Category Archives: Georgia

Photography 101 Day 5: Solitude and Rule Of Thirds

As the first week of Photography 101 comes to a close, our theme today is Solitude and Rule of Thirds.

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Solitude – Water Release Valve
Lake Trahlyta, Vogel State Park, Blairsville, GA July 2012

The rule of thirds is a technique where the object of the photo is place on the right or left third of the frame. Ideally, the horizon in the photo should also be at the bottom third of the frame.

Shooting a photo wide allows the photographer to crop the photo to comply with the rule. (PS – Rules can be broken. It is best to understand the rule before breaking the rule.)

Google defines solitude as:

  • the state or situation of being alone,
  • a lonely or uninhabited place.

I chose to apply this to a photo with an inanimate object. The water valve stand alone in the lake, yet ready to do its duty. I also chose to keep the platform horizontal rather than the lake’s water line.

Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.


Blue Ridge Once Again

Since we are so close to Blue Ridge, GA and Windy Valley Llamas, it would only make sense that we would find time to visit the place we workamped during the summer of 2012. So on Sunday Dec 8th, we left Townsend, TN and headed south to Blue Ridge, GA. Our route took us to Maryville, TN; then south on US411 to Madison and south on TN 68 through the south end of Cherokee National Forest.  The Winter scenery of bare trees replaced the lush green forest we saw during the summer of 2012. Still the mountains are beautiful.

We made the 105 mile trip in about 2 1/2 hours. We were excited to make this trip because when we left Windy Valley Llamas, we knew we were leaving life long friends there. We were warned in 2012 that the Blue Ridge Mountain area would call us back. They certainly did. After a chance to catchup on what has been going on during the past year, we had a wonderful dinner with Pam and Jerry along with their neighbors, Tim and Karen, and two other workamper couples.

Monday morning we got up to visit the llamas. The two Great American Pyrenees dogs, who guard the llamas, did not have any problem with us coming into the pastures. It was apparent they remembered us. Our goal was to check out Sushi. She was the llama that Carol help deliver in May 2012. In the photo on the left Sushi is less than 6 hours old and standing by herself. The fence in the photo is about 5 feet tall. Monday’s photo (below) of Carol with Sushi shows how much she has grown.DSCN0554I fell in  love with Dior. One of two rescued llamas Pam has added to the herd. She was very friendly and loveable.

DSCN0550We had an enjoyable visit although it was too short. Working at Windy Valley Llamas was the best thing that we’ve done in the two years on the road. We love the Blue Ridge Mountain and all the waterfalls. As we headed back, we decided to take an alternate route (US-74, US-64, TN-40) that would take us past the Ocoee Whitewater Center. (Click the tag on the right to see that post). As we drove past, we noticed the water flow looked pretty strong. We turned back for a closer look. Sure enough, the Ocoee River was out of its banks. Only to serious kayaker would dare venture out on this river today. The two channels of water seen on the left of the following photo is a walk way along the edge of the river. Normally there would be more rocks on the right side of the photo where viewers can sit to enjoy the rafters and kayakers travel downstream.

DSCN0562Further down stream at the Ocoee Dam #2, the water was pouring over the spillway. Normally the water barely trickles at this point since the flood gate that maintains the water level would be open. Today is a different story. Make sure your computer’s speakers are on to enjoy the sound.

It is amazing to see this raging river turn into a quiet and peaceful scene down stream. Lakes Parkville and Ocoee had been lowered to accommodate the runoff from all the rain in the region.

DSCN0570We turned north onto TN-30 to head back into the Cherokee National Forest. As we climbed, we drove past a few isolated homes buried in the forest. These folks wanted to be far away from the hustle and bustle of city life; they want peace and quiet; they wanted to be left alone.

We next came upon the Hiwasee Union Baptist Church (founded in 1848) nestled on the banks of the Hiwassee River, The building was erected about 1899 through the joint effort of the Hiwassee Union Baptist Church and the local Masonic Lodge. This two-story, frame structure served as a community building. The upper floor was for lodge meetings while the first floor served as the church meeting hall. The first floor was also used as a schoolhouse for a brief time.

DSCN0573We soon found our connection to US-411 and headed for home. I leave you with yet another old barn. We love these old structures. If only walls could talk.

DSCN0575Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.

Cades Cove Part 1

Cades Cove is the single most popular place for visitors to the Greater Smoky Mountain National Forest. We are fortunate to live about 11 miles, or a short 40 minute drive, away. This gives us an opportunity to explore the details of this beautiful place. Thursday 11/21 was our second trip to Cades Cove. We first drove through the cove on Wednesday 11/13 and realized it is not possible to see all that Cades Cove has to offer with a single day trip.

Cades CoveWhen we were in Blue Ridge, GA during the summer of 2012, we drove past Tremont Outdoor Resort taking the left fork onto Old State Highway 73 (Little River Road) towards Gaitlinburg. This time we took the right fork onto Laurel Creek Road. The first stop on the side of the road was to capture the beauty of Little River West Prong.

Little River West ProngOne can only imagine the water flow through here in the Spring, The large retaining wall on the left photo protects the road way from washout. Continuing the drive to Cades Cove, we came across a section of the Smoky Mountain where a large number of trees had been pushed over by a violent wind storm that blew through the area a couple of years ago. It appears the wind came over the top of the mountains, then pushed down into the valley. It is sad to see these beautiful trees laying on the ground in defeat of the wrath of nature. You will notice the tress are pointing down-hill indicating the wind direction came from above.

DSCN0511Our climb into Cades cove peaked at 2012 feet (according to our GPS). That makes the trip a climb of about 1,000 feet from Townsend. Just beyond the peak is the entrance to Cades Cove. We stopped at the visitors center to pick up an information brochure that included a map of the park. You can read more about the history of Cades Cove by clicking here.

The main loop through Cades Cove covers 11 miles. The map below shows the loop and highlights stops along the loop that should be explored.

cadescove-loop-mapSparks Lane has been part of Cades Cove since 1840. Other than offering a different perspective of the cove, it offers a means of crossing the cove. John Oliver’s cabin is the first stop on the loop. This is one of over 80 historic buildings in Cades Cove and provides  visitors a glimpse of life in the 1800’s. John Oliver most likely cut the trees needed for his cabin with an axe. After cutting the logs to length he notched the ends so the logs could rest one on another and remain in place without additional fasteners. The cabin remained in the Oliver family until the Great Smoky National Forest was established in 1934. John and his wife are buried at the Primitive Baptist Church. This is a view of John Oliver’s cabin as it is approached from the loop.

DSC_0614On my first trip to Cades Cove, I did not venture into the cabin. That will come later. You can see the logs were squared up a bit and the mud between the logs is in place to keep out the cold winter winds. I will post additional photos of this cabin on a later visit. The following photo is the view John Oliver’s family saw as they left their cabin and headed out to work their land in the morning or as they headed out for church on Sunday mornings.

DSC_0616Several early settlers established the Primitive Baptist Church in 1827. Initially they constructed a log building that served their purpose. In 1887, they constructed a new building. The church was closed during the Civil War due to the members being Union folks and most of the cove residents being Rebels. Plus, their pastor had to leave to take care of other business occasionally.

PrimitivebaptistchurchAs we stepped into the church, we could almost hear the early settlers singing Amazing Grace.

DSC_0651The metal plate on the floor was the location of a wood burning stove that provided heat for the members.

We found this interesting headstone of Russel Gregory who found Gregory’s Bald, elevation 4,949 feet. Mr Gregory was murdered by North Carolina Rebel fighters in 1864. We also found John Lurena Oliver’s  grave.

PBC CemeteryThe Methodist Church is stop number 4 on the loop. This small congregation established in the 1820’s and met in a log building until this current building was constructed in 1902. As we approached the building, we could imagine families gathering for church and kids playing on the grounds.

DSCN0498The church looked a bit more modern than the Primitive Baptist Church. We did not notice any signs of a wood burning stove in the center of the room. Visitors leave Bibles, notes and written prayers on the altar of the churches.

DSCN0500Each church has its own cemetery. This headstone caught my attention. I was saddened to see that the Hill family lost three sons 1916, 1917 (Otis lived 6 months), and in 1918. My dad was born in 1916.

DSCN0506The Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1839 when a group from the Primitive Baptist Church was expelled over support of mission work. The church suspended meeting during the civil war and resumed after the war with fewer members. They church closed in 1944.

DSC_0658Carol is looking through some of the items left at the altar. A wood burning stove apparently was located in the center of this building.

DSC_0659Just across the street from the Missionary Baptist Church is a one way road that exits Cades Cove and leads to Tuckaleechee Cove which is where Townsend is located. Unfortunately, this road is closed during the winter months.

We skipped past the Copper Road Trail. This is a 4.3 mile hike to Abrams Creek Camp Ground. For hikers who enjoy primitive camping, this trail if for you.

Last stop for the day was Elijah Oliver’s Place. I left Carol in the car and took off on a short .4 mile hike. Elijah Oliver is the son of John Oliver. He left the cove with his family before the civil war but return after the war. This homestead is a sample of the complexity of life in the late 1800’s.

DSC_0672This photo shows the main house that was built on a rock foundation. The gray boards on the left was an area of the front porch that was closed in to make a guest room for travelers who would travel through the area. To the right, is a kitchen. The main room consisted of a large fire-place.

DSC_0676A spring house is behind the house. Through ingenuous design, water runoff from the mountain was captured in the spring house. This small building was used to store products that needed to be kept cool. The water collected in a log basin that was had cut from a single tree. To keep the basin from overflowing, water flowed out of the basin by way of tree branches that were slotted and stacked.

springhouseAfter exploring Elijah Oliver’s place, I was tired and the day was just about over. We stopped at the Cable Mill Area Visitors Center. On the next trip to Cades Cove, we will cover more of the structures of Cades Cove and may even venture off to a water fall or two. Until then, I leave you to enjoy this panorama of one small section of Cades Cove.


Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.

Saying See Ya Later

Friday Sept 21st was our last day at Windy Valley Llama Farm, Pam and Jerry hosted a dinner on their deck for us as we depart and for Tom and Vicky as they start their workamp gig. Grilled Rib-eyes, Potato Casserole, and Steamed Broccoli where on the menu – YUM. Jerry did a great job on those rib-eyes.

And no dinner can be complete with out an exquisite dessert provided by Tim and Karen.

We broke up early since we were all tired from the hay delivery a few days earlier. Tim and Karen said they would come by in the morning for farewell hugs. Tim and Karen are on the left – Pam and Jerry on the right. We will miss these fine folks. Both have told us we have a place to park or stay when we come back to Blue Ridge. Pam and Jerry have also invited us to come back for another workamp session whenever we are ready.

We pulled out just before 9:00AM and took a parting photo of Blue Ridge, GA looking to the east. We will miss the mountains and cool temperatures as well as the new friends we are leaving behind.

Our target for Saturday was Tuscaloosa, AL. We knew we were traveling with one weak battery. The other battery was a used battery I bought in December last year. Jerry told us about a large RV dealer in Alabama on I-20 so we decided to stop and replace both batteries. That would give us comfort in knowing we could get slides out and back in should we decide to stop at Camp Walmart. Dandy RV in Anniston, AL is indeed a large RV spot – kinda like Camping World. Finding 2 batteries was not a problem. The sales person installed the two batteries and took the bad ones away.  Pockets are now $200 lighter but we will rest easy tonight.

We pressed on to the West keeping our sights on Tuscaloosa. We found the Walmart conveniently located to I-20 and across the street from easy to get to restaurants. We actually parked in the Sam’s parking lot, next door to Walmart. First time I’ve seen a Sam’s and Walmart share a parking lot. We wanted to try a local place for diner but Chili’s was across the street from Walmart. That was the closest option since we were on foot. We kept the truck and RV hitched. We got what we expected at Chili’s, then walked across the parking lot to Books-A-Million thinking we could connect to free WiFi. My MacBook Pro connected just fine while Carol’s PC had issues. I spoke to a sales person who told me the WiFi was free only to Books-A-Million club members. OK, what does that take. $7.95 for 24 hours or $24.95 for 12 months. I said no thanks. It was getting late so we closed up shop and walked back to the RV. At least we got phones and computers charged for free.

Sunday AM, we opted for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. No reason to break our Not Normal Eating Places pattern. Getting into the parking lot required a bit of maneuvering. I drove past the entrance because I was pointed the wrong direction. I got off the highway, onto a side street and halfway up the driveway to a gas station when I though, this driveway is pretty steep. No way to back out, bad approach to the drive way so I just let the truck pull the trailer up the incline. We did not hear any scraping but I sure felt it. When we got parked at Cracker Barrel, I took a look a saw a chuck of asphalt on the badly mangled right rear stabilizer. The stabilizer prevent me from ripping off the back cap of the RV.

We can say that we will never stay at a Walmart or Sam’s or Flying J or any other public parking area again. With no electricity, we needed to keep the windows open. For me that was not a problem because I hear nothing when my hearing aids come out. For Carol that was a different story. Between the Parking Lot Zamboni, delivery trucks arriving before dawn and the drone of the generators from the other motor homes next to us, Carol did not get much sleep. Many of our RVing friends do it. I am happy for them. This type of overnight stop is just not for us.

After breakfast and a fresh load from Starbucks, we hit the road again. Next stop – Vicksburg, MS. As we made our approach to Vicksburg, Carol scouted for RV parks. She picked the Ameristar RV park across the street from the Ameristar Casino. Good choice. We were fortunate to get a site that was pretty flat and level side to side and front to rear. There are some sites that are way out of level. We had free shuttle to the Ameristar Casino where we found Bourbon’s BBQ and Steak. Food was a bit pricey but it was absolutely some of the best eating we’ve done in a long time.  After dinner, we decided to spend a little time playing penny slots. We agreed to play with $50 each and stop when we were out of play money or tired. At the end of the evening, we were both ahead. I hit a lucky slot that paid off $49 on a 20 cent bet. I cashed out of that machine and went to another.

We shuttled back to the Casino Monday morning for breakfast. After breakfast, Carol said she wanted one more go at the slots. By the time I caught up with her she was just sitting at her slot. When I asked her what was up she just smiled said “I hit a jackpot.” The number she pointed at reads 27040. That translated into $270.40. Not a bad return for less than $20 bet.

By the time we left Ameristar, we pretty much paid for over half our trip back to Texas. We will visit Ameristar again.

We left Vicksburg, made the trip across the Mississippi River and headed for Tyler, TX. The river was low but that did not keep barge traffic off the river. I was mesmerized by the power in those small tugs pushing the loaded barges up river.  It’s hard to see the individual barges here. There were 34 barges tied together being pushed by a single tug boat.

Once across the Mississippi River, we were on what I call ‘the flat and straight highway’. I can certainly say the drive on I-20 is significantly better than the drive on I-10, especially in Louisiana.

Then we finally hit the Texas state line about 1PM on Monday 9/24. We knew we were back home.

First thing we noticed was the smoothness of the roadway. Texas knows how to take care of its highways. If you think that is stretching things a bit, I challenge you to make the comparison. I know there are some rough patches but mile for mile, Texas does a super job in taking care of its highways. We stayed in a small RV park in Tyler, TX just off I-20 5-Star RV Park. The park is country living at its best. Away from the hustle of busy streets and very quiet at night. The park is owned and managed by an Englishman and his two sons.

We opted for TexMex for dinner Monday night and were disappointed.  Apparently we were not far enough south for the real deal. We drove to the south end of Tyler for breakfast Tuesday morning. The Diner made up for the marginal dinner. They certainly know how to do breakfast – Texas style.

Our friends Stephanie and Greg from RV There Yet were in Lindale, TX just north of I-20. Sure wished we had extra time on our schedule to pay them a visit. Maybe we can connect when they come back to Texas later in the winter.

Our next and final stopover would be in Killeen, TX. Carol’s Aunt and Uncle live in Copperas Cove near by. We stopped at Cicada Springs RV Park, This is an older mobile home park that is being converted to an RV park. We enjoyed dinner with Ron and Glenda at Olive Garden and had a chance to share with them our story of how we got to where we are. Thank you Ron and Glenda for driving over to Killeen to have dinner with us. Hope to see you guys in May next year at South Forty RV Park in Giddings, TX.

After we got back to the park, we took the doggies for a walk. That is when Carol took a tumble onto the cement pad. She bruised her left wrist, right thumb and banged up her knee a bit. It did not take long for the park staff to hear about the tumble. They sent one of their residents who just happens to be an EMT to check up on Carol. He determined she did not break anything. We were fortunate. Dosed up on ibuprofen and wrist wrapped she appears to be on the mend.

We opted for TexMex tacos for breakfast and were pleased. We finally made it far enough south.

For readers who are contemplating driving down I-35 from Waco towards San Antonio. I would highly recommend heading a bit east to pick up US 281 which goes directly into San Antonio and connects with I-37 to Corpus Christi and the valley. It appears I-35 is undergoing a major expansion to widen it North and South of Waco. When we lived in Corpus Christi, it was always faster and less congested to take US 77 from Waco to Corpus Christi or US 281 from Waco to San Antonio. And always take the toll road around Austin. The cost is worth the drive. If you have to go to Austin, well, all I can say is, be prepare for stress and congestion.

From Killeen, we headed West to Lampases then turned South on US 281 for a beautiful drive through Burnet, Marble Falls, and Blanco. Ended up in Boerne (pronounced burny) going west on TX 46 to TX 16, then north for a few short miles to Pipe Creek, TX. Our home for the next six months.

If you travel near Bandera, or Boerne, TX, please plan to stop by. We are about 6 miles south of Bandera, and about 15 miles West of Boerne.

That is it for this post. Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back now. Next post, I’ll tell you a bit about the area and our work.

Packing Day

Today was packing day. It was also our last day to work on the farm. Without reservation, I can tell you we will miss this place, we will miss Pam and Jerry and neighbors Tim and Karen. And we will miss the llamas. But life moves on as we make our way back to Texas.

While Carol was working inside stowing things away, I emptied the basement for a bit of rearranging. This is only half of the basement. Carol did not get a photo of the other side of our RV.

We really did get it emptied. This space is like a cavern.

Now everything is packed in.

And now the other side.

And Cody decided he want to make sure we did not leave him behind. I sometimes wonder what he is thinking.

Don’t worry Cody, we won’t leave you behind. Your coming with us.

Tomorrow, some parting shots of Carol with the llamas. Thanks for stopping by, y’all come back now.