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Parrottrek Journal 2007

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Door to door limo service Texas style

Doug and I pose with "The BIG Texan"

A 72-oz bellyache waiting to happen

Live music from two talented men

April 4th - Amarillo, Texas - The BIG Texan Restaurant -
As you drive across the panhandle of Texas, on Highway 40, there are billboards about every 10 miles advertising The BIG Texan restaurant. The slogans on the various billboards say either "Free 72 ounce steak dinner" or "Free limo rides". Of course being the curious creatures that we are, we had to investigate. As we got closer to Amarillo, which we were heading to for the night anyways, we noticed that the fine print of the free 72 ounce steak dinner became a bit more prevalent. The string attached was that you had to eat the entire meal within an hour. That is 4 1/2 pounds of meat, a baked potato, a dinner roll and a salad. You have to eat every bit of all of it, even the side dishes. There is no way you could do it and not have the stomach ache of the century. The RV Park that we stayed at this evening was about 3 miles away, so we called to see if there were any strings attached to the "free limo ride" offer. Glad to report that there were no strings, and yes it was in fact free. Realizing it might be fun to take a ride in a limo with Texas Longhorns attached to the front, we made a reservation. They picked us up in style right outside our front door. While we were at The BIG Texan, there were two different men that tried to get a free meal. Sadly to say, neither of them finished. They came close, but still had to pay the dollar per ounce price of $72.00 since they both left part of their steak uneaten. Please refer to above picture of steak if you believe it wouldn't be that hard to accomplish. Increase the picture to actual size and you will realize just what a feat, or feast, it is. After our entertainment for the evening, which included a great group of musicians serenading us at our table, we jumped in the limo and headed home. We decided to hit the jacuzzi before going to bed, which was quite an ordeal. First we had to sign in to use it, and then we had to take a shower. Usually you see the signs asking people to shower before getting in, but the 3, yes 3, jacuzzi Nazi guards that were there all stood around until we each went into the showers, got wet and came back out. Doug, apparently the rebel of the group, jumped in the pool with his t-shirt still on and the guards just about went crazy. They all told him that wearing a t-shirt in the water was against the rules, and "we will have none of that rule breaking here". Frank began to laugh a bit at this and tease Doug as all three guards glared at him and loudly complained of our lack of respect to their rules, what a bunch of cranks! We never thought they would leave us alone, but finally did. What are we? In junior high again? They sure made us feel like it.

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The hailstorm from under the basket

Those are some big hailstones!

Flowers on the side of Highway 40

Bradley helps install new tires

April 6th - Las Vegas, Nevada-
Hmmm! Imagine that, we are back here in Las Vegas. We're not complaining, much, but it is funny how much time we end up spending here in Vegas throughout the year. Frank's guitar however dislikes Las Vegas weather immensely. I never knew that guitars were sensitive to the weather, but it makes sense if you think about it. They are made out of wood and Frank's is unpolished wood. The unpolished wood is beautiful with quite a unique look. I don't care for the shiny glossy guitars so I am even more partial to his. However since it is unpolished, the dry weather does cause it to do odd things and now it makes an odd sound on a couple of the notes. The good thing is that we will soon be in Atlanta, Georgia where the weather has a bit of moisture, which will make the guitar happy. If the weather doesn't make the guitar happy, than the Atlanta guitar shop will fix it for us since the guitar did come with a lifetime warranty against such things. Speaking of weather, while we were driving here from Texas we spent one night in the middle of an enormous hail storm. I have a vague memory of being in 5th grade and having some hail come down while at school, but they were teeny tiny pieces and we were inside on a "rainy day schedule" anyways so playing in the hail wasn't an option. These Texas hail stones were enormous. We were watching a movie, and all of a sudden we heard this CRRAACCKK sound right above the living room. After realizing that no, it wasn't lightning hitting us, we ran to the window just as the hail began to get harder and more frequent. I of course, having to get pictures of the action and yet not wanting to get injured in the process, quickly grabbed the metal fruit bowl we have, emptied it out and walked outside with camera in hand using the fruit bowl as a helmet to protect myself from being knocked in the head by the gumboil size pieces of ice. It was pretty funny to hear the ping, pang, clank sounds that the hail made as they bounced off the helmet. The photo session only lasted a few minutes since the hail became stronger as I was out there and the banging of the metal helmet began to make my ears ring and my head ache. The pictures turned out pretty good at least, minus a few that were blurred by the shaking of the helmet, or maybe because I was laughing so hard at what a dork I must have looked like.

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Poor Louie seems a bit afraid of Chris' playing style

A tiny Champ Car

The boys strike a pose outside the Spam-mobile

The sun sets on another great day

April 8th - Happy Easter -
We spent Easter with Chris and Karolyn and their wonderful Basset hounds Louie and Dudley. It started out with a trip downtown to watch the Vegas Grand Prix. They block off a bunch of streets and have the race around town. The cars pass you at about 200 miles an hour and all you can see is a blur of the cars as you hear vroom vroom vroom vroom, and then you wait about 5 minutes for the cars to come back around for another lap and hear vroom vroom vroom as another blur passes you by. After about 30 minutes of this dizzying experience we decided that heading home and lounging by the pool sounded a bit more enjoyable. So after the guys hit the Spam-mobile for their free sample, which I passed up due to the fact that the idea of eating Spam scares me more than eating worms, we headed back to the Johnston fort where Frank gave Chris a few guitar lessons as the ladies watched Discovery Planet Earth. I highly recommend this series to everyone. It was amazing to see all the footage that these crews were able to get over the five years that it took to film the series. WOW! Is all I can say. After a tri-tip bar-b-que thanks to Chef Chris, Frank and I headed back home and enjoyed a beautiful sunset in the jacuzzi at the RV Park. It was a great way to celebrate Easter, good friends, great food and a little entertainment thanks to the Champ Cars of the Grand Prix and the boy's music.

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A decal to remember Eric Medlen and where he stood in the points

Monster Men putting the car back together after a round one victory

We all stood at the starting line in great anticipation

Hooray!!! The happy bunch did it again!

April 15th - The Winner's Circle -
Yes, Our Budweiser team did it again. Another Wally to add to the list and Frank and I watched it all from the starting line right in the middle of the action. The weekend was filled with nice weather and lots of visiting friends and family. Not a single rain delay either. We did have a bit of a sand delay, which I do believe was one of the first in NHRA history, but it only lasted about 20 minutes which wasn't too bad. We all want to keep the drivers safe and hitting a patch of sand at 300 miles an hour would not be a safe thing to do. Our Monster team is doing better and better each race and becoming a lot more consistent on their runs which is wonderful and quickly bringing us up in points. When Brandon, the Budweiser driver, was handed the Wally, he quickly dedicated his win to the memory of his fallen friend and driver Eric Medlen who passed away a little over three weeks ago after a crash at the Florida racetrack. After his dedication speech Brandon gave the Wally to Eric's mother. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. It was very moving. All of the cars that participated in this weekend's race had a decal on their car in memory of Eric. It's amazing to see how a community such as the NHRA only draws closer when a tragedy like this strikes.

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The Hoover Dam and all it's grandeur

The itty bitty buildings below

How men scaled the walls to build the dam

Snow in the Arizona rest area

April 16th - Hoover Dam - Border of Arizona and Nevada -
It's always amazing to drive over the Hoover Dam and compare the sides. On the lake side, the dam appears to be just a short wall where the lake ends in order to hold the water of Lake Mead. Once you look at the river side your jaw almost drops to see the immense structure that it takes to hold all of the water in Lake Mead. To think that they made this back in the early 30's is even more amazing. They are currently building an alternate freeway that will go around the dam in order to help with the traffic that piles up on the busy weekends, and it almost seems that they will take longer to build the freeway in order to avoid the dam than it took to build the actual Hoover Dam so many years ago. We usually don't stop here since we have seen it a few times before but it had been awhile since we walked across it, and more importantly they have a shop that sells Panama hats, so we decided to visit it again. No luck on the hat, but we did enjoy the mile and a half walk that it took to get from the RV Parking lot to the gift shop since we had been driving for a couple hours and needed to stretch our legs. We drove a couple more hours after that and then stopped at a rest stop in Arizona. We noticed that the weather was getting colder and colder as we went further East. Once we got out of the motorhome at the rest stop we found out just why it was so cold. It was snowing up in the mountain above us, and apparently had snowed in the last couple days here since there was still a fair amount on the ground considering where we were. We were going to take the birds outside to stretch their wings, but since we froze after about 5 minutes of being outside we decided to keep them inside where it was nice and warm.

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Another car passes heading down the mountain

A great view from the top of the tracks of the city below

The entrance to the park at the top of the mountain

A view of the mountains and the tracks from the base of the mountain

April 21st - Chattanooga, Tennessee -
This is one of the most beautiful places in all of the U.S. We were pleasantly surprised to find so much to do and see. Today we spent the day playing tourist at Lookout Mountain. We took the Incline Railway, very appropriately named since the incline is a 78% grade, to the top of the mountain. You board the train and sit in a fairly reclined seat, and by the time the train gets to the top of the mountain your once reclined seat is now completely upright and you can see the tracks below you going straight down. Pretty much the entire car is windows so the views are amazing. Once at the top you can see the entire city below. We walked through an old battlefield at Point Park, and then took our time back looking at all the enormous and beautiful homes on the hills. Good friends of ours, Kate and Joel, are moving here in a couple months so we thought we would check out a bit of real estate for them. You guys have chosen a wonderful place to live and we're excited because Chattanooga is on our cross-country route twice each year so we will be able to visit a bunch.

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Who'd rob a bank with a cannon outside?

All aboard the Chattanooga Choo-Choo

April 22nd - Downtown Chattanooga - The Chattanooga Choo Choo -
A trip to Chattanooga wouldn't be complete without a visit to the infamous Chattanooga Choo Choo. It brought back fun memories of being in grade school and singing the old Chattanooga Choo Choo song with Mrs. Brown and her guitar. She would hand out an instrument to each class member and we would have a blast playing along with her and singing. I don't think a single band ever came out of our school, but it sure was a fun way to spend music class. The train has since been turned into a Holiday Inn and a few restaurants but you can still walk around inside the locomotive area and the caboose and the train is still pretty much in one piece still on the tracks that it used to run back and forth on. The passenger cars have all been transformed into hotel rooms which would probably be quite fun to stay in. After our trip to the Choo Choo we headed downtown to walk around the river and shop a bit. Still no luck on finding Frank the perfect Panama hat, even though we did find two different hat stores. Who knew the perfect hat would be so hard to replace. We did however find some great pizza at a little place called the Mellow Mushroom. Yum yum! It's been awhile since we have had really good pizza and were beginning to think it a thing of the past. Apparently it is a chain, and they have several, so we will have to search the country for more Mellow Mushroom locations. The downtown area of Chattanooga is very pretty with lots of charm. It's a good sized town, but still gives you a small town feel since the buildings are well maintained and not too high. There is also a safe feeling when you walk around the town and see an occasional cannon on the street corner. That's a new one we had never seen before. They are very proud of their Civil War history here.

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All aboard the Parrot Choo-Choo

A Civil War monument erected for the battle fought at our campground

Guido comes down for breakfast

He gained at least a pound during our visit to his tree

April 22nd - A Night in the Civil War -
Our campsite here is on the border of Georgia and Tennessee just minutes from Chattanooga. The campground itself is on an old Civil War battlefield as is almost everything around here. That's the great part of the Eastern part of this country, to see all the history that is here. Nowhere on the west coast can you sleep where men fought a war and lost their lives to what they thought was a worthy cause regardless of which side they were on. All of the streets on the North side of the campground are named for northern soldiers and generals, as the South side of the park is named for the southern soldiers that lead their men into battle. The roads that cross between the sides going East and West are named after famous battles of the Civil War such as Running Bull and Gettysburg.

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The RV Park even has it's own version of the Choo Choo, and since the birds weren't allowed to come with us to visit the real one, they loved hanging out in the smaller version on the playground.

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Also while we were here we made great friends with Guido the squirrel. One day while we were having lunch he came running down the tree to see what was on the menu. I threw him a Frito which he sniffed and quickly put his nose up at. Thinking quickly I ran inside and grabbed the birds bag of peanuts. Cody gave me a bit of a mean look when I started tossing Guido his prized possession bag of nuts, but after I explained that they can be replaced with a quick trip to Wal-Mart he let me carry on. Guido ran up to the peanut, ate it in about 30 seconds and stared at me in great anticipation of another treat. We fed him for awhile. It was hilarious. He would eat one, and take the second one up the tree and return in about 5 seconds. The third one he would run to the grass with and bury it. This cycle went on for about half an hour, and would have continued if it were up to Guido, but Frank and I were heading into town. A few hours later when we arrived back home Guido ran down the tree and stood by the door hoping for another round of nuts. I of course being a sucker for a cute face gave in and feed him some more as Frank played the guitar outside with the whole family and the squirrel. Each morning since this day as I leave the motorhome for my morning jog Guido runs down the tree to greet me and get his breakfast. We have since found out the reason for his running into the tree with every third nut is that he is feeding his little friend up there. We met her this afternoon in person. Frank was washing the bus and I was reading and feeding the birds and the squirrel. As soon as Frank was done with one side of the bus I moved my chair to the other side with him. I, not thinking, left the bag of peanuts behind. This was apparently unacceptable to the squirrels because about 10 minutes after I left where they were the little squirrel ran under the motorhome right up to us and began to chirp loudly, as if to say "Get your fanny back to other side and keep the peanuts coming lady!" Frank laughed so hard he almost fell off the ladder. I quickly obeyed the little squirrel and went back to the picnic table to feed him and his friend in the tree. Even wild animals can develop character.

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A fun swinging bridge to cross

The birds enjoy listening to Frank

Lunch on top of the Jeep on top of the mountain

April 23rd - Signal Mountain, Tennessee - 4 Wheelin' -
It was a gorgeous day today so we took the top of the Jeep down and took a drive. We found a great website that lists all the different Jeep and biking trails all over the country. We found one close by, so off we went. It started at the base of Signal Mountain and wound up to the top. Signal Mountain looks a lot like Lookout Mountain except from Signal Mountain you can see the lake a bit more. We had lunch at the top of the mountain and found an old swinging bridge. Of course we couldn't drive over it, so we got out and took the path on foot. Once we returned to the Jeep we drove for awhile and realized that since there were so many side roads to drive up and around to get to different views, we never actually ended up on the trail that we were leaded for. We sat outside the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine with the birds and the squirrels as Frank played his guitar. He has now learned all six of the songs on his instrumental lesson DVD and can play them all really well. He has ordered a new instrumental lesson taught by the famous Chet Atkins. He was one of the greatest fingerpicking players there were, so Frank should learn a lot.  Frank definitely prefers the style of fingerpicking playing over strumming, and we all enjoy listening. Cody now sings along while Frank plays. Not actually the words but he does sing la la la la, and every so often he'll sings Happy Birthday. Tomorrow we have to say goodbye to our pretty campground and Guido, poor thing won't know where to find his breakfast, as we head down to Atlanta for the race there. It should be nice weather all weekend since they moved the race up a few weeks because it had been so hot in the past years. It's nice that they keep track of the weather and rearrange things accordingly. The only downside is that it might not be as busy as most races, since the ever popular Talladega NASCAR race is the same weekend and only about 100 miles away. Oh well we'll still have fun. Hopefully we will get a chance to tour the downtown area and see where they held the Olympics.

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And the winner is... ... BUD!

This Bud's for Wally!!

How flames should come out of a Dragster

How flames should NOT come out of a Dragster

April 26th - Atlanta, Georgia -
Today we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, well actually it feels like we have been celebrating it all week, no complains though. Last night we went to dinner with six good friends at a wonderful Mexican restaurant that was walking distance from the track and toasted with a round of margaritas. Yum! Since the race starts tomorrow we stayed in this evening, watched a movie and relaxed. Frank has learned two new songs on the guitar and just received a new DVD of lessons featuring Chet Atkins. By the time we head back to CA in the winter he will have a huge selection of songs to play. The funniest and yet most thoughtful gift of the day? A roll of Aluminum Foil from Kurt and Philly. Why you ask? Yes we too were a bit perplexed at first, but then it dawned on me. Just as your first anniversary is symbolized by cotton or wood, 50 years is golden. Your 10th is the aluminum anniversary. I will never look at aluminum foil the same again. :-)

April 29th - Commerce, Georgia - Back to Back Wins for the Boys and Gals in Red -
Hooray! The Budweiser team heads to the Winner's Circle again, and yes boys believe it or not there is a girl on the team, not just any position mind you, but the Assistant Crew Chief, and the best one out there we might add. Along with a little help from her boys on the team they won two in a row! We are now first place in the points which is great going into any race, but the fact that we are all heading to St. Louis, which is the hometown of Anheiser-Busch and Budweiser, makes it an even better time to be first in the points. What better way to keep the sponsors happy. I guess if the Bud team pulls off a 3-peat that would make them even happier, but we won't get too greedy at this point. Our Monster team didn't do quite as well today but no fear, their turn in the Winner's Circle is coming. I can just feel it and boy will it be an amazing day! Speaking of amazing, every so often here in the drag racing world we see an explosion or two on a weekend. Yes, there are those insane race fans that live for the crashes, however I myself cringe a bit when watching them. What's even more amazing, and wonderful, is the fact that the drivers are rarely hurt in these explosions. All these cars are built to either break apart safely or extinguish themselves when the flames and explosions occur but who really wants to test this safety feature out unless absolutely necessary? Considering that the Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars do run off of Nitromethane, which is a flammable liquid to say the least, and yes 7 foot flames are supposed to come out of the headers, however this is all done in a fairly controlled manner, it's amazing that more cars aren't engulfed in flames more often. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to be strapped into a vehicle that is on fire and doing multiple cartwheels down the track. Talk about an adrenaline rush. No Thanks!!

May 6th - Madison, Illinois aka Saint Louis, Missouri -
So, does this make sense? What they call the 'St. Louis race"  is actually located in Madison, Illinois. Not only is St. Louis a different city, but it's in an entirely different state. Why don't they just call it the "Madison race'? Same thing with last week's race. They call it the Atlanta race, but the track is actually located in Commerce, however at least Commerce and Atlanta are in the same state. Just a funny thing I thought I'd share. Well anyways... The St. Louis race is usually held at the end of June which really sucked since the weather here in both Missouri and Illinois, regardless of where they tell you you are, at that time of the year is 110 degrees with the heat index somewhere around 120 degrees, no lie. This year it was scheduled earlier in the hopes that we all wouldn't melt. It worked out pretty well since the weather, aside from rain all day Friday, was rather nice. Neither of our teams went very far in the race, but I guess you can't win them all. Let's pray for better results in Bristol. We now have 10 days off before we have to be at work in Bristol. The Bristol track, which yes is actually in the city of Bristol :-) is the most beautiful track we visit the entire year. This week we will be driving through a different part of both Kentucky and Tennessee with all sorts of new sights to see including the Kentucky Horse Park where they have all sorts of retired champion horses housed for people to visit. There is a campground right on the grounds where we will stay, and are planning on taking a long horseback ride around the grounds. It should be a lot of fun.

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An acre of Kentucky beauty all to ourselves

Abbey, happy to be hanging out in the trees

Cody flies whiles Frank rides his bike

We watched a hunter jumper show

Tuesday May 8th - Kentucky Horse Park Campground - Lexington, Kentucky -
What could be better than 3 days at a 600 acres campground where for 20 bucks a night you pretty much get an entire acre to yourself with electricity and views of rolling green hills and horses grazing all around. We took all three birds outside where they happily sunned themselves for hours. We took a long bike ride all around the park with Cody tagging along. His new thing is to open his wings and pretend he is flying. After he is too tired to flap anymore he just keeps his wings open and soars next to Frank. Just up the road was a Hunter/Jumper horse show that we walked over to and watched for awhile. The trees outside our motorhome housed about 10 squirrels. It was fun to watch them play tag with each other and scamper up and down the trees. None of them were half as friendly as our little Guido from Tennessee, but they weren't against eating peanuts, they just like them to be thrown to them at about 20 paces instead of running up to the door and begging. There are so many different colors and types of birds here it was like having our own wildlife show right in front of us.

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Suzy's horse was Greg, Frank's was Indigo

He looks like an old pro in his cowboy hat

A view of the pastures from our ride

Headstones of famous horses

Wednesday May 9th - Kentucky Horse Park - Lexington, Kentucky -
As the old saying goes 'When in Rome do as the Romans do', so we decided that since we were in the horse capital of the world, we should do as the horsemen do, so we went horseback riding. The Kentucky Horse Park is a 1200 acre park that is dedicated to preserving champion race horses and the different breeds of horses that are linked to these champions. Our horseback ride took us for a 45 minute tour of the outskirts of the park passing all sorts of fields of horses, barns that have housed almost all of the passed champion of the Kentucky Derby, which is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky just about 60 miles up the road, and by a horse cemetery that holds remains of many of these horses such as Man-O-War. We went to a show called Parade of Champions where they bring out horses such as Cigar who has won over 9 million dollars over his lifetime in the racing world, and John Henry who is the richest Gelding ever. Yes, all of the other male horses were still intact due to the fact that after they are no longer running races they still make income off of breeding, or shipping out their necessary breeding components. I worked at a horse ranch in California where they stud out all sorts of well known horses of great breeding potential. Let me just say, if you ever get the chance to watch the activity of how they go about 'withdrawing' the horses it is a sight you should not miss. This is a great time of year to be here because there are all sorts of baby horses running along side their mothers and grazing in the fields. The horses we rode were of lower genetic superiority, but they were fun to trot around on and take in the views of the park. Frank's horse Indigo was the smallest of the bunch but was very sweet. My horse on the other hand kept biting the horse in front of him in the fanny causing him to trot a bit faster. After our horseback ride we took a horse drawn carriage ride and learned all sorts of things about the ranch and how it got to be what it is today. This is another city, just like Chicago and Chattanooga, where we would never have thought to visit on a regular vacation if we were still in CA, but we are very glad to have stumbled upon it and have definitely marked it as a place to come back to in the years to come.

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"What are you doing on that side of the long?"

"Just talking to these nice people mama"

The sinks waterfall

An old Methodist church in Cades Cove

May 11th - The Great Smoky Mountains - Tennessee -
Wow!! What a beautiful mountain range it is. We arrived here in Tennessee yesterday at the Eagle's Nest Campground on the banks of Little Pigeon River. Today was a gorgeous day! After hitting up the Welcome Center to figure out which way to see the forest, whether it be hiking, biking or Jeeping we decided to take the Jeep with the bikes on board and see what lay ahead. Since it was a bit warm we decided to take the top of the Jeep down and turn on the A/C! Yes we did cheat but it was worth every moment. We took an amazing 30 miles trek into the Great Smoky Mountains to take in the views. Once we hit the end of the driving trail we set out on foot to see the old buildings from the 1800's and the waterfalls all along the way. After we left one of the log cabins that was built in 1820 we noticed something moving in the bushes. It was a sweet little baby bear chewing on the weeds and digging in the dirt. He was darling. We also noticed about 10 feet behind him was his ever watchful mother on the other side of a fallen tree. She looked at us as if the say "yes you can look at him but don't touch or you will have to deal with me". No worries, we were up on our 'When a bear attacks' knowledge. According to the hiking brochure it said that if a bear begins to run at you, you should throw your arms up in the air growl and throw rocks at him/her. HELLO!??! Are you crazy? One would have to have nerves of steel to throw a rock at an oncoming aggressive bear. However, if it was between my life and a rock fight with Goliath the bear I think a little bit of David might come out in me. By the way, I think that Frank may have had a few rocks stashed in his pocket from the beginning of the trail just in case such a scenario should arise.

We interrupt this journal to bring you the greatest news of the year!!!!! Diesel fuel, which is really just nasty crude oil is not only less than $3.00 a gallon, it is now less than regular gasoline. We were sooooo very excited to see this sign as we drove through Kentucky, that we had to stop and fill up. After I resuscitated Frank and had him back on his feet, he took a closer look just to make sure that our eyes were NOT deceiving us. For what ever reason each picture I took of this sign the $2.98 lights of the price of regular didn't turn out in the picture. I think perhaps even my camera was in disbelief. It may not seem too much for the average Joe, but when one fills a 165 gallon tank on the average of three times a week while driving across the country, 50 cents per gallon pretty much averages to be a savings of $82.50 a fill up. If you ask Cody, you could buy a lot of extra bird treats with that, so we will refrain from telling him about our monthly savings! We will now return to the journal. We apologize for the interruption!

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No, your eyes are not deceiving you!

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Alabama's tour bus back in the day

A look inside

We had the pool all to ourselves ... ...

but we had to share dinner with the birds

May 12th - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee -
We had a nice relaxing day today. It was about 85 degrees so we hit the pool for a nice swim. The campground here is gorgeous so we took all three birds outside and I read in the sunshine while Frank played his guitar. Cody has gotten so accustomed to his daily runs/flys around the park that he now almost begs to go running. He climbs down the chair or perch that he is on and begins to walk away from home. As soon as Frank picks him up he opens his wings and begins to flap. I really is the cutest thing. After his long flight around the park we put the birds back in their cages with a handful of peanuts for each one and headed into town to see what else there is do to for the upcoming week. Gatlinberg is about 10 minutes away and appears to be full of all sorts of touristy things to do. It looks a lot like the town of Big Bear, only it's about 4 times the size. We stopped at a Vineyard and did a bit of wine testing and walked all around the little shops. Oh my gosh!!! I almost forgot!!! We found Frank's hat today!!! As most of you know, we have been searching high and low, and have looked in about 10 states for the perfect Panama hat. We found it in a little country store. We almost didn't even go in the country store because it looked like the last place to find a Panama hat, but isn't that always the case? In front of one of the restaurants was the old bus that the band Alabama used for their early day tours. It's a bit older than ours, and I would bet it is no longer road worthy since it has been sitting so long, but it was cool to see the inside. We stopped on our walk back to the car for an ice cream cone and headed home. The evening was still nice and warm so we all had dinner outside. Cody is such a pig when it comes to broccoli and potatoes that he got his own plate to eat from. This way Frank and I were able to enjoy our dinner without Cody trying to steal it all. I think he ate more dinner than I did, however this is not an uncommon occurrence. Someday he is going to grow little pink ears and curly tail and say Oink Oink Oink.

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Frank steers the space capsule back to earth

We spend some time wine tasting

Cheer! The villain is being chased away

Booooo!! The villain returns

May 13th - Pigeon Gorge, Tennessee-
Today we visited a different type of amusement park. It was an amusement park for the mind. It had over 100 interactive things to do including walking on the moon, making enormous bubbles with a huge bubble wand. Lying on a bed of nails, creating your own roller coaster and then riding it, in a virtual machine that turned and flipped and went up and down. The place was called Wonderworks and it was very imaginative. They had all sorts of mind teasing puzzles and things to test your coordination skills as well as your brain skills. One of the most fun rides was the Cycler. You sit in what feels like a bumper car with a shoulder strap and you start to pedal. The faster you pedal the quicker it goes. However it doesn't just go forwards and backwards it actually is like a swing that can go around and around and flip through the air. There were no lines so we each sat in our own. At one point I was laughing so hard I lost all concentration, and footing on my pedals, so my car stopped completely upside down and froze in mid air for a moment. It gave me a chance to regain my footing and not loose too much momentum so I could catch back up with Frank and the loop count. It was sooo fun! Even the structure of the building was quite ingenious. The entire building looked as though it had been through a hurricane that was thrown upside down and has crashed into another building that housed a theater where they perform the most hilarious melodrama ever. Frank and I used to get annual passes to the Great American Melodrama each year in Oceano, California so we have seen our fair share of them. Even though this one was a bit shorter it was very well done and they served a three course dinner as well. They even had a few of the characters played by members of the audience that were brought on stage including a 6 year old who played Paul Bunyan with an axe and all. I laughed so hard my stomach actually hurt. After dinner we walked back through the interactive section to hit the stops we had missed earlier in the day and then headed home.

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The imaginative Wonderworks building

Bubbles bubbles everywhere

Weeeeeee!! keep pedaling!

Suzy Walks on the moon

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Just lay here and relax! Aaahhh!

As far as we got on the trail to Maine

Heeeellllloooooo Suzy

Along with the view, please note Frank's new hat

May 14th - Another drive through the Great Smoky Mountains -
One thing that everyone must do before they die is to walk through the Smoky Mountains, find a grassy place to lie down and just look up at the trees and the mountains and the sky. I know I know, it sounds really cheesy, but it is so pretty up here and the way the blue sky and white clouds peek through the trees that are about 10 different shades of green each and the mountains around them, is one of the most beautiful sights anywhere to see. The way you feel just laying here  breathing in the fresh air and listening to the birds and the animals around you relaxes you. It's just as relaxing as Yoga but the air here is better than anywhere else. We drove to the base of the path that leads up to highest point in all of Tennessee which is right above Newfound Gap, which happens to be the lowest point in Tennessee so the views are amazing. It feels like you are on top of the world. There are two different trails that actually start up here. One of them goes to the lookout and the other goes to Maine, yes the state, so we obviously chose the shorter of the two and stayed in the state of Tennessee. We did however meet a couple that was actually doing the entire trail up to Maine. They were planning on it taking them 7 months! Yikes! One must really love to hike in order to head out on a 2,501 mile trail, but I commend them greatly for their determination. It would probably be an amazing 7 months. Heck we've been out here for longer than that in a motorhome and are still having a great time, so whatever means you choose to see the country, its a great move in our book.

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Views to the North from the lake

Rolling hills on the South side of the property

The rustic barn at the top of the hill

The sun sets over the pretty lake

May 15th - Lexington, Kentucky - The Whitmore Ranch -
This is such a beautiful part of the country we decided we had to come back, and since the race in Bristol, Tennessee was cancelled due to damage on the track, we now have another two weeks off to enjoy it. One of our favorite things to do in new areas, that are pretty and green, is to look at property for sale. Usually we look just for kicks, but here we found some amazing horse ranches for sale at very reasonable prices in flourishing areas of town. The pictures above give you a bit of an idea of what our most favorite property looked like. It was 12 acres of gorgeous rolling hills, a small lake and even an old rundown barn to give it just enough character to feel homey, and enough firewood to last a lifetime once it falls down. There is a gravel road that leads to a hill on the top of the property where it overlooks all the ranches around with horses grazing all about, a few goats and green hills as far as the eye can see. At the top of the gravel road is a large level area just perfect to park about 5 motorhomes. The property already has water and electric and sewer. We even drove back later this evening to see what the sunset would look like. It was amazing! It was just screaming to house our little house on wheels, but alas, since we aren't yet ready to settle down anywhere, and we don't own our own ride on mower to keep the grass trimmed, we drove on. It was fun though to plan out what we would do on the land, and with property values increasing back here how they are it would be a nice little investment. Maybe in 10 years it will be for sale again.

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Outside the Wild Turkey Distillery

An enormous barrel to fill with the mixture

The lovely mixture after about a week

It's time to go into the barrels

May 16th - Wild Turkey Distillery - Lawrenceburg, Kentucky -
So, for all of you out there that enjoy a good Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, then Lawrenceburg, Kentucky is the place to visit. First they mix wheat, rice, yeast and other secret ingredients into 15,500 gallon steel tubs. Then they mix that together with limestone water that is fresh from the mountains on the Wild Turkey property and let it sit for about 2 weeks until the sugar from the grains turn to alcohol. After this they put it through various other things that I can't seem to recall, which just goes to show that my future in making Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey won't start tonight in the kitchen sink. I do remember that they poor the Bourbon into wooden barrels that have been charred, which is what gives the Bourbon it's color. The corks they use to close the barrel are called bungs. They Frank and I a couple of bungs to take home to the birds, which Cody destroyed in about 5 minutes. After they store the Bourbon in the barrels they store them in huge warehouses for the certain number of years in takes to turn this concoction into aged Bourbon. They are 26 warehouses on the property and each one holds 20,000 barrels. Wow! That's a lot of darn booze. Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is not to be confused with any other type of plain Whiskey, or Bourbon. There are very certain criteria and aging devices that go into creating your perfect Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey in order for it to have it's distinctive flavor and color, or so the government says. Such as the proof of the Bourbon and the limestone water part. People say that there is nothing like a good 12 year old bottle of Bourbon Whiskey.  The way they described it during the aging process makes you think it will be the greatest tasting drink you've ever had and so romantic to sip over a nice fire. We even bought a bottle to try it ourselves. YUCK!! They were right about one thing, nothing I have ever tasted was quite like the first sip of it. That is, nothing as nasty and bitter as a bottle of 12 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. By the time ours is empty it will probably be about a 15 years old bottle of Bourbon. However learning about how Wild Turkey is made, walking through the distillery and warehouses that hold all those barrels and seeing that things haven't changed on how they make it today versus 100 years ago was very educational, especially if one ever wants to take up creating their own bourbon and make their own still.

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The rocky banks of the Ohio River

Cody hands Frank another stick for the fire

Reading by the fire the boys built

A crescent moon peeks through the trees

May 17th - Otter Creek Park, Elizabethtown, Kentucky -
Another lazy day on God's great earth. It's always nice to start out in a new place with a lazy day and the birds. They love being outside just sitting in the sunshine, and all the neighbors in the campground love to see them and all the tricks they do. Cody has gotten so smart about doing his tricks outside the house, that unless there is food in our hands being shown to him he just looks at us as if to say "You crazy humans you think I'm dumb enough to do a trick when you want me to, without a peanut or cracker? Well forget it." But once the treats are shown to him he will do anything to get them and will continue to do so until he is full, which trust me we always run out of treats long before he gets full. Today we took a nice leisurely bike ride around the campground with Cody on Frank's handlebars. This park is enormous, and since we wanted to check out more than what was just on the small roads around us we had to put him away for a bit in order to go out into the main area. He loves the bike rides, but the cars startle him a bit, and the last thing we would want is to have him get startled and fly off. So after he and his siblings were safely tucked into their cages we went to find the Ohio River. The ride there was a lot of fun. It was all downhill from the campground. The hills were pretty steep, so it felt as you were flying while you went down them. Of course about halfway down we realized that we must go back up these same hills to get home. This caused them to loose a little appeal, but we needed a good workout since we had been sitting still the last two days so we decided to fly down the rest of the hills. The Ohio River is enormous, and quite wide in most places. We stopped at one point on a rocky shore before heading back up the hill to put our toes in the water. Just then a train came around the corner, so since we hadn't taken off the shoes yet we ran up a bit of a hill to watch the train go by and once it passed we mounted up for the trek home. Boy were the legs burning half way home. In times like these I really really miss the Spinning classes I used to teach. There's no workout like a 45 minute Spinning class to get the blood running and the fat melting. Once we hit the top of the second enormous hill, home was close. It turned out to be a bit of a downhill for the last section which was music to our legs. Once we got back to the campsite the birds came back out, Cody helped start a fire with Frank while Abbey and I searched the woods behind us for kindling. There were old dried out branches all over the place since there are tons and tons of trees everywhere, so we had enough wood to keep the fire burning long into the night. It's been awhile since we just sat by a fire and read. The days are nice and long now and the sun doesn't go down here until around 9:15 which is wonderful. It sure bets those darn days in October when the sun sets around 5:15. The moon came out early and was a beautiful sight to see behind the trees.

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