Search

Category

North Carolina

2019-04-21 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Easter Sunday and moving from Asheville, NC to Chattanooga, TN

We had a leisurely morning.  It was cold!  41 degrees!  We had a little hitching up to do; at about 9:30 we pulled out of the RV park and drove 5 miles into downtown Asheville.  We parked at the Visitor Center (it was closed), and walked towards the First Presbyterian Church.  It is Easter!

img_2105

By the time we were approaching the church we noted that we were over one hour early.  And we were cold!  So we stopped into Mayfel’s for brunch.  The Crab Cakes Benedict was great!

img_2104img_7918

Brunch over, we walked the 3 short blocks to church.  We were none too early.  This is not a “five minute church”.  We always worry when we attend a church as we are traveling that we are sitting in someone’s favorite seat!

FPC Asheville 1FPC Asheville 2

We didn’t take these photos while we were there – I stole them off the internet…

This was a lovely, VERY traditional Easter Service; organ, orchestra, choir, and the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus at the end.  We were invited to join the choir to sing!  (Not just us – everyone was invited…).  It was very nice…

We slipped out after the final singing and walked back to the Villa.  We pointed the truck west and we were off.  Quite a late start for us, but the weather was beautiful, and we had no reason to arrive at our destination (Chattanooga, TN) at any particular time…

The freeway out of Asheville; different than all the other southern states we have seen…

img_7919img_7920img_7924img_7925

It was great to see blue sky again!

img_7926img_7927img_7928

We pulled off the 40 Interstate to the 74.  No trucks!  It was a beautiful freeway for awhile…

img_7929

And then we entered the Nantahala Gorge… Two lane road, sharp turns, and a raging river!

img_7930img_7931img_7932img_7933img_7934img_7935

We stopped to take it all in…

img_7937

Eventually we reached Murphy, NC, where we stopped to do a little grocery shopping…

img_2106

Soon we were in Tennessee…

img_7939

The small roads continued, with views of rivers and lakes…

img_7946img_7953img_7955img_7958img_7964img_7965img_7967img_7968

We reached Chattanooga and the Raccoon Mountain RV Park at about 6:00…

img_7969

The park is in a canyon, with views of mountains all around…

img_2109img_2110

Time to affix the sticker for the new state!

img_2107

Happy hours and dinner ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-20 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Asheville, NC and Biltmore!

Today we went to see the Biltmore Estate, right here in Asheville.  We arrived, parked, and walked about 1/2 mile to the see grand vista over the front lawn:

img_7904

This is the largest privately owned house in America.  Yes, it is still owned by the Vanderbilt family, the 5th generation since George Washington Vanderbilt II had the house built between 1889 and 1895.  The house is a Châteauesque-style mansion, and it measures over 178,000 sq. ft.  It is one of the finest examples of mansions of the “Gilded Age”.

We walked down the lane adjacent to the lawn, then stood in line in the biting cold while we waited to be admitted at the appointed hour.  At least we had something interesting to look at…

img_2076img_2078img_2079

In the 1880s, at the height of the Gilded Age, Vanderbilt began to make regular visits to the Asheville area. He loved the scenery and climate so much that he decided to build his own summer house in the area, which he called his “little mountain escape”.  His older brothers and sisters had built luxurious summer houses in places such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Hyde Park, New York.   (See my blogs from the summer of 2017…)  Their father, William Vanderbilt, had died unexpectedly young, so his massive fortune was inherited by his many children while they were in their 30s; they all went on a building spree, spending all this money.  But George Vanderbilt did not get along with many of his siblings, and he was considered a black sheep of the family, so he had no desire to build his house near theirs.  Vanderbilt bought almost 700 parcels of land, including over 50 farms and at least five cemeteries; a portion of the estate was once the community of Shiloh.  A total of 125,000 acres were assembled.  Archives show that much of the land was in very poor condition, and the farmers and other landowners were glad to sell.

Vanderbilt hired Richard Morris Hunt to design the mansion, with Frederick Law Olmstead hired to design the grounds.  Olmstead turned the 8,000 acres directly around the mansion into luxurious parks, woods, meadows, and gardens.  The rest of the land was made into commercial lumber forests.

Construction of the house began in 1889. In order to facilitate such a large project, a woodworking factory and brick kiln, which produced 32,000 bricks a day, were built onsite, and a three-mile railroad spur was constructed to bring materials to the building site.  A separate village (Biltmore Village) was built to house many of the workers and their families and to attend to their daily needs.  A trade school (Biltmore Estate Industries) was opened to train the local youths in making hand-crafted wares.  Biltmore Dairy was built to provide milk, butter and other foods to the newly formed community.  Construction on the main house required the labor of about 1,000 workers, including 60 stone masons.  Vanderbilt went on extensive trips overseas along with Hunt to purchase decor as construction on the house was in progress. He returned to North Carolina with thousands of furnishings for his newly built home including tapestries, carpets, paintings and prints, linens, and decorative objects, all dating between the 15th century and the late 19th century.

George Vanderbilt opened his opulent estate on Christmas Eve of 1895 to invited family and friends from across the country who were encouraged to enjoy leisure and country pursuits.  George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898 in Paris, France; their only child, Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, was born at Biltmore in 1900, and grew up at the estate.

The appointed hour arrived; we were allowed into the house.  They have an excellent audio tour which allowed us explore at our own pace.  Also interesting is the way the tour has been “curated”.  The audio tour makes it seem like the butler has greeted us in the entry hall, and he is going to escort us through the house, introducing us to other house-guests and servants  and showing us the many features of the house.  We are all here for one of the famous house parties, and the gala banquet is tonight.

All the rooms are populated with manikins with clothing recreated to match period photos of the Vanderbilt family. (Yawn)

The house and the family have an interesting history:

The family occupied the house from 1895 and into the early 20th century, living their lavish lifestyle.  Then, in 1914, to combat the impact of the newly imposed income taxes, and the fact that the estate was getting harder to manage economically, Vanderbilt initiated the sale of 87,000 acres to the federal government.  Before the sale was finalized, Vanderbilt unexpectedly died (of complications from an emergency  appendectomy); his widow completed the sale and that property became the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest.  Still overwhelmed with running such a large estate, Edith Vanderbilt began consolidating her interests and sold several separate businesses that had been established when the house was built: Biltmore Estate Industries in 1917 and Biltmore Village in 1921.  Edith intermittently occupied the house, living in an apartment carved out of the former Bachelors’ Wing, until the marriage of her daughter to John Francis Amherst Cecil in April 1924.  The Cecils went on to have two sons who were also born in the house.

In an attempt to bolster the estate’s financial situation during the Great Depression, Cornelia and her husband opened Biltmore to the public in March, 1930, at the request of the City of Asheville, which hoped the attraction would revitalize the area with tourism.  

After the divorce of the Cecils in 1934, Cornelia left the estate never to return; however, John Cecil maintained his residence in the Bachelors’ Wing until his death in 1954. Their eldest son, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil, occupied rooms in the wing until 1956. At that point Biltmore House ceased to be a family residence and continued to be operated as a historic house museum.

Their younger son William A. V. Cecil, Sr. returned to the estate in the late 1950s and joined his brother to manage the estate (which was in financial trouble) and make it a profitable and self-sustaining enterprise like his grandfather envisioned.  He eventually inherited the estate upon the death of his mother, Cornelia, in 1976, while his brother, George, inherited the then more profitable Biltmore Dairy, which was split off into Biltmore Farms.  In 1995, while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the estate, Cecil turned over control of the company to his son, William A. V. Cecil, Jr.  After the death of William A. V. Cecil in October 2017 and his wife Mimi Cecil in November, their daughter Dini Pickering began serving as board chair and their son Bill Cecil is CEO.  The Biltmore Company is still privately held.

Today, the estate property is 4,300 acres.  The property is run as an “amusement park” for tourists who love gilded age estates.  There is a hotel and an inn, restaurants, a winery,  several gift shops, a nursery, and every other thing that tourists love.  (No roller coaster.  yet…)  The main house and the views are well protected, but it is clear that they want you to come and stay a week and spend lots of money along the way…

Biltmore has 250 rooms in the house, including 35 bedrooms for family and guests, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, 75 servant bedrooms, three kitchens, and 19th-century novelties such as electric elevators, forced-air heating and cooling, centrally controlled clocks, fire alarms, and a call-bell system.  The principal rooms of the house are located on the ground floor.  The largest room in the house is the Entry Hall.  (Just like my 1905 house in Redlands…)

img_2082

(My center table is smaller, with fewer flowers…)

The Winter Garden always seemed like a strange place to me, but I’ve never spent a winter in Asheville, NC.  The skylight is marvelous:

img_2080

The Banquet Hall measures 42 feet wide and 72 feet long, with a 70-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceiling. The table can seat 64 guests, overlooking the triple fireplace that spans one end of the hall. On the opposite end of the hall, on the upper level, is an organ gallery that houses a 1916 Skinner pipe organ.

img_2095img_7910img_2096img_7908img_2098

To the left of the entrance hall is the 90-foot-long Tapestry Gallery, which leads to the Library, featuring three 16th-century tapestries. This room serves little function except as a place to showcase the three tapestries.  We did hear on the tour that the family took tea here in the afternoons…

img_7907-1

The two-story Library contains over 10,000 volumes in eight languages, reflecting George Vanderbilt’s broad interests in classic literature as well as art, history, architecture, and gardening.  The second-floor balcony is accessed by an ornate walnut spiral staircase, and the balcony includes a passage behind the fireplace.

img_2083img_2084img_2085img_2086

The second floor of the house is accessed by the cantilevered Grand Staircase of 107 steps spiraling around a four-story, wrought-iron chandelier holding 72 light bulbs.  The Second Floor Living Hall is an extension of the grand staircase as a formal hall and portrait gallery.  Located nearby in the south tower is George Vanderbilt’s gilded bedroom with furniture designed by Hunt.  His bedroom connects to his wife’s Louis XV-style, oval-shaped bedroom in the north tower through a Jacobean carved oak paneled sitting room with an intricate ceiling.

The remainder of the second floor contains various elaborate bedroom suites for family and close family friends and other honored guests.

The third floor has many guest rooms for couples, families, and single women, each given names that describe the furnishing or artist with which they were decorated.  The rooms all have connecting doors so that they can be configured into suites as needed…

The fourth floor has more than 20 bedrooms that were inhabited by housemaids, laundresses, and other female servants.  Also included on the fourth floor is an Observatory with a circular staircase that leads to a wrought iron balcony with doorways to the rooftop where Vanderbilt could view his estate.  Male servants were not housed here, however, but instead resided in 40+ bedrooms above the stable complex.

The guest rooms for bachelors were on the second and third floors on the opposite end of the house, adjacent to the service courtyard and stables complex.  It contains the Billiard Room, which is equipped with both a custom-made pool table and a carom table (table without pockets).  The room was mainly frequented by men, but ladies were welcome to enter as well.  Secret door panels on either side of the fireplace led to the private quarters of the Bachelors’ Wing, where female guests and staff members were not allowed.  The wing includes the Smoking Room, which was fashionable for country houses, and the Gun Room, which held mounted trophies and displayed George Vanderbilt’s gun collection.

The basement level featured activity rooms including an indoor 70,000-gallon heated swimming pool with underwater lighting, a bowling alley, and a gymnasium with once state-of-the-art fitness equipment.  The service hub of the house is also found in the basement; it contains the main kitchen, pastry kitchen, rotisserie kitchen, several walk-in pantries, walk-in refrigerators, the servants’ dining hall, laundry rooms and additional bedrooms for staff.  The sub-basement contains the heating and air conditioning systems, giant water heaters, and massive storage rooms.

So after two hours of fun we returned to the truck… We did get to drive through the entrance court and the formal gates…

img_2099

Unfortunately, due to the severe rains, a few of the estate roads were closed, and their signs pointing us to the exit were faulty.  But after driving around in circles for 45 minutes we made our way out.  The views along the way were pure North Carolina:

img_7913img_7914img_7917

I had been to Biltmore many years ago, on a tour given via the AIA convention.  We had the regular tour, then a special tour just for us architects, where we saw the attic and roof structure, the servants rooms, several un-restored guest rooms, the bachelor quest quarters, and even the sub-basement.  After the tours we were given free access to return to any of these spaces for the rest of the day.  It was marvelous…

None of the gaudy details and goo-gaas impress me (that’s why I am not posting hundreds of photos of every room…); what interests me the most is the incredibly complicated program that Hunt and Vanderbilt worked out.  Remember, Vanderbilt was not even married when the house was designed and built.  The complexity of the separate areas for family and guests, male and female servants, separate circulation hallways and stairs so that the servants could move about the house relatively inconspicuously – all this is so very complicated in a house of this size.  I love this stuff!

The plantation Big Houses were nice to look at, but they were only 3, 6, or 8 rooms to a floor, with no bathrooms, no servants quarters, no kitchens, no mechanical systems – just simple boxes.  The complexity of  a great house like Biltmore, with 250 rooms and multiple stairs and circulation spaces… Wow!  It was great fun to see…

We returned to the Villa in the rain, and had a relaxing afternoon and evening.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-19 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Columbia, SC to Asheville, NC…

We had a little unexpected excitement this morning when I went out to start to prepare to hitch up:

img_2066

The rear window/hatch of my camper shell had shattered.  There were no signs of foul play, no rocks, nothing missing out of the truck.  The most valuable thing in the truck are extra bottles of bourbon, and they were all fine.

The nearest SnugTop dealer is in Oklahoma City – we will not be getting this replaced any time soon…

But we had plastic sheeting and duct tape; a few minutes later, with a lot of help from the VanZanens, we are ready to go:

img_2100

We are driving today from Columbia, SC to Asheville, NC.  This is somewhat northwest, and it is a fine interstate highway all the way.  Frankly, I’m getting a little bored with these interstates here in the south – they look like they just cut a giant swath through hundreds of miles of forest; and they all look alike – like this:

img_7409

In any case, we were traveling along all nice and comfortable and some time around noon, somewhere south of Spartanburg, it started to rain.  Hard.  Very hard!

But the roads were good and the traffic kept moving most of the time.  Eventually we came to the North Carolina border:  (Trust me on this…)

img_7894

By 3:00 pm or so we had arrived in Asheville; we backed into our spot, hooked up electricity, and huddled inside while the rain pounded on the roof and the skylights…

Finally around 5:00 pm the rain started to slow a bit; We checked out the RV park, and bought some coax cable so we could reach the cable connection…

img_2070img_2071

We added one more sticker…

img_2073

The vistas around the park are lovely.  This is the first time we have been in hills and mountains…  (Sunday we will drive through the Great Smokies!)

img_7898img_7899

The cherry trees and the dogwood trees are in bloom, although the rain has washed off all the cherry blossoms onto the ground…

img_7900img_7901img_7902

Happy hours and dinner of several days’ worth of left-overs ensued.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-17 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 30 – Traveling to Fredonia, AZ, near Zion National Park

Today we traveled to Zion National Park.  Except, not exactly… We are camping 13 miles outside Fredonia, AZ, at the Kaibab Paiute Band Tribal RV Park.  The RV park is across the street from the Pipe Springs National Monument, and is about 50 miles from Zion…

I took this picture because… Not Rocks!

img_5383

It was an easy drive.  After about 1 1/2 hours we arrived at the town of Kanab, UT, a nice little town…

We stopped for lunch at the Rocking V Cafe… Interesting place in this very remote town…

img_8011img_5385

Other Airstreamers were in town, too, having lunch, shopping for groceries…

img_8013

We also shopped for groceries – finally found half-&-half.  The last four grocery stores didn’t have any… What’s up with Southern Utah and their lack of half-&-half?

As we left the grocery store and headed to the RV park, we noticed a strange thing:  It is 1:34 pm, and we will arrive at our destination, 20 miles away, at 1:06 pm…

img_8014

Obviously we are in Utah, and our destination is in Arizona.  They are in the same time zone, but Arizona does not believe in Daylight Saving Time…  However, as we approached the RV park, rather than changing the actual time to Arizona time, it changed the destination time to Utah time!  Apparently the RV Park is quite close to cellular towers in Utah.  Our Apple devices and our computer similarly kept switching back and forth such that we never able to know what time it was… To avoid the confusion we set a real clock on Utah time, and the Caravan all agreed that we would operate on Utah time… Of course, Zion is on Utah time…

As we approached the RV park, this was the landscape surrounding us… Arizona looks a lot like Wyoming around here…

img_8015

Zion National Park is an national park located in Southwestern Utah near the city of Springdale.  A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which stretches 15 miles long and spans up to half a mile deep.  It cuts through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River.  The lowest point in the park is 3,666 ft at Coalpits Wash and the highest peak is 8,726 ft at Horse Ranch Mountain.  Located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert regions, the park has a unique geography and a variety of life zones that allow for unusual plant and animal diversity.

Zion National Park includes mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches.  Human habitation of the area started about 8,000 years ago with small family groups of Native Americans;  however, these Indians moved away by 1300 and were replaced by other Southern Paiute subtribes.  Mormons came into the area in 1858 and settled there in the early 1860s.  In 1909, President William Howard Taft named the area Mukuntuweap National Monument in order to protect the canyon.  In 1918, the acting director of the newly created National Park Service, Horace Albright, drafted a proposal to enlarge the existing monument and change the park’s name to Zion National Monument, a name used by the Mormons.  According to historian Hal Rothman: “The name change played to a prevalent bias of the time.  Many believed that Spanish and Indian names would deter visitors who, if they could not pronounce the name of a place, might not bother to visit it.  The new name, Zion, had greater appeal to an ethnocentric audience.”  On November 20, 1919, the United States Congress established the monument as Zion National Park, and it was signed by President Woodrow Wilson.  The Kolob section was proclaimed a separate Zion National Monument in 1937, but was incorporated into the park in 1956.  

We parked The Villa and set up camp… As did all the others…

img_5389img_8016

As we settled in at the RV park we learned that one of the Caravaner couples, who live in coastal North Carolina, had learned that their property (not their house) had sustained damage due to debris and flooding from Hurricane Florence, so they decided to leave the caravan and return home… We held an impromptu gathering to wish them well…

img_5390img_5393img_5391

After the gathering, as we headed back to The Villa.  The sunset was striking…

img_5407

 

Another momentous event occurred 39 years ago today … Our daughter, Erin, was born… She celebrated today by letting her not-quite-three-year-old capture her on film:

img_8073

I think he has caught her essence…

 

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑