Travel

A Little Of This, A Little Of That

tweet

Well, I’ve had these blog posts sitting here not being posted for quite some time now. All of these have been assigned to “I’ll finish this later”, or “Nobody wants to read about that”, or my fav, “Do I really want to post that?” categories.

———————————————————————————

An Anniversary (Of Sorts)

Today is the 30th anniversary of my vasectomy! I realize you don’t really care. But it’s important to Wifey® and me.  The funny part was later.

We were stationed at Ft. Greely, Alaska.  Four days after my getting fixed was son-the-elder’s birthday. Needless to say, we had a party. And as with most kids birthday parties, the adults consumed massive quantities of alcohol. The big toy that year was laser tag. I don’t remember how many we purchased, but we had several pistols, rifles, vests, and helmets. Many hours and batteries were spent running around in the playground and parking lot shooting at each other. Naturally, I was extremely sore for several days after. The beer kept me from hurting that day but did nothing after that.

Pro tip: Don’t go running around right after having your nuts cut!

———————————————————————————

Still Not The Song I Want To Hear

tweet2

The posts I’m referring to are here and here. After dinner Sunday the family was sitting at our little bar in the kitchen (where we usually eat dinner) and within 10 minutes or so I had to change the station at least 5 times. Nothing but Skynyrd, Zepplin, Springsteen, U2, etc. Even son-the-elder noticed and said I was having a bad night.

———————————————————————————

Genealogy Still Sucks

If you missed the original post go here.  Since everything I find on my Campbell side either has too many questions to lay claim to or goes back to King Arthur, I have decided to work on some other lines for now. Besides, I can’t get anyone to answer any requests on Ancestry.

I’m just happy that I haven’t found a “tree” that links back to Adam & Eve! Although I have to think that the Campbell’s would have sprung from Adam & Lillith, Eve was too prissy.

I have many DNA links on my paternal grandmother’s side, and my mother’s side (both her mother and father’s sides). I’m also going to start on Wifey’s® tree even though she has cousins with a lot of the family already there. But I have doubts about a lot of the historical family members.

For reference follow this link for my Campbell tree and this one for Wifey’s tree.

———————————————————————————

It’s Almost That Time Of Year!

Samhain is right around the corner! Even though we don’t participate much in Halloween (unless we have the girls), I still enjoy this time of year.  The Celt in me loves the traditions and once this day passes the next holiday is my absolute favorite of all holidays, Thanksgiving.

We have always enjoyed carving Jack O’Lanterns. But since this year Halloween falls on a Wednesday I think we’ll cut it back this year.

jack

———————————————————————————

To Gym Or Not To Gym

gym

BEARS

Yeah… This post didn’t get very far…

———————————————————————————

Mental Health Day (Or Lack Thereof)

I’ve mentioned before that I am bipolar type II. I don’t post about it much because I really can’t. When those days hit the last thing I want to do is talk. Not that talking about it doesn’t help, it does. But, I am not one to talk about what’s going on in my messed up head. And to spit it out only relieves the pain for a very short time.  And the roller coaster emotions that this causes is even worse than just dealing with it in my own way.

Then this meme came across my Facebook the other day and I think it may have some merit.

dies

I can understand this. The universe has a finite amount of energy (E=mc^2 tells us this). And since we are all made of stardust (and to stardust, we’ll return) we are all connected. Maybe days when you are sad and can’t place a reason why the universe is signaling that someone needs mourning. I’m down with that.

———————————————————————————

So those are all the leftovers that have been ignored. And to continue the Still Not The Song I Want To Hear post, this morning on the way to work, it was either Starship, Aerosmith, or Rocket Man, easily Elton’s worse song. And while putting this post together, Michael Martin Murphy’s Wildfire just came on. There is nothing that will make me change the station faster than that “song”. Has to be the absolute worst thing ever written.

But fear not dear reader (both of you), the music world is still kicking! Saturday night driving home from dinner with granddaughter-the-younger I had the Beatles channel blaring in the truck. Both of my girls love the Beatles. As this song came on, and I was singing it to her, she was laughing the entire time. When we made it home we watched Beatles videos on YouTube. It was wonderful.

Hey, you there! Leave a comment why don’t ya!

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

Scotland Or Bust!!

Ah, Scotland! The land of bagpipes, majestic highlands, Nessie, wonderful single malt scotches (the nectar of the Gods), and haggis.  Well, the jury is still out on haggis. I will give it a taste while we’re there, but I’m not really expecting much.

Wifey® and I have booked an 8 day, 7 night bus tour for May 2019. This has been a long drawn out process fraught with perils. We started looking at a Scotland trip several years ago but just could not get the time and funds to match. Seems when we had the money saved up, something came up (like the clutch in my truck blowing up), or when we had time off from work we didn’t have the money.

So fast forward to July of this year. Wifey’s® father had passed away and she and her brothers and finally closed on selling his house. And that would be a whole ‘nother post. What a fiasco that was! We had been vacillating between buying an RV and finally making a trip to Scotland since both of our families are of Scots descent. After several visits to various RV places in and around our home, we were just about set on the RV.  When one Friday evening it all changed. We really didn’t want to spend all the money Wifey® received from her share of the house “all in one place”. So that made the decision much easier.

I immediately contacted the agency we’ve been talking to over that last couple of years to get updated tour dates and prices. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we decided on which tour we wanted.

The agency we were using is Exploring Vacations, based out of Ireland. They have a New Jersey phone number, but I think it routes back to Ireland as everyone we’ve ever talked to has a most beautiful accent.

On July 31st we made our deposit. It’s really happening! This began the process of getting everything together. We had to renew our passports (a surprisingly easy process), start buying all the “little things”, like a power converter, RFID blocking passport wallets, pillows and eye masks for the overnight flight. OH! Wait! We need airline tickets too. That means days and days of watching Priceline, Kayak, Booking, Orbitz etc…

Then on August 28th, we made the decision to pay off the tour completely.  That proved to be a very wise move. Because on September 14th, I received this email;

email1

Suddenly, we were not sure our trip would happen. Needless to say, my heart just about jumped out of my chest. That RV was looking better and better. I told Wifey® to call the credit card company we used to see if there was anything we needed to do so we wouldn’t lose all of what we paid.  But when she looked at the website for the card, she saw that we didn’t pay Exploring Vacations, we paid directly to the actual tour company, CIE Tours International! A glimmer of hope appeared. And sure enough, when I open the PAID IN FULL invoice, it’s from CIE Tours! CIE is also based out of Ireland, and also has a New Jersey phone number. You know I’m calling as quick as my shaking hands can dial.

While I’m waiting for someone to answer I tweet this;

tweet1

A lovely sounding lass “Alli” is the representative I get to talk to (with an amazing accent too!).  I explain the situation to Alli, but she doesn’t know about Exploring Vacations going out of business. Heart rate is starting to go up again. She sends me to a supervisor, Ernesto. Ernesto is either in New Jersey or is from there, he has an entirely different accent than Alli. But right now I really don’t care where I’m calling as long as someone can tell me what’s going on.

Turns out Ernesto is on the ball. He can find our tour and yes, we are PAID IN FULL! Ernesto takes care of the transfers to and from the airport and hotels since that was one step we didn’t get to finish (at no cost!). The only issue he sees it that our tour is reserved under the Exploring Vacations name and not ours. He says that is a minor issue as the receipt has our names.

One thing that amazes me about this entire deal is that Exploring Vacations has been in contact throughout. As much heartburn and stress this situation has caused us, the fact that they emailed me to tell me what’s going on and have answered every email I have sent with questions says that this was a solid company. It also says a lot about corporate America. If this had been an American company we would only find out that they went bankrupt when a letter showed up, or we tried to call and found the phone disconnected.

email2

The email that allowed me to sleep again

We still have lots of stuff to procure for this trip. We need real raincoats (or should I say a “mac”?), more clothes, luggage, and exchange currency.  But we have time.  I’ll post more about the trip as things get settled. The itinerary is not finalized yet but should be by the end of the month.

Tell me your travel horror stories!!

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

P.S. Samhain is getting close!!

Catching Up

So it’s been a while since I posted anything. So let’s catch up, shall we?

The reasons I haven’t posted are several. I had a killer head cold for about 2 weeks, that I couldn’t shake (same one I mentioned in my Celebrate Good Times (Come On)! post).  My work issued laptop died on me, and I’ve been so busy at work that when I get home and I feel like crap due to the cold, I had no desire to sit in front of any PC. When you consider how much computer time I log at work, it’s rather surprising how much I use one at home.

But not everything was bad. I bought a new SiriusXM radio for my aging truck. It’s an external device that plugs in through the aux port on the existing radio. I also stream, mostly the “Classic” (oh, how I hate that term. Can we go back to AOR please?) stations. I like SiriusXM over the local radio because the DJs don’t think they have to be funny so they can get hired and go to a larger market. SiriusXM’s market is North America. Quite a bit bigger than any terrestrial market. Plus these DJs know what they’re talking about.  I also like SiriusXM over most streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc.) because they play the music the way it was recorded. One thing that always pissed me off with the various streaming services is they tend to cut apart songs the segue into each other. A classic example is Jackson Browne’s “The Load Out/Stay”. Streaming radio turns those into two separate songs. It increases the total number of songs in their library, but it totally screws up the listening experience.

My office replaced my very small Micro$oft Surface Book with a beautiful 17″ HP laptop.  This thing is a beast! An i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and this wonderful huge screen! These tired old eyes can see again!

Wifey® and I have planned, and made the deposit on, something that is on both of our bucket lists. A trip to Scotland, the land of our heritage. We’ve both did the Ancestry DNA tests. I’ve posted about this before.  Turns out both of our DNA points directly to Scotland/Ireland/Land of the Vikings. I’d like to try to find the ancestor that made the trip over the pond to settle in America before we go. But that costs money, and right now we’re trying to save, not spend so we can blow the whole wad while in Scotland.  I’m hoping the duty-free shop in the Edinburgh airport has a good selection of native scotches.  I will have a separate post(s) about the trip as things get closer, and when we are in country.

We had a wonderful dinner the other night with my brother and his wife here at my house.  I smoked three whole chickens. Not that I expected we would eat them all that night, I planned on leftovers so we (as in Wifey® and son-the-younger and myself) could make pot pies from the leftover chicken and other veggies we made that day.

wp-1533321237490..jpg

Yup, there are 3 whole chickens in there!

wp-1533321237469..jpg

We ended up with 10 pot pies of varying sizes

I confirmed something I learned the last time I smoked chicken. From now on I’m only buying leg quarters. There were 4 and a half breast quarters left, but only one leg quarter. Seem we prefer the dark meat!

And I’ve read a couple of good books too. I won’t write any reviews.  If you want book reviews, there are plenty of sites that have them (I recommend Once Upon A Spine).

I’ll leave you with a video. Has nothing to do with this post, but the opening line “Been away, haven’t seen you in a while”, fits with the theme. Plus it’s Dave Mason.  I’ve been a fan of his since his days with Traffic.

So what have you been up to?

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

Conference Time

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending the KnowBe4 conference in Orlando. (Official hashtag: #KB4Con18). This was without a doubt the best tech conference I have ever attended. Not only were there absolutely dynamic speakers, all attendees were treated to the best food!  I’m talking some of the healthiest stuff I have ever seen at any conference.

I’ve mentioned KnowBe4 before. This is the vendor we use at the city to train, test and generally harass our end-users (OK, maybe not harass). (KnowBe4 website) With just a small part of their product, I can train my co-workers on the latest ways the “bad guys” try to use social engineering to do well, bad stuff. I will admit that I enjoy sending out simulated phish emails. Why? Because it shows me where are weak links are. And this gives me the means to do targeted training to make our city network, and by association everyone’s home PC/Network, that much more secure. I don’t do it to shame someone or hold it over anyone’s head. Since I have been an instructor of some sort for very many years, I use this primarily as a training tool. But on to the conference itself.

Other than the hour plus, each way, drive on I4 (A.K.A. the devil’s highway), and being in Orlando (way too big and crazy for me), everything else went beautifully. The folks at KnowBe4 went above and beyond in this, their first ever conference.

The opening keynote speaker was Kevin Mitnick, or as he likes to call himself “The World’s Most Famous Hacker”, a title he lives up to. If you don’t know who he is, take a moment to read his Wikipedia page, even if it a bit light on his history. Kevin gave us many demonstrations of current hacks, all of which arrive via an inconspicuous email. And all of which are very nasty. But the one hack that scared me the most was when he showed how Google’s two-factor authentication (2FA) could be hacked. Google has always been one of the toughest to crack since they stay on the cutting edge of all technologies. As a big user of many Google services, this is troublesome.

MVIMG_20180517_182225.jpg

Me and Kevin Mitnick

The keynote speaker for the next day was Frank Abangale. I have to admit that I did not recognize his name. But once I heard his story I knew how he was. Here is his Wikipedia page for you to educate yourself. Frank is considered one of the foremost experts on imposters and forgery. Steven Spielberg made a movie “Catch Me If You Can” starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank and Tom Hanks as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty. I have not seen this movie, but I see it available on Amazon Prime so I will correct that error very soon. And if I caught his reference, he was also the inspiration for the TV show “White Collar”.  His family story and subsequent talk on how to keep safe with online financial sources was very eye-opening.

IMG_20180518_104922.jpg

Myself and Frank Abangale

Another fantastic speaker was Roger A. Grimes (he wants you to know he is not related to the Canadian political figure with the same name), the best-selling author of several tech books. KnowBe4 even included a copy of his “A Data-Driven Computer Security Defense” in the big ol’ backpack they gave every attendee. The big takeaway from his two talks was the point that you have to determine what your biggest exploitable problem is, and fix that first. Common sense, which as we all know, is always in short supply.

One thing that I really was happy to see was the inclusion of women speakers. KnowBe4 has several women in executive roles throughout the company, and that makes me very happy. Since I have two granddaughters, one of which is very interested in the sciences, I fully support women (and really anybody) in STEM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics). One of the first questions Wifey® asked me was if there were women presenters. I was so very happy to say yes!

There was one thing missing though. No vendor room. Every other conference I’ve been to there is always a room for vendors. Not only can one make some great contacts with products and services that one doesn’t know about, vendors always have cool swag (freebie gifts). I’ll have to check with my manager, but I think a conference is how we found out about KnowBe4. It may not have been in the vendor area, it may have been word of mouth from another attendee (word of mouth is ALWAYS the best advertisement).

Sorry, this is such a broad overview, but I could write about ten pages if I covered the entire 3 days. All I can say is “I’m ready for KB4Con19!”

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

I Call Shenanigans

Floriduh is supposed to be “The Sunshine State”.  Not this week.  And I really need it to be. I have a PC Security conference in Orlando starting this evening and running through Friday evening. To save my employer a bit of money, I picked a cheaper (by half price) hotel, just down the street from the hotel where the conference will be held. The plan was to park my truck and walk back and forth. I did this for two reasons, one, I don’t want to have to pay the parking fees at both hotels, and second, the walk will replace at least some of the missed elliptical time.  Not to mention, I doubt an Uber driver will want to pick up that short of a trip (0.3 miles according to Google Maps).

But no… There is a big low-pressure system off our west coast and big high-pressure system off the east coast. And between the two of them, we got nothing but rain.  As one of the weather guys on a local channel posted:

 

thisweek

Thanks to Brian Shields of WFTV for the image (and no I didn’t ask permission)

 

So I guess I’ll be paying double parking fees…

Sheesh!

Peace,
B

Twitter  FaceBook

Bike Week ’18

Today the 77th annual Daytona Beach Bike Week starts. Originally this event was nothing more than a small dirt bike race. It has now ballooned into a 10-day event (I hesitate to call it a festival) that floods our local streets with upwards of 250,000 motorcycle “enthusiasts”.  We get everything from the rich doctors and lawyers riding their $100,000 custom bikes (which only come out of the garage for this event – they’re not even ridden into town, the bikes are usually in a toy-hauler to protect them from the elements – or they just rent them), to some very serious biker types (not exactly Hell’s Angels or Outlaws, or at least if they are gang members they’re smart enough to remove their colors before coming into town). Usually, the majority of the bikers are your everyday rider that goes out on weekends and when the weather is nice kind of folks.

But that doesn’t make them your regular tourist. Remember, Daytona is tourist income based town. We have four major events every year that keep the revenue up. Two bike events, and two NASCAR race events. Everybody that I know that works in the hospitality or food industry (both of my sons, one ex-daughter-in-law, and one current girlfriend) will tell you that they’d rather have bikers over race fans any day.

Race fans, which will number in the 75,000 to 100,000 range depending on which race week we’re talking about, don’t seem to understand that a small town like Daytona cannot handle that many people at the same time. Our restaurants will have waiting times of two hours or more, run out of certain high demand items (i.e. snow crabs), and just generally be a miserable place to be. Us locals tend to stay at home during these times.

Bikers, on the other hand, have no problem waiting for a place to eat. They just go grab a beer a hang out in the parking lots when there’s no room anywhere else. Most restaurants will have one or more “Beer Tubs” in the parking lot with pretty girls in short shorts and crop tops selling beer (usually at the same price as usual – quantity is king).

When we first came to Daytona (1997), most the bike week festivities took place just a mile or two up the street from our apartment. So other than the Harley’s gunning up and down the road outside the windows making it impossible to listen to the TV, it was no big deal to walk up to the “party area” have some fun and walk home.

But then Daytona did it’s usual (got greedy and/or stupid). They had already driven the Spring Break TV shows away, we still do get some college kids, but not like it used to be when MTV would be here every year. Now they set their sights on Bike Week. Daytona Harley Davidson (the area where everything happened just up the road from us) used to rent the big grassy area across from the Harley shop really cheap. I’ve heard anything from $1000 to as cheap as $1, so I don’t know for sure. But I do know that city raised the “rent” to $10,000. So, the guy that owned the Harley dealership closed that shop and moved north to an unincorporated area of the county. He built a huge complex. Not only his new Harley Shop but a hotel, restaurants, a truck shop, even a motorcycle mechanic school. The area is called Destination Daytona (even though it’s not within the city limits). There is also a nice covered open-air concert pavilion.

One other area that the bikers still go is Main Street. Yes, Daytona really has a Main Street, although it’s only on the beachside, once you cross the bridge it’s Fairview Ave. The city engineers loved to play with street names back in the day. This place gets packed. It’s lined with bars and clubs on both sides. You’ll see every type of motorcycle you can think of parked along the road, all nice and neatly backed in. The crowds are worse than Disney on the 4th of July (and I’ve been to Disney on the 4th, it’s freaking crazy).  About every 100 feet you’ll find a “Beer Tub” as I describe above, except the prices are a bit higher on Main Street.

And the people! You’ll see so much leather you think the Village People are performing. Men and women in chaps (and there’s no telling what some of the women are or aren’t wearing under the chaps). Leather jackets or vests all over the place. It’s a bit scary to see what appears to be a gynecologist or a real estate broker wearing all leather, drinking a Mich Ultra, while talking to the tax accountant, also wearing leather chaps, a leather vest with a very clean Harley patch (only worn once a year) and also drinking a Mich Ultra, probably raspberry flavored. While their rented Harley’s sit out at the curb. Best patch I’ve ever seen during a bike week event said: “$10,000 and 10,000 miles doesn’t make you a biker!”

Standing right next to them will be the Euro bikers. We get many from Europe that come over for this event. They will have the BMWs and Triumphs parked out front. They are easy to recognize, as they will be considerably younger, and have the Kevlar padded road suits instead of leather. Oh, they’ll be drinking Grolsch or Stella Artois (which I think is Belgium for Budweiser).

The official website for the event is: http://officialbikeweek.com/ (Not real original is it?). Sometimes a location will have a webcam streaming, so look for those if you’d like.

And in case you’re wondering, no I do not ride. Like most things in life, I’m simply a voyeur. I’ve only been on a motorcycle once in my entire life when I was about 8.  Just doesn’t appeal to me, nor do jet skis, four-wheelers or any of that ilk.  Oh well.

And I’m not complaining about the events or the bikers. I thoroughly enjoy bike week. The weather is usually beautiful (but, it does tend to rain the first weekend – very odd that’s it’s always that one weekend). I get to see some beautiful bikes as I go to and from work and sometimes so very attractive ladies on those bikes. I no longer attend any of the free concerts or other events, but we do not hesitate to go out for dinner during bike week like we do on race weeks. The bikers are much more fun.

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than  cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.” ~ Billy Joel – Only The Good Die Young

Peace,
B

P.S. If you do a Google Image search for “Daytona Bike Week” you *may* want to turn “safe search” on depending on who may be looking over your shoulder (children/boss/small furry animals/etc…). You’ve been warned.

Send Lawyers, Guns, And Money

(With apologies to Warren Zevon)

I have to admit that I don’t agree with Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2;

“The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers”

I know several lawyers and even accountants that don’t deserve such a fate.  Although many do. I think Dante had a level reserved just for those of that profession.

However, (yes another traffic rant is coming), there would be a special place in Hell, if I believed that such a place existed, for idiots that will never use a turn signal, jerks who think that using a turn signal automagically gives them right of way, and especially the asshats that refuse to drive the speed limit no matter in which lane they are blocking traffic.

‘Nuff said…

Peace,
B

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.

DSC00391

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.

DSC00356

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!

DSC00355

The tasting menu at Sierra Nevada Brewery. 

DSC00350

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

DSC00346

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

DSC00392

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?

wncmapcm

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.

DSC00385

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.

DSC00393

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”;

1124171217

Wifey on Pulpit Rock

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

DSC00390

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.

 

DSC00396

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.

DSC00397

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.

1124171352

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.

1124171218

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