Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #158 – Along Back Country Roads

I am honored to be guest hosting this week’s Lens-Artists photo challenge. As I pondered what topic to choose for the challenge I thought about how many of us are happy to be able to travel again. For this challenge I am asking you to show us your images that show your interpretation of going along a back country road. It can be a road where you walk, go for a bike ride, take a scenic drive, go off-roading in a jeep or four wheeler, or a road you take to get somewhere.

To me, a back country road can be any road that’s off the beaten track. The road can be paved, gravel or dirt. It can be one that takes you through farmland, desert, forests, quaint small towns, or in the middle of nowhere. It may even be one with quirky roadside attractions or funny signs you see along the way.

When we go on a road trip we enjoy getting off the main highways for a more scenic drive. Recently, we have even started avoiding interstate highways altogether. The header photo at the top of the page was taken on the Dalton Highway north of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Have you ever driven by a dirt road and wondered where it went? That’s just what we did one time when taking a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. We couldn’t resist turning on the road in the first image below. I don’t remember where we ended up but the beautiful stream shown in the second image ran beside the road.

Sometimes the only way to get where we want to go is on a dirt or gravel road. These next three images are examples of some we have taken in our adventures.

The Great River Road in Arkansas follows the Mississippi River
Top of the World Highway in Yukon Territory, Canada
A steep dirt and gravel road to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina

On a recent trip to Orlando, we traveled over 1,000 miles without driving on an interstate or major highway. It was heaven not dealing with semis or drivers passing us like it was the Daytona 500.

The roads were paved, two lane roads with little traffic. There were some fun things to see as we drove along.

Bison farm near Darien, Georgia
Woodbine Fire Museum and Antique Shop on Highway 17 in Woodbine, Georgia
Businesses just outside the Ocala National Forest, Florida
I wondered where this road went in the Ocala National Forest
Lunch was delicious at this popular local restaurant in Salt Springs, Florida

I’m honored to be one of the guest hosts for the month of July while Tina, Ann-Christine, Patti and Amy took the month off.

In your post, please include a link to my original post and use the Lens-Artists tag so everyone can find your post in the WordPress reader. Be sure to check out the first three guest hosted challenges.

John Steiner of Journeys with JohnBo – On the Water

Anne Sandler of Slow Shutter Speed – Black and White

Bert and Rusha Sams of Oh the Places we see – Getting Away

Next week on July 31, please visit Ana Campo of Anvica’s Gallery for her challenge – “Postcards.”

I’m looking forward to seeing where your back country roads have taken you!

A Magical Birthday Week

That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up

Walt Disney

Henry and I both celebrated milestone birthdays this year. His was in May and mine was the last week of June. Sorry, you’ll have to guess our ages! What better way for two seniors to celebrate than to be kids again. We went to Disney World!

We took our time and stayed off the Interstates on the way to and from Orlando. We even broke up the trip on the way down with a night beside the St. John’s River in Palatka, Florida. Our room overlooked the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza and river walk beside the river. We enjoyed two fabulous waterside meals our first day. Lunch at Skippers in Darien, Georgia is always delicious. Corky Bells on the St. John’s River was crowded but we found two seats at the bar and enjoyed a great dinner.

The next day, our room was ready when we arrived at our resort in Orlando early in the afternoon. Our condo was about 15 minutes from any place we wanted to go at Disney World.

On most trips to Orlando we spend at least one day in one of the theme parks. This was not one of those trips. Our plans for the week were to relax, enjoy the amenities at the resort where we were staying, and get our Disney fix by dining at three Disney restaurants.

Our first Disney dining experience was at Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Village Resort. As we explored outside before lunch we had fun reminiscing about our stay there about 40 years ago. Lunch was fabulous!

We weren’t going to a theme park but we still wanted to experience some Disney magic. What better way to do that than to go to Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Character Dinner at the Contemporary Resort on the night before my birthday.

We arrived at the Contemporary Resort about an hour before our reservation. Sipping a cocktail while watching an afternoon thunderstorm over the lake was a nice start to the evening.

Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck all made appearances. As each character walked through the restaurant they stopped in front of each table to wave and pose for pictures. Seeing the excitement in the kids eyes as each character came by was priceless. I don’t know who enjoyed it more – the little kids or us.

It was pouring down rain after dinner but before heading back to our condo we took a monorail ride around the lake.

The next day was my birthday. It would be hard to top dinner with Mickey Mouse but we did. Our lunch in Sanaa Restaurant in Kadani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge was amazing. The restaurant overlooks a savanna with giraffes, zebras, impalas, wildebeest, and other animals. Before and after our meal we watched the animals from an overlook outside. Our table was at a window with a great view of the animals as we ate. The meal was the best we had all week and the live entertainment outside the window was perfect.

When we weren’t out eating we enjoyed sitting on our screened in porch overlooking a pond or going to one of the pools. The pond attracted several Florida birds who came to the pond to fish. Great Blue Herons, a little blue heron, egrets, an osprey, and an ibis all made appearances.

We’ve been to Walt Disney World many times since the 1970’s. We learned on this trip that you can have fun without going to one of the theme parks. You are never too old to be a kid at heart!

I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.

Walt Disney

Lens-Artists #104: Summer

This July “Seasons” will be the theme for the entire month with a different season featured each week. Amy is starting the challenge with “summer”. For this challenge I’m taking a trip down memory lane to some of my most memorable summer road trips.

When I was growing up my family took a road trip every summer to visit relatives. However, the most memorable summer road trip from my childhood didn’t revolve around visiting family. In the summer of 1959, when I was eight years old, my father’s work required him to spend several weeks in California. My whole family went with him on a cross country road trip to see America. I spent many hours sitting between my two brothers in the back seat of our  Ford station wagon as we made our way to the west coast. We stopped at national parks, a Santa Claus village, prairie dog towns, and bought cowboy hats. While in California we panned for gold, went to Disneyland, San Francisco, and Yosemite. On the return trip back east we saw more national parks and many more road side attractions. There’s more about my 1959 adventure at Revisiting My Childhood in Pictures.

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Our family of 5 traveled cross country and back in this Ford Station wagon in 1959
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Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, 1959 ~ photo from my Dad’s digitized slide
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San Francisco street, 1959 ~ photo digitized from my Dad’s slide

Now flash forward to 2006 when Henry and I made our first cross country RV trip. Our main destinations were the Grand Canyon North Rim, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, three Utah National Parks, the Black Hills and lots of places in between.

Grand Canyon North Rim Roosevelt Point Overlook
Grand Canyon North Rim Roosevelt Point Overlook
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Wandering Dawgs at Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park in 2006
Arches National Park - Delicate Arch
Arches National Park – Delicate Arch (Utah)

Our biggest summer road trip was our four month long RV trip to Alaska in 2013. Truly the trip of a lifetime!

Watching for whales in Haines, Alaska
Watching for whales in Haines, Alaska
Polychrome Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska
Polychrome Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska
Mama bear looking for more fish
Mama bear looking for more fish near Valdez
Pair of Orcas on Columbia Glacier tour from Valdez
A pair of Orcas on Columbia Glacier tour from Valdez

Sadly, this summer there will be no long summer road trips for us. Stay tuned for more about a short weekend trip we have coming up next week.

Do you have a road trip planned this summer?

Amy, thank you for this weeks Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Summer

Spring Road Trip

Our latest road trip destination was southwest Virginia. The scenery was spectacular as we drove north from Georgia through the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

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Eastern Redbud at rest area in Western North Carolina

After an overnight stop in Asheville we continued to be awed by the scenery as we drove north through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flowering eastern redbud trees added splashes of pink as we traveled to Southwest Virginia.

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View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from North Carolina Interstate Overlook

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Tennessee Welcome Center between Asheville and and Virginia

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Virginia welcome center in Bristol

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At the Virginia Welcome Center in Bristol

On our way to see Luray Caverns we took  a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

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Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

After we purchased our tickets at Luray Caverns we had a short wait before we walked down the steps to begin the 90 minute tour. We followed our tour guide and stopped a few times along the way to admire the spectacular formations (and of course take photos).

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Reflecting pool, Luray Caverns, Virginia

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Wishing Well, Luray Caverns, Virginia

All three generations of our family enjoyed the caverns, even our two teenage grandchildren!

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

For the second year in a row we made a fall trip to River Vista Mountain Village in Dillard to explore the beautiful north Georgia mountains. Last year we explored Black Rock Mountain State Park, visited waterfalls in North Carolina and wandered around Tallulah Gorge State Park.

This year we had adventures in two new places. One day we went to the top of Brasstown Bald. Another day we drove an hour and a half to Blue Ridge, Georgia to take a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.

Our seats were in an open air car for the hour long ride beside the Toccoa River. The train departed the station right on time at 11:00.

As we traveled along at a whopping 10 mph we were able to enjoy the scenery and snap a few photos. A few trees were starting to show signs of autumn but we were too early for the brilliant oranges, reds and yellows that will come later in the season.

Our destination was McCaysville, GA/Copperhill, TN. There was plenty of time to explore the town before the scheduled 2:00 departure. It’s hard to tell which town is which since the state line runs right through the middle of town.

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GA/TN state line

As we wandered around the town we crossed back and forth between Georgia and Tennessee several times. The state line even runs through the middle of some buildings. “Dine on the Line” is the motto for the Copper Grill restaurant where we had lunch. Their address is Tennessee but the state line goes right through the restaurant.

It was nice to sit back and relax on the return trip to Blue Ridge. Before driving back to Dillard we walked across the street from the depot for some fried apple pies from the Mercier Orchard downtown restaurant and store. These pies have been featured on the Food Network and are melt in your mouth delicious!

What’s not to love? A scenic train ride, cool mountain air, beautiful scenery, fresh trout and catfish for lunch, going back and forth between two states just by walking through town, and delicious fried pies! A great day!