Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Judy and I went to Asheville, NC this past weekend with new friends Gary and Claudette Coulombe Baker, and Nathan and Nancy Hammons. Gary, of course, is someone I've known for over 45 years, but it has been just over a year now that we joined forces in the Princess Theater project and have become close friends. Nathan and I met through the project in March of last year. Both guys are "good people", the kind you enjoy hanging with and having a great time. I've only begun to get to know the wives, Claudette and Nancy, but I'm quickly finding out I also enjoy their company. They are all witty, intelligent, full of life, and seem to enjoy the same things as Judy and I.
The goal was to attend the 2010 Winter Warmer Beer Festival and to see Jeff Daniels (yes the actor) in concert at the Diana Wortham Theatre, located in the heart of the Pack Square Cultural District.

Well, the goal was attained and all had a ball! We walked the heart of Asheville, various shops and snacking at local sports bars. Asheville is a lovely town that gives you a secure feeling as you walk the streets. It's clean, and the center is central of several hotels and motels. You don't need your vehicle to have a great time, unless you want to go out to Biltmore House or other attractions.

When we arrived we didn't have tickets to the beer festival, but that didn't stop Gary from checking out every lead. He finally scored 3 "drinking" tickets, and 3 "DD" tickets from one of the event coordinators at the event site. We broke the news to the girls that they couldn't drink, but quickly added (after getting "the" look) that we would work that out by sharing. Otherwise, we would have been in the doghouse for sure!With tickets in hand we proceeded to Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria to enjoy a good draft beer (I had the Highland Gaelic and, my favorite, Fat Tire) and some appetizers. It was good to sit down a few minutes and replenish our stores and warm up. The weather in East Tennessee was definitely much warmer than Asheville. It was probably about 15 to 20 degrees colder with a stiff breeze blowing. We all had consider only wearing a light jacket or sweater, but we were all glad we brought heavier things to wear. It got down right cold, especially after dark!

There was a throng of beer enthusiasts at the festival, all clutching their "beer" glasses, which were included in the price of admission, and much smaller than the normal beer glass size that they handed out for "water only"! Everyone was friendly and there were no obvious drunks there, or any hint of frayed nerves from being compressed into a small area, shoulder to shoulder with full beer glasses being gingerly guarded in front of them.

Many local micro-brewers offered their product at the event:

From Asheville and WNC area:
French Broad Brewing Co.
Highland Brewing Co.
Green Man Ales
Pisgah Brewing Co.
Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co.
Heinzelmannchen Brewery
Appalachian Craft

Piedmont & Durham area:
Catawba Valley Brewing Co.
Big Boss

Nashville, TN:

Atlanta, GA:

Personally, I didn't find much I preferred. I don't like a heavy hopped beer, no bitterness, but I like pale ales. Of what was offered I mostly tried the vendor's "winter" beers, but settled for mostly the Sweetwater 420, the Yazoo, and the Highland beers.

When we had our fill, we troughed back to the Marriott to get the show tickets. It was freezing! We warmed there for a few minutes and then headed back toward the theater to Jeff.

The theater is a modern 500 seat proscenium theatre built in 1991. We were in the balcony and I had no place to firmly balance my pocket camera, so the photos of Jeff leave a little to be desired. However, you can click on his link above and see him. It look exactly the same.

Jeff Daniels is a musical storyteller and quite accomplished on the guitar. I was impressed with how he could continue to play with all five fingers, scan the audience, and tell his story at the same time. I might be able to do one or the other, but nothing close to him. He was enjoyable, but I think Gary was a little disappointed in the style of music. I think he wanted more upbeat bluesy music, like he I both like, so Jeff left him wanting more. For me, I was thoroughly entertained and was glad I didn't miss this opportunity to see him perform. Would I go again...probably not.

Judy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and our traveling companions. We also enjoyed the detour trip along Highway 25/70 through Hot Springs, NC and on to I-26 and into Asheville. Intestate 40 has been closed over the mountain to Asheville, which is the normal route, for some time and will probably be closed through the summer due to rockslides. Coming back we took the I-26 to I-81 to I-40 route. Mileage wise it is longer that way, but with 70 mph speeds you can make more time that way. Unfortunately, it rained just about the whole way home. I had to be careful that I didn't hydroplane like a couple of unfortunate folks we saw.

Thanks Gary for coordinating this adventure...we were and are completely grateful for the invitation. Looking forward to future trips!

More photos of the trip on FLICKR!

Monday, January 18, 2010


Saturday wasn't the best day of the year to go on a road trip, but we worked with what was given us! Gary still runs a business and had crews out working even on Saturday, so time is still limited for him to take off for a little fun. However, he tried to stay in contact with his guys, but Happy Valley prefers not to be bothered by modern technology! I suppose that's what makes it such a happy place!

Of course, anytime we go through Maryville, Tennessee we are obliged to stop at the Richy Kreme. Just a few miles further down the road, Gary and I were wishing we had split an "Apple Ugly" (similar to a "bear claw") instead of nearly swallowing a whole one on our own! By then, Dr. Ahler was trying to give away the remaining eight from his dozen. However, he didn't get the sugar high Gary and I were experiencing, just before reaching for a Tums!

You can bet though, that on our next trip we'll stop again...they're just too delicious to pass up!Soon we were on Happy Valley Road in Blount County, Tennessee, and going under the Foothills Parkway on our way to Abrams Creek Road. Within a few minutes we passed our friend Bill Landry's house and into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Abrams Creek Campground is a lovely little area of the Smoky's. There are just a few camp sites there, but it's nestled in under white pine and hemlock trees along Abrams Creek.

The water there runs at least waist deep in places and is the a beautiful green color due to the green shale rock found there. The creek, even though the lighting was subdued by an overcast sky, photographed beautifully revealing the green tinted water. I was pleased with what I captured that day, but I bet a bright clear sky day would reveal even more of the beauty there.

We left Abrams Road, turning left in order to pass through the heart of Happy Valley. Along the way we could tell we were paralleling the Foothills Parkway. After reaching Hwy 129 at Chilhowee Lake, we turned right onto the Parkway and followed it back to Hwy 321 and on into Maryville.

I'll have to go back soon, and maybe I'll attempt the 5 miles to Abrams Falls which is normally visited from the Cades Cove side of the mountains. Got to lose some of this belly and get my back into shape first!

I got a "hitch" in my lower back while buckling Lily into her car seat last Monday. It was almost better when I pulled it again putting on my socks Friday! It's hell gettin' old!

Anyway, I shall return and will be in far better shape than I am today. See ya!

More photos on sure to double click them to enlarge!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Yes, it has been a very cold winter thus far. After nine straight days of near record cold temperatures, rain is predicted by tomorrow evening. There was never much snow, but the temps dropped and stayed below freezing for longer than it has in several years, so what little fell stuck around and is still around in places. Oh, it's been as cold over the past winters, but it has been some time since it stayed that cold during the day for this long.

I really don't remember, at least in recent memory, seeing the Emory River freeze over. It wasn't thick enough to walk out on, but there was at least an inch of ice covering the lake areas from shore to shore. The rocks and debris, including one garage can I saw, that kids threw out onto the ice still await a warm enough day to allow them to settle to the bottom.

Even the water inside plants and at their roots was forced up and out into beautiful little ice flowers known as "Frost Flowers"! I thought the little white things along the roadside were pieces of paper, but after stopping and taking a closer look I saw their beauty frozen in time.

There is one fountain in our local Riverfront Park that completely froze up, while another in the little pond by "Wild Wings Cafe" in Knoxville still struggled to put out its spray.

As I wrote in my last post, the ice covering the river made weird noises, sounds I called "singing" as the wind above and the water moving below pushed at the surface causing strains that made audible sounds. I've heard the Indians talk about the singing waters, but I always assumed it was babbling springs, but it could have also been the friction of the ice as it gently moved on the waters. Follow this link to hear the "Chants of Frozen Lakes" by Marc Namblard! Click the audio start button to hear the recordings.

Nonetheless, spring shall be back in sixty days or so, and all will be forgotten, save these photos. I suppose that's true about everything's here...then gone...unless we have a photograph to remind us.

More frozen photos HERE.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I took Judy down to the river this morning to hear the ice sing, but alas the river and ice didn't feel up to it today. I mentioned this in my cooking post HERE yesterday, and she wanted to hear it for herself. Maybe tomorrow...after tonight's little bit of snow the ice will sing to us!

We had headed out to see Avatar, but debated on whether or not we should go. All the weather services were predicting snow and we hated to drive the 40+ miles to Knoxville and not be able to get back home. However, nothing ventured nothing gained, so we took off.

I'm so glad we did. James Cameron's movie "Avatar" is absolutely wonderful - candy for the eyes! Once you get immersed in the movie, you will wish you could live on Pandora too! A world so beautiful, so connected to everything on it and in it, so wonderful it even lights you path at night. Everything is beautiful and understands its place and contribution to every other living and non-living thing.

To me it was a European and Indian confrontation all over again, except this time the Na' vi (Indians with Afro-American characteristics) band together to force its adversaries to leave them and their land alone! How I wished that had happened then. Had the American Indian understood what was happening and united, the white Europeans would never have dared get off their tiny boats!

When the movie ended, which was, even though it was over 2 1/2 hours long, too soon, we came out to a white parking lot. The temperature was still around 28 degrees, but we had no problem getting home. The car slipped once when crossing a railroad track, but I may have punched it just a little too much...on purpose! Judy just smiles...she knows me!
Back at home, I pushed the heat back up to around 71, sipped a small glass of homemade wine, munched a few almonds, all in an attempt to pass the time until last night's stew was a decent eating temperature. We had an egg on an all-grain thin bread this morning, munched some nuts and a few apple slices during the movie, but now it was time for some real satisfying chow!

I can hardly wait for morning to see if the cold dry snow showers amount to more than an inch on the ground. It's so dry that it blows easily across the road or yard. Regardless, we plan to get out and find some winter beauty. If there's any beauty to be found, East Tennessee, any time of year, is the place to find it!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Yep, when you really need something, it fails to work! It hasn't been out of the high 20's this week, and down in the teen's at night with light snow blowing. The coldest and longest spell of cold weather we've had this year in East Tennessee, and mom's heat goes out!

I just happened to be there when we noticed a weird sound coming from the external heat/air combo unit, and noted that there was no air, thus no heat, coming through the vents. She immediately called her contact at Central City Heating & Air and got a planner-estimator to come out. The diagnosis was as expected, since she'd had trouble earlier in the fall and got a warning from the tech, it was dead!

There was nothing they could do yesterday afternoon, so a new Trane unit was ordered and plans were made for the crew to show up at 7 AM to install a new combo unit.

I fixed mom up with a couple of electric heaters and they kept the house at about 68 degrees. I wanted her to either come home with me or stay with Virginia, her next door neighbor, but she was concerned that if she left the pipes would freeze. There is no arguing with her, so I left her and called back a couple of times that night before bed. Every time I woke up I'd start thinking about her, but she made it with no problem. She even slept in her recliner...again, so the pipes wouldn't freeze.

If anyone can figure out what difference that made, let me know. All I know it was the best for her piece of mind.

The workmen arrived at 7 AM as planned, and worked until about 3:30 today. It was 17 degrees when they arrived, but they all acted as if it was old hat to them!

So, everything is back to normal, she has a toasty house in every room now, and was back vacuuming and cleaning up after the workers. She'll be worn out tomorrow, just like she was when everyone came to visit on Christmas and left. She has to have everything clean and back in its place before she can relax.

It does no good, really, to come to her house to celebrate family events, because she is left with the cleaning and gets all exhausted. But, it makes her happy...that's what counts.

Snow is predicted Thursday, so now we're all ready...hope you are too!

Monday, January 04, 2010


Veteran film and television director Harry Thomason is planning a film about the last ride Hank Williams, Sr. took, and has already begun collecting film clips for the production.

It is most probable that the ’52 Cadillac, driven by 18-year-old Charles Carr, with Hank asleep in the back seat, came through Roane County Tennessee sometime on New Year’s Eve 1952. They were on their way to Canton, OH and points north, for new bookings intended to be a new beginning for Hank’s career.

On the anniversary of that occurrence, December 31st, Bill Landry coordinated/directed, and Doug Mills filmed several local vintage automobiles driving around the area. This footage was procured by Harry Thomason for his planned movie "The Last Ride”. Thomason called Bill on Wednesday, but Bill was still able to get the needed cars, including a baby blue ’53 Cadillac convertible belonging to Rex Walls. The car is basically like the one Hank Williams was riding in as he passed this way. filmed several local vintage automobiles driving around the area. This footage was procured by Harry Thomason for his movie “

See more of the story and photos on the Princess Blog!

See more photos HERE!

Friday, January 01, 2010


For as long as I remember, my family has eaten black-eyed peas, hog jowl, and either cabbage or plain ol' spinach on New Year's Day. The question always asked when meeting a family member or friend was, "Did you have some black-eyed peas today?"

Click on THIS LINK to go to my cooking blog! Warning...your mouth will water!