April 24, Texas to Arkansas

I think Facebook has been a bad influence on me in at least one respect. It seems to get harder for me to write these travelogues because I already feel I've done it. Of course, not all of you are on Facebook so you don't feel that way. At any rate, here it is a month and a half since I last wrote, so I'm looking at pictures to figure out what we've been doing.

We had a good time during our stay in Highlands. Jonny came and stayed with us quite a bit which we enjoyed very much. He is a smart and charming little boy. Riley took him for a short motorcycle ride around the RV park and it was almost impossible to keep him off of it after that. We are told that since we have left, anytime he sees a motorcycle he starts hollering "Paw, Paw." Nancy has been taking Rebecca out to the UT Dental School to get work done on her teeth, and then Nancy takes Jonny over to Hermann Park to entertain him while they wait. I went with them once before we left town and it was a lot of fun. Jonny found a fountain to play in, as well as running up the hill at Miller Theater. He's a real little handful when he wants to be. We also took him swimming at both the RV park pool and in Nancy's hot tub with no heat. Like most kids, he loves playing in the water.

Rebecca's apartment woes continued with flooding from the bathroom throughout the place. So, we went apartment hunting and found a very nice place in Baytown where the rent was higher, but worth it. Tony has been working steadily, so they got approved for it, and shortly after we left town, Nancy & Jim helped them to move. We are happy that she is in this better situation--newer place and safer neighborhood. After a month where our lives revolved almost totally around Jonny, we miss him very much. We talk to him on the phone when we talk to Rebecca but he's not a big conversationalist yet. We haven't had a good Wi-Fi signal in a while so using Skype has not been possible.

Jonny & Riley on the motorcycle

Jonny in hot tub at Nancy's

On leaving Highlands we headed east through Louisiana. We visited a couple of wildlife refuges that we had been to the year before but birding was not that great. We were between seasons--the wintering birds had left and the spring migrants had not yet arrived. Not all was lost though as at one spot, while on a walking trail, we saw a King Rail, a very secretive bird resident to the area. We continued northeast to Natchez, Mississippi, where we stayed in the state park for a couple of days. At the park we saw our first spring migrants, Swainson's Warbler and American Robins. We then headed up the Natchez Trace Parkway and eventually followed it clear to its end at Nashville. The Dogwoods were blooming and very pretty. We camped in the free campgrounds when available or in commercial parks when the free ones were full. We found a commercial park we liked a lot just north of Jackson, Mississippi--very pretty place next to a lake. Along the Trace we took some short hikes, one through a cypress swamp where the park service had built a boardwalk. Here we saw a Scarlet Tanager, such a pretty red bird.

Dogwood tree along Trace

Cypress Swamp

When we got to the Tennessee part of the Trace we quit seeing pine trees and started seeing more flowering trees--dogwood, crabapple, pear, and a couple I didn't recognize--all quite beautiful. We drove right to the end of the Trace, then drove east a bit to Radnor Lake State Natural Area which we had read about in our birding hotspot book. It is just south of Nashville and to get there we drove through a most amazing neighborhood--the homes were huge on large properties, one looked like a castle. Those people must be truly rich. We took a walk around the lake but again didn't see many birds. It was a good walk though, and a very nice area. We met a woman there about our age who said she walked 6 miles every day. She was in a lot better shape than I am. I wish I could say she inspired me to do the same, but though we are walking more, we don't even come close to her range.

Margie at Radnor Lake

Creek that drains from the lake

From there we drove west and spent a couple of days in the "Land Between the Lakes" NRA, which is in both Tennessee and Kentucky, then over to Reelfoot Lake in the northwest corner of Tennessee. Reelfoot Lake is famous for being formed, in part, when an early 1800s earthquake caused the Mississippi River to briefly flow backwards--that must have been some earthquake!

Reelfoot Lake camping site

Reelfoot Lake view

We then went south to Memphis, which is absolutely gorgeous this time of year with all the flowering trees and the azaleas. The first place we stopped was at Memorial Park Cemetery to see the Crystal Shrine Grotto. The Grotto was quite something to see, entirely manmade, of course, with naves containing scenes from Jesus' life from nativity to resurrection. The cemetery was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen--great groundskeeping with beautiful trees. We went to the Memphis Botanic Garden next and it wasn't quite as pretty. Of course, it was more natural and we enjoyed our walk around it very much.

Memorial Park

Crystal Shrine Grotto

Jesus in the Temple

Crystals on ceiling

Memphis Botanic Garden Scarecrows

Entrance to Japanese Gardens

We took a walk in Overton Park with friend Scott Banbury (Dick Scott's nephew), who is an amateur naturalist. He pointed out and named many of the plants, including poison ivy, and various trees--all interesting. We also saw a Hooded Warbler. Well, at least I did. I was the only one with binoculars. We went over to Scott's home later that day and met his wife Amy and saw the Red-tailed Hawks nesting in the trees in their yard. We also visited Austin Scott (Dick's son) that afternoon in the park. It was a nice day to be outside and a very pleasant visit. Austin's dog was with him and Buddy was about the best behaved dog I've ever seen--he was great!

Riley & Austin

Margie & Austin

From Memphis we went to Little Rock, Arkansas, where we visited the Clinton Library complex--very interesting. We had some fairly serious weather that night. The RV park even handed out a sheet with instructions on where to go for shelter. I guess the instructions were for if there was a tornado nearby, but fortunately one didn't come near us, though that storm caused a lot of damage elsewhere in the area.

Replica of Clinton Oval Office

Fountain and Rock Island Railroad bridge being converted to a walkway

We then stayed in the Hot Springs National Park. What a great place--pretty scenery and full utilities at "Golden Age Passport" prices. Yea! Hot springs are always attractive to me but I have no tolerance for them these days--I get overheated too quickly--so we didn't take advantage of that aspect of the area. We did take a tour of one of the old bathhouses that has been restored and now serves as the Visitor Center for the Park. It was amazing how opulent the Men's Bathhall was and how small the Women's Bathhall was. There certainly was not equality between the sexes there. We also walked along the brick "Grand Promenade" behind the bathhouses, and rode the Honda Shadow up to the tall tower atop Hot Springs Mountain that overlooks the whole area--very impressive.

Statuary in downtown Hot Springs

Hot spring along Promenade

Men's Bathhall statue

Ceiling of Men's Bathhall

After a short visit to Mount Nebo SP where it rained on us almost the entire time, we are now encamped at Mount Magazine SP. We plan to hike up to the top, the highest point in Arkansas, later today, weather permitting--right now it is raining again. We are almost at the top where we are camped so it is a short hike.

View from Mount Nebo campsite

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

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