Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center is an amazing place. It celebrates the history of Apalachain folk art as well as the many people who carry on the traditions and skills passed down over many generations.

It is run by the Southern Highland Craft Guild. They have live exhibits like the spinning and weaving that wa happening in the lobby. There is a gift shop, of course. There was also several galleries showing work for sale, some wood, some fabric, some clay, some quilts.
Some of the pottery was especially interesting.  It was done with thin sheets of clay rolled into shapes like birch logs. They were impressed with natural materials.  Looked wonderful.

There was an exhibit of work done with what appeared to be really thick paint but it was fibers, fabric bits, paper and glue and pastes to complete a strong three dimensions surface texture and a resulting work of art.

There was also a special exhibit of quilts called “Eyecatchers: The Hunter Collection”. It contained twenty or thirty quilts from the collection of Robert & Barbara Hunter. They indeed were eye catching.


So, if you go to Asheville, here is another place you don’t want to miss.
Next we are off towards the southern part of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  The vast majority of visitors stay on the northern side near Gatlinburgor Pigeon Forge where DollyWood is. Dozens of campgrounds and thousands of rooms for visitors just outside of the park. We chose the south side and a quiet campground in the homeland of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
Roger and Susan


We have been to Biltmore before but it is worth a second or third look. The gardens are in full bloom and the house was lavishly decorated with spring flowers. Probably the most amazing room in the home is the Winter Garden.  When you go on the tour, you enter  biltmore through the massive outer fromt doors and then the even more massive wooden front doors.  Neither have outside door handles. The butler opens the doors from the inside. The entry foyer is huge, the ceiling high and awe is the main word that comes to mind. Just to the right the very large octagonal Winter Garden awaits.  Down a few steps into an oasis of orchids, whites one one side, reds, pinks and purples finished the room. Orchids of every conceivable shape.

Stunning, massive white oak truss work carries the leaded glass dome and the chandeliers. A system of cranks, swivel joints and geared arms open windows in the dome to help keep the twmperature and humidity just right for the flowers and plants on display. The central fountain has a marble and bronze fountain sculpture “Boy Stealing Geese” by Viennese artist Karl Bitter. At Christmas it is replaced with a soaring tree decorated for the season.

Every time I have visited the house, I marvel at the craftsmanship.  Several hundred skilled craftsmen worked on the house from 1889 – 1895.  They lived in a village built for them at the edge of the 125,000 acre estate.  A three mile long railway spur was built to the home site to transport materials and workers. A sawmill and millwork shops were built. Nearby clay was dug to manufacture bricks in the brick factory and kilns that was built. Once fired, the brick kilns produced 30,000 bricks a day for more than five years.

The house sits on foundations fourteen feet wide and twenty feet high. They support a steel frame structure of columns, beams, trusses and joists reaching all the way to the roof. Bricks, concrete and stone filled in between and then finished materials completed the interiors.  The exterior was covered with limestone blocks shaped on site and mortared together.  All fo the finish detail stone carving was done on the stone in place.

The roof was Pennsylvania Slate wired to the steel sub structure.  There is very little wooden structure to make the home almost fire proof.
The stone work is very detailed and precise. gargoyles (drains) and grotesques were everywhere.
The roof flachings were lead and custom made copper panels with an embossed GV or his family crest or his mother’s family crest. 
There are 16 chimneys venting 45 fireplaces.three of them are in the dining room.
 70 ft ceiling, seating for more than 100.

The flowers in the formal gardens were blooming. The consrvatory and the hot houses were full of new plants and flowers.

We spent all day wandering around inside the house and in the gardens. We went back the next morning so that I could go on the “Architect’s tour”. This gives you a special behind the scenes look at the house that the regular tours never see. This was from the roof.

 And the outside of the Winter Garden.

There is more, better get these loaded.
Roger and Susan

More Asheville

The Grove Park Inn.

We were here about 5 years ago in February. 50’s during the day, low 40’s at night.  Every morning had mist in the low areas. It was a fun visit.  The Arts and Crafts Show and Sale had everything from fine art to silver to furniture to glass to pottery. We learned a lot looking at old stuff. There were a lot of new crafts people there too carrying on the traditions with new work.
The interior is quite spectacular. The lobby was huge.  The fireplace is big enough for several people to stand upright inside of it. The elevators are built into the stone work along the sides of the fireplace. It is still amazing.
More later.

Asheville, NC

We have moved from Asheville to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We have cell phone service that goe from 1X to No Service.  Data is very slow.  We sort of expected this but after having 4G service everywhere we have been is it an adjustment.  All that being said, I will try to post to,the blog although they may be shorter and I may have to save some pictures for later.

We arrived in Asheville in Friday, April, 11, 2014. Asheville is at the foothils of the Appalachian. Mountains at about 2200 ft. It is very hilly and surrounded by low mountains. It is spread out through several areas, valleys, gaps or coves as they are called. From one area you can’t see much of anywhere else.  Each has a little different flavor. If you don’t know where something is, even with a map it is hard to find.  We spent about 30 minutes looking for a grocery store and never left the city and never found one.  We did finally find one.  We have been to Asheville a couple times before.  It is a very pleasant  place to visit. We were here in February for the Annual Arts and Crafts show and sale held at the Grove Park Inn. It is one of the major events each year in the Arts and Crafts world.  The Grove Park Inn is an amazing old hotel built during the height of the Arts and Craft period and was furnished entirely with furniture from Stickley and Roycroft.  Much of the furnishings remain more as display pieces rather than everyday pieces.
Nice place to visit, maybe lunch, maybe stay.
Saturday, we went to the Biltmore Estate. It was the home of George Washington Vanderbilt.  It was built from 1889-1895 while he was still a bachelor.  He chose this site over the more common Rhode Island or Long Island locations for the very rich to build their summer homes because he liked the weather, the clean air and the land.  His inspiration came from any European trips visitimg chateaus and castles.  He ended up with a French chateau looking home on 125,000 acres.  The home is the largest home in America, more than 250 rooms, 175,000 sq ft.  From the outside and to,the family and guests inside it looks like three stories.  But to more than 30 staff people there were 7 floors.  Entire floors tucked in between the public floors where servants could do what needed to be done without being seen.

I better try to post this one before it gets too big.

Roger and Susan

Blue Ridge Parkway

Saturday, April 12, 2014

[Sorry the pictures didn’t make it. Google Blogger, what can I say.]

We got to Asheville yesterday afternoon. We are staying at Bear Creek Campground.  It is on a hill so there is really no creek and probably no bears. We did some weather checking and rearranged some plans to accomodate the expected rain on Monday and maybe a chance to see the last part of the Master’s golf tournament.
We drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway Headquarters Visitor’s Center.  We got maps and brochures and lots of really helpful info from a helpful ranger.  There was an interesting film about the Parkway. It talked about building it starting back in the Depression and its completion in the 1980’s.  It hooks up to the Shenandoah Parkway at the north end and ends at Great Smokies National Park on the south.  
On Saturday we packed a picnic lunch and headed north.  There was a detour around a piece of the Parkway that was being repaired. The detour took up through a steep, very twisty two lane road around the repair area.  I would not have driven the coach on that road.

Every turn opens up amazing vistas. The dogwoods and many other flowering trees were blooming. While we were only in the 3-4,000 ft elevation range it still feels like you are in the mounntain, because you are.

The navigator did a wonderful job. We stoped for a short hike to a small falls. More like rapids.

At the end of this day’s northerly driver we arrived at an old estate which was given to the National Park Service.  The fellow that owned it (Mr. Moses) made his money making denim fabric.  His hobby was building roads so there are more than 25 mles of carriage roads on his estate.  Today they are used for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Nice view from the porch.

And we stopped for our picnic, of course.

It was a very nice day.  A bit of a long drive but surprisingly comfortable in the Jeep.
Tomorrow we are heading for the Biltmore Estate.  Some house time and garden time.  Spring is in full bloom.
More tomorrow.
Roger and Susan

Twin Lakes, Near Clemson, SC

Thursday, April 10, 2014
Yesterday we departed Carleston, SC headed for Asheville, NC.  We wanted to find something not in the city for a couple days to relax.  We found it!  
The Army Corps of Engineers manages the Hartwell Lake and Dam near Clemson, SC. The lake covers almost 90 square miles and has nearly 1000 miles of shoreline. And there are 32 square miles of land in the district. There are 9 campgrouds, 50 recreation areas and 5 marinas in this COE site.
We are at Twin Lakes campground near Clemson, SC home of the Tigers.  We found a nice site.
Most of the more than 100 sites are right on the lake.

We walked around the park today through all of the loops. 12,462 steps!  Along the way we found the Dogwoods in bloom.

We looked at all of the sites with an eye towards where we would like to stay. South exposure, sun, shade, privacy, interesting … a whole bunch of intangibles. There were lots to choose from. All have water and 50 amp electric (very desirable), fire pit, picnic table and a grill. Very nice.

Quiet, calm, relaxing. A nice change from the busy city.

75 degrees warm today.  It is spring here. The trees are early in the leaf stage. Some are blooming pink. The pine trees are all mixed in all over. They were removing a big pine today. The smell of cut pine was very intense.

Just like “On Golden Pond”. A small campfire tonight. Toasted a few marshmallows. Relaxed. We added some piñon pine. Amazing smell. Reminds us of Santa Fe.

Roger and Susan

Charleston, SC

Monday, April 7, 2014

If you have never visited Charleston then do yourself a favor and put it on your list of places to see. I don’t think I would come in the summer, probably hot and humid, outside of most of our experience. This time of the year is pretty nice, the flowers are blooming, the annual home and gardens tours are on and the temps are pretty comfortable.

We normally would rather be not in the city but they are fun to visit for a few days.

We took pretty much all back roads from Savannah to Charleston.  We went by the giant four lane expressway into Hilton Head Island, didn’t even think about going there.  Highway 17 into Charleston is    a very busy and congested road.  Our campground is about 20 minutes from the historic district of downtown, not all that far but mostly city streets.  Charleston has the longest cable stayed bridge in the world, about two miles long.  We will be going over that bridge on our way to Asheville on Wednesday. Susan will have her eyes closed.

There are lots of things to see and do in Charleston. We have been to Ft Sumter on an earlier trip so we didn’t do that. The USS Yorktown aircarft carrier is now a museum one can visit. Probably going to miss that too. Seen one aircraft carrier, you’ve seen them all, right?

The Civil War submarine H.L.Hunley was discoverd in 1995 and recovered in 2000. It was the first submarine successfully used in combat operations when it sank the Union blockade ship the USS Housatanic, in February, 1864. The Hunley placed a 135 lb black power charge near the stern of the target ship and backed off several hundred feet to detonate the charge equivalent to a single stick of today’s dynamite. The charge was right under the Housatanic’s powder magazine which burned fiercely. The Housatanic sank in a matter if minutes. 

The Hunley disappeared itself under a cloud of mystery. No one really knows what hopened. The author, Clive Cussler and his NUMA foundation found the Hunley about 1000 ft from where the Housatanic was sunk.  The Hunley was recovered after extensive archeological investigation and brought to a University of South Carolina facility for conservation and study.  It now rests in a 90,000 gallon pool of water. Ther water is drained to work on the study and conservation effort and the refilled. They use a special water that helps remove the encrustation on the cast iron ship.  Several hull plates were removed to recover the 8 man crew still inside at their stations alongside the hand crank which turned the propeller. They were remarkably preserved including clothing and other personal artifacts.  The crews remains were buried in a nearly cemetary.  About 50,000 attended the services.

This is a model showing the crew in the Hunley. It was 48″x42″ inside.  Not for me!

They are soon going to replace the current water solution with one that contains the same chemicals as Drain-O. This will speed up the removal of deposited crust.  Then they are going to another solution that will speed up the removal of salt from the cast iron.  Surprisingly, cast iron is porus and when under water it is infused with salt.  Taking a cast iron item out of the ocean and drying it out leaves the salt embedded in the iron and it rusts very quickly from the inside out.

So now we have seen two turning points in miltary history related to the Civil War.  Th first use of rifled cannon and the end of msonary fortifictions and the first use of a submarine in combat.  It will not be until WWI when a submarine sinks a ship again in combat.

Charleston is a very old city first settled in 1670.  The first decisive victory of the Revolutionary War was  fought here at Fort Sullivan.  The worst defeat of the Americans happened here during the Seige of Carleston.  The Civil War got under way at Fort Sumter. The Union bombarded Charleston for 584 days during the Civil War. It has suffered from several mjor hurricanes and even a major earthquake. And for all of that there are beautiful parts of the historic disrict to explore. The streets are narrow and congested and parking is not easy. There are many historic homes some turned into museums and many still lived in.  There are walking tour maps that lead you around the maze of streets and alleys.  Most take two to three hours.

The Wisteria are blooming. We visited the Nathanial Russell house. It is a three story brick mansion with three rooms on each level, one of which was oval. An oval dining room on the first floor and a very formal family parlor.  One bedroom on the second floor, more on the third.  There were kitchens, work shops, carrige houses, stables and quarters for the 18 slaves who tended to the gardens, the house and the family.

The front door looked like mahogany and inlays. In fact it was painted in the French trompe l’oeil method (fool the eye) to simulate wood. There were many other examples of this in the house from differnt types of wood to marble even to plaster details.

The elliptical stairway is probably the home’s biggest claim to fame. It winds up to ll three floors.  The medallion in the ceiling at the top is painted in two dimensions but looks very three dimensional.

From the top the shape is quite evident. 
Then off to the City Market. It is a four block long set of buildings filled with art and crafts and of course food and the typical tourist stuff. Beautiful art, baskets and pottery.

We managed to buy nothing but may go back for a sweet grass basket.these are like pottery. Some good, some great, some done by well known artists that are signed and dated and prices that can range from $50 to $1000 for what looks to the casual shopper as if they were identical.
They are very attractive and surprisingly heavy.
More walking. More houses. Some so big it is hard to believe one family lives there.

The typical Chrleston home in the historic district is built on a narrow lot with the side of the house facing the street and the front going down the depth of the lot with porches on each level and gardens in every spare space.

The front faces toward the harbor to catch any breeze.  Iron gates are prominent in Charleston.  Many were built by Master Blacksmith Phillip Simmons whose work was featured on the PBS series Craft in America.

Almost every home has gardens.

Down little alleys between homes were beautiful interior spaces.

Thre streets were mostly very old granite cobblestone.  Art in its own right.

 And of course we sampled some local grub at Magnolia’s. Wonderful.

Crab cakes on rice cooked with shrimp (pirloo), spinich and a tomato butter sauce was Susan’s choice.  I had a grilled sandwich with fried green tomatoes, bacon, lettuce and pimento cheese on a whole wheat corn bread.  We skipped dinner except for the four oatmeal raisin cookies we baked when we got home.
It rained over night (Monday) and most of this morning (Tuesday). Good time to get this posted, do some laundry and maybe head down to the Market again.
We had two dining experiences we wanted to try on this trip. One was a Waffle House, did that. The other is a Chick-Fill-A something. I assume they serve chicken. We have seen only a couple and they were not convenient. We saw on yesterday that we might try, or not.
Tomorrow we head for Asheville, NC about 220 miles away.  Should take about three days to get there at the rate we are going.
Roger and Susan
PS: Please send Susan an email and encourage her to post something.