Scenes from Sicily, Tredici – Erice Behind Us

This is a photo of me and Kath with the mountaintop fortress/town of Erice behind us. It was taken by Iolanda, proprietress of Al Frantoio (“The Crusher,” in English), the B&B we stayed in in Valderice, a larger town just down the hill from Erice. For some reason, this one of the only pictures we have of Erice high up on the hill, though we have quite a few looking down on surrounding towns.

We really enjoyed our stay at Al Frantoio. If you find yourself in northwest Sicily and would like to stay somewhere that is very comfortable and convenient to many sights, all combined with gracious hospitality and sea views, consider booking some nights at Al Frantoio. Their website is http://www.alfrantoiovalderice.it

Jeff Parker Retrospective – Day 1

I just got back to Memphis tonight after yet another wonderful Memorial Day weekend at the Parker Lakehouse. (Thank you, Parker Family, for the fun, fellowship, and food!)

Anyway, when we were getting ready to leave, I randomly got the idea to post a week of photos of Jeff Parker. The first one covers a trip we made to Montana and Wyoming in 1992. In this photo, we’ve made it to the Canadian border, somewhere around Glacier National Park. Jeff, in the hat, has crossed over to Canada, and I think Sarah Doering (then, Cooper) took this picture.

Today, the trip is a bit of a blur in my memory, but I remember this scene clearly. The brilliance of the day, the width of the sky, and rapidly changing weather.

Blast from the Past – truk and a Crocodile in 1999

We visited a crocodile farm near Victoria Falls, which was actually pretty boring, but I did get to simulate what it would be like on the business end of one of these things.

In short, I didn’t even like putting my head in the mouth of a stuffed one of these monsters.

We got a chance to spend some quality time with a few of these in the wild a few years later, and my appreciation had increased by that time.

Blast from the Past – Kayaking in the Southern Ocean

Kath took this photo of me while we were kayaking around a bay in the Southern Ocean, off the coast of Cintsa, South Africa, in 1999.

This was before I watched the various great white shark specials on the Discovery Channel. This area has around the highest number of reported attacks in the world, per capita. Shark Week might have me thinking twice about this these days…

Blast from the Past – South African Sundowner

Along the southern coast of South Africa, many of the hostels have this great tradition, called a sundowner. Basically, it involves buying a few boxes of wine, taking out the bags from the boxes, tying a rope to two corners of the wine bag (making it easier to sling over your shoulder), grabbing some cups and a dozen or so of the total strangers hanging around the hostel, marching up the highest sand dune you can find, and downing a few cups of wine while watching the sunset.

The only person from this photo that I remember is the guy with the stormtrooper shirt behind us.

Blast from the Past – truk on Horseback

Another photo from our South Africa trip in 1999. (I’m really seeing these for the first time in over 10 years, as I’ve just scanned them in from negatives as a part of converting all of my photos to a digital format for long-term preservation.)

We took every chance we could to ride horses on this trip. I think this picture was taken while on a sunrise ride near the town of Cintsa, along a coastal region called the Garden Route.

Blast from the Past – truk and kath in Istanbul, 1997

I’m wrapping up a personal project of digitizing all of my photos, mostly going back to scanning the negatives, and in these dark days of winter, I thought I would share a few of the better ones that I’ve come across.

The photo above was taken on our honeymoon in August 1997, while we were in Istanbul. I think it is the Ayasofya Mosque behind us, and beyond that, the Bosphorus Strait. (Click on the photo for a higher resolution version.)

Ozark Trail Ride – Day 2

Haw Creek Falls at Sunrise

Haw Creek Falls is a beautiful place to wake up in the fall, with leaves turning colors seemingly before your eyes and misting water cascading over rocks providing a gentle roar all night long. Several large creeks surround the campground, but there are only a few that line the side of the creek, so get there early in the day to claim those.

Sun began peeking through the clouds early in the morning, promising warmer temperatures, but most of the day remained colder than the day before. As we breached hilltops and could survey the entire sky, fast-moving dark clouds threatened rain but never carried through. Hoping for lunch in a diner, we headed west toward Oark, down little forest roads that looked like this.

Cool, Beautiful Morning

I was glad to have left the liner in my jacket that morning. It was still pretty cool when we stopped to take this picture.

truk and His KLR 650

Forest road 1003 snakes along Mulberry Creek from Highway 21, providing a gorgeous trail through falling leaves and great views down toward the rushing water. I started to not even notice the cold, and before I knew it, we were emerging onto blacktop just outside of Catalpa, almost to Oark on Highway 215.

Scottie, truk, and David at Oark Cafe

The Oark Cafe is a interesting place, certainly one with a vibe it has maintained for over 100 years. For camper vans and sports cars (or anything else that doesn’t really want to get its tires dusty), it has an end-of-the-world feel about it. If you were drive by it heading east, the asphalt would soon give out and you would begin wondering if you should have purchased gas when you had the chance. More than a commercial oasis surrounded by beautiful farms and hills rising to wilderness, the Oark Cafe retains the charm of a one-room restaurant and grocery from years past, complete with some of the friendliest proprietors I’ve ever met.

Oark Cafe

After having lunch at the Oark Cafe (you have to try the hamburger with onion rings when you visit), we headed north and left the pavement behind again, heading into some hidden valleys, taking every chance we got to turn upon a smaller and smaller road. You can find some funny little private bridges in these parts, too.

David and Scottie at the Footbridge

Little streams trickle through the forest all over this area, especially after the weeks of on-again-off-again rain that we’ve had this year. Sometimes, you weren’t sure if you should keep the dual-sport motorcycle on the road or turn off and follow one of these streams to see where it came out.

Which Way?

There isn’t an abundance of signage in this area, but I was grateful for the foresight of the last major stimulus package to be spent in the area, during the 1930s and 40s, when the national forest roads were built. I think it would be hard to argue they weren’t a good investment, considering that the many county and farm roads that run off of them provide almost all of the vehicle access to this rather large area.

truk with WPA Sign

As the day continued, we took smaller and smaller trails, many times ending up in at someone’s backwoods cabin with no way to continue or emerging in a clearing with a cluster of camo-wearing bow hunters all clutching their beers. Everyone was friendly, though, and helped give advice to get us back to a bigger trail. I picked up a few off-road symbols that provided some lessons:

1) Never go down a road with a mailbox at the end of it, unless you want to turn around and come back out the same way. The mailbox is there because the mail person can’t make it down that road and come out somewhere else.

2) If you start seeing trucks with trailers attached behind them parked along a trail, it is about to get rougher.

3) If you start seeing trucks with no trailers parked beside the trail, it is about start getting really rough and the trail will narrow.

4) The Gazetteer will be wrong about the name of a forest trail or where it comes out about half the time. Deal with it.

5) You can’t trust any signs in the woods, so if you get lost, find a person to ask rather than relying on signage.

A lot of the roads that afternoon looked like this.

Getting Dark

We ended up coming out of the woods near Deer, a small town 10 miles or so north of our campsite but more than 25 miles away by pavement. We were looking for a place to buy steaks to take back and cook at the camp, but the only thing open was a diner, so with the light fading fast, we enjoyed some catfish and warmed ourselves next to a small gas fireplace, listening to a recap of the tragic Arkansas-Florida football game earlier that day (#1 Florida won by a field goal after scrappy Arkansas missed 2 field goals and the officials blew 2 big calls that went against Arkansas and probably cost them the game).

Leaving the diner in Deer in nearly complete darkness, there was some debate about whether to head back via a more direct route over forest trails or take the sure-thing route via the paved roads. After not being able to find the trail head in the dark, we elected to take the more paved roads. By this time, the temperature was down to about 40, and the wind was icy while at speed. We finally made it back to camp, after pausing on the little one-lane bridge near Haw Creek Falls to take in the canvas of stars in near-total darkness.

Later, as we took the same forest trails the next day that we would have taken back that night, we realized that we would have never been able to find our way back on those trails and would have likely spent the night out in the woods, if we had found the trail head.

Continue reading this thread with Day 3 here.

Just joining us? Check out Day 1 here or review all of the photos from the trip.

Home Safe from the Ozark Ride

truk, David, and Scottie Before Setting Out

I just got home from a fantastic motorcycle ride this weekend through the Ozark National Forest.

Scottie, David, and I made the most of our time, riding Friday afternoon, all day on Saturday, and then a good part of Sunday.

We climbed up and down rocky ravines, zoomed down gravel forest roads with yellow and red leaves falling around us, and went places that the confused both our Gazetteer and the GPS.

I’ll post some more text on this trip, when I get a few free moments, but you can already see some of the pictures here.