Tag Archives: Travel

I’m Actually Not A Great Traveler

It seems like this has become more a travel blog than anything.  Just so you all know . . . it isn’t.  I’ve just been on the road a bit more than normal lately.  I’m actually more a homebody than a traveler.  That being said, here’s a couple of pictures from Octoberfest in Newberry, SC.  See, you just need to have beer (or chocolate) to get me there.

Newberry Octoberfest

The celebration took up several blocks of downtown Newberry with plenty of food to choose from, a gaggle of shopping stalls, and two beer gardens.  My favorite part of the visit (besides the beer) was a tour of the Newberry Opara House.

Newberry Courthouse

I was lying on the grass when I took this (Resting, I only had 2 beers at the time)

Newberry was founded by Germans and they built the Opera House in 1881.  It had many purposes since that time, serving as the city center for much of the period.  It is now an Opera House and still has a busy show schedule.  It is cozy — only seats around 400 people.  I’m thinking of going back for a show sometime.

For anyone who remembers this is actually a writing blog, I’ve been pretty busy on the writing front too, and I promise to post an update soon.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Pictures, Travel

Lake Washington

Lake Washington

I was at a conference in Seattle last week.  It was held on Lake Washington.  The weather was nice and the lake beautiful.  The hotel was right on the water and there was a walking trail that followed the shoreline for quite a ways.

Lake Washington 2

A park stood next to the hotel, which I wandered through a few times, and to top it all off, they had an Ivar’s right on the water.  So, of course, I had to get some clam chowder while I was there.  Delicious!

Ivar's

I’m not sure it was worth the 5-hour flight, but it was good.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Octoberfest in Georgia

Helen

No, this isn’t Disney, it is a little town called Helen.  Helen sits in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northeastern Georgia.  The town is designed to resemble a Bavarian village, with shops and a beer garden on every corner (Yes, I had a few beers while I was there).

the Chattahoochee River runs through town.  It actually cradles Helen by flowing down one side and up the other. Helen also sits on the edge of the Chattahoochee National forest for all you outdoor fans, with a waterfall hike not too far from town.

Now’s the time to go visit while the town celebrates Octoberfest.  We were there during the week when it wasn’t too rowdy, but I understand the weekends get busy.  This was fine with me because I was looking a few days of mellow in the mountains.  The river ran right behind our hotel with a fire pit and benches.  Here’s a picture from my balcony:

Helen river

It was a nice place to visit, and we’re looking at going back in November when they perform the Lighting of the Village.  Of course, one of my favorite places in town was the Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen.  Imagine rooms full of homemade candy – more chocolate than you can eat in a lifetime (Although, I’d give it a shot).

Helen’s a cool little town, definitely worth a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Pictures, Travel

I Love the Mountains!

There are so many interesting places to visit in the Smokey Mountains.  I was just at Sugar Mountain, and now here I go again.  This time we visited Lake Lure for a couple of days to meet up with some friends.  Lake Lure is about two hours west of Charlotte and is named one of the 10 most beautiful man-made lakes in the world by National Geographic (Of course, this was according to the boat tour guide, so it has to be true).

Lake Lure

We stayed at Lake Lure Inn again.  It is a great place.  If you want to know more about it, check out my post here.  This time we decided to do the boat tour of the lake, which was very relaxing and entertaining.  I would love to have a house on the water there, but I’d probably have to sell my kids to afford one (hmmmm, no, I love them, right?).

We also stopped to check out the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge.  Wow, if you are into gardening, you have to check this place out.  Words can’t describe the beauty of this flowering monument to . . . see, I can’t come up with the words to describe it.

I guess I’ll have to go with a picture:

Grasshopper

The butterflies were prettier, but this guy just loved that flower.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gardening, Nature, Pictures, Travel

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Pizzas?

I’ve been remiss in sharing pictures from my trip to Europe.  I would like to say that I’ve been busy, or any thousand other excuses, but the truth is I’m not much of a picture person.  My wife takes the pictures (this seems like a simple observation, but let me tell you she takes lots of pictures).

I decided to finally start sorting through them (thank you to whoever invented digital photography).

Definitely, my favorite part of the trip was visiting Rome and eating the food in Italy.  I love Italian food, and a week of eating pasta and pizza was glorious.  As I’ve been sorting through the pictures, I realized that we have lots of beautiful pictures of Rome, Florence, and Venice, but no pictures of all the good food we ate.  We just never thought to take pictures of the food.  Luckily, we have plenty of pictures of Rome.  Here are a few pictures of the Colosseum and Palatine Hill:

DSCN1785

Yay, the Colosseum!

 

DSCN1787

DSCN1816

DSCN1839

DSCN1865

DSCN1880

DSCN1886

 

For a Roman history buff like me, this was the best place to visit, and the food was good too.  I guess you’ll have to take my word for that.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Pictures, Travel

Get out of my Mind!

I’ve been mulling over ConCarolinas since I got back from Europe.  A year ago, after attending ConCarolinas, I planned to be the one sitting behind the table selling books this year.  Alas, it didn’t happen.

I put in an application a few months back to be a guest (I think it was before I released book 3 of my trilogy).  I’m not established enough to be invited, which didn’t surprise me.  So instead, I asked for a table to sell my books.  The reply was: they only give tables to invited guests.  Seems like a catch-22 to me.  Getting a table at conventions was part of my marketing plan to help get readers.  It seems I have to first have readers in order to get a table.  Which came first — the chicken or the egg.

This seems contrary to what I’ve observed at past conventions.  I’ve seen plenty of beginning authors selling their wares.  I guess it’s a policy shift or something.

So I was a bit depressed as the weekend approached and couldn’t decide if I was going to ConCarolinas or not.  I’ve been several times, and it’s typically the same guests who I’ve met before.  I like to go around and talk to the authors at their tables, but is it worth the 40 bucks?  Especially since I’ve already met most of them before?

I decided to stay home this weekend and hang out with the wife, watch anime, start sorting vacation pictures, and work on my latest draft (beer or book, you decide.)

I haven’t sworn off conventions.  I plan to attend ConGregate July 13th – 15th in High Point, NC.  I am also making plans to attend DragonCon in September.  Oh, and I will be selling books at the Riverside Mill Endless Yardsale in Weldon, NC on June 15th & 16th.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, time to finish adding that extra chapter to my WIP.  Oh, and here are a couple of cool pictures from my recent trip to Prague:

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Appearance, Conventions, Marketing, Pictures

I’m Home!

I just returned home from a series of long trips.  I spent two weeks in Europe (on vacation) and a week in Colorado Springs (business trip).  It seems like I’ve been gone forever (I missed sleeping in my own bed).

I know there are some world travelers out there who love to be on the road, but I’m not one of them.  I’m definitely a homebody, but I did enjoy the vacation.  It was a once in a lifetime type of trip.  Now, it’s time to collect my thoughts, sort through vacation pictures, and get busy.  To whet your appetite, here’s a picture of the Grand Canal in Venice.

Grand Canal

There will be no rest today.  I will be at the Union County Library in Monroe, North Carolina from 2 to 5 pm.  This is part of an Author Meet and Greet for Carolina Authors sponsored by the Union County Writers Club and the Friends of the Union County Library.

Come by and see me.  I’ll tell you all about my trip to Europe, and will have my books available too.

Kingdom of Haven

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Author Appearance, Pictures, Travel

Writing on a Mountain

So I’m sitting up on Sugar Mountain looking for inspiration.  The wife and I came up for the weekend, and I stayed for the rest of the week to try to finish the draft of my latest novel.

We had a good time traipsing about over the weekend.  The highlight was hiking to the overlook at Linville Falls.  I say hiking, but it was only about a mile and a half round trip, which is about as much hiking as  I care to do.  Walking on flat sidewalks is fine, but climbing rock stairs is for the birds.  The view was worth it though.

20171111_123004

Hopefully this picture will inspire me to work hard on my draft and maybe even salvage my NaNoWriMo attempt.  Fast writing just isn’t my thing, and I’m behind the eight ball for NaNo again this year.  Today I wrote just under 5000 words.  I’m usually lucky to break 500 in a day, so it was a good writing day.  Of course, I’m almost out of candy, so it’s not looking good for the rest of the week.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under NaNoWriMo, Nature, Travel, Writing

Where is Santa?

At a writers meeting the other day, someone asked me about my experiences in the military.  So I told a couple a stories, and then she asked:  “Why don’t you write about that?”

It’s a simple question, with a complex answer.  I spent six years in the US Navy—1982 to 1988.  I was a nuclear electrician and served aboard a fast attack nuclear submarine.  There is no dark, dramatic story behind my reluctance to talk about that time.  Even so, I’m always tempted to use the standard flippant answer we used back then when civilians asked us what we did:

“I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

There are several reasons why I am reluctant to talk about my navy days:

  1. I’m an introvert and prefer to keep such things private.
  2. I was lucky to serve in a time between wars. I have no exciting war stories to share.
  3. Most people think of combat troops when they think of the military. While I was qualified with small arms, the only time I ever carried one was when we had repel boarder drills.
  4. We weren’t allowed to talk about the nuclear submarine (I had a secret clearance) and I still feel uncomfortable discussing it even now (even though that whole submarine class has been decommissioned).
  5. Most of my navy stories involve drinking, which are mostly funny stories, but are not ones I care to share with strangers.

Being in the military, any branch, does give you a different perspective.  I write fantasy novels with a strong military element.  While I was never in combat—especially with swords, spears, bows and arrows—I understand the sense of belonging to a greater group than yourself, and the camaraderie that military people share.

With all that being said, there is a story from my navy days that most people may find entertaining.  I was stationed aboard the USS Gurnard (SSN 662).  It was commissioned in 1968.  At the time when I served on board, it was middle-aged for a submarine; there were older diesel and nuclear subs still in service, but there were also shiny new 688 submarines (Los Angeles Class) getting all the attention.  The older subs, like the Gurnard, had one advantage over the newer Los Angeles class subs—they were designed to surface through the ice.

When the navy decided to send a couple of submarines under the arctic ice in 1984, the Gurnard was chosen.  Luckily for me (Yes, this is meant to be sarcastic), I was on board at the time.  We left sunny San Diego and headed up the western seaboard.

Unfortunately, we had a major piece of equipment breakdown and had to make a pit stop in Adak, Alaska (I did say this was an older boat, right?).  If you’ve never been to Adak, Alaska, you didn’t miss much.  It was a small base on a small island in the middle of a cold sea.  We were there for two days, and I had duty.  All I saw was the dock.  The guys that went ashore only saw the bars, go figure.  From what I understand, there’s nothing left to see there today.

http://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Abandoned-Alaska-Once-a-thriving-naval-base-now-an-Adak-ghost-town-401510545.html

We left Adak and headed through the Bering Strait, submerged.  I worked in the engine room, but the guys from up forward said it was a white-knuckle ride with the ice above and the sea bed below and not much room in between.  I couldn’t say, but sometimes it can be good not knowing where you are.

After that, we were submerged under the ice for over a month (44 days).  We surfaced through the ice twice during that time.  Once early on to load the equipment that needed replacing (from our stop in Adak).  The navy set up an ice camp and we surfaced long enough to clear ice from our main hatch so we could rig the new motor onboard the sub.  I was awake for over a day during that fiasco (I call it a fiasco, but we actually got a commendation letter for our planning and execution), because my division was responsible for rigging and setting up the pump.  After replacing the pump, we slipped back under the ice until we reached the North Pole.

When I tell people I’ve been to the North Pole, I always get two questions, so I’ll save you the trouble:

  • No, there is not an actual pole there, and
  • No, I did not see Santa.

Really, I didn’t see much of anything but snow and ice and darkness.  We were there in the winter when it stays dark forever.  The picture below is the sail of the USS Gurnard sticking up through the ice at the North Pole.  The color on the ice is a reflection from the flare shot off so you can see.

North Pole

I actually got out on the ice twice while we were there.  The first time was because who would go to the North Pole and not go up on the ice?  So I dressed up like a green Stay-Puff Marshmellow Man and went up to look.  I kinda looked like this guy, only all green instead of camo with a mask over my face.

DA-ST-88-03349

We were only allowed to be up there for about 5-10 minutes because of the temperature (I don’t actually remember how long, but it was no more than 10 minutes).  It was probably the most surreal experience of my life—walking away from the boat’s sail, on the ice, in the dark, and thinking, “I hope I don’t fall through (the ice was way too thick for that); I hope they don’t leave me (That would suck); and I hope I don’t get eaten by a polar bear (If you look at the picture, there are two men up in the sail with high-powered rifles.  They were called the polar bear watch.).”

That could have been the end to my North Pole adventure, and I would probably have been left with a more positive overall impression—been left more in awe of the majesty of the place—but this was the navy.  Several hours later, I was woken up (during my never-enough-to-really-feel-rested rack time) to go back up on the ice to hook up temporary lights.  Several crew members decided that it would be awesome to reenlist at the North Pole.  How exciting!  Of course, I was the poor slob who had to go up and string lights for the ceremony.  Have you ever tried to hang lights in the dark wearing two pairs of gloves (the outer pair being mittens thick enough to be used as oven mitts)?  Needless to say, my North Pole memories are somewhat marred by the experience.  But hey, the navy promised adventure, right?

I remember the ads from those days: “Navy.  It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”  I’m not sure why they didn’t show someone stringing up lights in freezing weather on that commercial.  I’m sure it would have been a hit.

All joking aside, the navy was a positive experience.  I have made a good living because of the training I received.  (And I don’t glow in the dark much either.)

2 Comments

Filed under History, Navy, North Pole, Travel

Lake Lure Inn: A Blast to the Past

DSCN1125

On our anniversary this year, my wife and I decided to visit Lake Lure, North Carolina.  It is a nice little lake town in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.  We’ve stayed there before, but this time we decided to stay at the Lake Lure Inn.

It appears that the Lake Lure Inn is mostly known as the location of the filming of Dirty Dancing.

DSCN1132 DSCN1134

For the Dirty Dancing fans out there, they have Johnny’s Cabin and Baby’s Bungalow for rent.  I’m not a huge fan, so we opted for a room in the main hotel.  In my book, this was a great decision.  The original Inn was built in 1927 and still has the feel of this earlier period of Americana.  I love historical places, and walking into the main hotel was like walking into the past.

IMG_20150807_194352_495 IMG_20150806_145414_163

The hallways are wide and are decorated more like a home than a hotel.  I could imagine families hanging out together in the evening back in the days before television and game consoles.  Even with all this ambiance to take in, the most shocking thing about our stay was being handed an actual key for our room.  I’m old enough to have stayed in hotels that used actual room keys, but not for some time.  Actually using a key to unlock our room was the final touch that made it feel like we had stepped back in time.

The price was comparable to a more modern hotel, but the experience was priceless.

2 Comments

Filed under Travel