North to Zion and Bryce.

After a great couple of days at Toroweap Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon I was planning to drive back south through Flagstaff, and on to Prescott to visit friends.  But realizing I was only about 45 miles from Zion National Park and 75 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park… I had to stop for an overnight visit to both parks!  The last time I visited them was in 1985, when my older brother and I drove through on our way to his first job after college in California.  I have some old 35 mm photographs of the parks but don’t remember very much about our visit!  It was almost 30 years ago and unfortunately memories fade with that many years!The best recommendation I can give anyone planning to visit Zion and Bryce is to buy the “America the Beautiful” annual parks pass before you travel.  The pass cost me $80.00 which may seem expensive, but when you realize the cost to enter Zion and Bryce is $25.00 each… $80.00 is not that bad!  Plus with the annual pass you can visit hundreds of other National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands at no additional fee!  After 3 weeks of traveling on this trip, I have visited parks that without the pass would have cost $74.00… so I’m sure I will get my money’s worth from the annual pass during “Road Trip 2014.”

The second best recommendation I can give concerning Zion and Bryce is to reserve a camping space in advance, definitely during the Summer months!  The parks are very popular destinations, they are easily accessible by vehicles making them very busy!  You can hike dozens of trails in both parks but if you are looking for “Into the Wild” type solitude… you probably won’t find it…. the trails can be busy too!

The amazing beauty of both parks far out-weighs any problems associated with how busy they can be in the Summer… they are both well worth at least a 2 day visit no matter how busy!

I hiked about 6 miles in both parks and had a great time!  We are very fortunate here in the USA to have so many beautiful, well maintained National Parks…. I plan to wander through many of them in 2014!

Zion National Park main entrance.
Zion National Park.
Bryce Canyon National Park main entrance.
Sunset Canyon at Bryce Canyon National Park.


The Dusty Trail to Toroweap Point!

The view from Toroweap Point on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Early Monday morning after the Overland Expo, a group of 5 vehicles headed north of Flagstaff to the Toroweap Point camping area on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.   There were 2 Jeep Rubicons, a Ford F250 pickup, a Lexus sports utility vehicle and my Tacoma in the convoy.  One Jeep and the Lexus were pulling off-road trailers. We were all anxious to find some peace and quiet after the craziness of Overland Expo 2014, see some beautiful scenery and more than anything, we all wanted to do some trail driving.  Yes, the Expo motivated all of us to venture off the beaten path, if only for a few days!
The distance from Flagstaff to Toroweap Point is about 258 miles.  The internet map I used called the location, Toroweap Point, Colorado City Arizona.  Drive time under normal daytime conditions is roughly 8 hours.  The easiest way to find Toroweap Point on a paper map is to find the town of Fredonia, Arizonia and go about 10 miles west on Az 389 to the left (or south) turnoff.  From the Toroweap turnoff you have about 65 miles of dirt and gravel road down the beautiful valley all the way to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the Toroweap Point Camping area.  The first 55 miles of dirt road are pretty easy, much like county roads anywhere in the country, except for maybe the beautiful views…. it’s the last 7 to 10 miles that are a bit challenging.  Plan about 2 and 1/2 hours drive time for the 65 miles.  There are signs recommending 4×4 and high clearance vehicles for the last 7 miles or so and that’s a sound recommendation!  My Tacoma TRD is stock and I had no problem negotiating the rocky 7 mile trail in high 4, but I drove slow!  A passenger car will probably not make it!  There are a few tight turns, so I believe any vehicle over 20 feet long (excluding vehicles with trailers) might get some Mojave pin-stripping during the last few miles.  An “Earth Cruiser” on a Fuso-Truck showed up at the campground on our second day there with some new pin-stripping on his truck-side from a rock wall or two, but he made it!  The campground has only 10 sites, no water or electric is available but camping is free of charge.  One site is a “group” site and will accommodate 4 vehicles and no more than 10 people.  Volunteer Ranger “Bob” was nice enough to let us camp at the site with 5 vehicles.  From the camping area it’s about a 1 mile walk to the rim of the canyon… and yes you are on the rim… one bad step and you could fall about 3000 feet to the canyon-floor and the Colorado River below.  The views are truly stunning in both directions, up and down river!  We spent 2 nights and one full day at Toroweap Point and had an awesome time.  We ate lots of great food.  A generous friend had a 3 pound tri-tip steak he shared with everyone on the first night!  Delicious!  Thanks Kevin!  The second night we improvised a bit and made what we called “North Rim Nachos.”  Everyone had some kind of mexican food, black beans, refried beans, carne, cheese, sour cream and hot sauce… we just combined everything into our bowls and dipped in with tortilla chips.  That way the mix was semi-protected from the wind and the sand!  The meal reminded me of the story from the children’s book, “Stone Soup.”  
Thanks to Mel, Kevin, Mark and Kelly for your culinary generosity during our visit to Toroweap Point…. I’d travel with you guys anytime and hope our paths cross again one day!!!
The dusty road to Toroweap Point.
The Toroweap sign at the Ranger Station.
Arriving at Toroweap Point Camping site.
Setting up camp.
Sunrise at the camping site, Toroweap Point.
Mel’s awesome ride!
A no legged friend near Toroweap Point.
The mandatory, “I was there picture.”


Ancient Indian Dwellings.

A few days ago I departed Oklahoma and headed toward Flagstaff, Arizona where I am today.  Along the way I came through the northern New Mexico mountains.  From the town of Eagle Nest, all the way to just south of Taos it snowed!  It wasn’t a lot of snow but it was snow… it was quite a change from the sunny 88 degree weather I experienced in Stillwater, Oklahoma just a few days before.  One thing I have learned about traveling through mountains anywhere in the world, expect the unexpected, you never know when it may snow.  I made it from the Oklahoma panhandle all the way to Gallup, New Mexico in one day.  I arrived late in the evening in Gallup and decided to spend the night so I could visit Richardson’s Trading Post in the morning.  I love the place and try to stop anytime I’m passing through Gallup.  Richardson’s is a must visit store, everything indian art related, like blankets, pottery, jewelry and the like, plus western saddles and leather goods can be found there!
Richardson’s Trading Post in Gallup, New Mexico, a MUST visit store!

I stopped at the KOA in Flagstaff on highway 89 just east of downtown.  It’s one of the nicest KOAs I have ever visited.  I wanted to do some laundry and have a hot shower after a few days of traveling and truck-camping.  The campground is a great place to base out of as you explore the Grand Canyon and local attractions like Sedona.  The campground is also popular with European travelers so don’t be surprised if you hear 7 or 8 foreign languages being spoken there!

I have passed the Wupatki National Monument at least a dozen times in the last 10 years going north or south on highway 89 but never stopped to visit.  Yesterday I decided to explore the park, and what a great place it is.  The park is home to numerous stone structures built by the Ancient Pueblo People about 1000 years ago.  The area flourished between 1040 and 1100 AD, shortly after the eruption of the nearby Sunset Volcano, making the normally dry soil, rich in volcanic material!

The lava flow from the Sunset Volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona.
Some of the ruins at the Wupatki National Monument.
The “Big House” at the Waputki National Monument.
A worship circle at the Waputki National Monument.
A ballfield where indians played a game similar to lacrosse.
An ancient home of the Pueblo People overlooking the grasslands.
A box canyon with the San Francisco peaks in the background.
My version of “cowboy steak.”  Steak, mushroom and tomato sauce… very tasty!

Now I’m off to Overland Expo 2014, and I hope to see some of my readers there!


“No Man’s Land,” and Dinosaur Footprints.

When I departed Stillwater, Oklahoma yesterday it was 88 degrees… when I arrived in Red River, New Mexico today at noon it was 28 degrees.  I was hoping the temperature would be a bit cooler in the New Mexico mountains, but a 60 degree drop in about 24 hours was more than I anticipated!
I have plenty of cold weather gear but with some luck I hope I don’t have to use it very often.  Tonight, the down sleeping bag and long undies are going to be on duty!
The No Man’s Land Sign in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Driving west in the Oklahoma panhandle you cross the Santa Fe Trail a few times!
One of the many small theaters all over Oklahoma,  many are no longer in use, but still picturesque.

The Oklahoma panhandle has been referred to as “No Man’s Land” since the mid 1800s.  The panhandle was originally part of Texas, but when Texas wanted to enter the Union in 1850 as a slave holding state, they forfeited the land that would later become part of Oklahoma.  As I drove west from Stillwater, I realized that the area could also be called “Not Many Peoples Land” because it really is sparsely inhabited.  Pronghorn antelope, tumbleweeds and rattlesnakes all hopped, bounced and slithered across the highway in front of my truck as I drove west on highway 64.  I was lucky to avoid tornadoes during my 4 days in Oklahoma, but my truck did get a good 5 minute “sandblasting” from a dust storm near Boise City!  I stopped for the night at Black Mesa State Park, located about as far west in the panhandle as one can go!  The winds were really high, probably 40 to 50 mph all night.
I decided it would be better to sleep in the bed of the Tacoma than in the tent-cot.  Lake Etling was only about 20 feet from my campsite and I didn’t want to test how well the tent-cot floats in the middle of the night after a strong gust of wind!  Their was a group of 2 tent campers a few sites away from me when I went to bed.  In the morning at about 7:00 AM when I departed, their tents were nowhere to be seen,  it looked like they sought refuge from the high winds in their vehicles, fortunately I didn’t see any tents in the lake!

A view north from the Black Mesa State Park.
Pronghorn Antelope a few feet off the highway.
The Truck sits atop the riverbank as I search for the dinosaur footprints.
On my way out of Oklahoma, I stopped at the Black Mesa Summit area about 8 miles north west of the Park.  I wanted to see the fossilized dinosaur footprints in the dry riverbed and the tri-state border marker.  The dinosaur footprints were really pretty cool to see, the three-toed prints were about the size of a trashcan lid and crossed the riverbed in a diagonal pattern.  The last time I saw three-toed footprints was in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and I think those were human?  I’m glad the creature that left the prints no longer inhabits the area, I’m not sure I could out run him today!
  If you plan to visit the area, the exact directions to find both the dinosaur footprints and the tri-state border marker are available in the window of the Black Mesa State Park office. 
Not easy to see, the dinosaur footprints near Black Mesa Summit.

The tri-state border marker is on the spot where the Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico borders all meet.  If you have ever wanted to be in three states simultaneously, you can do it there!  I managed to get one foot in Oklahoma, one foot in Colorado and my hand in New Mexico.

The Tri-State Border Marker in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

I saw an interesting quote from an Indian on a historical marker today,

“I don’t want to settle down in the houses you would build for us.  I love to roam over the wild prairie.  There I am free and happy.”

-Satanta (White Bear), Kiowa Warrior and Chief.

I know what you mean Chief, when I wander, I fell free and happy too!


Still Waters and Good Times.

After dinner in Paducah, Kentucky last Tuesday evening, I continued my drive west and crossed the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at about 7:00 PM and entered Missouri.  I was’t tired, so I decided to continue driving west on highway 60 for a few more hours.  Six hours later I was just south of Springfield, Missouri, in the town of Nixa.  I am not against hotels, or RV parks.  I’m sure I will stay in both during “Road Trip 2014, but if it’s late at night and I find a safe location, I prefer to save the $75.00+ hotel cost and stay in the truck-bed.  Nixa had a great, safe little park and I took advantage of it, sleeping for a few hours.In the morning I visited the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield west of Nixa.  On August 10, 1861, the battlefield was the scene to one of the first major engagements between the North and the South during the Civil War.  What makes the battle well known to many Civil War buffs is that Union General, Nathaniel Lyon, was the first General Officer killed during fierce fighting.  Although the South was seen as victorious that day, more than 2500 fighting-men from both sides were wounded or killed during the 6 hour engagement,  leaving some to wonder if there really was a “winner” after all.
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Visitor’s Center
Wilson’s Creek Battlefield

Just before noon, I visited the Global Expedition Vehicles (GXV) factory in Nixa.  Even though I will probably never be able to afford one of their incredible overland vehicles, I have always wanted to see their operations up close.  I normally don’t like to show-up unannounced but since I wasn’t really sure when or if I would arrive in Nixa, I didn’t want to call ahead and make an appointment that I might not have been able to keep!  Lucky for me the folks at GXV were happy to show me a few of their vehicles and I was even more impressed than I thought I would be!  The Global Expedition Vehicles are truly amazing machines.  Basically, they are self-contained go anywhere RVs on steroids.  I was lucky enough to meet a new owner at the factory, there to pick-up his vehicle and go on his first trip! He let me have a peek inside his vehicle and the interior looks every bit as good as the exterior!  Maybe one day I will buy one…. because what is a life without dreams….
Thanks to all the great people at GXV for letting me visit the factory!

An amazing Global Expedition Vehicle at the factory in Nixa, Missouri.
A Global Expedition Vehicle.

Back on the road that afternoon, I continued west toward Oklahoma.  I camped for the night at the Twin Bridges State Park near Miami, Oklahoma.  The park had about 130 spaces for campers and RVs but I think when I arrived, I made the 4th guest for the night.  Summer break has not started yet and I was there during the week, so the park was pretty empty!  There was a severe thunderstorm warning all night but fortunately I only got about 2 minutes of rain and gusty winds!  No tornadoes is always a plus when you are sleeping in a tent-cot that would probably act like a giant sailboat in high winds!  The tent-cot survived 30 mile an hour winds and I got a good night’s rest!

The Rt 66 Sign in Miami, Oklahoma.

Thursday morning, I continued my trip toward Stillwater, stopping at a few famous Rt 66 spots along the way.  Most people don’t know it but Oklahoma at one time had more than 400 miles of Rt 66 meandering through the state and has some iconic sites still today!

I spent from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning in Stillwater and Oklahoma City visiting my aunt and my cousin.  It was really great seeing them again.  They were awesome ambassadors and showed me a wonderful time!  We toured the campuses of both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, went to the horse races and ate some great food!  After eating chili-cheese fries from Eskimo Joes and Pizza from the Hideaway… I might need to look for a pair of old-man stretchy pants!
Thanks Aunt Jackie and cousin Brock for a great visit!

The Stillwater Welcome Sign.
The Boot on the OSU Campus.
The beautiful grounds of OSU Campus.
OSU Campus
The Spirit Rider at OSU.

Now, I continue my journey westward toward the panhandle and “No Man’s Land.”


Westward Toward Oklahoma.

As I mentioned in the last post, I don’t really have a set agenda for “Road Trip 2014,” and it’s true, I really don’t!  But I still have a few people and places I want to see!  My first want to see person is my Aunt in Oklahoma.  The last time I visited her at her home was over 10 years ago when she and her family were living in the Oklahoma panhandle.  We see each other just about every Summer, usually in Michigan for a few days.  I’m really looking forward to seeing her again, but this time in cowboy country, Stillwater, Oklahoma later today!In order to get to Stillwater, I departed Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and headed south-west on the Bluegrass and Western Kentucky Parkways.  Along the way I made 3 stops in Kentucky, which made the usual 4 hour trip to Paducah take all day!

First stop, the small town of Central Kentucky, hometown of the famous singing duo, the Everly Brothers.  The town has a small monument in their honor and a one room museum filled with all sorts of Everly Brothers’ memorabilia.  I bought a 4 CD box set (the young lady at the museum was a great salesperson) and have been listening to the 100 tunes nonstop for the last 2 days… The lyrics from songs like, I Kissed You, Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have To Do Is Dream and Bye Bye Love are now permanently burned in my memory!
Note to self… bring more music CDs next trip!

The Everly Brothers Museum and Monument in Central Kentucky.
The Everly Brother  Monument in Central Kentucky.

The next stop was the Land Between the Lakes for just a few hours, a great place to visit for anyone in-to all sports water related!  I was really surprised to see a marina with large sailboats!  The area is way too big to do it justice in just a few hours, so I will definitely visit again in the Fall.

The Lighthouse Marina in Grand Rivers on Land Between the Lakes.

The third and final stop in Kentucky was in the river town of Paducah.  The city is truly a must see location for visitors to western Kentucky.  It’s picturesque, artsy downtown is located on the Tennessee River and only a few miles from the Ohio, Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers.  Needless to say, the town’s location, so close to 4 major rivers has played a key role in its history.  The town has been a major stopping point for river-borne commerce for over 3 centuries!
Second note to self… when packing a bottle of curry spice before a long road trip, try not to spill any on your car seats, otherwise you will smell like an Indian Food Truck rolling down the highway.  I do love curry but I’m not fond of smelling like I’m wearing curry-cologne for the last 2 days!  Speaking of curry…. it’s time for dinner!

One of the many beautiful tree-lined streets in Paducah.
The Flood Wall and the Tennessee River beyond, in Downtown Paducah.


Road Trip… 2014.

After a few weeks of great visits with friends and family in
Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, it’s time for “Road Trip 2014.”No surprise, like my 2011 and 2012 road trips, I will be heading West again this time!
I love the American Southwest and want to explore more off the beaten path in 2014!  This trip will be in my Tacoma with ARE cap, which should make exploring the trails of the Southwest easier than in Bertha the Bigfoot Truck Camper.  That’s not to say that Bertha has been sent out to pasture, no way… she is just enjoying an extended vacation in a secure storage unit for a few more months!

For “Road Trip 2014” I really tried to pack as light as possible and still have the necessary equipment to be as “off the grid” as possible when camping!  I have limited solar capability, enough food and water for a week or two in the sticks.  But let’s be honest, I am probably not going to be more than a half day drive from a small town, no matter where I wander in the lower 48.  I wanted all equipment to fit in the bed of the Tacoma, so nothing will be on the roof rack, at least that’s how I departed Kentucky anyway… who know’s what I may bring back on the roof, maybe a stuffed moose head would look good on the farm… maybe not!  In any case, this is a great opportunity to explore Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and then Maybe up the West Coast?  I don’t have a set agenda, other than plans to visit some family and friends along the way… first visit…. family in Oklahoma!

Above, just about all my equipment for “Road Trip 2014” packed and ready to fit in the bed of the Tacoma.  Believe it or not, I still have room to sleep in the bed, when the gear is properly stacked and that includes the kayak too!  It’s not a lot of room, but enough for a good night’s rest!  With all gear onboard, a full tank of gas and me in the driver’s seat, the Tacoma weighed-in at 5050 pounds.  Not bad, with a GVWR of 5500 pounds, I still have about 400 pounds to spare!  No one can call me a
Phat-Azz this trip!

Above, the Tacoma in Bertha’s parking spot, all packed up and ready to go for
“Road Trip 2014.”

Above, before departure, I needed a proper cup of coffee!  After trying may different coffee making solutions over the years, to include 12 volt coffee makers and campfire percolators to name a few,  I have finally settled on a small coffee grinder and an MSR filter.  Grind your beans the way you like, pour hot water over the MSR filter and presto…. a great cup of coffee!  Coffee always makes departure more enjoyable!

Above, departing the “Farm” for “Road Trip 2014.”  The weather was perfect… a great sign of things to come I’m sure!


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!


Rode My Horse to a Tavern.

For the last few weeks the Big-Old-Mare (aka my Honda XR650L motorcycle) has been chomping at the bit to go for a ride.  She has been cooped-up in the barn since mid-November, when I rode her for the last time.  Even though we are almost in April, and Spring officially arrived last week, it seems “Old Man Winter” is not quite ready to release his grip on central Kentucky just yet. Yesterday morning it was 17 degrees when I went outside at about 7 am, too cold for my “first” Spring-ride of the year.  Today looked a-whole-lot better at 36 degrees at about 8 am, so I dressed for a ride, wool shirt, neck-gator, helmet, gloves and a riding jacket.  I filled the horse up with a few gallons of fresh fuel and hit the road.  By 8:30 am, the mercury had edged up a degree to 37.  From Lawrenceburg, I headed west on Hwy 62 in the direction of Bardstown, home of the world famous “Makers Mark” bourbon distillery.  After riding about 5 miles at 55 mph in 37 degree weather, my hands were sufficiently frozen that I couldn’t feel them or my twig and berries who were well on their way to the land of frozen appendages…so I decided it was time to let discretion rule!  I turned-back and headed home for a few hours to wait for the day to warm up some.  At a little after 11:00 am, it was in the mid-40s so the B.O.M and I again headed west to Bardstown!  Much better, what a difference a few degrees made, it had warmed up enough so I could actually feel my hands for the entire 50 mile ride to Bardstown.  Our destination was the 18th century Old Talbott Tavern.  Built in 1779, Old Talbott Tavern is the oldest stagecoach stop still in operation.  Even though the stagecoach no longer stops there, the Tavern still functions today as a restaurant and hotel.  Notable guests at the Tavern have included Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Jesse James and even George Patton, to name just a few!  It’s reported that the Tavern, situated right next door to the old county jail, is even haunted.  Fortunately, during my lunch I did’t encounter any ghosts, just a friendly waitress and a great sandwich!
The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky
The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky
The old bar at the Old Talbott Tavern
The old jail in Bardstown, Kentucky…now a Bed and Breakfast.
The iron gate of the old jail
The original manufacturer’s emblem on the jail’s gate
Log School House in downtown Bardstown, Kentucky
Downtown Bardstown, Kentucky
The downtown Bardstown, Kentucky historical marker.

Today’s ride was a great “first” ride of the year!  It gave me and the “Big Old Mare” a chance to stretch our muscles and see some new sights close to our own backyard.  I know I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again, short duration, local get-aways can be just as much fun as cross-country or overseas trips for sure!  I’m glad I got a ride in today because as I type this post it’s raining pretty hard and the weather forecast for the next few days looks pretty grim… heavy rain and possibly some snow on Saturday… wow… the weather this season has been really crazy!  I hope it warms up soon, I have many more adventures in mind!