Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Crossing Over into Missouri

Hello Friends, Family and Fans,

Since I last wrote to you, I have had some great moments, learned some things, and had a few (too brief) chats with other wanderers.  

The weather report is rain all day today.  It rained all night.  The cell service is nonexistent here. The unsecured-campground WiFi is being strained with so many campers shut in and seeking activity on their screens.

When I last wrote, I was still at Craighead Forest Campground outside of Jonesboro, Arkansas.  I had six nights there and I did not regret booking that many.  The campground was pretty and quiet and interesting.

After my touristy biking day I stuck around camp the next day..  I had good enough cell service that I could stream videos so I used YouTube and tried Heather Robertson's HIIT for Upper Body, no equipment needed.  It was tough for me, my shoulders and arms were sore the next day.

I tried her lower body workout the next morning and now three-days later my thigh and glut muscles are still reminding me they were taxed.  I would love to do those workouts again now, but it would be constraining inside the Weeroll and the WiFi here is weak.

I also did some writing while at Craighead, nothing like being able to write outside in a lovely place.  No biting bugs during the day!

Someone in a Weeroller Facebook group asked me for some more pictures.  So I took a picture of how I level my trailer.  I don't use the back extension rods on both sides because they squeek when I walk around inside. They even make noise when I roll over in bed.  I need to buy or find more blocks or buy special jacks.  Then I can have a solid base for both back corners.

 A guy named Edgar, looking for a tent site, came to chat with me... while standing up.  No sitting around a fire or anything.  He was a talker.  I learned he has lived many places. He is 55. He has had a stroke and has some weird ear disease and the MRI on his ears was how they found the damage from the stroke. He didn't know he had a stroke.  He has also had a heart attach. When he was having a heart attack he thought he had bronchitis. I was surprised since he seemed young and fit.  He said he lost 30 lbs after the heart attack and thinks of food as medicine.  I learned some more stuff about him, but you get the picture.  He was in town for a wedding.

On my last day at Craighead, I made sure to go to the post office before it closed at noon.  There still was no mail waiting for me in General Delivery.  I filled out another forwarding card, General Mail, Jonesborro to General Mail, Rhinelander.  We will see how that works.  Most of my mail is junk, but sometimes I get important stuff.  Soon it will be time to renew the registration on my Weeroll.  I don't want to miss that notice.  I know it needs a new sticker by July, so maybe in June I will call the office or go online to see if I can do what needs to be done.

I rode my two-wheel bike around on the trails in the park a bit.  There is another more narrow paved trail that winds through the trees and was fun to ride.  It was pretty short, though. I ended up going to the natural gardens again.

There I just sat in the swing for a while.  It was late afternoon or early evening and no one else was around.  I watched a humming bird visit some blossoms.  I pulled some weeds and used my phone to practice Spanish using the Duolingo App.
I walked around the lake still in awe about how close I can get to the baby geese.  

A picnic area was littered with confetti.  It must be so frustrating for the park staff to try to keep the park clean when people do stuff like that.

One evening I walked around the lake and came upon one of the beaver sitting in the water not 50 feet from me.  He was holding a stick about four feet long and four inches in diameter. He/she was chewing off the last of the bark.  I didn't want to move and spook him.  He then swam back across the lake toward one of the beaver dens over there.

On my last evening I walked around the lake but did not see either beaver.  In the morning, though, the dam right next to the campground and the trail had a streak of wet leaves and mud where the beaver had been doing maintenance.

On my last day Judy, my camp neighbor, said she was going to be out looking for an apartment for her son who will be doing his medical residency in Memphis, TN.  The bridge was out so she expected lots of traffic on the remaining bridge.  The rental market was such that she would walk into an apartment or house with two other people seeking a rental and one would take it on the spot.  She wanted to get together to chat before I left.  I expected she would be too exhausted when she returned to camp that last day.  I was right.

She is an early riser like me.  So she hoped to talk with me more in the morning before I left.  

I was almost all packed up when we got to chat.  She is from Texas but she admires that I am traveling so far.  She just goes where her adult kids are and helps out or visits.  I learned a bit more about her family.  She has an older brother with developmental disabilities that lives with her 92 year old mother.  He will come live with Judy once her mother passes. It is what it is, she said.  

I enjoyed our nice chat. 

I sat down on her picnic bench, she offered me coffee.  She has two full-size poodles that were happy to sniff my crotch and let me scratch them behind the ears.  

Judy never sat down, which was a signal to me that the visit was to be short.  I gave her a card and told her to email me and I will let her know what the Echo Bluff campground is like that I am going to next.

I pulled out by 8:00 and headed north.  The route took me into the Ozark Mountains (which are just big hills to those who live in the Rocky Mountains).

I stopped at a spring and visitors center that turned out to be on the Arkansas-Missouri border.  I went for a walk on State Line Road adjacent to the park and I crossed the border on foot.  Smiles.

After the civil war Union and Confederate Soldiers and their families would hold an event at the park.  It was an opportunity to heal the anger and divide.  Until I read this plaque it didn't occur to me that Missouri was a Union state during the Civil War. 

There is an active railroad that goes through the edge of the park.  I saw only one long freight train that slowly pulled through.  A kiosk talked of how the towns people would gather at the station when a train was expected, some to greet or send off relatives, and some just for the excitement of it.  It reminded me of the days my Wisconsin bike group would visit Trempeleau, Wisconsin and enjoy watching the trains go by.

The guy that started the Grand Ol' Oprey got his inspiration from his experience in the area.

On into Missouri and over many hills.  Hwy 19 is a scenic highway, curvy and hilly.  My van struggled at times to pull Lilac up the hills, but later in my visit, I discovered my van roared and shifted up those hills even without Lilac in tow.

The campground at Echo Bluff is lacking vegetation between sites.  It has nice large cement pads and appears to be new.  There are scattered about a few young trees.

I went over to the restrooms in search of a map of the park and trails.  There weren't any, but displayed were a lot of warnings of some of the bad stuff that can happen here.  I was beginning to wonder if I made a mistake choosing Echo Bluff.  

I soon discovered that the river that goes through the park is not the Current River.  It is the Sinking River.  Interesting name...
I walked up the road toward the lodge and cabins.  They were all very nice and looked new.
I decided to hike a trail.  I sprayed my legs and arms using Off.  This was more for protection from ticks than mosquitos.  I think I might have only gone into the woods less than a mile when I thought I had no idea how long this trail was and I didn't have cell service.  My back pack isn't packed for a longer hike.  I turned back.

I did see a deer running from me,  and an interesting large beetle-like bug.

I took a drive over to the Current River State Park which is next to Echo Bluff.  I thought maybe the camping was better.  No, it was a very rustic park.  I did make it down to an old camp and the Current River.

Back at Echo Bluff I asked the camp host how I get down to the river.  He was surprised by my question.  "There are trails all over," he said.   

I pointed to an area where I thought I had seen a trail go down toward the river but was next to an occupied camp site, "Is that a trail?"

He nodded.  

I grabbed a chair and my beverage.  No cell service, too tired to exercise, I might as well go sit with nature.  I almost stepped on a four-foot black snake with a tan diamond shaped design.  No rattle on its tail, it slithered on up a bush next to the trail.

The water is super clear. 

Notice how deep the water is... almost to my knee and yet my foot is so clear.  This is what I came to experience.  It was cold water too. 

As I sat in the chair, my feet in the water, I just listened to the birds and soaked it in.  Then I saw right next to my chair in the water was a small snake floating, it's body serpentine, its head above the surface.  It was about a foot or two long and about as thick as my index finger.  

I went to grab my phone to take a picture and the movement scared it away.  It moved so fast I had no clue where it went.  That woke me up, I was getting hungry anyway. 

It turns out Brussels-sprouts and new potatoes are good with Parmesan cheese and some pesto.

Normally people are not allowed to pick flowers in a State Park.  But I thought it would be OK to clip some clover and grass from the un-mowed grass behind Lilac.  I am proud of my arrangement.

 On a walk around the campground I saw a man and a woman at a picnic table with a begging dog.  The camper was a tiny Scamp.  I exclaimed, "You fit all three of you in that Scamp?"   They laughed.  The woman said she camps in the truck camper parked in the next site, and that the dog and the man live in the Scamp full time.

Interesting!  Sheryl calls herself a nomad. She has been living in her truck camper for 13 years.  She is a slight woman who looks like she is in her 50's.  She wears cool glasses that are red, yellow, and green.  I asked her if she had seen Nomadland, the movie.  She has not, but she is very aware of it.  Dennis was not aware of it and she explained to him it was about people like him, moving from place to place to work and being forced out of their homes due to economic events.

Dennis is rounder than Sheryl, he told me the dog's name is Pearl and laughed when he explained, "She's a gem."  Dennis has been full-time in his Scamp for a year and a half.  They had met at a campground in South Dakota and had just arrived today to meet up for a second time for fun.

I wanted to talk with them again and for longer, but they didn't invite me to sit. 

Later I saw them again and Sheryl mentioned how they it appears they had clear-cut the area to make the campground, which didn't make sense and didn't feel like an Ozark kind of campsite. 

Then it has been raining and I have not seen them outside since. 

Marie (who was going to travel with me on my way north) and I were planning on floating on the Current River.  It is a clear, rushing river.  I learned the Campground has WiFi, so I was able to find kayak shuttle places nearby.  I also learned it was going to be raining and in the 60's the whole time I am in the area.

I debated about going kayaking on my own.  Then I thought there would be other people on the river being shuttled with me.  I debated about kayaking in the cool wet weather on a cold spring-fed river.  But I decided to go.  I came to do the Current River, by dang and by gosh, I was going to do it!

I texted Debra before I left the campground while I still had WiFi.  In the conversation I told her I was going to Kayak.  I wrote this casually.  It wasn't a, notify the police if I don't get back in time, kind of message.  I thought as I rushed off that I should have explained, but she was heading out, I was heading out.  It was a quick mention.  I dismissed it.

I drove about four miles to Carr's.  I found it strange they didn't have me sign any liability waiver.  Or did I just forget?  I went in the morning when it had only misted even though the prediction for rain was 90% chance.

I was the only one!  The owner shuttled me upstream.  I got to sit in the front with him.  I complained I had forgotten to change into my kayak sandals.  He offered to drive me to camp to pick them up! It was on the way after-all. Yay!

He told me his family had owned Carr's for 51 years.  He had been working in it since a child.  He now has two children in college.  He just bought another Kayak/Canoe business up stream.  On Saturdays in the summer he has 28 employees shuttling and managing customers.

He told me that Echo Bluff was built in 2016.  He used to own some of the land and a The Grateful Dead tribute band owned land up on the overlook and would hold concerts.  The government came in and confiscated the land from the band because they were caught with illegal substances at their events.

The shuttle driver told me he saw the wild horses in the park the night before.  They were right by the bridge next to the campground.  He was afraid to scare them, and watched them mosey slowly across the bridge.  They keep the herd at less than 50.  When they get more than 50 the government captures some and either moves them to a new location or auctions them off.  

When I mentioned the clear-cut campground he said it wasn't clear cut for the campground.  Before it was a campground it was a grassy field, probably for a farm nearby. 

We arrived at Pulltite where I would start my ride.  He gave me a sit-on-top kayak to use and provided a flat life flotation cushion to sit on.  The purpose was to keep my bottom dry as the water tends to puddle in the seat.  But it didn't keep my bottom dry, however after three hours of sitting, I was sure glad to have the cushion!

He also gave me a life jacked which I wore and it helped cushion my back and keep me warm.  I also felt more secure later in the little rapids I paddled through.

Next to the Pulltite put-in is the Pulltite Federal Campground.  It was probably 10:30 or 10:45 when I pushed off and started my float.  Not far from my start, I saw a woman sitting criss-cross at the entrance to her tent pitched on the stony bank.  There was one folding chair in her camp indicating she was on her own camping there.  As I floated by she asked what was the weather report.  

"Three days of rain," I replied loudly to shoot my voice across to her.  

She asked if I was alone.  

"Yep, I am the only one on the river today it seems," I said.

As I passed I thought about turning around.  It was clear she was on her own and wanted conversation. Me too!  It would be a lot of fun meeting her and chatting.  I am sure she had a few stories to tell.

There is always something new to learn, some soul to connect with when traveling.  I debated too long, it was too much of a struggle to get back up current to park and chat.  I regret that I didn't ask her if she would mind.  I regret I didn't take that opportunity.

But let me tell you!  The paddle was awesome! 

The shuttle driver told me about a spring I could walk back into.  I would see it on the right.

When I saw how much water was rushing in from the right, I didn't think that was the spring, but another river merging.  But there was a sandy location to pull off and a path next to the stream to follow.  I followed the path... I took this video.

As I walked back to the kayak on the path I started to worry that I didn't pull the boat out of the water far enough and I would get to the beach and my boat, water, backpack would be gone.  I was very much relieved to see it was still there.

Here are more pictures and a video I took at a bluff as I floated by.  Note, I didn't do any zooming or scanning with my camera, this is all from the movement of the kayak as I filmed this weeping bluff.


 I was on the river three to four hours.   At one point as I squatted on a sandbar, (rock bar really, the stones have not been ground into sand yet), I looked up and down the river realizing I didn't have to hide to pee!  It felt surreal to be out maybe miles from anyone, no cell service.  

I didn't see any animals other than a mink walking on the river's edge.  A few turtles pretending to soak in some heat from a very cloudy sky.  

I saw a great blue heron, king fishers, a gold finch, a pretty all blue little bird that was probably an indigo bunting.  What I didn't see, I heard.  All the way down the river was bird song in stereo.  Pretty cool.  I can't identify many birds by sound, but I think some kind of thrush and a phoebe (fee-bee) was among the mix.

It began to mist and then rain a bit.  I had my rain jacket on and fortunately I also had packed a light jacket.  So I added that under the raincoat when I started to feel the chill in my bones.  I arrived at the bridge that was my marker to tell me I had arrived at Carr's landing.  It was just at the right time.  I was done, and ready to get warm.  I walked into the store before walking to my car.  I wanted to let them know I had arrived safely back.

I had packed my laundry in the car before I left to kayak, so I headed the 19 minutes to town to do laundry.  As I was driving a big red-neck truck got on my tail.  The driver was more used to doing the curves than I was, he seemed impatient.  Then my cell must have come in cell range and I heard the familiar tones from my phone that a text came in.  I glanced quickly and saw it was from Debra.  

Oh yes!  I needed to let her know I was back safely.  She must be going bonkers!  I had texted her I was going kayaking just as a side comment, I forgot to let her know where and how much time to expect me to be gone.  I had probably texted her at 9:30 before I left camp.  It was now after three p.m.!  But this dang curvy road with no shoulder to pull off on and that aggressive driver on my tail made it impossible to let her know I was OK.

I finally came to a wide driveway to let the jerk by.  I went to text Debra, but no cell service again.  I would have to wait until I got to town.

Debra said she was about to call the police, she didn't know if I had gone out on the inflatable SUP or what, she had no clue where I was.  Oh my!  I need to be better at letting her know stuff if I am going to hope she will send someone out when I need her to.  I called her and assured her I was OK and what I had done.  I texted her some pictures.

The place I did laundry was also the office of a motel/cabins/and RV place called Shadylane.  There were a bunch of pictures on the wall from artists that had stayed there.  I recognized only two, not in this picture.

I was starving and still chilled so while my wash was swishing, I went across the street to a Mexican restaurant and ordered dinner to go.  The street was in the old western style, and the stores were geared toward servicing horse owners.  There were shops selling horse trailers, horse riding gear, western style fashions, a blacksmith shop, and more.

As I drove back to camp it started to rain.  It rained all evening and through the night.  I debated this morning about pulling out and driving toward my next site a day early in the hope of encountering better weather.  I started to look for a campsite along the Katy Trail, which I will be crossing over to get to my next camp site.  

But then I saw I had some semi-decent WiFi today from the campground.  Less people must be streaming than were streaming last night when I couldn't do anything online.

The WiFi isn't fast.  Uploading pictures and videos go like this:  I select the pictures and start the upload.  Then I do something else while the computer grinds away.  If it is raining, I do some house chore inside (like make the bed or straighten the fridge).  I read or study Spanish.  If it is only misting or not raining, I grab my umbrella and walk around a bit, or do dishes outside.  

On one of those walks I went down to the Sinking River.  I realized how much area is covered in stone. Areas washed out by flooding, rushing waters.  The river must really flood sometimes.  

I am grateful I am not in a tent.  I am surprised at the number of people in tents that are sticking it out.

This afternoon after 1:00 it is supposed to stop raining for a few hours.  I have a trail I want to walk.

I want to thank the folks that offered information and assistance when I asked questions or voiced a concern.  Bill sent me a link to the Long Long Honeymoon Channel on Youtube.  In one video they were rating off-shore power boxes, for plugging in off the grid. Another video was on how to monitor the weather in your area when you are traveling and what to do when a tornado is in the area.  Good stuff!   

One thing I did was make sure my phone alerts were set to "on".  If there is a danger in my area I will get an alert.  All cell phones have this function. Another thing I did was to make sure my weather app is allowed to access my location so it can give me weather and alerts where I am.  In fact today, if it stops raining, I can check my app and it will tell me how long I have before it starts raining again.  It tells me if it will be a mist or a downpour.  Pretty cool! It is not always accurate.

I can time my walking breaks for rain-free periods.  In fact, that is how I know that at 2:00 I should be able to go for a walk because it won't be raining at Echo Bluff State Park.  Though right now at 1:10 it is pouring.

I have been writing to you today since 6:30 this morning.  It is now 1:30.  I took breaks to let pictures and video upload.  This writing to you takes time, but that is what is so great.  Even a rainy day gets filled with fun stuff.  And you and I stay connected.  I love the comments and the emails I get after I send out a post.  Thanks for traveling with me.  

Oh!  Speaking of comments and emails.  Thanks to Kathi for volunteering to read the rough draft of book three.  Now I have two people to pre-edit and offer content suggestions, Kathi and Sandy.  Yay!

Now it is time to watch the rain fall and do something else.  

I hope your day is filled with moments that delight you.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Exploring NE Arkansas

Sometimes as we travel we come upon things that delight us and remind us why we leave the comfort of our homes.  That, I am happy to say, is what made me forget my loneliness these past few days.

 The geese have babies and they are not shy.  Craighead Forest is a city park in Jonesborro, Arkansas.  It has a lot of visitors every day walking the shore-line path around the lake.  Some of the visitors toss out bread crumbs.  I want to tell them, "Don't feed the wildlife!"

Bread isn't good for their health and the Canadian Geese will continue to multiply and not migrate.  But it is fun to get up close to their fuzzy babes.

I took some pictures of the elaborate play grounds so that you get an idea of the high-quality and diversity of the fun available to children here.

I rode my bike on the trail in the park.  The trail took me out of the park about 1/2 mile.  I went by a cemetery and went in to explore.   One family of visitors loved trinkets.  Old ones were thrown over the fence littering the ground.

One headstone was so obscured by lichen that I was curious.  So I spent some time with a stick grinding off the lichen.  It said that John died on Feb. 21, 1880 at age 57.

I had mentioned the beaver here on the lake.  I thought beaver only made their dam in streams to create the ponds.  But the one by the campground is right on the shore, next to that hiking trail.  Each evening the beaver can be seen swimming in the lake.   I went down one evening and watched as it swam out to the area of another beaver in the next bay over.  I thought I might see a fight or some romance, but they just got in view and then went off to their separate locations to gather branches.

The following day I drove the 20-30 minutes to a short trail that I had found on Traillink.com.  This year I paid for the app so that I could find trails around me to ride as I travel.  The trail was just under seven miles long.  It starts in Hoxie and ends up at Williams Baptist College.

Googlemaps was a few blocks off, but the town was small, I didn't worry.  I found what I thought was close to the start.  It looked like they were just building a parking area for the trail.


 Shortly after I started riding I saw a crew cutting up a tree on the ground.  Then I started to notice there were quite a few trees on the ground.  A tornado must have torn through here recently.  I saw businesses and a whole strip mall with roof and walls torn up.

Hoxie started out in a poor neighborhood with houses needing painting and repairs.  But soon I was going by big brick homes.

The area was very flat, I had already learned that they grow lots of rice in this area.

As I was riding through the rice fields that were just sprouting, a bright yellow single engine plane swooped over the field and sprayed chemicals on it.  I stopped and put my Covid mask on, hoping for some protection.  From then on I noticed the constant buzzing of these small planes swooping down, steeply banking on the turns, and then rising up to treat another field.

Way too soon I hit the end of the trail... well not quite.  I could see the end of the trail on the other side of this bridge.  It was even too spongy for me to feel safe enough to walk across it.

There was a turn off just before the bridge, that is what took me to Williams College where I was happy to find a ball field with the restrooms clean and open.  Thank you!

 The journey back was going to be over too fast.  I was out of coffee.  I turned in to ride around Walnut Ridge in search of a cup.  I pulled up to the Chamber of Commerce and saw it was also the Amtrak station.

Next to it was a memorial of some kind.  I figured it was a veterans memorial.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it was Commemorating Hwy 67 as the Rock n Roll highway.  Performers drove down this highway to different venues on their tours.

The image on the video below didn't come through.  Here is the link.

I pushed a button and the music played and I began to bounce around.  I thought of my brother, Larry, who is a huge old music of the 50's and 60's fan.  He also likes to visit quirky places.  This should be added to his list of places he wants to but probably never will visit.  You were here in spirit, Larry!

The display also said there was an Abby Road in Walnut Ridge with a Beatles display.  First I rode around to find coffee.  Oh my!  I got a sinful frosty mocha coffee treat instead.

Three of the Beatles came through town to jump on a puddle hopper plane to get to a secluded destination for some R&R.  The sound of a bigger-than usual jet landing sent three teens to investigate and found them getting on a plane.  I think it was Paul that didn't do small planes and rode in a truck instead.

So that is this small town's claim to fame.  Fun!

I finished my ride and drove to a State Park nearby.  Lake Charles.  On the way the road that ran next to the black river sometimes floods, and the forests next to the road was flooded this day.  The current was very swift.

The route there took me on a winding Hwy 25 where I couldn't pass up a small state park that was historical.

There were two huge tall pillars on either side of the bridge.  Weird, I thought maybe a bridge or place to drop cargo (like grains) onto ships.

A kiosk told the story of the judge that sentenced murderers to be hung until they were "dead, dead, dead."  The hanging tree used to be right by the old jail.  It wasn't until the 1920's I think that any washing and sewage facilities were added to the jail.  It must have stunk!

Then I saw a kiosk that explained that the big pillars were for a swinging bridge they built in hopes of bringing people to their town once the railroad detoured around them.  It didn't work to revitalize the town.

Lake Charles is a large man-made lake with a small beach and nice campground with electric and water.

When I started my walk on the paved trail I scared up a brown snake about two feet long.  Later I spied one curled up on a log with a turtle.

Trees of two different species hugging for life.

So that was a awesome day of discovery.  I am still missing my social time.  Judy has been too per-occupied with her son.  Though I did get to have a somore she made for me.  I did get to chat (standing) on my awesome day with a couple that are camping here to visit family.  They have a cute five-month old doggy that is a bit barky and scared.  But once he warms up to me (which takes time each time we meet) he will lay leaning against my foot.

In response to my request for some volunteers to read through the rough draft of book three I got one volunteer so far.  I am pleased that Sandy took the challenge.  She is a writer herself!  Do I have any other takers?

It is about 45 degrees at night and warms up into the sixties during the day, maybe hitting 70.  I have been outside exercising and writing all day.  Time to go for a walk or bike ride around the park.  I have two more nights here, then off to a place in Missouri along the crystal clear Current River.  It might be too cool to float in the river, but I do hope to kayak.

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