GOOD MORNING, BAMBI(S)!

As I jumped out of bed and streaked across the back of our house to answer the phone this morning, I neglected to notice the peeping Tom’s outside our bare windows.  It wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I looked out and saw I was being stared at by two gorgeous fawns casually relaxing under the trees in our backyard!  Bambi 1 and Bambi 2 weren’t spooked by the commotion I made, nor were they in any hurry to leave when I returned  with my camera.

These two little Sun City Peachtree cuties have been spotted by several of my neighbors in the past, and we were thrilled to get to see them hanging out at our house this time.

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GATLINBURG: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

The beauty of Gatlinburg is in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that is located just south of town. The photos in my previous blog post demonstrate just a snippet of what can be seen in the beautiful Smokies.

The beast is in Parkway Drive, one of the tackiest and touristy streets I have ever seen in the U.S.A. Just about anywhere with a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” is bound to have a tacky element to it, but Gatlinburg has nearly 10 properties owned and operated by Ripley’s. Add to it all of the arcades, miniature golf outfits, and other “family attractions,” and it rivals Panama City Beach and other tourist traps for the “Top Tacky Tourist Trap” award.

Now, add “redneck” to the mix. You can see where I’m going with this…

All bets were off, however, when I saw the variety of Confederate flag attire and Made-in-China (ironic, isn’t it?) crap on display in the stores along Parkway Drive. Want a Confederate flag bikini? How about a huge Confederate flag to fly on a pole in the back of your pickup truck? Check out these shirts. Pick any one; they all turned my stomach.

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I had no intention of really spending anytime on that street; however, after sitting at our craft show booth all day yesterday at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, I was ready to get some exercise. After dinner, I walked the couple of blocks from our hotel to the main drag just to see what was drawing so many cars and pedestrians.

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OK, I’ll ‘fess up. I also wanted to buy some fudge, so I thought I would hunt down a shop recommended on Trip Advisor.

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Along the way, I passed “The Fudgery” and sampled a taste offered by the guy behind the counter. As soon as I saw the Confederate baseball cap on his head, though, I told him, “No, thank you,” and, I turned around and walked out.

After picking up some dark chocolate fudge at Fudge Shoppe of the Smokies, I had seen enough and returned to the comfort of our room at Mountain House Motor Inn.

I went to sleep last night wondering if I would ever see the day when the United States of America is truly the United States. In my dreams…

WHEN YOU COME TO THE FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT!

How lovely to wake up in Gatlinburg this morning to a beautiful, sunny day! We had the entire day free to enjoy the area, so we left the touristy downtown area and headed up to Great Smoky Mountain National Park located immediately behind the town.

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A wonderful way to enjoy the park is to drive Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a narrow, winding 5.5 mile-long, one-way, loop road through the dense forest of the Great Smoky Mountains. The speed limit is 10 mph, so there is plenty of opportunities to enjoy the breathtaking views of the rushing stream the narrow road parallels along the way.

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If you drive this trail, make sure to roll down your window throughout the duration, because the sound of the stream is relaxing and beautiful! There are also places to pull off and park, so we took those opportunities to shoot photos and do a little bit of hiking to see some of the old log cabins and other historic buildings along the way. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough parking, so we missed out on hiking the Grotto Falls Trail. Oh well, next time!

We also didn’t see any black bears, even though there is an alert in effect due to the increased bear activity. That’s ok, at least we saw “Lawrence Elk” yesterday!

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After enjoying the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, we returned to the city of Gatlinburg to drive another trail: The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. This was an 8-mile loop of local artisan studios and shops located in the lush green hills outside of bustling Parkway Drive, a touristy main street we have been avoiding. Thankfully, we figured out the back way to the convention center from our motel, so we can avoid having to drive along Parkway Drive to and from our craft show. (After making the mistake of driving it into town yesterday, we vowed never to drive it again!)

Tomorrow, we return to the convention center to begin our 5-day stint at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair where Bruce and I will be selling his fused glass bowls, plates, candle holders, crosses (we are in the bible belt, after all), and jewelry.

Meanwhile, today ended with a swim at the Gatlinburg Community Center pool while Bruce relaxed next door at the library and read while petting their resident cat.

Lawrence Elk

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Being a city girl from Long Beach, California and living in San Diego most of my life, I am not accustomed to seeing much in the way of wildlife. Growing up, the wildest wildlife I ever saw were exhibits at the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, and Sea World during the annual school vacation trip my family would take south.

As an adult, I’m always thrilled to see any creature out in the wild. Around our house at Sun City Peachtree in Griffin, Georgia, we have seen a deer or two come up from the golf course and through the trees for a visit to our backyard. When that happens, I always run to get my camera and snap a few shots through the kitchen window. It tickles me every time.

A couple of days ago, I even saw two deer sprint across Maple Drive as I was driving to work for Griffin Choral Arts. I was very thankful they weren’t struck by the car in front of me.

Today, as we drove through Smoky Mountain National Park on our way to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I saw something I had never seen outside of a zoo: an elk! This one was HUGE, and he was casually grazing in the field adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Visitor Center. If it hadn’t been for all of drivers that pulled off the road to watch, I never would have believed Bruce when he looked out the window and said, “There’s an elk!” Surely, he would have been pulling my leg. Here is proof that he wasn’t! We nicknamed this fella “Lawrence Elk”.

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BRINGING HOME THE GOLD (AND SILVER, TOO!)

When I joined U.S. Masters Swimming in 2010, I never dreamed I would compete in open water swimming.  I was a breaststroker, after all, and a sprinter at that.

In July, 2012 that all changed.  To win the Georgia Championship Series, I needed to compete in the Georgia Games Open Water Meet to rack up enough points to remain in the lead.  The series is comprised of four events (Short Course Yards, Long Course Meters, Open Water, and Short Course Meters), and I was leading my age group after the first two meets.

I will never forget showing up to Lake Acworth and wondering what I had gotten myself into.  There were three races (5K, 3K, and 1K), and I had signed up for the 3K and 1K in hopes of winning some points.  Was I NUTS?

As it turned out, I won a silver medal in the 3K and a gold medal in the 1K.  I was overjoyed!  More importantly, it was the most fun I had ever had at a swimming event.  Ever.  I was hooked.

In 2013, I couldn’t wait until July rolled around, so I could compete at the Georgia Games once again.  This time, I swam faster; however, the competition was tougher, and I went home with two bronze medals.  It didn’t matter, because I had a blast!

Last year, it was during the 3K race that my hip pain that was previously only an issue on land became problematic in the water.  For the first time, it affected my swimming, and I was forced to drag my right leg along for the ride.  Still, I swam well, enjoyed the competition, and took home two silver medals.

This year, I wasn’t going to race at all.  Between having hip surgery in December and not knowing for sure whether my hip could tolerate 4K’s of racing, I was going to give it a miss.  Add the ridiculously hot weather we’ve been having to the mix, and the fact that I didn’t get enough pool time logged during our 47-day road trip, it was a no-go for me.  Or, maybe not.

I decided to swim a trial 3K race in the pool to see if perhaps I could handle the yardage.  If I could swim pain-free and not struggle, I thought I would give the Georgia Games a try after all.

Surprisingly, I finished in 1:05, ten minutes slower than when I had swum the same time trial in 2014.  Given the circumstances, I was happy to finish at all!

In open water, though, there are factors that make swimming the same distance much more difficult.  There are no walls to push off of after each 25 yards of swimming, there is no black line to follow or lane lines to separate the swimmers, and the water is as clear as mud.  Literally.  Add the sun and warmer water to the mix and the need to “sight” the buoys on a frequent basis, and it is a much greater challenge.  Oh, I also forgot the fact that getting kicked in the head or smacked by an arm doesn’t happen in pool competition, but it does in an open water race, especially at the start.  I know, because it has happened to me.

Still, I had too much fun the first three times at Lake Acworth to sit this one out.

I drove to the lake this morning with the idea I would race the 3K and opt out of the 1K if I felt bad from the heat and hot water.  If my hip started hurting, I would quit.

The water was even hotter than I thought it would be, and I was surprised the meet wasn’t cancelled.  USMS’ rules state a limit of 86 degrees, and FINA (the international governing body for swimming) sets a limit of 87 degrees.  Surely, the water temperature hit those limits.

That's me (side view) in the front of the photo without the cap getting ready to start the 3K

That’s me (side view) in the front of the photo without the cap getting ready to start the 3K

I chucked my swim cap, hit the water, and swam cautiously until I knew my body could handle the heat.  Surprisingly, I was able to increase my speed throughout the 3K race rather than slow down or quit.  After turning at the last buoy for the last 1K to the finish, I kicked it up to full throttle and aimed for the finish.

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It wasn’t until after my 1K race that I learned how I had finished in the 3K.  The two races had only a short break in between, and the medals were announced while I was racing.  No matter. I was just ECSTATIC that I finished the 3K strong and felt good enough to return to the water for the 1K.  Besides, it was enormously gratifying to watch all of the swimmers who finished AFTER me, especially many of the young studs and studettes who appeared to be in their 20’s and 30’s.  Talking about a great sense of satisfaction!

The 1K was a diamond-shaped course, and I noticed after rounding the first buoy that I had company by my side.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake this blue-capped gal who was matching me stroke-for-stroke.  I was hoping she would swim off-course, but her sighting was good, and we both swam straight.

As we approached the last third of the race, I decided it was time to turn up the heat (as if I wasn’t hot enough already!), test out my hip, and kick with all I had left in the tank.

The effort paid off; I beat her to the finish by over a minute.

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When we met up onshore, we introduced ourselves, gave each other a big hug, and thanked each other for the great competition.  We each had swum the 3K as well, so we looked up our times on the results sheet to see if we had finished close in that race as well.  As it turned out, she beat me by less than two minutes!

Thankfully, Loukia is only 34 years old, and I’m 53, so we didn’t have to give up medals to each other.  That was a good thing, because just before we posed for this photo, Bruce put my 3K medal around my neck.  It wasn’t until afterwards that I looked down to see which one it was.  I just assumed it was bronze, and I was just so happy to win ANY medal!

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When I finally looked down at it, I had to pick it up and turn it back and forth before I was convinced it was actually GOLD.  For the first time in four years, I won gold in the 3K.  (There were only four in my age group, but still…)

The gold medal winner in the 1K hadn’t swum the 3K, so she was fresh for her race and beat me for the gold.  During the 1K medal ceremony, another name was called for the bronze, so I thought my chance for a medal was zilch.  When the name was called for the silver, though, it was mine.  YES!  Once again, I won a gold and silver; however, this time they were switched, and the gold was for the longer race.

The sense of satisfaction I feel today is the greatest I have felt since becoming a USMS competitive swimmer.  What a fabulous day!

U.S. Masters Swimming medal winners from Team GAJA (Georgia Area Joint Alliance)

U.S. Masters Swimming medal winners from Team GAJA (Georgia Area Joint Alliance)

CONGRATULATIONS!

This post is dedicated to my happily married friends,Ted and Al, who live in my native state of California:

In my 53 years on this earth, I have never been as proud as I am today to be an American.  Congratulations to the five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court who made the right decision on gay marriage.  This day will go down in U.S. history as a great day for not only gay rights, but HUMAN rights.

Here’s to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL Americans!

CHEERS!

ROAD TRIP DAY 46: GONE TO CAROLINA IN MY MIND

Today reminds me of that song by James Taylor. We left North Carolina this morning and headed to Columbia, South Carolina for one last day away before returning home.

Upon arrival, we headed straight to Riverfront Park for a walk along the Columbia Canal; however, it was too hot and humid to enjoy. After less than one mile of walking, we returned to the car and blasted the airconditioning to cool down.

Next, we thought we would see the state capitol. BIG MISTAKE. You should have seen the swarm of people and news vans around that place! The crowd was larger than when we lined up for our tour at the White House a couple of years back, and we wanted no part of any of it.

I’m sure by now you have figured out why: the Confederate flag.

Honestly, I was shocked to hear that the capitol had been flying that flag. We are 100% behind the One Nation, One Flag camp, and wonder why it took South Carolina’s governor this long to speak out about it. Hmmm, could it be that she was sticking her finger up in the air to see which way the wind was blowing? Just how long would that flag have been left to fly if it weren’t for the Charleston murders?

Between the heat and the crowds in downtown Columbia, we decided to call it quits and just head to our hotel, instead. Ahhh, a nice cold drink and airconditioning!

As I sit nice and comfy in our room, I thought I would reflect back on our past 45 days on the road. Here’s a “by the numbers” look:

4,939– Miles driven (including tomorrow’s drive home)

3,054–  Number of pictures taken.

46– Blog posts written. I thoroughly enjoyed our evening routine of editing photos and writing while Bruce read the newspaper, solved the Sudoku puzzle, and researched the place we would be seeing the following day.

17– States traveled (Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana*, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia). * very briefly!

14– Chocolate shops where I purchased chocolates. Yikes! In addition to eating some along the way, I’m bringing a cooler full of the stuff home with me!

15– Factory tours (Corvette, Maker’s Mark, Louisville Slugger, Rebecca Ruth Candies, Chocolate F/X, Konzelmann Winery, Bully Hill Vineyards, Magic Hat Brewery, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Martin Guitars, Hershey Chocolates, Julius Sturgis Pretzels, Harley Davidson Motorcycles, and Utz Potato Chips.)

7– Costco Warehouses we visited for a very casual and inexpensive dinner. (Their $3.99 Caesar salads are large, fresh, and delicious!) Our favorite? Lancaster! We loved seeing the horse and buggy parked in the special designated area in the parking lot!

1– Marriage still happily intact!

0– Times either of us got sick.

Would we do a trip like this again? ABSOLUTELY! Like with everything else, there are those negatives to go along with all of the great positives; however, that’s with anything else in life. You take the bad with the good, and keep looking at the glass as being half full.

The biggest negative is having to lug stuff in and out of the hotel each time, and I have to give credit to my sherpa, Bruce. He was a trouper! As the cooler grew heavier with each chocolate purchase, he still insisted on taking care of that task while I handled the packing and unpacking.

There were also those times we hit unexpected traffic caused by an accident, and times (like now) when the weather was out of whack for the time of year we were traveling. So what?

We saw so many amazing things and beautiful places, learned about other cultures (yes, right here in the U.S.A.!), had a lot of fun, and enjoyed our time together. Nothing can top that!

Until the next time the mood strikes to write and post to my blog, CHEERS!

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ROAD TRIP DAY 45: “PEACE”-FUL DAY IN NORTH CAROLINA

“Salem” means “peace”, and after a beautiful drive south on US-220, we arrived in Winston -Salem. Our original plan was to arrive via Blue Ridge Parkway, but we opted for an easier and quicker alternative after three days of driving on curvy mountain roads.

This morning’s drive was just the ticket. Although it may not have been quite as beautiful as Blue Ridge Parkway, it wasn’t to the other extreme either of driving on an ugly billboard-littered freeway. There were just enough curves to make the drive fun, and the scenery was much better than I expected. The abundance of gorgeous trees was amazing (once again!) to this California girl who grew up in a concrete jungle!

We scored on a room for the night; a “last-minute special” at the Brookstown Inn saved us $25 on a fabulous room. Wanting to make these last couple of nights a bit more comfortable, we bumped our budget up from the $65-$80 range to what turned out to be a $120 room for $95 by booking the room online last night.

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This historic inn, registered on the National Register of Historic Places, used to be the Salem Cotton Mill dating back to 1837. Fast-forward to 1984, and it opened as the Brookstown Inn. It was renovated again in 2013, so everything is quite nice.

Our room has exposed beam ceilings and an exposed brick exterior wall. The interior is huge; the bathroom alone we figure at 100 sq. ft. It has two queen beds (although we only need one), a refrigerator, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, and more space than we could ever need.

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If you ever plan on seeing Winston-Salem, I would recommend staying here at Brookstown Inn. The Winston-Salem Visitor Center is right next door, and there is a lovely shaded walking path just up the street that leads right to the Old Salem Museum and Gardens. As you make your way up Main Street through the museum buildings, you will end up very close to Brookstown Inn for the short walk back. (An interesting side note is that Main Street where the museum buildings are located is actually a public street. Many of the old homes sprinkled between the museum buildings are now privately owned; however, they have kept them very well-maintained.)

Private residence

Private residence

Private residence

Private residence

Another short walk from Brookstown Inn is a wonderful restaurant, Willow’s Bistro, located in an old railway building. Dinner was tasty, service was excellent, and it was a very cool place to relax and dine.

How nice to arrive in town late this morning, park the car for free at the inn, and leave it sit in the shade for the remainder of the day while we got some exercise! Spending the entire afternoon at the Old Salem Museum and Gardens was an enjoyable and very interesting experience.

Old Salem was incorporated back in the 1950’s by a group of volunteers as a way to begin preserving and restoring the town of Salem for future generations.

The town dates back to 1766 when it was founded by the Moravians- a Protestant religious group that first organized in what is now known as the Czech Republic in the 15th Century.

For 200 years the Moravians faced persecution, so they fled and first settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Their next settlement (in 1753) was 100,000 acres of purchased land in “Wachovia” (which means “creek”) in the back country of North Carolina. (Does that name “Wachovia” ring a bell? Yes, it was the Moravians who founded Wachovia Bank.)

Old Salem has done an outstanding job restoring the historic buildings and presenting them as they would have been back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

Old Salem's oldest house, 1771

Old Salem’s oldest house, 1771

According to their website, “The Town of Salem has a rich and deep history, with the restoration supported by many different sources of historical documentation and research. Core material is the primary source information published in the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina based on records held by the Moravian Archives, Southern Province in Winston-Salem. In addition, documentation such as private papers, historic photographs, and artistic renderings, as well as ongoing research of buildings, objects, and archaeological resources, have been critical to understanding the Town’s history.”

As we strolled from building to building we learned so much about the culture from experts dressed up in period attire who demonstrated the various trades as they were done back in those times. They included: a gunsmith shop, shoemaker shop, furniture maker, potter, and others.
We also toured a few Moravian homes including the Single Brothers’ House where we viewed trade demonstrations and heard music played from the Tannenberg organ dating back to 1798.

Shultz Shoemaker Shop, 1827

Shultz Shoemaker Shop, 1827

This gentleman demonstrated how shoes were made in the early 1800's.

This gentleman demonstrated how shoes were made in the early 1800’s.

This lady explained how sugar was processed. Sugar cane was brought in from the Caribbean, and the first pressing turned it into “sludge”. Molasses was the result of an additional pressing. The blue package shows how sugar was wrapped. The blue paper made the sugar appear more white. Chunks were broken off to place in tea. On the right, she is holding a dish of rock candy. The brown rock candy has brandy in it.

This organ dates back to 1798.

This organ dates back to 1798.

Touring St. Philips African Moravian Church and Graveyards was interesting, too. Before slavery, black and white Moravians worshiped together. It wasn’t until 1822 when the white Moravians buckled under the influence of “outsiders” that the races were separated in worship.

This log cabin was the original St. Philips African American church.

This log cabin was the original St. Philips African American church.

The church we toured is the oldest African-American church in North Carolina dating back to 1861. During worship, men and women were separated in the church by a partition in the pews.

It was interesting to learn that in the Moravian cemetary, all of the gravestones are flat as a reminder of equality in both life and death.

The Moravians were definitely ahead of their time regarding equality of the sexes, because they strongly believed in educating young girls and women. To that, I say, “Good for them!”

I was also impressed by the fact that although the Moravians were missionaries, their missions were not meant to convert; they were only meant to help others in need. Native Americans benefitted greatly from the help of Moravians, as did Africans and many others throughout the world.

Today, there are approximately 600,000 Moravians; however, 80% are in other countries. In the United States they reside mostly in North Carolina as well as Lititz and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Moravians are considered mainstream Protestant most similar to Lutherans or Methodists in beliefs.

Never having even heard of Moravians until we were in Pennsylvania, both Bruce and I were fascinated to learn about their history, culture, and beliefs.

On this trip, we have learned much about the Shakers, Menonites, Amish, and Moravians. Fascinating!

Ink well, 1810-183

Ink well, 1810-183

Moravian chair

Moravian chair

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Private residences

Private residences

Salem College was a school for girls and young women.  It is currently a college for women.

Salem College was a school for girls and young women. It is currently a college for women.

ROAD TRIP DAY 44: STROLLING STAUNTON AND BREEZING THROUGH BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

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Staunton (pronounced “STANN-tun”) is another one of those charming towns that has landed on several “best” lists. Smithsonian says it’s “one of the best small towns in America,” and Travel + Leisure says Staunton has “one of America’s greatest main streets.” Go Magazine gushes that Staunton is “impossibly charming,” and Southern Living states, “With a downtown energized by locally owned shops and restaurants, the Shenandoah Valley town is one of the prettiest and most progressive in the South.”

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Founded in 1747, Staunton has one architectural advantage over most of other small towns in the Shenandoah Valley: it was unscathed in the Civl War, and many of its 18th and early 19th century homes and buildings still stand and are well preserved.

We spent a few hours walking the town on a self-guided tour of its five National Historic Districts dating back 250 years. While we saw one beautiful home or building after another, we found ourselves agreeing with what those magazine writers said about it. Staunton is a cool town worth a visit.

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Following our stroll around Staunton, we breezed through the Blue Ridge Parkway. I say “breezed,” because we only drove 50 miles of its 469-mile length before opting for a straighter route south. After a couple of days of driving the curvy roads of Skyline Drive (which was a lot of fun!), we decided we had enough on this third day of switch-backs– this time with few guard rails or barriers. It sure was a gorgeous drive, though.

Oh! That reminds me! As a footnote to yesterday’s post, we saw a young black bear crossing Skyline Drive perhaps 50 feet in front of us! Neither of us had seen a black bear in the wild before, so it made our day!

ROAD TRIP DAY 43: LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO MONTICELLO

When driving from Luray to Charlottesville, taking the long and winding road is the only way to go to enjoy the beauty of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Skyline drive, which runs north-south through Shenandoah National Park, covers 105 miles of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We drove the remaining two-thirds of the length of the road today.

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The sky was blue after last night’s thunderstorm, so we got an early start to take in the views at overlooks along the way. The Appalachian Trail runs through Shenandoah National Park as well, so we hiked a tiny portion of the trail.

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Since I hadn’t researched the park in detail (I only knew it was a highly recommended must-see scenic drive), I had no idea there were accomodations available other than campgrounds. Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge are both located in the park, though, and offer accomodations we would have loved to have stayed at rather than at the motel in Luray. We saw the interior of one of Big Meadow’s cabins while it was being cleaned, and it was quaint and cozy, yet roomy. Both the resort and lodge have restaurants, evening entertainment, and plenty of great hiking opportunities to keep busy during the day. Skyland Resort even offers guided horseback rides.

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This was the view at the end of one of the short hikes from Skyland:

P1010618A trio of deer were helping themselves to the grass alongside the cabins, and they weren’t the least bothered by me as I slowly got closer to watch. I was no more than 20 feet away, and I’m sure I could have gotten even closer.

P1010598-1P1010602-1At Sun City Peachtree, we have to be much more stealth to keep deer from running off. If we move while we are watching from the window inside our house it will spook them!

The entire drive through Shenandoah National Park was gorgeous and so thoroughly enjoyable, today. We were fortunate to have nice weather, and I enjoyed driving the long and winding road.

After wrapping up our cruise along Skyline Drive, we made our way to tour Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville.

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Monticello was designed by Jefferson, a self-taught architect, and the tour of his home was very interesting.

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Not only was Thomas Jefferson an architect– he also founded and designed the University of Virginia– Jefferson was also quite an innovator, inventor, and horticulturist; in addition to being a statesman and author of the Declaration of Independence. Those are the impressive facts about the president who is the face on the $2 bill.

There are also very disturbing facts about Thomas Jefferson that make me wonder how on earth his picture wound up on that very bill in the first place.

Did you know that the man who wrote such inspiring words as “all men are created equal” and have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” actually owned 600 slaves throughout his life? THIS from the man who promoted religious tolerance and freedom? I didn’t know this, thanks to my very basic education in U.S. history, but I wanted to scream, “HYPOCRITE!!!”

Another fact missing from my education about our third president was that Jefferson accumulated a great deal of debt, and was $107,000 in debt when he died. Strike two! (I will leave “Strike three!” to your imagination…”)

As it turns out, Monticello was built on land inherited from his father, run by slaves, and financed with other people’s money. The house is 11,000 square feet and originally sat on 5,000 acres; however, some of that land had to be sold off to pay down that $107,000 debt after Jefferson died.

The remainder of what turned out to be a blazing-hot day was spent strolling and having dinner at Charlottesville’s historic downtown pedestrian mall.