Monday, March 29

Leaving Gatlinburg

Sunday morning we got on our hiking gear, took a little tour through Gatlinburg, before heading to the Laurel Falls trail.  Once in the park we saw that the road over the top was closed for snow and ice conditions. The trailhead tor the falls was off on a different road so we took that hoping that the weather would break, so after we finished our hike, the road would be open.  It was a little bit of a climb up to the falls and almost 2 miles , but the trail was well packed without rocks or roots so it was easy going. With all the rain, the streams were really running and the falls were quite spectacular. We were thinking that we would have to drive around to get to Asheville but the rangers had opened the road and we headed on. The Appalachian Trail crosses the road at Newfound Gap, so we stopped and took some pictures, then on down the other side and on to Asheville.
We had a nice time in Asheville. Really liked the city, with lots of cafes, and little traffic. After we arrived we got out and walked around, looked at the art work on the streets, had a little coffee and decided on a place to go for dinner. Asheville has a really nice bookstore!! Actually Asheville has a lot of nice places to visit. We had a great dinner at the Lobster Trap which is also known as Oyster Brewing and although we were not able to sample their signature brew- Oyster Stout- their IPA was quite good. When we walked in, Ellen said, "they use the same brewing system you do". Theirs is actually a little more sophisticated but the principles are the same. A two tier system, but I do not have a keg mash tun.(anyone interested I can explain??) So I had a couple of drafts and some jambalaya, and we both were quite happy. The next day we did some shopping in the local wine store and then on to some serious antiquing. Ellen found a nice tin carrier that she can use for plants, but I lucked out on my search for a grain scale and some apple peelers. We decided this wasn't apple country nor an area with grain silos. Then on to the Blue Ridge Parkway. First we stopped at the visitor center where we found out which parts of the parkway were open and which were closed and then a visit to the Craft store for some pottery for Ellen. There were a number of sections of the parkway that were closed for construction and storm damage so we are definitely going to have to come back to see those sections. We got on at Linville Falls and stayed on to Deep Gap. It actually was the last section of the Blue Ridge parkway that was completed. A lot of the road was held up by columns and subsequently the elevated road ran out along side the ridge rather than over it. It made for some rather spectacular views. One of the things that was really apparent in the North Carolina section , was the wind/snow storm damage on the trees. It looked like a giant had taken a scythe and swiped off the tops of the trees. Tree tops were down everywhere and you could see where they had been ground up . But there was still substantial more work to be done to clean up the roadway and hills. We spent the night in Wilkesboro, NC and the next day got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Roaring Gap, finishing North Carolina and then we were able to go to the end of the Virginia section. We saw lots of deer, 1 wild turkey and 2 Mountain Goats. After the Virginia section we went into the Shenandoah National Park and onto the Skyline Drive. We did not take the Skyline to the end but got off and spent the night in Winchester, VA. The next day was was the last day of our vacation and was spent on a long ride home on the interstates, going from Virginia, through West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and finally Massachusetts and home. There are more pictures of our trip filed on the right hand side of the blog under "Other Stuff" click on Florida Vacation 2010 and it will take you right there.

Tuesday, March 16

Leaving Delray

Thomas Edison with a couple of friends

For our final dinner in Delray Tim fixed us giant grilled shrimp and Florida Stone crabs. It was a great meal to end our vacation on the East Coast of Florida. Thursday morning we said goodbye, dropped off a geocoin that we had previously picked up in Arizona and headed across Alligator Alley under cloudy skies for John & Daphne's in Fort Myers. The sky cleared by the time we arrived and they took us to the Thomas Edison - Henry Ford`museum. Edison bought property in Fort Myers for his winter home in 1895. He came here for winter relaxation with his family and to conduct botany studies. Henry Ford, who had been employed by Edison for 2 years before he started building cars also bought a piece of property next to Edison's. Edison did the planning for the property from the artesian wells for the swimming pool to the landscaping and home and lab designs.

We enjoyed our brief stay with John & Daphne, having a nice dinner and some evening conversation.

Daphne, Joe and Ellen, Emma, John and Cricket

Then Friday we were bound for Georgia under threatening skies. The clouds opened up and we had some torrential rainfall to the other side of Tampa. When Ellen checked in to our Motel in Tifton , GA she heard stories of lots of cars off the road both North and South of us. Rt. 75 North from Fort Myers to the Florida Border was very interesting. Lot's of terrain changes. However in Georgia Rt. 75 becomes a billboard infested road. I-hop, sex, land deals, you name it and it is advertised. Interesting move from fireworks to sex. We are hoping that as we get further in the billboards will disappear.
We left Tifton Georgia heading for the Great Smoky National Forest. As we were heading north I noticed that my gps was telling me that I was going about 2 mph less than what was being shown on my car speedometer. I guess that we haven't gone as far as we thought or my mileage isn't quite as good. The billboards continued to plague us on our trip north until after Gainesville. Where the terrain also changed and we were able to see the mountains we were heading for. We stopped at Tallulah Gorge for pictures and a break. The Great Walenda crossed the gorge on a wire in 1970, 6 years later he died in Puerto Rico attempting another high wire crossing. In Dillard we saw our first snow on the way north and we were still in Georgia.As we drove up through the Great Smoky National Park, the temperature began to drop and the rain turned to snow. We were not in a blizzard but the snow was definitely coming down and the visibility was very poor.

At the top of Newfound Gap, one foot in TN, One foot in NC

We are hoping that this storm is going to clear tomorrow so we can get some hiking in. After coming down from the ridge we entered Gatlinburg to a horrendous traffic jam. We found out that we had just missed the Santa Claus parade and traffic was backed up from one end of the town to the other. Found a place to stay and are hoping for a better day Sunday.

Wednesday, March 10

Continuing South part II

St. George St. The oldest wooden schoolhouse

After we left the Watts in Hilton Head our plan was to spend the night in St Augustine to explore the oldest city in the US and some more touring on Tuesday before heading to Tim's in Delray. We needed to leave St. Augustine around 1pm to rendezvous with Tim after work. After we went through Jacksonville, we took a little detour to Green Cove Springs. This actually turned into a nice drive along the St. John River. Lots of farms and old houses with lots of moss hanging down. There were sections that reminded us of Coral Gables. Then back across the river into a marine industrial park.

The de-commissioned CGC Bramble

At one time the Hornbeam was supposedly here, but when we arrived only the Coast Guard Cutter Bramble was tied up to the dock. Seemed really strange seeing her painted white. We had lunch along side the dock and then continued to St. Augustine. A good friend suggested we stay at the Ponce de Leon. I very nice place he had stayed at in his youth. Sadly Billy, it is now a part of Flagler University, and although we probably could have gotten good rates in the dormitory, we elected for a more conventional motel. We got out and went for a walk in the old town, which is now pretty much gentrified with boutiques in all the old houses. Lots of signs "Bikers Welcome" We believe that it was biker week in Datona, but St. Augustine seemed to have it's share as well. We had a nice dinner at a Bavarian Restaurant.
Ellen had Veal Oscar and I Salmon stuffed with crab. Finished off with an Irish coffee and Cream Brule. Tuesday we checked out and went and toured the fort. It was really quite impressive. The Spanish had quite a fortification and although it was never captured the town was overrun a number of times. Lots of really big cannon up on the walls.

Entrance to Spanish Fort

Then we found a hot sauce shop and did some sampling and buying, then headed down to Tim's, for the first time on I 95 since RI. Straight fast and boring.

So we have been here for a week. The water has not been conducive for swimming, but the temps have been up in the 60's and low 70's. We have done some geocaching, beaching, and boating. Tim has a friend with a 38' Bayliner who took us on a ride on Saturday on the intercoastal from Boynton Beach to the Boca Raton Basin & back. Lot's of nice houses and boats to look at along with some good food and beer. Sunday we went to Wellington for Polo at the Palm Beach Polo Club.

Polo Match Palm Beach Polo Club

Lot's of good people watching, although the horsemanship all took place at the opposite end of the field from where we were sitting. There were 6 periods for the match. At the half everyone flocked onto the field to push down the horse hoof divets and for the free champagne, Frisbees, polo balls & ice cream.

The mad rush across the field stomping the divets

It was a nice afternoon under beautiful skies. Monday Ellen & I did the Lake Trail on Palm Island, in Palm Beach.

One of the few houses visible along the Palm Island Trail

It is a pathway in front of all the beautiful houses, that of course you can't see because of all the manicured bushes in front of their houses. It was nice walking along the water, on a cool day under that beautiful Florida sun. Thursday we begin our trek north, first stopping to visit John & Daphne in Fort Myers.

Monday, March 8

Continuing South

The Lady of the House-Hampton Plantation

Now that we are back from the beach, we can again take up our journey south to Delray Beach. I would say though,that today the sun was out , the sky was blue, a light breeze was blowing out of the north, temperature around 66, but the water was still a little cold for anything more than wadding. A nice day to sit on the beach and read.
Before we got to Charleston we stopped at the Hampton Plantation for lunch. We were too late for the tour but we had a pleasant walk on the grounds.

Oaks & Moss at Hampton Plantation

Saw the tree that George Washington was reported to have saved. Took some pictures and continued on our way. David Bishop purchased a new GPS for his new car and gave me his old one, which I have to say has been a real godsend. For some reason the maps I thought I had downloaded into my handheld for this trip, ended up going somewhere else. So we are really grateful for David's gift. We breezed Through Charleston crossing over the Broad River on one of those new suspension bridges and continued south on 17 to Hilton Head Plantation. We arrived at the Watts home and were greeted by Alex And Katy, got a hug from Lindsay and a glass of Sierra Nevada from John. The Sierra Nevada came in a growler.

John and Lindsay,Katy and Alex

This is something we definitely need in Massachusetts. John got his at the Lodge, I believe, where they have over 20 craft beers on tap. You make your choice, either buy a growler or use your own, and have it filled. When we visited Missoula Sean took me to a brewery that put up beer in growlers, but it was only their beer. John cooked dinner for us, roasted red potatoes, fresh salad and grilled marinated flank steak, which was absolutely delicious. It was early to bed, the Watts needed to get off to school and work on Monday and we to continue south to St. Augustine.

Friday, March 5

Highland Park to Delray Beach

Wright Memorial

Actually this should be titled a culinary tour of the East Coast visiting Family and Friends. We went from lunch with Allison in Highland Park, NJ to eating out in a diner in Seaford,DE, gourmet meals in Duck, NC, A delicious meal in Calabash, NC prepared by a Cordon Bleu Chef, Southern cooking in Hilton Head, SC and finished in Delray Beach with a tastily grilled chicken. We traveled 1828 miles from Marion, traveling on interstate highways and back country roads. After lunch with Allison we got back on the road planning on making it south of Dover, DE. We ended up in Seaford, De where we went out to dinner at the Seaford diner. The next day we continued on down the Eastern Shore, crossed over the Chesapeake bridge and tunnel BHeading for Duck, NC. We took a couple of side trips exploring coastal North Carolina, the most memorable out Waterlily rd. in Coinjock.Ellen on Albemarle

Ellen on Albemarle Canal

Stopped alongside the Albemarle Canal for some picture taking and then over the bridge to Duck, and David & Kathy's home. That evening we had Kathy's recipe for Jambalaya with rice. The next day David took us for a tour of the outer banks including the Wright Memorial, Bodie Island Lighthouse, which was being repaired, Hatteras Light and the Chicanacomico Life Saving station in Rodanthe. We also visited the graves of 2 british merchant sailors whose bodies washe ashore after there ship was sunk by a German sub during WWII. There are also another set of graves in Ocracoke of 6 Royal Navy sailors from another ship sunk by a German Sub

British Merchants graves

Bodie Light

Then back to Kathy & Davids for New England Clam Chowder and fresh shrimp for dinner.

David, Ellen, Kathy, Joe, Chloe

Saturday we headed down the coast on RT 17 going through New Bern, and Wilmington before reaching Calabash and Maggie & Peters house.

A cold day on Atlantic Beach

Maggie regaled us with some very funny and sad stories of her tutoring in the Wilmington school. We also found out that Peter was trained as a Cordon Bleu chef and he put that education to work in preparing our dinner. The next day we left for Hilton Head again going down the coast through Myrtle Beach heading for Charleston.

Joe, Ellen, Maggie, Peter

I am going to take a break here and will pick up the rest of the trip south later this weekend, from Charleston to Hilton Head to St. Augustine and then Delray Beach, where we have been enjoying some rather cool days although we have been getting to the beach, but not in the water.