Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The river offers a "Happy Valley' ride

Highway through my "Happy Valley" between Andrews and Murphy, NC
An invitation to attend a grand child’s dance performance last week in Georgia allowed my wife and I to extend our trip by a couple hundred miles.

We decided to take an overnight trip and make it to the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Our son introduced us to a new pathway to the mountains a couple years ago.

And the new route allowed us to add some special treats along the way, which usually means food stops.

Our routine is to get up early at their house and head out, making it to Blue Ridge, Ga., around 9 or 10, in time for breakfast at the LL Beanery.

And then it is on to the Nantahala Gorge and a late lunch at the River’s End, a restaurant on the river offering a wide variety of options.  But usually we each get a house salad and share a small pizza.

Overnight trips don’t allow for many options.

We spent the night in a motel in Cherokee (supper of ham sandwiches, cheese and Coke in the room), taking a brief jaunt up into the mountains to see if anyone was in the Smokemont campground.

The Park Service had closed off most of the area, but there were still 12 to 15 sites occupied, a lot of them by tenters. And then it began to rain.

Driving between Murphy, NC and the gorge, there is a long stretch of flat land flanked by mountains. The four-lane highway goes for, maybe, eight or ten miles.

There is a river that meanders through the area - the Valley River.

Thus, my name for the land that we traversed is Happy Valley.

I enjoy that stretch of  land, and my wife does too, since just outside Andrews, NC, there is a nice welcome center nestled alongside a small creek that offers nice restrooms.

It is a beautiful setting.

That was such a short trip, but enjoyable. This week we managed to make reservations for late September for the Elkmont campground just outside of Gatlinburg.

There may even be another trip or two into the mountains before the year is over.

Next post: April 5, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Long ago, and forever, there is Jesus

Long ago and far away!

Those are intriguing words, often tied to the beginning of an old novel.

But I will relate them to travel my wife and I undertook.

It was December 26, 1983. That was the long ago.

The Holy Land was the far away.

And I have lived almost another half of my life since that journey.

We drove from Hattiesburg, MS to Atlanta and then flew on to Amsterdam continuing on another plane to Amman, Jordan.

During the course of the almost two-week trip, we visited the ancient site of Petra in Jordan. Then it was on to Israel touching on locations where Jesus once walked.

We visited Jerico, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth and then Jerusalem.

The Dead Sea was on the itinerary along with Bethlehem, a ride to the top of  Masada and a walk through the Garden of Gesthemene.

Then it was Golgotha, where Christ was crucified, and the purported place where he was buried only to rise again.

Egypt was next and Cairo, the Pyramids of Gisa, the tomb of King Tut and the city of Luxor.

There was too much history to devour it all. And there was too much scenery to remember where everything was.

But the main history, and the scenery that is most important concerns Jesus and His life.

During the course of the past 2,000 years, and discussions on all levels, among all, people are still struggling in their search for the Truth.

The New Testament of the Bible tries to spell it out, but human nature, such as it is, tends to bring different interpretations to the forefront. People love Jesus, and others hate him.

But, after all is said and done, He still loves everyone. 

It is my hope that everyone seeks to find the truth, for only then may they be set free.

Happy Easter to those of the Christian persuasion who will be celebrating His life, death and resurrection this weekend.

Next post: March 21, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A back home feeling, even in the Baltics

The Manila Trio playing in the Atrium aboard the Norwegian Star
It’s been almost a year since my wife and I were on a nine-day Baltic Sea cruise aboard the Norwegian Star.

And one of the good experiences, among a lot, was listening to an instrumental trio almost each night in the atrium.

If we could find a seat, we would enjoy a latte and hot tea while sitting there during the duration of their gig.

There was a guitar player, flutist and violinist called the Manila Trio.

I don’t know if I’m politically correct or not, but I would describe the trio as being of Asian heritage.

Mostly they played easy listening music.

But perhaps the most entertaining song I heard one day was on the elevator landing about three decks above.

I could hear their playing but couldn’t see them from my location.

The song reminded me somewhat of music from back home. Well, not home, home, but the Southern United States.

Our residence is deep in Dixie from which a number of genres of music originated or were brought to the forefront by noted entertainers.

There was rock music with Elvis, country with Jimmy Rodgers, blues with Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, the recently deceased BB King and others.

I don't recall hearing any of that type of music, but on this particular afternoon, the trio pulled out all the stops on blue grass.

They were playing the Orange Blossom Special made famous by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and really “rocking” out on it. The sound was entertaining and invigorating.

As they continued the high-tempo song, I wondered if there were anyone, besides me, on the ship that enjoyed such an offering?

Or would there just be polite applause?

I was truly surprised. There were actually others there that felt the same way about the music as I did.

Upon completion of the song there was a rousing reception as whoops and hollers went up along with a lot of clapping.

It warmed my heart that others appreciated bluegrass.

And then, I thought, good music is good music, no matter where one is in the world.

Next post: March 22, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What's not to like about "Midnight in Paris"

I am not a fan of Woody Allen, the person, although he is known world-wide as a comedian, writer, producer and director.

And there’s not many, if any, of his films that I have actually sat through.

Until now that is.

Some people seem to always be “late to the game.” That’s me.

I discover something when others have known about it for years. 

And that is the way it is with my latest encounter with Mr. Allen.

Back in 2011 he wrote and directed the movie “Midnight in Paris.”

I don’t keep up with him as an individual, therefore I don’t keep track of his movies. But about three months ago I ran across an article in an old magazine about the movie he wrote and directed.

And I actually went onto Amazon Prime and watched it.

Why did I watch it?

Well, it had the word Paris in the title. And it was about a guy in the field of writing. And he had a nice looking fiancé. And the review told of his experience upon entering the bewitching midnight hour.

There are always those who think about the past, and how it was or could have been.

A number of times while in the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, I envisioned the situation where either William Faulkner, Truman Capote or Tennesee Williams, or some other notable writer would arrive, find a special spot and await their beignets and cafe au lait.

We think of maybe how grandiose the past was.

In “Midnight in Paris,” that thinking played out, and we discovered how those who we would have like to have met back in the 1920’s, were thinking about going back another 50 years to see how how it was at that time.

I knew how the movie would end. Who (OK, a lot of us don’t fit the mold) wouldn’t stay in the City of Light and live what some would call an extraordinary life in such a great city.

Having visited once, I do yearn to return to Paris.

But like most who have deep roots in another part of the world where we will stay, its good to have movies such as “Midnight in Paris” to add fuel to the fire of adventure in such a place and make us maybe a little sad that we didn’t step outside of our comfort zone, at least, maybe, for a little while.

I still don’t like Woody Allen as a person.

But I love, “Midnight in Paris.”

Next post: March 15, 2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Travelers have been lucky with low gas prices

Back in the summer of 2008, gas in California was rocketing upward

I sure hope most people who like to travel are taking advantage of the lower gas prices.

Not so much, with me.

During the first two months of the year, we haven’t been hardly anywhere but over to New Orleans, and then east to Foley, AL to pick up some backsplash tile for our new house.

When passing the local gas stations and seeing the lowest gas prices in years, it brings to memory a number of times when we hit the road at the peak of gas prices.

It was back in the summer of 2008 on the trip we called my wife’s retirement trip.

Remember the summer of 2008? Remember the gas prices?

Well, I can.

We had decided on a 30-day road trip from Mississippi to California and back.

Were we going to let the then close-to-$4-a-gallon gas in most places, or the $5-a-gallon gas in Nevada and almost that much in California keep us away from our appointed trip?

Inexpensive camping can help ease higher costs in other areas
No way. We justified the trip and accepted the gas prices because half of the nights on our trip were spent in campgrounds costing anywhere from about $8 a night (we’re retired and have one of those half-price cards for national parks) to near $30.

Because we didn’t pay a high nightly price for a room, gas wasn’t that big of a problem.

A 11-night stay in an apartment in San Francisco cost us just over $600.

We’ve learned how to justify traveling by taking the overall cost and not letting just one outrageous price keep us at home.

Gas be rather high at out-of-the-way coastal locations such as Mendocino, CA

We did get caught in Medocino, CA on my retirement trip back in 2012. We added a few gallons at $6.20, but that was an aberration because of where we were. We were also renting a small car at the time, so that helped.

But right now, we are at home. And soon to be at our new home, that’s why we not traveling that much.

Hitting the road is in my blood, and we'll still get out there even though prices are creeping up. 

We’ll just consider how much we saved because of the lower prices over the past six months and not feel bad about seeing new places.

Next post: March 8, 2016