Up North…. Spring Cleaning.

After a great Easter Weekend in Cleveland, I headed north to Michigan to my older brother’s home in the Detroit area.  It’s that time of the year when he normally, single-handedly, “opens” my Mother’s lake home near Cadillac.  I was available to help him this year and decided a “Spring Cleaning” weekend would be a great opportunity for us to spend some quality one on one time together!  The Michigan Winter was brutal this year, and the “remnants” of that brutality were still visible in the form of a few snowbanks lingering around the house.  Not only did we need to rake leaves, but we also had to shovel snow in order to find more leaves below.  We cleaned gutters, washed windows and did lots of other tasks in order to get the place ready for the Summer!  20 years ago… a few days of “spring-cleaning” would have been no big deal, but with a few more years under our belts, both of us were exhausted by Sunday afternoon!  We have been going to the same home since my brothers and I were born.  For the three of us, it’s a place with over half a century of great memories and countless “fish stories.”  We found ourselves laughing a lot about all the crazy times we have had on the lake!  Like the time, about 8 years ago, when I dressed up in a “wild-man” costume, complete with mask and burning torch.  We told all the kids we had found “Jason,” the wild-man living in the woods and he was going to scare everyone after dark.  We played it up for 3 or 4 days and many of the kids really believed us!  With about 12 kids and 8 adults on the patio deck in complete darkness, the plan was to have “Jason” run out of the woods, with burning torch in hand, yelling and screaming… The only problem was that with the rubber mask on my face, I couldn’t see right in front of my feet and I ran full speed into a 3 foot tall retaining wall made of railroad ties.  The railroad ties won, Jason lost!  I still have a small scar on my shin from that performance…. anything for the kiddos… Fun times….
Now, my brothers and I are not so crazy during our visits, but fear not…. with 4 nieces and nephews ages 13, 15, 18 and 20…. we are confident they will carry-on the tradition of “craziness…”
Thanks Mom and Dad for giving us a place to create so many wonderful memories!          


Cambodian Statues and a Corned Beef Sandwich.

A Cambodian Statue at the Cleveland Art Museum.

Last weekend my younger brother’s family and I visited my mother in Cleveland for Easter Weekend.  We were fortunate that the great Snow-God, Nanook of the North, decided to give us a break…. the weather was really nice all weekend!  I know that after the epic Winter Cleveland experienced during the 2013 – 2014 season, no one will be disappointed if Nanook takes a break from now until next December.  My brother in Michigan said it was perhaps the worst Winter season he can remember!

Everyone enjoyed a wonderful visit, Mom is doing great!  Over the weekend, I met-up with some old friends and even participated in a 2 day orgy…eating-orgy that is!
Cake, peeps, chocolate-eggs and candy-corn all helped facilitate the orgy!
If only I had better self-control when it comes to food…. oh well… lucky for me there are only a few holidays a year when I participate in an eating-orgy!

On my way out of Cleveland, I visited the Cleveland Art Museum for a few hours.  The 320 million dollar, multi-year renovation project was recently completed, with the opening of a wing of the museum dedicated to Asian Art.  The last time I visited, in December of 2013, the Asian Wing had not yet been completed.  I was very excited to learn that the museum was open and I could finally see the finished project.  In one word, the end result is… IMPRESSIVE!  As I have said before, the Cleveland Art Museum is among the best museums in the world!  For me, the two best qualities of the new Museum are, the ease of navigation and the abundance of natural light.  In many museums around the world, one needs at least a good map or maybe even a GPS to navigate the various collections!  Not at the Cleveland Art Museum, all rooms flow easily around a massive, glass ceiling atrium.  The glass-windowed additions around the atrium, allow for plenty of natural light and give many of the rooms a much larger feel.  When you visit Cleveland, make sure you spend a day at the Art Museum, you will not be disappointed!            

Slyman’s Corned-Beef Sandwich in Cleveland, Ohio.

After a few hours of wandering the halls of the Cleveland Art Museum, and in particular, the newly opened Asian Wing, what better food to eat than a Corned Beef sandwich from Slyman’s on E 31st and St Claire.  Who needs tofu, miso soup or a bento-box when a mouth-watering corned beef sandwich is available!  No seriously, if you like “carne” in any of its many flavors you will certainly love Slyman’s corned beef!  One sandwich is plenty big enough for 2 people, but since I was alone this time, I felt it was my duty to eat the whole sandwich minus the dill-pickle!  I couldn’t imagine leaving any of the sandwich on the plate, eating it all was a duty I gladly accepted!  Let the orgy continue!

Slymans Restaurant on 31st and St Clair in Cleveland, Ohio.
The new Atrium at the Cleveland Art Museum.
Cleveland Art Museum, 2014.
Works of Art at the newly opened Asian Wing of the Cleveland Art Museum.
Works of Art at the Cleveland Art Museum.


A Day on the Green River.

The appropriately named Green River in South Central Kentucky

It was a beautiful day in central Kentucky, sunny with temperatures in the high 70s, a great day for exploring one of the state’s many rivers.  Kentucky has literally thousands of miles of navigable waterways, making it a great place for kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts!  From Lawrenceburg, I drove south for about 50 miles on Hwy 127 to Casey County in south-central Kentucky.  My destination for today’s paddle was the Green River.  The Green River stretches 384 miles from its starting point north-east of Casey County all the way to the Ohio River.  The river flows generally in an east – west direction and goes through the famous Mammoth Cave National Park.  About a mile south of the small town of Liberty, I put-in my kayak under the bridge on Hwy 127.  Access to the river was easy and there was a small, flat rocky beach which allowed me to set-up my inflatable kayak free from the thick mud so common on the banks of most Kentucky rivers!  The water level was high and the river was moving at about 2-3 knots.  During my 12 mile trip, I didn’t see another person on the river, I guess it’s still early in the season for kayaking and canoeing.  I did however see plenty of wildlife, of course, the typical kingfishers, canada geese and numerous ducks were everywhere… but the tree filled with a dozen blue herons and their nests was a first for me.  The recent heavy rains caused a few trees to fall across the entire width of the river.  One advantage of having an inflatable kayak, at 26 pounds, is that it is easily carried across logs!  After about 3 hours, I reached the bridge on Hwy 1640, just north of the small town of Dunnville, my take-out point.  The east bank of the river just south of the bridge had a nice grassy area where I broke-down the kayak and stored everything for the trip home!  As you can see in a few of the pictures, the Green River is appropriately named.  What a great day!          

Green River in Casey County Kentucky.
The Innova Safari Kayak in a duffel bag for easy transport.

A few recommendations / tips for anyone interested in an inflatable kayak.  The obvious advantage of an inflatable is that it will be easy to transport.  Most inflatables fit into a bag the size of a large duffel.  They are light-weight and more durable than one might think!  My Innova Safari has traveled from the USA to Europe, Africa and South America without damage.  Depending on the Airline, there may or may not be an oversized baggage charge for shipping your kayak as a second piece of luggage.  I have not been charged additional fees on United or Lufthansa during my travels.  The Innova backpack that comes with your kayak is good for short distances, but I have found that you will eventually need to reinforce the shoulder straps where they connect to the bag as the stitching has come loose on my bag.  I purchased a rolling duffel to make airline travel more secure.  The Innova bag does not secure well enough for most airlines.  The top on the Innova bag is similar to a dry-bag, you can roll it up and then close it with a plastic snap.  The problem is that if the snap opens, the contents will easily fall out.  I recommend if you are planning to travel with the Innova Kayak bag, you place it inside another bag for added security.  In the red duffel pictured above, I can fit the Innova Safari Kayak, the K-Pump, a lifejacket, my 4 piece paddle, dive booties for my feet, 3 small dry boxes for my cell phone, wallet, keys and other small items, an extra set of clothing and a large dry bag.  When loaded with all these items, the bag weighs about 35 pounds.  Remember that with an inflatable kayak, your are not going to be able to carry as much gear as you can with a similar length plastic or fiberglass kayak.  Additionally, you will work harder to paddle an inflatable as some of the power you generate to move through the water will be lost because inflatables are not rigid.  That’s not to say they are bricks in the water, just that you will probably not win an olympic medal in an inflatable kayak.  For the type of paddling I like, mostly flat water rivers, streams and lakes or along the coasts and bays in the ocean, an inflatable kayak has been a great choice for me!

The Innova Kayak backpack which easily fits into the duffel.
The Innova Safari Kayak before inflation.
The Innova Safari Kayak ready to sail!
The Green River in Casey County Kentucky.
Kayaking the Green River in South Central Kentucky.
Nesting Blue Heron Cranes.
A few obstacles along the Green River.
The appropriately named Green River.
During the take-out, I came across a few cow-sucker snakes.
A cow-sucker snake on the 1640 bridge over the Green River. 
A beautiful creature, a cow-sucker snake!

I don’t know why I always seem to find snakes…. Mambas in Africa, Rattlers in the Mojave Desert, Copperheads on the Kentucky River and now…. Cow-suckers on the Green River!


A Bluegrass Backyard Adventure.

The backroads of the Kentucky Bluegrass Region are great for day-trip exploration!  The scenery is absolutely beautiful!  Drive 30 minutes outside of Lexington in any direction and the winding country roads will offer awesome views of grass covered rolling-hills, dissected by mile after mile of horse fences and countless creeks!  Follow a creek long enough and you are more than likely going to pass one of the many bourbon distilleries in the area.  Four Roses, Wild Turkey and Woodford Reserve Distilleries all have visitor’s centers and offer tours if you are interested in seeing how the only truly all “American” spirit is produced and of course you can always take a bottle home with you!  Horse-lovers will not be disappointed, some of the horse barns in the Bluegrass countryside look like European estates!  Just remember, horses live in those buildings… not people!  I should be so lucky!

I spent about 4 hours on the Big Old Mare today exploring the Bluegrass, I just couldn’t resist. The sun was shining at 8:00 AM and no rain was in the forecast, so I knew it was time to saddle-up the old sway-back and go for a ride.  For day trips, I like to have an area in mind but don’t always follow a pre-determined route.  That way I’m not slave to a map or GPS.  Today was no different, I just headed north from Lawrenceburg and tried to follow the Kentucky river toward Frankfort as best I could.  After crossing over the river and numerous creeks half a dozen times, I arrived in Frankfort a few hours later, just in time for lunch at the Cliffside Diner.  No matter where you explore, food always makes an adventure more enjoyable!  The Cliffside is a stone-throw away from the Kentucky State Capital and overlooks the Kentucky River.  Due to a row of trees between the diner and the river, the views from the restaurant aren’t that great but the food was excellent!  I will definitely visit the Cliffside again!  After lunch I crossed the Kentucky River again and headed south on Hwy 1659, aka McCraken Pike.  The road follows the east side of the Kentucky River for a few miles and then follows Glenns Creek all the way to the town of Versailles, often referred to as the “Horse Capital of the World.”  Yes, along the way you will see more horses than people!  On McCraken Pike you will pass the Old Taylor Distillery (closed since 1972) and the Woodford Reserve Distillery.  I stopped at both, long enough to stretch my legs and take a few happy-snappies!  It’s amazing how just a few hours of exploration make you feel like a new person!  

Don’t forget your map when you explore the Bluegrass!


The Cliffside Diner in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Really great food!
The Old Taylor Distillery.

The Old Taylor Distillery seems to come out of nowhere… you round a corner and bam… there it is… it’s definitely worth a photo-stop!  Rumor has it the property has been recently purchased and will soon produce bourbon again!

The Old Taylor Distillery sign.
An abandoned building, part of the Old Taylor Distillery.
Some Woodford Reserve Bourbon Barrels.
I stopped at the Woodford Reserve Distillery but didn’t enter the Visitor’s Center today.  They were busy with a suit and tie event and I was not really dressed for the occasion!  I will visit again in the near future, it will give me an excuse for another day-trip! 
I thought about trying to strap a barrel on the back of the Big Old Mare but decided against it!  The Kentucky backroads are narrow, hilly and winding… I might have ended-up in a creek!

Above and below, there are a few dirt roads in the Bluegrass region, great for dual sport motorcycle exploration!