Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 15 JEST

We are a little more than 1/2 way through our trip. It does not seem like we have been gone 2 weeks already. JC and Laverne left this morning. We just piddled around and sat out by the pool playing dominoes.

We did something very exciting today! James and I rode the Wahoo Zipline from one mountain top to the next. There were 6 lines. From 300 to more than 500 ft long. I can't remember what the height was but we were over the treetops on some lines and went in between the trees on others. It was the most fun I have ever had. James took some pictures on his phone so we have to figure out how to download them.

We have to go through Asheville, NC tomorrow to pick up a charger for the camera. After that we'll be traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. The weather forecast is predicting rain but we hope they are wrong. We have 3 nights to stay along the Parkway before we get to DC.

Day 14 JEST

Laverne and I dragged JC with us to shop today and James wanted to ride through the mountains again. He just loves that Dragon's Tail road. We met back at the condo, ate dinner and did some outside pool time. JC and Laverne are heading back home to Alabama in the morning. We will visit with them again for a few days on our way back home to Alvin.

Day 13 JEST

Gatlinburg was our destination today. It is nestled in at the bottom of the mountains and has a panoramic view of mountaintops. We rode a skylift to the top of one of the peaks to have a look. We ate lunch outside on the balcony at Blaine's. After a belly full and a short walk balk to the trolley it was margaritaville time again. Back to the same old vacation grind.....

Day 12 JEST

We spent time with JC and Laverne at the pool, having a drink, reading our books, you know , vacation kind of stuff. The evening at the Dixie Stampede was interesting. We ate a southern style meal of a whole roasted chicken (per person), corn on the cob, half of a baked potato, cheese biscuits and an apple turnover for dessert. While you are trying to eat all this food, you are treated to an entertaining western show consisting of trick horse riders, audience participation contests, wagon races and several North/South competitions. It was fun and we all enjoyed it, plus we took doggy bags home. Food isn't incredibly expensive here, neither is the gas (paid $1.85). $150,000 will get you a 2 BR 2 BA on the side/edge of a mountain. Spent the rest of the evening sitting by the pool and having drinks. Nice way to end the day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Day 11 JEST

Day 2 in the condo. It has been nice staying somewhere for more than one night. The weather was perfect. Low 80's and 40 percent humidity. We have died and gone to heaven. James and I decided to take a ride around the area and through the National Park. We drove something called the Dragon's Tail which was 318 turns in an 11 mile stretch that followed alongside a raging river,waterfalls, and sheer drop offs with no guard rail. Oh, and did I mention steep? Around every twist and turn was another amazing site. It was absolutely breathtaking! This is unmistakably God's country. Sorry Mississippi, the Natchez Trace is a pretty nice ride but it can't hold a candle to this.

Speed limit ranged from 15 to 50 MPH. The crotch rocket motorcycles were riding it much faster than that. They would lean into the curves, their bodies would be very close to the blacktop and it looked like their knees were almost touching the ground. It was like we were watching ESPN on a lifesize HDTV screen. Front row seats as there were lots of them riding the trail. We would try to stop wherever there was an empty pull-over and we were never disappointed with the views. They were spectacular. The higher we climbed into the mountains, the better the view was. Remember on Day 9 when we told you we are losing track of time? Well, we did it again today. We had such a good time stopping along the way to admire the beauty. Before we knew it, it was 6 pm and we still had 80 miles through the Smoky Mountain National Forest left to travel.

We came around a turn and there were 7 or 8 elk grazing just off the road. We had to pull over to watch them. They are such majestic animals with their big antlers and huge bodies. Where are the pictures you ask? I forgot to bring the camera charger and was only able to take a few pictures at the start of the day. I was so mad at myself. The sun started to set over the Smoky's and we began to see the orange, pink and yellow hues. We shared an overlook with 6 photographers who were rapidly taking pictures of the sinking sun. It was just incredible, pictures cannot do this place justice-you have to see it to really appreciate the beauty. You have to be able to smell the trees, hear the white water of the mountain river and see wildlife up close. Incredible! Needless to say, we are having a great time.

Day 10 JEST

We slept late after our long day on the road. J.C made breakfast for us, he is the early bird every day, closely followed by James, Laverne and I barely make it to the leftovers-we are the sleepyheads. The traffic was pretty bad since it was Saturday so we decided just to relax and hang out by the pool for the day. Sitting on a deck by a pool looking at the Smoky Mtn range with a margarita in the left and a good book in the right is my kind of living. Pigeon Forge is a beautiful town down in the valley between mountains. A great relaxing day. Life is good.

Day 9 JEST

Left Music City headed toward Pigeon Forge. It should have been about a 4 or 5 hour trip. We decided to stop at Andrew Jackson's "Hermitage" home and take the tour. It was a gorgeous 2 story plantation style mansion with 14 foot ceilings. It still has the original wallpaper that is now 172 years old! There was loads of information, gorgeous furniture and the grounds were beautiful. You could easily imagine yourself being there in it's heyday. Enough about that, but if you are ever in the area put that on your to do list.

Three hours later we are about to leave the Nashville area and the traffic on I40 came to a slow crawl (0-5 MPH) for about 20 miles. Now we are 6 hours behind on our 4 hour trip. Now we're retired and not in a hurry but come on.....we are totally losing track of time. Wait until you read our upcoming Sunday story............

By the time we got to the Smoky Mountain Knife Works, it was closed. At 7 pm we are finally pulling into the parking lot of the Oak Mont Resort. James' uncle, J.C. was welcoming us to a parking space. We were all so happy to see each other. After a group hug followed by a great meal at the Old Mill Restaurant. We settled in at the resort for an adult beverage and good old family chat to catch up with each other.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 8 JEST

Sleeping late was the first order of the day. We had to pass on the continental breakfast. The corn flakes, bagel and donuts just didn't seem appealing after the B&B food. You get what you pay for. We headed towards Opryland but not much going on there except for $20 parking! Had to pass on that one. We found out later we could have parked across the street and walked over. Oh well...we did enjoy going downtown and walking around. We spent a few hours on Broadway going in and out of trinket shops and bars with live country music. After awhile they all started to look and sound the same. We had lunch at Jack's BBQ and ate hickory smoked sandwiches-MMMMM.

Signing off for now. We have about a thousand miles behind us and a long ride to Pigeon Forge tomorrow. We will be there for an entire week taking in all the sights.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day 7 JEST

More french toast for me, I'm liking this bed and breakfast thing...I may never stay in a hotel again! The short 70 mile ride to the end of the Trace was as beautiful as the first 400 miles. The hills were getting steeper and as the Trace ended, the double arch bridge connected us to Franklin, Tn. just outside Nashville. It's going to be a tough pill to swallow but on this economic stimulus trip we are forced to stay at Comfort INN for two nights-we have to cut back where we can. Looks like we're having cold donuts for breakfast-we're already spoiled. We are very tired today and haven't really made plans for tomorrow other than we know we will go to the Grand Ole Opry. Hoping for a good nights sleep.

Day 6 JEST

Another gourmet breakfast this morning. We could really get used to this... Another beautiful day on the Trace. We had 175 miles to travel today and all our stops are planned, including Colbert Ferry (Alabama) where Andrew Jackson's army crossed the river for a $75,000 fee. The Napier Mine, Meriwether Lewis' grave and various overlooks viewing beautiful rolling valleys covered with blooming dogwoods and many other types of trees and vegetation.

We arrived at the appropriately named Ridgetop B&B which was landscaped with flowers that provided all the colors of the rainbow down the long driveway to the log cabin. Our host had the fireplace loaded and ready to go. No TV in this one so I missed my American Idol performances. James had plans for a performance of his own. We won't go there... With temperatures in the low 40's the fireplace was a nice touch.

Day 5 JEST (James/Kari's Economic Stimulus Trip)

Another great breakfast including French Toast served on french bread, cream cheese in between and finely chopped pecans that were cooked into the top piece. Of course that couldn't be complete without lots of syrup.............................yummmy.....................

Today was our first day on the Natchez Trace Pkwy which is a 450+ mile scenic byway (no houses/businesses). Lots of historic sites to look at along the way so we were stopping frequently. The weather is great so we are riding with the sun roof open. Everything is in bloom so the colors are absolutely gorgeous. By early afternoon we had to dig out the allergy meds.

HINT-when ordering tea in the deep south, a-l-w-a-y-s take a sip before you add any more sugar. It was almost two this afternoon and I had not had my tea for the day. I finally found a Sonic, ordered a tea in the biggest size they have (Route 44) and preceded to dump in my 5 packages of Splenda. I pulled back out onto the highway took a long drink of tea and thought I was going to go into a diabetic coma from the sugar the deep south you need to specify "unsweetened" or you will be served "sweet tea". Since we had to go off the parkway to find some tea to begin with I just drank the extra sweet tea.

We drove over 250 miles today. The scenery was so beautiful that we took our time and explored historic sites along the way. We are spending the night at Bridges-Hall Manor, a B&B in Houston, Ms. Unfortunately, we spent too much time trying to see everything on the trail that we missed the stop we wanted to see the most, French Camp. It was almost dark when we reached the area and the gates were closed. We did get to see some of the old buildings from the road. After dodging the deer and the turkey all day on the Trace, the comfort of the B&B was a nice way to end the day.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kari Fat Mama

James Pig Out

Our new home..........................ha!

Natchez, Mississippi Day 2

We had a great day! After horrible thunderstorms all night we woke up to a beautiful morning. Our hostess prepared a great breakfast and it was off for a day of siteseeing. We headed to the Natchez visitors bureau and left armed with brochures and recommendations for things to see and do. First stop was a lovely 4 story plantation home named Longwood which had started being built prior to the Civil War. Only the basement and 1st floor were actually completed due to lack of funds during and after the war. The furniture was amazing. There is so much history here that is hard to fathom that many of these buildings and structures were built in the mid 1700's and are still being lived in today.

Our second stop of the day was at the Indian Village site where there was a small museum and in various areas within the property was a prayer mound and very small living spaces made of mud (from the Mississippi of course) and straw. It was all very primitive and I am thankful that I am living now and not then. For one thing, I don't like being dirty and from what we hear taking a bath was a luxury that happened only once a year. That is why there were so many June brides-they took a bath then got married! I won't be complaining anymore about having to give up my pedicures....................................

It is time for lunch so we head back to Fat Mama's for another awesome margarita and a Gringo Pie which consisted of tamales covered with chili/cheese and a generous helping of jalapenos. We love our mexican food and this did not dissappoint-delish. James made friends with some of the locals who were there celebrating a birthday so we joined in on their fun. They invited us to join them to listen to live music at a place on the river a few blocks away-how could we refuse? There is something to be said about hanging out with locals in a tourist town-they know the really good places to go and you can also gain valuable knowledge about the area you are in. This particular group was a fun loving bunch, they liked having a good time and they were funny. I love hearing the ladies talk with their southern drawls-it was hard not to picture them with hoop skirts and a parasol. They called the "Garden Club" ladies the "Petticoat Mafia" which I found hysterical as I pictured gun toting, hoop skirt wearing ladies. Obviously this group of women were NOT in the Garden Club. I'm thinking that the Garden Club is pretty instrumental in running the show in this little corner of the world.

James and I decided to walk along the riverfront before meeting up with our new friends. A little man who looked like a mini Colonel Sanders (KFC) came up and told us there was a 200 year old whorehouse down the street that we should visit. We didn't quite know what to make of this character other than he was probably eccentric. He was wearing long shorts that came way past his knees, converse tennis shoes, a gold earring in one ear and a black bowlers cap. We just kind of laughed and moved on down the river. We found the place with the birthday bunch and the live band was fabulous. I haven't been that entertained in a long time. So we are sitting there enjoying the music and drinking a beer with all our new friends, when the mini Colonel strolls in and everyone is telling him hello. If you haven't guessed already we were sitting in a bar that 200 years ago had been a whorehouse and is owned by John David (1st and middle name-how southern) aka the Colonel. We had to give old John David credit for trying to drum up business. At one point during the bands performance John David stood up on a chair (he is only about 4ft 10in) and joined the band in a lively rendition of Jambalaya and When the Saints Go Marching In. You can't make this stuff up-it's great. We are hoping that we continue to come across unexpected treasures like this along our travels. We sat on the riverfront and watched a beautiful sunset then headed back to the B&B for the evening.

We did manage to take a few pictures today and I will try to get them posted as soon as I figure out how. Thanks for tuning in and more to come later..................

Saturday, April 18, 2009

James and Kari's Economic Stimulus Trip

The first two days of our journey were spent at the L'Auberge casino in Lake Charles. We relaxed by the pool and ate plenty of good food. We had fun with the penny slot machines.

The 3rd day of our journey we headed to Natchez, Mississippi. We are staying at the Pleasant Hill B&B which is a beautiful historic home built in 1832. Dinner at the Pig's Inn (BBQ) followed by the "knock your clothes off" margarita at Fat Mama's. A walk in the rain was pleasant and the beauty of the landscape and the aroma of the various flowers and shrubbery in the downtown neighborhood made the walk enjoyable. Our hostess has a delicious breakfast planned which is laden with carbs, starch and calories but we will be brave and eat it anyway.

Tomorrows agenda includes the annual Blues Festival at the Mississippi River which is two blocks away. We also plan to tour as many antebellum homes as possible. It is very pretty here and the magnolia and live oaks are huge! Louisiana is on one side of the river and Mississippi is on the other. The Mississippi side of the river is on a towering cliff that gives the riverside B&Bs a beautiful setting. We are sitting out on a gallery (that's large covered porch for those of you not from the deep south) watching and listening to a large thunderstorm that is rolling through the area. An unfinished house built in 1810 sits to the side of the large home and they will be restoring soon. We will spend the evening reading and resting up for all our sightseeing duties tomorrow.