poles—covered in gray vines. They looked like something out of a horror movie—and are darn close it. Except the vines are real, and in a couple of weeks, will be a beautiful green. The vines are kudzu—a plant brought in from Japan to help with soil erosion, and now are taking over everything. It has no known enemy, and nothing kills it! Goats will eat it, but the roots just spread.

On Saturday, they took us to Gatlinburg, TN. We made a few stops before getting there, going through the mountains. We went through both the Blue Ridge and the Smokies, and I’m not positive which mountains are which as I look at the pictures. We did not stop in Gatlinburg – it was just like Sedona, Jackson’s Hole, or any other tourist trap you can think of. From there we went to Cade’s Cove which is a beautiful little valley, with a narrow, one-way 11 mile loop road through it. We saw three black bear-a mama and her two cubs-probably last year’s judging by their size. Alas, they weren’t in the mood to pose for photos. We also saw some wild turkeys, and several dear. Three dear posed in a meadow, and one dear in the forest would take a step or two, stop so we could take her picture then step again, and stop. Had she not moved, we probably would have missed her!

Cade’s Cove is an old settlement, that at one time held about 800 people. There are three churches still standing, and a few cabins, plus the main site where the mill is located. The house is the first frame house built in the area, the rest are log cabins, at least that are still standing.

At John Oliver’s cabin, the first stop, was a sign I hadn’t seen before: Bob was here! Of course, I had to take Ms. Flat Stanlietta’s photo with the sign. Bob, it turns out, was a law-breaker and carved his name where he shouldn’t have. Ms. FS wants you to know, she did NOT carve her name, and did not even leave icky behind when her tape was pulled off!

From there we drove through Pigeon Forge, but did not stop off at Dollywood. We saw the signs for Biltmore, and I considered going, until I heard the cost to get in is $65.00 per person. I’m sorry, the Vanderbilt’s can do without my contribution to their estate.

On the way home, we stopped at Fatz Cafe for dinner. It’s a local chain in Hendersonville area – great food, and friendly staff.

Last night we went to Silver Bay in Greenville for fish dinner. Before I could order my catfish, a bowl of ice was set on the table, and between Kay and I, and between Jan and Lori, two bowls of hot hush puppies* were set down. Oh, let me tell you, those were the best hush puppies I’ve had since I last ate my Grandma’s! I thought I’d be smart and put the last few in our bowl over in Jan and Lori’s bowl, and no sooner had I put our empty bowl back on the table, than another bowl of hot hush puppies was placed in it. I decided it was a Sign from the Goddess, and proceeded to indulge and over indulge in hush puppies. I barely had room for my cat fish, but I managed ;-)

*hush puppies are fried corn bread. The old story I’ve heard is that many years ago, an old Mammy was tired of hearing the hounds bark, so she fried up some corn bread batter and tossed it to the dogs telling them to ‘hush, puppies’ and they did! Some folks put onions in their hush puppies, but I like them better without, and these were without.

With some sadness at leaving dear friends, Kay and I again hit the road this morning. Being so close to the Catawba Indian Reservation, I just had to go. And I’m very glad I did! It wasn’t that there was so much to see – there really wasn’t, but I finally got a mystery solved, I think.

About my age twelve, Skipper (my grandfather) told me we were part Catawba, that he had read the papers when he was about 10, and his mother was so embarrassed, she burned them. By the time he got back to the reservation as a young man, it was after the administration building had had a fire, and the records were destroyed. Then, my Uncle Carl (Skipper’s son) told me we were not Catawba, but Cherokee, and that Skipper had taken him to meet some of them in Oklahoma. Today, at the Tribal Headquarters, Donna spent several minutes with me, going over stories, and files. They have no tribal rolls from before 1900, so that door is irrevocably shut to me, but she did tell me a bit about the tribe.

In the mid 1800s (I think she said 1843), LDS (Mormon) missionaries came to the reservation, and befriended, and in turn were befriended by, the Catawba’s. When the missionaries feared for their lives, the Catawba’s hid them until it was safe for them to leave, and when the missionaries went west, so did many of the Catawba’s. As they traveled on, many dropped off at different reservations, and because they could only be registered at one reservation, they dropped their Catawba affiliation and became Cherokee, or ‘whatever’. I vaguely remember reading somewhere several years ago that the whole tribe converted to LDS.

My great grandmother (Skipper’s mother), was Laura Frances Huckabay McBrayer. Her father, Littleberry Huckabay was either ½ or ¼ Catawba. The story Skipper told me was that when he (Littleberry) considered moving to Texas, he married an Indian, Mary Jane Carlisle, because Texas was too rough a country into which a genteel white woman could or should be brought. My cousin, Jim, has been doing a bit of genealogical work on the Huckabay’s and there is no record that Jane was Indian, however, considering the mores of the day, I seriously doubt a white woman would have married an Indian man, so I am probably a drop or two more Catawba than I thought I was. Actually, I’m a whole lot more than I thought I was, because there for a while, I thought I wasn’t!

Anyhow, it was pretty exciting to finally get to Rock Hill and the Reservation. Actually, it was pretty exciting getting to the Reservation – Google map’s directions weren’t quite right, but after stopping and asking people, we found it. Getting back from the Reservation to the highway was a different adventure all together! There were no signs to back track, and after a couple of wrong turns, we just kept wandering. Suddenly, a miracle happened, and we turned a corner and a big sign said: I-77 North, right lane!

Now, we are in North Carolina, and heading toward Kay’s roots. We’ll spend some time searching out her heritage, then head over toward the Atlantic and Martin’s Hundred (near Jamestown which we may or may not see), visit a good friend, Starr, then head up to Cape May, NJ to spend a couple days with my twin, Stephanie and from there to Princeton to spend a few days with another friend named Kay. My big goal there is to find and photograph John McPhee’s house!

We were considering going up to Canada, and across, but I think we’re both about ready to hang a left at Princeton, and head on home. There are still people to see betwixt Princeton and the West Coast, and our beds are calling louder and louder each night.

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” ~ Cherokee Expression

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Savannah & Charleston & Travelers Rest

Photos at:

(It is library 13 – there is no 12)

We arrived in Savannah, GA yesterday afternoon and as we drove into the La Quinta Motel where we hoped to stay, we saw a tour trolley pull out. Fortunately, they just had a cancellation in the motel for a ground floor, non-smoking, 2-bed room! And, equally fortunately, we had a coupon!

As the afternoon was yet young, we decided to go sit by the pool and read. No sooner had we situated ourselves on the chairs, gotten comfy with our books, than we realized the sun had disappeared, and not only were their some rather dark clouds above us, but they began to hurl some rather large drops of water at us. By the time we got back to our room, (about 30 feet) the rain came in sheets, thunder roared and lightning flashed. Finally! A decent thunder storm! (one of the things I miss from Florida)

The concierge suggested we take one of the tours, so this morning, we were up bright and early and waited around for a couple hours for the tour shuttle to come and get us. The driver of the shuttle, Geri, was a delight and when she found out we had signed up for the ‘on and off’ tour, she opined we might want to take the bus all the way around, and mark on the map where we wanted to go back to, rather than getting off at each stop and waiting for the next shuttle. Great advice!

Not only did Geri give us great advice, she was full of tidbits about the city, and even gave Ms Flat Stanlietta a lesson on how to drive the trolley!

We rode to the end of the line, and got off, and walked along the river walk. The town of Savannah was planned by Mr. Oglethorpe before he left England, and the streets are laid out in a nice grid, with (originally) 24 squares and one park (oblong). Through the years, three of the small squares (parks) have been sacrificed to progress, though one is being re-built. The only problem is, he made the plots small (30x60 feet) and the streets narrow. Very narrow.

Most of the old homes (in the Historic part of town) have steps leading up to their living area. The idea was to put the parlour (living room) above ground level to help keep the dust and dirt down, also, to get the homes a bit higher to take advantage of any breezes that might wander through. Most homes have the stairs running up the side of the front of the building to take up less space, and allow for more living area, with a small, hidden, garden in back.

The wealthy folks, who could afford more than one lot, often had two sets of steps leading up to the front door. One side was for the men, the other for their women, who wore long hoop skirts at the time. They would ascend the stairs and meet at the top. By going up separately, they not only looked nicer, but he wouldn’t see her ankles (it was considered quite risqué to show ankles and elbows at that time. go figure!), and she’d have more room for her hoops.

Many of the old homes have fish at the bottom of their down spouts, and on the third step up to the door, there is a hole and a ‘scraper’ for the gentlemen to scrape their boots, and many still have the stepping stone out front, so when the carriages pulled up to the home, the ladies would not have so far to step down.

Historic Savannah is roughly a mile wide and a mile long, so we decided we could walk to wherever we wanted to go. Savannah was built along a bluff 40 feet above the river, and to get down to the river, we walked along the old cobble stone streets. The cobbles were originally used as ballast from the ships bringing cargo in. Instead of filling the river with the stones the citizens used them for streets and buildings (smart of them, actually) We saw the statue in honor of Florence Martus, who lived on an island, and waved at every ship that came up the river for 40 years. Legend has it she waved because she hoped her long lost love who sailed away and never returned was on one of the ships. She denied it, and said she was bored.

Along the river walk were 15 signs explaining the history of Savannah, all of which Ms. Flat Stanlietta found of great interest. After completing the river walk, we found our way up to the old Pirate’s House. Those of you who have read Treasure Island read about the Pirate’s House in the book. If you haven’t read the book, shame on you! Go get it and read it!!! Incorporated into the Pirate’s House is the oldest house in Savannah, the Herb House.

As we left the Pirate’s House, the resident Pirate stole Ms. Flat Stanlietta and held her for ransom, which we paid. Then we walked on to the Cathedral, which is supposed to be spectacular inside, but just as we approached, two tour buses disgorged their tourists, and as they swarmed up the steps and into the building Kay and I decided we’d rather go sit in Lafayette Square. While there, we realized on one side of the square was the home in which Juliet Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was born, and across the square was the childhood home of Flannery O’Conner, so while Kay sat and rested, I hiked the bit for a couple of photos.

Next on our walk was Forsythe Park, by way of several more small squares. I think that’s where the photo on the cover of the book about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was taken, but not sure. The tour guide pointed out several interesting homes that were in that movie, and places where Forest Gump waited, and the steeple from which the feather floated downward in Forest Gump, but didn’t mention the fountain. From there, we meandered our way back to the pick up point and our return trip to the hotel, again regaled by Geri with interesting tidbits about Savannah, and her life here. (FYI, in the movie, the traffic ran the wrong way around the park where Forrest sat eating his box of chocolates! And the bench on which he sat was a prop, but it was made to look like the ones in the square)

Many of the old homes still have their carriage houses and what were slave quarters, which are now used as garages, apartments, or storage.

There are several tours available, plus many of the homes are open for touring (for a fee, of course). There are night-time tours to check out the resident ghosts (including Capt. Flint in the Pirate’s House), lots of Civil War stuff in the area, paddle wheelers, etc.

One of the nicer Civil War stories is that once Sherman arrived all the Churches were closed, but on Christmas, he not only allowed services at one church, but a Northerner and a Southerner gave the sermons!

There is a lot of ironwork in the city, and fearing Sherman would torch Savannah, as he neared the city the folks removed all their ironwork and buried it with their other valuables. As it turned out, Sherman didn’t torch the city, thankfully, but he did bivouac his men in the local cemetery. Being bored, with not a lot to do, they made a few, ah, changes, to some of the tombstones. There is one lady who lived to be 160, another who had 111 children, a couple of men who died before they were born..... well, boys will be boys, eh?

South Carolina and Charleston – not!

So, the thunderstorm I so enjoyed knocked out the WiFi at the hotel, and I couldn’t post the above. No bother, we were only two hours away from Beautiful Downtown Charleston, and another hotel, so off we ventured.

We stopped at the South Carolina Visitor’s Center (Welcome! the sign said) only to find it locked. They are closed on Tues and Wed. Sigh. They did have maps in a bin outside the door, to which we helped ourselves, and as we were muttering because there were no hotel coupon books, a young lady came up and muttered about the lack of maps. We showed her the maps, and she walked us over to where all the hotel books were located. What started off as a grumble turned into a delightful visit with Anne, who, it turned out was from Portland OR! Well, for the last four years. She and her fiance were en route back home to England to be married, and then moving to Scotland (I think that’s what she said.) We visited a bit, and parted, and Kay and I headed up the road toward Charleston.

We stopped at a Visitor’s Center in Walterboro (not: Waterboro) that was open, and the young lady gave us much information about Charleston, including several maps. By the time we reached Summerville, I had no voice, and felt like I had a vice about my chest – the air was yellow with pollens! At Summerville, we stopped at a little Mexican restaurant for lunch, looked over the maps, and decided neither one of us really wanted to drive into Charleston. It appeared, from the maps, that once in, there was no way out. About this time, one of Kay’s sons called, and kept telling us not to go there, or there, or there, to keep our doors locked, etc. So, when we got back to the car, we called several hotels that were near Charleston – rather Kay called, I had no voice – and discovered that NONE of them had shuttles into town, one thought a bus route was “down the street” but had no idea of the schedule, and NO tour groups ran shuttles out to any of the hotels other than the ones downtown. Kay and I decided neither of us had lost anything in Charleston, and headed up the road toward Travelers Rest, SC, where our friends Jan and Lori live. About an hour out of the Charleston area, I began to breathe much easier and my voice returned.

Per directions, when we reached New Cut Road, we called Jan, and as we neared the other end of the road, Jan approached on her bright red trike and we followed her home, arriving about 5. We are having a marvelous visit, starting off this morning with laundry. (Why is it, even when we’re on vacation, we still have certain chores to do? Oh, sigh! But, we have been very fortunate, I think all the laundry we’ve done has been at the home of friends. I don’t think we’ve had to do any in hotels. Well, maybe once. Domestic life must continue, even on the road ;-)

Try to make at least three people smile each day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm baaaack.......

Like a bad penny, I have once again returned!

Photos (along with sundry misspellings) are at:

or then click on Library 11

The last I posted had us heading down to Port Charlotte, Florida by way of I-75. Not as pretty a drive as we’d hoped to see via Hwy 27, but also not flooded.

We arrived in Port Charlotte early afternoon, checked in at my friend’s, Harry and Marilyn, had time to chit chat for a bit, and then Kay, Marilyn, and I went over to the UU Church where Marilyn has some paintings in an art show. (The Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship of Charlotte County sponsors ‘Art on the Wall’ every winter, and possibly during the summer, I don’t remember. Anyhow, Marilyn had some paintings in the show, so we went along for the Artist’s Reception)

It was great fun to sit and behave myself (for once) and have many members of my old Fellowship come in and nod to me, then do a double-take when they recognized me. The next day, Easter Sunday, was even better. A wonderful time of meeting and greeting old friends and new!

While in Port Charlotte, Kay and I spent some time with my sister, Val, and her husband, and then Marilyn, Kay and I spent a day going to Snook Haven on the Myakka River to listen to some ole-time banjo music before leaving for lunch near the beach, after which Marilyn and Kay went beach walking (I sat and watched people). Kay found some shark’s teeth and unbroken shells. The Gulf treats it’s shells gently, with few broken ones – unlike the surf of the Pacific, which more often than not batters the shells. And if the surf doesn’t, the gulls do so they can eat the tidbits contained therein. (The early Tarzan movies were filmed at Snook Haven.)

While at Snook Haven, I looked for alligators, but all I saw were tiny fish, including some Neon Tetras. Lots of mosses and bromiliads on the trees, but, still, I wanted to see the gators. Sigh.

Marilyn and Harry have a condo in Lake Suzy, and their condo is on a decent sized man-made lake, which is home to turtles, alligators, and sundry birds. They have a pair of Sandhill Cranes who have a newly hatched youngster, and the proud parents love to strut, with their baby, up and down in front of the condo.

After several days of resting and visiting, Kay and I headed south, down Hwy 41 with a stop at The Shell Factory in North Fort Myers (or close to). It was fun, but I remembered it with a lot more shells, and a lot less ‘touristy’ stuff. Still, it was a fun stop, and we did see more turtles there than anywhere else, to date.

After The Shell Factory, we again turned south on Hwy 41, stopping at a State Park I remembered from when I lived here before. There is a Micosookee (sp?) village, which is not open to the public, and a board walk out into the Everglades. I remembered it as teeming with wild life – turtles, gators, and birds. Now, the ‘stream’ was nearly dry, and the pond was a slime-covered puddle, with a momma ‘gator and 2 or 3 of her young ones. I knew southern Florida was in a drought, but this was sad. And, when I talked to the Dorothy, in the store, and learned that this particular area was being drained/blocked by a development closer to Naples, and the State (remember, this is a State Park), I admit, I became a bit irritated. My feelings, based on emotion, not fact, is that ‘They’ are draining this area because They can, and it’s one more way to get rid of the Indians!

About half-way across the state, turned onto Loop Road. Loop Road is about 20 miles of narrow, dirt road, and passable only in the dry season. Six weeks ago, it went through the jungle one normally expects the everglades to be – raucous with birds and ‘gators everywhere. When we went through, it was quiet, and we saw no ‘gators. However, we did see many Wood Ibis, and a few other birds. From there, we travelled on to Shark Valley, and had a whole 25 minutes to get out and walk about a wee bit. While there, we saw many ‘gators, anhingas, and a great blue heron.

And two very, very stupid so-called adults. A gator was stretched out next to the walk way, just being a gator and collecting sun, when a guy thought it would be fun to take a photo of the gator, with his mouth open, and the guy’s girl friend (wife?). He kept egging her to get closer and closer and closer. Finally, when she was about 5 feet away from the gator’s tail, and Kay and I were close enough to speak, we told her to back off. Alligators may look like lumbering giants, but they can move very, very fast, and contrary to what many science teachers try to teach, humans are NOT at the top of the food chain! Gators and Polar Bears are much closer to the top than we are. Remember that if you are ever close to them. That’s why cameras have telephoto lenses – and we have thinking brains!

We drove down to Florida City to spend the night before heading into the Everglades National Park the next day. The motel we stayed in had free wi-fi, and when I went out to Suvie to retrieve my computer, which I’d left packed the whole time we were in Port Charlotte, to my horror, I discovered my computer was NOT IN SUVIE! After a moment’s panic, I called the last hotel we stayed in, in Tallahassee...


... the young man who answered told me he had NO idea if I’d left my computer or not, as all high ticket items like computers are kept locked in the General Manager’s office, and the GM was gone, and he (Sean) did not have a key, and to call back the next morning, between 8 and 12 noon. Needless to say, I did not sleep well! So, Kay and I got up early, and by 8am were at the Visitor’s Center in the Everglade’s. Of course, it was closed, and wouldn’t open until 9am. However, there was decent cell phone reception, and when I called La Quinta (North) in Tallahassee, the young lady, Jarkarta, said that, indeed, I had left it, and that it was safe in the GM’s office waiting for me to pick it up. IF YOU’RE EVER IN TALLAHASSEE, STAY IN LA QUINTA just off I-10. In fact, we’ve stayed in several La Quinta’s, and all of them have been great. Clean rooms, comfy beds, good showers, good breakfasts AND HONEST EMPLOYEES!!!


Knowing that my computer was safe, Kay and I proceeded through the Everglades Park. Adhering to the ‘rule of right’ we only turned off onto side roads/trips from the right side of the road, figuring we’d get the rest on the way back. All of the trails we were on but one, were board walks, wheel-chair accessible. Many signs were posted all along the walk way explaining what one was looking at. I knew the Everglades is a river, broad, shallow, and flowing about 4 mph from Lake Okeechobee. But the little I’d seen before had been mostly ‘jungle’ and while I knew there were vast prairies of saw grass, it still shocked me a bit to see those prairies. (Saw grass, by the way, will shred the unwary person who wanders through it- there is a reason the Seminole Indians never signed a peace treaty – they knew how to travel through the ‘Glades and leave the white eyes to flounder and either feed the gators or drown!)

The plant life in the Everglades varies with the rise in elevation of as little as one half an inch. The Baldy Cypress and other trees grow where it isn’t quite so wet, forming islands, or hammocks, where the Indians made their homes. The hammocks are surrounded by natural moats, and water, and help protect the hammocks from fire.

As one sign said, there are two seasons in the Everglades (actually, in Florida!) – Wed and Dry, and we are here in the Dry season. In the Wet season, it would be much harder to see alligators, etc., and they would not be congregating in the pools and ponds as they are now.

After driving all the way to the end, to Flamingo Bay (and not, of course, seeing any flamingos) we headed back toward the entrance. The Park Ranger at Flamingo Bay told us that there had been some flamingos spotted at Snake Bight (a ‘bight’ is a bay on a bay), but it was a tad more of a hike than Kay and I were up to, so we went on up to Royal Palm and walked the Anhinga trail. As we started out on the trail (the entire trail was either paved or board walk) a small ‘gator (about 7-8 feet) decided to go from one pond to another, and hissed as he stood and walked across the rock to the next pond. Once we saw him settled in the pond, we wandered on, and saw many anhingas both in the water and on the shore with their wings spread to dry (they have no oil, so after a few dives, they need to dry their feathers before diving for another fish). On this trail, we began to see more alligators – the further we walked, the more we saw – it was a veritable convention of gators! The larger pond held the adults, and the smaller ponds were the domain of the smaller guys.

After spending an hour or so wandering the board walk, and oohing and aahing over the gators, we headed back to the car. ‘Our’ gator who had hissed as he walked from one pond to the next, decided to climb out of the pond and cross our path. Remember what I said about the young couple above? Well, there was another, equally stupid young couple who wanted to get up close and personal with this gator. And, to make life more interesting, this gator had been wounded and was missing a chunk out of his tail. Kay and I again suggested they use their telephoto lenses and photoshop. She backed away from the gator, and he continued across the path and left us gaping and gawking-and shaking our heads at how stupid some people are (Darwin Award time???)

Since the Visitor Center had not yet opened on our way in, we stopped on our way out and I succumbed to temptation and bought a tee shirt with drawings of alligators on it. The tee shirt is white, the drawings black, but when exposed to sunlight, the gators turn green, some heretofore invisible gators appear, and other colors show up. Kay bought one of butterflies.

However, the highlight of the visit was when I introduced Ms. Flat Stanlietta to the Park Ranger, and Ms. Stanlietta was made a Junior Ranger with a badge and a patch to sew on her jacket!

From the Park, Kay drove and we headed into Homestead to see if she could find where she used to live (before Hurricane Andrew) – but it was so built up, and so different, she couldn’t, so we headed up the road.

On checking the map, we realized that we could go up Hwy 997 until it became Hwy 27 at Hialeah, and just stay on 27 until we got to the La Quinta (North) in Tallahassee – well, it didn’t take a Rocket Scientist to figure that one out! And what a marvelous choice it was! Driving on the freeways in this state, we hadn’t seen much but a lot of green – close to the road and dense, like driving through a green tunnel (I think that’s another reason I moved – too claustrophobic). Anyhow, coming up 27 brought us up the middle of Florida, into the ‘high’ country where the citrus groves are, and through some beautiful scenery.

Last night, we stayed at the Sunset Beach Motel, in Sebring. A very nice motel, one of the few ‘mom and pop’ types left. We had the ‘lakeview’ room, ie, on the end, with a view of the lake. The young man at the counter said the beds were less than a week old, and we should have a good sleep. I kept him talking as I enjoyed his accent, and finally said to him, ‘y’all aren’t from around here, are you?’ He laughed and said he was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and as soon as he was out of school, he flew the coop! Jose was a lot of fun, and another one who helped make this trip so much fun. Thanks, Jose! They get slightly less than 5 stars - no coffee in the room or the lobby this morning, but otherwise, it was perfect!

This morning, we headed back north on Hwy 27, and arrived at the La Quinta about 3.00 where I retrieved my computer (re-read the BLATANT UNPAID ADVERTISEMENT above so I don’t have to rewrite it) from Sean because the GM was still here and Sean could get into his office, rented a room, and Kay and I are now parked for the evening. She’s reading the paper, I’m updating the blog and downloading the photos. We went next door to Julie’s Restaurant for dinner and had excellent service, and very good food. Tomorrow, we will head down the freeway to Jacksonville, then north to Savannah, GA. From there we head to Charleston, SC, and then up to Travelers Rest to see our friends Jan and Lori before heading on to Virginia.

“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.”
--Richard Bach

Friday, April 10, 2009

Big L (Lewisville), Galveston, and Black Headed Gulls

Photos at:

OR, try and click on Library 10

We left Oklahoma City on Palm Sunday, after a delightful breakfast with Carl and his son, Jack. (Pat teaches Sunday School, and couldn’t attend our breakfast.)

We left Oklahoma City on Sooner Road and just headed south through some really pleasant areas. My cousin, Bill and his wife, Pat, were in church south of their home in Lewisville (which I kept trying to rename “Lewiston”) where their oldest son, William, was giving the service. William, many years ago, when he was still in diapers, was known as “Dog Water Will” due to the fact he used to crawl on the floor at Grandmother’s and drink out of the dog’s water dish. A little bit of trivia that, I’m sure, no one really cares about.

Anyhow, we took the ‘blue highway’ into Texas, and stopped at the Texas Information Center for maps, directions, and a pit stop. Cindy (I hope I have her name correct—I wrote it down, and can’t find my notes!) was delightful. She gave us directions to Bill and Pat’s, she knew Flat Stanley and was delighted to meet Flat Stanlietta. She gave us book marks and stickers for Flat Stanlietta to take home, made sure we got a picture of Flat Stanlietta with the State Flower of Texas which was blooming just outside – the Bluebell. That was a tad challenging as the wind was still blowing, but we managed to get a picture.

As we drove Texas Highway 121, Business Route, we began to wonder if we were on the right road, and stopped at a Sheraton Hotel, and the two young men, William and John, were most helpful in not only giving us directions, but also in printing out a map for us, and as we left, they gave us each a bottle of cold water. Thanks to their help, we were able to find Bill and Pat’s home.

We haven’t seen each other in something like 40 years, so it was a great reunion, and Pat’s mother, Marguerite (whom I’d never met) is now living with them, and we had a blast. She went just about everywhere with us, adding her wonderful sense of humor and comments.

She did not go to Gaylord’s Resort and Convention Center with us, but everywhere else. Gaylord’s is a huge resort-convention center, with Texas in miniature inside under a glass dome. As one walks in through the front doors, they see a replica of The Alamo, and as one wanders around, there is the River Walk of San Antonio, the Paloverde Canyon (I hope that’s the name), a Texas Longhorn (stuffed), named Hank, and all sorts of flora. We walked for quite a bit, and I’m comfortable in stating we didn’t see it all!

Bill took Monday afternoon off as well as Tuesday, to squire Kay and I around. On Tuesday, while Pat had an appointment, he took us to Denton, TX, where we saw the great Courthouse (see photos) and a marvelous bookstore, where I bought 4 books on the SW history. Afterward, we picked up Pat, and all of us went to a marvelous Mexican restaurant, Amere’s. Not only was the food to die for, but Lindsay, our server, was wonderful. Marguerite asked the manager about the recipe of her dish, and he went into the kitchen and came out with two containers of the spices they use – one for her, and one for me!

The dining room was surrounded by murals and pictures that somehow reminded me more of Europe than Mexico, and the ceiling was a sky blue with white puffy clouds painted on. I asked for, and received permission to take photos, but most did not turn out.

Back at the house, Sheba, Marguerite’s Queen Cat waited for us. She did NOT want her picture taken, and when Marguerite held her, she squirmed like a sun of a gun. I put my camera away, and she posed, beautifully. Go figure!

The night before we left, Bill sat down with Kay and I and gave us great directions to get through Dallas. Kay drove during the morning, through Dallas, and I drove in the afternoon, through Houston. We left Lewisville about 9 am, filled the car with gas, and missed most of the rush hour traffic. By the time we reached Houston, I think we were on the leading edge of rush hour traffic, but again, skirted it, for the most part. We were in Texas City by 3.30 or so, and my friend, Nonie (from Port Charlotte, FL days) picked us up at our motel, and took us to her home for a delightful home cooked meal. It was a hot chicken salad, and wonderful!

The next day, she picked us up and took us to Galveston, the home of her ancestors, where we had lunch at the Stock Club. Ike blew through Galveston last September, and though there was lots of damage, businesses are beginning to reopen, and progress is being made. It is sad, some of the old churches that have been there for what seems like forever, are not going to be repaired and reopened. The devastation was vast, and is still easily seen, but as one sign said: Hurricane, schmurricane! We’re still here!

(When Ike blew through, those who lived in Texas City were told NOT to evacuate! That’s where Nonie and her husband, Jay, live. They survived Charlie when he blew through Port Charlotte a few years ago, though their home didn’t. Anyhow, I tried to get them to come stay with me, but they hunkered down and rode it out. Thankfully, they were fine, and Texas City was fine.)

While walking through some of Galveston, we came upon an art gallery (closed) that had two parrots in the window. At first, I thought they were ‘dolls’ and then one moved, and the second moved. I tried to get their photo, but there was too much glare on the window. I did get a picture of the sign on the window, telling how they both stayed upstairs with their owner and watched and survived Ike as he blew through!

The wind has blown fairly consistently, and the overcast skies made Flat Stanlietta decide to stay in the car during our tour of Galveston. She did an excellent job of guarding Suvie and her contents. And, while in Galveston, and checking out many of the stores that were open, we found a delightful ‘necklace’ for her, that seems just about perfect for so stylish a damsel ;-)

For those of you not familiar with the West Coast and our gray gulls, forgive my fascination with the black headed gulls of Texas City and Galveston—and enjoy the photos!

Kay and I, and her sons, keep an eye on the weather, and it looked like we might be heading into some really scuzzy stuff as we headed toward Florida, so we left Texas City a day early, with was a bit of a bummer as I didn’t get to spend as much time with Nonie as I’d have liked, but we both think we’re rather glad we did.

We left after Nonie’s wonderful tour of Galveston, and drove to Slidell, LA (north and east of New Orleans) where we spent the night. Today, we drove on to Tallahassee, FL where we are currently ensconced in a motel room, with our cheese, nuts, and libation of choice. Tomorrow, we head for Port Charlotte, FL, where I used to live. We had planned on going down Highway 27, but Kay was watching The Weather Channel and the Suwannee River is due to crest tomorrow – and flood part of our highway. We’ll take I-10 on over to I-75 and go down the freeway. Not as pretty—but not flooded, either! (we hope!!)

Way down upon the Suwannee River....
Stephen Foster

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Oklahoma City

Photos located at:

(Library 9)

Kay and I stopped for brunch at Santa Rosa, NM at a fun little restaurant, Route 66 Restaurant, filled with all sorts of memorabilia and two vintage cars parked outside. As we walked into the restaurant, we noticed a little pig hood ornament on a pickup, but as we were both hungry, didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the truck, beyond the pig.

While waiting for our food, a man came up to our table, and asked if we were from Washington State. Turned out, he’s from Olympia, and the truck is his, and we had a nice discussion with Marv, who makes Marvlus Pit Bar-B-Q and caters, too. He graciously allowed me to photograph his pig, with Flat Stanlietta.

For those of you in the Olympia area, you might want to try his BBQ.

We drove on into Amarillo, TX and stayed at a La Quinta. Chris, the delightful young gentleman who checked us in also checked us out the next morning. His cheerful attitude, and helpfulness in my finding a Subaru dealer to get the oil changed; his great sense of humor – all combined to make our stay great fun. Many thanks, Chris!

At the Subaru dealer I had a delightful discussion with Tiffany, the receptionist at Brown Pontiac-Subaru and another writer, and the mechanics who worked on Suvie. From there, we headed on out on I-40 to Oklahoma City where I got to meet my cousin, Carl, for the first time.

If we learned nothing else, we learned where the words to the song, Oklahoma! come from – “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain..” The winds never stops here! Or, at least, it hasn’t since our arrival, though today is quite warm. The Oklahoma Hair Do is truly wind-blown! No matter from what direction the wind comes, there is nothing to block it but 6 or 7 strands of barbed wire!

Carl was named after my Grandfather, Carl “Skipper” McBrayer. It must be something in the name? Or maybe the blood? But Skipper was the genealogist of the McBrayer’s until his death, and now my cousin has taken on the mantle.

Kay and I had a great visit with Carl, and his wife, Pat, yesterday, and this morning, they picked us up at the hotel and took us on a sightseeing expedition. He drove around the new Ford Coliseum, where the Thunder plays (they used to be the Seattle Super Sonics), and around Bricktown, and some other places, then took us to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Memorial. We did not go through the museum, but did walk the grounds.

Entering through the 9:01 gate, the first thing we saw was the reflecting pool, where the street used to be where Timothy McVeigh parked his van. To the left is the Field of Empty Chairs, a bit of the original wall that still stands, and part of the original second floor entry. To the right is the Survivor Tree – a 90+ year American Elm that was in the middle of a parking lot and surrounded by burning cars. Part of the tree was destroyed by the blast, but with careful treatment and nurture, it still stands, and grows. There is also the Recuers’s Orchard, the Children’s Area, the Memorial Museum, and the Journal Record Building. At the far end of the reflecting pool is the 9:03 gate, and on both sides of it is The Fence. Originally installed to protect the site of the building, it became, almost instantly, a place where people began to leave tokens and messages, as they do on The Wall in Washington, D. C. The items left here, like at The Wall, are collected, cataloged, and housed. More than 200 feet of the original cyclone fence remains, and is still used to leave tokens and messages (see my photos)

The significance of the Gates of Time, quoted from the pamphlet given out at the site: “These monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial. The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing.”

This site is as haunting, and sacred, as The Wall in Washington, D.C. Kay and I opted to not go into the Museum. The outdoor memorial will haunt us both forever.

From there, Carl and Pat took us to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. We wandered into and out of more rooms and galleries seeing paintings, sculptures, artifacts, and even movie posters and tv show advertisements. Kay found the names of many of the cowboys she used to know in years gone by – I just stood and drooled all over the glass in front of Tom Selleck ;-)

We walked and meandered, inside and out, until all four of us were more than ready to sit, so went into the restaurant and had lunch. Then Kay went to the files she’d found to see if she could find her Father (she couldn’t), and I went into the bookstore to see if they had a copy of the map of the Indian Wars I saw in the Cavalry section. They didn’t. They did have some fascinating looking books—which came with fascinating price tags. I actually got out of a book & gift shop without spending a penny!

We came back to the hotel for a rest, then went next door to Wal-Mart to do some shopping. Our clerk, Marva, was one of the most cheerful of clerks, and when she discovered we were from out of state, she made a point of welcoming us to Oklahoma and telling us she was glad we came for a visit! Actually, we’ve found most people on our trip to be friendly, welcoming, and cheerful.

“Rarely do members of the same family grow up under the same roof.”
--Richard Bach

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's at Chaco Canyon

Photos at:

(Note: it’s Library 8, there is no 7)

April Fool’s Day, 2009

Well, we certainly got fooled by the weather gods, but not before we had a wonderful dinner with my Sister, Kitty last night. We ate at one of her favorite restaurants in Belen, Pete’s, and dinner was delicious! Our waiter, Shawn (see photo) was a delight, and truly enjoyed waiting on us, and even brought me some Navajo fry bread, as well as the sopaipillas that came with dinner.

After a great visit and dinner, we three gals retired to our hotel room for good conversation. After Kitty went home, Kay and I packed and organized our stuff so we could load the car this morning. We’re getting pretty good at this packing and unpacking and repacking bit.

This morning we got up, had a cup of coffee, loaded Suvie (my SUV), and were on our way by 8.30. We thought we’d drive up the road a piece, to Cuba, NM, and maybe get a hotel room and try for Chaco Canyon tomorrow. As it turned out, we arrived in Cuba at 10.30 for breakfast at the Cuba Cafe. Good food, nice people, and our waitress said we were only two hours out of Chaco, so we decided to go for it!

In just under two hours, we arrived at the Visitor’s Center. The wind whipped through the canyon, and we could see the sand in the air, and feel it try to peel the hide from our faces. Neither of us were sure what to expect in the Canyon, but found the Visitor’s Center and Bookstore lady, Rose, full of good information.

Kay and I tried to get to Chaco six years ago, and the road was too bad to drive. Today Rose informed us the way we were trying to come in was closed, and has been for years. Alas, it was the ONLY way that our AAA map showed, and we just turned around and left. Had we but known that just down the highway a few miles the ‘official’ entrance provided a much nicer way in.....

Today, we took the ‘official’ way in. The first 8 miles were paved, and the last 13 miles were on a dirt road, mostly good enough to drive 35mph or so on.

Shortly after turning onto the road, a car we had been following was stopped in the middle of the road. A small herd of Angora Goats were chomping down the grasses along the road, with their two herd dogs watching over them.

The winds barely seemed to ruffle their furs – I wish they would have shared some of their warm furs.

The winds were blowing fairly steadily at 50mph, according to the weather channel, dust blew in the air, and clouds hung low. The temperature dropped dramatically as we descended into the Canyon. When we drove to the first Pueblo, the snow began to fall, except it wasn’t falling, it was hurled at us, horizontally! Needless to say, Flat Stanlietta stayed warm in my hip pocket, except when she had her photo taken with Rose, the bookstore lady!

The snow looked and felt more like frozen white sand – no fluffy little flakes! By the time we finished walking around the last pueblo on the circuit, our noses were frozen, our hands were frozen, and we were cold through and through. (I wore a whole hand glove on my left hand, but found I couldn’t work my camera with the right hand one on, so I took it off and wore my fingerless glove on my right hand. My fingers (the exposed portions) were really red and stinging. Too much of that and I think we’d have some frostbite. The thermometer in Suvie said it was 33 out – that did not take into account the wind chill. And, trust me, the wind chill was there.

Chaco Canyon is at 6200 feet elevation – we drove over several hills (mountains?) at 7,000 feet to and from there.

By the time we arrived in Bernalillo, NM, about 50 miles up I-25 from Belen it was 6.30. Ten hours to drive 50 miles up the highway. Well, ok, we took a 240 mile detour ;-)

Chaco is a place I’d like to visit again, in the summer, and perhaps do some camping and hiking into some of the back areas. There seem to be many trails, and well marked, but today was just not conducive to hiking.

On another note, we’ve eaten in several restaurants that have had Native American families as customers. After watching several of these families, with small children, I think I can truthfully say the Americans (White Eyes) got it all wrong. We should have sent OUR children to Indian Boarding Schools. Never have I seen so many happy and well-behaved children as when we see the Native American families in public.

“Get this in mind early: We never grow up.”
--Richard Bach