Down, down, down; it was a long way down.

We do very much enjoy exploring country roads, so as we bid a fond farewell to the Green River ferry, we took a short cut on Joppa Ridge Road. It was dusk, the road was gravel/dirt, and Scott’s estimation from our trusty Mammoth Cave National Park map was that we should hit the highway in about two miles. We wound over and up and around and down, and sure enough, Joppa Ridge Road spit us out by Joppa Church (Baptist, built in 1900) on Highway 70 exactly 2.1 miles later. My Hero is really good with directions and distances.

From there, we once again passed a mysterious sign for “Cedar Sink Road Pig” and continued on to our hotel in Bowling Green. Note to self: Fairfield Inn Bowling Green beats Courtyard in Paducah, hands down. Not only was the carpet dry, the breakfast there definitely was something to write home about. Between the two of us, we feasted on waffles, fresh pineapple, scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and salsa, cantaloupe, sausage, orange and apple juices, and the best poppy seed bread I’ve ever eaten. Truly a breakfast of champions.

Back at Mammoth Cave for our 11:00 AM “Domes and Dripstones” tour, I was a bit troubled when our ranger guide (Ashley, not Holly) informed us that this 3/4 mile tour would involve 500 steps. Wow. The two-mile “Historic” tour the day before had featured an upward set of 155 steps, and while I had been proud to manage those at a slow but steady pace – without even stopping to rest on the landings! – the thought of doing three times as much gave me pause. Had me concerned. Filled me with dread. OK, the truth is that I was really worried.

Needlessly, as it turned out. 500 was the total number of steps, both up and down, and after the first very narrow 288 down, the rest were scattered throughout the tour. I was again amazed at HOW MANY folks they put through on a tour – typically about 100 – and how efficiently it all works. As we had done the day before, we (I) had chosen to be at the front of the pack, one, because our guides had said that slow movers should be at the front and fast walkers at the back, and I’m a slow mover, especially with stairs, and two, because I don’t hear as well as some, I love a good tour guide, I love to ask questions (we know where Josiah gets it!), and I learn the most when I am up close and personal with the guide. Ranger Ashley did not disappoint, and since we had to wait several minutes at each stop for the whole snaking line of folks to make their way to the benches, we got to ask her extra questions and get extra explanations – a real bonus.

Scott and were again amazed and intrigued by the ENORMOUS size of the cave, the amazing stories of early explorers and guides, the “candle-spotted” ceiling autographs of visitors over a hundred years ago, and the absolutely unbelievable work that had been done through the years to engineer and install all the staircases, walkways, railings, benches, and lighting that allowed us to tour the cave. And of course, our wonderful experience at Mammoth Cave just re-kindled Scott’s desire to go spelunking – in the wild, wet, dark, muddy, cramped, slithering, exploring sense of the word. Personally, I am not a wild, wet, dark, muddy, cramped, slithering kind of a girl, although I do love my own style of exploring – in a car or on a trail – but I’ll happily send Scott on a wild cave experience, cheer him on, pray for his safe return, and afterwards do his laundry and tell him how brave he is. = )

Advertisements

In which we cross three bodies of water

I don’t know if we took the most direct route from Walnut Shade to Mammoth Cave, but I’m sure it was the most fun, the most scenic, and for me, the most exciting. Somewhere a few miles east of Wilson City, MO (population 110, area 52 acres), out in the total middle of absolutely nowhere and surrounded by soybean fields, U.S. Highway 62 does a most amazing. As we came around a tight bend with warnings about narrowing lanes, there suddenly rose up in front of us a slim, elegant, arching “Erector Set” (as we called such when I was a child) bridge. Over the Mississippi River!!! Oh my! How glorious! I have since learned that it was completed in 1929, and I can’t imagine what all it took to build it. Here’s the view we had as we approached the bridge, compliments of Wikipedia.

As we crossed the Cairo Mississippi River Bridge, we could actually see the Ohio River emptying into Mississippi. Wow! The far end of the bridge landed us on the very southern tip of Illinois, but only for about a minute, as the road angled right and then crossed the Cairo Ohio River Bridge, a spring chicken of a bridge, completed in 1937. Here’s a Wikipedia photo of that one.

Two incredible bridges over two major rivers, back to back! And none of that boring flat concrete stuff. These huge spans had character. They looked dignified, like any good, self respecting bridges should look. I was just about beside myself with joy. (Well, Scott was beside me and has been for thirty years; an even better reason for joy.) Those two sequential crossings meant that in the space of five minutes, we were in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. MUCH more exciting than that Four Corners stuff in the American southwest.

I’ve been making a list in my phone of all our great 30th Anniversary Trip experiences I want to blog about. The list is LONG and growing almost hourly. We’re having the time of our lives! So, having written about those two unforgettable crossings, I’ll return to my chronological narrative back where we left off, after our super fun late afternoon ride down and (walk) back up on the Mammoth Cave National Park bike trail.

On Saturday afternoon, as we’d been driving through the park toward the Mammoth Cave visitor center, I had seen a sign about a ferry. Now I do have a special fondness for ferries. Just ask Katie. Ferries are rare birds these days, much like endangered species, and I feel somewhat of an obligation to avail myself of any ferry that presents itself. To this end, I had asked Scott if perhaps we could scope out the ferry on Sunday afternoon after our second cave tour, and he had seemed willing. So after our first cave tour and aforementioned bike ride, with dusk approaching, he turned down the road with the red warning sign: “Ferry closed to all trailers.” A mere half mile later, we were face to face with the Green River, the stream that formed Mammoth Cave either six thousand or six million (depending your age-of-the-earth perspective, but let’s not go there tonight) years ago. Now the Green flows more or less next to Mammoth Cave, and I think the two rivers that flow through the lower levels of the cave, Echo River and the River Styx, ultimately converge with it… ? Anyway, the Green River is not huge and neither is its ferry. In fact, with a maximum capacity of three cars, it’s the smallest ferry I’ve ever seen!

I thought the side-mounted porta-potty was a nice touch, and no, I didn’t try it out! There are two cables strung across the river, and the ferry is pulled across along them, via two cables on each side of the boat. One is visible on the right front corner of ferry at the right end of the yellow bar. And here’s one of the connections to the top cable.

We rode over and turned right around and rode back, just because we could, and it was free. Below Scott’s turning the Durango around at the top of the hill, while I inspect the very long metal “tape measure” mounted in the ground beside the ferry approach. I think it shows the water depth…?

You’ll be pleased to know that The Green River Ferry operates every day except Christmas, weather and water conditions permitting.

This whole experience made me smile big for a very long time!

We should do this every thirty years

Scott and I are having a WONDERFUL vacation in celebration of our 30th anniversary.

Yesterday we drove to Paducah, KY with a stop for a picnic lunch in Mansfield, MO. Scott had told me there were no city parks in Mansfield, but we were getting hungry and I said, “all we need is a picnic table, and a potty with it would be a bonus.” Not two minutes later, we came to the Laura Ingalls Wilder place, and when I saw the word “Restrooms” on a building just across the road from that fair establishment, I hit the brakes and pulled in. And beside it was a lone picnic table in dappled sunlight under a massive post oak tree. Very nice.

Paducah must be a record-setting town. In driving one linear mile from our hotel (Courtyard by Marriott; we were not impressed), I actually counted 31 restaurants. We picked Fazoli’s, and in keeping with my decision to eat something new and different at any restaurant where I have a standard “favorite,” I chose Chicken Carbonara, which was very tasty.

This morning we got McDonald’s on the road as we headed toward Mammoth Cave, where we had tickets for the 3:15 Historic Tour. (Note to self: while the Steak, Egg, and Cheese McMuffin is fine, it really can’t compare with the classic Egg McMuffin.)

The cave was truly awesome. Literally. It’s huge. They’ve mapped 400 miles of it! Our tour group was also huge, but by staying close to Ranger Elaine, we were able to ask questions and hear more details. I always love a good tour guide. Fat Man’s Misery was just as tight and claustrophobic as I remembered it from my childhood, but I was able to hike up the 155 steps at a steady pace and without stopping on the landings. I was so proud of myself. Scott was just amazed by the cave, the geology, and the history, and I’m so glad he suggested we go there. We’re staying at a very nice Fairfield Inn in Bowling Green tonight, and as planned, we’re going back to the cave for the Domes and Dripstones Tour in the morning. It’s a good thing Scott bought our cave tickets in advance online; when we got there, the tours we’d signed up for were all sold out.

Ever since we’d seen a bike trail on our way in to the national park, Scott had been wanting to do a bike ride, so when we got out of the cave – very hot and sweaty, even though it had been 54 degrees down there, we changed into shorts and started off from the visitor center, headed toward a cemetery, where we’d decided we would turn around. With my single speed bike, I have to get off and walk if there’s much of an uphill grade at all, and I did that several times. Light was fading, and when I finished walking it to the top of a small rise, we talked about turning around here and heading back. but we had talked about going all the way to Sloan’s Crossing Pond, which a ranger had said was really neat, or at the very least to Furlong Cemetery, so I said, “well, since we’ve come this far, we might as well go on to the cemetery,” (or something very Roberts-ish like that; I have, after all, been a Roberts for 30 years as of this week), so we pressed on, and it just so happens that that was the very point at which the trail began a l-o-n-g downhill. Which I greatly enjoyed. But being a bear of much more than very little brain, and realizing that that meant I’d be pushing my bike back uphill for approximately 17 times as long as it had taken to coast down, I announced that I was turning around. And we did. We both walked up the hill, laughing sweating.

The next part of this story is truly delightful.

To be continued…

Jeopardy question: What is 37?

Answer: The number of minutes it takes to cut up the [massive, thick, huge] box in which a new white, Kohler, round bowl toilet is packaged.

While Scott was away in Africa, I decided to clean the second floor (formerly “the boys'”) bathroom. That facility is no longer in daily use, Andrew having relocated to the third floor in June. He now sleeps and showers in the attic (formerly “Katie’s”) bedroom and bathroom. However, before moving on up, I did have him thoroughly clean the boys’ bathroom, so last week it didn’t really need much cleaning. Actually all I have to do in there regularly is clean the toilet because our hard water leaves rings in the bowl after about ten days.

While thus scrubbing the interior of the throne, I was dismayed to see a one-inch-wide ribbon of water standing around a fourth of its base. Ugh. Unfortunately, This Old House has proven time and time again that modern plumbing, while truly a wonderful thing, does by definition present two specific challenges: bringing water in and getting water back out. A flaw in either of those processes equals leaks, and those are never pleasurable and rarely quick or easy to resolve.

I could’ve called our good plumber friend (and rescuer from many calamities over the past twenty years), Mr. Bill, but since the water did not reappear after I dried it up, and since Scott would be home in only a couple of days, I waited.

Upon his return and examination of the problem, Scott determined that it was a wax ring problem, and over a couple of days, a couple of trips to Home Depot, and a couple of conversations with Mr. Bill, he was very pleased to have the repair 97% complete. He was tightening the base screws when I heard from around the corner a very loud “Oh, NO!!!” followed immediately by an equally loud “I can’t BELIEVE it!” The porcelain base of the throne had… cracked. Aarrgghh! Scott guessed he’d tightened the screws too far, and he was SO disappointed and aggravated with himself. This would mean buying a new toilet, and we did that little task after the church picnic and baptism this afternoon.

We’d already looked online at toilets, and Scott had figured out which one he planned to buy. We wanted to spend as little as possible to get a decent toilet, and my only stipulations were that it be white and have a round bowl. And while perusing the pertinent aisle where the boxed toilets were all stored beneath their respective at-eye-level (for Scott!) display models – were they strategically mounted off the floor so they could not be test driven? – I saw a box with this label, which reminded me of “plums in the toilet” and did make me smile:

My actual comment to Scott was, “How’d you like THAT in your septic tank?!?”

This was not the one we bought, but we did learn that boxed toilets are significantly hefty items. A friendly Home Depot man helped Scott load our trusty Kohler #K-11464-0 into the Durango, but there was no way for him to carry it in and up to the second floor (“rarely quick or easy”) alone. I being no help whatsoever in the lifting department, he had to unbox the beast inside the Durango and haul it upstairs in two pieces. His role was to follow all those little diagrams and instructions and mount the thing. (I will note that although the box did as advertised contain “everything needed to install the toilet,” the project also involved a finer variety of tools, including a hacksaw and a level.) My role was to cut up the box.

We recycle cardboard and plastic weekly, and since the recycle center wants the former broken down flat, I keep a box cutter in the med basket to cut up boxes. This toilet box was SO BIG and had SO MANY layers of SUCH THICK cardboard that it took me 37 minutes to cut it all up into pieces that would fit in my recycle boxes! But we got er done, and I’ll make a nice recycle run in the morning.

Meanwhile, Scott finished the job perfectly, cleaned up all the mess, put away all the tools, and then invited me (his Queenie-Poo) to witness the initial (royal?) flush. He pressed the lever, bowl water (but no golf balls) went down and out, and tank water came in. Like a boss! Now all is well in the boys’ bathroom, which Katie will be using when she visits on Saturday.

Yesterday we put an old school desk out by the road and it was gone in three hours.

Today Scott put an old but clean toilet bowl with cracked base out by the road. Hmm… Come to think of it, the tank may still be on the porch swing… Anyway, Scott is sure the trash truck will take it on Tuesday morning with their regular pick up. I hope he’s right, but maybe someone else will make off with it before then. After all, we do live in the Ozarks!

My fifth time to (or through) Waynesville

In the past three weeks, I’ve passed the Waynesville exit four times — once on August 2 while taking our mission team catch their flight in St. Louis; once about six hours later on the way back home; once on August 17 while driving back to St. Louis to pick up the team; and once about five hours after that on the way back home — but until today I had never actually stopped in Waynesville. Who would, except the people who live there?!?

Today, I did stop on the west side of Waynesville, or rather, Andrew stopped. I had arranged for him to be released from school at 10:00 AM so he could make his 10:20 AM dental appointment (two fillings; hopefully the LAST two fillings), and then as soon as he could get home, our plan was to head northeast as far as we could get by 1:13 PM to have a maximal view of today’s total solar eclipse. I happen to have a personal conviction about driving the speed limit, but since Andrew doesn’t share that conviction, he would be our designated driver. We had a couple of challenges, what with the school not releasing him on time, and the dentist’s office misplacing my credit card information, but eventually his teeth were filled, he came home from the dentist AQAP, I was waiting for him in the passenger seat of the Durango with the engine running, lunch packed, lawn chairs loaded, eclipse glasses in purse, and all he had to do was slide into the driver’s seat and BEV.

Which he did. To the tune of about 84 mph.  = )

Around 12:30 PM, I put on my patriotic eclipse glasses and looked up through the sunroof at the sun, and OH.MY. Was that ever something to see! I was so excited that I had him get off at the next exit so he could look too. And then on we sped toward Rolla. But I wanted to stop at 1:05 so we could actually watch the moon move across the sun, and 1:05 found us at the (first? only?) Waynesville exit, where we pulled off and into a gravel parking lot.

It stayed a bright sunny summer day. That is, it never got “dark,” but it did get dimmer; as if it was hazy or smoggy, or kind of like an imperceptibly gradual shift from full brightness to the way things look when you put on your sunglasses. What absolutely blew my mind was how, with almost all of the sun obscured, that little tiny sliver of sun was enough make it nearly as bright as a sunny August afternoon would normally be. And although it didn’t really feel noticeably cooler to me, I did notice on the Durango’s thermometer that the temp had dropped from 91 to 86.

We stood there in the parking lot, craning our necks till they hurt. Then I got out my trusting gray softball-game-watching bag chair, which made the leaning back thing much more comfortable, and we watched the little orange crescent move very, very slowly from lying in repose at the bottom of the disc, counterclockwise around to the upper right “corner” of the disc, where it was gradually getting very slightly fatter. At that point we said we’d had enough and headed back to Springfield to pick up My Hero, who was returning that very afternoon from a nearly three-week mission trip to Niger and Nigeria.

All’s well that ends well, and all’s sleepy that’s jet-lagged, and Andrew and I agreed that our memorable twenty minutes in Waynesville had been worth the effort.

I drove home… at 70 mph.

I haven’t personally MET a “large, long-legged and long-necked bird.”

But I’ve stood in its namesake.

Many moons ago, the aux wire in the Durango – the one that lets me listen to my phone through the car’s speakers – developed a short. Although I’ve gotten used to having only the radio, and I am glad to have it, it’s been frustrating to not be able to listen to podcasts, especially on longer drives like my two recent four-hour St. Louis runs. Years ago, as a Christmas gift, Scott had the aux wire put in for me at a place in Springfield, so one time last year when Andrew and I were up there, we went by that place, hoping to get the wire repaired or replaced. It’s a very good thing we went together. I believe the current vernacular to describe the place would be “sketchy.” Well, actually “seedy” might come closer. It was in a rugged, decrepit part of town and the guy at the counter was really cocky. I didn’t like him at all. His price was $45, but he couldn’t do it that day; I’d have to make an appointment and come back. Which I wasn’t about to do because Andrew wouldn’t be available and I wasn’t about to go there alone.

So I lived podcast-less on the road till last month when I started looking online for an auto audio place that would be closer, cheaper, and less sketchy. I found it at Rick’s Car Audio in Crane. Yes, Crane. Like the bird. In particular, the blue crane. The guy I talked to said he’d have to talk with Rick and he’d call me back. Three weeks later I remembered that he had not, so I called back and the guy said that yes, they could do it for $20-$25 at 10:00 AM on Friday. Fine. I made plans for a little road trip. Although google maps said the drive to Crane would take 42 minutes, it’d be through some extremely scenic rural parts of Stone and Taney Counties (the latter having been named for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, of recently-removed-from-Maryland-State-House statue infamy). One of my great joys in life is exploring country roads, and I will say that this journey did not disappoint.

Now, because I’m “saving” this particular exploratory adventure to share in full with Katie in a few weeks, and I’m pretty sure she’ll read this post, I will now, with great restraint, limit my comments here to focusing primarily on my experience with Rick’s.

The shop is located on at 122 Main Street in Crane, and when I pulled in at 9:55 for my 10:00 appointment, Rick’s Car Audio appeared dark and empty. However, the door was unlocked, so I walked on in and called out my standard Ozarkian greeting, “Howdy,” at which a man appeared from a back room, greeted me, and turned on the lights. I told him who I was, and he was well aware of what I wanted done. I had parked on the street and told him I didn’t know where to put the car; no  problem, he would move it.

Glancing about the room, I asked if there was a place I could wait, and he said, waving his arm toward the front door, that some place over there across the street served breakfast, and there were a number of antique stores around. I said I could just walk around (the repair was expected to take 20-30 minutes), but he then walked me back to a little (very dumpy) room behind the counter and said they did have a couch. Let’s just say that no one’s backside had graced that piece of furniture in a long time. He began shoving all the junk piled on it to one end to make room for me to sit, but I took the stroll-about town option.  = )

I’m pretty sure I could see all of downtown Crane from the doorway of Rick’s Car Audio. A barbershop. A post office. ABC Accounting. A bank. A library. (Ooh, a small town library!) I resisted the library, at least initially, and wandered instead into The Classey Corner Café. I wasn’t hungry, but I did have a lot of fun perusing the several flea market booths within. In one of them, I found a gem of an old book, Missouri’s Hall of Fame: Lives of Eminent Missourians by Floyd Calvin Shoemaker, A.B., A.M., Secretary of The State Historical Society of Missouri and Editor of The Missouri Historical Review, copyright 1918, published 1923 – price $2.00!

At that point, having killed about 30 delightful minutes, I moseyed back to Rick’s, where the guy told me I was all fixed up and it’d be $20.60.

“Do you take credit cards?”

“Well, Rick can, but he’s not here yet.”

It had not occurred to me to bring any cash.

“OK. I can write you a check.”

“Rick has a card reader on his phone. Without that, you have to pay more and then they charge you every time you use it. He can just swipe it, but he’s not here yet.”

Um, you already told me that.

As I wrote the check and handed it to the guy, another man appeared from the back. Rick perhaps? Well, no.

“Do you need to see my driver’s license or something?”

My guy turned to the other man.

“Do we need anything, uh, on a check?”

The man looked at me, half smiled, and said no.

Now, my request over the phone had been for a cord that was stretchy. I had inquired about a coil cord, like an old timey phone cord. See, I treat my aux cord gently, but I suspect that one of the other people who sometimes drive the Durango had at some point yanked the six-foot cord too hard and shorted it out. I want to reduce the likelihood of similar damage in the future. Whoever I had talked to on the phone – which I suspect was this same guy – had told me he thought there were retractable cords, which sounded great to me, and that he’d check with Rick. So as I was paying, my guy said that Rick had said he could order a different cord and I could come back and they could switch it out. He asked me to write my name and number on the receipt so that he could call me when it came in. The thought of spending another hour and-a-half on the road just to get a stretchy cord seemed excessive, and I didn’t even think to ask if there’d be an additional charge for the replacement, but then again, an hour and-a-half with one of my favorite fellow explorers (I have three and you know who you are!) sounded absolutely delicious, especially considering that our route could potentially involve not one but TWO small town libraries, a very unique and historic bridge, a one-lane country road complete with white lines on both sides and no center line, a town square(!!!), and an as yet completely un-investigated strip of pavement called Swinging Bridge Road!

So I thanked the guy and held out my hand for my receipt.

“You want to take a picture of it?”

Huh? I was confused… ?

“If you take a picture of it then you’ll have it.”

Um… Duh??

“So you’ll have it if you need it.”

This was a new one on me. Evidently he wasn’t going to GIVE me my receipt; I’d have to take a picture of it. Good thing I recently learned how to take pictures with my phone and actually knew where to find my camera app! So I took a picture of it and he put my receipt on top of another one on the counter, and I headed home.

Listening to a podcast as I went!

 

 

 

To the tune of “Three Coins in the Fountain”

The other day, I was resting on our bed when Andrew came into the room and said, “Look outside, Mom.” I twisted around and looked, and there was a raccoon under the smaller plum tree! He was a youngster, grubbing around, I suppose, for any underripe plums that may have fallen. But wait, there’s more! Another young coon was up IN the big plum tree! Oh, Wow. We watched them for a couple minutes, sometimes on the ground, sometimes up the tree, till something startled them and they scampered off. I know our neighbor is trapping them because they (or their kin) have been killing her chickens. In fact, the coons have been so problematic that I think her husband shot one a few mornings ago. But these two in our yard were just so stinkin’ cute!

Sing it with me, boys and girls:

“Two coons in a plum tree

Each one seeking something sweet

Oh, how fun to behold them

Striped tails, masks, and dainty feet.”