Category: travel story

Trip to San Francisco–June 1999–Freaks and Buzzards

I went with hubby “Cugan” and his brother M–, who won our plane tickets there.  (We could never have afforded it on our own.)

The houses in Union City, where we stayed with family, had bad spider and bug problems, like the lakeside houses in our own Wisconsin city.  At least we didn’t see many bugs inside the house, but it still looked like more than the usual in Wisconsin.

It would get cold at night, and bayside was often cold and windy, probably reaching the fifties before the day was done.  So if you go to San Francisco, even in the summertime, take a heavy jacket!  Also, there were old VW bugs everywhere, lasting forever in that climate.  Did they belong mostly to aging hippies?

We liked staying with family rather than in an expensive hotel, where we would just sit around feeling bored at the end of the day.  And I could sit on the couch and read Dangerous Liaisons while Cugan and M– watched the VCR or cable.

The neighborhood in Union City looked strange to me: It didn’t have the usual grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb.  (In Wisconsin, it’s called a terrace, though I don’t think it’s called that in Indiana, where I came from.)  You’d find everything from street signs to trash barrels (on trash day) sitting on the sidewalk, and have to walk single file around them.

The houses were narrow, though long, the yards were tiny, and the streets were lined with lots of cars, so it felt claustrophobic.  But the Spanish-style houses with their double doors and pastels were pretty, and they, and the extensive landscaping people did, made up for that.  There were flowers everywhere.

The first night, Cugan, M– and I went to see Phantom Menace.  It was M–‘s first time and our second.  (Yes, we did actually like the movie and wanted to see it again.)  It was in that newfangled digital sound, but I noticed no difference between that and regular sound.

The 25-screen, new theater didn’t even have enough parking, so we were forced to park the rental car on a treacherous obstacle course made of bumpy dirt which was being used as a second parking lot.  Go too far one way, and you fall in a ditch.  We were glad to have a midsize car, because a smaller one might not have been able to handle the terrain.

When we saw a trailer for the new Austin Powers movie, some guy in the row in front of ours said, “I’ll need to have a few drinks before watching that one.”  Cugan and M– applauded, and we laughed.  (Yet M– ended up loving the movie.)  This guy said the same thing about another movie, I think the South Park movie.

I was shocked to see a trailer for a new movie version of Anna and the King of Siam.  Having seen the 1940s movie again after reading the book, I was shocked at how the movie twisted history around; The King and I wasn’t much better.

I longed for Hollywood to come out with a new version, maybe one that was closer to the book.  (For one thing, Anna and King Mongkut did not fall in love, as far as I could tell.  He was far too cruel for someone with her soft heart.)

Unfortunately, this new movie version was even worse than the rest.  And now people were saying that even the book was practically fiction!

Monday, we rode the BART, a transit train, to San Francisco, where we rode a Powell-Hyde Street cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf at the end of the line.  These cars were cool.  They weren’t used just for tourists, either.

Even the brakes were wooden.  Everything looked about as primitive as it probably was when they were first used, which made it all the more exciting.

Cable car is the only way to travel on the steep hills of San Francisco, but plenty of people still tried to share the streets with them and park on the hills.  I thought those people must be crazy.  We figured brakes must not last long around there, and that trolley brakes must get replaced every day.

The driver would put on the brakes going down a hill and take them off again to climb up another one.  When the trolley would get to one end or another of the track, a few strong men were needed to turn it around.  They would push it onto a wooden wheel in the street, pull a rope in the ground so the wheel would move, push the trolley around on the wheel to line up against the track facing the opposite direction, then roll it along on the track a little ways to the pickup point.

Long lines formed waiting for these cars; in the morning, it took about half an hour to finally get on a trolley.  (Maybe that’s why people would still drive cars.)   Along the way, individuals would stand at cable car stops or walk into the street, waving a hand so the car would stop and let them on.  Sometimes there would be too many people at a stop and the driver would say, “Go on down the street to the next one: You’ll have better luck.”

He pointed out all the sights to us along the way, something our evening driver didn’t do, probably because he was the evening driver and we’d seen it all before.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, and nearby streets were full of shops and panhandlers.  Many panhandlers got creative.  One young man with spiked hair sat in front of a sign that said, “Get your picture taken with a freak.”

Three guys on the streets dressed up in suits and stood like statues or moved like robots on blocks.  One was painted gold, another silver.  I had to ask Cugan if they were real people.

Some guys had signs saying, “I’ll be honest: this money’s for beer/weed!”  I gave them no money, of course.  I’m willing to help out the hungry as far as I can, but not those who want money for drugs or beer.

We toured the bay on a ship for an hour, and saw the Golden Gate, the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, and sea lions sleeping stretched out and looking like our cat when she slept.  We also toured an old submarine, the Jeremiah O’Brien.

We walked part of the way across the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was cold and windy and I had a sore throat, so we didn’t go the whole way.  There were phones here and there on the bridge to use for crisis counseling, to keep people from jumping off the bridge.  Cugan had M– pose for a picture, his hat on backwards, reaching for one of the phones as if he were on his last rope.

In a chocolate shop, I got a tin of chocolate and two truffles, and had to get some of the truffles which were made to look like cats, mice, bears, lions and pigs.  I could only get four, but they were almost too cute to eat.  I still ate them, however, to Cugan’s surprise and amusement.  He laughed when I would show him one or two each night, say, “Isn’t it cute?” and then bite into it.

One of the first two truffles got smashed in the bag before I could eat it, so Cugan and I went into the candy shop again later to replace it.  The same cashier was there who had been there before; she remembered me and smiled at all the chocolate I’d bought.  (It didn’t seem like much to me, but local prices were so high that it cost about $20!)

Dogs were huge in this area.  I saw maybe one dog that was smaller than a Rottweiler, and it was tiny.  Two of the dogs were mastiffs.  One panhandler had a black dog he called a “puppy,” but it was huge and looked like a wolf.  Cugan figured people had the big dogs for protection, especially the panhandlers.

As we waited for a trolley for about an hour in the cold wind of evening, after the fog had begun rolling in, a street musician entertained us with his guitar and his own songs.  When we got close to him and could hear the words, he sang a funny song about the blues of waiting for cable cars in the cold, and sang, “I’ve been waiting here longer than you.”

Also, the trolleys were piling up, and we thought the operators must be deliberately spacing them out for some reason, though they didn’t do this before.  This is why it took so long.  As we watched some guys turn around one of the trolleys, Cugan and M– sang the hard-labor tune, “Oh-WEE-oh.  WEE-oh!”  One of the guys smiled at them.  Cugan’s aunt later told us that they’re used to strange people.

Both times in the cars, I sat on a bench at the end facing forward, Cugan sat next to me, and M– held onto a pole in front of me.  I got neck-aches from watching where the car went.  You also had to be really careful if you stood by a pole, because if you hung out too far, you could hit something.  Cugan’s family had been there before; once, his mom got hurt and had to get stitches because she hit some yellow poles that stuck up a little ways out of the street in one intersection (probably track markers).

We wandered the streets of Berkeley.  We saw a bunch of young people with spiked hair and spiked leather jackets (not a common sight at home at that time).  We saw the sand dunes near Monterey Bay, and drove through mountains to get there.  Monterey was just as cold as San Francisco.  At a seafood restaurant, as we read the menu posted outside, one of the waiters (I guess) came out and told us to come in, the food’s good, trust him.  It was.  🙂

We saw the Monterey Aquarium, with its new Deep Sea exhibit.  Outside we watched a sea lion sleeping on a rock, a cormorant sitting beside it, and an otter playing in the nearby kelp beds.  By one glass wall was a small holding tank for otters, blocked off by small, rocky caves.  The otters showed off for us and played.  Two of the otters, females, slept for a while in a nook, lying on their backs in the water and holding up their front paws as if they were praying.  One, the closest, kept looking at us.

Later we went down part of the 17-Mile Drive, which had more sand dunes and a beach.  Otters played in the water.  One floated on his back and kept thrashing a rock against sea urchins, trying to smash the urchins for his dinner.  A wave would splash over him, you’d see his head poking up, he’d apparently lose his rock or want another sea urchin, and he would dive and come back up again.  Cugan wanted whatever he was having, because he wanted to get that excited about dinner.

Instead of center lines and lane lines, California streets and roads have yellow and white reflectors.  The streets often have bike lanes on the right.

The roads to and from Muir Forest and Muir Beach were mountain roads, narrow and twisting.  Cugan, the only registered driver for the rental car, didn’t like the roads and didn’t want to drive back at night.  We joked about how easy it would be to fall down the ditch on one side or the drop on the other, since there were no guardrails in most places.  On the way to the forest, we saw what might have been a buzzards.  M– took on a Latin accent and and a husky voice and said,

“Emilio, we will feast well tonight on fat Wisconsin tourists!”  (Not that we’re fat.)

Cugan said, “Isn’t it nice that they (humans) come in prepackaged boxes (cars)?”

M– said, “And that they have seatbelts, so they won’t go very far!”

We saw the redwoods of Muir Forest, and wandered the trails.  The famous walk-through tree had fallen before I was even born.  Since this was caused by people walking around the tree and destroying the root system, the trails were now fenced off with wooden railings to keep people from disturbing the other trees.  But one was set up with concrete walkways around and in it so you could stand inside its little cave.

Many of the trees had nooks and crannies, many of them big enough to fit at least one person side.  Once, M– pointed to a felled tree and said, “There are probably a lot of bugs and termites in there.”  Then a woman nearby said to a man who was trying to get inside a nook near the trail, “Did he say bugs and termites?”  We saw a Steller’s blue jay and a Sonoma chipmunk, both cute, though the blue jay had nearly finished a piece of bread and Cugan wondered if it could fly after that.

Muir Beach wasn’t so much fun for me.  It was cold and windy, and we went up a trail on a hill so steep it was hazardous to go back down.  The guys disappeared over the top of the hill, and I couldn’t stay up there in the cold, so I had to go back down by myself and wait for them.

Cugan’s aunt and uncle had their own sense of humor.  One night, Uncle Y– told Aunt A– that he had an invitation that said nothing about bringing wives.  A– said,

“That’s because L– wants to steal you away from me.  You should hear the things she says to her sister about you!”

For the next hour or so, until they left for a gradation party, Y– kept asking what L– said about him.  A– kept saying,

“You’ll have to ask her sister.  I’m not telling you.”

M– called in to work once or twice to check up on things, hoping for brownie points with his bosses, and one of his co-workers asked,

“You didn’t have soup in a bread bowl, did you?”

M– said, “How’d you know?”

It was a sourdough bread bowl in a fish ‘n’ chips restaurant on Pier 39.  The co-worker said he was doing the typical tourist thing, but Aunt A– said we might as well, since I had never been there before.

And here ends the travelogue.

 

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1988 Trip to Mammoth Cave–When the Lights Went Out Underground

1988 Trip to Mammoth Cave–When the Lights Went Out Underground

(Pictured: Passage within Mammoth Caves National Park, iStock.com/sreenath_k)

I wrote this to a penpal back in 1988, as a sophomore in high school:

During August, my parents, my brother L– and I went to Bowling Green, Kentucky.

I went with my dad and brother to Mammoth Cave, but my mom stayed at the hotel because she’d gone through there before in 1965 (as did my brother and dad), and, since she hadn’t dressed properly for the cold down there–my dad was the only one in the tour group with pants on instead of shorts–she got sick.

(When it was my turn to go in this cave, which I’d heard so much about that it seemed legendary, I wore pants.)

Back then, the longest tour was somewhere around six, seven, eight hours.  Now it was only four and a half hours, unless you wanted to go on the “Wild Cave” Tour: I think that was six hours long, and it was one where they gave the people equipment and they’d pretend they were explorers.  (I’d like to go on that one sometime.)

The electricity in the cave is powered by two companies, one in Indiana, but when we were there, it wasn’t working in the Indiana Company’s part of the cave.  Most of the Half-Day (4 1/2-hour) Tour was in that part, so we had to stand outside in the heat for a very long time, waiting for the previous group to come back with the lanterns.

But, during that time, there was the oddest coincidence: During my freshman year at school, I had two best friends, and one of them–Jennifer–was on the very same tour I was on!  Neither of us even knew the other was going to be there!

Finally, we could go in the cave and cool off.  There were a lot of stairs to go down.  I’d brought a pocket flashlight I’d bought at church camp, which came in useful now.

(With at least two tour groups being shoved together for the tour, there was a shortage of lanterns, and anyone with a flashlight was encouraged to use it and lead a smaller group.  Of course, my flashlight was hardly big enough to lead a group with, so I didn’t say anything about it to the tour guide.)

After a while we reached the Snowball Dining Room and had lunch, chili if you wanted it (I had something else since I don’t like chili), then went into the next room and sat for an extremely long time.  It turned out to be cold in there, so our guide told us we should go back in the Snowball Room where it was warmer.

Some of us went in there, and the guide from the next group came up to us and said we should go in the other room because another group was going to come in.  Some people in our group started laughing; the other group’s guide asked, “Why are you laughing?” and someone said, “Our guide just told us to come in here.”

For a while during our wait in the other room, I had a chance to talk with Jennifer.  Before that, and maybe after, I talked with Dad about the link between the Great Flood and how the room looked like it was carved by water–which it was, as the guide later told us.

It was decided that the rest of the Half-Day Tour groups would join our group.  Our guide told us about the forks in the trail ahead and how easy it was to get lost.

He said that, usually, he could joke about how one person could go the wrong way and have forty people following, but now it could be a hundred (or maybe even 120, I don’t remember now), and it wouldn’t be so funny.

The guide was asked if anyone ever got lost in the cave, and he told about when a man, before there was electricity in the cave, left his new hat in the Snowball Room, and the guide let him go back and get it.  When he was going back to the group, he missed the turn and started going the wrong way–then his lantern went out.

He was lost for 39 hours!  They found him after he started pounding two rocks together.  They thought he was smart to signal the search party like that, but they found out the total silence–since Mammoth Cave makes no sound–had begun to get to him, so he pounded the rocks so there would be some noise.

As we went deeper and deeper into the cave, we could look up and see colossal walls on either side.  Some people were given candles, so now we had three or four flashlights, some lanterns and candles.  (I just remembered: One lantern had set on fire outside.)

I thought it was more fun without electricity.  Once or twice only a few of us were in front, and the others were so far behind we thought they were lost.

If I remember right, someone screamed when they saw one of the cave-dwelling animals or insects.  Along the way we saw a cave insect, and, in one room, we divided into groups to look for more.  We found at least one.

Some time later there were huge depressions on either side of the trail, and large rocks, which were in such positions that they looked like they would fall any second, were in the depressions, and one could see where part of the roof caved in when the cave was being formed–but it looked as if the cave-in had just occurred in the past few minutes!  One of the rocks in precarious positions was holding the roof up.

We reached a place with restrooms, and we found out those lights weren’t working either, so someone put a lantern in the girl’s restroom.

At one spot, we sat down on benches that were on either side of a trail with depressions on both sides.  Where I was, the bench tilted backwards, so I was uneasy until we all stood up again.  (L– noticed a heavily overweight woman panting and fanning herself here.)

There are so many steps in that cave, and we went up and down a lot of them.  We went down some more to see some formations, then came back up.  I believe the lights were on there.  Soon after, the tour was over.  Only my feet wanted to leave; they ached so much.

That “Half-Day” Tour turned out, for us, to be over five hours long.  People were joking that we should be given T-shirts saying, “I survived the 5-hour Half-Day Tour.”  I was disappointed when we came to the part where the lights were on, though as soon as they saw it some people cheered.

My dad, brother and I were going to go on the Echo River Tour the next morning, but all the water-tours were cancelled because the lights had gone out.  So Dad and I went on the Historic Tour, and heard from someone on that tour how he and a group were on the river when the lights went out.

On the Historic Tour, we, of course, went in the Historic Entrance.  All the lights were on in the part of the cave where this was.  Once, the lights were deliberately turned off, and we were told to be very still and just listen to the total silence: Mammoth Cave makes no sound at all, as I said before.

Then the guide took a kerosene torch and threw it on a ledge high above us, to light up the roof.  She said that a family of rats lived up there, and when they were “at home” they’d push the torch back off the ledge.  They weren’t home.

She also said a “fire and brimstone” preacher in the olden days liked to preach to his congregation here, where they felt close to Hell.  It was also used for mining at one time.

By the Bottomless Pit–which is 105 feet deep–is a tower-like thing that we climbed up–and up–using stairs.  (The stairs curved around and around the tower.)  It seemed to me to be just as high as the Bottomless Pit is deep.

On the way to and from Kentucky, I played Amy Grant’s Lead Me On tape, which I had just gotten, on my Walkman because it was the only tape I brought.  I played it as Dad drove down a road in a wooded area and then turned the car around because we were going the wrong way.  (We were close to the cave by then.)  By the end of the trip, I was tired of it.  I gave it a rest, and eventually was able to listen to it again.

Mom and Dad had told me the story of Mammoth Cave for years before this.  Mom had to carry my other brother La– (my brothers were that young), and L– ate too many hot dogs and got sick of them for life.  I think he eventually was able to eat them again, when he was grown up.

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2011 Trip to Tennessee–Land of the Appalachians

For most of the last week (August 4-9, 2011), my husband Cugan, my son Daniel and I were in Knoxville, Tennessee visiting Cugan’s parents.  This is the travelogue:

Day 1:

We are now down in Tennessee visiting Cugan’s parents.  Daniel got his first ride on a plane yesterday, but hated it: First our flight was so delayed that we couldn’t possibly make our connection, so we were switched to a different flight.  Then they switched us back with a different connection, but we’d lost our seats–and ended up in steerage, next to the engine, no window, but tons of racket.  Made my travel-migraine much worse, our stomachs went up and down with the plane–just awful. 😛

But the second plane was much better, right behind first class, very little airsickness, and Daniel got to watch out a window as the nighttime lights fell away below us…and the moon rose….

The layover was also much better than originally planned.  We originally had only an hour to get through the massive Atlanta airport, not enough time for dinner.  That airport is lots bigger than the one in Milwaukee, requiring trains to get from one concourse to another.  But this time, we got to have dinner and recover from our airsickness in the cool AC.

And I saw sitting across from us a little boy about Daniel’s age.  I encouraged him to go over and play, and the two became fast friends: The other boy, Jonathan, was like Daniel’s Spanish-speaking counterpart.  They spoke different languages but played the same things the same way, had similar toys.

And it showed Daniel the value of learning Spanish, which he’s been working on with my BYKI.com software.  They both had lego guys, cars, DS game systems.   LOL

Day 2:

It’s funny that I just digitized one of Cugan’s Blue Öyster Cult tapes onto the computer, because this state reminds me of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” with its mountains, hillbilly history and Lover’s Leap on Lookout Mountain.

Today we went to Gatlinburg, an hour from Knoxville, where Cugan’s parents live.  Kitschy establishments everywhere!  There’s even a “Hatfield vs. McCoy” dinner theater, the building made to look like a couple of hillbilly shacks.  They really play up the hillbilly thing in these parts.

But we weren’t there for the kitsch.  First we went to–what was it called, Bubba Gump Shrimp or something like that.  It’s a restaurant based on Bubba’s shrimp business, which later became Forrest’s, on “Forrest Gump.”

Not only do they have Forrest Gump stuff everywhere–quotes all over the tables, Gump memorabilia, menu items named after characters–but the server does movie trivia as you eat.  You put up a sign saying “Stop Forrest Stop” if you want service.  If you don’t, you put up a sign saying “Run Forrest Run.”

After that, we went to the aquarium.  Usual aquarium stuff, but the shark tank was set up with classical music and a moving sidewalk (very disorienting, especially with my nasty migraine, but if you’re feeling healthy it’s supposed to fill you with awe), and the tank actually went over your head.  You could look up and see sharks resting over your head and swimming over you.

The African penguin section allowed children to go in these tubes to see the penguins up-close, but still from protective glass, so of course Daniel went in there.  There were two petting areas: One for horseshoe crabs, the other for stingrays.

I got to pet a horseshoe crab, but the stingrays were just too far away.  It was hard to bend over the wall, and the stingrays always went just beyond my reach, though some of them did seem to come over to me on purpose.

And, of course, to get out of the aquarium you HAD to go through the gift shop.  It was actually a rule: You were blocked from going anywhere else but through the greatest part of the gift shop.  Yeah, we knew why that rule was there.  LOL

We’re talking Chattanooga tomorrow.  I hope to go to Lookout Mountain and the Civil War display there, along with the cave and Lover’s Leap.

I went there with my family as a kid, though I forget how old I was.  Possibly teens or late childhood.  I also remember going to the Coca-Cola museum; I’m not sure where exactly it is in Tennessee, but hope to show it to Daniel.

I must show him a cave before we leave this state!  Not only do I want him to see the awesomeness that is caves, but I haven’t seen a cave for probably 10 years.   Here in the mountains there are probably lots of caves!

Too bad the airsickness and migraine have combined to make the trip more grueling than it otherwise would have been.  It’s also very hot here right now: The car thermometer read 98 degrees at one point.  😛  I like cooler weather.  I don’t want to ever move down South or West.

Day 3:

Turns out Chattanooga is some four hours away, so unfortunately, we won’t be going there.

Today we went to the Cherokee Caverns, a cave near Oak Ridge where they did the Manhattan Project during WWII.  It’s not far from Knoxville, out in the wilderness.

History of Cherokee Caverns

They do public tours only four times a year, and today was the day for this time of year.  There were a bunch of people there.  A cute young guy led our group through the little cave.

It was pretty, and has some interesting history.  There is evidence that Cherokees used it, such as river cane torch marks (stoke marks) in places where they would have rubbed their torches to relight them, and they would have found flint and other things they needed in there.

The cave is also made into a Haunted Cave periodically, so they also have two manmade wonders: a “vortex tunnel,” a spinning black tunnel with colored spots which makes you feel disoriented, and an alligator-shaped formation.

It was used for filming during one of the Christy movies, when she was lost in a cave.  The guide showed us where the crew filled up a part of the cave with water and then drained it.

He also told us that during the 80s, a biker gang used it for parties and hanging out.  They damaged it in various places, such as one spot where some idiot shot a stalactite (did it hit him in the eye when it fell, I wonder?), another spot where they burned a bunch of tires as a last hurrah before leaving the cave, and tiremarks here and there.

Also, when one large floor was excavated to make the cave handicap accessible, they found some bear skeletons.

After that we went to the Oak Ridge Children’s Museum.  It wasn’t just a play area, but had actual museum pieces and log cabins to show how people used to live in the Appalachians, and how people lived who worked on the Manhattan Project.

Through this display, I learned why some of the Weather Channel people pronounce “Appalachians” so strange: In the North, it’s “AppaLAYshuns,” as we say it around here.  In the South, it’s “AppaLATCHans,” as they say it on the Weather Channel.

Daniel had a lot of fun playing with various displays, especially the toy boats and trains, and didn’t want to leave, but it was almost closing time.  We got caught in a sudden rainstorm on the way out.

The clerks at the Children’s Museum told us about the houses nearby, which Cugan’s dad asked about, saying they looked a lot alike.  They were used by the workers in the Manhattan Project–A houses, B houses, C houses, etc.–and are now private dwellings which people modify as needed.  To this day people refer to them as A houses, B houses, C houses, etc.

The government kept the town a secret until after WWII.  Workers on the Manhattan Project didn’t even know it had anything to do with the atomic bomb.

Day 4:

Today we visited the Museum of Appalachia near Knoxville.  It has relics and actual or replicated buildings from old Appalachian settlements.

With all the steep pathways and the heat and humidity, it’s not surprising that Daniel started to complain.  But it wasn’t surprising that they spent most of their time outside: The stifling buildings were even worse.

One hut, belonging to an old bachelor, was a teeny tiny room that just fit a bed, a stove and some other things.  A dorm room was palatial compared to this, even the closet-room belonging to a friend of mine who lived in the men’s dorm at Roanoke College.

One cabin belonged to Mark Twain’s parents, and was only a bit larger, with a loft.  Yet another cabin had large rooms and two stories, along with a richly-carved mantel.

There were peacocks running around and filling the air with their cries.  There were sheep and large roosters.  Inside the display buildings you could see various pieces used by actual mountain people from the late 1800s and early 1900s, from toys and beds to musical instruments, caskets, a hearse….

There was a tiny church, making you wonder how they could sit in that stifling room dressed in 19th-century Sunday best.  There was a one-room schoolhouse with two outhouses, one for boys and one for girls.

The outhouses were big enough to move around comfortably, though one-seaters, and could easily hold a coat and a water basin.  I always wonder about such things.

We stopped at the little restaurant/cafe for refreshment, and found Coke in old-fashioned 8-oz. glass bottles.

There was, of course, a hut with a still and other whiskey-making implements.   The write-up told about a guy called Popcorn Sutton, a mountain man who was famous for making moonshine.  The dates given were in the 2000s!  He died only two years ago!

So I asked, and was told that some people still live like this in the mountains, that these aren’t just relics from the past like the Galloway House.

After a little Googling it appears that there have been many improvements and modernizations in the rural areas of the region, there are now trailers and more modern houses and cars and schools and modern clothes and household implements, but the mountain people are still desperately poor.

So the same lack of running water and electricity, ramshackle houses, outhouses, poor medical care, and other such things still exist among many.  And they still carry on the culture and music of their ancestors.

Popcorn Sutton

Popcorn Sutton’s Family’s Blog

20/20’s “Children of the Mountains”

Mountains Of Substandard Housing Appalachia’s Poverty And Unemployment Make Even Ragged Homes Unaffordable.

In the evening, Cugan and I went on a little date by ourselves, first dinner at a restaurant then the latest Harry Potter movie.  On the way home, finally I could see the Appalachian mountains at night, a beautiful scene I haven’t seen since my family visited my brothers in North Carolina in 1990: the mountains black, lurking shadows against the dark gray of the night sky.

Day 5:

Today we went to Dollyworld, an amusement park which was bought out by Dolly Parton and made into a big marketing thing for her: her music playing everywhere, Dolly’s fashions sold in a shop, things like that.  The narcissism was amusing.

But there was lots to do, shops to visit, rides for Daniel, a candy shop, a train going through the park but also around the mountain with various replicas of hillbilly life/buildings (including a moonshine still) circa the 19th century.

There were also various shows; we went to a 40-minute musical with dancers, which went through local history from Cherokees to the Scottish-Irish settlers to the 19th century culture to Depression-era changes.  There were even 4 guys, playing Cherokees, who flew over the audience and ended up right over us on a stage contraption.  Daniel was amazed at that part.

Tomorrow we go home.

 

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