Backlog: August Summer Road Trip: Dollywood

Yes we went to Dollywood. We decided it was the best amusement park for our vacation and right by the smokey mountains. We got up early and found parking easily.

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We started the morning by walking to the back of the park where most of the more high intensity roller coasters were. Because its as still early there were very few people at the back of the park.We took on the wooden roller coaster  first. It went much faster then I think Luke and I had expected and was a great wake-up for us both. Luke, excited about the lack of lines jumped right into the next ride: a mine ride which I thought would be akin to Thundermountain at Disneyland, I was wrong

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IMG_5419Once we got into the seats and I realize they were putting the bar over our heads I went “uh oh” It was intense and fast and because of my short torso my ears and head got a little banged up. After that I asked Luke to take things a little slower.

IMG_5423We went on a slower “kiddie” ride indoors where you are a part of firefighter team chasing a blazing house fire(s). Afterwards we began to wander a little more and went on the log ride then got coffee at the grist mill and stood in line for the rapids ride.

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IMG_5414The rapids ride line took forever compared to the ride itself and was the longest wait of the day. After the noon heat hit we started to look at the show list. We watched the birds of prey show for a few minutes, then watched an ensemble walk through medley’s which told the history of country music (most of which I did not recognize, fortunately Luke did). Afterward, we listened to the string band, play bluegrass hits, the highlight of which was actually the banjo player.

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IMG_5429We got a baked good then headed to our last show of the day: the Kingdom Heirs Dolly’s own southern gospel quartet. Although this is not my favorite style of music it is a style I grew up around as my grandfather was in a quartet when he was younger . I thought it wise since we were there to take it all in. Most of the show we enjoyed, my husband appreciated hearing the true bass sing in a range he could as well.

IMG_5418After an afternoon of shows we got a snack and water and went on a train ride on the steam engine which around the park. On that ride we found out that the park used to be a silver dollar city before it became Dollywood and Luke informed me he had been to the silver dollar city in Branson when he was young.

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At the end of a relaxing train ride we explored the carnival area where we rode the swings (one of my favorites) and refilled on water (it was a little warm and I was dehydrated). We then walked back towards the faster coaster area and I sat and continued to rehydrate as Luke took on some of the larger coasters including soaring Eagle, one of the newer rides of the park.

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One unique thing about Dollywood is when your parks’ rep is a songwriter new rides in the park get their own theme song written by Dolly herself. I sat and enjoyed the theme song to several roller coasters Luke went on.

IMG_5439Last of all we together went on a coaster which traveled through “forest” to fight forest fires, ends in a fireworks factory which is set on fire, then takes you back through half the track backwards to the beginning.

It was a fun and relaxing day and a very different theme park then what Luke and I were used to but worth it.

The next day we left early, did a little shopping:  outlet cowboy boots and cast iron skillets at the lodge store then were were on the road again. This time our route took us through North Carolina, corner of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. We were safely home late that night ready to unpack for the coming week.

And that is finally our backlog catch up from the summer-thank you for your patience.

Fall Festival and Wine

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Two weeks ago we decided to use our Groupon to check out a local winery: Inspire Moore Winery in Naples. We drove by the bright purple winery building back in August when we joined the Springwater hiking group for a hike in Naples. We thought it may be worth returning to. So we found a groupon for wine tasting and cheese board and came back to check out our local grapes.

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As we drove through Naples we saw covered stands set up from the past week’s grape festival (we sadly had missed) with people trying to sell of their grape pies and grapes (a local treat we are hoping to try soon).

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Even though it was raining the tasting room and restaurant at Inspire Moore were both crowded. Fortunately we did not have to wait long. The sommelier who served us and explained the wines was very helpful. We found we enjoy their drier red wines.

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After some tasting we went upstairs to enjoy the cheese board filled with cheeses from Fancy Yancey  a cheese company we have encountered when we went to the Cuba cheese factory. (for more on this see Wine and cheese tasting Ellicottville)

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Our favorite was the cheddar with candied maple bacon in it, perfect with red wine. We left with a few bottles and souvenir wine glasses then prepared to be out in the rain.

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I love the fall, but one thing that is hard is to say goodbye to is the wonderful summer season of festivals. One festival left is the fall foliage festival in Cohocton. We stumbled upon this event last year. New to the area we were driving around to get acquainted and saw a sign for the festival.

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For where we live it always has a great turn out of food vendors, craftsmen, local maple syrup and honey, and produce. This year sadly it was very rainy so my pictures do not aptly reflect how busy this festival usually is.

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We were hungry so we decided to stop and get a roast beef sundae, sold by the historical society. With a mountain of mash potatoes and beef gravy with a cherry tomatoes on top it was a great warm snack to share in the cold.

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After we walked around in the mud and rain, bought a few winter scarves, and went off to find our fall treat: cider doughnuts, cider, and apples. Just like last year we found a stand selling pies, apples, cider and baked goods. We got a half bushel of fall crisp apples for 8 bucks!

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Now we are overflowing with apples. Fortunately we can dry some, use some for apple pie and we have discovered Kira enjoys them too. They have become a great healthy training snack.

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What are some of your favorite fall activities or treats?

Celebrating 3 Years

Luke and I have been married now for three years.

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Us while we were still dating, amazing that it’s been 4 years

They have been full of adventure, challenges, and changes, many of which I have put on this blog, but we are glad we have gone through them all together.

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To celebrate we went this past Saturday to see the musical broadway tour of Newsies in Rochester.

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We also got sushi from our favorite place, our sushi chef surprised us with these rolls including one with strawberry on top, spicy sauce, and yellowtail and avocado inside.

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And for dessert we had homemade apple pie at home .

We both have today and tomorrow off from work, a much needed break and blessing. We are taking this time to re-focus, get some time together, and get a few things accomplished as winter creeps up on us.

Backlog: Summer Vacation: Smokey Mountains day 2

On Thursday of our vacation we had many options to choose from. We wanted an outdoor activity to explore the area but were not sure which to choose: kayaking, ziplinging, horseback riding.

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Well, because of constant concern with thunderstorms we decided to not go kayaking. And although zip-lineing would have been a new fun adventure for both of us, we were having a hard time choosing a company from all of the reviews.

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Instead, we decided to go horseback riding at walden creek stables, a fully functioning dude ranch which provides wagon rides, and weekly rodeo dinner shows in the summer.

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We signed up for the 2 hour trip and were lucky to have a tour to ourselves. We were given a very knowledgeable guide who had been riding horses since he was very young. We enjoyed hearing his many  experiences in the rodeo, riding the trails, and working as a stunt double for shows including as chuck norris stunt double in walker texas ranger. It has been a long time since I had been on a horse and this was not a pony slow ride. We worked are way up the hill into the smokey mountains over rocky terrain and to a beautiful outlook where we took a break for the horses.

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Then as we came back down we rode along a creek through a dense forest of more rohdi’s and pine trees. It was at first a little difficult but by the end I was grateful for the challenge and experience. (We didn’t take our camera and just enjoyed the experience for ourselves so pictures are from hikes later in the day).

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After this, we decided to return to the smokey mountain park for a few more trails and driving. We started out once again driving out to Cades cove but this time we stopped along the drive to take in a few waterfalls. Then at the end we decided to do one more last hike before leaving.

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The hike itself was again beautiful as this time you had clear views of the foggy mountains on one side all of the way to the falls. You could hear the falls before you got to them and they were beautiful, even though it was crowded.

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We returned back into town, got dinner and prepped for our next full day . . . at Dollywood.

August backlog: Summer Vacation: The Great Smokey Mountains

Tuesday night we settled into our hotel right next to Dolly’s Dixie Stampede and try to adjust to the Vegas-like touristy area we found ourselves in. (I think I could have prepared Luke a little better for what this would be like).

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We decided to start our adventure by exploring the Great Smokey Mountains. We drove through Gatlinburg and into the national park. As we got out of town and into the park the temperature dropped with the dense forest. We took a few minutes at the sugar land information center to orient ourselves with the park and get maps.

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Then we took a windy road all the way across the park to the observation site. The road up was beautiful even though windy as we climbed in elevation and began to discover why it’s really called “The smokey mountains” covered in fog.

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We got out of our cars in the very cold and foggy weather and climbed the path to the observation tower. From the observation tower we could see . . .nothing-some pine trees and fog. If it was a clear day then we would have seen into several states and most of the park.

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No matter what it was worth it to be at the highest point of the park and say we had been “on the top of old smokey”. As we drove back down we stopped at several view points to take in the mountain sides and beautiful wild flowers.

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We rerouted past the sugar land center and drove to Grotto falls. Again, a windy road uphill this time with limited and difficult parking. This hike was just as much if not more fun on the way as it was at the final destination. The hike took us through a dense old rhododendron forest and required working around several streams and rocks in the clay mud. The air was dense, musty and humid but cool. It was so densely green yet the ground was still sticky with mud.

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When we got to the falls we could see several people swimming in the pool beneath it and others enjoying walking behind the falls into the cave enjoying the change to cool off. We dipped our feet in to clean off the mud the preceded back down the trail only to get covered in more mud.

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After making our way down the windy path we decided to drive out to Cades Cove before sunset. Everything we read said to tour this part of the park at dawn or dusk when animals are most apt to be out. The drive to Cades Cove is long but again beautiful as you loop across and around waterfalls and rivers.

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We reached the cove right around dusk and drove the loop slowly taking in the wildflowers, tall grass, and sunset over the hills. Codes cove is also well known for many old settlers buildings which can be toured everything from mills, to farms, to churches, and schools.

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Many of these are right along the main road side and we could see from our car. We had hoped to see some elk, and if we were lucky a black bear but only encountered wild turkey, a coyote or two, and some deer.

August backlog: Summer Road Trip: Botanical Garden

 

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On Tuesday of our road trip we spent the morning just Luke and I at the Memphis Botanical Garden. A large garden with many different areas, it was the perfect relaxing day date.

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We enjoyed their Japanese garden with a pond including koi fish, swans, and red bridge. They also had many intricate gazebos and nature chapels.

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What I found most unique about the botanical garden was it’s extensive learning area.

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It had a giant bird house that could be walked around, and worm tunnels, as well as exhibit where old house-hold items were turned into garden beds including bed frames, washing machines, sinks, and bathtubs.

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They had a separate area for learning about irrigation, and a pine tree forest area where children could build with logs and sit in chairs made of wood stumps.

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The garden also had a great herb garden and holds many activities and events including a summer concert series.

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The only downside is I chose to wear a bright shirt and was eaten alive by mosquitos. When we got back to my brothers we went on a walk and got lunch and a frozen treat and headed back to pack up our car and prep for travels again.

 

It was hard to say goodbye to my brother, knowing it could be while until we see them again, but we enjoyed seeing their home and getting quality time with them,even for a few days.

We left in the early afternoon headed across the state of Tennessee through Nashville and Knoxville on our way to Pigeon Forge the land of the great smokey mountains and yes. . . Dollywood. More on this to come.

August Backlog: Summer Road Trip: Downtown Memphis

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The next day of our summer trip, we met my brother work downtown Memphis after a half day of work. We walked with him and Stina to the more famous area of Memphis: Beale street.

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We came into town the week after Elvis week and saw a few impersonators still wandering around. As we approached Beale street, we stopped at a famous peanut shop.

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I waited outside because they mix all of their nuts together (for more on this see why I am tree nut free) with my brother as Stina gave Luke the tour. Everyone got samples of their favorite peanuts as a snack and we continued walking.

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We passed a statue of Elvis across from the Hard Rock, and the Gibson guitar factory and then we were on Beale street. A very quiet walking street in the early afternoon, the street is filled with big named Jazz bars and night clubs including the original coyote ugly bar.

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On this street is also a bar which hosts parked outside one of Jerry Lee Louis’ cars. All along the street, similar to in Hollywood on the sidewalk are jazz and blues musician names.

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We continued walking to the Peabody hotel and did a fast tour of the hotel and the famous ducks in the pond (to learn more see peabody ducks)

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After a lengthy walk around we got lunch and got back in our cars. We drove down toward the Mississippi river waterfront and parked at what is called “The Pyramid”, and old sporting area that has now been turned into a giant bass pro shop.

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We went in and saw there was a lot to take in. This “shop” has a restaurant and bar with bowling alley to start with, it’s own fudge and sweets shop, hotel rooms built like cabins you can rent on the third floor, and a live alligator display.

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Add this to the fact that the place is decorated to resemble the bayou with floating docks and boats you can tour in a few feet of water filled with catfish. Like most bass pro shops it also included many stuffed and staged animals of all types.

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Luke and I both found good hiking/camping pants downstairs in the apparel then we went upstairs. On the second floor is a duck hunting museum including wood ducks (word?) and a display of guns. There is also a free arcade sample of duck hunting, and a place to test out bows for hunting.

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They had one of the best camping sections I have ever seen and a large hunting dog section as well. Let’s just say my husband was a happy camper.

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We left downtown Memphis and head back to my brother’s place where we got local BBQ and played a board game during dessert.