Shelby, NC is a town about an hour or so west of Charlotte along I-85. While I knew a little bit about the town and it’s history, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in all the time we’ve lived here I mostly regarded Shelby as someplace to get through on the way to or from the mountains.
Friends of ours recently moved to Shelby, and we spent a recent afternoon and evening walking around downtown, having dinner and listening to some live music. The downtown area is a far cry from the Shelby I previously knew, and as the county seat for Cleveland County is quite a bustling place.
Shelby is the birthplace of a number of famous people, including country songwriter Don Gibson, legendary banjo player Earl Scruggs, and country music singer Patty Loveless. Throughout town are a number of statues in the form of record albums that commemorate a number of Gibson’s more famous creations.
No small town would be complete without a number of interesting restaurants. We only tried one, but plan to return often to try some more.
“A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.”
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, January 1, 1788
Photo and quotation are unrelated. I recently finished reading the biography of Alexander Hamilton and have been reading some of his writings.
This past weekend, Kathy & I paid a long-overdue visit to one of our favorite day-trip destinations, Chateau Morrisette on the Blue Ridge Parkway in southern Virginia. Those who know us well understand that most of our favorite destinations involve something to do with food and wine. Chateau Morrisette is one of the largest wineries in Virginia, and also happens to operate an award-winning, AAA Four-Diamond restaurant. Chateau Morrisette has both food and wine!
Our timing worked out that we were able to have a nice dinner, proceed to one of my favorite sunset destinations for photography, and return to the restaurant for dessert before starting the drive home. How hard is that?
The Saddle Overlook is a few miles north of the winery in an area called Rocky Knob, and is so named because the “saddle” is a low area between the two peaks of Rocky Knob. It has both easterly and westerly views, so depending on the time of day there are frequently interesting things to photograph. Most of my time there has been spent at sunset. The west view has an interesting panorama of the valley and Buffalo Mountain in the distance, but as with most sunset locations it is most interesting when conditions result in a nice sky.
When we first arrived at the parking area there were a few cars, mostly families returning from an earlier hike and a few people just hanging out in their cars. No obvious overload of photographers like some of the more popular spots in North Carolina. Not too much was happening in the sky, and with a general absence of clouds I knew that the best photographs would likely come after the sun had set.
The parking lot has a really nice view, so it is possible to just sit in the car and watch the sun go down. And I could have simply set my camera up in front of the car so I didn’t have to go far. But preferring to work alone and having been at this place before, I have a favorite spot down the hill and off to the side so I can get out of the way of the “tourists” and generally avoid the chatter that inevitably happens when the “drive-by cell phone photographers” start filtering in right at sunset.
Things happened pretty much as expected, and as soon as the ball of the sun sunk below the horizon, the engines started firing up, car doors slammed and in 5 minutes the place was practically deserted. Figuring that it was probably safe to retreat to a spot closer to the car before it was too dark to see, I gathered my gear and headed back up the hill toward the car to complete my evening’s work. I set up my tripod again and framed up a few more shots.
Pretty soon I hear a couple of guys behind me that were looking at the image on my LCD and commenting on the great color I was getting. One guy walked over and started asking me questions and repeated his comment about the nice color I was getting, and I explained that even though it was dark, there was a lot of color in the sky until well after the sun goes down, but that most people miss it because the best color often happens after most people have packed up and left. That they think the sun crossing the horizon is the “main event.” He seemed surprised to hear that but agreed that based on what he saw on my screen it must be true. Seeing is believing! With that, his buddy announced that it was time to go, and he ambled off with a “nice talking to you” and was gone.
I never mind chatting photography with an interested observer. I probably didn’t make a convert, but hopefully I spread a little knowledge. It interests me though the most people just don’t take the time to look, or to think about the things that we photography nuts take for granted.
We made a quick stop in Abingdon, VA on the way from Bristol to Bardstown, KY. I’m pretty sure I have been in Abingdon at one time or another, but we wanted to check the place out for a potential long weekend visit.
Of course because there is a train station there – actually two, a freight depot and passenger depot – it gave me a good excuse to stop for a few photos.
According to my metadata we were stopped for less than an hour, so our stop is hardly representative of what there is to see and do there. Abingdon has a large arts community and is known as being the home of the Barter Theatre and the Virginia Creeper Trail, and the Appalachian Trail passes close to Abingdon.
Abingdon is about 3 hours by car, at least the way most people would go, but about 4-5 hours for those who like to take the scenic route. Definitely close enough for a weekend or even an overnight visit. We’ve got it on the list for a return!
On our recent adventure to Kentucky, Kathy & I decided to break up the drive by spending our first night in Bristol – but is Bristol in Tennessee or Virginia? As it turns out, it is a town in both Tennessee and Virginia!
Many folks – including me for a long time – had always thought of Bristol as being in Tennessee. But the state line runs right down the middle of State Street, so the businesses on the north side are in Virginia while those on the south side are in Tennessee. And both sides of town have their own city government. Interesting!
What attracted us to Bristol to cause us to decide to stop there? Well for one thing they have a very nice train station, and there is some interesting history in Bristol, particularly related to the early roots of country music. We made a quick overnight stop and managed to hit some of the highlights, and now we’re talking about a return visit, when we can spend some more time seeing more of what is there. It was a nice town to visit and we hope to get back there soon.
Perhaps as self-compensation for not shooting as much as I’d like to do, it seems that I have been loading up on Fuji lenses. Every time I think I’m done I decide to buy “just one more.” And I’m perhaps just a little embarrassed to say that I am now up to 8. Yikes! I just recently I sprung for the 35mm 1.4 lens. Going a little bit counter to conventional thought (who, me?), I considered the newer and slightly less costly f2 version in favor of the somewhat dated but still quite worthy older model. I put it through some initial paces on a quick walk around town this past weekend. So far I must say I’m impressed and happy with the purchase.
My buddy Paul has been documenting a strange phenomenon regarding shoes – sometimes pairs but occasionally single shoes – left unexplainably in strange locations. I have had my own sightings from time to time, and here is the latest. I have no idea what has happened to the owners of these shoes, but Paul’s theory – and I’m a believer – is that these poor folks have been abducted by aliens. No idea why the aliens don’t want the shoes – that remains a mystery!
Kathy & I spent a nice quiet weekend in the Waynesville, NC area last week. It was sort of a birthday celebration but was primarily an excuse to escape the Charlotte heat and get away to the quiet and cool of the mountains. We ate at a few of our favorite restaurants and explored a bit of the area, but mostly we “chilled.”
We had a nice hike in the Smokies along a quiet mountain stream, had a picnic lunch and spent some time at a few overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but nothing especially noteworthy.
At one point while sitting at a picnic table having lunch, one of us remarked at the number of people who come roaring into the parking area, race to the bathroom and barely have time for the car to cool down before they fire it up and race on to the next destination. Once in a while someone would “picnic,” which basically involved carrying their fast food container and half emptied “Big Gulp” over to a table, gobbling down some unrecognizable carbohydrate, then do the same hop back into the car and roar off thing.
We see the same thing happen at an overlook on the Parkway. We’ll be sitting in the car enjoying the quiet and the view, and car after car will drive in, stop without even putting the car in Park, stick an arm or a camera/phone out the window then drive off. Drive-by sightseeing!
One of us mentioned that – if they ever even took the time to notice anyone was there – these people would think we were crazy for just sitting around doing “nothing.” But what they fail to realize that “nothing” is actually “something,” but that too many people don’t bother to think about the benefits of just sitting and enjoying the view!
Kathy & I like to get out of town on weekends, especially taking advantage of some long holiday weekends to stretch our meager PTO (Paid Time Off) allotment. We did just that over July 4th, visiting (most of) our friends in Belhaven and Washington, NC. The towns were dressed up in their patriotic best, and we even managed to take in a parade. I’m saving the parade photos for another post and possibly even my SoFoBoMo project, but here are a few random photos from the weekend.
With temperatures in the mid to upper 90s here in Charlotte we’ll be taking off again this weekend. The mountains are calling, as they say…. 🙂