Monday, May 5, 2014

NC/DC

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**Warning** This is a super-long post full of too many photos and my ramblings about our trip to North Carolina last month.  Click away now if you’re not prepared to be a good listener and pretend you like looking at someone else’s vacation pics.

Jeff and I have been saving up airline miles for a long time and we finally decided to use them on a trip to the east coast.  But where to go?  Neither of us have been out there except for a short trip to Boston pre-marriage (in 1976?? – long story for another time) and we each were in Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively, last year.  I’ve always wanted to visit the south and because I have an aunt and uncle in North Carolina we decided to make that our destination.  It was a great choice!  What a beautiful part of our country.

We flew from Portland to Atlanta, arriving about dinner time.  We picked up our rental car and drove north as far as Spartanburg, SC where we spent the night in the fanciest Holiday Inn Express I’ve seen.  Maybe the south does cheap hotels better than we do in the NW?  We heard one of the housekeeping staff refer to a superior as ‘Miss Becky’ so of course that’s what Jeff called me all week.  I kinda liked it.

The next morning we drove north to Asheville, NC and visited The Cove, the Billy Graham conference and training center.  It’s a beautiful site. 

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Ruth Graham has long been one of my very favorite authors (you must read anything she’s written) and it was fun to see photos of her and the family sprinkled throughout the chapel visitor’s room.  Jeff and I got to attend a BG crusade toward the end of his active ministry life and felt so honored to have done that.

We then began our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Blue Ridge mountains, part of the Appalachian range.

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Although it was the end of April, the trees had yet to get any leaves.  For most of the drive I was picturing what it would look like in the fall.  There were mountains covered with deciduous trees as far as the eye could see and that view must be spectacular in all its fall red and orange and yellow glory!

We were completely spoiled in our accommodations.  COMPLETELY SPOILED.  Some dear friends offered to let us use not one but two of their vacation homes.  The first is right along the Blue Ridge Parkway between Boone and Blowing Rock.  This was our view from the back deck.

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The quiet was almost touchable.  This was my QT spot each of the two mornings we were there.

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(PS… I am doing a new bible study called ‘Knowing God by Name’ by Mary Kassian and I am absolutely loving it.  Highly, highly recommend.)

We drove into Blowing Rock and walked up and down the little main street there. 

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If you are a Mitford fan like I am, you’ll be happy to know that Jan Karon lived in Blowing Rock while she wrote that series and based the fictional town of Mitford on this one.

While news of tornadoes in the midwest dominated the weather reports, we just had some high clouds which made for a beautiful sunset.

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On the day we left the mountains were enveloped in fog.  

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We reluctantly said goodbye to our beautiful house after a too-short-but-wonderful stay and drove into Boone.  This is a college town, home to Appalachian State University.  Here is where we began our quest to try every southern delicacy we’d never tasted.  That is not a goal for sissies.  

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I have no idea why I included the Family Dollar Store in that collage except that they were everywhere.  As far as I know, they don’t serve waffles and chicken. 

Southern food tends toward the ‘heavy’ side and because my husband is married to a picky eater and doesn’t like to leave food on the plate, he had his work cut out for him.  But as you can see, we gave it our best.  Not all in one day, mind you. 

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Just look at all those carbs.  Not a green thing to be found.  Even though I tried to be sneaky, the sweet waitress at the Waffle House saw me taking a photo of the packet of mayonnaise on the egg sandwich and said, “Are y’all takin a pitcher of your food?”  Oh yes – we shamelessly took lots of ‘pitchers’ of our food, revealing the fact that we weren’t from around these parts wherever we went.  And this isn’t everything we tried.  We also had a delicious meal at a real bar-b-que place where we ate ribs, bbq brisket, hush puppies (oh my - now those were good) and fried okra.  

We ate at places recommended by the locals and they didn’t tend to be at the end of the restaurant spectrum you’d label ‘fancy', if you get my meaning.

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‘Down home’ might best describe them.  With helpful signage.

After leaving Boone, we headed toward Charlotte and stayed with my aunt and uncle in Huntersville.  We haven’t seen them since a famiy reunion in 1992 and it was so much fun to have a couple days to visit and reconnect with my two cousins and their families.  My aunt looks so much like my mom it was a little shocking. 

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Here we are posing in their screened back porch.  So pretty!

Russell drove us all over the greater Charlotte area, helping us complete our food quest and showing us the beautiful area where they live.  Jeff snapped lots of pictures from the car window (something he’s gotten very good at doing while in Ethiopia!).  

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Along with so many pretty homes with porches and rocking chairs, there are many old buildings still in use.  Some date back to the Civil War, though this one seems to be from 1940.

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I just love all the southern accents we heard, from mild ones that I so easily pick up on to the deep drawl of the mountain folks that is actually hard for me to understand. 

We went to a farmer’s market…

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where I couldn’t buy any potted plants.  I did get some real NC bar-b-que sauce for my son-in-law.

(You will not hurt my feelings one bit if you need to go.  This is probably only interesting to a very select few... I'm not sure who.  You're only about halfway through this.)

On Sunday it was time to say good-bye to family and drive about 2½ hours to Raleigh where we gathered with four (of six) families who have adopted a child or children from Ethiopia through Adoption Ministry of YWAM Ethiopia.


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I had the privilege of walking with each of them through a sometimes arduous and always long adoption process and Jeff photographed many of these children while they were in the orphanage.  What an incredible blessing it was for us to meet these dear folks in person and to see their kids now happily enveloped in a forever family.

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HUGE blessings!

Then we hopped back in our now filthy rental car and drove to the southern NC coast.  Violent weather was reported to be heading our way but we managed to stay ahead of the storms.

I love road trips but I found that being the navigator using a phone gps is stressful.  More than once the computer-generated voice took us way out of the way, which is always fun to discuss.  And I used to think I was a pretty good multi-tasker but perhaps with age I am now only able to focus on one thing at a time (translation: I can’t watch for the right exit and find cheap gas and look up an address simultaneously!!!) 

But we made it and decided it was totally worth whatever relational trauma we weathered.  Because look at this sunset!!

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Holden Beach, NC is a quiet little town about 50 miles north of Myrtle Beach, SC.  There is a long, strip of an island with houses lining both the ocean and the inlet sides.  The homes are all built on ‘stilts’ and are generally huge, so different than the beach homes we see here in Oregon.  We woke up and were out on the beach the next morning at 6:00.  The sun was just coming up and it was about 70°.

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The ocean water was actually warm, so unlike our frigid Pacific water.  And this was the view from our balcony…

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See what I mean?  Completely spoiled rotton!

We had planned on driving down to Myrtle Beach but decided we were totally content to walk on the shore, collect shells, rock in white rocking chairs and stare at the ocean.  (We may have also been afraid to get back in the car with each other.)

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It was thoroughly wonderful to experience ‘the other coast’, with all of its charm.

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Tornadoes were cutting through the states to our south but the most dramatic weather we saw at the beach was a spectacular lightning show.

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However, all good vacations must come to an end and we packed up to make the last leg of our trip up to Washington DC.  I guess all good weather must end too because this is where the storms finally caught up with us.

It started raining as we drove into Virginia and by the time we arrived at our hotel in Alexandria, it was pouring.  (My brother at home in Oregon kept updating me on the 80° weather he was enjoying.)  After dropping our rental car at the airport, our shuttle driver recommended a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant (keeping with our down-home theme) where we enjoyed some great fajitas, chips and salsa.  We scurried back to the hotel without umbrellas and cancelled our plans to take a night tour of the monuments, opting instead to repack everything for the flight home the next day.

(YAWN. Boy, this IS getting long… maybe you need to feed your family or get some work done but now I feel I have to finish this even if it kills all of us.)

We rose early, chatted with the Ethiopian desk clerk at our hotel who said we could leave our luggage for the day and took the shuttle to the Metro stop.  My hat is off to those of you who are regular subway commuters.  You all look very busy and organized and focused.  Well, to be honest, some of you look very sad and hopeless.  We, on the other hand, looked completely overwhelmed and clueless, which we were.  A kind Metro worker noticed our eyes glazing over as we tried to figure out what fare to punch into the automated ticket machine and helped us buy our round trip tickets on the red and yellow lines.  We descended into the earth, with only one glitch getting through the entry gate. I did think about Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping.

Miraculously, we resurfaced at Union Station and ran to catch our double decker bus for a tour of the city.  I honestly thought we’d be the only ones on the bus because of the weather but, no, there were folks from all over the world squeezed into the lower level.  No one rode in the open area on the top.  Jeff snapped photos like a boss from inside the bus…

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I also mistakenly thought the tour bus company would provide umbrellas but instead we got fashionable ponchos.

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The line for the Holocaust Museum was very long and we knew we just wouldn’t have time to go on this trip.  We hopped off the bus at quite a few of the monuments and memorials…

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We decided not to sit on this bench looking out on in the tidal basin.

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The tip of the Washington Monument disappeared into the clouds.

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When it was time to head to the airport, we were more than ready to get back to Union Station…

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and this pizza tasted better than most everything we’d had all week.

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My practical and forward-thinking husband had suggested we pack a change of clothes for the plane and I’m not sure what we would have done if he hadn’t.  I had to wring the water out of the bottom of my pants and my shoes were completely waterlogged.  We settled into our seats for the 5½ hour flight home and reminisced about all the places we’d been in the last eight days.  Somehow, I keep coming back to this:

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Sigh. 

Thanks for persevering to the end of this ramble.  I’ll be happy to look at your vacation photos if you send me a link... I owe you that!

1 comment:

Nancy Espinoza said...

So happy you had such a wonderful time. Rain and all! I made it through the whole post and was even ready for more. So enjoy your sense of humor in your writing. Seeing those children in their families must have been a high point.

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