Categories
Blogging Food Geography Travel Weather

Wichita Falls Texas

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. This month I’m virtually visiting 5 continents in 5 weeks. 4 weeks ago I wrote about Luxembourg in Europe. 3 weeks ago it was Yunnan China in Asia. A couple of weeks ago it was down under to Perth Australia. Last week it was Santiago Chile in South America. This week I’m back home in North America in the United States Of America – specifically the great state of Texas and Wichita Falls in the far north of the state.

This is actually not a virtual visit, but an actual visit. I’ve just returned home from Wichita Falls Texas. I flew out there last Friday morning for my annual late-September visit to spend quality time with family. My “first cousin once removed” and her husband picked me up at the small but modern Wichita Falls Regional Airport, and we proceeded to a local Mexican restaurant for an early Lunch. That’s a tradition for each visit. We must eat a meal at a Mexican restaurant, and I don’t think that we’ve ever repeated the same one. We’ve always gone to a new place with each new visit.

I returned home this past Tuesday afternoon (27 September 2022). My flight on American Airlines (Airbus A321) was packed like sardines – probably at or near 100% capacity. I think a lot of people who had previous plans to head for airports in the Tampa Bay area and even Orlando were on the flight(s) to Miami instead since #MIA was the least-affected airport in Florida from Hurricane Ian. There were a lot of flight crew sitting in coach. Despite the packed flight it was amazingly peaceful and serene inflight, and the flight itself was quite smooth (just a few chops here and there). The pilot took a different route to Miami from Dallas – staying over land for nearly all of the route – over to Tallahassee, and then down the Gulf Coast of Florida. (Normally it would cross the Gulf Of Mexico from New Orleans to Fort Myers.)

Note: I’ll post an impact statement on Hurricane Ian here in my hometown on Twitter @ChrisMDay.

This was my first time flying since the start of April. Mask mandates in airports and airplanes were lifted later that same month, so this was the first time in nearly 3 years that I flew without a face mask. There were a few people at the airport and on the airplanes who wore face masks. I’d estimate maybe 5% did so. On all of the flights to and from Wichita Falls the flight attendants stated during their safety briefing that whether or not we choose to wear a face mask please respect each other’s personal decisions. That’s good advice to follow. Be kind to each other.

Incidentally after that first meal at that Mexican restaurant upon arrival in Wichita Falls – we visited a fun historical museum. Next #TravelThursday I’ll write about it, as well as some other fun places that I visited in the local area. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

Categories
Blogging Career Military Travel Weather

Phoenix Arizona

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Yesterday was the 30TH anniversary of Hurricane Andrew’s destruction of Homestead Florida – my home of almost 5 years at the time. After 19 months of living in Maryland, Virginia, and Central Florida (Melbourne and Tampa) – I returned to Homestead in March 1994, and I’ve been here since. That’s almost 35 years (minus 19 months). When I first arrived here in Homestead – I was 20½-years-young. Now I’m 55.

I don’t think I’ve told anyone this before – other than my coworkers at the time in Gloucestershire England – but in July 1987 I actually received vague military orders for my next assignment / duty station to Phoenix Arizona. (Those orders were inexplicably replaced 3 months later with orders to Homestead Florida.)

I’ve never been to Phoenix – “The Valley Of The Sun”. Someday I’ll probably visit. I wonder how much different my life and career would’ve turned out had I gone to Phoenix instead of Miami / Homestead. There would’ve been no hurricane to drastically change my life 7 years into my military career. Maybe I would’ve stayed 20+ years on Active Duty. Maybe I would’ve fallen in love with Arizona – much like I’ve fallen in love with Florida. Maybe I would’ve never gone on a Caribbean cruise.

I know that I would’ve thoroughly explored much of what there is to see and do in Phoenix and beyond. I’ve only stepped foot on a small part of Arizona – the northern part from Hoover Dam to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. That was part of a family excursion out of Las Vegas in January 2002.

I grew up with hot and humid summers up in the Washington D.C. area, so South Florida’s weather wasn’t such a shock when I first arrived here. It just lasts much longer here than there. British weather was similar to Maryland and Virginia weather in the wintertime. Of course winter weather lasted much longer in the U.K. I generally don’t do good with dry desert weather – whether it’s sizzling hot in the summertime or freezing cold in the wintertime. I guess if I made that move to Arizona I would’ve gotten used to it after a short little while.

As a creature of humidity – even North Texas (where much of my family lives) – is too dry for me. My nose and skin don’t like arid-extra-dry. South Florida air always feels refreshing after returning home from a week or two in Texas.

Next #TravelThursday let’s visit Luxembourg. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

Categories
1970s Blogging Nature Travel Weather

Appalachian Trail

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Last week I wrote about my visit exactly 30 years ago to Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The 2,194-mile Appalachian Trail (#AT) straddles the Tennessee / North Carolina state line for over 200 miles through the park. It reaches its highest point just below the summit of Clingmans Dome at 6,625 feet. (The summit is 18 feet higher.) The summit is the highest point I’ve set foot on land in my lifetime. From south to north the #AT runs from northwestern Georgia to central Maine.

Flashback to the late-1970s when I lived in Lanham Maryland (a suburb of Washington D.C.). I was a Cub Scout, a Webelos Scout, and a Boy Scout. I think I was 10½-years-old when I moved from the Webelos to the Boy Scouts late in 1977. I remember we had Troop meetings every week at the local VFW. I enjoyed it a lot. We had classroom-like training. We made things. We played games. We planned weekend trips up in the nearby Appalachian Mountains of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. This was fellowship before I ever knew what fellowship was. I was with the Boy Scouts for about 3 years until my family moved away late in 1980.

Most of our weekend trips were in the wintertime (weather-permitting) up in the Appalachians. Our leaders mapped-out a portion of the #AT with camping sites along the way, and we commenced our adventure. I think we hiked up to 10 miles per day wearing heavy backpacks, so we’d cover 20 to 30 miles during an average 2 to 3 day hike. I remember that we’d all start each new morning together (as a Troop), but then with all of our different paces of hiking we’d all start to scatter on the #AT almost immediately in groups of no less than 2. We weren’t allowed to hike solo. I had a good buddy at the time. His name was Eddie. He and I were the shy ones of the Troop. Nobody ever suspected us of doing bad things. So we got away with doing bad things. He and I were friends outside of Scouting. 45 years later I often wonder whatever happened to him. He was probably my best childhood friend ever.

The camping sites after a long day of hiking were wonderful. We erected our own tents. We setup our own fires – usually one big one (for warmth) and a whole bunch of little ones (for cooking). As a Troop we talked about our day on the #AT – people we met along the way, wild animals we saw, things we found, etc. It was a time of talking and laughing and even telling scary stories by the campfire.

Fun Fact: One time me and my buddy Eddie accidently burned our tent down !

Wearing heavy backpacks was quite the experience. We always tried to pack lightly, but you surely didn’t want to forget something (like heavy clothing) for those cold days and colder nights up on the #AT. Some of those nights were bitter cold and windy in the single digits and teens.

And then there’s the hiking shoes. No matter how perfect those shoes fit. No matter how “high-quality” those insulated socks were. You always got blisters on your ankles. They were reminders of the 20 to 30 miles of weekend hiking for the next week (or more) to come.

It was a fun 3 years with the Boy Scouts. I probably would’ve stayed with them well into my teen years had we never moved away.

Some day in the future I hope to return to the Appalachian Trail somewhere in Maryland, Virginia, or West Virginia. I want to hike a few miles up there on a nice sunny summertime day – sans backpack and hiking shoes. Maybe start at Harpers Ferry West Virginia – the start of many of our hikes from those fun Boy Scout trips.

From the mountains to the sea – next #TravelThursday. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp

Categories
Blogging Driving Nature Travel Weather

Clingmans Dome Tennessee

Welcome back to #TravelThursday. Exactly 30 years ago this week during the first week of August of 1992 me and my brother visited the highest point on land in our lives at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was part of a road-trip together that started at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville Alabama (where my brother attended Space Camp). That trip continued into Tennessee. We walked around Nashville for a little while. We spent the night in Knoxville. The next morning we walked around the main tourist district of Gatlinburg. It reeked of smoke. (We later found out that much of a city block was destroyed by an electrical fire almost 3 weeks earlier.) From there we drove U.S. 441 / Newfound Gap Road up into the Great Smoky Mountains.

We stopped at Newfound Gap which straddles the Tennessee / North Carolina state line at an elevation of 5,048 feet. From there we drove the 7-mile road up to Clingmans Dome (which also runs on both sides of the state lines, but mostly the North Carolina side). Once there we parked in the parking lot, and then we walked the steep (12%-grade) half-mile paved trail up to the top of the observation tower. (That was a tough walk going up – much easier coming down.)

The 45-foot concrete tower – built in 1959 – stands at the summit of Clingmans Dome – the highest point in Tennessee (but not North Carolina) at 6,643 feet. It actually stands just across the border in North Carolina. The summit itself is the third-tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River, and it’s the highest point along the Appalachian Trail.

The views can be spectacular from the tower (and even from the parking lot 330 feet lower than the tower) on sunny and clear days. I remember it to be very cool up there on that early August morning – in the low-to-mid-50s – about 25 to 30 degrees cooler than it was in Gatlinburg Tennessee and Cherokee North Carolina at both park ends of U.S. 441. Of course on many days you may not see much of anything – because you’re in the clouds. You’re on top of old Smoky.

WEBCAM (with current weather conditions)

I’m going to make it back to Gatlinburg – and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – and Newfound Gap – and Clingmans Dome – sometime on a future road-trip during my upcoming retirement. And when I do I’ll take pictures. (I don’t believe that any pictures exist from this trip of exactly 30 years ago.)

I mentioned the Appalachian Trail above. Next #TravelThursday I’m staying on the trail to reminisce about my fun (and not-so-fun) experiences on it during the late-1970s as a Boy Scout. Let’s keep traveling together.

All rights reserved (c) 2022 Christopher M. Day, CountUp