Wednesday, October 16, 2019

DESTINATION: The Great Smokey Mountains

After a great night's sleep in Dillsboro, North Carolina, we headed into the Great Smoky Mountains by way of the Newfound Gap Road.  The day was cold, cloudy, and misting so we stayed in the car as much as possible.  Our first top was the Oconaluftee Visitors Center.

The Mountain Farm Museum and Oconaluftee Visitor Center are located at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on U.S. Highway 441 / Newfound Gap Road near Cherokee, North Carolina. 

The Mountain Farm Museum includes farm buildings, most dating around 1900, that were moved from their original locations throughout the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to create an open-air museum. Visitors can explore a log farmhouse, barn, apple house, springhouse and a working blacksmith shop to get a sense of how families may have lived 100 years ago. It's a beautiful setting for a stroll.

Most of the structures were built in the late 19th-century and were moved here in the 1950s. The Davis House is a rare chance to view a log house built from chestnut wood before the chestnut blight decimated the American Chestnut in our forests during the 1930s and early 1940s. 
About one-half mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitors Center lies the Mingus Mill, a large water-powered mill for grinding corn.

Built in 1886, this historic grist mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building.
A miller is on site to demonstrate the grinding of corn into cornmeal, which is available for purchase. 
From the Mingus Mill we continued on to Clingmans Dome.  At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome boasts the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The “Dome” refers to the mountaintop, not the man-made observation tower. The Dome actually lies within both Tennessee and North Carolina and is the highest point in Tennessee. On clear days, visitors may see as far as 100 miles.  Unfortunately, the fog and wind kept us from seeing the observation tower or the dome, at all.

With colder temperatures and more rain/fog rolling in we decided to head into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for lunch.  After lunch we completed a self guided tour of the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery but our excitement to be in Gatlinburg faded as we battled the cold wind and crowds.  We decided to leave the Gatlinburg area and head to our VRBO cabin rental in Cosby, Tennessee.  On the road to Cosby we saw a sign for Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community so we detoured and spent an hour roaming around the crafters' shops.

Tired from a busy day we went straight to our cabin in Cosby to get some rest before hitting the road, again, the next day!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

DESTINATION: Ashland, North Carolina

By October 2019 we were ready for another travel adventure so we packed up TK's parents, booked a flight, and headed to Asheville, North Carolina, to start a tour of the Great Smokey Mountains.

We landed at the Asheville airport and picked up our rental car which, to our surprise, turned out the to be the perfect mountain touring ride, a Jeep Rubicon!

We spent the night in Asheville at the Holiday Inn Biltmore West.  This hotel had an attentive staff and clean, spacious rooms but was desperately in need of a renovation. We understand that by spring they will start their remodel.  We ate at the Cracker Barrel near the hotel.  Our waitress was the first, of what would be many, friendly people we met in North Carolina and Tennessee. During our trip we lost count of how many times we were called southern pet names like... sweetie, honey, baby, or sugar!  

Friends and family that had already visited Asheville prompted us to go to the Biltmore Estate but we rarely do what people tell us and don't enjoy overly priced tourist traps.  Instead we found the Riverview Station Art District.  This unique 1902 historical building houses 60 local artists.  One of them our favorite potter, 
Akira Satake.

The next morning we traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway towards our next destination of Dillsboro, NC.

This beautiful drive had many tunnels and scenic view points. We passed on scenic over look after another along the parkway so we decided to venture off the main road and visit Looking Glass Falls.  This waterfall is literally right off the road making it an easy adventure for TK's parents.

In Dillsboro we stayed at a Best Western Plus River Escape Inn & Suites that overlooked the Tuckaseegee River.  This amazing hotel did not disappoint us!  Not only is is beautifully decorated with quiet rooms but the outside walkway and deck spans the entire length of the hotel and gave us an amazing view of the river.  We didn't use it but there was a community fire pit sitting along side the river for guests to use.  We grabbed a bottle of wine and enjoyed cocktails on the patio before we headed to dinner.

Take it from two self proclaimed Texas BBQ experts when we say that we found the most amazing Texas Style BBQ right in the middle of Dillsboro, North Carolina, at The Haywood Smokehouse!!! Portions were so big that we shared platters and dined on their delicious burnt end beans, perfectly smoked, melt in your mouth brisket and mac-n-cheese!

Leaving fatter and happier than when we arrived we had a good night's sleep and were ready to hit the road again the next morning!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

DESTINATION: Bailey, Colorado

On the last day of our 2019 Colorado trip we made our way to Bailey, Colorado, to visit the Sasquatch Outpost.....I know, we're weird!

To get to Bailey from Colorado Springs we headed through Manitou Springs and then onto Highway 24 to Woodland Park.  In Woodland Park we connected onto Highway 67 and passed the Painted Rock Campground where we saw the most amazing rock formation jetting out of the ground right in the middle of pine forests. 

Painted Rocks Campground

One of many rock formations in Painted Rocks Campground

From Painted Rock Campground we headed to the small town of Deckers.  The South Platte River flowing below Cheesman Canyon through Deckers is a world-class fishing area.  We saw several anglers wading in the river fly fishing on the South Platte River below the Cheesman Canyon.

Evidence of the Hayman Fire of 2002 in Pike National Forest

Granite rock formations near Deckers
A few old buildings near Pine, Colorado

A few old buildings near Pine, Colorado

Old school house, now a home, in Pine, Colorado

From Deckers, we turned onto Decker's Road 126 and followed the Platte River to the community of Pine.  Just outside of Pine we stopped at the Pine Valley Ranch Park to get a closer view of, and dip our toes in, the North Fork of the Platte River. Pine Valley Ranch Park is an amazing little park offering several hikes, a beautiful lake, a lot of history, a small island with a gazebo, and the best picnic area on the Front Range of Colorado. 

North Fork Platte River

Gazebo at Pine Valley Ranch Park

Bridge crossing the Platte River at Pine Valley Ranch Park

Platte River going around an island at the Pine Valley Ranch Park

Our little pup, Remi, is an explorer also!

After exploring the Pine Valley Ranch Park we made our way to Bailey and to the Sasquatch Outpost. Bailey is a small town located about 45 minutes southwest of Denver. This Platte Canyon town lies at 7,739 feet with the main part of town residing at the bottom of a steep winding section of Highway 285.

The outside of the Sasquatch Outpost

Remi's parents make him do the dumbest things!

Remi posing with the big guy

The Sasquatch Outpost has to be the most unique store in all of Colorado and is strictly dedicated to the famous legendary Bigfoot.  Not only does the Outpost offer souvenirs of the Bigfoot kind but they also have a museum on site.  After picking up a few souvenirs we decided to get back on the road again because the skies had darkened and looked as if storms were developing.

Before reaching Pine, again, we made a quick stop at the Cruz-In Drive-Through and ordered the most amazing green chili cheese fries to snack on we headed back to Cheyenne Mountain.

DESTINATION: Manitou Springs, Colorado

Just west of Colorado Springs lies the eclectic town of Manitou Springs, Colorado. The main road through the center of town is a direct path to the base of Pikes Peak. The town was founded for its natural mineral springs which you can sample during a self-guided, walking tour. Just stop off at the visitors center and get yourself a map and a paper cup!
Downtown Manitou Springs is a unique place for travelers as the area consists of many one-story, adjoining, small shops, restaurants, and pubs, as well as a creekside city park with a children's playground made from unusual materials. Among other services, shops cater to tourist interests such as clothing, candy, souvenirs, and outdoor recreation.
One such Manitou Springs attraction is the Famous Penny Arcade! As photographers we've been dreaming of coming back to Manitou to do one thing.....photograph the nostalgic arcade! This blog post is just dedicated to the photographs we took at the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade. If you'd like to see more about Manitou you can visit our blog post at

In the arcade you will be able to find some of the first arcade games (many still cost a penny) and walk through arcade game history playing over 20 different pinball machines to 30 different racing games.

The games can date back to the 1930's if not earlier where a lot of the games cost the same price they did back then. The Arcade is located just off Main Street and consists of several little buildings, every building has it own different style and feel.