A Blue Ridge trip, etc.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Last month I went on a bus tour to North Carolina.

There were 30 travelers, including the escort.

After we boarded our motorcoach in Piggott, Ark., we settled down for our trip, via Nashville.

Some of the passengers had brought paperback books to read between stops.

A woman across the aisle from me, began reading her book. Apparently she had problems with her eyesight because she used a handheld magifying glass to read the small print. She was also wearing eyeglasses.

Fifteen minutes into the trip, the woman leaned over and spoke to me.

"Do you ever clean your coffeepot? she asked.

"What?" I replied.

"I mean really clean it," she continued. "You should use Cascade, then a vinegar rinse."

I told her that occasionally I do clean my coffeepot..

She returned to her book, continued reading.

I watched the scenery and the other travelers on board.

At each rest stop, the travelers departed the coach momentarily, then reboarded..

Each time, the hostess would walk the aisle, counting, "16, 17, 18"...........as she checked each seat.

I think she feared she would misplace one of her cargo.

Then she would tell Victor, the coach driver, that we were all safely aboard.

We were to learn that Victor was an expert at rounding curves and maneuvering the coach through tight spaces.

Our first overnight stopover was in Nashville, Tn. Since we had some time to spare before our rooms were ready for occupancy, Victor volunteered to take us on a sightseeing tour of downtown Nashville. He drove us down Music Row and past the historic Ryman Auditorium, famous for the Grand Ole Opry. We also saw many other historic buildings.

On the second day, we boarded the coach for Asheville, North Carolina.

Our itiniary included accommodations at Maggie Valley, with visits to Asheville, N.C., the Biltmore Estate and Gardens, the Winery, a stop at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Folk Art Center, and St. Lawrence Basilica.

Enroute to North Carolina, the men on board engaged in a t-shirt competition. Each man was given a plain t-shirt and a roll of duct tape. He was to decorate the shirt with the duct tape, then present the shirt to his wife as a gift.

A prize would be awarded for the most creative duct taped shirt.

A panel of judges agreed that Pete Liles was the winner.The shirt he decorated featured the words, "Built More or Less." (Remember we were to visit the Biltmore Estate,)

The woman across the aisle leaned over and addressed me again.

"Did you know that castor oil can restore your liver?" she asked.

I said nothing for a moment, then asked," How much do you have to take?"

She had a quizzical look on her face.

"For what?" she asked.

"To restore your liver," I answered.

She laughed loudly. "I said to restore your leather, not your liver."

At one point on the trip, we viewed a 30 minute video titled, "How to iron a shirt." It demonstrated the proper way to iron a shirt, how to make starch, how to iron the perfect crease in the sleeves. The ironing demonstration was given by a1950's era housewife.

I leaned over and asked my neighbor how she liked the video. "It was wonderful," she whispered reverently. "It brought back memories of mama."

"...........16, 17, 18," the hostess counted as she walked the aisle again.

Touring the Biltmore house in Asheville was the highlight of the six day trip for me.

Imagine living in a private home that has 250 rooms, surrounded by a magnificent sculptured garden and the Blue Ridge mountains. That's Biltmore House. George Washington Biltmore conceived the idea for the castle-like country retreat in 1889 when he was a 27 year old bachelor. Three years after Biltmore was officially opened in 1895, George Biltmore brought his bride, Edith, to live at Biltmore. Their only child, Cornelia, was born in Biltmore House. .

It took 1,000 workers approximately six years to complete construction. Visitors, including our entourage, were allowed to view 62 of the rooms. Rooms are furnished with masterpieces by Renoir and Whistler,

16th century tapestries and family portraits. There are also 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces.

Many of the rooms are splendid, grandiose, while the servants' quarters on the fourth floor are simple but nicely furnished. The majority of female servants lived on this floor in 21 rooms similar to three servants' bedrooms we saw on the tour.

Surprisingly, there was also a bowling alley and an indoor swimming pool for guests.

After more than a century, Biltmore remains a family owned property.

Today Biltmore is owned by George Vanderbilt's grandson, William A.V. Cecil. His son, William A.V.Cecil, Jr. is Biltmore's chief executive officer.

In 1930, the Cecil family opened Biltmore House to the public.

Our tour group agreed that Biltmore and the sculptured garden, was magnificent.

After touring Biltmore, the Winery and River Bend Farm, it was time to board the coach again.

That night, we were treated to a hoedown in Weaversville, N. C. The barbecue, complete with a bluegrass band, was held way out in the boondocks at Claxton Farm in a farmyard barn. Nearby were goats, polled herefords, llamas and miniature horses. There was a crude porch and rocking chairs for those who wanted to sit outdoors after supper. The Blue Ridge mountains were a perfect backdrop for the farmyard


After enjoying the hoedown, we boarded the bus for the return to our hotel.

..........16,17,18, the hostess counted.

My across-the-aisle neighbor leaned over and informed, "Baking soda and baby shampoo will cleanse your hair of spray buildup."

I asked to see her book.

The title was, "How to Clean Everything." by Alma Chestnut Moore.

The front cover depicts a roll of Viva towels, a bucket filled with scrub brushes, a dust pan and some crayons.

It is touted as an encyclopedia of what to use and how to use it.

I made a mental note to buy one as a memento of my trip.

A nice touch: the weather was perfect, and our hostess, Barbara, didn't lose a one of us.

A footnote: The book reader across the aisle has been my dear friend for over 30 years.

I hope she is still my friend.