"" Writer's Wanderings: October 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Where Do You Hide Your Valuables When Traveling?

From secret pockets in sneakers and flip flops to a canister you bury at the beach to an empty lip balm container, there are a lot of ingenious ways to hide your credit cards and cash when you travel. Of course there is the usual tuck-in-your-waistband pouches for guys and I found a pouch that tucks in a bra for women. The problem with those is getting to them easily. The waistband not so hard. The bra I would think would be a bit tricky but then I guess this is for hiding it away not using it on the go.

I love the lip balm idea for hiding a little extra cash. There is a video on the Smarter Travel website that shows you how to empty the gel and insert the money. Clever.

The flip flops were clever as well but I wonder if the credit cards might work their way out of the compartment as you walk. They have them for both men and women at the SlotFlops .com site, cost $29.99.

KangaRoos made a little more sense. There is a hidden pocket in the side of the shoe that can hold a couple of credit cards and some cash. They are available on Amazon and at Payless.

There is also underwear with secret compartments for cash/credit cards/passport. Do a search online and you'll be amazed at what you find.

One of the suggestions I found on several sites was to carry a dummy wallet. You get an old wallet and fill it with several expired gift cards or dummy credit cards like you get in the mail sometimes. Add a dollar or two and let the pickpocket find that or toss it at the mugger and run.

Some of the best advice is to be sure you don't carry all your valuables in one place. Leave most in the hotel safe and carry only what you need. Use smaller denominations rather than carrying larger bills. We always take two different credit cards. We've been on a couple of trips where our main card was compromised and the bank had to cancel it and send us another. That usually takes several days if you are out of the country (or in Hawaii as we were once). Having the other card saved us having to deal strictly in cash and searching for ATMs all the time.

The article reminded me of my creative mother who folded a $20 bill, pulled out a collar stay and inserted the bill into the collar of my brother's shirt instead. She was worried that his fraternity pledge class would be taken out to the middle of nowhere without any money. I think it came in handy.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Travel Advice Network

If you have followed my blog at all over the years you've seen me refer to TripAdvisor, a lot. So I thought it would be interesting to see where all of that began. Back in 2000 several cofounders including Steve Kaufer who is presently the President and CEO started out with more of an experiment in building a data base for travel information and grew TripAdvisor into a consumer driven review site. At one point, it was owned by Expedia but it gets much more complicated.

The TripAdvisor Media Group that has been established now includes many of the sites that I depend upon for information. Smarter Travel and Cruise Critic being the main ones as well as Independent Traveler, Seat Guru, Vacation Home Rentals, and the list goes on. Who knew? Not me--until I began my researching.

I was going to give you a history of Cruise Critic as well which actually began back in 1995 but has now been incorporated into the over all family of TripAdvisor Media Group.

I'm sure they operate independent of each other but still, it makes me wonder how much my consumer dollar is being drawn into one specific group. The TripAdvisor Media Group was praised for its growth and expansion in an article from 2012 that I found on The Harvard Business Review site. For those of you who understand the business end and the technical fields better it might be an interesting read.

For now I will continue to search and review through TripAdvisor. While it seems to be cornering the market online for travel, I still think it is one of the best places to do your research before taking a trip.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Cruising Pet Peeves

With several cruises on the near horizon, I found a Cruise Critic article about things that drive you nuts on a cruise. Since there's been a pretty big lapse of time between cruises, I thought I ought to peruse the article and refresh my memory. Are there things that drive me nuts on a cruise? Well, maybe some.

The first day aboard where every department of the ship is offering those just-gotta-have packages. We avoid most of them. We already have planned in advance for any excursions we want to take and booked our special restaurant nights. After our embarkation lunch, we book the thermal spa for Bob if the ship has one. Then we are off to explore the ship and get our bearings being careful to avoid the areas where we know all those special deals are being pitched.

One of the mentions in the article is all the photographers wanting to take your picture. If we can, we avoid those. If not, we smile quickly and go on our way. We rarely look at them and we haven't bought a picture in several years. At least now I don't feel so guilty as many of the ships are not printing pictures until you've looked at the digital files and order them.

We've gotten around slow internet by finding a MacDonald's in port. Love the coffee. WiFi is free and usually a lot better than the ship. On sea days when you just gotta check email, we download it then go off line to read it and respond. Once mail is ready to be sent, we go online again. But in these days of retirement, we find that email is not so important as it once was and after all if you are on vacation, you should be free of those (although retirees don't have vacation, we just take trips).

I did find one new item that is worth checking out. The only way to get a really good cup of coffee on a ship anymore seems to be in the coffee bars that charge for it. But hot water is free at the buffet and if you bring a french press and some coffee grounds, you can make your own. I may just have to try that. I do have a french press and I'm sure taking a Keurig would be against the rules.

The article gives you some "zen" ideas to get past the pet peeves or things that bug you on a cruise. My age-old sage advice--chill, walk away, keep your expectations at a lower level then be pleasantly surprised when they are exceeded. Remember to ask yourself when you see a problem "Is it really my problem? or someone else's to solve." Be a cruiser not a crusader. Enjoy the good parts.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Germ Phobia? Or Just Gross? When You Travel

There out there. Those who go through gallons of Purell and won't touch a thing touched by someone else. And some of them travel with us. So what's germ phobia? Or what's just plain gross? Here are some thoughts.

Start with having to take your shoes off going through security. While I don't think I'm a phobic I don't appreciate my bare feet traipsing across a cold floor. And yet I will go barefoot in so many other places. I used to get by the shuddering experience by wearing socks even with my sandals and then just popping them into my back pack once I was through security. Now we have Global Entry which fast tracks us through TSA as well. Shoes stay on. If you are over 75, you can also leave your shoes on. I'm getting there but I do have a few years to go.

Speaking of covering your feet, the other place is in the airplane's restroom. Not here I might be phobic but I can't imagine those restrooms getting sanitized before every takeoff. Neither can I imagine all those guys (sorry men) and even some ladies who don't sit well always hitting the mark. Definitely take some socks at the very least for a trip to the restroom or put your shoes on.

When we enter our hotel room one of the first things to be touched is the TV remote. I've seen all sorts of warnings that it is probably the germiest thing in the room. We don't usually think of that or bring disinfectant wipes to wipe it down. We have seen some hotels advertise with a card next to the remote that is has been sanitized. Okay. Not phobic about this one. Should I be?

Water fountains. Mom always yelled "don't put your mouth on that thing!" Now we're told that they could be harboring bacteria. Well, dehydration could harbor a lot of ills. We buy a bottle of water once we are through security. Yes, it's expensive in the airport but at least I don't have to listen to the echoes of Mom yelling at me. You hear the voice of your departed mom too, right?

My Purell is always in my purse or back pack. I don't go through gallons of it but I do try to remember to take some precautions when I feel it necessary and always before we eat when we've been out and about. I think I walk a healthy line between phobic and common sense.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Books For The Road - Love And Other Consolation Prizes

No apologies. I am a fan of Jamie Ford. He is not a prolific author but I have read all three of his books now and am eagerly anticipating another. I can understand why the books take a while to write. In a word, homework. He does his homework in researching the historical background for his books. This latest, Love And Other Consolation Prizes, revolves around two World Fairs held in Seattle, WA. One was in 1909, the other in 1962.

As Ford says in his Author's Note in the back of the book, "my de facto muse seems to be a never-ending appetite for lost history--the need to constantly turn over rocks and look at the squishy things underneath." And one could certainly say there were squishy things under this historical rock.

The story revolves around the life of a boy, Ernest, who was raffled off at the 1909 WF. He was brought to this country by a slave trade that bought children in China and sold them or indentured them to those shall we say on the more shaded side of life here on the west coast. While this was history, I couldn't help but think of the problems we have today with underground sex slave organizations.

Eventually Ernest and a girl who was on the same ship end up at one of the classier brothels of Seattle back in the early 1900s. Now this could have been a dicey story that I would have put down if he had treated it any differently. While he doesn't sugar coat it so much that you don't feel the pain and the anxiety of the times, including all the groups opposed to the seedy side of life that was a part of Seattle then (and probably now) who marched and threatened but didn't seem to actually make life any better for those caught in the life style that for some was their only hope of survival.

Ernest and Gracie and Maisie (another girl whose mother ran the brothel) become great friends. Ford takes the reader through their journey by contrasting their lives in 1962 with their early years in 1909. I was afraid of getting to the end and finding a resolution that would disappoint me but Ford came through with a great ending that satisfied my involvement with the characters.

Great read to take along wherever you are going. Just be aware that while he handles the story with great sensitivity, it is still a story that might not appeal to those who may not want to look at the more shady side of life no matter how redemptive.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Oktoberfest - Put In Bay, Ohio

Every October Put-In-Bay, Ohio, sponsors an Oktoberfest. We have been going for quite a few years now. It's a great autumn celebration with lots of food, a band, (which this year was outstanding) and a time for us to visit with family that lives there.

This year it seemed it was a preview for our river cruise that is coming soon on the Danube River. I'm looking forward to the schnitzel. I remember from years ago the schnitzel that filled a plate and all the trimmings that went with it. This year though at PIB I opted for a knockwurst which was delicious along with the kraut, cabbage and potato pancake.

Bob enjoys apple dumplings and there is one booth at the Oktoberfest each year that features them. He insists on going to Oktoberfest on Saturday because the one year we went on Sunday, the apple dumplings were sold out. He got his wish this year and delved into the dumpling and ice cream with great appreciation.

The 25 piece band, The Deutscher Musik Verein, according to its facebook page is from the Cleveland area and is a non-profit that performs about 20 times a year. They were so much fun and the music was terrific!

If you are looking for a great getaway for a day or a weekend in October check out the possibilities at Put In Bay. Book early though if you are staying overnight. This is becoming quite a popular venue. We live close enough to make it a day trip but were amazed at how full the Miller Ferry was at 10:30 when we arrived. The festivities start at 11 so I guess everyone was thinking that was a good boat to catch. For more information on Oktoberfest and the island, check out Put In Bay. com.



Friday, October 20, 2017

Through My Lens - A Walk In The Park

The weather this October has been spectacular. Unfortunately the dry days have not helped with the changing fall leaf colors. Many of the leaves are just turning brown or just dropping off the trees. Spectacular fall color vs. spectacular sunny weather. Tough choice but with the sunny weather comes opportunity for nice long walks together. Here's a few pictures from our walk along the towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.






Thursday, October 19, 2017

Books For The Road. . .Or Home

The weather this fall has been spectacular. Except for a few spotty days of rain and a cold day, it has been sunny and warm. When that happens, it's time to take full advantage. I've been doing some reading on our deck, a cup of coffee beside me and sunshine filtering through the waning leaves. I haven't had a lot of time to read the last few months. I've been busy writing--trying to supply some reading material to entertain others. So this weather has invited me to relax a bit and enjoy.

Here are some books you might like to indulge in on a nice fall afternoon--or if your weather is turning colder, next to a warm fire snuggled in a soft blanket. The Annie Pickels Series, The Casey Stengel Mysteries, Divide The Child and my favorite, Ruby. 

The latest release is a novella, A Pocketful Of Christmas:

When you give the miracle of love will you get double back? A small Pennsylvania town will soon discover if that is true.

In Hollitown, Joseph is not looking forward to his first Christmas without his wife. When he discovers that eight year old Keri is hurting as well from missing her father, Joseph finds that a pocketful of Christmas can bring joy again into both their lives.


A Pocketful Of Christmas is available in both paperback and kindle at Amazon. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Have You Ever Missed The Boat?

It's probably not kind to say this but some of the best entertainment on board a cruise ship is found standing on the promenade deck and watching as people run for the ship just as the gangplank is about to be taken up. We've heard screaming, pleading, seen a husband leave his wife trying to catch up, watched as a woman discarded her shoes to run faster and more.

We've also seen those who have missed the ship and stood stranded on the dock as our ship pulled away. Two men who missed the ship threw their hands in the air and then doubled over--either from exhaustion or despair. They were met by two officials who handed them their passports, courtesy of the staff who had announced their names and waited for thirty minutes for them. They were on their own to catch up at the next port.

Another time the ship's crew lowered a boat that they use for maintenance to pick up a passenger who was crying on the dock when she missed the ship. That was an unusual courtesy and we suspect she paid for it and not just in embarrassment when, for the rest of the cruise, every time the ship's departure time was announced it was followed by "and that means you too, Mrs. ***".

So here are some tips to consider just in case you venture out on your own in port and run the risk of not getting back in time.

  •   If you want to see something in port that is quite a distance from the ship consider booking a ship's excursion rather than doing it on your own. The ship will wait for a booked excursion that is late. 
  • Take the daily program with you. The name and number of the port agent for the cruise line will be listed there. If there is a problem that's the place to start if you get to the dock and see the back of the ship as it sails away. 
  • Keep a copy of your passport with you. The cruise ship usually keeps your passport for the duration of the cruise for immigration purposes. Plus carrying your passport with you is not always a good idea with pickpockets plentiful. At least if they have not left your passport with the port agent, you will have a starting point.
  • Be sure you have a credit card with you just in case you find you need to book transportation to the next port. 
The best thing you can do for yourself is to be aware of the time you are expected to be back on the ship before it sails, account for any time zone changes that could throw you off by an hour and leave plenty of time for the unexpected, like traffic. As I say over and over, do your homework. Know how long it will take you to get to your destination and back to the ship. Then you too can stand and watch the others who run for the ship at the last possible minute.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Graffiti Art - Legal Or Not?

Have you ever stopped at a rail crossing and watched as train after train goes by covered in graffiti? We all know what it is. As Wikipedia defines it: writing or drawings that are scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface often in public view. It goes on to say that it has existed since ancient times.

Today's graffiti in most cases is considered illegal and destruction of property no matter how elaborate the painting or design. In an effort to contain the rampant spread of would be street artists, many communities have set aside certain areas where artists can express themselves with their unique type of street art. It is said that there is an honor code and true graffiti artists will not paint over another's work.

Often times the art work is an expression of political views. I remember the artwork along the Berlin Wall. Some of it was still standing when we visited several years ago. Mostly though, it ends up simply being a "tag", someone's name spray painted on the side of a building or rail car or bridge. Those labeled as art and being recognized more throughout the art world are more colorful, designed well, and evoke the elements found in work that is considered artistic and valued.

You will see graffiti, art or not, in most any place you travel. There are some places in the world that are actually known for their artistic graffiti: Hosier Lane in Melbourne, Australia; Warsaw, Poland; Tesnov, Prague; Paris, France; Taipei, Taiwan; Zurich, Switzerland; Sydhavnen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Burghausen, Germany; and in the United States, Queens, New York and Venice, California. An article, 10 Places Where Graffiti Is Legal, is well worth reading if you are planning to visit any of those areas.

In my researching, I did find another interesting place online, The Graffiti Creator, where you can type in your name or other word and play with the colors and designs to create your own work of art. That's where my TRAVEL graffiti came from. Have fun!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Gettysburg, PA

There are many ways you can explore the Gettysburg National Park. Self-guided and audio driving tours, bus tours, bicycling, hiking, and our choice, a licensed battlefield guide. Since John is a friend we made special arrangements with him but you can reserve a tour with a guide for up to six people for $75. It would be well worth it.

John met us and we spent a little time catching up as we walked to our car. He got behind the wheel and started us out with maps on which he'd drawn the battle lines for the three days of battle that were fought here, explaining the advancements and retreats. With the information from the movie and the museum, we felt a little more prepared and able to understand.

It was nice to have John driving. It gave Bob the opportunity to look around rather than have to concentrate on where he was going on the road. John began with some stops to see some of the Ohio monuments that were in the park since he knew that was our home state. All of the states that participated whether Confederate or Union are represented in the park. Each of the regiments usually have a monument placed at the spot where they held the lines or advanced.

When the battle took place of course there were not as many buildings and roads and as John explained, there was less undergrowth and trees. More open space meant that you had less cover to hide behind. The hills of Gettysburg were instrumental in the Union winning the battle. They had most of the high ground and with cannons that fired a little better than the Confederate side's they held their position.

Still the Confederate armies made a valiant effort, pushing back the Union soldiers in some spots and advancing. Over the three days however, there were 51,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing. Not long ago after reading Gods and Generals, I looked up the toll the Civil War took on our country. There were 620,000 that lost their lives, more than World War I and II combined.

Each time we stopped at a different vantage point and got out of the car, John would explain what part of the battle took place in front of us on which day. It began to make some sense as we compared it to our maps.

Our last stop was at the Soldier's National Cemetery. It is adjacent to the Evergreen Cemetery which is the cemetery for the town of Gettysburg. The general public is not allowed in the Evergreen Cemetery but that is actually where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. He was invited to speak along with Edward Everett. The dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery could not take place at the actual spot where it is because they were still in the process of the reinterment of the soldiers from other hastily dug graves. On November 19, 1963, Edward Everett gave his two hour long speech followed by Abraham Lincoln's mere 272 words that obviously made a much bigger impact.

The cemetery is in a half circle surrounding the Soldier's National Monument. Many of the graves are marked "unknown". We were surprised to learn that there were actually some Canadians who also fought in the Civil War and are buried there.

It was a beautiful fall day and a wonderful three hours spent with a very knowledgeable friend who joined us for dinner as well. Bob still was looking for ice cream though and since it was a Friday night we thought we would try the ice cream shop again. To his delight it was open.

We never questioned why the shoppe might be called the Cannonball Old Time Malt Shoppe. As we stood outside while Bob ate his ice cream, a family with some young children came out and a man with a flashlight engaged them with some information about Gettysburg. Then he centered his light on a spot just above the door to the shop. There stuck in the brick was a small cannonball. It had been shot toward the town from a distance of 1800 yards according to the man who it turned out was a historical interpreter who dressed during the day in the period and gave talks to passers by.

It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. I was amazed at the information I'd taken in. If only history had come alive for me in high school I wouldn't have struggled so much with it. I might even have enjoyed it.



 John R. Krohn is the name of our friend who is a licensed Battlefield Guide. He has a lineage that dates back to the Civil War and because of that it created the desire in him to learn more and eventually become a guide. You can contact him for reservations at the address and number on his card pictured here.






Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Gettysburg, PA

After an eight hour drive from Waynesville, NC to Gettysburg, PA, we checked in to our hotel and found a nearby restaurant. Our dinner was disappointing so Bob decided we needed to finish off the evening by finding some ice cream. With his handy dandy TripAdvisor app, he found an ice cream shop in the historic area of Gettysburg. It sounded quaint and we found it easily enough with our GPS. The only problem was that it was closed.

Surely, we thought there had to be some ice cream somewhere so we left the car parked and wandered around a bit. There was a large circle in the center of town and we walked around it noting that most places were already closed with the exception of a few restaurants. As we completed the trip around the circular town square we came upon a historical marker that pointed out that the brick building before us was the Wills House. It was here that Abraham Lincoln was the guest of David Wills on November 18 and 19 in 1863. He met with the governor and other public figures and was said to have finished his Gettysburg Address there.

Eventually we ended up at Dairy Queen for ice cream which was a real "scream." I've never seen one so fully decked out for Halloween. You had to duck the ghosts circling overhead from the fans.

The next morning as soon as we'd finished breakfast we drove to the Gettysburg Park Visitor Center. It had been at least 30 years since we last visited Gettysburg and things had changed immensely. A beautiful building now held a movie, a cyclorama, and a huge museum to look through. Our friend, John, who was to be our guide in the afternoon had suggested we do all three in the morning to reacquaint ourselves with the history of the battlefield.

We purchased a ticket to see all three of the center's offerings. (To see film, cyclorama, and museum was $14 for seniors. Museum only tickets were $9.) The film, A New Birth Of Freedom narrated by Morgan Freeman, was well done. While the cyclorama's history and artistry was interesting, I was not as impressed with that presentation. The cyclorama is a huge painting mounted in a circle around a viewing area. There is a narration that tries to put you in the position of someone actually viewing the battle. It dates back to 1884 and was a major restoration project that was finished in 2008 and opened to public viewing along with the new visitor's center.

It took us two hours to go through the museum. I had not expected it to be so large and so inclusive. There was everything imaginable that had to do with the Civil War and the part that Gettysburg played in it. It was quite enjoyable as museums go but I was really looking forward to getting out and exploring the outdoors.

We lunched on the outdoor patio of the cafeteria and enjoyed some warm sunshine on the cool autumn day. Then it was off to meet our friend who is a licensed guide with the park. It would be good to see him and glean from his wealth of Civil War knowledge.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Pisgah National Forest

Our last full day in NC with our family started out with another beautiful sunrise. I was going to miss having my coffee and cereal on the deck as the sun rose over the mountains in front of us. Today's adventure would involve a trip to the Pisgah National Forest but first, it was Wednesday--Pancake Day.

All of the grandkids love to cook and their kitchen skills are quite impressive. This morning, my grandson decided he would make the pancakes so in addition to my usual cereal, I was treated to an artistic creation, plated perfectly and served with syrup on the side. Did I mention that though he lives in Florida his heart is with the OSU Buckeyes?

After we gathered kids and lunch, we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway and followed it to our destination--Graveyard Fields with a stop at the highest point (6,053 feet) of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The kids had been to the Graveyard Fields (so named because an area of tree stumps resembles gravestones) last year and wanted to see the second falls rather than the upper falls which had been quite a trek the year before. There were a lot of steps getting down to the waterfall which was quite nice. After enjoying the falls for a bit, we found some flat rocks and spread out our lunch.

Nourished, we started back up the steps, some of us a little slower than the others. Near the top I paused to catch a few pictures of some pretty butterflies that took a moment to pose for me. Then we were off to the highlight of the day--Sliding Rock.

It took us a while to find Sliding Rock. Our phones were rather useless for mapping our route since there was no service in most of that area we traveled through. Eventually we found Looking Glass Falls that was near our destination and we took a few minutes to explore that. Then the anticipation grew as we neared the Sliding Rock parking lot.

The season was over so the dressing rooms and restrooms were closed and there was no lifeguard so it was slide at your own risk. My clever daughter-in-law had brought a tarp and draped it over the back door of the van to create a private dressing area where everyone who was sliding changed into their bathing suits. 



Sliding Rock is a smooth waterfall that you can climb and then slide down the 60 foot boulder into an eight foot deep pool of chilly 50-60 degree water. The outside temperature was about 78-80 so at least when the adventurers got out they could warm up some. There were few people there when we arrived so the kids got to go as often as they wanted without having to wait long.

The youngest grandkids found a small smooth spot in shallow waters where they could take a mini-slide. Everyone had fun and Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed watching it all.

As it was getting close to dinner, we decided to make a stop at Ingles, the large grocery chain, and pick up some fried chicken, potato salad and beans for a quick easy dinner. We needed to finish up in time to see the space shuttle pass overhead at 7:45.

As we watched in wonder as the bright spot in the late evening sky passed overhead, I thought it the perfect ending to a perfectly fun day. 


Friday, October 06, 2017

Mini Road Trip -- Cherokee, NC

At the southern end if the Blue Ridge Parkway and at the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains lies Cherokee, NC. It is the headquarters for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. It lies in the Oconalufte River Valley and is a great spot for some trout fishing. With great expectations, we purchased fishing permits for the day for $10 each (for 12 years and older) and set off to catch our dinner.

Only four of us were interested in fishing so after our lunch, the others went to the visitor center nearby at the Smokey Mountains Park entrance and enjoyed the displays and the examples of farming in the old days.




Meanwhile, my grandson and one of my granddaughters, my son and I worked the shores of the river trying to entice a few trout to bite on our lures. My grandson and I ended up wading into the water a few times to find what we thought might be better spots and eventually we all ended up at a calmer deeper spot in the river where we could actually see a couple of trout in the water.

Suddenly my son yelled, "Got one!" and pulled up a nice rainbow trout. We put it in the cooler we'd brought along that had some ice in it and looked forward to hooking a few more. It was not to be. We fished that spot for quite a while and then all piled in the van and tried a couple of other spots further up the river. All to no avail.

The trout dinner would have to wait. Meanwhile we found a Mexican restaurant that had some terrific food and satisfied our hunger with that.

It would be fun to go back and wander around the Oconalufte Village a bit. There is a lot to do in the area and a lot to learn about the culture and tradition there. For a preview, check out their website, Visit Cherokee, NC.




Thursday, October 05, 2017

Mini Road Trip - The Smokey Mountains

Cup of coffee in hand, I sat in the quiet of the morning on the wonderful deck of the house where we were staying with our son and his family and watched the sun come up over the mountains. The view was spectacular as was the sunrise.

With four kids twelve to three years old, there is a bustling start to the day when they are all up and ready for breakfast. As I watched my daughter-in-law in the kitchen, I remembered the days I had five young mouths to feed. Great memories. Kids fed, we made sandwiches to pack for lunch and gathered chips, drinks, and apples and were on our way to our first outing in the Smokey Mountain National Park.

On our way down the mountain we saw the local gang of wild turkeys. A few comments were made about Thanksgiving being only a couple months away. The sun was shining brightly through the trees and promising a beautiful day ahead.

After about a forty-five minute ride, we found our destination, Deep Creek near Bryson City, NC. The trail was said to be easy and there were several options we could take to see three waterfalls. We chose the shorter trail to one of the waterfalls--a concession to Grandma and Grandpa and a three year old whose little legs might not go the distance.

Not a minute into our walk and our grandson spotted a blue tailed skink, a black and white striped lizard with a blue tail. With all the attention upon him, the skink quickly backed into a clump of leaves so all I got was a picture of his head. Yes, he did have a blue tail.

There were many starts and stops along the way to examine flowers, bugs, and butterflies. A few more stops to look for salamanders along the water's edge and wave to a few people brave enough to tube on the cold water of the creek.

We arrived at one waterfall and admired it through the trees. The next one could be viewed at the bottom of the stairs but I did my admiring from the top while the others ventured down and back up again.

Avoiding the trail that would take us on a long loop, we answered our growling tummies with a return trip down the trail to our van and lunch. A picnic table next to a shallow calm area of the creek made an excellent venue for enjoying our sandwiches. It didn't take long though for the kids to be attracted by the shallow waters. Shoes came off and exploring began.

When they didn't immediately come out complaining that the water was cold, I thought I'd give it a try. I pulled off my hiking boots and socks and started in. I imagine what I felt is what it might feel like to a football player to put his sore appendages into an ice bath. Do toenails really curl? I looked to be sure. How those kids were staying in that cold water so long was beyond me. Guess my age was showing. While they enjoyed the water Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed the sunshine and the rest.

We made a stop on the way back to Eagle's Nest Mountain to buy corn and sample some apple cider, then the grocery store for some sausage and accompaniments for dinner and we were on our way back up the mountain, past the gang of turkeys again to the beautiful retreat on the mountainside.

The air chilled quickly with the setting sun and as nighttime fell, the sounds of crickets and the occasional owl filled the air. It was off to bed to recharge for our next day's adventure.




Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Off To North Carolina

After a long hiatus from travel, it is starting up again. Our Florida son had the opportunity to enjoy a stay at a beautiful home in the mountains of North Carolina and invited us to join them there for a few days. We broke the long eight hour drive in two, staying overnight in West Virginia. There was no need to arrive so tired that we couldn't enjoy our grandchildren.

Arriving in Waynesville, NC, we spent a few minutes driving around the little downtown area and then followed our GPS to the road that the house was on. The house sits on Eagle's Nest Mountain at about 4500 feet and we knew the road would wind and climb for a while.

As we started up, the GPS said to take a turn on another road. It was a bit contrary to what our son had told us but we thought maybe the name of the road changed as some do or connected back to where we needed to be. In all fairness, it was a long day of driving and we probably weren't reasoning correctly.

The street narrowed quickly as we wound our way up the mountain. Soon it was gravel and no more homes. Then it was ruts. "I don't think this is right," we both said. Thankfully there was a flat spot to turn around and we headed back down. On the main road again, we ignored the GPS and just followed the winding, but paved, road up and up and found the place we were to be.

As we pulled up the driveway, four little people ran out to greet us. They looked very familiar and kept yelling, "Grandma! Grandpa!" Yup, this was the place.

The air smelled fresh and clean as mountain air does. It was a welcome fragrance after a day in the car. Leaves were falling even though many of them had not turned colors yet. It was just the beginning of autumn yet to fully burst into full glory.

Dinner was at a rustic restaurant called Bogart's with several stuffed toy bears laying on the exposed rafters. The sun had set by the time we were done and the chill in the air was a reminder that we were in mountain country. It cools off quickly.

On our way back up the mountain we fessed up about our excursion up the back road. We all speculated that the GPS thought it was a short cut. The only thing that really struck in my mind though was the sign we'd seen on a fence up there, "Beware of Bear." Was that a dog named bear? Or was it meant to be the warning of a real bear? This was after all, mountain country.


Monday, October 02, 2017

Sports And The National Anthem

It's football season and instead of arguments over who will win the season and duke it out at the next Super Bowl, the argument is over standing or kneeling for the National Anthem. As always my curious mind takes over and I begin to wonder, why do we even play the Anthem at sports events? I know I love to hear it played by the OSU marching band at the beginning of the Buckeyes games especially because the horseshoe stadium full of 100,000+ usually sings with the band. It is a moment of pride in my country--right or wrong in some instances but free in so many ways that others around the world are not.

Francis Scott Key penned the words. As the story goes he was inspired by the flag that flew strong in the midst of the battle at Fort McHenry in Maryland as the British bombed it in the war of 1812. What some might find amusing is that the words were set to an English drinking song, "To Anacreon In Heaven" written by John Stafford Smith. But where did it start playing at sports games?

The Star Spangled Banner, written in 1814, did not even become the official national anthem until 1931 but before that time it was played for many events. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared it should be played at all official events but even before that it was played as early as 1862 during the Civil War at the opening day baseball game at Union Base Ball and Cricket Grounds in Brooklyn, NY.

In the 1890s the Star Spangled Banner was played at several ball games but not until 1918 did it really make a big impression in the sports world. It was opening day for baseball in Chicago, Boston Red Sox vs. Cubs. We were 17 months into a war to end all wars and 100,000 had already died fighting. Fred Thomas, the Red Sox third baseman who was on furlough from the Navy, saluted. Other players displayed their feelings with hands over hearts. The crowd that was standing began to sing. It was reported in the New York Times that the end of the song was met with "thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm." That's saying a lot when the game included such players as Babe Ruth.

The playing of the SSB did not happen at every ballgame simply because it required hiring a band that was expensive back then. Sound systems came into being around World War II and changed that. Soon the SSB was heard at many sporting events as well as the theater and the movies.

During the Vietnam War, the NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, enforced a policy that all players were to stand at attention during the playing of what was now the national anthem with their helmets tucked under their arms. They were not to talk, chew gum or move their feet. Apparently while the government cannot restrict first amendment rights, owners of sports teams can require certain behavior from their players in their contracts.

We have been to many countries where their national anthem has been played at events we have attended. As a matter of respect, we have stood with the citizens of that country as they honor their flag. It didn't meant that we agreed with their politics. It was all a matter of respect.



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