Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sorry, I was just so tired.

I'm baaaack!

Yesterday was our last day, and I have to admit that by the time I got home, unpacked, started my laundry, made dinner and gave myself a charlie horse so bad I had to lie down the rest of the night, I just gave up and figured you all can read this crap later.   :)  And here you are, reading this crap later.

Actually, day 5 (our last day) was a beautiful day.  When we woke up, there were wispy clouds in the mountains, but by the time we went down to breakfast, the sky was blue, blue, and blue.  We went towards the visitors center, and picked up a map; since the guy at the Holiday Inn just moved in from
We made it to the top of the stairs!

After getting the map, we drove around looking at all of the shops (scoping them out) and headed to Mingo Falls.  Which was breathtaking.  The pictures don't do it justice.  It was ridiculously beautiful, and it was the first thing I saw that made my jaw stand open.  There were steps up to the trail, some of which were knee high (no wonder I have a charlie horse)!

Mingo Falls
I have a confession to make.  The shops (that we visited) weren't that great.  I did get a few books, but didn't really find anything for a souvenir.  We did end up in a shop at the end that had sterling silver  jewelry and I got Leilani a pair of turquoise earrings (shhhh, don't tell her -they're for her B-day) and the guy there told me that Betsy's ring and My ring were Lapis Lazuli and Labradorite (respectively) that we bought at the Caverns.  Those were 15 bucks.  The rings and sterling silver jewelry that was in the village were closer to $30.  What a bargain!  Anyway, it was nice that he told me because mine looks like a moonstone, and that's what I was calling it.

So, after chasing after souvenirs, we gave up and went to Taco Bell, and then started the long trek home.  When we hit Morganton, we said goodbye to the last few mountains.  :(

So, to sum up: my favorites were "Blowing Rock State Park," the Caverns, and mining, and we could have spent more time in Cherokee finding the rest of the waterfalls (Linville Falls has nothing on Mingo Falls).  No one fell off a cliff, and I didn't have to call 911.  So, all in all, this was a good trip.

On the not so bright side, I think I'm getting sick.  My one gland was swollen the whole trip, and now they're both swollen.  Leilani has orientation on Thursday, and school starts on Monday.  So, I'll be a busy bee for the next few days - I can't afford to be sick!

Anyhow, I won't post anything much this week.  It's been fun entertaining you.  Let me know where your favorite spots are (especially if you have one in the mountains) so that I can visit those next time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How do you make rain stop?

See, the clouds are lifting as I'm
applying the stuff!
So, as a general question, how do you make rain stop? This sounds like an extraordinary question, but it's really far more simple than you imagine.  This is how you do it.  You get up...you go to Walmart...you buy rain-x and paper towels...you apply said rain-x to all windsheilds.  Then you start driving.  Instantly the skies clear.  I swear, it should come with a money back guarantee.

Outside of Linville Caverns
So, guess what I did first thing this morning?  That's right!  :)  I made it stop raining.  (oh the feeling of power!)  After we did that, I volunteered for another shift of driving as long as I could drive to the Linville Caverns (which is backwards from where we were supposed to be going).  Betsy thought that was a great idea (her not having to drive, I think), so I drove to Linville Caverns.  I was a little worried, because we kept driving, and driving, and driving and I hadn't seen any signs in a while.  But we did find it (no u-turns required).  And boy was it worth it.  When you walked in the mine it was instantly 10 degrees cooler.  I swear to you all I will NEVER walk in front of Betsy on a tour again.  She got pictures of other things too, but a lot were photo-bombed by my ass (since I walked ahead of her).  The gift shop after was nice too, and they had a lot of stuff (variety-wise) at decent prices.  We were able to get some good pictures in front of the stream outside as well.

So, after that           (are ya'll sitting down?)        (you are?  good)      we got some lunch (before 2pm).  SHOCKER!!!!

How awesome are those clouds mixed with mountains?
And then we got on the highway and headed to Cherokee.  At this point I have to send a shout out to Patricia for telling me not to go through Maggie Valley, but to go around.  It was much, much easier to drive and it was beautiful scenery.  Unfortunately we didn't get in to Cherokee until about 3:30, so all we had time to do was the Casino.  That thing was HUGE.  It was probably as big as Wake Med, if not larger.  I walked around with Leilani and we found a rain shield that was raining from the ceiling of the casino.  It was both beautiful and amazing.  It was synchronized with a bunch of LCD panels which played something while the rain-shield changed colors.

This is a picture of the rain curtain, but no
squirrel dancers on the LCD's in the background.  Sorry
Now, I'm not sure if I can tell you how funny this next part is, or if you just had to be there; but I'm going to try my best.  On the screen pops up a (CGI animation) toad, woodpecker, and (the star of the show) a squirrel.  Now, here's the funny parts:  #1- there are no children allowed in the casino (where this was playing) except we could see it from the top floor. (hello, isn't that your biggest audience for animated cartoons?)  But there were no children around except for Leilani.  #2- There is a ridiculous hip hop beat going (thanks to the toad's croaks and the woodpecker's..uh..pecks?) and the squirrel is *ahem* dancing.  And catching some sweet front-side air on a makeshift snowboard (that happens to be made out of a twig - oh, and there's no snow).  I didn't have my camera (or my wits) about me, so you all will not get to see this spectacle, unless you go to the casino and stand there all day waiting for that particular animation to play.  Sorry.  I truly think everyone should have to see it at least once.

So, I lost 5 bucks in the casino.  Leilani was worried (how did I get such a prude?) about me spending my money.  I told her we wouldn't starve if I lost $5.  So, she eventually let me go.  Betsy won about $30, so that's pretty awesome.

Can you believe this sweet angelic creature
could fart like a truck driver? (no offense to the
truck drivers out there.)
After that we took a drive to see if we could find downtown (which I could have SPIT and hit it was so close) and then we got some dinner (nothing special).

When we got back, Leilani had a fart-fest and gassed Betsy out.  And that's how she won at UNO tonight. :)

Tune in tomorrow, when I might post about my exciting trip home.  haha.  Actually, we plan on seeing the park and downtown tomorrow and then we'll come home (unless we find something else to do).  So, I'll post if anything exciting happens.

Good night :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

So, I still have yet to call 911, depsite haivng a bad customer service experience that could have warranted a 911 call!

"On the road again...just can't wait to get on the road again..."

Does this really need a caption?
This is her idea of fun.
This morning, after checking out of the hotel (after eating breakfast - thank goodness), we headed to Linville Falls.  Now, looking ay the internet Betsy told me that it was right off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  My GPS, decided he had never heard of the place - so we took a chance and followed her directions.  It was a beautiful drive on the parkway for the most part. We got a little lost, and it's called "Pisgah National Forest - Linville Falls" which is why when we followed the directions and ended up in Linville Falls the community, it was a little like "uh...and now what do we do?" when we saw that there were no falls in Linville Falls. I am happy to report though, that we did finally find the falls (hence me being able to tell you what the hell they're actually called - and the picture below).

Leilani with Linville Falls in the
Hiking to the falls was a downward affair.  It was a beautiful hike, filled with moss covered trees, and so many mushrooms I can't even begin to tell you!  When we got to the falls we took some beautiful pictures, and then hiked back.  However, Leilani fell 1/2 way back and so she and I rushed (uphill) to the car so I could bandage her with the first aid kit I (so conveniently) left in the car.  While I bandaged her, I recovered my lungs (holy CRAP what a hike uphill that last part was!) and we waited (not long) for Betsy to get to the car.  By the time we left however, it was 1pm and we were starving! (sound familiar?  It's like a recurring theme lately!)

Little Switzerland Downtown.  Sadly, this was the
best part of "LSD"
So, our plans were that we were going to go to Little Switzerland and eat there.  There must be a ton of cute places in a little "Swiss village," right?   HA!  Little Switzercrap had a bunch of winding roads that went to a post office, general store, and the "Little Switzerland Cafe."  By this time it was about 1:30/1:45.  Now, we were really, really hungry.  But let me explain to you the entire saga:  When we got there, it said "please seat yourself."  When we attempted to do so we were told in no uncertain terms that there was a waiting list and that we should get on it.  okaaaay, put us on the list then.  (meanwhile other people ARE seating themselves.)  So, we look around the adjacent General Store and we bought Leilani 2 postcards and a walking stick (a little late in the game, since I haven't been buying the tags to put on the walking stick,but whatever).  This takes a little bit, since we're not the first people in line.  But, we're still waiting on a table (that STILL hasn't been cleared since we put our names on the list) so no biggie.  Well, we go up to the girl and she's like, "Yeah, you can sit here - let me just finish wiping it down."  okaaay (by the way, this was the original table we tried to sit down at).  So, Sabrina (the girl who snootily told us that there was a waiting list and we should get the hell on it) comes over and asks us what we'd like to drink.  Betsy and I ordered water, and Lei ordered Sweet Tea.  When she came back with the drinks, we were discussing having the BBQ chicken, when Sabrina piped up and told us that "We're out of chicken!"  okaaaayy.  Now, this menu is pretty crappy, but we take a look.  And look.  And look some more.  Well, Sabrina never comes back to the table.  So, we decide we've waited this long, let's just get the ham sammich outta here.  So, I leave 2 dollars on the table (which should cover Leilani's tea) and leave.  We pulled out of the parking lot down the road, and drove past.  She still hadn't come back to the table.  We must have been SUPER important to her.

Now, let me say that if that were the only problem with this town, that would be ok.  But, we thought it was going to be "more" and that we'd end up spending the rest of the day there.  But, it really was only a post office, a cafe, a general store, and a coffee house.  That's it.  Totally not worth the stupid road.
Leilani finds cool stuff at the mine

However, what WAS worth the stupid road was the gem mine we went to next.  It was also in Little Switzerland.  (How important is food anyway?)  We decided since the mine was there that we'd take a trip to do some mining.  It shouldn't take too long.  So we ordered the smallest bucket ($20) which was about a 5 gallon paint bucket.  Leilani got to pan for gems, and we came away with a WHOLE mess of stones.  Some Rubies & Saphires, Emeralds, Peridot, Topaz, Quartz and Amethyst, Moonstones and more.  For $20 we got a whole lot of stones.  And they labeled them and put them in baggies for us.  And they told me all about how people get different colors of topaz (the different hued blues are just the amount of exposure to radiation - did you know that? Yes, Dad, I know you did!).  Anyway, if you have the chance to go, definitely check it out.  Although we didn't get any gems refined today (we were too hungry), their prices are good.  $35 to cut a stone, and $70 for 3 stones.  That's an awesome deal.  And when we have a moment to look through, we'll probably ship some back, and have them refined.

Where Leilani refuses to put her roll
down for a picture.  Admittedly,
they were amazing rolls.
So, it's about 3pm now.  We decide that we should just go for an early dinner (like yesterday) and find the hotel first.  There's just one problem.  We don't have an address for the hotel we're staying at.  hahaha.  So, I told the GPS to take us to Marion, City Center and hoped that we would find it on the way.  It did...we didn't.  Betsy went to the trunk (I pulled over in old downtown Marion) and got the hotel information.  So, we plugged that into the GPS.  Long story short, we got to the hotel, checked in, put the luggage in the room, and RAN to the closest deliciousness we could find.  Which happened to be FATZ.  I've been to a FATZ, but Leilani and Betsy had never been.  What can I say...We had a wonderful waiter who was laid back and didn't bat an eye when Leilani ordered 2 kids meals, and I cleaned my plate entirely.  Lets just say that we don't even have pictures of our food tonight because we were RAVENOUS!  After we devoured our massive plates of fantasticness, we went to the Peebles that was next door.  It was cool.  I bought Leilani some boots for the upcoming fall weather.

Now we're back at the hotel chilling.  Leilani and Betsy had a tie for UNO cards tonight.  4 to 4.  So, Leilani beat Betsy in the head with Betsy's own Kindle.  (by mistake, I'm told.)

Tomorrow is Linville Caverns, and then we head out to Cherokee. 
We may get out of this trip without a single rescue squad being called into action.  But, I promised to drive again tomorrow, so nothing is certain yet.  ;)

Tune in for tomorrow's segment currently titled "This is the day that I blew a WHOLE 5 dollars at a casino!"

Friday, August 17, 2012

No one fell off the mountain...today (aka: and this would be why the GPS said NOT to use Route 221)

So, last night was a ridiculous night.  Air set at 68 degrees.  When the fan was off, we sweat.  When it was on we froze.  So, we didn't sleep very well.  But, we plugged along anyway.

After getting ready, we went down to breakfast.  There were people EVERYWHERE.  I guess that's how you can tell if it's a good breakfast- if it looks like an IHOP on a Saturday morning.  Once we finished breakfast, we headed out to Grandfather Mountain State Park.  We took the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there.

The first stop on the parkway promised directions.  So, we stopped at the Moses Cone Flattop Mannor.  It was a beautiful old mansion filled with amazing crafts from local artisans.  I bought some presents/souvenirs.   And we took pictures of some of the beautiful paths which were built originally for carriages.  The house gave tours as well, but we missed them because it wasn't the right time. So, we moved on after getting directions.

Next stop on the parkway was the Julian Price Memorial Park.  It was a lovely lake overlook with beautiful views.  We took some pictures of the lake view and then drove on to Grandfather Mountain.

When we got to Grandfather Mtn, they gave us an audio CD to pop into the CD player so that we could listen to a tour on the way up the mountain.  It gave some really interesting information about the mountain and the park.

The first place we stopped was the half-moon overlook.  We were really high up (elevation 5946 feet) and we were only 1/2 way up!  We took some beautiful pictures here and then got back in the car and headed to the Sphinx and Split rocks.  They were awesome (did you know they're actually older than the mountain - being an ancient river-rock?  Neither did I.)

It started to rain, but we walked the connected animal park and saw deer, an otter, and a few chipmunks.  I went ahead to the museum while Betsy and Leilani went to see the bears.  At this gift shop, Leilani got a coon-skin cap.  It's hilarious.  She thinks it's very cool and reminds her of James "Bobo" Fay from Finding Bigfoot's Kentucky episode.  We had a snack here, because it was already after 1pm.

Next stop was the top.  YIKES.  It was drizzly and really windy.  The wind howled under the swinging bridge.  And if this is the new and improved un-swinging bridge, then I'm glad I never saw the rickety piece of crap that it used to be.  Holy Crap!  This think DID swing.  And, as if it's not bad enough that I'm freezing do death and hanging on for dear life, watching every step as I got closer and closer to the other side, they just HAD to put on the place with the greatest distance from the ground exactly HOW far you'd fall if you decided that you couldn't make it to the other side.  Over a mile.  I however, (both ways) didn't read exactly how far down that was (it was more than a mile) because I was pushing people out of my way (practically) so that I could get inside shelter where it was safe and warmer.  Needless to say, it was not my favorite area.
Don't be fooled...these are terrified faces!

So, after that we strolled down the mountain and went to Linville (the other side of the mountain) using Rt. 221.  There was a General Store Betsy wanted to go to.  It wasn't all that interesting, so we left; turned around, and went up the mountain again.  Lol.

And that's when the fun began.  (Betsy's driving)  Betsy: "This Route 221 should go back to Blowing Rock.  It says it's only 19 miles.  What do you think?  Should we bypass the Blue Ridge Parkway?" This was a huge mistake.  Yes, it was 19 miles of curvy, narrow, not as well paved, road that took us probably 45 minutes to get to Blowing Rock.  By the time that she arrived in Blowing Rock's downtown area, her knuckles were devoid of blood as she pried them off the steering wheel.  (gosh, I wish I had a picture of that!)

Leilani's Tea (after 3 minutes)
Betsy's Tea (after 3 min)
Once we decided that downtown Blowing Rock was too crowded, we decided to stop by the Tanger Outlets.  (insert laughing here) We didn't stop here either.  Instead we roamed the parking lot looking for plates from out of state to add to our list that we started in yesterday's highway game.  Besty says she was still in shock from 221.  So, she was in no state to do anything.  And I didn't want to upset any mental balance issues she might have been having, by suggesting we stop for anything.  No, really...we just didn't find anything interesting aside from the license plates.  Sad, isn't it?

My tea (after 3 min)
By the time we finished trolling the parking lot, we were starving.  It was 4 pm after all.  So we had some awesome Beef Brisket BBQ at The Woodlands Barbeque. Leilani ate 5 huge Chicken fingers (surprise).  That is very conveniently located next to the place we're staying.  That's very, very handy since we were all exhausted.  So after the BBQ, we came back to the room to put together the scrapbooks, write the blog, and listen to Leilani having a nervous breakdown trying to entertain us.

I've been told that Betsy only won 1 game of UNO tonight against Leilani.  They think they might have played 4 total (nervous breakdown averted).  So, my card sharp is getting better.  And we got some postcards to post in the morning's mail.  Hopefully they'll make it home before we do.  But that's doubtful.  And I'm really not sure what Leilani wrote on those cards, so if you get one - please be understanding.

More tomorrow, when we visit Linville Falls (and hopefully not fall) and Little Switzerland.  Also, check out the rest of my pictures on Flickr.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The episode where no one falls off a mountain

Today is my anniversary.  14 year of wedded bliss (and not so much bliss).  So, naturally, I left him.  At home.  On his own.  For a whole week without me and Leilani.  :)  He's probably very happy.

Leilani and I went to the mountains with Betsy for her 50th birthday celebration.  Today we drove from Raleigh to Blowing Rock.  We got in around 2:30 and scouted the hotel out.  It reminds me of a hunting lodge from the outside, but on the inside it is very modern.  I'm especially taken and disappointed (all at the same time) with the bathroom, whose shower has marble.  Just like mine. And here I thought my shower was pretty original.  Ce'st la vie.

Leilani, Heide & Betsy were here.  2012
After unloading and settling in to the hotel, we drove a short distance to Blowing Rock Park.  It was really pleasant weather - being warm, but not humid, with a cool breeze.  We walked the park and saw beautiful flowers and lovely outcroppings of rocks jutting from the earth.  From the overlooks we could see Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and, I think, even Table Rock Mountain.  When we were standing at the highest and largest overlook the up-drafts felt so delightful.  I used my blue Sharpie to write on the railing that "we were here" and the year.  If we ever come back, we can check to see if it's still there.  It's on the under-hang of the railing, on the right side of the lookout.  When I got to the gift shop, I bought Leilani a postcard for her scrapbook, and 2 booklets about the mountain legends and the legend of Blowing Rock.

Mystery Hill's "Vortex"
After Blowing Rock, we headed to Mystery Hill.   It was really freaky.  Although the house was built on an angle, you could definitely feel the massive pull of gravity.  There was a lot of neat stuff there - like the large bubble makers, the spooky spigot, and awesome antique farm equipment.  They had an old still for moonshine, and an "outhouse."  I bought some postcards there, a stone that is used for sharpening things.  Leilani got a mustache moodring and a robot moodring.  Oh, and a got an awesome book about North Carolina history...the weird stuff, not the run-of-the-mill history.

For dinner, we went to The Canyon - a restaurant that used to be a speakeasy and opened in the 30's
Grandfather Mountain is beneath that sun. I got sunburned
for sitting out there for all of 45minutes.  Ugh!
(I think...).  It had a beautiful view of the mountain range, with a lovely sunset view of Grandfather Mountain...which we didn't get to see because we ate so fast.  But it was still beautiful and impressive.  Leilani hated sitting outside (I'm hot!  There's a bee hovering! -for the record there were 2 bees and the didn't bother us much at all!)  The food was delish.  Betsy had the Grouper special with rice.  I had the Malibu Chicken with smashed potatoes.  And Leilani - surprise- had Chicken fingers. Betsy and I had salad with our dinner and it had a delicious Honey Lime Vinaigrette.

And this is me freezing
After dinner, we went to the Food Lion to buy tape for Lei & Betsy's scrapbooking efforts.  We went in and didn't buy tape.  Betsy and Leilani had to go back into the store to buy it (again).  I got to watch a fireman park his massive truck and enter the store.  Delightful.

Now here we are at the hotel.  I'm freezing and Betsy thinks it's stuffy in here.  This is gonna be some night! :)

Tomorrow - The adventures of Grandfather Mountain and more Blowing Rock. Also entitled "The episode where we (might) fall off a mountain and are rescued by hot firefighter I saw at Food Lion."