Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Summer Solstice

At 1:06 pm on Thursday, summer came to Tennessee.
The summer solstice is marked by celebrations, often called Midsummer in Europe, or Litha in the Wiccan series of solar holidays. In the arctic, north of 66° latitude, it is time of the midnight sun, when the sun never sets.

These are the longest days of the year, and shortest nights. My favorite time of year.

Here's a photo of a favorite place in Murfreesboro. From this high spot, when it is very clear and dry, with binoculars it's possible see the tops of buildings in Nashville, just above the horizon. True!

Enjoy the summer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Riding the Wild Cumberland

More pictures from the ride at Royal Blue, Coal Creek, Brimestone and Sunquist forest areas north of Oak Ridge, TN.

The accompanying story will be in the August issue of Adventure Motorcycle Magazine.

If you ride here, get your permits, don't go on a weekend or anytime it's wet. Personally, I'm not into 'muddin' . . . must be a 4-wheeler ATV thing. I think cycles tread more lightly, tearing up less ground, overall - much better for the environment than the larger ATVs.

The pictures:

#1 - through the fern forest at Royal Blue WMA

#2 - wild flowers along the lush trail in the Sundquist WMA

#3 - looking west in the Coal Creek area.

#4 - on the Cumberland Plateau after sunset looking down at Caryville, Cove Lake and Jacksboro.

My bike - 2001 Kawasaki Super Sherpa KL 250 dualsport

Monday, June 11, 2007

Silviu Ciulei - flamenco guitarist performs with his band on WPLN FM 90.3 - Tues at 11:06am - 'Live in Studio C'

Silviu Ciulei's Flamenco Band, 'Tequila' performs live on WPLN

21 year old award winning MTSU guitar student, Silviu performs again on WPLN Tues June 12, 11:06 am and rebroadcast at 8:06 pm. This time, he'll be playing and singing flamenco with his band, "Tequila." In addition to being a great classical and flamenco guitarist, Silviu is also a fine flamenco singer and composer.

Flamenco, the earthy and rhythmic Spanish gypsy style of guitar playing is not a style heard much in Nashville. Listen to Silviu Ciulei perform flamenco guitar program with his band on Tues, live on WPLN 90.3 FM.

Silviu is an award winning classical guitarist and a 'real deal' flamenco guitarist who has studied flamenco with top flamenco guitar masters Adam del Monte and Oscar Guzman.

In case you miss it, you can listen to Silviu's program anytime this week on the internet at

Silviu is a Romanian student attending MTSU on a full international music scholarship. This semester, Silviu won 2 major classical guitar competition prizes in the Texas Guitar Competition and the Appalachian State Competition.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Yes my friends, there are rattlesnakes in Nashville, Davidson County

Criicky! What a beauuutiful snake! OK, no biting now.

I found this gorgeous specimen of a canebrake timber rattlesnake last July behind Shirley's house in West Nashville (near Old Hickory and Charlotte Pike).

I was inspired to post this today since yesterday, Kelly was asking about coyotes in Davidson Co., I thought I just mention there are rattlesnakes as well.

We were clearing some brush when I found this majestic creature. It was quite unexpected, I had never seen a rattlesnake in Nashville before. The snake was so fat in it's lower half I thought this might be a gravid (pregnant) female. All the more reason to capture it and relocate it since Shirley has 2 small dogs, including a rat terrier that likes to stick her nose everywhere.

This snake was very well-behaved. She never struck at me or showed any sign of aggression. She only began to rattle when I pinned her head down in order to safely pick her up. I put her in a feed bucket with a secure lid and released her several miles down River Rd. near the Cheatham County line.

Notice the closeup photo of the 10 segment rattle. This snake had been around a while.

I must say to everyone reading this, if you see one of these awesome creatures, don't even think about killing it. That is truly the cowardly thing to do! Just leave it alone and feel lucky you got to see one of these elusive creatures.

If you want a snake removed from your property and don't have the balls to do it yourself, call county animal control or the TWRA. Even the biology department at the local college could refer you to a qualified herpetologist. Don't call the police, they will likely be 'heroic' and shoot it.

Rattlesnake capture 101: the snake must be fully extended before you pick it up. If it is coiled and rattling, don't even think about it. Just let it relax for a while and if it remains coiled, gently prod it with a stick to get it to move. Once it is elongated, it can not strike and then you can pin it, grab it behind the head and pick it up. Heavy gloves are recommended. I certainly wouldn't recommend wearing cutoff jeans and sneakers like I happen to have on in the photo, but like I said, this encounter was unexpected.

I see the existence of such creatures here, just a few miles from downtown Nashville, as a sign of a healthy ecosystem. We should feel lucky that we humans haven't driven this species to extinction in our area.

"Canebrake" was once thought to be a subspecies of the timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) but now it is seen as just a lighter colored variant. Here is some interesting new research on the venom of these snakes.

Friday, June 1, 2007

With all due respect - old fashion names you've never heard of in TN cemeteries

It's wilderness now, can you imagine how isolated it was 100 years ago?

I just returned from a wilderness dual-sport (on/off road) motorcycle adventure in the vast forest wilderness between Oak Ridge and the KY border, east of Rugby and Big South Fork, west of La Follette. In the quarter-million+ acres of off-road trails, I came upon a few isolated family cemeteries. Finding any sign of humanity in the wilderness is intriguing to me. Back in the day where people lived in areas not bound by modern utilities, close-knit family communities of Appalachia often buried their own, 'back yonder on the hill'. I'm amazed where I find some of these graves, Tennesseans 100 years ago would plant their deceased just about anywhere.

But the really amazing thing are the first names! Forget the trendy Brittneys, Ashleys and Kaylas of today. Forget the Biblical John, Luke, Matthew... boring. Even the 'ethnic' names Kamisha, Tawanda... forget it, these 19th century Tennesseans' names are unique!

OK - here's the list of first names from just 3 small family cemeteries:
Dausewell, Parzida, Shecum, Nerva, Cardella, Lueliza, Morletta, Clodie, Lonzo, Rittie, Flem, Maudy, Inus , Lark, Serelda, Ozias, Ortha, Shyann, Hesler, Ohmer, Pearside, Gussie, Pherbia, Othelia, Arzo, Ulus, Armelda, Mertie, Hiter, Edis, Mashack, Alvis, Luvernia
Many of these people were born in the 19th century. I photographed every gravestone bearing the names quoted above, it's the easiest way I could document all these names. Ever hear of anyone alive with any of these names today? Perhaps it's a statement of the individualism, creativity and isolation of these 19th century people of Appalachia.

I traversed a few hundred miles of trails in the Royal Blue WMA, Sundquist WMA, Brimestone and Coal Creek. More on the trip later - the ride is going to be the subject of my next article in Adventure Motorcycle Magazine.