Category Archives: Travels

Can you stamp my passport..

One of the things I’ve not mentioned on this trip is that I’m filling my “Passport”.    Not with international stamps, but stamps of the treasures right here in America!    You see the National Parks have a program called PASSPORT.    It’s really kinda like the Good Sam map and stickers or, collecting postage stamps.    So, part of my goal was to collect a few stamps along the way.

My Passport Book
You collect “cancellations” or even stamps can be bought for many places.

How many of you collect something?  Would you leave a comment about what you collect?  When you try and live a minimalist life this seemed to make sense.  I can collect memories of places without figuring out what to do with all those spoons and shot glasses.  😉

   So on the way to the Cumberland Gap we stayed one night on the New River…

Layla in the New River
You bet she jumped in as soon as she saw it!

We left here and on the way discovered what helps to control this river…DSCN2214DSCN2216



Trying to control Mother Nature is an important business here in the mountains where spring thaws can bring heavy flooding.

Move the short guard rail and then swing the gate across the highway. Just for scale my van is about 50 yards away.

There were gates like in this picture that can be closed to help direct the river’s flow away from population areas.   Traveling through West Virginia and into Kentucky I saw many things the Army Corps of Engineers have built to help protect the towns from flooding.  The town of Pineville, KY has gates on the west end of town and the east end.DSCN2212

Not only does the dam protect the towns below, it helps produce some beautiful scenes above.


Before I close this post, I want to say that I returned to my home base and found that I truly do have the best landlords ever.  (And not just ’cause they may read the blog)  It’s awfully hard today to find people that are just “good folks”.  So when you do, no matter where you are, tell them.  I met lots of people in the last two weeks and felt good about most of them, and the others I just smiled and went on.

So, now I’ve got to commit work starting Tuesday I hope that you all…

Get out, be safe, and go adventure.

Off the beaten path in search of camping/boondocking sites

comers rock roadsignThey ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie !!!

This road was not “that bad” for the first 3.5 miles, mostly washes along into and across the road.  But, that last half mile had a few pot-holes that rocked the pots and pans.

 comers sign


But we made it and glad we did, this is a great site and obviously far enough off the beaten path it had one other camper.

There were “honor boxes” for the $5 nightly fee.

The site is located in Virgina not very far from the junction of I-77 & I-81 near Wythville.  

Here’s a link to where this is located.!1033&query=sitedetails

We’re gonna review another site I found that was really a great place to stay.  This is Raccon Branch Camp.  Here’s a link… Racoon Branch Campground I don’t have any pictures of the camp to post because I got caught up listening to the music there.  The Lamberts Darrell told me he’s been making fiddles about ten years.  When I asked him what possessed him to go into fiddle-making his only answer was her.  You see about ten years ago when she started playing he bought her a fiddle, then decided he could make one.  Wow, that’s a lot of confidence!  I never realized that the top and the back of these are actually carved out and not somehow bent.DSCN2220

This thing is a work of art.  He starts the top and back with a piece of about 1/2″ thick wood.  Using knives, gouges, and little finger planes shapes the thickness down to about 2.3~2.5 thick.  The edge trim is actually three very thin pieces inlaid in the top.  And the back really highlights the grain.  Isn’t it beautiful?

DSCN2221Before ya go here’s more of the Lamberts…

Thanks for dropping by and leave a comment or two so I know you’ve been here.  Where to tomorrow?…. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

As always…

Get out, be safe, and go adventure.

Down the Parkway back in time.

Today we stepped back in time to the late 1800’s…

Brinegar placard
Click on the photo to enlarge and read.

This cabin is similar to many others built during this time in Appalachia.  I have always been fascinated at the construction use of available resources.  This cabin actually used rough-sawn lumber to cover the outside, and had a more finished appearance than many log cabins.

DSCN2173Like all other families in the area the Brinegar’s raised their own food for consumption and trade.  Their garden could have very well looked like this one with flax to make linsey-wooley and vegetables along with some medicinal plants that were sold to augment their income.


The flax was grown to be used in the loom for making cloth material for clothing.  The addition of wool is what turned this into a very tough and long lasting material called linsey-wooley.

Along with pole beans, turnips, squash, corn, and some herbs there may have been gourds planted to make dippers and containers from.

If they couldn’t make it or grow it, chances are they did not own it.

Click photo to read

That’s not to say they did not buy things much like you or I, they had incomes from things like the shoes Mr. Brinegar made.  But notice on the plaque here it reads he sold these for a dollar more or less, and he could make a pair in about two weeks.


Here are a couple of shots of DSCN2171the interior of the cabin and the spring house where they collected their drinking water and chilled perishables.






Many Appalachian homes did not have a spring house so close.  Some dug root cellars into the hillside for the constant temperature that provided.  And simply packed water from a spring or collected it in from the roof in a cistern.

The left side which was open is where they “drew water” from the spring.  Then inside there was a storage area set up to deter animals from getting in to their foodstuffs being chilled.  DSCN2175DSCN2179That’s why Layla could only find her way in to get a cool sip of water.  The slat wall behind her separated the food storage area.  I believe at one time this may have been rock lined as well.  The rocks would act as a thermal mass to hold the cool temperature of the water passing through.



As much as I hate to leave this time in our American past, I must return to the present and “drive on” back to the future…  (sorry, couldn’t help myself)


I will try and catch up some more posts tomorrow there are several things we discovered and want to share.

Until then be safe, get out, and go adventure.

From the highest point to a very low point…


From the height of Mount Mitchel to the depth of Linville Caverns the Blue Ridge Parkway really does have it all.

   Today I decided that I would like to visit a cave.  Now anybody that knows me understands that if there is a hole in the ground I gotta know what’s in there.


These caverns are a “live” limestone  cavern.  Which means there is water seeping into the cavern through the limestone.  This is a creek that actually joins up with some of the water flowing out of the cavern.

Let’s go see what’s inside…

But wait, about that sign, there’s actually very few bats in this cave.  The bats are seasonal and hibernate during the cooler months, not July.  We were told that the bat population has been exposed to the White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) and their numbers have fallen to perhaps less than 30 that use these caves.

So what’s almost as good as a bat???DSCN2107

How about a salamander?   As many caves as I’ve been into this is the first one I’ve actually seen.


There were also some trout in the cool cave waters.


Some of the flowstone formations were very unique and colorful.  The blues in this cave could be either from copper sulfate in the water or the mineral cobalt.

From Linville falls we returned to the Blue Ridge Parkway and more beautiful scenery.

This post is about two days behind I’m catching up tonight.  Last night was a  spot with NO service of any kind.  So tonight I elected to try and put together several posts.

Tomorrow, holds new destinations and new paths…

On to Mt. Mitchell, the highest place east of the Mississippi


To get to the highest point east of the Mississippi one is subjected to driving through some of the most stunning views also east of the Mississippi.

   The Blue Ridge Parkway has been called one of America’s roadway.  If the purpose of a roadway is to allow you to move from point “A” to point “B”, then that title does the Parkway no justice.  It not only moves you from a place to a place, but through time to from the present back to a past where America was free. 


We actually made the summit at Mt. Mitchell (with the help of Layla’s husky genetics, mush dog mush) on Wednesday.   The climb to the summit lookout was actually only 280yds of paved walkway.  Piece of cake compared to the mile and a half we hiked earlier in the day.



And what they say is true the view from the top of the world is spectacular.

DSCN2088One of the story boards along the Parkway points to the first 8000 acres purchased by the Forest service under the Weeks Act around 1920.  These acres had been deforested and lay in ruin due to timber being clear-cut during that time.  The Service began a “reforestation” project, and even experimented with planting other than just native trees and foliage.  Now, little more than 90 years later stands in that place a lush beautiful landscape.  Though it was destroyed by the hands of man it was returned to a beauty that represents  what we can accomplish. DSCN2062



   It’s hard to believe we had dropped almost a mile of elevation at this point looking back at the mount.  But the winding of the road gave hints that we were rapidly descending “from the mountaintop”. 

   I stayed in a campground last night in Marion, NC instead of boondocking somewhere.  For the cost of little more than a “truckstop shower” we were afforded a nice spot, electricity, wifi, and the hot shower!  That was a pleasant surprise, and much needed after traveling down route 226 from the Parkway.  I should have known how serious the road was when there was a sign warning trucks, “last chance to detour”.  I had to pullover into one of the “brake cooling ” spots for the trucks twice due to my brakes beginning to heat up and fade just a little.  More excitement for the trip.

Where will we go on today??

I don’t know just yet Layla’s still sleeping and I have not even looked at the map.

But, I’ll know when we get there.    😉


Just Shut Up and Grow It!



On the first leg of our July adventure Layla and I checked out an intentional community called “Shut Up and Grow iT”.

This was different than I had expected.  Having some experience with “community” groups years ago I thought what could be so different about this one?

This one is working!

(I’m going to try and tell the story of the place without invading the private lives of those that live here.)



Talking with Patrick about this place has been very easy since he’s so laid back in conversation even though he’s a ball of constant motion.  As I am writing this Patrick and others have gone to an auction to replace some of the chickens that were eaten by a dog.

This was the destiny of the land when it was purchased a few years ago. He says that the idea for a community was in the original purchase decision.  That vision and the journey to fulfill its’ destiny has kept Patrick busy and happy.  The idea of community with minimal “structure” is what attracts people here.  It’s the feeling of belonging without being hampered by all sorts of rules is what makes it work.  The few existing rules are just common sense things to allow for the freedom, privacy and safety of the community.  There are at this time somewhere between 12-15 adults living on the farm with what looks like about the same number of children.


Counting the children was like counting rabbits. Because this is a family group the kids are free to roam about play with the other kids and interact with everyone.



I was first struck by the gardens and the fact they are really building up community places.







There are two domes that are being built, one of which will be the teaching center.   Obviously the children will be educated here together.DSCN2026






The kitchen is where there are community meals prepared daily and shared at a large table together.  DSCN2022



The evening meal I joined them for was great and helping (a little bit) in that kitchen was fun and easy.  The cooking pit was very solid, check out the logs on the side!

DSCN2012 The “shower house” is fed from a large container up the hill that uses solar energy to heat water. The location up the hill provides enough “head pressure” to be a good working shower.  Simple is better, no pumps to fool with only gravity and the sun which always works.

After the meal folks gathered around and it was time to relax.  Someone commented how much it felt like a big family. I have to agree that was the same thing I was thinking.  This is a place that it will be what you want it to be, family or community.  There were those that stayed more to themselves, and then those that were more community minded.

At the start of this post I wrote a great deal about Patrick.  However, this truly is a result of everyone’s efforts.  It’s just that I learned so many names in such a short time,  I’m struggling to keep them all straight.  I’m going to have to be leaving soon to continue our travels,but you can bet this is a place I will be returning to in the future.  I want to take the time thank all the others for making me feel welcome, you guys would be a great family.