Back home again.

Wednesday morning we left Little Rock bright and early, and drove to Hot Springs National Park. This year is the park’s 100th birthday.

Apparently bathing in the warm mineral spring water was a thing in the early 1900s. This was a popular destination for rehabilitation and convalescing. It’s a surprising location for a National Park; eight grand bath houses in a row along the main drag of Hot Springs. Each full of century-old spa-equipment, dressing rooms, ornate gathering rooms, and large front porches.

Bath house row.
Some of the original springs. And fountains placed to dispense the spring water. It really is warm, right out of the ground.
A trough where spring water is fed to the bath houses.
Spas of yesteryear.

Four days. 1700 miles. Four National Parks. Seven states. $4 in cash left in my wallet. Time to go home! We made it to Austin Wednesday evening.

Another adventure in the books. I enjoyed all of it.

Above the trees.

Tuesday morning we got up early and drove to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most visited National Park, with over 12 million visitors a year. And it is stunning.

We made it up to Newfound Gap overlook, which lies on the Tennessee/North Carolina State line, as well as the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail (100 feet of it!)
Standing in 2 states at once.

Then we drove up to Clingman’s Dome and walked up the steep climb to the observation tower for 360 degree views above the treetops. Clingman’s Dome, called Mulberry Place in Cherokee, was sacred to them. It is 6643’ high – the highest point in Tennessee.

View from Clingman’s Dome.
Clingman’s Dome observation tower.

After the park, we drove another 9 1/2 hours to Little Rock. One more National Park and then home tomorrow.

Three firsts.

We left Virginia early Monday morning, headed for the newest US National Park – New River Gorge National Park. It took us into West Virginia, my very first visit to the state.

The park is home to the New River and a 3000 ft long steel arch bridge, which was the longest in the world when it was built in 1977. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, the New River is actually one of the oldest on the continent, according to the NPS app (which I highly recommend if you’re a National Park geek).

The new bridge over the New River.
The New River gorge and its old bridge.
Sandstone Falls on the New River.

Visiting the park was a 2nd first for me. The 3rd first was grabbing my first geocache in West Virginia, for which I earned this nifty virtual badge. 🙂

Tuesday morning we’re in Tennessee, headed for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stay tuned!

…And by car.

We left Annapolis yesterday, driving home to Austin. Our route takes us very close to four US National Parks along the way. So, we must see them!

Sunday’s park was Shenandoah National Park. It was the created in 1935 amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winding, two-lane Skyline Drive takes you through the park along the ridge-tops with dozens of overlook parking areas along it. We drove it for 60 miles. The trees were turning red and gold. It will be even more stunning in a week or two.

By plane, boat, and bike…

On Monday I flew to Annapolis to attend this weekend’s Sailboat Show. I met up with Lori, and we had a fun 2-day trip on S/V Trident over to St Michael’s, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake. We anchored overnight and dinghied to shore with the bikes and explored the town and its maritime museum.

Trident anchored in the Miles River at St. Michaels.
A lighthouse relocated to the maritime museum.

On Thursday we went to the first day of the Annapolis Sailboat Show. We toured some fine boats, got some swag, and met up with sailor friends. The weather cooperated and we had a great day.

A panorama of the show docks. You can see the copper dome of the chapel on the US Naval Academy campus on the far left of the photo.

On Friday we did boat work from sunrise to sunset. A long day of hard work, but we enjoyed dinner out downtown.

A beautiful sunrise over Chesapeake Bay.

Today we are attending some of the seminars at the boat show. More later.

Mending fences.

The fence along the backside of our property is 15 years old and was really showing its age. A trip to Home Depot and an afternoon in the wayback fixed it all up. 200-ish feet of straight, no-longer-wobbly cedar fencing is ready for another decade or so…

Nice. Very nice.

Mid-week lake play.

We rafted up overnight with Julie and Ryan last night, grilling up dinner once they tied up to us after sunset. It was a new moon night, dark and clear.

The only other boat in the cove with us, as we enjoyed the sunset.

The temps were perfect, but no wind overnight.

Thankfully the winds came up around 10AM this morning and Monte and I enjoyed a lovely sail up to the yacht club and back.

A good day.

Sunday drive.

Monte and I drove out Highway 290 on Sunday. It was a really lovely day for a drive.

Autumn means pumpkins!

Autumn zinnies!

Autumn wine on the veranda!

A good day.

Summer’s gone.

Wow, that was fast. All of a sudden it is October 1st! We’ve been busy the last month or two.

We have happily welcomed out of town visitors, after a long COVID-induced drought of sorts. In July we enjoyed Patrick, Nga, and Nick. In September we had visits from Jake and Natalie, and then Noreen.

We enjoyed our visits with them, but somewhere in there Autumn slipped in. The high temperatures have begun dipping into the low 90s, so I guess I’ll have to brace myself for wearing pants and shoes soon.

The best way to beat the heat when guests visit is to hit the lake.

We went on a brief brewery crawl with Jake and Natalie. Outside seating, of course.

When guests are here, the gameroom actually gets used for playing games. Lots of billiards and darts played. I actually hit a double bull to win a game of darts!

We always eat well when guests are here. BBQ, TexMex, homemade pizza, and more. Julie made sushi rolls one night for Noreen, Monte and me. Delicious.

I wonder who will show up next?

Up a creek.

Yesterday Kurt, Kevin, Monte, and I went for a long sail on Nirvana. We went past Starnes Island and up Sandy Creek to grab dinner at Shack 512. Nice spot. And a great day!

Work and play.

After being out of the water for seven weeks for its bottom job, Nirvana’s packing gland had dried out a bit, and it was dripping too much. The packing gland keeps the propeller shaft cool while it is turning. So dripping too much is better than dripping too little. But, dripping too much means that we are constantly sinking a little bit, so we didn’t want to let it go too long. 🙂 We have hired out the engine maintenance on the boat in the past, but decided to do this ourselves. Finding the right tool for the job is important. These wrenches from CatalinaDirect fit the nuts exactly, are narrow enough to turn the lock nut without turning the gland nut, and have stubby handles for the cramped space in the bilge by the propeller shaft. Perfect! We tested the temperature on the shaft after motoring for a while with an infrared thermometer. Looks like a good fix.

We were on a roll, and kept going and checked the impeller on the sea water pump, which pumps water to cool the diesel engine. We’d let it go too long and one of the blades had broken off. Now to find it…

Debris in the cooling system is not good, it blocks the hoses to, and the tubes inside the heat-exchanger, which can lead to overheating. Plan A: use a shop vac to try to suck the broken vane out of the hose between the water pump and the heat-exchanger. Plan B: open the inlet side of the heat-exchanger, which requires removing the alternator. Thankfully, Plan A worked. The entire blade was retrieved. After a new impeller, o-ring, and lubricant, it was all set to go.

We fired up the engine and left the dock for a 30 minute test run to make sure things looked good. And they did.

Then we decided to sail upriver 30 miles to anchor overnight and watch for some Perseid meteors a little farther away from the city lights. We saw a dozen or so.

We had a great sail up and back on Tuesday and Wednesday. And, wow, is Nirvana in top shape with her new bottom job. We hit 7.7 knots more than once.

Sweet.

Wing-on-wing is so pretty….

I love this boat. ❤

Any reason to celebrate.

Today is National Champagne Day! At least that what some of the Google search results tell me. But it could also be on December 31st, or October 22, or some other day in May. No matter. As long as there is an excuse to make a toast with bubbly, I’m in.

Today I am toasting to a big step forward in the remodel project of our hall bath. I started tearing out the 1980s-era terracotta floor tile in November of 2019. We drug out the ginormous cultured marble countertops and wall-sized mirror. New countertops, sinks, faucets and wall paint went up in early 2020. Then COVID happened, which slowed things down quite a bit. Monte put new face frames on the cabinets and painted them, and they look fantastic. But the bare slab floor hung with us for over a year.

As of today, I’m loving the new floor tile and backsplash. Next up: new baseboards.

Celebrate the little things. And keep moving on.

A few scenes from July.

I need to get back in the groove and post more frequently. Here’s a quick recap of July.

Pat, Nga, and Nicky visited us for a week. We split our time between being tourists and lake bums. We walked around the University of Texas campus one afternoon.

We’ve spent much time on the boat, enjoying the lake with friends. We rafted up overnight with Kurt & Kevin, and Brett one weekend. It’s nice to be on the hook with a breeze blowing through the boat.

Doray dropped of some eggs from her chicken coop. I love the varied colors.

When Pat and Nga were visiting, I bought a fiddle-leaf fig plant. I asked Nga to pick it out, and she selected a good one. It’s already putting out new leaves.

On to August!

Fender bender.

I’m a big fan of, and loyal to, brands that have outstanding customer service. I’ll give a shout out to Taylor Made, maker of marine products, including inflatable boat fenders. Most of their fenders are covered by a lifetime warranty. I’ve never had need to use the warranty before, but one of the Big B fenders I ordered in 2014 for Nirvana burst recently. I gave them a quick call and they said it was indeed covered by the warranty. I simply had to send them an email with several photos of the damaged fender, and a replacement fender will be on the way to us.

Thank you, Taylor Made!

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