Saturday, August 22, 2009

Knoxville, Oak Ridge and Dollywood

Guess where this was taken? The Tennessee Tornado at Dollywood. Do you see the camera in Max's hand? Well, this picture got us in trouble. It seems they don't allow cameras on the ride, nor do they allow pictures. Patti purchased this photo taken by the park and later on another roller coaster we handed the picture and some other things to the attendents for them to hold until the ride was over. The attendent saw the camera in Max's hand, noticed the camera had not been handed to her and proceeded to insist Max give up the camera. They were not going to start the ride until he handed the camera over. After the ride, before giving the camera back, the attendent made Max show her the pictures and made Max delete those taken while on the ride itself. Oh darn, because Max actually did a video of the ride.....
Here is one picture of the Tennessee Tornado, taken before the ride started, so we were allowed to keep it. We rode almost all the roller coasters, including the water rides. What fun.

Walking along we saw this huge sandwich. It is a bologna sandwich. The guy who ordered it was trying to figure out how he was going to eat it. It had to have been 4 inches high at least.

This was our favorite ride though. Sorry I don't have any pictures of the 4 of us sledding down. This is a water toboggan and they actually weigh you. It requires a minimum of 480 pounds to keep it stable and the optimum weight is between 650 and 700. We came in at 695. Boy did we sail down the tubes. This is the only ride we did twice.

Although I have no pictures, we did go to several shows including the main show about the Smokey Mountains with 8 songs written by Dolly herself. We all decided it was much better than the outdoor drama we saw at Cherokee. We also saw a glass blower making a candy dish and various other craft shops and listened to some bluegrass music as well.

We also went downtown one evening to listen to free music at the Art Museum. It was billed as Bluesy Americana. It was sort of a country blues. The acoustics was lousy and they were very loud. I enjoyed it, but several of the others came, listened for only a few minutes and left.

And of course we spent one day at Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is where they developed the Atomic Bomb. Although final assembly and testing was in NM, most of the research and development was right here. But although they had one of the best museums on the history and timeline of WWII, my favorite exhibit was this poster on the human body. I wanted to purchase a poster but they were out. Did you know that when you sneeze you expel air at up to 100 mph and all other bodily functions stop momentarily, even your heart? It was things like this I thought was great.

But what was most fascinating was how Oak Ridge was kept such a secret. A town where 90,000 people lived at one point. The entire town was created in months. And because of the dire need to develop the bomb quickly, they didn't have time to test it and refine it and such like what goes on today. They created in less than 2 years what would probably take 2 decades with all our OSHA laws and such now. I would highly recommend taking the tour if you are ever in the area.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cherokee and the Smokey Mountains

They claim the Smokey Mountain National Park is the most visited of all the national parks. I don't know about that, but Smokey Mountains are some of they prettiest mountains I've seen.

Their name came from the Cherokees, from the blue smokey color which usually hangs over the mountains.

As we started to hike up to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the park, we knew we would have no view because of the fog and clouds, but we hiked it anyway.

Even after the 1/2 mile hike to the top you still have to climb the viewing tower.

Luckily it didn't start raining until after we got down from the dome. But as you see, it was raining just a little as I stood with one foot in each state. Also, just a note, the Appalachian Trail runs right through this parking lot and through the Smokey Mountains. Once again I was hoping to hike more of the trail, but it continued to rain and the hike was postponed once again.

Just one of the waterfalls throughout the park.

Cade's Cove is known for its wildlife. A valley within the Smokey Mountains, it was originally settled in the early 1800s. Now as a protected area, the wildlife know they are safe. Can you see the mother bear and her 2 cubs up in the tree?

This fellow came to check the other bears out, but the momma bear told him to 'go away'. The bears were right along side of the one way road through Cade's Cove. Traffic was backed up several blocks as the rangers halted traffic and people got out to photograph the bears. But the rangers didn't want anyone to get hurt so we couldn't get too close.

The Cade's Cove mill. It is still operating and the corn and wheat ground here is sold in the park. Because we stopped to look at the bears we got to the mill too late to see it in operation.

I think this is a strange design for a barn.

This is the mother-in-law plan back in pioneer days. This is the mother-in-law plan back in pioneer days. This is the mother-in-law plan back in pioneer days.

This is the only drivable road left of the original 5 ways to get in and out of the valley. The other 4 routes are now hiking trails only.

Another scenic, twisty road. I think they come up with the cutest names.

I don't think I would want to take my motorhome down this road.
Also while in the area we visited the Cherokee Reservation and learned more about the Trail of Tears.

Cherokee also has bears, painted and decorated.

The outdoor play we attended.

Waiting for the play to start.

Representing the 7 clans.

A war dance.

The eagle dance.

The cast takes a final bow.

Asheville, NC

I went to Asheville, NC, mainly to see the Biltmore Mansion. But while I was there, the Sourwood Festival was going on in Black Mountain, a small community outside of Asheville. Like most street fairs there was food and food and crafts, but there was also entertainment.

Looking down just one of several streets full of vendors.

Using a tractor to turn the crank on some old fashioned, homemade ice cream.

The entertainment I enjoyed most was watching the cloggers. This group is a 5 time National champion.

Before heading out to the festival we stopped at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today was woodcarving demonstrations.

But I did visit the Biltmore Mansion. Here is the entrance. It is still about 5 miles before arriving at the house. The intent was for a carriage to take 45 minutes to arrive, allowing the occupants to enjoy the woodlands.

My first glimpse.

View from the front.
The Vanderbuilt's built the house in the late 1800s. The house is 175,000 square feet, has 255 rooms with 43 bathrooms. Remember, in 1890, indoor plumbing was not the norm. It was built as the primary home for George Vanderbilt, his wife Edith and their daughter, Cornelia. They loved to entertain and have family and friends visit. George's desire was to have a self-sustaining farm on the 125,000 acres, but that never happened. George died in 1914, leaving the estate to his wife. To keep the property, Edith sold 85,000 to the U.S. government, which that land is now Pisgah National Forest. Today remains 8000 acres, which is still owned by the heirs of Cornelia. A completely private venture, Edith first opened the house to the public in the 1930s and the family has not lived in the mansion since the 1950s.

Our group picture on the front steps of the mansion.

Under the arbor in the gardens.

Just one small slice of the many gardens surrounding the house.

A couple of miles from the mansion is what was once the working dairy farm. Now it has a garden and demonstrations. We sampled the raspberries and strawberries as we walked through.

One of the fancy chickens in the barnyard. I think she is having a bad hair day!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Spruce Pine, NC

From Hillsville I traveled down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Spruce Pine, NC, leaving VA behind. Stopping on the way I visited Moses H. Cone Historic Site. Moses and his brother were German Jewish immigrants. They became famous for their textile ventures and became the largest producer of denim in the world in their time. For entertaining their family and friends they built this beautiful home on several thousand acres. The idea was to keep it as a natural getaway. Moses planted over 100,000 apple trees, while his wife planted rhododendrons. They developed 22 miles of carriage roads on their property. Those old carriage roads are now hiking trails and the home is a visitor center.

Looking off the front porch of the Moses H. Cone home.

Looking at the front of the home. The upstairs is closed except for tours on the weekends. We were there on a weekday.

While in the area we visited Linville Falls. These are the upper falls. Only about 2 hours or less from Asheville this is a popular place for day trips and picnics.

I guess I'm just like a kid and can't seem to keep clean, but the rest of the story about this is later.

Looking down on the lower falls.

Not far from the falls is the Linn Cove Viaduct and visitor center. From the visitor center you can hike underneath one end of the viaduct. Here is Max picking blackberries along the way.

Standing underneath the viaduct. Above is the 2 lane viaduct, the last part of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be built.

Looking across at the viaduct.

Now for the rest of the story....I eventually did get up to the limb where Max was sitting, but not before sliding down the hill first.

If you have never been on the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is a 454 mile National Highway running along the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is full of beautiful hills, valleys and curves.

The town of Spruce Pine is aptly named. All around the area are Christmas Tree farms. I have never seen more hills and fields full of Blue Spruce trees.

This was my view for miles along some of the highways. Miles and miles of Christmas trees.

The gap near Spruce Pine was originally used by the animals, such as deer and buffalo, as they migrated to different feeding grounds. Following the buffalo trails came the Indians. Next the pioneers followed the trail through the gap as they came west. But the most famous use of the gap, known as Gillespie's Gap, was on September 29, 1780, as hundreds of Patriot militiamen came through the gap on their way to King's Mountain, which is said to have been a decisive battle in the Revolutionary War.

Still a producing orchard, we stopped, but their crop of summer apples was destroyed. It does look like their crop of fall apples should be good though.

I grew up with the song "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Hang Down Your Head and Cry.....", never knowing it was based on a real man and real story.

Knowing I would be close to the Appalachian Trail, I set a goal to hike at least a small distance on it before leaving the mountains. My first chance was rained out. But here I was again. It was raining on and off that day, but I did get a short hike on the trail. Someday I still want to go back and hike a larger portion.

Since we didn't even find the trail until the afternoon, we only hiked about 1 mi in and back out.

We drove to the top of Roan Mountain after the hike and found this sign next to the closed visitor center.

I would love to be back here in June when the Rhododendrons bloom.

Those are all Rhododendron trees, some over six feet high.

At the end of the trail was this viewing platform. All you can see behind us is sky.

The Hotel of the Clouds. Around the early 1900s this was "the place" for the rich and famous to come play. Built on top of Roan Mountain it was an all day carriage ride the 12 miles from the train depot.

Now, this is all that is left.