Author Archive

Asheville, NC   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.

Adventure Caravans added a LaZoom Trolley Tour. We have never been on one and had no idea what to expect. Meet Ermine Hooch, our tour guide

Believe it or not, she was quite informative about the area. Asheville was one of the very few cities that did not take federal money during the depression, which made it a longer process for them to get back on their feet. They discovered tourism was the way to go.

Along the way, we met a nun and of course she had the infamous ruler. We all know about the ruler!

We also came across a bee and a beer man. Not sure which brewery he came from, but they sure have a lot of local breweries around town.

Seems like everyone likes to hang on the bars in the trolley.

We finished our evening with a loaded baked potato and ice cream social. I can’t believe I forgot to take pictures.

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.

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

Poor Mary Ann had to sing for her supper. But we made up for it with dessert.

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

Posted April 13, 2017 by carolnbill in Travel

Charleston, South Carolina   1 comment

Day 34-36

Once we all arrived at the cg early and 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!

Our first evening in Charleston, we provided a chili hot dog feast for our guests.

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.

We took the first boat of the morning over, so we were able to see them raise the flag. Many of the bystanders began to sing our National Anthem. Very cool!

What history this fort holds.

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 400 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. A trolley ride through the planation is most informative.

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. Pictured below right shows untrimmed tea bushes. See unruly they can become.

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 plants ready for the fields.

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 Firefly Distillery and Deep Water Vineyard is a great way to end a long day of touring.

What a fun place to visit.

Our last travel briefing is always sad, because….it’s our last travel briefing.

Charleston will always be one of my favorite cities!

Posted April 8, 2017 by carolnbill in 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 infamous “Waving Girl” on the waterfront

The Capitol building with its gold dome

We had a wonderful lunch cruise on a riverboat.

We saw a HUGE cargo ship.

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

We finished our day with “walking tacos.” Linda took charge, since we had never done them before. What fun!

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, 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 lightkeepers 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 April 3, 2017 by carolnbill in Travel

Brunswick, Georgia   Leave a comment

Day 29-30

On our drive to Brunswick, we stopped to have lunch and do the Okefenokee Swamp tour.

This year, we saw more alligators than ever before. Big ones, baby ones, and medium size ones.

Even fake ones.

Every year we do a tour, we learn something new. This was the first time that we learned that Spanish Moss is a plant and not a fungus. It is a plant because it flowers.

We also learned that the water and air quality of the Okefenokee Swamp is the best in the country. It is all rain water fed. There are no rivers feeding it, therefore there is no pollution. The trees have lichen growing on them, which tells them that the air quality is very good. It actually looked like someone marked them with paint.

What a beautiful ride thought the cypress trees.

Until we came across two young boys in an overturned canoe.

The look on their faces was precious. Kinda like, please don’t tell our mothers. But guess what. Wonder how they are going to explain the wet phones?

Once reaching Brunswick, we had an ice cream social, which totally wrecked our dinner. Darn forgot to take photos.

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.

Pictured above right is one of the few signed Tiffany stained glass windows.

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.

Best of all was the wonderful Sunday brunch at the Jekyll Island Clubhouse.

Followed by chill out time on the rockers.

Ending our time with a social to wish the Guidry’s farewell as this was the end of the tour for them.

We will surely miss them.

Posted March 29, 2017 by carolnbill in Travel

St. Augustine   Leave a comment

Day 27-28

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, however, this year we were unable to do so. Hurricane Matthew came through last Oct. and the damage still was not repaired.

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 to be at the fort in time for shooting off the canon.

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, there were several music box type players from years past. The one pictured below plays by a metal disc. The discs are stored inside the box.

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! It is truly amazing how whoever invented these music machines were able to create sounds with holes, nails, and staples.

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 29, 2017 by carolnbill in Travel

Orlando/Titusville   1 comment

Day 21-26

We moved on to the Orlando area, home of DisneyWorld, SeaWorld and Universal Studios. We arrived on St. Patrick’s Day so of course we had to celebrate, as well as celebrate on our guests birthday! What a great day to have a birthday.

Meet Mr. Sand Crane. He apparently hangs around the area because when we walks thru the Wendy’s “drive thru” he gets French fries.

We had the best time just “catching up” with old friends who we’ve traveled with several times. 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.

Before leaving Orlando, we enjoyed a dinner and a show at Capone’s. We were seated at table 13 with Rig #13! What are the odds of that happening?

The show was hilarious.

Especially when our Bob was invited onstage! Click on the link below:

Bob

A very distinguishable laugh kept coming from the balcony and of course the actors had to engage them. Come to find out, they were “Newfies!”

What a great night!

Arriving in Titusville early, we had a pizza party with special guests, Ron and Kay, followed by a travel briefing.

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. They were also moving it, so we got to watch it move, how cool is that!

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.

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

Great food! Great company! Great time!

Posted March 22, 2017 by carolnbill in Travel

Miami/Ft. Lauderdale   Leave a comment

Day 18-20

We decided to have a travel briefing and play our dice game once we arrived at the campground.

What fun! Watching the guests trying to “politely” take their turn at ripping into the box.

The following day was a first class motor coach tour of the yacht capitol of the world.

The city of Miami also has an interesting architectural style. Check out the Burger King below.

The old Pan Am building is now the city hall.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was gorgeous.

James Deering, a millionaire, began to plan his house on Biscayne Bay in 1912. He was only able to enjoy several winters there as he died in Sept. 1925. Who was James Deering? In 1902, in a deal brokered by J.P. Morgan, the Deering Harvester Company merged with the McCormick Reaper Company and others to form International Harvester, the largest producer of agricultural machinery in the nation.

The gardens were beautiful. It’s impressive that a bachelor did all of this.

And the view of the Bay was magnificent.

Our lunch stop was at Bayside Marketplace, which is a beautiful mall on the water, with a HUGE banyan tree.

Continuing our bus tour after lunch, we were all in awe of this beautifully tree lined street.

The owner of this house with a coral yard; no grass to cut.

And look at this beautiful house MADE of coral.

We made our way to Little Havana and stopped at Domino Park, which we found pack with players and observers.

There is also a very good fruity ice cream parlor next to the cigar store.

Before leaving Miami, we stepped off the bus to experience the beautiful white sand in South Beach.

We were pleasantly surprised and impressed with Miami. It is not at all what we expected. Until we made our way home in the rush hour traffic….

Miami/Ft. Lauderdale is exciting. Lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Our last day in the Ft. Lauderdale area, we took a narrated boat cruise and saw the homes of PetSmart and Sunglass Hut, Johnnie Weissmuller.

Below are some of the mansions we saw.

Below left was Al Capone’s house. He used the one in the back and his security used the one in the front. The house on the right can be rented, which they do for models and photography shoots.

I think everyone was drooling as we passed each house, or should I say mansion?

The Jungle Queen Cruise not only showed us beautiful homes, but also provided a wonderful BBQ dinner

and show, starting out with a juggler, magician, storyteller, and dancers.

The audience participation was pretty cute.

What sports they were!

Ending our evening with a fire thrower.

Next stop, Disney, here we come!

Posted March 19, 2017 by carolnbill in Travel