Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Some cool stuff

After leaving The Great Smoky Mountains, we drove to the little town of Abingdon, Virginia; our goal here was for Cathy to do a little genealogy and for us to do a bike ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail. The day we got there was sunny and warm but that would be just about the last time we would see the sun this week. After three days of rain and Cathy getting burnt out looking at court records we woke up to the sun, quickly we loaded the bike on the rack and started heading for the town of Damascus. This is where the load your bike on a trailer and drive you to the top of the mountain and the start of the Virginia Creeper Trail for your 17 miles downhill coast back into town. As soon as we got into the town the clouds rolled in and covered everything, not wanting to do the ride in the rain we turned around and headed back down the mountain in search of a place for lunch. In Abingdon we found a little diner, which didn’t look like much, but we noticed a sign that said that they were written up in Southern Living Magazine so we decided to give it a try. As we were waiting to be seated Cathy noticed the magazine article behind the counter and it stated that you had to try the potato soup, it turned out that this was probably the best potato soup we could remember having. After lunch we stepped outside into the sun and found a ski minus any clouds, it’s bike-riding time, you guessed it half way up the mountain the clouds came in and the rain started and lasted the rest of the week.
We did find The Tavern in Downtown Abingdon but it’s only open for dinner and very expensive at that, the reason I mention the Tavern is that it is the oldest building in Abingdon being built in 1779 and it was started by one of Cathy’s ancestors.
While we were there we also drove over the mountain to Tazewell, this road is a true mountain road and does not allow vehicle over 25 feet, cause they would never make it around the hairpin turns.

The reason we went over there was for the Civil War Re-enactment of the skirmish of Jeffersonville and to everybody’s disappointment it ended just like it did 142 years ago, the north won. Instead of taking the 30-mile long mountain road back home Cathy made me drive around it, 76 miles.

The next leg of our journey took us a full 100 miles to Beckley W. Virginia, Home of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, the only coal mine in the USA that offers tours. The mine is located in the City Park, the park was donated to the city years back and they converted it into a park, while doing this they discovered a buried entrance to the mine. It has since been reopened for the purpose of giving tours; all the tour guides are retired miners and can answer any question you might have, the one we had “Charlie” had everybody laughing the entire tour.

They take you back in on one of the old electric mining cars and make about 5 stops at different parts of the mine to explain how things were done, after leaving the mine we toured the restored mining town that is on site there.
Our campground was right above the mine, so at one point of the tour we were 185 feet below our motor home

We are now in Washington PA, it’s about 30 miles SW of Pittsburgh, 30 miles NE of Unionville and about 35 miles SE of Steubenville, I only mention this because these are the towns we will be spending the week in or at least the court house basements of these town.

Three more weeks and well be back in Michigan bugging the kids for the summer.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Throught the Smokies and into Knoxville

Pretty much just a bunch of photos this week, we've left the south end of the Smokies and are in Knoxville for a week. We've driven through Knoxville a hundred times and figured it was time to stop and see what was here. Of course the first thing we found was the other McKay Used Book store, this is the best used book store in the country. We had a bag of books in the back of the car so I took them in to see what they wanted and they gave us $30 credit, we probably only paid $20 for the books to begin with, with $30 credit we ended up with alot more books. I forgot to mention last week that we were at the Southeast side of the Smokies which is very different from the rest, no tourist traps, no Dollyworld and no crowds.

This is what the welcome sign looks like from Waynesville, N.C. This is what you get to after about 15 miles of one lane road with two way traffic which takes you 45 minutes to drive. There were atleast 30 switchback turns with a very large drop off into the valley, you have to slow to about 5 mph and blow your horn before you start the turn incase someone is coming the other way. We went back as far as the road would go then we hiked back into the woods a few more miles following a beautiful mountain stream. As it

turns out this was only about 30 miles from
where the family was mauled by the bear. We went back to see the herd of Elks but we got there a little to early in the day and didn't get a chance to see any, they don't come out of the woods until late afternoon, maybe next year.
So we just looked at the mountains.

We spent a day at the Carl Sandburg House and Farm. It's a 240 acre estate with a prize winning goat farm that his wife ran, she had many world champion milking goats and was a well known breeder. If you look close at the picture of his office, the little dark room, you'll see that his typing table was an orange crate tipped on its side.
His file cabineets all had Campbells or Canned corn printed on the side of them, he used cardboard boxes to store everything and his pencil holder was a beer can with the top cut off. They said that he just refused to throw anything away.

This time of year is birthing time for the goats and we got there at the perfect time, these two little guys are 8 days old and just as cute as could be.
And now back to Knoxville, after we left the book store we wandered around until we hit the river then just followed the road along side it until we came across the UT's gardens. They have a big Agriculture school here and this is the experimental garden were they test plants from around the world and try to adapt them to the Tennessee climate.

The Veterinarian school is right next door and they have this monument at the front door.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day so we returned to the river and went to Volunteer Landing, where here is a mile and a half riverwalk with a few floating restaurants, some fountains and waterfalls for the kids to play in when its hot. There was quiet a few people down there biking and rollerblading and a few just sitting under one of the waterfalls. We tried on of the restaurants and watched the barges and paddle boats go by as we ate.

They have a lot of bridges down here, the one in the background was built in th e mid 1800's and is only one of three of this design that is still in use in the United States. If you continue down the walkway and cross another little stream you end up at Fort White which was the original Knoxville. They have restored the Fort and it's right in the middle of Downtownm there are also a few more original buildings and homes from the founding days. But the best thing in the downtown area or along the river or in the city or even in the entire state is the stadium that houses the ORANGE NATION FANS every Saturday during the fall, the birthplace of the great Peyton Manning. Believe it or not.

Next Week we go to Chilhowie VA. to conquer the Appalachian and Virgina Creeper Trails.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Mts of NE GA & SW NC

The title looks like it's written in code.
We were camped about 20 miles from Athens Ga., and could smell the presences of a Military museum nearby so off we go in search of it. It didn't take long and we found the entrance to the Navy Supply Corps Museum, the only trouble was it was the wrong entrance, the private civilian guard there refused to allow us on the base for some reason. Now I know they have a museum and it's open to the public so we decided to sneak in, not really we drove around the base until we found another gate. At this one we asked the guard if we could tour the museum, he had us pull into the parking lot and about 3 minutes later we had an escort to the museum.

The base is located on the old State Normal College Campus, (a women's college during the Civil War) and the museum is housed in an old Carnegie Library building, built in 1910. The building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic places. We didn't realize how important supply officers were until coming here, the Navy runs on supplies and they have to ship hundreds of millions of pounds each year making sure they go to the right places, so without the Supply Officers the Navy would be sunk.
They have many displays and models of the USS Supply, (I through IV) the first being a four mass schooner and the last being a state of the art computerize ship. We spent about an hour and a half to see everything. Remember the Maine and also remember to use the gate on the eastside of the base to get in.

While we were in the area we decided to drop down and see the State Botanical Gardens.
The University of Georgia runs the gardens, the BULLDOGS for those of you that did not it. We spent around two and a half hours here and that included lunch at the little café. The food was excellent and the prices were reasonable but the surroundings were fantastic. We only walked half of the gardens as it was getting late, always leave something to come back to, there is still another 100 acres or so for us to cover and still miles of trails to walk. There is a huge granite globe that rotated while floating in a fountain; you almost have to see it to under stand how it works.

It must be Hall of Fame month because we were just wandering around lost and stumbled on to the campus of Piedmont College that just so happens to be where Johnny Mize went to school and played ball. Who is Johnny Mize you ask? Why he was the original "BIG CAT" of baseball, click the picture and read up on him.
The athletic area of Piedmont his named in his honor, we were there for about an hour looking at the displays they have in the lobby following his major league career.
(Click on picture to the right to enlarge, once it opens click on it again to enlarge it again so you can read it.)

Well as long as we're camped in Helen Ga. We decided to do a little hiking back to a few of the waterfalls plus this helps us keep our youthful figures. The first one we went to involved dodging lumber trucks coming at you on a single lane dirt road that had a 20 to 80 foot drop off into a cool relaxing mountain stream. Once back there I was forced to climb the side of the mountain, they call them hills down here, to find a cache for our hobby. After this one we followed a two lane paved road until it turned into a single lane then a dirt lane then a trail. We kept going and came to a stream, a close look showed that the road continued on the other side so in we went, another 100 yards and it was through another stream, easy way to wash the tires. We then found the parking area for Helton Creek Falls, this one had a nice trail that took you about 300 yards back into the woods to the falls. There is an upper and lower falls and both were great as you can see from the pictures.

We have moved on to Waynesville N.C. which is right near the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Smokey Mountains and Asheville. We heard a rumor that there was a Whispering Giant in the area, over near the Cherokee Reservation, so we took a drive in search of it, and we found it right away, honest injun we really did. This turned out to be one of the better ones that we have found, five total, only 58 more to go.

Since the carving was right in front of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian we figured that we had to go in. We're glad we did, since in our travels we run across so many different markers and such about the various Indians, this museum brought them all together and made understanding everything about them much easier. It looked small from the outside but we were in there over two hours. After that it was a nice sunny drive back to camp on the Blue Ridge Parkway and get ready for the big storms that are suppose to head our way to night.
More when it happens.