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Monday, December 4, 2017

Berea College

We stopped at Berea College on our way back from Florida after Thanksgiving. Laura celebrated Thanksging in Florida with her family. I stayed in Midland and celebrated with the kids. After Thanksgiving I drove down to pick her up and bring her back (the life of a retiree). 

Laura has been wanting to stop and see Berea College for some time.  Berea College offers a high-quality education to bright and talented students who have limited economic resources. Founded in 1855 by ardent abolitionists and radical reformers, Berea was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Today, they are consistently ranked as one of the leading private liberal arts colleges in the United States. They earn this recognition by focusing on rigorous academic programs and graduating students with little or no student loan debt (Berea College)
Beautiful Campus
Admirable history
They have a store that features crafts by the students!
We only visited for a couple hours but it was so worth the trip. We will be back. 

Next time you see Laura ask her what Bean Burritos and Christmas Ornaments have in common!!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall in the Keewanaw

We ran up and visited my son who is attending Michigan Tech in the Keewanaw (Houghton to be exact). Great trip. From stopping at the Jam Pot (insert web link) to having a PHENOMENAL fish dinner at 4 sons (insert link) to discovering new hikes (thanks Mike). What a great weekend. Michigan's upper peninsula is a real treasure but the Keewanaw is it's gem!  

Estivant Pines is a treasure in the Keewanaw.  Over 500 acres of a virgin white pine forest. 
There are trees here almost 150 feet tall. 

A surprise selfie!

Out for a walk in the woods with these tall trees.

Such beautiful scenery!

We’ve seen where US 41 ends in Florida - this is where it begins in Copper Harbor, MI

Phenomenal baked goods and out of this world fruitcakes - HONEST!

Four Sons Fish and Chips behind Peterson’s Fish Market in Hancock.  Best Fish dinner
In the UP!!  So fresh and delicious.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Cuyahoga National Park

We were able to visit Cuyahoga National Park in central Ohio. Interesting park with its own unique history. It does not have the grandeur or splendor of other National Parks we've visited, but it does have a great Train ride and a wonderful bike ride for +20 miles through the park that we enjoyed. We did not do hikes that some folks said were very pretty. Maybe next time. 

Biking on 20+ miles of trails
The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad serves the park from end to end. 
We road the train from one end of the park to the other with our bikes for $3 each.  
What a deal.  They even do a Polar Express program at Christmas.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Frankfort, KY, Wal-Mart and Buffalo Trace Distillery

Had a wonderful visit to Frankfort, KY. A couple of firsts......

We "camped / parked overnight" in the Frankfort Wal-Mart on Sunday night so we could visit the Buffalo Trace Distillery first thing Monday morning. For those folks "in the know" some Wal-Marts let RV'ers camp overnight in their parking lot. It's a money saver and certainly convenient to run in and grab supplies. Our "virgin" Wal-Mart overnight involved me waking up to the whine of a gas powered leaf blower revving its engine around 1am. Then I recognized the sound of a street sweeper. Being the shrewd engineer I am, I put two and two together (peeked out the window too) and realized they were doing maintenance of their parking lot. I guess I would have chosen the same time if I were  the running the Wal-Mart. I lay in bed for the next several hours listening to this. In the morning I commented to Laura about all the noise the previous night. She looked at me quizzically and said "What noise?".  Note to self on best time to do parking lot maintenance at Wal-Mart and Laura's ability to sleep through the night. 

We were FINALLY able to tour the Buffalo Trace Distillery. To me this is the Holy Grail of distilleries. We did a "dry run" by driving to the Buffalo Trace Distillery when we arrived in Frankfort at ~10pm. They have the nicest most helpful security folks at Buffalo Trace (realized they don't get many folks visiting Sunday nights.....). Monday morning is a great time to tour the Distillery as there are not as many visitors as other times (who gets up to tour a Distillery at 9am on Monday morning). They offer multiple tours that are quite informative. If you are ever in the area, it's worth the stop. The day we were there we actually saw them putting up the mash for Pappy's. Only 23 years to go for the "good stuff".......  
What a history!
This Gentleman was a former Kentucky State Trooper!  He knew his Bourbon though!
Warehouse and warehouse of bourbon barrels.  What a fragrance!
Packaging Blanton’s!  My favorite!
Moving the barrels to the warehouses.  
A little sampling at the end!  Love that Bourbon Cream.  Look on their web site for a root beer float recipe.  Delicious!
After all these years I did not realize that each cap was different and had a letter on it.  If you 
Collected all of them the spelled out B-L-A-N-T-O-N-S.  You could get the caps mounted on a 
Barrel stave for a nominal fee.
After touring we had to sit a spell!
What a memory!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We had a great time visiting the Smokies on our way back from Florida. Weather was perfect!  Enjoyed multiple hikes, visiting many historic sites and learning more about the national park that gets the most visitors annually. A highlight of the trip was Elk watching—what beautiful majestic creatures!  

We stayed in Pigeon Forge. Oh my goodness, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are SOOOO commercialized - what a contrast to the Smokies. 

We had great weather and awesome views! The fall foliage was just starting in early October.

We got to see a working mill for corn and wheat at the Mingus Mill.  We bought some cornmeal there, 
only later to find out that it was ground at a commercial mill. The Mingus Mill can’t sell its products due to today’s 
food safety laws. 

Sunset in the Smokies is gorgeous!

We huffed and puffed up to Clingmans Dome observation tower—it’s a short but steep hike at 6,000+ feet.

It was rutting season for elk. What a treat to see them so close and hear them bugling.
Cataloochee is the best place to see elk and many other wildlife. 

Laurel Falls trail is a fun hike—this was one of the many waterfalls.

We had super weather for walks in the woods!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The “Van”

Well we made the switch and are now using a 2017 Ford Transit as our trusty Steed for Nomad Retiree travels. We intend to camp in this periodically as we think it will be a step up accommodation wise from the tent. The 2015 F-150 has been fantastic and I know my son was quite happy to buy this from me since he was in the market for a vehicle. Stay tuned for more posts as we convert this van into our "hippy van".   

The new van.  We have a portable solar panel to charge the batteries while we park for extended periods.  Saves running the engine.

We built a collapsible bed in the van for those occasions where we want to sleep in it over night.

Pulls out to expand.

It makes a queen size bed.

This will be very much work in progress.......

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2017 Mackinac Bridge Walk

Had a great time walking the bridge. This is the 1st year they shut down the bridge for public vehicles due to safety concerns. The number of attendees actually walking the bridge was down, but I think that was primarily due to the changes this year, logistics, etc. As we wandered Mackinaw City we saw quite a few people still waiting to board buses to ride across the bridge.  I know they were working out the kinks.  Despite the changes, enthusiasm was high and a good time was had by all. If you've never done the bridge walk, it's a great tradition for Michiganders. Thanks Karen and Ross for hosting us!  We had a blast!  
Love seeing the Michigan State Police Helicopter coming into the St Iggy Coast Guard Station
The beginning of the bridge walk is on the St Iggy side.  You walk to the “troll” side.
We are considered “trolls” living under the bridge, south of the Mackinaw City side.

So picturesque!  Not many folks get to see the bridge this way unless they walk it!
Even the puppies came out in force!  Kudos to the Michigan State Police - what pros!!
Nothing like a selfie under one of the bridge towers!
Say that 5 times fast.
Nothing like reaching the finish line!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rafting the Grand Canyon - What an AMAZING adventure

What an amazing adventure, rafting down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon in August 2017! It was filled with incredible views, wonderful new friends, great food, challenging hikes, hot desert days, cold water splashing from rapids, and lots of time to reflect on life. What a way to visit a national park. Only 27,000 people can raft down it a year, so most book their trip about a year ahead. 

For many in our group, this was their first time white water rafting, and for some, it was their first time camping. The outfitter, Arizona River Runners, provided the camping essentials, all food and great guides who made our journey very memorable and safe. 

Want to see more or experience what it was like running the rapids? Drop us a note as we created a short video of the trip from our GoPro clips.

We flew to Marble Canyon from Las Vegas to start our trip through the Grand Canyon. 
 We launched at Lees Ferry, about 15 miles from the Glen Canyon Dam, to start our seven day adventure. 
It is the only place in over 700 miles of canyon where you can drive up to the Colorado River. 
No need to hike in!
Meet two of four guides, Marty and Ethan. Marty (pink shirt) has been down the river 190+ times.  He also guided the USA Men's Rafting Team in early 2017 in their attempt to break the speed record for going through the canyon. There is a great video that documents the effort.  Click here to see!
One of our two boats--we carried EVERYTHING on these boats following a "leave no trace" practice.  We covered 187 miles of canyon in these motorized boats (no rowing needed).
Stunning canyon views
The canyon is definitely one of God's art studios.
Jaw dropping beauty
Views that never ceased!
Daily side trips that we thoroughly enjoyed.
Relaxing in the falls
Amazing scenery 
Beautiful waterfalls!
Great trips up side canyons, never a boring moment!
Relaxing after a day of rafting
Great guides!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!
We camped in some amazing places, see those rock ledges! We slept on cots under the stars; tents were available but not needed.
Our group, great folks in a great place!
Wildlife abounds in the canyon!
No hiking out of the canyon for us; we flew out by helicopter. What an amazing ride!
After the trip we had to go see the Hoover Dam - AMAZING!