Independent Bookstore Day in Asheville...

Today was the second annual Independent Bookstore Day so I knew I had to be in a bookstore and Malaprop's was the best choice.

This was a really cool bookstore, whose story is worth reading. Thirty years after the birth of Malaprop’s, their goals are the same as the ones they committed to in 1982:
1. To be the best little bookstore in the land.2. To enjoy what we do while we’re doing it.3. To be aware and supportive of financial needs and ensure that bookselling is a fine and noble profession.
So very, very cool.
About this special event... After Amazon earnings blew analyst expectations out of the water, brick-and-mortar bookstores prepared their counterattack—in the form of deals and events for this holiday. It was created to drive traffic into independent bookstores. More than 400 bookstores nationwide participated. I hope it was a great success.
When I heard there was an author reading, I was beyond excited. M.J. Pullen (to my left) was absolutely wonderful. Manda is the author of women’s fiction and romantic comedies and came to share her newest book, Regrets Only.
We briefly explored this historic town, rich in art, history and amazing sights to see. We even sat on a funky bar patio and had drinks while a deluge of rain hit.
Asheville, like most cities on our path, demands a return visit. Next time... On to Charleston.

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Asheville, NC Part 1: Montford

Here we are in our 8th state- North Carolina. Having just one afternoon here, we decided to visit Montford. Few neighborhoods express the rich architectural heritage and vitality of Asheville better than the Montford Historic District.

North Carolina's state welcome sign was located on a dangerous highway curve so we had to capture the image at the visitor's center. Not quite as exciting as being parked on a road with speeding cars.
We 'met' Carpenter Bees on this trip. So dang interesting. They bore just like a drill into wood. They are also pollinators so I have to like them but they are huge.
During an era of remarkable growth in Asheville, and in an environment of a few powerful individuals with enormous personal wealth, Montford grew as a residential neighborhood for middle-class people. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, architects and the retired all came home to Montford.
Montford retains more than 600 buildings, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920, and includes a variety of architectural influences reflecting the cosmopolitan character of Asheville during the turn of the 20th century. Victorian, Queen Anne and Arts & Crafts styles combined with Neoclassical, Colonial Revival and castle-like motifs, result in an overall complex quality of designs and artistic talent throughout the neighborhood.
Even with the variety of designs throughout, consistent patterns and use of materials like shingles, stucco, pebbledash and half-timbering comprise a cohesive Montford impression. This 1898 home, a fine example, is currently for sale for $500,000.
I found this bit of history incredibly interesting. Highland Hospital was originally known as “Dr. Carroll’s Sanatorium" (a distinguished psychiatrist). His program of treatment for mental and nervous disorders and addictions was based on exercise, diet and occupational therapy, and attracted patients from all over the country. In 1939, Dr. Carroll entrusted the hospital to the Neuropsychiatric Department of Duke University. It was during this time that on the night of March 10, 1948, a deadly fire broke out in the main building and took the lives of nine women. Among the victims was author Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Strange history in such a beautiful place.
Also located here is the Riverside Cemetery which encompasses 87 acres of rolling hills and flower garden. To answer the growing need for burial grounds, the Asheville Cemetery Company bought land in 1885 to establish the Riverside Cemetery. Once inside the large iron gates, we took a self-guided walking tour through ancient oak, poplar, dogwood and ginkgo trees.
This cemetery is a final resting place for some fascinating people. Due to our limited time, we focused on only two.
Thomas Clayton Wolfe (October 3, 1900 – September 15, 1938) born in Asheville, was an American novelist of the early twentieth century who wrote four lengthy novels, plus many short stories, dramatic works and novellas. He is known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing. He is considered North Carolina's most famous and loved authors (Look Homeward, Angel).

William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910), known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American short story writer. His stories are known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization, and surprise endings. His own life story is a long and rather interesting one. The Gift of the Magi is the tale which I am most familiar.
Wandering about in history on a beautiful day is great no matter in which city you find yourself.

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Kentucky: Brother Time with Larry

My middle brother, Larry, lives in Kentucky (our 7th state) and conveniently he was on our path East. What a great family reunion.

This was our first trip to the Blue Grass State and it was really a neat place to visit.
Larry and his wife, Lisa, spend their summer running the restaurant at this very cool marina on Lake Cumberland. It was neat for me to see it since I've heard so many great stories about it.

Here's Lisa in her restaurant after making us an awesome lunch.
We did a whole lot of front porch sitting and reconnecting. It had been too long.
Lake Cumberland is a man-made reservoir and ranks 9th largest in the U.S. In 1950, local Bruce Sloan set his sights on winning what was deemed the most valuable U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concessions on Lake Cumberland. A sportsman and a businessman in the stone and timber trade, Sloan had a vision for the property that would make it “more than a fishing camp."
After winning the bid, he went to work on building Grider Hill’s lodge using elements of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s style and philosophy, mining stone and cutting timber from his own land. Recognizing the beauty and recreational value of the sparkling waters of Lake Cumberland, Sloan added a restaurant and cottages and docks, making sure that all were within walking distance of each other. Grider Hill Dock and Indian Creek Lodge & Restaurant opened to the public in 1951, under the management of Sloan and his family.
Lisa arranged a room for us at the lodge. For those who are in the know, the bedding in our hotel room is the exact same bedding in our Lake Tahoe home. What a comforting coincidence. This was a really great day of connecting with Larry and meeting his family. And a perfect stop for me!

"There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family.
Or more happy. Or more exasperated.
Or more… secure.”
– Jim Butcher

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Music City: Our Day in Nashville

Having only one full day here is like getting a sample of a sumptuous treat. You enjoy it but you know you'd be happier if you could have a whole lot more. That's this town... a treat with so much delicious variety, it was hard to choose what to do so we did as much as we could in the time that we had.

I love libraries. This downtown branch had a plaque on the entrance wall that read, "Its gift of one hundred feet of the ground occupied by this library made possible the acceptance of Mr. Carnegie's munificence. The site is historic as a portion of the home place of President Polk". That was then. Now it is the 300,000 sq. ft. Main Library. Wow.
Through the window of the Historical Archives room, I learned about Cornelia Fort. Miss Fort (1919 – 1943) born to a wealthy and prominent Nashville family, was a US aviator who became famous for two aviation related events.
While conducting a civilian training flight at Pearl Harbor, she was the first US pilot to encounter the Japanese air fleet during the Attack on Pearl Harbor, and narrowly escaped a strafing attack after landing. The next year, Fort became the second member of what became the Women Airforce Service Pilots, and was working as a ferry pilot when she became the first female pilot in American history to die on active duty. At the time of the accident, she was one of the most accomplished pilots of the WAFS. I had no idea.
Although the Printers have long since gone, the World Famous Printers Alley still remains, providing a Flair of Bourbon Street . The Alley started before the turn of the century as the location of many of Nashville's first Publishing and Printing Companies.
There is something for everyone here in Nashville!
We have a thing for Johnny Cash. We got a hint of the man while in Memphis but we wanted to learn more. Cindy Cash, Johnny Cash’s Daughter said, “Whatever anybody needs to know about my dad that they don’t know already is in that museum.” Hence our stop here.
Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, The Johnny Cash Museum is dedicated to the life and music career of the late “Man in Black". Exhibits featuring the world’s largest most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia, chronicle Cash’s legacy through stunning graphics, artifacts and interactive technology.
Included are several pairs of his size 13D cowboy boots.
Items include stage costumes, instruments, personal letters, artwork and handwritten lyrics as well as contributions from family members and notable friends. We loved the numerous film clips of a variety of performances (acting and singing).
This was an incredible, thorough and emotional tribute to The Man. The last video shown was Hurt. It is worth watching. It is a naked portrayal of the legendary singer's life and career in the later years. There wasn't a dry eye exiting the museum. Wow.
Okay so printmaking is more my thing and a tour here was high on my list of Nashville treats.
The history of this company is really a history of this town. It started, naturally enough, with the Hatch family. William H. Hatch ran a print shop where his two sons, Charles R. and Herbert H. (born in 1852 and 1854, respectively), grew up and learned the craft of letterpress printmaking.  In 1875, William moved his family to Nashville where, four years later, Charles and Herbert founded the Hatch Company.
From their very first print job—a handbill announcing the appearance of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe)—the Hatch brothers got the look right. Here was the simplicity, the effortless balance between type size and style, vertical and horizontal layout. Here, too, was the distinct whiff of American history, southern culture, and entertainment.
The tour was an incredible history lesson and really showed me more than I had hoped about printmaking and the space is truly a museum. This block was used decades ago to announce a visit of FDR. When they were sure they wouldn't need to do any more runs, it was cut up and used as shelving. When the print shop moved to its current location, the block was found, joined back together, and this image was reprinted of our 32nd President.

The golden age of Hatch was from the mid-1920s, when Charles's son Will T. Hatch took over the business, until Will's death in 1952. It was a golden era for country music as well, and Hatch captured the magic. Will frequently turned his talent as a master woodblock carver to "chiseling and gouging" (as someone once put it) some of the most indelible images of country music performers ever made. To further secure the historic link, Hatch's home from 1925 to 1992 was right behind the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music. The walls, adorned with old posters, could attest to that golden age. It was so cool to read them all.
After a very thorough history lesson, we were allowed to make our own Hatch print. Oh man, what a great stop on our Nashville tour.
We finished the day on this amazing bus- The Music City Rollin' Jamboree, a far cry from the typical Nashville tour; featuring country music, comedy, and sing-along fun on wheels!
It was so totally fun to see the sights of "Music City" while singing along at the top of our lungs. Jessie, Josh and Devon served up Nashville’s biggest sights, captured the city rambunctious spirit, and sang some of its best songs, all while sharing the City's secrets. This was an adults only, 90 minute raucous ride and boy was it good.
It was the ideal way to end our way too brief visit to Nashville. Next time, we'll stay a spell longer.

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The Road to Nashville: Civil War & Country Music

As we headed to our next destination- Nashville- we wanted to learn something of the many Civil War events that happened along our route. One of which was the Battle of Parker's Crossroads, December 31, 1862.

Skirmishing began about 9:00 am, with Confederate Forrest taking an initial position along a wooded ridge northwest of Union Dunham at the intersection. Long story, very short... Both sides claimed victory, but the Confederate claims appear to have more credence, as they were able to escape what should have been a perfect trap and Forrest lived to fight another day.

Our next stop was a different sort of history lesson- Fontanel, the 33,000 square foot former home of country super-star Barbara Mandrell (and largest log cabin ever). This is the only “home of the star” tour in Nashville that you can actually go inside! The Mansion boasts over 20 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 5 fireplaces, 2 kitchens, an indoor pool and even an indoor shooting range.The Mansion at Fontanel has been filled to the brim with photos, memorabilia and personal items from the period when the Mandrell family lived there.
The thing that was the coolest about this tour was the fact that you could touch the artifacts. Steve is actually playing Jerry Lee Lewis' piano.
Here he is holding B.B. King's Guitar. Wild stuff.
I loved seeing Minnie Pearl's hat at the formal dining room. So cool.
Additionally, the personal collections of the current owners, Dale Morris and Marc Oswald, managers of Alabama, Kenny Chesney, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson and many others, have included their own one-of-a-kind items, personal photos, and keepsakes. We were allowed to pretty much do with the artifacts as we wished. I am totally wearing Kenny Chesney's 'tur' jacket... sweet.
Steve and I had our own kind of fun in Barbara's bathroom.
I grew up knowing Ms. Mandrell, mainly from her television show, and to see how she lived, in grandeur but still with a special humbleness, was pretty awesome. Our guide, Steven, was talented and informative. This was a great kick-off to our Nashville experience.
Our amazing home for the two nights we're in Nashville is The Inn at Fontanel which offers six unique suites from which to choose. These rooms are all connected by 2,700 square feet of deck with plush patio furniture and a view of the courtyard of gardens and Porter’s Pond, complete with a fountain and waterfall. The Great Room is the common gathering area for all guests, which contains a dining room, kitchen and living room, with a complimentary made-to-order breakfast.

We are staying in the North Bunkie, which is detached from the main estate structure with an outdoor patio, two double beds in a beautifully appointed suite complete with kitchenette and stunning courtyard views.

We are content in our Tennessee oasis. Life can't get much better than this! Tomorrow we head into town for our true Nashville experience. But for tonight, we'll lounge in our plush robes and nibble on our Goo Goo Clusters and delight in all that The Fontanel has to offer.

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