Category Archives: Adventures

Growing up on a Mississippi Farm my parents didn’t want me to only see the dirt roads. I have seen a lot in more than 40 years.

Who is Elmer T. Lee?

First off… Happy Birthday Walt!!! You are the greatest big brother ever! I am looking forward to hanging out with you this fall at the Egg Bowl, deer hunting, and the holidays!

Secondly, my goal for today was to hit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve along the Bourbon Trail. The day started with confusion. I didn’t know what time zone I was in. Eastern or Central, it really didn’t matter, I was lost. I didn’t want to be late so I decided to figure out were I was in the space time continuum on the road. It didn’t take me long to drive from Bardstown to Loretto.

I arrived at Maker’s Mark two hours before the first tour. I walked around the grounds snapping photo’s and then looked at the clock. I called someone at work to pass the next forty-five minutes. First up on the speed dial was the Yankee Girl. We chatted about everything from my broken tub to a Southern Living article on the Bourbon Trail. Based on the article she told me to look up Capital Cellars in Frankfort. And I needed to try to find Elmer T. Lee or Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

Maker's Mark, Loretto KYTen o’clock rolled around and everything opened up at Maker’s Mark. I loved visiting this distillery. It was what I expected. I saw the still, the print shop, the bottling line, and the gift shop. Note of interest, you can dip you own bottle at the gift shop. If you are not familiar with the history of Maker’s Mark it is a story of rebellion. Bill Samuels Sr. sold his father’s bourbon label and burned his family’s 170 year old recipe. Bill Sr. was the sixth Samuel to make whiskey in Kentucky. He started from scratch making bourbon he liked. He went with no rye and replaced it with winter wheat and barley.

Bill Sr. and his wife, Margie, shook up the bourbon world. When they got into the business in the 1950’s women didn’t participate in the trade. Bill Sr. would be responsible for what was inside the bottle and Margie would be responsible for what was on the outside of the bottle. She gave the whiskey its name, perfected the red wax, and created the drink’s trade mark. Seeing the bottling line where every bottle is hand dipped was a true highlight of the day.

When I left the parking lot at Maker’s Mark I kind of got lost. I found myself on a single car rode. I felt like I shouldn’t be on the road. It was like this road was build for someone in particular and I am not that person. I wanted to keep moving forward so I asked the iPhone to help me out. I didn’t have service. Astonishing while I was lost in Nowhereville, Kentucky with no cell service I got a text message from Snapper. So text messaging knew where I was but I didn’t. I did find Versailles and drove by Kim Dickerson’s old school. I stopped in the office of Woodford High School to sign a petition to change the name to Dickerson High.

Woodford Reserve, Versailles KYWoodford Reserve’s tour was worth the five dollars I paid for it. Woodford Reserve traces its roots back to 1797 when Elijah Pepper starting making whiskey in the area. Woodford, just like all modern distilleries, are not owned by their founder’s family. Large companies have gobbled up all the little guys. Woodford is owned by Brown-Forman. We like Brown-Forman. They also own Jack Daniels. Woodford (at the time Labrot & Graham Distillery) was purchased by Brown-Forman around the same time the company acquired Jack Daniels. They would shut down the distillery until 1968 and then sold the property in 1971. In 1994, Brown-Forman was in the market to by a small distillery with a lot of history and they rediscovered their old facility.

Woodford is considered a small batch bourbon whiskey. What is a small batch? They make a well crafted product but not much of it. Compare Woodford’s production of around 125 barrels per week to Jack Daniels’ daily production of more than 2,000. WOW! Here is another fact. Woodford Reserve is the only bourbon to be distilled using three cooper pot stills. Being Brown-Forman’s small batch brand, using a unique way of distilling, and being closely associated with the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup, I would consider Woodford Reserved to be Jack’s rich cousin.

Finishing up in Versailles I drove to Frankfort to look for the Capital Cellar. I was successful and it was just as charming as I envisioned it would be. I was warmly welcomed by one of the associates. She offered me some wine to taste and I couldn’t turn her down. I had a “naked” chardonnay. That means it was not aged in oak barrels but in stainless steel. It was great, very fruity and fresh, crisp and bright.

I also looked for Pappy Van Winkle and Elmer T. Lee. Found both, Pappy was as expensive as Johnny Walker… VETO! Elmer T. Lee was much more reasonable. I picked it up along with two bottles of wine for gifts. The British gentleman behind the cash register told me that Elmer T. Lee was still a live and well. The man also shared with me that Lee frequents their establishment. He is Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller Emeritus and he rejects just as many barrels as his accepts for his label of bourbon. I am glad I picked up the bottle, because that was a neat story.

So far on my adventure I have learned lot of new facts and traveled many back roads. Some roads were too far back! I have ventured into a cave and hand dipped a bottle of Maker’s Mark. I have visited distilleries in full operation and some that were shut down for a few weeks. I also got to see an original still from Jack Daniels. I don’t know if it was original to Jack Daniel himself or if it was a post prohibition still, but still very cool. Most of all I have remembered how much of a nerd I am. I love learning. I love all the little details and facts behind the cave and the bourbon. I am looking forward to coming home, but I look forward to coming back this way shortly.

Joe and Jim

My day started off with a tour of Mammoth Cave. Did you know that Mammoth cave has over 367 miles to venture through, making it the world’s longest known cave system? I would hike three miles of the total with 37 other guests of the national park. The majority of those guests were middle school students. I had driven all the way to Kentucky to be with Victory Christian Academy on their field trip! No worries, I did try selling them a Pathfinder trip to Space Camp.

Park Ranger Joe Duvall, Mammoth Cave KYMy tour was different than most. I went on the Violet City Lantern Tour. I was so excited about going into a cave I brought three flashlights with me on the trip. I wouldn’t need even one of them. We were given an old oil lamp to guide our way through the labyrinth of trails. It was dark and a little scary, but our tour guide, Ranger Joe (that is him in the picture), did a marvelous job teaching us about the role the cave played in fighting off the British in the War of 1812. But that wasn’t the first time it was in habited. More than two thousand years ago Native American’s lived near the surface river and took shelter in the cave at times.

Once my tour guide learned that I worked at Space Camp we shared stories of school groups and presentation styles. I told Ranger Joe about my role at camp training the staff. He wanted feedback from me at the end of the tour. The more I told him stories, the more he told me stories. I stuck to the front of the group with Ranger Joe. That way I could also see where I was going in the dark cave. I really got excited when Ranger Joe told the group about Ronald Reagan’s visit to the cave. Reagan had wanted to visit Mammoth as a youth. So as president he called the park’s superintendent to arrange the visit. Could you imagine taking the president on a tour?

Statue of Brooker Noe at Jim BeamMy next adventure was up to Jim Beam to tour the distillery. Jim Beam touts itself as best selling bourbon in the world. It may sell a lot of bottles, but I was not happy with my visit to Clermont. Unfortunately, the entire Jim Beam facility is under a multi-million dollar renovation. They want it to be the best stop on the Bourbon Trail. I did get to join a tasting. The tasting at Jack Daniels was so much nicer than Jim Beam. Until Jim Beam is finished with their remodeling, I would suggest stopping somewhere else along the trail.

I wasn’t planning on stopping at the Heaven Hill Distillery. However, since I didn’t spend much time at Jim, I made the stop. Heaven Hill produces Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. If you are not familiar with those names, they were early distillers in Kentucky. Elijah Craig and Dan Call had a few things in common, making spirits and preaching. Craig is credited with being the first to age his spirits in charred oak barrels. I learned today he stumbled across the method after his barn burned and he was too cheap to buy new barrels.

Heaven Hill in Bardstown, KYI did learn a lot about bourbon at Heaven Hill, but I was not impressed with what I saw. The only thing I toured was a rick house. I think in Tennessee they are called barrel houses. There isn’t a still on the property. In 1996 there was a massive fire started by lightning and strong winds helped to burn down several buildings. Fourteen percent of its inventory was lost in the fire. The company survived with help from Brown Forman and Jim Beam until Heaven Hill could purchase a new production plant. Currently, the bourbon is made in Louisville then aged and bottled in Bardstown. It works for them, but didn’t make for a good tour. I did learn a lot!

I am tired today. I am a little grumpy that I drove to Clermont just to look at the outside of buildings. But that is part of the adventure! Keep moving forward, don’t complain when you are stuck in traffic, and never pass up a clean rest stop. Those are the rules of the road. I am looking forward to tomorrow. My goal is to visit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve. On a trip to visit Chris’ parents I saw the sign for Woodford and wanted to visit. It was the first distiller I wanted to tour here in the States. Tomorrow, I may get my chance!!!

Lookin for Adventure

This afternoon I left work at three o’clock and turned on the radio. Rather than listening to the talking heads on the radio, I flipped to the oldies station. The Steppenwolf song Born to Be Wild was on. It was the perfect song to start my adventure. “Lookin’ for adventure” is exactly my purpose, my directive… Tah Dah!!!

I stopped for gas, drove north on I-65, listened to Garth Brooks on my iPod, and found Mammoth Cave! Tah Dah!!! Honestly, I didn’t find the cave; I found the visitor’s center. While there, I saw eleven does just grazing on the grass around the parking lot. It was sunset and they were looking at me as if I was going to feed them. Boo looks at me that way around sunset as well. So I felt at home.

I checked into the hotel and found some food. I turned on the TV for a little more adventure. I looked for ESPN, not at this hotel. I looked for Food Network, denied. No Discovery Channel either. I was up a creek. I flipped till I saw a tall black man talking about the space shuttle. Tah Dah, I had stumbled upon NOVA “scienceNOW”. The man talking about the space shuttle was Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and super geek! He was talking about the recent Hubble repair mission.

Images and faces appeared on the television screen that I recognized. See Dr. Tyson and the crew of STS-125 have visited Space Camp. Just like when I picked up a dead bird and meet Harrison Schmitt, I had the privilege of meeting four members of the STS-125 crew and Dr. Tyson. Tah Dah, that sounds like an adventure to me. Add the fact that Story Musgrave, the farm kid hired to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, loves my name, flight suit, and track six!

The point of all this, I don’t have to travel to find adventure. I have found it at Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, and all points in between. My adventure is not just meeting men and women who have ventured into space, but the guys and girls, men and women I work with each day. I am a big kid! I don’t have a whip or a light saber, but I have a brass clip on my belt loop with too many keys and an iPhone in my pocket. I get to know the next generation of leaders at Aviation Challenge and Space Camp, and now I get to run off for a few days. Tah Dah, adventure complete, sort of!

Great Adventure

You Google for great adventure and the first link that comes up is for Six Flags. But when I think of a great adventure I conjure up images of Armstrong’s boot print, Parry’s expedition reaching the North Pole, Lindbergh landing in Paris, or circumnavigating the globe in a sail boat. I am sure the world’s great adventure brings different things to mind for different people. I am sure Han Solo or Indiana Jones would think of a daring adventure across many galaxies or in search of a religious relic. They are only characters in adventure stories, not real people.

Neil Armstrong's Footprint (Apollo 11, 1969)I have always been somewhat of an adventurous soul. I would cover the country side with my dog as a young girl. I had a club house made from an old school bus. I starting working at summer camp and lived somewhat independent for eight weeks when I was sixteen. I have taken several trips to the British Isles and Europe. I want more adventure in my life. I carry a survival bag with a signaling mirror, head lamp, knives, and matches just in case I am deserted on I-565 on the way home or I have to live on an island all by myself.

I long for adventure. I have dreamed of just packing a small bag and roaming for weeks or months. No, I won’t need a revolver or whip. I am not sure I will need a passport. Everyone needs some adventure. Last summer around this time I tagged along with my husband on a business trip. The business trip was to Disney World. Each day when he went to his conference I would venture around the multiple parks. I visited with almost Chef Kim at the Polynesian. My favorite thing to do was people watch and write in my journal.

I don’t think I can go on a great adventure, but maybe an average adventure. Where would you go if you needed an adventure?

Whiskey, River, and Friends

A few weeks back Fireball comes into the railcar with an adventurous plan to go canoeing down the Elk River. Ok, maybe I am a pessimist but I never thought this trip would make it. I thought there wouldn’t be enough support to make it happen. Everyone is always busy. But I agreed to go canoeing. The trip did get bumped to another weekend. We also had to change canoe rental companies, and added another stop along the way. So when we all showed up at a little after 9:30 yesterday to depart, I was surprised.

We all gathered at camp. We all had packed snacks and refreshments, but didn’t have the needed cooler space. I used my mad OODA skills and planned a strike on the O’Club for another cooler. After a stop north of Huntsville for more ice, more refreshments, and the much needed koozies we headed to Lynchburg, TN. Snapper has a thing with koozies. I think she has a collection of 423 at her home. She and her battle buddy, Cornbread, selected a koozy to represent the personality of each member on the expedition, with mine reading: “I know it looks like I’m paying attention.”

The drive to Lynchburg was the longest ever. I was on point in the convoy and the expedition leader was in the second vehicle and the kayakers were in the tail. They were slow, really slow, extremely slow. I have driven up 431/231 a few times in my life [editor’s note, a few does not begin to account for how often the author has driven 431/231 to Lynchburg]. When the speed limit is 60 it is ok to go 60 miles per hour. It’s a fact that cops will not pull you over doing the speed limit, even when they are trying to take back the highways.

Arriving at the Jack Daniel’s visitor center we discovered we had eight veteran JD tour attendees and two newbies to the distillery. I was gleaming with joy and excitement about being at Jack with a group of friends. It was equally exciting as a kindergartner going to Chucky Cheese with his or her car pool friends. I gave the newbies the prerequisite information needed for the tour. We were in tour number six with Bruce. Oh so close to the coveted number seven tour.

We followed Bruce from the Rickyard, to the cave spring, past the statue of Jack and into the old office. Here is where we discovered why the distillery’s flags were at half staff. In the side room sat a barrel with a white carnation and a photo of Jimmy Bedford on it. Jimmy Bedford was only the sixth Master Distiller of the whiskey that has flown from the hollow since 1866. I had only met Mr. Bedford once in my life, but knowing the closeness of the community, I felt so sad almost as if I had lost a friend of mine. In a small community like Lynchburg everyone knows everyone and everyone will morn the lost of Mr. Bedford.

AC Gang at Jack Daniels (Aug 2009)After the tour the group made a visit to the Squire’s room. In standard form we were not all together; we had stragglers and late comers. A group of slow pokes seemed to be our identity. The Squire’s room is a hide away which has a treasure trove of trinkets and memorabilia to Jack Daniel, his whiskey, and the Squires. Everyone in the group looked at the room, at the art work, and at the photos that filled the small side room. We talked to our host about the loss of Mr. Bedford and the upcoming Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbeque Festival. We could have stayed a little while longer, but if we were going to get on the river, we had to get moving.

After a longer than planned visit to the square and a visit to the slowest Subway on the face of the earth we made our way to Kelso, TN. Kelso is home to Prichard’s Distillery (Sweet Lucy), two canoe rental companies and a fair amount of red necks. Our rental company was across the road from Prichard’s. It looked more like a junk yard than an outdoor adventure company with canoes to rent for an expedition down the mighty Elk River! I could hear banjos playing in the back ground, and when a man asked if we knew anyone in Huntsville who wanted to get into cosmetology I saw this day going badly.

We made our way down a pitiful excuse of a road to a soybean field next to the river. We unloaded the coolers and canoes and prepared for our great adventure. We launched from a muddy swimming area where horses and campers were frolicking around. People from the bank shouted good luck and best wishes as we left the congested area. Not even 50 feet from our launch site, we broke into the coolers for snacks and refreshments. A few more feet down the river I heard Fireball exclaim canoeing was difficult. I then discovered Fireball and Mr. Fireball were canoeing down the river backwards in their canoe. Yes, there is a front and back to a canoe. Thank you CRS for teaching me how to canoe!

We had four canoes and two kayaks. Snapper and Cornbread were in the widest canoe since it was the most stable. Snapper is not a fan of water snakes. Ok, she is not a fan of snakes of any kind, color, or geographic region. She, just like Indiana Jones, hates snakes. Plow and Oz were in another canoe with one of the coolers. That left Chris and I in the final canoe. Our kayaking friends were Ratchet and Mutt. As we floated down the river we tried staying together, but remember we had some slow pokes in the group.

Fireball and Mr. Fireball had to switch positions so that the canoe wasn’t going down the river backwards. Snapper and Cornbread’s mission was to say near the middle of the river to avoid any encounters with snakes. Plow was avoiding any encounters with the paddle and the water. Oz was his battle buddy and she did do most of all the work while he laid back. The kayakers were very happy paddling down the river, so happy that when Fireball and Mr. Fireball’s canoe broke they switched out with them.

As the day continued on and Fireball had more refreshments she grew more comical. As she paddled the little kayak you could hear her laugh from far behind us and far in front of us. Our group was passed by two groups much larger than us and a family with a pit bull in their canoe. We were not paddling at a consistent speed or with speed at all. We stopped for pictures, to goof off, for drinks, and for snacks. But we never stopped for snakes.

At the highway 64 bridge Fireball took a spill in her kayak. She flipped right over. Chris and I turned around to help her right as she popped out of the water giggling. All was well with her and I was looking for a bit of a challenge. So I convinced Chris to go back up stream and try another way through the brush and rocks. Our communication is not the best and I took a spill in the river as well. I lost my glasses and bruised my ribs and rear end. But I was able to save my faithful companion and life long friend. My Dixon Ticonderoga was saved. I swam down the river for a little bit and then climbed back into the canoe.

We finally made it to the end of our river adventure and the sketchy red necks came to pick us up. But the day was still not over. We stopped at the slowest Mexican restaurant in the history quesadillas. Hind sight is 20/20, but I didn’t have any glasses. We should have eaten at Pizza Hut, because we didn’t get out of La Mexican Restaurant in Fayetteville until nine o’clock. But at the end of it all we all had a great time.

The purpose of the day was to get away from the normal work and have fun with friends. Well, maybe for Snapper it was simply not to run into a snake. We got to visit Jack Daniels, make some memories, and canoe down the Elk River. It was one of those perfect days, a day that you will remember until you are really old and wrinkly. I’m not able to tell all the great stories of the river like Mr. Fireball breaking the rope swing or peeing in the river. Some things are better left told in person. The whole day and all the memories I will cherish! Thanks gang and thanks Fireball for leading our expedition!

Benefits to Jack Daniels

Jack's Motto Disclaimer: I am a firm believer that alcohol should never be abused or used to excess. I would never encourage anyone to drink under age or over indulge in alcohol. But if you are going to be a fan of a particular brand of whiskey, I encourage you to pledge your allegiance to Jack Daniels.

I live just a hop, skip and a jump away from Lynchburg, Tennessee, home to Jack Daniels. I have chronicled my fascination with visiting the hollow made famous for it whiskey production. But today being a fan of the Old No. 7 gave me something that I have been wishing for five years now. Well, Jack Daniels didn’t give me anything nor did anyone else. The gift was earned by my husband, but the opportunity for this gift was by given by God’s sovereign hand over a hardy meal at Miss Mary Bobo’s. I guess to tell the story correctly, I need to start there.

Divot, Snapper, Punkin, and I went to Jack Daniels to tour the distillery and have lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s. The distillery tour is something I have done many times before, but this was only my second time at Miss Mary Bobo’s. Our pick for lunch is a former boarding house turned lunch hotspot in the thriving metropolis known as Lynchburg. Being a former boarding house every thing is served family style and you are seated with a hostess. The hostess tells the history of the boarding house and tall tails about Jack Daniels. We were seated across from a charming lady and her mother from Huntsville, Alabama.

Working at Space Camp is an automatic talking point. Everyone seems to have questions about camp, about what our jobs are and so on. The guests at our table were no different. The lady from Huntsville had sent her daughter to Aviation Challenge last summer. And we all know Aviation Challenge is superior to all other camps including Space Camp. We chatted about camp and NASA for a while. Needless to say we hit it off, exchanging cards and such.

Snapper, Divot, and me at the JD visitor's centerThe funny thing was, she worked at the company Chris… Punkin had been trying to get a job at for sometime. It is common knowledge that Chris and I don’t really live together. He works and travels, and works and travels for PricewaterhouseCoopers. His office is in Birmingham, his practice is in Atlanta, and his wife is in Huntsville. Marriage can be complicated. Chris chatted about the possibility of working in Huntsville and I did like all good wife do, I whined about my husband not working in the same city he lived in. I am a whiner!

Being nice, liking Jack Daniels, persevering, and faith in God pays off, because today after 1,532 days of marriage Chris was offered a job here in Huntsville. He is a brilliant graduate of the University of Alabama, survivor of four layoffs at WorldCom, and current manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers. No, nothing is official, but having a job offer in the city that you live in is a blessing. I am sure the angels are getting more than their fair share, but if they would like a drink on me, I will buy them around. Thank you Miss Mary Bobo, nice lady across the table, Jack Daniels for buying the still from a preacher, and Chris for his diligence, but most of all, the Creator and Author of all things!!!

Tom Tom

The spirit of America is one of self reliance, exploration, and superior technology. This is why I call on everyone out there to boycott GPS units in cars. We as a society have stopped looking out of the car window and navigating for ourselves. We are trusting computerized direction programmed by some nerd in a cubical in Detroit, Michigan. That is if we are lucky and the job hasn’t been outsourced to India.

Remember in third grade we learned how to use maps. On the standardized test we once used our Dixon Ticonderoga pencils to correctly answer questions about our map skills. Map skills are no longer important. We don’t need map skills with a GPS unit installed into our cars, trucks, or vans. This is just the first step in totally losing our way in the wilderness of urban American. What will the next generations do outside of their cars? Wait, now we have GPS devices on smart phones such as the Blackberry and iPhone. There is no need for map skills.

Let’s just shut off our analytical thinking. Humanity will need someone to tell it to “turn left in 1000 yards.” This is leading to the destruction of the natural sense known as curiosity. Hum… maybe I will get there faster if I go right rather than left. Maybe I should take the streets rather than the interstate. This will be a thing of the past when all cars have GPS units. Getting lost is the best way to learn where you are. Think about that for a second. Getting lost and the struggle to find your way again is a learning tool. For one, you learn to never go that way again. And secondly, you learn a skill that you will use the next time you are lost.

One day in the near future there will be computerized instructions for everything. Gone are the days where we had a back seat driver like our mom to guide us or simply nag. We will have Bitching Betty commanding us to do all sorts of things. When our critical thinking skills are extinct and we are nothing more than pudding brain gorilla bear drones we will need a computerized unit to tell us how to wipe our tushies. You think I am crazy, but look at the way our world is going. The government and media influence our society more than individuals. We don’t read books to shape our lives, we watch reality TV. We want the same lives of those people. We have lost the ability to dream our own dreams, just like we are losing the ability to find our way around the streets of America.

Say no to GPS units in cars. I am not saying no to all GPS units, they serve a wonderful purpose, but we are losing our edge by making life simple, self contained, and computerized. Life is hard and when we don’t learn to deal with the struggle or find our way when we are lost; we lose our ability to persevere. We will soon be lost or maybe we are already lost, but a GPS unit will not help.

Blue Light Special

Growing up I loved watching the movie Smokey and the Bandit. The Bandit would play an elaborate game of hide and seek with Sheriff Buford T. Justice as Cledus bootlegged something cross country. My life is similar to the Bandit’s in that I have had many encounters with the local, state, and federal law enforcement officers. Let’s say I love getting places in a timely fashion, and America’s finest like to keep an eye on me.

I have a long list of blue light stories, countless stories of me doing something stupid or simply speeding. I am sure I could write a book or entertain you for hours with roadside stories of me and a police officer chatting. David Letterman contacted me a few years back for a top ten list, but there was no way I could cut the list to just ten. ESPN wanted to do a highlight segment, but Texas State Police didn’t want to release some of the footage. I inadvertently made the blooper reel of America’s Most Wanted once in Kentucky.

Joking aside, safety should always be your first focus on the road. If you are not using a mobile device while driving to read this blog, please enjoy a laugh on me with one of my favorite blue light stories.

If you have ever traveled along U.S. 61 or U.S. 49 through the Mississippi Delta you will know that it is easy to move fast like a bunny rabbit. Most Delta roads are flat and straight. A driver can see all the way to the Mississippi river levee on a clear day. A driver can break a variety of land speed records if a tractor or cotton trailer doesn’t get in your way. Being a graduate of Delta State University I know first hand how the flatlands can lull a driver into a supersonic trance. I have many, but I think the following is the best.

I was on my way to my dad in the field with a part for his cotton picker. I was driving my silver Pontiac on a clear day. I don’t remember how fast I was going but it had to have been close to Mach 1 based to what the trooper said to me. Once I saw his bright blue flashing lights I knew that today wasn’t my lucky day.

The trooper waddled his way to my window and with a thick drawl said, “Missy I am going to need to see your pilot’s license because you were flying back there.” Being the smarty pants that I am, I reached in my flight bag, pulled out my pilot’s log, and handed the trooper my FAA private pilot’s license. He chuckled like Santa Claus and left me to sweat in my car for a few minutes as he retreated to his car. As he walked slowly he only had my driver’s license in his hand. The officer let me off the hook for my speeding. However, he strongly encouraged me to follow the posted speed limit on the ground.

Since then I have had many other blue light stories. But in all of my stores I was at fault. Sometimes I received tickets and sometimes I was let off the hook. But each time officers were doing their job to keep people safe. Whenever we are running late, worried about time, or just foolishly speeding we are putting ourselves and others in dangers. I can chuckle about some of these stories, but if there was an accident where someone was injured there would not be any laughs. Drive safe, follow the laws, and buckle up!

Space Geeks Unite

Since I was a little girl each time I traveled I didn’t get homesick or eager to get home until I began the trip home. There is something about repacking my suit case that makes want to be home right away. Once on a trip to New Mexico my father asked me on the last days of our journey what I wanted to do next. In a Denny’s in El Paso, Texas I said I wanted to go home. So we crossed Texas in thirteen hours hitting Dallas at three in the morning to end our vacation early. Call me a sucker for home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I would not sacrifice travel just to be at home everyday. Maybe it is just being away from home that makes me appreciate home more. When I have traveled to other countries I have cherished my home country and yearned to see the stars and stripes flying over head again. I am very blessed to have traveled so much in my life. I am lucky to have had parents that instilled in me a desire to investigate the world around me. With that travel and investigation I have grown and learned about myself, my country, and about my world.

My trip to Houston is almost over and I am at the airport anxious to be back in Huntsville. The SEEC conference in Houston is a time for me to be a space geek, relax with friends, and to get way from work and everyday life. I have been to six out of the last seven conferences. And will visit again, but now it is time to reflect just a little bit. On this trip I have visited with former AC staff, old friends, and astronauts. I visited the historic mission control, JSC’s Saturn V rocket, and Ellington Field. I have listened to really great speakers and not learned the difference between yaw, pitch, and roll.

The first year I visited this conference was just after Columbia was lost during re-entry. Lots of the Space Camp gang made the trip. Kramer, Chuck, Dan, Sharon, Anderson, Kat, Rhonda, and Tony are the names that come to mind right now. We visited with friends and tried to get the word out about camp programs at the same time. I remember the huge group that crowded around Barbara Morgan. This year the only ones from that first group who attended are Rhonda and me.

In 2006, the conference organizers added a tour of Ellington Field and the flight operations for NASA aircraft. At the time JSC operated the T-38, the C-9 or Weightless Wonder, the Shuttle Training Aircraft, modified Gulfstream 2, a pair of WB-57s, and the Super Guppy. Each aircraft at Ellington serves a specific purpose to NASA. All of the aircraft had roles in the military or civilian world before NASA took them into service. I love aircraft. There is nothing like the smell of an airplane hanger, especially one that has a high performance jet in it.

During my last visit to Houston, Rhonda, Makins and I visited Boondoggles for dinner and a drink or two. This watering hole is known to many as the hangout for many NASA employees and astronauts. Since that visit in 2007 I have made a friend who told me of the Outpost Tavern. It was once known as the astronaut’s bar. If you are familiar with the movie Space Cowboys, with Tommy Lee Jones and Clint Eastwood, this is the bar where scenes were filmed. So if I visited Boondoggles, I had to visit the Outpost. Rhonda and I walked into the sparsely populated bar. It looked and smelled like a dive, but on the wall were photographs of countless astronauts and other Outpost patrons. There were photos of pilots and astronauts, mission patches and NASA signage. The place looked like it could tell stores of all sorts. There was even a tail hook on the wall. I even left something for the wall from Space Camp there. I gave them a 2009 calendar to hang on the wall.

The highlight of all my trips to Houston and the SEEC conference is the Friday night banquet. To a space geek it is a party like no other. It is a dinner with dancing. Not being a dancer I enjoyed the music of Max Q. Max Q is the band made up of astronauts. During the time they play you can socialize with teachers and other astronauts. It is a laid back event which is enjoyable for the geeks and non-geeks. Makins sister said it best a few years back, the world is in harmony that all the geeks are in one place together. I guess you could call it, Geekstock 2009.

Now I am in Dallas, on my final leg and even more anxious to be at home. I love travel, but it does get old. I miss Chris, Boo and the rabbit. Plus, I left my travel buddy at her gate, B10 headed for Moline, Illinois. Now it is just me. I am sitting on the floor near the gate typing on my laptop. For those who know about my iPhone, I am wearing it and my Dixon is tucked behind my ear. I am eager to get home to my pencil sharpener. Wherever I am and whatever I do, I will enjoy the adventure.

War Eagle

The best travel advice I can give anyone is to make lots of friends. This statement was very true for me today as I flew from Huntsville to Houston, Texas. I have been helped by friends along the way today. From the drive into work up until now, I have been blessed with gracious friends and travel buddies.

Let’s start from the beginning… This morning Boo accompanied me on my drive into work. The plan was to take him to Snapper so she could watch him until Chris returned from New Jersey. Boo being the spoiled dog didn’t want to drive all the way to Madison. He wanted to stop at the half way point to stay at Tater’s with Eco. Boo was lucky and Eco took him in for the day. Thanks Eco!!!

Time warp forward to this afternoon, I was about to wrap up for the day and head to the airport. I was visiting Boo and Snapper at the AC office when American Airlines called me with the great news that my flight out of Huntsville had been cancelled. I was lucky; they had already booked me on another flight, shitake mushrooms! Yes, rather than flying out this afternoon I was booked on an early morning flight and would arrive in Houston Thursday afternoon. As I scurried to call American and arrange for a flight to Houston tonight Snapper helped me call Charity and Chris. Thanks Snapper!!!

I was able to get some satisfaction from Kelly, the American Airlines phone associate. He told me that I might be able to get on a Continental flight that would be flying to George Bush in Houston rather than Hobby. For those not familiar with Houston George Bush airport is on the north end of Houston and Hobby is on the south end near Johnson Space Center. As Ed and Charity chauffeured me to the airport I was confirmed on the Continental flight. Thanks Ed and Charity!!!

Now, how would I get from Bush to Hobby? Hum… Mare! I called Mare who was already in Houston and had the flight schedules for all Space Camp staff coming to the conference. She is like the social coordinator of a sorority house or small southern town. With help from Mare she hooked me up with Nicole who was on my new flight from HSV to IAH. Nicole was being picked up by Leigh and someone else who I can’t remember at the moment, sorry! They would drive me to Hobby where I could pick up my rental car from Hertz and most importantly Rhonda! Thanks Mare, Nicole, Leigh and lady whose name I can’t remember at the moment, but she worked at camp long time ago!!!

The final part of this story is the most fascinating part. As I was pulling my rental car into the parking garage I was behind an Auburn fan from the great state of Alabama. We parked just a few stalls away from each other. He followed me in to the terminal. Hobby has changed so much since the last time I visited that my fellow Alabamian could see my confused look on my face. I was looking for the gates, security, or something that would lead to Rhonda. Mr. Auburn helped me out and pointed me in the right direction. For his kindness, and our connection to the second greatest state in the south, I said thank you and War Eagle! (I am sorry Punkin’ it was just the right thing to do.)

So the next time you get fractious about a flight being cancelled, stop, breathe, and look for your nearest friend. Traveling, just like so many other things, is all about the adventure and the people you meet along the way. Life introduces us to so many wonderful people along the way. Take the time to make lots of friends along the way! Oh, and most importantly take the time to learn college greetings!

Bravo Whiskey

I am sure you could look up whiskey on the internet and learn more about the topic there. My education on the subject started with my husband and continues to this current day. I don’t know why I am fascinated with the topic of whiskey. Maybe it is from all those cowboy movies I watched as a child with my daddy. Maybe it is because currently I live less than an hour and a half from the oldest registered distillery in the U.S. Maybe it is simply because I like to learn about random topics.

Bourbon is an American whiskey named for Bourbon County, Kentucky, not the street in New Orleans. Tennessee whiskey is similar to Bourbon whiskey but it has been filtered in a process called charcoal mellowing. The history of American whiskey is traced back to Ireland and Scotland further back than a drinking man can remember. There are even two ways to spell whiskey. In the U.S. and Ireland we spell it correctly. In Canada and Scotland they spell it whisky. A few varieties of whiskey are rye, corn, wheat, and barley. There are even federal regulations given to us to eliminate any confusion on what constitutes Bourbon whiskey in this great country!

My education on the subject began with my boyfriend in Mississippi. On a visit to his house, I remember him mixing Jim Beam and Mountain Dew. I wasn’t a drinker since I didn’t live in Huntsville yet. I wasn’t introduced to whiskey until I meet Jack Daniels shortly after my boyfriend became my husband; funny how that goes. Jack and Coke along with popcorn makes a wonderful afternoon snack.

My first trip to Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels, was with Dan Oates. There was snow on the ground and it was so much fun. A multi-billion dollar business in a small town in the hills of Tennessee was fascinating to me. I was hooked on the history surrounding the Old No. 7 brand. Jasper Newton Daniel seemed to be a mythical character that was much larger than life and in reality had to be taller than 5’2”. Since that first trip, I have visited the hollow a dozen times.

Let’s skip over some of my educational moments to this week. The other day, Divot and I went shopping for bourbon. I learned more hopping from one small liquor store to the next. I learned about small batch whiskeys and how some whiskey makers prefer to age their product for a set number of years. Jack Daniels relies on taste to decide when the barrel is pulled for consumption. Divot taught me about proofing down whiskey. A few years ago I thought proofing something would be to read it for spelling errors.

For example, Jack Daniels sells their Black Label at 80 proof. But it most likely came out of the barrel at close to 130 proof. They proof down the liquor by mixing it with pure water. When I was in third grade I loved Heinz 57 sauce. I was going through many bottles a month. So to save money my mom would “proof down” 57 sauce with ketchup. So it ended up only being 43 sauce. Economics always wins out in the real world. My 57 sauce was cut by ketchup… I was robbed!!

Today, Divot and I picked up Booker’s, a Kentucky bourbon and product of Jim Beam. Booker’s is uncut by water. The whiskey that is sold is the same product that is aged, uncut and unfiltered. It’s a natural proof of 121 to 127 and is typically aged for six to eight years. Booker’s is considered small batch bourbon.

There is something fascinating about all the different methods and recipes. Bourbon whiskey is a lot like wine in its diversity. I could go on about the proof number and what they mean, but really bourbon is just like everything else. It is about the adventure and not about the product itself. Bourbon wouldn’t be any good if it did not age. The aging process or the life adventure, is what gives us our color, our flavor, and our distinct character. This aging process is the same with people. Rather than the process of distilling, the type of barrels, or the amount of time seen on the shelf, we are influenced by our friends, our family, our education, and the people we travel with along the way; especially the ones who tag along on a shopping trip to Tennessee.