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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blue Skies, 64degrees, Willows in Bloom----Georgia!

Thursday February 21, 2013  Quality Inn Room 201  Commerce, Georgia

As promised in yesterday's note I have researched Sideling Hill Gap and it is indeed a man made excavation, though, as I also surmised this mountain crossing was used before the excavation. This link will give geologic as well as historic info about this wonderful cut through the folded mountains that make up the Appalachians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sideling_Hill

I also had mentioned that we were trying to remember the situation that existed and caused the survey that resulted in the Mason-Dixon line. The confused claims in the 1700's to lands in Pa and Md resulted in the work and the line did not have anything to do with the existence of slavery in those areas--though we remembered that was the case. Again, for the history buffs amongst you, here is an abbreviated description of the events. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason%E2%80%93Dixon_line

The other thing I forgot to mention yesterday was the toll house for the National Road or Turnpike that was built in 1811 in LaVale, Md where we stayed. We drove by it but forgot to go back and check it out before we left town. It appears to be a museum although it had the look of being closed for the season--oh, well, another time.

Today we got a later start than usual--getting on the road at 930. We had stayed right near the interchange of I 81 and I 77, which we immediately accessed in a southerly direction, after gassing up at $3.55 a gallon--the cheapest we've seen so far. In a very short time we arrived at Fancy Gap,Va--a very long,very curving run down a very steep hill. There were FOUR runaway truck roads. The hillside had rocks covered with icecaps extending icy fingers over the rock faces and dripping clear, cold melt water making everything glisten in the morning sun. Each curve gave a magnificent view of the hazy valley below but the car is so low that the guardrails obscured the pictures and there was no pullover overlook. At last our mobile greenhouse was spilled out onto the valley floor with its 44 degrees ( we'd left the top at 33 degrees ) and trees whose buds are swollen and ready to burst open. The Blue Ridge were now to our West!!  Welcome to North Carolina!

We continued on to the welcome center to stretch our legs and get out the lunch things so that they'd be accessible when needed. People were grinning and taking off jackets and the spirit of Spring just seemed to awaken in us all.  I was amazed to see signs of kudzu here--don't remember it this far north in the past. It doesn't seem as overwhelming as in Georgia and Mississippi and there are swaths where it has obviously been cut and removed. Don't know if the State is attempting to keep it under control--it would be easier here, I'd imagine , with a somewhat cold winter to help keep it in check. It is such a horror in other places--to think it was introduced deliberately as a ground cover--it surely does its job--ground and whatever gets in its way.

I also noticed the large numbers of rhododendron shrubs in the underbrush with their large, glossy, rubbery leaves. We've never seen them in bloom and I wonder if their blossoms are as showy as their foliage. There are many varieties, of course,and the showiness of blooms varies--don't know what these do. It was interesting to notice that as the elevation changed--as we descended--that the number of shrubs diminished until they no longer were part of the flora. I'd never really thought about them being at higher elevations. We also commented on the large number of oaks with their leaves that they rarely drop. Residual trait from their semi-tropical origins. Bill says there are over 50 species of oak in the US. All are Quercus but some are rubra, some alba, some pinny--no, no--only kidding--don't know the species name of pin oak--LOL  Also need to learn about 47 more trees--don't think I'll bother.  It is amazing. We've been this way or near it before and yet we always find new things to notice and discuss.  Soon, we were at Statesville, NC and we started the dog leg I'd mapped out to avoid Charlotte.

It is so funny. Bill called Paul, our friend in Missouri, last night to tell him that we were altering our route to avoid Q and that we'd most likely see him in a month on our way back home. Paul said the media was surely building up the storm but that they weren't worried, they had their farm equipment, chains for the truck and a generator. He said he didn't blame us and then told Bill how much he admired our flexibility. He said friends of his when they go on vacation have every half hour planned and mapped out. Bill says our motto ( taken from his friend, Jason ) is adapt and overcome!! That's us!! LOL  Don't know if that is one of Jason's Marine mottoes from his time in Iraq but it surely is a good motto and one we travel by. Certainly it is our approach when encountering cities in our path.

So at Statesville we took I 40 West --I was a bit unsure of this choice since 40 is a major E-W road and can be horribly congested with trucks but we were only taking it for a short hop and it turned out to be fine. At Hickory we picked up 321 South to Gastonia, where it terminated on I85 and we sailed on into South Carolina. In short order we arrived at Gaffney and our peach. We'd stayed at the Quality Inn here on our first trip and ate at Fatz Cafe where the wait staff --all adorable young 20 somethings--piled into our booth next to Bill for a picture. The manager had coffee with us and it was just a terrific experience. We were on our way home and it was cold, blustery and raw. We visited King's Mtn and Cow Pens on that trip--two Revolutionary War battle sites. About six months later some guy went bonzo in Gaffney and killed several people. But today the sun was shining and there wasn't much wind--the temperature had climbed to the 50's and we were eating our cheese and trisquits and pepperoni and olives and blood orange and drinking water as we drove by and reminisced.

We passed a huge array of solar panels that looked like a huge lake in the sunshine. A first, we've seen a couple of panels but never a multi-pasture covering of them. They have a certain beauty but I still prefer the pinwheels. Every so often we would come across stands of willows in full leaf--most likely in wet spots. We enjoyed the landscape trees chosen by South Carolina at the exit and entrance ramps--they have interesting skeletons and look attractive and interesting even in their winter nakedness.

After lunch and having passed Greenville I called ahead for reservation in Commerce Georgia. The fellow gave me my membership number back as Kilo-Foxtrot-Poppa. I had to laugh--I NEVER used the right words in customs and some of the guys would laugh but others got really pissed at me. Kangaroo works--Fashionable--Potatoes. What's wrong with that?  LOL  I haven't heard this alpha in a long time--bet the guy was military at some time. Just funny.  At last we crossed the Tugaloo and Georgia was more than on my mind. The temperature hit 60 and Bill turned on the A/C!!

I turned on Gladys Knight and the Pips--Midnight Train to Georgia!  And about five more Georgia songs. We passed many cops out in force in the Carolinas--they seemed to have pulled over trucks mostly but they were everywhere. For the twenty or so miles to Commerce we saw none. Pulled into the Quality Inn where our King room was $46. The reservation clerk said the suites were $86--said no I'll take the King. Soon as we arrived I asked for an upgrade and here we are in a suite for $46+.  Nice to be an Elite--just love this program.

Called Sonja, my former student from Chelsea. We decided to go to dinner tomorrow night. On days we drive we like to eat and get back to the room and collapse. Sonja was getting out at 430 but we decided we need a down day so we're staying tomorrow night, too. She's getting her hair done tomorrow but lives only 15 minutes away so we're going to meet at Ruby Tuesdays tomorrow. It is better--she's off Sat --and though we won't stay out really late--at least there is no rush or pressure. Cannot wait. I haven't seen her for 27 years almost to the day. It's Feb vacation now and that's when I left Chelsea to have Bets.

After those plans were settled we headed out to Outback. We were 15 minutes early so perused the antiques at the mall next door. I said that buggy could be my next car but after looking at the price and the lousy paint job had second thoughts. Met a long distance truck driver who also decided not to go out to Nebraska and is instead picking up a load in Atlanta on Sat and heading to Santa Monica on I 20 all the way. He grew up in New Orleans so we had lots to talk about --Jazz Fest, Quarter Fest, the cemeteries, the streetcars and ghosts, goblins and beliefs. A fun, fun meal. He said maybe he'll see us again--we'd enjoy it but I imagine it is like so many other ships we've passed in the night on our trips. Memories.

And so another day, this one tiring because traffic was heavier than usual, but so wonderful so far as weather is concerned. The news seems to indicate that Missouri didn't get hit as hard as predicted--I'm glad for Paul and his family--but it is better to err than to run into trouble. We don't need to go there in snow so why do it. We have snow tires with studs but still--the stress isn't worth it and we have plenty of time to go on the way home.

It is now time to relax, get ready for Big Bang, Person of Interest and Elementary, as we look over the local area for historic sites to explore tomorrow. Will fill you in next time. Night all--get some rest --we may walk a bit tomorrow.  KandB

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