You might be surprised by all of the gear on storm chasing truck -- It's interesting that both you and Lifey had not seen such a truck before. Like Foy said, it's a standard issue TV truck -- just about every media market in the USA has 50-150 of these vans leased to the various TV networks.
That park in Alabama, has long been a favorite place for us -- really a very special place!
I have seen the like before, but mainly in the movies and on cable tv with series like the "stormchasers" although my comment was a little "tongue in cheek " because of the sign writing on the truck.
Youse all had to throw cold water on that... didn't ye??
Well, I had never seen one before, and took it to be a truck which follows storms for the station mentioned.
Lifey who was thrilled to see it :-P
I've been in some really dangerous situations chasing storms....
Less than a month ago, I had never heard of it, and had no idea where it is. After reading about it in forum and picking the brains of some of the longer standing members, I was encouraged to check it out. After all, I was going to be in the area, albeit only the northern area.
I entered the NTP from highway 72 near Cherokee and headed north. Even before the Tennessee state line I came upon the first great site of interest.
I drove down to where the site of the ferry had been to the magnificent waters of the Tennessee River. Back in the early 1800s it was a much narrower stream Colbert's ferry had to cross. Today we have this beautiful bridge to cross over to the other side.
There was a large picnic ground and water recreation area. It is a fairly narrow and windy road down there, and ever so scenic. A fantastic little bit of road to enjoy.
Having driven over to the northern end of the bridge, I was delighted to find a parking area from which I was able to photograph a huge barge which I had spotted when on top of the bridge.
This most scenic route of which I drove only 130 miles, is closed to commercial traffic. At a comfortable and steady pace of 50 mph it is possible to take in the fields, meadows and forest through which it runs. Other features along its way hold one's interest and add to the enjoyment.
I was most interested to read the explanation of the State Lines here. This is the first time I have seen such an explanation along the way.
When I came to this board, I realised that at least part of the features of which it speaks were well within my capability. And so I set out to explore the few metres it took to find the paths.
They are quite distinct, and I wish I could have followed them the whole way. There were some features, even in the few metres I walked which caught my attention.
If anyone is able to identify any of these, I would be most greatful. There were mosses and other small plants all around here.
It was at one of the many cross roads that a dozen or more motorcyclists entered the parkway. It was just as I got to this intersection. Five had already entered the road; nine had to wait and give way to me. For the next thirty-five miles I drove with fourteen motorcyclists around me... five in front, nine behind. All wore helmets. All respected the speed limit. At no time did any attempt to overtake me, even though there were opportunities. My cruise control, as I suspect theirs, was set at 50 the whole way. At Jackson Falls they turned off the road.
As the day had now well and truly stretched out, I decided to just enjoy the last 40 miles. It was when I got to the double-arch bridge over highway 96, that I stopped again for a photo opportunity.
It is a shame there is no better opportunity to photograph this bridge, it really is quite attractive.
The sleek lines of this bridge really deserve more than having to fight with all this vegetation, to get onto a photograph.
I headed for Nashville. Fortunately I managed to get a road side parking spot right near the Visitor Centre, which seemed to be quite busy. There were large trucks with bands on them, and other displays and stalls. In the Visitor Centre I was told that there was a big bull riding event on for this weekend. Not exactly my scene, and conscious that with such a large event in town there would be no way I was going to get an affordable bed.
There are no Satellites use for this van, the dish at the top of the mast folded down is actually a microwave transmitter, and it doesn't get pointed at where the cameraman is. The transmitter is pointed towards the TV station's microwave receiver (usually at or near the TV station and/or their broadcast tower). Signals from a camera, which are usually connected to the truck via cables, or from a tape deck inside the truck are then beamed back to the station.
The mast is needed because Microwave signals need a "line of sight" and anything, like a tree, hill, or tall building in the way can block the signal. And actually, many times the curvature of the earth itself is what blocks the path, so the taller the mast the longer the range that the truck will have. A typical truck shooting at a fairly tall reciever over flat terrain will have a range of about 60 miles, but throw a few hills in there and that can change pretty dramatically.
As Mark mentioned, these are common vans and almost every tv station in the US owns at least one of them. Stations in larger markets will have a few of them, plus they will have SNG (satellite) trucks where they can send a signal back to their station from pretty much anywhere.
It had intrigued me when I saw it on the map, and decided I would go check it out. Route 13 and 49 took me to Dover and onto The Trace north, through this (obviously) popular recreation area.
When I first turned off I-40 onto the Loretta Lynn Hwy (13) there were large signs notifying travellers of the Lynn Family Flea Market. After travelling for some miles, and several more signs, I was convinced that I must have missed it. Then suddenly, well away from any sign of civilization a large sign simply said "HERE"!
Here was a collector's dream world. Everything from old cars to fine china and crystal. There is so much I would have loved to buy, both for myself and to give as gifts. But alas!! I am yet to convince Mr Qantas to grant me a much greater baggage allowance. It was not to be. I continued on my way.
At Erin I took hwy 49 to Dover. This was a delightful, though slow trip through (what seemed like) countless little settlements, one after the other, all strung out along the highway.
There were little old cottages. There were brand new modern homes. In one place the speed through 'town' was 15 mph, and with children's toys and play equipment almost up to the road, I was not surprised. On my satnav I could see that there were few other streets.
At Bear Springs I turned into Cross Creeks Wildlife Refuge. Here I saw the most beautiful birds, which would not sit still long enough, close to me, to be able to be photographed. On the other hand, the water lillies were stunning and huge. Short of wading in, there was no way I could get a shot of the best of them. And on the river I once again saw a huge barge being pushed along. This is something we do not have at home, do not have the waterways to accommodate them. They keep astounding me.
The drive along The Trace on the land between the lakes was a pleasant drive, much like the Natches, without all the historical data. I drove straight through. It was when I got to the canal which joins the lakes at the northern end, and the bridge which crosses it, that I spent some time in the rest area. Hot as it was, there was some nice shade to park, and the activity on the water was constant. Speed boats. Jet skis. Leisurely pleasure craft. You name it! If it could float, I am sure it was there.
From here I was to head west to Springfield and western Missouri. Hwy 60 is really the only direct road. However, since I had time on my hands, I was more interested in exploring some of the local parks and off-the-beaten-track towns. I had been told about the Mark Twain National Forest, and the Bull Shoales in northern Arkansas, all of which could be accessed by scenic routes. It sounded good. Then I got out my map!
Friend who had been advising me on routes and points of interest had missed the bleedin' obvious. It jumped right out at me. Right there, in northern Arkansas was a town called MELBOURNE.
Well, I had to go and check that one out, did I not. So I set off along route 60 with the intention of heading down 21, 160, and take 9 into Melbourne. Before I had even reached my first turn off, there would be yet another hour or more, hold up... all of my own making. Right there, in the Mark Twain NF, near Ellisnore is a roadside stop. A Stop & Go fuel station, come cafe, come convenience store and entertainment. Time for a break.
The previous evening I had stopped at an establishment which advertised free wifi, but blowed if I (or others) could access it. Here, in the middle of nowhere was this roadside convenience stop with free wifi. There was nothing to advertise it. If I had not asked, I would not have known. And the reception was five bars. I needed a break. I longed for a really good cup of tea. Like most places, they did not have the facility to boil water. Water heated in a microwave, or hot water out of a coffee machine, just does not make a good cup of tea. It needs to be boiling water.
The lovely lady allowed me to bring in my recent find - electric jug -and make my own cup of tea at the table where there was a power outlet for both the jug and my computer. Together with the snack I had purchased, I sat there for more than an hour catching up on email and other neglected tasks, while I enjoyed three cups of tea. Oh!! the luxury.
Highway 21 which is marked as a scenic route is none-the-less used by logging trucks. This really distracts from its enjoyment. It is narrow, without shoulders, and very windy and hilly. No chance to overtake anything, and when a truck was following me, I would take the first opportunity I could to pull off and let him pass. All in all though, it was a lovely drive... all the way to Melbourne. The roads were all good roads, winding, narrow and scenic.
It was much later than I would have liked, when I got to Melbourne. I checked out the tourist information centre first.... such as it was. At the city hall, there was a small counter where a corner had been allotted to brochures and advertising material.
Ashley and Bridget, both of whom had other duties, were most helpful in sharing their knowledge and answering my questions. And so it was that I was able to check out another Melbourne.
I have now visited Melbourne in Florida, Iowa and Arkansas. There is only Kentucky left, and I will be there in a few days.
By the time I left Melbourne it was going on for 6pm, and a storm was rolling in. A huge storm! I took a wrong turn, and added much unnecessary time and distance to the day's destination. With the rain pelting down, lightning flashing all around and visibility of only a couple of metres, I was faced with negotiating the mountain roads from Melbourne to Mountain Home via highways 9 and 5. Not a great idea! (You may note that I do not have many pictures of driving in the rain. Not a good idea to either stop, or use a camera at times like that.)
By the time I got to Branson it was well and truly dark, and it was very late when I settled down in Sprinfield. On the other hand, it had been another day of great achievement. I went to sleep with the knowledge that tomorrow would be better weather.
Knowing where I was heading, and when, I had made arrangements to visit the Joplin Toastmasters Club. They were delighted to have a guest at their meeting, and asked me to speak and tell them something about my travels. Which I did, and directed them all to my report.
And so it was that by mid afternoon I arrived at my destination.
For the last three days I have been honoured to be the recipient of glc's hospitality - the host with the most! It was with some hesitation that I accepted the invitation, but immediately felt right at home. He has helped me attend to my car maintenance... attended to my computer problems... showed me around his little corner of the world... and we sat and talked till all hours of the night. It has been a wonderful opportunity to have a restful break. All I can say is "Thanks mate!"
Lifey who is now off - back to Boston
We wanted to drive the Trace last month, but all we found was the Land on Either Side of the Lakes. We took a detour off I24 between Nashville and St. Louis specifically to drive the Trace, but we never found it off Hwy 76. There was a lot of construction and I think we missed the sign. We meandered up State Hwy 121 through the same sort of pretty little towns, with lots of flea markets, as you describe. Stopped at a vegetable stand in Benton (I think) and had our first non-fried veggies in days! Beautiful area.
I was just through LBL this spring and really enjoyed it. The Elk and Bison prairie was really the only part of the park we spent any time (it was a short stop on a long haul driving day) but its certainly some place we'd like to spend more time.
We traveled north to south and we didn't have any problems finding it. While it doesn't help you now, if you try making the trip next time, you should look for Fort Donaldson. If you're coming on 76 from Clarksville, you'll see the fort just before you reach the Trace.