Posts Tagged ‘north carolina’

Cherokee People, Cherokee Tribe(, Snowy Parkway) (Day 93)

October 20th, 2009 3 comments

So proud to live, so proud to die.


Started the day off by going to the Cherokee Museum in Cherokee, North Carolina. It was kind of interesting. A lot of arrowheads and pottery, not so much beadwork. The story wasn’t bitter and I learned that the Cherokee used to catch fish in shallow rivers by sprinkling powdered walnut bark into the river, which would stun the fish, allowing them to pick up the biggest ones and allowing the smaller fry to recover and swim away to grow fatter.

There were only 60,000 Cherokee when they were forced from their lands. Half died. Now there are 300,000 per Wikipedia, of which only 13,000 live in North Carolina. I had to get the numbers from Wikipedia, they weren’t in the museum. And the Cherokee high school girls basketball team won the state championship in 1998 (that one I learned from a sign next to the road).

After the museum, we went to the Cherokee village, a “living history museum”. It was like Williamsburg, except not really at all.

cherokee_council-chamberWherein were taught the ways of the ancients relatively less moderns.


cherokee_cabinCherokees did not live in teepees.

The best part was listening to all the Native Americans talking in North Carolina accents. I don’t know what else I expected, but — yeah, not that I guess.

Then we headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’d seen it in Virginia, but this was the North Carolina part. Very different (no, seriously).

blue-ridge_snowThe snow line.

blue-ridge_snow-on-leavesFall color + winter blanching.

blue-ridge_leaf-pathThe yellow-leaf road.

blue-ridge_leaf-path-portraitLeaves, snow, trees.

I can now no longer honestly claim that I’ve never been snowed on in October in North Carolina.


Someone Over at the Biltmore Estate Needs to Get Beaten Up (Day 90)

October 17th, 2009 17 comments

It costs $55 to give yourself a tour of the Biltmore Estate (a house). Let me type that out in words so you don’t think that’s a sticky keyboard issue: fiffty-five dollars. I didn’t realize this before going in to buy my ticket.

Me: I’d like to see the house.

Woman: That’ll be $55.

Me: U.S.?

Woman: [pretends not to hear]

Let me bash the Biltmore Estate more before putting the price in context. Thanks.

  • While its original owner was a Vanderbilt, his first name was not Cornelius.
  • He was a grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt — all the money spent to build the place was inherited.
  • His two older brothers inherited the family business — the guy who built this house didn’t even have a job.
  • The house was lived in for thirty (30) years before it was opened to the public, at which point it was no longer lived in.
  • It was opened to the public because the family couldn’t afford to keep the house.
  • Therefore, it served as a house for 30 years and as a tourist building to be walked through for 80 years.
  • Some of the rooms weren’t finished until long after the house became a tourist-building.
  • In spite of this, everything in the house makes out as if (a) this Vanderbilt family was important and (b) their time in the house was significant.
  • The estate employs 1,900 people. It’s a non-house house with a bunch of grass around it. 1,900 employees.
  • Despite the $55 cost to enter the house, you’re not allowed to take photographs anywhere inside.
  • Excluding driving time, parking time, and time spent walking from the parking lot to the immediate house area, I saw everything I needed to in about an hour.

It’s The Biggest “House” in the Country, which screams of unfamiliarity with restraint. The interior maybe isn’t as tacky as Marble House in Newport or Hearst Castle (although Wm. Randolph Hearst at least did some stuff to increase *his* inherited wealth) — but then, it’s the gaudy, expensive stuff in those houses that makes them worth seeing. This one just seemed like someone’s outsized ego that, once it came down to interior decoration, couldn’t be matched by his bank account.

biltmore_exteriorBig house.

biltmore_flower-gardenRelatively normal-sized garden.

So, just to help better illustrate how ridiculous $55 for this house is, here’s a comparison of the prices of various attractions I’ve visited on this trip (and a couple other popular sites I haven’t visited).

Site Cost Note
Disneyland $72 Includes unlimited access to rides.
Biltmore Estate $55 Audio tour only $10 extra.
SeaWorld (San Diego) $55
Sounders Game (Scalped) $50
Boundary Waters Canoe+Campsite $44 Per-day price.
Colonial Williamsburg $36
Newport Mansions $31 Includes access to five mansions and audio tours (single house = $12).
Hearst Castle $24 Includes guided tour.
Mackinac Island Ferry $24
Monticello $20 Someone important actually lived here; includes guided tour.
Yosemite National Park $20
Buffalo Bill Historic Center $15
Sea Lion Caves $12
Shirley Plantation $11 Includes guided tour from hot tour guide.
Eastman House $10 Includes photography museum.
Niagara Falls Parking $10 There’s no actual entry fee.
Whiteface Mountain $10 Includes road access and elevator ride.
Patrick Henry’s Home $8 Includes guided tour.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse $7 Was in use for more than 30 years.
Ft. McHenry $7
Air Force Museum $0
Marine Corps Museum $0

The most remarkable thing about the place, IMHO, was that it was fairly *packed* with people, despite my being there on a bad-weather weekday. Is there really nothing better to do in this part of the country? OH man.

Or, in short: bad value.


Categories: south Tags: ,

Fort Raleigh, Then Durham (Day 89)

October 16th, 2009 1 comment

North Carolina strikes me as a lovely place to live, but kind of an odd place to visit. Heading west from the Outer Banks, I figured Ft. Raleigh sounded interesting enough. I always wondered about those Croatoan people, so — right. Here’s what there is to see at Ft. Raleigh:

fort-raleighAnd a fine location for Frisbee golf, too!

Yeah, well, I suppose I knew it was a lost colony. From there, headed west to Durham, where they have the REI. Having finally tired of my GPS’s incompetencies, I took it back. I’m starting to see a lot of upside to REI. I had that thing misguiding me throughout the country for 2.5 months, but REI had no problem taking it back. Go REI!

For dinner, met up with my ol’ Clarion buddy Alex in Carrboro, where we had some great detox food at the co-op.

Then I drove out to Statesville where I found a surprisingly clean hotel, with breakfast, for $29.99+tax. Go Statesville!


The Graveyard of the Atlantic and Me (Day 88, Part 2)

October 14th, 2009 1 comment

Rest assured, I didn’t not wreck at Cape Hatteras. Just about melted down when it turned out that the Parks Service, in their infinite wisdom, closes down all their campgrounds on the cape (four or five of them) on October 12th though. Real handy. Y’know, a lot of Parks sites keep their campgrounds open during the off-season. Bring in a couple port-a-potties, turn the water off, and lower the price by $5, but otherwise: open. And these are sites that, like, get snow and crap. Or you could just allow beach camping.

And thus started my hate affair with North Carolina.

But hey, how ’bout these lighthouses! They weren’t closed, no sir! Not till the next day, at which point, yes, they were to have been closed (or so the rangers said).

hatteras_seagullsYou’re right: these are not lighthouses.

hatteras_bodie-lighthouseBodie Island lighthouse. It’s only a mile from the water (the *ocean* water). Maybe it was built to protect the ships that were working their ways up the swamps.

hatteras_hatteras-lighthouseThe Hatteras Lighthouse. They have signs that point you to where this one *used* to be. You can still see its old foundation. It’s next to the water.

hatteras_lighthouse-glassTop of the lighthouse.

hatteras_lighthouse-stairsInside the lighthouse. How trite.

I think moving a lighthouse away from the water is worse than de-clawing a feral cat. I mean, it’s still a house with a light in it, but it’s not a lighthouse any more. My only remaining hope is that global warming kicks in for real so that poor suffering lighthouses like Hatteras and Bodie can glimpse the water again.

BTW, Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in the US (if you can call it a lighthouse) and the “tallest brick lighthouse” in the world. The black-and-white is cool, IMHO.

Otherwise, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is just another shoreline. Not nearly as dramatic as Big Sur or Oregon Coast — and I was a little underwhelmed by *those*. There are a few touristy towns there — I’m not sure why a tourist would hang out in Avon, North Carolina, though. Maybe the beaches are nice in summer. There were guys who were surf fishing, which looked like it could be cool, although they didn’t look like tourists. And I didn’t see any ships get wrecked while I was there — but at least it didn’t cost me $55 to get in.

Without NPS campgrounds, I ended up paying $50 to stay at a motel run by a gas station. There were private campgrounds available, but they all looked like they were ruled by feral cats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. As it turned out, the gas station was also ruled by feral cats.


Some Headline about Kitty Hawk or Kill Devil Hills (Day 88)

October 14th, 2009 1 comment

If you’re an aviation fan, Kill Devil Hills is holy ground and a must-see location. If you’re not, it’s a field of grass with a mound at one end. The Wright Brothers chose the location because it was windy and sandy. I’m so ambivalent toward this state right now it’s palpable. I liked the Wright Brothers stuff. It’s cool to see where Orville landed and to try and picture what the scene might have looked like. Except I’m always seeing people who are sepia toned.

It was definitely windy there. The sand is now covered with grass, but sort of only barely.

kitty-hawk_first-landingTha’s right, bro, you numba one!

kitty-hawk_wright-monumentThe mound from which they did their glider tests in ’01.

kitty-hawk_launch-railThe rail they launched from.

Per the signs at the historical site, it took the world a few years to realize the importance of the event. As I become ever more luddite-ish, I’m guessing I’ll start having mixed feelings about it myself.


Welcome to North Carolina (State #31)

October 14th, 2009 Comments off

welcome_north-carolinaA blurry welcome to all!

My parents lived here a while back, so my most basic thoughts about North Carolina all have to do with 1963. As such, it’s been strange to drive around the state and not see any cars with fins on them. If it weren’t for watching Mad Men before going to bed every night, there’d be no 1960s in my life *at all* right now. Disappointing. Ah, well.


Categories: south Tags: ,
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