Pictures do not lie, but neither do they tell the whole story. They are merely a record of time passing, the outward evidence (Paul Auster).
Before you start reading the blog, I would like to make you aware that it covers our 2020 travels of five months. Very often we were at places where we had poor or a very slow access to the internet so that I could not post. I recommend not to consume this blog all at once. Just take it as a virtual coffee table book. Read and enjoy the images as long as you like, close the book and enjoy the rest the next days.
Due to the pandemic, we started our 2020 road trip late. We were blessed that we could stay at our winter quarters on Amelia Island. Fort Clinch was our starting and end point and we rolled out on June 26th after saying goodbye to many friends.
Our first stop was at a Harvest Hosts location in Georgia and we were surrounded by a herd of Alpacas and a Noah's Ark of other animals.
We like staying at Harvest Hosts locations and had a good night sleep at the Cherokee Run Golf Club just outside of Atlanta.
Crossing into Alabama, we connected our coach Loon at the De Soto State Park. The area spoiled us with wonderful hikes and waterfalls. By the way, nearby Fort Payne is the hometown of the band Alabama.
Tennessee Whiskey: Prichard's Distillery was our home for a night and we enjoyed the sampling of Bourbon's and White Rum. Visiting nearby Small Town America is always on our lists and adds to the travel experience.
A stop in Paris was on our itinerary as well. The winery made you feel as if you were in Tuscany, Italy. Wine tasting was obligatory and the samples were heavy on the sweet side (which is not our preferred choice).
Crossed the state line and spent a quiet 4th of July weekend at the Silver Mines campground. No success in finding silver, but we were rewarded with making new friends.
"There was things which he stretched , but mainly he told the truth". Sounds familiar? It is one of the many typical sentences you can find in Huckleberry Fin. We were blessed to learn more about Mark Twain, his life, upbringing, success and problems, while being docked at a campground near Perry, MO. From seeing the home Mark Twain was born in (which is inside the very contemporary Mark Twain State Park building), to the town where he spent his boyhood (Hannibal, MO), to a visit at the Mark Twain Museum. It was a day that brought a lot of smiles on our faces. At the museum we found another famous quote: "Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason". I purchased a copy of Huckleberry Finn and just love to get immersed into it. We finished the day watching the sunset and the ducks near our campsite.
Driving through Iowa gave us a great impression about this wonderful state. Lots of agriculture, rolling hills and everything clean and tidy. Sugar Bottom Campground near Solon, IA, was our address for two nights. A great place to visit the nearby dam and to get a lesson in Geology at the Devonian Fossil Gorge. Another amazing outdoor classroom on our route.
Ready for some beer? Stop in Potosi, WI, and enjoy the Potosi Brewing Company. Potosi has the longest Main Street in the US without any cross streets and the largest beer can. The selection of micro brews is extensive and the beer museum is one of the five largest in the world (you can get lost in it). In addition a wood shop across the street from the brewery offers excellent handcrafted items. The brewery was once one of the largest breweries in Wisconsin and made it even through prohibition by bottling milk. It was dormant for a while and came back to life due to the initiative of two local businessman. Well done and Prost!
The Blackhawk Park right on the mighty Mississippi was an attractive place to relax, bike and kayak. Just sitting there watching the tugboats going by and reading Huckleberry Finn was a treat.
Percherons are a breed of draft horses that originated in the western part of France. They are well muscled, smart and willing to work. They were originally bread as war horses. Over time they were used for pulling stagecoaches, agricultural use and pulling heavy goods such as in forestry. We had the enjoyment to learn about these horses and even to clean their stalls and groom them. The icing on the cake was that we could spend time with a dear friend. She is managing the horse farm owned by her father. What a wonderful experience.
Door County, WI, was our last stop prior to heading towards the Michigan State Line. We stayed at Baileys Harbor. A quaint little village with a busy Main Street. It was also the perfect location for excursions to Egg Harbor, Fish Creek and Sister Bay. It was obvious that we visited Door County during peek season, but we were able to find the small and less crowded side streets.
If you are into waterfalls, scenic views, art and history and lighthouses you should stay some time in Marquette, MI, the largest town in the Upper Peninsula. Marquette has a lively downtown, an amazing campus and an operating ore terminal. The highlight of our stay was a boat tour along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Nature is the finest artist with rock formations gleaming in all different colors and being framed by a turquoise lake and a bright blue sky. Magnificent!
Staying a few days just south of the Mackinac Bridge (a marvel of engineering) allowed us to visit Mackinac Island and the Historic Mill Creek Park. Driving over the bridge the first time with a 36ft coach towing a car is quite an adventure but offers the best view of the Straits of Mackinac. The island including the Grand Hotel is overwhelming especially during main season. The streets are owned by horse drawn coaches and visitors. Taking a bike ride around the island was like diving into an oasis of quietness.
Being on the south side of the Straights you must visit Colonial Michilimacinac State Park. Entering the Fort takes you back nearly 300 years. The buildings are magnificent. You can have a chat with the master gardener or the blacksmith (all dressed in costumes of the era). The Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is also a great place to appreciate a different view of the bridge.
Since we liked going over the bridge this much, we relocated again north and spent some time at the Straits State Park near St. Ignace. It is a small, quaint city and was much more quiet than Mackinac. We enjoyed the walks along Main Street, learning about the local history at the American Indian Museum and good food. Father Marquette was very influential in developing the area and bringing the local tribes together with the "White Man". A National Memorial honoring Father Marquette is located at the park.
The state park was a perfect base camp to encounter the east side of the UP. The high point of our stay was a day trip to the Tahquamenon Falls. The water gushes down from multiple locations, and the falls are building liquid curtains dyed in yellow, amber and ocher. Breathtaking!
The unpredictable waters of Lake Superior and Lake Huron could be mastered only with a network of lighthouses. Many of them are still active or are museums. By the way, they must have failed some times otherwise you would not find as many shipwreck museums.
A day trip to Whitefish Bay and Sault Ste. Marie finished our stay in this part of the UP.
Crossing the Straits again, we were heading along the Lake Michigan coastline towards Elk Rapids. We were lucky that friends offered us to stay with them at there in-laws house. Great to reconnect and to enjoy a charming small town with a nice waterfront, well kept homes, access to Lake Michigan and nearby nature trails.
It was also a ideal gateway to Michigans wine country, Lighthouse hopping and running up the Sleeping Bear Dunes. What an awesome stay.
We spent the last night in Michigan at the McIntosh Wine Cellars near South Haven. We had the entire backyard and back porch just for us. Could not have found a better place to say goodbye to "Pure Michigan".
After crossing the State Line into Indiana we made camp near Prophetstown. A place were the history of American Indians comes to life. The nearby working farm reminded us of the hard work in agricultural production in the beginning of the 20th century. Long hikes were like medicine for body and soul.
We stopped over at a the lovely Chimney Rock Campground near Harrodsburg, KY. Before we set the GPS for the Land between Lakes we parked at the Shaker Village and savored the calmness of this place and the clean lines of the architecture.
After so much traveling and so many unforgettable impressions, we enjoyed staying for 10 days at a Corps of Engineer Campground near Grand Rivers. Being on the canal connecting Lake Barkley with Kentucky Lake, we were able to take the inflatable Kayak out and to do some sightseeing within this National Recreation Area. We were so relaxed that even a technical problem with our large slide could not get us out of balance.
Reelfoot Wildlife Refuge in the Northwest corner of Tennessee was our home for three months. Reelfoot Lake is a "young" lake from a geological point of view. As the refuge brochure describes it so well "during the winter of 1811, time momentarily stopped in the central Mississippi River valley as the earth suddenly began to shake and violently moved about. The once peaceful woodlands rolled like ocean waves and landslides covered many rivers and streams". A great depression was formed, the waters of the Mississippi ran backwards and filled the sunken area.
The formation of the lake created a valuable wetland area which became a haven for many wildlife species, attracting hunters and outdoorsmen. Reelfoot Lake and Lake Isom are along the Mississippi Flyway and are a major stopover point or wintering area for waterfowl as well as Bald Eagles. The refuge management includes land and water management, natural production of waterfowl food sources, as well as the protection of the native vegetation. Providing food and habitat for the winged wintering guests is the main purpose of the refuge. The wildlife is in the foreground and we as volunteers were blessed to support this purpose and to encounter nature at its best.
The "landscapes" of Reelfoot are magnificent and it is almost impossible to capture them with the camera.
We had many opportunities to witness nature, such as during a sunset and moon rise boost trip with the Reelfoot State Park crew.
One of the highlights of our stay was a six hour boat trip with one of the local rangers through all areas of the flat and very ragged lake. Just see for yourself.
That we could experience this abundance of natures beauty was a gift for us, especially during the Covid pandemic. Being part of a team allowed us to learn but also to help, such as the release of a Great White Egret, who showed us all its handsomeness after being back in it's natural habitat.
When we said goodbye to the Refuge, we were certain that the impressions we were blessed to have will always stay in our memories and that the new friendships we have made will last forever.
Not too far from Reelfoot was another "world" we enjoyed to visit: The Discovery Park of America. Its mission is to inspire children and adults to "see beyond". The museum offers a lot of hands on experience. You can walk through American history in the 100,000-square-foot museum and the beautifully landscaped 50-acre heritage park. The park is the realization of the vision of businessmen Kirkland and his wife Jenny. The Kirkland family donated more than $40 million to the project. One visitor describes the park this way "it's like your favorite millionaire uncle took a trip through time around the world and built you a living postcard in your backyard to tell you the story."
End of November and time to come home. Heading towards Amelia Island we made a short stop to see dear friends outside of Atlanta and had our last overnight stay at a charming farm called "Tiny Acres". What a way to finish our journey.
We did have a wonderful time on the road. We were blessed to make a journey like this while Covid still has a grip on us. For 2021 we are confident that there will be light at the end of tunnel and look forward to making new friendships and to open new doors for us.