Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Need a break on I-40, pull off when you see the 'World's Largest Spinach Can'

I-40 is an incredible interstate ... it cuts through the south-central portion of the United States and is the fastest route from the Atlantic Ocean to California.

(Stephanie Geckle)
Because Jimmy and I tend to favor two-lane roads, it seems that just about every time we've been on I-40, we are outrunning bad weather or in a rush to get home.

However, to relieve boredom, or to just get out of your rig, stretch your legs and grab an ice cream, consider an RV Short Stop in Alma, Ark., the self-proclaimed Spinach Capital of the World. (BTW: Crystal City, Texas, also calls itself the Spinach Capital of the World.)

Once you spot the World's Largest Spinach Can sitting along I-40, you're pretty much there. Alma is located in the Arkansas River Valley at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains and sits just off exit 12 on I-40 at US 71, about 12 miles east of the Oklahoma border and a dozen miles north of Ft. Smith (about a two-hour drive west of Little Rock).

Alma is the original home to Popeye Brand Spinach (once with the Allen Canning Company, now part of Del Monte). "Around 1987, Alma began calling itself the Spinach Capital of the World because the Allen Canning Company based in Alma canned more than half of all the spinach canned in the U.S., about 60 million pounds annually," states Wikipedia.

Popeye Park, Alma, Ark. (Wikipedia)
Popeye Park
A bronze statue of Popeye the Sailor Man was unveiled in April 2007 and sits in the heart of a circular garden near downtown Alma.  In 2009 a mural was painted on an adjoining wall of old Fayetteville Avenue.

Popeye Statue
Directions to Popeye Park:
801 Fayetteville Ave., Alma, Ark.
I-40 exit 12 onto US 71 south. Go through the traffic light, bear left, then turn right onto Fayetteville Ave./Hwy 162 into downtown. The Park is at the other end of town, on the right. (If you get to the high school, you’ve gone too far.)

While in Alma, if you are looking for a cool ice cream treat, check out Braum's Ice Cream and Burgers, 129 US Hwy 71 North. Open daily at 6 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.

To read more about Braum's ice cream, and nearby day hiking and camping at White Rock Mountain, click here.

For more about the RV Lifestyle by Julianne G. Crane and Jimmy Smith, go to RVWheelLife.com

-- Julianne G. Crane

Photos: World's Largest Spinach Can (Stephanie Geckle). Popeye Park and bronze statue (Source: Wikipedia.)


Monday, May 15, 2017

Synchronous fireflies put on magical show

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fireflies of Tennessee (firefly.org)

Catching fireflies on warm summer evenings was always one of my fondest childhood activities.

I've never been lucky enough, not yet anyway, to witness thousands of these enchanting insects flash all at the same time. These rare synchronous displays are magical. More about these unusual sightings in a moment.

According to early reports, lightning bugs are already started flashing this year. They love warm, humid areas and need a moist environment to survive. They thrive on all continents except Antarctica, and live at the lush margins where forest or field meet water.

They typically start appearing after the rainy season, with the peak date occurring between the third week of May to the third week in June.

"In the U.S., almost no species of fireflies are found west of Kansas—although there are also warm and humid areas to the west. Nobody is sure why this is," according to Firefly.org.

As for 'synchronous fireflies' sightings, there are less than a handful in the United States--the three main locations are in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.  In these very specific habitats, the Photinus carolinus firefly species is responsible for putting on the synchronized displays.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fireflies of Tennessee

"No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons," reports the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.

Best Viewing Dates: late May - mid-June
Peak Times: 7 - 10 p.m.
The Firefly Shuttle operates May 30-June 6, 2017.
For all the information you need, click here.

Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania

Allegheny National Park (firefly.org)
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was once thought to be the only place where you can see synchronous fireflies in North America, and it remains the best known, according to Firefly.org.

"In summer 2012, a rare discovery of synchronous fireflies known as Photinus carolinus were discovered in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania."

Synchronous fireflies come out very late, best times: between 10:30 p.m. until after midnight. 

The Pennsylvania Firefly Festival - June 24, 2017

 The Pennsylvania Firefly Festival celebrates the annual mating displays of over 15 different species of firefly in the Allegheny National Forest area including the synchronous firefly and the unique "Chinese Lantern" firefly along the Tionesta Creek.

On Wed., June 21, 6 p.m. author and firefly expert Sara Lewis who will give an informative presentation about fireflies, answer firefly questions and sign copies of her new book, "Silent Sparks." This is a free event, but donations to PAFF are appreciated. Place: West Forest High School Gym.

The Firefly Festival takes place on June 24, 2017, on the grounds of the Black Caddis Ranch B & B in Kellettville, just 15 miles east of Tionesta on Route 666.  Live music goes from 12:30 to 9:15 p.m.

Due to the growing crowds at the festival, organizers are asking attendees to register if they want a spot in the firefly walks the night of the festival. They are still free, but registering will help to organize the crowds and give you the best firefly experience possible.

New this year, the festival is offering a VIP Firefly Experience. "For a $10 ticket, you’ll get access to the exclusive VIP firefly viewing area, your own dedicated firefly guide and up to an hour of uninterrupted viewing."

For complete festival and viewing information click here.

Black Caddis Ranch B & B
13558 Route 666, Tionesta, Pa 16353
Call: (814) 230-2035.

Congaree National Park in South Carolina

Congaree National Park is one of the least known areas for synchronous fireflies in the United States.

"For two weeks in late May and early June the fireflies in Congaree will blink in unison on evenings with the right weather conditions. The habitat of Congaree is also slightly more unique than others with synchronous fireflies in that it's more swampy and known as an old growth floodplain forest," according to Firefly.org.

Update (5/13/2017): "Visitors have noticed an increase in the number of fireflies over the past few evenings and some have stated that they have been synchronized. It is likely that we are nearing the beginning of the period of synchronization."  

"The Harry Hampton Visitor Center will be open extended hours from Sat., May 20 to Sat., June 10, 2017. During that time, the Visitor Center will be open till 9 p.m. each night and park staff and volunteers will be offering special programs. " The park will also be hosting a "Firefly Festival" on Saturday, May 27, 2017.

Best Viewing Dates: mid-May - Mid-June
Peak Times: 8 - 10 p.m.
Call: 803-776-4396, and ask for information.

Help Fireflies make a comeback

"Fireflies are disappearing all over the world, and it's believed to be because of human encroachment on habitat and increased light pollution from development and traffic," states Firefly.org.

If you live in a region of the country where fireflies make their fascinating appearance, there are a few things you can do to help fireflies make a comeback. For a wealth of information on ways to save these magical creatures click on "How to Help".

-- Julianne G. Crane
To read more articles by Julianne on the RV lifestyle, go to RVWheelLife.com

Photos: Source Firefly.org.