Texas by way of Tennessee at a 90.00.00…..Three stars to Lone Star, Week 4 & 5

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Texas by way of Tennessee at a 90.00.00…..Three Stars to Lone Star

Week 4 and 5

10/9/18 – 10/22/18

Photo: Lookout Mountain, Tennessee from a US Civil War cannon nest

As I write this it is week 8 and I’m sitting at my mothers in San Benito, TX which is located in South Texas in what they call the Rio Grande Valley about 20 minutes north of Brownsville, TX. I’ve been here 2-1/2 weeks and have done a lot of thinking about the trip, where I’m headed, what I want to get out of it and have made some changes and adjustments. More on that next week.

When I left off on my last update I had spent a week in the Smokie Mountains and had just left. From there I traveled briefly through North Carolina, Georgia and then West through Tennessee into the boot heel of Missouri, All the way across North Arkansas East to West and turning south towards Texas with a short detour twice into Oklahoma. I then ended up in Texarkana, Texas.. or is it Arkansas, a town with an Identity problem, South to Houston and then west to San Benito with one trip into Mexico so far. 9 states and Mexico in 8 weeks to date.

Over the course of this two weeks I spent a lot of time on the road with a day or two stops here and there. The weather turned cool, overcast most of the time with more rainy days then not. If I had better weather I most likely would have stretched this section out into another week.

At my stop in Chattanooga, TN I dropped into CrossFit Brigade and worked out with some really cool peeps. They just moved into a new building with a lot of space and great equipment. I highly recommend this place and the crew, assume health food selections on site as well check out the sweet potato muffin post WOD.

Following my workout, shower and food I visited Lookout Mountain, TN which is also known as Chickamauga & Chattanoga National Military Park. This was the location for a key battle in the US Civil War known as the Battle of Lookout Mountain which took place in 1863. This place disturbed me and had me in awe at the same time. We dismiss things as “long ago” I believe when there is no one alive who remembers or participated in the events, granted it was 155 years ago that this battle took place but in the big picture that is not that long ago. To brake it down 5 generations ago this country was torn apart at war with itself, brother fighting brother in some cases they say. 5 generations ago seems like a long time, but for perspective this is your grandparents grandfathers generation. In other words your great great grandfather may have fought or been killed in the US Civil War. I first started to think about this when I visited my grandparents grave site in northern Michigan my first week out. This old cemetery in Luzerne, Michigan has grave markers with a star signifying veterans of the civil war as it was explained to me. As the story was told land in this area of northern Michigan was given or sold for next to nothing to veterans of the civil war. This land give away was just prior to the first narrow gauge trains being built in the area and the start of the logging boom so land needed to be cleared for farming or livestock raising.

Before I share what I seen on top of this mountain both visually and with my minds eye I want to share some facts with you on this battle. The battle lasted 3 days with 12,500 casualties, all US Citizens, your grandfathers grandfather possibly. To get an idea of what I seen click on this link for a view from one of the Cannon Nests. The Confederate Army had half a dozen cannon nests on the mountain top with multiple 6” and or 9” diameter cannons placed in each overlooking the river, train tracks and town below. I sat there looking down and tried to imagine it being dark below, 18, helpless, scarred and never knowing when a 9” Cannon ball was going to fall from the sky and take me or my friend out. And all of this by my fellow countrymen, neighbor, relative or possibly brother.

I left that day with a heavy heart and a greater respect for this country and those who have made sacrifices to allow us the freedoms we have. Its fitting that I’m finishing this post on Veterans Day and once again I say “Thank You For Your Service”.

My next stop would be in Kennett, Missouri/Piggott, Arkansas home and business location for my college roommate whom I had not seen in 35 years. Bobby and myself were placed together at the luck of the draw by our campus housing counselor and we hit it off right away, I believe it’s because we are both picky about who we spend time with and John Wayne fans. Bobby has done well for himself as I knew he would he was always driven even as a teenager when I first met him. He has a successful business in Kennett, MO where he grew up and a beautiful home on 120 acres of prime deer hunting land in Piggott. AR a beautiful wife and 1 daughter the spitting image of himself with a lovely family. I spent 2 days and 2 nights with him and his family on the Coyote Ranch.

A few highlights for my stay; I met Sheryl Crow’s brother, yes that Sheryl Crow the singer whose hometown is Kennett Missouri. Sheryl if your reading this and I’m sure you are your brother is a good guy, look me up we can have dinner, I’ll be in Cali next summer 😉. Bobby gave me a tour and education on the Cotton industry from field harvest to the gin. I met with a farmer in the business and rode in a John Deere Cotton Picker a $750,000 green cotton picking computer on tractor tires. I seen the module trucks load in the fields and unload at the gin the loaf of bread looking cotton modules (old technology) and round bails (new tech) the Round bails weigh 5,000 to 5,500 pounds each and the module trucks haul 4 at a time for a total of 20,000 plus pounds which is equal in weight to one of the modules. Once the cotton reaches the gin it is dumped on the ground and the bails are numbered.  The module trucks follow the cotton harvest from south to north starting in Texas earlier in the season. The gin we visited was located in the middle of no where near Holcomb, MO. And would run 24-7 until the milling was complete +/- 8 weeks. The gin removes the seeds from the cotton which are hauled else where and processed for cotton seed oil. Debris is removed and bails of clean cotton and stained cotton are made weighing 500 pounds each. The white bails go to the mills for your undies and the discolored bails are used to cover your undies with jeans.

A few days prior to my arrival at Bobby’s his mother had passed away which I learned about while on the road. I offered to hold off on my visit until after the funeral but he suggested I keep our plans. I left his house Friday morning the third day which was the day of his mothers funeral and he thanked me for coming and keeping him occupied. Until we meet again my friend and this time it will not be another 35 years. Thank you Bobby, Marion and Courtney for entertaining me.

I then travelled across the northern part of Arkansas East to West in overcast cold and rainy weather, the weather never straightened up my whole time in Arkansas, luck of the draw. My next stop was in the area of Fayetteville, AR home of the Razorbacks at a high school friends home. Leslee had grown up down the road from me and we attended the same school. We had been in communication prior to my departure and she extended an invitation to stop by if I was in the area and with the crap weather the timing couldn’t have been better. I arrived just in time for dinner and her son Barrett and daughter in-law Leidy prepared the first home cooked meal I had sense hitting the road. Leslee had to work early the next day but Barrett and Leidy had plans to go to a comedy show and took me along. The show was at a casino just across the state line in Oklahoma and it would be my first time in the state of OK. Good show a few beers and good company. I was there for 2 ½ days and 2 nights with Leslee having to work Barrett and Leidy adopted me and showed me around the area. Comedy show, microbrewery, hiking and mushroom hunting. We also talked about the flora, fauna, lakes, rivers, parks and trails in Arkansas which Barrett was very knowledgeable on and I shared my knowledge of Michigan. Leslee if your son ends up at Michigan Tech you can blame me. I took all 4 of them out to dinner my last night there and departed the next morning, I say 4 because Leidy has a little one on the way. Don’t forget to keep uncle Tom updated on the baby.

Thank you Leslee, Leidy and Barrett for welcoming me into your home and sharing Arkansas with me. All the best to the four of you.

From there I turned South heading down the western side of Arkansas parallel to Oklahoma stopping at Crater of Diamonds State Park for a day and night to mine for diamonds. It is an interesting place to visit that is open to the public for a small fee to look and dig for diamonds over a 37 acre area. This is where the Strawn-Wagner Diamond was found by a regular park visitor in 1990.  This 3.09 carat diamond is the most flawless diamond in existence graded at “perfect” 0/0/0. I spent 6 hours in the mud searching for diamonds along with about 60 – 70 others on the 37 acres. I overheard conversations of some regulars and there are people that vacation there for weeks at a time to mine diamonds. If your ever in the area make a day of it or at least stop at the visitors center. Thank you to the local for the inside information 😉 you know who you are.

I then headed to Hot Springs, AR and Hot Springs National Park. This is home to Bath House Row with two spas in operations today which use the natural hot springs water coming from the mountain to the rear of the bath houses. This area has a colorful history and was a major player during prohibition being a destination for Al Capone, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano and the like. The gangsters came here to relax and play at the spas, gambling halls and illegal bars. Gangster activity came to an end in the 1960’s due to federal law enforcement making it a priority. The feds referred to Hot Springs as “the site of the largest illegal gambling operation in the US”.

From Hot Springs I headed to Texas but first took a detour to Tom, Oklahoma just because. Tom, OK is the only town in the US with my namesake I came upon it one night while studying my US map. Tom seems to have no real significance, population unknown as it forgot to report in the last census. It is the furthest town south and east in Oklahoma. On my way in and out I passed timber, pasture, cattle and maybe a meth lab or two. I stopped for a quick picture at the abandoned for sale Tom Hardware Store and headed to Texarkana, Texas/Arkansas where I spent the night.

The following day I headed to Houston with a stop in the afternoon for a workout at Cosmic Crossfit in Pearland, TX a suburb of Houston. Cosmic was recommended by some friends from home who lived in Houston prior, Cosmic was their home gym. I had a good time and chatted with the owner some and the lovely Coach Melody. If your ever in the area and need a good workout with great people check them out. Thanks Amanda, Chris and Mike for the recommendation.

The following day I headed to San Benito, Texas in south Texas home of Fender Freddie where my mother spends her winters with the plan of staying with her and in the area through the end of the year. Those plans have sense changed but more on that later. I do enjoy this area which is referred to as the Rio Grande Valley and really enjoy the locals. I arrived on a Friday and just hung out with my mom for the weekend and did a lot of thinking about the plans for the remainder of the year. On Monday I singed up at a local CrossFit gym for a month, I had dropped into this gym a few other times visiting. CrossFit Work Over Time has been a great fit for me and I have found some good people there to workout with and challenge me. I will talk more about them and the friends I have made there in my next post.

The big change in plans which is 99% complete with a couple minor details to work out is I will be spending the winter season in the mountains of Colorado. I’m excited about getting back to mountains and have taken a job at Beaver Creek Resort running a Snowcat grooming ski runs for the season. I’m still firming up housing and some minor employment details but it appears all is falling into place.

As always wishUwerehere