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April 26th, 2011 | in Friends | Leave a comment

On Monday, Jim and I into Dollywood with Pete & Lorraine. What wonderful people, they supplied us with free tickets to get in, they work there during the summer. They pretty much know the park inside and out, though Jim and I had been there 11 years ago, in October of 2000. It’s changed but it hasn’t, the same as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

 

We checked to see what shows we available and what we could fit it. We got to see three shows, bang, bang, bang right after we walked in. First it was “Zambian Vocal Group” and they were excellent. They come from different tribes but harmonize wonderfully. Next was “Samaia – legend of the Caucasus“, singing and dancing from the Country of Georgia. It was very interesting but kinda was putting us to sleep (ballet ;), and then “Drum!”, the story of melding the various ethnicities of Nova Scotia. It was great! In the Drum picture below, look to the far left, there is a guy in a kilt, he played the drums, the bagpipes, uilleann pipes, and has the arms to prove it!

 

After the shows, we grabbed a bite to eat in one of the many eateries in the park. After a great lunch, we needed to walk some of it off and it doesn’t take long, the park is built on a hill, so you are going up and down depending on what part of the park you wanted to see. We rode the Dollywood Express, a short train ride with a 110-ton coal-fired steam engine. We even got the soot on us to prove it :) Jim, Pete & I rode 3 rides, all some type of roller coaster. They were a lot of fun, I love those kinds of rides. The water park, Splash Mountain was not open yet, though it was a perfect day for it. There was still plenty of water in the park if you wanted to cool off, but we steered clear of those rides. Last, but not least, Jim and I toured Dolly’s retired 45′ Prevost RV. She has a newer one that she is currently using. It was pretty darn fancy, but not as fancy as you would expect. It could drive from Nashville, TN to LA, California on ONE tank of gas! I don’t think I would want to fill that tank.

 

 

 

It was a great day with Pete & Lorraine, thanks for the fun!

April 24th, 2011 | in National Parks, Scenic | Leave a comment

It’s Easter Sunday and what a better way to enjoy it than in the great outdoors. Jim and I wander back into the Smoky Mountains to hike along the Porter Trail. We don’t do the whole thing, but just until we are ready to turn around. If we did the full round trip, it would be 7.2 miles, but we are saving ourselves for a different hike later in the week. We might have done 3 miles total. Enough to meet some really nice people and see some beautiful scenery.

 

As we were walking, I always chat with people that are taking pictures like they know what they are doing. I chatted with one lady about what she had found and she mentioned Pink lady’s slippers! Wow, I want to see those, she tried to explain where they were, but alas, Jim and I were not that good. We were close to the area when we ran into another couple, Ron & John (locals), and they walked us right to them! It was very exciting because they are hard to find and there were about 10 of them in a small area. You will see several pictures of them if you take the time to watch the picture “movie”. Thanks Ron & John!

 

 

It was a glorious day, in the low 80’s, perfect hiking weather. We got home and had a nice little happy hour and then dinner. Now I am busy blogging 😉

 

Hope you all had a great Easter Sunday and didn’t eat too much chocolate (is there such a thing?).

 

toodles…

April 24th, 2011 | in Friends | 2 comments

Pete & Lorraine came through again! This time, tickets to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner show. We partaked of this extravaganza on Saturday night, the 23rd. We had tickets for the 8:30 pm dinner show, but needed to be there for the “pre-show” at 7:15 pm for good seats. We watched the Mountain Rukus in the Carriage Room before we went into the main arena where we would watch the show and eat our dinner without any utensils :)

 

Here we come Dixie Stampede

Here we come Dixie Stampede

 

Southern Belle waiting to say Hi :)

Southern Belle waiting to say Hi :)

 

I want a dress like this

I want a dress like this

 

They asked for people to not take Audio, Video or Pictures during the shows, but as you know, you can find anything on YouTube. Here is a video of “kinda” what it is like at Dixie Stampede, but mostly I wanted you to see “Mountain Rukus”. Those guys are really talented.

 

 

After watching Mountain Rukus, we move into the main room, we have seats up at the top with actual chairs (thank goodness, Lorraine, you done good). We are on the “Southern” side, because it is the North vs the South. We win this one 😉  The dinner menu was actually pretty darn good: creamy vegetable soup, cheese biscuit, full cornish game hen, slice of pork loin, 1/2 roasted potato, 1/3 ear of corn, and an apple turnover for dessert. Pretty easy to eat with your fingers and still enjoy the show.

 

waiting for dinner to show up on my plate

waiting for dinner to show up on my plate

 

I loved the horses, they even had live bison. It was worth seeing at least once, I bet the Christmas show would be fun to see too.

 

Thank you again, Pete & Lorraine for taking us along on this adventure!

 

April 22nd, 2011 | in National Parks, Scenic | Leave a comment

I was able to drag Jim away from his PC for a few hours this afternoon, we went for a short 2.5 mile round-trip hike to Laurel Falls. I decided to see how it was packing my new DSLR with me, but just in case, I had Jim carry the old stand-by point & shoot. I think I got a few good pictures, I really like the wildflowers. I tried a few manual settings on the smaller waterfalls (“the sink” and Meigs) to see if I could make a difference, but I guess I didn’t get it quite right yet. The flowers though, I did those with auto and with a built in scene mode of “blossom”. I doctored all the pictures using Photoshop Elements 8.

 

After leaving Laurel Falls, we went looking for 2 small waterfalls that were along the main drive located just down the road. We found the first one, “the sink” just fine, but it took us a couple of tries to find Meigs Falls. I love waterfalls, sorry if you get tired of them 😉 On the way home, we stopped at an old school house on the “Walker Sisters” property. There is an old cemetery in front of the school (I took pictures, but decided not to share). It was very sad, lots of tombstones for infants and young children. What a hard life, even in the late 1800’s.

 

Well, here is what you have been waiting for, I did the pictures in a movie format again, it’s out on youtube…

 

 

I hope I don’t have shin splints tomorrow 😛

April 22nd, 2011 | in National Parks, Scenic | Leave a comment

Just to get you started, here is a quick look at one of the small waterfalls that ais running into the Little River that I hiked along for half of the hike.

 

 

More pictures coming soon, I just need to get them edited :) ok, now they are edited and I went for a “movie” style since I could not wittle down the number enough!

 

 

This was a 5.5 mile round trip hike, it was suppose to be easy, which it really was, but my calves are talking to me this morning. I haven’t done much in the way of walking/hiking in quite sometime and what I have done has been relatively flat. There was definitely some incline going over the “gap”, and I definitely feel it this morning. There were wildflowers galore and for the first half of the hike, you walked along the Little River. You got to listen to the water running over lots of rocks and there were a lot of people on this part of the hike. Once you turn off this really easy part to Cucumber Gap trail, you start the gentle incline and head away from the river. You start to hear all of the song birds and the staccato sound of a pileated woodpecker. This part of the hike I was all by myself and loved it! It was like walking through an outdoor cathedral with all this amazing nature. I was on the look-out for bears, but alas, no other wildlife to account for other than birds, butterflies, squirrels and the one snail :)

 

The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is the only park that there is no entrance fee! You need to explore this park, it has so much to share; nature, history, color, sound, and beauty. Come on down, we will be here for another week!

 

April 21st, 2011 | in Friends | Leave a comment

You meet the nicest people square dancing! One of those couples, Pete & Lorraine, work at Dollywood during the summer, when they are not in Texas dancing. It’s another perk coming to the Great Smokey Mountains Nat’l Park, we get to visit with Pete & Lorraine.

 

They are being very generous with their time and perks, they took us to see the show Country Tonight. We went over to their trailer to visit, enjoyed a bottle of Lenne wine, went to dinner at the Smokey Mountain Brewery (yup, again, we liked it that much) and then off to the show we went. I was hesitant, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was very surprised at the quality of the singing. Right before the curtain opened, we heard a couple of big booms and then the rain hit the roof! The thunder was loud, as was the rain as it hit the roof, but only for a second or two and it was over before it really got started.

 

I love Country/Western music, so it was right up my alley. It was a 2 hour show and I enjoyed every minute of it.

 

Tidbit: Melinda, one of the main singers was a contestant on the tv reality show, Survivor – Panama. How fun is that?

 

another storm brewing

another storm brewing

 

heading into the show

heading into the show

 

Jim, Lorraine & Pete

Jim, Lorraine, & Pete

 

Thanks Pete & Lorraine!!!

 

April 21st, 2011 | in National Parks, Scenic | Leave a comment

My first foray into the the Smokies (this trip, we were here in 2000 also) is for a quick hike (2.5 miles RT) up to Grotto Falls and back. Jim was busy working and I kinda slept in, so I found a hike that was short and easy. I also had to be back in time to meet up with some friends for dinner and a show (more on that later).  There were lots of people on the trail, couples as well as families. If you know me, I like to take pictures of waterfalls and animals. I am now adding wildflowers to that list, but I am not very good at them yet. I used my point & shoot Nikon for these pictures and doctored them a little, but with the lighting and the time of day, they are what they are. I hope to do a car tour soon so that I can use my DSLR (and if I am lucky have better pictures ;).

 

So I am sharing a few pictures, click on the picture and it will take you to Picasa. You can look through each picture or click on slideshow and watch them go by.

 

Grotto Falls hike in the Great Smokey Mountains Nat’l Park

 

chat with ya’ll soon!

 

 

We made it safe & sound to Pigeon Forge, TN from Memphis. We haven’t been in this neck of the woods since 2000. It sure has changed! We are parked down the road from the main drag of Pigeon Forge, nice park, no road noise. Once we got here after 6 hours of driving, we just parked and settled. Yesterday was all about laundry, dishes, and other pink items that needed doing. Now that I am mostly caught up, we took the afternoon to start our adventures.

 

This adventure was about 3 local wineries (all owned by the same group) and the local brewery. We did a little shopping in between :)

 

Rocky Top Wine Trail:

 

They had a gamut of wines to try, all the tastings were free. Each winery has at least 4 dry wines, then they go into the semi-sweet and then sweet. The south loves their sweet wines, that is what they sell the most of. The Merlot at Hillside is made from grapes from Oregon and wasn’t that bad (but I didn’t buy any). I did buy a dry white at Mountain Valley and a brut sparkling at Hillside. There was a LOT of wine walking out the doors. All three wineries had huge gift shops and had some of the same stuff, but quite a bit that was different. I could have stayed a long time just to look through it all. I did buy some of my favorite wine stoppers.

 

Mountain Valley Winery

Mountain Valley Winery

 

Apple Barn Winery

Apple Barn Winery

 

Hillside Winery

Hillside Winery

 

Gift shop & tasting room in Hillside

Gift shop & tasting room in Hillside

 

The Apple Barn Winery is part of a huge complex that included a restaurant, Cider Mill, and a Creamery. It was very busy, the parking lot was pretty full and there were several buses.

 

We headed over to the Tanger Mall so that I could look for a few clothing items that I needed (always need something) and then finally decided it was time to try the brewery.

 

Smokey Mountain Brewery is pretty big, they have several restaurants in Knoxville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. We tried the Pigeon Forge brewery and restaurant, it is where all the beer is actually made.  We got a taster of 6 of the beers, 2 seasonals: Bock & Stout, then 4 of the regulars: a red, porter, brown and pale ale. We really liked the stout, bock & pale ale. I would go back again. Besides, the food was really good!

 

Outside Smokey Mountain Brewery & Restaurant

Outside Smokey Mountain Brewery & Restaurant

 

the beers that we tasted

the beers that we tasted

 

happy beer tester :)

happy beer tester :)

 

In fact, I liked the pale ale so much, I would really love to get the recipe. It had just the right hops! I had a reuben sandwich for dinner w/fries (bad, bad, me) and Jim had their signature sirloin steak. They were both wonderful and would recommend anyone to try them out.

 

Now, I am really full and have this post done. Time to get ready to see who gets kicked off of DWTS! Until later…

April 16th, 2011 | in Food | Leave a comment

The other reason why we decided on visiting Memphis was to try lots of Memphis style Bar-B-Que. Boy, howdy, did we ever! I put a list together by searching for the best BBQ of Memphis and we got to enjoy 5 of those places.

The styles were similar, we tried everything dry (they all had their own type of rub), tried a little of the BBQ sauce at each place. Our favorites were Central & Cozy Corner. All served pork ribs, but at Neely’s, you had your choice of both pork & beef. Most of them will ship their ribs directly to you at home for a price.

We usually bought a slab and shared the meal, with trying to much BBQ, didn’t want to over do it. At Neely’s though, we each bought a short rack, one of pork & one of beef. At Cozy Corner, I wanted to try the Cornish Game Hen, but they were out. So I tried their pork sandwich instead. It was very good. I did try their ribs too, I stole one of Jim’s :)

 

Blues City Cafe

Blues City Cafe

 

Blues City Cafe Slab

Blues City Cafe Slab

 

Happening Beale Street

Happening Beale Street

 

want to take a ride?

want to take a ride?

 

Central BBQ

Central BBQ

 

Central BBQ: slab & homemade chips

Central BBQ: slab & homemade chips

 

local brewery, Ghost River

local brewery, Ghost River

 

Charles Vargo's Rendezvous

Charles Vargo's Rendezvous

 

Rendezvous slab

Rendezvous slab

 

Neely's Bar-B-Que of Food Network fame

Neely's Bar-B-Que of Food Network fame

 

Neely's beef & pork 1/2 slabs

Neely's beef & pork 1/2 slabs

 

Cozy Corner

Cozy Corner

 

Cozy Corner 1/2 slab & pork sammie

Cozy Corner 1/2 slab & pork sammie

 

None of the restaurants are in fancy digs, actually, most of them are pretty dingy. Rendezvous is in a basement. But, you are there for the food, and the food is worth trying.

 

We had some time after we ate at the Rendezvous, so we quickly went over to The Peabody Memphis to see the famous ducks (click on the link to see their history).

 

 

 

last, but not least, found this at one of the restaurants on Beale Street 😉

Irish Diving Goat

Irish Diving Goat

 

 

April 16th, 2011 | in RV'ing Lifestyle | Leave a comment

One of the reasons why we stopped in Memphis was to tour Graceland. I am not a huge Elvis fan, but do enjoy some of his music, love his gospel. I admit, I did watch his movies as a kid. The enterprise of “Graceland” takes up a lot of space, Heartbreak Hotel, RV park, shops, restaurants, car museum, and of course, his actual home, Graceland. But the home is not as big as one would expect. You get to tour the main level and the basement along with the out buildings, but they have left the upper level private for the family.

 

It was interesting to see the decorations, left as Elvis had them done over the years. The racquetball court (who knew?) has been converted into a trophy room as other buildings have also. To see all the awards, gold & platinum records, one of his grammy awards, was eye opening. You hear about it, but you really don’t understand it until you see it up close and personal.

 

You are allowed to take pictures, just not use a flash, so some of the pictures are a little dark. This is only a few, but it’s well worth the tour at least once (unless you make the pilgrimage for the anniversary of his birth or death).

 

getting ready to enter the "mansion"

getting ready to enter the "mansion"

 

the living room & music room

the living room & music room

 

the jungle room

the jungle room

 

the billards/game room

the billards/game room

 

back side of Graceland mansion

back side of Graceland mansion

 

Love Me Tender gold album

Love Me Tender gold album

 

Elvis & Priscilla's wedding clothes

Elvis & Priscilla's wedding clothes

ex-racquetball court, now awards room

ex-racquetball court, now awards room

 

rhinestones, lots of rhinestones

rhinestones, lots of rhinestones

 

meditation garden where family is buried

meditation garden where family is buried

 

front of the mansion

front of the mansion

 

pink cadillac in car museum

pink cadillac in car museum

 

the Lisa Marie, private plane for touring

the Lisa Marie, private plane for touring

 

Elvis's own wine label and wine cellar

Elvis's own wine label and wine cellar