Stepping Back in Time – Day 132

Stepping Back in Time

Day 132 – August 10, 2003 – Sunday

Williamsburg, Virginia is quite a place! I’d never been. BIG. Quite a story.

Colonial Williamsburg is an honest-to-goodness fully restored/rebuilt Colonial town. John D. Rockefeller provided the money to acquire, restore, rebuild, and establish Colonial Williamsburg as a non-profit entity. It was and is an amazing project.

I had never been to Williamsburg, but we had heard so much about it through the years that I was really anxious to see it. It was different than I expected. It costs $39.95 if you want to be able to go in the buildings and learn about Colonial life. I always imagined it was just a real town that you got to walk around and see. It is fairly real, and you can walk the streets for free, but you do have to pay to experience it all. It’s quite expensive, but it must cost an awful lot of money to keep this place going. There are folks who just walk around as if they were working in the fields in Colonial time — just to set the tone for the experience.

I met an especially nice lady at the Visitor’s Center. She wants to take a trip like ours with her husband.

As you walk to the Colonial town from the Visitor’s Center, you pass over a bridge that takes you back in time with messages about significant points in time, such as — “At this point in time, you know people who own other people.” It was really effective in getting you prepared for Colonial times, and it caused you to think about how many really significant developments have taken place in a relatively short period of time.

It was really hot and REALLY humid. I walked and walked and walked, and didn’t even begin to see all the side streets. Boz and I will go back when it is cooler, and we’ll see more. It was truly gratifying to see something that has not been commercialized and touristized at all (with the exception of the entrance fee).

Just off the Colonial Williamsburg property is a row of “modern” shops. But in Colonial Williamsburg, everything is really authentic.

From Williamsburg, I drove down to Virginia Beach. I met Chris and Al at the Visitor Information Office. Virginia Beach has a nice beach area, but not a lot to see. Typical tourist-oriented businesses and hotels near the beach. Riding surrey-like bicycles up and down along the beach seemed to be a big thing.

I didn’t get a photo of them but there were “no cussing” signs all up and down the beach area. I’d never seen a “no cussing” sign before. Interesting.

I planned to visit the place that invented the ice cream cone, but I was unable to find it.

I met Delores and Judy at the Welcome Center just inside North Carolina — really enjoyable ladies to talk with…and very helpful.

I noted once again that the roads changed the second I passed from Virginia into North Carolina. North Carolina has had the best roads in the country for at least 50 years.

Due to the heavy overcast skies and rain (and forecast for more of the same), I skipped the Outer Banks and drove until midnight to get to Myrtle Beach. It was an ugly day.

I passed through the town of Windsor — chartered in 1768. I was sorry that it was dark and raining when I passed through Wilmington and the Cape Fear area. I saw a terrible traffic accident at 11:30 pm. At least one car had flipped.

South Carolina became state #49.

The Myrtle Beach area is really something for activities. There are more miniature golf courses than anywhere in the world, many golf courses, resorts spread out for miles along the coast. There are major dinner show theaters in Myrtle Beach…places where big country name performers come and perform. Lots of action in Myrtle Beach.

I checked into the Marriott Courtyard in Myrtle Beach just before midnight. Desk Clerk Barbara took good care of me at the hotel. Unlike a lot of nights, I never got sleepy tonight, so it wasn’t a bad drive.

Random Comments:

I watched the movie “American President” last night. It is an excellent movie, and one that I have enjoyed several times. I thought it was appropriate since I was just in Washington DC.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Williamsburg Virginia — Virginia Beach Virginia — Windsor North Carolina — Myrtle Beach South Carolina

Gemstones and Dirtbags – Day 58

Gemstones and Dirtbags

Day 58 – May 28, 2003 – Wednesday

I stayed in Cherokee, North Carolina last night. Cherokee is the headquarters for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. The Indian culture is showcased in Cherokee in a number of ways.

The tribal headquarters for the Indians is in Cherokee as well as the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. A big attraction that had come highly recommended was to see the stage presentation “Unto These Hills,” which is the story of the forced removal of the Cherokee from this land in the 1830’s — better known as the Trail of Tears. Seeing it will be added to the list of things to do the next time we come to this area.

Cherokee is on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drive from Cherokee to Gatlinburg is really pretty — very, very green trees, big trees, lots of trees. It’s a pleasantly winding road up through the mountains and then down into Gatlinburg on the other side of the Park. Water flows by the road at a number of points, and I caught a glimpse of a few little waterfalls. I’ve never seen road signs like several I saw along the drive, such as 450-degree loops and fish-hook-shaped turns. It wasn’t treacherous as the drive never goes along cliffs, but you do have to pay attention.

The story of the Park is an interesting one. Alarmed by commercial logging threats, Congress authorized the Park in 1926, and it was established in 1934. The states of North Carolina and Tennessee, private citizens and groups, and schools contributed money to purchase the land for donation to the Federal Government. The Park has an incredible variety of plants and animal species — 1,500 flowering plants, dozens of native fish, over 200 species of birds, and 60 species of mammals. The Park has maintained one of the nation’s largest collections of log structures along with many buildings constructed during the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps work program.

It was about 30 miles from Cherokee to Gatlinburg, but an hour’s drive on the winding two-lane road. There was no cell phone service in the middle of the Park, so I had to drive quickly through the Park to Gatlinburg to be available for the 10 am radio show with EZ 103.1 in Palm Springs, California. As a result, I only got the big picture view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I can only imagine the great photo opportunities that I missed. “Few regrets” is our motto, but if I had realized how special this area is, I would have scheduled another day here to really see the sights in the Park.

DJ Dan McGrath called a little after 10 am (7 am Palm Springs time), and we had a live on-air discussion. “Wednesdays with the Windsors” is a new segment on the Morning Show on EZ 103.1. Dan asked a lot of questions. We discussed what we were doing on the trip and why, the overall statistics — 50 states, 2500 towns and over 25,000 miles. We talked about some of the sights we’d seen thus far and what we would be seeing in the Gatlinburg area. We then talked a bit about pie. I reported we had eaten 50 pieces of pie thus far, and I singled out the Key Lime Pie at Harry and the Natives as #1 followed by the Caramel Apple Raisin at the Plaza Restaurant in Santa Fe as a close second. For more information on Dan and the station, see We were scheduled to do this live report every week for the remainder of the trip.

We had thought about going to Gatlinburg for years, but we just never got there for some reason. The picture in my mind’s eye and the reality were quite different. I thought I would see miles of craft shops with local craftspeople displaying their handmade items. Instead, I saw miles of tourist-oriented gift shops, restaurants, and motels. Guinness and Ripley also have an assortment of attractions that dominate one portion of the Highway 441 corridor. These include the Star Cars Museum, Guinness World Records, Ripley’s 3D Moving Theater, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and Ripley’s Haunted Adventure. I was amazed that I didn’t see much at all in the way of arts and crafts, though I was relieved later to learn that the arts and crafts community is located several blocks off the main drag on Glades Road and Buckhorn Road.

I like cars, so I enjoyed seeing some of the George Barris Collection of cars at Star Cars — the Love Bug, a convertible used in the new Charlie’s Angels, the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard, the Beverly Hillbillies Jalopy, Grateful Dead’s limo, a police car from the Andy Griffith Show, and more.

Ripley’s Haunted Adventure was even better. I didn’t go in. I did, however, meet and talk with most of the folks working there as some of the monsters razzed me about my beads as I passed by. Most of the monsters were soon wearing Mardi Gras beads as I gave away about a dozen. We got quite a crowd at one point while several of us threw beads trying to get a string into the mouth of one of the monsters who had nothing but his head sticking out of a hole way up high on the top of the building. Nice young folks.

Gatlinburg has a Space Needle, so I took the obligatory photo. I also saw a significant number of wedding chapels; Gatlinburg seems to be like Vegas as a destination for those seeking a quick wedding.

Gatlinburg is situated along the Little Pigeon River, and in addition to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are a lot of nature-oriented things to see and do.

I had a very enjoyable conversation with Carolyn, a timeshare promoter. Anyone who travels much will be well aware that timeshare salespeople masquerade as tourist information people on the streets of many big tourist areas. There were a number of these folks in Gatlinburg. These folks are usually most interested in getting you to a timeshare presentation, but Carolyn was a fountain of information (and brochures) about the sights to see in Gatlinburg (where she says the Aquarium is a must-see), Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. My chance encounter with her shaped the rest of my day. So if you want to buy a timeshare, please go to Gatlinburg, and buy one from Carolyn!

After walking up and down the street and stopping at some of the shops and attractions in Gatlinburg, I drove on to Pigeon Forge — about 6 miles. Pigeon Forge is the home of Dollywood, and it is now much larger than Gatlinburg in terms of tourist-oriented attractions and shops. Arcades, miniature golf courses, laser tag, go-karts, race cars, car museums, pan for gold places — multiples of all of these. There are also several outlet malls and more pancake places than I’ve ever seen anywhere.

DollyWood operated as a number of other theme parks before it became DollyWood. I drove out to take a photo, but I didn’t go in. I read a couple of reviews that weren’t kind. Local folks told me they believe DollyWood is very successful. I sure hope so as she seems like a really nice person. I assume that she actually owns it, though folks could be just using her name and face for a fee.

Pigeon Forge has a number of country music theatres. Nothing like Branson, Missouri in terms of numbers or stars, but several shows that I am sure must be very entertaining.

Thanks to my timeshare promoter friend, lunch was at the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant in Pigeon Forge. It was off the main highway, so I never would have seen it, though the Apple Barn is a big place and a very popular spot for tourists. (See for more information.) I walked in and a nice lady named Dean immediately asked about the beads. She was joined by Millie who asked about the beads. I was quite the celebrity during my hour there; nice folks kept coming over to my table, and when I left, they were all wearing beads and talking about being in the book. Kathy, Colleen, and Melissa were among the other ladies that I met in the restaurant. I had fried chicken, and it was really good. Since they grow apples right there and make and sell all kinds of apple products, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Apple Fritters and Apple Cobbler were excellent. They served the fritters in little balls about the size of hush puppies with apple butter, and they were fabulous. I enjoyed the Apple Cobbler, but it was strong — really spicy. Once again, it was the interaction with the folks who worked there that made it such an especially enjoyable experience. After lunch, I walked through the place. It’s big — all kinds of shops. There’s a big Cider Mill and General Store, a pie shop, an ice cream shop, a Christmas shop, a wine shop, and much more. I met Helen at the Christmas store — very interesting lady. I could have spent a lot more time speaking with her.

The Pigeon River Mine was next on my agenda. As I noted yesterday, I really wanted to pan for gold or diamonds or rubies or sapphires — whatever they had available. One of my fraternity brothers, Bubba Crutchfield, tells one of the funniest stories I have ever heard about his mother’s experience at one of the North Carolina “mines.” His mother saw these gem mining places all along the highways in North Carolina (and they seem to be everywhere there). She wanted to stop at every one of them; she was enamored with the idea of “panning for gold” and finding valuable gems in a pile of dirt. When they finally stopped at one, Mrs. Crutchfield sifted her pile of dirt in the water, and it produced a pile of rocks. When she went in to the office (that she may not have noticed looked a lot like a jewelry store), she was overjoyed to find that she had some valuable stones that could be cleaned and polished and made into beautiful gems. She was shown a wide variety of gold and silver settings for rings and bracelets and necklaces. She wanted to spend hundreds of dollars to get her lucky finds made into jewelry. As I recall, Bubba took his mother aside and explained that her rocks were worth little or nothing and that the whole deal was just a scam to get folks to buy overpriced jewelry. Bubba and Susan dragged Mrs. Crutchfield away from the mine, and she pouted for the rest of the trip — especially every time they passed another of these so-called mines. Bubba is one of the best storytellers ever, so it is a roll in the aisles story when he tells it!

I went to the Pigeon River Mine expecting to have a lot of laughs. When I first entered, I saw that I could buy bags of dirt from various mines that ranged from $6 a bag to $100 a bag. I joked around with Sabrina, the lady standing behind the little trays of running water. There was a nice lady in her 70’s standing to my right. I introduced myself, gave her my card, and I met Thelma. She was waiting for her son who was inside the office. I bought two $6 bags of dirt — one for me and one as a gift for Thelma.

Two couples walked up (Jim and Diane, Jule and Ruth). They asked how it was going, and though I had not yet opened my bag, I told them we were finding diamonds, rubies, emeralds, a Rolex watch…. They all bought their own bags of dirt and got at it. They give you a wooden tray with a screen bottom, and you pour your dirt into the tray (called a “sluice box”) and then lower it into the running stream of water to wash the dirt off to reveal stones.

Thelma assured me that I would indeed find wonderful gemstones. She told me she has done this a lot, and she has a lot of gemstones at home. She then proudly showed me a gold bracelet with red ruby-looking stones set all around it. This was made with stones that she was lucky enough to get right there from some of these same bags. Her son was inside picking up a ring he had made from a stone that he had gotten there.

Uh oh. So much for laughs. Thelma’s son, Bill, came out of the “office” and complained to Sabrina that the folks inside would not give him an appraisal that showed the value of his ring at “several times the price he paid,” as he indicated someone there told him it would be. Sabrina looked sick, and knowing that I was a writer might explain why she disappeared and was replaced by a sweet old man who looked exactly like every caricature you have ever seen of an old miner — bushy grey beard and kindly face. He told me folks call him Gem Dandy. He apologized that he was a little slow — caused by a stroke. He told us he only made it to the fourth grade in a one-room schoolhouse. He was as sweet as could be. He told us they hired him solely because of the way he looked. There might have been other reasons, too, as even the hardest of folks would have trouble complaining to him.

I washed my rocks and was interested to see that I had a really wide variety. I later noticed that everyone else seemed to have the same really wide variety.

Thelma told me about a mine somewhere else where a friend of hers says there are diamonds there just for the taking. I tried to tell her ever so gently that it was hard to believe that some businessperson would let folks come and get valuable diamonds for just a few dollar fee.

I thanked Thelma for showing me the ropes. I again complimented her beautiful bracelet, and I told Bill that his ring may not have a big appraisal, but it was very attractive, and it would always be special because it was made from a stone that he found right there in a bag of dirt. I gave Thelma pink beads to match her outfit. She told me they were really pretty…and she meant it. What a sweet lady!

Inside the building (aka jewelry store) is an “assay office” where a free evaluation of your find is made. Sherry was very nice. She showed me how I was fortunate to have gotten one of each type of stone — emerald (the most valuable), smoky quartz, corundum (ruby or sapphire), topaz, amethyst, citrine, garnet, and black onyx. I thought this was very convenient as I had the option of getting ANY of the pieces of jewelry that I was shown. I told Sherry that I wouldn’t be buying today, and she was kind enough to give me a brochure where I can order by mail as well as a card (normally $1.50) that will enable me to identify each of my stones. I noted that for just $22, I can order a Christmas Dirt Kit — a sluice box, two bags of mining ore (aka dirt), one instruction sheet, a Gem Dandy Mining Certificate, a Gemstone ID Card, and a Christmas gift card. I may have to get one for Bubba as a Christmas gift.

Thelma and Bill were believers. I choose to be a believer about a number of things, but not this. When you see these so-called mines on every corner, I would think that might serve as a clue to folks that this isn’t real. The Mine was packing them in. I just hope folks are going for a few laughs and understand that there is no way they will find something of real value in a clear plastic bag that someone filled with dirt and rocks to sell to them. It bothers me that many folks were spending hard-earned money to buy jewelry that they may not be able to afford because they thought they got a “gem” from a dirtbag.

Next stop: Sevierville. Dolly Parton was born here. I visited the town square, took a photo of the courthouse, and got a snapshot of the Dolly Parton statue.

Between Sevierville and Knoxville is Seymour, home of Big Mama’s Karaoke Cafe. I was in the mood for some laughs after the dirtbags, so I was excited when I walked in. No cameras. Back to my car to lock up the camera. Back in to find a $5 fee just to walk around in the place. There was only one couple there at 4 o’clock on a Wednesday, so I saved my $5 and headed down the road.

Knoxville is the home of the University of Tennessee. I waved as I drove by. Apologies to Knoxville, but I had very little sleep the night before, and I needed to get to Lexington, Kentucky at a decent hour so I could write and get a normal night’s sleep. Kentucky was state #17. It started raining about halfway, and it was still raining the following morning.

There are naive, sweet people in this world who are very trusting. They are believers who believe what others tell them. They’re the people we’ve see on our local news who were hoodwinked by a bogus contractor or who lost their life savings in some type of scam. You always wonder how folks could have been taken. And we see folks dropping quarter after quarter into slot machines and spending a lot of money buying lottery tickets in hopes they will get rich quick. I’ve always wondered why. Now I know.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:Cherokee North Carolina — Great Smoky Mountains National Park — EZ 103.1 — Gatlinburg Tennessee — Pigeon Forge Tennessee — Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant — Pigeon River Mine — Sevierville Tennessee

Winners and Grinners – Day 57

Winners and Grinners

Day 57 – May 27, 2003 – Tuesday

The trip resumed today after time was spent in Atlanta writing about the first loop Round America. 35 states to go

Bozzie Jane worked her magic on a bologna sandwich at about 11:30. The PT Cruiser was finally all loaded up and ready to go. I gave Bozzie Jane (aka Boz or Bosworth or her real name — Barbara) her own beads — making her the first recipient of official Round America beads. She snapped a few photos, and I was off. Not quite the level of excitement of April 1 when the trip began, but I was excited to crank it up again after 10 days of writing, photo processing, editing, and researching.

Different car. We’re driving a black PT Cruiser with bright red flames for this loop Round America. Our signs are on the sides of the car, and Roger and Judy Simpson of Signs Sell in Roswell, Georgia produced some new signs to go on the back of the car. I figured this was a good idea since a lot of folks pass us, and we’ve only passed 10 times throughout the entire trip. The car has a new cell phone hands-free unit as the first one broke. The new one works through the car speakers, and it is much clearer. I have American flags front and rear as well as the signs. I’ve hung a few strands of beads from the rearview mirror. It’s not quite as tacky as it all sounds. Different odometer. The starting mileage in the Cruiser is 21,354. 12,289 miles were racked up prior to now.

The PT Cruiser has massive storage space compared to the little white car. But, we have five bags of tableware that Bozzie Jane has us hand delivering to son Ryan in San Francisco. And we have three big file boxes full of material received from the 35 states we will see on this part of the trip. We have a case of Mardi Gras beads to give to people we meet along the way. The car is pretty well loaded. Amazing how that happens. We made it fine with little or nothing in a tiny little two-seater convertible, but now that we have room, the cargo has really increased. I call this the “Sansabelt Law of Physics” — everything tends to expand to fill the available space.

Signs Sell in Roswell was my first stop. Roger and Judy are delightful people who have done sign work for us for a variety of projects, and I picked up the additional Round America signs, and Judy changed the 18,000 mile lettering on the existing signs to read 25,000. I actually expected the trip to be close to 30,000…but it’s better to be conservative about such things. I presented Judy and Roger with beads.

We sent out a news release update about the trip last night, and the phone has started ringing from various radio stations and newspapers. We now have one regular gig. Each week, we will be doing “Wednesdays with the Windsors” on EZ-103.1 in Palm Springs, California. We will be on the Morning Coffee Show with Dan McGrath at 7:11 am. See This should be a lot of fun. We have a number of other interviews and call-ins set up as well.

The area north of Atlanta is very pretty. Green, lots of trees, hills, and then mountains. I drove for an hour or more before I found anything that caught my eye for a photo. I spotted a big pig statue outside Cleveland, Georgia.

As I drove through Cleveland, I saw a sign for Babyland General Hospital. I pulled in and found myself in the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids. The dolls were created here in 1978, so they were celebrating their 25th anniversary. The place is as cute as can be. Doctors and nurses are the staff. They have a big nursery, an area for the newborns, a special window where the newest newborns are placed, a school for the older kids, and much more. Nurse Becky provided me with the basic information, and she gave me a prescription as I was leaving for “lots of TLC.”

Three really sweet Georgia ladies walked in as I did, and I met Honey Dews (that’s her real name), Sally, and Claire. They told me all about how special the place is. It was twice as fun just being around them. They told me about a lot of places I needed to go, but The Gourd Place in Sautee, Georgia was a must-see not too far away, and Honey Dews went out to their car to get the brochure and a map for me.

There was a delivery of a new baby while I was there. A “doctor” handled the delivery out in the cabbage patch. It was a girl. The crowd was asked to name it, and a sweet little girl gave it the first name of “Emily.” I then yelled out “America” as the second name. So, Emily America was named, given a tag with the name, and then moved to the area for the newest of the newborns. I should have bought (adopted) Emily America for Miss Madison, but I just didn’t think about it until I was down the road.

In addition to Nurse Becky, I met Nurse Tammy, Nurse Stacy, and Nurse Carrie. As with Becky, Tammy asked about Mardi Gras. Then the stories began. I was giving beads to those who ask about my beads. I gave away a lot of beads today, so I knew I would need to order more.

As I was leaving, I got into a conversation with the family of the little girl who shared newborn naming duties with me. A man introduced himself as Mark Ussery from Dallas, Texas. I said “I know you.” We did some business back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Mark has a printing business in Dallas and was visiting the area on vacation with his family. First Rich Curilla and now Mark Ussery — two men that I know who I have run into by chance. I wonder who will be next.

Babyland General Hospital was a real treat even for an old hairy-legged boy. I know I enjoyed it even more because I’d never heard of it and just happened upon it. For more information, see

Midway between Cleveland and Helen, Georgia, I saw a sign for The Country Bake Shop in what looked to be a sparsely populated residential area. I decided to stop and give it a try. Rebecca helped me. She just moved there a week before from Wisconsin. She was on her own for the first time in her young life. As I walked up, she was sitting on the grass out in front of the shop, with a big maybe six-inch pile of letters rubberbanded together, and she was reading one. I didn’t want to be nosy, but it would be interesting to know what the story was there. Rebecca was either wearing a special costume or she is Amish or something similar. She sold me a dozen cookies ($3) that shortly thereafter proved to be very good. As she was ringing me up and reading the back of my business card, she said it was such a shame that I couldn’t try their pie. She said their Pecan Pie was really special. I left with an entire Pecan Pie. $6.

The Storyland Petting Zoo caught my eye a half a mile or so down the highway. It was closed, and a “For Rent” sign was hanging outside. It appeared to be someone’s dream that didn’t quite work out in the real world. I’ve had a few of those.

The brochure provided by Honey Dews, Sally, and Claire took me right to The Gourd Place. I met Janice and Priscilla, the owners. It was amazing to me what someone artistic (Priscilla) could do with a gourd! They started gourdcraft in 1976. Priscilla was a schoolteacher, and she hated it. She kept telling people she was going to quit teaching, and she came up with some outlandish ideas for what she might do next. One idea she seriously pursued was starting a worm farm. But she and Janice were out shopping one day, and Janice stopped at a farmer’s market to buy a gourd as she wanted to craft something to give to a friend. Janice encouraged Priscilla to buy a gourd, too, and she did. Janice says she has no artistic ability, and her gourd didn’t turn out too well, but Priscilla’s was great. Priscilla said: “This is it. I’m going to quit teaching and become an artist and craftsperson using gourds.” 27 years and counting.

The Gourd Place is unique. They sell gourds and let people come in and do their own gourd crafts with their help. They also have a delightful museum with an amazing variety of gourds from various countries, as musical instruments, with beautiful artwork, etc. See

I would have never chosen to go to a gourd place, so I’m really pleased that Honey Dews, Sally, and Claire told me about it and encouraged me to go. Bozzie Jane and I especially enjoy following the tips that we get from people we meet.

Helen, Georgia was my primary planned stop for the day. But before I reached Helen, I stopped at a neat little area called Nacoochee Village. Winery, antique shops, and the Nora Mill, a water-powered stone ground mill established in 1876 that produces corn meal, grits, and whole grains. I took a number of photos of the mill, the water, and the waterfall there.

I finally reached Helen about 4:30. Helen is a re-creation of an alpine village nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains by the Chattahoochee River. Helen has more than 200 import and specialty shops, and the entire town has a German Alps – Swiss Alps look. Even the chain hotels and fast food restaurants are appropriately themed in appearance. See There were American flags everywhere in Helen — perhaps the most we’d seen anywhere.

I walked around for an hour and then had a bratwurst sandwich at a riverside restaurant called The Troll. Cheryl was my waitress. She earned her beads by asking the most asked question — that Mardi Gras question. She commented that you can learn so much from traveling — about the places you go, the things you see, the people you meet…and about yourself. How very insightful! Cheryl and Yvette have missed their calling; they should get together and write books.

My table was out by the river, and I enjoyed watching people floating by. It’s called “Shooting The Hooch.” The Chattahoochee River isn’t pretty at all in Atlanta, but it was very pretty at this spot. I do enjoy saying the name: Chattahoooochee!

From Helen, you really go up into the mountains. The town of Hiawassee on the Hiawassee River is very pretty — homes and cabins around lakes with layers of mountains around them.

I was welcomed to North Carolina (state #16) a little after 6 pm. North Carolina has great roads — always smooth. I remember noticing that as a child; I was reminded of it when we took Brittany to Duke as a freshman; and I was reminded of it again today. The best roads we’ve ever seen are in England; they must have something over there that we don’t have in the US. I assume the road quality variance from one state to another has to do with a lot of factors. North Carolina has a lot of good factors.

I stopped in Dillsboro, a historic town with quaint shops and cute B&B’s. There are a lot of crafts people and a depot for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. See

North Carolina is full of places where you can pan for gold or rubies or other gems. I would really like to do this, so I will try to find a place. I’ll save my gem story until then.

Rafting is also a huge business in these parts.

I got lost in the mountains shortly after sunset. I wish I knew why Gatlinburg, Tennessee wasn’t signed as that was the direction I needed. It may be because they want to keep the tourists in North Carolina as long as possible. I finally found Cherokee. There’s a lot going on in Cherokee, so I decided to stop for the night and drive to Gatlinburg first thing in the morning.

The Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel & Casino is supposedly owned in part by the “Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.” The hotel was full, so I parked and went into the casino. The Kickapoos need a group like Harrah’s to help them out, because this is a very nice casino and hotel. Absolutely no comparison to what I saw in Eagle Pass, Texas. The $100 that we won at the Copa Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi was burning a hole in my pocket. I searched for the roulette wheel to place our patented $100-on-red bet, but there was no wheel. There were a ton of slot machines and a pretty good number of Digital Blackjack Tables where the dealer presses buttons rather than deals cards, and everyone has a little video screen that shows their “cards.” I decided I needed to bet the $100, and it would have to be Blackjack.

I walked all around the tables looking for a sign that indicated to me on whose hand I should bet. Nothing jumped out at me. I made a second lap, and I spotted a lady wearing two strands of Mardi Gras beads. That was it. I introduced myself to Brenda and her husband and gave them my card. She gave me permission to bet on her hand. I plunked down $50. Brenda drew 18. Rick, the dealer, drew 20. Bye bye $50. I plunked down the rest of my Mississippi winnings. Brenda drew 14. She took a hit, and drew an 8. $100 goes so quickly in a casino. I just hope the Cherokee Indians actually get some of the money. I really thought the beads would be a good system. The beads I have are lucky beads, so I figured someone wearing similar beads would have the same luck going for them. Once I was $100 lighter, I learned that the beads were actually won by Brenda’s husband who was hitting consecutive Blackjacks in the next chair while his wife was wearing his beads and losing my money. I should have saved the $100 for a roulette wheel in Vegas. Oh well, it was great fun. There are winners and grinners, and it was my turn to grin. I wanted to take a photo of the folks at the table, but I was not allowed to do so.

Niki got me all fixed up with a very nice room at the brand new Fairfield Inn. She has given me tips on two sights to see in Cherokee before heading on to Gatlinburg. She says the Cherokee Indians do well through lease payments paid by Harrah’s and others. I sure hope she’s right.

Rebecca was right about the Pecan Pie. I had a slice for dessert once I got checked into the hotel. It was very good.

I was reminded today of several of the lessons we have already learned or relearned from earlier in the trip. There are nice people everywhere. Always have a minute. Ask questions. Keep your eyes peeled for anything that looks interesting as it often will be. You’ll usually have more fun if your expectations are not set too high. It’s a lot of fun to try things you would not normally do. You meet more people if you wear Mardi Gras beads.

I guess I did learn one new lesson: Winning at Roulette is much more fun than losing at Blackjack.  Winners and Grinners.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:Babyland General Hospital — The Gourd Place — Nacoochee Village — Helen Georgia — Harrah’s Cherokee Hotel & Casino