Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Visiting Tennessee

Traveling through North Carolina on our way to Tennessee.

We noticed along our drives in the Southeast that many of the trees were infested with bagworms. Due to a warmer winter and wet spring the bagworms have been very plentiful.  Sadly, many of these trees will eventually die as the infestations will increase.  The only natural thing that stops the bagworms is a very cold winter.   

Going through a tunnel under one of the many mountains in North Carolina.

It's amazing to me that tunnels can be built through the middle of mountains and not collapse under the weight.

Our first stop was in Knoxville. 

Downtown Knoxville has a wonderful park area created from the 1982 World's Fair.

The Veteran's Memorial to the servicemen of Tennessee.

This is called the Sunsphere and it is the only remaining structure left in the park from the 1982 World's Fair.

In the distance is The Tennessean, a new luxury hotel overlooking the park.

The park also has an outdoor stadium for entertainment.

The water from the wading pools in the park flows into a gentle stream.

The Captain took some great aerial shots from the top of the Sunsphere while I waited below with the pups.

The city in the distance.  Knoxville is also the home of the University of Tennessee so we saw many students in the area.  

It started to rain so we made a stop at the Blue Slip Winery for a taste and lunch.  I was checking out some of the antiques while we had our tasting. 

This old motorcycle is called the Whizzer.  A 5 cent gallon of gas could take you 125 miles. Built in 1948,  it had a  "2 1/2 rugged horsepower and a 4 cycle auto-type engine built for dependability."   This snazzy machine retailed for $97.55 plus tax.

The winery was in the old train station building.  The dining room had a brick wall that was closed up when the building was remodeled.  If you look at the wall around the black door you can see the old arch. 

Dealing with one of the rainy days in Knoxville, I volunteered to walk the dogs since I had these fancy rubber boots.  The boots came from Alaska when our daughter, Lynn, and family went on an excursion that involved a lot of water.  Since she couldn't fit them into her suitcase for the trip home we carried them and had them in our rig to return to her.  Really came in handy and I think I look rather stylish! 

One of the joys of RVing is making new friends.  While at the park a couple came in for the night and we met them as we were walking by with our two dogs.  They stopped to talk and we saw they had a beautiful white Golden Retriever looking out at us from the front window of their RV.  All of us being dog lovers, a conversation started that wound up in our rig over a few glasses of wine!

This is Ann and Greg Martin.  Greg is a retired executive and Ann, a retired teacher.  They live in McCormick, SC, which is only about two hours from our home.  Ann is involved in a local rescue that saves unwanted dogs and ships them to no-kill shelters in New Jersey. Needless to say, we had a lot in common and a lot to talk about.  We definitely are planning on getting together again in the near future. 

The next morning we bid farewell to Ann and Greg  and headed out to Norris State Park.  The weather had cleared up and it was becoming a beautiful day.  The park we went to used to be the Clinch River which caused a great deal of flooding in the area.  Norris Dam was the first project built by the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) in 1933 during the Great Depression to control flooding and bring electricity and economic development to the Tennessee Valley.  It became a model for two dozen other TVA dams in subsequent decades.  The park was named for Nebraska Senator George Norris who lobbied intensively for the creation of the TVA in the early 30's.

Norris Lake with the dam in the distance.

The edge of the lake was reddish colored from the leeching of the rock.
The marina had lot of boats including houseboats on the left.

On our hike we could see a houseboat nestled in a small bay near the end of the lake.

We hiked out onto a peninsula that was rocky but the pups sure enjoyed it.

While staying at our RV park we heard about a place called McCloud Mountain Restaurant and Lodge which was supposed to have spectacular views of the Cumberland Valley so we decided to go there for dinner.  The captain made reservations to make sure we could get in.  It was a 45 minute drive from the RV park but we decided it would be fun to see.  The day of the dinner the restaurant even called us to confirm our reservations.  Wow, this is fancier than we thought.

Most of the drive was on the interstate where we got to see the wonderful mountain views.

When we reached the turn off to the restaurant our GPS said we still had over two miles to go.  As we approached the drive going up we were met by a guard checking our name to make sure we had reservations.  We found out that McCloud Mountain is a private resort.  Reservations at the restaurant or lodge are required for admittance to the property.

The guard told us to drive very slowly and carefully.  This is the first sign we saw as we headed up the road to the restaurant.  He wasn't kidding.

The drive up to the restaurant was very twisty and curvy with no guard rails or shoulder on a very narrow road.  We were surprised that people would build luxurious homes up here when the weather in the winter could be very treacherous.  And even if you were retired, you need to get down the mountain for necessities.  We did notice a helipad two-thirds of the way up.  That is to enable visitors to fly rather than drive.  I also wonder if it can be used for medical emergencies?

Arriving at the top of the mountain, the restaurant is on the left with lodges on the right.

The 1,300 acre mountain was purchased by Jim McCloud in 1953 and he began sightseeing tours of the mountain overlooks, natural bridges, waterfalls, and rock formations.  In 1991, a group of investors purchased the land from McCloud's daughter and began developing the property.

The restaurant was rustic, the service average, and the food okay.  I noticed the servers were in blue jeans and most were chewing gum.  Ours was friendly but not overly attentive even though the restaurant was mostly empty.  What brings everyone here is the view.

Views of the Cumberland Valley from the restaurant.

To the left of the restaurant was an older home with a screened in porch cantilevered over the mountain.

A lovely place for a sunrise or sunset.

A door from the restaurant led outside to a series of skywalks where you could take pictures. The large cross is lighted and each night it shines out over the valley.

Two homes overlooking the valley can be seen from the skydeck.

The restaurant is open from late March until Thanksgiving, weather permitting. I wondered how the residents handled the two mile drive up and down the mountain in the winter so I asked our server.  She said they parked their vehicles at the bottom of the mountain and used four-wheelers to go up and down.  Makes sense to me.  It was a beautiful place but I wouldn't want to live there.

The morning we were preparing to leave the RV park our tire pressure monitor inside the rig started to beep.  One of our RV tires had low pressure.  Brett got out the compressor and filled the tire up and saw after a few minutes it was losing air again so he called Coachnet to get a service person out.

Our Lulu lifted up while the tire was removed.

The tire in question had a nail stuck in it.  These are new tires we bought two years ago and they all have a lot of tread left on them and should be good for several more years.  But a nail in the wrong place is bad news.  This nail was on the outer edge so the whole tire had to be replaced.  Bummer!
Our serviceman was very skilled and brought a replacement tire with him.  He had the old tire off and the new tire on in less than an hour.

Lulu all set and ready to move on to another adventure.

Lucy, our princess, in one of her Madonna moments.  Life is good!

That's it from Knoxville, folks.  Had a great time and it is a beautiful city.  On to our next stop in Bristol, TN.  Peace!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Traveling Around the Southeast

Since a good part of the summer is already over we decided to do some short distance traveling in the southeast.  Our first stop was in Murphy, North Carolina, where we took the pups on a trail to check out the scenery and stopped in to visit some good friends.

The pups enjoying the Hiawassee River in Murphy, North Carolina.

We are always amazed at how hard trees cling to life when the river keeps undermining the root system.

Dick and Mary Anne Sander and the Smiths having dinner at a nice restaurant in Murphy, NC.  We spent two days together and had a great time.  And this picture was before the wine!

Our next stop was in Helen, Georgia, and we visited Anna Ruby Falls.  The water tumbles down from Tray Mountain to form two beautiful waterfalls, one 153 feet and the other 50.  Legend has it a local Confederate soldier, Colonel John H. Nichols, found the waterfalls while horseback riding in the area and decided to name both of them after his only daughter, Anna Ruby.   The waterfalls are in a cove forest dominated by tulip poplar, rhododendron, and mountain laurel in a steep, narrow gorge.

Heading along the trail we noticed this marker.  And not surprisingly, several young children were playing on the rocks while mom and dad watched.  The Captain pointed the sign out to the father and he immediately got his children back onto the trail.

Guess what we saw further up the trail, right on the edge of the path, all curled up and watching the tourists.

Now I'm not sure this is a Copperhead but it looked scary enough for me.  We actually didn't see it while walking, another tourist ahead of us spotted it and  pointed it out to us.  Great place for a photo-op but at a respectable distance.

The town of Helen, Georgia, is a quaint place with a Bavarian theme.  It definitely plays to the tourist.

The Chattahoochee River runs right through the heart of town and you can rent tubes and float several miles down the river, so we did.

The Captain ready to float his boat.

And I was ready, too.
We had a blast.  Some parts of the river were slow and you had to use your hands to paddle but other sections had a brisk current that took you where it wanted you to go.  

The current could be tricky and the Captain yelled at me to avoid the bridge pillar but I slammed right into it.  I mean I really tried to avoid it but the current was very strong.  When I realized I was going to hit it I put both feet out and just bounced off the pillar.  What a maneuver......too bad the Captain missed that shot.

Speaking of shots, the Captain was carrying my handy-dandy camera to take pictures of the trip down the river.  He put it into a thick baggie to keep it dry but that didn't work out too well.  When he took it out at the end of the trip, water came out of the bag so he turned on the camera to see if it would still work.  Unfortunately, he then dropped the camera and that was the end of that.  Good news is that I now have a nice new camera and it is much higher tech than the old one!!!

Our next stop was in Travelers Rest in South Carolina to meet up with Donald and Tina Sudlow at a neat little restaurant called the Whistle Stop Cafe.  Brett and Donald worked together at Sonoco many years ago.
At one time it was the old train station.

Donald and Tina provided us with a wonderful meal at their home the next night and then on Monday we went to their home again for an eclipse party.

I'm sorry, but I think we all look a little silly.....

Thomas Sudlow was really into it giving a play-by-play which helped us to know when to look through the glasses instead of staring at the sky the whole time.   The neck muscles started to feel it very quickly.

Is it here yet?

Our gracious hosts, Tina and Donald Sudlow.  They provided another delicious meal and great entertainment.  How many people do you know who will arrange a solar eclipse for an afternoon party!!!  

Another Sonoco alumni in attendance for the eclipse was Ben Harris and his wife. 

The eclipse party was a lot of fun and we all got to see it using the proper glasses.  An event that doesn't happen very often and even more fun when friends and family come together.

Moving on again, we forget sometimes the rolling hills and mountains in South Carolina but they are here to explore and enjoy.  Beautiful Table Rock in the distance.

Our next stop was in Seneca, South Carolina, overlooking Lake Keowee.  What a beautiful RV park.

The views of the water were peaceful and the weather was grand.

Everywhere we looked we saw water and people out on it having a happy time especially on the weekend.

The second night we were staying at the park our air conditioning went out around 9:00 that evening.  The Captain got out the trusty flashlight and we checked the bay where the power "stuff" resides.  A relay switch had burned out affecting the A/C.  While the evenings were cool here the days were not so we needed to get it fixed or head back home.  The next day we found an RV service center about 45 minutes away but they had a three week backlog on work.  We explained our situation, they checked to see if they had the right part, and then told us to get to their place as soon as we could and they would fit us in.  We closed up the rig and raced it over to their shop and they had it fixed in about an hour.  We thanked them profusely for saving the reminder of our summer vacation.

Not looking good. The repair shop told us it could have been caused by a power surge.  We remembered when we were in the prior RV park our power had gone out and the owner said sometimes the electric company regulates the power inflow and it can cause problems.  We have a surge protector to protect everything in our rig but not a surge protector from the power pole to the relay switches.  The Captain is now looking into getting something that will protect the relay switch box. Ah, the  joys of owning an RV!!!

With the rig back in form we had the opportunity to check out the area and came across the Stumphouse Tunnel.  This is an unfinished tunnel cut into the SE face of Stumphouse Mountain.  It is the largest of three tunnels that were begun before the Civil War by the Blue Ridge Railroad to create a line from Anderson, SC, to Knoxville, TN.  They started work in 1853 with 1,500 Irish miners.  The miners cut through blue granite with hand drills, hammers and chisels, and black powder.  Four shafts meant miners could cut through ten rocks at one time. The longest section of this tunnel is 1,600 feet long, 25 feet high, and 17 feet wide.  Work ended in 1859 when the SC legislature refused to fund more construction.  

To our surprise, we realized we had been here several years before.  This was only after we recognized several of the attractions.  It's tough getting old.

Beautiful wooded area area around the tunnel.  

An old railroad flatbed outside of the tunnel.

Heading inside.

The walls are blue granite. Clemson University acquired the tunnel in 1951 and used it to cure blue cheese for several years.

Very cool and wet inside.

Although you can walk into part of the tunnel, and you need a flashlight to do so, the majority of it has been closed off because it is unsafe.

From inside you can see the opening in the distance.

Water is continually dripping down the sides and from the ceiling and it is very cool and comfortable inside the tunnel.

A view of the mountains and land near the Stumphouse Tunnel that has been preserved.

We saw this neat looking mushroom that had the appearance of a small crab.  Or is it a toad stool. to leave it alone.
In 2007, a developer wanted to purchase almost 1,000 acres on the mountain for a gated community. The city of Walhalla along with contributions from citizens across South Carolina raised $4.3 million in three months to purchase half of the property and protect the half owned by the city through a conservation easement.  The area is now maintained by the city of Walhalla.  Hooray for all those good people!

Driving back through Walhalla we saw this monument to the Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Guess not all Confederate monuments are being taken down.

While in the area we also drove over to Clemson University to check out the campus and the town.  Our younger daughter, Lynn, graduated from Clemson so we had been here a few times over the years.  But it is always fun to go back and see the sights and all the new young students.

What a beautiful area and campus.

Since it was the beginning of the school year the fraternities were setting up tents to recruit new members.

Not far from our RV park there was a local pub that had some really different beers.  We found a beer  called American Brett Beer so the Captain had to buy a bottle.  The description called this barrel aged mixed fermentation beer with guava and passion fruit added, and bottle conditioned with Brettandmyces, which makes it explode with a tantalizing fruit aroma and flavor.  Now what does that mean?  I looked it up and brettandmyces is a type of yeast used in fermentation but it is considered a yeast maverick.  There are many different strains of Brett with an emphasis on funkiness, fruit, spice, and a bit of tartness. It is becoming increasingly popular with craft brewers.

First off, I think the Captain mainly bought it for the label.  Several days later after nicely chilling the bottle we decided to try it .  Ugh!  It was awful and didn't even taste like beer.  Extremely bitter and we still haven't figured out the taste.  I think this maverick yeast should be called Brettandmices you-know-what.  

I, on the other hand, could not resist this beer because it was a dark porter and had such a catchy name!  It was, "A classic full-bodied, robust porter with a smooth, dry finish and just enough hops to balance aromas and flavors of roasted malt, chocolate, and peanut butter so rich that just one sip and you will ....exclaim the name!"  Excellent beer! While the foam smelled a little like peanut butter the taste was definitely a robust chocolate porter.
 And now back to the sights.... We drove to Oconee Station Historic Site in the Andrew Pickens District of the Sumter National Forest.

This is the Stone Block House.  Responding to a series of small raids by the Creek Indians, the State of South Carolina ordered the construction of small stations (forts) along the western frontier. Oconee Station consisted of a stone block house and several other buildings built in 1792. Approximately 30 militiamen stayed in the station until 1799 when it was determined the garrison was no longer needed.  

William Richards, an Irish immigrant, built the Trader's Brick House in 1805 on the same property. He traded wagonloads of skins and furs for all of his needs. He was able to afford this two story house when most people lived in small log cabins.  When he died his estate included 30,000 pound of deer skins, 329 bears skins, and thousands of acres of land.

Strange looking bark on this tree.

While in the park we took the pups for a hike along the Station Cove Falls.  The trail was beautiful and so were the falls.

Look at the size of the burl on this tree.  A wood workers dream.

Along the trail we were able to walk out onto sections of the rock that were beneath the falls.

The best park we went to was a little known or used one called Chau Ram County Park.  It is only 75 acres but was one of the neatest parks we have ever been in.  It sits on the Chauga River.

Crossing the suspension bridge on the trail.

An old Boy Scout camp.

The remains of a snake skin near the fireplace.  Helps remind one to stay on the trail.

Back at ya, sweetie!

And that's it for the first portion of our trip.  It was fun exploring the Carolinas and Georgia and meeting up with good friends.  Next stop Tennessee but before we leave a lovely sunrise on Keowee Lake near Clemson.  Peace!