Monday, June 24, 2013

A new experience at Charlie's U-Pik

My wife and I make it a point to visit farmers' markets when on our vacation journeys.

Most all are entertaining and offer an enjoyable experience. 

In Europe it seems there are not only vegetables offered, but fish, beef, pork and other seafood for sale.

The market in Paris seemed to stretch for miles and also offered tires, mattresses and other items for one's home.

We've also experienced markets in Florence, Rome, San Francisco and New Orleans.

But we had a new "market" experience not far from home just last week. It was a farmer's market -- one farm with a lot of produce, where visitors had to pick their own.

It was Charlie's U-Pik outside of Lucedale, MS. There were rows and rows of just about every vegetable imaginable including tomatoes of all kinds, okra, peas of all kinds, cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash and sunflowers. 

There were potatoes, eggplants, sweet onions and a variety of bell peppers and hot peppers. They also had watermelons, cantaloup and corn for sale.

When we arrived about 9 a.m., hundreds of people were already out in the fields. We thought it was going to be a hot day for picking but the sky turned cloudy and overcast. There was a breeze across the fields that make it more enjoyable.

Pickers pay a set price -- only $10 for each 5-gallon pail filled to the brim with any of the produce in the fields. Pickers had to bring their own pails.

We loaded up one pail with a combination of purple-hull peas, some okra and a few cucumbers and tomatoes.

Although, cost-wise, one wouldn't consider it a profitable trip -- there are intangibles -- a new experience, an adventurous daytrip and a memory that will live on.

Next post: July 2, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Headstone reveals a divided cove during war

It shouldn't be amazing what one finds out when attending church.

Well, we weren't exactly attending "church church" on our visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in May.

We happened to be on our traditional drive through Cades Cove when we came upon a sign that there was going to be a ranger program at the Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church.

Wifey is a sucker for ranger programs, so we decided to make the side trip and find out what was going on.

The unusual story which we found out during the presentation was that one of the men buried in the church cemetery was apparently killed by a group of Confederate raiders which included his son.

There are a number of stories circulating about the death of Russell Gregory. He was born in 1795 and died in 1864. His headstone in the cemetery, in part, reads "murdered by North Carolina Rebels." This was during the Civil War and his son apparently was part of those rebels.

It seems that the cove residents were somewhat split about the Civil War with some siding with the Union and others with the Confederacy.

Thus the disparate stories about the death of Gregory.

During the presentation we also learned of the history of the church and the important part it played in the life of the people who lived in the cove.

We have visited the church and grounds numerous times, and now we know exactly what Gregory's headstone refers to.

Next post: June 25, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trolling around Ober Gatlinburg

For the first time in about 20 years, wifey and I decided to drive up to Ober Gatlinburg on our May trip. We were going to take the tram but decided otherwise.

In years gone by, it seemed a gigantic effort for our vehicle at the time to make it to the top.

There was the steep grade, the switchbacks and the dangerous dropoffs that looked worse than they were. But then again, way back then, there wasn't a lot of vegetation growing on the "dangerous" side of the road which could help catch a runaway vehicle.

Heading south from Pigeon Forge, we took the bypass around Gatlinburg, planning on taking the road to the top from south side of town.

As luck would have it, halfway through the short trek, there was a sideroad and we decided to check it out. After a few intersections and turns, we were almost to the top. That was a real savings in time and traffic.

In May the crowds at Ober Gatlinburg aren't that great, but the ice skating rink was still open and doing a little bit of business.

Wifey shopped a few stores as we walked around the second floor perimeter of the facility. There was an interesting figure, a troll, keeping watch on everyone going by.

Years ago, at a younger age and with teen-agers in tow, we would go over to the Alpine Slide and have some fun. Now we're without kids and a little more safety conscious.

Maybe in a  year or two, our grandkids will get to enjoy the slide like their daddies did years ago.

Ober Gatlinburg was interesting, but not as entertaining as years  gone by. Or maybe, it wasn't them, but just us -- two old codgers on the slow track to the future.

Next post: June 18, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Gilded Age lives on in parkway jewel

 I thought for a moment I was in the Old South of years gone by.

It was a momentary feeling -- well, it did last for a few minutes. 

As I stood on the porch and looked across the vast expanse that included valleys and mountains, I felt I could hear the strains of "Dixie" flowing across the countryside.

And the place with such a view is Flattop Manor in the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park just outside Blowing Rock, NC.

The house is not ante-bellum, and didn't have anything to do with the Civil War.

But it looks like it could have.

Work on the house began in 1899, part of an estate that included some 3,600 acres. The residence has 23 rooms in its 13,000-square-foot area.

The estate was created by Moses H. Cone (known as the Denim King) and his wife Bertha.

Moses and his brother Ceasar were businessmen, the sons of German-Jewish immigrants who had a wholesale grocery business in Baltimore. They traveled the South to supply stores with textiles.

And they later decided to expand their holdings and opened businesses in Greensboro, NC.

The brothers efforts were extremely successful and they shared that success with the communities in which they lived.

The estate is now part of the Blue Ridge Parkway system and the house serves as the parkway craft center.

Next post: June 11, 2013