Monday, May 29, 2006

The GREAT adventure - May 2006



Friday/19…got away from Tampa after 11AM, stopped at Cracker barrel in Brooksville for breakfast – badly needed! New trailer holds bikes awesome and room for equipment box! We stayed true to our “Enjoy the Journey” mode that we adopted several years ago and rested/recharged often to insure our mellow attitude…. Had dinner at Applebee’s around 5 in Tifton, Georgia and headed on to the mountains---YEEHAAAAAA!!!!! We stopped in some little place around 7, got out our coffee pot, Linda bought some milk and bottled water and we made our own fresh-brewed coffee!!! Some habits die hard! When out inverter would not work in the car on the coffee pot, we just carried the pot over next to the store, plugged into an outside plug and made our brew! Off we went toward Atlanta…went through Atlanta around 9PM and had very little traffic….the rest of the evening was similar to last year when we spent several hours lost in the mountains looking for our place….The new place was called “Smokey’s Edge” and we had very detailed instructions to it – BUT we drove by it about 6 times and then woke up the lady that rented us the place at 2:45AM…. She was very nice and steered us in to a gorgeous cabin tucked way up a hill! We drove the car and trailer to the back door and hopped out!!!! Finally around 3AM we fell in to the cabin and the bed!!!!!!!!!!

**May has seen a lot of these great adventures! Starting in 02 when we went to Gainesville to get the Road King! We haven’t slowed down since! This has started out as another great one – and each one is unique and SUPER in its own ways! This little journal will chronicle our May 06 Great adventure!

Saturday/20 – Woke up to beautiful sunlight, fresh air and at 9:30AM!!!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE NOT SLEPT THAT LATE IN 20 YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I, once again, do have the proper words to describe the beauty of the morning and this incredible area! Our Creators handiwork leaves me humbled by its GRANDNESS!! Truly – beauty beyond mortal description!
Pretty morning with a hint of things to come with the ominous clouds looming over the Smokies…………UGH!!!!!!!!!
All the landmarks looked far more familiar in the daylight!
Off to Maryville for a brunch at Cracker Barrel..
Home Depot for locks and more tie-downs…
Smokey Mountain Harley Davidson – AWESOME …. Linda went NUTS!!! 6 shirts/blouses….
Kroger for food..
RAIN………….and more rain….
To the cabin for play & nap…..yup
Went in to Knoxville in the evening – Circuit City for the Ifusion iPod case, player charger etc – It’s HOT dude – I mean HOTTT!!! Here I am jamming with Boney James in the Smokies on Saturday night – don’t get much better!!!! On to Outback for dinner and dashed back to the cabin to melt away this wonderful day!
More tomorrow from “up here”……


Sunday/21 – here I sit at 6:30 AM, once again in awe of the shear beauty around me! There are NO sounds of cars, trucks or ANY sounds other than nature – the air is clean and fresh – it is where I want to live! Linda has spent the last 2 days saying the same thing! I have missed my big Harley dog jumping up on my bed at 5AM with a big wet kiss, but it’s hard to want for anything here….
Looks like a possible rain-out for riding today…so we will relax, enjoy and morning coffee and glow and vegetate! OR so we thought… Maybe check out some of the woodcraft and antique shops down the road. We did get in the Jacuzzi on the deck for a little while… and then…..A lot of time and energy into loading up all our stuff and the bikes to move over to our favorite – Two Sisters - maybe Bridgett will finally talk her sister into selling it to us! While Smokey’s Edge was a beautiful pace – it was hard to move the trailer and bikes around. Two Sisters remains NO 1!!!! We crossed over from 321 to 129 on the Foothills Parkway – another incredibly beautiful winding road and many scenic pullover areas that had views that simply took your breath away. I was able to get many good photos here of bikes, mountains, Linda, etc. Met a bunch of neat young guys from Kentucky – all riding sport bikes, and they lined up there bikes behind our trailer and we took pics with their cameras and ours… nice young guys!
We got to Two Sisters about 1:15, starting unloading and cleaning the bikes with rain all around us – always the optimist! Two Sisters is just as great as we remembered and we instantly felt at home…It was VERY nice having a garage for the bikes!!! This will always be our place – especially if we could buy it! We settled in, showered again and sunk deeper in love with the area and each other. We saw 2 deer this afternoon!!! We thought we might have an opening for a pass through the Dragon around 6:30, but the rains came again and we headed in to Maryville for dinner…Back to our mountain home and ULTIMATE COMFORT!!!!! A beautiful day in a beautiful place! Thank you Lord! It is wonderful to see Linda relax so completely – she usually is trying to do 40 things at 1 time and is wrapped way too tightly! BUT, here she is the Lady Mellow! It’s a good thing!

Downloaded all the pics we have taken so far – WOW, got some gooduns…..

Monday/22 – up early to a clean, fresh and foggy morning! A few early AM pictures, make coffee and see what the day brings – desperately WANT to get on the Dragon BAD!!!! The birds and the water in the brook are the only sounds in the morning – no cars, no horns, no machinery……beautiful! I smell coffee brewing and Linda is up stirring around…. Let the fun begin!
OOPS – more rain…..
More rain….light rain….drizzle…spots of clearing….
All the anticipation knocked us both into an hour+ nap……….
Enough! I jumped into the Explorer and headed for the dragon!
The Explorer handled her well as more of the curves were familiar and some of the switchbacks had long been recorded in my memory banks – (however small that may be) – The Dragon is ALWAYS what I expect her to be – the beauty, the challenge – all of it combined supercharge my spirit! The 1st pass completed with very few vehicles in either direction, I stopped at Deal’s Gap for a shirt and to see what was going on. Off the North Carolina side of 129, I ran about 20 miles to Wheelers just to see what was happening and grab some more stuff….ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!Turn around and head back… The Dragon was still wet in many places on the way back but I knew I had to get the Road King on her soon! No 2 pass was even smoother and now I was itching to get into the saddle…
Back at the cabin, Linda had taken another nap and was ready for something – she just wasn’t sure what??????????? After a little encouragement, she was leathering up for the motorcycle! SO, pass #3 today was on the Road King with Linda on the back! I took it real easy to make her feel safe and we laughed and enjoyed all 318 turns. We stopped at Deals Gap so Linda could make her donation to their continued success. I gassed up, had a coke, took some pics and we headed back across the Dragon! We made a stop along the Dragon for an attitude adjustment and I took some shots of other riders as they went by! More AWESOME! BEAUTUFUL!! I’ll try to find some other words to convey the beauty we were experiencing……We completed our return and headed for the cabin! I was AMPPED!!!!!!!!!!!!! Each pass makes me long for the next… I made some air adjustments to the tires, ran down Happy Valley Road to 129 and back to test and put the bike away for the evening! Time for evening coffee and sunset! WOW – time is flying and we get away from the cabin at 8PM to get some groceries and have dinner at Applebee’s… As we get closer to Maryville, we get cell service back and we both get our voice mail….Charlie has completed Ranger training and will graduate this Thursday as planned! YUP!
This will help cap a wonderful vacation! We will try to meet up with him Wednesday evening before graduation…………After Applebee’s we zoom back to the cabin for some more fun, frolic and sleep…. Remember, enjoy the journey! Monday night in the Smokey’s - clear, crisp air and lots of stars – more than I recall seeing in many years….



Tuesday/23 – Linda up before me this morning and happily playing around in the kitchen – she commented last night that she has not has any episodes of anxiety or tightness in her chest – GOOD MEDICINE!!!! Very cool this AM – once again, air that is so fresh you actually feel it…No sounds….Just surrounded by beauty again….coffee, morning glow and lost moments – all thoroughly enjoyable! Lost time – we lose time and drift away from our normal fears, concerns, schedules and duties – it’s almost like a “mental cleansing”……..The sun is out this AM and we are hoping it warms quickly so we go back to visit our friend – the Dragon! Excellent breakfast @ Linda’s Mountain Café – eggs w/cheese, bacon, toast, jelly, fruit and coffee – OMG!!! I’m sure, that with practice, one could really master this “art of vegging out”!! We have discovered that the DISH system here does not get the network stations and we will probably miss the American Idol finals……..UGH………..we have really enjoyed this season. While Katherine is beautiful and talented, Taylor should take it all home. He is a super talent and fun to watch – Go “Soul Patrol”!!!! OK – back to major league relaxing! The day hinted early that it might be one of those made for chamber of commerce ads… AND IT WAS! We hopped on the Road King and were quickly riding the curves of the Dragon – again. It was perfect – the roads were dry and clear – the sunlight played between the trees to make a surreal effect – but no time to enjoy the scenery here – pay attention or pay the price. In all our passes through the Dragon, we had never seen an accident – today we saw 2 and neither looked too encouraging. I continue to glide through at a slower-than-normal pace to get Linda’s comfort level high. We stopped at Deals Gap again and shot off 129 down the North Carolina side toward the Cherohala Skyway! Beauty after beauty! We stopped and enjoyed the scenery several times and continued our glow….We had snack on top of the Cherohala, which was MUCH colder than below and headed back down to Robbinsville. The scenery on the Skyway was beyond description and any feeble attempt to put in to words the magnificence of the view would end in the ultimate understatement! Take it from me – you MUST see this area – and you will thank our Creator like I have repeatedly….We passed through the Dragon again on our way to the cabin and saw another accident – UGH!!! I am always supercharged after coming off the dragon and today was no different – my soul felt free and accomplished…Back to the cabin for coffee and dinner and unwinding from the day. We ate, laughed and loved. Today was the best weather of the trip and we enjoyed it all the way to the sunset! We spent several “dream sessions” on our patio commenting on how we want to live here – wishing we could freeze these special moments. Tomorrow we head off to see Charlie!


Wednesday / 24 – here I am up at 5:15 – just can’t get enough of this place! Cold this morning – like yesterday. You wrap up in the morning and then shed clothes as the sun burns through the mountains. I was hoping time would just stop and we could remain locked in here for a few day, weeks or years!!! The quiet here is good for the soul – I feel unencumbered, loose, relaxed, and free – the peace and beauty make my spirit soar. These times and places are more of the countless blessings that have been poured into my life – and I am very aware and thankful… 1st light, the only sounds are some birds and the running water in the stream – it just wraps you in a blanket of awe…Back inside, Kenny Gee ushers in another beautiful morning on the iPod….made coffee, got Linda up and whatever the day has in store – I’m game! Breakfast cooking and the sun shining over the treetops – AHHHHHHHHHHH It’s almost time to starting loading up for the next leg in this great adventure…… I feel sure this place will always hold a very dear and special place for both of us – for a myriad of reasons. When we had left Smokey’s Edge I had changed out my hitch with on that let the ball sit lower and evened out the trailer – WELL, I had apparently not pushed it in far enough and re-entered the bar – SO, here 4 days later we take off and curve on through 129 and 72 and make out way to I75 – we stopped at a rest stop and as we leave we hear this awful noise and something dragging and bumping the car….UGH – the hitch had come out!!!!!!!!!! THANK GOD we were going so slow and were able to stop quickly! HE was really looking out for us! I assessed the situation, got everything loose, and got it all back together. Linda guided me back, we hooked up and off we went with our hearts pounding – yet, in a very thankful mood as this could have MUCH worse! We got to Columbus around 6:30, found a room and headed out to get Starbucks and some dinner before American Idol. We talked to Charlie twice and he was at the movies with his buddies and had a short pass – we would see him tomorrow at graduation! We picked up our dinner at Outback and went to settle in for the American Idol finale! It was a great show and as we thought – the Soul Patrol, Taylor Hicks is the new 2006 American Idol! Another finalist from the Birmingham area – that’s 4 in 5 years – WOW! Taylor deserved to win and did an awesome job. I look forward to seeing him in the future!


Thursday / 25 - We quickly packed up, rode over to Cracker Barrel for breakfast and headed for Fort Benning! The base in huge! Once we got on, it took us 10 – 15 minutes to get back to Victory Pond where the Ranger Graduation takes place. I was awe-struck immediately! I felt proud and excited to be here, my heart was racing! We walked down to the stands and there was Charlie – a man, my son, who had changed – this was an experience that would stay with him a lifetime and you could see in his weathered face that there was a new level of intensity and maturity. It was a long awaited hug from my best friend and no words were needed! The demonstration was awesome and gave some examples of the training that he had just completed – VERY IMPRESSIVE! General Yarborough gave the graduation speech and as he spoke he reached in his right pocket and pulled the Ranger tab that his Dad had pinned on him at this same ceremony in 1979!!!! He spoke from the heart about what this day meant – to the new Rangers, to the Army and to the security of the United States. I must say it was overwhelming - the demeanor, pride and stature of EVERY ranger I met on this day! Our country should be proud – VERY proud – these are the finest soldiers in the WORLD! Linda and I went down and I took pictures as Mom pinned the tab on Charlie’s left shoulder – we all hugged and fought back tears! A few more pics and we were ready to hit the road. Of course, after nearly starving for 9 weeks, he was ready to eat something! We ate at Applebee’s, stopped at Ranger Joe’s for souvenirs and headed toward Clarksville! We got in about 10 and settled in a nice suite for the evening! WHAT A DAY FOR THE MEMORY BANK!!!! I must apologize again to those that might read this for not being able to properly express my feelings about this day! We all stayed in a nice suite tonight in Clarksville at the Country Inn & Suites…


Friday / 26 – Had breakfast in the hotel, headed out to get Charlie settled back in. Stopped at Verizon and got his cell phone turned back on, got a set of jumper cables for his truck, went and got the truck going – so far, so good. Charlie took off over to a buddy’s house where he used to stay – a guy he had gone through Airborne School and MP at Ft Campbell – to see if he could settle back in until his next assignment. Linda and I headed off for Mason’s Motel in Goodlettsville – some 45 miles away. Jenny was there and fixed Linda up with a gluten free country cookin lunch!!!! Totally awesome! Linda is so thrilled to get a great meal like this instead of the very few places she can go and eat safely. Jenny looked great and in her eighties, she still works every day and had just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the place – Great, lovely lady!!! We headed back to Clarksville to meet Charlie for an afternoon motorcycle ride! Charlie had worked things out with his friends and was back in his old room where he was before he went off to Ranger school. We unloaded the bikes and went cruising through Clarksville – checked out Appleton’s Harley Davidson – nice! Charlie found him some new pants and shirt, tried them on and wore them out! We cruised on to Best Buy and Circuit City to look for a laptop for Charlie. No luck on the laptop at either place, but he found lots of other electronic goodies to look at – he always has been an electronics nut! We rode on to Outback and had a great dinner before heading back to the hotel. We loaded up the bikes, strapped them down and all went up to the room. Charlie played on the computer and talked with his buddies around the country on his cell phone – he had been out communication with everyone since March. Linda and I settled in for our last night on the road and Charlie headed off to his current, temporary home… I walked Charlie down to his truck and thanked him for producing so many wonderful experiences for me and Mom….We will all meet in the AM for breakfast, but it still tugs HARD on my heart every time we say goodbye.


Saturday / 27 – Up early to get good start on the trip… Charlie called about 6:30 and said he was on the way upstairs – I went to the door and I saw a grown man in the clothes that Charlie used to wear all the time through college – shorts, t-shirt and sandals. Same outfit – different man…He came in with same old hug for Dad and I could still see the effects of the past 12 weeks in his eyes. We loaded up all the bags and headed down to arrange it all in the truck for the long trip home – we checked out and left for Cracker Barrel by 7:15. Charlie was up-beat at breakfast and talked of the exciting possibilities for his next assignment. He would see his commander on Tuesday and leave a few days later for 7 – 10 days down here. We all hugged and took pictures and pulled out of Clarksville about 8:30 {9:30 Tampa time}. We took our time and continued our “enjoy the journey” mode with frequent stops and attitude adjustments – it was a beautiful May day and we headed home with new grand memories and some worn out bodies. We saw a good amount of traffic through Nashville and Chattanooga and we really thought that we would be stuck in Memorial Day traffic all the way home – but as we came into Georgia the traffic thinned out and we flew right through Atlanta with no delays! Stopped for a little food at Wendy’s and headed on to LaLaLand. We had a great time replaying the different days of the trip and all the “neat” times. We stopped at a rest stop and made coffee and we eaten alive by gnats! But – we had our coffee and off we went! We arrived at the house about midnight and had a wet and hairy reunion with the dogs! Courtney had done a wonderful job, the house was fine and all the animals were the same – I hope she knows how much it means to us to be able to go away and not have to worry about little zoo! Thank you Court! I unloaded the truck, played with dogs a little more and fell into bed. We had traveled 750 miles today and were ready to be IMMOBILE!!!! I remember the warm sense of contentment as I laid my head down with all these wonderful experiences so very fresh on my mind.

**I remain extremely thankful and humbled by the monstrous blessings we experienced in the last 9 days!!! Thank You Lord!

Sunday / 28 – Harley woke me up at 5AM for breakfast as he always had and I stayed up – went through mail, email, faxes, emptied suitcases, untied the bikes and made coffee – Linda finally greeted Sunday about 9 and we had our coffee and I unloaded the motorcycles. We lasted about 1 hour and then slept most of the day!




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