humor

Christmas Movies

Since I STILL haven’t heard John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas”, I thought I’d do a post about Christmas Movies.  I’m not talking the made for TV crap that Lifetime and Hallmark channels play. You could cut whole scenes out of those movies, switch them with scenes from another movie and other than there being different actors, you wouldn’t notice the damn difference.

So I checked out several sites that have rankings of Christmas movies to see who ranks which movies versus other lists.

I looked at Rotten Tomatoes, Thrillist, and Buzzfeed simply because they were the first three in my Google search (links above go to the lists I used).  What I basically learned from these sites is that I have not seen damn near any of this movies.

Let’s start with some of the classics;

White Christmas; #25 on Rotten Tomatoes, #33 on Thrillist and not listed on Buzzfeed.  I have only seen snippets of this movie.  Usually when Wifey® elbows me to stop snoring and I wake up just enough to see that it’s still on before rolling over and going back to sleep.

Elf; #19 on Rotten Tomatoes, #6 on Thrillist, and #12 on Buzzfeed. I have never seen this movie nor do I intend on ever watching this movie. For whatever reason, I just have an aversion to Will Ferrell.  Nothing personal, just don’t care for the man.

A Christmas Story; #9 on Rotten Tomatoes, #2 on Thrillist and #6 on Buzzfeed. Again, never watched it. I can’t really give a reason why not. It just doesn’t appeal to me.

Miracle on 34th Street; #2 on Rotten Tomatoes, #3 on Thrillist, and not listed on Buzzfeed.  Nope. Not interested at all.

It’s A Wonderful Life; #1 on all three sites. It’s a bit strange that I’ve never seen this one. If I understand the plot (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the main character (Jimmy Stewart?) wishes that he had never been born.  Someone (Santa maybe?) grants this wish and he gets a glimpse of what his loved ones/town/I don’t know, would have lived without him. Since my bipolar depression leads me into those kinds of thoughts on a semi-regular basis, maybe I could learn something from this movie. But that damn phrase “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets her wings”, is enough to keep me away. That did come from this movie right? Or am I confusing it with 34th Street??

So now, some of the movies that are listed as Christmas movies for reasons I don’t understand.  No rankings on these.

Die Hard; Just because this movie takes place during a company Christmas party doesn’t mean it’s a Christmas movie. Last time I looked, Christmas is (for some – not all) about the birth of the “Christ Child”. I don’t see how blowing shit up and automatic gunfire qualifies. I have seen this movie, it was during my Army years, and then I enjoyed it. Now, not so much. I’ve grown way to pacifist for this level of violence.

Trading Places; Again, just because the storyline takes place during the holidays doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Maybe it’s the greed versus the people on the margins of society that qualify it, I don’t know.  But I have seen this one and I did enjoy it. I enjoy both Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.

Batman Returns; Seriously? A Christmas movie? SMDH… (But did enjoy the movie).

Now let’s talk about some Christmas movies I have seen.

Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer; My favorite character is Lemny the Elf who wants to be a dentist. A good study in breaking out of a class structure.

A Charlie Brown Christmas; One of my all-time favorites. Even with Linus’ soliloquy of Luke (a direct quote too). An interesting fact is that the network pressured Charles Schulz to take the bible quote out. He refused, and it’s still there to this day. It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is also a classic holiday treat.

The Nightmare Before Christmas; A Tim Burton masterpiece!  Absolutely love this one as it spans two holidays. And the animation is just so cool.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas; The original animation from 1967. I have not seen the live action mainly because I don’t want to compare it to this one. This has become my favorite Christmas cartoon.

And my All-Time-Favorite Christmas movie is (drumroll please); National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. How did you not see that one coming? Without a doubt, this movie cracks me up no matter what time of year. The script is amazing, the acting is beyond belief.  I have an Army buddy that’s nicknamed “Sparky” in tribute to Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold. But all in all, my favorite character of all the Vacation movies is Cousin Eddie. He reminds me of a sudden depressive episode that comes with the bipolar. He shows up at the worst possible time, he turns the situation upside down, and you just can’t get rid of him.

An honorable mention goes to Christmas With The Kranks.  Wifey® got me to watch it just last year. And while not quite up there with Christmas Vacation, it was still quite enjoyable. And I will admit I will watch Jamie Lee Curtis read the phone book.  I’ve always enjoyed her work.

So there’s my list. I’m sure I’ve left off your favorite movie, or maybe you disagree my views. It’s all cool!  Leave me a comment below and let me know! (And don’t text me bro!)

Peace,
B

Ginger the Elf

The girls convinced Wifey® to buy them an “Elf On A Shelf” this year. They named this one Ginger. Luckily the box said that this elf was a girl because the only difference I could see between the “boy” elf and the “girl” elf is that this one has painted on earrings. And we all know that earrings are not a gender identifier anymore.  So thank you whoever designed the boxes.

Since we only have the girls at our house on weekends, we figured Santa sent us an “apprentice elf”.  This is just a training mission, with light weekend duty only. So it’s only natural that poor Ginger gets bored during the week.

Although she hasn’t done anything inappropriate, we have found her in some unusual places in the mornings.

 

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Ice fishing for goldfish. Seems she caught one too!

 

 

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Having a tea party (with the girls best tea set) and two other elves.

 

 

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Toy shopping in a catalog. Not sure who the gifts are for though…

 

 

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Touching up a foot painting of the youngest granddaughter.

 

 

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Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas play. If you look closely you can see she’s petting a catnip mouse!

 

We can only imagine what she’ll be up to next!

Peace,
B

So This Is Christmas… (part 2)

So in a galaxy far, far away I used to be a Worship Leader in a non-denominational church (Yes, it’s true. I have pictures and everything).  I had played in several worship bands for years. But that was another life.

However, during that time I found and really enjoyed the music of an Alt/Punk/Emo Christian band, Relient K. And if you’re old enough, you know the car they’re named after.   They released a Christmas album “Let It Snow… Let It Reindeer”.

Here are two great cuts from the album (that’s before CDs kiddies);

First is “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.

Second up is “The 12 Days Of Christmas”

I tried so hard to get my worship team to play these. You should have seen the dumbstruck look on their faces.  Made me laugh, especially my 16-year-old lead guitarist.

And for classic “Christmas Music” I just had to pick a song that doesn’t mention the holiday at all, but as soon as you hear it, you know it’s Christmastime. Here is “Lucy and Linus” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio.  Naturally, this is the dance version.  I absolutely love this show. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.

And you can’t do “A Charlie Brown Christmas” without Linus’ soliloquy.  From Luke 2:8-14. (Even though I don’t believe this is a true story, it is beautiful poetry. After all, that’s pretty much what the entire bible is, poetry.

Do you have any other non-traditional Christmas music to add? Or do you think, as I tend to, that it’s all rubbish?  Leave me a comment with your thoughts, please. (And don’t text me, brother o’mine).

P.S. Son, the younger® and I walked around Wal-Mart last night (shudder), and I didn’t hear “So This Is Christmas”. So I’m still waiting.

Peace,
B

So This Is Christmas…

So, is this Christmas? Maybe for the folks that insist on saying “Merry Christmas” and throw a fit if you respond with any other reply other than “Merry Christmas”.  As with most Christian holidays, Christmas is just another pagan holiday that was renamed and re-purposed (i.e. stolen) in an attempt to convert more of the local “peasant” type of folks to Christianity. Easter and All Saint’s Day are two other examples.

But Christmas isn’t the only religious celebration that happens around this time of year.

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Picture source: Unvirtuous Abby on Facebook, but I’m sure others have posted it as well, so I have no idea who originally created it

And despite what my credit card statements say, “Christmas” (and yes that’s the term I use for this holiday) doesn’t start for me until I randomly hear John Lennon’s “So This Is Christmas (War Is Over)” played in a random store while, usually, standing around waiting on Wifey® to find “just the right color”, or something like that for someone in the family. My brother and I are the kind that will walk into a store and buys the first thing we see that suits us. Fini! Done! Let’s go have a beer! None of this going into every store in the mall only to go back and buy the thing you saw in the first store.

Plus now with online shopping, other than some clothes, that’s my preferred method of shopping. The holidays bring on enough anxiety as it is.  The stores are usually so crowded I can’t stand it.  The boys, Wifey®, and I went to the mall last night and thankfully it was damn near empty.

Christmas shopping brings on its own kind of  “performance anxiety”. When are enough presents just right?  Not worried about the boys (they’re adults now), but the little girls always make it difficult. They want everything they see on TV, especially if it’s electronic. I don’t want to get them too many things, not only does it promote over-consumption, I don’t want them thinking that I’ll buy them any and everything (even though I probably will – that’s what PaPa’s do). But at the same time, too few gifts under the tree leaves them open for ridicule from classmates and such.  It’s a fine line. Much like my credit line.

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We support the artificial tree industry by buying a new tree every two years on average. We only buy pre-lit trees (because I’m lazy) and they seem to burn out quickly. Can’t use real trees as the “fresh pine scent” aggravates my COPD (Pine-Sol does it too).

The girls wanted an “Elf On A Shelf”.  They named her Ginger (I wanted to spell it Gynger – so it sounded more like a stripper name). We know it’s a female elf because it has earrings, which of course means nothing anymore. Plenty of very “manly men” have pierced ears, but the box was labeled “female”, so that settled it. But I would still like to get away from labels.  That’s Gynger, I mean Ginger sitting on the hearth watching the girls put up the Christmas tree.

We figure since we only have the girls on the weekends, Ginger must be an apprentice elf. Since she only has 2 – 3 days to watch the girls, she gets bored sitting around the house.  But that will be the subject of another post, later in the season….  Keep watching this space!

So even though I still haven’t heard “So This Is Christmas” yet (I have at least two more shopping days planned – so get your requests in early), there is still a chance to hear it.  And even though my dear ol’ brother doesn’t like the song, he says the “war is over” should have been left out, but I disagree. He was never in the military (declared medically unfit for service during the Vietnam era).  As a vet, I heartily agree with the sentiment.

So here is the original video of the song.  As since I’m just posting the link, I don’t get to hear it. So if I haven’t randomly heard it by the 20th or so, I’ll come back here and listen to it.  Then, maybe Christmas will begin for me.

Please enjoy the video!

Peace,
B

EDIT:  My brother texted me (why he didn’t leave a comment is anybody’s guess), and corrected me. He does like the song, it’s just the “Merry Christmas” part doesn’t mix with the “war is over” part. He agrees with me that we wish all wars would end. 

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – The End!

This is the last of the Thanksgiving week series. Links to the rest of the series;
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5

So our trip to Maggie Valley has come to an end, and it’s time to head home to Daytona Beach. We will miss our time in the mountains and the amazing sights we saw.

Here are a few of the pictures I didn’t post on the other days in no particular order.

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Just to prove that I’m not the only terrible photographer in the family, Wifey managed to get this shot of me on Chimney Rock with my face in the shadow of a tree.

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Some random waterfall we passed on the road. We just stopped, rolled down the window took a picture and drove off. Because that’s what tourists do!

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The tasting menu at Sierra Nevada Brewery. 

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I’ll bet Louis XVI wished he had a chandelier of Sierra Nevada bottles like this one. 

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See? I told you Wifey kept taking pictures of my butt.

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Wifey waited for over 15 minutes for this guy to get off of Pulpit Rock. She finally gave up and just took the picture anyway.  Thanks, random guy!

We, or at least I was, somewhat spoiled by the light traffic we experienced during this vacation.  Even on our trips over to Asheville traffic was not bad at all. Of course, it is the off-season for Maggie Valley, but Asheville is a large enough city to have traffic year round.  Such was not the case on the trip home. Our basic route was I26 east to I95 south. Sounds simple enough.

In my Army years, we did two tours at Fort Bragg just outside of Fayetteville, NC, for a total of 6 years or so. During this time we made many trips up and down I95, to Miami and back, at all times of the year and over just about every holiday you can think of. We have never had the traffic problems we had on this trip.  From the I26/I95 interchange to the Georgia line (about 86 miles) took us over three hours.  I have never been so frustrated in traffic in my life. Regular readers of this blog know how much I hate traffic (you can catch my thoughts on the “Elon Musk Are You Listening?” post).  The only thing that kept me sane was Wifey® finding the RV Trader website and reading me the various RVs she found.  We want to find us an RV in the next two years so we can travel more.

I’d like to give some love to a couple of places we stopped at while were in Maggie Valley and Waynesville.

First, The Buttered Biscuit.  We ate breakfast there three times. Nothing spectacular, just good food, served with a smile from very friendly folks.  Ask for Oliva if you happen to stop in. Not sure if they’re in Maggie Valley or Waynesville, as they’re at the intersection of US19 and US276. Basically on the border of each town.  (And like most restaurants in the valley, they’re closed on Tuesday. The oddest thing to me.)

One of our favorite little shops is Seven Silver Seas. Located right on US19 in Maggie Valley.  They have lots of handmade, free trade gift items from around the world at very fair prices. But be warned, it is a very “fragrant” shop. I don’t know if they have incense burning or just a heavy-duty perfume spray, but it gave Wifey® a migraine the first day we stopped in.  The second stop was a quick in and out to avoid the fragrance problem.

I have posted reviews on almost every place we stopped, ate or otherwise visited on Trip Advisor, look for “BeachDaze58” for my reviews.

And since this is the end of this series, and I haven’t played a single video yet, I thought this one would be fitting.

Enjoy! And please leave me a comment. Maybe a suggestion of another place to visit.

Peace,
B

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – Day 5

This is day 5 of our Thanksgiving week series. Links to the previous days;
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

Once again, the reference map. Are you getting tired of this map yet?

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Day 5, the last day of being a tourist. Today we’re headed to Chimney Rock. You can see it on the map just south-east of Asheville. We decided to take the interstate this time, just to make it an easier drive, I was getting a bit tired of the winding, steep mountain roads.

Chimney Rock is a state park. It’s open all year and there is a fee. They do offer a military discount (I didn’t ask for any other discounts since I’m retired military and didn’t need to).

If you get there early enough, you can drive to the upper parking area, but it’s not very big, so you usually get directed to a lower area and they have old school buses to shuttle you up and down.

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Chimney Rock from the upper parking area.

The climb up to the top is actually 499 stairs. There is an elevator but has been a state of “renovation” for almost two years.  So the stairs are the only option. They did a good design in building the stairs. About every 12 feet or so there is a wide landing where you can step the side, enjoy the view and catch your breath. You can end up playing “leapfrog” with folks, as you pass them on one landing, only to have them pass you on the next landing while you’re stopped.  The elevation change from the upper parking area to the top of the monolith is about 315 feet.

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Looking down on the staircase and two of the wide resting areas.

There are two paths to the top. One is the stairs, the other takes you through the “Crevice path” (just a wide path in a gap), and two features they call the “Subway” and the “Grotto”.  Both paths meet up just a little way up, so you’re still climbing stairs most of the way. We chose the stairs going up and the other route on the way down.

Up the path a bit is “Pulpit Rock”;

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Wifey on Pulpit Rock

There are great views of the surrounding area from here, including Lake Lure.

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Lake Lure to the south-east.

They claim it takes an average of 25 minutes to climb the stairs to the top. I know we were nowhere near that time. But we made it, and we didn’t die!

There are more steps that continue going up the mountain that connects to another trail that will eventually lead to the top of the mountain and Hickory Nut Falls.  We had no intention of going up that far.  We headed back down the stairs this time taking the path we didn’t take going up.

The Subway is just a low area that you, well at least I did, have to duck to get through.

 

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I had to duck to get through, Wifey could stand up inside.

We stopped about halfway down to have lunch.  One of the nice things about this park is that they let you bring in food.  And they’re also pet-friendly which is cool.  We enjoyed our light lunch (and the forgotten leftover desserts from Thanksgiving) and headed the rest of the way down to the upper parking area.

From there we took the Hickory Nut Falls Trail, which takes you to the bottom of the waterfall. The trail is only about three-quarters of mile long, but it’s not paved in any way. Since we were there in late fall the path was covered with many leaves. This made it quite easy to stumble over hidden rocks and tree roots. And with an already gimpy ankle, I found the going tough.

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At the end of the trail is the falls;

This area of the park was used to film scenes in the movie “The Last Of The Mohicans”. At 404 feet, this is the second highest waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

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Aint we just the cutest thing???

That was pretty much the extent of our touring on day 5, so we headed back to the cabin. We had dinner at Legends Sports Bar in Maggie Valley.  Some awesome burgers and more local craft beer were had.

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A parting view of Chimney Rock.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap everything up and some odds & ends, and of course a traffic rant.

Hope you enjoyed. Please leave a comment or two!

Peace,
B

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – Day 4

This is part four of the Thanksgiving series. You can find the first three here:
Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

The reference map for you;

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Day four is Thanksgiving day. So it’s a laid-back, no rush day for us.  We made a simple breakfast in the cabin since we didn’t want to make anyone work for us, even if they were open anyway. Then settled in to watch some of the usual parades. We watched some of the Asheville parade, which reminded us of our local parades, and some of the big Macy’s parade.

We did have one trip planned for today.  Wifey® found a small waterfall we had missed on our trip south on US276 on day 1.  We had to stop at Moore Cove since Moore is Wifey’s® maiden name. It’s not a very big waterfall, so the trek up to the top was easy.

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Not named for Wifey’s family (as far as we know)

 

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A smaller waterfall, but still very pretty

On the way down, we took a couple of side paths to see how the stream, or river, whatever the falls flow into traverse the area. Took Wifey’s® picture at a big rock on the way down.

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It takes years of practice to get your subject to stand just right so her face is in the shadow of a tree. I suck as a photographer.

The river that flows from the falls must join with another water source, as it is, to me at least, at “river” size now. It’s not very deep, which most of these fast flowing bodies of water aren’t, and it moves quite fast.  This picture is under the bridge at the bottom of the falls area.  We were quite intrigued with the lawn jockey.  Who put it there and why, and where are the missing body parts?

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Mysterious lawn jockey, or at least what’s left of him

 

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US276 bridge, you can just see the lawn jockey under the bridge.

As that was all we had planned for the day, we went home to have, as Arlo Gutherie said; “A Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat.” (See Arlo’s “Alice’s Restaurant”).  We started off with some shrimp sautéed in white wine and garlic, with a little chipotle thrown in as well.  We had purchased the shrimp at a local grocery store several days before.  The sign said “Fresh Carolina Shrimp”.  We wondered where the shrimp were harvested, were they wild caught in the ocean and trucked in or farm raised? Unfortunately, the girl at the counter had no clue. But it didn’t matter we bought them anyway.

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Fresh Carolina Shrimp?

Unlike last years Thanksgiving (a cruise with only a few pieces of overcooked sliced turkey on the buffet), this year we made our own feast. We had a small turkey breast that we roasted, sweet potatoes, asparagus with mushrooms, garlic, onions, and bacon, and cheddar garlic biscuits. We also had our leftover chocolate bourbon pecan pie and banana pudding from Haywoods Smokehouse we didn’t eat from the night before for dessert.  But as usual, we forgot about dessert when we were done. (More on this with day 5).

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Thanksgiving feast for two

There was nothing left to do on this day. So after we cleaned up the kitchen, we just hung out at the cabin.

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Looking west off the deck towards the sunset.

So that’s all for day four.  A little bit of rest for us, because tomorrow we’re climbing Chimney Rock!

Stay tuned for day 5!  And please leave a comment. Let me know if you’re enjoying the series, or if want more information about any of the places we went.

Peace,
B

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – Day 3

This is part three of the Thanksgiving Week series, click on the links for Day 1 and Day 2.

As usual, here is the reference map;

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Wednesday, Day 3. Our itinerary for today will take us into the Cataloochee Valley, one the remote parts of The Great Smokey Mountains National Park to see if we could find some Elk. We had picked up a small tri-fold brochure from the visitor’s center in Maggie Valley on Monday.  The basic map (as pictured below) doesn’t give you much detail.

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As you can see, all it does it point you in the basic direction of where Elk sightings are frequent. Since we didn’t see any Elk on the western trip to Cherokee, which is supposed to be a popular place, we went north. The brochure was clear in that once you entered the park (there is a sign), the road becomes a “ten-mile narrow gravel mountain road”. Since it was day three I was getting a little more comfortable driving the winding mountain passages. The gravel part would be new, although the road to the cabin was gravel and winding, it was not ten miles long.

So we entered the park and sure enough, the road turned to gravel. It was not too terrible a drive, in fact, it was much smoother than the road up to the cabin. But then it probably isn’t driven as often either.

I joked with Wifey® that we’re going to go around a bend and a big ol’ Elk would be blocking the way.

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Told you so

There were many bulls, cows, and even young elk all over the place. I would estimate that there were a total of 30 elk spread out over two fields. We had missed the rutting (or mating) season by just a few weeks, so there wasn’t much activity going on. Basically, they just looked at us like “What are you guys doing here this time of year?”

We followed the basic map and saw a couple of old homes, (the Caldwell House and the Palmer House), a school, and a chapel (the Palmer Chapel).  Most were from the 1890’s or so. Nothing exciting, so no pictures were taken.

So we decided to head out to our next destination, Waterrock Knob. This is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway not all that far from Waynesville or Maggie Valley.

And then the fun started.

Since the “map” didn’t really give us any info such as street names or mile markers, or even an arrow for which way to turn, we basically got lost. Wifey® has a much better sense of direction than I do, so when we came to the first unmarked intersection, she said to turn left.  And being the good husband that I am, I turned left. All was well until we came to a “T” intersection with absolutely no markers of any kind. We had no idea where we were or even which way we were going.  GPS never found a signal, and although the compass on my phone could tell us which direction we were headed, with all the twists and turns, it basically just kept spinning. Again she says to turn left. Who am I to argue? We then proceeded to drive up and over ridges, around switchbacks – you get the idea – for about 45 minutes, not seeing any structures, people, cars, just maybe the occasional chipmunk, when suddenly we hit paved road again. Of course, we still don’t have a clue as to where we are. We come up to a four-way intersection and I stop dead in the middle of it despite the “No Stopping In The Roadway” signs posted about every 10 feet in all directions.

We look up the mountain and we can see I-40 about 100 feet above us. I know if we can figure out how to get on I-40 we’ll find our way to either Asheville or Knoxville. Again “Turn left” (are you starting to see a pattern here?).  Low and behold, the left turn became an entrance to I-40!  Wifey® is a genius!

We get up on I-40 and as we come around a big bend there is a sign I didn’t expect to see; “Welcome To North Carolina”! Wait a minute! I thought we were in North Carolina! I guess somewhere during our 45-minute sightseeing excursion we crossed the line into Tennessee.  We laughed ourselves breathless!

We finally found the Parkway and made it to Waterrock Knob. It has a nice overlook, with picnic benches at the parking area, and a path to the top of the knob.

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Note the elevation

We sat at one of the picnic tables and had a quick-lunch we had prepared for the day. The view from this overlook is amazing.

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On a clear day, the mountains of  Tennessee are visible from this spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had driven over some of those mountains while we were lost.

Our goal here was to take the path to the top of the knob. You saw in the picture our current elevation is 5820 feet above sea level. The top of the knob is 6292 feet above sea level. The path goes up 472 feet in elevation in a short half a mile distance. That makes it (at least to us flat landers) a rather steep climb. We made it halfway to the viewing platform and called it quits. At that elevation, I could not get enough oxygen into my lungs (I have COPD) to continue.  But – hey we gave it a shot, right?

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This is as far as we made it. But at least we’re alive!

So we made it back down the parkway to Maggie Valley. We made a quick stop at the Elevated Mountain Distillery for a tour and some samples. They are a relatively new establishment in town, and very friendly. We picked up several bottles of their products as well. We then headed to Waynesville and to the BooJum taphouse that was closed the day before.  Had a couple (well actually 4 each…) of very nice brews of theirs. I bought a pint glass to bring home (which I dropped and broke while packing the car the day we left). I’ve emailed BooJum to see how I can replace it (pint glasses are not for sale on their website), but haven’t heard back from them. So if anybody is in the area and wants to pick one up for me I’ll reimburse you for everything, glass, taxes, and shipping.  Just leave a comment!

 

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A rather poor shot of the tap menu at BooJum

 

We finished the night at Haywood’s Smokehouse. This is a “don’t miss” eatery if you like Texas-style smoked BBQ.  It’s quite difficult to find, as it’s a restored house in the middle of a residential area.  But well worth the trouble.

For tomorrow, we have TurkeyDay and another waterfall to visit. Hope you’re keeping up with me!

Peace,
B

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – Day 2

(This is part two of the Thanksgiving Week series, part one can be found here.)

Again, here is the map for your general reference;

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Day two started off, as all the days did, bright and clear with a morning temp in the low 30’s. This was the only morning we had frost on the car, so I guess it dropped lower overnight than other nights.

After a good breakfast in the cabin, we headed out west on US19 towards Cherokee. Neither Wifey® nor I had to been to Cherokee in many, many years. We knew that Harrah’s had built a casino there (yuk), so we expected changes. What we remembered of the town was gone. US19 and US441 used to be nothing but tourist traps. You could park on one end of the “mall” and walk all the way thru to the other end without ever having to leave a store and use the sidewalk. They were all connected.  Then cross the street and walk back thru those shops to where you parked. The biggest problem was, even though there were different “shops” in the “mall” everyone had the same junk.  And I do mean junk.  Made in China tomahawks, bows & arrows, blankets and “handcrafted” jewelry.

This time, while there were still a few of the shops around, the look of the town has greatly improved. You can tell it’s a tourist town, but it’s much prettier and better kept.  I’m sure the casino had a lot to do with that.

We didn’t take any pictures of the town (it’s just buildings after all), but we did visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. This was not the museum I remembered from my last trip sometime in the 70’s, but it was very moving all the same.

After a short video of the Cherokee creation myth (which was really cool), you went on a self-paced tour of the rest of the displays.

Just as I was as a teenager in the 70’s I was again struck by the inhumanity the white people subjected the Native Americans too. For the Cherokee, it’s called “The Trail of Tears”. I thought it was the proper time to visit the museum since November is Native American Heritage Month.

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Quote by Chief Tecumseh, a Native American Shawnee warrior and chief, who became the primary leader of a large, multi-tribal confederacy in the early years of the nineteenth century

And to relate to this on a somewhat personal level, this is Captain Hugh Montgomery, of the 77th Highlanders. The tartan (the green and blue cloth) is the tartan of the Black Watch.  The Black Watch is a military force mostly composed of and usually commanded by a Campbell.  This is also my family’s tartan, which I wear proudly to any Celtic event I attend. Of course, the painting shows his troops overcoming the local natives (the Lower Cherokee Towns) in 1760.   Events such as this and way too many others to list here, leave me ashamed of certain aspects of my WASP heritage. In reality, his troops were sorely defeated and had to withdraw to safety.

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Captain Montgomery

We spent quite some time in Cherokee, didn’t buy much, just checking out how much had changed since our last visit. It might be nice to note that the last time “we” were in the Smokies, we didn’t know each other. This was years before we met and married (and we’ve been married almost 36 years now)!

On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at yet another waterfall. This is Soco Falls. Located just west of Maggie Valley on US19.

 

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Soco Falls

While most of the waterfalls, and some of the trails, have steps, this waterfall was mostly just a path along the road.

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See that belly there? That’s what wings and good beer will get ya!

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For some reason, Wifey kept taking pictures of my butt.  But, this is only one you’ll have to see.

That was all the sightseeing we did on day two. We tried to go to the BooJum taproom on the way home, but for some reason, they, along with many other restaurants are closed on Tuesdays! We found this quite unusual. We stopped at a little market, the Sunburst cafe that actually had two local beers on draft.  A Highland Brewing Company “Gaelic Ale” that Wifey® enjoyed and an IPA I can’t remember the name of, that was good.  But obviously not very memorable.  We finished off the night we a few more brews and some tapas at Frogs Leap Public House in Waynesville. A very enoyable day.

Hope you enjoyed day two.  Day three is up next with a visit with the Elk and getting lost in Smokey Mountain National Park.

Please leave a comment (email address is required, just to prove you’re human). But not used in any way).

Peace,
B

 

 

How We Spent Our Thanksgiving Week – Day 1

Wifey® and I have started spending Thanksgiving week away from the usual hustle and bustle of the holiday.  Both of boys are grown, and our granddaughters usually go with their other grandparents to see family in Tennessee. Plus my birthday falls right around Thanksgiving. Last year we took a cruise and were very disappointed. We’ve been on several cruises, but this one just wasn’t any fun.

So this year we took the advice of two of my co-workers and went to Maggie Valley, NC. The last time I was in Maggie Valley and surrounding areas was about 1979 or so. Not much had changed in the valley except the names of the shops.  Most of them still sold the same old “made in China” tourist trap stuff, with just a few exceptions.

We arrived on Sunday and left the following Saturday. We planned on making day trips and just being tourists as well as sitting in the cabin we rented for the week and doing some reading.  I’m not sure about Wifey®, but I only read about 2 chapters the entire week. I was going over all the brochures the very friendly and helpful welcome center folks gave us to come up with something to do the next day.

Here’s a map of the general area we were in so you can follow along.

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One of the things we (well mostly me) wanted to do was to visit the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River, which is just outside of Asheville. So we jumped on their website a scheduled a tour for Monday.

 

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The cabin

 

So we head out on Monday morning to the welcome center to get the most scenic way there and an approximate travel time since we had a reservation for the tour. On the first curve out of our driveway down the mountain we have a flock of turkeys on the road!

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Wild Turkeys along the side of the road by our cabin

They sent us south on US 276 out of Waynesville. (You can see the thin black line that winds its way south out of Waynesville on the map).  Along this very steep, winding mountain road were several photo stops. The first we came to was “Sliding Rock”.  This state park usually has an entrance fee, but since we were there in the offseason, we just drove in and parked. Sliding Rock is exactly what it says. A big rock with water running over it that you can slide down. That is if you don’t mind the 36° F water temperature!

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Looking up to the top of Sliding Rock

Also along this highway is Looking Glass Falls. Not a very big waterfall, but I thought the rockface was impressive.

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Looking Glass Falls

After these two stops, we continued south until we picked up SR 280 east, just outside of Brevard. This took straight into Mills River and:

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Sierra Nevada Brewery, Mills River, NC (duh)

We made it to the brewery with 30 minutes to spare for our tour. Not bad for a flat lander that hasn’t driven in the mountains for over 40 years!

The brewery itself is very impressive. The company (the main brewery is in Chico, CA) is 0% waste. They capture everything from rainwater to the CO2 that fermenting produces and reuse it some way.  There are too many things to write about here, but I encourage you to check them out on their website.

We had a great 90-minute tour with our guide, John:

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John, the tour guide

A 30-minute tour of the actual production facility and then a tasting of eight of their brews.

One the coolest rooms (and I mean that literally, it’s 37° F inside) is the hops room. That’s what you see in the last picture above.  Sierra Nevada is the only brewery in America that only uses whole cone hops. That means, the hops are not dried and then crushed into pellets.  These are freshly picked hops, that are compressed into planks and then frozen. We got to pick a hop flower and crush it between our hands and the aroma was amazing!

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Me with a whole cone Crystal hop flower

After the tour, we had a bit to eat and drink in the taproom and headed back to the cabin.

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The taproom menu and food were amazing!

We somehow managed to get back across to Waynesville in the dark, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, not really sure which way we were going.  So many switchbacks and elevation changes my head was spinning (and not just from the beer).

So that was day one. I’ll post the rest of the trip one day at a time, so you don’t feel like you’re reading a novel!

Peace,
B