Tuesday, May 29, 2012

. . . a part of something greater

Sometimes one should become a part of something greater than their self.

That's what happened to me a number of years ago when my wife and I were at the Cades Cove Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We decided to make a commitment.

I had written earlier about passing the donation boxes in the park and not contributing, or at most a dollar or two.

At times I felt guilty because I truly enjoy the park and its amenities.

Well, at that particular time, I let myself get backed into a corner by one of the attendants at the center. She talked me into becoming a member of the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

For my one year donation, I received a water bottle, a membership card that allowed for discounts on purchases in the park and we also began receiving the Smokies Guide, a quarterly publication about activities in the park. We also began receiving a slick "Smokies Life" magazine with insightful and intriguing stories about the area.

I maintained my annual membership for a number of years and then decided to step up to the plate. I purchased a lifetime membership for my wife and myself.

We could pay it off over a few years and have added benefits. That was great and I knew the organization was forever making the park a better place to visit.

This past Easter trip we decided to stop at the new Oconaluftee Visitors Center just outside Cherokee, NC.

The facilities were amazing. There was a nice porch with rocking chairs overlooking the farmstead and the mountains.

The inside was spacious and inviting and entertaining. I really enjoyed our stop. Checkout this You Tube video.

As I was standing there, taking in the beauty of the facility, I came to realize that my wife and I had a part in its construction.

By becoming a member of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, we had become a part of something that was far greater than we were.

And that was a good feeling.

Next post: June 5, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Boiled peanuts, a Smoky Mountain treat

The first time I ever ate boiled peanuts was a long time ago. I believe it was at my inlaws residence in Hattiesburg, MS somewhere around the early 1980's.

At the time I didn't know what to think, but I took a bite and was hooked.

I've eaten a lot of them since that time and mostly they were purchased from the same spot in Cherokee, NC.

Each year we go to the Smoky's two, maybe three times. And when we pass through Cherokee, we're always looking to see if Jack's Boiled Peanuts is open. 

They are located on the east side of U.S. 441 which is the main drag heading toward Gatlinburg.

We can always find them open June through August, and sometimes as early as March and as late as September.

When the tourist season winds down, they do to.

One year when we stopped I talked to Jack and I recall that he said at that time they cooked up some 16 tons of peanuts. That was back ages ago when the economy was humming and people traveled more.

Even the National Park Service reported that  annual visits to the Smoky's this year has dropped to under the average of 10 million visits a year.

This past Easter visit, Jack said that last year they managed to cook up six tons of boiled peanuts and were hoping to get that up to nine tons this year.

We do our share, as much as possible. 

What I'm going to say is not as bad as texting and driving, but could be considered a hazard.

I am nomally driving and I put a towel down in my lap and a paper plate on top of it.  The peanuts are in a bag, usually between the two front captain's chairs.

I just reach over and get some, put them on the plate and manage to ply the little critters open with my hands and teeth and eat them as we journey up to the New Found Gap.

Been doing that for years with no adverse affects, other than being stuffed with the goodies.

Next post: May 29, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A couple of whimsical bluegrass guys

I love bluegrass music.

Especially the banjo. And you can also throw in the guitar, fiddle, harmonica and mandolin. There are a number of other instruments that go to making up a good group of performers.

And if you go to Waynesville, NC, you will also enjoy the whimsical look of their pickers and grinners.

Wifey and I, on a previous post, were looking at some artwork in a local studio.

And then across the street we found another bit of artwork. Really cute, interesting stuff.

It was two characters almost out of the old country "Hee Haw" TV show of the previous century. 

"Hee Haw" was a really enjoyable show (for Southerners, anyway) when entertainers of all sorts and their very curvy and pretty lady friends (not necessarily Minnie Pearl)  took to the stage on Saturday nights with their corny jokes, musical genius and vocal offerings from then-current well-known singers.

Just off Main Street in Waynessville were these two characters just standing and sitting there. I guess one of them was about seven feet tall. The other a tad shorter and relaxing on a stool.

The two were part of the display of "Ole Time Music" which is part of a public art program. They were made of recycle items and fabricated from previously used industrial equipment.

We stopped for a few minutes to take in the artwork and enjoy the creativity of local artisans to celebrate the area's heritage.

Next post: May 22, 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

North to Alaska, well, Washington, anyway

Image taken from "Moosefest" website

I want to go north.

I want to drive to Alaska. To that fictional town of Cicely.  You know, the one made famous in the TV series "Northern Exposure."

I told wifey a number of months before my birthday that I would like to get the CDs of the show which ran on TV from 1990 to 1995.

Well, she didn't exactly surprise me when the 5th season CD set showed up. I had an idea they were on the way and happened to see the box with the CDs deposited at our front door by one of the delivery services.

We have been watching at least one episode almost each night for the past week or so. There are six CDs to the set and I guess we'll order some more.

Back then I really enjoyed the quirkiness of the characters. I liked Chris' monologues on the radio and the way each show was wrapped up with maybe some humor or just good down-home wisdom.

Some 20 years later I still find that true.  And more.

Now is  a slower time for us. You know, we're older and just don't move as fast. And there's no kids around and we can just sit and enjoy.

The show is even quirkier than I remember. And it remains relevant and just as humorous and insightful about the events of the world.

The series was filmed in Roslyn, Washington.

And I have somehow got the itch to visit the place.

Image taken from "Moosefest" website

So I "Googled"  "Northern Exposure" and found out there is an annual "Moosefest" which celebrates the series.

This year's event is July 27 to 29. There are bus and walking tours of the area, an informal dinner, barbecue lunch and other fun stuff.

Registration is limited to 120 people.

But I guess if you can't get there during the event, anytime would be an excellent time to get a feel for a piece of the past and wish that the series was still going strong.

But then again, they would all be way older, but old folks cans be funny too, right?

I would like to thank wifey so much for the CDs. Watching them have really been fun.

Next post: May 15, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Solving the world's problems?

I really don't know what those two guys in the picture above were discussing.

But the situation seemed interesting. Just viewing the scene, and from past experiences, I can kind of see myself as one of them. I felt like I wanted to go over and join in their conversation.

They appeared to be having an intense discussion outside a coffee house, Tribal Grounds, in Cherokee, NC.

We visit Tribal Grounds when passing through on our way to the Elkmont Campground on the Tennessee side and usually get a seat looking out the big picture window on the north side of the building.

On this particular day, the  4th of April, 2012, the weather was great. The sky was sunny, the temperatures were cool and to add to the atmosphere, there was (well it's always been there) a stream (the Oconaluftee River) running along the back property line.

Slices of wood used as decoration

We sat inside to savor our drinks, but then I took my camera and headed out to shoot some pictures.

And the atmosphere out back just set up the feeling of something from way in the past.

Coffee houses, according to Wikipedia, "from a cultural standpoint . . . largely served as centers of social interaction; the coffeehouse provides social members with a place to congregate, talk, write, read, entertain one another, or pass the time, whether individually  or in small groups of 2 or 3."

The first coffee house was opened in Istanbul, Turkey in 1555 A.D.

Early on they apparently became a place of political gatherings and were banned.

Nevertheless, they have survived over the centuries and still provide a spot for lighthearted discussion, and probably in some cases, revolutionary rhetoric.

In some places in Europe, women were actually banned from coffee houses.

But that's not the case in today's world. Coffee shops find the more customers they have, male or female, makes it merrier for not only the people visiting but also for their bottom line.

Next post: May 8, 2012