Monday, May 31, 2010

Winston-Salem stay and Memorial Day in Raleigh, North Carolina

And a blessed Memorial Day to all of you. Friend Al's wife, Nancy, who is a genealogist, is helping me research our father's side of the family of which I know little. Dad was a veteran of WW II and Korea and though he didn't lose his life in battle, he certainly served his country well. As we find new sources I'll post them to family members. Fascinating detective work!

Back in Winston-Salem, I viewed the map of the city which showed where the old section was which included all the old cabins and historically cool stuff. I confess, however, that I opted to spend my time in the art district. I'm glad I did because I got to observe and take pictures of lots of fun art which will eventually be posted on Facebook. And people-watching was fantastic as it generally can be in the art district of a city.

As I enjoyed the free wi-fi at the little coffee shop I was typing from last Thursday (I think it was Thursday), an elderly man of limited mental function and obviously limited funds had free run of the shop. This was unusual in that this kind of person is generally perceived to be an unwelcome distraction in a place of business of this type. But he was allowed to come in and get ice water frequently and the proprietor passed him a muffin or two and he sat at one of the tables outside of the shop enjoying his breakfast before it got too hot. Later on in an art gallery where I was chatting with the owner, I noticed that he was cleaning her outside windows and that when he was finished came in and was paid for his work. When I told her I had seen him at the coffee shop she said they had a regular family support unit downtown in the art district for several of the homeless population. What a lovely thought! An area that provided support and friendship for a group of people who were usually run off by the business owners or the police. That alone was enough to make Winston-Salem a special place in my mind!

I noticed as I wandered the galleries that there were several fiberglass cats and dogs displayed that had been painted by various artists in the area. In other cities I had seen this as well, such as Chicago's cows, Cincinnati's pigs, Lexington's horses, and before Katrina, New Orlean's fish. And according to friend Jerri, Gainseville, GA had and has chickens. These artistic interpretations were then sometimes auctioned off for a variety of reasons, some being to support the local arts council. These dogs and cats, however, were being auctioned off to support the local humane society. A very worthy cause and a fun way to raise money for it!

The kitties and I enjoyed thunderstorms during both evenings we stayed in Winston-Salem and on Friday morning were on our way to friend Al's place in Raleigh. Again there were gorgeous flowers by the roadside and if I pulled over every time I saw such loveliness I would not have made it to Raleigh before nightfall. As it was I did pull over to take pictures of some purple flowers I couldn't resist and I almost drove off the road when I saw these purple flowers mixed with the red and pink poppies further along the road. There really wasn't any room to pull over so I could get a picture but trust me, the vision was glorious!

I was warmly welcomed at Al's home by both him and his wife, Nancy, and I met their son and his wife, who is from India, and their daughter, who's husband is Egyptian and who presently still lives in Cairo while paperwork is completed for his arrival here. They're a regular United Nations family! Al has a five-year-old grandson who stays at his and Nancy's house during the week for day care and this cute little guy is your basic action-packed boy. And gorgeous with those luminous eyes that I love about the faces of the people of India. And don't forget precocious. My, my. Good luck with that, Al and Nancy! :-D

They also have a toy poodle named "Cookie" who apparently is afflicted with severe short term memory problems. She can be sitting quietly beside me having just been cuddled and petted for five minutes and as soon as I get up for whatever reason she starts barking at me. Oh, my gawd! A stranger! Hark! Hark! So we endure Cookie's wildly shrill alerts that a stranger has suddenly and mysteriously emerged in her area until she will allow me to once more cuddle and pet her. Then she settles down, nice and quiet, until I get up again. Her short term memory is so bad that she makes me feel good about mine. LOL!

In all other ways, however, she has been a delightful doggie and I accompanied Al and Cookie on their walks in the morning so she could sniff and pee her way throughout the neighborhood. Like Jaqq she has demonstrated a Napoleon complex and got all tough and brazen with the bigger dogs we encountered on the streets. And like Jaqq she sometimes shied away when the other dog would want to investigate more closely. She would also, like Jaqq, grab anything left on her level and frequently on the upper levels like the kitchen table where she would climb the chairs so she could help herself to whatever she could grab and then run off with it. It required a good deal of coaxing and outright bribery to get the object back though we did manage to surprise her and make her drop it a couple of times. I assigned to her the taxonomic rank in the same species - or is it genus - as I assigned Jaqq of Rodentia Poodlata Littlebitimus. That seemed a good place to put such a fast moving small mammal of the canine extraction.

Saturday we all went to lunch at a restaurant called "Sweet Tomato" that was mainly a giant salad bar with side areas where we could select baked goods, soup and other goodies. I stayed with the salad bar but I couldn't resist a small ice cream sundae. I hadn't had chocolate since I left Sharon's house and I felt I could use a wee bit of cold goodness. I deserved it, in the lexicon of denial afficianados everywhere.

Yesterday we went to the local North Carolina Museum of Art and apparently quite a few others had the same idea. There was air conditioning there, after all. But we had a fine old time wandering through the exhibits and I enjoyed their modern art section. People-watching was at its best in that area as the folks gazed upon installation art that pretty much blasted any notion they might have had of what art was supposed to look like. But the best part was that they had a very nice Rodin sculpture collection. Some were indoors and some out and I mostly perused the indoor pieces because it was just too muggy and hot outdoors to really enjoy those. I only took pictures of the ones I wasn't familiar with and I hope they turned out because the lighting was not wonderful for camera shots. It was hard to find a direction in which to take a picture that didn't back-light a piece thus throwing it into silhouette status. We'll just have to see.

Today, Memorial Day, is a lazy day here. We went out to lunch and then to Trader Joe's where I happily stocked up...if you can call the small amount I can carry at a time...on dried fruits and wonderful Indian microwaveable dinners. We also stopped at a 'Whole Foods' store which I had not seen before. It was a very large store full of organic foods and wonderful cheeses and baked goods, etc. We went there for produce we couldn't find at Trader Joe's and I found some instant coffee made by a company that Al said was actually good. That would be a first for me since I have generally abhorred the stuff, so I bought a jar and will try it on the road.

Now we're back at the house and I'm composing the blog and Al and Nancy are preparing a tabbouleh salad for dinner. Yeehaw! Salads and cracked wheat dishes are goot!! Veddy goot! And Nancy is making an Egyptian spinach and rice dish that I'm really looking forward to. I have not been given an opportunity to go hungry here, I'm tellin' ya!

Tomorrow I will depart and sadly leave these dear friends behind and head to the coast and Norfolk, Virginia. I want to poot around that area again having spent about six months there when my ship was in dry dock. Besides the shipyard there are glorious beaches and fun places to see, so that's my next destination.

I hope your Memorial Day has been good for you and that you know that my thoughts are with everyone on this day of remembering our fallen soldiers.

Lessons Learned:

I had to change out the dehumidifier bag yesterday. The container where the water collected had completely filled and faster than I expected. Like, in one week. My hair is also in dandelion phase again which is a sure fire indicator of the humidity level if I had had any doubts about it before. Which I didn't.

There was a little hummingbird that kept showing up at the feeder right outside the window where I was typing today and every time I picked up the camera and turned it on the bird would vanish. I determined that I would never be faster than this tiny bird and I would have to live without a photo. Poop.


A dog harnessed safely in the back of a pick-up truck with travel goggles fitted to his head.

A lovely green field with a single portapotty parked right in the middle.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Whatever the day is - I just know that I'm in Blacksburg, Virginia

Here in beautiful Blacksburg, Va, where it rained the first two days of my visit, I was parked in front of friends John and Marquita's house, where they live in a lovely old area in the city. Behind their house is a hayfield and rolling hills and trees and far off mountain ridges. Just the scene to paint! Their back yard is as lovely as the scenery behind it and is designated a backyard wildlife habitat area, good for birds and bees and whatever feels like hanging out there. No, it's not a wildflower meadow, though John did try to grow one there. It wanted to grow in the front yard instead, which the neighborhood covenant wouldn't have appreciated. Still, John tried but the meadow declined to exist. Oh, well, the hay field has lots of flowers in it, as does their back yard, just not in one clumped area.

The part of the back yard under which John wanted to plant the wildflower meadow actually is a graveyard of unknown inhabitants. About 50 years ago when the developers were digging up the area hoping to put up another house, they came upon a change in the color of the dirt and in a squarish design and knew that they were about to encounter a graveyard. No one wanted to excavate these so the developer simply covered the whole area up and shifted to the next plot. Apparently there were and still are lots and lots of unmarked graves all over the place here with no documentation, so these graves could be landowners or slaves or Indians or what have you. Hence the land was left unmarked and remained simply a plot which John and his neighbor both purchased a part of to make sure that it would never be developed. Now there is merely grass growing there to celebrate the lives of those who's bones remain beneath.

Marquita wanted to know if there were ghosts in the area but although I could sense the outline of where the bones were, all I saw was one faint image of a black woman, most likely a slave, with rather tattered clothing on. She wasn't very happy, but she felt more like a thought form than a ghost. I picked up nothing else about her or anyone else so this is a peaceful cemetery with no lingering folks still ticked off over whatever it is that irritated them when they died.

On my second day here, John took me on a tour of Virginia Tech where he teaches engineering classes. He was teaching in another building when the students were killed by the mentally ill young man who ran amok. He took me to the memorial at the school and showed me the building where the shootings took place. We also drove by the building where he teaches and he swung by one of the painted and quite gaudy turkeys that are standing around town to remind everyone of the school's mascot - The Golden Turkey. Huh. The students also call themselves 'Hokies.' Interesting. That about ranks up there with the school in either California or Oregon, I fergit, that has taken the banana slug as it's mascot.

So Cincinnati has pigs, both winged and not, that have been painted and displayed by various artists around town; Chicago has cows, Lexington, Ky, has horses, and before Katrina, New Orleans had fish. Blacksburg, Va, has turkeys. John says there are a lot of wild turkeys hanging around the area so that could explain it. At least I hope that explains it.

The third edition of the textbook Marquita wrote just came out. It's called "Understanding Environmental Pollution" and the picture on the front shows a group of workers trying to clean up an oil spill on a coastline. Pretty farseeing when you think of what's going on in the gulf oil spill. Marquita is also a professor, which I think I failed to mention.

Marquita and I just returned from a Farmer's Market where we picked up cherries, two cinnamon roles, two oat cookies with lots of goodies in them and an orange ginger bread loaf. Yum! I can see dessert coming early in my future...

Tomorrow I'm departing and heading towards Raleigh where friend Al lives with an overnight stop near Winston-Salem. It's a little longer than I can handle to Raleigh in one drive so I'm breaking it up. I might stay a day and an extra night in Winston-Salem just to explore the area. And from there I shall stay for a short visit with friend Al. I'll get there, Al, I'm just very slow!

Tonight, to bed early and arising with the sun. And onward to more friends I love as I depart from other friends I love. No goodbyes, just 'until we meet again.'

Lessons Learned

My little air conditioner works but it's not really strong enough to keep the whole van very cool. It tries hard, though, poor little thing. I'll replace it when I get back.

The little mechanism I placed on the left back white light is supposed to start beeping when I put the van in reverse because the white light shines inside it and sets it off. Well, guess what. The sun shining on the white light also sets it off. Took me forever to figure out where that danged beeping was coming from this morning.


John and Marquita have a wee little cat called Jacqui or Jacky or however they spell it. She was rescued by them and has only one tooth and is completely deaf. Apparently she was also a ragged little scrawny thing when they found her and is much more healthy and fatter now. She's still very shy, however, though over these past couple of days she has come to tolerate me near her as long as I make no attempt to pet her. Getting a picture of her wasn't easy but I finally did it. The first 10 or so were just a blur of something exiting the frame. Sweet kitty, but just kinda shy.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day...I fergit. I just know I was in West Virginia yesterday and Virginia today.

Almost heaven, West Virginia...thank you, John Denver. He was right - it is extremely heavenly in this neck of the woods. And friend Jeanne and her husband, Art, live in an especially beautiful area way out in the country. The photos don't do justice to the reality but I can try.

I reached Jeanne's place the day before yesterday and she had an addition on her house set up to be an independent mommy-in-law kind of place. It was large, luxurious and even came with a HUGE HDTV. Not that there was much on, frankly, but it was a kind thought. The kitties enjoyed roaming around in an area bigger than a very small kitchen and I enjoyed a wonderful shower and the company. What fun!

Jeanne and her husband have quite a bit (at least, to me) livestock, including cows, a bull, many chickens, guinea hens, two momma and three baby goats and a pig. We walked around and I was introduced to all the birds and animals, many of who either ignored me, tried lick my hand off, or ran from my presence. Jeanne held up the Bendy Men so they could meet Bunny, one of the mommy goats. The other mommy goat was called "Cleomie." Isn't that a very feminine name?

I took many pictures though only a few will show up here. More will be posted on Facebook, natch.

I was in bed early being a wee bit pooped and the next morning we headed into Princeton (sp?) for a meander through the fun and interesting stores there. There were lots of wonderful businesses there including a used bookstore, without which I cannot exist, and many galleries with some wildly original artwork. I wish I could have taken photos inside the galleries, but I don't think the owners would have appreciated that. I did ask for their business cards whenever I saw artwork I really enjoyed so I could go to their website and peruse some more.

We stopped inside a restaurant for lunch and began seeing folks wandering by the window where we sat who were dressed up in Civil War costumes. Apparently there was going to be a reenactment this coming weekend in Lewisburg, WV, and these actors were drumming up awareness of this annual event. Although I love history I've never been a big Civil War buff - my interests are in other times and places - so I wasn't familiar with this battle. A brochure brought me up to speed quickly, however.

In the early morning of May 23, 18;62, Lewisburg was rudely awakened by the extremely loud noise of artillery and musketry. Apparently at this unlikely spot the Union and Confederate soldiers stumbled upon each other and engaged in an intense but mercifully brief encounter. The Confederate soldiers were overrun and defeated with 80 soldiers dead on the field, 100 wounded (not sure how many died from their wounds) and 157 taken prisoner. Oops. The Union recovered 300 stands of small arms, 25 horses and four artillery pieces. They only had 13 killed and 53 wounded with seven missing. Interesting.

Colonel Crook, the Union leader, was apparently very kind towards the citizens of Lewisburg since he only burned down one house that had held a sniper. But he wouldn't let the the townspeople bury their dead and the brochure doesn't say why. Instead the fallen soldiers were laid out in the Old Stone Church and then placed in a trench in the churchyard without any ceremony. After the war these remains were removed from the churchyard and interred in the cross-shaped mass grave in the present Confederate Cemetery there. The Union dead now rest in the National Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia, though they had been dumped, I mean, buried on an unidentified hill north of town. I guess that was the best they could do at the time since they were on the march at the time.

Anyway, that's the story of Lewisburg's brief involvement with the Civil War. They came out pretty darned good compared to a lot of places. One burned house isn't so bad, though 80 dead soldiers isn't something to shout about.

Oh, back to the Civil War reenactors. One group passing by saw me in the window and were kind enough to pose for me. Then they came in to the same restaurant where Jeanne and I were and sat down for lunch at a nearby table. We watched the two ladies in the party maneuver around with their hoops and I thought they did quite well. I probably would have tripped on the dratted things and had them fly up in my face if I'd tried them on. :-D

We ended our day with dinner at Ryan's and I was in bed early again. This morning I reluctantly packed up the van and bid Jeanne and Art goodby. Still, I was heading to yet more friends who didn't live very far away at all, so I wasn't too sad to head up the road. I'll be back, Jeanne and Art, just you wait and see!

Lessons Learned:

Some of Jeanne's chickens lay green eggs. 'Tis true! They're beautiful! You don't even have to die them for Easter.

Jeanne has a separate flock of chickens that are a frothy white and had long feathers and, of course, I've forgotten their breed is called already. But one of them is called a 'frizzled' chicken, still a part of this breed, and amazingly folks really do breed for this trait. The chicken looks like it either has a bad perm or it stuck it's beak in an electric socket. Darndest thing I ever saw. Compared to it's sisters, it doesn't seem quite so lovely to me, but what do I know?


One of Jeanne's cows was 'ready to be bred,' to put it politely, and both Jeanne's bull and the bull across the street were crying out their love in earnest and very loudly. Of course Jeanne's bull was the one that took care of the afflicted lady but the bull across the street kept up his love songs until the sun was down. Sad to see unrequited love, even in the country.

On my way out from Jeanne's place I almost ran over a nice black snake. As soon as it saw me coming it sped up and scurried across but it had nothing to fear from me. I love snakes and I would never run one over or beat it with a stick like the evil woman in Wizard of Id. Poor snakes...

Tomorrow will be from friend John and Marquita's place in Blacksburg, Virginia. Just as lovely a place and they live up on a hill with lots of hayfields behind them. But that's for another day. 'Nite, all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 2 - Biltmore Estates, Asheville, North Carolina

My goodness! I assumed this would be a really big house but I didn't quite expect such a conspicuous display of consumption. Small wonder this estate has become a self sustaining,, I guess you could call it. Who could afford to run a house like this these days? But with the cost of admission $60 a person along with $12.95 for a pictorial guide to the house and grounds and $20 for one lunch and $10.95 for a digital postcard (and the lady said I could copy the pictures if I wanted to so I'll try to upload pictures for all to see), all of which is what I spent today, I can well imagine that they are raking it in and doing a fine job of sustaining this historical masterpiece.

I've been to visit Newport, Rhode Island's summer 'cottages' where the great and wealthy tried mightily to outdo each other in building the biggest and most elaborate and sometimes downright tasteless mansions they could possibly afford. As big as those monsters are, I do believe this one is bigger. In fact, it's described as America's largest residence with 250 rooms in it. There are 33 family and guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms (with toilets and running hot water, amazingly enough), 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, an indoor bowling alley, a billiards room, a two-story library with 10,000 volumes in eight languages and an indoor pool. There's also a Pellegrini ceiling painting in the library, The Chariot of Aurora, which came from the Pisani Palace in Venice. The house is settled cozily on 125,000 acres of forests, farms and a dairy, a 250-acre wooded park, five pleasure gardens, and 30 miles of roadways. I think this member of the Vanderbilt family out-Vanderbilted them all!

Where do I begin? I woke up late and got there around 12:00 am with a 1:00 appointment to see the house. With such a short time before my tour time began I walked through the Italian Gardens which were right off the left side of the house. Lots of leafy bowers, busts and statues, flowers I couldn't name and lily ponds all over the place. I then wandered back over to the side of the front entrance where all the cafe/coffee/ice cream vendors were and rested with a cup of coffee before starting my tour. I had been warned that the house would take about 1 1/2 hours to see and I wanted all the rest I could get.

Some background information here. George W. Vanderbilt opened this house in 1895 and brought his bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, to live there three years later. They had one child, Cornelia, who was born there and who would later marry the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil and they would both remain at Biltmore with Edith after George died in 1914.

The house became open to the public in the 1930's both to increase area tourism during the Depression and to offset the costs of preserving the estate. Even wealthy heiresses need a handout sometimes, I guess. This tradition became a family business and today Biltmore is owned and run by William Cecil, Vanderbilt's grandson, and his son and daughter assist the board of directors as CEO and advisor. There are 1,800 employees (when the Vanderbilts lived there, they had at least 35 servants in the house alone) who work to continue the preservation of this incredible home.

So why bother preserving it? Lordamighty! Thank heavens I've taken several art history classes because there was an incredibly diverse collection of different furniture styles, tapestries, carvings, porcelain vases from all over, cutlery and dishes by well known and expensive (think Baccarat crystal, for example), statues, a chess set owned by Napoleon, and countless paintings by well known artists such as John Singer Sargent, Giovanni Boldini, and James McNeill Whistler. The place is a walking treasure trove of historical art! Even the wallpaper and fabrics are of historical interest and have been either restored from the existing remnants or reproduced by the same company that produced the originals. I mean, you can't spit without hitting something that should be in a museum, which is actually what this house now is.

The bedrooms were decorated in wildly varied styles from Louis XVI to Neoclassical to Baroque to Rococo. In one of the bedrooms is a hand-painted 18th century Swiss porcelain tile chimney which Vanderbilt asked the architect to incorporate in the plans. It's pretty amazing, I'll admit. In the Louis XV room there is ornate cut and uncut silk velvet wallcoverings and is also where Cornelia was born and later on where Cornelia would give birth to her own two sons. Pretty elaborate furnishings to have around you while you scream the bloody walls down, ya?

Oh, I forgot to mention there is, of course, several sitting rooms and salons where guests could gather to chat, write letters, play games, etc. There was also a music room and a gymnasium and beside the indoor swimming pool were several dressing rooms where the guests could change into clothing considered proper for these activities. Think one-piece suits covering most of the body for both ladies and gentlemen and you'll get the picture.

There was also a smoking room where the male guests enjoyed their after-dinner cigars, pipes and brandy and where the women didn't come in; the gun room where Vanderbilt and his guests would select guns for their hunting expeditions on the estate; an indoor winter garden where guests could indulge their noses with exotic smelling flowers; a fountain in the entrance hall which had (and still has) a glass ceiling; and a bachelors' wing hallway where the single men could gather and talk dirty, I suppose.

The grand staircase goes all the way to the fourth floor and has an iron chandelier that hangs all the way down to the first floor. That must be one heck of a butterfly bolt hanging that baby up there! While walking down from the fourth floor I thought about sliding down the bannister but I think I would have been asked to leave if I did. But what a ride it would have been!

The banquet hall has a seven-story high ceiling and the table in there which could be expanded to an even larger size was set for a mere 32 people. Those would be your most intimate friends, of course. There were three different fireplaces heating the area at one end and at the other was a HUGE pipe organ in a loft. There were also Flemish tapestries hanging on the walls from the 1500's. Pretty darned nice, if I must say so.

The servants who worked here had it good, by the way. For those of you familiar with the Victorian era (or the Eduardian era as this actually was) or who have even watched "Upstairs Downstairs" on BBC, you will note that the servants' rooms were at the top of the house, unheated, and most slept two to a bed without much privacy. In this house, the servants had private rooms at the top of the house that were very nicely furnished and they were heated!!! It would have been ghastly cold in the winter without it but these folks had kind and thoughtful employers. They also had a sitting hall at both the top of the house and in the basement and a separate large room where they ate their meals. The chefs and the head housekeeper were the only ones who had rooms in the basement and they were very nicely furnished. Compared to the rooms above them, they were exceedingly plain, but the furniture matched and was of good quality. It wasn't just castoffs that the family no longer wanted to use which is what filled most servants' halls. These folks had it good!

Well, after the house tour I was pretty worn out so I cheated and did a drive-by photographic shooting of the gardens I could see from the road. I know I missed a lot but by then I was sincerely pooped. I drove another three miles down never-ending roads to Antler Village where I had my $20 lunch and where I took the pictures of the clematis, a robin bathing in a bird bath and other flowers that I liked. And after that I just went back to the RV site 'cause I wanted a shower, a nap and some coffee, in that order.

I'll upload the rest of the photos on Facebook so you can see everything. I wish I could upload more on this site but I'm limited. Oh, well.

Tomorrow I head towards Virginia where I'm stopping to see friend Jeanne, and then friend John. I don't know how far I will get so that will be a surprise to us all. Until tomorrow, expect a fantastic day!

Lessons Learned:

Just because Chopper is the kitty who throws up most of the time doesn't mean that NakedButt won't add to the mix. Right in the middle of my bed, of course.

Make sure the sewage hose from the RV is well connected to the extension hose when you pick it up. Undesirable biohazard accidents can occur if you don't. Thank heavens for gloves!


A sign by the Blueridge Parkway that I drove to Biltmore Estates: Billy Graham Training Center. Does that mean that you get training to become Billy Graham-like?

Why at the Biltmore Estate does the elevator (original to the house) only go up to the second floor when there are more guests and family rooms on the third? This meant that I had to walk up that damned grand staircase to get to both the third and the fourth and it was pretty tiring. Poop.

NakedButt is no longer sleeping in the litter box but she still has yet to sleep in the nice little cozy bed I made for her. Today I found her tucked away in a little carpeted area that I had thoughtlessly not stuffed anything into. I guess I'll just leave it open for her. Sigh...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 1 - Asheville, North Carolina, May 18, 2010

I left in good time this morning with a final hug and 'until we meet again' with Wendy and Jerri. With hot coffee in hand, Fluff(Naked)Butt, Chopper, the Bendy Men and I began to explore the road to Asheville. I requested a route from Miss Charmagne GPS and even though she had been recently updated, I don't think she got the word that Route 40 had been reopened. It had been closed for a bit due to a rock slide from the winter storms and only recently opened back up. Instead, Miss Charmagne decided that the scenic route would be a good way to go so I decided to follow her suggestion. It was a bit longer, but quite beautiful!

I had a phone call from a friend around 11:00 and pulled off and parked in a Walmart parking lot while we chatted. The call took over an hour so by the time I was back on the road it was almost 1:30. I finally arrived at the Biltmore about 3:00 and realized I was pooped and decided to defer the visit until tomorrow. I drove on to the KOA, checked in, and took a rest. NakedButt immediately wanted to go out for a walk but I wanted to wait until the sun was lower. I didn't need the AC, so I just opened windows and turned on a fan that sucks air up and out. That was sufficient to keep us cool and I laid down with the ol' laptop and began processing the photos I had taken of the roadside flowers I had seen.

At odd intervals along 64 East, there were fields of poppies and wildflowers in gorgeous colors and I just about ran off the road trying to keep them in sight. Not really, but you get the point. One field had bright red poppies with gorgeous blue cornflowers and talk about bleeding eye colors! Wowee! There was no place for me to pull over so I couldn't take any pictures, dang it, but I finally found one field where there was enough room for me and the photos you see are from that field. I wish I could do justice to the colors I saw but the day was overcast and I couldn't seem to balance the exposure correctly. Oh, well, I tried. Perhaps tomorrow when I'm in the gardens it will be a bit sunny and I won't have to compensate for such things.

I also pulled over at a scenic turnout and the Bendy Men indicated that they'd like a look at the view also. The photo makes them look like they're getting ready to jump, but, no, they're just excited at seeing the beauty before them. One of them still has an injured arm that doesn't appear to be getting any better. Sad, that, but it doesn't affect his mood so we all just ignore it and move on.

I'm not staying up late tonight because I want to get an early start at the Biltmore tomorrow. I'm not sure if I'll stay over another night or move on down the road when I'm done. I guess it depends on my body's stamina, so we'll see!

Lessons learned:

Even though I've dumped the holding tanks, the black water tank still thinks it's 2/3 full. What's up with that?

The refrigerator really doesn't keep things very cool. I turned it to electric cooling as soon as I could plug in, but it was on 12 volt as I was driving. I kept it closed as much as possible but it still lost the coolness faster than I appreciated. This is a typical problem with RV fridges and the suggested bag of ice I stuffed in there hasn't appeared to do much to keep the chill down. The blasted thing is turned on and set to max, so another what's up with that?


Although I bought a nice, new, cozy, high-walled litter pan for NakedButt to hide in when we would be on the road, she still thinks she's better off in the litter box. I even placed a ratty old familiar towel in the pan and scattered catnip on it. She sneered at it and crawled in the litter box. Sigh.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Make all preparations for getting underway, Part II

Yes, it is time to pack up and travel the U.S. again. My dear friend, Sharon, died a few weeks ago and I was so glad to be there with her and holding her hand as she passed. And now her departure means it's time for me to move on to other adventures, so let the packing begin!

The van has been through a review with normal repairs made and it's fine. I did cover almost all of the carpet in the van with a thin plastic carpet cover - after thirty days of intense driving to get here, the carpet that wasn't covered was pretty filthy and I had to have the van detailed. I'm certain I'll have to have it detailed again when I get back with two kitties and myself. We all three shed and it can get quite hairy in there.

Actually, since the Butt of Fluff was, um, shaved into a Lion's cut yesterday, there might be a wee bit less of shedding around the van. Not a bad thing, actually, except for her appearance. Rawthuh embarrassing, that. See photo, which will probably damn me to cat hell for posting. Oh, well.

On the good side, she does feel much better and cooler and now likes me to pet her on her back, something she wouldn't tolerate before. On the bad side, she looks like nobody loves her. Pitiful, just pitiful.

Chopper is fine though her cough continues to concern me. Umpteen doses of antibiotics have failed to get rid of it entirely, but besides that she appears to be doing well. Let's hope that's the only problem she'll have.

Wendy and Jerri took me out to dinner tonight at a very nice restaurant where we decided to go in what we had on. I was in lounging pants, Wendy was in about the same, and Jerri looked the best in a nice shirt and jeans. We were treated kindly and I feasted on duck and other goodies. This restaurant/hotel was on a golf course and the view on the covered deck where we ate was fantastic! There was also a nice breeze so it was very cool and pleasant. We ended our meal with creme brule' and banana's foster, and we had to be carried out by the time we were finished. Needless to say, most of my dinner came home in a carry-out box. (Note to self - DON'T forget it!!)

I depart for Asheville, North Carolina tomorrow where I will be stopping to see the Biltmore estate and gardens. Wendy and Jerri urged me to go because it's beautiful, so I made a reservation with a KOA and will spend part of tomorrow wandering around shooting terrible pictures of lots of flowers. Yeah! The inside of the mansion will be available for touring also - should be fun!

Early to bed tonight. I'm pooped, the kitties are pooped, and I'm leaving when I get up, probably around 7:00 am or so.

Lessons learned:

The holding tank for the water isn't always as truthful as it should be.

I think I have way too many clothes now even after packing as much as possible in the storage areas. And I doubt I'll wear half of it on this trip. You'd think I'd learn by now.


Nothing fell when I drove the van to the grocery store to stock up on edibles. Let us pray that this continues and that I've truly secured for sea.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Very Nice Halloween Ghost Story

Earthship Le Van Gogh Diary

Day 31 of October, 2009 - Blairsville, Georgia

After several days wherein Sharon felt very ill and had problems with swelling, shortness of breath, hypoglycemic crises, vomiting and chest pains, she is now much, much better. A whole bunch of folks must have sent her healing energy because her edema is down, chest pains gone, dizziness and vomiting gone and her shortness of breath is better. She still requires lots of sleep but hey, so do I. J Anyway, she’s felt well enough that when Jerri, her daughter, came up to visit, we were able to go on a local field trip investigating two local cemeteries.

I happen to have a great deal of fondness for cemeteries and always have. During the Victorian era they were quite popular as picnic sites since they were far and away the best landscaped area around. Families would come with a huge picnic lunch and a servant or two to lug the baskets and set up the kitchen and all that. Quite the production!

But I just like the quiet, the beauty, the wonderful old fashioned names, the unusual headstones and monuments, and every once in awhile, a ghost. That is what Jerri and I encountered at the first cemetery called the Old Salem Cemetery built near the Salem Methodist Church. The cemetery and church moved, hence the “Old” moniker.

This was a very small cemetery with about 26 identifiable markers. There were also approximately 31 unidentified graves with only field stones to mark where they lay. Of the marked headstones we saw families of Self’s, Duckworth’s and Lance’s. This whole area, formerly Cherokee territory, was part of Union County, which was created by the Georgia Legislature on December 3, 1832. It was named “Union” by John Thomas, the first local representative, who is reported to have said, “Name it Union, for none but union-like men reside in it.” I don’t know how true that was but it was definitely the Scottish, Irish and English descendents who were the predominant settlers in the area. They may have been union-minded men or no, but at least the names held no particular surprises.

While walking around the headstones at Old Salem Cemetery, Jerri was taking pictures when I saw an older woman, approximately 40’ish, standing near the unidentified graves. Her clothing was coarse and homespun, her dress long and gathered at the waist. An apron covered her front and she had some kind of cap on her head catching up her hair behind her. She simply stood with her hands clasped beneath her apron, looking down at the ground. She had an attitude of weariness about her and looked like a farmer’s wife. If she had been, and she and her husband had been buried in the area with no headstones, than she would have had every right to be weary. Those were very hard days for settlers in the early 1800’s, pioneering days where the land had to be cleared by hand and turned over by horse-drawn plows, and crops seeded and the seedlings weeded and protected from the birds until tall enough to survive on their own. There were very few amenities within close distance. Women spun and wove and sewed their families clothes and took care of the house garden and everything in the house and the milking of the cows supervised the rising of the cream and made the butter and took care of the chickens, if they had any, and, of course, took care of the children. As I thought about all of this, her name came into my head - “Sarah.” Her last name started with an “S” but I wasn’t sure if it was “Spencer” or “Self.” I called all of this out to Jerri who spotted a headstone with “Sara Self” on it and another much smaller one with just the initials, “S S” on it. I couldn’t be sure if either of these were this lady’s marker since she appeared to be too poor to have been able to afford one. I thought it was more likely that she was buried in the fieldstone area and thus unidentified. I could be wrong, of course. I’m not infallible.

From there we drove to the Union County Historical Society housed in the old County Courthouse. We explained that we were looking for the background on the Old Salem Cemetery and who was buried there. There were two ladies on duty and one pulled out marriage and birth certificate lists as well as lists of known bodies buried in the cemetery. There were plenty of Sarah’s but no Spencer’s. I could have been mistaken, of course, and she could very well have been one of the Sarah’s buried there, either Sarah Self or the other anonymous “S S.” I wasn’t getting much from her and wondered if this was just a thought form left behind by the former lady. Thought forms perform repetitive actions and are just energy expending itself and eventually just die out. They’re completely harmless though they can certainly be startling. I can generally pick up more from an actual ghost, or someone who is presently no longer in his or her body and for unknown reasons is still hanging around. Or even from someone who is alive as we understand it but having an Out-of-Body experience. Much more can be sensed from folks who are ‘altogether’ there, natch.

I explained to the ladies what I had seen and they were delighted with my ‘ghost-whispering’ talents. One of the ladies asked if the old County Courthouse had a ghost because of various sounds and doors opening and closing, etc, and I said I’d take a tour and let her know. I hadn’t stayed in an altered state when I came in so that I could fully focus on this reality but now I entered the state of consciousness necessary to be sensitive to other frequencies. That’s how I see myself - I’m like a radio receiver with a very good tuner and by moving my focus (dial) up and down on the frequency waves I can pick up all kinds of things. I’ve done this my whole life, but I haven’t always mentioned it to folks. You get looked at kind of funny when you do.

Anyway, I felt nothing downstairs so I walked up the stairs to the restored old court area which was now used only as a music or entertainment venue. The old judge’s chair was still in place, as was the juror’s chairs and the prosecutor’s and defendant’s tables, and a rail separating all of this from the audience. I stood in the back of the courthouse and relaxed into a deeper ‘trance,’ I suppose you could call it. In a few seconds I saw a middle-aged man, portly and jolly looking, appear to the left of the judge’s chair. He was looking at the chair and smiling with a very self-satisfied look on his face. He wore a long frock coat, colorful vest, black leather shoes, black tailored pants and a somewhat higher white collar and cravat. His hair was light colored, more blondish than white, and he appeared very cheerful and well-fed. I got the feeling that he had been if not a judge than someone who was well-acquainted with the activities of the court house.

I walked back down the steps and to the offices where the two ladies were still working and assured them that yes, they had a ghost upstairs, but he felt very friendly and not in the slightest bit scary. I drew a picture of him for them and we figured that he might have been one of the traveling judges in the very early 1800’s before the first judge was finally appointed. That would keep them busy for a bit and very excited about having their own ghost.

From the Courthouse we went to the second cemetery where Jerri’s former husband’s family was buried. Jerri said her son (I think?) had seen the ghost of a baby at this cemetery and wanted to know if I could see this ghost also. Before walking into the cemetery I sat on some benches provided for spectators and settled into an altered state. Across the way towards the left of the cemetery I watched a young woman in a long dress with a striped skirt walking towards me. Her clothing was somewhat confusing because it seemed to be a transition from colonial dress, or late 1700’s to early 1800’s styles. That gave me some kind of idea as to when she might have lived. As I walked over to where I had seen her the name, “Mary Duncan” came into my head. I asked Jerri, who had been studying the names of the headstones, if there was a Mary Duncan anywhere. She said yes, and lead me to a stone where the first name chiseled in was Charles Duncan and under his name was Mary Ford Duncan, his wife. Their birth and death dates exactly corresponded with the time period I had suspected from Mary’s dress - 1770’s to 1860’s for both of them. Well, that was cool!

I didn’t get much more from Mary and since it had been an extremely rainy afternoon and both Jerri and I were soaked, we closed up shop and went home. But what fun! I always enjoy adding a little extra information to my love of history. I want to dig up more info on the Cherokees who inhabited this area prior to the settlers - I’m sure they will have a very interesting story to tell…

Lessons Learned:

Visiting cemeteries when it’s pouring rain always adds that special little touch to the adventure.

Like catching pneumonia.


The fall colors are glorious and pumpkins and corn stalks and witches are everywhere. Where Sharon lives far out in the country there are no Trick-or-Treator’s so we didn’t bother dressing up the front porch. Neither one of us had the energy even if we were so inclined. But it’s fun to watch everybody else go out of their way to be fall-oriented and sometimes downright tacky. Yippee!! Photos to come…

I have not yet succumbed to falling into the rather thick accent of the region. I could, easily, but just haven’t felt like it. Amazingly I don’t get one of those “you ain’t from around here, be ye” looks when I speak my basically cultural-melting pot accent. Rather nice, that.