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1  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: February 14, 2018, 02:00:13 AM
continued .  .  .
Part 4 of 4

The perimeter path connects to the center section of irises via a couple of branches like the one seen below.

The path continues past the Pink Muhley Grass and Mexican Pony Tails Feather Grass.

From the ornamental grasses, the path circles the existing dogwood tree.

From the dogwood, the path continues around the recently relocated Pampas Grass plant and around the front perimeter.

This same idea continued around the palm tree, Small Anise tree, and Japanese Maple tree.

October 29, 2017

Once I had the path in place, I ground up some leaves and other yard debris with the mower so I could cover everything with the homemade mulch for the winter.

And with that, the dividing and replanting part of the project was completed.  I stopped the expansion at the pear tree only because the amount of full sun is limited beyond that point by the Sweet Gum tree.

I have no idea what this will look like.  Everything should be fine when the irises are blooming.  But my worry is that it will be too busy throughout the summer.  Only time will tell.

After all of the carving/expanding/planting had ended, I still had two 5-gallon buckets full of bulbs left over.  And this was after I gave my next door neighbor a bunch of them.  I'll figure out what to do with the rest in the spring.  It's interesting to note that the amount I have left over seen below is probably twice as large as the amount I originally started with in 2012 !

The end result of all of this follows the same principle as before.  I still have the area in the center of the design filled with irises, (albeit A LOT more irises than before).  And I also still have the clusters of individual plants that surround the irises.  The difference is that everything is now connected by a meandering path of irises.

November 5, 2017

The next question I had to address was that of how to incorporate the different colors of mulch.  Using red and black mulch in an alternating pattern has worked very well to this point.  But now I have the meandering path of irises to deal with.  I've got an idea !

Instead of using the red and black mulch in an alternating pattern, I'm going to try using red mulch only on the irises.  This means the center section AND the entire path of irises will be red.  Everything else  -  all the individual plant clusters  -  will get black mulch.  I needed to put some mulch down in the center anyways since I removed all of it during the dividing process.  Lowe's was able to accommodate my request for a few bags of red mulch.

I started spreading the mulch in the center of the design.

Even though the center area isn't a circular design anymore, I think it will look fine.  Having the red mulch branch out to other parts of the design from the center should work.

All of the individual plant clusters will get black mulch.  This means the palm tree below will get black mulch, but will be surrounded by a red mulch path.

This same idea will carry through to the rest of the design.

I only bought enough red mulch today to cover the center area.  But I think the idea will work.

Taking a step back and looking at everything, it looks like I'm going to need A LOT of red mulch.  While the path is narrow, it is quite long.

So that's the plan.  Whether or not it's a good plan remains to be seen.  Whatever the case may be, I can work with it in some way.

I want to thank everyone for reading along, and hope you enjoyed the story .  .  .
2  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: February 14, 2018, 01:59:56 AM
continued .  .  .
Part 3 of 4

From that came another idea.  Everything in my front yard revolves around groups of plants that are separated from each other by what I have termed my "homemade" mulch, (essentially, all of the leaves, pine needles, and other debris in my yard that gets ground up and bagged when I run the lawn mower).  Some of the groups of plants are separated by several feet of this mulch.  I discovered that I could carve out a few small areas that are separated from the main circle.

This just might work !  I found a couple of areas that I could design using this idea and started with this area in between the Star Magnolia and palm tree.

I also had enough room to do the same thing around the maple tree.

The difference here is that this group is connected to the main circle.

The area next to the Husker Red Beardtongues and Dogwood Cherokee Princess was big enough to hold a few plants.

October 22, 2017

Ditto the dogwood and Coronation Gold Yarrows.

Five Super Blue Lavender plants originally occupied the area seen below.  One died right away, and three more died a year later.  So now I have one plant in a space originally designed to hold five.

Shrinking the area of red mulch around the remaining Super Blue Lavender plant created more space.  Following that same "carving" idea in between the Husker Red Beardtongues and the Pampas grass plant created one long path.

From this emerged a plan.  If I shrink the red/black mulch areas around each individual cluster of plants, the homemade mulch path that separates everything becomes much wider.  So instead of merely looking for some extra space in between plant clusters, I'm now on my way to carving a path around and through the entire design.

So now, the plan has become to surround EVERYTHING with Yellow Flag Irises.  This includes not only the individual plant clusters, but the whole perimeter of the design.

Shrinking the red/black mulch areas around all of the individual clusters became the order of the day.  In the case of the crape myrtles, this made the available space quite wide.

I kept making room and planting bulbs at will.

I planted as many bulbs as I could around the crape myrtles.

October 24, 2017

If it worked at one end of the design, it should work at the other end as well.  

Expanding the perimeter near the street was easy.

October 27, 2017

I did the same thing around the palm tree near the street.  Shrinking the area covered by the black mulch and moving the overall perimeter created a large meandering path.

From there, I continued circling around the entire shape .  .  .

October 28, 2017
3  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: February 14, 2018, 01:57:05 AM
continued .  .  .
Part 2 of 4

Before I started this project, I had a feeling my original idea would be running out of room at some point.  I just didn't think it would happen as fast as it did.  I started to plant the newly divided bulbs back in the center of the circle, which was the original plan, hoping to make a dent on the amount of bulbs I would have left over.

October 16, 2017

I transplanted what I could and piled the remaining plants in my wheelbarrow.

I started planting in the center of the area and worked my way to the edge, which didn't take that long.

Even after planting an area approximately the same size of that which I started with, my wheelbarrow was overwhelmed.

The next afternoon, I cleaned up the area to get a better idea of what I was working with.

October 17, 2017

Clearly, I have an enormous amount of bulbs.  And I will still have an enormous amount of bulbs left over when I finish planting in the original space.  So now I needed to think about some form of expansion.

I began by making the original space as large as possible.  Moving the mulch out of the way added a few feet to the diameter of the original circle.

I also realized that whatever ideas I may have had before I started this project are not going to work.  So with no actual plan, I took the next logical step and made stuff up as I went along.

I took some time during the subsequent mornings to fill in the circular area.

My short term goal was to plant a few bulbs each morning to fill the space.  After that, I have no idea.

October 19, 2017

Gradually, the newly expanded original space started to fill up.

Even though I kept planting, I didn't seem to be making much of a dent in my wheelbarrow pile.

By the end of the week, I had the original space filled even though the pile of bulbs in my wheelbarrow still looked the same.

October 20, 2017

And with that, my original idea was now out of room.  I took a few moments to think about what to do with my still overflowing wheelbarrow and came up with a few ideas, the first of which was to make the center circle larger by carving out some areas around the edges.

This means the circular area was no longer circular.  But I could fit a few extra plants around the edges .  .  .

4  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: February 14, 2018, 01:53:46 AM
One final project for the season, and it's a big one !
October 15 - November 5, 2017
Part 1 of 4

My Colorado trip from November 2017 has been taking up the majority of my writing time as of late in terms of both getting the 1,700 photos from the trip prepared and trying to find some inspiration for a story.  It recently occurred to me that I haven't added the last chapter of my yard adventure to finish the 2017 season.  With the season winding down, I had one more project I needed to address - dividing the irises.  Everything I had read seemed to indicate that irises multiply and need to be "divided" every few years, and that late summer/early fall is the time of year to do this.  This mid-October afternoon seemed like a good day to get started.  

But first, I couldn't help but notice that I had a late-season rose bloom, which is always a nice surprise.  My rose bushes seem to be doing their part by blooming every so often.  I need to do my part and figure out how to properly maintain them.  

A large cluster of Yellow Flag Irises has been a focal point in my front yard since 2014.  But their story begins in 2012 when my friend, Heather, gave me a small box of then-unknown bulbs.  "Divide them up and plant them and see what happens," were her instructions.  I made some room next to my then-new back patio and did exactly that.  They grew, but never flowered.  The concept that flowering bulbs need sunlight, which isn't exactly plentiful in the back yard, hadn't quite sunk in yet.  No sunlight = no flowers.

June 3, 2012

This finally clicked in 2014.  If I want flowers, I've got to move the bulbs to a sunny area.  So the mystery bulbs moved to the front yard in a spot between the trees I had recently planted.  That was my second "dividing" experience.  And even oblivious me could tell that they had multiplied in the two years that had passed.  What started out as a small clump two years earlier multiplied sufficiently enough to fill a 10-foot circular area in the front yard.

May 4, 2014

I knew I wasn't going to see any flowers during that year after the move.  But I was crossing my fingers for next season.  Mother Nature rewarded my decision in May 2015 with the flowers I had waited three years to see.  

May 1, 2015

Thanks to my neighbor who knew right away what they were, the mystery bulbs finally had a name:  Yellow Flag Irises.  I was again pleasantly surprised with more flowers for the 2016 season.  

May 3, 2016

I couldn't help but notice over these two years that my small circle of irises had thickened considerably even though I had done nothing with them during that time.  The "dividing" subject arose again which prompted me to ask my neighbor about it.  "Wait until next year, then divide them in the fall," was his response.  That brings me to today.

October 15,  2017

The differences between the above photos are pretty clear.  If it wasn't obvious how much they had grown and multiplied before, it certainly was now !  

What began as a bunch of single stems in 2014 has become a series of dense clusters.  The arrival of fall meant "wait until next year" had arrived, and the time had come to divide the irises once again.  I grabbed the shovel and started digging.

The dividing process is actually pretty straight forward  -  remove a cluster from the ground and separate the individual bulbs.  Both tasks didn't seem that difficult.  

The sheer size of the area I was dealing with made me think this was going to be a big project.  But just how big became clear after a brief period of time.

Each individual cluster by itself wasn't very large.  But anywhere from 10 - 20 individual bulbs could be divided from each one.  This exponential growth would seem to suggest I've got exponential work ahead of me.  

There's only one way to find out.  My plan was to get everything out of the ground first and see exactly what I was dealing with.

I kept digging and piling.

In time, I had all of them out of the ground.

Now I could begin the dividing process.

"Dividing" is nothing more than breaking the individual bulbs away from the large cluster.  This is not difficult at all.  But once I started doing this, the previously mentioned exponential growth made itself known .  .  .

5  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / Travel and tourism / Re: Heading back to Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday . . . on: February 12, 2018, 12:48:13 AM
continued .  .  .
Part 5 of 5

I came across another prominent mesa near mile marker 120 outside of Allamoore, Texas.

Talc Benchmark, Allamore, Texas

This is the Talc Benchmark (5,031 feet).  In the US, the term mesa is used to describe any hill with a flat top.  The Talc Benchmark seems to fit the more traditional definition used by everyone else because it features steep cliff-like sides.   

More mountains came into view near mile marker 118 outside of Sierra Blanca, Texas.  The peaks south of the interstate, (on the right side of the photo), are part of the Quitman Mountains.  The large peak on the north side of the interstate, (on right side of the photo), is Sierra Blanca (6,891 feet).   

I-10 west near mile marker 118

Passing by Sierra Blanca Mountain and the city of the Sierra Blanca took me past 4,600 feet in elevation, which would be the peak for my drive through Texas.

Sierra Blanca

Interstate 10 turns northwest a few miles past the Quitman Mountains and follows the US/Mexico border.  This allowed for not only a great view of the cool sky that had been with me all afternoon, but also a great view of the mountains in Mexico just across the border.  The photo below looks southwest toward Mexico from westbound I-10 mile marker 74 near Fort Hancock, Texas.  I'm not sure what this mountain range is called.  But one topographic map I saw refers to these mountains as "Sierra San Ignacio."

Looking southwest toward Mexico

Once past the Quitman Mountains, the wide open spaces reappeared.  The photo below looks northwest near mile marker 57.  My elevation dropped to around 3,600 feet stayed that way all the way to El Paso.   

I-10 west near mile marker 57

I tried to get a picture of the setting sun with moderate success.

Something interesting caught my eye during a fuel stop in Fabens, Texas.   

Fabens, Texas

A German name was the last thing I expected to see in an area with a large Spanish speaking population.  I later found out that Wienerschnitzel is a restaurant chain located mainly in the western US, which explains why I've never heard of it.  The other interesting aspect of this is that Wienerschnitzel specializes in hot dogs and doesn't even sell the traditional Austrian breaded veal cutlet dish known as Wiener Schnitzel.

The other attraction at this stop was a small overlook offered a nice view of the mountains across the border.

Looking southwest toward Mexico, Fabens, Texas

The Rio Grande River is only about 5 miles away as the crow flies.  The mountains seen in the photo below are only a few miles beyond the border.   

My final destination for this day of travel was Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is located on US Route 54.  Even though Route 54 begins in downtown El Paso, Texas, I opted to bypass the city on the Route 375 eastern loop.  This not only avoided the downtown traffic, it also gave me a wonderful view of sunset.

Route 375 Loop, El Paso, Texas

Route 375 circled around the eastern side of the city eventually pointing me directly west toward the Franklin Mountains.  The two prominent peaks in the photo below are L – South Franklin Mountain (6,790 feet), and R – North Franklin Mountain (7,192 feet).

Once on US Route 54, I headed northeast away from El Paso, TX for my first visit to the state of New Mexico.  Alamogordo was still a little over an hour in front of me.  I tried to snap a few pics of sunset with varying levels of success.

Sunset from US Route 54 near El Paso, Texas

I chose Alamogordo for my overnight stop because it is located along US Route 54.  Even though I had never been here before, I had a feeling based on last year's experience with secondary roads in rural Colorado that I would really enjoy driving on US Route 54 instead of the interstate because of the breathtaking scenery.  I didn't get to see a lot at this moment due to the time of day. 

But what I saw was amazing and made me look forward to tomorrow's journey !

I also got to experience something totally new.  Being originally from Pennsylvania and currently living in Georgia, I had never been through a Border Patrol checkpoint before.  Lane closure signs began appearing near Route 54 mile marker 40 north of Orogrande, New Mexico.  All traffic, which consisted of me at that moment, was then funneled into the checkpoint for inspection where I pulled up next to the waiting officer:

Officer:  "Good evening.  Are you a US Citizen ?"
Me:  "Yes I am."
Officer:  "Have a nice night."

Well that was easy.  The fact that I was driving with the roof down with temperatures in the low-40s didn't seem to bother him.  And therein lies the best part of today's trip.   

My 2014 Christmas trip to Jekyll Island Georgia opened my eyes to something I had never seen before - Stars.   I remember walking on the beach on that perfectly clear Christmas night.  At some point, I remember noticing an incredible amount of stars in the sky, something I don't ever remember seeing in my adult life.  My world has been dominated by light pollution that washes out the nighttime sky allowing only the brightest stars to be visible to the naked eye.  Jekyll Island is and will continue to be very much undeveloped.  The lack of light pollution allowed me to see the stars in the sky for the first time.

Not long after I pulled out of the Border Patrol checkpoint, I discovered those trillions of stars once again.  I hadn't really thought about it.  But it made sense considering I was traveling through an almost completely undeveloped part of the state.  This revelation made me smile for the rest of this day's journey to Alamogordo and my second overnight stay.   I only wish I knew how to get a good picture of the stars in the sky, or even if my camera is capable of such things.

The stats for today's journey are as follows: 
~  Total miles traveled – 766.7, once again, every one of them with the roof down ! 
~  Total fuel used – 29.2 gallons for a total of $72.24. 
~  Average mpg – 26.3 
~  Number of times a tow truck was needed – still zero !  

Once again, the Z4 earned high marks.  I still have no reason to suspect that I would need a tow truck.  My back has yet to complain about the seating.  The fuel mileage did drop a little from the first leg of the trip.  My guess is that the 75 and 80 mph speed limit in Texas played a major role in this.  But who cares !  This trip is starting on a high note .  .  .

Link to all of the photos for this segment of the trip:  Terrell to Alamogordo pics
6  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / Travel and tourism / Re: Heading back to Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday . . . on: February 12, 2018, 12:47:21 AM
continued .  .  .
Part 4 of 5

Signs for a picnic area got my attention as soon as I got on I-10 which meant I had to stop and take a few pictures.

Westbound picnic area, I-10 mile marker 185

The picnic area was, quite literally, around the corner from the I-10 on ramp at the end of I-20.  

The scenery is beautiful in this area !  The picnic area offers a great view of the Davis Mountains and Gomez Peak (6,320 feet).

Davis Mountains

I think the names of the peaks in the photo below are (L-R):  Gomez Peak (6,320 feet), Newman Peak (6,302 feet), and Woulfter Mountain (6,410 feet).

Gomez Peak, Newman Peak, Woulfter Mountain

I was able to zoom in on Gomez peak, which is about 6 miles off in the distance.  

Gomez Peak

If I read the topographic map right, the peak in the background to the left of center is Newman Peak (6,302 feet).

Newman Peak

I believe the prominent peak in the photo below is Woulfter Mountain (6,410 feet).

Woulfter Mountain

Turning the other direction toward the north side of the interstate, the picnic area offers a great view of the nearby Spring Hills (4,570 feet).  I took a series of 5 portrait pictures and stitched them together to make a 5-picture panorama.

Spring Hills panorama

I put my 35x optical zoom lens to work and tried to zoom in on a small tree on top of one of the peaks on the left side of the above photo.

Adding 4x digital zoom on top of that made the picture unstable, but you get the idea.

Ditto with one of the bushes in that same area.

And before getting back on the road, I couldn't help but notice the awesome sky that had been with me for the entire afternoon !

I soon passed by a mesa at exit 176.  If I read the topographic map correctly, the prominent peak seems to be an unnamed summit of 4,434 feet.  I also managed to get an unknown abandoned building in the shot as well.

Unnamed summit (4,434 feet), I-10 mile marker 176

Another "Scenic Overlook" meant another stop for more pictures.  This overlook sits just west of Van Horn, Texas at I-10 mile marker 136.

Scenic Overlook, I-10 west, mile marker 136

Interstate 10 passes right in front of the Carrizo Mountains in this part of the state.  I stitched two photos together to create a wide panorama looking south at the mountains.

Carrizo Mountains panorama

I couldn't find names for any of the peaks in the photo.  Most peaks are labeled as an "unnamed summit" that is listed by its elevation.

Even nameless, they're still beautiful to look at .  .  .

7  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / Travel and tourism / Re: Heading back to Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday . . . on: February 12, 2018, 12:45:49 AM
continued .  .  .
Part 3 of 5

A wonderful sky greeted me when I hit the road again.  I also spotted another wind farm near Sweetwater, Texas.

I-20 west near Sweetwater, Texas

The rolling hills began to lessen in both intensity and frequency as I entered the center part of the state.  Some of the large open spaces were now filled with cotton like the one seen below on the north side of I-20 near Sweetwater.

I also saw more wind farms like the one below near Roscoe, Texas.

Wind farm near Roscoe, Texas

Once past the Roscoe/Loraine/Colorado City area, the rolling hills not only reappeared, but also seemed to get more prominent.  I took the photo below near Rattlesnake Gap near Coahoma, TX.

Rattlesnake Gap, Coahoma, Texas

I didn't realize it at the time.  But I had been steadily climbing in elevation as I made my way westward through the state.  This day's journey began at mile marker 501 in Terrell at a mere 509 feet above sea level, (which is actually lower than Athens).  I had passed 2,400 feet by the time I got to Coahoma, Texas and mile marker 189.  

I also appear to have arrived in cotton country again.

The cotton field seen above and below was enormous and appeared to go on for miles.  

I stopped for fuel in Wickett, Texas and spotted an abandoned building next to the exit ramp.

I-20 west exit 73, Wickett, Texas

If the faded paint on what's left of the roof is accurate, this used to be a "tire shop."

Lunchtime arrived in Pecos, TX where I encountered the giant murals seen in the photos below at exit 42.  The murals are painted on each side of the US Route 285 bridge as it crosses I-20.  Westbound interstate travelers see an American Flag on the left side of the bridge .  .  .

I-20 west murals, Pecos, Texas

.  .  . and a mural of the State of Texas on the right side of the bridge.  

Flat terrain reappeared west of Pecos, Texas near mile marker 32.  And I'm still steadily climbing having passed 2,600 feet outside of Hermosa, Texas.

I-20 west of Pecos, Texas

Mountains began to appear off in the distance outside of Toyah, Texas near mile marker 17.  As the mile marker numbers indicate, I was nearing the end of my stay on Interstate 20 by this time.

I-20 west near Toyah, Texas

Once on Interstate 10, I would be passing in front of several smaller mountain ranges.  The first of these was the Davis Mountains, a range in West Texas named after Jefferson Davis.  The Davis range was about 17 miles in front of me at this point.  

Davis Mountains

The Davis Mountains were getting larger as I approached mile marker 13.  I'm also climbing a little quicker and had just passed 3,200 feet.

I-20 west near mile marker 13

The rolling hills became denser as I got to mile marker 5.  I passed 3,600 feet in the photo below.

I-20 west near mile marker 5

I couldn't find any names.  But the peaks on the northern side of the interstate appear to reach 4,000 feet.

The Davis Mountains are on the southern side of the interstate.  I believe the prominent peak in the photo below is Gomez Peak (6,320 feet).

Gomez Peak

After 1,250 miles, I had reached the western end of I-20.  Interstate 20 ends at its intersection with Interstate 10 at this point which will take me west to El Paso, Texas.  The end of I-20 also meant I was right in front of the Davis Mountains .  .  .

Western end of I-20
8  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / Travel and tourism / Re: Heading back to Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday . . . on: February 12, 2018, 12:43:53 AM
continued .  .  .
Part 2 of 5

Another overgrown view sat at the end of the picnic area.

This overlook faces east where I had come from a few minutes earlier.

Looking east at I-20

Despite the limited view, I was still able to get a few decent shots of Interstate 20.

I was starting to see more and more of the flat-topped hills as I traveled further west.  The term "Mesa" is used to describe an elevated area of land with a flat-top surface and steep cliff-like sides.  In the US, the term is applied to any elevated area of land with a flat surface.  I don't know the names of the two prominent mesas to the east near the city of Gordon, Texas seen in the photo below.  There are many in this area, most of which measure between 1,000 and 1,200 feet in elevation.  

I continued my walk around the rest area snapping more random pics even though my camera didn't want to cooperate at times.  Below is an interesting looking birdhouse.  

"Bird Condo Complex" may be a more accurate term as this place appeared to house multiple residents.

There was also an antenna of some kind nearby.

Below is a photo looking north to the hills off in the distance behind the rest area parking lot.

I circled back to the car and started to make my way back to the interstate when I came upon a Point of Interest behind the parking lot.  This is the first time I have encountered a point of interest within another point of interest.  

Bankhead Highway Point of Interest, westbound Eastland County Rest Area

The Bankhead Highway was an early cross-country road that connected Washington, DC and San Diego, California.  The roadway's beginnings can be traced to the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916.

In the era before interstates, the Bankhead Highway was part of the coast-to-coast Auto Trail system.  This southern transcontinental highway passed through 13 states on its way to the west coast.  I discovered that Georgia was one of those states, and that the Bankhead Highway actually passed through downtown Athens along what is now Broad Street, (the main thoroughfare through downtown).  In Ranger, Texas, an old stretch of the roadway is preserved here behind the rest area.

The photo below looks east toward Mingus, Texas from the historical marker.

The photos below look west toward the city of Ranger, Texas.  

And because I seem to have taken a liking to random photos, I thought the cacti in the photo below looked cool .  .  .

9  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / Travel and tourism / Re: Heading back to Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday . . . on: February 12, 2018, 12:41:16 AM
Terrell, Texas to Alamogordo, New Mexico .  .  .
November 18, 2017
Part 1 of 5

I usually don't stay at a fancy place for my overnight stops en route.    Traveling by myself means I don't have to worry about another person.  So I'm all about convenience and a cheap rate.  The Super 8 in Terrell is located along the interstate and checked both of those boxes.

Super 8 hotel, Terrell, Texas

It's also located south of the city away from anything that resembled a crowd.  The hotel sits next to a giant field off of Texas Route 34.

My mildly autistic mind liked the nicely arranged and organized bales of hay that were all the same size !  

And yes, there actually is a large outlet mall here.  But you wouldn't know it from where I'm standing.  The official entrance to the mall is located along the interstate frontage road further to the west.  The sign below sits at what I'll call the "back way" into the complex.

Tanger Outlets, Terrell, Texas

Time to quit gawking at the scenery !  I said goodbye and good luck to the other holiday travelers and hit the road.

Have a good trip !

Mid-60s were with me this morning.  So the roof came down immediately.  The hit-or-miss cloud cover made for some great sunrise photos.

Sunrise over Terrell, Texas

I arrived in Texas yesterday to find a lot of wide open spaces.  That theme continued but was now mixed with intermittent stretches of rolling hills.   Westbound I-20 would drift in a southwesterly direction on occasion giving me a better view of sunrise.  The photos above and below were taken near mile marker 493 outside of Terrell, TX.

Interstate 20 passes south of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and its 6 million residents.  Thankfully, a majority of them were still sleeping on this Saturday morning.  I was actually surprised (and relieved) at how light the traffic was.  Once past the metro area, the theme of wide open spaces returned.  I would pass several intermittent stretches of rolling hills in eastern Texas separated by flat sections that were truly flat.

I-20 west near mile marker 493

Some of those rolling hills started to appear on the horizon near Millsap, Texas.

I-20 west near Millsap, Texas

I noticed that my perception of distance seemed to vary while driving in Texas.  I started today's journey in Terrell at mile marker 501.  The photo above was taken near mile marker 391.  I don't know how to explain it other than the combination of wide open spaces and a wonderful 75 mph speed limit made the miles seem to pass quicker.  Before I knew it, I had traveled all the way to mile marker 359 and the Eastland County Rest Area near Ranger, Texas.

Westbound Eastland County Rest Area, Ranger, Texas

My years of road tripping, especially in places like this, have taught me to always pull over at anything labeled as a "picnic area" or "scenic overlook."  The photo opportunities are usually worth the effort.  

Both Eastland County eastbound and westbound rest areas opened in Spring 2016 to a lot of fanfare because of their sustainable design.  Buildings are constructed using environmentally friendly methods and materials.  The large tank seen in the photo below is part of a rainwater collection system.

This facility is a tribute to Civilian Conservation Corps buildings from the 1930s that were located nearby and features a host of interpretive displays that pertain to the history of the area.

The building sits on a high bluff next to the interstate.  Several picnic areas have been built to take advantage of the view.

A warning greeted me as I started to check the place out.  

Probably a good idea !

The view from the picnic area was a little overgrown, but you get the idea.

Looking south across I-20

I managed to capture a bird in flight on the far left of the photo below while zooming in on the hills off in the distance to the south.

Also off in the distance to the south was yet another wind farm.  My camera decided to focus on the nearby branches first.

The second attempt was much better.

Wind power is quite prevalent in central Texas.  I saw a number of wind farms during my journey including the one seen below to the south of the interstate .  .  .

10  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / Travel and tourism / Re: Heading back to Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday . . . on: February 11, 2018, 02:04:12 AM
Athens, Georgia to Terrell, Texas .  .  .
November 17, 2017

Departure day this year began in much the same way as last year – with me putting my suitcases in the trunk of the car at sunrise.  There were a couple of differences, though.  I was beginning my adventure on Friday morning instead of Saturday.  And this year, I didn't have any what if concerns with the car.  Cars are mechanical objects designed and built by human beings, so anything is possible.  But my brief 9-month ownership experience with the Z4 to this point had given me no reason to be concerned.  

I made my rounds through the house one last time before getting underway.  Just like last year, the roof was down thanks to clear skies and temperatures in the low-40s.  But unlike last year, when Mother Nature spit a few raindrops at me in Tennessee, clear skies were in the forecast for my new route not only today, but for the entire outbound journey !  As an added bonus, this year's route would be taking me into warmer weather, which is always a good thing.  Low-40s were expected to give way to low-70s by the time I reached Texas which means I wouldn't need as many layers.  

I was looking forward to venturing into unfamiliar territory today, in this case, everything beyond Douglasville, Georgia on I-20 west.  There was, however, one glitch that I would have to endure first – actually getting to I-20 on the western side of Atlanta.  I not only have to travel to Atlanta from Athens, (which is never a fun experience to begin with), I must also circle about one-third of the way around the Perimeter of Misery that is the I-285 perimeter highway that circles the metro area.  I only needed to endure 13 miles of it last year, (from I-85 to I-75 on the north side of the city).  My exit this year, (the I-20 interchange on the western side of the city), is 10 miles further, meaning I'll be on this dreadful stretch of pavement longer.  To make matters worse, I was doing this on a Friday morning instead of last year's Saturday departure.  Leaving my house around 8 AM meant the morning rush would be over.  But all the other usual weekday concerns would still be fair game, (heavy traffic, endless construction, accidents, etc.).  I kept reminding myself, "I'll be fine once I get to I-20."  

The first two hours of my adventure proceeded as expected.  Since Athens, Georgia  –  home to the largest university in the state  –  has no direct interstate access, traveling to Atlanta always involves driving on a crowded secondary road, with Georgia Route 316 being one of the worst.  My departure time meant traffic wasn't bad at all near Athens.  Population density increases dramatically as you get closer to Atlanta and traffic became quite heavy near Lawrenceville.  Route 316 has been under some form of construction in this area since I moved to Georgia back in 2009, and shows no signs of ending.  Ever !

The pace picked up a bit once past Gwinnett College and onto Interstate 85.  Another traffic jam near my exit for the I-285 Perimeter highway put an end to that.  After the exit ramp delay, I made it onto the outer loop of I-285 on the northern side of the city.  Travel was actually pretty smooth aside from a couple of construction zones and a traffic accident.  Twenty-three miles later, I had arrived at the exit for Interstate 20, my home for the next 1,250 miles.  

Passing by Douglasville, Georgia twenty miles later officially put me in uncharted territory.  Best of all, I had also crossed over into a much less densely populated area.  Even on a Friday morning, the crowd all but disappeared leaving me with a sparsely populated roadway.  Not too long after crossing into Alabama, I noticed something rapidly approaching me from behind.  The speed limit on I-20 in eastern Alabama is 70 mph in most places.  A stunning black Porsche 911 passed me like I was out for a Sunday drive.  But I could still make out the word "Turbo" on the deck lid.  We both made a fuel stop near Lincoln, Alabama.

Fuel stop near Lincoln, Alabama

If only it were a convertible !  I'd still take it anyways.  


Birmingham, Alabama came and went with little fanfare. The I-459 bypass around the city is far enough away from downtown to keep the crowds at bay.  Tuscaloosa arrived next.  But being a UGA employee, we won't talk about that.  

I stopped at a rest area outside of Eutaw, Alabama to stretch my legs.  So far, so good for the Z4.  I've covered just over 300 miles without the slightest hint of drama.

I-20 rest area near Eutaw, Alabama

This rest area was larger than others I have seen in the past.  


Along with the main building, several picnic shelters had been built throughout.  

Walking trails had been incorporated into the rest area's design.  

I got some exercise while snapping random pics here and there.

I've traveled extensively by car in the eastern US.  While the terrain in this part of the country may vary based on where you are in relation to the mountains, the scenery all looks very similar.  I would best describe it by saying that someone took a giant mass of trees and carved a highway through the middle of it.  It doesn't matter if I'm passing through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, driving through the Low Country in South Carolina, or heading west on I-20 through Alabama like I was at that moment, the scenery looks very familiar to me.

I-20 west outside of Birmingham, Alabama

If it weren't for the signs, I wouldn't have recognized crossing from Alabama (the photo above), into Mississippi (the photo below), based on the scenery.

I-20 west near Chunky, Mississippi, (yes, I laughed when I saw that name on the map !)

Honestly, this could also be anywhere along I-80 or I-99 in Pennsylvania.  It brought back great memories of my daily commute to Bedford Ford in Bedford, PA.    

I did recognize when I arrived in Louisiana because of crossing over the Mississippi River.

Crossing the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi

Until 1973, both vehicular and rail traffic crossed the river on the Old Vicksburg Bridge that dates from 1930.  The new bridge now handles all of the vehicle traffic while the old bridge still carries the rail line.

The scenery changed when I crossed into Louisiana.  The trees gave way to wide open spaces.

I-20 west near Delta, Louisiana

This region is part of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, a large flat area that was created millions of years ago by deposits of sediment from the Mississippi River.  The entire alluvial plain is huge, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to southern Illinois.  Some of the most fertile farmland in the nation is contained herein, which explains the sudden change to wide open spaces.

I-20 west near Mound, Louisiana

All I know is that the dense clusters of trees disappeared.  

I-20 west near Waverly, Louisiana

That turned out to be temporary.  Familiar scenery returned once past Monroe.  I was able to snap a few pics of the sunset outside of Ruston, Louisiana.

Sunset over Ruston, Louisiana

The sunset coupled with the passing clouds created some great colors in the sky near Ada, Louisiana.

I-20 west near Ada, Louisiana

Interstate 20 passes through the city of Shreveport, Louisiana roughly 20 miles from the Texas border.  I began to see signs for Harrah's casino as I approached the city.  I'm always up for a good casino buffet and decided to have a look at the place.

Harrah's Louisiana Downs, Bossier City, Louisiana

This is Harrah's Louisiana Downs Casino and Racetrack.

I stopped hoping to find something similar to my go-to feasting location of Harrah's Cherokee in North Carolina.  It was not to be, however.  Harrah's Louisiana Downs is actually a horse racing facility.  There is a buffet.  But it's only open at certain times during horse racing events.  Oh well.  I'm glad I stopped.

I headed back to I-20 west and soon crossed the border into Texas thus beginning my second visit to the state.  My first visit occurred in late 2000 for Mercedes-Benz training in Houston.  Today marks the first time I have ever driven in Texas.  

About two hours later, I had arrived in Terrell and my first overnight stay.  The stats for today's journey are as follows:
~  Total miles traveled – 838.1, every one of them with the roof down !
~  Total fuel used – 29.6 gallons for a total of $73.27.
~  Average mpg – 28.3
~  Number of times a tow truck was needed – zero !

I'm happy to report that the Z4 completed the task at hand without any hint of drama whatsoever.  BMW seats are wonderful !  And even though it's not really a concern for me, I'm thrilled with the fuel mileage.  The Z4 averaged slightly higher than the XK8, which was expected considering the car's smaller engine and lighter weight.  I also believe the Z4 was less affected by turbulence that results from having the roof down due to its smaller cabin.  

Now it was time to get a good night's sleep.  I had a big day planned for tomorrow .  .  .

Link to all the photos from this segment of the trip:  Athens to Terrell pics
11  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / Travel and tourism / Heading back to Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday . . . on: February 04, 2018, 03:44:48 PM
Since it worked so well last year .  .  .
November 17 - 25, 2017 

I've mentioned previously within these boards just how much my ex-wife loves to travel.  I've known her for 22 years as of this writing, during which time she has unwaveringly abided by the same core philosophy – We live on a spectacular planet, and should see as much of it as humanly possible when given the opportunity.   

This philosophy was engrained early on.  Growing up in eastern Austria where the border to Hungary was 20 minutes away meant sightseeing visits to a different country were common.  Trips to other nearby countries in Europe occurred with regularity.  Getting married and moving to the US gave her a whole new continent to explore.  But since her family still lived in Austria, flying back and forth to Europe happened quite often.  Taking a job in the travel industry was the icing on the cake. 

My experience was similar in concept, but vastly different in terms of scale.  Dad had been in the travel business since 1969 which gave me the opportunity to go places as a youngster.  Working in the travel industry allowed me to continue to travel, although sparingly.  While not a "seasoned traveler," I wasn't afraid to do some exploring.  This was one of the commonalities that initially drew my ex-wife and I together. 

We started off slowly by exploring places in Pennsylvania we had never seen.  The Sunday Drive became a regular part of our routine.

February 23, 2003 – The golf course at the now defunct Willow Valley Resort, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Moving to Missouri in 2003 took us to the Midwest and opened up a whole new area of the country to explore.  Just like we did in Pennsylvania, we started off slowly by exploring nearby destinations.

July 6, 2003 – Audrain County Museum, Mexico, Missouri

We would occasionally take advantage of a three-day weekend by checking out a big city neither of us had seen before.  "City Tours" are a great way to see the highlights of a place when faced with a limited time schedule.  We made that our M.O. - drive to a place, take a city tour, and drive home.

July 3, 2004 – Weekend trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota

My wife's field of study at Mizzou gave her the opportunity to attend conferences and conventions all over the country.  I would tag a long once in a while if I had enough vacation time built up from work.   

November 17, 2007 – The Painted Ladies of Alamo Square, San Francisco, California

Mixed in with all of this were visits Home, either via an 800-mile car ride to Pennsylvania or a plane ride to Austria.     

May 18, 2006 – The Austrian town of Kirchschlag as seen from Burgruine Kirchschlag

Even though we both liked to travel, a couple of significant differences between our viewpoints became clear.  My ex-wife was never interested in seeing the same place twice.  There were exceptions that mainly occurred when her family was visiting from Austria.  But as a rule of thumb, her view of travel was always guided by her core philosophy - "We've been there, let's go somewhere different."      

I, on the other hand, have never had any objection to returning to a previous destination if I enjoyed my trip the first time around.  The highlight of my summer during the '80s and '90s was my annual pilgrimage to the Supercar Showdown drag racing event.  In this case, I returned to a familiar destination to participate in a familiar activity TWELVE TIMES from 1986 – 1999.

June 21, 1986 – Todd getting stomped by a 440 'Cuda at the 1986 Supercar Showdown

Other familiar destinations from my past include Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, San Francisco, California, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.  More recently, I've made three trips to Jekyll Island, Georgia since 2014 to do nothing but relax and wander around on the beach checking out the wonderful nighttime sky.  I had a great time during all of these trips and would return to those places again for that reason.   

November 24, 2015 – Heading to Jekyll Island, Georgia

My friend, Heather, moved from Georgia to Greeley, Colorado in 2015, and invited me for a visit over the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday.  I had never been there before, and decided to make an adventure out of it.  I had a wonderful time, and didn't hesitate to accept the offer of returning to a now-familiar destination for this year's Thanksgiving holiday.  And therein lies the perfect segue to the other significant difference between me and my ex-wife.

Normal people, when faced with the task of traveling 1,500 miles from point A to point B, would immediately look at flight schedules and availability.  Both Atlanta, Georgia and Denver, Colorado are major hub airports that are served by multiple carriers that offer competitive fares.  A roundtrip flight can be had for as little as $200.  Travel time hovers around 3 hours via a nonstop flight.  Even if I add the time for getting to/from both airports, the entire trip can easily be made in the course of one afternoon.   

If you've read any of my adventures posted elsewhere on this site, you may have noticed that several themes are frequently repeated.  First and foremost, I am by no means "normal," (read any of my car search threads !).  I have also spoken many times of just how much I enjoy my time behind the wheel, sometimes to the point of absurdity, (like driving from Columbia, Missouri to Chicago, Illinois on my birthday in 2008 just to have lunch).  But perhaps the most significant theme is that of the recent wonderful rediscovery of a passion not seen since my younger days.   

Something about the mystique of a convertible speaks to me loud and clear, and has done so since long before I had a driver's license.  Where this came from remains a mystery.  Neither of my parents were "car" people, and viewed the automobile as something you have rather than enjoy.   I don't consciously remember ever riding in a convertible before my beloved 1965 Cadillac Deville convertible came into my life in 1984.  But I was hooked !

July 1984 – My first convertible experience

Selling that car in 1999 was both a high point and a low point in my life.  The proceeds from that sale financed the year I spent in tech school which enabled me to start a new career.  This was the foundation on which my wife and I rebuilt our lives together.  Regardless of where we were heading, selling that car was step 1 in the process.   

I also realized that a very significant part of me was disappearing, and probably would not return for a long while.  I was quite sad on September 11, 1999 seeing the car drive away to its new home in Washington, DC.  But I was also excited to get started with the plans my wife and I had made for us.   And life was good.

Unfortunately, "us" unraveled in 2011.  I will forever regard that era as the time when I began the process of learning how to Adult.   It took 45 years and two divorces.  But I finally started to look inward in an attempt not only to figure out how I arrived at the position I was now in, but also how to move forward from it.  Both of these mysteries require a lot of in-depth reflection, and I will spend the rest of my life doing exactly that.  But I've learned a few things in the 7 years that have passed.

I realized that a lot of what you're "supposed to do" wasn't working for me.  I also began to discover not only a sense of who I am, and what's important to me in life, but also how to facilitate and enjoy these things.  I figured out a great way to accomplish this by revisiting an old friend from my past who reminded me that troubles in life are temporary if you have the right mindset.

September 3, 2011 – Rediscovering my past

Getting behind the wheel of a convertible again revived all of those great Sunday Drive memories from years ago.  Getting an awesome sunburn from a cruise to nowhere with the roof down felt good.  I have referred to my 1996 Jaguar XJS convertible as the perfect form of therapy that allowed my mind to figure out who I am and what is important to me by reminding me that life is good.

My 2016 Colorado trip brought these ideas together.  I enjoy traveling and seeing new places.  I also cherish my time behind the wheel and will go to great lengths to experience it.  And I also believe that there is no better way to experience time behind the wheel than with the roof down.

And that is the other significant difference.  If given a choice, my ex-wife would always choose to travel by air because it could take her to more places in a shorter amount of time.  But after my first road trip to Colorado, I can safely say that I have no intention of ever setting foot on an airplane again unless I have absolutely no alternative.  It's not that I don't enjoy flying, because I do.  I just can't get an awesome sunburn on an airplane !

April 29, 2012 – I-81 near Radford, Virginia

Heather would make a point to ask me every so often throughout the year, "You are coming for Thanksgiving this year, right ?"    The answer to this question had been Yes since last year's trip ended.  And how I was going to get there was never in doubt.  But this year's return trip to a familiar destination would also feature a couple of new elements added to the mix.  The most obvious difference is that I now have a new traveling companion.

June 3, 2017 – Georgia side of Lake Hartwell

The end of the 2016 calendar year saw me raving about what a wonderful job my "Beautiful Disaster" 2001 Jaguar XK8 convertible had done in redeeming itself after a rough summer.  Cooling system and convertible top repairs occupied a lot of my free time in July.   

July 6, 2016

But once those repairs were completed, the car did a complete 180, putting on a J. D. Power-worthy performance.  I added around 8,300 trouble-free miles to the car's odometer by the end of the year reviving all of the reasons why I fell in love with it in the first place.  Maybe my luck with this car was on the upswing ?  Uhm .  .  . no.

January 29, 2017

Three weeks after turning the calendar to 2017, I found myself in need of more Jaguar parts, specifically a right rear window regulator assembly.  Life with this car had become an intermittent yet never ending roller coaster ride that was showing no signs of improving.  This latest incident was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.  I replaced the broken window regulator and traded the car in one week later for a 47k mile 2005 BMW Z4 roadster.

February 4, 2017

The other new element of this familiar trip involved the routing.  Last year, I scheduled the week of Thanksgiving off from work which meant I had a maximum of 9 days available, (Saturday thru the following Sunday).  Four of those days would be reserved for driving, (two days in each direction).  I did some research and planned a route that would make the best use of my limited time schedule.  Looking at a map, following I-75, I-24, and I-70 seemed to be the most direct route to and from Colorado.   

Reflecting on last year's trip made me realize just how important the statement I made earlier is to me.   

I enjoy traveling and seeing new places.  I also cherish my time behind the wheel and will go to great lengths to experience it.  And I also believe that there is no better way to experience time behind the wheel than with the roof down.

This made me wonder if I could get a little more creative this year.  I would have to use the direct route for the return trip to Athens out of time constraints.  But I started looking into a more scenic outbound route and came up with a plan. 

Instead of heading north from Atlanta toward Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois, I could follow I-20 west from Atlanta through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.  I've never been any further west than Douglasville, Georgia on I-20, (which is, incidentally, where I bought the XK8).  Interstate 20 comes to an end in west Texas when it meets Interstate 10.  From there, I could follow I-10 west to El Paso, Texas before turning north toward New Mexico and into Colorado.  Essentially, I would be converting my otherwise straight path into a giant right turn.

The mileage estimates shown on both maps above suggested the scenic route would add around 700 additional miles to the agenda, which translates into another full day of driving plus one additional overnight hotel en route.  That means the timeline of this year's trip would need to be shifted back by one day compared to last year.  I scheduled the appropriate amount of time off work and started planning:

Friday November 17   -  Athens, Georgia to Terrell, Texas via Interstate 20, approximately 830 miles.  I've never been any further west on I-20 than Douglasville, Georgia.  So all but the first couple of hours of this day would be a new experience.
Saturday November 18   -  Terrell, Texas to Alamogordo, New Mexico via Interstate 20, Interstate 10, and US Route 54 through El Paso, Texas, approximately 745 miles.  This is all uncharted territory for me.  I've never driven in Texas before, and have never been to New Mexico.
Sunday November 19   -  Alamogordo, New Mexico to Greeley, Colorado via US Route 54 and Interstate 25, approximately 630 miles.  This would be an entirely new experience until I arrived in the familiar territory in and around Greeley.
~  The return trip to Athens would be identical to last year, (Greeley to St. Louis, Missouri on Friday November 24, and St. Louis to Athens on Saturday November 25 via I-70, I-24, and I-75).

A few preparations were still needed when the week of departure arrived, the biggest of which involved getting the car ready.  By this time, I had lived with the Z4 for about 10 months and roughly 7k miles, all of which were completely trouble free.  All that was needed was to perform the car's 55k mile maintenance service, and I would be good to go.  I scheduled that whole week off from work in addition to the week of Thanksgiving so I would have plenty of time to get everything done. 

I was looking forward to seeing all of the new places, especially New Mexico where I decided to forego the interstate to take advantage of the wonderful scenery.  I would also be passing by Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  I was able to see it from a distance last year.  This year would not only feature a drive right in front of it, but also a drive to the summit, which I'll get to later.

What follows is an intense photographic essay of my 9-day journey to Greeley, Colorado for the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday.  I'll warn everyone now that when finished, this will be a long read !  I took around 1,700 photos total with the idea being that I've got a large memory card, so why not !  But not all of the photos will be featured in my story.  Chapters will be added as I get them written that will include a link to all the photos taken for that particular segment for those so interested. 

So check back often and enjoy the trip .  .  .
12  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: November 05, 2017, 01:27:36 AM
Another minor project .  .  .
September 17, 2017

The arrival of September means the leaves begin to fall from the trees.  From now until the cold weather arrives, I'll be spending time each weekend with the bag attached to the lawn mower grinding up what falls so I can spread it over my Random Curved Shape.   When October arrives, I'll have a lot of leaves and other debris to mulch.  But right now, it's not so bad. 

This week was a bit more intense than usual.  Hurricane Irma arrived in Florida as a Category 3 storm and made her way up the state's west coast.  By the time it reached the Georgia state line, it had weakened to a tropical storm.  Irma came through northern Georgia on September 11 bring light but steady rainfall and a day of gusty winds.  Trees were down all over the place in Athens.  But that was it for the most part.  My neighborhood actually fared pretty well.

The photos above and below are from a week after the fact and show minimal damage.  I had a few decent sized branches come down along with a lot of leaves and small debris, but that's it.  I'll have a good sized pile for the next Leaf & Limb Collection.

I believe the shrub in the photos below is an American Beautyberry bush.

It was in place when I moved in and continues to bloom beautifully each fall.  I have done nothing to it other than cut it back when it gets wild.

I see that the Eleanor Tabor Indian Hawthorn shrub I moved last month has survived the ordeal, which is always good news.  I originally planted it directly in front of the house in March 2012 where it did ok, but not great.  I moved it to the mailbox area in April 2016 thinking more sun would be beneficial.  Even though it seemed like a good idea, it just didn't work.  It dropped most of its leaves shortly afterward, and then had to deal with an encroaching pampas grass plant.  So we'll see how this location works.  The key is that it survived the move !

Relocating the Indian Hawthorn meant I had to find yet another home for the small azalea that previously occupied that space.  Since I hacked all of the azaleas next to the driveway this past spring, a decent gap has developed in between two of them large enough to fit this small shrub.  This is the fourth, and hopefully last location for this little guy.  He's survived the three previous moves and seems to be doing fine after this move as well.

The Sky Pencil Holly I moved back in April hasn't fared nearly as well.  I originally had two of these shrubs planted beside my front steps.  One died over last winter, and the other, even though it survived, didn't look too healthy.  I tried moving it into a sunny area to save it.  That idea obviously didn't work.

Seeing the all-but-deceased Sky Pencil Holly today got me thinking.  I originally found the small volunteer Japanese Maple tree in the photo below in April 2016 buried in my side yard.  Not liking where it was, I moved it to a temporary home in the back yard until I could figure out what to do with it.  Removing the dead Sky Pencil Holly means I would have a vacancy in the front yard.  And if this tree grows at the same rate as the other Japanese Maple, running out of room shouldn't be a problem.  This sounds like a plan.

Out came the Sky Pencil Holly .  .  .

.  .  . and in went the volunteer Japanese Maple.

This location should work for the Japanese Maple provided that it doesn't grow too fast.  If it grows at the same rate as the Star Magnolia, all should be well .  .  .

13  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: October 07, 2017, 11:22:45 PM
It's been a great summer .  .  .
August 25, 2017

This is the time of the year when the summer bloomers do their thing.  I planted three crape myrtles back in 2015.  All of them are growing beautifully and have flowered each year.  The Purple Magic crape myrtle below has been the first to bloom each year, with this year being no exception.  

It began blooming in mid-June, and has now been sporting flowers for two months.  

The same is true for the Plum Magic crape myrtle.

The Plum Magic crape myrtle first started showing blooms in July.

For whatever reason, I don't have many blooms on the Crimson Red crape myrtle.  But it is blooming.

This is a pleasant surprise !  After moving the Chinese Snowball and Small Anise Tree from this location in 2015, I planted a Yucca Color Guard and a Joe Pye Weed in their place.

I have no idea if the Yucca is doing "well" because it looks exactly the same as it did when I planted it.  But the Joe Pye Weed looks pretty good.

The Joe Pye Weed didn't look too good last season.  I'm guessing that's because I didn't keep the soil moist enough.  With all the rain we've had this year, it looks like it's rebounded quite well, even if it is leaning significantly.

The Joe Pye Weed is said to attract butterflies and appears to be doing its job .  .  .

14  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: October 07, 2017, 11:04:42 PM
My first pampas grass bloom .  .  .
August 21, 2017

Well this is a wonderful surprise !

I was heading to work today and discovered a bloom on one of the Pampas Grass plants.  I originally planted all of them in the backyard, which was not one of my better ideas.  Pampas Grass likes full sunlight.  Over the past couple of years, I relocated them to the front yard where they seem to be happy.

Pampas Grass is pretty popular around here.  Most of the examples I see in this area are very large and covered with these feathery blooms.  I'm thinking that moving my plants may have slowed the growing/blooming process.  But now that one of them has become established, I'm starting to see blooms !

I've got one bloom !  It's not much.  But it's my first.  Hopefully, I'll have more in the future .  .  .
15  The Off-Topic Lounge . . . / House & Home / Re: The 2017 edition of Todd's ongoing Yard Adventure . . . on: October 07, 2017, 10:49:04 PM
continued .  .  .
Part 2 of 2

I had two projects on the agenda for today.  In one of my first Yard Adventure undertakings, I planted an Eleanor Tabor Indian Hawthorn shrub directly in front of the house in March 2012 where it did ok, but not great.  I moved it to the mailbox area in April 2016 thinking more sun would be beneficial.  That idea, which looked good on paper, didn't work at all in practice, (it dropped most of its leaves shortly afterward).  It's looked pretty sad ever since.

My reason for wanting to move the hawthorn at this point stems from the nearby Pampas Grass plant which is doing extremely well this year and has slowly been encroaching on the hawthorn's space.  So the plan for today was to move it once again before it gets smothered.  I broke out the shovel and pulled it out of the ground.

According to the tag that came with the hawthorn, it likes sun.  When directly in front of the house didn't work, I moved it to the mailbox.  That location, even though it is in full sun, didn't work either for unknown reasons.  So now I don't know what to think.  I decided to put it next to the Leyland Cypress and Reeves Spireas by the front walk where I had the small relocated azalea.  This area gets sunlight, (although not full-sun all day long), and is large enough to give it some room.  After a little bit of effort, the hawthorn now has another new address.  Everything I do with this plant is a guess at this point.  So I'm going to cross my fingers and see what happens.  

I tried to center the hawthorn evenly in between the Leyland Cypress and Reeves Spireas.  There should be enough room in this location for everyone.

With the Eleanor Tabor Indian Hawthorn relocated, this meant I had to find yet another home for the small azalea.  Since I hacked all of the azaleas next to the driveway this past spring, a decent gap has developed in between two of them large enough to fit this small shrub.  This will be the fourth, and hopefully last location for this little guy.

This is the azalea that I originally found on the other side of the yard completely surrounded by English Ivy.  I've moved it twice previously with no ill effects.  It has continued to bloom beautifully each year, but hasn't really grown at all.  So we'll see what happens now.

My mind likes the idea of the small azalea being next to all the other azaleas along the driveway.  And if my previous experiences are accurate, this shrub is pretty stout and should survive another relocation .  .  .

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