Asheville, North Carolina   Leave a comment

Day 37-40

All I can say about Asheville is WOW!

It felt great driving into the Mountain area, like through the Green River Gorge.

We celebrated arriving in Asheville with a rock race.

We ended the evening of our free day with a baked potato feast and bingo. Oh, what to put on that potato.

From our campground, we could see the Biltmore Estate off in a distance.

The Inn is to the left, the Antler Hill Village is in the middle and the Biltmore House is to the right.

The Biltmore House and Gardens was beyond belief. At 16 Cornelius Vanderbilt borrowed $100 from his mother in order to build a ferry business. He turned it into $100 million in 50 years. William Henry Vanderbilt doubled the family’s assets as a financier. William’s son, George Vanderbilt, built the Biltmore House, more or less competing with other relatives, for entertaining friends and family. The house was built at a time when it was unusual to have indoor plumbing and lights, yet it had 43 bathrooms and an indoor swimming pool with underwater lighting. It also had 90 bedrooms, an exercise room, bowling alley (where the servants reset the pins). The 250 room house is 135,000 sq. ft.!!!!

This year they allowed us to take photos (without flash) inside!

George opened the Biltmore House in 1895, married Edith in 1898, and had their only child, Cornelia, in 1900. George died at the early age of 51 leaving Edith to run the estate. In the 1920s she sold off 90,000 acres to the government.

Bill and I both saw our daughter-in-law, Jenn, in the young photos of Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil. The Biltmore estate was opened to the public in 1930 in order to bring tourism to Asheville during the depression and raise money to preserve the estate.

Today Biltmore remains a family business, owned by Vanderbilt grandson, William Cecil. His son, William Cecil, Jr. is the CEO and his daughter, Diana, is vice chair of the board of directors. There are 1,800 employees that help to preserve the estate.

The estate is comprised of much more than the house, which is about 2 miles of road to get to the house. The estate is approximately 8,000 acres. Within the estate are beautiful gardens with a conservatory. The gardens were designed by Frederick Olmsted, the designer of Central Park.

A short drive will take you to the Antler Village and Winery. Below, bottom, right is the Winery’s library containing hundreds of wine bottles dating back to the birth of the Winery in the 1970s. In the library are preserved samples of each vintage.

In its day, the estate was a working estate. A dairy, market garden, as well as sheep, poultry and pig farm producing food for the Vanderbilts and their guests. Biltmore also sold products in the community, such as milk, eggs, honey, meat, fruits and vegetables. We visited the historic barn, the little village and finished our day tasting their wonderful wines.

Our farewell dinner was held at Tupelos Honey Café, where we shared a wonderful meal, our most memorable and funniest stories of our trip.

Cyndi shared more beautiful creations of hers with the entire group.

Drawings/paintings as we traveled the Southeast. She “says” she’s only been painting for 2 years. WHAT TALENT SHE HAS!

What a great group! We hope to travel with many of you in the future.

Posted April 18, 2016 by carolnbill in Travel

Charleston, SC   Leave a comment

Day 34-36

Once we all arrived at the campground (with the exception of our tailgunner who had a mishap with the highway grasscutter), we left to tour the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (founded in 1676) by tram. In its time, it was a booming rice plantation. The Rice Plantation owners were the more affluent people in the area.

Yes, they had slave quarters, above left, and still have alligators here on the plantation. Where ever there is fresh water in the south, I think you’ll find alligators. The biggest and oldest alligator on the plantation, Bubba, is about 70 years old! We didn’t see him today.

Our first evening in Charleston, we provided a “low country boil” for our guests.

Lynn and Jack who have traveled with several times and knew a few people on this trip came by for our boil, as well as my cousin who lives in the area. We also celebrated the birthdays.

Bill and I have toured the USS Yorktown several times, and still love the tour.

Pictured below is a photo of the sailor’s berthing compartment

The torpedo workshop

There was also a surgical room onboard.

What a wonderful feeling to walk through the Medal of Honor Museum aboard the Yorktown. It was an overwhelming feeling to be proud to be an American!

The Medal of Honor is awarded by the President, in the name of Congress, to a person who, while a member of the Armed Forces, distinguished themselves by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of themselves beyond the call of duty while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The deed performed must have been one of bravery or self-sacrifice to clearly distinguish the individual above their comrades and must have involved risk of life.

One of the volunteers told us it was a humbling experience when they opened this section of the museum and there were over 100 Medal of Honor recipients present for the grand opening.

Bill looked up “Hershel W. Williams” who was a recipient – fighting the Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands. He is from West Virginia and went to school with Bill’s dad. Bill actually met him and remembers him as “Woody.” According to their records, he is still alive.

The kitchen was enormous with enormous, with enormous appliances needed to fix the daily meals.

The recipe for 10,000 Chocolate Chip Cookies (which meant each sailor received 2) was:

112 pounds chocolate chips

165 pounds flour

500 eggs

100 pounds granulated sugar

87 pounds shortening

75 pounds brown sugar

12 pounds butter

3 pounds salt

3 cups vanilla extract

1 quart water

1.5 pounds baking soda

CAN YOU IMAGINE!?

Our boat ride out to Ft. Sumter turned out to be a beautiful day.

Cruising over to Ft. Sumter, a ranger gave a GREAT introduction to the fort. Actually I would say it was “more” than an introduction.

Sarah was quite theatrical as she delivered years of history to us. How I wish our history classes in school were like this.

Below left is a photo of the fort in 1861 and below right is a photo as it is today, over 100 years of change.

Our historical bus tour of downtown Charleston was picturesque as well as informative. Linda, our guide, was the best ever.

We toured the Citadel. We did not realize the hero, who saved many people – but not himself – when the Air Florida Flight crashed into the 14th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C., in the 1980s, was a graduate of the Citadel.

We were able to stop and tour the Charles Pelot Summerall Chapel.

Anyone wearing a Citadel ring, can surely wear it proudly.

Don’t want to forget the bulldog, their mascot.

The Charleston Battery has always been my favorite place. It was never used in battle. After the war the cannons were brought in, some of them are even “Union” cannons, as a display. I’ll never forget visiting with my cousin’s family and bringing our children to the Battery to enjoy a beautiful evening. Walking along the wall, you’ll notice the beautiful homes that are set sideward. The front doors and porches are located on the side of the house. This was done because the lots are so narrow.

We stopped at the Charleston Market. You can’t go to Charleston and not go to the city market! You’ll find all kinds of craft items there. Our favorite is the sweet grass baskets, which has been part of the Mount Pleasant Community (a suburb of Charleston) for almost 400 years. The baskets are made from natural palmetto, long pine needles, bulrush and sweet grass. Basket making is a traditional art form brought over from West Africa by the slaves to the area and has been passed on from generation to generation. Today, it is one of the oldest art forms of African origin in the United States.

Over the years, these baskets have become quite expensive. A decent size basket, which isn’t real big, sells for a couple hundred dollars. I guess I am lucky that I bought my basket a long time ago.

We squeezed in a quick stop at the Angel Oak Tree. The tree is a Southern live oak located in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. It is estimated to be 1,500 years old. It stands 66.5 ft. tall, measures 28 ft. in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet. Its longest branch distance is 187 ft. in length.

As you can see, it is pretty impressive.

Charleston Tea Plantation

Producers of American Classic Tea. They are the ONLY tea growing location in North America.

It takes about 7 years for the tea bushes to start producing the harvested tea leaves. You can tell in the photos below that the field pictured on the left is a younger plant than the field on the right. They only harvest the leaves from the top of the bush. The sides are too “woody.” If they tried to harvest the leaves from the sides of the bushes, it would take too long to separate the limbs and stems from the tea leaves, so they just use the leaves cut from the top. The tea plants bloom in November. During harvesting season, depending on the weather conditions, they hope to get 6-10 cuttings.

The equipment they use to harvest the tea is one of a kind.

The machine was created in the 1800s by one of the employees and has to be maintained in order to keep it going.

They now have a greenhouse so they can take clippings off their current bushes to produce more plants.

Just outside the greenhouse are a couple of beautiful pecan trees. They don’t harvest the pecans commercially, but Mr. Hunt does gather them for his own use.

Below are the “newer” fields and were probably in the greenhouse on our visit in 2012.

Once Bill Hunt partnered with the Bigelows, his tea business increased tremendously. He processes the tea leaves and sends it up north to the Bigelow plant for packaging and then it is sent back to the tea plantation. Bigelow tea is produced in China for the most part. Below left is a photo of the current day processing plant, while below right is a photo of the first processing plant.

The photos above were taken during our 2014 tour because this year Bill and I stayed back while the rest of the group went on the trolley ride. Kermit and I enjoyed a cup of tea.

This year, Adventure Caravans added the Firefly Distillery and Deep Water Vineyard to our tour.

Our last travel briefing was sad for two reasons. One because it was our last travel briefing and two because Wes and Gayle were leaving the trip to get back home. So of course they shared with us their most memorable and funniest memory of the trip.

The talented Cyndi Pride shared with the group a poem that she wrote for us:

Pretty soon forty days will have gone by,

“It’s hard to believe,” she says with a sigh.

In just a few days we will all be alone.

We’ll have to make reservations

and plan routes on our own.

No one to thump tires. No one who cares

When we leave and when we get there.

Ah, but Bill and Carol will get to stay in bed,

They don’t have to leave early to get there ahead,

They don’t have to count and map every camp site

And determine who will fit and for whom it’s too tight.

Charleston was the last stop for Gayle and Wes.

They are on their way back to Lubbock, Texas.

Sandy already left us and she’s on her own,

Taking care of the things in her yard that have grown.

We’ve been all through Florida and we’ve seen a lot

Of alligators, azaleas, large homes and big yachts.

John and Joyce were almost always first on the bus

And they often got out of camp before all of us.

If you wanted to walk you could go with Marie or Fran,

You could also take a hike with Mike and Jan.

Karen and Speed went out on boats to fish,

And treated us at the potluck with a yummy fish dish.

And as you know, the exit of most every stop

Involved going through some sort of gift shop.

You could count on Ceil to be shopping there;

She bought candy and cigars and at least

one stuffed bear.

At happy hours Sylvia had the most interesting drinks,

And Mike always had a wisecrack, quick as a wink.

I have to admire Dell for sticking with his plan;

He’s kept losing weight,

does that make him less of a man?!

And Judy is there, to help him decide

What he can eat and what’s best put aside.

Our weather was near perfect. We had lots of sun,

For the most part the rain came after our fun.

We saw planes and forts and artillery

And lovely homes and gardens and a distillery.

Our travels went well with only a few bumps in the road,

Ron and Mary lost a wheel and a new camper was

sold!

Drew had low oil as he forgot to replace the cap,

And John and Joyce experienced a flat.

Jim and Cherrill lost their AC, and a mirror as well,

If it were me, I’d tell that mower he could go to….well,

This poem is getting far too long,

It’s really time to get moving on.

I won’t say, “Good bye”, because one thing I know,

I’ll see you again on a trip, at a rally or show.

Travel in health and may God be on your side

As you travel down the road,

I hope you have a smooth ride.

SHE IS SO TALENTED!

We were able to visit with my cousin and her family, which is always a lot of fun.

We love visiting with them.

Posted April 13, 2016 by carolnbill in Adventure Caravans, Family, Friends, RV, Travel

Savannah, Georgia   Leave a comment

Day 31-33

Our tour of Savannah while on the Southern Exposure trip, is seen in a different way from the Civil War Tour. We are now here for its beauty and culture.

We toured Savannah by trolley. We saw 250 years right before our eyes. Homes and churches beautifully restored. It felt a lot like New Orleans. We visited all the squares. Below left is a “piece of the rock” from Stone Mountain which is in one of the squares.

We saw Chippewa Square, where Forest Gump was filmed sitting on a park bench eating a box of chocolates.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, built in 1873 is pictured below.

I was amazed at the workmanship on the stations of the cross.

The First Afro-American Church

The First Jewish Synagogue

The Capitol building with its gold dome

We had a wonderful lunch cruise on a riverboat.

While eating a wonderful lunch, we saw a HUGE ship carrying huge boats.

The canon at Ft. Jackson fired just ahead of us. Good thing we weren’t in the line of fire.

We saw a bride and groom standing next to the canon, so we are not sure if it was fired as they were pronounced man and wife.

Bill and I toured the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum. The Lighthouse was completed in 1736. Because of fire, it’s been replaced several times.

Upon climbing the 178 steps (rather quickly I might add since we were trying to catch up with some of the people in our group who had a head start), we found out just how out of shape we were. Across the street from the lighthouse complex was “the battery” (pictured below). It was used for gun placement during the War of 1812. Wow, oceanfront, that would have been a good “deployment.”

Prior to 1933 before the Lighthouse was converted to electricity, 3 light keepers were required to “man” the lighthouse. Each keeper had their own house. The head keepers cottage was built in 1881 (photo above right, building in the middle). Quite comfortable.

The Summer kitchen was built in 1812 (photo above right, little white building on the left), The 1st Assistant keepers collage was built in 1885 (photo above right, building to the left next to the summer kitchen). The 2nd Assistant Keepers collage was built in 1861 (photo above right, building on the right).

In the short film about the lighthouse, a woman was interviewed who grew up in the light keepers house. Her father and grandfather were keepers. She talked about how she and her 5 siblings would always run over to the lighthouse and sign in using movie star names hoping that their dad would not know it was them. Of course he did. HAHAHA

Posted March 30, 2016 by carolnbill in Travel

Brunswick, Georgia   2 comments

Day 29-30

We decided to do the Okefenokee Swamp tour before lunch JUST in case it decided to rain. We saw alligators, turtles, birds, and plenty of plant life.

We saw more alligators and turtles on this trip than we have EVER seen.

As a matter of fact, we saw two alligators and one of them decided he wanted the other’s spot…

What a ruckus he caused and then he left that spot after sitting there for about a minute….

We had the best guide we’ve ever had. She was raised in the area and gave us so much information about the swamp and was very knowledgeable about the names of all the wildlife and plants. Not only did she know the scientific name, she told us what the “locals” call it. She even talked Speed into leaning over the bow of the boat to fetch a feather bard owl feather for her collection to make her daughter a dreamcatcher.

So far, still now rain. LUCKY US!

Once reaching Brunswick, we had an impromptu social. The following day, we forged to Jekyll Island for an awesome trolley ride of Jekyll Island.

The museum displayed the first dune buggy. It originally had a gas motor and it could go up to 35 miles per hours on the beach. Eventually they put an electric motor on it with a battery which dropped the speed down to 10 miles per hour.

In 1794 a French family, the du Bignons, bought Jekyll Island. Their house is pictured below.

In 1886 the island was sold to the newly formed “Jekyll Island Club,” the most exclusive social club in the United States. It had a limit of 100 members, among them the Astors, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, Morgans and McCormicks. A club house was built on the island, a wood and brick Victorian structure with towers and manicured lawns,

and members constructed private “cottages”– enormous residences designed to house entire families with staff. The club was open for the post-Christmas season when many families came down from Newport and New York to relax and enjoy the “country life.” I can see why they felt like they could come down here and relax. There’s something serene about the water, the trees, the Spanish moss blowing in the wind and all the beautiful flowers.

Among them are San Souci, owned in part by J.P, Morgan, Indian Mound, the twenty-five room home of the Rockefeller family; the Goodyear Cottage completed in 1906; Crane Cottage, circa 1917, and one of the first condominiums in the U.S.;

and Faith Chapel, built in 1904 in the Gothic style with copies of the Notre Dame de Paris gargoyles.

In 1942 the U.S. government ordered the area evacuated because of the war submarines in the waters surrounding the island. The state of Georgia purchased the island from the club in 1947 and turned it into a state park.

I can see why they felt like they could come down here and relax. There’s something serene about the water, the trees, the Spanish moss blowing in the wind and all the beautiful flowers.

Before leaving our tour guide, Phyllis, we had a group picture taken at the oldest and largest oak tree on the Island. It is estimated at 350 years old.

We were threatened with rain, but it never came. HOW LUCKY ARE WE?!

But best of all was the wonderful Easter brunch at the Jekyll Island Clubhouse.

DSC_1771 DSC_1775

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted March 27, 2016 by carolnbill in Adventure Caravans, RV, Travel

Brunswick, Georgia   Leave a comment

Day 29-30

We decided to do the Okefenokee Swamp tour before lunch JUST in case it decided to rain. We saw alligators, turtles, birds, and plenty of plant life.

We saw more alligators and turtles on this trip than we have EVER seen.

As a matter of fact, we saw two alligators and one of them decided he wanted the other’s spot…

What a ruckus he caused and then he left that spot after sitting there for about a minute….

We had the best guide we’ve ever had. She was raised in the area and gave us so much information about the swamp and was very knowledgeable about the names of all the wildlife and plants. Not only did she know the scientific name, she told us what the “locals” call it. She even talked Speed into leaning over the bow of the boat to fetch a feather bard owl feather for her collection to make her daughter a dreamcatcher.

So far, still now rain. LUCKY US!

Once reaching Brunswick, we had an impromptu social. The following day, we forged to Jekyll Island for an awesome trolley ride of Jekyll Island.

The museum displayed the first dune buggy. It originally had a gas motor and it could go up to 35 miles per hours on the beach. Eventually they put an electric motor on it with a battery which dropped the speed down to 10 miles per hour.

In 1794 a French family, the du Bignons, bought Jekyll Island. Their house is pictured below.

In 1886 the island was sold to the newly formed "Jekyll Island Club," the most exclusive social club in the United States. It had a limit of 100 members, among them the Astors, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, Morgans and McCormicks. A club house was built on the island, a wood and brick Victorian structure with towers and manicured lawns,

and members constructed private "cottages"– enormous residences designed to house entire families with staff. The club was open for the post-Christmas season when many families came down from Newport and New York to relax and enjoy the "country life." I can see why they felt like they could come down here and relax. There’s something serene about the water, the trees, the Spanish moss blowing in the wind and all the beautiful flowers.

Among them are San Souci, owned in part by J.P, Morgan, Indian Mound, the twenty-five room home of the Rockefeller family; the Goodyear Cottage completed in 1906; Crane Cottage, circa 1917, and one of the first condominiums in the U.S.;

and Faith Chapel, built in 1904 in the Gothic style with copies of the Notre Dame de Paris gargoyles.

In 1942 the U.S. government ordered the area evacuated because of the war submarines in the waters surrounding the island. The state of Georgia purchased the island from the club in 1947 and turned it into a state park.

I can see why they felt like they could come down here and relax. There’s something serene about the water, the trees, the Spanish moss blowing in the wind and all the beautiful flowers.

Before leaving our tour guide, Phyllis, we had a group picture taken at the oldest and largest oak tree on the Island. It is estimated at 350 years old.

We were threatened with rain, but it never came. HOW LUCKY ARE WE?!

Posted March 27, 2016 by carolnbill in Travel

St. Augustine   Leave a comment

Day 27-28

After leaving Titusville, one of our guests planned on leaving the tour since she lives in St. Augustine. But since St. Augustine was next on the list, most of us met at a local restaurant to have our last meal with Sandy.

The restaurant was located right on the beach and they reserved us seating upstairs so we could look out over the ocean. Life is rough.

St. Augustine is the oldest city in the USA. Mission Nombre de Dios is where the first Spanish Catholic Mass was conducted in 1565 by Father Lopez, whose statue still marks the spot. President John F. Kennedy said that this site was the most sacred acre for Catholics in the United States.

The grounds are very beautiful gardens along the water. It’s so relaxing to walk around or sit and enjoy the view.

The oldest street, Aviles Street

Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Construction began in 1672 by the Spanish when Florida was a Spanish territory. It was under the British from 1763 until 1784. In 1784 it went back to the Spanish when Spain reclaimed Florida. Florida was not given to the US until 1819.

We were lucky enough to be there for the canon shot.

The original entrance into St. Augustine

Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church was built in memory of Flagler’s daughter, who died shortly after childbirth and granddaughter who only lived a few days. He spared no expense. It commissioned it to be built and they built it within a year. Flagler, his daughter, granddaughter, and one of his wives are buried in the rotunda.

The old Flagler hotel, which is now a college.

The oldest wood school house in the USA

Flagler & Lightner Museum. It was once Flagler’s hotel. Below left was the lobby.

Flagler built the first hotel to bring in tourism. When a hotel was built across the street from his hotel, the furniture that was to arrive on the train, which was owned by Flagler, disappeared… It was not on the train! Hmmmmmmm so here was a hotel on opening day with no furniture. It didn’t take long before he sold to Flagler at pennies on the dollar.

Below, now a ballroom, was once an indoor swimming pool, complete with deep end.

It’s difficult to tell in the photo how the floor graduates to where the deep end once was. The tables are at the deep end. The photo below was taken when it was used as a swimming pool.

In the musical exhibit, we listened to the most unique “player piano-type” item. I cannot remember what it is called, but it plays like a player piano, but the music is made by a “book” which is placed inside. The music, if more like a “band” of sounds, chimes, horns, symbols, very much like you hear on the old carousels. What a treat!

Bill liked the grandfather clock which was hand carved wood.

And it still works! Look how tall it is.

The oldest house in the USA. You are no longer allowed to take photos inside. The photos below were taken a few years ago.

Fountain of Youth

The ranger explained that the water is very hard with Sulphur, but this particular day it was not bad. I remember the last time we were there, the water was definitely worse.

What a beautiful city. Look at this beautiful street, just outside of the Fountain of Youth.

Posted March 25, 2016 by carolnbill in Travel

Orlando/Titusville   Leave a comment

Day 21-26

We moved on to the Orlando area, home of DisneyWorld, SeaWorld and Universal Studios.

Since Bill and I lived in the area and worked at Disney, we took the time to visit with friends.

We had the best time just “catching up.” We spent the day with Margie and Emmit where we picked some fresh oranges (Emmit owns an orange grove) and some delightful little fruits called “loquats” (not sure of spelling).

We also got some amaryllis from Margie.

And we had dinner with all our RV park friends at Manny’s Chophouse. What a great night!

Before leaving Orlando, we enjoyed a dinner and a show at Capone’s.

What a great night!

Arriving in Titusville early, we had a potluck, travel briefing followed by bingo.

We are so lucky to be in Titusville at this time. A missile will be launch at 11 p.m. Many of us decided to walk over to the driving range of the golf course to watch.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is carrying Cygnus cargo vessel OA-6 to resupply mission to the International Space Station. This is the last of 2 Cygnus cargo missions contracted to complete for Orbital ATK. Following the explosion of the Antares rocket in Oct. 2014, Orbital ATK signed a temporary contract with ULA to fulfill their resupply missions for NASA. The Antares rocket is anticipated to launch again in late 2016 from its home launch pad in Wallops, Virginia.

Since 1981 the Kennedy Space Center’s shuttle landing facility serves as the primary landing site for all space shuttle missions. The first space shuttle, Columbia, launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 1981, with astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen aboard. This began the new era of “reusable” space shuttles.

Pictured below is the vehicle assembly building. Hard to believe that after they assemble the shuttle that they can get it out of that building. The tall, tall doors take 45 min. just to open!

This year one of the “transporters” was out of the building, so we got to see it up close and personal.

This year we were able to see the launch tower they will be using to launch the missile to Mars, below left, and a “crawler” (launch platform) which was built in the 1960s and was used for the moon launch. It was also used for the space shuttle project and will also be used for the Mars project.

Before leaving the complex, we hopped on the Space Shuttle Flight and Landing Simulator. We were able to view the launch control center for the Saturn V, which sent Apollo 8 astronauts into orbit around the moon.

It was exciting to sit there and imagine what it felt like to be in the control room at that time. Watching the original film of the first landing on the moon sure brought back memories.

Before our bus brought us back to the visitor center, we were detained because they were bringing a wide load to the launch area. Unfortunately, they always have them covered up, so we don’t know what it was that they were bringing.

Our final night many of us went to the Dixie Crossroads Restaurant for a LEO.

Great food! Great company! Great time!

Posted March 23, 2016 by carolnbill in Travel

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