Monday, October 26, 2015

Gering / Johnson 2015 Road Trip - Days 4 & 5 - Boone, NC to Gettysburg, PA

Day 4 was spent on the road between Boone, NC and Gettysburg, PA.  Even though the Interstates were not as scenic as the Blue River Parkway the route still took us through some pretty autumn mountains and countryside.

Once we were in Gettysburg and had driven around a bit to get the lay of the land we checked into the hotel.  Most of the shops were closed by this time but we still walked around downtown Gettysburg window shopping and deciding on a place for dinner.  We decided on a small cozy Italian restaurant named Mama Ventura's where Teresa and I enjoyed homemade spinach ravioli stuffed with chicken and bacon with a creamy tomato sauce, Charlie had lasagna, and Bobby had homemade cheese ravioli with marinara sauce.  Desserts were served in small jars and were yummy.  However,  the highlight of the meal was when the waitress shared local ghost stories with us including some from when she lived in the apartment above the restaurant.  Spooky stuff!

Once we were back at the hotel, Teresa and Charlie surprised me with a birthday party in their room, complete with an electronic cake on the iPad with candles that needed to be blown out and thoughtful gifts including a shirt and jacket that I wore the next day!

Day 5 started at a bakery in downtown Gettysburg for what I thought was the best breakfast  of the trip, two thick thick slices of toast with honey butter.  I chose one slice of cranberry and one slice of apricot bread for my toast.  Next up was the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center.  First up was viewing of the cyclorama, a 377 ft. long and 42 ft. high oil painting of the battle that circles a viewing platform and is enhanced with landscaping and artifacts in the foreground.  Add in the audio and smoke effects and the whole experience was very impactful.

After the cyclorama we spent time going through the exhibits in the museum and learning so many details about the three day battle and what the aftermath meant for the town of Gettysburg.

We purchased an auto tour CD in the bookshop and spent the next few hours driving around the battlefield and stopping at many of the monuments.  The monuments are fascinating and I would love to learn more about them.

Again today we enjoyed the beautiful autumn colors all around.  I am convinced that this is the best time of year to travel, smaller crowds, cooler weather and beautiful scenery.  Win, win!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gering / Johnson 2015 Road Trip - Day 3 - Asheville, NC to Boone, NC

Day 3 was spent driving the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to Boone, NC.  This was one of my favorite days of the trip and I would love to return to this region and spend more time on the Parkway.  

We entered the Parkway at the Visitor Center and stopped for a quick tour and picked up a map.  Next stop was nearby at the Folk Art Center, both were interesting and the people friendly.  We especially enjoyed the Folk Art Center where we watched some of the artists at work. 

The first picture below was taken at the first of many stops; the mountain tops were still covered in morning fog.  So beautiful!

The other pictures are from the many pre-lunch stops we made along the Parkway.

We stopped for lunch at Mt. Mitchell State Park and spent the time waiting for a table rocking in wooden chairs on a stone patio overlooking a sunny valley.  Sorry no pictures.  The lunch was delicious and the views were spectacular.  

Later in the afternoon we stopped at Linville Falls which is billed as one of the most popular attractions on the Parkway.  We hiked up to the Falls and were rewarded with more autumn beauty and the sound of rushing water.     

It was at this time of day that we were starting to get a bit nervous about hotel options or more precisely lack of hotel options. Teresa was all set to campout under the trees and stars and I think she would have truly enjoyed that option, however, secretly I was hoping that option was not going to become a reality!  But not to worry, we booked a hotel in Boone, NC while we were in the parking lot at Linville Falls.  We ended up having a good chuckle at the close proximity of Boone (pop. 18,211) to the seemingly endless wilderness of the Parkway!  Although we did get a clue before arriving in Boone when we saw the Parkway lined with cars of people who were pulling over to await the sunset over the mountains.
Dinner in Boone was at Puerto Nuevo a Mexican restaurant that had a salsa bar with some very unique types of salsa including a brown salsa that had a very uniquely flavored base that was from smoked peppers.

Another fun day on the road, taking our time and stopping whenever something interesting caught our attention!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Gering / Johnson 2015 Road Trip - Day 2 - Florence, AL to Asheville, NC

Day 2 we left Florence, AL headed to Asheville, NC to catch the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

Today's route took us through Huntsville, AL and back into Tennessee where we made the first stop of the day in Chattanooga to see the famous train.  Charlie entertained us on the road there by playing several versions of the Chattanooga Choo Choo song and having us guess the artist singing the classic lyrics:

"Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?
(Yes yes, track 29)
Boy, you can give me a shine
(Can you afford to board Chattanooga Choo Choo?)"

 Inside the depot.

Not too far outside of Chattanooga we veered from the busy highway and took a slower road through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests which turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers.  We enjoyed seeing lots of whitewater rafting on the Nantahala and Ocoee Rivers.  We also saw the Watts Bar nuclear power plant.  

This is where we stopped for a nice long break and watched the rafters practicing on the calmer part of the river above this dam and then as they were getting ready to enter the faster rapids.  Lots of safety and pep talks being made by the guides.

We also learned that the Ocoee River was the site of the 
1996 Olympic Whitewater competition.

Once in Asheville we checked into the hotel and headed out for some really good pizza at Asheville Pizza and Brewing.  This unique restaurant also has a theater where you can catch a movie while you eat your pizza.  We enjoyed our pizza in the non-theatre section.  Bobby was excited that this pizza joint served RC Cola (yuck!) and Teresa stashed one of the cups with the RC logo into her purse as a souvenir for him!

After dinner we embarked on a search for ice cream.  The bad news was that Dairy Queen was already closed, the good news was that after circling the neighborhood(s) several times we not only found a Marble Slab Creamery but also found the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway for the next day!  The creamery was located in the historic downtown district of Asheville.  The ice cream was delicious and we returned to the hotel stuffed and tired!

Funny of the day: since we were going to be on the road for eleven nights we packed our clothes into large containers and stored them in bed of the pickup under the cover and would pull out what we needed for the next day and put it into smaller bags for the hotel.  To aid in retrieval of all the bags and containers from the back of the pickup bed, Bobby attached a hook onto the end of a wooden pole and would hook the bags and pull them to the tailgate.  Teresa and Charlie have traveled in similar style before and have used a garden hoe to retrieve their items.  Charlie made the comment that 'we have a hoe, but you guys have a hooker!'

Asheville and the surrounding National Forests are places I would like to return and spend a lot more time!  


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gering / Johnson 2015 Road Trip - Day 1 - Osage Beach, MO to Florence, AL

Doesn't everyone travel from Missouri to Canada via Alabama?!?!?

Day 1 we left Teresa and Charlie's home in Osage Beach, MO and headed towards the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, NC.  We made it as far as Florence, AL before stopping for the night.

First stop, Rosewood Farms in Hartville, MO.  A very nice gift shop, pretty Fall landscaping, and great handmade chocolates (fuel for the road)! 

Next stop, Mammoth Springs State Park, AR. Great opportunity to get out and stretch our legs.  The weather was gorgeous, sun shining on the water and trees.  As you enter the State Park office/gift shop you are asked where you travelled from, we had agreed ahead of time that we would make something up to be silly and skew their statistics.  Charlie tricked me by telling them I was from an Indian reservation outside of Santa Fe, NM and told them that I would be happy to tell them all about it!  I exited out the rear door quickly as they began to ask questions about my made-up home.

We walked around enjoying the sunshine and learning about the early days of hydroelectric power generation.  One of the original turbines is still housed in an old stone building built in 1927.  

Florence, AL is home of the University of North Alabama and has a busy historical downtown area that reminded me of Lawrence.  We had dinner there City Hardware, a small restaurant that had good reviews.  The food was excellent.  Bobby and Teresa had bacon wrapped meat loaf, I had pork chops, and Charlie had pecan crusted catfish topped with andouille sausage and shrimp. 
Website with drool worthy menu pictures:

To locate restaurants and hotels we used iPhone apps; TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Food Network on the Road.  For the most part they were helpful and did not steer us wrong.  Of course we also relied on local recommendations for eateries.

Lots of laughs were shared along the way including a suggestion that we should all get tattoos that read 'Turn right, no left'.