Brad Causey
Brad Causey,
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Doug Helton
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The Freedom Letter
v1n11
Bears on the Balcony
12/30/2001
This is the last of my Carolina Christmas updates. Hope this finds you well.
I forgot to mention the cruise back from Fort Sumter. Porpoises were jumping out of the water, showing off. Pelicans were floating around. The most interesting thing was the flock of sea gulls flying right off the stern for the whole trip back. They were staring at us the whole time! Fascinating.
Pawley's island itself is quite historical. It is less than two miles long, and less than a half a mile wide at its widest point. The oldest house dates from the 18th century. Because of the ocean breezes, it was a refuge from the malaria carrying mosquitos during the colonial period. Some of its guests over the years have included George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, and Winston Churchill. I appear to be in good company. The house we stayed in is just over the dunes from the ocean. A beautiful setting. It is available for rental. It is owned by Mr. Larry Holliday a former executive for Phillips Petroleum. Thank you Larry!
Pawley's Island is about 60 miles from Charleston and only about 25 miles from Myrtle Beach. Wednesday, after loading the truck, Mom and I departed mid-morning. We went north to Myrtle Beach, then west to Florence to pick up I-20. The entrance to I-20 is very odd, you are an a city street next to a mall, and then you on the interstate! No signs. Unique, to say the least. The beginning portion of it is called the Strom Thurmond freeway. Interesting. We then hooked up with I-77 at Columbia and then proceeded north to Charlotte. On the way through Charlotte, we passed by Ericsson Stadium, the home of the Carolina Panthers. I-40 is just north of Gastonia off of highway 321.
My mom has a friend (or two, or three) in Gatlinburg, TN from all the conventions she has organized. She insisted we drop in and spend the night. Hard to say no to Mom. I believe I have now discovered the worst section of Interstate in America. I used to think Arkansas had the worst roads, but, western North Carolina is worse. I-40 around Asheville is the worst "interstate quality" road I have ever seen. Winding, narrow, hardly any shoulder (none on the left), steep and claustrophobic. The occasional tunnel is a relief! I drive on country roads often, they are much better than this. Fixing this monstrosity is bound to be easier than the big dig in Boston. Let's get started! This section of road is a disgrace. The only thing good I can say about this road is, I didn't see any potholes!
We arrived in Gatlinburg just before dusk. The scenery, leading to it, is beautiful. All the buildings, once you get there, are not. We stayed at the Glenstone lodge, 504 Historic Nature Trail (Stoplight #8), 865-436-9361. The sales coordinator is Sheila Smelcer. Or visit them on the web at http://www.glenstonelodge.com/. A very nice hotel. Spacious lobby, two pools, and a choice of room amenities. We were on the fourth floor, with two balconies, a fire place, three rooms and two baths! Very nice. We walked down the street to the Outback steakhouse for dinner. An hour wait. You can tell you are in a tourist trap when the restaurant charges for parking! The best part of the hotel may be the breakfast buffet. It opens at 7:00am. The best omelette I have ever had. They insisted I try a Belgian waffle also. Too bad it was only breakfast. I could have stayed all day just trying all the fabulous food. Highly recommended. Before we left my Mom showed me the conference facilities including the indoor pool and hot tub. Winter is hibernation time for the numerous bears who populate the area. So, we did not see any. I was, however, informed of a story of a particular bear from her last visit. On very nice days, during the summer, the sliding glass doors on the back side of the indoor pool are open. A local bear, after feasting on the excess food in the dumpster, decided to take a swim. He walked right in through the doors, and jumped in! After some doing, the hotel workers were able to persuade him to leave. He then proceeded to the outdoor pool across the rear parking lot, climbed the fence to the neighboring hotel and climbed up to a second floor balcony. He then sat down in the chair to watch the humans at the pool! I do not doubt any of this, from my experience with bears at Yosemite. If you ever visit Gatlinburg, stay at the Glenstone, enjoy the pool, say hi to Sheila, and please watch out for bears!
Happy new year!
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