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Homeland

Cades Cove ~ Smokey Mountian National Park

After our excursion into America’s Heartland, I was homeward bound. I stopped and visited some friends in Tennessee. They live in Tennessee’s version of Florida’s Villages. Conspiracy theories abound here, as I parked my trailer under a Trump flag! I was in the presence of the Global Elite, and they didn’t even realize who they were. It was a truly surrealistic experience.

Tellico Lake Floating with the Christian Nationalists. Bless their hearts!

We did have a nice visit to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, followed by a long, slow drive into Cades Cove. This early settlement was absorbed unwillingly into the National Park—more seeds of discontent for the Federal Government.

Great Smokey Mountain Heritage Center

We left, heading southeast towards the coast. The drive through the Smokey Mountains was beautiful. We did the same drive last year but headed south toward Scaly Mountian, NC. This time, we went east and left the mountains once more for the less interesting drive to the coast and back home.👩🏿‍🦳


Lessons from The Heartland

What did I learn about the Heartland?

🌽

  1. Corn 🌽 is King!
  2. It’s fucking big! I am glad I took as much time as possible to see what I did, but I think it is enough for one lifetime.
  3. ⬆️ The vibe improved considerably the further north I went. ⬇️ It pretty much went to shit when I was back in the South. 💩 Tennesse was the fucking worst.
  4. 🎖️ Wisconsin’s Driftless region is the best place I visited. I would live there except for the winters. It looks like the perfect place to raise a child like Theo!
  5. There are not many brown 👨🏽‍🦰 or black 👩🏿‍🦳 faces the further north you go (at least where I visited in the country).
  6. I have an increased appreciation for farming and the farmer 🧑‍🌾, especially the work ethic and commitment. I can understand a bit better how this contrasts with the urban environment.
  7. If I feel something is too much from here on out, I will reconsider my decision. Hiking four hours and 1600 steps in the Bat Cave was not a good move. I ended up suffering the rest of the trip and having a less enjoyable time overall. However, I can live with pain if I have to, it seems. Maybe that is another perk of growing old.

😳

5,000 miles ~ 31 nights ~ Another Excellent Adventure!


Final Thoughts

Are We Home Yet?
Ad in Georgia on I-95
Free from the tyranny of The Godless Hordes coming to get you this Fall!
When I got home, I parked out front, opened up the house, and ate some lunch. I returned outside to find this ticket. I guess this helps pay for those Ads in Georgia.

The Elixir of Life

Quapaw Bath House

In 2023, I visited Palm Springs, which became famous about 100 years ago for its natural hot springs with mysterious restorative powers. Hot Springs, Arkansas, has been famous for its rejuvenating waters for nearly two centuries! Many different bathhouses were built offering luxurious spa treatments that somehow look like a method of torture today!

Various devices have been used since the early days of Hot Springs. I don’t even want to know what the firehoses are about 🤣.

The area was established before the concept of a national Park was founded. As such, the whole town is, more or less, a National Park. Hot Springs itself is in the middle of many lakes that provide recreation—almost sort of an early spot to travel to to see the natural wonders of nature.

Hot Springs Arkansas

Other than that, the town is basically a tourist trap. Much like a ski town you would find elsewhere. However, the architecture and history are quite interesting.

There were once over twenty different bathhouses in the area, including nine on Bathhouse Row, where I visited. The buildings are mostly repurposed now, although two still operate. The area around these is very touristy, as are the outlying areas. Water Parks, roller coasters, and a giant concert hall with all your favorite country and western performers play in America’s Heartland.

Public Well at Hot Spring National Park

At one end of the row of bathhouses was a public well. I talked to a guy who was filling jugs to make coffee. Another guy related a story about a family loading up a 55-gallon drum! Apparently, they used it for almost everything!


Southwards through the Heartland

Sunrise at Sioux Falls, South Dakota

After leaving North Dakota, we spent six days traveling leisurely southward through the region west of the Mississippi. We drove around 200 miles per day on average and drove the back roads as much as possible to get a better feel for the state and area

South Dakota

South Dakota – Puppy Dogs Beware!

We stayed that evening in Sioux Falls. We heard the falls looked like tiny Niagra Falls, so we had to take a look. The park at the falls provided a most excellent sunrise walk!

Big Sioux River in Sioux Falls

The Big Sioux River was above flood stage. I saw other places further south where the rivers had swollen their banks.

Flooding in South Dakota

Nebraska

Nebraska Makes Fifty

When I worked for Hewlett-Packard, my first job involved supporting marketing and sales activities in the Midwest. We had just introduced Tsunami, a 2-channel digital signal analyzer that proved to be a big hit for mechanical testing. I spent several weeks visiting many of the sales offices in the region. I made it to all the states except one: Nebraska. I did land at the airport in Omaha and change planes, but I always remember I never actually made it there.

Nebraska Makes Fifty

I must say I liked the little I saw driving through the Winnebago Indian Reservation there. It seemed like it had a nice vibe.

Swedish Church in Oakland, Nebraska. It was interesting how the different European cultures persisted after settlement in the last half of the 1800s, another consequence of the inheritance laws in Europe at the time.

I stayed too far away to see Omaha and the next night outside Kansas City. They were both quite a bit bigger, which made for an interesting and sometimes frustrating excursion.


Missouri

Missouri

Northern Missouri had some nice areas, like Lake Winnebago. This name appeared at various points so far in the slide south. It is associated with the Ho-Chunk people who were forcibly resettled in many of the states along our route.

Missouri Crop Fields

The northern part of Missouri resembled the rolling hills and crop fields of Nebraska. As I moved further south, it became less developed, at least along the route I chose.

Lake Winnebago Missouri

As we drove further south, the landscape changed to resemble the South. Many churches and the Ten Commandments started appearing on billboards. It was not a great vibe compared to the earlier part of the trip. We were now in the Ozarks.


The Ozarks

The Ozarks in Missouri

The Ozarks have always had an interesting connotation to me. My Mom had religious survivalist friends who lived here and took her money for bullshit supplements. It seemed to be a hotbed of addiction when meth became popular. It’s sort of a white trash state in my mind.

Despite my astounding prejudice, I found a certain beauty here. It’s pretty much the same as any place in the rural south. It’s sort of an ‘unchanged by time’ vibe.

Fort Smith, Arkansas, was a strategic fort on the Missouri River in the 1800s. It played a big role in suppressing the Indian uprising and the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’ relocation of the indigenous people to Oklahoma. Most of the structure you see here was a prison.

The final drive into Hot Springs was quite nice. We climbed to around 1500 feet and saw some great visits. As we got closer to the Ozark lakes, more vacation rentals and boats started appearing. We were headed for one of the playgrounds of this part of the country.


The Heartland

The Families of the Heartland

Over two years ago, I planned to visit Wisconsin to check in on 6-month-old Theo. However, my knee had other plans after needing a major overhaul. With that under my belt, we came up with Excellent Adventure 2024 to visit them and, as an added bonus, my sister-in-law Myhra’s brother Richard and his wife LaRae at their home/farm /woodshop literally in the middle of (nearly) Nowhere, North Dakota.

Wisconsin Driftless Farm Country

Theo lives with his Mom, Dr. Kari, and Dad, Carl, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I visited here a little over three years ago when Clan Tubridy gathered with Clan Bringe to celebrate Theo’s upcoming birth. This area, unaffected by the glaciers at the end of the ice age, is beautiful beyond words: rolling hills, windy farm roads, picturesque small towns, and lots, and lots, of farms.

The Bringe Farm: Mary Jo, Uncle Alex (aka Stewie), and Dad Carl. Theo is busy pushing the buttons!

Theo is two and a half years old and a sweet, inquisitive, and well-behaved little dude. We had many adventures in the three days I was there! On the first day, we visited Armand and Mary Jo at the Bringe homestead. Their oldest son, Alex (aka Stewie), would let some of his cattle out onto a new pasture.

Who Let the Cows Out?

We got to watch. It was very cool and somewhat surprising that some of the cattle were apparently afraid of Theo! Later, Theo rode in various tractors – John Deere Green Tractors – with Grandpa and Uncle Stewie! We hung out at the farm before heading back home for the day.


Country Farm Breakfast

Country Farm Breakfast

The next day, Kari joined in, and we had a treat that really made the whole trip. In the morning, we went to a Country Farm Breakfast. These are held at different farms in the area and supported by the various farming associations, youth organizations, and the community as a whole.

Country Farm Breakfast is an organic dairy farm with Jersey milk cattle near Harmony, Wisconsin.

This was hosted at an organic dairy farm. I got to see the cows and talk about milking with one of the experts.

There was a good turnout despite the mud. Yep – it was raining, and on a farm, that means mud! Despite (or perhaps because of) the weather, everyone was having a fucking blast as near as I could tell. I loved watching old and young families and seeing how big a part of their kids are. Humbling. If I were raising a young family, it would be here—a beautiful sight. Theo’s grandparents and uncle were there with people they had known their whole lives.


Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center

Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center

We then drove around in more of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. The people of Norway (including the Bringes) settled here and brought their heritage with them. In this case, a Norwegian homestead is now called Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center—our next stop.

It was a celebration day for them, too! We watched a Maypole dance, a young girl churning butter, and traditional Norwegian handicrafts. Theo especially enjoyed the blacksmith’s fire 🔥.

A Troll along the path at the Norskedalen Nature & Heritage Center

I saw a Muskrat in a nearby lake—more or less a giant swimming rat. There were trails for both hiking and riding. Many volunteers were there, demonstrating and discussing the history of the craft and partaking in various crafts. At one point, traditional feats of strength like the Hammer Throw were demonstrated. It was big fun!


The Circus

Cirque Italia
Theo at the Circus

After a quick nap back home, we headed out for the Circus! We saw a traveling circus called Cirque Italia. A group of about one dozen performers from all over the world performed for us, including aerial acts, juggling, balancing, dance, a light show, and—of course—a clown. It was more big fun! I was exhausted and passed out upon arrival home!


The La Crosse Queen

In the late 1800s, travel by paddlewheeler was the norm for people living along the Mississippi. Families would travel to visit friends and relatives and to shop. Our boat, although no longer a wood-burning engine, was from a long line of these boats.

La Cross Queen Riverboat Ride

A trip on the river had been on my bucket list for a while: a paddle boat tour of the Mississippi. And for an extra bonus, the river was at flood stage! It made for quite a sight, especially as we approached the dam to the north of La Crosse. Thro’s grandparents went, too, and I enjoyed Armand’s deep knowledge of commerce on the Mississippi.


Drive to North Dakota

Later that afternoon, we hooked up once again and made our way northwest into Minnesota.


Somewhere near Middle Spunk, Minnesota 🤩

After an uneventful overnight outside Minneapolis, we made it to our second stop somewhere in southeastern North Dakota.


North Dakota Farmlands

Wimer Farm, North Dakota

Rick’s wife, Myhra, is from North Dakota. One of her brothers, Richard, lives on a farm near the town of Gwinner. His wife LaRae worked as a heavy machinery operator at the nearby Bobcat factory. They raise two daughters and have now retired. They are both woodworkers! They have a good-sized garden, and I watched them dig potatoes for the evening meal.

Taters! What’s Taters, Precious? PO-TA-TOES – you can boil ’em, mash ’em, and stick ’em in a stew!

When I first learned woodworking, I read about it and assumed that many farmers were woodworkers. Their shop reminded me of another friend’s acquaintance in Maine, whom I visited in 2022. He was a canoe restorer.

One of Richard’s Band Saw Boxes. The drawer recesses are cut using a bandsaw. He also turned different wood burls into bowls and other shapes.

Richard has made some stunning bandsaw boxes and turned pieces. They had machinery in several buildings and pieces of wood lying everywhere! He was very generous and gave me a few choice pieces, including a live-edge slab.

LaRae’s lair, where she practices the art of quilting. She organizes tours in the region for friends to visit different quilting stores in the Midwest.

LaRae goes in for bigger stuff like cabinetry. She is also an accomplished quilter and had quite the setup in their basement. She was very sharp, and we had a lot of similar interests. She reminded me so much of my friend Laura, whom we will visit on this trip.

She introduced me to a new regional saying:

Opherphun

(Oh-For-Fun)

Richard let me drive his Bobcat – Opherphun! Jake hopped on, and we had a good time driving it to the end of the road. He took me to a nearby farming area where I got to climb in a huge John Deere tractor. We met up with a guy he used to work with spraying his crops. We spoke to him for a while. While talking about his 16-year-old son, he used the expression:

Uff Da!

My trip was complete! I actually heard a local use the word. It was priceless, as was the opportunity to meet all these beautiful people in this part of America.

I was sitting in a giant green tractor in a cornfield somewhere in southeast North Dakota—the Heartland.

I think I am beginning to understand now—hardworking people who love the land. May I be forever humbled.


We reached the top of the roller coaster! Now, we slide south from North Dakota to Arkansas! In the process, I will add the final state to my list of visited states —Nebraska. I stopped once at the airport, but that didn’t count. Also, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma—right smack through Tornado country!

Fields of Corn

Somewhere in Illinois

The next three days were spent leisurely heading north through Illinois, using a combination of Interstates and backroads to see the local scenery. And what, pray tell, did we see? Fields of Corn!

Heartland Illinois

In several areas, we saw quite extensive wind farms.

Wind farms in the heartland

Our first night was on the Illinois River near Peoria. The campground was in an area with extensive earthworks on Upper Peoria Lake. I’m not sure what that was about.

Upper Peoria Lake on the Illinois River
Upper Peoria Lake

The next day, we drove north through Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Dixon, Illinois. This whole area feels nondescript. It’s very odd.

Boyhood home of Ronnie Raygun
The Rock River in Dixon, Illinois

The scenery got more interesting after that, with small rolling hills and more Fields of Corn. There were also fields of Soybeans, but they were not nearly as impressive 🤣.

Illinois River

We stayed overnight in northern Illinois and experienced our first hard rain of the trip. It continued to rain during our visit to Wisconsin.


Somewhere in Wisconsin

Our goal for the last day was to drive the Great River Road of southern Wisconsin.

We headed for Prarie du Chen and began the trip northwards. This is where Armand (Carl’s Father-in-Law) hauls his grain from his farm in Viroqua to be loaded on barges and taken downriver.

Might Mississippi near flood stage

The Mississippi was nearing flood stage, making for spectacular vistas as we slowly made our way northwards.

Wisconsin Great River Road

One can only imagine a raft of lumber 270 feet wide and 1550 feet long being moved down the mighty river. It must have been an impressive sight!


La Crosse

Our journey through this part of the heartland was complete! Now, we will spend time with one of the two families living in the heartland as we reach nephew Carl and his wife, Dr Kari, and the Tubridy pride-and-joy, Theodore!


Gateway to the West

St Louis – Gateway to the West

A statue of Seaman, the Newfoundland dog, accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition, which started in Saint Louis.


Saint Louis played a pivotal role in forming the new United States. Originally founded by the French, it traded back and forth with Spain before becoming part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. From there, it evolved into a nexus for expansion to the West. Best known, perhaps, was the expedition of Lewis and Clark, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson following the purchase.

Sunrise at Gateway Arch National Park

Sunrise at Gateway Arch National Park

We woke and left early to catch the sunrise at Gateway Arch. I had toured the Arch itself many years ago while on a business trip. I remember it being quite an experience, and I had no desire to do it again.

Gateway Arch in front of downtown St Louis

When we are in a new area, I always try to find a park where Jake and I can catch the sunrise. We made it downtown and came to the stark realization that there was no giant parking lot like every other National Park! However, there are nice hotels beside it with expensive hourly parking. I paid more for a one-hour ticket than the trip to the Botanical Garden later in the morning.

Jake on the stairs of the Gateway Arch

It was all worth it when we got there—all by ourselves, more or less. We walked around the Arch. It truly is a magnificent sight and engineering achievement. I am frankly amazed it looks so good—a testimony to its designer.

Lewis, Clark & Seaman the dog – perhaps the most famous of all American explorers

We were happy to find a beautiful bronze statue of Lewis, Clark, and their faithful dog, Seaman, on the waterfront. A Newfoundland dog, he survived the trip and was renowned for the service he provided the two Captains on their journey in the early 1800s.

The US Courthouse
Sunrise on the Mississippi River

Missouri Botanical Gardens

Missouri Botanical Garden – Water plants with Climatron for tropical plants in the background.

Kari went to Medical School in St Louis. She recommended the Botanical Gardens. With Jake safely back at the trailer, I ventured into St Louis for a visit.

Missouri Botanical Garden

The museum dates back to 1859 and has a collection of preserved plants (a herbarium) with over 6.6 million specimens. It occupies 79 acres in an area southwest of the Gateway Arch.

Missouri Botanical Gardens – Rose Garden

I was impressed by the very well-kept gardens, meticulously labeled and tended to by a seeming army of volunteers and workers. In fact, there were more of them early in the morning than actual visitors! Like the earlier visit, I felt like I had the place to myself.

Missouri Botanical Garden – Japanese Gardens

The Japanese gardens were very large, occupying over 25 acres. The Climatarium held a vast collection of tropical plants in an amazing setting. The flowers were full in bloom and beautiful.

Missouri Botanical Garden – Climatron Tropical Plants

It was a bit overwhelming! I spent a few hours walking the gardens, but you could easily spend a day here. It was a great visit!



We will spend the next few days heading northwards to reach La Crosse, where we will spend a few days with Theo & family!

Mississippi River

Crossing the Heartland

Fields of Corn

One of my all-time musicians is Pat Metheny. He hails from Missouri. I love his song (Cross The) Heartland. For some reason, when I think of crossing the heartland, I think of endless fields of corn.

The trip to St Louis went north through Kentucky and crossed into Indiana near Evansville. None of that was too attractive, and Evansville was another of many towns where the old infrastructure was being replaced in real time.

Ohio River between Illinois and Indiana

This eventually led to Illinois when we crossed the Ohio River. We stayed right across the river at Grayville, which was surrounded by fields of Corn.

Grayville KOA
Jake was admiring the Fields of Corn.

The campground was a bit unusual. It looked like it was trying to be a bigger deal than it was. But they had a great restaurant, and I treated myself to a Midwest hamburger from cows raised on all that corn. Delicious!

Grayville KOA – It looked like they tried to make this more of an attraction than it actually was 🤣

The next morning we drove a bit north through beautiful farmland. Corn everywhere. A lot of dairy farms.

We made it to the campground mid afternoon. It was hot and a dip in the swimming pool was great!


Tommorrow we explore St Louis!

Ohio River

Cavelands

After three days of traveling, our first stop was in the ‘Cavelands’ of Kentucky. This area north of Bowling Green has more known cave systems than anywhere else in the world 🌎. The largest is Mammoth Caves National Park. The area has a rich history of explorers and entrepreneurs looking for ways to capitalize on Mother Nature. It is also a beautiful horse country with rolling hills of green grass.

Horse Cave

Horse Cave KOA – Glamping, Camping & RVs (for the rest of us)

We stayed about 30 minutes from the national park at a campground in Horse Cave. As the sign says, it features camping and glamping—roughing it in style. They had an assortment of Tee Pees, Tree Houses, Covered Wagons, Cabins, and RV sites. There were lots for kids to do, including a slide and a giant jumping balloon.

I drove into Horse Cave proper to shop and take in the sights. Half the main street was torn up, with no apparent detours. I guess the locals knew how to do it. I found myself in a neighborhood with rotting trailers and large, vicious dogs. I did my shopping and got the heck out of Dodge 🤩.


Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave is the most extensive mapped cave system in the world. The geological formations that enable this are a limestone layer (with the caves) underneath a sandstone layer (like a roof). This makes for a very stable formation.

Tourist guide printed in the late 1800s. The caves attracted international attention.

It has a fascinating history dating back over 5,000 years. Native Americans lived in and around the caves where many artifacts, including a mummy, were found!

The caves became an international tourist attraction in the 1800s. Ranger Eric told us that tourists from New York came in their Sunday finest to view the muddy caves. Remains of their meals can be found scattered throughout the caves.

In the early 1900s, the infamous “Kentucky Cave Wars’ resulted in shysters and conmen vying for the tourist trade. It seemed locals would go to no length to get the tourist dollars.

The rich Kentuckians decided to take matters into their own hands and prepare the way for it to become a national park. This process was especially contentious because it involved imminent domain. Thousands of people were unhappily relocated. (See the previous post on the Tennessee River Valey—no wonder people in this part of the country distrust the Federal Government.)

It finally became a National Park in the 1940s.


The total distance explored to date is more than 426 miles. The depth of the caves below the surface is between 400 and 800 feet. Explorers in the 1900s were able to determine the likelihood of a cave passage from surface features. These early surveys were hidden from general knowledge for fear of the caves not belonging to the landowners.

Extent of Mammoth Cave System 2021 – Wikipedia

Active exploration continues today.

The Grand Tour

I was not disappointed when I embarked on the 4-hour Grand Tour. The tour truly lived up to its name, offering a grand experience of the cave system’s many facets. Ranger Eric’s expertise and engaging, folksy style of explaining the history and formations added a delightful layer to the experience.

A short bus ride leads you to the entrance for the 4-hour tour. The temperatures were cool but not cold, with an ever-so-slight breeze.

Despite my initial concerns about my 69-year-old knees and back, I found the route surprisingly manageable. The well-packed dirt, concrete pathways, and sturdy handrails made the journey a breeze. It was a testament to the cave system’s accessibility, reassuring me that physical limitations need not hinder such a grand adventure.

The first part of the tour winds through a passage created by flowing water.

The journey was indeed challenging, but the well-timed rest stops (two with bathrooms) provided a much-needed respite. The real thrill, however, was in the intriguing cave formations, particularly Boone’s Passageway. Its narrow spots and low ceilings added a unique and thrilling element to the adventure, making it an experience like no other.

The four miles were divided into three segments. The first was relatively open and level. The second took you through a tall and narrow section. The third featured towering staircases and areas where water formed stalagmites.

All in all, it was a stunning but exhausting experience! I felt a bit better meeting Bob at the end of the journey. He’s 80 years old and was my hero for the day!


Friday was a day off for shopping and recovering from the 4-mile walk. I was very sore and desperately missed my hot tub. Tomorrow, we raise anchor and head for St. Louis—Gateway to the West.

2024 Excellent Adventure Launch

After a slight delay due to a major Oh-Shit, the Starship Excellent Adventure launches on the fourth installment of Jake & Eddie’s Excellent Adventure!

First Stop – Krystal

Many years ago, when I was but a pup, there was a Krystal Hamburger store in Cocoa Beach. The Krystal Experience, as I like to call it, is burned into my engrams. Originally, there was a counter where you could order food. Our mailman would eat breakfast there. You see, back in the 1960s, Krystal was well-known for their waffles!

He was a tank driver in the military. He told us how he would file down slugs and use them to buy cigarettes (I tried it later with no luck)! When we had our car accident at Third and Orlando, our car hit his Volkswagen Beetle and pushed it into the storefront of a cafe that was there (no one was hurt). These memories seem like a dream now. Maybe I made the whole thing up!

60+ Years of Krystal

Regardless, I always loved their crappy, grease-soaked hamburgers dripping with onions, mustard, and pickle slices on a square, fluffy white bread roll. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ~ indeed. It’s been my tradition when traveling the lower part of Georgia to always get me a sackful! Yum 😋.

Jake’s collection of puppys for the trip! Dino (from 2021) and Red (from 2022). Sluggo (from 2023) not shown. Plus his fav’s Santa Chop!

Cordele ~ Georgia

After a completely uneventful, mind-numbing drive north on I-75, we arrive at our first stop in bumfuck, Georgia. It thunderstormed all afternoon ⛈️.

Cordele Georgia or thereabouts 🤩

We left early, heading towards the dreaded Atlanta, the semi-truck capital of the South. After a short race on the USA’s largest raceway (aka I-285), we headed west on I-20 towards Birmingham. Then we took the backroads through northwestern Georgia, passing through Rome, to finally arrive at our next stop.

Leave It To Beaver

All Hail Mighty Beaver

In the book I recently read, Termination Shock, one of the main characters, T.R., is an oil billionaire who made his money off building enormous gas stations with dozens of pumps and a giant store to help travelers get rid of those cumbersome wads of cash (or more likely debit cards). He repents his sins of contributing to global heating now that his hometown, Houston, quickly going underwater by building a contraption to shoot sulfur into the upper atmosphere to cool the planet down.

All Hail Mighty Beaver. May the Beaver never go hungry! How fucking embarrassing is this stupid sign? For Spaghetti-Monster sake you mindless nitwits!

While this might just be a story, the gas stations are real – and called Buc-ees. Their mascot is a Beaver. Go figure.

Lookout $$$ Mountain

Lookout Mountain KOA

Our stop for the evening was near Trenton, Georgia. It is a very nice campground secluded in the rolling hills near the Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee state lines.

Lookout Mountain KOA campground
Lookout Mountain area – beautiful views but hard to find because of all the damn trees 🌲🤣.

We took a frustrating drive through Lookout Mountain, looking for some views of the sunrise the following day. The only good view was on a section of the road up the ridgeway with no places to stop! We finally got to Rock City, expecting to see the views. They are there. They cost $31.

😳

It reminded me of New York State on our 2022 trips. All the good views cost money, and capitalism coexists with Mother Nature! You have to love it! Or maybe not 😩.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

In the morning, we head from Chattanooga towards Nashville and then up to Mammoth Caves.

Tennessee Valley Rest Area – a river that is now a lake.

Whenever I see the Tennessee River reservoirs made during the 1930s by damming the river, I always think of the fantastic Coen Brothers movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Over 100,000 people were displaced when the dams were built. In the movie, the valley is flooded right before the trio – Pete, Delmar, and leader Ulysses Everett McGill – are to be hanged, thereby saving the proverbial day! Classic!

Booze It and Lose It in Tennessee!

I generally try to avoid going through the city. My RV safe navigator told me to give it a try. What the hell – what could possibly happen?

Power Lines with Nashville in the background. More crumbling infrastructure. Yee-haw!

I managed to get through with a moderate amount of frustration. One guy honked and gave me a thumbs-up, and another flipped me off for pulling in front of him 😎.

Guns and Ammo – Lots of signs like this. Hell, yes, I need more guns and ammo! Gotta get me a Libtard! Others told me I was going to burn in Hell—more performative warfare on display.

We arrive in the early afternoon. The campground is on the hill overlooking the Interstate on one side and this one on the other:

Horse Cave – looking west

One out of two isn’t bad at all!

Tomorrow: Jake gets to stay home while I explore Mammoth Caves.

Termination Shock

Global Heating 🔥


I recently read Termination Shock, written by Neal Stephenson, one of my all-time favorite authors and futurists. It outlines how humanity could slow the effects of global warming and start reducing the mean temperature (e.g., stop the fucking ice from melting ape-like descendants). The impact of geoengineering on a geopolitical scale makes for an interesting read. Like Kim Stanley Robinson, Stephenson is very good at science and can develop truly unique (and somewhat believable) characters!

The book’s geopolitical aspects are more interesting than oil baron T.J.’s sulfur shooting canon, although it is pretty fascinating, too. Other characters include the Queen of the Netherlands and a Sikh Gatka fighter from Canada! Most specifically, his concept of performative warfare helped me understand the state of my country that I hold dear, being torn apart by violent-tinged rhetoric.

This aggression will not be tolerated, man!

Here’s some interesting stuff I learned.


Rising water

The past few Hurricane seasons can be summed up like this: Storm Surge. Why? Low-lying areas are more subject to flooding now.

Brother Rick took an amazing picture on his recent cruise around England. It’s a shot of a engineered barrier on the Thames river designed to reduce the effects of flooding.

The Thames Barrier is a retractable barrier system built to protect the floodplain of most of Greater London from exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. It has been operational since 1982. When needed, it is closed (raised) during high tide; at low tide, it can be opened to restore the river’s flow towards the sea—source Wikipedia.

I remember visiting Holland in the late 1980s while living in Europe. I remember being there over the weekend and touring the countryside. At one point, I drove out to the coast. As I approached the coast, I saw these very large structures in the distance. These were the dykes holding back the north sea.

Somewhere on the coast of the Netherlands. The Netherlands means “lower countries” in reference to its low elevation and flat topography, with 26% situated below sea level—source Wikipedia.

In fact, at that time, they were just starting on the design and ultimate construction of the largest man-made movable object in existence today. The Maeslantering closes the mouth of the channel leading into Rotterdam. A computer is used to predict storm surges that could threaten to flood upstream. It does this automatically. The first time it was set off was 2023.

The Maeslantkering (“Maeslant barrier” in Dutch) is a storm surge barrier on the Nieuwe Waterweg in South Holland, Netherlands. It was constructed from 1991 to 1997. The barrier responds to water-level predictions calculated by a centralized computer system. It automatically closes when Rotterdam (especially the Port of Rotterdam) is threatened by floods—source Wikipedia.

In the story, T.J.’s hometown of Houston is constantly under siege from stormwater. (I worked with a woman at IBM whose parents in Houston had their whole first floor flooded in the late 2010s.) He makes a rather dubious claim that the rich would pay to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures because their land was so valuable. Maybe not, but it’s an excellent idea 💡.

Sea Foam

I remember seeing a beach that went out what seemed like a thousand feet at low tide.

The coast of The Netherlands circa late 1980s

The story contains an incident based on one that actually happened in 2020. Five Dutch surfers were inundated by sea foam pushed in by strong winds and an algae bloom.

We regularly have those in our canals here caused by fertilizer runoff. Fish die by the scores. According to a government website, Scientists know that certain environmental conditions, such as warmer water temperatures in the summer and excessive nutrients from fertilizers or sewage waste brought by runoff, trigger HABs, but they are still learning more.

Sulfur

It turns out sulfur is cheap. It is often the by-product of mining and petroleum distillation processes. Sour Oil contains a lot of sulfur that costs way less than purified crude oil, so it is readily available. It can also be dispersed into the upper atmosphere as sulfur dioxide. The effect it has is stunning.

In the late 1990s, a massive eruption occurred in the South Pacific. This has happened before but has never been studied as thoroughly due to advances in various technologies and programs dedicated to studying the climate. One of the results led to a dramatic conclusion: sulfur dioxide from the eruption was detected at altitudes above 80,000 feet. From science, we know that sulfur dioxide at the altitude reflects sunlight back into space. The effect was lower temperatures in the area of dispersion for several years.

Like carbon capture, a more commonly heard buzzword, intentionally burning sulfur as it is shot into space is a concept of geoengineering. One can only imagine the consequences of radical climate change if it affects some areas adversely to the advantage of—let us say—a country facing severe flooding and hardships like The Netherlands from ever-increasing global temperatures.

In the book, an Elon Musk type develops a way to shoot sulfur into the atmosphere. He makes a questionable argument that if it can hold back the inevitable flooding, rich landowners would foot the bill because their land is so fucking valuable. Some of them that are now perhaps arguing it’s all bullshit. This is an example of snapback.

Papua, Niugini, Niu Gini

In the late 1990s, I went on my most incredible adventure. My dive buddy Dan and I journey over several days and stops to arrive on the island of New Britain. Situated on the southeastern part of the Bismarck Sea, it is one of many islands called Papua, Niugini, or Niu Gini by the natives and New Guinea by the Western world.

Route of our dive boat Star Dancer in the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea

The natives at the time we visited seemed to be in dire straits. We came across a boat overflowing with natives adrift in the Bismarck Sea. Who can imagine the life they must have had?

Locals adrift in the Bismarck Sea

The book discusses a huge mine on the main island. Situated 14,000 feet above sea level, it contains enormous reserves of copper and gold.

The Grasberg mine has one of the world’s largest reserves of gold and copper. It is operated by a joint venture between the governments of Indonesia and Papua and the American company Freeport-McMoRan (FCX). source – Wikipedia

The mining operations have severe environmental consequences. The geopolitical consequences are even bigger, mixing old colonialism (The Netherlands), new colonialism (Indonesia), and a severely repressed local population indigenous to New Guinea. This last group had a distinct reputation for eating their enemies in the past.

In the book, the oil baron T.J. turns it into another site for shooting sulfur into the atmosphere. Sulfur, it turns out, is oozing from the slurry processed at this site. Basically an ecological disaster.

Lots of people are not happy with this. It turns out the copper is required to make all these ‘green’ wind turbines in Europe. People in the Punjab are pissed off because the monsoon didn’t start on time. The Queen of the Netherlands is concerned. Hilarious mayhem ensues as the Sikh Gatka fighter takes on Red and the eagles and falcons trained to take out drones.

Snapback

Another interesting aspect explored in the book was the concept of snapback. What is snapback, you ask? It’s when a person or a group of people with a common interest suddenly changes their long-held position. Why? Snapback.

Watching movies and television shows from the 40s and 50s is always interesting. Everybody except the kids is smoking. Doctors were paid to promote brands or say smoking was safe and provided benefits like calming your nerves.

Snapback: When it became obvious that smoking could kill you, this stopped, and you couldn’t find a doctor in your right mind who promoted it. It was certainly clear to them all along this wouldn’t end well.

Oil companies face the same, if not worse, dilemma. I do not doubt that they understood the consequences of burning fossil fuels. But the benefits far outweighed the consequences. The car companies, who relied on this to fuel their automobiles, were in a pickle.

Snapback: We apologize for participating in the destruction of our environment. Here, have an electric car. It’s green—well, except for the batteries. And you need really expensive tires that don’t last very long and get dumped into a burning landfill.

Amazing bullshit. Saving the environment is all about economics. When it becomes profitable for companies to do it, they do it, and their performative response (see below) is the result.

Performative War

I found this topic of immense interest. It tied a lot together in my attempt to make sense of this incredibly fucked up world I find myself living in.

First, a passage from the book:

Question: “It’s an asset, you’re saying? The sheer incompetence of the United States?”
Reply: “People have come to rely on it.”

Performative acts or behavior are intended to show how a person wants to be seen by others rather than who they really are. Performative behavior is defined as an action taken specifically with an audience in mind to elicit a response or reaction. In other words, it’s living for the likes 👍.

Branding Aggression

If you extrapolate this to the concept of warfare, it becomes more like what Israel, Russia and China are doing now in their respective territories. They are not only taking action that costs lives but doing it in a manner that tries to elicit a specific response. In the other world, swaying public and political opinion to a certain goal supports its position, although widely rejected by the other side.

Watch it on YouTube! Recommended by influencers such as Matt “Rapey McForhead” Gaetz.

And then there is our own L’homme qui est Orange. Thirty-four counts of white-collar crime easily passed off as a weaponization of the judicial system to prevent their candidate of choice from representing their views – whether it be White Christian Nationalism or sheer Fuck You Lib-Tard. It’s so painfully obvious that it’s not their reality; it’s mine. Your truth isn’t mine, buddy, and I got lots of people that agree with me, so fuck you. I would shoot you on sight, given the choice.

Performative warfare, in other words.