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2019-05-13 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Cumberland Falls, Corbin, KY – Day #19

Today we once again traveled into the green hills of Kentucky; all around us is the Daniel Boone National Forest.  We are headed to the State Park to see the Cumberland Falls and the Dupont Lodge…

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It was a lovely lodge.  Not as nice as the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge, but still nice…

But before we could enjoy the lodge we walked 3/4 mile to the falls.  The path was wet, but fairly easy; there is a 270′ elevation change walking down to the falls…

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We could see the highway bridge over the Cumberland River far below…

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The raging river was lapping over this walkway…  There is about 10 times the normal water flow today due to melting snow up north and the recent rains locally… (thus, the muddy appearance…)

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We finally arrived at the falls… They were great!

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We went down below for a closer view…

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Did you know that over 280 people die each year taking selfies in dangerous locations?

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Further downstream we got a wider view…

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And then it was time to walk back up… But by now we were even further down.  We walked up 66 steps, then up the 270′ rise on the 3/4 mile path back up to the lodge…

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And then we sat down…

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Soon it was time for lunch…

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The food was decent and the view was great!

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We returned to the campground.  We stopped along the way for Lynda to get her hair cut, and we took the truck to the local Chevy dealer for an oil change.

We had an “Open House” so that we could peak into all the other Airstreams; this gave way to Happy Hours…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-12 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Big South Fork Scenic Railway – Day #18

Our first excursion in the London area was to the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, about one hour south of here, in Stearns, KY, near the Tennessee border.  This is also adjacent to the Daniel Boone National Forest…

Stearns, KY, is another one of the many small, thriving, towns which died in the 1950s.  At one time Stearns was a bustling industrial town of 10,000 – 15,000 people.  Today there are fewer than 1,600 people here.  The only remnants of the town, besides the few houses, are the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, along with the few remaining buildings that were once operated by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company.

Stores adjacent to the train depot:

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This building now houses the museum; it once was the headquarters office building of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company; it also housed the telephone exchange and the local bank…

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The train was awaiting our arrival…

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We had a lovely drive again, through miles and miles of tree-covered hills as far as the eye can see… After we arrived and procured our train tickets, we toured the museum.  There was the usual assortment of memorabilia plus photos showing the once-thriving town…

We enjoyed our box lunch, then waited for the train…

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And here it is!

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The cars may be vintage, but they are nicely finished inside… Soon we were underway.  The train’s planned destination was the Blue Heron Mining Community – a National Park Interpretive Center.

Blue Heron, or Mine 18, is an abandoned coal mining town.  It was a part of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company’s past operation in what today is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.  Most of what we know about life at Blue Heron, and the other Stearns coal towns, has been handed down through oral history.  Blue Heron mine operated from 1937 until it closed in December
1962.  During that time hundreds of people lived and worked in the isolated community on the banks of the Big South Fork River.  Their story is the focus of this interpretive tour of the Blue Heron Community.

When the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company abandoned Blue Heron in 1962, the buildings were either removed or they lapsed into decay.  There were no original buildings standing when the town was “re-created” as an interpretive center in the 1980s.  Consequently, the town was restored in an “open-air” museum format, and new structures were constructed on the approximate site of several of the original buildings. These new structures are open, metal shells of buildings, and are referred to as “ghost structures.”  Each ghost structure has an audio-tape station with recorded recollections of some of the people of Mine 18.

Unfortunately, recent winter storms damaged the train tracks, so Blue Heron is no longer reached by the railroad.  Big South Fork Scenic Railway is now the railroad to nowhere.  We rode about 1/2 hour, enjoying the scenery…

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Some passengers took a nap…

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Plenty of green…

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And wet… The train announcer told us that yesterday the creek was running slow and crystal clear… Remember the rain we had last night?

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And then the train stopped, and we backed up for 1/2 hour until we returned to the depot.  Some caravanners drove on to Blue Heron, but we, and others, returned to the campground…

There were many happy hours groups at several of the Airstreams this evening.  Some Airstreamers were happier than others…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-29 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Bardstown, KY; Abraham Lincoln and Makers Mark! – Day #5

We set out this morning to see Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.

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Between 1909 and 1911 this farm was purchased and the log cabin where Lincoln was born was secured.  A nationwide fundraising drive was instituted and this memorial was built over the site of the original cabin.

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Inside the memorial is the cabin…

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It was the first “Lincoln Memorial”, predating the one in Washington, DC, by more than 10 years.

Several years later scientific dating was done on the logs, and they were determined to be from 1840; this is not the real original cabin where Lincoln was born.  The National Park Service now calls it the “Symbolic Cabin”.

Real or not, it was a moving place…

We then moved on to someplace not quite so historic…

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We did the usual tour – definition of Bourbon, the grains used in Makers Mark (about 70% corn, plus wheat and malted barley).  They made a big deal about not using rye; when MM was started in 1953 most “bourbons” were rye whiskey.  (Bourbon has been legally defined as being at least 50% corn since 1964…)  We saw the mash cookers, the fermenting tanks, the column stills where the whiskey is distilled, and the pot still where it is distilled again…

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The mash is fermented in cypress wood tanks – like giant hot tubs…

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Other interesting factoids:

-MM is one of only a few distillers to use live yeast in the fermenting process

-When their first 5 year aged bourbon was released in 1958 it was the first “Premium” bourbon

-Barrels in the barrel houses (warehouses) are rotated after three years – 7th floor to 1st floor, 6th floor to 2nd floor, etc.  And vice versa.

-The Barrel Houses are painted dark brown (almost black) to disguise the mold that grows everywhere around aging bourbon, as the evaporating liquid settles on the metal siding and provides a food source for the mold; the mold is harmless to just about everyone, but is unsightly and is a mess to clean…

-Average age when bottled is 6 1/2 years, but it is all done by tasting, not by age

-When they have 346 barrels ready to bottle they blend all the barrels to match the signature taste profile

-For over 50 years they made only one product – Makers Mark Straight Bourbon Whisky

-Today they also make a cask-strength bourbon; “46”, a super premium bourbon (more on this in a minute); and “Private Select” bourbon, a special, custom made version of 46  made specifically for certain bars, restaurants, and high-end liquor stores.

-Every bottle is hand-dipped in red wax

Next we went into the “46 cellar”…

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This is where MM 46 is made via a special aging process… It is kept at 50 degrees because they have found that this aging process works best at the cooler temperature.

When a barrel is tasted and is deemed worthy of being made into 46 it is pulled out of the barrel house and brought here.  The top of the barrel is removed and 10 French oak staves are inserted into the bourbon.  The top is put back on and the bourbon is aged another 9 weeks…

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The result is a super-premium bourbon with extra spicy notes from the French Oak…  The name comes from the selection of the staves.  Over 100 combinations of staves were tried, with different chars, different edges, different lengths.  After extensive testing and tasting, combination #46 was deemed to be the best.

We then learned that super-good customers (bars, restaurants, liquor stores) have the opportunity to make their own version of MM46 – Private Select.  They come here and select different combinations of staves, tasting the results until they get just the taste they want.  Thereafter they can order this special recipe again and again to sell exclusively in their place of business.  In the 10 years or so I have been ordering and buying Makers Mark I have never run into one of these special custom bottles…

But we were now ready for the tasting…

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We tasted six glasses:  MM White (un-aged whiskey), MM (regular), Cask strength (111 proof), MM46, and a Private Select made for the tasting room, and not available in any store…  Also, in honor of the Kentucky Derby this week we also tasted MM Mint Julep – all mixed and ready to pour over ice…

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My opinion?

MM White (un-aged whiskey):  Terrible!

MM (regular):  Always one of my favorites as a every day sipping bourbon

Cask strength (111 proof):  A little too rough for my taste

MM46:  Spectacular; a very special treat, very complex, and a joy to drink

Private Select: Also spectacular, very smooth, very nice finish

MM Mint Julep:  Terrible – tasted like mint mouthwash or toothpaste

We were able to buy a few souvenir bottles…  I had to have a bottle of Private Select…

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And then we went to lunch…

The evening we had another GAM… And we had some quiet time…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-20 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Asheville, NC and Biltmore!

Today we went to see the Biltmore Estate, right here in Asheville.  We arrived, parked, and walked about 1/2 mile to the see grand vista over the front lawn:

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This is the largest privately owned house in America.  Yes, it is still owned by the Vanderbilt family, the 5th generation since George Washington Vanderbilt II had the house built between 1889 and 1895.  The house is a Châteauesque-style mansion, and it measures over 178,000 sq. ft.  It is one of the finest examples of mansions of the “Gilded Age”.

We walked down the lane adjacent to the lawn, then stood in line in the biting cold while we waited to be admitted at the appointed hour.  At least we had something interesting to look at…

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In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, Vanderbilt began to make regular visits to the Asheville area. He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to build his own summer house in the area, which he called his “little mountain escape”.  His older brothers and sisters had built luxurious summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Hyde Park, New York.   (See my blogs from the summer of 2017…)  Their father, William Vanderbilt, had died unexpectedly young, so his massive fortune was inherited by his many children while they were in their 30s; they all went on a building spree, spending all this money.  But George Vanderbilt did not get along with many of his siblings, and he was considered a black sheep of the family, so he had no desire to build his house near theirs.  Vanderbilt bought almost 700 parcels of land, including over 50 farms and at least five cemeteries; a portion of the estate was once the community of Shiloh.  A total of 125,000 acres were assembled.  Archives show that much of the land was in very poor condition, and the farmers and other landowners were glad to sell.

Vanderbilt hired Richard Morris Hunt to design the mansion, with Frederick Law Olmstead hired to design the grounds.  Olmstead turned the 8,000 acres directly around the mansion into luxurious parks, woods, meadows, and gardens.  The rest of the land was made into commercial lumber forests.

Construction of the house began in 1889. In order to facilitate such a large project, a woodworking factory and brick kiln, which produced 32,000 bricks a day, were built onsite, and a three-mile railroad spur was constructed to bring materials to the building site.  A separate village (Biltmore Village) was built to house many of the workers and their families and to attend to their daily needs.  A trade school (Biltmore Estate Industries) was opened to train the local youths in making hand-crafted wares.  Biltmore Dairy was built to provide milk, butter and other foods to the newly formed community.  Construction on the main house required the labor of about 1,000 workers, including 60 stone masons.  Vanderbilt went on extensive trips overseas along with Hunt to purchase decor as construction on the house was in progress. He returned to North Carolina with thousands of furnishings for his newly built home including tapestries, carpets, paintings and prints, linens, and decorative objects, all dating between the 15th century and the late 19th century.

George Vanderbilt opened his opulent estate on Christmas Eve of 1895 to invited family and friends from across the country who were encouraged to enjoy leisure and country pursuits.  George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898 in Paris, France; their only child, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, was born at Biltmore in 1900, and grew up at the estate.

The appointed hour arrived; we were allowed into the house.  They have an excellent audio tour which allowed us explore at our own pace.  Also interesting is the way the tour has been “curated”.  The audio tour makes it seem like the butler has greeted us in the entry hall, and he is going to escort us through the house, introducing us to other house-guests and servants  and showing us the many features of the house.  We are all here for one of the famous house parties, and the gala banquet is tonight.

All the rooms are populated with manikins with clothing recreated to match period photos of the Vanderbilt family. (Yawn)

The house and the family have an interesting history:

The family occupied the house from 1895 and into the early 20th century, living their lavish lifestyle.  Then, in 1914, to combat the impact of the newly imposed income taxes, and the fact that the estate was getting harder to manage economically, Vanderbilt initiated the sale of 87,000 acres to the federal government.  Before the sale was finalized, Vanderbilt unexpectedly died (of complications from an emergency  appendectomy); his widow completed the sale and that property became the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest.  Still overwhelmed with running such a large estate, Edith Vanderbilt began consolidating her interests and sold several separate businesses that had been established when the house was built: Biltmore Estate Industries in 1917 and Biltmore Village in 1921.  Edith intermittently occupied the house, living in an apartment carved out of the former Bachelors’ Wing, until the marriage of her daughter to John Francis Amherst Cecil in April 1924.  The Cecils went on to have two sons who were also born in the house.

In an attempt to bolster the estate’s financial situation during the Great Depression, Cornelia and her husband opened Biltmore to the public in March, 1930, at the request of the City of Asheville, which hoped the attraction would revitalize the area with tourism.  

After the divorce of the Cecils in 1934, Cornelia left the estate never to return; however, John Cecil maintained his residence in the Bachelors’ Wing until his death in 1954. Their eldest son, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil, occupied rooms in the wing until 1956. At that point Biltmore House ceased to be a family residence and continued to be operated as a historic house museum.

Their younger son William A. V. Cecil, Sr. returned to the estate in the late 1950s and joined his brother to manage the estate (which was in financial trouble) and make it a profitable and self-sustaining enterprise like his grandfather envisioned.  He eventually inherited the estate upon the death of his mother, Cornelia, in 1976, while his brother, George, inherited the then more profitable Biltmore Dairy, which was split off into Biltmore Farms.  In 1995, while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the estate, Cecil turned over control of the company to his son, William A. V. Cecil, Jr.  After the death of William A. V. Cecil in October 2017 and his wife Mimi Cecil in November, their daughter Dini Pickering began serving as board chair and their son Bill Cecil is CEO.  The Biltmore Company is still privately held.

Today, the estate property is 4,300 acres.  The property is run as an “amusement park” for tourists who love gilded age estates.  There is a hotel and an inn, restaurants, a winery,  several gift shops, a nursery, and every other thing that tourists love.  (No roller coaster.  yet…)  The main house and the views are well protected, but it is clear that they want you to come and stay a week and spend lots of money along the way…

Biltmore has 250 rooms in the house, including 35 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 75 servant bedrooms, three kitchens, and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced-air heating and cooling, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms, and a call-bell system.  The principal rooms of the house are located on the ground floor.  The largest room in the house is the Entry Hall.  (Just like my 1905 house in Redlands…)

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(My center table is smaller, with fewer flowers…)

The Winter Garden always seemed like a strange place to me, but I’ve never spent a winter in Asheville, NC.  The skylight is marvelous:

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The Banquet Hall measures 42 feet wide and 72 feet long, with a 70-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceiling. The table can seat 64 guests, overlooking the triple fireplace that spans one end of the hall. On the opposite end of the hall, on the upper level, is an organ gallery that houses a 1916 Skinner pipe organ.

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To the left of the entrance hall is the 90-foot-long Tapestry Gallery, which leads to the Library, featuring three 16th-century tapestries. This room serves little function except as a place to showcase the three tapestries.  We did hear on the tour that the family took tea here in the afternoons…

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The two-story Library contains over 10,000 volumes in eight languages, reflecting George Vanderbilt’s broad interests in classic literature as well as art, history, architecture, and gardening.  The second-floor balcony is accessed by an ornate walnut spiral staircase, and the balcony includes a passage behind the fireplace.

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The second floor of the house is accessed by the cantilevered Grand Staircase of 107 steps spiraling around a four-story, wrought-iron chandelier holding 72 light bulbs.  The Second Floor Living Hall is an extension of the grand staircase as a formal hall and portrait gallery.  Located nearby in the south tower is George Vanderbilt’s gilded bedroom with furniture designed by Hunt.  His bedroom connects to his wife’s Louis XV-style, oval-shaped bedroom in the north tower through a Jacobean carved oak paneled sitting room with an intricate ceiling.

The remainder of the second floor contains various elaborate bedroom suites for family and close family friends and other honored guests.

The third floor has many guest rooms for couples, families, and single women, each given names that describe the furnishing or artist with which they were decorated.  The rooms all have connecting doors so that they can be configured into suites as needed…

The fourth floor has more than 20 bedrooms that were inhabited by housemaids, laundresses, and other female servants.  Also included on the fourth floor is an Observatory with a circular staircase that leads to a wrought iron balcony with doorways to the rooftop where Vanderbilt could view his estate.  Male servants were not housed here, however, but instead resided in 40+ bedrooms above the stable complex.

The guest rooms for bachelors were on the second and third floors on the opposite end of the house, adjacent to the service courtyard and stables complex.  It contains the Billiard Room, which is equipped with both a custom-made pool table and a carom table (table without pockets).  The room was mainly frequented by men, but ladies were welcome to enter as well.  Secret door panels on either side of the fireplace led to the private quarters of the Bachelors’ Wing, where female guests and staff members were not allowed.  The wing includes the Smoking Room, which was fashionable for country houses, and the Gun Room, which held mounted trophies and displayed George Vanderbilt’s gun collection.

The basement level featured activity rooms including an indoor 70,000-gallon heated swimming pool with underwater lighting, a bowling alley, and a gymnasium with once state-of-the-art fitness equipment.  The service hub of the house is also found in the basement; it contains the main kitchen, pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, several walk-in pantries, walk-in refrigerators, the servants’ dining hall, laundry rooms and additional bedrooms for staff.  The sub-basement contains the heating and air conditioning systems, giant water heaters, and massive storage rooms.

So after two hours of fun we returned to the truck… We did get to drive through the entrance court and the formal gates…

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Unfortunately, due to the severe rains, a few of the estate roads were closed, and their signs pointing us to the exit were faulty.  But after driving around in circles for 45 minutes we made our way out.  The views along the way were pure North Carolina:

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I had been to Biltmore many years ago, on a tour given via the AIA convention.  We had the regular tour, then a special tour just for us architects, where we saw the attic and roof structure, the servants rooms, several un-restored guest rooms, the bachelor quest quarters, and even the sub-basement.  After the tours we were given free access to return to any of these spaces for the rest of the day.  It was marvelous…

None of the gaudy details and goo-gaas impress me (that’s why I am not posting hundreds of photos of every room…); what interests me the most is the incredibly complicated program that Hunt and Vanderbilt worked out.  Remember, Vanderbilt was not even married when the house was designed and built.  The complexity of the separate areas for family and guests, male and female servants, separate circulation hallways and stairs so that the servants could move about the house relatively inconspicuously – all this is so very complicated in a house of this size.  I love this stuff!

The plantation Big Houses were nice to look at, but they were only 3, 6, or 8 rooms to a floor, with no bathrooms, no servants quarters, no kitchens, no mechanical systems – just simple boxes.  The complexity of  a great house like Biltmore, with 250 rooms and multiple stairs and circulation spaces… Wow!  It was great fun to see…

We returned to the Villa in the rain, and had a relaxing afternoon and evening.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-24 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 12 – Fredericksburg to Plantersville, TX

Sunday morning we went to the Holy Ghost Lutheran Church.  Having been founded by German immigrants, it is not surprising that Fredericksburg is full of Lutheran churches.  We selected this one for two good reasons: we could walk there, and it had an 8:00 am service…

Apparently Lutherans enjoy 8:00 am services much more than Methodists; this service was very well attended.

After church the mens group was having a fundraiser:  drive-thru BBQ, smoked right here on the church property…

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We walked back to the Villa and headed out for our drive to Plantersville, TX, located just west of Conroe, TX; along the way we stopped at the LBJ Ranch, both the State Park and the National Park…

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The visitor center wasn’t very impressive; they were showing a movie in their theater; it was an NBC TV show that I recall watching in 1966.  It showed mostly idyllic scenes around the ranch with narration by LBJ while driving in his white Lincoln Continental convertible…

We did the driving tour around the ranch, a beautiful place…

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Lynda was able to capture a photo of a Cardinal…

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Some areas of the ranch were awash with colored weeds…

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Free range cattle were everywhere…

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The “Texas White House” is closed for renovations…

We drove on.  In Johnson City we drove by the Johnson family home, but there is not much else to see.

Our destination for the day is Bernhardt Winery…

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This a Harvest Host site, so we parked the Villa alongside the vineyards; we will spend the night here.

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The winery is a lovely place.  Local wine club members come for a picnic and enjoy the grounds.  We did a wine tasting.

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They only grow two types of grapes here on the property.  The clay soil and the humidity do not provide a good environment for growing grapes.  The two grapes they grow are made into white wines – nice nose, but not much flavor after that…

The rest of their wines are made from California grapes.  We enjoyed their port and their “Sarah”, a red blend, but we bought their Pinot Noir made from grapes grown north of Lodi, CA.

We returned to the Villa, and we enjoyed a bottle of their Pinot Noir with our happy hour…

There was a lovely sunset our our door over the vineyard…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-21 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 9 – Carlsbad Caverns

Today we visited Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and, in particular, the Carlsbad Caverns…

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico.   Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.  The primary attraction of the park are the Carlsbad Caverns.

We arrived at about 10:00 am and checked out the visitor center.  Then we headed to the “natural entrance” of the caverns… Along the way we saw these buildings; the stone buildings were built by park employees in the 1920s, and the stucco buildings were built by the CCC in 1940…

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Carlsbad Cavern includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point.  The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.  There are other rooms and chambers which require special ranger-guided tours.  We chose the self-guided tour, since we didn’t want to crawl through small tunnels…  Visitors to the Big  Room can hike down on their own via the “natural entrance” or take an elevator from the visitor center.  We, of course, walked in – about 1 1/2 miles long of winding, steep paths descending about 750′ underground.

The entrance today is quite impressive, but easy to use…

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But in the olden days things were different.  The original explorers who discovered the cave had to climb down rude home-made rope ladders.  The first visitors to the new National Park in 1923 were lowered in a mine bucket down 700 feet into the ground.  Finally, by the late 1920s, park employees had built wooden stairways.  You walked down to get in, you walked up to get out… Finally, in the 1930s, the stairs were replaced by paved ramps, and the first elevators were added…

At this “natural entrance” there is a small amphitheater.  Starting in April and continuing through the summer people come at sundown to sit and watch the thousands or millions of bats ascend up out of the bat cave via the natural entrance in search of airborne bugs and insects.  Apparently it is quite a sight, although, it being March and all, we didn’t see the bats.  We could smell the bat quano, though…

So we walked through the natural entrance, walked the 1 1/2 miles down to The Big Room, and around the Big Room, seeing the sights.  Photos don’t show the scale or the depth of these spaces, but they are very impressive.  We mostly saw “decorations”, what the parks people call the stalactites, the stalagmites, columns, draperies, straw tubes, and on and on…

Pictures don’t capture the size of the space, but this diagram shows one area – the Liberty Dome above and the “Bottomless Pit” below…

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The caverns are dramatically lit, and the “decorations” are stunning…

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After 3 1/2 hours underground we were quite done in.  So we opted to take the elevator back to the surface…

We drove back through the town of Carlsbad, fueled up the truck, and returned to the Villa.  We snacked and had Happy Hours and a light supper.  Tomorrow we leave early for our travel into Texas to Fredericksburg…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-03-20 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 8 – Las Cruces to Carlsbad, NM

We headed east today; the destination is Carlsbad, NM, in the far southwest corner of the State.  The mountains east of Las Cruces have one section with these amazing crags…

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Just over the mountain we stopped at White Sands Missile Range.  This is where all the testing of missiles and rockets has been done since WWII.  We started at the museum… They have lots of exhibits, like you would expect.  The history of the area was interesting, as was the story of how the US Government temporarily “borrowed” the land (3,200 square miles – almost three times the area of Rhode Island…) from the owners during WWII; after the war they didn’t give it back, buying it via eminent domain.  The owners were not pleased…

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This is a Red-Tailed Hawk (stuffed) on exhibit…

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This is a Red-Tailed Hawk (wood) in my living room, hand-carved by my father about 30 years ago…

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Across from the museum is a small building containing a restored V-2 missile…

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The Germans developed the V-2 as a terrorizing weapon during WWII and used it against England.  They spent more on these weapons than the US spent on the Manhattan Project.  After the war the US brought back all the V-2 rockets and various rocket parts to the US (mainly so the Russians couldn’t get them).   They sent it all here, filling 300 railroad cars.  The US also brought back all the German rocket scientists they could.  The V-2 formed the basis of the early days of space research, setting the stage for our manned and unmanned voyages into space.  This rocket in this building was used for research many times and has now been restored…

In the missile yard are MANY rockets of all sizes and shapes…

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Amazingly, rockets are a lot like trees – seen one, seen them all…

So we rolled out east again.  Soon we entered the Lincoln National Forest and ascended over 4,600 feet to a summit of 8,600 feet…  In this photo we are looking back west towards the white sands…

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Tunnels are always fun…

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Once we descended the mountain we were in a desolate plain that went on for miles and miles.  As is our custom, we stopped to stretch our legs and to keep our Apple watches happy…

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We checked into the KOA about 20 miles north of the city of Carlsbad.  The trees in the park are full of noisy birds…

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The park was basic but good.  They even prepared BBQ dinners on-site and delivered them to the Villa at the appointed hour.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

And, as is our custom, we present the some of the McAnoy children (and one neighbor…)

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2019-03-17 – Airstream Caravans Travel – Day 5 – Las Cruces and Alamogordo, NM

This Sunday morning we started walking at 7:30 am in 35 degree temperatures.  There is a nice United Methodist church about 1/2 mile from here.  However we wonder at the wisdom of holding a church service at 8:00 am… It was a beautiful church, but only 50 people were in attendance. I was reassured that their later two services were better attended… ( a total of about 300+ people each Sunday…)

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While walking back to the Villa we passed the Railroad Museum.  We may need to return here in a day or two…

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We packed a lunch and pointed the truck towards Alamogordo… The road to Alamogordo is named the “Bataan March Memorial Highway”.  White Sands Missile range was closed today while they do an re-enactment of the Bataan Death March – without the disease, torture, bugs, humidity, starvation, and death… This is an annual event since 2002.  Hundreds of people (maybe thousands) were walking along the highway and on the roads in the missile range…

We continued on to Alamogordo, to the New Mexico Space History Museum, which includes the International Hall of Fame, along with a Planetarium…

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We walked around the outdoor exhibits…

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This is a memorial for the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire and the two Space Shuttle crashes…

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They also have here the grave site of HAM, the first space chimp, who flew into space in 1961, and died in 1983…

Inside were four floors of exhibits of space exploration:  early astronomers, rockets, the cold war space race, all the manned space missions, and on and on… Some of it was esoteric technology and other exhibits were current events for us… Lots of hands-on exhibits for kids, too.

Also outside was an acceleration/deceleration track, where various devices were tested for both going fast and stopping from going fast.  I’m no mathematician (they said there would be no math in retirement…), but one rocket used on the track accelerated from 0 to mach 1.3 in 4.2 seconds.  I think that is even faster than a Tesla…

From the hill at the museum we could see the White Sands National Monument… It isn’t really clear in the photo, but these white sand dunes extend for 275 miles…

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White Sands National Monument was our next destination for the day… There are 150,000 acres of, well, white sand…

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I dressed as the invisible pedestrian.  You can almost see me in this photo…

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We returned to the Villa, had lovely happy hours and dinner…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

2018-10-03 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 46 – Traveling from Gallup to Cubero, New Mexico

Another travel day… These days are my favorite – driving down the highway, watching the scenery, going places that we’ve never been before… Today we took the long way around, choosing to drive the back roads for three hours instead of the interstate for two hours…

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We drove south from Gallup, towards El Morro National Monument, then through El Marpais National Monument.  This area is very volcanic, yet the mesas still exhibit interesting rock formations…

We stopped at a few historic markers…

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The road eventually turned east, then northeast, where it intersected with the 40; about 20 miles later we were at Cubero, site of the Sky City Casino, Hotel, and RV Park.  Sky City is the name for the Pueblo at Acoma, where we will go tour tomorrow…

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We had an easy time setting up in a very modern, but very bleak RV park.  Naps, then Happy Hours, and dinner ensued…

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As Happy Hours were transitioning to Dinner we were hit by a sudden thunderstorm, followed by a rainbow…

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News flash!  This morning it dropped below 70 degrees in Los Angeles, and rain MIGHT happen.  Erin quickly dressed Evelyn in all her winter clothes:

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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