Random Southern stuff of interest to us
No matter how good it sounds deep fried food, even fish is too heavy for us. Might be an age thing.
Don’t walk on the dunes! Walking on dunes is now forbidden due to erosion.
Plantation marble is faux at least that was the case on our tours. Tours have been updated to include the living conditions of slaves and other minorities. Some southerners owned several plantations. A plantation family might live in town and own one or more plantations outside in the countryside.
In the Northwest and Canada we generally vacate any area with bears as quickly as possible but in the Smokies apparently you just keep your distance.
I thought I had seen a swamp before but compared to the Okefenokee…
We had no idea what southern Native American mounds were about. After visiting 3 or 4 sites we found out experts still have only theories what the mounds are about but the largest & most impressive was Emerald Mound on the Natchez Trace in Mississippi.
Older houses seem to be able to withstand hurricane force winds. Windows and doors can be a problem.
Our Deep south trip
10-4-16 Arrived in Nashville this afternoon. I thought we were going to divorce before we got to our motel. The Nashville map provided by the car rental company was useless. I was foggy on programming Google map directions on my phone. I finally figured it out and our marriage was saved.
We had a long walk in Centennial Park and enjoyed the history and the surprising heat.
10-5-16 Up and off to the Hermitage. We really enjoyed the audio tour and learned a lot about Andrew Jackson, most of it good of course.
We learned more than we needed to about Jackson’s wife Rachael. One thing we learned at the Hermitage was that they were always prepared to be hospitable to strangers. Guests slept in a couple of bedrooms and on the hall floor. There was a whole closet full of linens to make guests sleeping bags for their hall slumber. We took a long walk on the nature trail and toured the Spring House and the double cabins for slave families. We got our first glimpse of 19th century plantation life from slave to overseer to Jackson himself.
We drove downtown and saw the sites but there wasn’t much that really interested us. It was HOT outside. We learned that Music Row entertainment goes on 24 X 7 except for an hour or two, around 4am, when they clean the streets. Better was walk on McCabe park near Sylvan Park where we met a community college instructor out for a walk. She filled us in on many things Nashville and Southern. Very helpful!
10-6-16 /10-7-16 We drove to Gatlinburg. It’s quite the tourist Mecca. Although it’s Thursday the town was full of tourists. We stayed at Carr’s Cabins somewhat off the main drag with a nice woodsy view from our room. After some beautiful short hikes near the park visitor’s center we ate dinner up the road at the Alamo Steak House to avoid driving through Gatlinburg traffic again. There is no Internet at Carr’s and only coffee for breakfast. We are really roughing it! We managed to survive with 4G and granola bars for breakfast. No need to wait in the long lines at any of the 3 or 4 pancake houses in town. We got an early start for hiking to Andrew’s Bald in the Clingmans Dome area and up to the Appalachian Trail.
Nice views but super crowded!
Before leaving we visited a mountain farm constructed from original buildings of various farms purchased when taking over the land for the park. We learned a lot about mountain farming. I will never forget how bad the pigs smelled. We also toured a working grain mill in the rain so the pictures aren’t so great.
One observation regarding the national park’s nature trails. Many nature guides seemed to be written with Buddhist religious inspiration. Something like: “These sun loving trees will die away as the next generation of species grows to shade them. The only constant in nature’s cycles is change …. [“Take care Grasshopper.”]
Thankfully I seem to have mastered the phone GPS so we arrived in Asheville only once taking the wrong exit and it wasn’t my fault. 😉 Exhausted we ate garlic chicken wings and hot soup at Mack & Kells bar across the street from our motel. Questionable reviews online but nothing could have tasted better.
10-8-16 Asheville We immediately got in the hillbilly spirit at our motel: the Mountaineer. I don’t know if it’s the distinct accent of the very friendly family/staff or the fact that they seem to live much of their life in the heavily knick-knacked reception area that doubles as a breakfast room. Whatever it is, it was reinforced by the discussion overheard during breakfast regarding whether to pay John’s bail. “If we don’t bail him out how can he pay us back?” The Mountaineer is quite a find if you like local color.
By rising early on a rainy day we won a private tour of Thomas Wolfe’s house. Our friendly, knowledgeable guide as a graduate student in American Literature. I thought he liked us because we’d read Look Homeward Angel and Of Time and the River but Dennis thinks I hallucinate.
Rain or not Asheville was hosting a HUGE Octoberfest with 25 breweries and what may have been the much of the Carolina’s coastal college population due to Hurricane Mathew evacuation. Asheville was packed.
Biltmore is probably the most popular place we’ve toured since we took Leigh to Euro Disney in the 90’s. Tickets and tours added up to over $100 a piece but we felt it was worth it to experience life as lived by the Gilded Age super-rich for a day. Although the Vanderbilts had fantastic art and gardens I wouldn’t trade my life for one in the 19th Century even if I were a Vanderbilt.
10-10-16, Monday The highway from Asheville to Charleston had just re-opened after being cleared of storm (Matthew) debris. Huge traffic as we got closer to Charleston but when we arrived there were very few tourists. Restaurants seemed happy to see us but Ft. Sumter, on our to-do list, was closed. We saw very little storm damage although lots of tree debris.
The old houses were built to survive hurricanes or they wouldn’t still be here. As we checked out on Tuesday I overheard the receptionist at the motel arguing: “I don’t know what pictures they’re showing on the Weather Channel, we’re open….”
10-11 / 10/13 We arrived in Savannah to find glass from an exploded window on the sidewalk and a palm tree downed across the street in front of the house in which we had rented an apartment. There were some huge live oaks down in Forsyth Park and we had difficulty locating a restaurant for dinner when our first choice (Chrystal Beer Parlor) was closed. We spent two days doing 5 walking tours of Savannah. We had no trouble enjoying the city even though many of the historic houses and most of the museums were closed. One highlight was a young colonial soldier who demonstrated his firearm in the blazing heat and convinced about 7 adults touring the Savannah History Museum into role playing the Colonial rebellion in Savannah.
We had to double up on characters. I played a farmer and an anti-British Savannah citizen. Dennis was a loyalist lawyer. We were required to pay taxes to support the British military that defended us from the Spanish and the Indians. Farmer Jan made more money than loyalist lawyer Dennis but rebellious Jan got thrown in debtors prison for refusing to pay taxes to the British. After taxes Dennis didn’t have any money to bail me out. A sorry situation. I was quite impressed that our soldier’s sincere enthusiasm for history which hooked all us reluctant adults into his historic skit.
Friday 10-14-16 On to Jekyll Island where we checked into the Rhett Suite in the Beachside Club Hotel.
(The Butler Suite is the floor below us.) We biked around the entire island on rusty one speed bikes. I kept forgetting to peddle backwards to stop, not that my brakes worked anyway. It was quite a beautiful trip with a lot of different micro-climates (beach, swamps, dunes, lagoons) and historic sites. The recommended west facing seafood restaurant/bar was closed so we ate at a Mexican bar facing the moon rise over the ocean which was pretty nice. The grilled shrimp fajitas met my seafood expectations.
The Rhett had a jacuzzi, something we had never experienced. We had no idea how to use it. I turned on the water and the jets simultaneously which created a splash pad in our room until I figured out that you need to fill the jacuzzi before you turn on the jets. Another new learning experience.
Saturday 10-15-16 Folkston
We started out this morning with a walk at the Dune Park beach on Jekyll Island. After some confusion (my bad) on where we were going to enter the Okefenokee Swamp we went to the wrong park. At Laura S. Walker State Park we stopped for a picnic lunch. Here echoes of kids in a trampoline bounce house filled the picnic ground and the sound of a football game broadcast filled the campground. This was not exactly our idea of park recreation although we took a short nature trail that led us in the woods away from all those trappings of civilization.
We made our way to the Folkston the closest entrance to the Okefenokee Swamp Natl. Wildlife Preserve. Unfortunately, there were intermittent very heavy rain showers. We managed a great hike on the boardwalk above the swamp BUT FAILED to see any significant wildlife.
No alligators, herons, egrets, frogs, snakes or turtles. We were assured that they all roamed the park along with black bears.
We ate dinner at a genuine southern food buffet as in all you can eat for $10.00 including coffee or tea. My southern fried chicken really is better but I don’t do fried okra or pork rinds. Southern & different than our usual pub fare.
Sunday 10-16-16 We almost missed a follow-up trip to the Okefenokee. We discussed options for the day, packed up, and then Dennis said so we are off to points west and I said no I thought we were going to rent a canoe and go up the canal in the swamp. It’s amazing how two people who have been married almost 38 years can mis-communicate.
Of course we rented the canoe. It was fantastic we made up for seeing no wildlife yesterday. We saw over a dozen alligators. Most of them twice, they don’t seem to move a lot all though one launched across the water in front of us as we were paddling up stream and we both started paddling backwards.
We saw no need for confrontation. We also saw the great and snowy egrets that eluded us yesterday, huge herrons that were completely camouflaged in Spanish Moss, Pileated Woodpeckers, Kingfishers, and a bunch of cool flora and fauna we couldn’t identify. It was quite an experience and just the right amount of scary to feel adventurous.
We spent the night in an Econolodge in Tallahassee and ate dinner in a dark uninteresting sports bar. We didn’t even consider touring the city after our Okefenokee swamp reverie, it seemed impossible for Tallahassee to match.
Monday 10-17-16 We drove directly to Pensacola Beach. Dennis requested we find a room with a balcony overlooking the ocean “if we have to spend time at a beach.” We got a GREAT room on the 7th floor of the Holiday Inn Express. Walking in the sand to the next hotel (Margaritaville) was enough exercise for today.
Tuesday 10-18-16 Off to a good start I jogged up and down the beach a little, hopped into the ocean, swam a few strokes, got scared of ocean currents and ocean flora & fauna so I hopped out and jogged barefoot down the beach to Margaritaville. I just doubled the exercise I did yesterday!
We went to Ft. Pickens attached ourselves to the free tour which ended in the middle of the fort for some reason. The guide left saying –“ I know this is what you all came to see.” At 11:30 four planes roared across the sky in formation, the Blue Angels. Practice is quite a show; an unexpected bonus! They practiced various configurations for about an hour and although it was 90 degrees, full sun and some humidity we stood and watched the show. After lunch at the beach we did a few more short hikes in the park. Our last trek we emerged wondering where our car was. We had to walk almost a mile over dunes and beach to find the correct parking lot.
Wednesday,10-19-16 We are sad to leave our wonderful digs at the Holiday Inn. Exiting we stopped by the Historic Downtown Pensacola but did not find it impressive after Savannah & Charleston. Downtown Pensacola seems to be a work in progress.
We spent most of the afternoon at the Bellingrath Gardens outside Mobile which is definitely worth a stop. Its history and development were unique and the variety of gardens along with abundance of flowers in Oct. was a treat.
My highlight was watching pelicans awkwardly dive bomb the river. Inserting my video clip is a work in progress.
Drove to Hattiesburg and got very lost trying to find a non-existent restaurant for dinner. We ended up ordering pizza and taking it back to the motel to watch the debates. A good decision except Trump’s intensity gave me indigestion.
Thursday 10-20-16 to 10-21 We hiked the Longleaf Trace for a little over a mile in Hattiesburg. It wasn’t that impressive but I think that I chose to hike the wrong direction. Next time I would rent a bike. It was again super-hot. At 10am it was in the mid-80’s with 80% humidity.
The adventures for today were a hike and picnic in the Homochitto National Recreation Area and finding a grocery store to buy food for the picnic rural Mississippi. We toured one poor rural town that was a true food desert but a sort of interesting place.
We arrived in a downpour in Natchez. We stayed at the Magnolia Bluffs Casino & Hotel but there is no casino. You have to take a bus to the river to gamble.
It’s a nice well located place with the largest and busiest breakfast buffet I’ve seen in this country. (The largest breakfast spread I remember was an English breakfast in Edinburgh.) We did a walking tour of downtown and historic Natchez, drove out to see Melrose mansion, the ancient mounds at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians and with effort found a laundry mat. Quite a full day.
10-22 to 10-25 Natchez Trace Parkway
Up early weighed down by our substantial breakfast we headed up the Natchez Trace. Highlights were the Emerald Mound and Mt. Locust traveler’s inn one of the original way stops along the Trace. Large grassy mounds don’t photograph well but Dennis tried.
Over the next three days we did a number of short nature hikes, drove and hiked sections of the old sunken Trace and saw a fantastic waterfall at Fall Hallow. Still haven’t figured out how to add the falls video.
We stayed one night Vicksburg. A good thing because it took us four hours to see the battlefield rather than the 2 hours the park ranger suggested we allow for the driving audio tour. Apparently the suggested tour time didn’t take into account that Dennis was raised in a navy town. When we saw the iron clad ship Cairo we were so fascinated that we stayed until closing time (5pm).
They even had heirloom corn planted in the field where the first skirmish began. There are Indian mounds too. That seemed like a bonus! We spent the night in the small town of Corinth which was not much of a town but also played an important part in the Civil War.
Between Vicksburg and Corinth we stayed one night in Tupelo which was only remarkable for the number of large chain hotels that were closed. It was weird.
The trees on the hills around Nashville were beginning to color as we entered Nashville.