Mount Mitchell, Gets No Higher East of the Mississippi

Mount Mitchell Sign

Shawn and I decided to take a trip up to Mount Mitchell while we were in the Asheville area. It was a nice drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had never been on the parkway, but had heard it was an awesome road to travel on. It was a good hour drive up Blue Ridge Parkway (it was only about 35 miles but all the curves in the road slowed progress) to reach the bottom of Mount Mitchell. Make sure your gas tank is full because we didn’t see one gas station the whole way there.

View from top of Mount Mitchell

Once you turn off of Blue Ridge Parkway you will have to take another road pretty much all the way to the top of Mount Mitchell. They also have a nice restaurant looking over the mountain about half way up. After reaching the top there is a parking lot looking down on the road we traveled up on and all across the mountain range. As we stepped out of the car I noticed instantly that we were going to have a bug problem so bring plenty of bug spray. There were flies everywhere.

There is a short trail, but very steep, that takes you to the tip-top of Mount Mitchell. They have benches every 20 feet or so to stop and take a rest. When you get to the top you will notice a stone structure that is the grave of the man who discovered Mount Mitchell. Walking past the grave site is a bridge leading up to a platform area which is the highest point east of the Mississippi. This is the best view from the mountain.

Founder of Mount Mitchell Buried Here

We had a good trip up there. I think the drive up to Mount Mitchell down the Blue Ridge Parkway was more enjoyable to me. Do I recommend traveling to Mount Mitchell? Yes, because who wouldn’t want to stand on the highest point east of the Mississippi!

If you can watch HD video switch to 720p on bottom menu bar of video

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Hominy Grill, Good Breakfast Leads to a Great Day

Back in spring we decided to go to Hominy Grill in Charleston for breakfast. We had heard that they serve the best breakfast in the country and we had to test that rumor out. The challenge was trying to get to Hominy Grill without going crazy. Like most historic towns, Charleston has numerous  one way streets and a shortage of parking spaces. The Garmin GPS we were using had no clue where to direct us once inside Charleston and the catchphrase “Recalculating” repeating over and over again was ruining the good tunes from our ipod. Once we got to Hominy Grill comes the parking portion of the challenge. The Hominy parking lot can only hold about 10 to 15 spots and being such a popular place they were already taken. We went around the block once looking for street parking but the people living in the area had those spots on lock down. I considered us very lucky though because on the second attempt at the parking lot a spot was available. Time for some breakfast at the Hominy Grill.

Outside the Hominy Grill

There was a small line formed outside the Hominy Grill’s door and we figured we will add to the back-end of the line. After a minute in line the nice couple in front of us informed that we needed to put our name on the list. Without that knowledge, we could have been outside for a much longer period of time. So as a reminder: Put your name on the list when you arrive. The space inside the Hominy Grill is small, not much room to navigate around the tables. Must be a challenge to be a server there. The building back in the day was a barber shop and it definitely has that old school feel with the hardwood floors and one person bathroom. Let’s get to the most important part, the food:

I had the strawberry pancakes (it was the special and not on the menu) with a glass of orange juice. I was giving them a task of making me a believer by what I ordered. In general I’m not a fan of oj or strawberries. The only kind of orange juice I care for is the no pulp version. The only time I can handle strawberries when I have them with a little sugar and whipped cream. The Hominy Grill’s orange juice is about as fresh you can get and has a very high pulp volume to it. The orange juice was alright, I know there was nothing artificial about it. The strawberry pancakes were awesome, they used nice whole slices of strawberries in the pancake. It was just the right portion amount and they kept the ingredients simple and fresh. The pancakes were so good I did not need to kill them with maple syrup which is rare for me. Overall I had a very good breakfast.

I asked each guy to write one sentence sum up the menu item they ordered.

Josh had something of the daily special (he has short-term memory) : I forgot what I ordered there. HaHa All I remembered, it was good and the sweet tea was excellent.

Jerry: Big Nasty – It was perfectly fried chicken breast with a hint of spice in the gravy to even the dish out. It was the perfect portion, very authentic place on the sidewalks of Charleston

Nick: Big Nasty – The menu is like any other breakfast place, but the Hominy Grill has one thing you won’t find anywhere else, the Big Nasty!

Big Nasty: Biscuit with Fried Chicken Breast, Cheddar Cheese and Sausage Gravy

Overall we thought that Hominy Grill was a great place to have breakfast. We recommend if allow go during the weekday for crowd reasons.

Pigeon Forge, TN : Josh’s Breakdown of the Road Trip

Mountain Harbor Inn was a very nice place, ideal for honeymooners, or romantic get aways, not so much for 3 guys. Although the Condo of the Rich and Famous had 3 bedrooms so we didn’t get too many weird looks. Real relaxing atmosphere, right on the lake, pontoon boat rentals also available, away from everything but close enough to everything, plus Mountain Harbor Inn had a pretty killer breakfast.

Dollywood, I myself was not to impressed with it, they needs more rides. The rides they do have were pretty fun like Thunderhead and Barnstormer. We have a good pov video we put together using the GoPro Hero camera from the Barnstormer ride.(Jerry was with me on the ride and you can hear his excitement over the rest of the people)

I did not go on the River Rampage but Shawn and Jerry decided to jump on the ride. I discovered the water guns along the fence line used to spray unsuspecting people as they passed on the raft. I think I spent probably 3 or 4 dollars messing with people including Shawn, good times!

We went to eat at Mama’s Farm House, the drive there was interesting I was driving and about got us in  2 or 3 wrecks, but as far as the restaurant goes it was excellent, the servers brought it out in small portions and it was family style. The mac n cheese and chicken was good. I recommend you  check out if you are ever in Pigeon Forge.
After we were done eating needless to say I wasn’t allow to drive back to the inn.

Forbidden Caverns was a really cool place, it used to be an old moonshiner’s hide away. The Forbidden Caverns tour guide was pretty funny real theatrical woman and friendly and knowledgeable, pretty interesting stories behind the caves from indians to moonshiners. On the way back to the Harbor Mountain Inn  we also found where Bush’s baked beans was made.

Josh waiting to get inside Forbidden Caverns

As far as the whole town of Pigeon Forge, it was great. Pigeon Forge has a lot of shops, museums,and eateries along the main stretch of road. We were wanting to go on the cable car up into the mountain but for some reason Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort was shut down. The road trip was a pretty good time.

Congaree National Park, No Paddle Necessary

After working from 7 pm til  3am on a Saturday night at one of the busiest night club in South Carolina, we decided to take a road trip up to Congaree National Park. I was worn out from the busy night of work.  The Congaree National Park is the  largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest remaining on the continent. It’s about a two-hour drive from Myrtle Beach and located right outside of Columbia, SC. Shawn did some research and found out that they offer free canoe trips guided by the park rangers. Have to make reservations ahead of time in order to do this activity. The park is way out in the middle of nowhere, which is the type of places I love to visit when on road trips.. Once we arrived at Congaree National Park (around 9am) ,  we had to sit in a class room and get the run down on the park and how our canoe trip was going to go. There was about 14 people in our group, the ranger asked the group who had experience canoeing, Shawn and Josh both raised their hands quickly like little children at school that knew all the answers in class.

After the brief discussion we had to get back in the car and follow the tour guide down to where we put the canoes in the water. We had light rain during most of the canoe trip. I was selected to be in the canoe with the park ranger while the “experienced” Shawn and Josh were in their own canoe. The water was a little low that day, so Shawn and Josh had a hard time getting around in the water. Out of all the canoes, they had the most weight in their canoe. When the water is low it take more time and effort to navigate around the shallow spots on the river. The Congaree National Park had a lot of shallow spots and broken tree limbs in the water. For most of the canoe trip, Shawn and Josh were way in the back and it was hard not to laugh at them. The park ranger had incredible paddling skills to the point that I decided to lay my paddle down and enjoy the scenery. We saw a few snakes hanging in trees, and we also saw a beaver dam which was a first for me. We were on the water for about 2 hrs and we covered a lot of water. The video below was shot from Shawn and Josh’s canoe.

I highly suggest taking a trip up to Congaree State park. The canoe trip was totally free and worth riding down the river in the rain.

Dollywood, Best Senior Park in the Nation

Back in May, Jerry, Josh and I decided to do a road trip to Pigeon Forge and one of the stops while at Pigeon Forge was Dollywood. For people who never heard of Dollywood, it’s an amusement park that created by the country singer icon, Dolly Parton. Dollywood is known to have the best amusement park food and live shows around. But for us, we like one thing about amusement parks and that is the rides . The one thing I want to mention before writing about the rides and the park itself, the parking at Dollywood is awful. It’s not their fault because they have limited space to work around due to the landscape. The parking spaces are compress together closely making backing out and pulling into a space a little bit tougher.

Dollywood design their park on a mountain, the layout is one big circle. When you enter the park you start at the base of the mountain and best direction to head toward is right(counter-clockwise). Dollywood has a ton of shops and food stops. They have all different kinds of food ranging from bbq to burgers and pizza. We didn’t sample the fine food while we were there. I did get a souvenir bottle filled with a cherry slurpee concoction that cost me about $15 dollars unexpected. I didn’t complain it is what it is. They also have a ton of live show, mostly musical acts with a high appeal to an older crowd. This is probable the reason that Dollywood draws in a high senior crowd, where I saw more electric scooters than baby strollers. Now to the rides:

Barnstormer: It was the new Dollywood ride for 2011, the ride is a new version of the swing pirate ship minus the ship but faster. That was the simplest way of describing the ride. I’m not a huge fan of swinging arm rides so I stayed grounded while Josh and Jerry took to the air. We made a video of the ride:

Smokey Mountain River Rampage: Jerry and I went on this white water rapid ride and was a very decent ride. It’s almost a guarantee that everyone will get soaked on this ride. On the outside fence of the ride,  water guns are positioned  so people can drop in a quarters and spray the riders. Josh found those evil devices and sprayed me pretty good in the face. He recorded that on video and will be in his blog.

Blazing Fury: It is a dark ride but not a very good one. The ride was kinda boring and seemed dated with the special effects. If you miss this ride don’t go into depression it’s not worth it.

Tennessee Tornado: A very good looping steel coaster. The best part was after the first incline where the trees and hillside played a crucial role in fun.

River Battle: This ride is design for children so we didn’t jump aboard the raft. Basically River Battle is a slow-moving raft ride where each person has a water gun in their control where they can spray other rafts or people who are watching from the fence line. Fairplay, the people outside also have the ability to man free water cannons and fire back at the raft riders. So we had some fun nailing kids with h20 and they were having fun too. Great ride for the young ones.

Mystery Mine: This is one of best rides at Dollywood. I did not get on the ride because I decided to have a seat and rest for a moment. I was the driver for the road trip so we drove from Myrtle Beach directly to the park because we could not check in at the inn till 3pm. So I was a little bit tired at this point. The ride looked amazing from my point of view. Jerry was the only person to jump on the ride. In the update for this blog entry I’ll get his view-point and post it here in the next day or two.

Thunderhead: I have to say that Thunderhead was the best wooden coaster I’ve been on and I had been to several quality parks. Thunderhead will break you down, throw you around, and leave your butt off the ground. It was the only ride where we went on a couple of times because it was that good. Words can not really describe it, you can not leave the park without getting on Thunderhead to get the best wooden coaster experience. We shot a short video of Thunderhead.

Overall: Dollywood had nice relaxing environment. The people in general were having a great time and the staff were very helpful. But I think that the park surroundings makes the park that much better. I recommend this park to anyone that is not in a rush with life, enjoys live entertainment, and wants an enjoyable day.

Shawn enjoying day at Dollywood

Jerry

Beacon Drive In, Yell Me a Hamburger!!!

Nick and I headed out to the Beacon Drive In located in Spartanburg because we had heard that they had the best sweet tea and good burgers. We went during a weekday after the lunch rush so it wouldn’t be that busy. The exterior of the place looks kinda run down but the Beacon Drive In has been around for many years so I’ll let them slide on that issue.

Before I go out to a location on the Wanna See It All project I do some research on the establishment so I know what to expect. I knew ahead of time that the ordering process could be unique and intimidating to some people. The process goes like this:

Step 1: A man will ask you promptly what you want to order minus the drink. He will next yell out the entire order to all the cooks behind him (It’s an open kitchen). He will tell you to move on.

Step 2: It is a cafeteria style set up, continue down the line and pick up a tray. As you move down the assembly line you will pick up your order and select your drink. Since the sweet tea and lemonade are the most popular they will have a bunch pre made already.

Step 3: As you head to the cashier, be ready with your money in hand. The cashier is super fast and doesn’t miss a beat. I was really impressed with the cashier.

If you remember these steps the whole process will go smoothly.

Double Bacon Cheeseburger A-Plenty

My order was the double bacon cheeseburger A-Plenty with a lemonade for around ten dollars. I’m not a sweet tea fan in general but I heard that the lemonade was popular too so I decided on that instead. I was curious about the A-Plenty option on the menu and how it comes together. A-Plenty is a huge stack of french fries and onion rings together on a plate. I don’t like onions at all but I thought the entire order would look good for the camera.  I love my hamburger and does this Beacon Drive In burger pass on my scale system. The bacon double cheeseburger was alright overall with one small issue. The burger meat(thin patties) and bacon was awesome and was cooked just right. The burger was huge and filled me up really quick. I like my hamburger buns to be soft and fresh tasting. The Beacon Drive In buns were dry out and had a stale taste. I think they might throw the buns on the grill for a second and that was taking the moisture away from the bun. The lemonade had a strong artificial lemon taste and it was alright. The A-Plenty was losing already with me due to the dislike of onions but the french fries could make up the difference. My mother makes better french fries and she buys them from the frozen section.

Overall the Beacon Drive In has some good burgers and a rich history. I would not recommend someone to drive a great distance to check this place out for the first time. Everyone’s experience is different due to we all have different taste buds and enjoyments.

Beacon Drive In , Sweet Tea Myth

The Beacon Drive In is a restaurant located in Spartanburg, SC. Shawn told me that this place supposedly had the best sweet tea, so I was definitely down to go because I love me some sweet tea. We got Beacon Drive In around 1 or so, wasn’t too crowded.

Luckily we were prepared for how  Beacon Drive In take your order. I have never seen anything like it. The Beacon food menu is on the wall right as you walk into the restaraunt. Take a look at the menu and tell the man at the counter what you want and he yells it out to the cooks and somehow they can understand it all. Once you give the man the order you continue down the line and order you drinks and then on to the cashier. The cashier is really quick with the money and ringing up your order.

I was so excited to try out this sweet tea. I couldn’t wait to sit down. Once we sat down I took a big gulp of that tea and was just disappointed. Sweet tea tasted as if they added some sort or artificial lemon sweetener to it which I do not like in my tea. I love freshly brewed sweet tea and this is not what I got.

Cheeseburger and Sweet Tea at the Beacon Drive In

I got the cheeseburger with fries which was just the average cheeseburger that you would find at a baseball game. I don’t recommend that you travel out of your way to visit Beacon Drive In, but if you live in the Spartanburg area this would be a good lunch occasionally.