We met Michael and Gini on our Antarctica trip just over five years ago.  Of course, like most people you find an affinity with on vacation, they invite you to come by if you are ever in the neighborhood. Well, we eventually got to Hilton Head, South Carolina on our trip around the U.S, and gave them a call.  Unfortunately, Michael was away on an elk hunt, but Gini was home and welcomed us to their beautiful home on Spring Island near Hilton Head.

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We were parked at Hilton Head RV Park and Marina on the marina and it was hot. We toured the island after getting set up and went to Sea Pines Resort and Harbor Town for lunch.

When we got home, we got ready to barbeque dinner and one of our neighbors came by and said, “Put that away. We are having a Low Country Boil and you guys are invited.”   We didn’t know what a Low Country Boil was, but we weren’t going to miss it!  And we are so glad we didn’t.  Jerry, Billy and Theresa, along with her son and his girlfriend made us comfortable while they put sausage, potatoes, corn, shrimp and crab in a huge pot. When it was done, they used a broom stick to pull the inside pot out and threw the whole thing on a table.  It was beautiful!  Then everyone piled their plate high with the food.  What a feast.  It was a wonderful night with great food and new friends.

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The second day we drove to Savannah Georgia, where I had lived for a year or so as a child on an Army Base. It only took about 45 minutes to get there and we availed ourselves of a trolley car historical tour of the city and then took a walk along the river. Savannah is a beautiful city with lots of history and also has been the setting for several books, the most famous of which being Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, written by John Berendt.  It was a New York Times best seller for 216 weeks.  Savannah is also the home of song writer / singer, Johnny Mercer.  The founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, was born in Savannah.  With its cobblestone streets, historical buildings, and 24 city squares it is a lovely city to visit.

The next day we drove to Spring Island to visit our friend, Gini. Spring Island is a gated area and a preserve. It has about 5,000 acres and only 120 residents.  If you like nature and privacy, this is the place.  Gini took us to lunch and showed us around and it was a lovely day spent with a friend.  We were only sorry we missed Michael.  She even took us to see her doctor as Lennard had a very sore back.  (Too much bending and driving)

The rest of our time was spent at the RV site with Lennard in recovery, but we did have a lovely dinner with our neighbors, Craig and Nancy at the restaurant on site.  They live in Key West and gave us some great information for when we are there in October.

Tomorrow we will be on our way to St. Cloud Florida and are happy to be going to my daughter, (Like a daughter anyway) Casey’s wedding to Brian the weekend after next!  I can hardly wait.

The Biltmore Hotel: Can You Imagine Living Here?

If you have been to Europe, you have certainly seen some beautiful castles and estates.  There are few castles or estates in America, and the Biltmore is probably the largest private estate in our country.  It was built by George Vanderbilt and opened on Christmas Eve 1985. Its 178,926 square feet of floor space now sits on 8,000 acres and is still owned by the Biltmore family, but open to the public.  Mr. Vanderbilt was fond of French Renaissance chateaus and commissioned Mr. Richard Hunt to design one for him in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. He also commissioned Mr. Frederick Olmstead to design the grounds and gardens. He included a village on the estate. Biltmore Village was designed by Hunt and Olmstead on the property with a church, farms, shops and a dairy.  The village is just below the home, but sold in 1921.

George Vanderbilt loved the Blue Ridge Mountains and wanted to make his retreat there.  The home took five years to complete and employed over a thousand workers. He was an avid traveler, mostly in Europe, and he furnished the home with art and furnishings from all over the world. He was a bachelor when he first began the task and later married Edith. They had one daughter, Cornelia and her ancestors currently oversee the estate.  George Vanderbilt had an untimely death from complications of an appendectomy when he was only 51 and Edith was left to handle the estate.  During the depression, the estate was first opened in 1930 by Cornelia to the public to help pay for the upkeep and to stimulate tourism in Ashville.  Thankfully, it is still a living, historical museum, giving pleasure to the thousands of people who visit it each year.

This amazing home has four acres of floor space, 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, banquet hall, billiard room, music room, tapestry gallery, gymnasium, and library among the 250 rooms. There are paintings and etchings, most of which were personally chosen by George and Edith.


The estate still has several gardens, a farm, and now a winery.  The gardens and grounds were designed by Frederick Olmsted.  Mr. Olmstead established the first forestry education program in the U.S on the estate.  There is a three mile driveway approach and a pond with a waterfall, as well as hiking trails, and a river running through the property.

Currently, the estate has a farm yard, several restaurants, and a hotel on the property at Antler Hill Village. You can access both the home all of the estate for one entrance fee.  At first glance the fee seems extravagant, however the value is well worth it.  We could have spent a week there.  I just think of what it must have been like to live or visit there during its heyday.


The crack of thunder woke me up at 2:30 AM, rolling across the Pamlico Sound on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, growling, rumbling and sizzling.  With thoughts of hurricanes and nor’easters entering our head, along with the high humidity, we decided to leave the Outer Banks of North Carolina a day early and head for the high ground of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Skyline Drive


Skyline Drive Road


The Blue Ridge Parkway is a magnificent road 469 miles long running through Virginia and North Carolina.  We were able to drive 400 miles of it from Rockfish Gap, VA to Ashville, NC.  The last portion of it contains tunnels that are too low for our RV to get through.

We stayed in Waynesboro, VA the first two nights, which allowed us to take the tow car over the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley the first day.  This drive travels through Shenandoah National Park for 109 miles.  It is a concert in forest and mountains, giving those who traverse it a beautiful drive through the length of the park.  Driving back we took Highway 11 through small historical towns where civil war battles were fought.  We did make one stop at an Urgent Care, as Lennard had gotten stung the night before and his arm was alarmingly warm, red and swollen by the afternoon from wrist to elbow.  The Lovely Physician’s Assistant took good care of him and started him on antibiotics in case it was becoming infected.  I won’t post a photo…too ugly.

The second day we began our journey along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We were awestruck by the beauty and variety of scenery along the way.  There were forests, views of Blue Mountains across valleys, rocks and flowers, along with the beginning of the changing of the leaves for fall.  We would miss the brilliant fall colors, but there were few vehicles of any type on the road, so that was a plus.  That night we stopped in Lynchburg KOA and took the evening to see Popular Forrest, Thomas Jefferson’s retreat, built in 1806.  It was the first octagonal home built in America and designed by him.  In the evening we hiked to the Natural Bridge, a huge bridge carved out of limestone.  At nightfall we were lucky to see the stunning light and music show at the bridge.

The third day, while traveling to Fancy Gap  we stopped at an overlook to find about fifteen hawk watchers counting the hawks migrating through the area to the south.  We also found a crossing of the Appalachian Trail and took the time to hike a mile on it. Further down the road, we stopped at a National Park living display of early life at Mabry Mill.

Independence was only about 45 minutes from Fancy Gap, where we were camping for the evening, so we took the time to attend a Bluegrass Music jam in a historical 1908 Courthouse there.  They played “Old Time” music which is the music of Southern Appalachians, handed down from generation to generation. There were about 10 musicians there playing, fiddles, banjos, a dulcimer, and a bass fiddle. The next day was mostly traveled over the plateau portion of the Parkway.  Each day we took at least a one to two mile hike.

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Our last day on the parkway was just as beautiful, but much more challenging, as the road over the highest point was comprised of twists and turns on a narrow road with branches hanging over the road so low they hit the top and sides of the RV.  We saved the day with a two mile hike to beautiful Linville Falls and ending up at a street festival in Ashville that night.  And… to finish off the night we ate dinner at Bouchon, a lovely French Bistro, sitting in the evening light on their patio.  One of the few nights in the last few weeks we had eaten out.  We needed a break after the day’s drive.

We had one more day in Ashville before we headed to Sevierville, Tennessee for the Tiffin Ralley.  (Our RV’s manufacturer ralley.) We would take that day to spend at the Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate.  The dogs got taken to a doggie daycare and we were off for the day.  It was so spectacular, I had to put it in a separate post!


RE-blogged from Adventure Cass. She did a great job of showing the different aspects of our great city.


“throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Las Vegas. Where do I even start? There is nothing in the world quite like it. If you’ve ever been, you’ll know exactly what i’m talking about. The neon lights, the casinos, the entertainment; it’s encapsulating and you become completely lost in the atmosphere. I spent an entire week here in December 2013 and it was incredible!

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Our new sun shade: I love it.


Kayaking on the Sound

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I could stop there with just hot and humid, but there is a lot more to the Outer Banks than just the weather.  The Outer Banks are a long stretch of barrier islands and sand dunes that separate the Atlantic from the coast and the Pamlico Sound.  They are almost 200 miles long.   You can find wild mustangs near Corolla, fishing, crabbing, sailing, kayaking, kite sailing, wind surfing, dolphins, whales, off-roading on beaches and sand dunes, Light Houses, the Wright Brothers Memorial, the North Carolina Aquarium, swimming, hang gliding on famous Jockey Ridge, and Cape Hatteras National park.  We didn’t do all of those activities, but did see quite a lot of the Cape Hatteras area and Ocracoke Island.

We camped at Frisco Woods Camping for RV’s and tents.  It was a nice campground, but so crowded during Labor Day you were squeezed in like sardines.  But, that was probably true of most campgrounds over the Labor Day weekend.

Our first venture was to Ocracoke Island, only accessible by an hour’s ferry ride.  It is a quaint little island that reminds one of Hawaii many years ago.  There is a lighthouse there, first lit in 1854. It is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina and is in the National Register of Historic Places.  Most people on the island get around by golf cart.  We spent the better part of the day there and had lunch at the marina.  (Dogs allowed on the deck)


After a day of hanging around the campground, the next day we drove to the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.  It is 210 feet tall and the tallest brick lighthouse in America.  Lennard walked to the top while I waited with the dogs.  The heat that day was about 92 degrees with 90 % humidity.

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Next we drove to the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC.  It is located near where Wilbur and Orville Wright first flew in a powered, heavier-than-air machine, for a sustained distance.  The focal point of the memorial is a spectacular stone monument. There is also a life size sculpture of the first flight and the famous photograph by John T. Daniels.  It is really something to see.

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To end the day we walked across part of the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.  Not too far though, as the sand was hot that day for little four footed girls.  It is the largest sand dune on the East Coast.  It is also the most visited park in the North Carolina parks system.  And that is a lot of sand!

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We decided to have a crab fest with our neighbors, Billy and Susan from Virginia. Well, the great crab catchers, Lennard and Billy used crab nets for several hours and what did they catch…nothing.  But, the crabs got away with a lot of chicken necks for sure.  Fortunately our other neighbor, Roy, felt sorry for us and brought us 2 crabs so we would have something to eat.


Lennard learning how to crack and eat crab.

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The next morning Billy and Susan took us for a ride on the beach in their 4X4.  Did we get stuck? Of course!  What would a day on the beach be without getting stuck?  We did get out quickly, as Billy is an expert on the sand.

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We met a lot of nice people here including Billy and Susan, Rob and Kendra, Donna and Rick, and Diane, Steve and Roy.

We are ready for the next part of our journey…a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Smokey Mountains and our Tiffin Ralley.


During our travels, we have had the privilege to run into all types of people with backgrounds, jobs and history different from our own.  That has been what has made our journey so much more interesting than just seeing the country… although that has been pretty spectacular.  We have met Alaskan natives, Harley riders, crab and lobster fishermen, truck drivers, environmentalists, shop owners, bicycle riders, beach goers, mountain climbers, pot smokers, campers and of course RV’ers. Among the most different and kindest were the Amish in Pennsylvania.

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We stopped in a suburb of Lancaster, PA right in the middle of Amish farming country, next to the small community of Bird in Hand.  The farms were beautifully manicured for miles around the towns, and each farm had a huge variety of flowers in their yards.  The Amish drove their horse drawn carriages along the roads and shopped in the local stores.  That gave us the opportunity to have conversations with them and we found them outgoing and good natured.

There were vegetable and fruit stands along the roads and most of them were operated on a trust basis. Signs would let you know how much the produce was, so you just took what you wanted and left the cash.  What a great way to shop and it was so delicious.

We did take two tours. One was on a shuttle that showed us around the farming countryside and stopped at a couple of Amish farms.  One for local quilts and one for local candles. The second tour was at an old Amish farm and house where we were able to see the inside of a typical Amish home and learn a little more about their culture and history.

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Most of the time they are referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch, but in reality they are mostly descendants of Swiss Germans and speak German in their church.  Their religion is Christian and they are usually  baptized between the ages of 16 to 25.  They are allowed to choose their own partner, but can never divorce.  They wear plain clothing and do not utilize most modern conveniences such as automobiles, electricity or telephones.  Most families do have a telephone on the premises for emergencies, but it is not kept in the house. They only go to school through 8th grade and are schooled in one room schools for all grades.  They do pay taxes, but don’t participate in social security or contribute to it.

Frankly, there is a lot to be said for some of their customs, and there is a lot we can learn from how they are living and how they treat others. IMG_0916 P1030706 P1030714 P1030729

Hershey Pennsylvania was only about an hour away, so we took one day to see that famous town. Even the street lights were shaped like Hershey kisses.  We learned how to taste chocolate and became cholate connoisseurs.  You just have to use your five senses, as you let the chocolate melt on your tongue.  Difficult job!

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The most important thing we learned about Hershey was that Milton Hershey, who developed Hershey Chocolate, was the benefactor of the Milton Hershey School for orphans and the underprivileged.   This private school serves over two thousand students every year and none of the families have to pay a dime for it.  Most of the graduates end up going to college and if their grades are good, they get scholarships towards the University of their choice.  Mr. Hershey and his wife, Kitty, who died at an early age, left a legacy of several million dollars to keep the school going.


Milton and Kitty Hershey

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Since we had three weeks before our ralley in the Smokey Mountains, we decided to head for the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Cape Hatteras.  Woo Hoo!  Tell you about that next time.