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Travelogue of Our Roamings

Fall and Winter of 2006


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Rock Hill, South Carolina

We arrived in Rock Hill with no problems, after a very long drive across Tennessee. Our home this time is in the Forest Oaks Apartments, and we're on the first floor. Yeah! These apartments are fairly new and look well maintained . Our view is just another apartment building, but being on the first floor allows us let Scooter out on a tether to be outside. They are more of family residences than corporate housing, so there are a lot of teenagers and family pets. For Scooter, there are some wooded areas around the apartment complex where he can go play .

One more note about our new apartment. Anna has nick-named our upstairs neighbor "Thunder Foot", and I have to agree. It sound like he is stomping every step he takes. Oh, and we can only get cell reception in one small area of the living room which we call "the telephone alcove." The whole rest of the apartment is a "no service area".

The work schedule that they are giving Anna is going to cut down on our traveling this stop. They have her days spread out all throughout the week, with only 1 or 2 days off in a row during most weeks. She also has had to go in on several of her days off for a couple of hours for additional, and mandatory, training classes in hospital procedures. Most trips will have to be day trips or overnighters. She did get several days off together in early December. We are going to take that time to go to Charleston and cruise up the Atlantic Coast.

The first two days in a row that Anna had off work, we thought we would drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and look at the trees. Both of us started feeling a little ill about the time we got into the mountain's foothills (a bug, bad food, or who knows what), and decided to cut the trip short. We turned south to take a different way home, but still doing some exploring. Along Interstate 85 we spotted Abbott Farms produce market and we thought that we would check it out. We were very glad that we did! We got some wonderful peach bread, some surprisingly refreshing peach cider, several delicious jellies (the blackberry is probably the best I ever had), and some huge local apples fresh from the tree. Check out there web site in the link above for mail order. You will not be disappointed. I still want to try one of their chow-chows.

Our first free weekend after we got settled in, we loaded the dog in the car and went to see our family and friends in Greenville. First, we drove the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (Hwy 11) up into the North Carolina mountains. The trees were just getting into their full color, and were absolutely beautiful! We stopped at the Cowpens National Battlefield, the Campbell's Covered Bridge , Wildcat Branch Falls , Bald Rock , Caesar's Head State Park (where we could also see Table Rock Lake and State Park). By then it was getting late and we headed south to see our friends in Easley (just outside of Greenville).

We had a wonderful visit, catching up with everything that been going on in our lives. Also, this visit turned out to be great timing, as our first night there was Anna's birthday. So we invited more people over, and had a party. Sammy and I took some time Saturday morning to go fishing in Lake Hartwell, along the border with Georgia, with their next door neighbor. Everyone caught a fair size largemouth bass, but we released all the fish for someone to catch another day. The girls all slept in while we fished. Then Sammy and I napped while they shopped that afternoon. We continued our visit with a late afternoon visit to downtown Greenville. We ordered ice cream cones and were amazed at the size. They were huge. Every one was so full after the ice cream that we postponed our dinner plans. Dinner turned out to be delicious steaks grilled out by Sammy. The next morning we all ate a large brunch, and eventually left to drive back to Rock Hill. We plan to try and get together again for some camping and sapphire gem mining up in the mountains as soon as we can.

Anna and I had to cancel some of our own camping plans, with some time for photography, due to a really cold weather snap with predicted rain. We will try again soon. We did run over to the nearby town of York for some more exploring. We stopped at Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill. We picked up some apple donuts, fresh fried apple pies, and a bottle of their own apple barbeque sauce (which I'm saving).

After several days of rain and thunderstorms, we got a clear day with temps in the upper 60's. We decided to go visit the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina. I believe that this is the state's only major zoo. We had a very nice day, and it was a pleasant little zoo. It's almost on a par with the Brownsville zoo, but not quite as well done. The first notable thing is an island exhibit near the entrance that has a number of very active and loud howler monkeys. Listening to them howl to communicate and state their territory was a new and entertaining experice. Also notable, was probably the biggest python that we have ever seen. It was enormous!

A few days later we chose to visit a nearby Revolutionary War National Battlefield, and the adjacent State Park. This was the Kings Mountain National Military Park and the Kings Mountain State Park. The State Park was the first stop as it was closer. Unfortunately, they already had half the park closed for the winter season. This included their working frontier farm and access to their larger woodlands lake. We did however visit the smaller lake, where we took a short hike with the dog, enjoyed the sun, and took a few pictures. Then it was on the the National Battlefield park. There we took in their small museum, and hiked a 1.5 mile interpretive trail around the battle site. Along this trail are a number of very interesting and informative plaques and monuments. After our hike we left to find food for a late lunch in a small cafe in York (it wasn't worth commenting on).

A quick afternoon trip to the local York County Museum was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. It is a small Natural Sciences museum, with a large number of stuffed African animals (advertised as the largest number in the eastern US). This included a fully stuffed elephant, a giraffe, both types of rino, and a hippo. I think this was the first time we have seen any of these fully stuffed and mounted. They also have a small planetarium and several small live exhibits.

Another museum was next on the itinerary. This time it was the Schiele Museum of Natural History. This time in Gastonia, North Carolina. We made a special trip to be there on one their Harvest Day Festival, when they would be having historic re-enactments at their "Back Country Farm". These included blacksmithing, flax processing and spinning, historic indoor and outdoor cooking, wood carving, black-powder weapons demonstrations, and other skills. All this was very entertaining, and Anna and I even learned a new thing or two. While there we also toured their Catawba Indian Village, and Stone Age Heritage Site, and the exhibits in the Schiele Museum itself.

Anna's scheduled several days off in a row finally arrived, so we decided that our trip to the Atlantic Coast was in order. We pick Charleston as a starting point because we wanted to stop by Summerville on the way. Another cousin of Anna's lives there (Chris Lynn, which is Sammy's brother). We arrived at Summerville in the late morning, and had lunch with Chris, before going on to his home to meet his girlfriend Patsy. After a quick visit we all took a short drive to Magnolia Plantation , just outside a Charleston. At the plantation we toured their gardens, took the tram tour through the larger area of their grounds, and toured the plantation's manor house. By then is was getting late (we were really rushed through the house tour so that they could close). So we headed back to the Lynn house for the evening, stop on the way for some Thai food. Anna and I got up the next morning and visited the plantation again to spend more time walking the large garden area near the Ashley River and to take a few more pictures.

Because we were traveling with the dog, and the incoming rain storms, we had to cancel some of the activities that we had wanted to do in downtown Charleston. Instead we made a quick visit of the city, traveling across the Cooper River Bridge (North America's longest cable suspension bridge) to Patriot's Point and Maritime Museum, in the suburb of Mount Pleasant. Here we toured the grounds and outdoor exhibits. But, because we have toured the Lexington aircraft carrier and several other WWII ships, we did not take the time to tour the Yorktown carrier or other ships. Instead we used the time to drive a little ways out to Sullivan's Island to the Civil War fortress of Fort Moultrie We really enjoyed our visit here even though the weather was turning awful, and we finished the tour in a cold rain. From Fort Moultrie we also had an excellent view of Fort Sumter out in Charleston Harbor. By this time is was getting dark too, so we got back on Hwy 17 and headed north to Georgetown for our nightly stop-over. On the way we stopped at a road-side stand where Anna bought a beautifully woven sweet-grass basket, one of the real specialty items in the Charleston area.

The next morning we visited Georgetown's downtown and historic seaport areas, then getting back into the car, we headed north to Prawley's Island and Myrtle Beach. Along the way we stop at the Huntington Beach State Park to walk the beach and try our luck at picking up some seashells. We had little luck with the shells and the high wind drove Anna from the beach after a few minutes. The park also has the ruins of a structure called the Atalaya. The Atalaya is built somewhat like a castle in design and was built as the summer home for the American sculpter, Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband. Even with the wind we very much enjoyed our time at this state park.

It had been recommended to us that there was a wonderful seafood restaurant in Myrtle Beach that we had to try. But when we got there they had already closed for the afternoon. So we when looking for another place for what turned out to be an early dinner. What we found was Captain Bennett's Calabash Seafood Buffet. All you could eat, included snow crag legs and prime rib. That's why it turned out to be the last thing we ate that day. We were stuffed. Almost everything we tried was very good, and they had over 120 different items! The crab legs may be the best we ever had, the breaded fried shrimp and scallops were lightly breaded and cooked perfectly, and the two baked fish dishes that I tried were not dry or over cooked even after setting on the buffet. We ate until we just couldn't eat anymore, and then went looking for a nicer hotel that would take the dog. It took us couple of tries, but we found the nice clean Vancouver Motel with an ocean side balcony for only $50 a night (off-season) if we took two nights. We had no definite plans, so we took the two nights. Our room was only about 100 yards from the waters edge during high tide. We went for a late afternoon walk on the beach looking for shells and such, and a later moon-light walk under a cloudless sky. The weather was a little cool but still very nice. We slept with the balcony door wide open all night that night, with the sound of the surf pounding the beach just outside. It was a wonderful night.

When got up the next morning, watched the sunrise, and then went out to explore Myrtle Beach. We spent the morning checking out the town, with a little shopping thrown in, and went back to enjoy the beach during the warmer parts of the day. After the hugh meal the night before we were just looking for a sandwich for lunch and found an absolutely excellent philly cheese steak sandwich at Mr. Subs sandwich shop. For dinner that night we wanted something with some spice and heat to it, so we hunted up the only Mexican restaurant in town. The food wasn't very authentic, but was very tasty and really hit the spot for both of us.

We got up the next morning, watched the sunrise over the ocean one last time, walked the beach a last time, and started back west for Rock Hill. We did plan to make a stop at the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge on the way back. The pine trees at the refuge were reported to have some extremely long pine needles and large pine cones. This proved to be true. Some of the pine needles we picked up were close to 2 feet in length! And the cones were bigger than I hold in both hands. We saw little in the way of wildlife during our stop, which was a little disappointing. But the trees and other plants, including several carnivorous species, were interesting and the dog enjoyed running the trails. After the refuge, it was about an hour's drive home.

The last weekend before we had to start packing to leave we made one last mini vacation into North Carolina. Our first destination was Grandfather Mountain, which is the tallest mountain along the Blue Ridge Parkway and the second highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River. We planned to spend the first night of our trip in Blowing Rock, and then visit the Mountain the next morning.

We got a surprise on our way to Blowing Rock. Just south of town, the main highway was closed due to a rockslide. There was supposed to be a detour sign, but we never saw it. We ended up following what looked like some local drivers down a side road about a mile before the slide. Several times we thought that we had made a big mistake and almost turned around. Especially when the road turned into a narrow one lane dirt road! This road also turned out to be one of the most twisting and hairpin turning mountain roads that I have ever been on! And the road continued on and on and on, going to dirt and then back to pavement 3 or 4 times! Oh, and did I mention that this little road wasn't on any of our maps. Only the amount of traffic on this little road kept us going on. We were completely and totally lost, and it was getting late in the day. But continued to follow the signs of heavier traffic. We ended up going through a little tunnel under a stone bridge, and then into a small community (that had no name that we could find to help with the map). We stopped here to get our bearings, and from a little elevation on a hill we spotted a better looking road. As we started toward it we saw a sign and finally, thankfully, realized that this better road was the Blue Ridge Parkway. Not knowing where we were, we had to choose whether to go north or south. We correctly chose South, and found out that after almost being lost we were only about 5 miles from Blowing Rock. We found out later this was Blackberry Road, and really was the quickest detour around the rock slide.

We stopped by the visitor information center and got some help finding a place to stay that would take the dog. This was the Alpine Village Inn. We splurged and got their large room with a whirlpool and fireplace. We then walked the downtown area checking out the shops and finally stopped at the Speckled Trout for dinner. The food was quite good (Anna even liked the broiled trout that I ordered). We decided to go to check out the Blowing Rock that the city was named for, before going on to the Mountain. This was an interesting little nature area overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, with an old indian legend to make in intriguing.

Then it was back to the Blue Ridge Parkway for some sight seeing and our trip to Grandfather Mountain. The Mountain was a fun trip, even if the "mile high" suspense bridge was a bit too high for Anna's liking (well she didn't much like the steep narrow twisting road up to the peak either, not with a long drop off the side of the mountain if you ran off the road). Before you get to the mountain top there is a nice nature center and a small zoo of native animals. The view from the top of the mountain was truly incredible and beautiful. Anna just closed her eyes on the drive down.

More driving along the Parkway followed Grandfather Mountain. Then we headed for a better road, or interstate, so that we could make better time on our way west to Cherokee.

We stopped at Maggie's Valley for an old fashion rock shop, where I bought a few small pieces. Getting into Cherokee we checked out the main areas of town before it got dark. Dinner was just a burger for me and sandwich for Anna, that we ate in the hotel room. The next day we started with the Cherokee Indian Museum where Anna got some genealogical reference material. Then we spent some time doing the touristy stuff around town, buying a few trinkets and beads . Much of the town's attractions were already closed for the season, even Santa Land (it was less then 2 weeks to Christmas). We took a different route back to Rock Hill for a change of scenery.

A few days after getting back we started packing, with the plan that we would spend some time moving into our new home on Lake Texoma in north Texas before starting the next assignment. We stopped for a couple of days in Arkansas to visit family and exchange late Christmas gifts. From there it was just a day trip to the new home, where we unpacked, spent a couple of days, and then headed into Oklahoma in the truck to go get all our belongings.

We were suppose to start the new assignment in late January. But, with the ice and snow storms in north Texas, we were "iced in" and unable to leave. So the traveling was postponed until early February. We made another trip to Oklahoma for a visit and to get more of our stuff. Back in Gordonville, my sister came to visit for a few days. Then it was back to packing for our roamings in Arizona. Of course, when we were ready to start packing another winter storm moved in! We woke up on the day we had to start packing the vehicles to see about an inch of snow on the ground and huge flakes still falling . It pretty much snowed and sleeted on us the whole time that we were packing. But, fortunately, the roads stay fairly clear. We were only delayed a couple of hours by the weather.

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