Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Monday, May 27, 2013
Saturday, May 25, 2013
A Kentucky National Park
While boasting the world's longest cave system, the surface area of this national park covers more than 80 square miles.
No one knows how big the underside is. So far, more than 365 miles of the five-level cave system have been mapped and new cave systems are continuously being discovered.
Two layers of stone underlie Mammoth's hilly woodlands. A sandstone and shale cap, as thick as 50 feet in places, acts as an umbrella over limestone ridges. The umbrella leaks at places called sinkholes, from which surface water makes its way underground, eroding the limestone into a honeycomb of caverns.
Most visitors see the eerie beauty of the caverns on some of the 10 miles of passages available for tours. Rangers dispense geological lore and tell tales about real and imagined happenings 200 or 300 feet down. The tours are hikes inside the Earth.
A popular demonstration done on many cave tours is to have the visitors seated or standing still while the ranger turns the lights off. It's hard to imagine absolute darkness. I suppose dunking your head in a barrel of black ink comes close.
Nearly 500,000 folks tour the cave system annually. Sue and I enjoyed our visit while returning to Ohio after four months of snow-birding in Vero Beach, FL. We had swung west of our usual route and added the states of Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky to our list of states in which we have geocached.
I-65 northerly from Birmingham rolled past the park's entrance after our overnight in Bowling Green, KY entroute Louisville and I-71 home.
Cave tours range from the least arduous, a 1/4 mile Frozen Niagara tour to the most difficult, a five mile, six hour belly crawing Wild Cave tour. If you try that one you will have a clear understanding of the meaning of spelunking!
That's Sue in the top photo as we leave the visitor's center for the staging area of the bus ride to our cave tour's entrance. The middle photo shows the vastness of some chambers that have been hollowed out by gently seeping to wildly flowing water over geologic time.
The bottom photo shows a delightful example of flowstone where calcium has hardened into the shape of the flowing water that created it.
This one should be on your bucket list!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
AN EARLY RECORD RIDE--
We rumbled our bikes into the parking lot of the little mom and pop restaurant in Millwood that recent morning and passed some customers evidently wary of our presence. The likelihood of danger from we strange bikers was mitigated, however, when the collective quantity of our gray hair became obvious.
"Pshew," one of the customers chuckled when Ken joked with his favorite tale about us setting out that morning looking for some rival bikers' clubhouse then choosing, instead of that potential ribaldry, to enjoy the local, blue-plate special.
We had ridden from Bellville through Butler and Mohican State Park, turned south on SR 3 to Jelloway then sluiced our way through the hilly curves of SR 205 through Danville to Millwood.
The weather was perfect, the route was made for motorcycles and the breakfast was dandy.
I could really get to like this I mused silently; my first outing with Ken Johnson (right above) and his longtime pal--and brother-in-law--Dick Stauffer. A saddlebag full of years ago, Ken met Dick's sister Joanne and proposed marriage to her on their first date. The rest as they say is happy history.
We chuckled our good-byes to our new friends at Millwood and rode back through Danville to Brinkhaven for the above photo. That's Ohio's longest covered bridge in the upper background. Our plan to head on to Killbuck and Glenmont was thwarted by a detour on US 62 so we headed north on OH 514, a local road that deserves to wear the crown of a state scenic highway.
My status as a rookie rider was evident when I failed to anticipate the slick little wave with which riders salute each other in passing. Twice. Cyclists simply drop their left hand slightly below the handlebar with the palm extended flatly and flick their wrist.
You can be sure I didn't miss any more of those the rest of the ride.
In Greer we turned left and headed up the Wally Rd, toward Loudonville, another scenic dandy which was paved the last time I had passed by. That day we encountered gravel soon after Greer and had long stretches of that cycling treachery.
Can you imagine roller skating on a floor covered with ball bearings?
I was leading that segment of the ride, dropped into granny gear and eased gently along with my heart in my mouth each time a tire would ricochet through especially loose and often muddy stones. We stopped a couple of times to consider our alternatives but rode that stretch safely and ultimately concluded it was a good baptism of experience for yours truly.
As we said our "good byes" in the Bellville area I noted I had 85 miles on the cyclometer so I whistled by my home road and continued down Rhinehart to Possum Run to SR 95 to Butler and back to my home road; rolling down my driveway with105.2 miles clicked into the log book.
Made me feel like I want to live forever.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
This blog story began life as an email to my sons, my daughter and my ladyfriend. It mentions part of a day during the first week of my first-ever ownership of a motorcycle; a 2008 Honda Shadow Spirit 750cc shaft driven sizzler with but 5920 miles on it's cyclometer. I bought it in early May just days after Sue and I returned from four months of snowbirding in Florida.
That's it above in its first official portrait along a rock garden wall in my front yard driveway. You notice, of course, the sexy blue mood lights beneath the seat and under the tank. Half afraid to ride it anywhere at night where the chicks are gathering for the hunt.
I won't be safe until they discover the driver, of course, and not the bike qualifies for antique license plates.
* * *
email from: firstname.lastname@example.org
to: bwolf, cwolf, tjwolf and S.Brooks
Life gives you a bonus afternoon once in awhile and today (5/14) was one of those. I hopped on my new ride and headed up to Brian's digs for his first peek at my little blue treasure. After a suitable amount of "ooooohs" and "ahhhhhs" the lawnmower went in the garage, his big Yamahauler came out and we trundled south on US 42 in loose formation, turned east on Hanley Rd., and made our next course change in Lucas.
Rolled east a bit on SR 39 then north on SR 603; headed to the boat dock area at Charles Mill Lake to check on their recently launched pontoon boat. Good a reason as any for a motorcycle ride.
My confidence seems to make my age ignore itself as the hilly, curvy, fun-making miles roll up behind us. What a nice feeling knowing the rider in the slot is one's oldest son who is likely as amazed as his dad that this episode has blossomed in our rapidly advancing years.
From the boat park we sluiced west on SR 430, meandered through Mansfield and dropped our next anchor at Sue's condo off S. Main St., near Cook Rd. Brian and I smiled at the occasion's conclusion and shared a mutual hope for many more. Soon.
From there Sue and I wandered down to our home golf course--Kelly's of the miniature variety across from the grown-up Possum-Run links--where we purchased season tickets and I promptly lucked my way to a par round for this season's first 18 holes.
Somehow visions of Leaning Tower subs overpowered us about that time and we wound up our day munching our impromptu dinner in the sub shop's parking lot.
Not exactly a Cinderella story but one of those blips on the calendar of living that give credence to the phrase, "Life is Good!"--Love, Dad
Friday, May 10, 2013
By the time you read this we already should be re-settled in our Ohio digs after four months of snow-birding in Vero Beach, FL.
As I scribble this on the last day of April I have mixed emotions about leaving our FL friends and the boatload--sometimes literally--of activities available to us in this sub-tropical paradise. Already I have enjoyed a head-boat deep sea fishing trip, some freshwater bass fishing with another local boating friend and a day's outing on a casino ship which does day cruises out of Port Canaveral.
Still on the boating bucket list is a chartered, deep-sea outing in search of trophy sail fish--catch and release variety--and, maybe some leisurely kayaking with a geocaching friend I met here late this winter, in addition to some repeats of those previously mentioned.
Yet, I will be heading home with great anticipation of seeing family and old friends once again. With roots as deep as mine, there truly is, no place like home.
And I will be rolling northward with visions of even more new experiences dancing in my head.
My bicycling friend, Ken Johnson, is the proud new owner of a Honda motorcycle. I was delightfully astonished to hear this news. You will remember him as the fellow I bicycled 70 miles with that day a few years ago when we celebrated our mutual 70th birthdays.
Turns out he has a relative whose company he can best enjoy if he joins him on a motorcycle ride. Also turns out there are three or four other geriatric friends with an assortment of motorized two-wheelers who are assembling themselves as riding companions.
Ken invited me to join them.
Wow. My dad always dreamed of one day having a then K model Harley-Davidson. Best he ever achieved was a motor scooter. That dream continued through my life. It was heightened as my sons brought motorcycles home in their youth. But, the best I ever achieved was a Cushman Eagle motorscooter too.
With serious guidance from those sons and lots of research with other experienced friends it looks like there is a motorcycle in my very near future too.
I really chuckled when Ken told me about he and his, ahem, mature buddies planning an outing this year where they expect to plunder the clubhouse of some competing riders and take off with their women.
Or, maybe they will just ride to the local Panera eatery for a quiet breakfast, depending on the mood of the day.
Hope you can see the smile on my face.
If I had to choose a bike this very minute it would be this one, a 2008 Honda Shadow Spirit 750cc currently in inventory at the Mid-Ohio Honda shop in Mt. Vernon, from whose web site I borrowed this picture.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I LIKE PALM TREES--
This one is the signature plant in the landscaping that welcomes folks to the clubhouse of our winter digs in Vero Beach, FL.
Somehow polar weather, like that which haunts Ohio's winters, becomes a mere abstraction when luxuriating in tropical sights like this swaying in the warm evening breeze.
By the time this appears on the blog we should be rolling north after our 4-month romp in relatively blissful weather.
We are hoping our return will not be premature.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Sue and Rainbow enjoy a chat in the clubhouse of our local, Vero Beach, miniature golf course. We were suffering a rain-delay while a whopper of a line of storms rolled through the area. Turns out our game was eventually rained-out due to huge quantities of ponded water on the course, so, we meandered off for our last, seasonal visit to the local mall.
It was one of those drives where high-speed wipers were barely adequate to maintain decent visibility--where rushing, curb-side water was sluiced into geysers by aggressive drivers--acting like they feared being late for the crayon sale at Walmart.
As we pulled into the west side of the mall, pounding rain was diminishing and when we finished our brief shopping visit we were treated to this unusual cloud display:
This view was mostly overhead toward the southeast. Swiveling about and facing southwest produced this view of the storm's trailing edge:
It truly is an amazing, point and shoot gadget.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
No, it isn't frostproof in spite of its name and location deep in the inland heart of southern Florida. The town was originally known as Keystone City but when it grew to the size where it needed a post office, postal officials balked at the town's name. There already was another Keystone further upstate.
In 1892 town citizen W.H. Overocker then suggested Lakemont for the growing town's new name and another fine citizen who had earlier suggested Frostproof volunteered to deliver the town's application in person. On the way to make the delivery to postal authorities he changed Overocker's choice of Lakemont and substituted his favorite which was approved.
And it remains so today.
In mid April I was planning on doing an Earth Cache (geocache) on a Kissimmiee River restoration project where that river crosses SR 60 about 50 miles west of Vero Beach. In the process of reviewing other caches in that area I found a cache just north of the Earth Cache that no one had yet found.
Being the first to find a cache (FTF) is special in geocaching.
I noticed also that day Frostproof was just a bit southwest of the Earth Cache and that town, too, had a new, not yet found cache of its own.
So, we scored the cache on SR 60--Sue being first to see it--then went on and found the Frostproof cache too.
I guess that's like almost scoring a hat-trick in ice hocky.
That led us to the town's Chamber of Commerce and a nice chat with the lady on duty. She has lived in the area quite some time and chuckled at the town's name being taken literally.
Records on Weather.com support her mirth. While the average coolest month for Frostpoof is January at 47 followed by December at 51, the recent record cold was 18 set in 1981.
It is speculated that damaging frost to the area citrus crop usually is avoided due to the warming effect of large, local bodies of water and the coating of icy mist used for protection when freeze is occurring.
Regardless, you have to hand it to the public relations forethought of the town's ancestors; especially the sleigh-of-hand of the delivery fellow when the town officially applied for its catchy new name.
Sue is relaxing along the pier in the lead photo close to our FTF cache in Frostproof with Reedy Lake in the background while a lone pick-up truck trundles north into the town in the next lower picture.
The tiny glass tube, barely larger than Sue's thumbnail was the body of the first cache we found on that day's outing where she and I walk toward the car in the Spanish Moss laden trees of the county park where that cache was found.
Editor's Note: This posting is going into the queue to be published May 4th; the day of our planned departure for home. Please regard any time that lapses after this appears as our traveling vacation. We hope to reappear shortly. --tw
Friday, May 3, 2013
at the Vero Beach cinemas
With rains of historic proportions we have lazied away three recent evenings at two of the local movie houses; one is the AMC complex at the town's, Indian River Mall, the other The Majestic movie complex on US highway 1 just south of town.
We enjoyed the first of those three movies, The Big Wedding at the mall complex with our Syracuse friends Dick and Dee Weeks. Not one other soul joined us for that showing.
A day or so later just Sue and I took a peek at Identity Theft where three other patrons drifted in for the showing.
Last night we were at the Majestic with the Weeks for The Place Beyond the Pines (shown above) where the place was e-m-p-t-y of other patrons through most of the previews. About a half dozen other patrons meandered in as the show progressed.
We saw each of these productions in the early evening time slot; say 7 p.m., or so.
It's true, most snowbirds are gone now but this experience makes one wonder how these theaters even survive with attendance dismal as this.
Actually I am not surprised.
The last Hollywood concoction I would describe as memorable was Deliverance--produced in 1972. The vast majority I have seen since have left me with a forgettable plot as I walked out the theater door.
An exception being 42 The Jackie Robinson story.
A second exception did not even come from Holloywood. That was Three Old Goats, a stunningly entertaining flick. And, it was produced with a two man film crew, a batch of inexperienced actors/actresses and a budget under $5,000. Click!
If it is playing in your town don't miss it. If not, go find it.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
HOW'S THAT! FOR AN EXPENSIVE HOBBY--
I miss flying. I really do. So, recently while doing lunch at the Vero Beach airport, I grabbed this slick ad piece from a lobby table.
After being seated in exquisite view of the transient aircraft ramp and background runway in CJ Cannon's, one of our favorite Vero Beach restaurants located right on the airfield--I took a close look at this ad.
The first thing that amazed me was the Cirrus aircraft's whopping rental price of $175 per hour. Whoa! I remember Cessna 172's and Piper Cherokees being in the rental range of $30 to $40 per hour when I started in the flying business back in the mid 60s.
"(wet)" by the way means the price includes the cost of gas and oil. Or, at least, it used to. Maybe today it means you are all "wet" to inquire about that modest price including gas, silly boy!
The next thing I found amazing was the major production facility for the Piper Aircraft Company also was located on this same airfield--about a hundred yards or so from where we were seated.
That just didn't seem right. In my active flying days the big-three producers of general aviation airplanes were Piper, Beechcraft and Cessna. Cirrus didn't even exist then.
So, after lunch, I wandered over to the Piper plant to inquire about a tour and maybe a little catch-up with recent history in general aviation. Immediately I was rebuffed by a sign in their lobby that welcomed me to take a tour but--no pictures allowed.
I turned around and left. A few nice pictures in my intended blog story for readers to enjoy was hardly a threat to the Piper folks I reasoned.
They should have been paying more attention to folks like Cirrus who evidently have bitten off a fairly hefty chunk of the general aviation market.
In fact, here are the latest figures I could find from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, 2010:
Total piston engine airplane's sold that year: Cessna 239, Cirrus 264, Beechcraft (Hawker) 51 and Piper 135.
Cirrus sold its first airplane in 1999 and, by 2010 had nearly doubled Piper's production.