Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kansas to Louisville, KY and Airstream factory Jackson Center, Ohio

I've been so neglectful of this blog. Sorry!

I saw Sarah off at the Wichita, KS airport on Sunday morning,September 18, after the festival. As I drove the F-250 towing the 25' trailer right up to the departure terminal, I realized how ridiculous and futile the TSA's relevance really is. Had I been a terrorist, it would have been simple to use the trailer as a huge bomb. Similarly, we drove into the Anchorage, AK airport twice. I can't imagine doing such a thing in Boston. I guess Anchorage and Wichita just aren't as important as Boston.

The ride from Wichita to Lawrence was through the beautifully familiar flint hills of Kansas. My friend, Jim, kindly offered to let me park in his driveway. But, Clinton Lake Campground was just a few miles away. Because the summer camping season was over, there were just a handful of other campers there so it was peacefully quiet and Scout could wander around the campground without being on a leash.

It was nice spending a few days with Jim. We got to spend one morning duck hunting with his new Labrador Retriever, Max. While we didn't get any ducks, it was really enjoyable firing the guns and having the dog retrieve the dummy. The extreme exuberance the dog had for retrieving was worth the 4 A.M. alarm to get to Clinton Missouri from Lawrence, Kansas. We also got to do some repairs on his tractor that's out on his farm. Unfortunately, we found a few more problems that could not be fixed on site with the tools at hand.

Jim and his staff graciously allowed me to do some much needed medical work on Scout. At almost 15 years old, he had a number of unsightly benign growths and a couple neglected teeth. It was nice doing dentistry and surgery again, although I must admit, I was a bit nervous. Whether the jitters was from not having done surgery for so long or doing it on my own dog, I'm not sure, probably a little of each.

We left Kansas on Friday morning, making it all the way to Washington County Lake near Nashville, IL about 65 miles east of St. Louis. Scout and I got up early the next morning reaching Louisville, Kentucky that afternoon. Grandma's RV park is just 16 miles south of the center of Louisville where the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association Annual Conference was scheduled for this weekend (Oct 7 - 9). I stayed until Monday morning in order to get the oil changed on the truck and made arrangements to leave the Tinwheeler at Grandma's so that Sarah and I could return for the conference after I drove back to Massachusetts which is just a two day drive when you don't have to pull the trailer.
Grampa at Grandma's Campground with grandson and miniature mule

Along with Scout, and this time with Dot (the cat), Sarah and I returned to Louisville on Thursday the 6th of October. Despite the need to spend time in lectures I was been able to visit some of the sites in this very cosmopolitan city. The downtown area is vibrant with much of the historic downtown architecture preserved.  While I attended lectures, Sarah visited museums and the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory. I was able to join her on a visit to the Mohammad Ali Center. We spent two hours at the center, but one could easily spend an entire day seeing all there is to see at this magnificent place. Like so many of my friends, growing up in the 1960's, Ali was truly "The Champ". However, after visiting this place, my respect for his talent, courage, perseverance,  faith and humanity is even more solidified.
Ali Center
Yes, I still wear a tie when I go to a conference!

As one would expect, the city has many fine restaurants from which to choose. One area of the city known as restaurant row attracted us. While there were two or three haute cuisine style establishments to choose from, as well as some that served everything from sushi to tacos, we were drawn to Ditto's. We were attracted by the obvious artistic sense evidenced by the colorfully painted name sign. The first impression I had when I asked to see the menu was that of a sports bar due to the two large screen TVs, however the abundance of original and whimsical art contradicted that impression. The menu was fusion eclectic without being pretentious. I had a fine meatloaf set on Texas toast covered with perfect mashed potatoes and gravy finished with thinly sliced fried onion rings (called here tobacco rings). Absolutely the best presentation of good old comfort food I've had in a long time. Sarah had a braised chicken breast with a slightly sweet apple sauce served with very fine and moist crab cakes and garden salad.  Our waitress, and waiter in training, were attentive and eager to please. It was obvious that the wait staff were familiar with their many repeat customers as they lingered in small talk with them. Just as we were finishing our meal, the owner Mr. Frank Yang came to our table and asked what we had for dinner and were we pleased. We ended up having a delightful conversation with him about how he had started the restaurant 20 years ago and about his philosophy of serving his guests. It was one of our best dining experiences of the trip. Ditto is at 1114 Bardstown Road in Louisville (http://www.dittosrestaurant.com/). Thanks Frank.

After experiencing Louisville rush hour traffic, it was nice passing through the city late on Sunday morning. Our destination was the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio. It would be a short trip so we could take our time. We stopped for fuel and a light lunch in the charming town of LaGrange, KY. Being Sunday, the only non-chain restaurant was the very appropriately named Serendipity Cafe on Main St. The Kentucky Hot Rod Association was having a rally right outside the cafe. A most fascinating feature was the fact that the railroad tracks ran directly down the center of Main St. The owner of the cafe said that it is not an infrequent occurrence for drivers to misjudge the speed of the train and end up being side-swiped or hit by the passing train.
Traffic comes to a halt when a train comes through LaGrange

It was comforting being back at the place I consider the true beginning of our cross continental adventure. Although it was a little odd seeing the empty field that was filled with Airstreams this past June during Alumapalooza.  Airstream provides camping facilities on the grounds with full hook ups. Use of these sites is only $10 per night for travelers and free for those, like us, having work done at the factory. We are having our wheels aligned and repairing a panel on the underside that has developed some corrosion. While we waited we succumbed to purchasing LED lights to replace incandescent ones. This should make boondocking much easier on our batteries.
In the shop

The repairs were completed in amazingly short order. They picked up the trailer from the camping terra-port promptly at 8 AM and the work was finished before noon and we were back on the road shortly thereafter. Our map showed the Cuyahoga National Park just south of Cleveland so that was where we intended to stop for the night. However, it is not actually a National Park as much as a preserve or recreation area. There were no campgrounds that we could find. We found a small parkng lot with a road at it's end. The road was blocked by a locked gate. We backed the trailer in and left it connected to the truck,  not only because we were only staying for the night, but because we were near a large metropolitan area and there was graffiti on on the signs at the trail head. Sarah wanted to be sure we could make a quick get away if we were harassed. At what felt like the middle of the night, it was actually 6 AM, Sarah woke me to tell me she saw headlights shining into the window. I got up and pressed the lock button on the truck key which flashes the lights and makes a brief toot of the horn hoping to alert whoever was out there that we knew of their presence. I then saw a person with a flashlight approach the trailer and knock on the door. I asked who it was. The person said he was a police officer and shined the light on his badge. He told us that park workers needed to bring equipment up the road that we were blocking and could we move the trailer aside. We told him that since we were up and awake we would just move on. We quickly organized the trailer and were on the road by 6:30 AM.

The drive through Northern Pennsylvania into Corning, New York was beautiful. Bright sunshine on autumn foliage at its peak was breathtaking. We kept to the state two lane roads rather than the interstate highway because the views we so pretty as we went through each small town and by beautiful fields of hay and ripening soybeans. While the 320 mile drive took much longer, it was worth it.
As pretty as Vermont

A pretty scene around every bend in the road

Tomorrow we will visit the Corning Museum before leaving town.

Stay tuned.

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