Monday, May 30, 2011

I love Western North Carolina

If the Natchez Trace is a massage, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a hot stone massage. I think I could travel it every day of my life and not tire of the misty blue vistas, even though our first day on it was pretty foggy.

As a reward for some good deed I did in my past, I am seeing the first of the rhododendrons blooming. They are not full yet; two more weeks till peak time, the ranger said. But the mountain laurel is making up for it.

In fact, everything about North Carolina feels like a hot stone massage. Even in their heat wave, it’s cool in the shade. And there’s lots of shade to hide in, in the NC Arboretum or the natural Botanical Gardens. Want art? It’s everywhere. The Grovewood Gallery is primo. With an urban revival and restaurants hopping with happy sidewalk diners, downtown is very upbeat.

We shopped two Farmer’s Markets for fresh produce and the entire town seemed to be there, intent on eating food grown close to home. I don’t think I have ever eaten fresh garlic before, but it has been quite a treat.

Can’t find anything to dislike here, although I would have to become accustomed to walking the hills if I stayed longer. We stayed again at Mama Gerties, probably the cleanest campground I have ever experienced, but walking Daisy was a cardio workout. The campground is stacked up a steep hill.  But then so is the Grove Inn. Even at 4 stars you gotta walk uphill.

I like a town that’s big enough to have amenities, but small enough that I can get my arms around it. Asheville fits the bill.

Hot Springs, NC, on the other hand, is oversold and under delivered. The Hot Springs Campground is not a spot I would return to. It felt like an army of people had trodden over it, and the evidence was in the clearly visible garbage pile. Restrooms were slightly above fishing camp. The spa itself charged like airlines. $1.99 for water if you are thirsty, extra for a towel. Maybe I had mineral water in my hot tub, maybe I didn’t. I’ll never know. But the minute the guy knocked on the fence to say time is up, he started draining the tub. At least that means I was in clean water, I guess. Thank heaven the massage was good. Still no offer of a drink of water though. Everything was advertised as river view, but the river was mostly blocked by foliage. I’ll take the hot tubs at Truth or Consequences NM any day. Now that’s a river view.

Still, my heart springs eternal that all the towns with the name Springs in them still ahead in my travels will be sweet spots.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crossing Tennessee

It is impossible to drive in the South without running into the Civil War.  Every town square has monuments to the thousands who died.  The Battle of Chickamagua cost over 30,000 lives, and the National Battlefield commemorating them is a Must See. There are sites like this all over the South. The casualties of the Civil War are astounding.

Here we are at another one, Lookout Point National Military Park in Chattanooga.  Chattanooga was a vital stronghold in the War.   The Union had to overtake the Confederate positions on Lookout Mountain, a 2000 foot hill, as well as Missionary Ridge, a long narrow ridge that is a wonder to drive today. 

Southern Tennessee and North Carolina on US 64 is a leisurely, scenic route.  We're not in a hurry, just following the dots on the map to choose our route. After driving by the Tennessee River and other rivers coursing down valleys all day, tonight I listen to rain on the roof at Happy Holiday RV Park in Cherokee NC.   Here in Cherokee county, we are on a reservation where there is a gambling casino with a Paula Dean restaurant. Considering going there for breakfast and wondering if I will notice the butter.....oh it's so good, ya'll. But the real highlight of this area has to be SantaLand, right near Happy Holiday RV Park. It's Thursday and school is still in session, so the park looked pretty empty, and when the Rudolph coaster went by, Rudolph only had two passengers. That'll change this weekend, I am sure, as Memorial weekend campers pour into this Northeastern Carolina recreation area.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why I am behind on blogging

Pardon my absence

I have been writing a lot this spring, but not blogging.

I have ten pages of the great American novel written. Doesn’t sound like much, but the research into a family story of children kidnapped by Comanche Indians has had me busy reading every early Texas history book I can find.

Then, there’s a non-profit website I volunteered to write and coordinate. The test site was ready the day I left on this summer’s wandering, so I have been editing on the road. This cuts into my blogging time. But I am so excited. I want you to see the “before” site, so look here:

Now, here’s the test site I am editing. It’s not perfect yet, but I am so excited to get to contribute.

And, most importantly, I have had some personal growth experiences while working on the site. After interviewing nine people about their AA stories I have begun to realize that the alcoholics in my family did not choose to be the way they were. Forgiveness after all these years just might happen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Beyond the Sabine

Once you cross the Sabine River and continue East, every self-respecting landscape is anchored by a magnolia tree. And in May they are in bloom, giant white blooms befitting those large leathery leaves that fall year round, the price to be paid for their dark green elegance. The best specimens are unfettered by other flora and stand majestically alone on a grassy knoll.

We spent the better part of the week before we left wondering if we could cross the Mississippi.  As as matter of fact it was a non-event at Natchez.  Natchez had the forward thinking to be built on a bluff, so all those antebellum mansions are just fine.  Across the river in Louisiana, it's a different story.  But let me just ask you.  If you built a convention center, a surgery center and a new hospital on the land between the levee(which was still holding back the water for all those homes and businesses who built behind the protection of the levee) and the river, should you be surprised that you are flooded?  A nurse from Natchez, commenting on the phone calls from across the river that it was flooding in the hospital, said, "Well, yeah.  And those were doctors who built it there." 

Driving the Natchez Trace Parkway is the motoring equivalent of a massage.  It rolls and winds without traffic of any kind.   In Mississippi, evidence of the violent tornadoes was evident for about 50 miles, a vast forest of overturned and split trees in the wake of the giant storms.  We exited the Trace for the night in Canton Mississippi, made famous by the movie, A Time to Kill. Can you picture the courtroom?

Another must see on the Trace is Elvis' birthplace in Tupelo.  I speak with the authority gained by reading the displays at his birthplace when I report that he never read music.  He was taught by his preacher and a few others after his mama bought him a guitar at Tupelo Hardware.  He wanted a bike or a rifle, but she thought those weren't safe.  Glad Mama protected him.  Thank you very much Gladys.

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