Did you think I fell off the face of the earth?? In my last blog (over a couple of weeks ago), I said I was on my way to Fayetteville, North Carolina to see my son Scott. I've been pretty occupied (or preoccupied) since then and hadn't made the opportunity to get back to my blog -- but here I am!
Travelling to Fayetteville
We just had a relatively short trip down to Fayetteville. One thing that struck me funny is that we saw literally dozens of billboards for "JR's." The billboards said things like "everthing from brassieres to chandeliers" as well as "the state's biggest tourist trap." We saw it as we passed by (a HUGE warehouse), but we didn't stop as we didn't need either a brassiere or a chandelier.
Scott met us on the freeway into town (he actually came up behind us on the freeway, which is so "Scott-like") ;-) He had to lead us to the campground because it was on the Fort Bragg Army base. Because we are family, we got to stay at the Army campground, and for a price that was about half of what we were used to paying. Good deal, huh? Those federal taxes we've paid came in handy this time!
As we were coming in, it was raining (one of those afternoon thunderstorms). But by the time we got to the campground, it was a downpour! Like someone was pouring buckets of water on us. We decided not to do our usual "set-up" in the rain, so we just ran out of our truck and over into Scott's truck. We drove over to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee before heading to Scott's house.
Scott and his gal Chris (more about her later) live in a beautiful home in a very nice golf community. It's decorated beautifully -- the wood and tile floors, as well as the wall colors, are exactly to my taste. I could have moved in without changing a thing! (Well, Scott might have something to say about that!).
I've heard about Chris for some time -- she and Scott have been together for over a year -- so I was very glad to meet her. She's an Army Intelligence Officer, and very smart and pretty. And she's a pretty tough cookie -- she's gone over to Iraq several times to interrogate Al Qaida. She told us a lot of interesting stories of her experiences.
She and Scott also do "Adventure Racing" together on a coed team. That means that they go off out in the boonies and compete in a triathalon of mountain biking, paddling, and treking. They're both in excellent physical condition, of course. Those two seem to have a lot in common.
The surprise when we walked in to their house was the "zoo". They have a miniature pinscher named Minnie, two cats named Charlotte and Scaredy (and yes, she IS a scaredy cat!), a 100% wolf named Chevy (more about him later), an iguana (in a cage, of course) also named Charlotte, and a coatimundi (koh-duh-mun-dee, part of the raccoon family) named Cody (also in a big cage). Everyone gets along well (except for Scaredy, who stays under the bed). But we absolutely fell in love with Chevy.
Chris had rescued him when he was a baby (she's from the southwest, part Native American, and loves animals). I was wondering, before I met Chevy, whether he would ever "act wild", but he is the most mellow, friendly, gentle "dog" we've ever met. He has the best personality. It made me want to get a wolf! By the way, I have pictures of the whole menagerie (including the humans) on my photosite.
Chris is an excellent housekeeper, and there's no evidence (sight or smell) and there are animals in that house. Pretty impressive (and a lot of work!).
Just about the whole time we were there, we played the card game Rook, watched a little comedy on TV, and went out to eat. We ate at some great places, and at one place, we had the best gyros ever!
The day before we left, we all drove over to the Southern Pines area -- that's where they have the famous golf tournaments, and Tiger Woods has a home. It's a pretty, trendy area with a lot of nice homes. It was fun to walk around there.
They were worried about entertaining us, but we just wanted to hang out and relax, so that's what we did. We had a good time with them.
By the way -- one interesting story -- on the first night at the Army Campground, we went to bed late, but started hearing helicopters overhead. They kept flying by, closer and closer. At one point, I felt like the helicopter was going to scrape the top of our RV! We laughed and laughed about that adventure! We were finally able to go to sleep. I'm not sure if we just passed out while they were still flying by, or if they actually stopped. We found out the next day that we were right next door to a helicopter base at Fort Bragg, and they were doing drills that night! Oh well. :-)
On To The Coast
We left Fayetteville to head toward Wilmington, North Carolina, on the coast. All the way over there we saw field after field of tobacco. When I saw these big plants, I was wondering who the person was who first had the idea of cutting those leaves, drying them, and smoking them. And then lots of his friends and family thought that was a good thing and they did it too. And here we are today. Hmmm... a mystery.
Anyway, we got into Wilmington. It's just a cute little town on the coast, but their claim to fame is that they have the USS North Carolina docked there.
That was a battleship used during WWII that this town later acquired. Michael and I have both seen battleships (both he and my dad were in the Navy), so we didn't take the tour. But it was impressive to see it sitting there. We parked in the parking lot and ate our sandwiches looking at it. Cool, huh? (By the way, when you just read the word "battleship", was the first thing that came into your mind "You sunk my battleship!"? No? OK, maybe it's just me).
Myrtle Beach Craziness
We headed on down the coast to stay a couple of days in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I really didn't know what to expect, although I had it in my mind that it was a classy little beach resort area. Boy, was I wrong! Yes, it's a beach resort area, but I wouldn't call it classy -- it's the most "touristy" area I think I've ever seen!
There is mile after mile after mile of things for tourists to buy, see, do and eat. There were over a dozen of huge "beach stores" -- the kinds that sell bathing suits and boogey boards. There are hundreds of restaurants, with dozens of those being all-you-can-eat Calabash-style seafood places (there's a long explanation for "Calabash", but the short one is that the fish is all fried). We went to one of those restaurants to check it out (since they were everywhere), and it was pretty good (that is, until all that fried food started catching up with you). I was mostly focusing, though, on the all-you-can-eat crab legs. Yum!
There are shopping areas everywhere, including TWO large outlet malls! There was also a very unique shopping area called "Broadway at the Beach". It had a lot of cool shops in it, lots of ice cream shops, and an IMAX theater.
There were also Branson-like shows everywhere, from Medieval jousting, to country variety shows, to chinese acrobats -- you name it. But the thing that started becoming a joke for us was seeing the number of miniature golf places around town. Now we've all gone miniature golfing, and maybe to the nice Scandia-type golf courses. But I've never seen courses like these. They looked like what I would expect if Disneyland had miniature golf. They all had "mountains" and waterfalls, then various themes like dinosaurs or pirates or you-name-it! There were literally over 20 golf courses like this, everywhere you looked. It's hard to imagine how they all made money -- although there were tons of people down there. I found out later that it was "Senior Week" -- in other words, it's a tradition for seniors to graduate high school and come down to Myrtle Beach for a week. Kids were everywhere!
By the way, a side note -- when we drove into Myrtle Beach, we saw a sign that said "Myrtle Beach, Home of Vanna White." Are you impressed yet?? ;-)
Back to North Carolina
Well, Myrtle Beach was as south as we're going at this time (we're going to go on down to Georgia and Florida after our trip to the northeast this fall -- it's too muggy to go now). So we're heading back up the road, this time to Asheville, North Carolina. I've been to Asheville briefly, a few years ago, and always wanted to go back to check it out -- this time as potentially a place to live.
Asheville is a beautiful place with moderate temperature. The average elevation is about 2200 feet, so it doesn't get as hot as other places around here. It's in the Blue Ridge Mountains (which, along with the Smoky Mountains is part of the Appalachians), and is extremely "treed". The trees are very pretty, but it actually proved to be difficult when you're looking around trying to check out the community. You know when you drive down the highway, you can pretty much look left and right, close and far, and get a good feel for how a community is laid out? You often can't do that in Asheville. As you drive along the highways, or even many of the city streets, you look left and right and see trees. Interesting.
We looked at a lot of houses there, and we actually found one that we both absolutely fell in love with. Of course, we would never buy a house unless we've found a nearby church first, but we had talked to a gal who went to Biltmore Baptist and highly recommended it. So we decided to go there Sunday morning. It was a huge, but awesome, church, and felt very comfortable. After Sunday morning, we were just about ready to buy the house, but we were finally able to rein in our emotions and slow ourselves down. There was a big reason we needed to do that: we hadn't even seen Tennessee yet -- our planned destination! So we figured that if God wanted us in Asheville, he would bring us back after our "due diligence" in Tennessee.
Finally in Tennessee
Michael and I have been talking about Tennessee for so long, that it was good to finally arrive. We left Asheville, driving over the Blue Ridge and the Smoky Mountains, and arrived in Knoxville. It was a beautiful drive. By the way, the Smoky Mountains really ARE smoky! I didn't understand that until I read up on the Internet. It said that rains so much up in the mountains (it's actually considered a temperate rain forest!) that it forms a constant condensation that appears as smoke. Interesting.
Before we started house hunting, we decided to drive on over to Sieverville and Pigeon Forge -- the home of Dollywood. I couldn't believe it when I saw Pigeon Forge -- it was a combination of Myrtle Beach and Branson! It was very much like Myrtle Beach with its touristy spots, shopping, restaurants, and "beach stores" (wait, there's no beach here!). It also had the numerous extravagent miniature golf places! But it also had a lot more family theater shows like you find in Branson. We drove over to Dollywood to get a peek. But you actually have to park in this big parking lot and they tram you over to the park. You can't even see it because it's all behind the trees (there's those darn trees again!).
Before this trip began, we really thought Knoxville was where we would end up. But after a couple of days driving around, looking at the various homes and areas, we realized that that was not where we were supposed to live. Frankly, that was a surprise.
Since we had already paid for three days at the campsite, and had made this decision in two days, we decided to take the third day and drive down to Chattanooga to look. When Michael did his Internet research on homes, he discovered a town of about 40,000 to the northeast of Chattanooga called Cleveland. It seemed to have a lot of homes within our parameters, so we looked around there. It was a nice little town, and we really liked it. Since we had already made campground arrangements in Nashville for the next day, we ralized we were going to have to come back to Cleveland later.
We drove over to Nashville and were quite surprised at just how dynamic it was. The main reason we were surprised is that a person we had talked to told us that Knoxville was the classy city and that Nashville was the hick city. But we didn't see anything classy about Knoxville, and were quite impressed with Nashville.
There are tons of suburbs around the Nashville area, so we looked around for three days -- and didn't find aything that seemed right. UGH! We also didn't do any of the touristy things there in Nashville (like Opryland, etc) because we were on a mission. We'll come back and do all that later. Overall, the Nashville excursion was quite a frustration, so we headed back to Cleveland.
Cleveland's IT, right??
We really cranked up the house search in Cleveland. We drove around looking at about 30 homes the first day, to narrow it down to those we would go see with the realtor. We also went to about four FSBO's (for sale by owners). In the meantime, we went to church on Sunday, the Westwood Baptist Church. The pastor was really good, although I will say that the rest of the "church factors" weren't quite what I had in mind. Then the next day, we went with the realtor to see about 10 houses. We had it down to three houses, and we were going to try to decide what to do. At one point, Michael said "What are we doing here in Cleveland?" He said it as a joke (because I had said that several times over the last couple of days), but then I said, "Yeah, I know -- I'm having problems with this." Bottom line is, something was nagging at me about those three houses and about the church. Michael liked them all, and liked the area, so I thought it was just me. However, with that kind of nagging feeling hanging out there, we decided to just slow down. We're actually leaving Cleveland to go to some other places.
You know, I've told many or most of you that both Michael and I just want to live where God wants us to live, and frankly, I've been frustrated that He doesn't just send me a note or a fax to let me know where that is. Whatever He wrote on the note, I would do. However, for some reason He's choosing not to do that. I had a good talk with myself last evening (fortunately, I didn't answer back), and realized that (1) we haven't been looking THAT long, (2) we had to look first in those places that WE thought we would live before we were open to anything else, and (3) the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before they got to the Promised Land. While I hope it won't be 40 years until we find where God wants us to be, I think I can muster up a little more patience in the meantime.
Soberly and humbly, but with great hope and anticipation, I remain here in Tennessee with my eyes and heart open....