Saturday, November 28, 2009

South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee 2009 Day Seven

Friday was awash in sunshine. A bit cold perhaps, but not the threatening weather we had thought. Driving north through Spartanburg and approaching the Mountains was a treat for us an the guys, who had never seen real mountains before. Ford kept asking where the mountains were for the first couple of hours.

Because of the rock fall on top of Interstate 40 at the Tennessee / North Carolina border, we had planned an alternate route north of the Interstate through the French Broad River valley. Meredith of course loved the term and thought of every opportunity for me to keep seeking out my French Broad.

We stopped for an hour or so in Asheville, NC. This is the Austin of Appalachians. Lots of trendy restaurants, bars, hipster places - so hipster that by accident, we wandered into a head shop called "Wonderland". One would think that a statue of the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland would have been a big we enjoyed looking at the tie-dyed t-shirts.

We walked along Church Ave and came about back to the main city center right along a 1967 London double-decker bus. The bus had been put into a parcel of land (permitted as a mobile food vendor) for a coffee shop. You buy your coffee on the first level and can sit outside or on the second deck. They had to use a crane to place the bus in its current location. Meredith enjoyed their coffee.

I thoroughly enjoyed the landscape architecture of the public park surrounding the civic structures of the City and County buildings. We will be coming back to Asheville. Next time - to see the Biltmore Estate.

Taking the Dixie Hwy northeast to Tennessee turned out to be our best decision yet this trip. There was lots of mountains and valleys to look at, nice roads that wound through the trees. Small towns including Hot Springs, NC on the Appalachian Trail (we're coming back there also) and opportunities to ride white water rafting along the French Broad River.

Reaching Tennessee, we headed to the southeast towards Gatlinburg, TN. There were lots of RV camping and cabin rentals along the way. Reaching Gatlinburg, we found a public parking space and began walking through the main drag of the City. Gatlinburg can only be described as a cross between a Carnival Midway and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. T-shirt shops, candy stores, mini-golf, barkers, street performers, people smoking and lo, the literally tens of pancake houses as far as the eye can see. Meredith especially wanted to come to Gatlinburg as it was were her parents had honeymooned almost 50 years previously. They had ridden on a ski lift up the mountain where they had their picture taken. So we rode up the mountain. It wasn't until I was sitting down on the chair with Alexander when I noticed that this was a real ski lift with only a metal bar and a rather slick-worn seat between you and the 15 to 30 foot drop to the road/mountain below. I ended up with a death grip on Alex and couldn't turn around to check on Meredith and Mr. Bouncy Ford. I had visions of having to fish him off of the side of the mountain.

Luckily, we moved slowly and obviously we all survived.

Later, we took in a streetside magic/comedy show. Alexander wanted to purchase the floating dollar trick and the "peeing raccoon" trick.

We ended up driving through Pigeon Forge and seeing yet more Pancake Houses and "As Seen on TV" stores. We stayed that night in Knoxville, ate at a nice local restaurant and looked forward to the next day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

South Carolina 2009 Days Four, Five and Six

Ford has caught a slight cold. It's frustrating because he's normally very healthy. The other night he was coughing once every 15 seconds which made it difficult for him to go to sleep and me to stay asleep. It's also annoying that there is literally nothing we can purchase to help him with the cough. Everything over the counter now reads "not for children under 4 years of age". We did get him some nasal medicine and some vapor rub for his chest. Luckily we hit it rather hard and fast and it didn't bother him too much.

We ended up going to the Edventure museum in Colombia and climbed around Ed the three story kid. You can climb into his head, chest cavity and eventually slide out his bowels. All in the name of science!

Other areas of the museum the guys really enjoyed, including climbing on a fire truck, playing indoor hockey and looking at different forms of communication. I think the museum needs a little money to update and rework some of their exhibits which have had a little too much play.

That afternoon we went to Saluda and went to a farm and food festival. Local businesses, organizations and restaurants had booths. Our favorite of course, was Shealy's BBQ. We told them that we had driven 1000 miles just for their BBQ. They gave us six bottles of their sauce as samples.

Wednesday we spent mostly around the house. I prepped my brine for the Turkey. The guys and I walked about a mile and a half to the boat launch in the neighborhood. That afternoon, Meredith, Ford and I went shopping in Lexington. Alexander stayed home with his grandparents. Almost on our way home, we received a phone call from her father which began with the words: "There's been an accident." Your heart is racing because you're thinking about ambulances, surgery and other disasters. The accident was Grandmama opening the refrigerator and spilling out an entire bowl of cranberry sauce onto the kitchen floor. It basically exploded from there with sauce appearing under the cabinets, in the fridge, under the fridge... Our job was to buy more cranberries on the way home. Our thoughts were even more relaxed when we knew that our son wasn't involved in creating the accident at all.

Thursday being Thanksgiving, I awoke early enough to roast the turkey with enough time for other things to be cooked in the oven. The turkey was a rousing success. Grandmama's sister's family The Mewbournes came over and we enjoyed taking photos, Alex showing them the video games and playing with Helena who is almost one year old. That evening, I began to stress about the weather in North Carolina and Tennessee for our next leg of our trip and tempered that stress with watching a rather good Texas A&M/Texas football game. A&M at least showed up.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

South Carolina 2009 Day Two and Three

Yesterday we had a slow day recovering from the drive. We went out on the Rentzes' boat and saw the bald eagle on his roost around the corner on the river. We also saw lots of the new houses (and ones for sale) along the shoreline. It was a bit chilly, but lots of fun. Ford fell asleep on the boat ride. Yesterday evening we went to Shealy's BBQ in Batesburg-Leesville. For the past several years, Shealy's has been the prime restaurant destination for our trips to South Carolina. The BBQ comes in three forms: Mustard based (which is the traditional midlands of South Carolina version) Vinegar which hales from the north and east portions of the State; and then there is hash which is a shredded pork with a little more of a thick gumbo consistency and is served on rice. I go for the mustard based - which ranks right up there with Texas BBQ Brisket as my favorite two.

We went to Church this morning and had a nice discussion in the couple's bible study class about teachers and their responsibilities and roles in Christianity. Ford and Alexander had a nice time talking about being thankful in their Sunday school classes.

We're going to do a little shopping tomorrow and then on Tuesday we're off to Columbia to check out the Children's Museum. We are still looking at going through Tennessee next weekend for our drive back.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

South Carolina 2009 Day One

We left Keller at 5:03am on Friday morning. Exactly eighteen hours (12:00am EST) we arrived in South Carolina. We stopped several times for coffee, potty breaks and running around time. The weather started out sort of rough leaving Texas right up to Tyler we were in a downpour with thunderstorms in the area. Once we got to Mississippi and stopped at the traveler's station on the eastern bank of the river, the sun was shining.

We sort of "teched up" for the trip. We had Alexander's new DSi, Ford had his Leapster 2, and we had our portable DVD player for the trip. All of these helped out in the long trip during the day. Meredith had also packed snacks for us which made the travelling much easier.

The hardest part of the trip was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There was a five mile back up of traffic on the east side of town. A large dump truck had lost a wheel, swerved across three lanes of traffic and slammed front end first into the center concrete divider. It also lost much of its load. Many people were very impatient and were driving on the rumble strips and down the median attempting to avoid the long traffic lines.

Once we were through that, Birmingham and Atlanta traffic wasn't too bad. Only about 10:00pm CST did Ford really start getting annoyed with the trip. A brownie from Quiktrip helped out that situation quite well.

We arrived right at the stroke of midnight and fell into bed as soon as we all brushed teeth. I probably wouldn't attempt to make the trip in one day again as it was a bit exhausting, but we now have had all of Saturday to rest and enjoy Papa and Grandmama's company. This afternoon we're looking forward to a boat ride and Shealey's BBQ in Batesburg-Leesville.