Thursday, October 20, 2016

peaks and valleys

From rock hopping on the Little Pigeon River in Greenbriar or at the Chimney Tops picnic area, to the obligatory stop for photo op at Newfound Gap, we just can't decide which is our favorite, the peaks or the valleys that make up the Smokies.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, former home to 1200 folks before the park was created and they all had to move. 

Townsend may be advertised as the peaceful side of the Smokies but Cataloochee wins the remote award.

The 11 mile narrow gravel road will hopefully weed out all but the serious visitors. Way up and over the ridge and down into the remote secluded valley, hiking trails, a campground, and some old homeplaces and churches. The reward at the end if you are lucky will be watching the majestic elk graze in the grassy fields.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Dollywood firsts

As many times as we have been to Dollywood, this time we had a couple of surprises.

We arrived early, around 8:30 or so, and got to park all the way in B section! We stood at the entrance waiting for the park to open, the ropes dropped and we moved forward to an area where they were checking bags - a first time for that.

Then we moved on up to the turnstiles which were not open yet. Standing there with all the other early folks, with the sun rising over the top of the Show Street Theater, a lady came out and welcomes everyone to Dollywood on this beautiful day, and then invites us all to take off our hats and put our hands over our hearts to join her in the national anthem - another first, a great way to start the day.

As is the case at places like this - hurry up and wait. We headed over to check out the latest greatest roller coaster, the Lightning Rod.

Waiting in line for the Lightning Rod we are listening to all the other folks, how they have been trying to ride this but it is often shut down for repairs, wow that is encouraging. About this time I am asking myself why do I let him talk me into these things, what if something happens, oh well it's been a good life and will make a good story to tell - about how granma flew off the roller coaster at DW.

Sitting in the roller coaster car, making sure everything was extra tight, we made the curve out of the loading area and faced the vertical rise. The car paused for a second like most roller coasters do to start the slow ascent, but not this one - we were shot out like a cannon up to the top of the first hill. My heart was in my throat, no wait it was my breakfast. From then on it was a minute and a half of eyes wide shut and jaw clinched tight telling myself just breathe it's almost over don't pass out.

All in all it was worse than the Tennessee Tornado or The Eagle or Thunderhead -  or in rollercoasterspeak I guess you would say it was better if that's the kind of thing you like - the nausea the lightheadedness the getting all shook up.

Check that off the list, we had now ridden all the coasters at DW, then on to the shows where the old folks go to rest.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

turkey encounters

We saw lots of turkeys - on the side of the road and behind the wheel. Encounters also included bears and elk and Floridiots... oh my

A trip to the Smokies includes going through the Nantahala gorge - 24 miles of narrow two lane road with no place to pass, so whoever you are behind when entering the gorge you will still be behind on the way out. We sized up the folks ahead of us as the 4 lanes narrowed to 2 at Andrews NC, the car ahead of us had a NY tag - and I have to hand to them, the Yankees did pretty well, handling the curves and hills with ease.

We were pleasantly surprised when our directions to Cataloochee took us onto the Blue Ridge Parkway - another two lane narrow curvy road. The tag in front of us this time set the tone for the trip, Oh No! Not the white with green numbers and big citrus fruit in the middle, yep Florida drivers, affectionately dubbed Floridiots.  Sometimes frustrating to drive behind, often entertaining, you just gotta back off and give them room because there is no telling what they will do. I am sure these folks are good drivers in their native state where the roads are flat and straight and wide, but when they come to the mountains, look out. They are never good with curves as there are apparently none in Florida, the brake lights are off and on like strobe lights. Then OMG a tunnel - you would have thought it was the end of the world. Brakes slammed on, car swerves, finally easing tentatively into the black hole. Cars coming toward us with lights on and horns blaring, great fun! The poor flatlanders ahead finally found their headlight switch about the time they popped out into the sunshine again. We were rolling with laughter, then 3 more tunnels in a row, poor folks.

Then there are the ones, no matter where they are from, who are possibly intelligent folks the rest of the time, but at the first sight of wildlife - they lose all common sense. They stop in the middle of the road, no they PARK in the middle of the road, get out, walk around, taking pictures. We came upon a bona fide bear jam at one point, please if you must stop, approach the bear, feed the bear, whatever, just pull over to the side of the road, is that too much to ask? Geesh people we see bears on our back porch!

Yes we saw a bear or two, some elk, and lots of turkeys - on the side of the road and behind the wheel.

Friday, October 7, 2016

keeping it simple

Remember when the apple house was just a roadside stop on the way to somewhere else? 

With the goal of catering to tourists, some of the local apple houses have gotten on the bandwagon, they are now a Destination. The ads promise a whole day of family fun - pick your own apples, petting farm, bakery, zip lines, apple cannons, hay rides, pig races, cow milking, clogging, live band… the list goes on and on, similar to the line of traffic on our local highway.

In addition to things to do, there are lots of things to eat, you know you have to keep the folks fed so they will stay longer. Of course the usual apples and cider, but you can also get all sorts of things like BBQ, chicken-on-a stick, deep fried oreos, ice cream. The apple houses compete for business, one even boasts '11 flavors of fried pies'.

Those places are fun for the city folks and a good way for the local farmers to make a living, good for them! But we steer clear of the touristy areas, and keep going to our favorite apple house now for over 40 years, since we have lived here in Cartecay, Georgia.

Hudson's Apple House is an old time apple house, literally on the side of the road. White clapboard siding, tin roof, concrete floors, high rafters, cool in the summer when the breezes blow through all the open doors. They have apples. Bags and bags of apples. All kinds and colors and flavors. In baskets, bushel, peck, half peck.

Sometimes they will import some cider and fried pies to sell. Sometimes Ms. Ruth makes up a batch of dried apples.

They used to make their own cider, like all the local apple houses did, back in the day before the government got involved. Nowadays it is not safe to drink homemade apple cider, it has to be 'processed'. It never hurt us, kind of like all that raw cookie dough we used to eat and when we used to lick the beaters after making a cake… but back to the cider.

The old cider machine is no longer there. Our first neighbor, Robert Mealer, worked at the apple house during the season, or maybe he was just there selling his vegetables, I can't remember. One time he showed us the cider press, explained how it worked. Apples that were blemished and not good enough to sell (or those picked up off the ground) would make some mighty good cider.

There is an empty rocking chair where Mr. Reece sat for his last few years, after many years of working in the apple orchard and on the farm. Now he is watching over the family business and resting up in farmer heaven. Ms. Ruth is still behind the counter at the cash register, she always asks about the kids and where is Buddy working and tells us about all of her family.

Keeping it simple at Hudsons, if you are in the market for some locally grown apples without all the hype, stop in and visit. You'll be glad you did. It is still a roadside apple house and they sell apples and that is enough.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

college weekend

Family weekend at UA was very exciting! 

The weather was clear, the good thing being it did not rain on our game or campout. The bad thing was it was record-breaking HOT - "Tuscaloosa high of 99 breaks the old record of 97 set in 1961." Sarah and I 'thought we were going to die' in the heat and spent most of the time in the shady concession area, along with a lot of other red-faced folks.

The game was a blow-out, Bama 48, Kent State 0.

Enjoyed seeing everyone, Madison, Curren, Sarah, Matt, Meli, and Keith. Of course the best part was seeing Madison sign the national anthem on the football field with her back up music by The Million Dollar Band.

We saw Big Al and toured the campus a bit, shopped at the SupeStore tent, saw Madi's dorm.

We watched the band before the game and at halftime.

Then we escaped the heat and people, back to the campground, where it was nice and peaceful and cool. 

The long day ended with campfire, pizza, and s'mores, what more could you want!

~more pics and video here

Thursday, September 22, 2016

here's your sign

This granma is Bama Bound!

It is Family Weekend over at the U of A and the family is packed up and ready to go, I am hitching a ride over with Melissa and Keith, just like the Clampetts with granny in the back seat. Fingers crossed on the whole gas shortage situation. We even brought our own house and chairs, ready to go camping.

It is not quite good camping weather yet in Tuscaloosa (69 at night/95 in the day) but compared to $500 motel rooms, a campsite for $36 sounds real nice. We have our football game tickets, Bama shirts, and smart phones for pictures, what else do we need.

We will stand up for the national anthem like good Americans do but we might not hear the words, you see it is Deaf Awareness Week (International Week of the Deaf) and the national anthem will be quietly performed with sign language, a pretty neat idea, especially since it is our own little granddaughter who will be doing the honors.

Yes, the same one who volunteered to sign the national anthem at high school graduation last May. Madison has been petitioning for weeks to do this at this Bama game, sending emails, calling, trying to find just the right person to ask … and perseverance won out.

So our DVRs are set at home even though we are not sure the national anthem part will be televised, but we will be there in person. We will be the little family up high in the stands who are filming the silent anthem. We may not all have our hands over our hearts but we will be Standing Up. 

Don’t be nervous Madi, just over 100,000 of your close friends and family will see you in person and on the Big Screen at the game, and a few more from restaurants, bars, and couches across the nation… 

Go Madison! Roll Tide!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

dried apples

We learned to like dried apples from Mrs. Reece at Hudson Apple House, they always came with a warning from her, "Now don't eat that whole bag in one sitting, that is about 3 or 4 apples in there and you will get a bellyache!" Sweet crispy goodness, great for snacking, bet you can't eat just one :)