Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chattanooga, Tennessee May 18,2012

It is an 8 hour drive to Chattanooga from New Orleans. The plan wa to go white water rafting in Bryson City, North Carolina on Saturday afternoon another 3 hours from Chattanooga.

Do not drive to Chattanooga after dark. The last leg of our drive was in heavy fog on a mountain road under construction which reduced it to one lane for miles and miles.

We made reservations in advance at Best Western Royal Inn off I-24,
3644 Cummings Hwy, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37419.

 They set aside rooms for people traveling with pets. We had liked it before and it was even better this time. It had been upgraded. The beds now had a pillowtop mattress. The showerhead in the bathroom was 8 feet from the floor and the tv remote control had been sanitized and was in a cute slipcover. There was make your own waffles at the free breakfast.

Betty Boopmobile, 1932 roadster, Ocoee, Tennessee

Bryson City, North Carolina  May 19,2012

The Tennessee Valley Authority has a series of dams on rivers where electricity is made. The river is cut off at night then released during the day.  current is used to generate electricity. Water is released from 6 rivers near Bryson City, North Carolina. There are dozens of companies offering rafting and kyak tours along these rivers. The main one is the Nantahala Outdoorn Center. There is a 3 hour 8 mile trip for groups in rafts or singletons in kyaks. Tour times are 11 am or 2 pm. An advantage of the 2 pm tour is the water is warmer by then and also the Rapid Transit option of a railway excursion featuring h an adult beverage car over the Nantahala Gorge in the morning, a stop for lunch and then rafting in the afternoon. You can rent mountain bicycles at the center. Besides river kyaking there is also group or solo kyaking on Fontana Lake.

Rafting options are a fully guided tour with a guide in every raft, guide assisted which has a guide in every other raft or rent a raft on hour own. Guest need to be 7 years old or weigh over 60 pounds.

Rafting is available on 7 rivers, the Nantahala being the biggest. The others are the Ocoee, the chattanooga, the French Broad, the Nolichucky, the Cheoah and the Pigeon.

Nantahala Outdoor Center is located in western North Carolina on Hwy 19 twelve miles west of Bryson City past Cherokee on the south side of the Great Smoky Mountain park in the Appalachian mountains.

NOC 800-232-7238

Professional photographers are stationed at several points and after a trip guests can purchase
one developed photo of a dramatic moment in the rapids for $20 or a cd with 6 photos on it
and then print as many photos from that as they desire for $42.

Guided tour rate is $47.99/person with a $7.20 spring discount from April to Memorial Day.
The season ends in October.

We had a wonderful guide named Tom. He told us about a scenic road less than 20 miles from there called the Tail of the Dragon. This 2 lane road has been famous since 1981. It is 26 miles along the borders of the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, designated Tennessee state road 115/ highway 129.

 It is 1756 feet above sea level. In Tennessee it is called the Calderwood Hwy but is referred to in North Carolina as the Topoco Road. The speed limit of 30 mph is strictly enforced by Tennessee highway patrol.  The Tennessee portion is 11 miles and has the most curves, 318. The curves have names such as Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Wheelie Hell. and Gravity Cavity.  Look for the Tree of Shame which is festooned with crashed motorcycle parts.

It starts just south of the Foothills Parkway on Tennessee 129, ride along the Little Tennessee River, overlooks the Calderwood Dam.

GPS setting is 35.555823 - 84.002377

It ends at the Tail of the Dragon motorcycle resort. in Deals Gap, 17555 Topoco Road, Robbinsville, North Carolina.

Atlanta was a 3 hour drive from Bryson City. We stayed in Kennesaw overnight, a suburb adjacent to Atlanta on the west side of town.

Note: the Georgia legislature passed a resolution this year that all hotels with a pool must install a handicapped lift and be inspected before the pool can be opened.  Don't be surprised if the pool in a place you are staying looks worse than a swamp. The key phrase is ' has to be inspeted'. This can take awhile after the lift has been installed. Therefore I will not mention the state of the pool at the places we stayed on our weekend holiday.

We stayed at the Best Wetern Kennesaw Inn
 3375 Busbee Drive, Kennesaw 30144
It accepts pets.

We had been there before and liked it.  Best Western is updating the rooms in its hotels nationwide. This one has not been updated yet. an advantage to that is it requires less points to qualify for  free stay, as little as 12,000.

If you have a Best Western member card you accumulate points for every stay. Hotels that have been updated go for upwards of 16,000 points. We were able to access the website enroute and use our points to reserve a room.

By contrast Holiday Inn requires at least 25,000 points. Not every hotel has rooms set aside for free stays and it is almost a magic trick to find a free rooom using points within an hour's drive of where you would actually like to stay plus they require you to make this reservation days in advance. I had Holiday Inn points and I traded them in on magazine subscriptions. That is what I think about staying at Holiday Inns. In fact if I was dead and being waked at a Holiday Inn before the funeral I would sit up and walk out of that place.

We dined at a great restaurant we had visited before and found it just as good as last time, so glad they were still in business.  California Dreaming was around the corner from our hotel.

745 Chastain Road
Kennesaw Georgia 30144

An entree, salad and side order is less than $20. kids meals are $7. One of the chefs had been to France and mastered pastries and croissants. You get one basted with honey, melts in your mouth, with your salad or can order a basket for $5. We usually have a rack of ribs or steak or a pasta dish, all delicious and the salad is great. No room for dessert.  There is a big wrap around porch with candles and ceiling fans for alfresco dining which we prefer.

Stone Mountain, Georgia

Stone Mountain is a quaint village as well as a park featuring the world's largest granite rock 685 feet high and 9 miles deep, 5 acres across and 5 miles around the base. It is about 40 miles from Atlanta which was about a 3 hour drive from Bryson City, North Carolina. In Stone Mountain Park there is am amusement park,a lake, a 4D theater, a laser show in the evenings, a sky tram to the top of the mountain, a Confederacy Museum about the conflict involving the Northern and Southern states between 1861-1865, 2 hotels, tent campgrounds, several nature trails, a bicycle path, a model plantation and farmyard, a quarry exhibit, a 732 bell carrillion, a railway excursion and an amphibious duck bus tour. It costs $10 per vehicle to enter the park. Day passes are $30 per person for admission to all attractions. The Sky tram is $9 for adults, $5 for children or $5.50 for one way. It is a mile & a half to walk from top to bottom of Stone Mountain. Down is the best choice by far. The view from the top was stunning. Hawks soard at eye level and nested in the pine trees. We had fun looking for the cave on the side of the mountain. The side of Stone Mountain features 3 figures representing Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis that are 90 feet high and were carved between 1910 and 1970. After riding the Sky Tram both ways we explored a beautiful nature garden trail. Many of the trees and flowers were marked with signs and the path was clearly marked. There was a shorter path for those with about half an hour marked in green and a much longer trail marked in orange. There is a closed granite quarry that is now an exhibit. It was active between 1840-1970. There were samples of granite and pictures of all stages of production and an old tool shed. We shook hands with Orion and made a solemn promise to bring him back here if he makes straight A's and let him ride every ride they have. if he doesn't make straight a's he has to bring us next time. On the way home we had lunch in Decater, Georgia at This Is It! Seafood Soulfood Barbeque Buffet, 4065 Memorial Drive, Decater. 404-292-5616. There are other restaurants in this small chain around the Atlanta area as well as in St Louis. After I looked up their website I learned we were lucky to find one of the two locations open on Sunday. It was the sweetest famiy oriented place you could hope to find, clean and neat, delicious food made from scratch, all your favorites, beautifully decorated with a friendly attentive staff. There was a banquet room so large groups could be accommodated. A display case at the end of the buffet prominently featured an open Bible and jars of their signature barbeque sauce. The barbequed chicken and ribs just melted in our mouths. I can't remember ever having anything better than that. Create your own plate was an entree and 2 sides for $14.49. Kids' plates were $5.99. The server asked the children how much they wanted & gave them only that so there was no wasted food. Choices on the line were barbequed chicken, country style ribs, chicago rib tips, smothered pork chops, baked or fried talapia, chicken wings, meat loaf, mustard greens, green beans, corn, fried rice, sweet potato souffle, cornbread and even chitterlings. Big selection of desserts included red velvet cake, key lime cake, strawberry shortcake, sweet potato pie. The napkin dispenser on our table had a card promoting something called the Amerian Hoodie Awards sponsored by the Steve Harvey radio show with awards given in 12 categories, voting via the internet between May 14-30,2012, one day for each category. This Is It! urged customers to vote for them on May 21 between 6 AM and 6 PM EDT for best soulfood restaurant and on May 24 for the best barbeque. The other categories were best High School coach May 14, best nail salon May 15, best school teacher May 15, best Car Wash/Detail Shop May 17, best chior May 18,best Barbershop May 22, best High School May 23, best Beauty Salon May 25, best Church May 29, best Community Leader May 30. It was an 8 hour drive from there back home. What a beautiful weekend we had!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kentucky, Ohio, Tennesse, Mississippi

May 20-25,2010

Preliminary research: If you will be passing through any large city with a Harrah's casino on Monday-Thursday check the web site ahead of time for 'Hot Deals' where you will find a monthly calender of room rates for the best price on accommodations anywhere. This week our room in The Terrace on the first night at Tunica, Mississippi just outside Memphis was $50 for two queen sized beds.

The day before we set out it had dropped to $30. There are five casinos operating in Tunica. Two years ago our room in the the Verandah had a Jacuzzi in the room rivaling a Caeser's Palace, Las Vegas honeymoon suite, all for just $10 a person.

I like the travel link on the home page. It is possible to browse trips others posted for recommendatios of places to stay, dine. Sightseeing locations are ranked by popularity and have a link to address, phone number, google map. has a map state by state of factories with tours. We decided to visit several in Kentucky: Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory and Maker's Mark distillery in Loretto plus Jungle Jim's Foodie Land unique supermarket in Fairfield, a suburb of Cincinati, Ohio.

Any city that is a tourist destination has its own website. was a good resource. Besides the museum in the railway terminal there was a 1920's gangster walking tour, an observation deck in the art deco Carew Towers building and a conservatory in Eden Park featuring a Japanese butterfly and bonsai exhibit. There are 12 tours including one on segways based at Fountain Square downtown which looks like alot of fun. There are 52 landmarks, 14 wineries and 11 museums if you have the time.

Our parish library has a big audio book department. I selected books on cd to listen to as we drove: Michael Crichton's last book published posthumously in 2009, a true story about real pirates, "Pirate Lattitudes". Set in 1665 Jamaica it recounted an expedition led by Captain Edward Hunter to capture a Spanish galleon, the El Trinidad. There was a great deal of description of every day life. We learned one cure for baldness at that time was to apply a paste of earthworms to the scalp.

"Nuclear Jellyfish" was Tim Dorsey's 10th book, also published in 2009. Dorsey was a former Tampa, Florida newspaper reporter. His work is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard's humorous Florida crime novels. This story featured a character who loves souvenirs, vacation travel, trivia, arcane murder techniques and is a fan of the Lynnard Skynard band.

We rose at 4 am to pack, dropped off Robert's PT Cruiser convertible at the dealership as soon as it opened to get the airconditioner repaired while we were gone. Picked up a fancy Ford Taurus rental by the airport. Thrifty Doillar charged $300 for the week and was $100 cheaper than Enterprise Leasing.

The vehicle was fitted with luxury trim, had sirius radio which we enjoyed until the six month introductory trial subscription ran out midday Sunday in downtown Cincinati.

That car had separate temperature controls for the driver and passenger, a/c vents in the back, a compass in the mirror, very comfortable seats. The door to the gas tank doubled as the gas cap so we didn't have to worry about losing it. It never got less than 30 miles to the gallon for the duration of our trip as well.

We dropped off our dog Jake at our veterinarian, Dr. Phil Thiac's for boarding while we were out of town and drove to Central Louisiana to pick up my mother.

First stop was Joe's Dreyfous restaurant in Livonia just past Baton Rouge and Port Allen on the way to Opelousas. Livonia is off Hwy 190. From there turn left onto LA 77, drive along Bayou Grosse Tete for half a mile. 225-637-2625

There is a bed & breakfast next door in a circa 1850 house. Joe's Dreyfous restaurant building was originally the general store/pharmacy/post office for a bustling farming community before the turn of the last century.

It is now open six days a week for lunch with supper hours from 5-9 pm also on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It has a buffet and is famous for it's gumbo, either seafood or hen sausage, by the cup or a huge bowl that is a meal unto itself.
The building has original wood flors and floor to ceiling wooden pharmacy display cabinets.

Theo Dreyfous came to south Louisiana from Mannheim, Germany in 1877, worked for his relatives, eventually buying the business. Hea also acquired a pharmacy degree; his framed diploma graces one wall.

The restaurant was operated by four generations of the Dreyfous family until it was sold to another couple three years ago. There is a trophy on the bar proclaiming the restaurant champion in a gumbo cook off last year.

Robert ordered the seafood gumbo. I had the hen sausage version. There was an apologetic note tacked to the menu explaining that seafood had gone up as a result of the BP Deep Horizon oil spill that summer but even so seafood is still plentiful here.

Appetizers include fried alligator tail, oysters bienville, crab cakes, boudin balls. Besides the gumbo there is crawfish bisque, etouffee and turtle soup. There is Italian, caeser and fruit salad. All manner of sandwich from cheeseburgers to poboys and steak, chicken dishes, not to mention the huge seafood combo platter.

The bar boasts six kinds of daicquiris with a two for one price special every Thursday. Our neighbors at the next table were a couple of 'ladies of a certain age' who intended to take advantage of the two for one special but found their drinks so delicious they had more rounds so it took advantage of them instead.

Robert had the bread pudding for dessert and I chose the cream brulee. Their bread pudding is orange in color and is the best this side of the bread pudding souffle from Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans. The cream brulee was perfect, cool with a crisp broiled sugar crust. All of y'all must go there right now!

The next day we saw the Corvette plant in Bowling Green. 270-745-8019.
Exit 28 off I-65, park in Lot C. Tours begin at 8:30 am, also 11:30, 12:45 and 2 pm. 87 cars are manufactured each day. The Z06 is made by hand. Models made here include the coupe, grand sport coupe, convertible, grand sport convertible. There are 300 hourly and 100 salaried employees, 48 robots with personnel in the body shop. It takes two days to build a car. 10% are sent to dealerships. The rest are already sold. For an additional $500 the purchaser can watch the car while it is being built from start to finnish. The factory photographs every step of the process and presents the new owner with a scrapbook when the car is released at a ceremony in front of the corvette museum next door. Two people collected their new cars while we were there.

Just past Bowling Green on the way to Louisville on I-65 we saw a tourist village with miniature golf, bumper boats and a dinosaur world near the exit for Rock City, Maker's Mark and Jim Beam Distilleries. We vowed to return which we did the following September.

That evening we stayed at the very nice Best Western Dixie Inn, 1735 South Stewart Avenue, Louisville. 502-449-7376

The Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory is downtown on the corner of 8th Street and Main, 800 West Main Street. 502-588-7228. Park your car behind the museum. Admission is around $10

Just down the street at the end of the block going toward the river there is a museum dedicated to boxing legend Mohammed Ali. He got into trouble with the government during the Viet Nam war era because he refused to be inducted
into the military. He said it was white people sending black people to
fight yellow people.

There is a baseball museum and gift shop at the Louisville Slugger plant. An art exhibit was set up in the gift shop through June 2010 on players of the historic Negro baseball league with paintings of greats such as Satchel Paige and Willie Mays.

The factory store sells maple bats for $85, ash bats for $54. If a bat has a signature this is a paid endorsement. There are 3 overlapping shifts from 6 am to 10pm. Our tour guide Don gave a great tour. Even on days when the factory is closed a skeleton crew mans work stations so visitors can see how bats are made. We saw a long time employee demonstrate how a bat is made by hand using callipers for precise measurement. He told us he usually sells peppers he raises in a farmer's market on Saturdays.

Louisvile Slugger has been producing bats since 1884. Before that they made butter churns. Bats are made in different styles. There were bronzed models on display in front of the building along the block for ones used by famous players such as Babe Ruth and Dr. Dot Robinson.

Lunch was nearby at Luigi's Pizza, 712 Main Street. 502-589-0005. Open 7 am-5 pm daily with 11 am-3 pm on Saturdays. Luigi came here from Puglia, Italy in 1996. His restaurant is beautifully decorated by local artists, food is wonderful and got a 5 1/2 out of a 5 star rating by local reviewers.

Our interest was picqued after viewing features on Food channel, Travel channel and a YouTube video about Jungle Jim's Foodie Land, 5440 Dixie Hwy, Fairfield, Ohio. 513-674-6000. Open 7 days a week, 8 am - 10 pm.

Jim Bonamino started selling wtermelons on the side of the road to pay for college in the late 1960's. By 1971 he set up shop on a vacant lot, was thrilled when he was able to acquire camper tops to protect the produce stahls to keep it viable.He was able to buy a closed gas station, lived upstairs over the pernmanent location of his first grocery store. The building was moved to his present location and is now the pharmacy department. 10 acres of store with 16 additonal acres for future development.

After our visit there was a press release announcing his acquisition of property in the next couty with plans to also expand to a third location after the second one is established. If all he did was furnish both of the new ones with decorations from his flagship store there would be plenty to go around.

Robert has been in management in the grocery business for 40 years. It is nothing for him to check a new store and leave within 45 minutes. He thought that would be the case this day but we were in there over six hours. It is one of the 9 Wonders of this continent.

If you visit on Monday-Friday for $5 you get a store tour with generous samples in all departments and a $2 coupon for discount on purchases. This store is part of a shopping center owned by Mr. Bonamino that has a monorail running along the perimeter which he purchased for $2 million dollars from an airport that closed. Shops include Hallmark greeting cards, a pet store and a Cici's pizza. The monrail debarks at a 10,000 square foot two story events center that is available for gala events, receptions, business meetings.

Inside the bulding there is a gardening center, a bank, a travel agency, a barber shop, a restaurant, a pharmacy, a soda fountain/ice cream parlor. There is a fish hatchery for selling live fish from acquariums. 400 live lobsters are sold daily. There is a 25 seat movie theater showing a film on the history of Jim Bonamino's supermarket. Upstairs there is a classroom with complete kitchen. We just missed a session on wine. The liquor department has home brew supplies. There are special lockers with brass nameplates to store fine wines for customers. The wines are very fine. Some are so expensive that you only hear of them and never see them at retail, such as Chateau Petrous from Romani-Conti vineyards, selling for $4,000 a bottle.

Whole boar's head was available in the pork department for $12.99. There was a whole aisle of hot sauce with a fire engine atop the shelves.

There are rooms on one side of the building for foods of each countyr. Most grocery stores have two choices of aple butter. This place has four feet of shelves devoted to it.

We stayed at a very nice Best Western just off Dixie Hwy past the interstate, the Cincinati West Inn, 11967 Chase Plaza, Fairfield Ohio. 513-825-9600

We parked in the 900 block of Vine street and walked to Carew Towers to experience the view from its observation deck. Downtown bustles on weekdays but was now deserted because it was Sunday. The only activity seemed to be a lone prostitute on parade and some drug deals waiting to happen. The public library is downtown and has a separate building for its children's division. It is open 7 days a week.There was an art deco hotel inside Carew Towers that is now part of the Hilton chain.

Union station railway terminal was built in 1931. This was the site of a ballpark for the Cincinati Red Stockings from July 5,1867 to 1870. The park was torn down in 1872. Prior to that at this location John James Audobon taught taxidermy for 6 months in 1819. Five local birds are part of his 'Birds of America" book.

In 1920 George Crab negotiated with 7 railroads using 5 stations to consolidate. The building was opened March 31, 1933 with 50,000 in attendance. It cost $41 million which converts to $430 billion in today's currency. Trains ran until 1992 although it is still an Amtrack station. The first Amtrack out of here was February 27, 1969. The original murals from the station now grace Cincinati airport.

Krohn conservatory is thre greenhouses in Eden Park, a bucolic space on the bank of the river in an upscale Victorian era neighborhood. 513-421-5707.,

Cincinati is a sister city of Hiroshima, Japan. Hiroshima sent cherry trees as a diplomatic gift during the term of President Garfield. After WWII Cincinati sent trees back to Hiroshima to start reforresting it after the war.

Monday we visted a Kroger Mega Mart, concept store Lexington, Kentucky. It had a furniture and home furnishings department. Ball bearings in the shopping cart wheels made it easier to maneuver a loaded cart. This big store had a woman manager. There was a huge organic section. Any aisle with related items normally found in a refrigerated section was installed in a 4 feet refrigerated section in that aisle. Ready to eat Jello pudding is next to the boxed gelatin on the aisle with sugar, flour and spices. Refrigerated dog and cat food is in the pet food aisle with a six pound roll of frozen sausage and chicken available plus Frosty Paws frozen dog desserts. Refrigerated liquid creamers were next to the bagged coffee section.

We stayed in a brand new LaQuinta, the Lexington South/Hamburg, 100 Canebrake Drive, Lexigton, Kentucky. 859-543-1877. It had a gorgeous heated indoor swimming pool.

It was not as easy as we had anticipated to find Maker's Mark distillery after exiting from I-65. We got lost in the middle of nowhere and that was with a gps.
At the end there was a one lane road to the property. If a delivery vehicle was on the path cars in the opposite lane had to hit the ditch. We met a tractor pulling a hay bailer and had to do just that.

Maker's Mark distillery is at 3550 Burksspring Road, Loretto, Kentucky, south of Bardstown, Kentucky. 270-865-2099.

Maker's Mark is a relatively new brand of bourbon, debuting in 1953. It is different from other bourbons because it is not rye based. The formula is 16% soft red wheat, 70% corn and 14% malted barley. There are 80 eployees.

The bourbon ages three years, barrels rotated for two more years. It is bottled at 5 yers 9 months with a maximum of 6 1/2 years. As of July 2010 Maker's 46 is an innovation where at the time it is usualy bottled it is aged an additional 1 1/2 years with French oak barrel staves that have been seared for 46 seconds. This increases the flavor and the proof up to 94.

Fans if Maker's Mark can join the Ambassador Clkub. A liquor salesman enrolled Robert in this club in 2004. Club members have the opportunity at a future date to buy part of a barrel and are notified when it is ready. Robert's barrel is number 264705. We looked it up and found it in warehouse K. 29 others have a share in this barrel.

History of the place: TW Samuels Bourbon was the family business when inherited by William Samuels IV. He joined the armed services during WWII. After the war he sold the company because he did not care for rye based bourbon due to rye imparting an umpleasant bitter quality in his opinion. He tried other lines of work but after a time admitted that what he did best was make whisky. By this time he was married. His wife Margie was instrumental in shaping the look of Maker's Mark. He bought a farm, Star Hill which had a 10 acre spring-fed lake and a failed distillery that went back to 1805, founded by Charles Burke.

Margie's original notebooks are on display in the farmhouse kitchen. Her ideas were to create a Victorian village in the Kentucky foothills. Bottles were modeled after cognac bottles. Bottle cutouts embellish shutters of the outbuildings. Buildings are painted a dark color, Derby Brown to hide mold and to make the red trim stand out.

Today the farmhouse is a museum. Black and white framed pictures of the famly on the wall are animated in various ways to make the viewer think he is hallucinating.

The Sezarac is a cocktail dating back to the early 1800's. By 1859 it was the signature drink of the Sezarac Coffee House in New Orleans. Antoine Peychaud invented it when he mixed cognac with his bitters. This drink originally also used absinthe. Herbsainte can be substituted for absinthe today. After it migrated to the Sezarec Lounge in the Fairmont Hotel they started making it with rye whisky. I thihk it would be better if they used Maker's Mark instead.

3 oz Maker's Mark
3/4 oz simple syrup
dash of Peychaud bitters
Hersainte or absinthe
lemon twist for garnish

Chill an old fashioned glass with ice cubes, set aside.
In another glass muddle simple syrup and bitters
Add Maker's Mark and ice to the glass
Dump the icecubes from the first glass
Rinse that glass with absinthe and dump the absinthe out
Strain the Maker's Mark/bitters/simple syrup into the glass that is
rinsed out,stir
Squeeze lemon twist over drink but do not drop it in the drink when served

That evening we stayed in the Best Western Carriage House,
1936 Hwy 45 By Pass, Jackson, Tennessee 877-574-2464. 877-574-2464

In Jackson there is also a little village comprised of a museum at the home of railway engineer Casey Jones, a gift shop and country style restaurant as well as a motel next to it where you can spend the night in a refurbished caboose.

The last tourist stop was Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, Hodgenville, Kentucky.
It is 110 miles north of Nashville, 12 miles west of Loretto, Kentucky. There is a very sweet town squre with a fountain and statue of Abraham Lincoln. His parent's home place was called Knob Creek Farm. They moved away before he was 3.

Hattie Howard was born in 1886, opened a place catering to people interested in the history of Abraham Lincoln there in 1936.It was sold to the county in April 2001.

Behind the museum there is a big garden with plants tyupical of settlers in the time of Abraham Lincoln's parents. Signs by the plants informed us that chamomille was good for shampoo, rosemary was used for insecticide, sage forfever, soapwart for washing lothes, lemon balm for misquito repellant, dill for colic, mustard for pneumonia and alvender as well as echinea for headach.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chattanooga, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia to Biloxi

September 17-21,2010

Jake went with us and was thrilled to go but constantly looked over his shoulder as if he were waiting for the other shoe to drop. He loves to ride in the car and was on his best behavior. I think maybe he smelled other dogs who had stayed in the hotel rooms before us although we could not smell them. From the looks of it they were the kind of dogs who had feet as big as salad plates as puppies, the sort who had been raised in a kennel that had a sign: 'Get big or get out'.

The first place we stayed was Best Western Royal Inn of Chattanooga, 3644 Cummings Highway, Chattanooga, Tennessee 423-821-6840. The owners are trying really hard here. Although it was between a railroad track and a busy highway where there was a biker convention underway our room was very quiet. They charged $10 for Jake. The room was clean but Jake was nervous as if he expected a doberman to walk around the corner from the other side of the closet ready to fight. They reserve a handful of rooms at the end of the row for people traveling with pets.The swimming pool was pristine and property very clean. The Best Western was also next to a Walmart Supercenter which had a Subway sandwich shop in it. I do not recommend dining in restaurants in Walmart.

Ruby Falls is an underground waterfall in a cave with interesting formations and is named after the wife of the man who discovered it. They have also added a park next to the site with lots of activities for kids including a zipline.

Rock City was nearby. A real estate developer acquired the land and was originally going to subdivide it into lots but ended up keeping it and turning it into a botanical garden. His wife was a big gardener and planted over 700 varieties of trees and flowers amoung the rock formations. It is gorgeous. There is a Lover's Leap with a waterfall and view of 7 states, a suspended bridge and a fairy land exhibit of Mother Goose and Grimm's Brothers figures in various tableaux that have been painted to be viewed under black light. The developer hired a young painter who was 24 to go all over the country and offer to paint farmer's barns if they could also paint an advertisement for Rock City on the roof of the barn. He started in 1932 and painted his last barn in 1972. Lady Bird Johnson's Beautify America campaign to get rid of billboards along interstates was the issue that ended this advertising venue.

There were signs posted along one trail showing the property in different decades since it opened and what the United States was like during those times, brought back happy memories for us.

Rock City was a popular success and the developer invested his profits in a new business after World War II. Mini golf courses golf courses similar to Putt Putt Golf was his idea.

We stayed at the Best Western in Kennesaw, Georgia enroute to Stone Mountain. Although they can charge for pets they did not charge us for Jake. 3375 Busbee Drive NW, Kennessaw, Georgia 30144. 770-424-7666. The staff was very friendly, room was quiet and this place had a very nice pool.

Supper was at a really good steak house almost around the corner. California Dreaming is part of a small chain which serves good food at reasonable prices. Hot rolls with the dinnner melted in your mouth. It was a balmy night and we enjoyed eating on the big patio outside. California Dreaming 745 Chastain Rd NW, Kennessaw, Georgia 300144 770-428-2055. This place was a couple of blocks from Marietta, Georgia.

Stone Mountain is a big park with a six mile road around a bald rock formation. It costs $10 for admittance. There is a cable car to the top, an amusement park, bike and nature trails, lakes, covered bridges, a grist mill, a quarry museum. Granite was milled here until 1978. Almost every state in the Union has municipal buildings built with granite from here, courthouses, post offices and banks. There are hotels available inside the park. There is a big meadow at the base of the mountain overlooking the place where the figures of General Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis and Robert E Lee on horseback have been carved into the moutain. There are laser shows on the face of the mountain in the evening. There is also a confederacy museum. A wide variety of picnic sites to choose from. Stone Mountain is a distance from Atanta and not actually in Atlanta itself, not far from the Atlanta airport.

Passing through Mobile, Alabama we stayed at a Red Roof Inn. 5450 Coca Cola Road, Mobile, Alabama 366619. 251-666-1044. They also did not charge us for Jake. It was a basic hotel, not quiet. Other guests appeared to be construction workers who left for work at 4 am. Another guest who is handicapped but too stubborn to get a handicapped sticker for his car parked in a handicapped zone and police issued hom a $150.00 ticket for that, so if you are handicapped and staying in Mobile be sure to display your parking permit.

Jake had never been to the beach so we stopped in Gulfport-Biloxi to stretch our legs. He was not enthusiastic about the birds nor the waves.

In Gulfport since Katrina there is an unfinnished furniture factory about a mile from the Canal Road exit of I-10 that has the world's largest rocking chair outside.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Natchez Mississippi cemetery

Angels on the Bluffs
November 12, 2010

"This ain't no Pease. This here is just the pod. I shelled out and went to my Heavenly reward"
eptaph on grave of John Pease

Angels on the Bluffs is an annual two night cemetery tour in an 1822 cemetery held the first weekend of November. It is very hilly and beautiful and worth a trip to see even during the daytime although the Angels on the Bluff tour is decidely more livley than any other cemetery tour you will find anywhere. Tickets are sold through the Natchez, Mississippi Tourist Center which is located next to the bridge going to Vidalia, Louisiana across the street from the Isle of Capri casino.

640 Canal Street, Natchez, Mississippi


Although it is an evening program there are several local restaurants nearby staying open to feed those with an appetite after the event: Fat Mama's Tamales and Pig Out Inn,
both on Canal Street a few blocks away. Pig Out Inn has excellent barbeque with a wonderful marinated vegetable salad for side orders. One of the walls is painted from ceiling to floor with reasons why it is great to be from the South and a photo of this has been featured in Southern Living Magzine. My best guess on the recipe for the salad is lime/basil marinade with black beans, garbanzo beans, mexican corn, hominy, cucumber, pimento, garlic, vidalia onion, celery, tomatillo, pimentos and canned mushrooms.

Cock of the Walk on Main Street was also open.

If you are there at lunchtime the best place for lunch is

Mammy's Cupboard, a restaurant in a building that
looks like a giant Aunt Jemimah on the outskirts of town
on Highway 61. Cash or checks only. If there is a full parking lot outside it is open. If not it is closed. A good souvenir from there is a cookbook. Art on the cover is a sketch of the place circa 1947
by local famous author Greg Isles. Usually open for lunch 6 days a week.

Places to stay include the wonderful Eola Hotel on
North Pearl Street a couple of blocks up. The Eola is where everyone in town has lunch in its beaugiful dining room on Sunday after church. It has a gorgeous inner courtyard with fountain and on the upper floors there are huge intimate balconies with ceiling fans on both sides of the building. The furnishings were made even more marvelous after the owner acquired the contents of the Hotel Bentley in Alexandria when it closed. After it opened in the early 1930's movie stars stayed here plus some famous generals from World War II.

The Eola also operates a Victorian bed & breakfast house by reservation.

This Victorian bed and breakfast building was orginally a wedding present from the mayor of Natchez to his son upon his marriage in 1874. The B&B is beautifully decorated with antiques in every room and if you are a guest they serve afternoon tea. Given a choice of accomodations I would definitely stay at this boutique hotel.

There are other hotels of course.
The Grand Hotel conference center next to the
Visitor center, Hampton Inn next to the bridge
and an immaculate Best Western about a mile from there.

If we had spent the night we could have gone to a big
antiques show in Woodville, Mississippi the next day
on our way home. Woodville is south of Natchez on Highway 61 and close to the state line.

Natchez is about an hour and a half north of Baton Rouge. It was a 4 hour one way trip for us coming from New Orleans.

Tickets go on sale in August and sell out fast, $20 for a guided walking tour. Buses holding about 30 people depart every 15 minutesfrom the staging area in the tourist center parking lot beginning around 6 pm. The cemetery association began this event in 1999 in order to raise money for restoration because 'perpetual care' only covers mowing the lawn. 10 tombs are selected for the presentation, with an easel holding pictures at the site and details of the person interred there are narrated by actors in period costume speaking in first person. Many are related to the subject so they look like them too. Buses debark at the gate and it lasts about an hour. The road is lit on both sides with candles in paper bags and some of the trees are festooned with tiny lights including a tunnel through a grove of huge crepe myrtle trees dripping with Spanish Moss. Our route was in the shape of a U from one gate to another.

It was a beautiful evening.The night before had been the inaugural event cosponsored by Natchez and Vidalia, the lighting of the bridge.

Tables were set up on the sidewalk of the tourist center. They were selling t shirts,
notecards, and two books about the Natchez cemetery. One was on grey paper stapled
together with black and white illustrations. The other was an excellent hard backed book
with color illustrations titled 'Legends of the Natchez City Cemetery, the Most Interesting Cemetery in the South.' The author was on hand, Mr. Don Estes. He is a retired major of the army, banker and director of the cemetery. Before he retired from that position he cofounded the Angels on the Bluffs program 11 years ago. He is available for tours by appointment. You may reach him at

He says his epitaph will read " I used to love history and now I am history."

Different tombs are featured from year to year. I don't think they have honored the same ones twice. The bus driver gave us a mini tour enroute to the cemetery, telling a bit of history as we passed antebellum and Victorian mansions plus this one shotgun house with all manner of decorations nailed or glued to the exterior. It resembled an art car. He swore it wasn't part of the tour.

We drove up Canal Street to the end, took a right and then a left into an area that was originally the first subdivision and a couple of blocks past that to one of the gates of the cemetery to begin our walking tour.

This year first stop was an empty tomb, the grave of Alfred Bernard White who was 18 when he drowned after jumping off the ferry coming back from a baseball game in Ferriday. It was a prank that backfired.

We learned that an empty tomb is called a cenotaph, that a marble slab on the ground is called a ledger, that the deceased married member of a couple is called a consort, the surviving spouse is referred to as a relict.

Actor Sam Jones played the part of James Clay White, Bernard's adoptive father who owned a billiards parlor, smokehouse and tavern. He told us about the time a couple came into the smokehouse for sandwiches and the lady did not care for
her sandwich, started complaining loudly. Her date
put down $5 on the table and they left. That was alot of money at that time so he called the police. Although the station was only around the corner they took their time investigating it.
When he called to ask what was taking them so long the desk sargeant told Mr. James that it was Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and they were waiting for them to leave town first because they didn't feel like fighting that day.

Down the road we met Anna James, a founding member of the cemetery association. It started out as a cooperative effort of all the churches in town which included the Methodists, Catholic, Baptist, Episcopalian and Presbyterian denominations. The cemetery is now 100 acres and has been expanded since it first opened with 10 acres. Anna stood with a cane in a pleasant garden,wore clothes that placed her circa 1932.
Hat with veil, gloves, tea dress and a fur stole.

We met Madame Marguerite Justin Belhomme Benoit Marchand in the Catholic section.
She was a French citizen and is buried between 2 of her 3 husbands who were also French citizens. She was a milliner with a successful hat shop when Union forces invaded Natchez and took over her shop. They staffed it with their own people and made her pay rent.She had to continue to work in it or lose it. She filed a suit against the US government after the war because she was a French citizen. It was not resolved by the time of her death. Louis Benoit, her only surviving child was born in 1852. He pursued the case through to the higher courts. He had haberdashery shops in Natchez and New York and was a state senator. The actress playing the part of Madam Marchand was played byJennie Benoit, a descendant of Louis.

Next we met the Reverand Ashley Vaughn who was pastor of First Baptist Church and founder of the Baptist newspaper. He died of complications from weak lungs at age 32. His part was played by the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Natchez, Dr. Doug Broome.

At the conclusion of his presentation a girl from New Orleans, Allison Forbes sang 'Amazing Grace' acapella across the aisle from us.

As we walked past the military burial section many graves had Confederate soldiers standing next to them. One soldier broke rank and leaned out to whisper 'boo' to an unaware passerby who had not noticed the soldiers in the dark.

Professor Samual clay Owen played by actor Ralph Jennings was next. He was the president ofNatchez College and had four sons who all became doctors. He was criticized for expanding the cirriculum of his school to include classical studies in Greek, Latin and Western civilization instead of endorsing agriculture as the only venue for former slaves at the turn of the next century. He died in 1939.

Next we heard the story of a couple who bought a mansion called The Towers in 1861. The Flemings were played by Ginger Hyland and James Wesley Forde who now own the Towers.
Mr. Fleming was a law partner in the firm of Baldwin and Fleming. The Flemings had 7 children. No sooner had the Flemings moved into their new home the Yankees set up headquarters in it since a fort was behind it. General Grant rode his horse up and down the main hallway and broke their fireplace mantle. The Yankees let the Flemings and their servants stay in the house in order for them to wait on them hand and foot. The main problem they said was putting up with the 200 German mercenary soldiers outside camped on their property.

Next we heard stories of Charles Ferriday Byrnes who was the son-in-law of the Flemings, married to daughter Roanne. Roanne was famous in her own right for being president of the Natchez Trace foundation, raising money for this project even during the Depression and knew every politician from the President of the United States on down in her day. Her husband went by his middle name and was also a lawyer. Ferriday's part was played by lawyer Rusty Jenkins who is also his great great nephew. Ferriday was short and fat and a binge drinker. He was partners with another lawyer Jim Fleming who was also a binge drinker. They got along well because they usually did not go on a binge at the same time. Once though when they were both drunk the circus was in town camped out below the bluffs. Elephants were unattended and the two guys thought it would be funny to liberate one of the elephants and take it to their favorite bar. The elephant tore that place up. This prompted the next session of the Mississippi legislature to pass a law that it is illegal to bring an elephant into a bar. Rusty said he has been with Angels on the Bluffs since the beginning and at first was given obscure roles to play that no one knew much about so he just made it all up but in the case of Ferriday Byrnes it was all true.

The last set was an outdoor piano bar at the end of the route. Terry Travato sang two songs and played singer Marion Mongtgomery accompanied by a 3 piece band with pianist Dianne Glaze. Marion Maude Runnels was from Natchez. Her father was the assistant manager of the Eola Hotel. She quit high school and went to Hollywood, spent her career singing in smoke filled bars, lounges and strip clubs.Her voice was described as a cool martini on a Savanah balconey. She performed in the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and knew Nelson Riddle, Frank Sinatra and got a recording contract with Columbia Records through the efforts of Peggy Lee. Although Miss Montgomery never smoked it is surmised that she developed cancer from the second hand smoke she was exposed to doing her nightclub act. She married and had a daughter and died in England in 2002.

I had first read about Angels on the Bluff a week after it happened in 2007. The next year I was no longer traveling on business in that area and had a job closer to home so I couldn't attend.
I subscribe to the excellent online publication of Country Roads magazine which keeps us informed on things to see and do in our area.

This week's edition came out Thursday mentioned that the Angels event was to be the next day. I phoned the tourist center only to learn that it was all sold out but they gave me 3 phone numbers of locals who were selling tickets due to guests cancelling. The second number I called said she had two tickets for Friday night. Since my daughter was going to be off work on Friday and wanted to go also I agreed to pay this nice lady for the tickets that were being held at the tourist center. As it turned out the next night's show was cancelled due to heavy rains.
Natchez cemetery also has a website for more information on this program plus details about the property:


Sunday, May 31, 2009

San Francisco to Carmel May 14-19,2009

San Francisco Streetcar
May 14,2009

Robert asked me what I wanted for my birthday. His birthday is a couple of weeks before mine so we celebrate it jointly. Last year we took a car trip to St. Louis & Memphis. I told him I wanted to fly somewhere.

He found a deal on Southwest Airlines, $99 one way to San Francisco. Normal fare is $399 per person one way. Travel section has itineraries & an option to check rates on Expedia, Travelocity, We decided to stay downtown for a couple of days. After that to rent a car to see outlying areas for 2 days, turn the car back in downtown & stay another day near Union Square. Parking in town is impossible & expensive even if you can find it at all. The cheapest rate is over $25 a day plus 25% city tax, making it around $50.

Hotel Serrano
405 Taylor/O'Farrell

Everyone who had stayed there seemed to love the Serrano, a boutique hotel owned by Kimpton which specializes in older luxury facilities. There was a charming virtual tour. Instead of $200 we were able to book for $109 on Thursday and $124 on Friday. We liked it so much that we made reservations at another Kimpton hotel nearby, the Sir Frances Drake for the last couple of days of our visit. Of the other hotels mentioned on Yahoo Travel the Larkspur seemed like a good value when we stopped by to look around.

Larkspur Hotel
524 Sutter St

It was a mistake to wait until the day before we needed it to reserve a rental car. There was a big road race on Sunday, Bay to Breakers. This was the 95th year for the 12 km race and 62,000 visitors participated in it. Enough of these runners were not locals and rented cars so that by Friday there were none available at Hertz and Alamo. Thursday the rate for rental cars was $40; it was $79 the next morning. We were able to get a Chevy Impala from the Enterprise Leasing offices in Hotel Nikko. There are extra charges if you book online or if you pick it up at one place and drop it off at another such as the airport.

222 Mason Street

We purchased Protege 2 section rolling duffle bags from
It is 30x14x16, weighs less than 8 lbs, has a handle & separate zippered bottom compartment for carrying shoes or wet swim suits. Item 157271579.

If you order it to be delivered to a store near you for pickup there is no shipping charge. Website indicates what most bought who purchased the same type item plus there are reviews of the item researched. It is a great bag.

We decided we needed new bags because our old ones would be too heavy when packed to make the weight of 40 lb per person & that we would each need a bag. This travel duffle was too big for hand carried luggage but if the other passengers all put a bag in the overhead compartment there won't be enough room so our bags would have to be checked after all.

Hand carried bags are limited to 10x16x24. Checked luggage can be no bigger than a total of 62 inches. Southwest Airlines allows 2 bags per customer if they weigh less than 50 lbs apiece. Any additional bags were $25 each. Many of the competitor airlines are charging for any bags you bring, carryon or checked. American Airlines charges $15 for even one bag.

An improvement since we last flew is that you can check in online 24 hours in advance & pirnt a boarding pass before ariving at the airport. If you are not checking a bag you go right to your gate.

I had custom luggage straps from England that have our names woven into the strap which makes it easy to find the bags on the lugage carousel, ordered it from one of those in flight magazines in 2002. 1-888-307-8727

It is a good idea to get a name tag with a clear pocket for your bags so you can make temporary name tags that can be changed out. You make double sided address labels with the destination address on 1 side & your home address on the other. You flip the label over when you fly home. If a thief reads your luggage tag at the airport he could rob your home at his leisure since you are going to be gone for a time. If your bag is temporarily misplaced it will be sent to your hotel.

Our flight left New Orleans at 10 am with a brief layover in Denver, arriving in San Francisco at 5 pm. Locals in the Denver airport wore shorts and sandals although it seemed cold outside to us.

There were neat displays of pioneer tools and a crazy quilt with sampler stitch book in the Denver airport.

Our options from the airport when we got to San Francisco were to take a Speedy Shuttle bus for $17 a person or the Bart transit for $5.35. We took the bus but if we had known that the Bart station was around the corner from our hotel we would have used that. Our driver gave us a $4 discount coupon to use on the trip back to the airport but it turned out to be with a rival service, not Speedy Shuttle.

Doorman John asked if we were the Schneiders, teasing us about what took so long to arrive from the ariport. You can play a hand of Black Jack with the desk clerk when you chek in. If you win you get a bottle of red or white wine. We had a score of 21 & chose the red, a Chilean carmeniere, Carmen wineries. The hotel has free wine tasting every afternoon from 5 to 6 pm in the lobby. They were doing the carmenire & a sauvignon blanc which we tried the next evening since we were too late for it that day. There were vintage board games on a table in the lobby such as Monopoly, Trouble & Sorry. The samples were generous for the tasting, a regular large glass of wine.

If you like the wine they are serving there is a large wine store next door to the hotel.

Our favorite concierge was Ed Gomez. He gave us a tour book & map on wine country. Sonoma is closest to San Francisco. Napa had more brands that I see at the stores in New Orleans. He was fond of the Russian River area.

Our room was just like the picture. The morning we checked out I opened the closet door for the first time, discovering these fuzzy $10 socks, lounge wear sets & leopard print terry robe. If you even tried on the robe they would charge you for it. They could tell if you had because there was a paper band on the inside waistband that tore when disturbed. The robe was made of scratchy material that I didn't care for. The bed had pressed sheets with high thread count that felt like Egyptian cotton. The room was quiet. We slept soundly.

They had complimentry supplies for guests so we had them bring us some toothpaste. I packed some new travel toothbrushes with built in toottpaste that we saw on the Today show but we needed the toothpaste after we used them the first time.

After unpacking we walked 2 blocks east to purchase a 3 day cable car pass at the downtown end of the street car line on Powell Street. The other end of it is on Beach Street in front of Fisherman's Wharf. We took the Powell-Hyde car to Fisherman's Wharf. We never did walk south of Powell as it borders the Tenderloin district. There is also a Powell-Mason cable car. Although they start at the same point & end at the same point Powell and Hyde are 4 blocks parallel to each other. We regretted later not purchasing a week pass for $24. One way is $5, 3 days is $18, a month costs $40.

It is important to watch where you sit on the street car when taking pictures. Make sure the sun is to your back for best results. Before noon sit on the left side of the car going to the Fisherman's Wharf (north); in the afternoon sit on the right side going toward downtown (south).

There was a herd of homeless panhandlers everywhere we went, looking for something for nothing & street musicians getting nothing for something.

sign: "why lie, it's for beer"

The funniest was a man by Pier 39 who had one string on his violin; the rest were flying in the breeze. He couldn't play but at least he wasn't singing. It sounded like he was stepping on kittens during a fire drill. Another guy wearing a Dalmation costume had 3 dogs wearing hats sitting on a park bench.

We ate supper at Boudin's Bakery/Museum. They pronounce it "bow deen". We told the cashiers that we pronounce that word 'boo-dan' and that it is a sausage in New Oreans. They didn't believe us. A transplanted Minesotan at the museum sales counter said they have a sausage up there like boudin made with potatoes instead of rice. Supper was their clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl, very good.

There was no restroom in Boudin's so we had to use the public facility outside. Robert told me there was a homeless drunk in the men's room trying to keep warm under the hand dryers. It was so cold that I purchased a black fleece hooded genuine San Francisco jacket for $12 from a souvenir shop near Pier 39.

harbor seals, Pier 39