Thursday through Sunday, October 21-31, 2021—It’s a Wrap

After experiencing the busyness of the East Tennessee entertainment complex, we awoke Thursday morning, October 21, and celebrated Ridge’s 10th birthday. It’s so exciting to watch him grow and mature, but sad at the same time! Today, he was one happy kid. After the quick celebration (we actually celebrated all week), Kay and I departed for the 10-hour trip home, while the Adams’ departed for Paducah, KY, for Matt’s business. We arrived home about 5 PM.

Kay and I received the Moderna COVID booster at the Hot Springs Village Church of Christ on Friday. As with the 2nd Moderna vaccination, I began feeling ill on Saturday and was down, out, and in bed with a headache, fever, and joint aches. This lasted through Saturday and until late Sunday afternoon, some 51 hours—and I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Kay only suffered a bit of an ache at the injection site and had dinner with the “old girls” in Little Rock in the late afternoon while I continued recovery from the COVID booster.

We were back to normal on Monday. Kay got a short golf lesson that fixed a minor swing problem, followed by a pedicure. And, I returned to the golf course with the Monday/Thursday group—they are so much fun to be around. Pickleball, more golf, personal grooming, a hearing test, church photos, and house maintenance filled Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

One of Kay’s weekly golf groups

We made yet another trip to the Little Rock area on Saturday for Ridge’s last soccer game. It’s been a tough season for their team, yet he play’s his heart out each Saturday.

Kay and I got out on the Ouachita Trail on Sunday after church. We hiked from the Arkansas Highway 9 Trailhead west to Nancy Shelter and back, a distance of just over 5 miles.

It was a beautiful afternoon for hiking, and we met several other outdoors people enjoying the national forest. Colorful leaves, mushrooms, and fallen trees were prevalent along the trail. What a way to wrap up a busy month; October 2021 is now in the books!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021—Dollywood

Today was the day the kids had patiently awaited—a visit to Dollywood. Dollywood is a theme park jointly owned by entertainer Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment located in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Hosting nearly 3 million guests in a typical season from mid-March to the Christmas holidays, Dollywood is the biggest ticketed tourist attraction in Tennessee. The theme park is the anchor of Parton’s 150-acre Dollywood amusement destination, which also includes the 35-acre sister water park Dollywood’s Splash Country, the 20-acre Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa,and the 5-acre Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction

We arrived just after the park’s 10 AM opening, and Karyn immediately visited the iconic Grist Mill for a loaf of their famous cinnamon bread. It was devoured in just a few minutes. From there, it was ride after ride, including some “hairy” roller coaster rides. Both kids did exceptionally well, and even Kay and I managed to survive one or two. The park was our home for most of the day. By the way, food was VERY expensive—3 chicken strips and a bag of potato chips were almost $14.

Afterwards, we had dinner at the highly reviewed and rated Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant and Grill. They “proudly” serve home-style, southern favorites, along with their signature Apple Fritters. The fritters were great, the other food so so, but they screwed up my order too much to be redone, with insufficient mitigatory measures (I ordered a vegetable plate to include beans; after serving us, the served stated that the beans would be coming in two minutes. They arrived after we had completed our meals! So what do they do? They bring another bowl of beans!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2021—Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

After an exciting and full day yesterday, our intent had been to visit Dollywood in Gatlinburg, but they were closed today. Consequently, hiking was moved up a day on the itinerary.

Matt suggested we find an old growth forest area in which to hike, and what a great idea it proved to be. Almost 99 percent of old-growth trees on the East Coast of the United States have been removed. However inside the half million acres of land within the GSMNP, about 100,000 acres of old growth forest can be found scattered about here and there. Most of the time to find these old growth areas, you are going to have to hike for a while to get into the middle of these areas. Matt found an exception, the Chimneys Picnic Area in near Gatlinburg. We hiked almost a mile up the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail, and found ourselves surrounded by a pristine section of old growth forest. Towering hardwoods with their limbs intertwined to shade the floor of the forest and create a canopy was mesmerizing.

A few flowers, mushrooms, and a caterpillar were also seen.

After the great hike among the towering trees, the kids (we’re all kids in heart if not in body) played among and on top of the huge, rounded car-sized boulders in the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. True to its name the Chimneys Picnic Area was filled to capacity with picnickers, but we felt almost alone among the giant boulders and trees.

Monday, October 18,2921—Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

East Tennessee has become a tourist Mecca in recent years, resembling a huge Branson some 40 years ago.Bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is much to do, meeting the recreation “wants” of just about anyone as the venues run the full gamut of family-friendly entertainment.

Today, we visited Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. This 115,000 square foot, 1.3 million gallon aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN, has over 10,000 exotic sea creatures in 350 individual species. Our favorite feature was the 340-foot underwater tunnel with a glide path; in the words of Karyn, “… And a moving sidewalk inside the underwater tunnel was genius. No looking where you are walking. Just hop on and enjoy the ride and the scenery!” It was neat watching the sharks and rays gliding above and around you while in the tunnel. (Thanks to Karyn for photographs.)

After the aquarium visit, and a late lunch/early dinner of wings and beer, Kay and I returned to the house while Karyn, Matt, Ridge and Aker stopped by a park where they got in some “normal” play time. Back at the house, they played in the game room and swam in the pool. Oh, to be a kid again.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, October 14-16, 2021—Book Club Time and Grandkids

It sure seems like the second Thursday of each month rolls around in days, rather than weeks. The Book Club ladies met, catching up on the month’s book and each others’ lives.

Neither of us had anything on the schedule for Friday

Today’s (Saturday) plan was to travel to Memphis to see Jenny, Harper, Linc, and Sutton, and help Jenny with a couple of chores. Enroute, we side-stepped to Little Rock for Ridge’s soccer game.

Ridge and his #1 fans

In Memphis, Jenny and the kiddos were waiting for us; seems like they grow so much between visits. Harper is now well over 5 feet tall, and 9 years old. Sutton still clings to her momma; COVID19 has taken a silent and unknown toll on all the kids of the world. Linc is still the epitome of a fullback, long curly hair and all.

Saturday through Wednesday, October 9-13, 2021 —Is It Fall Yet?

Saturday was “Soccer Saturday” with both Aker and Ridge scheduled to play. Beautiful partly cloudy skies greeted us as we entered Lakewood’s soccer fields. Aker’s team won their game, though it looked like someone trying to herd ducks!

Regretfully, Ridge’s game was cancelled by the opposing team’s coach (northwest Arkansas) just two hours before the game; a lot of folks were unhappy. On the return trip home, we stopped by a Costco for a few things and cheap gasoline ($2.599/gal). Kay and I played the front nine at Magellan, though we both faltered a bit.

Golf at Magellan Golf Course

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were relatively quiet, at least by our standards, though I did play golf on Monday (and I use the term “play” very loosely) and pickleball on Tuesday. The mallet finger on my right hand (ring finger) hurts like crazy when I grip a golf club or pickleball paddle; at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. Kay continues her committee assignments with the Duffers (golf) and PEO (philanthropy). It still remains warm most days, but leaves have begun gently falling.

Kay’s social calendar remains full, what with Duffers golf (deck starter, meaning early morning, and then playing with the last group) and a late lunch with friends on Wednesday. I remained home for most of the day, protecting the sore finger, though a few butterflies coerced me into taking their pictures. The American Lady butterfly was quite aggressive, chasing away a hummingbird, a Monarch, and two skippers, all nectaring on Lantana. And, by the way, two hummingbirds were still nectaring at our place, though neither would settle down for a photograph.

Happy birthday to my baby, Jenny. I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. Glad you can’t see the tears!

Friday, October 8, 2021—Last of the Season

Dan picked me up early and we traveled to William Kirsch Preserve, in west Little Rock, hoping to find some “last of season” butterflies and wildflowers. We were not disappointed. Showy Goldenrod graced the freshly mown paths, and seemingly covered the entire open spaces. The bright yellow blooms of both the Partridge Pea and Tickseed Sunflower lit the early morning shady areas like tiny floodlights.

The blooms of the soft and delicately colored Asters reminded one of pastel color palettes in an artist’s studio, and held morning dew droplets like magnets holding metal shavings.

And the Gerardia held reign over its dominion with the purple color of royals.

Gerardia

As it began warming, Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies lazily drifted from one plant to another patiently waiting for their prey to become active.

And then, the butterflies could be seen lifting upward from the now dewless flowers in which they overnighted. Pearl Crescents were the first to appear followed by the Dainty Sulfurs. Common Checkered-Skippers would land and then immediately flit to another nearby spot. Monarchs could be seen flying just over the vegetation, but never presented a photo opportunity.

Not to be outdone by the dragonflies, damselflies were out and about, spotted by Dan’s keen eyes.

As we neared the end of our two-mile photo walk, a beautiful red dragonfly appeared on a nearby plant. The Blue-faced Meadowhawk was a “lifer” for me, and we saw several glowing in the now bright sun.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

It was an awesome morning, yielding several hundred shots of wildflowers, dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies, and a few random flowers and bugs.

Sunday through Thursday, September 26 – October 7—Life As We Know It

The red-eye flights from SeaTac to DFW to Little Rock were uneventful, each arriving on time. Pam (thank you) picked us up at the airport, and with luggage in hand we made the 45-minute drive home. There, everything was in order thanks to Sue who house sits for us; we are ever so grateful. After semi unpacking, we both took naps in hopes of overcoming jet lag, though it only partially worked.

Our days that last week of September and first week of October were filled with catching up: flu shots, medical appointments, haircuts, golf, etc., and we were fortunate to spend time with two of the kids and two of the grandkids via dinner with Ron and Cheryl (for Kay’s birthday) and Ridge’s soccer game on Saturday (Karyn, Ridge, and Aker). It rained so hard at the soccer game that the kids were playing soccer in pools of water and mud. In fact, Sunday’s game was called off after central Arkansas received over 6 inches of rain on that Saturday and early Sunday morning!

I spent several days catching up on preparing journal/blog entries, and sorting and backing up several hundred photographs from the last few weeks. It was so nice to have fast internet! Pickleball in Hot Springs Village restarted after an absence of several weeks for resurfacing the courts; it will take some time to regain our timing and finesse. The motorhome received its annual maintenance and chassis check; it’s ready for another season, its eleventh. Oh, and by the way, it’s still hot and humid in Arkansas with temps in the low 90s.

A bright spot was the few butterflies, despite being a bit bedraggled, that could be seen nectaring on the still blooming Lantana, offering up a photograph here and there.

And, even a couple of dragonflies made an appearance. Here are a male and female Eastern Pondhawk.