Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Power of One (if you are a well loved country music star)

They tell us that, in 1986, the road through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Tennessee was a narrow, two-lane country road leading through the arts and tourism community of Gatlinburg and into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. That was before Dolly Parton developed Dollywood as a job creator for people in her home town. Today it looks like this:
Pigeon Forge, TN
Gatlinburg, TN
To me Pigeon Forge is Niagara Falls on steroids. I'll let the pictures tell the story:

Even the Titanic was there
Complete with iceberg
It was all too much for us so we headed straight to the National Park. Such a beautiful spot.

We planned to drive the Newfound Gap Road through the mountains to Cherokee, NC (in the car, not the Adventure Bus). It was closed due to a landslide.

And we hoped to hike up to Clingman's Dome, the highest point in Tennessee to enjoy the view. It was closed due to ice and snow on the road in to the trail. But we had a great day never-the-less.

Not too far into the park we encountered this sign. Where on earth is this road going!?
Turns out we go through the tunnel then up around and over the tunnel. Pretty clever.
The first snow we've seen this winter.
The hiking trails were beautiful, with something for all levels of hiking ability.
Part way down this trail we encountered this sign:
NO DOGS! Oh well. So off we went to find a trail dogs could enjoy. This one was perfect. Straight up hill but that didn't bother our lame dog.
Will you two please hurry up!
In the end we had a lovely day exploring parts of the park that were open and that welcomed dogs.

This was our last two-day stop on this winter's adventure. From Pigeon Forge it took us 5 uneventful days to get home. Until we came to the Cobiquid Pass in Nova Scotia:
Welcome home
We will be in Nova Scotia until next October. While here I will be telling you about Nova Scotia and all the adventures you can find here.

You can follow more of our adventures on our facebook page
To contact me click here

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lost in Lost Creek

 It took us 10 days to drive home from New Orleans but here we are, home and parked at Bay Hammocks.

We drove diagonally across the US from Louisiana to Maine, which meant we spent a lot of time in the Appalachian Mountains. A beautiful drive if you stay on the beaten path. Beautiful and scary if you don't. And one day we strayed.

We spent the night at Harrison Bay State Park in Southwestern Tennessee and the next morning decided to take the scenic (but 4 lane) route through the mountains to Pigeon Forge, our next stop.

Getting out of the park and back to the highway was going to be tricky. And we new the GPS would back track us by several miles to get on I75 so we did not use it. Instead we used the map to choose an alternative, and shorter, route. Which was fine. The road was a bit narrow but it took us through some pretty country. And Arch got to drive the Adventure Bus up and down a small, winding (and mercifully short) mountain road.

We came to the ramp for I75 and passed under it and started looking for the turn onto highway 441. After driving several miles we realized we missed it. And there was no where to turn a 38' motorhome, towing a car on a dolly, around. So forward we went.

The road was good but very narrow with not much protection to keep you from going over the edge:
In some spots there was a low barricade. Which looked very low from the passenger seat of a motorhome:
In other spots trees served the purpose:
And in other spots, barb wire was employed:
Even when protecting us from ravines such as this:
You may not see the fence in the trees but it is there.

At the top of the mountain we were greeted by this sign:
Very aptly named town. We wondered if we should drop in and say a little prayer before heading down the mountain. Which we knew we must do.

The drive down was even more scary. But the country side was beautiful:
 With several old abandoned houses along the way:
This one had a plaque describing its history (I assume) but there was no spot for us to stop and check it out. Looks like a school house.

Eventually we found highway 441:
This was almost enough to make us turn around and head back into the mountains.
You can follow more of our adventures on our facebook page
To contact me click here

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Living With Hurricanes

The Gulf of Mexico is very shallow along the US Gulf Coast from the Big Bend (where the Florida Panhandle starts) to the Texas coast. And the water is the warmest in the US. As a result they deal with a lot of hurricanes and are good at it. But sometimes as storm gets the better of them. Such was the case with Katrina, as we all know. Another that will stay in memory for a long time is Hurricane Isaac which came ashore at the same place as Katrina, 8 years to the day later, in August 2012.  Both storms produced large storm surges that caused unbelievable damage along the coast.

As we drove along highway 90, that runs along the gulf of Mexico, often right beside the ocean, we saw plenty of evidence of storm damage.
There is a lot of vacant beach front (Hwy 90 runs between these properties and the beach) property with concrete pads where buildings once were. In some cases this damage went back to 3 blocks from the ocean.

And a lot of evidence of homes on stilts that were simply blown away:
But also a lot of rebuilding is happening:
It looked as though it will not be long before this pier reopens.

And the buildings look like they are being built to withstand quite a storm:
The building on cement pillars above will be public bath and change rooms when completed.

And home owners appear to be determined to stay:
When we were driving through the bayous south east of New Orleans we came across the scene below. It really tells the story of hurricane damage and recovery. The first thing that caught our eye was this steeple sitting on the roadside with the time for church services on a small sign beside it.
Then we noticed a steel shed with a "fancy" entrance. A temporary church:
And behind it signs that the church is being rebuilt. On stilts it appears:
Brave people.

You can follow more of our adventures on our facebook page
To contact me click here

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Restaurant Worth a Visit

First, let me apologize for the delay in posting. My computer went kaput while we were on our way home from Gulf Shores, MI and I have been living through computer withdrawal until yesterday. When I got a new one. I am still figuring out Windows 8 but now know enough to get back to the blog.

I am a former restaurant owner and a very particular restaurant customer. To say we are hard to impress in an understatement. I also know the impact that a restaurant review, either good or bad, can have on a business. As a result I seldom write about the restaurants we visit. But while nosing around Ocean Springs MI. looking for the Davis Bayou Area of Gulf Shores National Seashore (which we never did find), we stumbled upon this excellent little spot:
The patio looked very inviting:
So we decided to give it a try:
Arch had the Grilled Shrimp in Balsamic Dressing that I mentioned in the last blog post about shrimping:
And I had Spinach and Artichoke dip served with Fried Bow Tie Pasta as dippers:
What a great idea the bow tie pasta dippers were. I am planning to make them one day as I think they will be great with any dip that is a little moist.

All the food was well prepared and presented and delicious. The atmosphere was charming and the server delightful. They also served restaurant-made baguette with Parmesan cheese and pepper in olive oil to dip it in. Yum!

The recipes that follow are mine, not the restaurants.

Fried Bow Tie Pasta
(My guess, with a little info from our server on how these were made)
To make then you cook the bow tie pasta about half the recommended time - do not over cook - then fry them in oil until golden brown. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

(8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (I use a 10 oz. bag of fresh spinach and saute it in a bit of lemon-flavoured olive oil and chop it coarsely)
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a small baking dish.
In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Gently stir in artichoke hearts and spinach.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the preheated oven 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.


You can follow more of our adventures on our facebook page
To contact me click here

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shrimp Fishing

The first time we ran into freshly caught shrimp was in Hunting Island, Georgia, last fall. Since then we've seen shrimp featured on restaurant menus and in grocery stores and seafood markets all along both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. We saw shrimp fishing boats everywhere but could not find anyone who took people out shrimp fishing. And I was really anxious to learn how it was done. So imagine my excitement when I saw this sign in Biloxi, MS:
The boat was just docking:
The next trip was in 1/2 hour so we booked to go.Tara went with us so we had to sit at the very back of the boat out of everyone's way. It was a bit chilly but we had a great view of the demonstration.

As the shrimp live in the in the mud in the bottom of the ocean  they are caught by dragging a net along the ocean floor. First mate Steve explained how the net works:
It is thrown off the back of the boat and slowly let out into the ocean as the boat moves forward.

With the net goes a length of chain:
The chain stirs up the ocean floor bringing the shrimp up from the mud and into the net. The net is held open by these two pieces of metal:
When the net is full it is pulled into the boat by reversing the procedure. The metal is closed and the net and chain are reeled in, hopefully full of shrimp.On this trip they caught nothing. Which was to be expected. The water was too cold and it was not shrimping season. But we did learn a lot about the shrimp fishery.

The water in this area of the Gulf of Mexico is very shallow and normally very warm. Ideal for shrimp which grow better in warm waters.
These swimmers are a long way from shore and the water is just above their knees.
Each female shrimp produces up to 25,000 eggs which she carries with her until they hatch. Once hatched, if the water is warm enough, the shrimp will grow 1 inch every 7 days. The shrimp season opens when the shrimp are large enough to harvest. An expert from the Department of Fisheries determines this by catching the shrimp in the normal way, weighing out a pound and then counting the number of shrimp in the pound. If there are 68 or less shrimp in a pound the season opens. Usually, depending on how warm the water is, the season opens around May 1st. This has been a colder than normal year in the Biloxi area and they anticipate the season will open in late June. It will close when the water gets cold and the shrimp migrate further out to sea. Usually in December. There is no limit on the number of shrimp a shrimper can harvest.

The boat we were on is designed more to accommodate people than to harvest shrimp. Most shrimp boats look like this:

When we discovered this shrimping trip we were on our way home from lunch at a very excellent restaurant (more about it in the next post) in Ocean Springs, Mississippi where Arch ordered the grilled shrimp in balsamic dressing, which was excellent. Needless to say they would not part with the recipe but I think this one is pretty close:

Grilled Shrimp in Balsmatic Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Approximately 1/2 lb shrimp per person

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a jar and shake well. Set aside and let warm to room temperature.
Grill shrimp on the barbecue or in a grill pan until done. Do not over cook. As soon as the shrimp are pink remove them from the heat. Toss in the room temperature dressing and serve. 

This is how they were served at the restaurant:

You can follow more of our adventures on our facebook page
To contact me click here