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Well, I made it home after visiting five states in 8 days.  


One of the things that I enjoy most about my annual road trips is discovering the people, places, history, food and gardens of the different regions of the United States.


My road trip, this year, took me to parts of the South.




I walked through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina and seeing historical places where events of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War played out.


I peeked over ornate gates to see hidden gardens in this beautiful city.


This native Southern Californian who grew up along the Pacific coast, dipped my toes in the Atlantic Ocean on Tybee Island.


I enjoyed visiting many of the 22 historical squares of Savannah, Georgia where many of the buildings survived the Civil War.


I found that Spanish moss really does hang from the trees down South, although it isn’t Spanish or a moss.
(It is actually a bromeliad and related to the pineapple).


An unplanned visit to the University of South Carolina yielded discoveries of beautiful gardens, including this herb/vegetable garden.


Smaller highways led us to small towns with tiny police stations.


Driving through North Carolina proved that spring has indeed sprung with the vision of flowering dogwoods everywhere.


Small roadside markets in Tennessee tempted us with their wares including boiled peanuts, toe jam and frog jam on our way toward the Smoky Mountains.


The gardens of the University of Tennessee had much to delight this horticulturist, including their kitchen garden.


A visit to Kentucky horse country led to the unforgettable experience of feeding thoroughbreds peppermint candies (with their trainer’s permission, of course).


Discovering the world of horse racing was very exciting even though I wasn’t betting.


I spent the night in a jail.  Seriously, it was a bed & breakfast that was located inside the old county jail in Bardstown, KY.  
I did sleep in a regular bedroom and not this jail cell 😉


The last day of our Southern journey took me to a bourbon distillery where I tasted my first and last bourbon.


On our way to the airport in Louisville, we took an unexpected detour to Fort Knox as our GPS guided us there in our search of a UPS store to mail home our souvenirs.

The South is a wonderful place to visit and I made a few other discoveries while I was there:

– Southerners are the friendliest people.  Strangers wave to you on the side of the road as you pass.  When they ask you how you are doing, they really want to know.

– Their regional dishes have names like ‘Kentucky Burgoo’ and ‘The Big Brown’.  But, the servers are happy to explain to you what they are.

– Sweet tea is very sweet.

– The food is fabulous and fried chicken is served just about everywhere (after all, Col. Sanders created his ‘Original’ fried chicken recipe in Kentucky).

For those of you who followed along with me on my journey, thank you!

We have left South Carolina for one of my favorite parts of North Carolina – Asheville.


I had visited Asheville 2 1/2 years ago and was so excited to return. 



Each time we go on a road trip, we stay in regular hotels – (Hampton Inn is our favorite).


However, we usually pick one special place to stay for one night of our trip.


My mother knew where she wanted us to stay – The Grove Park Inn.  She had visited the inn years ago with my dad, but they had never stayed there.  Sadly, my dad died before they got the chance to visit again.


The inn is over 100 years old and just beautiful.  As you walk through the inn, rocking chairs are scattered along the property, inviting you to sit down and take some time to relax and enjoy the view.



When we arrived, we were water-logged from seeing a lot of rain.  It was chilly and I took advantage of a warm seat in front of the fireplace.

The fireplace was huge…
Over 30 ft. tall.

We had a delicious dinner overlooking the gardens from the balcony.

In the morning, we were happy to see a bright, sunny day.


But, before we left, I had to see the gardens.  



The hotel sits atop a steep slope, so access to the gardens is via a LOT of stairs.



The creeping phlox and the flowering dogwood were just lovely.



After we left the hotel, we headed to the Historic Biltmore Village, which is filled with small shops housed in what was formerly a planned community built in the 1890’s at the entrance to the Biltmore Estate.  


Later, we headed downtown for shopping the unique shops filled with the work of the local crafts people.



Just before we left Asheville, we hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, is over 400 miles long and runs through the Appalachian mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. 



One place that you must visit in Asheville is the Folk Art Center, which features crafts made from artisans who live in the Southeastern Appalachians.  Another wonderful reason to visit is that they feature a local artisan who creates his/her craft in front of you and answers questions.


Now, it was time to get back on the road and head for Knoxville, TN.


On our way, we drove through some small towns and visited some roadside stands.



Seriously, ‘boiled peanuts’ are a big deal in the South.



Jars of cider, honey and preserves filled the shelves.



I bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘kudzu’ and ‘moon shine’ jelly, did you?



Fresh pork rinds were available.  I must confess that I have never tried them before.  



We stopped by this roadside stand in order to buy ‘toe’ and ‘frog’ jam.


Toe jam is made from tangerine, orange and elderberry.  Frog jam is made of a combination of fig, raspberry, orange and ginger.  I bought a jar of each.



Along the road, we journeyed through the Cherokee Indian Reservation.


Then we took the road through the Smoky Mountain Parkway.  It is so picturesque.  




The road was windy and fun to drive.








We arrived to our hotel in Knoxville and then headed out for dinner.  On our way, we passed a restaurant whose billboard advertised ‘chicken livers and gizzards’ for dinner.


We went to the local Italian restaurant instead 😉


Come back tomorrow for our next day of adventures.

It’s time to hit the road again…


Every year, I go on a trip with my mother, exploring different parts of the United States.  We fly into one city, rent a car, travel from town to town for 8 days and then leave from another city.


I love traveling and like to explore and learn about other regions of our country.  As a native of Southern California and current resident of Arizona, my regional experience has quite a western slant.  So, what better way to learn more about the people, food, customs and gardens in other regions then to ‘hit the road’?


Half of the fun of our annual road trip, is planning on where we will go.

First, look at maps of where we had already been.  Then we try to plan our route so that we see new areas.


Three years ago, we visited the following places:


We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway, visited colonial Williamsburg, our nation’s capitol, Pennsylvania Amish country, Philadelphia and NewYork City.


Two years ago, we visited parts of the Midwest:



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We began in Michigan, visiting the town of Holland, then traveled onto Indiana Amish country, seeing Lincoln’s house and tomb in Springfield, viewing the Mississippi River in Hannibal, MO – the inspiration for Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” and finishing up in Joplin.


Last year’s trip focused on the Northeast:



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We began in Columbus, OH, visiting a friend and then traveling on to Ohio Amish country, Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes of NY, the beautiful mountains of Vermont and left from Manchester, NH.


This year’s trip is focused on exploring areas further down South: 



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We are beginning our journey in Savannah, GA.  Then we are traveling through South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.


I have been to North Carolina and Georgia before, but the other states are new to me.  I do have some southern roots from the state of Kentucky and we might try to visit some old family grave sites.


For those of you who have read my blog for some time; you know that I do like to ‘take you along with me’ on my trips.  


I will be blogging from the road and sharing with you my adventures.


We leave on Wednesday!!!