Snowy Range Pass

Snowy Range Pass

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crossing paths

As we travel around the country, we do try to have a plan of some sort that is altered on a regular basis based on weather and newly discovered opportunities to explore. We also try and keep track of others who wander the country in RV’s, sometimes via their blogs. A week or so ago we found that our friends Dan and Corrie Ryan were slowly heading down the east coast and would generally be in the same area as ourselves in the same time frame.

So while we were driving to our current location near Asheville, North Carolina, we gave them a call and managed to come up with a plan to meet. They arrived a few days ago and parked next door. It has been a great opportunity to catch up on what has been going on and to have some fun. We all headed into downtown Asheville to explore the city. The downtown area was very busy on Saturday with a number of events. The architecture was largely from the 1920/30’s with an art deco appeal. Music and the arts are a big part of the local scene. We did our best to fit in.

After the downtown area, we visited the national famous Grove Park Inn, which has provided accommodation and leisure activities for locals and visitors alike for nearly one hundred years.

Dan is really into accomplishing a number of mile stones along the road. One of these was completing a journey along the whole Blue Ridge Parkway; we drove those areas of the parkway that he missed when he diverted to visit with us. On the way to the parkway we managed to visit the Stompin grounds hall of fame during the world competition and got a quick idea of what that is all about.

This also allowed us to hit the shops in Cherokee, NC just before turning into the Parkway.

As before, the parkway was beautiful in its fall colors and we ended up taking even more pictures.

Between all these travels, we managed to get in a few games to keep the spirit of competition alive. Two nights of playing Mexican Train dominoes with a poorly written rule book, led to multiple versions of the rules being applied, but in the end Corrie and I tied as the big winners. Today, to break the tie, we all played a round of miniature golf, and despite the ladies getting in some lucky holes in one, with, in my mind, some excessive celebrations, I modestly must report that I took the day.

It has been a great visit and tomorrow we again hit the road on our journeys.

Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley is located in The Great Smokey Mountain National Park. It is in a remote and rugged mountain valley with limited access that includes narrow winding unpaved roads. In the second half of the 1800’s this was the site of a well developed settlement which was centered on farming. A number of buildings from this period have been preserved in the national park.

We traveled the mountain roads primarily to see the beautiful country in full fall colors and to hopefully see some of the elk that have been reintroduced into the area. The road trip was exciting but certainly not dangerous and the views of the mountains and valleys were alone worth the trip. There are many streams to fish in and trails to hike. Some of these trails are not for the faint of heart.

We were also lucky to catch a large portion of the elk herd grazing in an open meadow while enroute to see some of the old settlement buildings.

It was a great way to spend a sunny fall day in North Carolina.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Biltmore Estate

A visit to this area would not be complete without a visit to the Biltmore Estate. The Biltmore House was built by George W. Vanderbilt and was officially opened in 1895. The estate originally included 125, 000 acres. After his death in 1914, his widow Edith and only child Cornelia continued to live in the house. They began opening the house to the public in 1930, to help local tourist business and obtain funding to support the estate.

Today the property remains in the family and consists of the house, winery, farmland, the Biltmore Inn and 8000 acres. The house is huge with 175, 000 square feet and 250 rooms. Also on site are gift shops, restaurants, and other related attractions.

We visited mid-week, but still found it very busy, with a well controlled system for pushing every one thru the house. No photography is allowed inside, but there are numerous web sites with interior photos. It took over two hours to walk the four floors plus basement. It was indeed impressive, but made me wonder what of ego led to its building for a family of three and guests. The term robber baron comes to mind. It was an interesting place to visit, but not a very warm place to live, in my opinion. It was more like a upscale hotel then a home.

The gardens and grounds are also on a grand scale and there is a lot to do besides the house tour. It is indeed a must see, despite the rather high entry fee for the tour.