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