Journey to a Foreign Land.

It’s been almost four years since the last journey and many of you (right, my horde of followers) may have thought the old guy had simply faded away. The truth being, the last few years I kind of did just that. I’d lost the desire to take any journeys. Home became a cocoon, and in so many ways, I just shut down. I concentrated on gaining weight and embracing a sedentary life style (which I really excelled at). Perhaps that’s a side effect when one goes to the extreme in preferring security over excitement, comfort over adventure. I had stopped focusing on looking forward to what life was offering, and instead, began reminiscing on what it had already given.

After spending time as the reigning poster boy for bad living, I found myself more and more disliking the way it made me look and feel. I was embarrassed every time I looked in the mirror. I had become fat (gross morbidity), and had began to look and move old. Simple tasks required more and more physical effort. In short, I was a mess! Thankfully, I came to realize that giving up comes at a cost, and in a epiphany of sorts (not really, it just sounds good), I accepted it wasn’t a price that I was ready to pay.

Not my proudest moment.
So embarrassing.

Deciding to change (I found out) was the easy part, losing the weight and getting back into some semblance of shape (physical & mentally) took a commitment and dedication that did/does not come easy for me (I’m terminally lazy). But I was determined this time and so, I began a plan of action that included following the “Noom weight loss program” and getting in 10,000+ steps a day (had to work up to those numbers).

It took almost a year, but after sticking with “Noom” and religiously hitting 10,000+ steps per day, I reached a point where I had lost 80 pounds and could take the garbage container to the road and back without keeling over. As Frank Constanza (Seinfeld sitcom) said “I’m back baby’.

Plus, along with the physical changes came a renewed, invigorated mental outlook. I had been given a big challenge and I did it, I felt good about myself, I felt proud of what I had accomplished. This time I didn’t quit, I stuck with it and it paid off. Now I was ready to start living again.

I was back, now where to go? My first journey option was to take my 22’ Grand Design travel trailer I had bought during my metamorphosis down to Florida for the winter, similar to what I had done four years earlier.

It was going to be it’s inaugural trip.

I began planning the journey that I’d anticipated would be approximately five months. I did my research and reserved campsites for along the way. State parks in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, with most of the time to be spent there. I prepped the truck by buying new tires, and got everything I could packed in the bed just so.

I had put in hundreds of hours preparing for the journey and while it had been four years, I was still a little anxious about going. I think this was a residual effect from my recent past but even so, I was ready to hit the road.

The Wall Trump Built.

During his campaign of 2016, Donald Trump boasted of building a wall along the southern border, one that would stop people from coming into the U.S. and not only that, he promised that Mexico would pay for it. Forward to 2020, and while “The Wall” remains more fantasy than reality (in all fairness, some construction has been done), and Mexico has yet to write any checks, Donald Trump has kept his promise by the building of a second, far more insidious wall, the likes that may change the future of America. Not to worry about the cost of this wall though, he’s paid for it with the generous donations of hate and fear from those believing his message, and he’ll pay for its upkeep with America’s future. He’s built a wall not to keep us separated from others, but rather, to keep us separated from ourselves.

This second wall isn’t a tangible one. You can’t see or feel it. You can’t climb over, or tunnel under it, but it works just as effectively in keeping people out. It spreads north to south, coast to coast, leaving no corner of our nation untouched. Constructed not of steel and brick, but of rhetoric, and duplicity. Strengthened with the rebar of empty promises of safety and security for the privileged, and cemented with the demands of gratitude and servitude from the rest. Woven and tightened with conspiracies, and painted over with deceit. Donald Trump and his cadre have done a yeoman’s job building it. It’s a wall that will stand as the cornerstone of his legacy.

What will his legacy mean for America? Will this wall forever change who and what we are as a nation? Will it become a shield for those wanting to divide us as a people, as a society? Will it deafen us to empathy and understanding? Will it comfort us when there’s no one to reach out to in time of need? Will it show us the way in our darkest hours?

Will his legacy result in the end of American democracy (as we know it)? Democracy is a messy, intense, and at times, seemingly unfair process. To make it work, it takes all sides, listening to all voices, willing to work together. When it works, history has shown American democracy to be the envy of the world, It’s what Nations are founded on.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided will not stand.”

05/15/19 Tiptonville, TN-Iowa City, IA

DAY #207

Pretty quiet day on the journey. Got up early and guess what, yup, it was raining again. I was able to get packed up in between rain drops, and on the way by 9:00 am.

After driving for eight and one half hours (all freeway or expressway) and stopping three times for gas (avg. 11.1 mpg), I pulled into the motel in Iowa City, IA. where I proceeded to spend an exciting evening doing laundry and taking a shower, oh yeah, I also binged watched ‘Shark Tank’ on TV.

It is kind of nice not having to set the trailer up. I was able to find a place to park it (still attached to the truck) and fingers crossed it doesn’t get broken into or stolen (now that what be an interesting blog).

Driving down the interstate through Missouri.

Didn’t sleep that well last night so I’m looking forward to the sack time that I think I’ll be getting tonight.

I have to admit I’m getting a little anxious in getting back home.

I going to nominate today’s blog as perhaps the most boring daily blog I’ve written on the journey.

05/14/19 Tiptonville, TN

DAY #206

Last day in Tennessee and what a beautiful day it was. The sky’s had cleared and it was blue sky and sunshine. The temperature was around 70 degrees, by far the nicest day in my stay at Reelfoot Lake State Park.

After a lot of back and forth, I’ve decided that when leaving here tomorrow, I’ll be heading back to Osakis, the journey has entered it’s final leg. I had toyed with the idea of staying in Missouri for a few days, but in the end, I decided it was time to come home.

The plan is to leave the campground tomorrow morning and after a long, long day (much of it freeway), I’ll stay over at a motel in Iowa City, IA, and then continue on to Osakis the next day (after another long drive).

I decided to spend this last day just meandering around and seeing some of the sights the area has to offer.

As I was wandering around, I came upon the wildlife refuge and spent some time here.

He gave me the lowdown on what was happening in the refuge.
Actually got out of the truck and did some walking.
Saw a few cardinals but try and get a photo of those little guys, I think they like teasing me.
The back waters of Reelfoot Lake.

After leaving the refuge, did some more meandering around and came across some old Florida buddy’s.

Went down the line and look where I ended up.

And just like that, I was back where I started.

Heading back to the campground, I stopped at the boat ramp and took some better photos of the lake than the one’s from last Sunday.

Made it back to the campground, what a beautiful day it turned out to be.

05/13/19 Tiptonville, TN

DAY #205

Slept in late today, I was doing a lot of dreaming and just didn’t want to get up. One dream that I had, I want (and maybe need) to talk about.

I’ve had this dream quite often and it always leaves me feeling haunted. The dream goes something like this; Marcia (my deceased wife) has had an accident (never specified what kind) and as a result has suffered memory impairment. The scenario changes from dream to dream but her condition always remains the same and try as I may, she does not seem to love or want me anymore. The dream always involves me trying to bring back our relationship to where it once was, and always falling short, always failing. Why can’t I win her back? Why can’t it be the way it was?

Marcia was, is, and always will be the center of my life so walking away in the dream just isn’t an option, and to not have her love or be with me anymore leaves me when I wake from the dream, so sad, so empty.

Perhaps it’s guilt that fuels this recurring dream. Early in our relationship I disappeared for three months (that’s another story) and I think that hurt her deeply. Thank god she forgave me and took me back (divine intervention?). Through the course of our relationship (marriage), I was the spoiled, immature, irresponsible one that I know caused her stress and anxiety and god forbid, unhappiness. I never strayed, never lied (well, I did once, but I confessed to her before I could even finish the lie). As I said (and can’t say enough), she always has been the center of my life, and yet at times, I acted anything but that way.

Maybe it’s because I hurt her (emotionally) that conjures up this quilt? I never did it on purpose but nevertheless I did. Maybe it’s because she gave me life, and I gave her grief. Maybe because I’m where I’m at today because of her, and she’s where she’s at, that brings me this quilt?

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. My love for her and my commitment to her is as strong today as ever, There never was, and there never will be anyone else like her (at least for me).

I borrowed this photo from Marcia’s cousin Lisa.

I’m so sorry for the hurt I caused, I’m so sorry that I can’t tell her how bad I feel, maybe that’s where the quilt comes from?

I just hope that on that day, she’ll give me another chance to tell her.

05/12/19 Tiptonville, TN

DAY #204

Woke up early to get to the Visitor Center by 8:45 am and hop on the boat for a three hour cruise on the lake. Waking up and looking out at the cloudy, gloomy sky, I heard that little voice in my head talking to me loudly saying, It’s OK, go back to sleep, you can just blow this off. To my credit, I didn’t listen. I got up, dressed (warmly) and was underway. In addition to the overcast sky, it was only 54 degrees out. I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out.

Driving to the Visitor Center I was half hoping that the cruise would be cancelled but no, at 9;00 am we boarded the pontoon boat (two others plus myself) and off we went to see the sights of Reelfoot Lake.

It was gloomy and borderline cold but still, it turned out to be a positive experience and in the end, I’m glad I didn’t listen to that little voice.

Reelfoot lake is the only large natural lake in Tennessee. It covers 15,000 acres at an average depth of 5.5′. At it’s deepest, the lake is only 18′ feet. It was formed after a number of earthquakes (over 2000) in the region between 1811 & 1812.

Cypress trees dot the lake (in and around).
A couple of Osprey.
Some views from the lake.
A juvenile Bald Eagle.
Cutting through an island on the lake.
This device is used to dredge the canal through the island.

The lake is a hot spot for fisherman. Even on this gloomy, overcast day there were people out in their boats.

Another photo of a Juvenile Bald Eagle. A little hard to see.

After getting off the lake I thought about stopping somewhere to have lunch. Being it was Mother’s Day that Idea was quickly squashed, every place I went had people waiting to get seated. I headed back to the trailer and had some hot dogs and chips. Spent the rest of the day hanging out at the campsite.

Even with it being cold, gloomy, and in the afternoon a little rainy, it was a good day. I got to see a couple of Osprey and Eagles.

05/11/19 Tiptonville, TN

DAY #203

Watched last evening as the campground filled up with trailers, RV’s, and boats. kind of surprised considering the weather this weekend doesn’t sound like it’s going to be very nice. In fact, waking up this morning it was damp, cold, and raining (not heavy just steady).

By the looks of it, this is a big time lake for fishing, and with all the resorts in the area, a super popular spot in the summer.

Headed into Dyersburg, TN, to get a haircut. Dyersburg is about twenty-five south of Tiptonville. Leaving Tiptonville, the area is flat and fields, as you get closer to Dyersburg, the landscape changes and the terrain gets hillier and more tree covered.

After getting my haircut, I headed into downtown to see and get a feel of what the city was at one time. Today, there’s a freeway running along the edge of town and that’s where all the new development is going on. As I’ve said on a number of posts, with this development what were seeing is late 20th century- 21st century America modern. A style and architecture which is culturally sterile and only serves to further the homogenization of the country. I don’t like it!

Lake County Courthouse.

A few other buildings noticed in my meandering around town.

It’s been renovated but still retains it bones from a time past.

Finally, some of the housing stock in the old part of the city.

It was neat being able to get a glimpse of the past in Dyersburg, now it’s back to reality. Stopped at Walmart and Chick-Fil-A, and then back to the campground. Who knew that getting a haircut could be so much fun.

05/10/19 Tiptonville, TN

DAY #202

The big accomplishment today was to go into Union City, TN and have maintenance done on the truck. Just a oil/filter change and tire rotation, plus a quick check over. I think it’s important to keep up maintenance on the vehicle contrary to what some may think. My dad used to say if it isn’t broke, leave it alone. You can do it that way but don’t be surprised when something suddenly goes wrong and pow, big $$$ to repair. Wow, I’ve put over 16,500 (trouble free) miles on the truck so far this trip and it’s not over yet (fingers crossed).

The ride into Union City took about forty minutes from the campground. Going there I took the long way which involved taking a lot of twisting and winding roads.

After getting the truck serviced, I headed back towards the campground. I detoured a bit and went into and around Tiptonville. I wanted to see what the Mississippi was looking like since I heard there has been some flooding.

You can see a barge going downstream on the Mississippi.
I saw a bald eagle down by the river but it was too far away to get a photo.

Tiptonville sadly has become like so many small towns, it’s best days seem to be behind them. Still if you look, you can see what it once was, and I can find a degree of satisfaction in that.

Another rainy day in NW Tennessee.
The church dates from 1860.
Lake County Courthouse.
I like this sign. It tells of another time (no pun intended).
Some examples of the homes in town.

Probably the biggest thing about Tiptonville is that it’s the boyhood home of Carl Perkins. Perkins was an early rock-n-roller, most famous for the song ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’

The area outside Tiptonville is flat and farmland. It’s protected from the river by a levee that seems to be working fairly well.

Driving on top of the levee.
That’s the levee on the right.
The areas had a lot of rainfall this spring and like the campground, the soil is saturated.
Not sure what kind of crop this is but sure looks to be growing well.

After my drive around the area, headed back to the campground. Along the way, I stopped at the Park Visitor Center and signed up for a three hour lake cruise for Sunday 5/12/19. The weather promises to be cool and cloudy (Yea), but I’m hopeful it will still be an enjoyable time. I guess it’s what you make of it (hope I don’t have to keep repeating that all day on the cruise). Once back at the site, spent the rest of the day just hanging out.

05/09/19 Tiptonville, TN

DAY #201

It rained pretty much all last night and into the morning. Thankfully there weren’t any severe storms, so outside of a soaked campground, things appear OK and YES!!! no leaks noticed in the trailer (always a good thing)

The area was flooded earlier this spring.
The ground remains saturated.
So it doesn’t take much to get standing water.

When I first stepped out of the trailer this morning I saw that someone (or something) had left me a house warming gift.

That’s right, a dead fish.

The other campers around seem pretty friendly, and I even spent a little time interacting with them while we were helping a camper park his big 5th wheel into a rather tight site. After a few minutes of conversing I’d had enough (not in a bad way). Try as I may, I’m just not much of a people person. A couple of things I did find out in talking with the folks which I thought interesting, some of the cypress trees in the area are over 200 years old, and a couple saw two otters down by the lake. I’ll have to check that sighting out.

A view of the lake from my campsite.
Some Cypress trees.

About all I accomplished yesterday other than working on the blog (it’s so easy to get behind) was to go try some BBQ at a place just down the road. They didn’t have any brisket (beef) so I got a half rack of ribs. It was OK, but nothing to write home about. One thing that I finally decided on, I’m just am not a pork eater (think we’ve heard that before).

Noticing a lot of robins around the campground. I love watching them go around looking for and pulling worms out of the ground when they find one. I never tire of watching them.

Looks like a change in the weather is coming. The temperature is going to drop and the sky’s will remain cloudy and gloomy.

Even with the so-so weather, I’m enjoying the place.

05/08/19 Rogersville, AL-Tiptonville, TN

DAY #200

Woke up this morning before the alarm went off and while still laying in bed, I was looking out through the screen door. It was warm last night so I kept only the screen door shut, As I was looking out, the male cardinal landed on a branch where I could see him and there he stayed for a short time singing away. it was almost like he was saying goodbye, and letting me know that he was looking out for me. It reminded me of the first day when the female cardinal came by and did the same thing. I don’t think I could have had a better send-off. Of course by the time I got set up to get a photo, off he went. Oh well, I’ll just have to keep getting that special photo of a cardinal on my list of things to do.

Another five hour day on the road so it was up early (8:00 am). Getting the trailer ready to travel went smooth, it was really convenient that the camp site had a sewer connection, so dumping the black and grey tanks was a snap. One thing I noticed while staying in Alabama State Parks, they have pretty good amenities and overall, their parks are kept up quite well. Once packed up and ready to go, it was onward and upward to the next destination, Reelfoot Lake State Park just outside Tiptonville, TN.

The drive was pretty uneventful (no flat tires or breakdowns) which I’m always thankful for. The roads started out by being a series of relatively narrow, winding, and early on, up and down (pretty hilly) roads where I averaged about 45-50 mph. Once into Tennessee, the roads began to become straighter and flatter and there were more four-lane expressways (one step below freeway level). The drive was quite a bit easier with speeds of 60-65 mph. it worked out pretty good, even though I really enjoy the narrow, slow going roads, they can and do get tiring to drive after a while, so it was a nice relief to just set the cruise and go.

A couple of highlights on the drive was going through the town of Savannah, TN. It was in this area that the Civil War battle of Shiloh was fought. Not far from Savannah, I went through the town of Adamsville, which is the home of Bufford Pusser, the sheriff depicted in the ‘Walking Tall’ movies. I could have stopped and gotten some photos but towing the trailer for me is cumbersome to maneuver around (of course seeing people do it with 5th wheel trailers, Class A motor-homes, etc, make this somewhat of a lame excuse). The biggest reason for not stopping was time, so I saw what I could and moved on.

The final twenty five miles of the trip was an adventure . the iPad map app had me going down some pretty sketchy roads. They were uber narrow without lines and seemed to be little more than farm roads, although they were paved (and straight). In fact, I spend a couple miles going down one of them behind a big (really big) tractor, the kind used to spray the fields. The area was composed largely of farm fields dotted with blocks of trees, something that’s been a while since I’ve seen. It was neat to see farmers in their tractors working a number of the fields.

I did come across a sight that had me do a double take while driving down one of those way back roads. I came by a bunch of donkeys in a pasture, I thought that was cool in its own right but then there it was, in among all the donkeys was a zebra. Thinking back, I probably should have gotten a photo so I don’t get a lot of; yeah, sure you saw a zebra in Tennessee.

Finding the campground turned out to be a bit of an effort. The park is broken up into a number of areas around the lake. There’s a couple of day use areas, a boat ramp area, and a museum, in addition to the campground. After driving up and down the road for awhile, I finally found the campground.

Checked in and found out that I was at the South Campground and my reservation was for the North Campground. I had known this when I made the reservation but I thought that both areas were located in the same general vicinity. Man was I wrong, it seemed the North Campground was about 15 miles away, so after getting instructions on how to get there, off I went.

The drive to the North Campground took me away from the lake and for the most part, civilization in general, man I was out in the sticks. About the only sign of civilization was a large prison complex about a quarter mile off the road. Along the way I saw a sign informing me of a wildlife refuge which was located in Kentucky was fifteen miles down the road, I didn’t know I was that close to the border. I finally found the place and while I was OK with it even with it being so isolated, it did not have any Verizon service (hardcore camper I ain’t), I couldn’t even make a phone call. At this point, I guess I’ve been spoiled by the niceties which included Verizon service and a somewhat close proximity to shopping, etc. Since I had no cell service, I just headed back to the South Campground, explained my concerns, and was able to get a campsite within the grounds. I was relieved and very thankful.

Setup the trailer and I was home for the next week. The site is level and water/power hookup seem good. The site has a nice view of the lake and yes, decent Verizon service. OTA TV reception was limited to three channels but I do have Amazon Prime and Netflix (I watched Cool Hand Luke last night).

The weather looks to be rainy and possibly stormy for the next couple of days and the temperature is set to drop. That wont be all bad since today was almost ninety degrees and humid.

I made it to the destination and got settled in, all is right in my world for tonight. I’m thankful.