Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fernbank with Jessica

Today, while Mommy was at the second day of her IB workshop downtown, Jessica and I took Elyse to Granny and Pa's house and then went to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History for a wonderful day together. We stayed there for four hours, looking at all the exhibits and galleries (except for a couple that were too scary). Jessica loved it! So did I.

Here are a few pictures from our day:

The T. Rex skeleton on the ground floor atrium:

The brontosaurus (I think) skeleton:

Jessica exploring what may have been a giant armadillo shell in the Extreme Mammals exhibit (we didn't always read the signs, so aren't sure what everything is):

An American Alligator--a real one, but a real small one--in a tank in the NatureQuest interactive explore/play area:

Jessica clowning around in a dugout canoe in NatureQuest:

Entering the burrow in NatureQuest:

Dancing with her tri-colored shadow in the Sensing Nature interactive exhibit:

Finally, resting with a turtle friend (not real, though) in NatureQuest, which we returned to for a while after lunch in Fernbank's cafe:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Twelve years ago today, Anna and I got married!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Babyland General and Helen, GA

Today we went on a one-day road trip to take the girls to Babyland General in Cleveland, Georgia--home of the Cabbage Patch Dolls. While we were out, since it's less than ten miles up the road, we also went to Helen for a couple of hours. Here are ten pictures from our trip:

A Cabbage Patch baby waiting to be born:

Elyse checking out the Cabbage Patch babies:

Babyland General from the outside:

(I added a little drama to the sky, which I've since decided doesn't look that good, but I don't feel strongly enough about it to go back and change it.)


Some random people tubing on the Chattahoochee, which Anna is trying to convice Jessica they need to do sometime soon:

Enjoying a funnel cake at Granny's:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- A One-Day Road Trip

This week Anna and Jessica and Elyse are spending most of their days at the Girl Scout Camp in Lilburn, so I took advantage of my free time to go on a one-day road trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Anna and I went through GSMNP on our way to Gatlinburg thirteen years ago, and I remember loving it and wanting to return. On Tuesday I did.

It's every bit as wonderful as I remembered, as is the trip up through north Georgia and North Carolina. I headed out at about 8:00 Tuesday morning, about the same time the girls left for Girl Scout Camp. I made a quick stop at the library in Flowery Branch, which is right on the way and is also the closest place I could locate the book I wanted (The Gay Talese Reader; in a strange dream I had over the weekend, it was suddenly very important that I read Talese's 1966 Esquire profile, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.") After that, I didn't stop for about 100 miles, which is unusual for me, but I wanted to make sure I actually made it to the Smoky Mountains instead of spending the whole day wandering around small towns along 441.

I did stop for lunch in North Carolina. First, I browsed for a few minutes in City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC, but didn't buy anything, then, deciding I really wanted some barbecue, I went back into Dillsboro. The lunch I had at the Dillsboro Smokehouse was great--very good barbecue and macaroni and cheese, and excellent onion rings. Tea that wasn't nearly as sweet as I'm used to in the south, but good anyway. As I ate I read the first few pages of the Talese article. After I was done, I got back in my car and didn't stop until I made it to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the southern entrance to the park on U.S. 441.

I spent about two hours in the park, walking, driving, taking lots of pictures. After spending about half an hour walking around at the mid-point, Newfound Gap, where you can, among other things, straddle the North Carolina/Tennessee border, get on the Appalachian Trail, and read about the Rockefeller Foundation's $5 million donation to help complete the park, I turned around and went back to the entrance and, after driving by a couple of large elk who had stopped traffic in the other direction, got on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Someday I plan to drive the whole thing; Tuesday I only drove about 15 miles of it.

After that I just meandered slowly in the general direction of home, resisting the temptation to stop in any of the shops in Cherokee, NC, but stopping at a few other places. I had dinner at a Chick-Fil-A in Demorest, GA, and spent the night at a Quality Inn in Oakwood, GA. I finished reading "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" before I came home Wednesday morning. It's really good. You should read it.

Here are a dozen pictures from my trip, starting with one of the cabins in the Mountain Farm Museum at Oconaluftee:

Detail of the floor of the cabin's porch--I find great beauty in such utilitarian details:

Detail of a wagon wheel, which was leaning against another building:

The buildings are all roofed with wooden shingles:

Detail of the gears on a piece of farm equipment:


I have no idea what these are, but I love the texture of the wood:

Pitcher and basin inside one of the cabins:

This is the Rockefeller Memorial at Newfound Gap, halfway through the park:

Another view of Rockefeller Memorial; it looks like these two women are taking pictures of each other, but they're really not:

A panoramic view from Newfound Gap:

And another; in this one, you can see one of the park roads winding around a mountain: