We hit the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with challenging weather. Had a cold walk on part of the Appalachian Trail in spitting rain and the next day we got a 5.5 mile hike in before the rain started in earnest. One good thing is that the wildlife aren’t limited by the weather. While it was raining, we took a scenic drive and ended up seeing 7 black bears from the safety of our car. We saw 4 in trees and 3 on the ground – a total of 3 adults and 4 cubs.
We stopped at a little café in the small town of Townsend, just northwest of the park. It was a slice of life. I ordered an omelet and I could seriously only eat 1/3 of it even though I pretty much stuffed myself. Our waitress came to check to see if we were “good ‘n full.” When we were getting ready to leave, she told us to “be careful out there”—all the waitress’s tell you that when you leave. She also said “If you see anybody out there looking hungry, you send ‘em our way. We’re still on the look out.
We then headed west and spent time in two of the country’s music capitals – Nashville for country music and Memphis for blues and rock and roll and, of course, Elvis.
There is something about country music – no messing around, just get right down to those all important lyrics that really say what you really feel as evidenced by these choice phrases we recently heard on some country music stations – “She thinks my tractor’s sexy” or “I want a big meal at midnight. Want to chow down after a night on the town.”
So we went to the birthplace of it all, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. We toured the Grand Ole Opry and went out to the Wildhorse where we had dinner and did some line dancing. They had a live band with a skinny punk-looking lead singer. You have though he would have a high tenor voice, but he had a big husky low voice and he belted out Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash songs like there were his own.
From Nashville, we went on to Memphis. We visited Graceland, Elvis’s home. I never have really been a big Elvis fan, but we were steeped in the world of The King for a few days, and I really liked it. We really had a cultural experience by staying at the Elvis RV Park right next to Graceland. It was quite the little village. The restroom was on the corner of Love Me Tender Lane and Don’t Be Cruel Ave. We went to BB Kings night club and listened to lots more of Elvis’s music offered by some young hip-hop looking guys in a band. All the clubs in Memphis on historic Beale Street were packed with people enjoying beer, bbq and tunes.
Heading west now to work our way back home.
We left the Outer Banks and drove to Greenville, South Carolina to see Linda, arriving about 5:30 p.m. Within the first hour there, we were settled down and catching up on the family news. I told Linda that Joyce had just won an important award at Seattle University. It is the Spirit of Community Award and Joyce and one other undergraduate student and a couple of faculty were selected for the awards out of a student body of about 8000. I said to Linda that I was disappointed to miss the award ceremony since we were travelling. She raised her eyebrow, looked at me and said “I’ve got frequent flyer miles.” Within a half hour, we had flights for Seattle leaving early the next morning. So we got up at 4:30 a.m. and Linda and I flew out to Seattle, took the light rail into the city and were there to have lunch with Joyce. We attended the really nice awards ceremony and met some of her professors, co-workers and friends. I went to one of her classes on Global Awareness and then we caught a late dinner, some sleep, breakfast with some of her friends the next morning and were off to the airport by 9:30 a.m. to catch our flight back to South Carolina and re-connect with Kurt.
It was so great in so many ways—-the first being that Linda could read my mind and move into immediate action. Second is that you just have to go for life’s offerings and not stress about any of the details – somehow they always work out. Third, you can’t act old just because your age keeps creeping higher.
Here’s to spontaneity forever!!!!!
Spent this whole week exploring the Outer Banks off the eastern shore of North Carolina. We started with the Lower Outer Banks between Carteret Point and Moorhead City. The beach sand is really fine and soft. We had a great beach day at Fort Macon State Park – watching dolphins go by and pelicans diving for their dinner. We then took the ferry to Okracoke Island and spent a day there exploring by bike. We then took another ferry north to Cape Hattaras National Seashore which includes much of the land of the central and southern Outer Banks. It is always very windy here and the sand has to be plowed off the highway. The Outer Banks had sand fences, similar to our snow fences in Colorado, to try to keep the sand off the highway. The northern part of the Outer Banks are way more developed with miles and miles of coastline developed with 3 story beaches houses and apartments you can rent.
We saw that the time we were there coincided with the Outer Banks Bike Week. We were thinking we could join in on some of the special events. Turns out by “bike” they meant motorcycle. We would drive by restaurants that had hundreds of motorcycles parked outside. Although it was tempting, we didn’t join in their tattoo fest.
On the food side of things, we did find another North Carolina delicacy offered at their state fair. It is called Pig Lickers and consists of bacon dipped in chocolate. In my estimation, that still doesn’t top Wisconsin’s state fair offering of a battered, deep fried stick of butter on a stick (imagine a corn dog with butter replacing the hot dog.) But then again, I am a cheesehead through and though.
One big week in South Carolina.
A couple days at Edisto Island at the far south end of the coast.
Had a day there that is a perfect example of why I like to travel so much. We had no specific plans. Yesterday a ranger offered us advice about the area. I asked her if she had two days here, what would she want to be sure to see? She told me about this place called Botany Bay. We ended up spending the whole day there. What a day! Highlight was a 5.7 mile bike ride along the Atlantic Ocean’s edge – through the lapping waves on the shore. On this ride, we rode for over 5 miles without seeing another person - - but we did see an osprey, 3 dolphins, egrets, white heron, pelicans, huge fish (probably catfish), dozens of bright red cardinals, a couple of turtles and a bunch of hermit crabs scuttling across a causeway.
We then went to Charleston for a couple of days. Parked Yonder and stayed in a historic inn built in 1861, living it up with a great room and a quaint courtyard where they served us wine and cheese for happy hour and a great breakfast in the morning. What a charming, interesting city. Walked for miles around interesting neighborhoods, took a horse carriage ride and a good boat tour of the harbor.
Finished the week off at a state park just south of Myrtle Beach. Spent a day at Brookgreen Gardens on a 9000 acre former rice plantation - - amazing place with hundreds of sculptures in beautiful gardens.
People around here seem to have the wonderful impression that everyone from Colorado is really fit. We had a woman from South Carolina say “Oh, you’re from Colorado - - the state with people with the best overall fitness in the country and you are now in here in a state with about the worst fitness level. Are you finding anything you can eat?” Another guy from Florida started chatting with us when we were riding our bike. He asked where we were from and when we said Colorado he said “Colorado, well you probably biked all the way here to South Carolina then”. Pretty nice image to try and maintain. Oops —- Got to go. They just called my name —- my sweet potato fries and BBQ pork are ready.
We’ve now been to Tennessee and North Carolina. Stopped at a little restaurant called Frosty Top Drive-In in Tennessee. There were no actual drive-in stalls to go in, just a parking lot. We parked in the second row and started walking up to the restaurant building which was a double-wide trailer attached to a front-gabled former bank where it looked like one-car was able to go to a bank drive-in window (hence, the drive-in name). A young girl came out and greeted us with “You cain’t go in there – it’s a drive-in.” She directed us to a couple of picnic tables on the side of the building where we got to sit by corn-dog eating kids and wait for our food.
From Tennessee, we went into North Carolina and entered Great Smoky National Park. The Smoky Mountains are very pretty, and really steep. We took a steep, gravel, windy one-lane road (15 mph) 14 miles into the Cataloochee section of the national park. I was reading an interpretive sign in front of an old building and a man came up asked me if I was a Caldwell. I said no, and asked him if I looked like a Caldwell and he said yes. He then told me that he was a Caldwell descendent and that most of his family was pictured on the interpretive photos in the display of this old town. Great Smoky National Park was created by buying up this land after it was settled and so the settlers of Cataloochee had to move out after the government bought their land around 1930. The Caldwells were some of the early settlers in this town and it was very hard to be pulled away from all your roots and made to re-settle elsewhere. As the guy who asked me if I was a Caldwell started to drive away, he called out the window to me that it was a compliment to be mistaken for a Caldwell.
We’ve seen some great signs on this trip –all the following have been in North Carolina . One of the ones that really got me thinking was a hand painted sign on someone’s land in the Smokies — “Caution Poison Dog.” We knew we were in the South when we saw a church that had the slogan “Revival – Not Just Survival.” And we saw a bumper sticker on some guy’s car that said “We don’t care how you do it up North.”
Country vittles may be one thing, but we have had some really great southern food on this trip – none of it fried. In Ashville, NC, which has a really vibrant Downtown, and a feel somewhat like Boulder, I had a pork tenderloin cooked in root-beer molasses with sides of sweet potatoes and asparagus. We ordered wine shortly after being seated, and they delivered our drinks with two warm biscuits with honey and blueberry preserves. We had done a hike in the morning and had walked all over Ashville throughout the afternoon, so that warm biscuit was really a treat with a nice glass of Chardonnay.
On to South Carolina next.