Here We Go Again

Morning fog at the Cradle of Forestry overlook MP 411 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

It’s that time again, the time when we turn the calendar to a new year.  While in many ways it is an artificial time period – my friend Paul refers to January 1 and December 31 as “markers” – it’s as good a way as any to mark the passage of time, and if we wish, to reflect back and look ahead.

Notary – Lake Lure, North Carolina

A lot of people seem to be expending an awful lot of energy worrying about 2017, but that’s mostly wasted on things that can’t be changed or controlled.  Kathy & I take a more positive view and look at every new year as a new opportunity for adventure.  We get a new allotment of vacation days (yay!) and replenish our vacation budget (yay!) and start looking for interesting ways to spend them both.

Closed for Winter – Lake Lure, North Carolina
Closed for Winter – Lake Lure, North Carolina

We started off the new year with a trip to the NC mountains.  The threat of possible snow and ice eliminated our plans for a quiet midnight at one of our favorite spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but we still made the best of a damp and dreary weekend.

Morning fog at the Cradle of Forestry overlook MP 411 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I hope everyone’s 2017 is off to a good start and look forward to sharing a new adventure this coming year!

Morning fog at the Cradle of Forestry overlook MP 411 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

More Fun in Black & White

Bus Station in Winston Salem, North Carolina

Finishing up my photos from Winston Salem a few weeks ago. I’m pretty happy with these, overall, considering I’m usually a color guy. 😉

Tobacco Soho Building in Winston Salem, North Carolina
Abandoned
Random photos in Winston Salem, North Carolina
Random photos in Winston Salem, North Carolina
Random photos in Winston Salem, North Carolina
Random photos in Winston Salem, North Carolina
Selfie, Winston Salem, North Carolina

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.

Photographs and stuff!