Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving From the Grove Park Inn

November 24, 2011
Finding ourselves too stuffed and tired to tell many tales, we will let our pictures carry the day.


The Grove Park Inn was built in 1913, and its distinctive exterior features huge granite boulders dragged from nearby quarries. 


We spent a lot of time eating today--first at the spectacular breakfast buffet, then just a few hours later at the tremendous Thanksgiving Feast buffet.  Note that the flowers in this arrangement are all carved from fruits and vegetables, just one example of the artistry applied to creating a buffet that looked as appetizing as it tasted.


Here we are before sitting down to our Thanksgiving dinner.  Someone told us that the dining room where we had our dinner served 3,000 meals today.  We knew the place was hopping, but we had a very leisurely meal, with lots of trips to sample from the many the buffet stations and plenty of attentive service, and never a hint of being encouraged to move along to vacate our table for waiting diners.  Edwin Grove would be proud that, in the tradition of his famous tonic (see yesterday's post), the buffet at his famous Inn successfully "made children and adults feel as fat as pigs."


We took advantage of the indoor tennis courts to work off a few calories.  (The boys also burned off some calories swimming this afternoon, but we didn't get pictures, because we were napping.)

There are hundreds of entries from the inn's annual gingerbread house competition spread throughout the hotel. Here is the grand prize winner.


We have a bounty of blessings to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Celebrating the Groves Legacy with the Glovers

November 23, 2010
Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC
Could there be a more appropriate place to spend Thanksgiving than a resort built from the profits of a product formulated to make you fat?


We are at the Grove Park Inn, built by Edwin Grove in 1912, using a fortune acquired from the sales of his famous Tasteless Chill Tonic (which outsold Coca Cola in the 1890s), and other miraculous medical concoctions. We are spending the long Thanksgiving weekend here with our Indiana Glover grandchildren and their parents.

The Inn is decorated for Christmas and filled with fanciful elaborate gingerbread scenes from its annual competition (stay tuned for pictures another day).  There is a roaring fire and non-stop musical entertainment in the Great Hall. We joined  a small crowd gathered on the deck with their wine or hot chocolate to watch the sun setting behind the Blue Ridge Mountains in grandeur.  We have gone with the boys to check out the tennis courts and the indoor pool which we will visit tomorrow to work off a small fraction of the calories we consume at the breakfast and Thanksgiving Dinner buffets.

Let the Thanksgiving festivities begin--we are thankful to be sharing the holiday with family from afar!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sunshine Makes Everything Better

FestiVELO Day 3
November 5, 2011
The temperature was no warmer today than yesterday and the winds were stronger, but the sun shone bright and the ride was scenic, which made a world of difference.  Bike Club friends Lucille and Arte rode thirty miles with us today, while other Bike Club members did longer rides.   


Our first destination was Cypress Gardens, where the butterfly pavilion-- heated to a tropical temperature and filled with colorful flowers, birds, and butterflies—was the most popular attraction for our cold and windswept riders.  


Then it was on to lunch in the Old Santee Canal Park, on the site of America’s first canal, which began operating in 1800.  Jimmy Buffet songs blaring from the sound system in our picnic shelter inspired us to think of tropical locales, and our lunch menu was inspired by his song “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”  


We didn’t have time to stop in the Museum or Interpretive Center, but took a moment to learn about this interesting vessel.  It is a full size model of “Little David,” a semisubmersible torpedo boat built in Charleston in 1863 which earned fame during the Civil War as the first submarine to make a successful torpedo attack on a warship. 

We rode from the rest stop back to our starting point, changed from our bike gear into warm dry clothes, then headed by car to the next stop on the 70-100 mile rides—Mepkin Abbey. The Abbey has been home to a colony of Trappist monks since 1949, but the property dates back to 1681, when it was a 3,000 acre land grant plantation.  The plantation grew to 10,000 acres in the early 1900s, and was purchased in 1936 by Henry R. Luce--publisher  of Time, Fortune and Life magazines, and his wife Clare Boothe Luce—playwright, author, congresswoman and ambassador.  Clare found religion and joined the Roman Catholic Church after her daughter died in a car accident in 1944, and she donated most of the plantation property to the Catholic Church for the use of the monks in 1949.  

We visited the Abbey gift shop and wandered the tranquil garden and grounds, but did not see any monks out and about.  The woman at the shop told us that this time of day was when they were in their rooms meditating or taking naps, since they get up at 3 a.m..  


This is a sculpture that the monks made using wood from trees downed here by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  The hurricane was devastating to the area, downing 12,000 trees in Cypress Gardens as well.  We never missed the extra trees at either the Abbey or Cypress Gardens—the monks could probably find in that a meditation on time’s power to heal, or resilience (or maybe they would just shake their heads and tell us that we are not very observant).  

From the Abbey we headed south to Charleston, where we stayed overnight in an unremarkable Best Western Inn near the starting point of our Sunday ride—a bike tour of Charleston’s historic district.  


Finding Fun in the Face of Adversity

FestiVELO Day 2
November 4, 2011
A cold front with a hard rain blew through late last night, and although it was mostly gone by this morning, it left behind grey skies, a temperature of 52 degrees and 15-20 mile per hour winds—conditions just barely within our riding tolerance range.   

On today’s thirty mile ride chain link fences and modular trailer style homes replaced the white picket fences and gracious Victorian homes of yesterday.  Our destination was St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, built in 1767.  There was supposed to be a docent there to give us a tour, but he or she was a no-show (no surprise), so all we know is what we read on the historical marker out front, and the grave stones all around the church, many of them marking the final resting places of Confederate soldiers.   

There was also supposed to be a tour of a fish lift (whatever that is) just down the street from the church, but the drive to it was gated closed and there were no trespassing signs all over the property.  The ride organizers also made a spontaneous unannounced decision to move the scheduled lunch break from the rest stop in front of the church to a rest stop that was only on the 60 and 100 mile ride routes, so we had the unexpected, but really fortunate, opportunity to find lunch on our own. 

After long hot showers back at our hotel, we headed to Summerville by car for lunch at Ladles, a cozy restaurant offering a dozen different soups daily.  Soup was the perfect lunch on this chilly day.  

Then we went to the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site nearby.  Congregationalist descendents of Puritans who settled in Massachusetts to find religious freedom from the tyranny of the Anglican Church of England traveled south to make their fortune here in 1697.   Ironically, just nine years after they settled in this area they called Dorchester, Anglicanism was declared South Carolina’s official religion.  In 1720, St. George’s Anglican Church was built in Dorchester, and although the Congregationalists worshipped two miles away, they were taxed to support St. George’s.  All that remains of the church is the bell tower, because the British (Anglicans all, no doubt) burned the church (and most of the town) during the Revolutionary War.   

We also wandered around the town fort, heralded as the “best preserved tabby fortification in North America,” surprisingly intact in light of the success of the British in destroying the rest of the town.  Even more surprising to us was that in 1726, less than 30 years after the founding of Dorchester, slaves made up 70% of the population of the town.

Back to FestiVELO—dinner was a “Seafood Extravaganza,” which started out dismally (a bony catfish fillet was the only seafood served, with a promise of crabs and clams to come “later”), but unfolded over the course of the next couple hours to  eventually include all the seafood we could eat (as long as we could figure out how to eat whole crabs using only our hands and plastic utensils—no crackers, mallets or other tools one normally uses to crack the shell and claws were available).  Clams, shrimp, and low country boil all made an appearance for those who waited, and probably oysters showed up as well after we stopped checking back in the seafood tent.  

The Charleston Hot Shots string band made another appearance tonight, with Lucille back on the spoons, and the rest of us providing back-up on our complimentary kazoos. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Southern Sampler

FestiVELO Day 1
November 3, 2011
There are some things that really bug us about the South, like shoddy planning and a lack of punctuality (maybe Southerners would call these things spontaneity and a relaxed lifestyle).  This ride is full of examples of those qualities, but I am working really hard to live in the moment and ignore them, so I will focus on the highlights of today.


We rode in Summerville, a truly beautiful little inland town that became world-renowned after it was named one of the two best health resorts in the world at the 1899 tuberculosis World Congress in Paris.  Its claim to fame was its mild climate and long leaf pines that “charged the air with derivatives of turpentine,” according to a Chamber of Commerce brochure.  We failed to smell the piney air, but had a wonderful time riding the winding roads through the historic district, admiring the beautiful Victorian era and early 20th Century homes and cottages and their lushly landscaped yards.  


We rode six miles around town, using both the ride cue sheet and a Summerville Walking Tour of Homes and Flowers brochure as our guides, making frequent stops to read about notable homes (and to take photos, of course).


Our lunchtime rest stop featured favorite foods of the south—shrimp and grits, moon pies, and Yoo-hoo Chocolate drink (a very unusual, but surprisingly tasty, beverage we have never taken the opportunity to sample before).  Here we are enjoying shrimp and grits and Yoo-hoo.


Not so much of a highlight was a fourteen mile ride on the Sawmill Bike path, which ran beside the “channelized” Sawmill Creek, now a drainage canal that only occasionally smelled of raw sewage.


The highlight of our evening was the Chocolate Obsession, a chocolate lovers’ feeding frenzy featuring two chocolate fondue fountains with lots of sweet treats to dip in them, and a more than you could possibly sample selection of chocolate cakes, pies, cookies, bars, candies, and  ├ęclairs, plus hot chocolate to wash it down, and ice cream to put on top of it.  Our bike club friends were very impressed by Dick’s capacity for chocolate and his ability to get every last bit of ice cream out of his cup.  (It’s a good thing we enjoyed the chocolate, since it turned out to be our dinner—but we won’t go into the details of the shoddy planning and lack of punctuality in reference to the low country boil that was supposed to be our dinner, but was not finished cooking until sometime around 9 p.m..)


An old timey band with two ukulele players and a washtub string bass serenaded us during dinner time, and our bike club friend Lucille joined them playing her wooden spoons—they were good, and she was terrific.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reflections

Monck's Corner, South Carolina
November 2, 2011
We are in Monck's Corner (near Charleston) for FestiVELO, a four day long celebration of bicycling and food.

We haven't started riding yet, but our adventures have already begun.  We met our bike club friends at FestiVELO sign-in and all went to dinner together at Gilligan's, a local shrimp and catfish joint.  Here is our view from the dining room.

After dinner, we decided to skip the campfire, popcorn and s'mores at ride headquarters, and just head back the the hotel. We were driving along a dark road when what to our wondering eyes should appear but a big old lit up sleigh being pulled by reindeer.  Of course we turned in to investigate, and found ourselves driving onto the campus of a big company called Santee Cooper. We drove through a red and green light tunnel into a fantasy Christmas world with hundreds of displays, millions of lights.

There were a bunch of security cars patrolling the grounds, but they did not stop us, so we cruised the mile-long drive, stopping along the way to take a few pictures. Dick asked a worker what was going on, and he told us we were previewing "Celebrate the Season," a new holiday attraction debuting on the day after Thanksgiving. Dick asked him what Santee Cooper makes, and the worker said, "electricity." Dick said, "Then I guess they can afford to run all these lights."

Just after Dick snapped this picture, all the lights went out at once, and we had to find our way out of the maze-like office campus in the dark.

Here's HO HO HOping that our the rest of FestiVELO brings us more great surprises and magcal moments!