Archive | April, 2013

Sunday April 28, 2013

30 Apr

Hello All,

We last left you at Beaver Bend State Park in southeast Oklahoma. We had a relaxing day at Beaver Bend with a short hike Thursday morning and then a very scenic drive north to the town of Muskogee, OK. Friday turned out to be a real wash out. We toured the Cherokee Heritage Center which was mostly inside for a few hours. The center did a good job of presenting the history and tragedy of the Trail of Tears as well as the adaptation of the Cherokee people to Oklahoma.  Although not necessarily intended we have been following the Trail of Tears ever since we were in the Smokey Mountains which was the original homeland of the Cherokee people. The center also included some very nice art work by present day Cherokee Nation artists.

We hung around in Muskogee until Saturday for a local event bike ride – The Flower Power Ride. The rain was forcast to clear out before the ride but mother nature was behind schedule. It was mostly a good ride (except for about 10 miles in the rain) and the other riders were very friendly. Also Gayle Nealis, an old friend from Good Works in Pheonixville, PA whom now lives here in OK, joined us for the bike ride. It was great to catch up Gayle.

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On Sunday the sun finally came out and it was a beautiful day. After Mass we headed out for a relaxing ride on the Tulsa river parks trail system. The Tulsa trails are very well done. They run around the city and along both sides of the Arkansas river in the down town area. There are lots of parks along the way which made it a major draw for families on bikes. It was nice to see so many people out using the trails. After about 35 miles we had dinner at a restaurant on the trail over looking the river.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

26 Apr

Petit Jean State Park was just beautiful with awe inspiring views and quiet atomsphere.

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Cedar Canyon Falls were visible from an overlook within walking distance of our lodge but are also enjoyed by a short hike down into the gorge.

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The hike was  not very difficult as Cedar Creek which The Falls flow into is not at the very bottom of the small mountain which we had pedalled up to reach Petit Jean. On our hike, we relaxed on a rock in the creek chilling our feet in this mountain stream.  We spent the rest of the day reading outside lounging in lawn chairs or on a porch swing as we watched the hawks soar in the gorge.  I could have spent a week here just relaxing with a stack of books. Being off season not only here but also at Land between the Lakes and The Smokies has been terrific for an atomsphere of peace and relaxation.Certainlty, it has been more relaxing than a week at the shore. But then the shore  off season is pretty nice as well. 

Wednesday dawned bright and beautiful for our return trip to Little Rock. By 9 a.m. , we were on our way. The first 9 miles took us along the ridge of the mountain and also to another spectacular overlook of the Arkansas river before our steep hairpin road descent.

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Thank goodness we had received good advice not to take this road on our way up to Petit Jean. We  both felt it would have been our first defeat in walking the tandem if not even the need to turn back. Manny did an amazing job keeping our descent safe! I just kept tucked in low behind Manny and watched for any aggressive drivers coming from behind! The roads back were fine but the wind proved to be fierce! We struggled with keeping our speed up and we knew we had two more major ascents to complete.The second one turned out to be on a paved road which turned to dirt and rocks.Challenging and some slipping but we managed to reach the top. Through some more rolling hills and around Pinnacle Mountain brought us back to Arkansas River bike trail and into Little Rock. At the end of the day, we had completed 73 miles safely with a beautiful day to be outside! Dinner at Bocos, a micro brewery in Little Rock, was delicious but anything would have tasted great.

This morning we slept in at our B&B as breakfast was at 9 and it was raining. We had no further destination planned so we hashed over our options again at breakfast. The Katy Bike trail in Missouri was still out of the question as the Missouri River is stilled flooded in spots and more rain is expected with colder temperatures. Manny could not find any bike loops that looked promising.  So, we decided to head west since ultimately in May we need to be in Texas for Troy’s graduation.  On the way west, we decided to stop for the day at Beaver Bend State Park in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. Our campsite is set up here along the Mountain Fork River as I sit lounging in the sun.

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A great bike trip completed and a day of relaxation! Hi to all and we continue to enjoy your comments! Thanks, Manny & Marsha

Sunday April 21

22 Apr

Wow! What a climb we had today with great views of the valleys, lakes, streams and forest. We left the Mountain Thyme Inn about 9:30 am

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We cycled north through the Oauchita National Forest which was very senic. One thing we notice about the forest here is that in orienteering terms the woods are all “white”. This means that unlike much of Pennsylvania there is very little underbrush or thorn bushes in the forest and one cane clearly see well into the forest from the road. There were several mountains to go over today and the mountain south of Ola, AR (we’ll call it Ola mountain) was a partuclarly hard climb. We were treated with a nice rest stop and over look at the top.

The road up Ola mountain.

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At the top of Ola mountain.

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On the way back down.

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After Ola mountain we had a nice ride through a valley for about 15 miles before the final climb of the day to our destination Petit Jean State Park. It was not nearly so hard a climb as Ola mountain, but we were pretty much running on empty. The top of the mountain and Stae Park lodge was a welcome relief. The views here are again stunning. A few samples:

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View from the lodge

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Sunset from the lodge after a good dinner

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We’ll sleep good tonight and do some hiking here in the state park tomorrow.

Love to all Manny and Marsha

Saturday April 20

21 Apr

We left Little Rock yesterday morning on our bicycle all loaded up for 5 days. It was a bright clear morning although a bit chilly and windy after yesterday’s storms. Our first day was 63 miles to Hot Springs NP. It was a very scenic ride through the foot hills of the Ozarks and traffic was light except for the last 10 miles into Hot Springs. We found a quiet rest spot for lunch along the Saline River.

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We arrived at our motel, the Alpine Inn, very tired, but the place was  clean and very comfortable. The place was run by a Scottish couple and they were very accomodating to our needs as cyclists. The historic section of Hot Springs is very interesting and the commercial aspects of the historic section are kept in check by the National Park Service. Hot Springs claim to fame is the natural hot water which flows out of the ground as springs throughout the area. The area was known to the Native Americans as the valley of steam and they also recognized the therapeutic quality of the hot spring water. Note the steam coming off this fountain on the main street through town.

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Starting in the 1830’s, white settlers began to build bath houses over the hot springs. The first buildings were wooden and either rotted away or burned. Hot Springs reached its hayday from 1900 to 1946 when several elaborate bath houses were built and are now preserved by the NPS. Many of the bath houses had stained glass windows in the ceiling so that one would lay back in the hot pool and look up at the stain glass. In the early 1900’s, many famous people would come to enjoy the therapeutic waters. It was a popular location for baseball spring training as many teams came to train and treat injuries with the water, and it was also popular for Al Capone and his Chicago gangsters. As the story goes here, the gangsters all put their guns away when they came to Hot Springs – a cease fire was maintaned for all. The first Army Navy hosiptal was built here again to take advantage of the hot spring water. Since 1946 (the peak year for bath houses), the use of hot water for therapeutic purposes has gone down hill and most of the large old hotels are now closed and very run down. Thankfully the NPS has preserved a row of bath houses and two are still in service. We took a bath at the Quapaw Bath House which was very relaxing and good for the muscles after yesterday’s bike ride. The following is a small sampling of the bath houses.

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Other than the bath houses there was not a whole lot to Hot Springs so after a good breakfast and a hot soak in the bath we loaded up our bike and headed 25 miles out of town to a wonderful bed and breakfast, The Mountain Thyme Inn, tucked away in the Ozark mountains. Tomorrow we’ll head further into the mountains, but we ae not thinking about those hills right now!

Love Marsha and Manny

Thursday, April 18, 2013

19 Apr

We arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas  yesterday morning with a strong breeze but terrific sunshine.  Before heading onto Hot Springs, we looked up on our tablet what there was to see in Little Rock. Heifer International Headquarters is located here and knowing of them we decided to stop in. It was a fabulous visit! Heifer International is an amazing world wide organization which provides help to poor families and communities with the goal of making them  sustainable. This is achieved in a variety of ways but usually starts with a pregnant animal that will provide a source of income as well as milk. Education in care of the animal and the offspring to be born are taught as well as a 5 to 10 year plan for the community to achieve sustainability. There is much more to this program which is active around the world including the US.  Check their website at http://www.heifer.org. Another goal of Heifer is promote environmentally friendly farming and living. Their headquarters building (below) here in Little Rock has also won awards for the use of green technology.

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Heifer was located on the Arkansas river just a few blocks from downtown. Like many cities these days there is a bike path along both sides of the river with a few bike bridges across the river. Naturally we went for a ride out one side and back on the other for a 24 mile ride. It was a very nice bike path and after about 4 miles we were out of the city and into open space with distent views of the Ozark mountains.

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At the far end of the bike path there is a dam across the river and on top of that they have built a pedestrian/bike bridge 4200+ feet long and it even has lights for night riding. This bridge claims to be the longest pedestrian/bike bridge in the country. Last fall we rode the Great Allegany Passage which boasts of its Salisbury Viaduct which is 1900 feet long. The Arkansas Big Dam Bridge has it beat by almost a half mile -pictures below.

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Today was a real washout with off an on showers all day. We delayed our planned bike trip departure one day and kept ourselves occupied by visiting the state capital building (not much to say about that) and the Clinton Presidential Library which was interesting and kept us out of the rain for a few hours. Tomorrow looks brighter and we will head out on a 5 day bike trip through Hot Springs NP and a bit of the Ozark mountains.

Love to all,
Marsha and Manny

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

17 Apr

In our last blog, we were heading to St. Louis. During the drive, we realized we would drive right pass the St. Louis Arch.It is an impressive sight and we really enjoyed our visit there. The movie which tells the story of the building  of the arch in 1962 was impressive and of course we were not surprised that the steel was made in Pittsburgh, Pa. As it was pretty cloudy and I am not particularly fond of heights, we did not take the tram up to the top of the Arch. Manny did comment that the Arch was taller than any cold box he had climbed and some of those were pretty high! We were totally astounded in the movie that the workers at that high elevation were not tied off for safety. We wondered if  safety regulations were really that lax.  It is amazing that not one life was lost in the building of the arch!

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The Lewis and Clark  Museum at The Arch was super and we could have spent more  time there but really wanted to get out of St. Louis before rush hour.
With that achieve, but not by much, we did arrive at our B and B, The Bittersweet Inn in St. Charles. This turned out to be a lovely town with a brick main street and many small shops and restaurants which we explored after we located the Katy Trail which we had expected to ride.
We awoke this morning in St. Charles, Mo., which is just outside of St. Louis to a cold 45 degrees wet, rainy day. While we had been optomistic that the weather would prove to not be that bad, reality greeted us as we prepared to get the tandem out of the car. Manny commented that he wanted to check the weather report again. It confirmed that the next three days would continue to be cold and wet and even bring more severe thunderstorms. Manny felt we should reconsider our plans to start this 2 week trip. I readily agreed, not needing to be asked twice. I commented that we could do the trip but instead of being fun it would become a trip just to endure to say we did it. Our B and B host was obviously relieved when we decided to forego the trip. She prepared a delightful breakfast of the lightest pancakes I have ever tasted with apple topping, followed by eggs with fresh fruit on the side. No lunch needed!
Lewis and Clark had started their westward journey in St. Charles which is why we were to bike the Katy Trail for 200 miles.  The Katy Trail follows the Missouri River and has many historical points about The Lewis and Clark Expedition. During 2003, the 200 year anniversary of this expedition, the keel boat and pirogue boats were rebuilt tto the exact specifications of the original boats. These rebuilt boats are on display in St. Charles so we did tour them this morning. Not sure of what we wanted to do, we visited the Missouri History Museum for the remainder of the morning. Tired of viewing museums, we came to our senses that The Katy Trail would have to wait for another opportunity.
  Before leaving the St.Louis area, we did have a late lunch at Highway 61 Restaurant, one of Guy Ferri’s featured restaurants on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. WOW! Great food! We sampled blackened catfish,pulled pork sandwich with an awesome coleslaw on top, chicken rice gumbo soup, bbq spaghetti with pulled pork  and ,with some help from the waitress to convince Manny to order dessert, added Mississippi Mud Cake ala mode!  Well, after merger camping meals in The Great Smokies and at The Land between The Lakes, we certainly made up for it today. It was worth every bite and no dinner tonight.  Since our meal experience, we have been back in the car driving where? SOUTH! As I type this, we are 120 miles outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. The temperature before the sun went down was already 81 degrees. Much better biking weather! We will visit Hot Springs while we are here and enjoy the many bike trails that are in the area.
On a sad note, we did see flags flown at half mast today, which we feel is mostly likely to pay respects and honor the three people who died yesterday at The Boston Marathon. Our hearts are saddened with such loss for those families as well as all injured.
Thank you to each of you who are following this blog! We appreciate your comments!

Monday April 15

15 Apr

After leaving the Smoky Mountains, we spent a day in the Nashville, TN area. The weather was not good with heavy rain most of the day. We did manage to get in a visit to The Hermitage which was the home of president Andrew Jackson and walked the grounds and gardens before the heavy rain hit. The home itself was interesting with many of the original Jackson furnishings including some very elaborate wall paper which was in very good shape after 170 years.

In the evening we sampled some country western music by attending a show at the Grand Old Oprey. The show was a country classics live radio broadcast held in the old oprey house in downtown Nashville. 40 some years ago Manny’s family visited Nashville when his older sister, Dorrie, was living in Nashville. At that time we stood in line for many hot summer hours waiting to get in to see a show in this same building. The building had no air conditioning back then and we kids were dreading sitting in the hot building for the show more than the wait outside. Fortunately on that day 40 years ago  my sister Claire passed out from the heat just before we got in the building so my parents gave up the cause and we watched the oprey show on TV in Dorrie’s air conditioned apartment. The old oprey building has been upgraded some since those days and now has air conditioning.

The following day we continued west with a brief stop in Clarksville, TN to say hello to the folks at the Airgas air separation plant. This month last year Manny spent the month in Clarksville, TN for the Airgas plant startup since he was responsible for the cold box designs. Also worth noting that this month last year Marsha was recovering from her partial knee replacement. She is doing remarkably well with all this biking and hiking and camping just one year later. Actually the day we went to the top of Clingman’s dome was her one year anniversary of the surgery.

Our next stop was The Land Between the Lakes national recreation area (LBL). This recreation area was created by dams built on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, however this area between the rivers was unique even before the dams. For many years these people did not know which state they lived in (KY or TN) and did not care until the Civil War broke out and they had to choose between the North or South. Manny’s father had heard campground storries of how wonderful this LBL was and always wanted to visit, but to my knowledge never got there. It is a very pretty area and certainly a fisherman and hunters paradise. We of course headed to the back roads for some bicycling. Althought there are lakes on both sides the land in between is anything but flat! Again the scenery was great from the bicycle, but so was the workout. We camped two nights and below are some camp site photos. The first night ws a bit cool (35 F at dawn), but the days warmed up nicely. We got a great sunset phote the second night.

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The LBL also has an elk and bison prairie which visitors are allowed to drive through. There were many close up views of the elk and bison as seen below. The shot of the mother nursing the apparent newborn bison was particularly good. As we all know the bison were nearly driven to extinction in North America, but now they number 250,000.

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There is also an observatory and a planetarium in the LBL and we watched a show on the IBEX (Interplanetary boundary explorer). The IBEX space probe is studying particles from the sun in an effort to determine the outer boundary of our solar system. The boundary of our solar system is no longer defined by the number of planets and per these studies the boundary is very irregular.

On Sunday morning we left the LBL and went to nearby Paducah,  KY where Marsha visited the National Quilt Museum. Each year the museum runs theme competition. This years theme was Jacob’s Ladder and on exhibit where many past quilts with this theme and the top 18 modern day interpretations from this years competition. There were many other quilts of artistic distinction including one from Pewaukee, WI and Havertown, PA. Marsha is determined to make a quilt of her own.

Today, Monday April 15th, we are again heading west to St Charles, MO to start a bicycle trip of about two weeks. We will head west on the Katy trail which follows the Missouri river and the Lewis and Clark Trail. After about a week on the trail we will circle back to St Charles via route US66.