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December 27-31, 2009: We just got back from a trip to the "Big Easy." That's New Orleans. This place, which has been such a big part of my American geography vocabulary all my life, has always seemed "too far away" to seriously contemplate visiting. There were just too many other places competing for my, typically, limited travel-time discretion. Well, the trip down there--about 500 miles--was very do-able, and everything went just fine. We spent just parts of three days in New Orleans, but we drove quite a bit through it, and spent considerable time in the French Quarter, went to and toured Oak Alley Plantation, explored a cemetery in Metairie, drove through the Garden District, and ate at three authentic restaurants. The architecture, was just as interestingly "old world" as I expected and longed for. The atmosphere, was super, the streets and venues were crowded. It was all good! While, we didn't specifically seek out evidence of storm damage from Katrina, it was fairly obvious in many places. You have to admire the resilience of New Orleans residents and people of the entire region!

On the way back to Tennessee, we drove along the Mississippi Gulf of Mexico stretch of Hwy. 90, from Bay of St. Louis to Biloxi, which suffered tremendous damage from Katrina, and drove to Dauphin Island, below Mobile, AL. Linda and I went to Dauphin Island in December 1998, and didn't get to see much of it (because we immediately caught the bay ferry off the island, because it was the last crossing for the day), and got to drive all across it this time, albeit in the rain, but it was enjoyable. We drove up to Montgomery, and located the house--the first house I remember living in--when I was about two-years-old. This was a personal pilgrimage, and because we have a new GPS, it seemed opportune. Weatherwise, the first two-and-a-half days of our trip were mostly sunny, if a bit chilly, and the last two-days were rainy, which really wasn't too bad considering the time of year. All-in-all, it was a really good trip! See photos of our trip at my Flickr site.

December 25, 2009: The weather outside is blaah!, but we are inside relaxing. Linda's off for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for the first time in years, which is nice. We are hoping to go for a trip next week; one of our rare opportunities to go anywhere for more than a day, or two. We'll see how it goes.

December 12, 2009: Today, Dad, Reanna and I went to Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin, TN. It was really neat! Historic Downtown Franklin was transformed into a Victorian English Village. It was very crowded, and there were a lot of people dressed up in Victorian dress, and characters from A Christmas Carol. I almost felt like I was transported back to London a couple of times!

December 8, 2009: I discovered that my Geocities website was no longer working. Yahoo decided to discontinue Geocities, apparently. It was one of the first free online web-hosting sites where anyone could register and create a website. I started in July 1996, and maintained a site all these years. And now, it is gone. What a shame. I cut my html-teeth on that little site--well before easy-to-use-editors came about. Oh, well that's the way the cyber-cookie crumbles, I guess.

December 4-6, 2009: What a busy weekend! Friday night Reanna was in the Tullahoma Christmas Parade with her Girl Scout troop. Saturday, we woke up to one-inch of snow outside, which was a surprise. We did some Christmas shopping, and watched A Christmas Carol at the cinema. And then on Sunday, Reanna's Cheer Storm cheerleading & dance group went to a competition in Birmingham, AL. It was a huge event with thousands of people there. Reanna has been on Cheer Storm since last June, and they have been practicing 2-3 times a week. This was their first competition since Reanna joined. They did very well, but due to a stunt that wasn't allowed, they got penalized and finished 7th out of 8 teams. Their coach owned up to it. Oh, well...They looked great anyway, and it was a good experience. Check out this photo.

November 28, 2009: Today, Dad, Reanna and I went to Franklin State Forest area to do some hiking. It is located on Hwy. 156, 7-miles SE of Sewanee, TN. It has been a state forest since the 1930s, and even has a CCC Lake. We hiked to Tom Pack Falls, but the trail was in bad shape, even blocked off by plastic tape, near the falls, and we didn't get to see it properly, but it was an enjoyable hike non-the-less. The weather was very nice--sunny and mild--and we didn't want to go too far and overdo it today. Funny thing is, at the parking lot, there were over a dozen horse trailers there, and there must have been some kind of big horse riding event going on. We saw evidence of horse tracks and manure on the trail, but not once did we see a horse, or anyone riding a horse, or any other hikers once we got on the trail! After our hike, we went to Sewanee to eat at the Blue Chair Cafe, and then we drove around Sewanee quite a bit, also stopping to hike on the Perimeter Trail, south of the big cross, for a bit. Then, we went home, down the mountain via Hwy. 41, just to take the slower, scenic route. Thanksgiving Day and the day after, we did a lot of leaf raking in our yard. We finally got the job done.

November 21, 2009: Today, Dad, Reanna and I went to Woodbury, TN, to visit a distant relative, and to see an old Merritt farm about a mile NE of Woodbury. Woodbury is where our Merritt ancestors settled sometime between 1830-1840, and just where they lived, originally, has been a mystery to me for a long time. But, it is possible that the farm we visited today (currently owned by a Mr. Vinson) is where they lived. There is an old dilapidated house there, and two sagging barns. Hay and cattle is still grown on the farm today. It has smooth pasture land on part of it and hilly, rocky, parts elsewhere, with cedar trees. The Stones River is within sight of the house. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but this was definitely in the Merritt family for a lengthy period, and is in the right area to be the original homestead. How exciting!

November 14, 2009: Today, Dad, Reanna and I went hiking for the first time in months. We went to the Fiery Gizzard Trail, near Tracy City, TN, in the Cumberland Mountains, and hiked for four-miles in, and four-miles back out. We went there 3 or 4-years ago, but we went a lot further this time. I wanted to go see Raven Point, but it was just too far. We could see it, maybe a mile away, but we had to turn back. Fiery Gizzard is a beautiful trail for its hemlock trees, redish soil, and huge rocks along the creek in a tight gorge.

November 12, 2009: Wow, a month has passed without a blog, and all I can say is that I have been very busy. We haven't done a lot of outstanding things lately because it has rained a lot, and leaf raking has become a priority. But, I have to share the news that today I heard Arun Gandhi speak at Motlow College, and it was a tremendous honor to hear him. He is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and is a distinguished speaker and advocate of nonviolent activism.

October 10, 2009: Today, Reanna and I went to Chattanooga (for the first time since July) to the Creative Discovery Museum, which is a big children's science and activity museum. We've been wanting to go there for a long time. It was crowded, and Reanna liked it so much--the displays and activities--that she didn't even notice when we passed some people who were handing out free smores! After that, we went to a book store, ate lunch at a Panera Bread, walked to the Walnut Street Bridge (where they were setting out chairs for a wedding, believe it or not), and then ate ice cream at a parlor. We drove to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, but there wasn't anywhere to park, and besides that it was getting late. I wanted to take our bicycles with us today, and possibly ride, but the weather was just too dicey, what with all the rain we've been getting, overcast sky, and cooler than normal temps. It was a good day.

October 1, 2009: Where did September go? That was the wettest, mildest September I can remember. Where did the summer go? I haven't even come to terms with the fact that it is football season yet, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to disavow sports. Sports bring too much misery. I totally avoided watching the Cubs this summer because they were such a disappointment. After two full seasons of following them closely day after day, and they actually won their division two years in a row, they totally tanked in the playoffs, going winless two years in a row. This was hard to swallow. So, when they started playing so inconsistently this season, I just couldn't watch them. Now, it's football season. UT is playing poorly, and more importantly to me, the Titans are 0-3 faster than you can say, "Last year we were 13-3, and surely this is going to be our year!" They have the worst luck. Every little mistake they make seems to kill them. They are not a bad team. They could be 3-0 with a few little turns of luck. But watching them like this is a miserable experience. Oh, well, I've never disavowed sports before, though I have escaped from American sports for a good bit while living in London. I didn't really miss it, I had so many other things to do. It was very liberating, actually. But finding liberty from sports in America is a difficult thing to do. There is almost no escape.

September 18, 2009: It has been about the wettest September in Tennessee that I can remember. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying. Well, my Trinidad 2009 travelogue is finally ready to be posted. You are welcome to read it.

September 5, 2009: Today, Reanna and I went to Nashville, to visit with my sister Melanie and her family. We met for lunch at a place called, Bruegger's Bagel Bakery, near Belle Meade, on Hwy. 100. Then, we went to the new Nature Center at Edwin Warner Park. Now, I haven't been to Percy Warner or Edwin Warner Park (two old, large, well established parks, south of Belle Meade, west of Brentwood) in a long time, although, when I lived in Nashville, during the 1980s, I was well acquainted with them. Today, their miles, and miles of paved trails resemble a greenway, but in a more hilly-woodsy area that seems far away from urban sprawl. Edwin Warner is much smaller than Percy Warner, but it has a good amount of trail, and I rode over a good bit of it twice in order to catch some of the smaller side-routes, and slip-trails. The Harpeth River Greenway also starts at the main parking lot (off Hwy. 100), and goes past Ensworth High School (a very posh private school that looks like a college campus), and beyond the Little Harpeth River for a bit. This was a very interesting ride for me, while Reanna played with her cousins, and I want to go back again to do Percy Warner Park sometime in the future.

August 29, 2009: Where did August go? The weather continues to be fantastically comfortable. This morning, Reanna's Cheer Storm group had a breakfast fundraiser at Applebee's. I had six pancakes. After that, I watched Edward Kennedy's funeral on CNN, which was rather riveting. I couldn't tear away from it, but we had some getting out, and biking to do. I took Reanna and our bikes to MTSU, to ride around on campus for the first time. A lot of students were moving into their dorms, and activities were going on, involving big tents, and food. I wanted to show Reanna around MTSU a bit--where I attended graduate school, and one uncle, and a few of my cousins attended. Oh, and I almost forgot, where my grandparents, Runa and Mattie Hix attended back in the early 30's, when it was a two-year teachers college. It's Middle Tennessee, and it's growing, growing, growing! After we got a snack at the student center, and ate it under a tree, we went to the M'boro Greenway at Cannonsburg Village and rode the whole 9-miles round-trip. I saw where the tornado went over the greenway back in April. Then, Reanna and I went back through Cannonsburg Village and hit the highlights. This was a refresher course, since we viewed it more slowly year-before-last. Great day in the 'Boro.

August 27, 2009: With the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy I think it is appropriate to mention that he was a great servant to this Country. He wasn't my favorite politician by any means, but he did sort of grow on me in his later years. I might also mention that Linda and I got to stand very close to him once. We didn't meet him formally, or shake his hand, but we stood beside him at the unveiling of my Brother-in-law Shane Neal's portrait painting of Arthur H. Vandenberg at the U.S. Capitol Building on September 14, 2004. You can read about it at, which describes my impressions of that day. The Senators' were like celebrities to us. It was amazing to be on their turf, and their element, which was really the People's House. I felt a warm sense of citizenship on that day, and that party affiliation didn't matter. It was special to stand so close to Senator Kennedy, to get a sense of his humanity, and to just listen to the speeches on that occasion (Bill Frist, and Christopher Dodd spoke) to honor two great Senator's of the past, Vandenberg, and Robert F. Wagner.

August 22, 2009: Today had a lot going on, and the weather continues to be unbelievably nice and mild. Drove over to Shelbyville with Mom, Dad and Reanna--stopping at a hill, with New Hope Church at the top. The view was a wonderful panorama of Shelbyville, off in the distance. I almost couldn't believe how beautiful this view was. Then, we went to visit a cousin and his family who have just recently built a new house in the Shelbyville area. Mom has been wanting us to find a time to go visit them, and it was a very pleasant one. Next, we went to eat lunch at Richard's Cafeteria. I've heard of this place for years and never been there till today. Then, we drove over to Motlow, to see the 40th Anniversary Celebration. It looked like a lot of people were there having an enjoyable time. But, Reanna and I had to go to our church building for a Luau Party for the young kids. There was a clown, named Bolo, food, games, and a train. Yes, a train on wheels, called J&M Express, who took the kids for a ride all around the Sherondale sub-division.

August 15, 2009: Today, Reanna had an extra long practice session with her cheerleading troupe, five hours to be exact. So, I took the opportunity to take my bike to Sewanee for a bit of on/off road riding. I’ve been there hiking numerous times, but never biking on their extensive network of biking/horseback riding trails. I’ve been dreaming about it for two years, but it was always considered too rough for Reanna to handle, so I stealthily jumped at the chance today, and it was very satisfying. I parked at Lake Cheston, rode around the lake, and then rode to what is called the “Parallel Trail,” in the thick woods, which is crisscrossed by other trails that they call “Fire Lanes.” I came to another small body of water, called Audubon Lake, and the trail got a bit rocky, so I backtracked to a main road (which was gravelly and potholed), called Breakfield Road, which went on, and on, but I finally came to the end, where I found three gates that guarded three different fire lanes. So, I took one of these for a couple of hundred yards or so, and it became a bit overgrown, so I turned around and rode all the way back to the campus proper. By this time I was just a little bit tired, but not too tired to ride around the campus for a good hour, doing my best biker-explorer-photographer routine.

Sewanee never ceases to amaze me. “Where did this place come from?” I often ask myself when I’m there. It looks like a big chunk of Aberdeen, Scotland plunked down on the Cumberland Plateau, with a touch of somewhere in America that is inordinately affluent, cultured, and not quite east coast, like, say, Charlotte, Virginia. Or else it is an academic Disney fairytale resort constructed in the mountains for the well endowed, I’m not sure. The place is so comfortably charming that I’m skeptical that they ever get any work, or study done there at all. Today, I sought exercise, adventure, nature, charm, and peaceful civilization, and I got plenty of it.

August 8, 2009: Today, Dad, Reanna, and I took our bikes in Dad's new truck to the Stones River Greenway. This is the longest of Greater Nashville's new greenways. I've seen different lengths posted on the web, but they say between 8-10 miles, which is the longest one. It starts at Percy Priest Dam, off of Stewart's Ferry Pike, and goes north along the Stones River. The only hitch in construction, still unrectified, is that at Lebanon Road the greenway ends at a Kohls shopping center, and you have to ride a little bit along Lebanon Road and cross the street on your own, and at Ravenswood Country Club the greenway continues. We attempted to do this, but since we were not familiar with the area, we couldn't figure it out (no signs tell you where to go), so we turned around and went back to Percy Priest Dam Trailhead. I then drove the truck in search for a place to continue on the greenway, and after eating lunch at Arby's, we went to McGavock High School, and continued on the greenway till the end at Two Rivers Park. Last October, whilst riding on Shelby Bottoms Greenway, Reanna and I discovered the pedestrian bridge across the Cumberland River, and we went over to Two Rivers Park, but decided not to go too far on the Stones River Greenway that day. So, today I got to see both ends of the Stones River Greenway, but we missed some of the mid-section. Well, it was over 90 degrees, and we were very hot, so I don't feel too bad about missing some of it today. I was impressed with the civic engineering that goes into these greenways, and the way they have recovered land along the rivers for recreation, within an urban, residential environment. Driving around the area of Hermitage and Two Rivers/McGavock, was very interesting. We also ventured up the long driveway of the Two Rivers Mansion, built in 1859, and admired the antebellum architecture. This was one of the hottest days of the year for me, with all the cycling in the heat, but it was very enjoyable.

August 1, 2009: Today was one of the best days of my so-called bicycling life. Reanna and I went to Nashville--for her to play with my sister's kids--and for me to ride my bike. I have been cherishing the thought of riding on some more of Nashville's new Greenways for a while, and it worked out for me to ride on the Richland Creek GW, and the Cumberland River Metro Center Levee GW. As a bonus, I rode around Vanderbilt University's extensive and beautiful campus for about an hour, then, drove over to Lipscomb University, just to drive around it a bit. The neat thing about Richland Creek is that I used to live on that side of town, and actually went by my old house apartment, near McCabe Golf course. Then, I went to search for the Metro Center Levee GW. I wasn't too sure where to find it, but I did, and as I was biking along it, minding my own business, I found The Tennessee Titans practice facility! It was quite a surprise to see Titans going into the facility from their automobiles for an afternoon practice. I didn't recognize any of them but I took pictures of the area, and of the "bubble," which is their indoor practice field. Continuing on the GW, the Cumberland River was very large and impressive. Then, I figured I would go to VU, and ride around. In all the years I lived in Nashville, and have been visiting Nashville, I have never really taken a tour of the campus. It turned out to be very attractive, and full of "old world" charm. I didn't realize it looked so "Ivy League." Not that I've been to any Ivy League campuses, mind you, but it certainly fit the image that I have. I have, after all, been to Oxford and Cambridge a few times, and to Sewanee many times, and I have to say, VU is a little more photogenic than Sewanee. Not by a lot, but VU has way more buildings, and a lot of leafy walkways that connect an eclectic array of buildings, many of which, are the older, academic gothic, which I like. It was getting late, and I was too pooped to ride anymore, so I drove by LU just to see if anything was new, and I was once again surprised to see some new changes to the campus. They seem to be working on it all the time, and making improvements. I went to collect Reanna at Mel's, and we went for some gourmet popsicles at a little-known shop on Granny White Pike that didn't have a sign, but was doing a lot of business with the trendy set. Then, we drove home to Tullahoma, mostly in the rain, as a considerable amount of moisture was coming up from the gulf. This was a great day.

July 25, 2009: Today, Reanna and I went with our younger church youth group to the Tennessee Aquarium, in Chattanooga, TN. It was the first time I'd been there since they opened the new Ocean Experience building, and I'd say it was pretty amazing. It was crowded alright, but that's to be expected. All those tanks with the jelly fish are so magnified that it got me a little bit dizzy from looking at them. Also, the weather has been unbelievably mild for the last week and a half that everyone is stuned in disbelief! A few record lows, and a general low amount of humidity has been characteristic of this period, and I can't remember such a time in recent memory. Usually, we'll get a day or two in August that is cooler than normal, but never anything like this in July!

July 22, 2009: Photos of our trip to Trinidad are on my Flickr site at Trinidad Trip 2009. It's not complete yet, but almost. See some of the unusual sights we saw and things we did. You won't regret it!

July 18, 2009: Linda is still off work for a few days, and since we had a rare Saturday where Linda didn't have to sleep, we decided to go to M'boro. First, we went to the International Food Market, on the Bradyville Hwy., and then to the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring & Wetland. We paid the addmission price and enjoyed the Discovery Center, a very hands-on activity place for kids, but adults will find things to learn about, too. Next, We went to the Avenue Shopping Center, and ate lunch at a fine Italian restaurant, called Romano's Macaroni Grill. Then, we went shopping at a few places, including Barnes & Noble. It was a nice day for us.

July 16, 2009: We made it back from Trinidad & Tobago last night, ok. We had a great trip. I got to do some of the things on my list that I wanted to do, and it was, as always, an intense experience. Funny thing happened though. After never losing any baggage before on a flight, we lost baggage both ways on this trip, flying with Delta. Two bags with all of Linda's and my clothes on the trip to Trinidad, and one bag with all my clothes on the return trip. So, my bag with all of my clothes was lost twice on the same trip. Is that amazing, or what? Well, not to worry, they recovered the lost bags both times and delivered them to us in a timely manner. I'll give Delta credit for that. They may have been screw-ups for losing the baggage, but they sure delivered them in the end, and for that I am very grateful. Another really funny thing is that, and I'm not making this up, is that just two days before our trip, on Saturday, June 27th, Dad, Reanna and I went to the Unclaimed Baggage Store in Scottsboro, AL. That is the largest unclaimed baggage store in the country, and it is famous. So, there you have it. We must have jinxed our bags on the flight by going to that store. That's the only way I can figure it!

Anyway, we had a great trip to Trinidad, and I'll have more to follow about it. Also, I've had a change of work venue. I have been transferred to Motlow's Clayton-Glass Library in Moore County. Today was my first day. It's a new beginning...

June 20, 2009: Today, Reanna and I went with our church youth group to Fall Creek Falls State Park. This is a pretty big park, and I always find it a bit confusing to get around in, but I didn't have to do any of the driving. That was done, very graciously, by our youth leader, Tim. We rode 14 people in a van that seats 15, plus we had some big coolers to bring plenty of water, and drinks. It was a very hot day, and we had some nice activities lined up to do. A group of us rented some bikes and rode on one of the paved bike/walking trails along the lake. It was very beautiful. After lunch, a group of us went horseback riding, which Reanna and I enjoyed. It was 2-3 miles on dirt trail, through thick woods, and it was the longest horse ride I've ever done. It's been a long time since I've ridden a horse, mind you. My horse's name was "Red." I tried to talk to Red, but he wasn't very responsive. Maybe the heat had something to do with it. Then, a group of us rode on a pontoon boat--a tour of the lake--by a young ranger, named Amanda, which was very nice, and informative. This was the first time I've ever been to FCF and not seen the big falls, but got to do some very worthwhile activities that I rarly get to do! It was a great day.

By the way, vacation time is coming up soon, and we are going to spend a wee bit of time in the land of calypso, but well off the tourist map.

June 13, 2009: Today is Dad's 73rd birthday. We had lunch with Uncle Robert, of McMinnville, and cousins Glenn, and Debbie, of M'boro at Cracker Barrel, in Manchester. Then, later today, we met with Uncle Dewey and cousin Andrew, who are visiting from Greensboro, NC, at the Imagination Station Park, in Tullahoma. It rained last night, but not today. Hopefully, things are going ok at Bonnaroo.

June 12, 2009: Well, it's Bonnaroo time in Manchester, TN again. The 8th annual Bonnaroo Music Festival opened yesterday morning, and I observed the traffic at the entrance twice as I drove through Manchester to work and back. We were gone on vacation last year at this time, so I missed it then. This year doesn't look much different than it did in 2007, except for more RV's. There's a lot more RV's this year. I thought they were out of fashion, but apparently not. As I passed by Coffee County High School yesterday morning it was like "RV City" in the parking lot. There must have been a hundred of them, waiting. At the Intersate overpass, near the entrance to Bonnaroo, there was a slow advancement of traffic making its way in, through numerous police traffic controllers. The Interstate was backed up in both directions, but I was able to get around the congestion and continue on Hwy. 55 to McMinnville without any problem. I saw cars of young people from Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Mass., New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and other states coming in with subdued excitement. It would be a long check-in process for them, and it rained very hard later in the morning and in the afternoon, and at night. Those poor Roons. The forcast doesn't look too good for the next couple of days, either!

June 6, 2009: Today, we got a late start, but Dad, Reanna, and I checked out a little-known, local natural area, called May Prairie. My archaeologist cousin, Don, informed me about this place over a month ago. Apparently, it has a number of characteristics that identify it as a prairie, which is unusual for this part of the country, and it has been marked for preservation since 1973. The one mile loop-trail to the Prairie was a pleasant walk through an oak woods, except for the ticks that we found trying to climb on us. There wasn't a lot we could do once we reached the prairie, for the trail seemed to end at the opening. It was unusual though. Next, we went to three or four places to look at trucks, since Dad is looking for a new used pickup truck. Then, we went to Short Springs Natural Area, near Tullahoma, to hike to Machine Falls. We have been there several times in recent years, and I consider it to be one of the loveliest, and most intimate of waterfalls in this area. I am a bit concerned about the cans and bottles that were left behind by some thoughtless people who must have been there recently, however. There is another waterfall at Short Srings, called Busby Falls, that we have not been to much, and we decided to go there too. It is not very accessible from the trail, but we discovered a tranquil spot along the stream above Busby Falls that I'd forgotten about. It's nice to find such wonderful scenic areas close to home.

May 30, 2009: Today, I took Reanna to Tims Ford State Park for a picnic with the KFC (her age-specific youth group at church, Kids for Christ), and it went very well. It was a beautiful day for playing and grilling burgers. I took our bicycles, just in case, but Reanna was so tired from playing that she didn't want to ride bikes after the picnic. Bummer. So, we drove around some, went to Tims Ford Dam, which I hadn't been to in years. The water level of the lake is the highest I've seen it in many years. It looks great! Next, we drove over to Estill Springs, to the little Taylors Creek Greenway, and rode our bikes around it. The water from Taylor Creek feeds into a small extension of Tims Ford Lake, like an overflow pond, of sorts, and the water was up as high as I've ever seen it. It looked really nice. The trails at Taylor Creek GW are made of finely crushed gravel, which is very nice for walking and riding on.

Memorial Day Weekend 2009: Saturday 23rd, Dad, Reanna, and I took our bikes to Brentwood Greenway, in Brentwood, TN. We rode about seven or eight miles total on this beautiful greenway. It was a little confusing telling where it started and finished, and discerning what was the numerous trailheads, and what was the main route, but there is a lot of civic money in Brentwood, and this is a very nice greenway. The Little Harpeth River parallels much of it. Then, we went to Nashville, to visit my sister and her family, and got to meet their new dog. Sunday & Monday: Sunday evening we drove to Elizabethtown, KY, to spend the night, and then Monday, we went to Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace, near Hodgenville. I have been wanting to do this for years, and the bicentennial year of his birth seemed like a good time to finally do it. We received a wonderful tour of the grounds by a capable guide. Reanna really got into the history along with the other children, and I was pleased with that. Next, we went to the Knob Creek site (NE of Hodgenville) where Linclon lived from age 2-7. Incidentally, I have now been to just about every main historic Lincoln site that there is, except his home in New Salem, IL. I've been to his home in Indiana, and I grew up near where his father, Thomas, settled when they moved to Illinois in 1830. I've been to Abe's home in Springfield, IL, and to the two former State Capitol buildings where he served as a legislator, to his grave, and to the Lincoln Memorial, Ford's Theater, and the Petersen House in Washington DC. I've also been to Lincoln, England, and Linkenheim, Germany, too, but that's beside the point. Next, we drove southeasterly through Kentucky, along state highway's 61, 55, and 127, to Cumberland Lake, and south to Pall Mall, TN. We were short on time, as usual, so we didn't stop at Alvin C. York's home, but we continued on to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. I've been wanting to explore this area for quite some time, especially the Twin Arches. The Twin Arches are the biggest natural arches in the eastern half of the U.S., and hardly anyone knows about them! For the shortest hike, you have to drive over seven miles on a gravel road to a nice trailhead, and then it's a .7 mile hike to the arches. They are spectacular, let me tell you! This was very enjoyable because Linda was with us for this hike, and she liked it. I am very pleased that this fit into our schedule and that the weather cooperated. See my photostream at flickr, for some photos of the arches. Next, we drove through Big South Fork, along Hwy. 297, to Oneida, and then down to Rugby, but alas, Rugby was all closed down by this time. We wanted Reanna to see Rugby, but that will have to wait till another time. All-in-all, it was a great Memorial Day weekend.

May 16, 2009: Today was another rainy Saturday, but we had indoor plans. We went with our church youth group in the van to Nashville, to play Laser Tag at Laser Quest, on Second Avenue, downtown. This worked out very well, as it happens, and it wasn't even crowded. Laser tag hasn't changed a bit since I first played it in the early 90s, but it can still be a lot of fun. We played two rounds. The first round I wasn't quite acclimated to it, and I was trying to take some pictures, so I finished in 9th place. But the second round, this "old guy" finished 3rd. How about that?! And Reanna finished 4th. Not bad. Next, we all went to the Spaghetti Factory for lunch, and I had Spinach Tortellini in Alphredo Sauce. Umm, it sure was good. Then, we drove home in the rain.

May 9-10, 2009: We've had the rainiest last couple of weeks in recent memory, and Saturday was another rainy day, so there wasn't much we could do. Reanna and I decided to check out the Bounce Barn at their new, larger location. It was nice, and I took my Kindle to do some reading, and I saw another parent with a Kindle. That's the first person I've seen around here that has one besides me. We also drove out to Normany Lake. After several years of drought conditions in this area, our water supply at Normandy Lake has been a constant concern of mine, and I periodically like to drive out there, to see the lake, and check on its level. Well, I am happy to say that it is completely full for the first time in years! It looks great. You wouldn't believe the difference compared to a year ago! Sunday was Mother's Day, the biggest "eating out" day of the year, and we went out to a Chinese restaurant in town, and it was unbelievably busy. People were standing in line to get in the whole time we were there! And Tullahoma does not have a shortage of restaurants. Sunday night was the finale of another Amazing Race series. We have enjoyed watching this program on CBS for a number of years now. If you've never watched it, you've missed a really neat show with a lot of interesting adventure and travel. I don't know if they will continue the show much longer. I love the concept, and there isn't much else like it on TV.

May 4, 2009: Well, we've just been through a rainy patch that only comes around once every few years around here. It started raining Thursday night, and it has been raining almost constantly all weekend up till Monday morning. We've gotten somewhere between 5-6 inches, according to Tullahoma Utilities Board. That doesn't sound like a whole lot, but it has been steady and slow, which is great for our water supply around here. Understandably, there wasn't much we could do for most of the weekend, except stay inside. Reanna had her piano recital on Sunday afternoon (her second year with Sarah Young, music teacher), and she played "Over the Rainbow," which she has been practicing for months. Do you want to hear a really strange coincidence? The other day we rented the fairly recent movie Australia from the video store, and watched it Saturday night. A recurring theme throughout the movie was the tune "Over the Rainbow." That is almost too freaky to be true, but it is.

April 25, 2009: Today, Dad, Reanna and I went to Edgar Evins State Park, located on the north side of Center Hill Lake, about 80 miles, or two hours drive north of Tullahoma. It was a rather hilly and scenic area. We'd heard that there was a hiking trail there, called Merritt Ridge Trail, which had sparked our curiosity. We know that there was a Merritt family living in DeKalb County, TN, with similar names and dates that parallel our Merritt ancestors in bordering Cannon County, but we have not been able to establish a link between them. So, we drove up to Edgar Evins State Park to see what we could find. There was a very nice welcome center there, with maps and old photos, but no information about the Merritt family for which "Merritt Ridge" is named. What a shame. We were told that the regular ranger, who works during the week, might know some of the history. We went and hiked part of the trail, but it was quite hilly, and Reanna wasn't too keen on going to the end, so we turned around after about two-miles. The view of the lake was probably near the end of the trail, but we'll have to save that for another day. This gives us a little more incentive to keep searching for information and links in our quest for more family history.

April 20, 2009: The Summit of the Americas was hosted by Trinidad & Tobago over the weekend. A lot could be said about it, but I don't have time on this little blog. It was the biggest event ever hosted by Trinidad, and they can be proud of the way it was received for the most part. The Trinidad newspapers, the Express, and the Guardian, have mixed reviews about it, but NPR was fairly complimentary of the summit as I listened this morning. On Saturday, Reanna and I went to Burgess Falls, near Center Hill Lake, east of Smithville, TN. The falls is one of the most beautiful anywhere in this part of the country, in my opinion, and the water was very abundant. We hadn't been there since 2003, and Reanna was too young at the time to hike to the falls. They have improved the steps and railings on the trail since then. The weather was very nice. I have been trying to work on our yard, pruning the shrubs, and holly bushes, and raking out the leaves that were stuck underneath. That kept me busy the past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening till dark.

April 11, 2009: Life is just whizzing by too fast. I can barely keep up with Facebook, the new baseball season, and, I've bought a Kindle, one of those new digital book readers that has put out. I'm trying to get the low-down on how to use it. Plus, today Reanna and I went hiking to Greeter Falls and Boardtree Falls, two lovely sights near Altamont, TN that have been dry the last two times we've been there. It's been a very wet spring, so I knew we could see lots of water rolling off these falls, and we weren't disappointed. In fact, it was very misty and overcast, almost too wet for hiking, but it went ok. Today, is also Linda's and my 17th anniversary.

April 4, 2009: Today, Dad, Reanna, and I hiked to the Walls of Jericho, a scenic rock formation in a remote location in the mountains along the Tennessee-Alabama state line, SW of Winchester, TN, on Hwy 16. The parking lot is 32 miles from our house. We last hiked to the Walls of Jericho back in June of 2006, on the Alabama trail, and I pretty much made up my mind never to do it again, it was so strenuous. Well, since then, they have opened a trail on the Tennessee-side of the mountain, and my curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see if this trail was any easier! Well, when we got there the sign said it was 4.3 miles to the Walls of Jericho, and I knew that the Alabama trail was 3.5 miles. So, I could see that it was going to be longer this time--but I thought, "Maybe it won't be as strenuous," so we tried it anyway. Boy, was I wrong!!! It was very strenuous, and we just about wore ourselves out completing the hike (almost nine-miles total). The up side of the trip was that there was more water coming off the mountain, which made the waterfall very strong, and there were more people there, which made it seem more exciting to see this time. However, all the people we saw had hiked the Alabama trail, with the exception of one couple. So, our stamina had really been put to the test! The Tennessee trail was over 1.5 miles longer. That was the down side, plus the fact that it was very sunny and I got sunburned without a hat. We just narrowly had enough water with us, too. I've done a fair amount of hiking in the Cumberland Mountains, and this one is the most tiring one I've done. The steep up and down parts, and numerous switchbacks are grueling, to say the least, but after seeing the WOJ one more time, and am glad we did it.

April 2, 2009: Here's something a little bit exciting that you don't see everyday. Last night the Trinidad & Tobago national soccer team played the U.S.A. national team in a FIFA World Cup qualifier match in Nashville's LP Field. This was a big surprise to Linda and I, and if we'd known about it more in advance, we might have tried to go, although I did give it some thought about going anyway. The U.S. won 3-0, on the strength of Jozy Altidore's marvelous hat-trick, but T&T had to play without their best player, Dwight York. It was a wonderful event. Here's what the Tennessean said today, about the match...

"From the foreigners who flew in just for this event to thousands of local residents who took off early from work and school, an almost magical energy swept through downtown Nashville as Music City hosted its part of the most important soccer tournament on Earth...The crowd of 27,959 was the largest to see a soccer match in the state's history, topping the 26,141 who watched the U.S. team's match against Morocco in 2006 at LP Field...Although the crowd was expectedly pro-American, Trinidad & Tobago had a surprisingly strong following. A couple thousand fans dressed in the team's red, white and black colors waved its country's flag as they walked to the stadium."

"When you have a crowd like that who cheers you on for the whole 90 minutes, it's a big factor," said U.S. forward Jozy Altidore, who scored all three goals. "It's an extra man. It gives you more energy and it definitely helped us tonight."

Fortunately, the game was televised on ESPN2, and we taped it, and watched most of it.

March 28, 2009: Today's weather prospects looked cloudy/rainy, so Reanna and I decided to go skating in M'boro, at Skate Center West. This is about the third time we have been there, and I am still impressed with the place. They have the best rental skates that I have ever seen. There was a good crowd there, and for the most part, I was the oldest person skating, until one man, who looked a good bit older than me, got out on the skate floor, and did some fine skating. I think he might have been the owner. Later, I decided to check out a place I have passed by in the car a couple of times and have been courious about. As always, I am delighted to find new and interesting places, and this time we were surprised to find the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring & Wetlands. This is a hands-on children's museum, and nature center, with an amazing boardwalk thru the wetlands, similar to some of the parts of the M'boro Greenway that we have already seen in the previous two years. How exciting! We didn't have time to tour the museum (which looked like it could take a couple of hours), but we did walk the boardwalk thru the wetlands, and this was terrific. We'll definitely be going back sometime to see more in the future. We took the scenic route home, via Hwy 99, to Bradyville (where my paternal grandfather was born), and passed a zebra farm. Yes, how interesting! And then we drove up the escarpment of Canon County and Coffee County borderlands, and made our way back home via Midway, and Manchester. Tonight, we observed "Earth Hour", between 8:30-9:30 p.m., and turned out all our lights. Reanna is quite interested in helping out with this, and so was I.

March 21, 2009: Well, March has been a busy month, let me tell you, with Reanna's birthday, and her Girl Scout Troop's trip to Savannah, GA--just too much to write about. Today, however, Dad, Reanna, and I got some much needed exercise on our first real hike of the year. We went to Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Area, near Manchester, TN. It's a fascinating place, and we usually go there at least once a year. This time, however, we took the additional two-miles of trail, beyond the main 1.4 mile interpretive trail, and it was very nice. We got to see the confluence of the the Big and Little Duck Rivers, plus the scenic "Backbone & Little Duck Loop" which was completely new to us. It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of hikers out and about. I am looking forward to some more hiking this spring!

March 1, 2009: Well, much to my surprise, Tullahoma woke up to a blanket of snow. We were actually in the firing line of a pretty big winter storm, for the first time in ages. The ground was very wet, and not-so-cold, at the beginning of the storm, so a lot of the snow melted at first, but by 7:00AM, when I got up, there was almost five inches of snow in our yard! It was beautiful! But once the sun came out, it started melting on the roads pretty fast. You can usually count the life of snow around here by hours, and not days, but it did stay on the ground in most places all day and into the night.

February 28, 2009: Well, Reanna's last Upward basketball game was today, and although they lost 30-28, they played a heck of a game. This was against one of the best teams, and Reanna's team was leading 20-12 at the half, but things swung the other way in the second half. They showed a lot of ability in this game, and have a lot to be proud of. This evening, our church youth group had a scavenger hunt competition that we call the "Amazing Race." This is the third such race we have had, and this time my team came in 2nd place, out of four. I was a driver, but the kids were supposed to figure out the clues and tell me where to go.

February 21, 2009: A bright, but cold Saturday. Not much to do, so Reanna and I went roller skating in Tullahoma. It was pretty crowded, with the usual birthday parties. Reanna's next-to-last Upward basketball game was at 4:00pm, and they got a rematch against one of the best teams (I honestly don't know how they divide up the players in this league, but Reanna's team has had a distinct height disadvantage in every game). That said, they played their little hearts out. They actually were leading by at least six points at one point in the first half, but it was tied 12-12 at halftime. They lost 34-25, but really tried hard to hang in there. Next week is the last game of the season.

February 14, 2009: Valentine's Day, and a busy Saturday. Reanna's team, the Lady Comets, won their game 26-18 today. They have, proudly, evened their record to 3-3 now. They are playing well of late. Also, some activities with her church youth group, the KFC (Kids for Christ), included a visit to Lowe's, where they got to make little wood projects. This was provided free by Lowe's. The kids enjoyed making jewellry boxes, time capsules, and gingerbread houses out of wood. Fun day!

February 12, 2009: Today is Lincoln and Darwin's birthday, who were both born on the same day, same year. I have learned a good bit about both men, having grown up in central Illinois, and lived in England. Charleston, IL, my home of eleven years (1970-1981), was a notable place on the Lincoln Trail. He practiced law occasionally in the court house, held one of his famous Lincoln-Douglas debates at the county fairgrounds in 1858, and his father and stepmother perminantly resided in the area, just eight-miles south of Charleston. The Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site is located there, where Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln lived, and farmed, and are buried at a nearby church cemetery. I grew up hearing all the tributes to Lincoln, read a biography about him, heard a few different Lincoln impersonator's talk about him, and always viewed him favorably. Later on, I visited his boyhood home in southern Indiana, and went to see his home in Springfield, IL, his tomb, and I've been to the Lincoln Memorial, and Ford's Theater in Washington D.C., etc. Lincoln has been a big influence in my life, no doubt.

And then there's Darwin. Much has been said in the media lately about the Lincoln-Darwin shared birthday and the accomplishments of both men. Though I have always held Darwin at arms length, I have come to know a good bit about him. I've seen a few exhibits about him in London's Natural History Museum, and the Horniman Museum. I've been to the house where Darwin lived in Downe, England, once, though I passed nearby the small village many, many times in my travels, south of London, to lots of places in Kent and Surrey counties, and been to his tomb in Westminster Abbey. I've learned that Darwin was not an atheist, or even a secular humanist (in the modern sense). He did not intend to destroy faith in God. There is certainly a lot of renewed interest in Lincoln and Darwin this year. A lot is being said about them in books, magazines and documentaries--what they stood for, and how they should be viewed by history. I would say, don't believe all the little snippets of commentary that are being pitched around in the media, and do some study of your own. Find some good sources and read about them.

February 7, 2009: Today, was warmer, but very breezy. We went driving around the area, exploring, and drove around Winchester, Decherd, and Cowan. Then, went to Woods Resevoir for a bit, but there wasn't much to do. Sometimes exploring country roads is the best kind of "getting out" that you can do. Reanna's Upward team won today, 28-22. Reanna scored three of her teams first five points, and they played their best game so far. It was so good to see their happy faces. Yea!

February 1, 2009: The Super Bowl? yes, I watched it. I was rooting for the Cardinals--which wasn't easy--but I couldn't bring myself to root for the Steelers. No, way. Too many bad memories from Super Bowl's X, and XIII, which were rebroadcast on the NFL Network over the weekend, BTW. I was a Cowboy fan back in the '70s. I think they had a lot of character back then, and those two Super Bowl's were painful. Since the Titans have come into being, I'm an AFC man all the way, but I still can't root for the Steelers. Got to hand it to them, though. This was a great win for them.

January 31, 2009: Reanna's Upward game was yesterday--Friday evening--this time, and they lost. Saturday, we went for a walk on my grandparent's farm at Raus. That is always good for a stimulating experience.

January 24, 2009: Today, Reanna had her Upward basketball game at 9:00AM, and unfortunately, they lost. It was strange, because the opposing team only had four players show up, and they needed Reanna's team to supply a player! And, as it turned out, Reanna's team kept supplying them with some pretty good players, in rotation, and they beat Reanna's team easily. That team could have won with four players. I don't see the fairness in that at all. Next, dad, Reanna, and I went to the Brentwood Skate Center--one of the best roller skating centers around--for my sister's daughter's birthday party. It was quite nice. Then, we drove over to Smyrna, to see the Motlow building, over there. I'd never been to it before. Then, we drove around Smyrna a bit, and looked up an old friend of mine who now lives there. It was good to see him and make contact. Smyrna is a growing area!

January 17, 2009: Today, was one of those really busy Saturday's when we had three activities lined up, and we had to go to all three of them. First of all, our youth group from church went ice skating at Centennial Sports Plex in Nashville, from 11:00am-1:00pm. My sister and niece was able to meet us there, and we had an unusual opportunity to skate together. Mel is still a great ice skater. She had lessons about ten years ago, and still has the moves. Then, we had to get Reanna to her Upward basketball game back in Tullahoma, for 3:00pm. Unfortunately, her team lost--big time. The opposing team was bigger and a lot more aggressive. They showed no mercy, which is not very in keeping with the program at Upward. Then, we had to get to the Bel-Aire Elementary School Winter Festival, which lasted till 7:00pm. The festival included a lot of carnival games in the classrooms, and food, and face painting, etc. By the end of the night I am pretty worn out.

January 11, 2009: It's deja vu all over again. I got it big time last October with the Cubs, and I've got it again with the Titans. After yesterday's playoff loss against the Ravens, it's hard to believe that these things just happen at random. It was almost the exact same gut wrenching loss as in 2001. Same circumstances, and a very similar performance by both teams. Unbelievable! This really hurts. I sincerely believe that if the Titans had played any other team yesterday besides the Ravens, they would have won. I could go on, and on, but why bother?

On a brighter note, Reanna's Upward basketball season got started on Saturday afternoon, and her team won its first game of the season, 18-12. The opposing girls were taller and bigger, but Reanna's team out hustled them!

January 2, 2009: Happy New Year, ya'll! Today, Reanna, her cousin Mattie Ree Neal, and I went to the Cumberland Science Museum in Nashville, TN. This was a nice educational experience for us--even though the place was packed with people, and it was hard to keep up with Reanna and Mattie. But, there is a lot to see there.

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