Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A trip into the great blue yonder

Last week I took a mini-trip to Asheville, North Carolina. Did I mention this was a free stay mini-trip? (Which was the biggest reason I went!) Thanks to the airline Best Friend works for, she had an extended stay in Asheville with a nice hotel room.

So on Sunday evening I headed north for Asheville with my friend that I've affectionately nicknamed Germaphobe to meet Best Friend when her plane landed. After stopping briefly to satisfy a milkshake craving and driving along some dark, creepy roads in South Carolina (where they clearly do not believe in readable, lit-up signs for nighttime driving), we made it into Asheville late.

The following morning, the three of us headed off for some fun on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, but not before enjoying our nice (free) breakfast at the hotel. Being starving, poor girls in Europe early this summer, Best Friend and I learned how to utilize all the free breakfasts we could and also how to steal food from breakfast and put it in our backpacks for lunch. However, even though I took full advantage of breakfast, I was too embarrassed to "pack a lunch" since the very cute First Officer flying with Best Friend joined us. I mean, he already saw me devour that waffle AND egg and cheese biscuit!

Anyway, with full bellies, we headed for Grandfather Mountain. The mountain has wildlife habitats to see native animals up close and personal (Bears, deer, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, river otters, etc.), incredible views, and the Mile High Swinging Bridge. A scene from Forrest Gump was filmed here, too, so you can run up the mountain in the steps of Forrest if you like. Me? well, I was just as happy with walking across the swinging bridge and standing on the edge of the cliffs for breathtaking views. The wind blows so hard against the bridge that it sings like a pipe organ. It sounds beautiful. However, you feel like you could blow away when you are standing on the sheer rock.

After leaving the Grandfather, we headed north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to another well-known attraction, Blowing Rock. I can sum it up this way: Yes, it was a rock. And it certainly did blow! Talk about a rip off! It cost $6 to see this damn rock that overhangs a deep gorge below.

The legend of Blowing Rock goes something like this: A Chickasaw Maiden fell in love with a Cherokee Brave. Torn between his duty as a brave and being in love with the maiden, he leapt (like a dumb ass) from the rock into the wilderness below. The grieving maiden prayed daily to the Great Spirit for her lover's return until one day a gust of wind from the gorge below blew the brave back into her arms. And there has been a constant updraft of wind ever since.

Here's the real deal: The rocky walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects cast over the rock. Light objects, boys and girls, so no jumping for realsies! So we tried out this theory ourselves and Best Friend threw her hat off the rock…and it returned! It returned with a vengeance, in fact, and blew up into a tree behind us. Don't worry; she climbed up the tree to retrieve it. It was hilarious!

Even with that entertaining moment, I still hardly found the rock whose current of upward flowing air prompted Ripley's "Believe-It-Or-Not" to dub it "the only place in the world where snow falls upside down", a waste of $6.

We turned around from Blowing Rock and headed back south down the parkway to Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain in the eastern US. It is 6,684 ft. tall, but because of the building of a new tower on the summit, we were only able to go as far as the parking area. @ 6,578 ft.) It was my second time on Mt. Mitchell. I love this area. The predominate spruce and other coniferous trees, gives it Maine feel. The first visit to the mountain, found me in knee-deep snow so it was awesome to see all the Christmasy-scented trees without the blanket of white covering them. Unfortunately, our trip on Mitchell was cut short by the extremely close lightening and deafening thunder overhead.

That concluded our day in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but not the trip. The next morning Best Friend had to fly out early but Germaphobe and I continued on the parkway to Cherokee, NC to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The scenery on this section of the parkway was the most spectacular of all! We stopped numerous times to take in the views and even once for a waterfall hike at Graveyard Fields.

The Smokies were beautiful as always and we enjoyed the ride. It was so much fun but we were extremely tired and hungry by the time we finally drove into Gatlinburg, TN for a bite to eat. We chose a karaoke bar to eat in and had fun listening to everyone sing. However, we didn't get home until 1:30 a.m. thanks to Dolly Parton's flamboyantly gay nephew trying to talk us into singing karaoke with him. But that is a whole other story in itself.

More from the Smokies:

Grandfather Mountain:

Mount Mitchell:

Blue Ridge Parkway:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Whatever moves you

I did something on Sunday that I never imagined me doing. This rock and roll girl went to a country music concert! Best Friend asked me and another friend to join her in seeing Kenny Chesney perform. Even though I do not dislike Kenny’s music, I just did not consider myself a fan, having been exposed to his songs only through Best Friend or by chance as I flip though the radio. I didn’t hesitate in choosing to go along, however, because to her, his music is inspiring and motivating , and I wanted to be a part of that. I would imagine those feelings stirred inside of her are somewhat the same as the ones writing stories stirs within me.

Anyway, also along on the tour with Kenny Chesney were Gary Allan (whose music I was not familiar with), Leann Rimes (who I really didn’t care to ever see perform until she got up on stage and poured her heart out singing the blues and changed my opinion of her), Brooks & Dunn (whose music I actually did know because I had a brief stint in the early 90’s where I listened to country music and I loved Brooks & Dunn), but the one person I was actually excited to see was….Sammy Hagar! Typical me…take me to a country concert and the guy I am most excited about is the Red Rocker! It seemed weird to me that the former lead singer of Van Halen was on a country musician’s tour, but I later learned that he and Kenny had become really good friends after hanging out in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where Sammy has his famous Cabo Wabo Cantina.

There is something I can boast on with every performer that night and I can honestly say that I enjoyed each one of their shows. They were all very energetic and real troopers despite our less than perfect weather. But I have to say that Sammy was my favorite. He ROCKED!!!! Not only that, but he was my inspiration. I am serious!

Here’s how Sammy became my hero of sorts: Until I went to that concert, I have been in somewhat of a depression. As of late, I have been having some pretty serious migraines that have not only left me sleepless at night, but lethargic and sickly during the day. Instead of hitting some hiking trails, swimming, camping out, fishing, or hitting the road, I have spent most of my summer piled up on the sofa watching TV. That is enough to knock someone like me for a big loop-de-loop. I have been bored beyond words. Not only that, but this summer has been filled with a couple of huge letdowns for me. I am not sure if the headaches were dragging me down or if the headaches have been a symptom of this depression. Either way, I have felt pretty miserable and all of my motivation was drained and my spirits were down. I really didn’t feel like going to the concert that day (especially in the stormy weather) but I forced myself to go and at least escape some of the boredom.

So here we are at the concert, and I am definitely not bored with all the people watching. Everyone from the Kenny Chesney wanna-be’s wearing the same hat and clothes as Kenny to the drunk hoochies with boots and short skirts making out with each other and other drunk shenanigans, kept thoroughly entertained. I was being pleasantly surprised by the great shows these country artists were putting on (them country folk can rock, too!) and then Hagar came out to kick some ass! Not only did he kick it with awesome classics such as “I Can’t Drive 55”, his high energy, his entertaining hats and props, and his hilarious stories, but he also gave quite a motivational speech that I felt was made just for me. As he readied himself to sing “Dreams” he talked about how important it is for us to all have dreams to work toward, how life is nothing without dreaming and believing you can make your dreams a reality.

“I don’t care if your dream is to grow a tomato garden or if it is to fall in love and settle down with someone special and have a family, or anything in between the two, you need to have a dream and know you can do it, whatever it is,” he said. And then he added, “And when you have that dream come true, hold on to it. Appreciate all you did to get there and just be enjoy. Think of how happy you will be once you achieve your dream. I know. I have been smiling for thirty years.”

And then he broke into the verses of “Dreams”.

It may not have been MLK’s “I Have a Dream" speech equivalent. His words may not be memorialized like the “Gettysburg Address”. And his words may have been spoken of a simple concept that most of us already know, but as for me, I had forgotten. I had forgotten that hope always supersedes the storm and it was just what I needed to remember.

Then feeling as great as I did, I danced with and sang along some Kenny Chesney with a cute, twenty-something, drunk guy who was sitting next to us.

Rock on Red Rocker!!!!

The concert was at Turner Field. This is a view from our nosebleeds on the tip-top row before the show began. When it began to rain again and we were sitting underneath the shelter and everyone else was drowing, our $20 seats didn't seem so stupid!

Plus we got a pretty nice view of Atlanta's skyline.

Here is Brooks & Dunn (I think) on stage.

This Kenny Chesney with all his fancy lights.

Just for fun, I am including a pic taken just last weekend at Turner Field when I went to see the Braves lose. These seats are just a bit closer to action. (Only about a couple hundred rows closer, though.)

And this is a picture of my married boyfriend, Mark Teixeira on the screen when he came up to bat. Notice how much bigger the screen is from this level. The better to see them lose, I suppose!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The itch is a bitch

Have you ever been a tourist in your own state?

Well, I was just a couple of weeks ago. I had a friend from Utah visit me and I showed him the entire state I think. Of course, I had to think of the good spots (or what I would refer to as the "at least mildly interesting places if you haven't lived here your whole life and take it for granted places"). I think I did a pretty good job. I even went to places that were new to me (believe it or not)! Georgia ain't so bad, but I wouldn't go overboard with the gay cliche of calling it "peachy".

I will post some of our Georgia vacation pictures soon so you, too, can come along on the Outdoory Girl's Ultimate Georgia Tour.

Anyhoo...that was fun and all, but now I am suffering the itch. No, not from Poison Ivy and definitely not that! (Those of you who thought of that are sickos! ;) ) Rather, this itch is the Traveler's Roadtrip Itch from which I am suffering. I want to hit the road but I don't know where to. I have a couple of ideas, but then again, some of the greatest roadtrips of all time were experienced when set out with no destination at all in mind.

Best Friend and I were actually planning to take a road trip at the end of this month along with our germophobic friend. It was more of a mission, actually. We were going to drive to Utah to pick up Best Friend's dog now that it seemed, after two years of living here, that she wasn't moving back to Utah anytime soon. It was going to be quite the interesting drive cross-country in a small car with a huge dog (English Mastiff) and a germophobic friend. However, due to some unforseen circumstances, we will not be picking up the dog (yet). That is too bad since I am sure it would have made for a hilarious post.

But the itch has now been aggravated and I want to hit the road to somewhere. I completely understand and agree with the postponement of the doggie transplant, but speaking with Best Friend on the phone yesterday I realized that she was just as let down about the cancelling of great roadtrip also. "Maybe we should still go somewhere anyway," she said. I told her to let me know how many days she can take and it will be done. I can't wait to see what develops.

Now if only a miraculous and extreme drop in gasoline prices would occur!