Sunday was one of those perfect fall days — sunny with cool weather and a slight chilly breeze — so we decided to do some exploring in our own back yard. First stop, Kilcherman's Christmas Cove Farm, where they grow 250 varieties of heirloom apples. Honestly, I didn't know that 250 types of apples existed, period, much less that they're available in one place. Big apples, little apples, green, red, putty colored — it's amazing all the types.
The apples are sold from a barn between the Kilchermans' home and their orchards. The barn walls are lined with John Kilcherman's collection of 10,000 pop (soda) bottles because — well, what else are you going to do with 10,000 pop bottles? The apples are in baskets on long tables, grouped by type, with a small note next to each describing that apple variety's history. Various family members are there to help customers decide which apple is good for baking, or eating, or whatever else you can do with an apple.
After stocking up on apples and cider, we headed across the peninsula to Christmas Cove Beach and Peterson Park Beach to poke around on the beaches. The two beaches, only maybe a mile apart, are very different: Christmas Cove is very sandy while Peterson Park's beach is very rocky.
One oddity: At Christmas Cove, someone had buried ... something ... something named Yinzy under a nice, 3-foot tall wooden cross. My guess is that Yinzy's resting place probably won't be restful for too long as it sits on a public beach that gets hammered by storms, especially in the winter. Yinzy, whatever it was — dog, cat, turtle, whatever — will probably be carried out to sea by spring next year.
But maybe that's the plan.
A few photos from an afternoon of visiting the lighthouse at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula and hiking in the surrounding park.
I was headed south for a quick visit with my brother and his family when I noticed that Waze had routed me through Tupelo, Mississippi. Even though I'd grown up in the state, way down at the bottom on the Gulf, I'd never been to Tupelo, home to Elvis Presley.
Now, I'm not much of an Elvis fan, even though his was the first concert I ever attended (I was a kid and went with my parents). But this is a genuine slice of Americana ('Merica!) and it was only a couple miles out of my way, so I had to stop. Besides, I needed gas.
I expected a seriously tacky tourist attraction since, let's face it, Elvis wasn't known for his subtly stylish decorating choices, but what I actually found was a very nicely done small park, tucked away on a quiet street in a residential area. Elvis's very small boyhood home is there — basically, just a shotgun shack — along with the small church he attended as a kid, a modern chapel (to worship Elvis? Not sure.) and the gift shop/museum. All in all, I was impressed. Well done, Tupelo!
A couple more, in color this time. You can really see the dust blowing in.
Las Vegas will eat you alive with crowds and noise. After spending 10 days working on an event at one of the giant Las Vegas casino hotels on the Strip, my coworkers and I were ready to get the hell away. After we got all of our gear packed and shipped to the next venue, we had half the day left with nothing to do so we piled into two rental cars and headed north to the Valley of Fire State Park. The park is about 50 miles north of Vegas and abuts Lake Meade but it feels like a completely different planet. No lights, few people, no slot machines or liquor stores, and none of those damned bush speakers (every bush on the Strip seems to have a speaker buried in it playing a "hip" music mix because, you know, God forbid there should ever be any silence anywhere.) This state park is genuine desert wilderness. And it's awesome!
The day we were there was the second day in a row of very high winds in the Las Vegas area. Flights were being diverted to Los Angeles to land, or if they were cleared to land in Vegas, looked like those "scariest landing" YouTube videos. Seriously windy.
For the first part of our excursion, we had blue skies and sunshine, and the wind had little impact on us beyond making driving the rental minivan a bit interesting. As the afternoon wore on, though, the dust storm began and changed the blue sky to a weird, dull grayish brown. (Here's a noisy YouTube video of the dust blowing into Vegas that day.) It never got to where we couldn't see where we were going but the look of the park definitely changed, giving it an even more Mars-like feeling.
We spent the day hiking and climbing around on the rocks, and looking at petroglyphs left by the Anasazi. For a bunch of Midwesterners and Easterners like us, this was totally different outdoors than we're accustomed to.
We watched the sun go down (not a great sunset; too much dust made it look post apocalyptic) and then finished the evening sitting in one of the park's tiny stone cabins, on the dirt floor, eating prepackaged cookies left over from lunch and drinking a room-gift bottle of wine. It was great.