Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our Anniversary

This week we celebrated our 47th anniversary.  On our honeymoon at Niagara Falls,

Same couple 47 years later, a  different falls in Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain Train ride and ramblings

This week we got a new neighbor. A couple who travels for the Jelly Belly company. The company supplies the Motor Home, a car they tow and their clothing (while working). They are going to be in Dollywood  over Memorial Day with the Motor Home. They will be giving out samples of the new jelly beans with Snapple flavors. Jelly Belly and Snapple teamed up for some new flavors, very good. They have been doing this job for 3 years and thoroughly enjoy it. Very nice folks to talk with.  They travel to big events, parks, fairs, etc.

"Never judge a book by its cover", a wise old saying. Or for that matter an uprooted trees, look at the flip side..

     Now to the train ride on "Great Smoky Mountain Railroad". We drove about 50 miles to Bryson City NC for the train ride. The train ride is about four and a half hours. The train leaves from the depot in Bryson City to the Nantahala Gorge and back. The ride is about 44 miles through the Smoky mountains. It travels over the Tennessee and Nantahala rivers and Fontana Lake. On the way back there is a short layover at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. See
Photo's: Bob picking up tickets. The open air cars, and the coach cars. We had  indoor coach seating.   When we made the reservations  they suggested the indoor cars as there was the possibly of rain and cool weather. It was neither, it was sunny and warm.If we would do the ride again, we would choose the open air cars and take our chances. 
      At the turn around point the conductor annouces  to switch sides, so you can see what was on the other side on your return trip. This was nice and very fair. We sat with a grandfather and his granddaughter. He had a very heavy accent. In our conversations with them we found out they were from Denmark. He came to the US in 1963 to work at the Oak Ridge Project as a scientists. He is also an amateur Botanist. He told us about the many different trees along our route. His granddaughter was here to visit him and other family members. It was great fun talking with them.

    Now that is a house boat. They look like small houses on floats. Nothing at all like the one we rented several years ago, or seen for rent at many big lakes. They are on Fontana Lake. There were many along the shore that we could see from the train. You can see Fontana Lake from the area of Kingmens Dome in Smoky MT Nat PK.
Scenes from the train. Note in the bottom right photo how the "kudzu vine" is taking over. It is called the vine that sollowed  the south. Do a Google search and see how this plant is talking over and causing many problems.

 This is the area were many kayakers train for the Olympics. It was also our layover stop.

More scenes from the train. We  had some bluegrass music along the way.
At the train depot there is a super Toy Train Museum. They claim to have the largest Lionel collection. We could tour it as part of our train ride package. There is a great 24 X 45 foot operating train layout with over 400 cars and many buildings. There were several Lehigh Valley cars, our home area, in the museum.

The town of Bryson City. Some old buildings. The last picture on the bottom right is the train depot.

The shortest route from our RV park is through Smoky MT Nat PK. This construcktion is new since our last trip thru here. We had a 10 minute delay both ways. They are repaving some parts of the only road through the park. They were still working about 7 PM when we returned.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mark and Tracey part 2, The Smokies, Elk, Bears

    Thursday  a day of rest. Mark and Tracey went for a cycle ride in Smoky Mountain National park today.  They also hiked a trail to a pretty waterfall. So Linda and I stayed back at the RV to rest up from the passed days of playing tour guides. After their ride, they called us and we met at the just opened Joe's Crabshack for dinner.
    But first I have to back up a day. Mark and Tracey got Linda a day at a spa for Mothers Day. So Linda and Tracey went to the spa which was less then a half mile from our RV Park. Tracey booked it on line before they got here. Little did she know how close it was to us. Sometimes things just work out great. Mark and I suggested they walk, but that didn't happen. While they were at the spa Mark and I went to an indoor gun range for some target practice. It's hard to admit your kids can do something better then you. And you like to think "that's how I taught them". but in this case Mark was the teacher. A couple hours later we all met back at the RV and what else, but went out to dinner.
      On Friday we went to the huge flea market in Sevierville. Then we did a little shopping in the area and went to dinner at the Apple Barn. See After dinner we went to the Grand Majestic for the American Hit Parade show. The show was as good as when we saw it a couple weeks prior but they were having lighting and sound problems. See our blog of 5/1/12 for our review and pictures.
     On Saturday we had to go to work at 10. We had asked for off when the kids were going to be here, which was Sunday to Friday. But since it was Mothers day on Sunday they decided to stay a couple extra days. But there was a 100% chance of rain on Sunday and 80% chance of rain on Monday, the kids made a wise decision to leave on Saturday. It was good they did as we did get at least 24 hours of heavy rain, then 12 hour of steady rain. They beat the rain home safe and sound.
     On Sunday we just rested and hung out at the RV park. On Monday I went back to the indoor gun range to practice all Mark taught me.  Tuesday we decided to go to Cherokee NC to the Indian Museum. See The shortest route was through Smoky National Park. The museum is just outside the east entrance of the park. we spent a couple of hours there and rode around Cherokee to check out the town. Very touristy. We did go to the Harrah's casino to try our luck. After a couple of hours we decide to find a local restaurant in town. The casino is RV Friendly, as there were 5 RVs in the far lot with their slides out . First check with security.  We stopped at Grandma's, because there was a full parking lot. We found that the locals know were to eat.  We hoped they were locals as most of the licence plates we saw were from NC. We did see a few cars with duct tape on them, which is known as chrome in these parts. Just couldn't resist the comment, heard it at the Comedy Barn. Little did we know it was a buffet only restaurant. But the food was good. After dinner we had a hour drive back to our RV. It was after 7 and we hoped we could see some wildlife in the National Park. We got lucky, just as we entered the park by the visitors center we saw a small herd of elk. We pulled off the road for a few photo's and just to watch these great animals for a while. They soon all layed down in the deep grass so the only thing visible was their heads. We started out again and saw a few turkeys along the road. About 15 miles later we can upon a deer in the middle of the road.  He watched us, and we watched him till a car came in the opposite direction and scared him away. We arrived back at the RV just before total darkness. A good day with about an 80 miles round trip. Note you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Elk in Smoky National Park

 Cades Cove and the Smokies

 More of the Smokies and Cades Cove

    On Wednesday we went to the Lumberjack dinner show. See The show was fun with a good meal. The meal was chicken, ribs, beans, mac and cheese and desert, with unlimited ice tea. We really enjoyed the 3 Labrador retrieves in the show. They were rescues and trained for the show and performance was super.

      Thursday we took a ride to Cades cove in the National Park. Its is a beautiful ride in the Smokies. We toured this area back in 20-----. The ride has some spectacular views of the mountains. The only wildlife we saw was a few turkeys. But we knew  the middle of the day is not the best time to see any wildlife. We got up and at the  last minute we decided to take a ride. It was a nice ride with stops in Townsands and Wear Valley, doing the touristy thing. A total of about 60 miles. We are sure glad we have the HHR and its great gas mileage.
     Friday we went to Gatlinburg to Ober Gatlinburg. See  The tram ride up to the top is 2.1 miles long with great views of the town and the mountains. The tram cars are suppose to hold 120 passengers. No way . We had maybe 50 people and it was full. Maybe 120 "Twiggy's",but not 120 good old boys. At the top there is an amusement area, and indoor ice skating rink, shops and restaurant's. Plus there is a wildlife encounter area. This was SUPER.     There were 2 baby black bears that were born in Jan. and weighed 2 1/2 lbs that we enjoyed watching for about an hour. They were with their mother. It was special watching them. There were other animals there, but the baby bears stoled the show. Next we took the scenic chairlift up even higher in the mountains. The first time we got off about half way up to ride the Alpine Slide down. This is like a sled on wheels. It was fun. Then we got back on the chairlift and went all the way to the top. Here you have to get off. We spent some time just admiring the mountains. Then we got back on the chair lift for the ride down. It looks a lot steeper going down. When we got to the base we then got back on the tram for the trip back to our starting point in downtown Gatlinburg. Check out their web site for more information.  

The Bears stoled the show

The Tram car, the center 2 pictures are the Alpine Slide, the chair lift, us at the top

    WOW playing tourist is tiring. Glad we have to go to work tomorrow. It will be less tiring. Never thought in our previous life work could be a respit. But we are making the most of our time here in the smokies.
    Starting 2012 our blog had 8500 hits. We are now over 16000 as of 5/23/12.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pigeon Forge and Mark and Tracey visit days 1 to 3

   Its been almst two weeks since our last update. Boy I hate playing catch up. But here we go  On Saturday night we saw another great show, The Smoky Mountain Opry.  The show was another foot stomping good time with music from the 40's to today. Great set designs and costumes. The show was about two hours long. Our hands were sore from all the clapping. You can see more at,  .

  When we got back to the RV we had a call from our son Mark. Mark and his wife were on there way to Tennessee to visit us for about a week. They are coming down on their motorcycle and stopped in Virginia for the night. We were looking forward to seeing them the next day.  They arrived at the RV Resort we are staying at about 4 o'clock. It was a long an mostly wet ride for them.  We were glad they arrived safe and sound. After getting caught up on the all things in their lives we started to make plans of what we would do for the next week. Of course we went out to eat.
     On Sunday we took them to Dollywood. We spent the day at Dollywood. We had dinner there and then headed back to the RV.  On Monday we went horseback riding in the Smoky Mountains. Mark wanted to take Tracey horseback riding for her birthday. They never rode a  horse , but Linda and I were old pros as we went two times in the passed. After being sized up for the proper horse we were off.  It was great as it was just the four of us and our trail guide. The trail was very wet and muddy from all the rain this passed weekend. In the heavily wooded trail it probably takes several days to dry up.  The trail wound along streams and very steep drop offs. We did cross several shallow streams. All our horses slipped at least once on the wet trail. My horse (Bob's) just wanted to stop and eat all the green grass and weeds along the trail. The wrangle would yell,"pull up hard on the reins and kick him". Yelp, 'kick" him, I don't want him getting mad at me. "Kick him hard" (it was more like kikim) was the call from up front. No way Buster. A nice gentle tug of the reins and gentle nudge was good enough for me mister wrangler. We all enjoyed the ride. The trail through the smokies was great, no signs of civilizations, made us fell like we were in another era. Both kids said they would like to do it again. We recomend Smoky Mountain Riding Stables for a great trail ride. See  look for the Smoky Mountain Riding stables link.

    After the trail ride we went to lunch at Bubba Gumps in Gatlinburg. We longed for a shrimp Po Boy. Its been about 10 years since we tasted our first shrimp Po' boy in New Orleans at Bubba Gumps. We wanted the kids to have the Bubba Gump experience and try the po' boy's. See  After lunch we walked around town and went to the  Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine distillery. We tasted about six small "shots" of different flavors of "moonshine". It was all good. See   A few fun stories. Then it started to rain very hard. We were glad we weren't on the trail ride at this time. After the heavy downpour we went to Ripley's Aquarium. See our post on 5/1/12  with pictures and a brief description of the Aquarium. Its funny how you can see things you didn't see the first time. We all enjoyed the aquarium.  Next we went to the Smoky Mountain Knife Works and Museum in Sevierville. It is the worlds largest knife showplace. They have 50,000 square foot store. See  We also wanted to go to the Lodge Cast Iron Factory store. The girls got to the store and it was closing in 10 minutes, so they didn't get much time to look around. Linda and I had been there several times in the passed.  See  The store has many types of cast iron cookware. Next we stoped at Big Daddy's Pizzeria, see     It was voted the best new restaurant in the county in 2011.  We wanted something fast and good  because we had a show to go to.  Super good wood fired oven pizza. The show we were going to was Country Tonight. See pictures and our review in our blog update of 4/15/12. Again a super show.
    On Tuesday we went to Parrot Mountain. The parrots put on another super show for us. The kids really enjoyed all the parrots. The middle picture of Tracey, the parrot has hold of her tumb.
See our blog  of 5/1/12 for more pictures an our review of Parrot Mountain. Next we went to the Titanic Museum. This is  super experience. You are given a name card of one of the passengers or crew aboard as you enter. Bob and Mark didn't survive but Linda and Tracey did. See  Great web site with many pictures and stories. We all enjoyed it. Off we went to the Dixie Stampede Dinner show. This is the first stampede we saw with baffalo in the show. See This is our third stampede experience. It's a fun show and a good dinner served without any silverware. Soup, small chicken(Cornish hen), smoked pork, baked potato, biscuit, corn on the cob and apple turnover. The food was very very good.
      Mark and Tracey went for a motorcycle ride in the smokies and a bear crossed their path. Mark stopped and the bear paused and looked at them then took off.  Thats Mark chowing down at Joe's Crabshack. Note the cycle is almost as big as our car.

This is our new look for work.

Thats our boss, Dolly Parton on a float in her homecoming parade. She was in the park the next day and the park set a all time record for attendence.

Still haven't found any pigeons in Pigeon Forge. What's with that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pigeon Forge, Knoxville, Lunch w/the Mayor,+

     0n Monday we went to the to the Rainforest Adventures Zoo in Pigeon Forge. It is a small mostly indoor zoo with many small animals. There are a few larger animals outside. It was ok. Then we traveled about 2 miles to play two rounds of miniature golf. We played at Old McDonald. It was a lot of fun and a nice sunny day to be outside.
      On Tuesdays we went to Biltimore with two bus loads of Dollywood employees. Dollywood had a deal where we paid $20. each for the bus ride and entry into Biltmore. Biltmore is about 80 miles from here. The cost of entry is $69. or an online special for $59.  So the $20. deal was super, it would take almost that in fuel to drive there and back. What a fabulous "house", if you can call a place with 255 rooms a house. It was the greatest house we ever toured. We could not get over the opulences of this house. It sits on 8000 acres of land that the Vanderbilt's owned. Today it is still owned by the family. We were told it takes 1800 employees to maintain the estate, gardens, tours, advertising,shops, dinning, shuttles from the different parking lots etc., etc.We were disappointed that we could not take any pictures inside. I could see why, as there were 100s of visitors there, and if each one stop a few seconds longer to snap a picture it would really slow things down. We did rent the audio tour headsets, which were great and explained a lot about architecture and the art work in the house. This is one of those great experiences you can't explain. It's like seeing the Grand Canyon or the giant Redwoods, you have to see it in person to truly feel the experience. There is also a winery there that had some excellent wines. According to their sign, it is the most visited winery in the country. We only got to spend about 15 minutes there, but did have time to sample a few wines.
   The following day we had several hail storms. Wow is it loud in an RV when pea size and slightly larger hail is hitting the roof. About 6-7 miles from here, in Gatlinberg  they had tennis size hail. On the news that evening they showed many pictures of busted windshields in cars. We are glad for the pea size hail after seeing those pictures.
    on Wednesday we took a trip to Knoxville. We went to the Knoxville Zoo. There were many empty exhibit with sign saying the animals were elsewhere. The place is somewhat in need of much updating. The walkways had a lot of uneven surfaces due to tree roots growing under them. This is unsafe walking for anyone. they are doing some renovations and adding some new features. They need a large endowment from someone. First off we parked in the lower parking lot with NO signs directing you to the entrance. We walked around with several other people looking where to go. The tram wasn't running, and when we found the path to take, it was at least a 1/4 to1/3 mile uphill to the entrance. I felt bad for all the young mothers pushing strollers up that hill. Next we went to a Barnes and noble so Linda could download some book. She is a very avid reader and reads at least 1 or 2 books a week. She downloaded 10 books and used up the last of her gift cards. We do use our hometown library to download some books, it is a great deal.
     Then we had lunch with the Mayor of Knoxville. It wasn't planned and just one of those things when you have to be in the right place at the right time.  We went to  Palace Pizza shop that was featured on Dinners, Drive ins and Dives on the food network. We enjoy that program and when in a new area we go to the Triple D website and see if any of the featured restaurants are in that area. It is a drive-in with only 8 seats inside. The seats are at a bar looking outside. A well dressed group of men came in after we sat down and ordered and one of them sat in the seat next to Linda. Turns out he is the mayor of Knoxville. Unfortunately for him, he didn't carry on much of a conversation with us, he was to busy conferring with his associates. It was his loss. Back to the Palace Pizza shop. It was a very good pizza, made from scratch. Been there for 50 years with the family secrets for their sauce etc. It was overloaded with cheese and very good. I can't say it was the best pizza we ever had, but a new triple D restaurant we can cross off our list. They  said the pizza was made from scratch so Linda spent several hours the next day looking for "scratch" in several grocery stores. Oh well.
     We hope you like the look of our pictue collages. If you click on them, they will enlarge. On our computer they enlarge to the size of the screen without cutting anything off. I was told on some computers they enlarge greater then the screen and you have to scroll  either left to right and up and down.
Dressed  for Success
 The Pizza Palace


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Change in Plans - Pigeon Forge TN, part three

       We have a slight change in plans. We will be staying in Pigeon Forge for an extra month. We are planning on leaving here on or about July the 8th. This will give us more time to explore the area. We will also be working through the 4th of July. Then a couple of days to say good bye to friends we made here and get ready to hit the road. We will take our time to get back to PA., hoping to get back  by August.
      The pasted week we have been busy taking in some of the attractions in the area. We spent at least 5 hours at the Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinberg. See  It is a super aquarium. We enjoyed the different feeding shows presented several times a day. Many many beautiful salt water fish. The Penguin display and feeding were fun to watch. We also went to the Ripley's Believe It or Not,Mirror Maze, Moving Theater and Guinness World Records. Wow, we are out of breath. These other attractions were just ok.

    The next day we went to the Grand Majestic Theater. We saw the America's Hit Parade Show. Wow, double Wow.  The show music took you from the 50's to the 80's. By far the best show we saw to date. The Military Tribute was the greatest. The show is the newest show in the Smoky mountains. It is a high energy singing and dancing show with many custom changes to match the era. What helped make the show so great, was the fact that we were seated in the front row center stage.

     The next day we went to Dollywood as guest to see some of the shows. The Festival of Nations Festival ends in about a week and we wanted to see some of the international shows that will be ending.  We saw the Spirit of the Dance show. A foot stomping Irish dance show. We also saw the Slovenian Polka band. A very upbeat Polka band with a lot of energy.  

     The next day we took a ride around the area and waited for it to warn up a little. It was in low 50's when we started. When it warned up a little and the sun came out we decided to go to Parrot  Mountain. See  The road  to Parrot Mountain is up a mountain. A very very steep road. We parked the car and were greeted by 8 parrots on perches saying "hello". They are just sitting on perches with no restraints greeting guest. That was really neat and a small clue as what we would see. There are over 500 birds at this bird sanctuary. Many of the birds are rescue or neglected and needed a home. Their mission is also for the propagation of endangered or threaten species. There is also the garden of Eden, beautiful landscaped gardens with 1000's of flowers. We heard someone say "Praise the Lord", and turned around and there was no one there other then about a 100 parrots on perches. Finally one of the parrots again said "Praise the Lord" and Linda got it on video. There were many "hello","Hi's" and "what are you doing". We feed many of the parrots with seeds you buy there. We also feed many Lory's,  a small type parrot that drinks nectar. Check out the pictures. We are trying something new with our pictures for our blog. We are trying to create collages. Its a "work in progress".