Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Arkansas Gem

I promised you a blog entry on the rest stop in Arkansas that must be in the top ten of prettiest rest stops in America. (Be sure to remember to click on any image to enlarge it.)
  While most rest stops have a few plants, like bushes and trees, The best ones try to make you feel welcome and comfortable with the landscaping.  This one went far beyond that to an arrangement  of plants and paths that it should actually be a destination.  
A delightful combination of annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs were planted along paved paths that lead from the parking lots and to the picnic shelters.
Between the bathrooms and the snack machines stood a raised bed full of tropical plants like these elephant ears.
Even roses, crepe myrtles and sunflowers made an appearance.

If you ever make it to Arkansas, be sure to make this one of your stops.

And be sure to add your thanks to the Department of Transportation employee who cares for this gem along the interstate.

Oklahoma City to Dalhart - Day 3

Good-bye to Oklahoma City as Jeff and I make our way toward Texas. If you are a person who listens to the singer, Emmy Lou Harris, then you know the song, Red Dirt Girl. This was red dirt country. 
It is not my favorite scenery though I suppose if you grew up here that is what you would love.  The landscape was rough, chunks dug out of it for unknown reasons.  It looked to me like whenever someone dug a hole they never bothered to fill it back in. There was junk  scattered everywhere. Old cars, old farm machinery and empty houses left standing where they were abandoned.
I did love seeing the old homes.  It was a bit sad seeing so many abandoned, but they it was easy to imagine a family living in these homes that stood long and patient waiting for time to erase their face. Most of the homes still wooden shakes on the roof. The dry air of Oklahoma kept these homesteads from rotting to the ground as quickly as would happen in much of he East.  These homes often with a barn and windmill standing nearby were beautiful in the way they stole the stage.

Also beautiful in Oklahoma were the new windmills, tall white structures marching across the landscape like nuns dressed in white heading to mass. 
There were many stretched across this windy state. 
 I don't always approve of giant windmills.  I don't like them to be erected in the major flyways of song birds in the Appalachians. Far too many of these birds are killed each year by the large power company windmills. 

 Wind power is good, it is mostly clean and the windmills are lovely, but they must be made to be safe for these songbirds whose numbers are already dwindling.  They are an important part of the food chain besides the happiness they add to our lives.  And they eat alot of bugs.
But back to Oklahoma. 
It was while we were still in Oklahoma that we stopped for lunch. After getting off to travel old Route 66, searching for a park or picnic spot, we chose a shady underpass for our lunch spot.  After sandwiches of Bologna and cheese, Fritos, peaches and orange juice, I noticed  bird nests built of mud lining the underpass. See more about these in My Other Blog.

We did get to travel along old Route 66 where we got a few kicks.   Most of the route now travels parallel to Interstate 40 through Oklahoma's grasslands - or
 veers off into the business section of once thriving towns.

There were more great sites in Oklahoma.  We couldn't leave the state without visiting a Cherokee store. We took some photos of a guy from Poland and let him photograph us in all the conventional poses. 

There was even a real American Bison, but while I was perfectly willing to exploit statues and paintings, the buffalo looked to pitiful to photograph it.

We drew closer to Texas. then there it was. Texas came upon us lake a warm blanket, sage blue with scrub oaks appliqued upon its rumpled surface.

The gray-blue sage blew in the gentle breeze like waves across the surface.  

At the information center outside Amarillo we stopped to search for a camping spot. 

The brick from which the walls were made were laid to resemble the walls of a canyon when a sunset paints them in multihued layers.

A dry creek bed running between the parking lot and picnic shelter, and metal silhouette cut-outs of cows and bulls completed the scene.

I know you are dying to know  about the bathrooms, so I've included a picture at the bottom of the beautiful tile work that lined the bathroom walls.

Inside the information center we were given directions to a great tourist trap called The Big Texan, a fun restaurant that advertises all over the northern part of Texas.  They will give you a free meal if you can eat a 72 ounce steak in one hour.  Neither of us attempted the challenge, being happy with our own beef and fries.

 From Amarillo we drove North to Dalhart where after man mis-turns and mis-directions, we finally found a RV park that suited us for the night.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Old Kentucky Home

My apologies for not writing regularly lately, My mother has been ill and now that she is much better I've begun a long vacation. While our friends, Bob and Kasey take care of our home,  Jeff and I are taking a few weeks to RV our way out to Lake Tahoe, Nevada to see our daughter, son and daughter-in-law. For this blog I will concentrate on the flora and fauna of our trip to see more about our trip, check out my other blog, From Waverly to Tahoe.  There is a link to in on this page.

Our first stop brought us to Judge John Rowan's estate in Bardstown Kentucky.  Judge Rowan was Stephen Foster's cousin. Foster visited here and was inspired to write My Old Kentucky Home.
The estate is part of Kentucky's state park system, though it looks like a section is being used as a golf course. I haven't researched it but I suspect the golf section was sold to help support the Park.  What is still part of the park is interesting and beautiful.
While we decided to forgo touring the actual house but did enjoy the grounds and gardens. While walking through a closed in area, we watched a gardener snipping away at a boxwood hedge.
Speaking of boxwood, there was a courtyard just outside the door of the visitor center that was lined with small boxwood bushes.  The courtyard was closed in on three sides with a portico across the open end. The aroma of boxwood filled my nostrils as I walked through the doors into the opening. From the path from the portico steps lead down to the Rowan family cemetery and on around toward the Judge's home.
Vines covered out buildings on the way to the formal gardens.
I'll let you  have some time alone in the formal gardens. . .

 Though you do have a little visitor with you as you enjoy the plantings.

It is time to leave the gardens as we say good-bye to the lady who remains. Tomorrow, we'll visit a different kind of garden along our road to Oklahoma. If you are impatient, or want to see a few more photos of the Rowan estate, go to my other blog to yesterday's entry.

Curuthersville to Oklahoma City - Day 2

My day began with a walk on the Mississippi dike which butted up against our RV site.  
Stationed along the trail were nature notes to describe the flora and fauna of the area such as the bright green squirrel tree frog and red mulberry trees. The river side of the dike was a tangled jumble of driftwood, boat parts and human debris, past deposits from a river that would prefer to wander rather than be confined to its people-defined pathway.  

The Arkansas road delivered scenes of turmeric colored rice fields  and swamps. Harvesting sent plumes of dust rising from unseen tractors, sunk below the horizon.

Amid the jumble of debris, accented with kudzu, bloomed a large white trumpet-like flower. From where I stood, it looked like a giant morning glory. I couldn't see it very well.

The Arkansas road delivered scenes of turmeric colored rice fields  and swamps.  Rice harvesting sent plumes of dust rising from unseen tractors, sunk below the horizon
As the temperatures stretched over ninety, we drove on.  A rest stop provided some well-maintained beauty in the form a flower-garden kept up by a Arkansas Department of Transportation employee. Here is a teaser photo. The rest will be up in a couple days at www.beyondmygarden.blogspot.com 

While in Arkansas we wanted to sample the local barbeque so we utilized my new Droid phone to see what the road offered. I found Clyde Brothers BBQ located about 10 miles of Route 40. We at at Clydes where a friendly waitress took our order then delivered a pungent spicy blend of chopped pork and vinegar alongside a small bag of Frito corn ships.

 While we ate, a warm breeze blew across my arm from a hole in the window beside our table. I probably enjoyed the experience more than Jeff did. As people who know me know, presentation is important to my dining experience.

The clientele, waitresses, faded wallpaper made up for the  sour BBQ tha was definitely not our favorite. It was in Clydes that I watched a man eat whle rice clung to his pant like tiny cocoons. 

Rice, cotton and millet fields gradually give way to Arkansas hills and it feels more like home. I leave Arkansas wanting more. I want to come back and go into those hills that we barely glimpsed but Oklahoma won’t wait.
 We crossed several more fivers some  designated a bayou, black bringing to mind slithering snakes clinging to trees just above the water line. One interesting river took us alongside the remains of an earlier metal bridge, one that lifted up to let oats pass underneath.

With Oklahoma came mega churches . . . 

. . . rolling land and a bright sunset just as we rolled through Oklahoma City to rest at the Council Road RV Park. Good night. I look forward to another day tomorrow as we head to Amarillo Texas, home of the 72 ounce steak.