Monday, October 29, 2012

R.I.P. HMS Bounty

We’re still in Wilmington, NC and expect to stay here until we can head north without concern about power outages and flooding. We just heard that the tall ship HMS Bounty is sinking off the coast of North Carolina. The Coast Guard is currently attempting a rescue of the 17 person crew from lifeboats.


We were fortunate to visit the Bounty this summer when she was visiting Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ship is a replica of the original Bounty, of mutiny fame, built for the movie with Marlon Brando. The ship has been used for many movies in recent years, including some of the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  When we were on board the Bounty, DSC_0366I snapped a picture of this framed photo of the ship under sail that was mounted in one of the companionways.  I guess we’ll find out soon why this beautiful vessel was put in danger when the storm was being discussed and tracked in detail for more than a week and you would think it had time to avoid the storm.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


No pictures in this entry. Everyone knows what rain looks like. We’re still in Wilmington and Hurricane Sandy has come for a visit. Conditions here aren’t expected to be awful, but the campground at Cape Hatteras called and suggested that we might want to change our reservation. Since the current forecast for the Cape is water 2-4 feet about ground level, that seemed like a good suggestion. So we’ll stay in Wilmington for at least an extra day and see what Sandy does before we decide where to go next.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moravians and Cookies

I’ve travelled to Winston-Salem, NC several times on business. On one trip, about 18 years ago, I stumbled upon Old Salem, which at the time, was a group of historic buildings, generally in need of restoration. There was also an old bakery which produced delicious, thin sugar and ginger spice cookies. I remember walking around Old Salem and learning that this was the remains of a Moravian settlement. Aside from the cookies, that’s all I remembered.

We needed a place to stop about midway between Asheville and Wilmington, and since Winston-Salem fit the bill, we found a campground there and planned to visit Old Salem on Monday. The campground turned out to be a magnificent place in a county park called Tanglewood, which was once the estate of a brother of RJ Reynolds, the tobacco baron. No wonder the town is named after two brands of cigarettes, or maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, Tanglewood Park is 1100 acres, including two golf courses (one a gem designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., which hosted the 1974 PGA tournament) two lakes, a tennis center, an equestrian center, hiking trails, swimming pool, etc. But I digress.

It turned out that Old Salem, which has now been restored and is operated by a non-profit organization, is closed Mondays. Se we went shopping instead and visited Old Salem on Tuesday.


The Moravians, a Christian sect with roots in Czechoslovakia and Germany, first settled in Bethlehem, PA before migrating to North Carolina. Old Salem consists of many of the original 18th century buildings, including the tavern once visited by George Washington, a man who apparently got around.


This is the Single Brothers House. The historic Moravians kept the sexes apart—the unmarried men lived in this dorm, and the unmarried women in a nearby building which is now Salem College.  Only married men could own businesses. The community was primarily a village of craftsmen who made products for sale within the community as well as to anyone who wanted to purchase their stuff.

The buildings open to the public are staffed with costumed interpreters DSC_0066who are very knowledgeable about the customs and lifestyle of the original residents. The Moravians, by the way, still exist as a Protestant denomination in congregations throughout the world with about  825,000 members.

Oh, and the good news is that they still make and sell the cookies. You can now order them on the web.

We’re currently in Wilmington visiting with our friends Kathie and Phil. Our next stop is scheduled to be Cape Hatteras, so we’re keeping a close eye on Hurricane Sandy. If he/she decides to visit the Outer Banks, we may have to change our plans.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway

I’ve mentioned before that I believe one of the good things done by the US government is the National Park System. One among many gems within the system may not be thought of as a national park, but the Blue Ridge Parkway is operated by the NPS, and I like to think of it as a 469 mile long national park. The BRP connects Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. It is a 469 mile two-lane road that makes its way over, around and through the southern Appalachian Mountains.


I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s a single traffic light along the Parkway, but the speed limit on this magnificent mountain road is 45 mph or less. Construction began in the 1930s and was completed in the 1960s. The Parkway is open year round, but in winter, sections are often closed due to high snow.

Autumn is an ideal time to drive the road and stop at the many overlooks for views of the mountains draped in their colorful fall foliage. The only downside is that it seems like everyone living east of the Mississippi has the same idea. Some of the overlook parking lots were full to overflowing with leaf peeper’s cars.


Not that I can blame the tourists, I mean that’s why we’re here too. We’ve driven various sections of the Parkway at other times, but never this time of year. The views are worth dealing with the traffic.

There are some sections of the Parkway, and the Smoky park as well, that have vast groves of mountain laurel, rhododendron and flame azaleas that must be magnificent when in bloom. We’d have to be here in June to see those colors.

We had dinner at a restaurant in Asheville last night and were really surprised when we opened the menus. Not that the offerings were anything special, but the menus were like two panels of an x-ray view box which lit up when opened and back lit the menu pages. The light behind one page of Penny’s menu went out, and I asked the waiter to turn the menu over to tech support for a repair. The waiter suggested a reboot.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Top of Old Smoky

First, a disclaimer and an apology. Most of the photos in the previous post were borrowed from various sites on the web. I usually acknowledge such borrowings, but when I wrote the Winchester entry, I forgot.

I apologize to anyone who follows this blog for not entering anything in the past couple of weeks. I’ve been as sick as a dawg (southern spelling) with a bad head cold. We’ve been seeing sights and taking pictures, but by the end of  the day I haven’t felt like writing. But all is now well.

Upon leaving Winchester, we headed south through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains.DSC_0006  I don’t have any pictures of the Shenandoah Valley because we were driving through it in one day and didn’t stop to take pictures. This image is another beautiful valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After taking this picture we decided to head down the mountain we were on without the use of our GPS. So I thought the road to the left looked more interesting than the road to the right, and since it was paved, we went that way. It didn’t take us long to ask each other “do you think this is a one-way road?” It was narrow (we were in the truck without the trailer), steep and twisty, and it didn’t look like there would be room for two vehicles to pass.  I started to wonder that, if it was one-way, did I miss a “DO NOT ENTER” sign at the top of the road and it was one-way the other way. But soon I noticed those big yellow warning signs about sharp turns were facing us, so I figured we were okay. I started to relax after a couple of miles, and we were on a fairly straight stretch of road when a car came up the hill toward us. That’s when I realized it wasn’t one-way after all. No problem there, it was a small car.

Then, just as we were approaching the last turn at the bottom of the hill, a pickup towing a stock trailer swung around the curve toward us, but I was able to swerve just enough to let him get by without taking an unplanned shortcut down the side of the mountain. I guess local knowledge is helpful when driving along back country roads.


The autumn colors  in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains are spectacular, and The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was quite crowded with leaf peepers, including us.


It’s a good thing the Smokies are a mixed forest because the blight that’s killing thousands of acres of conifers in the Rockies is taking a toll in the southern Appalachians as well. There are apparently a couple of different diseases doing the damage, and it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention in the media, but north America is losing an awful lot of spruce, fir and pines. I guess the Christmas tree farms are able to control the diseases with sprays, but the wild forests are being decimated.

On a happier note, We’re currently in Asheville, NC after spending a few days in Pigeon Forge, TN, Dolly Parton’s home town, and home to Dollywood. Penny and I went through there about 30 years ago and Pigeon Forge was an intersection with a gas station and café. Now, it’s a mini Las Vegas, without the casinos. Dollywood has turned this tiny mountain town into a major tourist town reminiscent of the Jersey shore, just without the ocean. There are miles of hotels, attractions, amusements, tee shirt shops, restaurants and music venues. I’ll admit, we went to Dolly’s Dixie Stampede last night and had a great time (there were horses, after all) even though we had to eat the whole roasted chicken, baked potato and barbeque pork with our hands.

Pigeon Forge and nearby Gatlinburg, TN were absolutely jammed with tourists, and we were there during the week, not on a weekend. The shows were sold out, the stores mobbed, the traffic jammed. Maybe the economy is doing a bit better than the pundits would have us think.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Winchester (Cathedral?)

We’re in Winchester, VA and we’ve been driving around looking for Winchester Cathedral of that old rock ‘n roll song, but Penny tells me its in a different Winchester. I’ve also been looking for the Winchester rifle company, but that may be elsewhere also. We did find a Gun Barrel Road nearby, but I don’t think that counts.

Anyway, there’s a lot of history in this area, and the local historical society does a really good job preserving it and educating visitors about it. George Washington spent time here back in his days as a surveyor, well before he was promoted to general. George_Washington's_Office,_WinchesterWe visited the actual office he used. Now a museum, its one of three sites run by the historical society, and the docent there, who has authored several books about the history of the area, was more interested in talking about the civil war than Washington and the revolution. The cabin once used by Washington was also used as a hospital for confederate soldiers, and one of the highlights of the museum is a blood stain on the floor.

Being at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, and just south of the key B&O railroad, Winchester was a key strategic location for both the Union and Confederate armies. Historians claim that Winchester changed hands as many as 72 times, and 13 times in one day. Battles raged along Main Street at different points in the war. Both Union General Sheridan and Stonewall Jackson located their headquarters just one block apart at various times.

The house Jackson lived in and used as headquarters while he was in Winchester is another of the sites run by the historical society. For some reason the house used by Sheridan has been demolished. The house Jackson used has a wonderful collection of period and original-to-the-house artifacts and furniture, none of which I can show you because photos are not permitted inside.

There’s a contemporary painting by Mort Kunstler of Jackson bidding farewell to his wife outside the house  in 1862.med_74_2[1] I tried to get a picture from the same angle, but there’s another house now in what was the front yard of this place, and since I assume the neighbors don’t appreciate tourists tramping all over their roses, DSC_0004the best I could do was get a shot of the door and the unique railing and roof line above the entrance.

One interesting point of our tour of the house was a discussion by the docent about the history of the Civil War. She said that contrary to popular belief, slavery wasn’t the cause of the war. She intimated that the problems in the country today (we’re in Virginia, remember) are related somehow to what happened in the Civil War, but not wanting to get into a political discussion, we didn’t pursue the topic. I couldn’t help but think she was referring to the complexion of our current president, but I could be wrong.

The third property managed by the historical society is the oldest house in Winchester. Abrams delightCalled Abrams Delight, it was built in 1754 by a Quaker family and since Quakers were and still are pacifists, it didn’t have a major role in the wars, but its farm and grist mill played a significant place in the economic development in the area.