Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Free Bird"

During this trip I have had so many women tell me that they would love to do what I am doing but.......
"I would be afraid to travel alone"....."I could never do all that RV hooking up and driving by myself"...."There are mean people out there"....."I would be so lonely"....I'm too old to do something like that"...."I don't have the time"...."I couldn't afford it"...."My kids would worry"...."My family would never approve".

I was talking to a woman just a day or two ago and she was fascinated by my travels. She said, "why, you are just a free bird". I loved that idea. I never thought of it quite like that, but a "free bird" I am. After so many years of being a mother,a wife, a worker and a generally responsible human bean, I have now reached a time in my life when I am a "free bird" and I intend to revel in the opportunity. I was born with "gypsy in my soul" and now is my time.

I love to travel and see what is around the next corner. I love talking to strangers and finding out how other people think and feel. Traveling alone is a very different experience than traveling with someone. Don't get me wrong. My travels with family and friends have been wonderful and I want to continue forever, seeing the world with my near and dear.

But, traveling alone opens me in ways I just don't experience when I am with friends. I talk to everyone I meet and I listen....I feel free to be just who I am with no cares about what anyone may think. I can arrive and disappear at will...no responsibilities, no concerns.....just "Jude on the go". It is a freedom I have never had in any other way. Yes, I do sometimes get lonely...but that is a good thing too. I gives me a chance to appreciate all the love and joy I experience with my family and friends.

Being alone on the road is also a time to spend with myself in ways I can't do at home. I am not thinking about what I should be doing. I am present in the moment and according to Oprah, that is a very good thing. Ha, Ha. I have to agree. The moment is what I am living out here in traveland.

So I tell all those women that say they envy me to "just do it". Don't be afraid. The "God of women traveling alone" is all around and taking care of us all. As long as I am healthy, curious, and able to keep filling the gas tank and collecting air miles, I will be a "Free Bird".

Give me wings and wheels and a willing heart....as life's next journeys are about to start". See you on the road.

Whoops, my Asheville post left some things out

So I'll try again. What I was saying is that Asheville has evolved into a modern city with all the galleries, music venues, historic neighborhoods, and scenic beauty without losing the past. I really love it. The people are friendly, polite and interesting. I have to say that I have been "Mam-ed" to distraction. I have also had a teenage boy offer to help me carry my groceries to the car, had doors opened for me and been shown much kindness and consideration.

My only sadness came when we suffered through two days of High Alert regarding air quality. I couldn't believe that such a thing could happen in the mountains of NC.
It seems however, that the TVA still uses coal to fire their power plants and that combined with the usual suspects is poisoning the air. It is worse the higher up you go and the wildlife and plantlife are suffering. There is much attention being paid locally and folks are working to improve the situation. What are we doing to our planet??

I do realize that my SUV pulling a travel trailer is not helping. I guess I had better clean up my own act before I point too many fingers. I just never considered I would have trouble breathing in the Mountains of North Carolina.

P.S. The town is plastered with OBAMA 2008 signs.

Some words about Asheville, Appalachia and NC

I have read so many books about Appalachia and the Mountains of North Carolina that I have wanted to visit this area for years. It is all I hoped to find. Asheville is a charming town that seems to have evolved in a way that honors the past and

The Biltmore Estate

Yesterday I spent six hours at the Biltmore Estate. What a magnificent place. 8,000 acres of land and 12,000 square feet of luxury living. We were not allowed to take pictures of the interiors but I did buy a DVD of the tour so I can revisit. I intend to share this with my sister Lolly. She wanted so much to see this amazing place. The DVD will be the next best thing.

Today my legs are feeling the many stairs and steps of the tour. The house does have an elevator but I trudged up and down unaided. Good practice for my bionic hip.
They said that George Vanderbilt had this estate created before he married and wanted it to be a self-sustaining venture. There is a winery (it was a dairy farm originally), a farm that raises much of the food used by the Estate and wonderful country (8,000 acres) to explore and appreciate.

The Estate is still privately owned by the ancestors of old George and was opened to the public in the 1930's. I would say to anyone, "don't miss the opportunity to tour this fabulous place". The pictures don't do it justice.

P. S. Just so you know, I have not lost my leg....just the way I was standing in the picture.

My Place on the River, Asheville, NC

I'm staying at Wilson's Riverfront RV Park. Nothing fancy but all I need and a lovely spot on the French Broad River. I even had some visitors from Canada. See them on the River....swimming in formation. These Geese know how to travel in style.

The beautiful Smokey Mountains

Finally, I am out of the crazyness and finding the beauty of the Smokey Mountains. The drive through the mountains on Hiway 441 was wonderful. These are the pictures I took. Peaceful and lovely.

I arrived in Asheville, North Carolina on Monday and am still here. I love it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Disneyland in the Smokeys

Help!! I drove 225 miles yesterday from Nashville to Pigeon Forge, not realizing that I was going to an area that makes Branson look like a rest stop. It took me almost an hour to go 5 miles due to bumper to bumper traffic from Sevierville to Pigeon Forge. The first campground I went to (from my Passport America book) looked like the set and cast from Deliverance. I quickly regrouped and ended up at the Twin Mountains campground in the middle of Pigeon Forge. OK place, centrally located to a "Disneyland" version of the Great Smokeys. Today I drove to Gatlinburg hoping to find something authentic. No such luck. I finally took a backroad and happily got lost in the mountains and met some local people and even managed to buy tomatoes off the vine from a farmstand. Thanks to my GPS, I did find my way back to the campground with a minimum of difficulty. (Thanks again Dan)

Tomorrow I am leaving this ZOO and taking Hiway 441 across the Smokey Mtns. to North Carolina. I guess this development and commercialization has been good for the mountain economy, but the resulting Circus does nothing for me. I came to the Tennessee Smokeys thinking I would find some authentic mountain music and local culture. Call me naive....I'm sure it is still here somewhere and I hope to stumble upon something real soon. Tonight I will enjoy a fresh, local tomato and listen to my own mountain music CD. That may be as good as it gets here. Sorry, no pictures....couldn't find anything I wanted to remember.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Nashville...Country Music Nirvana

I'm still in Nashville...can't seem to tear myself away. Sandy flew home on Wednesday...boo-hoo. Our last days were spent in downtown Nashville at the Hampton Inn. A little upgrade in our surroundings and a real bed for my friend. I have to confess, the guilt got to me over the sleeping arrangements in Ms. Capri. Sandy was a super, good, sport, but spent her nights on the floor on top of 3 inches of foam. The sleeping bunk in Ms. Capri just didn't do it. makes great storage but you would have to bee a small child of about 60 pounds to be comfortable up there. I need to figure out how to improve the sleeping thing or run the risk of always traveling alone.

Nashville was fun, fun, fun. We spent one whole day at the Country Music Hall of Fame. What a fabulous place for a country music fan like me. The displays were amazing, lots of history....lots of music....costumes, etc. The pictures don't do it justice.

We also did a little "honkey tonking" on Broadway. The great thing for us was that live music starts early in the day and goes on and on. We managed to bar hop, eat dinner and still be in our "jammies" and real beds by 8PM. The days of late night partying are long gone, but we do love those in house (in bed) movies. I have to say, we heard more talent (for free) on Broadway in Nashville then they have in all of Branson.

After Sandy left, I moved out to the Opryland area. I'm staying at a KOA. I vistied the Grand Old Opry museum and the Opryland Hotel. I didn't go the the Opry because I had been there in 1987 and there is no way I could top that visit.

Tomorrow I am pulling out and heading for the Great Smokey Mountains. Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Graceland Pictures

Here are most of the pictures I took at Graceland. I decided to give them their own segment. Enjoy.


Finally, I have been to Graceland, and it does not disappoint! I don't know where to start. The King "lives at Graceland". I was blown away by all I saw. The award walls, the costumes, the music. It all came back to me...how much Elvis had impacted my life. I was 14 years old when I hear him the first time and I gave him my teenaged heart. I would suggest that anyone who loved Elvis should go to Graceland. I swear his "essence" is still there. I felt him and wanted to listen to his music over and over again. Yep, I'm just like all those other middle aged women that fell in love with Elvis and never got over it. Lucky me....it could have been Prince!!!!!

Through the Ozarks to Camden, TN.

Since we left Branson earlier than we expected, we gained a couple days of "camping time". We drove south through the Ozarks to Kentucky Lake in Camden, TN. I loved the Ozarks....such beautiful, green hills and trees and lots of water. We ended up at a campground on Kentucky Lake. We saw how fresh water pearls are made and enjoyed two nights of being outdoors and in a beautiful place. The only glitch was the Class of 1968 reunion party. They held it at our campground complete with rock and roll band into the wee hours. Next day however, was quiet and lovely. During the Class of '68 party we experienced a dramatic thunder and lightning storm, very exciting.

These pictures show how beautiful our space was. The sunsets were amazing. Lots of resting, reading and relaxing....then we headed out for Nashville.