A Heck of a Day

Jim Valvano says there are three things everyone should do every day. “Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”

I liked the advice the first time I read it and resolved to do these three things each day—and more, like exercising and expressing gratitude and spending time with family and/or friends. Getting out of Dodge to laugh, think, see, exercise, and experience life with special folks can double the fun. That’s what happened on a recent weekend when my sister Ann, her daughter Katherine, and my daughter Elizabeth went to North Carolina for a Vintage Market Sale and spent a few hours in Chimney Rock.

Just being in the car together was a treat. We sang, told stories, ate snacks, philosophized on life, and shared family secrets. Around and around the curvy road from Hendersonville to Bat Cave we went, impressed with Katherine’s driving and the gorgeous sights. I mentioned that an aunt’s husband, a policeman, had been killed chasing a speeding car along a mountain road, and the atmosphere became hushed as we considered Aunt Doc’s loss.

Someone asked about going to NC with grandparents, and I said I remembered making the trip many times, a lone little traveler in the back of their light green Chevrolet, probably a ’53 or ’54. Ann began singing “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” and I joined in. One of our daughters remarked, “I knew they’d start singing,” and her comment was all we needed to continue belting out Dinah Shore’s jingle.

Soon we were in Chimney Rock and under its spell—again. Having climbed to the top of the Chimney one steamy summer day, we looked up at it with awe and appreciation, knowing that we’d conquered it. Katherine parked the car, and we hustled across the street toward a bridge.

The bridge was barely wide enough for one vehicle at a time, but there was plenty of room for pedestrian traffic so we started walking across it, the sounds of rushing, gurgling, bubbling water all around and below us. Loved that experience—the four of us connected by blood and love and memories standing in such a sacred place. We took pics of the place and of each other.

After crossing to the other side, Katherine and Ann turned left and began walking up a hill into a quaint neighborhood I’d often spied from afar. Our morning stroll on that street nestled between mountains and situated by a creek was marvelous. “What would it be like to wake up and see such a sight each day?” Katherine wondered aloud.

The small houses were unique and charming. Elizabeth took a photograph of one of the picturesque homes and the for-sale sign in front. “No worries, I could never live this far from the coast,” she said. I understood. The mountains and the beach are both “thin places” where a person can feel the presence of the divine. And yet, living near the edge of a continent is awesome, grand, and humbling.

We were in high spirits. We laughed, exclaimed over the beauty around us and the sweet charm of the houses. Takeaway: that beauty has been there just waiting to be seen and felt, but we had to cross the bridge to do it, something none of us had done on previous visits. Cross over and enjoy the journey.

 

After coming back to the main drag, we visited a couple of shops, and the younger set purchased a few treats including a pearl ring and a geometrically designed shawl. When we went into a shop of gems overlooking the creek, I scarfed up some colorful glass rocks that were free. They’re now in an Easter dish reminding me of those moments.

Next stop: Riverwatch Bar and Grill. We sat on the second story porch, and although we couldn’t see the water, we heard its ever-present roar and glimpsed the Carolina blue sky with its white puffy clouds. A couple of times, I got up and sauntered over to the edge of the porch for a peek at the creek. A young boy around twelve years old tried to go from one slippery rock to another. Eventually he was successful, but it made me feel kind of encouraged to see that he, like us, had to struggle a little.

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Lunch behind us, we got into the creek itself…or stood on some huge boulders, that is, joining about a dozen other people taking advantage of the setting for photo ops. Seeing and hearing the “alive” water wasn’t enough for Katherine, and before we left the area, she dipped her toes in the freezing, rushing water.

I think I can speak for the other three “girls” when I say it was a heck of a day.

Mountain Getaway

It’s hard to believe that  it’s already been a week since my sister and our daughters pulled out of Camden and headed for the hills on a girls’ trip. Gatlnburg was our ultimate destination, but we enjoyed the some sights along the way too. This morning I’m remembering our daughters’ disappointment that the bears in downtown Hendersonville weren’t as”lively” as they imagined they would be. In raving about this delightful mountain community, my sister and I had both mentioned bears being up and down Main Street. Little did we know that our daughters thought they were real, so real in fact that they wondered how we’d possibly be able to dine outside.

I should have told the younger set about Bearfootin’, a project created to raise money for local charities by displaying colorful artwork along the downtown sidewalks. The hand painted fiberglass bears are created and painted by local artists, and every spring there are new bears. I love them! Evidently, so do a lot of other folks because everywhere I turned, people were posing for pictures with their favorite bear.

Recalling their surprise and relief about the bears still brings a smile to my face. So does thinking about our delicious lunch at the Mountain Deli, a place where tourists and locals alike gather for good food and friendly service. Housed in what appears to be an old drug store, the atmosphere is charming, especially with that great view right overlooking Main Street.

Appetites satisfied, we sauntered down to Mast General Store, a favorite shopping site in mountain towns. After browsing at Mast, we strolled in and out of various shops including Kilwin’s Chocolates. Yum. What a sweet array of tempting candy! We stopped to take several pictures of bears, all attired in different types of clothing, and then jumped in the car to continue our trip to Tennessee.

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We came into Gatlinburg on the scenic route, complete with a tunnel and some fabulous overlooks. At first we were frustrated by the long and seemingly interminable winding road, but within a few minutes we all succumbed to its beauty. As my daughter Elizabeth said, “If we’d come another way, we wouldn’t have seen these beautiful sights.” And she was right. With several  gorgeous vistas,  this road afforded the first glimpses of breathtakingly beautiful mountain scenery. The above picture was taken by a friendly stranger at one of the overlooks.

 

We finally arrived at our destination, Oak Leaf at Gatlinburg Chateaus, and checked in. The check in process went smoothly, and the staff was helpful and accommodating. We were pleasantly surprised to see that our condo looked just like the photographs. With two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a small kitchen, and a living room, the set-up was perfect for the four of us. There was even a balcony for early morning reading, journal writing, and conversing. I found this fabulous deal on flipkey.com in case anyone is considering a mountain getaway.

We freshened up, and within 20 minutes we were heading towards downtown Gatlinburg (two blocks away). What a feast for our eyes. People of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, appearance,  and dress were thronging the streets, and I could readily understand why. There were attractions and restaurants galore, and we gleefully made plans for the next two days. That evening, however, we sailed right through and headed to Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Since some of our bucket list items were in these areas, we wanted to check out the lay of the land.

We soon spotted the Tanger Outlets and the Titanic Museum, and satisfied that we could find our way back the next day, the tired but happy foursome dined at the Texas Roadhouse in Sevierville. Eating at a locally owned and operated restaurant would have been nice, but at this point, we decided to settle for something familiar to all of us. The service and food were great, but the show going on outside of the window was even more enjoyable. We got the giggles watching a woman pick her nose, a little boy killing flies, and a man who kept putting his hands down the back of his britches. Word to the wise: People inside restaurants can see you!

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Stay tuned for more details!

Day in Hendersonville.

Has it already been a week since my sister and I spent the day in Hendersonville?

Overdue for a “sister day,” Ann and I headed north to Hendersonville Friday morning. The day was filled with sights and experiences that we’d have surely missed had we stayed home. Even before we arrived at our destination, we had one such memorable experience as we watched and listened to a woman give her little white poodle a sponge bath in a rest area bathroom. Apparently the woman’s husband had allowed the pretty pooch to get in the mud, and he (or she?) looked at us as if to ask, “See what I have to put up with?”

Back in the car, we started looking for the exit with a TJ Maxx that our sister-in-law Lisa had told us about. Although we got a little turned around and off track, we saw some areas of Spartanburg that we’d never seen before. We also met some nice folks ambling along sipping their Starbucks who gave us directions. Ah, the kindness of strangers. We found TJ a couple of miles down the road, and while Ann was the one who was looking for something specific, I’m the one who found some deals, particularly some  caramel colored shoes with pointy toes

Onward and upward, we soon came to that stretch of the road that I love, the one that lets you know you’re about to enter mountain territory. I always get a little thrill from that. We popped some Orbit gum in our mouths to ease that weird feeling in our ears as the air pressure changed, and then we commenced to oohing and ahing over the trees and hills and rocks and rills.

Upon arrival in Hendersonville, we parked in the Maple Parking Lot and headed to the Mountain Deli for lunch. One of the many things I enjoy about this deli is that they’ll make your sandwich just like you like it. If you don’t want mayo, just say so. If you don’t like tomatoes, that’s fine too. Our sandwiches, turkey and BLT, were delicious, and sitting outside while eating added to the dining pleasure.

The ambience of Main Street was marvelous, and the culture and feel of the area enhanced our already upbeat moods. A couple of women and small children sat next to us, and I enjoyed listening and watching the little boys play with each other, probably because they reminded Ann and me of  our sweet boys, now adult men. A policeman walked up, squatted down,  and began talking to the little fellows, and I could tell that they were a bit awed.

Hunger satisfied, we strolled up the street in the  September sunshine and soon arrived at the Mast General Store where we browsed for an hour or so. Upstairs we registered for a door prize and sipped some delicious hot apple cider. We also sampled some Burt’s Bees hand lotion, and I bought some BB’s hibiscus lip balm. Outside of the store, we watched someone taking pictures of dogs, five of them all lined up eying the photographer.  The way the dogs’ heads all turned in synchrony to  owner’s commands was pretty amusing.

Leaving Mast, we sauntered up one side of Main Street and down the other, loving the freedom of being outside and of having a day away from the regular routine. Everyone needs an occasional day out of Dodge.  Main Street has bears, artsy ones, and we had fun reading about their origins. My favorite was Juliette Bear Lowe who looked like a male bear and yet was the founder of Girl Scouts. We went in and out of too many eclectic shops to recount, ll unique and inviting. Before leaving the downtown area, we shopped in Kilwigs where Ann got some ice cream and I purchased two huge chocolate and caramel covered apples. How could I not? I was in Apple Country after all.

Back in the car, we eased out of town towards  Sky Top Mountain Orchard. Every time I visit this orchard , it’s an even better experience than the time before. There are now more kiddie diversions like pumpkin and apple playhouses, and children were climbing and scampering all over the place, their parents happily watching nearby. I was a little concerned that Ann and I might be among a handful of people there, but wowza, the mountaintop was covered with folks just like us, people eager to get out on a fine fall day and gather some apples.

While we spied many people gathering apples and loading them into wagons, Ann and I took the easy way out and bought some already picked. One of the neat things about this orchard is that there are always apple slices to sample for those who are confused about which ones to buy. This day, however, they were swarming with wasps, so we based our choices, Cameo and Gals, based on written descriptions. I also bought an apple pie and an Asian pear, and we both purchased some sugar-free apple butter.

Before leaving the area, we stopped at a The Wrinkled Egg, a unique  little shop with a wide variety of items. After the woman manning the store informed us that she’d be closing shop in five minutes, we quickly settled on some inexpensive bracelets as mementoes of the day. If you want to shop at the Wrinkled Egg, be sure to go early enough to avoid being shooed away promptly at 5. There’s also bakery with all manner of sweet delights on the premises; it stays open until 7, and the cookies and muffins are delicious!

We savored our bakery delights as we talked and talked and talked all the way home. Most of our chatter involved family events, memories, and issues. While it was just the two of us, our conversations throughout the day reminded us of the web of connections of which we’re a part. Ann and I are back in our separate worlds today, but for a few hours on Friday, past, present and future collided in a lovely mountain setting, and I’m looking at our getaway as a precursor to a fabulous fall.