Wednesday, April 23, 2014

US Hwy 70: Biltmore Estate

The weather was perfect this morning -- clear, sunny and cool -- so Happy and I headed straight for the Biltmore Estate. The approach road is three miles long, a brilliant lead-in to the main attraction. The mansion is everything it is reported to be, and more.

We spent most of the day enjoying the Biltmore's spectacular outdoor offerings. At one point, I swear it looked like Happy was dreaming about living there!

I can't say we walked everywhere on the massive 8,000 acre estate, but Happy and I took what was by far the longest walk we've ever taken together.

The Hapster was in absolute heaven, stopping every few feet to smell something in earnest. If I didn't have her on a long retractable lead, walking with her could easily become an annoying stop-and-go process!

Although the mansion is the main feature and the fancy gardens are the close runner-up, we particularly enjoyed the large open fields, varied woodlands and exquisite mountain views. What's not to like about spending a beautiful day in a place like this?

We're going to check out the highly renowned town/city of Asheville tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

US Hwy 70: Return To Asheville

We left Atlanta this morning, after a good multi-purpose week. As you know, Happy had an event at the Fulton County Jail. I also did a couple of days consulting, but mostly visited with old friends.

We have returned to Asheville, NC, via a route through the North Georgia Mountains. It's always a lovely drive, even on an overcast and occasionally rainy day.

Happy wasted no time getting her road game on. She obviously sleeps well in the truck, and I think she may actually have figured out that we're going for a long drive whenever I hook up the trailer!

We're going to spend at least a couple of days checking out Asheville, which everyone says is a great little town/city… Stay tuned!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy: I Went To Jail!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... Today I'm happy I went to jail!

Macgellan and I are in Atlanta, where a group called Canine CellMates runs a great program to rescue dogs from death row and pair them with inmates at the Fulton County Jail, to be socialized, trained and readied for adoption.

When Macgellan told them we were in town, they invited us to visit them in jail and tell my story!

Macgellan did all the talking, of course, and showed them lots of photos and videos. I had a great time hanging out with the guys, getting tons of pats and giving them my best photo-op smile.

The Canine CellMates program is really good for canines and humans, so maybe you could like them on Facebook, send something from their Amazon Wish List or even throw them a bone!

We will be in Atlanta over the weekend, then head north to continue our road trip along US Hwy 70.

If we'll be passing through or near your town and you'd like us to tell my story to your school, group, company, etc., just let us know... Macgellan is pretty good at telling my story, and I'm the best at getting pats!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

US Hwy 70 — Detour: Nantahala Transit

I'm taking a detour from US70, enroute to Atlanta for a multi-purpose week. Yes, I promise to tell you about it when the time is right.

Leaving Asheville this morning, I had a beautiful drive WSW through the Nantahala National Forest. The road is almost entirely two-lane, tree-lined and offering regular views of the Smoky Mountains.

Much of the route follows the Nantahala River, where enthusiasts are already rafting and kayaking despite pretty chilly water temps. Happy was quite amused by them during our picnic lunch!

I've stopped in a lovely campground near the small town of Marble, NC, very close to the Georgia border. I need to press on to Atlanta tomorrow, but plan to stop here again for a few days when I backtrack to rejoin US70.

Worth noting is that I've made pretty swift travel across the state of North Carolina. That's the result of something I've long dealt with on the Voyages of Macgellan: As soon as you put something on the schedule, you have a schedule! When I've concluded my scheduled appointments in Atlanta, I intend to leave my schedule entirely clear and start taking my time on the route… Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

US Hwy 70: Into The Foothills

West of Statesville, US70 is primarily a two-lane country road. It's obviously the poor relation of I-40 — which runs parallel only a mile away — but it's in good shape overall. With an average speed limit of 45mph and routine stops at crossroads and towns, it offers only half the speed of the interstate but is at least twice as pretty, entertaining and fun to drive.

Passing through numerous small towns there is quite a bit of light manufacturing, much of it looking to be related to furniture and finishing. In places, there is some evidence of much older or extinct factories for textiles, bricks, etc. Like just about every other rural area I've driven through in this country, the towns pretty much all show signs of age, wear and financial struggle. A few appear to be giving tourism a go, but not many and not entirely successfully.

Approaching Asheville, US70 joins I-40 for the long slog up and over the eastern continental divide. From there, the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains come well into view and beckon.

I plan to stay in the area just for tonight and tomorrow, but will be back for a longer visit after a little detour that I will explain soon… Stay tuned!

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Monday, April 07, 2014

US Hwy 70: Carolina Rain

After enjoying beautiful weather all weekend, I woke up to a solid, steady and cold rain. Happy had her breakfast and took care of business on the shortest possible walk, then put her paws on the door to her truck lair and gave me a look that clearly said, “Hurry up! I want to go back to bed!”

Although I made quick, efficient work of getting my rig ready to roll, I was soaking wet when I climbed into the driver’s seat. Happy was already curled up with a paw over her face, barely acknowledging me with one raised eyelid. I laughed out lout, which earned me a single thump of her tail.

Heavy rain precluded me from taking any road photos, but I can describe US70 west of Chapel Hill, NC, as a consistently good two- or four-lane affair as it rolls through a variety of small towns.

I stopped for lunch just past Salisbury, at a classic “family restaurant” and had a tasty bowl of spaghetti that only such a place can offer. Lunch is often my big meal of the day!

This is probably a good time to point out one challenge of towing a trailer: Parking. Although my rig is about as small as it could be, it’s still too big to park on most small-town streets or in small parking lots. Accordingly, I often stop at rural family restaurants or truck stops, and that suits me just fine!

After lunch, I drove just a bit farther west to Statesville where I've camped for the night. The rain has let up a bit, so Happy got a good walk before settling back down for her afternoon nap. What a life!

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Sunday, April 06, 2014

US Hwy 70: Eastern North Carolina

Heading inland from the coast, US70 is a boring but benign divided four-lane thoroughfare. The roadway is almost entirely flat as it passes through expanses of sparse southern pines and the occasional crossroads town.

I was happy simply to be on the move and listening to my current book on tape. (I’m finishing up an excellent reading of David Copperfield)

There wasn’t anything on view outside that warranted a photo, but I couldn’t resist grabbing an over-the-shoulder shot of Happy in her backseat lair.

It’s a little blurry, but you can clearly see that she quickly settled into her own “road mode” in which she was lights out within minutes and stayed that way for the entire day’s drive. What a road dog!

We stopped in the Chapel Hill area and have spent a very nice weekend with my brother and his family.

Yesterday morning, I watched my brother “herding kittens” as he refereed a nine-year-old girls soccer game.

After that we had the requisite barbecue feast and recovered from our food comas all afternoon.

We hung out together today, and I took full advantage of their offer to use their laundry room! This evening we had an excellent dinner at The Eddy restaurant, which is located in a repurposed old textile mill. Jessica took very good care of us as we gobbled up sous chef Dakota Marcoplos' delicious creations!

Happy and I will be continuing inland tomorrow... Stay tuned!

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

US Hwy 70: Beginning At The End

In the sleepy little coastal town of Atlantic, NC, a single sign indicates the terminus of US Highway 70: “End”

There’s no corresponding “Begin” sign facing the opposite direction, as if to assume that nobody would begin the route here.

Also absent is any sign about the opposite terminus that one sees on other cross-country routes. Nothing to note that Globe, AZ, is some 2,385 miles away.

Beyond imagination would be a sign to inform travelers that US70 was once called the “Broadway of America” due to its status as one of the main east–west thoroughfares in the nation.

Thus, I find myself beginning at the end with little fanfare, but eager to embark on yet another cross-country expedition.

The area is appropriately coastal in feeling, with vast marshlands frequently punctuated by various fishing marinas, seaside communities, beaches and the like. I’m thankful to be here well ahead of the season, when it is evident the area will be overrun by weekenders, tourists, etc.

As usual, I know practically nothing about the route I will drive, except for what it looks like on the map. I now know the first few miles are a rural two-lane, yielding to a divided highway as it heads inland. After that, your guess is as good as mine... Stay tuned!

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