Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Smoky Mountain Fever...Again

I just returned from a trip to the mountains last week, and thought I'd write about it and give you a little taste of how it went while it's still fresh on my mind.

Bright and early Thursday morning at 3:45 my alarm went off....ughh....that's so early, but that's how long it takes for me to get my stuff together and ready to leave promptly at 5:00. Following along with my niece Danielle, riding with her were her two children, Hadley and Hagen, and her mother/my sister, Anneil. We set sail and arrived in Valdosta for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, there the 5 of us enjoyed a good meal to start the trip off; I was needing coffee really bad anyway as I could feel my eyes getting very heavy an hour before we stopped. When we left Cracker Barrel, Hadley decided to ride with me since I had been riding by, she brought everything but the kitchen sink with her. Since my vehicle isn't loaded like most all of the new SUV's & vans, she even brought her portable DVD player. I know why they've equipped the vehicles with them that you don't have to hear the kids ask hundreds of times on trips, "When will we be there?" Hadley only did that the last couple of hours of the trip up there; she didn't like watching the movie too long, so she got her dry-erase board out and we played hangman. Yes, driving and playing hangman... She kept the board in her lap of course, but I had to keep looking over from time to time and guess a letter....never got hung either. I have found someone that talks about as much as her grandmother, Beba...aka Anneil. Stopped and filled up around Macon and Hagen came alive and wondered why he couldn't ride with Aunt Becky also, I got his picture while filling up...

We met Wes and my sister-in-law Darlene at the Walmart parking lot in Ellijay since I had a few things to give him that he had asked me to bring up (they had left 3 days earlier than I), we followed them over to Chick-fil-a and had a quick bite, then headed up to mama's place in Warne where she and Meister (our dog) awaited us. My niece, Brooke, and her mother (and another sister of mine) Pam, were on their way up from Cumming and bringing the two kids, Camden and Kinsley. Kinsley's another one that talks about as much as her Aunt Anneil.... In other words, this was not going to be a quiet trip. The temps were cool out, so the big pot of homemade vegetable beef soup my mother had had simmering all day really hit the spot.

Day 2/Friday: Instead of my alarm, I was awakened by the sound of a particular child that learned to whisper around a jackhammer in use. Kinsley informed us all when she arrived that Thursday afternoon that, "I've been sick with a cold." Every time you saw her, she had a Kleenex in her hand. Now her brother Camden is a different story, a little boy with few words...which may be because his little sister does all the talking. He was so looking forward to his cousins, Cade and Coye to get there, and they were to arrive around noon or so with their mother Aubrey (my niece) and Aubrey's younger sister, Chelsea. Both were riding up with their father, Greg. We stayed around the house this day (because we were tired from the trip up), so in between watching TV, we sat out on the front porch and took in the beautiful view-but drab colors- in anticipation of eating and celebrating my Mama's 75th birthday at a really nice restaurant down in Hiawassee, GA called The Oaks...a part of The Ridges Resort.

It was flooding outside when we got to The Oaks, but the evening turned out well until we got our bills.

Day 3, Saturday: Game day, and in between everyone going here and there, we stayed close to home. Mama and I went to the grocery store and purchased stuff for tomorrow's lunch...Sunday lunch at Mema's....a regular each week, only this time the location had changed. We had the DISH man come by to replace a couple of receivers, and he left us in a bind. A cold front was moving in today, but unfortunately he left some snow on the downstairs TV that was not fun to play in. He told me he could come back later that afternoon when he got a few more tools, but I was afraid he would leave us without a TV to view the Gator/Mississippi State he said he would come back the first part of the week. The menu would be BBQ tonight, so we loaded up and headed down to what we thought was pretty early (5:30) to Rib Country and it was packed. We waited in line for 45 minutes, then finally got seated in time to inhale our food and rush home for the football game....another nail-biting game, but the Gator's pulled through....thank the Lord, cause I'm not big on watching games like that with FSU fans.

Day 4, Sunday: Got up and read my bible & devotions, then had my coffee and a small breakfast with family. This alone feels funny, because at home (except for when we were children) we never eat breakfast together just because getting ready for work puts me in the kitchen at a different time than when mama is in there. That's one thing we do in the mountains, most everyone of the grownups are up and about and we usually eat breakfast together, whether it's cereal...a sweet roll...or one mama has prepared of sausage or bacon, eggs, grits & toast. Afterwards, the breakfast dishes were cleaned up, then I prepared a big pan of macaroni and cheese to bake later for be served with roast beef, rice and gravy, fresh turnips, fresh green beans & potatoes, rolls, sweet tea and homemade peach cobbler for dessert. Very filling. After lunch we sat out on the porch awhile (like pigs basking in the sunshine), and then got ready for the first half of the crew to head back on the road for home. Took a few snapshots of the use to be you had to face into the sun for your best snapshots, so I just told everyone to close their eyes and on the count of 3, look at me to keep from being blinded by the sun that was shining so brightly this day. It was still cold even with it shining.

After we said our goodbyes, we decided to ride in to Hiawassee. Hagen was now the only kid with 4 grownups, and to keep him from being sad they told him they'd get him something from Fred's Dollar Store...he liked it so much that he fell asleep before we got there, so me & Anneil sat out in the vehicle while they went inside. With it being cool, Anneil thought it'd be a good time to go to this nice little coffee shop for some of their specialty coffees...Pumpkin Spiced Latte's...well, that's all we got to enjoy of them were the thoughts of it, because it was closed on Sunday. Went home instead and had a cup of coffee from Mr. Maxwell's House. We had a Chinese stir-fry for supper.

Day 5, Monday: We headed back down into Georgia about an hour or so to Wes and Darlene's today, since Wes told Mama he would grill something for her birthday. I wish I could describe to you the ride into his place, but take it from the horse's was treacherous if you aren't use to it....and that I wasn't it. The house is 2 story and has a creek running in the front of it. You can enter in and park at creek-level, but then you have to go up about 15 steps or so...I didn't want to be pulled up those steps, let alone put everyone through pulling me up them as it would probably rupture their backs. So...Wes has a back entry that brings you in on the top level (main floor) of the house. I didn't take a picture of the drive from the top down since I was driving, and Mama was too scared to open her eyes to take a snapshot as you come down it, so I took a picture from that level looking up, which doesn't do it any justice. (If you're interested, take a look at Annie Whitehurst' Blog Post and check out her (Oct) Leaf Looking 2009 post. In this she shows one particular picture of a driveway when her and her family went on a little walk through the woods when they were up there the week before. The rest of her blogs are great to read also.) My first picture is of the driveway looking upward (and trust me, it looks like a piece of cake). The rest of the pictures were in or around the house, and looking down at the creek view. It's so odd how just an hour away the terrain can change to where you think you're out west with the tall aspens..only they had plenty of tall hemlocks, a type of evergreen tree.

Wes had been marinating the meat all morning and put them on the grill while I was there and it turned out sooo good...moist and tender meat to go with the sides and dessert Darlene had prepared. Cherry-glazed pork tenderloin, apricot-glazed chicken wings, twice-baked potatoes, baked beans, spring mixed tossed salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and homemade apple tarts with vanilla bean ice cream and hot caramel sauce on top.

We were in no shape to eat anything once we got back to the Mama's house, but drank a cup of coffee for warmth. Overall it was a good day. Time is starting to click on by and it will be Friday before we know it.

Day 6, Tuesday: Stayed around the house today since it started raining, and Anneil and Danielle went to a few shops in Hiawaseee. The Dish man came back to try and correct his mistakes of whatever he did on the weekend...he blamed it on the TV-which was working fine before he ever came. Some men....can't own up to saying they don't know what they're doing sometimes. We had leftovers tonight from Sunday's meal to try to clear out the refrigerator before the end of the week.

Day 7, Wednesday: Woke up to clearer skies rain, but plenty of clouds scattered about. It looked as though we were riding in an airplane up amongst the clouds. After filling up with fuel, we headed over to Franklin NC today and spent a little more money in a couple of stores. The ride over that way is always so pretty with colors because you're going into a higher elevation, which is usually a few days ahead of Warne in color. The closer we got, you could tell they had already reached their peek, probably over the weekend, but I got a few snapshots anyway.

We shopped a little bit, then ended up at Big Lots before leaving Franklin and at one point in the store came upon some lazy stragglers.

Got home and rested up a little while then decided to treat the last remaining of us to The Oaks for a last meal together as tomorrow Anneil, Danielle, and Hagen would leave to go back to Florida. It gets sad as everyone starts to leave...we all said we'd like to just move up there...such a relaxed atmosphere, no one gets in a's just plain fun. we head to The Oaks, and this time we have a much smaller crowd in tow (which was the only reason I treated), and we're not having to fight getting in and out of the rain. We all tried a different dish tonight, and I started us off with the baked brie cheese and crackers for an appetizer, then I got the fresh pecan-encrusted mountain trout with the side of spring salad, seasonal vegetables , garlic mashed potatoes, and homemade bread. You can't resist their homemade desserts, so we (Anneil and I) decided on the Cherries Jubilee...and with fresh apples in season, Mama decided to get their apple pie la mode, but changed her mind and decided to get the same thing we got....especially since me nor Mama had ever tried it. Anneil was describing the flaming cherries in a syrup with vanilla bean ice cream served atop a crepe. I've seen some of their little S'Mores for Two come out with the little fire going, so I'm looking forward to this dessert they rave over. To get the flame I know you've got to add the cooking wine and I know the fire burns off the alcohol, so I don't feel as though I'm consuming any alcohol to try to get intoxicated in anyway... Our waitress brings out two flaming desserts and sets mine and Mama's down at the table and goes back to retrieve Anneil's. Before the fire/flame goes out I decide to get a picture of it (which you cannot even tell there is a flame because it is so low due to the AC vent blowing on it).

As I finish taking the picture the lady is bringing Anneil's and setting it down, and I look over at Mama, who has just bit into her dessert and I wanted to see her reaction of, "ummmmm good." I did not see this reaction, but a "look to kill" in which she rolled her eyes as if to silently say, "This is some wicked alcohol-tasting-cherry-something." (You've got to know this place, it's not a roached-infested greasy spoon, but a very nice, fresh, chef-prepared establishment that would probably be the nicest place in this area.) So, I knew by that she tasted alcohol...and I took a bite of mine and you'd have thought someone tripped and spilled a whole bottle of rubbing alcohol into my bowl. As long as I ate a cherry alone, or the ice cream, I didn't taste it....but never got to enjoy the crepe part because it was soaked in the liquid also. The lady kept trying to light it, but it wouldn't stay lit. Needless to say, we got a good laugh about our dessert...but Mama was fit to be tied. On the way home, we rode by a little place on the mountain next to us (Mt. Pisgah, but different than the Mt. Pisgah next to Cold Mountain which is where the movie was made) that the last few years daddy was alive would "most of the time" and at the "right time" of the evening (as the sun was going down), it wasn't unusual to see deer grazing. We didn't see any, so we turned around in someone's field and going by the same place we had just ridden by 1 minute before, it now had a couple doe's out there. They looked up and just stared at us, then continued eating. I went ahead and told Anneil and them goodbye tonight as they would be leaving at 5 a.m. in the morning and I didn't want to wake up to tell them then.

Day 8, Thursday: The next crew got off and it was just Mama and I left at the house, so we did what cleaning was needed and stayed around the house today. I don't know why, but I don't mind cleaning my bathroom & bedroom (as much) up there as I do here. On our way to eat supper that evening, we left early enough to go take a load of garbage to the dump, then went the backway and through one of the golf courses in to Hiawassee and saw some trees that were just turning colors.

We ate at Daniel's Steak House, a place that Mama and Daddy use to love to eat at when they would come up because they always had a delicious buffet. Unfortunately, the management must have changed hands because our meal was nothing to write home about. I had a young man wait on us that really got on my nerves for one thing, he seemed to be a little too cool...or so he thought. We made our way to the salad bar, then to the main entree which was fried chicken, and that I must say that was really good...but that's all I can say as the rest of the stuff was fresh alright....fresh out of the can or frozen bag. The desserts (that came with our meal) looked as though my little niece had prepared it. Coconut Cake with Hershey's Syrup drizzled all over it....and something that looked as though they were trying to make a chocolate delight with a layer of crushed up cookies, canned pudding with Cool Whip...then someone spilled Hershey's chocolate syrup all over that. It was pitiful. I told Mama we needed to mark that place off of our "top list of places to eat while in the mountains". I'm sorry, but I think my Mama's good cooking has spoiled us all. We rode up on the mountain again this evening to see if we could see any deer and did not, but found a beautiful sunset instead.

Day 9, Friday: We left at 7:30 a.m. and thank the Lord there was no fog, but a beautiful sunrise.

We first stopped off in Blue Ridge to try out a new Apple Warehouse, Mercier's. Wow....they not only have the fresh-picked apples, but a deli-bakery with to-die-for fresh pastries of every fritters (flat, but the size of a 8' pizza), butter-pecan fritters, apple-cinnamon bread, fried apple pies, etc. We were loaded when we left there...Mama and our dog in one vehicle and me in the other. It's difficult at times to have another car to keep up with, but I led us southward and toward home. Of course you'd know as we were coming into Atlanta at 10:30 in the morning, it was bumper-to-bumper due to an accident...that of which I never saw, and right in the heart of Atlanta it started raining...which brought back flashbacks from last year's trip. The further south we got around Macon on, the traffic started getting worse as there were many cars that flew around me as though I was a turtle....all decked out with their Georgia Bulldog banners and flags flapping. We pulled off in Cordele to try and find a Chick-fil-a, but there was none to be found, so we moved on the down the road a little more. It was funny, but within 15 minutes, a Chick-fil-a SUV pulling a U-Haul came around us...I figured it may have been heading to the Georgia/Florida game. Our 8 hour trip turned into 10 hours again, and we arrived in Williston around 5:30. Always nice to get away, but wonderful to get back home. I got unpacked, and I was in the bed around 8:00.

There's something about getting away to the mountains that just does something for me on the inside. It always makes me wonder why so many important things in the Bible took place on top of a mountain....God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on top of Mt. specific time the devil tried to tempt Jesus was while he was up on a mountain, he showed him all of the splendor one can see from on top of it...and Jesus got away from everyone and went up on a mountain to pray before he made one of the biggest decisions he made while he walked on this earth, the choosing of his 12 disciples. Just being in the mountains or on one makes you see things a little differently...makes my problems sure seem smaller when you see the size of them (mountains) and know that if God created them by just speaking the word, he can also speak to the seemingly mountain-size problems in my life and help me through them, or remove them. So if you've never been there, you don't know what you're missing....its well worth the trip though.