Java Joe Morgan

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Road Tour 2020

Starla had never seen any of the national parks and monuments we visited on this trip. We knew when we set out it would be an aggressive plan, but we planned it well and made it on schedule.

We left Friday and stayed in Amarillo, and then headed out Ridgeway State Park in Colorado. From there we drove to Pocatello, ID, but not before finding a rain system that just sat over us for several days. It was in Pocatello we found the coldest temperature on the trip at 39 degrees.

I started taking pictures in Vernal, UT, but really took out the camera when we arrived at Glacier National Park. Everything East of the continental divide was closed, and much of that West was closed. The road up to Logan pass was closed just the far end of Lake MacDonald.

We left Montana back into Northern Idaho for a night at Farragut State Park. It was once a Navy training base.

The next day we headed out through Washington to Mt. St. Helens. From there we started South into Oregon, and then on down through Crater Lake, Lassen, and Yosemite.

We left California and trekked across the Nevada desert, almost running out of gas after locating Area 51 along the Extraterrestial Highway (yes, that is its official name). It is 111 miles long. We know that well. That's exactly how much mileage we had left on the jeep when we started down the road.

We brushed by Bryce Canyon, then out into the Arizona desert into Navajo country.

We drove 6700 miles on this trip and saw a great many things. After all that, we're still married!

Idaho Vacation June 2018

This year, Starla wanted to go to Idaho. She had never been there and I know I was there as a kid, but don't remember much. So, off we went. It was a long, long road trip (over 3600 miles), but we did really well.

We left Friday and stayed in Amarillo, and then headed out for the Grand Junction, CO the next day for James Robb State Park (formerly Colorado State Park). We met mom and dad the next morning, and then made the long trip through Utah up to Idaho where we stayed at City of Rocks State Park. We arrived early evening (for Idaho) and had a cold night. Mom and I got up early to go grab pictures in the morning light, so now cold and tired! It was a good morning, though.

Later that day we proceeded through the City of Rocks Preserve, and then headed North to Shoshone Falls. Definitely a destination if you're out that way.

The next morning we were off to Craters of the Moon. What was supposed to be a 3 or 4 hour trip turned into an all day adventure when we got lost in the back roads of the preserve. The day turned out OK, but didn't have time to really see the main features of the park.

The next day Starla and I headed up the Sun Valley to get in some art, food, and shopping. The place is growing, but certainly not yet to the quality of Ouray or Telluride. They'll get there. So, we ate lunch, but otherwise didn't stay long before heading up and over the mountains on a remote road. Our goal was to get back to the campground early enough so mom and I could go back to Craters and explore. Starla and Dad didn't want any of that.

That evening mom and I finished what we didn't see of Craters of the Moon. Ultimately we ran out of time due to darkness, and headed back to the campground.

The next morning we turned back towards home aiming for Flaming Gorge. By the looks of the map, you'd think the West side road would be the better one, but we didn't get to see much of anything. Mostly low-lying boat ramps into the reservoir. The Eastern side roads much have all the flames of the gorge, because we missed them. Though we took a drive to try to find stuff, it took a full hour to drive 35 miles! There's the "country mile", and then there's the "Utah mile". The "Utah mile" is definitely longer.

We split off from mom and dad the next morning, taking in as much of Flaming Gorge as we could, but we needed to get down the road the Vega State Park in Colorado, and there is no good way to get into there. So, we had to get going.<.p>

The next day, we had to get out to Dodge City, KS, and Vega State Park is on the far West side of Colorado, so again we had to get moving. We pretty much drove all day and checked into a motel in Dodge City. The next day, which is now Sunday, we had to get home, but since I was in Dodge City, I wasn't going to miss an opportunity to absorb more of the history of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. We went to the Boot Hill museum, and found waaaaay more than expected. It is a really, really good museum, and highly recommended. You need a day to see it all. It is really well done.

October at the Dallas Arboretum

The Dallas Arboretum is a well-kept and fabulous botanical garden. We went during the fall display just after they started putting up the Christmas displays (but too early to see the full Christmas light spread).

Smokey Mountains Vacation

This was Debbie's vacation, and we had to deal with a lot of rain and falling trees. We muddled through, however, and turned out to uncover a number of nice surprises.

The Mammoth Cave pictures were taken without a flash (we weren't allowed), but I managed to get a few passable pictures.

Bluebonnets 2017

Another year of Bluebonnets in Texas. Much of what we saw last year, but still pretty.

Blue Ridge Parkway 2016

So we decided to take advantage of the peak fall foliage of the Appalachian Mountains and drive the entirety of the Blue Ridge Parkway. While out there, we also decided to visit the Biltmore Home, the largest home in the world.

I learned something about my camera. When it takes it's 10,000th picture, it will start over numbering. I passed the 10,000 mark after the first couple of days, and so the first images you see begin in the garden of the Biltmore Estate, where my camera started renumbering images from 9999 to 0001. The images then proceed through the the remainder of the Biltmore House, a monstrosity of financial excess of the Vanderbilt family. George Washington Vanderbilt fell in love with and bought 125,000 acres of the Blue Ridge mountains, and then proceeded to construct his dream of an estate. Unfortunately, he only enjoyed it for 19 years, after which he died of complications from and appendectomy.

His sister took over the mansion. In spite of the family's extreme wealth, they opened the house for tours and visitation when they ran out of money during the Great Depression. The house, gardens and surrounding area is a remarkable piece of architecture and example of what you can do if you're one of the richest people in the world.

Unfortunately for me and others, they don't allow flash photography inside the house, so you get what you can get. We weren't really prepared for all the estate offers. The estate is way more than just the house. It has long walking paths through gardens and ponds and wineries and farms. We didn't realize just how much time it would take to see the place, and arrived well after mid-day. I recommend if you decide to go, plan to stay nearby and stay the whole day.

When you get to the picture of the sign reading "200 FT. FALLS AHEAD", we are at a waterfall near Stone Mountain State Park in North Carolina. It's a short hike down to the top of the falls, and then just another couple hundred feet to the other side. What they don't tell you is that the walk to the other side is composed of all stairs!

There are many signs warning of the dangers here. But, when I was young, I might have just been stupid enough to brave the slide. However, when you get to the bottom and see three levels of cascading cliffs, you quickly realize that the stupidly brave are just as dead! Of course, that might be a preferable demise than the trek back up the stairs.

I believe we did find maybe the best place in the world to take pictures out of a moving car. In spite of the 45mph speed limit, there are very few places to stop. All the pull-offs seem to be at locations with grand vista views, and I found many places I wished we could have pulled over. Along the way, though, we found quite a number of places to visit and learn about the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park. I recommend if you decide to drive the whole thing (all 560 something miles of it), stop at all of the visitor's centers. They are all different and have varying themes of history. There are many places to camp within and near the parkway, so you can take your time. Just get there before the end of October. Everything shuts down for the season.

Oh, and one note. Just after the phenomenal sunset shots and the two shots of the fishing pond at the KOA where we camped, there is a picture of ston with white stalactites hanging down. This isn't ice. They are actually stalactites formed from what I guess to be limestone in the mortar used to build the parkway. I found it interesting in that every time you're in a cave and they tell you it takes hundreds of years for stalactites to form, these have formed in less than 100 years!

Again, I apologize for the out-of-order pictures, but, maybe it is a mental exercise!

Badlands Summer Vacation 2016

A vacation of crumbling mountains and black hills. It started off with a few problems with Mom's camera battery dead and her charging cord broken, one of my camera lenses giving me fits and dropping my camera at Badlands gave us a scare. Debbie's camera battery and compact flash card had some kind of schizophrenia, we thought for a moment Tere's phone would be the sole source of photography. In the end, it all worked out, and I walked away with about 475 pictures worth keeping.

The first night in tents was at the Onawa, IA KOA. It's a nice little KOA settled in the middle of corn fields out by a lake. The blue heron's weren't in a mood for posing for us so we took what we could get. Though not much to take there, I always love a good dead tree, and I couldn't resist taking a good one of the corn.

Onawa also marked the spot where we exited the interstate for more interesting roads. As always, you never know what you'll find, and a historic windmill collection was our first great gem. We passed through miles of wheat and corn and other crop-land to wander upon the smallest incorporated town in the US, Monowi, NE, population 1. That's right, just one person runs the library, the bar, the restaurant and is also the mayor! Makes me wonder what the next mayoral election there will be like. With one person running and one person voting, if she isn't re-elected, there's a big problem!

Later that day, we reached Badlands National Park, where sand-castles erode away to the tune of an inch a year. The next two days and 165 pictures document the landscape, colors, wild-life, terrain, a fossil or two, some night-life and Tere trying out her new Jeep.

Here we learned that the little varmint most of us consider pets, the prairie dogs, basically make the whole ecosystem work. Without them, all kinds of critters, including owls, snakes, badgers, coyotes, another little rascal called a black-footed fereret, and even the Bison suffer. Though we didn't locate snakes badgers and coyotes, we were visited by a rabbit, robin and some really cute blue and red little bird. We saw prong-horned antelope, big-horned sheep, and a bunch of deer.

After Badlands and bad sun-burns, we were off to the Black Hills. Now, most people venture up there to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, but we sought out the caves. The first, Wind Cave, is a jagged super-structure of tunnels and creepy little holes in the rock some 170 known miles long. The whole thing hasn't been fully mapped.

The cave is best known for its "box-work" formations, which decorate the ceilings of much of the cave. Cave pictures are incredibly hard to take with a hand-held camera while being shuffled along with a tour group. I managed to snap quite a few, some with flash and some natural. I noticed the flash would "flatten" out the features but would often provide more color depth. So the ones a bit bland and constant in color but high in contrast are no-flash, while brilliantly colored pictures resulted from the flash. There are several instances where two identical frames exist, one with flash and the other without.

The next day and evening we took a short hike and drive to see what we could find. I went out on my own for a bit while the others found Dad a historic train museum. Then we descended upon Jewel Cave, another cave of several hundred miles of twists and turns, best known for its jewel-like gypsum formations.

We were really rushed through this one, and I was literally walking while holding my camera at arms length pushing the button an snapping whatever faced the lens of my camera. When I got back, about 1/2 the images were black, and I didn't hold much hope in having too much. But, digital photography and post-production software holds many wonders, and I was able to yank the light right out of those black images to reveal many wonderful images. The last 18 images of Jewel cave were just miracles of modern electronic imagery!

Time to turn back toward home, we stopped by Agate Fossil beds. The Agate find is a fascinating story about a pile of animals dying some 19 million years ago in what they suspect was the last watering hole in a severely drought-stricken savannah. Due to a hard-driving storm (of which the pictured show it no proper justice), we didn't get the pictures it deserved, but I did get a snapshot of the fossilized burrough of a "bear-dog".

Our final stop was at Scott's Bluff, a landmark for the traveller's headed West to California, Oregon, and the great Salt Lake. There, we found a rainbow and a really nice sunset to end the trip.

Bluebonnet Trail

Just a day-trip to go see Texas bluebonnets. There was a small art festival in Ennis, TX, where they let us to a 50-acre field of bluebonnets and indian paintbrush. Driving home, we came across one of Texas' famous long horn bulls. A very nice treat were the Belgian horses. These are huge animals, but as calm as a sloth on sleeping medication.

Moab 2014

I had to take my FJ Trail Teams edition to Moab. 2014 was an especially rainy year out there, and the canyons were glowing green with grasses and juniper. The trip starts out on highway 50 in Colorado as we made our way to Gunnison, CO, then through the La Sal mountains in Moab before hitting the White Rim Trail.

Everything went pretty smootly the first day, though rain was threatening. We say a lot of canyon, and moved on to our first camping spot about 30 miles in. It took six hours to get there.

That night, the rains came, and turned red dust into mucky mush. The wind blew so hard we could barely get our tents up, and even then it busted two poles on our tent. It will still raining the next morning, and I couldn't stay in the tent any more, so I got up and took my camera out to see if I could find a waterall in the run-off. We found several.

There had already been rumors of the road being washed out, and being that Dad was in his Subaru, I knew I didn't have the gas to get out and beyond Murphy's Hogback and then have to turn back. We decided to go out to White Crack and turn back.

The trip was still great, but I obviously didn't get to finish that little trip. One quick thing. Dad's Subaru Forrester did really great. I think the little car had plenty of power, but in one place, not enough weight. However, on our way out, the ranger told us that they would no longer allow all-wheel-drives out there. We suspect either too many with less capable vehicles or experience must have had to be rescued. Or, they may not be maintaining the road as often.

Las Vegas 2014

This wasn't a vacation. I was in Las Vegas for an IBM convention. However, I couldn't resist taking my camera with me. The architecture and structures there are incredible, a great testament to how much money people lose to those who take it to construct such things. So, view a testament to the greatest crowdfunding success story in the country.

Fall in Missouri 2013

The fall colors were perfect. This is one of the reasons we moved up here was to be able to see fall colors and experience four seasons. This year came through with shining colors, pun intended.

Yellowstone Vacation 2013

The park has grown quite a bit in the 40 years since I was last here. There are even new geysers and things that weren't there before. The buffalo were numerous.

The trip starts out through Nebraska along interstate 80 taking us into southern Wyoming. We stopped for a short bit in Cheyenne, and then on towards Lymon. I had to take a side trip to the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport! Yes, that place is not only real, that is the official name of the place.

We then went off road to run through the Bridger-Teton back woods, taking many pictures and camping remotely along the way. It took us two days to go through there, and because of our schedule we didn't allow time for side trips, but there are many.

Yellowstone was full of people, even in September, and I filled up two high capacity HD cards there. I couldn't resist taking all the wonderful colors of the algea that lives in the water.

We made our way out of Yellowstone through a small slice of Montana, and then on to Devil's tower. It was very cloudy, so we didn't stay around at the tower. We moved on to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We saw Mt. Rushmore and then the Crazy Horse monument. It will be interesting to return there in a few years to see how Crazy Horse is coming along.

Being ever interested in strange places, we had seen signs to Carhenge on the way out, and couldn't resist going a short distance out of our way to see this place. Unlike the spaceport, at least they had a small visitor's center and gift shop!