Monday, March 26, 2007

Puttering around the Panhandle

Hiking trail in the Appalachicola National Forest

We liked our Saturday trip to Alabama so much that we decided to try another jaunt on Sunday. This time we headed east into the wild interior of the central Florida Panhandle. From there we proceeded straight south to the Gulf coast and took a side trip on the causeway out to St. George Island.

This part of the state is very rural, containing vast sections of uninhabited swamp and forest land that is home to the Florida black bear and the rare pitcher plant. The overall feel is that of the Deep South, unaffected and unconcerned with the worries and cares of the modern world. Just hang out for a spell in front of the Piggly Wiggly and you'll see what I mean.

Appalachicola River from the 19th century remains of Fort Gadsen

Cypress bottoms in the river floodplain

Rare Florida pitcher plants (Sarracenia)

A house on the water in Eastpoint, FL

Beach at St. George Island State Park

Shells on St. George Island

Great Blue Heron

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama

Connie and I took a road trip today into that exotic and thoroughly southern place we call Alabama. We set out to do some hiking in the Conecuh National Forest but, as is always the case, stopped to see and do a lot more along the way. I wanted to share some pictures of this little jaunt and hope that the sight of spring in Dixie would make y'all as happy as it does for me.

Azaleas bloom next to a very old "cracker" style house

Saturday traffic in Florala

Old gas station sign
A quiet stroll through Magnolia Cemetery in Andalusia

Chopped pork and fries in Wing, Alabama

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An exciting opportunity!

Crater caused by Flight 93
September 11, 2001

I ran across this vacancy announcement for a National Park Service administrative position at the rural field in Pennsylvania where Flight 93, of 9/11 fame, came crashing to the ground. Leave it to the federal government to create permanent bureaucracy out of profound catastrophe and death.

Here are some highlights from the actual vacancy announcement:

Flight 93 National Memorial (PA)

GS-7 Office Support Assistant

"This GS-7 position provides a unique and exciting opportunity to join the Flight 93 National Memorial team in the development and management of a memorial to the heroes of Flight 93 by providing all administrative and office management support at the park.

Maintains all accounting records, pays bills, reconciles status of funds, assists in preparation of budget documents for briefings, manages advisory commission meeting logistics, arranges and manages travel for staff and commission members, prepares personnel actions, procures supplies, serves as timekeeper for staff, and attends meetings and/or participates in conference calls with associated minute-taking.

Sensitivity, discretion, communication skills, a high degree of organization, attention to detail and procedures, and technological skills are all critical qualifications

As soon as I think I've seen everything the universe goes and produces yet another government funded absurdity for my viewing pleasure.

So don't delay folks because the application window for this "unique and exciting opportunity" on the "Flight 93 Memorial team" closes soon.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Old Tampa Highway

Deep down in Florida

Last month I spent about ten days at our home in central Florida while doing tornado relief work for Christian Disaster Response. On my days off I went exploring in the immediate area adjacent to our house which borders one of the most beautiful wooded swamps I have ever laid eyes on. It is land owned by the Walt Disney Corporation and is the last large undeveloped parcel on the Disney World property.

After consulting some old maps I was able to find out that it has a name: the Reedy Creek Swamp. It is full of massive oaks, cypress, palms, bay trees, gums and tall stately pines. It is one of my favorite spots in all of Florida, with a breadth and majesty I can only compare to the western canyons and deserts that I formerly inhabited in another life.

In the depths of the Reedy Creek Swamp

From where our property abuts the swamp it stretches off to the south and east for many roadless miles. One day I got curious and checked some county maps to find out where I could locate an access point on the other side of this wide swath of jungle wilderness. While poking around in my car looking for a promising entry point, along the Osceola/Polk County line, I discovered a remnant of the old Tampa Highway that was still paved with bricks.

Old Tampa Highway

This one-mile stretch of 15 foot roadbed is what is left of the original road that crossed the Florida peninsula from Daytona Beach to Tampa. It was called, at various times, the Lee-Jackson Highway, Dixie Highway and the Central Florida Highway and was built in 1925. There are no historical markers pointing it out so it is a well hidden and little visited piece of yesteryear, only a few hundred yards from the bustle and noise of U.S. 92 to the east. It is hard to make out the original concrete edges, but you can see the asphalt widening and repairing that has been done over the years. It is still used by the locals who live in old tar paper shacks and double wides.

Close-up of the Old Tampa Highway

At the county line there is an old concrete marker that was put there in 1930 welcoming motorists to Polk County the Citrus Center of Florida, which it still is today. According to my research this is one of only three remaining in existence and was moved several times as the route was realigned and was finally placed here away from the main road for safe keeping.

Welcome to Polk County in 1930

You never know what you'll find when you're poking around the back roads and swamps of Dixie and that's why I'm always looking. This was definitely a very neat discovery. More on the swamp in a later post.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

It Really Is An Emerald Coast

Seagrove Beach

I live in an area of Florida known as the Emerald Coast. The name is derived from the green to aquamarine color of the Gulf of Mexico along this stretch of coastline. Today the Gulf seemed most especially colorful on the beach behind our house and I just had to go down and take a few pictures to share with y'all.

I hope it's warming up wherever you are. Spring has sprung in Florida!

From the edge of the deep green sea.

A herring gull and laughing gull enjoy the afternoon surf.

Monday, March 05, 2007

George Jones Duets

The Possum

I recently purchased the Sony Legacy Edition of the long out of print George Jones duet record My Very Special Guests. This two-CD collection includes the original Columbia album, which was released in 1979, along with an additional 27 songs from various other albums and recording sessions that have come out since.

The remarkable thing about George Jones is that he is so multifaceted and able to blend in seamlessly with such a wide variety of artists and musical styles. There are the expected country star pairings with the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard but we also get to hear him perform with Elvis Costello, Pops and Mavis Staples, B.B. King and Dr. Hook.

My favorite song is his duet with Emmylou Harris on the Rodney Crowell penned Here We Are. This song never fails to send shivers up and down my spine and I'm finally glad to have it on CD because I've nearly worn out the grooves on my vinyl record version.

Elvis Costello wrote the song they sang together on this album especially for Jones (Stranger In The House) and it doesn't disappoint with the somber refrain: "There's a stranger in the house no one will ever see, But everybody says he looks like me." I sometimes think the English are almost more countrified in their sentiments than Americans.

Some other highlights include the hit song Bartender Blues written by and performed with James Taylor; the tender and bittersweet A Few Ole Country Boys with Randy Travis and the hauntingly beautiful mountain ballad Wonderful World Outside with Ralph Stanley.

These are by no means the only songs worthy of note but there are 37 pairings contained in this collection and I could be here all day telling you about all of 'em. Suffice it to say that this is a highly recommended George Jones album which you can now get on BMG for real cheap. If y'all enjoy listening to the music of the best country singer of all time than this is one not to miss out on.

Frank Sinatra was once quoted as saying that he thought that "George Jones is the best singer in the world........after me." Leave it to The Chairman to be ever so humble in his words and deeds.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The End Of Divine Strake.....For Now

Nevada Test Site, 1953

I got the news about the cancellation of Divine Strake while doing relief work in central Florida for recent tornado victims and have just now gotten around to posting a blog that I hope will adequately convey my heartfelt gratitude to all of the heroic souls that were involved in helping to prevent this hideous bomb test from ever occurring.

It was wonderful to see the diversity of people that came together to speak out about the unnecessary dangers this explosion would pose to the health and safety of the general public. I'd especially like to commend Springdale mayor Pat Cluff and the entire town council for having the courage to stand up and be the first governmental entity in the entire nation to just say NO. Their position made it much easier for St. George to follow suit, to be followed by Cedar City and then the entire government of Washington County. With the Utah, Nevada and Idaho legislatures preparing hearings over the issue it soon became clear to the warlords in DC that they had stirred up a hornets nest of opposition which caused them to eventually back down. For now.

I am thoroughly convinced that they are planning to test bombs in the Nevada desert once again, but for now we can all breathe a little easier.

We must never let our guard down when it comes to these evil maniacs. It is our civic duty to keep an ever vigilant eye on what they propose (supposedly on our behalf) to do to protect "freedom, justice and the American way."

From today's headlines, an article about plans for yet more new nuclear bombs: