October 26, 2003

We entered Washington DC by commuter train, similar to Greater Vancouver's Skytrain - that sped along above ground level, at ground level and as a subway into Union Station.  The plan was to take a bus tour of the city.  That was the plan, but upon arrival discovered none of the tour operators were running because so many of the streets were blocked off for the Washington Marine Corp. Marathon Run.  Not to be deterred on this cloudy but  dry and pleasantly warm day .....  we walked .... and walked. 

 

We started at Union Station (gorgeous) ...

walked over to the Capitol Building ...... along National Mall  (framed by Constitution Avenue on the north and Independence Avenue on the south) .....

to the Washington Monument passing the National Gallery, National History Museum (looks like a red brick castle), 
the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum -  all  huge and beautiful buildings.  A new monument in the making,  commemorating WWII  (pictured right),
... brought us to the east end of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  The Reflecting Pool was empty (because of construction work on the new monument) so we walked down the centre of it all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.  If people ask, "Did you walk in the water", we can say yes because there were some mud puddles and we purposefully walked in them so we could be sassy!  

  

Lincoln Memorial with the huge statue of Lincoln sitting on a chair contemplating the future of a troubled nation was every bit as wonderful as you see in movies .... even more so. 

 

We took the time to just sit on the marble stairs gazing down the Mall to the Capital Building and contemplated on being in Washington DC.  

Before leaving, we stood where Martin Luther King made his "I have a dream.." speech.

 

From there we walked to the Vietnam Memorial. 

So many names ... each one a tragic loss to their family and friends and comrades in arms.

Some would kneel and pray, others would lovingly rub a gentle finger over a name as if to renew contact with a lost loved one. 

So many visitors .... so quiet.

Two statues stood close by.  One for the Vietnam veterans that "shared the experience" and another a woman's memorial for more than 11,000 women who serviced in the military in Vietnam.

 

Then on to the White House,

past the Treasury Building, where Terry compared the statue of Hamilton to his likeness on the ten dollar bill, the FBI buildings and back to Union Station. 

The walk from the Capital Building along the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial is 2.5 miles, so the round trip is 5 miles .... then add on the side trips it makes for a pleasant day of discovery and a great walk.  The subway brought us back to the 10 minute walk to our accommodations. 

October 27, 2003

Back to Washington DC and took a narrated tour.  It rained most of the day.  The only time we were outside was when we visited the John F. Kennedy  and family (wife Jacqueline and two of their children) grave site with the eternal flame.  
Near by, on the hillside was the grave site of his brother, Robert Kennedy, which by his own wishes is marked with a simple white cross.  

Being in Arlington Cemetery .... means we were in Virginia today ... and we will be again tomorrow as we continue our drive south. 

We finished off the day with a lengthy visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  One can not begin to list the items contained within ...  Charles Lindberg's " The Spirit of St. Louis", the Wright brother's "Kitty Hawk", John Glenn's Mercury capsule, the module that carried Neil Armstrong and crew to, and back from, the moon and on and on and on.  
We even touched a piece of rock from the moon.   Terry was fully immersed and was disappointed when they announced the museum's closure for the day.  
October 28, 2003

Headed south.   We stopped in a charming town call Occoquan.  "Occoquan" is a Dogue Indian word meaning "at the end of the water."  The river location made Occoquan a natural site for water-borne commerce from the earliest days of Virginia.   A state mail route ran through Occoquan as early as 1805 and the post office here became the main delivery point for mail between the North and South. The town also served as winter quarters for Confederate forces in 1862.

The town now promotes it's "spirited" history with walking tours.  Some ghostly activities in some of the houses include such antics as rearranging items, unscrewing light bulbs, lighting candles, chasing kids and whispering.

As well as visiting their tourist centre, we took time to stroll through some of the shops and admire a cooperative art gallery.

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As we drove along Virginia's country highways (not the super freeway) we saw a sign for a restaurant called "Home Place".  We thought it was "just off" the road but soon found ourselves making turns this way and that.  Persisting ... because we had no particular place to go and no time schedule to meet ... we finally went down a lane way and found a sign saying, "Thanks for not giving up .... Home Place Restaurant".   

At a table by the window, overlooking a little lake, ducks and squirrels we ordered soup and hushpuppies - a sort-of-dumpling-donut-ball with peppers and onions.  The soup was spicy enough to make the mouth tingle .... but not enough to turn away. 

As we travel, we take advantage of the help given through Welcome (Visitor) Centres.  Some of these roadside oasis are most attractive .... and through the southern US, we noticed that many  are styled as if an area home ..... both outside and in the main room.  

October 29, 2003

Left Durham, North Carolina going south on Hwy 85 and stopped in Thomasville, home of the furniture manufacturer. 

The Thomasville landmark, a thirty foot replica of a Duncan Pyfe armchair, has held the distinction of being called the world's largest chair (although others larger in size have been built elsewhere.)  

Lady in tourist centre wanted to visit and extend southern hospitality.  Not wanting to offend, it took us awhile to extract ourselves and drive over to the Thomasville factory outlet.  There we wandered through a warehouse of Thomasville furniture -  some one of a kind proto-types, some discontinued lines and others that where perhaps produced with the wrong finish or wrong material .... pricing was attractive.  No.  No purchases from this traveling duo.  

On to South Carolina where we stopped at the Visitor Centre and then into Spartanburg for an ice cream and to "water the horses".  There we decided to head north again through the backwoods into North Carolina to catch the Appalachian Mountains.  Stayed in Morganton.  

October 30, 2003

"Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning ..." ~how true that tune was as we began a new day of traveling in North Carolina.  The skies blue, the sun bright and a most suitable song on our lips.  We headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway and a scenic drive through Pisgah National Forest.  The foothills were dressed in colourful fall foliage.

Wild rhododendrons framing the winding country road, we imagined would make for a colourful show in May and June.   So many viewpoints.

We turned off the parkway to drive up Mount Mitchell.  From the parking lot where they have bathrooms, snack bar and a souvenir shop, we hiked the last part to the top.   Part way up a sign let us know we were standing at the 1 1/4 mile point above sea level. The summit of Mount  Mitchell, elevation 6,684 feet, is the highest point in the US east of the Mississippi.  A part of the Black Mountain range, this peak was named for Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a scientist who explored and studied the heights of the Black Mountains.  The mountain was also know as Black Dome because the spruce and fir on its peak are darker than  trees on surrounding mountains ... so from a distance, Mount Mitchell appears to be black.  
The Black Mountain range, a portion of the Appalachian chain, rises to the height of Mount Mitchell and contains six of the ten highest peaks in the eastern US.  The range is "J" shaped with the distance between its end points a mere fifteen miles.  The Black Mountains are made of igneous and metamorphic rocks.  Once loftier and more rugged, these mountains have been worn by wind, water and other forces of nature to a more subdued profile.  The erosion resistant qualities of these ancient rocks account for some of the interesting shapes found in the Appalachian chain.
For at least a century people have journeyed to the summit of Mt. Mitchell to enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and forests.  Prior to 1915, the bravest of explorers scaled a rather sparse tripod tower to see the view, then around 1915 a wooded observation tower was constructed in an attempt to attract tourists to the site.  At that time it was a one mile hike to the top from a passenger railroad line.  When in 1922 an automobile road was built it increased greatly the number of visitors, resulting in a more solid structure being built.   The present tower was completed in 1960 and providing a safer stairwell and larger observation deck. 
From the summit the view takes in the Feldspar Mines.  The Spruce Pine area of Mitchell Country is renowned for its gems and minerals.  
We could see the open mine from which some of these minerals are excavated.  These mines produce 62% of the feldspar used in the US for dishes, pottery, glass and porcelain.  They also produce 93% of the world's processed high quality quartz which is used for computer chips, halogen lights and semi conductors. 
On the way down to the car we veered off the main trail and took the "Balsam Trail".  Named for the aromatic fir trees that dominate the three-quarter mile pathway,  it traveled along the top ridge and zigzagged through a spruce-fir forest, eventually coming out on the east side of the summit area parking lot.  The spruce-fir forest exists only at elevations above 5,500 feet and contains plants and animals that are adapted to cool, moist conditions.   Some of the plants and animals living in Mount Mitchell's forest are found over much of the state.  Others, however, are the same as (or close relatives of) those found in the spruce-fir forests of New England or southern Canada.

Along the way information boards informed us of the flora and fauna.  For example, Lichens ... they are a unique combination of two distinct life forms, an alga and a fungus.

The algae, which can photosynthesize, contribute food; the fungi furnish water, shade and structure.   The lichen growth is dense on Mt. Mitchell.  Lichens thrive in stressful conditions such as extreme cold and drought.  In addition, the continuous high humidity from fog here provides an ideal growing environment for them.  These and other species of lichens covered trees and rocks along the trail.  What variety are they?  There are 13,500 to 30,00 species of lichens, coming in a variety of sizes, shapes, colours and textures.  This one was so pretty it seem to call for a photograph. 
Leaving Mt. Mitchell, we continued through the Appalachians along the Blue Ridge Parkway.   The car filled with verbal oooohhhs and awwwhhhs as we turned each corner 
or came through a tunnel and saw another marvelous sight of fall colours.

As night came upon us, we bit by bit remembered the words to Chattanooga-Choo-Choo which includes, "nothing could be finer than to have your ham in eggs in Carolina.  When you hear the whistle blowin' eight to the bar, then you know that Tennessee is not very far.  Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep a goin' ....".  We could hear Dad and Aunt Ada singing the rest of the song ... and starting at the top again!  

We crossed over into Tennessee, making a quick stop at a quintessential Tennessee Welcome Centre and then called it a night in Knoxville and with high speed internet access, were able to post more of our journaling to the web site.

October 31, 2003 ~ Hallowe'en

They seem to go in for Hallowe'en in a bigger way down here ~ lots of decorations. 

In some towns and even on some buildings the Hallowe'en decorations are mixing with Christmas decorations. 

Yep.  

Christmas decorations strung on wire over roadways and garlands hanging from hotel balconies ~ and Hallowe'en just here and Thanksgiving yet to come.
Taking a step ... no a leap ... towards "ticky-tacky" we had to drive through Pigeon Forge ~ home of "Dollywood" on our way to Hwy 411 South ~ the scenic drive along the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains heading south-west towards Chattanooga ("Pardon me boy ...." Start that singin' again!)

When we reached Englewood (just east of Athens) the decision was made to bypass Chattanooga and cross over into Georgia just north of Dalton.  We'd been to Atlanta, Georgia before (and thoroughly enjoyed our time there - lots to see, lots to do and lots of history).

 

Continue to November 1, 2003