Recently in On the go Category

Vacation in Alpine Helen

| No Comments

Alpine Helen Sign Sometimes a simple get-away can be a wonderful thing.

We've just returned from such a trip. We took a three-day/two-night trip to Helen, GA. Helen is a replica of a quaint Alpine Village located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It basically sits in the Chattahoochee National Forest and just a few miles away from the Unicoi State Park.

Their busy season is Oktoberfest which, for them, is mid-September through October; apparently Helen hosts the longest Oktoberfest in the South. This was good new for us - we were there well before their busy season, so rates were reasonable

We started the trip off by turning a three hour trip into a seven hour adventure. We went up thru Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, stopping in each; for donuts in Pigeon Forge and for some shopping (the Gatlinburlier has some of my favorite pipe tobacco) in Gatlinburg. From there we went took 441 over the mountains through the national park - that is always a nice ride.

We arrived in Franklin, NC around lunch time so we stopped in at the Motor Company Grill for some lunch. This was a fifties style diner. The food was pretty good; I had a sirloin steak salad. We missed an opportunity to see the Scottish Tartans Museum.

After leaving Franklin, we took off toward Highlands, NC to see the Cullasaja Falls. We nearly made it, then were turned-away because of some road construction or something, so we went back to Franklin and continued on toward Helen on the twistiest road I could find which took us West on US 64, then south on 17/75 into Helen.

Alemaigne Haus Even though we were only in town for a couple of nights we decided to stay in a rental "cabin" (which was actually a nice house) as opposed to a hotel room. This was a great choice.

The owners had named the house the "Alemaigne Haus". It was a two story house on a basement - the basement was unfinished and closed to us. The upstairs had two bedrooms that were essentially a mirror of each other though with totally different decorating. They each had a full bath attached. On the main floor the living room was rather small - it contained a couch, recliner, coffee table, television and fire place. The overall floor-plan was an open plan which allowed the living room to spill-out into the dining room and thus not feel quite as small as it was. Next to the living room was the dining room with a table for four and the kitchen which had a nice island/bar. The neatest room was the den/sunroom which had huge windows that were open to the back yard. There was also a game room with a card-table, a full-bath and laundry room on the main floor. The house sat on a roomy lot with a nice buffer from the neighbors. Overall, it was a very nice house.

Muller's Famous Cafe Sign We spent our first night in Helen walking around and exploring the city. The town made me think of Gatlinburg. Main street was filled with lots of little trinket shops. The past-time of choice appeared to be tubing down the Chattahoochee River. The town caters to motorcycle riders and there are a number of pubs/taverns in town.

It only took us about three hours to walk the town from one end to the other and back - stopping in several of the shops along the way.

The town closes down fairly early - some of the restaurants were already closed by the time that we were ready for dinner. We skipped the pubs and taverns, opting for a nice German dinner at Muller's Famous Cafe. This place was a block off of main street and when we went in for dinner, we were the only ones in the place. It was delicious food; I had their Jaeger Schnitzel. It was a pork loin cutlet breaded and grilled with a creamy mushroom sauce with a side of roasted potatoes. It came with a small side-salad and some Blaukraut - my wife loved both of these sides, but I not being a vinegar fan avoided both. The waitress was super friendly and the food was cooked to order.

We used Helen as a jumping off point for exploring this little corner of Georgia. The state park called our name and told of many interesting attractions in the area.

Anna Ruby Falls Friday morning started off with what was perhaps the highlight of our trip. We took a short hike to see the Anna Ruby Falls. From the visitor center, it was less than 1/2 mile hike up a paved trail along the river. The walk up was beautiful and the falls were amazing! They are twin falls - one that falls from over 150 feet. The volume of water that flows over these falls is tremendous. There's a three-dollar entrance fee per person; I assume this goes to the maintenance of the trail and parking lot. The trail was in wonderful condition. It had some steep parts (if you're going up a river to see the falls, one would expect to be going up-hill), but overall it was a smooth and easy walk. There were some nice stone benches along the trail and a nice wooden platform at the base of the falls with benches for sitting to catch your breath or watch the falls.

  • Babyland General Hostpital
  • Charlemagne's Kingdom
  • Cornelia - Big Red Apple
  • Nacoochee Indian Mound

The rest of Friday was spent seeking odd sights. We went to the Babyland General Hostpital, the home of the Cabbage Patch Kid's Dolls; Charlemagne's Kingdom - an Alpine Model Railroad Museum; the Nacoochee Indian Mound. Click on the photos above for links to the photo sets from each of these on flickr.

Habersham Winery Beer and wine seem to be the way a lot of folks in and around Helen pass the time. There are a number of wineries around and even a highway referred to as the "Georgia Wine Highway". We could not pass up all of these opportunities, so we finished up our day at the Habersham Winery where we tasted their wine and purchased several bottles to bring home.

Saturday was our return trip home. We had breakfast at the Hofers Bakery. We were surprised to find that it did not open until 8am - most of the town was like that, early to bed and late to rise. The breakfast (and bread that we brought home) was worth the fifteen minute wait.

So with a full stomach we left Helen to take a totally different route home; one that would take us to the Copper Basin area in Ducktown Tennessee.

Lori and I took a weekend trip to Asheville, NC this weekend. We went there primarily to go to Biltmore and see their new area, Antler Hill Village. We drove over Saturday afternoon, taking the newly re-opened I-40.Seeing the area where the rock slide happened this soon after (they are still working on it) was amazing. It's hard to even imagine what it must have been like to be there when it happened.

We found our hotel, a newly remodeled Hampton Inn just a few miles down the road from Biltmore. It was a nice place convenient to the Biltmore Square mall. Lori loves to shop - and it's what she has to do for her business, so we went to the mall. That place was nearly empty; much like the Knoxville Center mall. It did have a Dillard's Clearance Center in it (not a normal Dillard's store) and that turned out to be very good for Lori.

The hotel had a list of some local restaurants; one of them on that list was Moose Cafe. Their website said that the Moose Cafe had traditional southern cooking. It was right next to the Farmers Market (a large farmers market) and they said that they get their vegetables from there. I had their green beans, they were clearly not from a can! Everything that we had to eat there was really good; we did not get their $8.99 all you can eat dinner deals, but found that we were served plenty of food. They brought biscuits and apple-butter to the table with our drinks (sweet tea served in mason jars). It was very different apple-butter than I'm used to, but was very good. They also had bottles of molasses on the table which went very along with the biscuits very nicely.

We had a great night at the hotel; the bed was very comfortable and things were quite at the hotel. Since the things that we wanted to do at Biltmore did not open until 10, we slept in. Breakfast was a hot breakfast at the hotel and left for Biltmore around 9:00.

When we got to Biltmore, we took some time to explore the gardens. I was expecting them to be full of spring blooms, but found that they had tulips,

IMG_4427.JPGYesterday, I went to the Loveless Cafe. This was a place that we've seen covered on the FoodNetwork and a variety of other television shows. The cafe is located in Nashville, right at the end of the Natchez Trace Parkway (a wonderful place to take a Motorcycle ride - much like the Blue Ridge Parkway).

IMG_4430.JPGWithout a doubt, the thing that they are know for at the loveless cafe is their biscuits. Their employees wear t-shirts with "got biscuits?" across the front. It's a biscuit recipe with which many people have fallen in love - Martha Stuart among them. Their web site has many quotes from famous people that have been there and tried the food.

What ordered two meals (one special and one sampler) and some extra vegetables (really just because we could not decide on which ones we wanted). We had more food than three people should have eaten and we were not able to finish it all.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful diversion for the day and made a great meal. I'll be making it a point to stop by there the next time I'm in the area. Great food!

Biltmore Roof-Top Tour

| No Comments

Since, on our last trip to Biltmore, we purchased annual passes, Lori and I decided that a return trip to Biltmore was in order!

This time, we planned on taking the "Behind-the-Scenes Tour". Unfortunately, even in the off-season, these tours sell out quickly, so we were not able to get tickets. Instead, we took their "Rooftop" tour. We just barely made it in time to get tickets for this tour; we took the 2:00 tour, the last one of the day would be at 3:00.

IMG_2802.JPGWe used the time before hand to explore the Italian Garden's. We had never walked down around the pools and this time we were greeted by a couple of geese.

From there, we decided to have some lunch. We ate at the Stables Cafe and had a wonderful lunch. I choose the Harvest Turkey Sandwich with melted Brie, bacon, arugula. Lori had a chicken wrap of some sort.

After lunch, we took a self-passed tour of the house. This was much nicer in January than in late November. There was just not nearly as many people there, so we were free to take as much or as little time as we wanted in the various rooms.

Once we finished out tour, it was nearly time for our Rooftop tour. We had a great tour guide, John, who lead a group of about 15 of us on the tour. He was very entertaining and knowledgeable about the various areas in and out of the house.

Of course, the best part of this tour is being on the roof and seeing the views. The view from the back balcony was not bad either; I can imagine sitting there watching the setting sun while puffing on a cigar!

I guess this was not a camera day for me. I only took about 30 pictures and very few of them turned out to be reasonably good pics. Oh well, the one good thing about this is I know we'll be back - and probably soon!

A Day Trip to Biltmore

| No Comments

On Saturday, my wife and I went to tour the Biltmore house in Asheville, NC. We went there because they have their Christmas decorations out and I had not ever seen the house decorated for Christmas.

This was the first weekend that they have had the Christmas decorations up for this year. As a result (and maybe the fact that the weather was perfect), it was very busy. We got there around 10 AM and had to park in lot C and take a shuttle ride up to the house. This was actually a very nice ride; they had shuttles running very frequently, so there was almost zero wait time. As we were riding on the shuttle, we discussed how different this experience was from that of Dollywood or Disney World. The shuttle at Biltmore was enclosed, everyone had a seat and it was climate controlled, so it was very comfortable - the same cannot be said of the open-air shuttles of Dollywood or Disney World.

It was busy enough that we had to schedule our entrance into the house; we had tickets for 2PM, so our 10AM arrival left us with time to tour the grounds and gardens.

We started off by exploring the "south terrace" - one of our favorite areas on the grounds. Walking out on the terrace it feels like you are on top of the world! You can see the rolling hills for miles. One thing that we have always noticed is that it is very windy on the terrace. I suspect that the location for the house may have been chosen because of the winds at the top of this hill. In the late 1800's when this house was built, taking such things into consideration would make the house much more comfortable in the summer. We figured that this was also the reason for the amazing number of windows and doors around the house.

From there, we went down to the Italian Garden, then followed the path through the Shrub Garden down to the Walled Garden. One of my favorite trees is the Japanese cutleaf maple - there are several in the Shrub Garden, many of them appear to be very old.

The fall colors on the trees and shrubs were beautiful with bright red, orange, yellow and purple leaves, flowers and berries all around. We continued our tour down to the Walled Garden and Conservatory before winding our way back up to the house by way of the Spring Garden.

Back up at the house, we decided it was time for lunch. We enjoyed a great lunch at the Stables. We ate in what was once a horse stall! It still had the rack on the wall to hold hay and water. We had never been in there before and assumed that the "stables cafe" was in the building where the stables were once located, but that things had been totally re-done and you would not recognize the stables at all. On the contrary, it looked like they had just removed the horses, cleaned things up, brought in some tables and chairs and began serving meals. Once again, we noticed how nice of an environment that was established at Biltmore as compared to other tourist attractions to which we have been - everything seemed like a first-class operation. The meal was wonderful, by the way.

It was about 1:30, so we had thirty minutes to wait until it was our turn to tour the house. We walked over to the Front Lawn and joined several other people who were just lounging around enjoying the weather and view of the front of the house.

At 2PM we went into the house on our tour. It was crowded and, despite the outside temperatures being in the mid 50's, was very warm inside of the house. One of the first things that we noticed were the huge interior doors - I noticed how detailed the fitting of the hinges to the doors was. In most any modern house that I've seen, the hinges fit the doors, but it's not a precise fit. At the Biltmore, everyone that I looked at was a perfect fit. You can tell that the house was built by craftsmen who took pride in their work. Throughout the house, you can see multiple architectural styles. Some ceilings such as the one in the Salon are covered with draping cloth while others have a Gothic style arched ceiling.

After our tour, we went over to the gift shop and picked up a few things and we stopped by the Guest Services desk to upgrade our daily pass to a twelve month pass - we'll definitely be back a few times over the next year.

On our way out we stopped by the Bass Pond. This looks like a nice peaceful area to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Day 11

| No Comments

A drive through the bad lands

IMG 1578


Just out side of the bad lands, we found some prairie dogs

IMG 1687


Then we made a stop at Wall Drug

IMG 1689

More pictures available here: /pics/trips/2008_06_trip_west/my_pics/2008_trip_west_day_11.html

Day 10

| No Comments

Mt Rushmore was on the schedule for today

IMG 1423


We started the day off relaxing and doing a bit of reading/smoking

IMG 1421


My day ended when I realized that my motorcycle tire was at it's end of life

IMG 1441

More pictures available here: /pics/trips/2008_06_trip_west/my_pics/2008_trip_west_day_10.html

On our vacation, we went to Mt Rushmore and all I got was this lousy tire!

Sent from my iPhone

Tough way to end my riding, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. I'll probably look into getting a tire next week at the Honda Hoot in Knoxville - I hope they have some vendors there with good prices.

Day 9

| No Comments

Today we pulled up camp and relocated to Rapid City, SD.

The ride across the Big Horn Mountains was surprisingly cool; we encountered a bit of snow and some sleet.

IMG 1381


Along the way, we stopped by and saw Devil's Tower

IMG 1415


It was about a 450 mile trip.

Tomorrow we go to see Mt Rushmore

More pictures available here: /pics/trips/2008_06_trip_west/my_pics/2008_trip_west_day_9.html

Day 8

| No Comments

Today was another relaxing day. We did some laundry and then went into Cody for lunch and some site seeing.

We stopped by the Bill Cody Dam on the way to Cody.

We had lunch at the Silver Dollar Bar which several people in town told us was the best place in town for a burger.

IMG 1273

We drove around Cody on some of the scenic roads looking for wildlife.

IMG 1281

We finished the day by taking a stop at a rock called "the holy city" - it's supposed to look like the holy city - not sure what you've got to be drinking to see it :-)

IMG 1287

More pictures available here: /pics/trips/2008_06_trip_west/my_pics/2008_trip_west_day_8.html