A Christmas Parade

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

About a month ago I received an email from Marriott telling me that my points were going to expire because I hadn’t stayed at a Marriott branded hotel in almost two years.  What – how could that be?  As it turns out it was right.  Our last stay at a Marriott was early December 2014, which is when we took our last cruise.  For some reason the only place we seem to favor Marriott hotels is in Florida.  Most other places we go either don’t have them, or we have choices that we like better.

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

I didn’t have too many points to lose, but I never like giving up points.  And it gave us a perfect excuse to travel – what a deal!  We looked for something fairly close to home that wouldn’t cost too much, and ended up deciding to head to Winston Salem, NC.  We had been there before, but it was quite a long time ago, so it was as good as a new destination for us.  So we went.

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

We had no idea ahead of time, but as we walked around town on Saturday afternoon we noticed that the police were blocking off Fourth Street, which ran near our hotel.  We asked a few questions and found out that they were getting ready for their Christmas parade that evening.  Cool!  So we did the sensible thing and found a place to watch right outside a craft cocktail bar, so we would be able to head inside as soon as the parade was over.  While not “cold” by a lot of people’s standards this time of year, the temperature was in the upper 30’s, and the bourbon was calling!

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

Since the parade didn’t start until 5:00 it dark pretty fast.  I knew I was going to have a problem with shutter speeds, so I decided to go with the flow and capture the motion by making intentionally blurry photos.  It took a lot of attempts to get a few that captured the mood, but I think I got enough to make a reasonable representation.

Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina
Christmas parade, Winston Salem North Carolina

Monkey Business

Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies

One of the things that Nevis is known for is being home to the Green Vervet Monkey.  The population of monkeys is said to exceed the population of people by at least 2X.  They have lived on the island since being brought over by the French as pets in the  17th and 18th centuries.  Over the years they have formed wild colonies and exist throughout Nevis, St. Kitts and Barbados.

Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies

One of the most reliable places to spot monkeys is on the golf course at the Four Seasons.  During our visit, we took a golf course tour hoping to see the monkeys.  And see we did!

Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies

While generally harmless, they are wild animals and can become aggressive when there is food around.  As is too often the case, someone on our tour decided to bring bananas and managed to feed some to the monkeys before our guide noticed.  She was not pleased.

Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Green Vervet monkeys on the golf course at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies

The biggest problem with the monkeys is that they tend to eat crops, especially favoring mangos and other fruit.  And instead of eating the whole fruit they’ll take a bite and throw the rest away.  We were told that farmers will go to great lengths to protect their crops from these invaders.

Golf course tour at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Golf course tour at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies

So while these are mostly tourist photos, they help illustrate the story, and provide another educational element of travel! 😉

Golf course tour at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies
Golf course tour at Four Seasons, Nevis West Indies

Nevis Sunset Wallpaper

Sunset on the beach - Nevis, West Indies
Sunset on the beach – Nevis, West Indies

Kathy & I just returned from a week in Nevis, a Caribbean island that along with St. Kitts is part of the West Indies.  This was our second visit there, after thoroughly enjoying a visit there last year.  It is a small, quiet and friendly island, with great people, a number of nice restaurants and plenty of scenic views.

This is photo is one of a number of blog-worthy photos that I will share as I get them processed.  In the meantime I wanted to get something posted to break my drought!

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky

The most-looked-forward to distillery on our visit to Kentucky was Buffalo Trace. Not just because they make some darned good bourbon, but because based on the research I had done it looked like a very historic and photogenic location.

Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Stacking the barrels for storage. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Stacking the barrels for storage. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky

One of the things we found interesting about the distilleries is how open they are with their operations.  I suppose there are few “secrets” in the industry, so the willingness to be open and welcoming is just part of the tradition.  We booked three separate hour long tours at Buffalo Trace that took us behind the scenes from the point at which the corn was unloaded, through the barrel selection and preparation, filling, bottling and packing.  When we showed up for the first tour, the guides wanted to be sure we were aware that we only got to taste once – at the end of the third tour! 😉 It made for a long morning, but since we didn’t taste between each one it was not hard to do because it was so interesting!

Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon is bottled on a small bottling line, then hand sealed, adding the distinctive running horse stopper and a wax seal. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon is bottled on a small bottling line, then hand sealed, adding the distinctive running horse stopper and a wax seal. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon is bottled on a small bottling line, then hand sealed, adding the distinctive running horse stopper and a wax seal. These paper collars keep the wax off the bottle then are discarded. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon is bottled on a small bottling line, then hand sealed, adding the distinctive running horse stopper and a wax seal. These paper collars keep the wax off the bottle then are discarded. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon is bottled on a small bottling line, then hand sealed, adding the distinctive running horse stopper and a wax seal. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon is bottled on a small bottling line, then hand sealed, adding the distinctive running horse stopper and a wax seal. Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky

I mentioned in an earlier post that every distillery has it’s own “claim to fame,” and Buffalo Trace has theirs.  According to Wikipedia, the company claims the distillery to be the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States.  Burks’ distillery, now used for production of Maker’s Mark, claims to be the oldest operating bourbon distillery.  The difference is that Buffalo Trace’s predecessor was able to process bourbon throughout Prohibition, making whiskey for “medicinal purposes”.  It’s all part of the friendly competition, and just a little bit of marketing. 😉

Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky

I feel like I got some very interesting photographs here, partly because we spent a lot more time here, but also because it was a very engaging facility and because it was in fact so photogenic.  For me it was the highlight of the trip, along with the carload of “souvenirs” that we brought home!

Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort Kentucky

Jim Beam Distillery

Building at the entrance to Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Building at the entrance to Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky

I’m finally getting back to looking at some of my photos from our visit to Kentucky in …. oops, September!?  How did that happen?  Our first stop was at the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.

Rickhouse on the grounds of Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Rickhouse on the grounds of Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Stencils used to label barrels of Bourbon at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Stencils used to label barrels of Bourbon at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
The "Great American Stillhouse" Visitor Center at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
The “Great American Stillhouse” Visitor Center at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky

Every distillery seems to have their own “claim to fame” in terms of being first, longest, oldest, etc.  But it’s hard to argue with a company that can say “Jim Beam is the World’s No. 1 Bourbon.”  And you would be hard pressed to find a distillery in Kentucky that doesn’t trace it’s history back the Beam family line in some way.  In fact many and perhaps most of the Master Distillers at Kentucky distilleries today either have the last name of Beam or are somehow descended from the family.

History of Jim Beam at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
History of Jim Beam at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky

For many people, Jim Beam is synonymous with Bourbon.  In fact, that’s what we drank almost exclusively until we started exploring other brands.  Like anything, there are lots of choices, but ultimately it comes down to preference and choice.

One of many tanks used to make the "mash" at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
One of many tanks used to make the “mash” at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
This was a part of an elaborate piping system used to cool the mash and move it to the still, at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
This was a part of an elaborate piping system used to cool the mash and move it to the still, at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Barrels of the good stuff getting happy at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Barrels of the good stuff getting happy at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky

When we last visited about 10 years ago, Bourbon had not become mainstream like it is today, and the visitor areas consisted on a small tasting room and gift shop.  Today, the company has built a huge gift shop, tasting room and museum and is very user friendly.  The tours are let by very knowledgeable guides, and very little is “off limits.” Photos are encouraged and welcome, which is a refreshing change from some of the places we visit.

Hand dipping the wax seal on a "souvenir" bottle of Knob Creek at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Hand dipping the wax seal on a “souvenir” bottle of Knob Creek at Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky

I didn’t end up taking many “artsy” photos, but between my phone and my camera I did end up with quite a collection.  These are just a few of my “blog-worthy” photos.

For anyone interested in Bourbon and just a nice, friendly old fashioned place to visit, you can’t get much better than Jim Beam!

Demonstration of tasting the uncut Bourbon straight from the barrel. Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky
Demonstration of tasting the uncut Bourbon straight from the barrel. Jim Beam Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky

Shelby, North Carolina

Ni Fen Bistro in downtown Shelby, North Carolina

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.

Cleveland County Court House, Shelby, North Carolina

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.

One of many record album sculptures in tribute to songwriter Don Gibson in Shelby, North Carolina
One of many record album sculptures in tribute to songwriter Don Gibson in Shelby, North Carolina

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.

Shelby Cafe in downtown Shelby, North Carolina
Shelby Cafe in downtown Shelby, North Carolina

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.

Shadows, Shelby, North Carolina
Shadows, Shelby, North Carolina

Sharing

Church Street Craft Festival in Waynesville, North Carolina
Sharing

“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.

Waiting Out The Color

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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?

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

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.

Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia
Sunset at The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan Virginia

A Quick Stop in Abingdon, Virginia

Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia

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.

Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia
Train Station in Abingdon Virginia

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.

Shadows on a stairway in Abingdon Virginia
Shadows on a stairway in Abingdon Virginia

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.

Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia
Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia
Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia
Babycakes Unique Eats bakery in Abingdon Virginia

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!

Abingdon Virginia
Abingdon Virginia
Abingdon Virginia
Abingdon Virginia

Photographs and stuff!