It's normally a twenty-two hour drive to Pinellas County Florida when we make the trip from our northern Indiana home. However, we wiggle-routed this trip. Mapquest would have cyber-cindered itself if we had requested maps for our impromptu meanderings. In Kentucky, we saw a billboard saying to stop in Corbin to visit the original Harland Sanders Cafe and museum, the "home" of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had a motor court and small cafe, famous for "breakfast" not chicken, on old highway 25, the main drag to Florida at the time. We spent a pleasant hour there, seeing the genius of a good ol' country boy who made good frying chicken and being savvy enough to sell his recipe and ideas to others via franchises. Did you know that the first KFC franchise was in UTAH?
Jake(our male corgi) saw a Sheltie at a Love's truckstop near Corbin, and fell in puppy love. He steamed up the windshield which was rather embarrassing for Jim who was washing it on the other side at the time.
We decided to head towards Pigeon Forge to see Dollywood. Big mistake as Dolly happened to be in town that day because it was the opening day of the Christmas season in the music halls there, plus, University of Tennessee had a game that day in Knoxville, nearby. Traffic was bumper to bumper, which is rather uncomfortable when driving thirty-two feet and towing a car as well. We felt like the proverbial bull in a china cabinet, and high-tailed it outta there back to I-40.
As we traveled, we remarked time and again how the mountains were solid with muted fall colors that reminded us of tapestry. The views were just incredible the entire trip through the hills of Kentucky and mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. In Waynesville, NC., where Jim's father is buried, we found a local diner called DuVall's, after visiting the cemetary. DuVall's is caught in a time warp. You walk in and think you're somewhere between 1958 to 1968. We felt 12 years old again sitting in the simplicity of the place, making us remember days gone by when "Dad" paid the check and a sibling kicked us under the table!
We went to Cherokee, the Smoky Mountains and Bryson City. A huge male elk with a rack at least 5 feet across lounged in the sun with his back to the growing crowd of pulled over cars and folks standing out in the field, cameras up, looking awestruck. There were signs throughout the campground reminding us that this was "bear country." We walked along the fast moving babbling brook which was so clear, and the dogs found a pile of bear poop. Jim says not, but it was too big for any large dog, believe me! In Bryson City, Jim explored the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad Museum while I went into some local artisan shops where all I bought was postcards to mail out.
We stopped at the visitor center in Hendersonville and I asked about the author Ann B. Ross, who writes the Miss Julia series. She's a native there, and they said that she eats lunch every Sunday with her ex-husband. ( Is this a southern thing?)
We decided to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway as that is a lovely road to travel on. Warning.....if you are over 30 feet long, it is rather a challenge, and I highly recommend taking something to relax you if you are sitting in the "over the cliff/or closest to the pointy rock formation" seat as you go from one S curve to another. At 6380 feet "UP," clouds take over the road and make it disappear in the moisture laden fog. (That's when the screaming started....not me, JIM!)
Surviving that, we drove on some scenic back roads allowing us to see a forgotten part of North Carolina. We ended up at Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, where the film "Dirty Dancing" was filmed. We ate a wood fire oven pizza "alfresco"overlooking the lake outlined with fall color, at a restaurant built in a side of a hill. We took the elevator 26 stories up to the big jutting out rock, famous for the US flag on top. A group of Japanese business men in suits were up there eating orange sherbet cones and taking lots of photos. Altitude does funny things to people.
The dogs had been pretty good sports as we did all of the above so we rewarded them by going to 4-Paws Kingdom Campground, outside Rutherfordton, NC. This is a terrific place for dogs, and dog-lovers. They have agility courses, a pond, fenced in play areas for the furkids, and even grooming areas to bathe and brush out your pups. What fun we all had getting unusual exercise hiking hill and dale over the 33 acres. The corgis went out to their bellies in the pond, and got a close up look at the ducks in the pond, noses through the fence. This is a top notch campground in every respect and we ALL enjoyed our stay there to the max. The camp hostess paints wonderful animal pictures and bakes fresh peanut butter dog biscuits daily, that were hard not to nibble on ourselves!
We finally arrived in Chapel Hill where April and Keith live, and this mama was very glad to see her baby girl who is soon to be expecting her own baby girl.
April and I spent some good days together, catching up on news and doing what girls like to do best. Shop and eat lunch out, work in the kitchen together, and look at baby stuff. Time flew by and it was soon time to head down the road.
If you travel south, for heaven's sake, eat breakfast at a Huddle House to experience some south in your mouth. Grits are groovy, that's all I can say, and the entertainment of the southern staff interaction is worth the stop.
Heading southeast, we got waylaid by another billboard, this time saying, see the USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina. Jim looked pretty interested so we changed plans and headed there. We spent over 3 hours on the aircraft carrier, and exploring the ship. We saw what life must have been like for our Dad's, on ships during WW2. We saw a school of porpoises, first time ever for me, from the lower deck. They swam three abreast in groups, and it appeared that the mother's were teaching their young to swim. We had our pictures taken with a backdrop of the ship, and had sore feet that night from all of our exploring. We didn't realize that South Carolina had so many palm trees, or armadillos. Egad, what a sight! They look like army helmets moving on the ground with tails dragging behind them.
We saw firemen putting up Christmas lights on their station-house using the ladder truck in Georgia. Whatta hoot.
Amelia Island/Ferdinand Beach, off A-1A, on the north-eastern tip of Florida is a beautiful area that I am so glad we made plans to see. We stayed at Fort Clinch State Park which has a campground right on the Atlantic ocean! We walked the dogs at bedtime and saw raccoons and an armadillo in our camp site! The dogs were elated to see the wildlife so nearby and their sniffers were working overtime. The armadillo scuddled away in the vegetation, and was in the woods pretty quickly. The next day were saw several more and took some pics that we'll post in the blog at a later date. We got up early and drove the Tracker right out onto the beach....yes, it's legal! The deserted beach, cold water and pretty surf was the highlight of the day. What a way to spend a happy hour, finding peachy colored shells intact, and hearing the waves crash on shore. We are most definitely going to fill out volunteer applications to be work campers at Fort Clinch State Park. It has it all!
We arrived in the Largo/Clearwater area this afternoon and hit our favorite Greek restaurant for supper. It's chilly here, jackets are required, and it was great to stop by and see the grandsons on our way back to the RV park. We'll be here for a week and will have Thanksgiving with Davids' family, Jims' son.