Sunday, June 24, 2012

A day with a President...

There are a few Presidents that stand out for many, Lincoln, Roosevelt, JFK, all stand apart from the rest, but one more can now be added to my "little group" that I admire, and that's Thomas Jefferson.

I will admit that I hadn't given him much thought in the past. I knew he was the writer of the Declaration of Independence and that he set Louis & Clark off to discover the "new world", but other than that (those alone should have been enough!) I really hadn't paid much attention to him. Not true any longer...

While we were in Virginia, we had the opportunity to visit his home, Monticello. We had an excellent tour guide that quickly showed me what an outstanding man and President he truly was! The man hardly slept! Definitely a "type A" personality; constantly reading, writing, meeting, designing, organizing, working and somehow was able to be a husband and father on the side!

His home most definitely reflected his interests, from clocks and books in every room, to trees, vegetables and nature on the outside. When it was done, he just would change it and continue building! Like so many in that time period, it was sad that his wife didn't live long enough to see it completed and enjoy the efforts.

One thing I am learning on this how much I have yet to learn! I'm so glad we took the time to delve into the history of this great man...

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...on the road in Virginia, Marie

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Blue Ridge Parkway

What can you say about the beauty of nature, the peace of serenity and the music of the country people? The Blue Ridge Parkway has it all.

Miles of vine covered trees in every shade of green that a Crayola box would have, meadows filled with wildflowers of yellow, purple, orange and white, hillsides filled with Craggie boulders with ferns, day lilies, Flame Azaleas and Rhododendrons bursting with color. Beautiful birds, ground squirrels, wild turkeys, deer, horses, cows, a snake, ducks, swans, geese, frogs, lightening bugs and even a small turtle were all seen. Views are endless, with miles of trees and blue skies...that's the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We turned in at almost every view site, I took tons of pictures, and we never could stop saying "wow!" We stopped at several towns, camped along the way, drove through two states, and caught old time music wherever we could. We ate great "Southern cooking", participated in bingo & a 25 foot ice cream sundae made by dozens of kids, square danced, met some great characters, listened to some fun stories, visited historical sites & homes, cemeteries, natural wonders, walked along a mile high bridge, met a blacksmith, laughed and sang.We drove though beautiful sunshine, pouring down rain and even some very scary thick fog.

It's a trip that neither one of us will ever forget.

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

North Carolina, the beginning of a beautiful journey...

The last time Jack and I spent any time in Pennsylvania, we took a drive along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains. It was beautiful, but at that time of the year, many places were closed, and we vowed that we would some day come back and do the "whole thing", drive the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way. Now, a decade later, we are following up on that dream! This time, however, we would travel south to north. For us, it would begin in Ashville North Carolina.

Ashville had more things to "see & do" than we had time or desire. The "big draw" there, is the Biltmore Estate. At $64 pp to tour the estate, we passed. Instead, we spent our time venturing around downtown. We ended up in their River Arts District, located in turn-of-the-century buildings. Both of us love "local art", especially when we can meet the artist, as we did with Jonas Gerard. I fell in love with his vibrant use of color, so couldn't resist a small landscape on ceramic tile. We saw such fun & unique works done by these various artist, it made it a wonderful way to spend the day.

A quick visit to the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (visitor's center) to find out what special areas we should look for, towns to stop in, etc. We learned about the music of the Ridge, called The Crooked Road. We decided we would do our best to stop at as many "locations" that held music jams, concerts & performances as we could.

Maps, booklets and brochures in hand, we were ready to journey through this lush green forest and blue mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...on the road in North Carolina, Marie

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tea anyone?

Did you know that there is only one place in all of the United States that grows tea? I didn't! When I think of all the tea I drink, we all drink, and almost all of it is grown & processed overseas, I just see US dollars floating away...

Charleston Tea Plantation grows and processes tea on 127 acres on Wadmalaw Island, just outside of Charleston SC. American Classic Tea, both Black & Green, has been owned and operated by William Barclay Hall since 1987. In 2003 they joined forces with the Bigelow family to increase their capitol and continue their process. They do everything at the Plantation on Wadmalaw Island except put it into tea bags, that, they send to Bigelow to do.

When we learned that not only was there a tea plantation near Charleston, but that they gave full tours, we were there! What fun it was too! With all it's Southern charm, they put on a wonderful tour and experience at their plantation. It starts with them greeting you at their front door as a guest. The "hostess" greets you and offers you (unlimited) hot & cold tea tasting (large glasses too, not the typical tiny shots normally used for tastings) and explains that the Trolly Tour will take you out into the fields and greenhouse (free) and that there is also a Factory Tour, inside (small fee) that is offered every 15 minutes.

We opted to do the Trolly Tour first, to see how it's grown, cared for and harvested then to come back and do the Factory Tour to see how it's processed. Both were great fun and very educating. Tea plants are started by clones and not by seeds. Charleston has the best weather and soil combination to grow tea, and because it's on level ground, they can harvest it by a very large (specially made for them) machine instead of hand-pickers, which is used outside the US because it's grown on hillsides. Thus, the labor cost is kept low, and then they can afford to grow it and sell it here. I found out later that Wal-Mart sells it under their brand "American Choice Tea, in case you would like to partake.

Tours done, it was "tea-tasting time"! They had the obligatory black & green teas, but they also had a couple of other flavors, like peach. They also had what is called "First Flush". This is from the first cuttings of the tea leaves at the beginning of the season. The tea plant has had all winter long to absorb, making the first cut the strongest flavor. This, they package separately, kind of like wine! All of it tasted great, I thought. Even Jack liked the tea, so we sat on their Plantation porch, in their nice big rockers, and sipped our tea, and just soaked in the beauty in front of us...

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...kicking back in South Carolina, Marie

His, Mine & Ours...

His interests include almost anything "military" a side trip to see the H.L.Hunley, was on the top of his list. It's only open on the weekends, so once again we were "in the right place at the right time" and made the last tour of the day! I tag along on most of these tours, like he does on mine, to be supportive and take pictures; but I have to say, I actually found this one interesting. Seems this guy (Horace Lawson Hunley) was pretty clever actually, given the times (1863)and invented a unique submarine. Of course it wasn't perfect, no invention is the first few times, and it sank and was lost after it did it's intended job. It was only found again in 1970 and even then it took years to get it through all the red tape to study it. Archaeologists have been examining it ever since. They have learned a lot, and are still finding things out.

My interests, as you know, if you've followed these blogs at all, is lighthouses! There are two in the general area of Charleston. One is out in the water, but easier to see than Cockspur was. Our friend Harold took us on a drive to go check them both out. The one at Sullivan's Island is real different - it has a triangle shape, and an elevator! Interesting story about the guy who designed it. We got to see some dolphins playing while we admired the Morris Lighthouse out on it's tiny spit.

Afterward, we all enjoyed the trip to Angle Oak. What a beauty of a tree she is too!! It's 65' tall and 28' wide and estimated to be over 1500 years old. We were all glad we took the trip out to see it. It made a great ending to a beautiful day!

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:
...kicking back in South Carolina, Marie