Today we leave the lowlands of South
Carolina and move somewhat westwards up into the so called
Piedmont regions of the American South. At last we find
ourselves on some low rolling hills and a few gentle highway
curves. It's good to leave the lowlands behind us at last.
We passed one of Wal-Mart's
distribution warehouses and can only goggle. It's absolutely
massive and could be as much as 100 acres under one roof.
Hundreds of semi trailers are loading and unloading merchandise
but they look like matchbox toys from our vantage point. Folks,
this distribution centre is seriously big!!!
Because today is the
start of the 3 day Memorial Day Weekend we encounter a lot of
traffic but in due course we cross the border into North
Carolina and find our way to the small town of Troy NC.
Blair House is a
beautifully restored 1880's style mansion on several acres right
in the centre of town. Hostess and owner Claudia Bulthuis
received us in the most friendly way and whilst comfortably
seated in the attractive drawing room she told us all about her
ancestors and the history of Blair House.
recently re-occupied the old family home she did not cut any
corners when undertaking the subsequent restoration work. There
are now five spacious guest suites and each is absolutely
charming. We had previously chosen the "Winter Suite"
after perusing Blair House on the internet, mainly because of
the private balcony (which we hardly used). The Winter Suite
entirely lived up to our high expectations but an on-site
inspection revealed that some of the other suites were even
nicer. We recommend Blair House to anyone who stumbles across
this web page in the future. Their website doesn't do the
property full justice but check it out at www.blairhousebb.com
Lynn very much wanted to visit the
nearby small town of Seagrove where over 100 individual potters
create artistic pieces in their homes and small workshops along
the road. We stopped at quite a number before Brian became sick
of repeating "we don't have enough room and we can't manage
Lynn eventually got the better of
Brian and bought one very nice pot which will in future feature from
time to time in her ikebana creations.
Bass mailboxes for
"The Quayside" ?
Just to get even,
Brian bought eight of the above creations to replace the
letterboxes out by the street in front of the Quayside
Apartments in Nambucca Heads. He's sure all the Quayside
residents will be delighted. As for the rest of you dear readers.....
eat your hearts out!
Lunch at a really
basic, basic family restaurant was a bit of an eye opener. The
meal prices, dress and speech of fellow diners clearly indicated
that this was a place frequented by pretty poor people. Three
things really took our attention as we observed the interaction
between tables of diners. Firstly, everyone was super polite (an
innate trait here in the South regardless of social background).
Secondly, most spoke in a very formal, really serious and almost
sombre manner (even young children). Lastly, almost every
sentence included phrases like:-
showed me the way" ...or,
"if the Lord
hadn't stepped in" ...or,
"I just thank
Jesus that we didn't go out that day" ...or,
included it in our family prayers and soon enough we got our
The Bible Belt isn't
just a meaningless term, it's a highly visible and tangible fact
here in the South. Seeing the vast number of usually huge
churches convinced Brian that church attendance must be
extremely high. In reply to questions he's asked it seems like
regular church attendance is approximately as follows (depending
on who you ask).
White Folks - between 60% and 80%.
Black Folks - between 75% and 95%.
Compare that with
Australia's 10% to 15% Christian church attendance rates
Poverty is quite
widespread here in the South. However we've seen very few signs
of downright squalor even though we largely frequent country
roads whenever possible. One thing which has surprised us though
is the high number of permanent trailer homes sitting on owned
or rented blocks of land and often right beside recently built
homes of reasonably high value.
For those of you not
familiar with the term "trailer home" a couple
will clarify what we're talking about. We've passed many
thousands of homes like this throughout the South.
A fairly typical
roadside trailer home
neighbour from hell. Note that a large high
quality residence has been surprisingly built next door
In the afternoon we
visited Pinehurst, one of several adjacent golf communities in
this region. All the streets in these communities are super neat
with manicured gardens surrounding reasonably low key
"homes of distinction". Most of the retired ladies and
gents wear designer clothes and Italian loafers. They drive to
boutique village shops in smaller models of BMW or Mercedes to
have an al fresco coffee before going on to the Country Club for
another round of golf. We looked very out of place in crumpled
shorts, well worn polo shirts and a grubby Ford Taurus smothered
in "love bugs". Incidentally, there are definitely no
trailer homes around here!
We got into a long talk over
breakfast with fellow guests at Blair House and consequently
didn't get on the road until after 11.00 am.
Lynn has her heart
set on visiting a small city called Highpoint which is the
furniture capital of America, if not the world! Apparently the
whole city is devoted to making furniture and furniture fittings
such as hinges, knobs and handles. Lynn has heard that you can
spend well over a week going from one factory showroom to the
showroom. Many of these have designer created "rooms to
go" of perfectly matched furniture with perfectly selected
rugs, vases, lamps and you name it. Apparently you can walk up
to the sales desk and simply say "write me up for a room
number 76 and a room number 102" or something like that.
Brian is shaking in
his boots and keeps mumbling phrases like "I think we've
misplaced our Amex and Mastercard...." and then calling on
his part importing experience he says, "You do
realise that US inland freight + ocean freight + Australian
inland freight for a 20 foot container nowadays would have to
run to over $5,000 before you even pay for a stick of furniture.
And don't forget that Quarantine requires fumigation of all
timber imports. Then you've got wharf charges and customs agents
fees etc etc" (you can see how totally scared he is).
Lynn just smiles and
Well folks, there's
not a hint of blasphemy in the following totally sincere words.
The Lord does indeed move in mysterious and ever helpful ways. As a
result of the three day memorial weekend, we found the town
as tight as a drum. The showrooms were shut and entire American furniture industry
was definitely "out to lunch" for the whole of the
terrible pity", sympathised Brian in his best pulpit voice.
"It's lunchtime though so let's have a burger at Wendys
before we drive on up to Boone for the night".
The Boyden Inn and
Conference Centre at Boone has a great position up on the hill
above the Appalachian University in North Carolina. However it
looked very shabby outside and, judging from the carpark, poorly
patronised, especially given the Holiday weekend. However we had already
paid for our $77 room on the internet so we couldn't swerve away
at this late juncture. Fortunately the room itself turned out to
be perfectly fine. We love the generous size of all rooms we've
encountered during our trip but we're less keen on king size
beds which seem to be almost de rigueur here in the United
States, even in quite small Inns and B&B's.
We felt like a steak
dinner. The place recommended to us was absolutely packed as
were scores of other restaurants in Boone judging from their
parking lots. Nevertheless we were soon shown to a table by
either a six year old girl or a midget, whereupon we ran the
gauntlet of a very normal American restaurant interrogation.
fillet, New York Cut or this or that?"
"How do you
want it done" (8 specifications based both on colour of
centre and whether the centre is hot, warm or cold)?
"Black Angus or
House Select?" ("search me, give us the Angus")
"Soup or salad?"
(what if I want both)
"What kind of
dressing would that be on your salad?" "Well what do
you have?" (so why should we be more helpful than the other
thousand people who've asked today?)
"Do you want
the baked potato, the steak fries or vegetables?"
"Butter or sour
cream on the potato?"
"Do you want
chives or diced bacon with that?"
Would you like me to
get you a drink from the bar?" "YES!"
We've got a mere 50 mile journey
today to reach our cabin located in the forest at 2,000 feet up
in the Appalachian Mountains.
Our first task is to
buy provisions for a week. This includes buying our wine because
the cabin is located in a completely "dry" county
(there are quite a few dry counties in the South). Somehow we
ended up with multiple trolley loads of groceries and a cash register strip
we're too embarrassed to mention.
There had been a
soft rain shower when we entered the supermarket. As we finished
our shopping and made for
the exit Brian wondered aloud, "I wonder if it's still
raining?" Lynn immediately said, "well if it is,
don't expect me to push any of these trolleys across the parking
lot.... not after the
We drove out of
Boone and on up into the mountains where we shall spend the next
week exploring the famous Blue Ridge Parkway.
Our cabin at
Carolina Keep in Appalachian Mountains
In due course we
found "Carolina Keep" and it was exactly what we had
imagined. We're in the midst of a very green forest and our
cabin has huge decks overlooking a valley and out to the ridge
of Roan Mountain dividing North Carolina from Tennessee.
The ladder leads
to a second bedroom in the loft
Keep" cottage is both spacious and comfortable. It has
terraced timber decks leading down onto the forest floor. The
top deck has an outdoor dining setting and several rocking
chairs, the next deck down has a huge barbeque inside a gazebo,
next down has another dining setting in another gazebo. The last
level has a hot tub under the stars.
Lynn doing it
tough at Carolina Keep
For our evening meal
Lynn knocked together stir fried scallops, asparagus, garlic,
sauce and noodles which we ate with a Jacobs Creek Chardonnay
(it's actually cheaper here than in Nambucca Heads). This was followed by
a wedge of apple pie with ice cream. Nothing like plain home
style cooking for a change. Sorry!
Lynn again in our
secluded forest gazebo
By now it was pitch
black here in the forest so we jumped into the hot tub to relax
whilst watching the stars above. Suddenly we saw bright intermittent
flashes around us in the forest. They must be fireflies! This is
a totally new experience.
Shortly afterwards a
coyote's wailing cry rose up from the valley below. Everything
about staying up here is quite novel and romantic.
Brian with legs
crossed in hot tub
earlier in the day.
We finally turned in
for the night and slept very well. There's no doubt that the
next week will be very pleasant indeed.