26 January 2017

The Farm to Arkansas

After leaving The Farm we beat feet for Memphis.  We had been advised of two items to check out there: BBQ and the Bass Pro Shop at The Pyramid.  

A note about camping in Tennessee: We found the Tennessee State campgrounds to be generally excellent.  Barring the T.O. Fuller State Park’s noxious location adjacent to a fecal waste treatment facility, the state’s facilities were well-equipped, well cared for, and fairy priced.  Kudos Tennessee.  Some of your northern brethren could learn a thing or two about accommodating outdoorsy-minded folk.  I’m talking to you, Wisconsin.

Climbing a tree chimney
Exploring the Tennessee woods
Our route west dropped down into Mississippi, so if we are counting states, that would make the 14th that we’ve visited on our meandering sojourn.  Along the way, Alexis  let us know from the back seat that she’d lost her fifth tooth of the Big Adventure.  

Somehow the Tooth Fairy has no problem with our nomadic roving household and always manages to find us on the eve of a lost tooth.  She left a note to let us know that incisors command a premium.  Alexis asked why the Tooth Fairy collects teeth.  “Maybe she doesn’t have any of her own, and she keeps looking for the right sized ones,” she mused.  

Reading the Tooth Fairy's note
So you can’t tell from this lame-o pic, but the Bass Pro Pyramid in Memphis is Humongous.  Seriously Humongous.  It reminded me of something you might see at Disneyland when I walked in, as the interior is a good mockup of a swampy bog thing, with huge trees.  And stuff.  Alligator gar fish as big as me.  Alligators bigger than me (live ones!)  They also had stuff for sale.  

We bought a plastic egg holder for our fridge.

We asked local Memphisians for BBQ recommendations and settled on a “traditional” joint in the downtown area, Tops BBQ.  The ribs were a hit.  The rest: meh.  It is by no means fair to judge an entire city’s take on a cuisine based on such a limited dataset.  Unfortunately as it’s our only datapoint for Memphis BBQ, it is therefore Tops BBQ vs whatever joint we put it up against when we get to Texas in the Big Adventure BBQ Showdown!

Now feels like a good time for a word on our travel regimen.  In general we try to keep our daily driving time to four hours max per day, and preferably not more than two.  Short hops rather than large swaths taken all at once.  And we always try for, but don’t always find, stopping places that deserve at least two nights stay, maybe more.  Places that beckon for deeper exploration, or tempt us in other ways to tarry.  Shorter travel days give us more time to enjoy our surroundings, and keep everyone happier.  Longer stays allow you to really develop a feel for a place.  Or sleep in.  Alternatively, breaking camp, traveling and making camp every day for a bunch of consecutive days covers a lot of miles, but gets old fast, and you never really get to experience anywhere that you’ve been.  Stop and smell the flowers, right?  We try.

Nevertheless, with Camilla’s 4th birthday looming, and our desire to spend it with the grandparents in Texas, we beat feet again, continuing our westward trek from Memphis, and stopping at Hot Springs, Arkansas, childhood home of Bill Clinton.

Throughout our Big Adventure we have sought out hot springs whene’er they laid nearby or within striking distance.  And so, auspicious it did seem that not only is Hot Springs, Arkansas a National Park, and therefore yet another score for our budding Junior Rangerettes, but it’s Hot Springs! 

It’s a unique town/National Park.  It is, in fact, the only National Park bisected by a city.  Water fountains on the main drag dispense steaming hot water direct from the springs.  Add a mug and cocoa packet or tea bag and you’re good to go.  There’s a century's history of people coming here seeking health or therapy in the water or its vapors, and a handful of venues for such to choose from.  Once upon a time, in its heyday, this was A Destination.  Today the town continues to cater to the tourist crowd, but not garishly so.  All of that aside, it is a very interesting and beautiful place.  Should your travels ever bring you to its vicinity, do check it out.  

A peek at an old-timey bath house
We were greatly saddened to learn, however, that none of the operating hot spring vendors (all operate under permit with the National Parks system), allow children!  Alas.  

Some travel notes: The National Park campground is first come first served, no reservations accepted.  Sites sport full hookups, and the weather in January, at least this year, is fantastic with highs in the 60’s.

22 January 2017

Michigan to The Farm

Let's pick things up in Michigan.  Why don't we start with some Michigan trivia?  First, what do you call someone from Michigan?  MichiganER?  MichiganIAN?  Wrong.  MichiganDER.  As in, what's good for the MichiGoose is good for the MichiGander.  

Ok, next.  How many states is Michigan?  One?  Wrong.  It is two: the lower part, known as "The Mitten", and the upper part, known as "Da UP" (Upper Peninsula).  UP residents, known as Yoopers, speak a curious mix of normal American and Canadianish.  Bonus fact: Yoopers affectionately refer to their southern neighbors as Trolls, because they live "under the bridge" (the four mile Mackinac bridge) that is the only physical connection between their neighboring states.  Still don't believe they're separate states?  Guess what the very first thing is that you encounter when you cross the bridge from Da UP going south to The Mitten...a Michigan State Welcome Center.

We'll chat more about Michigan later.  For now let's pick up our narrative as we depart those two confusingly same-named states.

South.  We go south.  The first thing you bump into south of Michigan is, of course, Indiana.  The next thing you bump into are your friends and relatives.  If your friends and relatives are our friends and relatives then you are in luck!  Good people.  And pleasantly soft when you bump into them.  A bit bouncy, in fact.  What do you call someone who lives in Indiana?  No, not an Indianan.  Unless you pronounce "Indianan" exactly the same as "Hoosier", which is, apparently, the correct nomenclature for Indianans.

Camping in these parts at this time of year is it's own flavor of fun.  If you yearn for quietude, don't mind the occasional ice storm, and Alaska is not in your travel budget, then Indiana is a solid choice.  Solid like a frozen skating pond.

We continue south to Kentucky.  I had imagined finding KFC's everywhere in these parts, like Starbucks in Seattle, one on every corner.  And sometimes in the middle of the block as well, between the corner ones.  But not so with the KFC's.  We did note as we drove through Kentucky's nether regions that there were oddly more churches than towns.  Lotsa little churches.  And also whiskey factories.  And thus is the balance maintained in The Force.  Zen.  

I was surprised at how beautiful the countryside of Kentucky is.  It's the only place I've been in the US that I could mistake for a rural German countryside.  Rolling hills of woods and agriculture, neither overpopulated nor trashed.  Simply beautiful.

We had a wonderful time visiting some dear framily thereabouts.  Kids can be quite reliable social barometers.  They wear their emotions oh-so-openly.  And there were heartfelt lamentations and tears when we finally pulled ourselves away after a delicious multi-day visit.  

We distracted the kiddos and ourselves with a trip to Mammoth Caves National Park, where Alexis and Camilla both earned their seventh Junior Ranger badges!  Trivia fact: Mammoth Caves is the longest cave system in the world, with over 400 known miles of caves, and counting!

We continue our southerly track from Kentucky into Tennessee.  There are only two things on our agenda for Tennessee: the Bass Pro shop that is located in a giant glass pyramid next to the river in Memphis, and which features an indoor waterpark and a hotel consisting of cabins on the second level.  

The second item on the Tennessee agenda is The Farm.

The Farm is one of the earliest communes in the US, established in 1971 by 200+ San Francisco hippies who embarked on a journey across the US in a fleet of buses, searching for a place they could make their home.  And they found that home in rural Tennessee.

We had first heard about The Farm several years ago as we educated ourselves about midwifery and home birthing.  Among a number of greatly ranging areas of focus - from sustainable living and permaculture, to design and manufacture of geiger counters -The Farm, out of its own necessity, had developed a talented body of experience and expertise in the field of midwifery, which then went on to become a cornerstone for the home birth movement in the US.  

We just wanted to visit, to catch a glimpse of where these things had all come to pass.  To our great surprise it turns out that The Farm has both a campground and an Eco-hostel!  

We stayed for three days, and in that time caught a folk-music show at the theater, Kirstin went to Ladies Day at the Sauna/Swimming Hole, but of far greater import, we met some great and interesting people, both residents of The Farm and transient Seekers like ourselves.  We asked questions and listened to stories.  We learned some valuable lessons about Community and how to achieve success as an Intentional Community.  We found new friends that would be welcome as part of our own circle, should we ever realize our own Intentional Community.

Making necklaces out of Hickory nuts

18 January 2017

Proof of Life

Forgive me reader, for I have sinned.  It has been five months since my last confession.  Blog post.  Whatever.

Scott: “Hi.  My name is Scott, and I’m a slacker.”
You: “Hi, Scott.”

Greetings from Kentucky, land of that big horse race, Jack Daniels, and the world-famous, lubricating, Kentucky Jelly (which tastes awful, by the way - not recommended on toast or PB&J’s).

At the end of our last episodic update I left y’all hanging in Washington State.  Five months ago.  (Again, I am sorry that I have been a slacker.)  So the Clif(rickson)’s Notes version is as follows: We ferried over to the San Juan Islands and did a bit of bike touring; discovered a tiny fragment of Washington State that is land-locked by Canada and accessible only from there or by plane or boat; other sights and scenes in Canada; upper Idaho; adventures and misadventures in Montana (Glacier National Park); a brief up-close view of the oil and gas industry in action through North Dakota; Minnesota; Wisconsin; the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (pasties rule!); an extended stay with the extended family through the holidays in The Mitten (lower Michigan); then back on the road south through Indiana and now Kentucky.  And here we are.

So it throws the chronology of our sojourn off a bit (I said I’m sorry!) but now that I’m back in docudrama (blog) mode, and having established proof of life, I invite you to come with us now in this here tiny time machine as we go back to revisit the highlights of the last five months.  Right over here.  There you go, just sit there.  Don’t mind these straps here, they’re for safety.  And here…we…go!