Monday, May 30, 2016

Blowing Rock

Raven Rocks Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway
Just got back from a nice weekend in Blowing Rock, a town in northwestern North Carolina that's famous for a nearby rock formation called The Blowing Rock. A tourist attraction since way back in the day, the Blowing Rock overlooks a scenic gorge on the Eastern Continental Divide, and it's totally worth the $7 adult admission fee (it's on private property) to see.

The Blowing Rock on the left, and the lovely view
Old school sign
We stayed at the Green Park Inn, an historic in built in the 1880s. The Green Park's walls are covered with photos of famous people who stayed there back in the day (Eleanor Roosevelt and Annie Oakley, to name a few), antiques, creaky floors, and the requisite old hotel ghost. I loved it. By the way, the bartender in the Divide knows how to make an awesome Bay Breeze, and perfect after-dinner coffee cordials. And I'd go back again just to have another slice of the most delicious apple pie ever and vanilla ice cream that's made right there in the kitchen.

Green Park Inn and rhododendrons in bloom
On Sunday, we wandered the Town of Blowing Rock's cute Main Street, found an awesome coffee shop and hung out there for a while, then headed over to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a short drive to Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Moses H. Cone was a wealthy textile businessman and philanthropist of the Gilded Age, and the park was once his beloved summer home. In addition to the 13K square-foot house, called Flat Top Manor, the grounds include some twenty-five miles of hiking and biking trails. We took advantage of those, even in the misty rain and cool temps that rolled in on Sunday.

Flat Top Manor on a rainy day
We topped off the trip with a visit to Tweetsie Railroad, the "Wild West theme park" between Blowing Rock and college-town Boone, home of Appalachian State University. Tweetsie, named for the sound made by the steam locomotives (there are two of them) that wind around the park's perimeter, has been open since 1957. Both S and I went there when we were kids. (Somewhere out there are photos of my three-year-old self riding the helicopter ride and posing with the Can-Can girls.)

One of the steam trains at Tweetsie Railroad
Just like when we were kids, we rode the Ferris wheel, the Tilt-a-Whirl (twice!), and the Tweetsie Twister (known as Merry Mixer back in the day). We rode the odd-looking little gas-engine cars, too . . . the exact same cars, I'm sure, that were used in the park in 1970.

It was a fun weekend, and I really needed a getaway!


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tiny houses

I've never been a big "stuff" person, but the older I get, the less "stuff" I want. When we moved to Charlotte almost six (yes, six!) years ago, we downsized significantly from a 4500 square foot home to a two-bedroom urban apartment before finally settling into a small suburban bungalow of about 1500 square feet. Most people thought we were crazy, but I felt nothing but relief. Especially when it came time to clean!

I remember the first time I heard about the so-called tiny house movement. At first I was like: Why would anyone want to live in a dollhouse? [Back in the 70s, my little sister had a "playhouse" bigger than most of today's tiny houses.] But the more I thought about tiny house living, the more it began to make sense.

I know from experience (from living in a tiny studio apartment in Europe several years ago) that I don't need much space. I'm a minimalist at heart. Give me a comfortable bed, a basic kitchen and bathroom, and a place to sit to eat and work on my laptop and I'm just fine. I don't feel the need to entertain at home. I'd rather meet my friends out somewhere!

I could absolutely live in a tiny house like the ones in these photos from a tiny house community near Asheville. The thing is, not everyone in my family is on board with the tiny house idea. Some people like their stuff. They like having space, like being able to spread out. They're not keen on getting rid of items they've taken a lifetime to collect, or inherited from parents and grandparents.

I respect that, I guess. Everyone is different.

But imagine being able to live more fully. Imagine having more free time. Imagine being able to clean your house in an hour, rather than the three-quarters of a day it takes me now or the entire weekend it used to take me when I had a much larger home.

It just seems so freeing to me.

And the older I get, the more I want to feel free.