Click on picture to read Chaco's poems

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Waiting Game Begins Again

We have been back in Dallas for a few days now and are staying at the WE CARE HOUSE in Arlington for now. This is the place we stayed last time Sheila had to have chemo treatments. Yesterday we went to the Arlington Cancer Center and had her lab work and bone marrow biopsy done all over again since the lab botched her last biospy before we left to drive north to the Appalachian Trail. It was heartbreaking not to be able to get back on the AT after getting so close. only to turn around and drive 1500 mile back to Texas. We tried to have a good time on the drive back and followed the coast to see some new sights and the oil slicked beaches of the Gulf, but with a new worry hanging over our heads it was difficult to make the best of it. We are supposed to hear from Dr. DiStefano tomorrow for some preliminary results, then the final vedict in about 8 more days. So we are stuck here in limbo waiting.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cafe Du Monde New Orleans

Yesterday morning we left Slidell, LA and headed for New Orleans. Toesocks just had to have a Cafe Au Lait and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde on Decater Street in the French Quarter. Being Saturday we knew it would be a packed house and being late June we also knew it would be a sauna down in the French Quarter. So off we headed about 1030 AM as the temps climbed to about 92 degrees. The original Cafe Du Monde was started in the French Market in 1862. It is still open 24 hours a day everyday except Christmas and whenever an occasional hurricane passes through! The dark roasted coffee with hickory is served black or Au Lait, meaning mixed half and half with hot milk. Beignets are french style donuts covered with a thick layer of powered sugar. They also serve iced Cafe Au Lait and so Toesocks and I ordered one of each and three beignets. We normaly shy away from fancy tea and coffee shops and go for plain DD or McDonald's but this is one place you just cannot pass by. The place was just jammed packed with hot sweaty people, the few empty tables that people were scrambling for were still covered with powdered sugar and dirty napkins and coffee cups from the previous customers and it ws every man for himself to get a table. There was a long line going down the street but we just went right into this open air cafe and luckily found a still dirty table that we promptly grabbed for ourselves! We still do not know why there was a  line as it was clearly seat yourself. Maybe these were all people on their first visit to NOLA? After we had our iced and hot cafe' and beignets we decided to walk around Jackson Square and also a block or two to see street performers and artists. Again it was jam packed with people spilling into the street from the densely crowded sidewalks as we pushed our way through the masses and into a bookstore to cool off. Inside Toesocks found a kid's book by a local author that was autographed and was about a giraffe that visits New Orleans. She has been collecting these signed children books almost everywhere we travel for her Grandaughter Maize. She must have quite acollection by now. When the crowd and the heat got to be too much we went and found Farkus waiting down by the waterfront and headed off to check out Avery Island next.

 Cafe Du Monde
Jackson Park

Buggy Tours of French Quarter

Artist's work and bike

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Apalachicola, Florida to the Mobile Bay Ferry

Well I have lost track of the days as we continue on our quest to drive from Virginia to Texas sticking as close to the coast as possible and only using the interstate when we need a cheap motel for the night. After leaving Jekyll Island, Georgia we continued on to Jacksonville, Florida for the night before we headed west to the Gulf. I wondered how bad the oil spill was going to be and if we would see any unspoiled beaches along the way. First we had to get across the north of Florida and that meant getting on I-10 and just doing 70MPH while seeing nothing but malls, fast food and billboards. We hate the interstate! We were both tired and in no big hurry so we stopped for the night in Madison, Florida with the idea the motels would be cheaper than in Pensacola, and we were right. Thunderstorms with flashes of lightning all the way at least gave us something to look at in instead of the urban sprawl and the traffic. The next morning we set off for Pensacola and the Gulf Coast. We set the GPS for the roads right along the coast and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama right beside the water. pelicans flew right alongside the car as we passed over bridge after bridge. We thought we saw protesters as we breezed through downdown Pensacola but gave it no thought until we started seeing all the work camps and buses of temp workers heading to and from all the beaches. We stopped in Perdido Key just long enough to buy some postcards and a sticker for Farkus' roof box then passed right through Gulf Shores, Alabama on a narrow spit of land that would take us to Fort Morgan and the ferry that would get us across Mobile Bay. The beaches were closed and flying double red flags as we passed through Orange Beach and we started noticing that there were no tourists around at all! All the resorts and motel parking lots were full of work crews and heavy equipment for people cleaning up the beaches. As far as we could tell the beaches were not all covered with oil and looked pretty good to us. We saw none of the oil booms that we watched on TV everynight. When we reached the ferry landing we were lucky to get in the second line of cars on the marked  loading spots so we knew we would fit on the first ferry to arrive. The temp had to be one hundred degrees and we gathered with all the other waiting passengers in the shade of one of the massive oaks near the shore. Offshore there were lots of oil or gas platforms and alarms seemed to be going off on the one nearest to the ferry landing. No one seemed concerned though. The ferry showed up right on time and we drove Farkus onto his first ferry ride. Farkus had been running great the whole trip and we thought he might like the treat of a new oil change and a ferry ride! The ride was about 40 minutes to the other side and it was nice and breezy as we walked around the ferry. One the other side we checked out anothe old fort but decline the tour charge and continuted on to Pascagula, Mississippi.  Again we hugged the shore along US90 and drove through Biloxi and Gulfport, Long Beach and Pass Christian. Here we started noticing not only oil booms but miles and miles of beachfront houselots for sale with nothing on them but empty slabs. Hurricane Katrina!! Five years later and all you ever hear of was New Orleans. Biloxi and Gulfport looked like they had almost been wiped off the map as well and now five years later they are just now fixing the beaches, parking lots, sidewlaks and roads. A big number of houses are ...well...just gone! Last night we again got on I-10 to find a cheap motel and stayed in Slidell, Louisiana just north east of New Orleans.

Toesocks looking for hermitcrabs on Carrabelle Beach

Hermits in the tide pools

Shopping in Apalachicola, Florida

The Mobile Bay Ferry

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hardeeville, SC to Jekyll Island, GA

"live with intention. walk to the edge. listen hard. practice wellness. play with abandon. laugh. choose with no regret. continue to learn. appreciate your friends. do what you love. live as if this is all there is!"

-Mary Anne Radmacher

Yesterday we left Hardeeville, South Carolina and headed back to the coast on 17 toward  Savannah Georgia. On the way we stumbled upon the smallest church in the USA. It was right alongside the road set back in the woods, surrounded by towering spanish moss covered oaks. We almost missed it, but Toesock's sharp eye spotted it and she said, "Hey,  did you see that?". We turned right around and were soon glad that we did. It was no bigger than a garden shed , about 10 x 15 feet and was built in 1949 by a local grocer named Agnes Harper. She had limited  funds and was told by the locals that she could not afford the kind of chapel that would do justice to God. She did it anyways and wrote the deed in the name of Jesus Christ and invited everyone to her bargin sized house of prayer. Mrs. Harper installed stain glass windows from England and the folding chairs (pews) have fold away knee rests. There is even a  glass star in the roof that lets the light in.

Toesocks in a church and it was'nt stuck by lightning!
Toesocks leaving a donation
After we visited the church we headed south on 17 hugging the coast and avoiding anything that looked like a freeway toward Savannah, Georgia. After driving on some very small backroads we came to a slightly larger road but still not what I would call a freeway and soon were on the beautiful Sidney Lanier Bridge just before the causeway to Jekyll Island. We had never heard of Jekyll Island and even though it was near 100 degrees and  very humid we decided to check it out. We soon came to a Visitor's Center and found out that the island used to be a sort of Millionaires Club back in the 19 century with plantations and a fort. It now was a tourist stop with nice beaches, historic buildings and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. We had a good long  walk on the beach and I even went in for a dip. Then we checked out a book store that was housed in the old Infirmary and the incredible sea turtle hospital.


Toesocks finds a Horsehoe crab

Inside the turtle hospital
Turtle in Surgery

Turtle in rehab tank-
note patches on shell

                                                                    Loggerheads still nesting on island


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Making the Best of Things in The Low Country

I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks."

                               [Daniel Boone]
Here we are now in Hardeeville South Carolina making our way back to Texas and trying to stay off the Interstate and hug the coastline as much as possible. Since leaving Elizabeth City North Carolina we have been to North Carolina's Outer Banks and saw the Wright Brother's Memorial and Nags Head, Kill Devils Hills and Roanoke Island. On Roanoke Island we visited the museum there that had all the history of the Lost Colony and Virginia Dare the first English baby born in the New World. We got to go onboard a replica of the Elizabeth II and were entertained by "crew" in period costumes who even spoke to visitors in the Old World English and told us all about their long voyage to the New World. Then we toured the Indian Village and Settlement complete with working carpenter and blacksmith shops! Again all the people were in period clothing and spoke the Old English. The blacksmith was intriqued by the 160 year old square "cut" nail I wore around my neck on a string and I explained to him how I had pulled one out of the old house we were raised in for myself and my sisters to have as a memento. He then got his forge blazing and made me a square nail from stock he had "brought with him on his voyage from England" and  made a nail like they would have used in the first colony. We watched as he heated the iron stock red hot and then hammered and cut it with five facets on the nail head. It was really some thing to see it made and then he demonstrated how it would hold in wood even better than a modern round nail! Then next day we headed for Myrtle Beach and the Crystal Coast. The traffic along that bit of the coast was bumper to bumper with college age kids heading to all the hotels and beaches so we just pushed on down 17 until we hit Georgetown and got another great motel room at the Jameson Inn for 49 bucks! Today we headed for Savannah Georgia but decided to stop for the night in Hardeeville South Carolina because motels here are only 30-40 dollars and we also thought we might drive into Beaufort and Hilton Head in the morning and see what they have to offer. Today we hit a stretch of 17 that was called The Sweetwater Basketweavers Highway and we soon found out why. This part of South Carolina is near the Santee River and Delta (you might remember this name from the movie The Patriot) and it is where many freed slaves settled after the Civil War and also hid out during  the war. The highway was lined with wooden shantys selling woven baskets made with sawgrass from the local salt-marshes and sold by decendants of slaves that still live in the area. On some of the sea islands here there are still people who live poor and simple lives fishing and farming and making baskets who speak Gullah a language combining English with a West African influence. There are also many old plantations in the area that are open to tours. We may stop at one tomorrow because we read that the plantation owner planted over 400 live oaks on both sides of the road over 250 years ago and they are now huge and draped with spanish moss on the two miles into the plantation! This is all called the South Carolina Low Country and you could spend quite some time here just exploring all the old history.

Toesocks hitching a ride with Wilber on the Outer Banks
Chaco trying to hollow out a dugout canoe with an oyster shell...they REALLY did this!
Toesocks removing the hair from a deerhide again...with ONLY an oyster shell...there was no metal in the New World then.
Toesocks on board the Elizabeth II

Friday, June 11, 2010

Whisper Hill Farm

Chaco outside the USMC museum

"Like one that on a lonesome road
 Doth walk in fear and dread,
 And having once turned round walks on,
 And turns no more his head,
 Because he knows a frightful fiend
 Doth close behind him tread."
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  First an update as to why we had to cancel our planned AT hike. The day we left Sunny & Share's we had visited the ATC in Harper's Ferry and were on our way to the AT Museum in PA., the doctor called and said for us not to get on the trail. The bone marrow biopsy was botched by the lab by putting some samples into the wrong fluid. They did find in some tests that they had previously done that her marrow showed 10% blast. The doctor said that all her prior blood work in Dallas had only showed 2% blast and that it could be normal blood cell rejuvenation. The doctor said we would need to be back to the Cancer Center within 1-2 weeks for another biopsy and then they would know where to go from the new results. So now we are slowly making our way back to Dallas to begin these tests and/or treatments.
   While we were at Whisper Hill Farm we had the best time with James and Holly (Sunny & Share). Some of the things we did was pull weeds in the fields, pick different veggies, hand wash them, stake tomato plants spread chicken maure fertilizer and wire the barn with new lighting. We got to see how much work starting and running an organic vegetable farm really is. Both of us were sore from all the bending and leaning over while picking and weeding! We also went to the farmers market and helped Holly set up her booth and we got to see what a professional job she does with the customers, the display and with educating her customers on some of the more rare veggies you dont see in markets everyday, like chard. They have created a unique and interesting life for themselves in Virginia with nothing more than a dream and lots and lots of hard work! We look forward to the next time we can visit them and see how the farm changes and improves over time.
   Right now we are in Elizabeth City, North Carolina at an Econo Lodge Motel. Tomorrow we plan to go to the Outer Banks and explore the barrier islands as we make our way south along the coast as close to the Atlantic as we can. Earlier today we left the motel in Hampton, Virginia where we satyed last night and drove to Norfolk and just caught the Tall Ships Parade on the Elizabeth River at the start of a three day festival there. There were thousands of people lined up along the banks and food booths and even a retriever dog competition. We watched all the ships pass by and then had chicken on a stick, roasted corn on the cob and lemon-aid. The weather was beatiful and it all helped to take my mind off of the change of plans the doctor's report has caused. us. Yesterday as we drove south out of PA and back into Virgina we happened to pass right by the Marine Corps Museum near DC, so of course I had to go in and check that out. Tomorrow we hope to get to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and see the wild Spanish Mustangs living on the undeveloped north end of the islands. There are many free ferrys and a couple bridges from island to island, so it should be another interesting day.
            James and Holly's 1930 Farmhouse
Morning View out the bedroom window
The cows next door
Holly & Sheila picking scallions
Hand washing the lettuce
Steve & James staking tomatos
Happy the picking is done!
Sheila & Holly at the Farmers Market

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Virginia Creeper Trail

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up them and coast down them. –ERNEST HEMINGWAY, US writer, 1899—1961

Today we rode rented bikes and completed the 34 mille VCT ( Virginia Creeper Trail). It is called the "creeper" from back in the days when trains carrying iron ore and lumber would struggle to make it up the steep grade from Damascus to White Top , making lots of noise and steam they had to creep up the inclines. Before it was a railroad line it was a route that Daniel Boone used as part of his Wilderness Road he blazed on the way to Kentucky and before that it was used by Indians as a trade route. It has been called the most beautiful trail in the country and after riding it today I  would have to agree! We rode mostly downhill for the first 17 miles down into Damascus, Virginia following beautiful rivers and creeks, over many trestles and through cool green tunnels with blooming Mountain Laurels. Along the way there are old restored train stations that sell colds drinks, hot dogs, ice cream and postcards for the thousands of people on horses, bikes and hiking the Creeper. We stopped in Damascus  for a break and rest at the very park where we had visited when we hiked through Damascus on our 2008 AT hike. It was great to be back and we even saw a few thru-hikers passing by making their own way to Maine. Shortly after leaving Damascus the trail started heading uphill on its way to the tiny town of Alvarado and then ending back in Abingdon. Now the real work began as we were really spent and it was still 17 miles back to the bike shop and Farkus our car! Since we have been travelling we have not been riding our bikes often and it showed! We did manage to get the bikes back to the shop just before they closed and now we knew why most of the riders in our shuttle van opted to only go as far as Damascus and catch a shuttle back to Abingdon. We wanted to do the whole Creeper and we did it!

Sheila at the Bike Shop in Abingdon
The Green Cove Station at Mile marker 30.5
Toesocks happy riding downhill!
Wanna race that Nag???
Leaving Damascus 17 miles to Abington to go
One of the almost 100 bridges we crossed
Yes Sheila we must get back on these bikes!
An old barn trailside
End of the trail back in Abingdon
                                                                                    Glad to return the bikes!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dallas to Malvern,AR. to Cookeville, TN.

"The Road goes every on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say."
     - J. R. R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings

Well we left Dallas yesterday right after Sheila's doctor checkup. The check up went good, by that I mean her blood counts are all great but they did a flow cytometry lab and they noticed some BLAST in her blood (2%) but it could all be normal regenerating marrow. The only way to know for sure is the bone marrow biopsy, so thats what she had and we will know the results in 10 days. So...we are still planning to hike the trail and visit friends and family and will deal with the news once we know what it is.
   Yesterday we drove as far as Malvern, Arkansas and got our usual budget motel from the ROOM SAVER book and it was a very bad place with Jeffery Dalmer lookalikes hanging around outside and ghetto cruiser cars with flat tires sitting outside the rooms right alongside the upscale status symbol carts littered about the place. The room was clean though....and "remodeled" meaning they painted it.....once... a long time ago...and the newly cut oversized patches of sheetrock that was just screwed to the walls covering holes....made by.....well who knows what went on there.....police SWAT team or DEA raids?? The bathroom was clean even though the tub faucets were loose pipes sticking out of the wall, but the water pressure was better than in some high dollar motels I have been in and I had a good shower....wearing my CROCS on my feet the whole time! The night was mostly quiet and we only got up a couple of times to make sure Farkus was not molested out in the parking lot and went right back to sleep after I propped a chair under the room's door knob! We passed on the free breakfast in the morning but did manage to say good morning to Charlie Manson who was just leaving the banquet room as we walked across the street to McDonald's. Then we headed to Tennessee! Now we are in another $32 room in Cookville, Tennessee, but this time we were amazed by the difference! Green mountains all around us in place of purple cars with giant shiny rims and flat tires. Not one shopping cart to be found. A nice outside patio with table and chairs for each room with a view of the mountains in place of and old beer cooler with a view of the motel dumpster! What a difference one new state can make...and Virginia is next!! We plan to make it to Damascus tomorrow and then on Saturday we want to bike the entire 34 mile Virginia Creeper Trail.
(  <------Click on this link to check it out!
   Then then the plan is to drive up to Rapidan, VA on Sunday or Monday and see Sunny & Share (James & Holly) on their new farm, Whisperhill! They just started their own organic farm this year and though we saw it just as they were moving in we cannot wait to see all the work they have out into the house and farm! Maybe we can even work a day or two with them and get our hands dirty and learn something about organic farming! We are not sure how long we can visit Sunny and Share as we know they are very busy witht he farm and markets but will next head to sister Sue's home in Trumbull, CT. and get ready to finish the AT. We have a 10 day period to sweat out waiting on the Doctors lab results but feel confident all will be well and we can start hiking again! Sue and her son Chase...who now I think go by the trail names Little Feet  and Crooked Toes will be joining us on the trail about the 27th of June. What a fantastic thing to be joined on the AT by your sister and nephew and get to show them about life on the trail!! Stay tuned......what an adventure it will be!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Song of the Open Road!!!


"From this hour, freedom!

From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the hold that would hold me."

                   -Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road