Thursday, July 25, 2019

Holiday Road: Boxing Bears, Swallowed Salamanders, and Resourceful Resorts

In Summary

SurnameFest was a big success this year. We played games, read books, communed with nature, and played the mandatory and traditional round of miniature golf. Oh, and as usual, we went to public places and behaved strangely -- because, if you can't do that, what's the point in going anywhere?

Here's the week compressed into a smattering of photos.


We awoke to this view every morning. I could get used to that.


It was a Bear Battle Royale! I'm not going to say who won, but the Bear on the left was the only one able to walk away afterward.


Wehrloom Honey is a local Robbinsville business. It is interesting that they choose to advertise their business with a mutagen like coronene, but that's just the chemist talking. We went to sample the honey and the mead. Hopefully, none of those products actually had any coronene in them.


Honey candy? Yes, please!


The many unpaid employees of Wehrloom Honey


We discovered that Robbinsville is in the only dry county remaining in all of North Carolina (we sure know how to pick 'em). As he set up for our mead tasting, I asked the guy at Wehrloom how they were able to serve mead in a dry county. The answer in brief: loophole.

He explained another loophole being used down the street. Moonshiner Steakhouse installed tennis courts (small, ratty looking tennis courts to my eye) and declared themselves to be a resort. Resorts are waivered to sell alcohol. Points given for knowing how to work the system.


Bear meets Mustang convertible and finds it to be an agreeable mode of transportation.


We had lunch in Murphy, NC at ShoeBootie's Cafe. The odd name was taken from an episode of "All in the Family". There was no sign of Archie Bunker inside and, rest assured, the food was good.


The Bear poses with her wacky aunts after months of wacky aunt withdrawal.


The Bear has always had a comfortable, solid relationship with Uncle Stephen. There is no danger of her considering him to be the "weird uncle"...


...especially when Uncle Nate is around. This kind of family affection absolutely melts my heart.


ShoeBooties Cafe proudly displayed the famous painting "The Bear Dance". That inspired Stephen to create his own masterpiece of the same title. Said the digital artist of his creation, "It must be shared."


Yellow Branch Pottery was an unusual marriage of fine-crafted pottery and homemade cheese (I particularly enjoyed the basil cheese). When I asked why the potters started making cheese, the answer was a simple one: they bought a cow. What else were they going to do?



The garden outside of Yellow Branch Pottery was overrun with butterflies.



The cool kids traveled by Mustang convertible. Notice my absence from the picture.


Wait...is that an ewok? Is the Flying Bear literally wearing a picture of a Space Bear?


I wonder how many abandoned towns lie beneath this man-made lake?



Fontana Lake

Fontana Lake

You can't go into TVA country and not visit at least one dam. We traveled to Fontana Dam, the tallest dam east of the Mississippi in the United States. It was built in the 1940s to power Alcoa factories making aluminum sheet metal for World War II aircraft. When you think about it, pretty much everything ties into aviation.


When I peered down the spillway of the Fontana Dam, my insides liquefied. Have I mentioned that I do not care for heights?


There were two massive spillways on one side of the dam. This one was shut down.

Fontana Dam


This spillway was active. It was like the world's biggest water slide. I cannot help but imagine that it would be a wild ride (which is why peering down this thing makes me so nervous...because I cannot help but imagine such things).




The Bear and The Crushinator, the two smallest mammals in our party.


Why act strangely in the privacy of the rental house when we could take this behavior on the road? Grab your Wegmans brand sunscreen, Little Bear, and let's get moving!


Miniature golf is a tradition at SurnameFest and 2019 was no exception. We enjoyed a hot round of mini-golf under the North Carolina sun at Bear Creek Adventures Mini Golf. Given the name, The Bear felt right at home.


We split into three teams of three. Here, I present "Team Awesome". There was no point in naming the other teams.



Hey! I'm puttin' over here!


Stephen looking cool in the heat.


Awkward putt #1.


Awkward putt #2.


Awkward putt #3. Seriously, people, we are not good at this!

Pam and I invented a putting style called "asymptotic putting" that involves getting the ball as close as possible to the hole without it actually going in. Extra points if the ball rolls past the hole with such slim margins that it actually changes trajectory.


The party wagon! Granny is practicing leaning into turns.


We hiked the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and wondered at the massive, old growth trees.


This snake hastily retreated off the trail while simultaneously trying to swallow a salamander head-first. The snake was clearly startled by our presence, but I suspect that the salamander was having a worse day.



I was hiking with vandals! Vandals, I tell you!


This little troll seems to follow us no matter where we go. I thought we left her back in Alaska.


Holy Endor, Luke!

Photo by Some Other Random Hiker. It was a quid pro quo photo.

The whole gang!


"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree."


That tree sure is poplar.


Huge twinsies.






Yes, The Bear is still stuck in her Zoidberg phase. Stop encouraging her, Uncle Stephen!


We also visited the Cherohala Skyway, climbing to a maximum altitude of 5300 feet at Huckleberry Knob. I was riding in the Mustang for that part of the trip and definitely felt the temperature plunge at the higher elevation (unlike what happened while flying Warrior 481 out of Cleveland).


As twisty as it was, the Skyway was not nearly so challenging as the Tail of the Dragon.




I don't think that yawps can be sounded any more barbarically than that.


Small dogs, big mountains. Our vacation was filled with incongruities.



On our last night in Robbinsville, with the warm glow of the setting sun illuminating the side of the mountain mere feet from the front door of our rental house, I took the obligatory SurnameFest group photo (with a timer).


Also captured was the equally obligatory silly group photo. I still wonder who my father-in-law was intending to brain with that bit of rock he's brandishing. Maybe it's best that I don't know.


Part bear, part mountain goat, all ours.


A parting shot of Billy's Big Eli Wheel perched above the house.



Sunset viewed from our rental house on the final evening in Robbinsville, NC. This is how I will always remember it. Good memories.

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