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. 

Hunting Island, SC

Friday, April 4, 2014

Yesterday we made the 75 mile drive from Tybee Island, Ga to Hunting Island, SC. It is east of Beaufort, SC near Paris Island. This area is called the Sea Islands. We crossed over three or four islands to get to the end of the road atHunting Island Stste Park. And the 5,000 acre park is right on the Atlantic Ocean and includes a large campground, a light house, nature areas and lots of trails.
And the beach, a vary shallow sloped beach with sand bars just off shore. When the tide goes out a very wide, flat beach is left.
Looking south

And north. The beach is very easy to walk on, damp hard sand and also easy to bike on, lots of fun.

The campground is quite nice, huge pine trees, live oaks and palm trees. Most of the spaces are fairly generous. They have a 30 nights for half price deal hear for snow birds. Looks very nice. We checked out several sites. The one we are in is pretty nice. Some sun, some shade.

We rode our bikes to the light house about a mile and a half away.  We rode on the paved road, sort of busy and no shoulder.  The light house is made of cast iron sections bolted together. Twenty four years after it was erected it was disassembled and moved forther inland since the beach was eroding. Since the light house was originally built more than 1000′ of beach has been eroded.
For $2 you could climb to the top. Some did. About 135’ up.

The beach at this part of the islnd shows the effects of erosion.

We rode back on a forest trail. Long pine needles, pine cones and palm fronds covered the path which was hilly and had a lot of big roots.

We walked our bikes on some parts of the trail.

After our ride we spent a few hours in the afternoon sun on the beach. I got on my bike and rode on the beach south towards the light house. The damp sand was very firm, easy to ride on and the beach goes on for miles. There are whole trees tipped over where the erosion has moved the beach into the forest.

Very dramatic.

A selfie right on the beach riding my bike.  

Saturday we depart for Charleston. We really wish we had more time here but it is very hard to get into on short notice.  Most people we talked to make reservations at least 6 months in advance. The campground host told me if we want a specific site for next winter then we should make reservations now.  Maybe we will.
We are looking forward to our visit to Charleston.
Roger and Susan

Tybee Island and Savannah, End of March, 2014

Tybee Island

Tybee Island is actually an island. It is about 20 miles east of Savannah at the opening of the Savannah River into the Atlantic Ocean. Our campground is called the River’s End Campground.  It was family owned for about 40 years until the city of Tybee Island bought it several years ago and now runs it. It has over150 site plus a pretty big area for tents.  It seems to have been pretty close to full while we have been here.

The town on Tybee Island is only a mile or so long.  There is a beach on the river side, the north side and the ocean side.  The ocean side beach seem to be where all of the vacationers congregate.  There is a big pier down there and shops all over selling everything for the beach.  Sort of ugly.

The old light house is now a museum. The north end is dominated by an old military battery from around 1900. We enjoyed the north beach. Not too many folks. Upper 70’s.

We were entertained by this little girl in her colorful outfit.  Skipping, dancing, twirling, splashing.  A perfect day at the beach.

We spent a day in Savannah. What a lovely city. There are 24 squares throughout the city. Some are about one block square, one is several blocks wide and a half mile long. The streets run into the squares and then around the squares. This makes everything slow down. The streets are lined with moss covered Spanish Moss. Some are divided with trees right down the middle.

It turns out that Spanish Moss is neither Spanish nor moss. It is an air plant that feeds on dust and moisture in the air.  It is also the home of chiggers, bugs that bite and burrow into your skin. Henry Ford stuffed the seat cushions of early Model Ts with this bug infested plant. His marketing slogan about “Itching to get a Ford” backfired.
The squares have everything from statues to fountains.

There were giant Live Oaks.  Some had people living in them. Kind of sad.


There were some pretty amazing homes. Think of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

This is it! There are lots more homes to see but I’ll save room for other stuff.

Savannah is the #4 port on the eastern seaboard.  It is a major container and car carrier port as well as LNG (liquid natural gas).  They have a pretty neat stayed cable bridge.

Back at Tybee we checked out Fort Pulaski, a masonry fort built after the War of 1812 to protect ports along the US coast. The walls are 5-8 ft thick mortar and bricks, several million of them and was considered impervious to artillery. It was built over three years under the command of Robert E Lee, right out of West Point. When Georgia seceded from the Union they took over the fort. Union troops set up artillery on Tybee Island more than a mile away. They had conventional round ball cannon and 15“ mortars. They also had new, untried rifled cannon that shot bullet shaped shells.  

The Confederates had hundreds of cannon that shot through openings in the walls and up on the ramparts. The battle commenced early one morning with the conventional cannon and mortars.  There was little damage to the fort.  The following morning three batteries of the new rifled cannon oppened fire concentrating on one corner of the fort. The walls were breeched within hours and when the powder magazine was hit (without exploding) the Confederates surrendured.  There are still rifled shells embedded in the wall.

The days of the round ball cannon and the brick and mortar forts were over after a 30 hour battle. Amazingly only one Union soldier was killed and two Confederates were wounded.

They had cannons on display and at noon they fired a rifled cannon of the type used in the battle (1/2 powder charge, no shell). The big black one.

I used the Burst Mode App on my iPhone to take these pictures about 1/20 second apart, 2 of 100 taken in less than 5 seconds. Aim, get ready …


Today we went to the “Mighty 8th Airforce” Museum.  The Mighty 8th started in Savannah as WWII began. It was the main Army Airforce stationed in England flying into western Europe.  There were the Memphis Belle flyers, more than 350,000 in all, air crews and ground crews.  They flew missions for three years.  About 75,000 air crew members were killed or missing in action, taken prisoner or injured.   25 missions was a tour of duty.  Only 1 of three air crew lived to complete a tour of duty.  This museum looked small from the outside but was huge with detailed information, films, dioramas and displays.

A geniune cast iron british phone box. A trainer, a P 51 fighter escort and a B 17 being restored.

There were displays about the Girl Scouts contibution to the war effort, the sacrifices made by the folks at home, the role of women pilots (WASPs) who ferried aircraft all over the country and machines and equipment used in the war effort.  I liked this one for making up to 1000 sets of dog tags in an 8 hour shift.

That’s a lot for one post, I need to do them more often.
We are leaving in the morning on another hard day of driving, 75 miles, up the coast to South Carolina to Hunting Island State Park for a couple days then on to Charleston.  We want to see what Hunting Island looks like.  They have 1/2 price camping, full hook ups, 50 amps for Dec, Jan and Feb.  You can stay for a month.  Feb 2014 high temps averaged mid 60s with average lows in the upper 40s. 
Check back for more.
Roger and Susan.