Coalhurst to Billing, MT Oct 5,2011

Our first day on our long awaited and anticipated road trip. We’ve left behind our good friend Bob and our buddy Molly.  I’m sure they will be good company for one another.

We left a bit later than I thought.  It was hard to decide where to pack things and then where to put them in the car.  I’m sure it will take a few days before we achieve any efficiencies. We ended up taking a small cooler, the big one would take up too much room.

We cleared the border by 11 a.m. then pulled over to turn on the cell phone and program the navigation system.  Love the navigation system on the Ford Edge.  Much easier to program than the Mazda but she did leave us about 1/2 mile from our destination…good thing we could see the hotel!  She also wanted to take us 4 km from our restaurant…when we were only a block away!  Thank goodness I had a visual map in my head from looking up nearby restaurants on the laptop.  I logged on here at the hotel without any problems…quit laughing…it was a first for me.  Gotta love technology…now if only I could remember how to send a text message from my cell phone!

It was a nice day for driving, partially cloudy and the odd sprinkle.  I forgot to bring the umbrella and rain slickers.  Will have to put that on the shopping list.  Brian drove the entire trip today and kindly stopped in weird places so I could snap some photos.

Being a “prairie girl” I am saddened by the loss of the prairie icon ..the “grain elevator.” Like the Canadian prairies, they aren’t used anymore, but here they have left them standing.  We saw one in total disrepair, but most communities have painted over the logos but keep them in relatively good shape. This prairie girl laments the loss of our Canadian prairie icons and hope those remaining will be saved. The photo of the elevator was taken in Stanford Montana, a delightful little village/town with a clean charming Center Avenue.

We have driven through some very picturesque countryside with rolling hills, rock outcroppings, winding streams and more trees than the first leg of the drive. We drove by the community of Moccasin, and my guess they are known for their old neglected buildings which account for roughly 75% of the buildings in the town.  I have included a photo of one.

Brian and I generally don’t talk much during our drives….that may end up a good thing, and it leaves lots of time to day dream and remember.  My grandfather was my primary caregiver in my early years.  He loved the Saskatchewan landscape and I inherited that love.  The miles and miles of harvested golden fields reminds me when I was a young child and he would take me for a ride in the country.  I’m afraid I am so old I remember seeing fields of “stooked” wheat.  He instilled a love of the change of seasons and today I was reminded of the beauty of fall.  The golden fields, the mix of green and yellow trees and the riot of colors in the landscape, mixed with the smell of fall.  It was a good first day.

Billings MT to Rapid City SD Oct 6, 2011

The weather does not look promising with an cool overcast morning.  We tried to program in our hotel but it came back as no such street.  Eventually it picked a street in Rapid City and we entered it…at least it would get us to Rapid City.  Later on we found we could program the system by putting in a telephone number and that worked like a charm…but once again she left us blocks short…but close enough so we could find the hotel on our own.  The system generally wants to take the most direct route and we are finding we are on secondary highways which suits us fine.  The traffic has been light allowing a bit of sight seeing by the driver, who for the most part was me today.

The route took us to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument so we took a right turn to see more.  The Parks department has done a very good job of making this a place to see.  The visitor’s Center and museum are well done and very interesting.  We took in a 15 minute presentation reviewing “Custer’s Last Stand.”  Following the presentation we did a part of the walking tour.  Both sides of the battle have a memorial to their brave men and the memorial to the native culture is not only beautiful, but informative. While Custer died here, his remains were moved to West Point…this stone marks where he fell.

We then took the car and drove the 5 mile road tour to various sights where other battles had occured.  It was very ponient to see the white markers sprinkled through the hills. The view from the ridge overlooking where the Indian village once stood is breath taking as you see in this photo.

The country side in this area of Montana was very was very scenic but as we moved east and south, it changed into vast areas of open untouched hills of grass and rock.  The route took us through a reservation and for 150 miles, no place to stop to refuel our bodies. Eventually we stopped in Broadus MT at a place called Cashway Cafe. It definately rates as a dive however the waitress was friendly and the food pretty good.  The celery soup was homemade and I think my bowl contained several stocks of celery.  It was seasoned well and definately filling.  The rest of the journey to Rapid City was uneventual except for the rain. We will stay here for two nights, giving us plenty of chance to see Mount Rushmore. 

For dinner tonight we stopped in next door at the Colonial House Restaurant.  I had the pot roast dinner and it was as good as mine.  The gravy was dark and rich and the potatoes, made of the real thing.  We passed on the mile high desserts and pies.

I am finding the sitting is not doing my knee any good.  This hotel does not have a gym so I went for a walk after dinner to the Walgreens about 5 blocks away.  I was able to buy rain slickers and an umbrella…as we have a 40% chance of rain tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Mount Rushmore SD & surrounding area Oct 7, 2011

Hang onto your hats folks, this is going to be a long one.  It’s been a fun sight seeing filled day. I took a total of 49 photos of which I can share a few. The morning was very windy with wind warnings in effect.  The temp was 9C.  I brought my parka and gloves, with me thinking I would need them when coming home the end of Nov. Well here it is, day 3 and I wore the parka and gloves!

We head to Mount Rushmore around 9 a.m.  The walk from the parking lot to the visitor gallery was blooming cold and Brian gave up before he made it.  The center is again very well done, informative and easy to view. I’m not a museum girl but the information and demonstrations were excellent. 

We left Mount Rushmore to have “the other” monumental experience, the still under construction of the Crazy Horse Memorial.  The size and proportion of this enterprise is mammoth and it not be finished in my lifetime….if ever. For more information go to www.crazyhorsememorial.org  The cost for Mount Rushmore was $11 per car and good for a week.  When you get to the gate at Crazyhorse, you find out is $10 per person and if you decide to forego it, you have to back up and get out of line…not a problem today with few tourists, but would be impossible during high tourist season. A great deal of money has gone into the display buildings ( huge) and everything has a cost.  The project refused an offer of ten million dollars from the federal government to help speed the projec,t and therefore everything is done with revenue generated by visitors. For my two cents…it’s a pass…you can see enough from the highway.

We drove south to Custer for lunch. We stopped at Sage Creek Grille for a light lunch.  We had the soup of the day “Southwestern Chicken Stew.” It was served with sourdough bread and butter which filled the bill nicely.  Brian had a lemonade and the waitress gave him his free refill to go.  How nice.  All this for under $14.

It was now after 1 pm and the wind was easing up and the sun showing up on occcasion. We head south about 30 miles, travelling through rolling hills and ponderosa pines.  We turned east at Minnekahta Junction for  12 miles, then north again to Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. We paid our $15 state park fee and toured the Wildlife Loop. ( The park fee is good until the end of the year and good for all state parks.) I was sceptical of the name but was not disappointed.  I’m not going to post the usual photos of deer, antelope and buffalo which we did encounter.  We encountered several burros on the road.  They are descendants from the herd that once hauled visitors to the top of Harney Peak.  While they may be ferrel, they are not wild.  This little devil walked up to the window and tried to poke his nose in.  We saw several people leaning out of cars, petting them!  Further down the road we found Monday’s dinner…wild turkeys!  Totally had not expected those.

Once we left the park we drove a same distance to travel the “Needles” highway. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe this road.  Breath taking, inspiring,overwhelming just don’t cut it.  The road is named after the rock formations christened “Needles.” The original concept for Mount Rushmore was to carve the statues on the Needles, but the rock consistency wasn’t suitable.  Perhaps some things are best left untouched.

With every turn and twist in the road(of which there were many), the vistas change and I found myself agog with another out of this world scene.  I had heard of this road, but no description of it, would ever do it justice.  I kept reveling in the scenery and will tell everyone to come here and see this for themselves. I would also recommend coming at this time of the year.  The golden grass, the gold shimmering quaking aspens and virtually no traffic, allows you to stop and gawk all you want.  The road is narrow without shoulders.  It wouldn’t be fun to drive in the summer with all the tourists. We’re off to Sioux Falls tomorrow. A straight pass through the state.

 

Rapid City SD to Sioux Falls SD Oct 8,2011

The sun disappeared today and the day remained cold and cloudy. This was going to be a driving day and we didn’t expect any sight seeing.  The landscape is very similiar to our prairies with a whole lot of emptiness between towns.  Shortly after leaving Rapd City we started seeing painted wooden signs encouraging folks to stop at Wall Drug at Wall South Dakota.  The signs were frequent and by the time we read them all, and understood this was no small town drug store and we had to stop to see what it was all about. 

 The main street was full of cars and I can only imagine what it must be like during the summer with visitors and tour buses.  The place is very large with multiple stores and a cafe seating 500 people. The idea of putting up the signs on the road (during the 30s) and giving away free ice water is very interesting and can be found on their website: walldrug.com   If you are in the area, it’s a great place to stop.  As per this photo, Brian found some fun!

As we neared Sioux Falls we kept seeing signs for the corn castle.  We had been passing miles and miles of corn, so figured it would be a place to see.

The outside is decorated with various pieces of corn and the shucks.  The decor is changed every year….keeps the local employed I presume.  The actual palace is really a basketball court which is also used for stage productions and conventions.  There is some information about the use of the corn produced in the area.  The price was free…which was good.  If you want more info you can check out www.cornpalace.com. You can make up your own mind if it’s of interest.

One thing I have noticed at all the tourist places we have been and that is the age of the tourists.  It seems seniors wait till fall.  I’m not sure where my comfort level is in all of this, but I think it’s telling! However I’m still not too old for a little fun.

Sioux Falls SD to St Joseph MO Oct 9,2011

Sioux Falls didn’t get the forecast rain and the temp was 16 when we left.  We are heading straight south today to St Joseph, a community just north of Kansas city.  It was a driving and eating kind of day.  As we drove south the landscape was more cultivation than open range with well kept farms and fields of corn…waiting to be harvested.  The corn is totally dried out and we did make a stop to check it out.  The husk is open and dry and the kernels are hard as popping corn. We never saw anyone harvesting the corn…maybe we are in Bible belt country and they don’t work on Sunday.

As we continued travelling south towards Council Bluffs, we noticed fields upon fields of water and baron fields.  We could only speculate this was water from the spring flooding but it seemed odd, considering this was now fall.  We turned into Council Bluffs for lunch at the Village Inn.  We asked our waitress Loretta about the water and indeed it is the spring flood water that has yet to dry up.  We did notice several exits that were closed and it’s because the roads are either still under water and/or need to be repaired  Loretta told us how badly people in the area were hit by the flooding.  She also told us she had moved back to the area from Louisiana….after Katrina.  She told us while choking back tears, of the devastation she has seen with both floods and couldn’t talk more.  She said the water was a result of heavy snow falls all winter, rains in spring, a delay in letting water through the dam system and a rainy wet summer.

When we picked our spot for lunch we just drove around until we found something.  As it turns out, the Village Inn boasts the “Best Pies in America” and last year won 34 ribbons in the national pie contest to prove it. Both Brian and I chose the option of 1/2 salad, 1/2 sandwich and a whole piece of pie. Brian had Banana Creme and I opted for the Caramel Pecan Silk Supreme.  The whipped cream tasted real and the pie great, however they could have left out the chocolate layer.  Did I just say that?

As we continued south we continued to see flood debris at the side of the road and it was obvious the main highway ( Route 29 )had to have been underwater for miles.  We could see water lines 4 feet up on the farm buildings in some cases.  Mile after mile of unplanted fields and fields of water must be hurting these farmers badly…in an already depressed economy.  

When we arrived in St Joseph MO. the temp was 28 and windy.  Time for shorts and pack up the parka.  The hotel has a gym so I did the bike and treadmill…the first since leaving home.  Somehow I guess that entitled me to a good dinner.  Kansas City which is just a few miles down the road, boasts to be the BBQ capital so we lit out to find such a place.  We stopped in at “Famous Dave’s”….the winner of over 300 BBQ awards…and had the trophies to prove it.  I opted for the brisket with sides of garlic mashed potatoes and cole slaw.  The brisket was fork tender and fell apart.  The cole slaw was very good. Brian had a combo plate and while it was tasty he found the rib tips chewy.  We had a variety of sauces to chose from and Brian’s pick was the Texas dip.  They had a hot one which we passed on.  Both meals came with a yummy corn bread muffin and a 1/2 cob of corn which was wrinkled  and dried out…so neither of us touched our corn….and still left a fair amount of food on our plate.  The portion size is way too big.

I spent two hours this afternoon trying to figure our where to go tomorrow.  We had thought about St Louis but in trying to book a city tour…I just couldn’t make it work.  The web site was a pain to use and although Grayline advertises the  tour…their website doesn’t even list St Louis.  We opted instead to head further south to West Plains.  When leaving there we will be close to the Missouri Ozark mountains and will head east getting to Kentucky/Tennessee shortly.  I want to drive the Smokey Mountains. We’ll be able to slow down the number of miles per day as we aren’t due in Gibsonville NC until Friday.

Here is a bit of a late entry.  I thought it might be nice to post the web sites for the two eateries as described above…well both are franchised operations and you can find both all over the U.S…..and here I thought I stumbled onto something special!

St Josephs MO to West Plains MO Oct 10,2011

This was not a picture day as we were on roads without shoulders and hard to find turnoffs.  When we punched in our destination today instead of choosing the fastest route…generally the interstates, I picked the shortest. It showed a variety of colors of roads but not knowing what they all meant, I picked the shortest.  We found it odd that the shortest route was going to take what seemed a lot longer.  This blog is “pambrownsadventures”  and folks, today that is what we had.  I had wanted to take back roads or lesser highways and today seemed like a good day as this is a stat holiday in the U.S. as well, so figured lots of traffic.

It wasn’t long and we were in the countryside passing by well kept farms.  We travelled through towns we couldn’t find on the map (hello.. first clue) but the scenery and the fall colors were spectacular. I had noticed on the maps an area called “Ozarks”…I always thought the Ozark mountains were in Arkansas, but perhaps they also extended into Missouri.  I eventually figured it out….they were the Ozark Lakes.  The area is beautiful with many camp grounds and small motels catering to fisherman. It seems a great place for lake fishing and also lots of streams for fly fishing.

I was pretty pleased with myself as the traffic was light and the going easy with the exception of the ever changing speed limits. We stopped in a village for lunch ( sorry if it had a name we didn’t catch it.)  The cafe was well kept and in behind us, came a fella who ordered take out.  While he was waiting, two friends of his came in and they started talking.  The first guy asked them if they were fishing and they responded ” Yup, already caught our limit, nothing else to do now, may as well go home and get the gun and go shoot squirrels.”  A few minutes later I realized they were pulling his leg but it did provide a chuckle as they reminded me of typical “good ole boys.”

After lunch we continued on the guided route and seemed to get more and more remote. So remote we passed by two young amish looking girls in a horse and buggy.  Brian got very out of sorts when the system started taking us on gravel roads with less and less population and more and more trees and hills.  At this point the navigation system did not recognize the names of the road we were on..the sign posts said one name, the nav system another.  We tried staying on the better roads ( gravel) but were getting no where.  We stopped and reprogramed the system but she was undeterred…but now at least she had the right names.  We kept following the instructions until we were asked to go down a hardly more than dirt road.  By now Brian is less than in good spirits and was seriously questioning my ideas on the “scenic roads.”  I’m being polite here……

There was a decent looking farm house nearby I so suggested we stop in and ask for directions.( Remember men don’t do this.)  The only vehicle in the drive way was a motorhome and I went looking for the front door, hoping for the best.  Around the corner was a little patio area, very cute but fenced off.  I figured out how to undo the geri rigged locking system and went to the door and knocked.  I could see movement in the house and eventually an older lady(85+ is my guess) peeked out the window.  I smiled greatly and prayed…..she did open the door a crack.  I told the lady I was from Canada and our car’s navigation system seemed to be getting us lost….

I told her we were looking for a main road to get to West Plains.  By now her husband had joined her at the door.  They explained they had just returned from a 3000 mile trip and they named their navigation system “Agnes” to which she commented, “damned thing couldn’t find anywhere!”  We had a delightful short talk and then she said to follow the road to the left ( where the system wanted us to go) and follow it for a couple of miles and we’d get to the highway.  Feeling much relieved,I thanked her profusely and left.  Both she and the navigation system were correct and we were once again on the right track.  I think after today, Brian will be a long time before he lets me pick”the scenic” route!  All in all though, we passed through some beautiful places and the fall colors were simply spectacular.  The above photo doesn’t really capture the colors.

We’re off to Dickson Tennessee tomorrow.  It’s a bit west of Nashville. The navigation system took us through Kansas city with some route changes and we found it very harrowing to follow the directions.  Brian did a better job of reading the system correctly, so good thing I was driving.  We’re not always going to be able to avoid large cities, but if we plan to just pass through, that will be the plan.  We expect to slow down as we drive the Smokey Mountains and will also be staying in Asheville NC to do some touring around.  We are looking forward to arriving in Gibsonville on Friday where we can stay put for a few days.

West Plains, MO to Dickson Tennessee Oct 11,2011

This was another driving day of about 300 + miles.  We left Missouri, drove through a bit of Arkansas and into Tennesse.  You can tell we are in the “south” now.  While the weather has been unusually warm we did come across “snow” in Arkansas.  The cotton fields look like they are ripe as some cotton is blowing off onto the side of the road.  Brian stopped so I could pick some up for my future scrapbook.

When we left West Plains we were still in rolling, tree covered hills.  As we neared Hoxie, Arkansas  the landscape became open and definately farmland.  We did see quite a bit of harvesting and I think either the famers are rich or they use custom combines, as usually several pieces of equipment was being used in the fields.

One thing we have noticed along the highways is the amount of road kill and the fact that it is allowed to stay.  We’ve seen more pieces of animals than I care to. At one point I saw an intact body of a racoon…but headless. Yuk.  Deer that have been smashed flat. We’ve also seen an enormous amount of Dunlop and Firestone road kill.  It’s everywhere and poses quite a hazzard. They definately could use Volker Stevens services.

At we approached Memphis the amount of transport truck traffic increased significantly. I have never seen so many trucks on the roads before.  We estimated about 40% of the traffic in both directions were trucks.  When they want your lane, they signal and move over.  It’s up to you how you want to handle it……I found slamming on the brakes worked best!

We’ve a shorter tripped planned for tomorrow.  We’re heading for the Smokey Mountains and staying in the hills for a little peace and quiet.

 

The fall colors have varied with little change in the Memphis area, perhaps as they continue very warm…around 28 today.  In any case I did find some wild flowers.  Brian stopped at a turn off and I walked back along

side the highway to take some photos.  As I turned to go back to the car I looked down and there at my feet was the skin of what once was a very large snake.  As the weather was still warm….I hightailed out of there in one heck of a hurry!

Dickson TN to Pigeon Forge TN Oct 12, 2011

I think our readers know we are flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to how far we go in a day and where we are going to stay.  We’ve been avoiding big cities and high tourist places ( except Mount Rushmore).  I have been looking forward to travelling in the smoky mountains and getting some quiet time.  So last night I’m calculating the drive and decide to find a place in the Smoky Mountains to stay.  I read the Google map and it shows a scenic drive across the mountains and into North Carolina, in fact it’s listed as a National Scenic Drive.  On the map I see this little dot surrounded little tents which I think mean campgrounds.  The name of the place is Pigeon Forge. Okay for those of you who know, you’re already laughing.  I go on line looking for Best Western Hotel and find a nice one.  The photos shows trees and offers rooms with a river view and a private patio.  Hey…this sounds just like a wanted…a nice quiet spot in the mountains…a good place to sit back and breathe mountain air.

We’ve driven through Nashville and Knoxville to get here…heavy traffic all the way.  We turn off Interstate 40 and run into backed up traffic on the exit ramp.  Must be construction or an accident just ahead.  As we round the corner…..it’s two lanes of end to end, bumper to bumper traffic…creeping along….usually a two light wait to clear any intersection.  There are hotels, restaurants and tourist info places everywhere.  I know we have to turn off this road and head towards the mountains, so tell Brian there might not be many places ahead and we should eat here.  We stop in at the Cracker Barrel and I grab a booklet to read.  In it are promos for Cirque de Chine,Country Shows, The Comedy Barn and Dollywood.  The waitress explains…..we have arrived in what is commonly called “Vegas for Kids.”  She said the name was apt as you can’t find a liquor store for miles.  For God Sakes we’ve landed in Dollywood!!!!!  I’m still hopeful that our hotel is in the hills.  We follow the navigation system and it says we have 5 km to go…so I’m crossing my fingers.  Just like the real Vegas has a strip…so does Pigeon Forge and our hotel is right smack in the middle of it!  So much for quiet mountain serenity!

Just like Vegas, it has lots of wedding chapels like this one.  Apparently they go all out at Christmas time as you can see thousands of lights have been put up already.  Right now most places have beautiful fall decorations on display.  I don’t know if it’s usual, but the price of rooms here are ridiculously low.  Our room is very spacious, a huge fireplace, balcony that does over look the river, indoor and outdoor pools and a full hot breakfast for $80.  Many places along the strip are $39. We actually did consider staying another night and take in a show and touring around, but decided to stick with our plans.  Instead of stopping in Asheville, we are heading straight to our neice in Gibsonville.

Once we checked in today, I decided to go for a walk along the river. I did find my serene spot after all.The walk along the river was very restful.  It has been hard to keep up with the exercises and leg stretches.  On occasion I sit in the back seat with my leg extended on the console and that does give a good stretch to the leg.

This mornings drive was delayed for awhile as Nashville and area was blanketed in fog.  I did not want to be on the road will all the trucks I have seen.  We left just after 9 and the fog finally lifted by ten, but we have been cloudy all day. Tomorow it’s threatening rain.

 

 

Pigeon Forge TN to Gibsonville NC via the Blue Ridge Parkway Oct 13,2011

We woke up this morning to heavy rain.  Not a good omen as this was the day for sight seeing in the Smoky Mountains. By the time we left Pigeon Forge the rain had let up but no sun or breaks in the clouds could be seen.  Very quickly we were in the National Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This is a designated “Scenic Route” and goes all the way from this point, through North Carolina into Virgina.  We followed the winding trail until Asheville NC.

As we gained height, we rain into low clouds and fog.  The trail is breathe taking with a tree lined canopy. Mile after mile of jaw dropping scenery and the fall colors leave you speechless.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.  The trip was just over 100 miles but took much longer to travel due to hairpin turns, slow moving traffic and about 12 photo stops for us.  We ran into all kinds of weather.  Fog with visibility of 50 yards, rain coming down so hard it was knocking the leaves off the trees so again, a challenge to see.  For several miles we had no view off the road due to fog and low clouds. Eventually we did run into some sunny breaks, giving us an idea of the landscape we missed.

The Parkway has many tunnels…some short, some long but all have names.  I can’t imagine the basis for the various names but I think ” Frypan Tunnel” was my favorite. The photo on the left was taken at “Grave Yard Fields.” About 500 years ago the area experienced a “wind blow down.”  Over time the uprooted trees declayed leaving mounds resembling a grave yard…hense the name.  In 1925 the area was consumed by a fire and the fire destroyed the soils’ nutrients, so only small short plants have taken hold.  Over time as they die and feed the soil, the forest may reappear.  The photo as it appears here is downsized and doesn’t show as well as it could.  By now you know I’m enamoured with the fall colors so please excuse me while I post more photos of same.

We eventually turned off the Parkway and head to Asheville for lunch.  By now is was 130 pm and we still had 300 miles to go.  A quick phone call to Joy to let her know we wouldn’t be there for wings and beer.  After a lunch lunch at Ryan’s Buffet we were on the road.  A word about Ryans..for those Lethbridge folks who travel to Great Falls, Ryans is like the Golden Coral in Great Falls, Montana.  We paid a total of $11.42 for lunch for two, this incudes our beverages and tax.  What a deal.

It was time now to put in our destination into the navigation system and neither our hotel nor my neice home address would work.  I finally settled for someone’s address in Gibsonville.  I had some written directions for the hotel so was hopeful we could find the hotel ( about 5+ miles) from my neice.  Brian was very good and found what looked like the correct exit off the interstate.  Trouble was…it was blocked off as a semi had a roll over on it.  We continued to the next exit in hopes of finding the hotel.  No luck…finally had to call Ronnie who gave us directions.  We thought we had gone too far so pulled into a small shopping center.  This time I spoke with Joy who explained where the hotel was…..she didn’t even laugh…as she explained the hotel was pretty much over our left shoulder!  Hey by this time us old folks are worn and tired.  We told Joy we would settle into our hotel, grab a bite and see her in the morning. 

The hotel room is spacious with a separate seating area…pillow topped mattresses…whoopie, microwave, fridge, closet and all the amenities.  All amenities work well…except the “wireless” internet.  However each room has a data line and I brought my trusty blue cord so all is well.

I am looking forward to staying put for 5 nights.  The hotel has a laundry area and an exercise room, so I’m good to go.  Very much looking forward to seeing family tomorrow.

Spent an hour on the phone with my bank tonight but that’s a story for another day.

Gibsonville, N.C. Oct 14 & 15, 2011

I’ve had a couple of readers wonder what happened to my daily posts.  Well for one thing we’ve had two late nights but the real challenge has been to find the words to describe the wonderful time and experiences we’ve had these past two days.

It took two phone calls and finally a rescue mission by Joy before we got the the Isley home.  We ( and everyone who comes) received a warm welcome from “Annie” as shown in this photo. She’s a bit of a ham….as I swear she posed for this photo.  Now Annie is a wonderful dog but perhaps a bit forgetful.  After greeting us as we arrived…every time we came out of the house, she greeted us again as if she’d never met us.  She also reminds me of our dog Molly. She loves attention.  When you pet her, she leans into you and I swear she’s trying to wrap herself around you.  She loves to play and steals your heart as soon as you meet her.

In addition to Annie, Joy and Ronnie made us feel so welcome in their home and quickly introduced us to the rest of their 4 legged friends. To see those, go to www.isleyquarterhorses.com.  We spent our first day tagging along with Joy, meeting her coworkers at the bank, getting the car washed, and an oil change and then grocery shopping for the party on Saturday.  I rather think Joy knows everyone in and around the area as we couldn’t go anywhere without meeting more friends and acquaintances.  Everyone we met was so warm and welcoming. That evening we took the Isley family out for dinner and again everyone knew them….and the watiress knew what Ronnie wanted before he asked!  We had a lovely dinner.  I had Charleston Shrimp and Grits.  It was wonderful and I wish I had room to eat it all. This was my first time eating grits and so far…I like them.

We arrived about 10 a.m. saturday morning to help getting things ready for the party…although it was a fight to be allowed to assist.  Ronnie was way ahead of us as he had the BBQ going for hours.  The amount of food being prepared was enormous and we knew we were going to be in for a treat.  In additional to all this BBQ pork, there was BBQ chicken, low country boil, potatoe salad, cole slaw, baked salmon, baked beans as well a wide array of desserts. For those of you who don’t know, low country boil consists of potatoes with their skin, 1/2 cobs of corn and a spice bag put into a large cauldron.  As the veggies approach being cooked, in went the kolbasa sausage chunks and later followed by a large amount of shrimp. When cooked, it’s strained and placed in a large pan, butter poured over and served.  Unfortunately the chicken never made it to the dinner…we are it at lunch!  It was so good.

Ronnie’s good friend Jerrith kept asking when the Jalapeno Poppers were coming.  Their neighbour Christie was to bring them, but she was over with her horse grooming and then riding.  Jerrith definately was having issues with that.  Jerrith is a fine young lad but he sure knew how to make me feel old.  When I’d talk to him and ask him anything…he’d always respond with “yes maam!’  Jerrith has some pretty colorful expressions and when describing someone with different character traits, referred to that person as “writing on a different peice of paper”.  I wish my memory was better because I heard of variety of expressions, most of which left me howling with laugther.  The more alcohol consumed…the better they got.

The friends started to arrive around 4 pm.and dinner was served shortly. With the sun setting quickly, Ronnie lit up the fire and at first I thought he was going to burn the place down.  As the evening cooled, our chairs got closer and closer to the fire.  We came back to the hotel stinking of smoke and covered in ash.

 

The Isleys have many friends and we were pleased to meet so many of them and had just a wonderful evening of food and fun. Things really heat up when the proverbial jug or should I say “jar” came out.  I couldn’t beleive it when they told me they had peach “moonshine.” I was afraid “the law” might show up. Ronnie kept insisting I try some and those who know me, know I drink only foo foo drinks. Well I didn’t want to be a poor sport so I took a little sip. I love the taste of peaches and this tasted like a smooth peach syrup.  I thought I would just keep that jar for awhile longer but Ronnie wan’t going to have any part of that!  I think this was happening about the same time Susan decided to paint Ronnie with lipstick. Maybe it’s just as well I didn’t have any more!

I have to say I don’t know when I had more fun and more laughs…and the food was excellent. Some things just end too soon.