Julia Belle’s Southern Restaurant

It’s getting cold all around the country, and my long pants had come out of retirement; that meant it was time to go south. From Fuquay (near Raleigh, North Carolina), where we were visiting friends, we headed to South Carolina, in order to see an aunt of mine who has a restaurant there (specifically, in Florence). It’s called Julia Belle’s, and is widely considered more than fantastic; even one of Guy Fieri’s friends was in raptures with my Aunt Fran’s macaroni and cheese.

The restaurant is in a large red barn, which is divided into many sections; it used to be used for animals, and so the rooms are small and slightly awkward. Despite this, Julia Belle’s  manages a homey, comfortable feeling, with many small dining rooms. The first room on one side of the building is the kitchen and main sitting area, and directly opposite is the bakery, where buns, pie, and things of that sort are made, with another space for eating. It’s a beautiful but difficult old building, and though many restaurants have attempted to make it work over time, it’s only Julia Belle’s that has managed to pull it off.

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And now onto the food. I’m really not the best person for the job, being gluten-free (and also not a fan of eating in general), but I’m the only critic available at the moment, so I’ll have to do. Truthfully, the options for someone like me were fairly limited, but I settled on mashed potatoes, green beans, and a burger without a bun. Gordon, who could elaborate on his food for hours, got the chicken and waffles, which came topped with cinnamon-covered peaches. Mom got the same thing, but then she started to wish she hadn’t; what she’d really wanted had been the shrimp-and-chilli sandwich that Dad had gotten. But the moment she took the first bite of her chicken and waffles, her expression was beyond words. I can’t tell you what it looked like, but I can tell you that it conveyed a simple but clear message: wow.

Dad loved his sandwich as well, and by the time we were stuffed to the gills with wholesome food, we were also convinced that dessert could only be better. So Mom and Dad got a piece of White Russian Pecan Pie, Gordon got a small “fried pie” that looked like a strudel. Meanwhile, I asked what they had gluten-free. My options? Zip. Having nothing for me on the menu didn’t hold the kind folks at Julia Belle’s back, however. Before long, I had some banana pudding filling in a small bowl in front of me, and boy was it good. There was a strong yogurt base, with sweet, banana-y flavor throughout, and I found myself eating slowly to savor the taste.

The bakery.
The bakery.

Having eaten our fill, and hugged Aunt Fran goodbye, we waddled out of the restaurant to the motorhome. Dad got into his van, Gordon, Mom, and I piled into our house, and off we went. That day we would cross South Carolina, Georgia, and get a decent way into Florida. Then we would arrive at TTO (Thousand Trails RV Park, Orlando) and meet up with friends. We’ll all be here until early February, when the families will start to disperse. And that’s when Turtletells will leave, headed out West once more.

The Ark Encounter

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Creation Museum in Kentucky. That’s already an incredible achievement, and you can read about that post here, though I can’t promise it will be the best quality. I was only nine at the time and had minimal writing skill. Anyhow, there’s another thing going on on Ken Ham’s plot of Kentucky land now. For over six years the boat has been worked on, but it’s nearly finished now, and we went to visit. Who wouldn’t?

We had brought along great friends of ours, Cali and Marcus Perry, of the blog Unpredictable Perrys and now Unpredictable Perrys Continued. They had already been to the ark, and acted as fantastic tour guides on our visit.

The parking lot was far away from the actual ark, but even from there it was clearly visible; an indescribably large shape resting on the horizon, looking vaguely like a boat, but more reminiscent of a large rectangular box. It certainly didn’t look anything like those cartoon arks you see in kids’ books.

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When I stepped inside the ark, the first display was of animal quarters. Cages for larger animals lined walls, and small clay jars covered with a rough cloth would have housed amphibians. There were clay water jugs and sacks of food lining the walls, and some of the cages had highly realistic animal sculptures in them. Many of the creatures were odd, extinct beasts that we only know about from fossils, and cages were accompanied by plaques answering questions related to the animals. The giraffe family was represented, so one plaque guessed, by a short-necked variety to save space, and the dinosaurs were probably brought along as eggs or juveniles.

There was a room full of Bibles in other, even ancient, languages, some of them thousands of years old!
There was a room full of Bibles in other, even ancient, languages, some of them hundreds of years old!

After exploring this first area, we moved on to the mini-museums on the next floor. Of these, my favorite was one describing the flaws of and generally calling out children’s book authors and illustrators who taught, even jokingly, about an unrealistic and tiny boat with all the animals squeezed in tight. Those making this exhibit were even so bold as to display tons of kids’ books that had misrepresented the ark. It was a fun room.

The "Fairy Tale Ark" room.
The “Fairy Tale Ark” room, as seen from a stairway leading to the floor above.

On the third floor we reached what was possibly my favorite area in the whole ark: the living quarters. Contrary to what you might think, it was absolutely fantastic. In the kitchen, vegetables hung from the ceiling and a tiny garden grew on a shelf.  Beautiful handmade panels lined the walls, and the design was simple yet elegant.

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The bedrooms, however, were the best part. Each room had a large, luxurious bed in the wall like a window seat, and pretty woven door to closets. One room had a hammock in the middle, another a large desk, and a third a small table. The rooms were beautifully and tastefully decorated, while being simple and practical. I’m still trying to figure out how to do that with my room, even though I’ve known it was impossible from the moment I thought of it.

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It was a really fantastic day in a really fantastic museum, and I’d love to go back. If you haven’t been there yet, just know this: you’ve got to go.

Kentucky Meetup and Unit Study

We spent the month of October in Kentucky with friends this year. Last week Gordon wrote about Halloween and our cave excursions, but what he didn’t mention was the Kentucky Unit Study.

It was the first activity, and everyone met up in the game room that morning. Mr. Burrell explained the plan: we would be learning about a different aspect of Kentucky with each segment, and then working with a randomly chosen partner to create a Kentucky Fact trifold board. At the end of two days’ hard work, impartial judges would pick a winner, providing constructive criticism, and then we would tour Diamond Caverns the next day.

And so it began. I was paired with my friend Emma, and we set to work creating a layout for our board. That morning the lesson had been based around Kentucky state symbols and general facts, so we incorporated those new findings into our plan. Emma wrote “Kentucky” in a large, neat cursive at the top of the page, and traced it with green colored pencil topped with blue, providing a bluegrass look. I looked over the symbols list that Mr. Burrell had printed out, marking particularly interesting items to add, and then we started drawing them. I did a cartoonish cow labeled “Kentucky state drink: milk!,” and Emma drew a big, beautiful cardinal. After about an hour and a half, we had completed the middle of our poster board, detailing many obscure facts about the Bluegrass State. A tidy Appalachian Dulcimer sat near the top, and a baseball bat marked “Louisville Slugger” leaned against the K that headed our page. One of my favorite parts of the trifold board’s midsection was Emma’s beautiful disco ball drawing, which was adorned with green and blue lights coming out at all angles. Next to the art was a square of writing. “Did you know,” it said, “that 90% of America’s disco ball supply is made in Louisville, Kentucky?”

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The board that Emma and I designed and created.

The class let out for a two hour lunch break, and we all went to our respective homes to eat. After lunch we kids played several enthusiastic games of dodge ball in the field, and then we headed back inside the building to continue our work. That afternoon the topic of study was famous Kentuckians, and I had had a brainwave. Instead of attempting to actually draw people, we drew out some item that was directly related to what they were famous for. Johnny Depp’s was a pirate hat, Muhammad Ali’s a pair of boxing gloves, Loretta Lynn’s a microphone, etc. Then the drawings were accompanied by a short paragraph of their life, or a compilation of facts. We used one of the smaller side pieces for that, and it turned out very neat and organized.

 

The next morning, we learned about the Appalachian lifestyle and history, and used half of the remaining side piece to write about what we’d found out, accompanied by pictures. I wrote a small thing on the Hatfields and McCoys, famous Appalachian rivals, and asked Mr. Burrell to print out a related picture to cover a torn spot on the poster board. Emma explained about homelessness and hunger in Appalachian communities, accompanied by a chart on poverty rates in Kentucky. After our lunch break, we all returned to finish our projects. We had decided to use our last remaining space (half of a side piece) for geography. I made a small cartoon cave, and Emma drew a waterway streaming across the page. We then each wrote small explanations of our drawings. I tried to make mine a readable size, but that’s a big problem for me; in order for my handwriting to look nice, it has to be tiny, and the bigger it is the messier it looks. There was still some space left, so I dedicated the bottom of the page to the Kentucky Bend, an incredibly unique geographical phenomenon, and the only one of its kind. It’s a small area of land that is completely separated from Kentucky, and is the only piece of one state that is entirely surrounded by other states. In a great earthquake, it was moved, and now parts of Tennessee and Missouri stand between it and its main state. After we had finished work, we all hung around the room for a while longer, helping to clean up. The judging would take place pretty soon.

Gordon's board.
Gordon’s board, which he created with his team mates Camden and Bennett.

It wasn’t too long until Mr. Burrell was showing in our honorary judges; they were campers at the park, but we didn’t know them. Perhaps some were out for a weekend with their grandkids. Anyway, they walked around the room for a while, conversing in whispers and looking at the entries. I cringed as I watched one lady pick up the board that Emma and I had made. She was trying to read what I’d written about the caves, I knew it, and that was far too small. Perhaps she would stop bothering, and walk away without finding that I knew my stuff. After ages of wandering from board to board, one kind-faced woman came to the front of the group. Mr. Burrell signaled for attention, and then she spoke. She told us how we had all done very well, and that she had only found one wrong article of information on any of the boards. My breath caught in my throat; I had stubbornly written on my piece about Jim Bowie that he hadn’t invented the Bowie Knife, as many believed. I knew that I was right, but these judges might believe differently. But much to my relief, the woman explained that one competitor had written that Mammoth Cave was a state park. It was truly a national park. She praised us for a moment longer, and then the judges left. Mr. Burrell stepped up to where they had stood, and started telling us about parts that had been loved and appreciated in each board. Apparently, my little Kentucky Bend had been much appreciated, and we had been the only ones to include it. But we still hadn’t heard who the winner was, and so we sat with baited breath, waiting to be told. Mr. Burrell used all of the typical drama, the drawing out and the dramatizing, just as I am doing here and now. But finally the verdict came out: Lucas Muller and Camden Walker had won. We all went over to admire their work, and Mr. Burrell told us that the thing that had really pushed it over was a large coal cart that Camden had drawn. The judges had apparently said that the coal industry was a large part of their culture, and they loved that this team had featured it so prominently. 

So congratulations to Lucas and Camden, winners of the official Kentucky Unit Study Trifold Board Competition. You earned it.

Kentucky Meetup (Caves)

The Nomadica October Meetup is almost over and I’m just barely getting time to write about it now. We’ve all been so busy between field trips and football games that blogging has kinda taken the backseat.dc-001

Here’s an overview of the place we’re staying: Diamond Caverns RV Park, right across the street from Diamond Caverns (the cave). We went to the cave the first week we were here and heard ghost stories from the employees, who say they are mysteriously locked in the building and often hear things in the cave.img_3348

We talked to the ranger at the RV park and he told us how to get to a secret cave, where three mummified bodies were found almost two hundred years ago. The story is that the man who owned the land had a guano mining operation going on in the cave and one of his slaves found a mummified baby. The slaves were scared and threw the baby into the woods so they wouldn’t have to look at it. When they told their boss, he said to get him if they found anything else. They did. When he arrived he was looking at two more mummies, a man and a woman. He took them to the city and sold them to a museum. Both are in museums or exhibitions to this day. (That’s the story, anyway.)img_3358

We made a trip through the woods to explore the cave, which has an opening on each end and is not enormous in size. Its ceiling is about a hundred feet from the ground, and it’s about three hundred yards long. It has a stage in the middle because they used to have concerts for the campers. There are lights on the walls, made to shine down on the stage, which are now, of course, defunct. There are ledges to walk along on both sides of the cave, letting you get a good view of the cavern below. We would go to the cave and climb up to the ledges and just explore. We brought speakers and listened to Hotline Bling on repeat. It was our little spot.img_3276

Naturally, we decided to go on Halloween night, and at about 10:15 pm we started the hike. When we arrived we lit sparklers and walked in like explorers, holding our small torches. When they ran out, someone decided to light some candles that were sitting near the stage. We let them burn while we looked around with our flashlights, and when it was time to go we blew them all out but one. I don’t know why but that one just stayed in the cave, glowing faintly in the dark. It’s disputed what happened after that. We all just stood outside the cave looking at the candle. Some will tell you it moved. Some say nothing happened. Lots of us think there’s something spooky about that cave.img_3275

I’ll let you decide for yourself, but don’t just pass this off as a Halloween special, cause you know I like to report on FACTS. In the meantime, I have to go. I think I heard something coming from that closet…

Across the Country in One Post

We did a lot as we traveled from the West to the East this time around. It would take months to catalog all of it, so I’m going to do my best to sum up our recent experiences with one post that’s rich in pictures, to make up for the last (rather devoid) one.

Before leaving Utah, we went out to the woods and Dad taught us how to make burn bowls (small wooden bowls made of Aspen wood, burned into shape with coals).

The Toy and Action Figure Museum in Oklahoma is a unique attraction in the middle of a small town just off the highway. It includes 1200 items in all, though they rotate and are not all on display at once. Even so, the number of toys there is incredible!

Next stop, Cadillac Ranch! You’re encouraged to spray-paint old Cadillacs in Amarillo, Texas, where the lineup shows the progression of the tail fin; you’ll notice we left our mark.

That’s Elvis Presley’s childhood home on the far left. And the hardware store where he got his first guitar. And there, on the right: that’s the very spot where eleven-year-old Elvis stood while his mother Gladys bought that guitar for his birthday. All in Tupelo, Mississippi.

We went to West Monroe, Louisiana, to see the Duck Commander warehouse. On the left is the famous sign featured in episodes of Duck Dynasty, and to the right is the loading dock where the crew hangs out.

While in Monroe, we enjoyed a tour of a friend’s old-fashioned mansion. It was truly incredible!

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In Alabama, we stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s house to celebrate 48 states, and Grandma’s birthday! None of us look fantastic in this picture, I know, but it’s the only one I have.

Aaaand… we’ve reached Kentucky and the meetup! It kicked off with a Kentucky Unit Study, and we were sorted into groups of twos and threes to make Kentucky fact tri-fold boards.

I get to practice archery at Rockcastle Shooting Center, just three miles away! On the right, about half of our large groups hangs out.

 

Oklahoma in a Nutshell

Oklahoma doesn’t have the best reputation; it’s renowned for being frigid in the winter and sweltering hot in the summer, and when the temperature isn’t going to kill you the tornadoes might. All the same, it was a gaping white hole on our sticker map of visited states, and we had to fill it while we had the chance on our way to the Nomadic Homeschoolers Halloween Meetup in Kentucky.


After a few days in Texas (which is fairly nice, very interesting, remarkably smelly, and really quite windy), we drove on to Oklahoma, complete with unsettlingly flat lands and an enormous sun rising just ahead. There was nothing particular to interest me on the drive to Oklahoma City, so I settled down with a book and tried not to get car sick until we arrived. Finally we rolled into the outskirts of the state’s capital, and parked outside the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.


Gordon and I looked at a few galleries, then split off to check out the rodeo segment. On the way there we were sidetracked by a room full of cowboy history and techniques, and entertained ourselves by reading plaques rich in detail and examining old-fashioned barbed wire and branding irons. After we had discovered all that there was to find there, we moved on to the film area. There was a small theatre were Gordon and I watched a fascinating movie about the history of westerns, and a collection of John-Wayne-related items, including several guns of his, mostly gifts. We tried a “guess the TV show” game in which you had to pick out the show that matched a playing theme song, and also attempted to name the horses of famous movie cowboys. I did pitifully.


We finally made our way to several rooms filled with information about the rodeo business, both in the early days and now. There were videos of different events, accompanied by details. For example, you could watch bits of a calf roping competition, and every so often there would be a little box on the screen saying “The damages suffered in this event make up 8% of all rodeo-induced injuries,” or “Rope around the calf’s ankles must hold for six seconds to be considered ‘tied.’” Finally, Gordon got bored of all this and, though I was still interested, he dragged me off to the next place.
Next we examined Indian clothing, including beaded shoes and belts, roughly woven dresses, animal skin outfits, and feathered headdresses. Traditional cowboy wear was in the next room, so we looked at that, too. In an art gallery off the main hall we met up with Mom, who wanted to see the rodeo stuff we had just been looking at; we led her away, starting to shiver in the highly air-conditioned building.


The last attraction was outside: a horse graveyard. Several famous bucking broncos whom Gordon and I had read about inside were buried underneath the path, with tombstones bearing inscriptions about their lives. Five Minutes ‘Till Midnight was there, along side Midnight and Tornado, all famous broncos in their days. Each of these horses had strived to never let a man stay on them for eight seconds, and Tornado was only ever beaten once, just before his retirement. It was a beautiful courtyard garden, with streams and large, exotic flowers around every bend. After we had finished there, Mom dropped into the gift shop to find a book, Dad looked into one last gallery, and Gordon and I read outside in the shade, before setting off again on our trip to Kentucky. 

P.S. Sorry there are no pictures. I couldn’t take any, as museums usually don’t allow it.

Backpacking at Pleasant Creek

What? Another backpacking trip? If you don’t remember, my last one was around Fish Lake (read that HERE). I told all about our experiences, fire making, our shelter, and our hike. But what I didn’t say was that that was a test, a sort of what-did-we-forget, let’s-do-this-different-next-time test. Because we had plans to make another visit to the wonderful world of lugging things up a trail.
           Alice and Ellen are some of my dearest friends. We met six years ago, and were incredibly close, but we didn’t see each other much after I left across the country. When we came back to Utah about a year after the start of this great adventure, visiting this wonderful family was one of the first things we did. We’ve been seeing each other a lot while we’re in the same state for once, but it’s the intention to get on the road again at the end of September. This called for a last epic meetup.

Packing and making up ridiculous trail names.
Packing and making up ridiculous trail names.


         The plan was simple: we would be hiking along Pleasant Creek, taking two days to do it. Mrs. Jolly, Alice, and Ellen met us at our RV Park at 11:00 to pack and rearrange, and then we ate lunch and headed out.
         We didn’t have to wait to reach the trail to find an adventure. Not even ten minutes after we’d left, we were headed home again. Us girls had been swinging over the creek on the town rope swing (reason #1 that Torrey is awesome), and Ellen’s hand had slipped. Well, okay, it was a little more dramatic than that. The truth is, she didn’t quite have a hold on the homemade handle hanging from tree above. And then she slipped off the bridge, holding on with only one hand, sliding slowly to the bottom of the smooth stick. And…. sploosh! Alice successfully retrieved the waterlogged hat floating down the stream, and luckily Ellen was only wet to the waist. But still, you know, totally soaked. Torrey is really only two miles across, and so it wasn’t exactly a long drive to reach Wonderland RV Park, where she changed clothes and we started again on our adventure.

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The moment before the fall… You can’t see the creek at all, but it’s there, I promise.


This time we arrived at our trailhead without incident. There was a group of people on horseback about to start out and I, personally, wanted to “borrow” a horse to carry our packs for us. But, of course, this would have been very difficult, and so we backpacked the traditional way.
         We had lots of fun on our hike. Alice, Ellen, and Mrs. Jolly entertained us with songs (they all have amazing voices), while we found our way along the river path. Sometimes, when we got too hot, we would shed our packs to take a break in the cool water. Truly entertaining were the stories the three of us came up with. There was the tale of Cacti, an evil prickly pear who attacked people when they made fun of his purple spikes, the adventures of two Olympian rocks, and many more. They kept our spirits up while we hiked, giving us almost as much energy as the thick strips of beef jerky that accompanied them.

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       Soon we were almost to the end of our trail. Two days we’d walked, sung, told stories, and laughed, and now the adventure was coming to a close. In fact, we were even now on a dirt road where we were often passed by Jeeps. Trying to keep our motivation up in the suffocating heat, Alice, Ellen, and I told a story in which everything had to be refreshing. The general plot was simple: a boy wanted to be able to be a fish and not be a fish at will. Each of us, when it was our turn to add a bit, described in detail the cool flavor of mint ice cream, a tall glass of frosty lemonade, or the chilling effects of ocean water. We called each other forward when we started to lag behind, and we gulped down long draughts of water. But all the same, we were soon asking “how much longer?” Mom said that we would see a gravel road. That would be our sign that we were practically there. All five of us were looking out now, and after a while us girls were exclaiming hopes.
         “I think I saw some dust fly up there!”
“There’s a road sign, look!”
         “I swear I hear cars!”
         And then finally I glanced up and saw, in a dip between the hills, the flash of a bright red vehicle, moving at highway speeds. I quickly related this to the girls. As we were far more motivated, the pace picked up, and it wasn’t long before a gray gravel road was indeed in sight. It was our most important mile-stone, and we were all quite ready to reach it.
         “Ten…” Alice started counting down, even though we were at least twenty seconds away.
“Nine…” This time Ellen and I had joined her, and we all sped up a little.
         “Eight…” We were far louder now.
“Seven…” We quickened again.
“Six…” I started to run.
         “Five…” So did the others.
“Four…” We were dashing as fast as we could go.
“Three…” My backpack was clanging.
“Two…” We didn’t think we could go any faster, but we did.                      “One…” Our destination was right in front of us.
“Zero!” We gasped the last number, standing at the very edge of the road. We were looking out at a great expanse exactly like the one on the other side of the gravel. Completely deserted, void, and, worst of all, without our vehicle.
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         We walked on. And on. It really wasn’t far, but I kept expecting to see the yellow Jeep around every corner. And then Mom told us to go to a tree, a huge tree on the side of the road that cast shade for yards around it. We were to wait there, she said. Then she took off her backpack and ran down the road, going to get the car.
         We rested in the shade, and before long a cool breeze began to blow. We dumped our packs off our shoulders and sat on them, resting after quite a day. Soon Mom arrived in the Jeep, waving and honking her horn. Alice got it on video. We took a few success pictures, and then drove home exhausted, to get ice cream.
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         It was cool and good in my mouth, and I licked away the strawberry while the others talked. It was a wonderful adventure, everyone agreed. A wonderful adventure…

 

Header Picture: Left to right, Mom, Ellen, me, Alice, Mrs. Jolly. Photo credit: someone in a horse riding group who we met at the trailhead.

Backpacking Around Fish Lake

I sit down at my computer, trying to put 101 mosquito bites out of my mind for now. I have a post to write, I remind myself, and no time to delay: I’d better get it down on paper while my memories, and those bites, are fresh. But how did I come to have so many bug bites and memories to write down?

It all started with an idea, like most adventures. It was simple enough: Mom and I were going to backpack around Fish Lake, Utah. It was, allegedly, an eleven mile hike, and we planned to take two days for it. We would hike up to the summit, set up camp and spend the night, and then we would head down the mountain again and around to the car.

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We reached the lake at about 1:00, and started up with a pre-hike paddle. Kind of ridiculous, really, but we  kayaked for an hour. It was a good warm up. Then we tied the kayaks back on top of the Jeep and put on our backpacks. It was time to get going.

At first, my backpack felt a bit strange. I wasn’t used to carrying something this heavy, and it cut into my legs and shoulders a bit, but I ignored the discomfort and it soon passed. After a short while we had gotten around the edge of the lake and we were on the other side, but we hadn’t yet started the assent. We needed to stop, however, because we were already getting eaten by mosquitoes. We put on leggings and long-sleeve shirts to protect ourselves, and then got back on the trail.

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The hike was fairly steep once we started up the mountain, but we were fresh and energetic, and we got up easily with the help of trail mix. I was, at the time, practicing for a Radio Drama, in which I was doing sound effects, and so I passed the time by practicing. Mostly, it was frog noises. Angry frog, encouraged frog, hungry frog, offended frog… the list went on, and I had to come up with a sound for each. As Mom and I walked up the trail, I discovered and perfected each noise, with her help.

A couple of hours before sunset we had arrived at the peak, and it was time to start looking for a campsite. Ideally, it would be a fair-sized clearing amidst the quakie (also called aspen) trees, close to the trail and with plenty of wood at hand for a fire. After a while of “That one’s good,” and “But maybe there’s a better one just ahead,” we found a site that was indisputably perfect. It was even near a nice overlook from which we could see over the whole lake. We took off our packs and I started clearing up the site, gathering kindling and bigger bits of fire wood, while Mom made our tarp tent in the trees. When camp was all ready we made a fire. Mom had brought a lighter, but we made the kindling up in a sort of “nest,” as is the primitive way. While tending the fire we started on our dinner, eating pineapple out of cans. Once we had finished, the cans were our pots to cook soup, which was eaten with beef jerky. Mom had brought a book on constellations, which I read while we ate. After dinner, we crawled into our sleeping bags, on our ground pads, under our tarp tent, and fell quickly asleep.

The next day we woke early and had a breakfast of tea and sandwiches, before clearing up camp. We were back on the trail by nine o’clock, and I was terribly sore. The places where my pack rubbed on my legs and shoulders were bruised, and it took quite a while to get used to. Our first hour or so of walking was uneventful and quiet, until Mom found a raspberry bush. We picked berries for a minute, and then got going again, but it wasn’t long before a second patch came up. It was absolutely huge, and after a minute we had the sense to take off our packs. With mine on, every time I leaned over to get a particularly juicy berry I nearly toppled over. After several minutes of raspberry picking, however, Mom remarked that it was like the Land of the Lotus Eaters. You couldn’t leave, you simply couldn’t, but the paradise was guarded by monsters… er, mosquitoes. Same thing. Finally, we hoisted our packs on our backs and got going again.

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Picking raspberries.

We headed on until two o’clock, by which time Mom and I both felt we ought to have reached the end of our journey. We had walked at least five miles since the morning, and that was what we had estimated was left. Had we really covered such a small distance yesterday? There was a bridge just ahead that lead over the creek at the end of Fish Lake and connected the lake to a bay about a mile north. We would stop for lunch in a trail-head parking lot near the river.
We ate sandwiches and, since our water was running low, made a fire and boiled some river water for tea. I made three trips across a trail to the creek to get water, but all in vain. For when I finally sat down  with my lunch, I spilled my tea all over my leggings. I drank the remaining half a cup and changed into shorts, but my legs were much more susceptible to mosquito bites after that.

The last several miles were draining. It was threatening to rain, and Mom was on the lookout for a patch of quakies to set up a temporary camp in. She was even up for hitchhiking  the rest of the way, but I wouldn’t hear of it.  We had come at least eleven miles, I wasn’t going to give in at the end! After a while, lightning flashed. In Southern Utah, lightning is no laughing matter. Everyone in Wayne County has a story about someone they know being struck, or almost struck. So we headed for the quakies (which, though trees, are great protection, because they’re so much shorter than the others around them), and made a hasty shelter. Pushing under our backpacks, we sat under the tarp until the storm passed over. It never got really bad, but it poured pretty hard, and better safe than sorry!

 

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After the storm we started up again. It didn’t take long to reach a marina store, where we got sodas to give us a bit of fresh energy, and then we lost the trail several times and followed the water instead. Eventually we made it back to our path, and found we were so close to the car, but yet so, so far away! Mom began a song about “The trail that never ends,” and we were kept occupied by trying to make up new verses without messing up the rhythm. For example:
And when your back does cease to bend
It is the trail that never ends!
And when your knees will never mend
It is the trail that never ends! 

It went on for quite a while, while we searched high and low for the Jeep. Finally, Mom looked back and saw that we had passed it! Needless to say, we hurried back, dropped our packs in the trunk, and drove home, exhausted. We ate at a burger place that night with Dad, and whenever Mom or I tried to walk we stumbled and tripped over our own stiff legs.

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The finish!

 

BY THE WAY: I updated the About Page.

 

Remodeling our Class C!

Hey guys!

I know, I know, we’ve been gone for a long time. But after our break, we’re ready to proceed telling our travels. The main reason we took such a break, at first, was the lack of subject matter. We hardly did anything blog-worthy. A few sleepovers, trips to the public pool, and every-day studies are nothing to speak of. We then reached Wayne County and started on some more adventures, but still didn’t write! Now it’s time to tell you all about the biggest thing we did during our break. That thing was a remodel.

The “before” layout 

Do you remember how our motorhome was arranged? Come to think of it, I don’t think we showed many pictures of our little house, so I’ll describe it as it was.

There was a loft above the cab, and and a dinette on the left (when facing the front) side. A couch took over the right side in front of the door. The kitchen was behind the dinette, and the bathroom beyond that. In the very back there was a set of bunk beds, right in the middle of the room. Gordon and I slept in them, though he eventually moved into the loft, and I got both bunks (one for sleeping, one as a desk). That had been a queen-sized bed, but we remodeled it at the beginning. Once you’ve got the picture in mind, we can move on to the new floor plan.

The “after” layout

I’ll begin at the back. That big bedroom with the bunks has gone back to a queen bed. It’s a really beautiful little room now, with light green walls and a pretty, white, embroidered bed cover. The big picture-window in the back is framed with wood, and provides a great view wherever we are, because we’re usually somewhere picturesque. In the daytime the windows are covered with thin white curtains, stenciled with red and green flower patterns on the edges, while at night they’re blocked by thicker snap-on curtains.

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The kitchen, bathroom, and dinette are the same as ever, though there are still ideas to change the dinette into an L shape, and to make the table removable. Across the way to the right side, however, things have changed. There’s still a couch, but it’s a lot less space-consuming, not to mention far prettier. Our old couch came out a good foot or so further, and it’s great to have the extra floor space. This new couch is entirely hand-made. Dad made the frame, with some helpful little compartments underneath, out of beautifully dark stained wood, and Mom and I made cushions with a nice cream-and-orange patterned fabric. The couch is adorned with a considerable amount of pillows (five, to be exact, but it seems like a lot more).

Screenshot 2016-08-18 at 12.00.14 PM

The wall leading to the cab is the same green color as the back bedroom, as is the wall alongside the dinette. There is a strip of stained wood along the cab wall, just there to be pretty.

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And finally, the loft. Above the cab, the space is divided into two separate beds by about a foot and a half of space. I have the right-hand bed, and Gordon the left. Each bed is extended a few feet over the couch and dinette, to give us plenty of room to sleep. They, as well, are made of pretty dark-stained wood. You might imagine that it would be hot up there, but a Fantastic Fan is whirring away as I write.

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Gordon’s bed (left), and mine (right).

 

“Where do you keep your clothes?” is a frequently asked question when people see our home. Gordon and I each have a cupboard, mine above the couch, and his above the dinette. We keep bins up there to organize. They’re long cupboards, stretching from our beds to the door, or in Gordon’s case, the kitchen. I bet you can’t say that your space to keep clothes goes all the way to the kitchen!

But where do we keep things? Just, you know, stuff? To be honest, I can’t think of too much stuff that we have to keep. There’s a cupboard in the back to keep computers in, and school supplies are kept in a bin between the two seats in the cab. Gordon keeps his X-Box supplies (controllers, games, etc.) in his cupboard, and the X-Box itself under the table. We each have a bag in the back, under Mom and Dad’s bed, about half filled or less with random items, and that’s also where I keep my sewing supplies. But when you walk into our house, you can only see that we keep one type of thing: books. There’s a bookshelf stretching out under the couch, books piled on ledges in Mom and Dad’s room, and usually at least a couple laying around. I am a book enthusiast, so I had to have a place to keep mine, as well. Gordon and I each have a felt bin at the foot of my bed, the head of his (we sleep opposite). My bin is stuffed to bursting with what I plan to read next, while Gordon uses his for every-day stuff he needs easy access to: magazines, his phone, stuff like that.

So next time you need to remodel a 28′ Class C motorhome to accommodate the needs of four people (as I’m sure you will someday), you know what to read, and who to ask. Just drop by Turtletells.

Four Reasons Corvettes Aren’t Just for Old Guys

You know the stereotype: a sixty five year-old retiree driving through Palm Beach in his brand new Corvette. Now that his kids are gone he can finally spend the money on his long-time dream car. There’s no denying that old guys love Corvettes, but are they really the only people who appreciate them? I think not. The new Chevy sports car is of such quality, beauty, and speed that it really makes you consider purchasing one. I’m going to give you four reasons the Corvette isn’t just for old guys.

 

Track time

track

As you may know, last year, at Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap, Chevy’s Corvette made it around Virginia International Raceway in 2:44.6 that’s 2.9 seconds faster than the Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4’s time of 2:47.5. The Corvette also won Road and Track’s performance car of the year, made it onto Car and Driver’s 10 Best list, and, among many other awards and accolades, won Autoweek’s Best of the Best New Car Honor. Performance-wise, this is no longer your dad’s sports car.

 

Power, pure power

vette rear

This car is a beast. With 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, you can go from 0-60 in 2.95 seconds. The raw power holds your back to the seat and urges you to press the pedal down just a little further, until you reach the top speed of 205 mph. You can hit the drag strip and do a quarter mile in 10.95 seconds; that’s half second faster than a Ferrari 458! And for a third of the price, too. The Z06 package comes with Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires, Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, and a variety of downforce-alicious aero bundles to choose from, including that dark-tinted transparent spoiler that looks so cool.

 

Features

interior blu

The same stereotype that says only old guys drive ‘Vettes also says they can’t use computers. Whether or not that’s true isn’t the point right now, but the 8-inch My-Link touchscreen is. It can record track data, analyze lap times, take video of your ride, show your record top speeds, 0-60 times, quarter miles, and more. You can get real-time data overlays with the Cosworth toolbox program and save your data and video with an SD card reader in the glovebox. That’s not all, though: Bluetooth, premium Bose audio, Sirius XM, and Apple Car Play make this a killer entertainment system. You can remotely unlock and start the car with your iPhone and stream music all day with built-in 4G WiFi from Sprint. That’s a lot of tech for an old guy car.

 

Classic

63 fastback

The Corvette has been around since the early fifties and has become a part of our American heritage. I’m talking baseball games, apple pie, Coca Cola, and Corvettes. There’s something special about a car that’s been around since ‘52 and will likely be made by Chevy for the rest of time. This car is as much of a legend as a Mustang, as beloved as the FIA Cobra, and as powerful as a Boeing 747. Okay, that might have been a slight exaggeration, but the point is, it’s a classic and the perfect car for anyone.

After Prince’s song Little Red Corvette came out, Chevy put up a billboard featuring a ‘63 fastback. The Beach Boys, LL Cool J, George Jones, Sir Mix Alot, and Jan and Dean have all written songs about ‘Vettes. That’s because  It’s a classic, a competitor, a winner, the subject of many songs, and a ride for the generations. And, as Chevy’s billboard put it: They don’t write songs about Volvos.

 

(Images licensed for non-commercial reuse)

Fast-Paced, Slow Travel

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