Tuesday, May 30, 2006

May Trip to the US SouthEast


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This is going to be a really, really long post.  Here is a link to all the pictures from our trip to North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virgina.  So, here's the story of the trip.  I took notes each day, and now I'll just copy them to here and fix the punctuation.

May 8, Sacramento, CA

We left home after spending the day cleaning house and packing and fussing.  The airport hotel in Sacramento was fine and close to our termnal.

May 9, Winston-Salem, NC

The Trip Begins 6am flight to Dallas was uneventful.  J gave play by play on landing, finally a little cheerier.  Flight to Raleigh, NC, was fine, if you don't count the person near us with a relly, really stinky flatulence problem.  Budget gave us a Chevy Cobalt.

Our drive to Winston-Salem was uneventful, stopping only for below par dinner at Ruby Tuesday's in Burlington.  Beautiful wild poppies on the hwy 40 - red, pink in  big swaths.  Lots of green grass and plentiful trees.  Lots of furniture mfrs in this part of NC.  We are at a Hiliday Inn - room ok.


May 10, Asheville, NC

Image We left Winston-Salem and drove West on Hwy 40, arriving in the Asheville area at 10-ish.  After arguing about where to park (J always wins), we spent the day on the Biltmore Estate.  I took lots of pics in the gardens.  Azaleas and rhodies almost done, but plenty of blossoms left.

We had lunch in the refurbished stable (nice stalls in rod with rod iron still there).  Tour of the house was good.  There are 43 batthrooms, and you can see the difference between the maids' and the rich people's rooms!  We took a self-guided tour and went through the house pretty quickly.  Lots of portraits by Sargeant.  Many spectacular Femish tapestries on the walls, lots and lots of beautiful furniture and fabrics.  4 stories, plus the basement.  Finished in 1895.  250 rooms, 31 guest bedrooms, 65 fireplaces.  175,000 square ft.  Largest private house in the USA.  Toured mor than 60 rooms.  My feet hurt.

Tomorrow we plan to spend the day in Asheville.  Rain in the forecast.

May 11, Asheville, NC

Skipped Asheville (J too tired for shuffling) and took a drive in the mountains.  Stopped at cradle of forestry, Looking Glass Falls(?).

Lunch in Highland, good spiach/fruit salad w chicken... forget name of place :-( 

Drove back along the Blue Ridge Parkway over 6053' summit.  At about 5500' we saw tons of beautiful native pink azaleas.  Also today on the BRP we saw:  magnolias, trillium, dogwood, white blossom trees of at least 3 varieties, lots of small blue/white/yellow wildflwers. 

Weather was mostly nice with a few showers.  Windy and chilly at the tops of the mountains, warm and humid down in Asheville.

Maybe tomorrow we'll do Asheville if J can get some sleep (I snore, hotels are noisy).

May 12, Asheville, NC

Image We went to the North Carolina Aboretum, specializing in bonsai - beautiful.  I Bought lavender straw hat for me.  This place was a photo opportunity waiting to happen :-)

Then it was off to the Folk art center off the BRParkwy - bought fan pulls, corn doll St.Nick for us and 'Emily' for J direct from artist.

Then we visited downtown Asheville, which is full of young hippie types.  I overheard "If you didn't do drugs, you'd have money for food" spoken by 1 young man to another.  J bought funny face little pottery. I bought  locally made birch knitting needles.  We weren't so impressed with town.

Movie Mission Impossible 3 (** Satisfactory).  I missed the Mission Impossible surprise twist at the end which explained how they pulled off the assignment.  This was just a thriller with lots (and lots) of action.

May 13, Fall Creek St.Prk. Inn, TN

Image Left Asheville, headed for Joyce Kilmer Mem Forrest.  Took a short, steepish walk up to the memorial.  Turns out Joyce was a man! and he was in the infantry.  His famous poem sure sounds like it was written by a woman....

Drove the Cherohala Skyway, a very scenic drive with with views of at least two different mtn ranges.

Arrived at FallCreek Falls St Prk, TN, in the afternoon - tired from the long drive.  Stopped at the visiter ctr and walked to Cane Cr Falls overlook.  Took short scenic drive with a stop to view Fall Cr. Falls from the overlook.  Light was wrong for pics,  but I took them anyway. 

Drivers in TN aren't very good.  They never signal and drive way under the speed limit... sometimes.  At least they don't speed too often.

Mtn Laurel is in bloom here.  Very nice.

May 14, Mothers Day Sunday, Lake City, TN

Visited Piney Cr Falls and Fall Cr Falls at Fall Creek Falls St Prk, TN, this morning.  Hiking on the Cumberland Plateau is difficult... steep hills with many rocks and roots that make it difficult to find your footing.  I think we would have done more walking if there had been fewer big slabs of sedimentary rocks (limestone, sandstone, shale), or if we had brought our hiking boots and walking sticks.

Image Then we drove a short two hours to Oak Ridge, TN, in order to visit the American Museum Of Science & Energy.  Being Mothers Day, every chain restaurant's parking lot was full, so we had lunch at Hardee's which wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.

The museum had a sculpture in front depicting the world trade towers.  Inside they told the story of the Oak Ridge nuclear bomb development, how we gave the Japanese an ultimatum, they ignored it, and still didn't surrender after the first bomb so we dropped the second one.

The Oak Ridge, TN, facility was a self contained town built in the early 1940's, from scratch, surrounded by secrecy.  They chose the location because it was far from the ocean, surrounded by mountains, had plenty of people with no jobs (available workforce), and had lots of power and water.

There were lots of WWII posters and history on display.

Upstairs was a science display which was fun and educational.  Hint:  Start at the kids level to learn a subject.  At the kids level great summaries about a subject are given.

Now we are resting in a Days Inn.  Tomorrow we will be in Kentucky.

May 15, Corbin, KY

Image Last stop in TN was the Museum of the Appalachia in Norris, TN.  It was remarkable!  The Hall Of Fame was jammed full of folk history, crafts, tools, musical instruments, photos and people's stories.

The outside portion was an entire community of restored cabins, barns, a scool house, a small slave cabin, corn cribs, a still, sheep, peacocks, goats, and a couple of very friendly cats.

They spun a lot of flax into linen yarn in order to weave linen cloth.  I didn't see much evidence of knitting - actually none.  Weaving and carving are big deal traditional crafts here.

Then we drove through the Cumberland Gap tunnel into KY.  At the Cumberland Gap visitors' ctr we watched a movie showing the history... Animals. Indians. Walker explored and found no value.  Daniel Boone opened up KY via the Cumberland Gap.  The Boones lost two sons in indian wars in the process.

Then on to Cumberland Falls St Prk.  Cumberland Falls are on a wild part of the Cumberland River on land donated to KY by a DuPont family member.  The falls are big, lots of water per second.  Unfortunately the river carries trash from the slobs upstream.

This is the second St Prk we've been to, and neither one charged an entrance fee.  Good for them!

Here we are in Corbin.  Next stop Berea.

The driving has mostly been on small roads ... all green, lots of trees and flowers, lots of farms and rural (big) houses.

May 16, Lexington, KY

We shopped Borea, bought some things.

Borea College is a free college for low income Appalachian students.  All they have to do besides get an education is work 15 hrs per week in the community.  Most of the young people helping us in the shops and restaurants we doing their 15 hrs.

The college is equal opportunity, believes in keeping the Appalachian crafts alive, especially the woodworking, keeps a garden to help sustain themselves.

We wanted to take a tour but  the tour giver had a family emergency and it was finals day, so no tours for us.

Lunch at old historic Boone's Tavern Hotel, where I was introduced to Spoon Bread - a cornbread suffl.  Oh, yes, I will try this again!

Tomorrow we tour a Thourobred horse park and take a driving tour.

May 17, Lexington, KY

Image First we went to the Thoroughbred Center for a tour of the race horse training facility.

We saw horses doing morning workouts... beautiful thoroughbred horses.  Lots of barn cats... one even had a collar on.  Took lots of pics.

Then took a driving tour through blue grass country.  We saw many, many BEAUTIFUL horse (stud) farms, one owned by a sheik from the Unitrd Arab Emerites.  Many of the places in the movie "Dreamer" were on the tour.

We had lunch at Wallace Station along with some of the local horse people... and I had some Kentucky Bourbon ice cream, yummy.

Last stop was Joseph Beth book store where I browsed a very good knitting book section, and J browsed a very good mystery section.

Tomorrow we will visit  chocolate factory and some local natural areas.

May 18, Lexington, KY

We did a tour of a small candy store this morning... Old Kentucky Chocolates.  It doesn't produce chocolate as good as the Belgian Chocolate company we visited last year, or the year before, on our first Grand Circle European river tour.  But!... they make really really good Bourbon Truffles and Bourbon Cherries.  Some chocolate is going home to the library staff.

Image This KY Bluegrass country is really beautiful.  Today we visited two places:  McConnell Springs and Raven Run Sanctuary. Neither place was especially wonderful... MConnell Spr was right next to, and smelled of, the local dump and the spring was full of murky water; and Raven Run Sanctuary was a little more hiking than we wanted to do in order to see the KY River pallisades... however, the ride through the country to and from these places was very nice.

This was our last full day in KY.  Tomorrow we'll be in WV.

May 19, Hawks Nest St Pk, WV

Image We left KY and drove east to WV.

Stopped at Tamarak for shopping.  It didn't hold a candle to the Folk Art Ctr in Asheville.  We did have lunch before heading on.

The highlight of the day was New River Gorge Nattional River.  Rhodies, azaleas, dogwood, magnolias, lilac, and lots and lots and lots of green trees... different greens and some reds blanket the hills.  The rapids, popular with rafters, are all rated above thee or five... whew!  They don't look thart difficult from the top of the gorge.

May 20, Lewisburg, WV

We did a lot of scenic driving this morning through New River Gorge and lots of scenic little towns too small to be on a AAA map. 

West Virginia has more Baptist chuches than Starbucks!  One town was called Swiss and its chuch was the Swiss Missionery Baptist Church, which is pretty funny if you don't know the name of the town.  They are pretty creative with their church names.

Image At Gauley Bridge we pulled off the rode to take a picture of a pretty little waterfall.  A man in the parking lot was very helpful and told us that the beautiful flowering tree we've been seeing is called a Paulownia.   It's got lavender flowers that stand up on a stalk.  He said it comes from China or Japan and has softwood good for making musical instruments.

We also stopped at a Cranberry Bog, where we spotted a mama bear and her cub.  Here there was still some trillium in bloom.

We stopped at the birthplace of Pearl S. Buck.  Her parents were missioneries in China but were home in WV when PSB was born.  PSB spent most of her young and adolecent years in China but came home to go to college.  The interesting thing about her birthplace was seeing the lifestyle of a middle class farming family in the 1800s.  The man who built the house made all of the woodwork and much of the furniture as well (black walnut), mostly from wood cut to clear the farm.  They came from Holland originally.

Now we are at the General Lewis Inn in Lewisburg.  Can you tell that Lewis is a favorite historical figure around here?

May 21, Blue Ridge Pkwy, VA (Peaks Of Otter)

Our stay at the Gen'l Lewis Inn in Lewisburg was pleasant.  Dinner last night was good and so was breakfast this morning.  It's so nice to have fresh vegies and fruit!  The only unpleasant part about staying there was carrying my suitcase up to the second floor... because I was too cheap to pay somebody to carry them up for me.

Image Today we headed East and visited Monticello, Jefferson's plantation on top of a hill.  He was an intelligent man who was much interested in architecture, gardening, philosophy, law, and politics.  There were many features in his house that showed his interest in all of things.  See monticello.org for more info.

We lunched at the Michie Tavern... featuring sugar-laden cole slaw, blak eyed peas, bbq pulled pork, stewed tomatoes... the Southern Fried chicken wasn't sweetened :-)

Then we meandered down the Blue Ridge Pkwy to the Peaks Of Otter Inn.  Many bushes in bloom, notably Dogwood, Mtn Laurel, azaleas and Rhodies.

Our room is in the bldg furthest from the dining room, which is good... still full from lunch!

Our view from the room #313 is spectalular Abbott Lake view.

May 22, Blue Ridge Pkwy, NC (Bluff's Lodge)

Image I kept Jan awake with my snoring last night so she didn't have much energy for anything besides driving slowly down the parkway towards our next overnight stop.  Note: allergies are worse during extremely windy weather.

We stopped at a few overlooks, had lunch at Mabry Mill.  MM has an exibition of old buildings, most notably the grist mill which they used to grind grains, run the lumber mill, and run the wood working shop.  This was the second place where we saw an exhibit related to making lye soap by putting ashes in the end of a log, and then pooring water through the log.  Then they mixed fat with the lye water to make soap.  They washed clothing and people in it.

The showiest flowers today were azaleas... colors from blood orange to orange to yellow... and an occasional pink thrown in.  Rhodies aren't quite in full bloom yet, but the early bloomers are a pretty lavender color.

Bluff's Lodge is rustic with a view of meadows and forest, with almost constant bird song.  It is quite wonderful.

May 23, Raleigh, NC

Image We left Bluff's Lodge and its lovely hill top on the Blue Ridge Pkwy this morning, saying goodbye to our vacation and hello to our trip home.

We had lunch for the third and final time at a Cracker Barrel :-)

We got to Raleigh in early afternoon with an empty tank of gas and a desire to see a movie.

We filled with gas and found the movie theater....

My choice of movie was The DaVinci Code (*** Good).  It was fine, much better than I expected after all the poor reviews it has been getting.  The cast was good and the plot followed the book well enough.  I can see where serious Christians would be upset with the movie and that probably has something to do with the bad reviews.  If you aren't too caught up in the Christ issue and whether or not he was actually married to Mary Magdeline including having decendents, then it was fun entertainment, just like the book was a page turner instead of a religeously enlightening expose.

Now we are partly packed and waiting for tomorrow so we can get up and go home and reunite with the kitties.

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