Living near the old Murphy Branch of the Southern Railway, we were happy to see Andrews Valley Rail Tours start their business. By leasing an unused section of track from the Great Smoky Mountains Railway in Andrews, NC, Andrews Valley Rail Tours provided us with a short ride behind a Fairmont speeder. The air was chilly and the cart was a bit rough but we totally enjoyed our ride. The tour starts from the Andrews Depot and runs for about 5 miles to the Historic Valley River Tunnel. The tunnel was hand dug by the Southern Railway in 1894 and is a bit on the spooky side. There was a short stop on the far side of the tunnel which allowed us to stretch our legs and explore. We then turned around and came back. What a fantastic trip! We will surely be back next year when they switch over to pedal rail bike tours.
We took a road trip to the Georgia State Railroad Museum. The museum is housed in the former Central of Georgia Railroad Savanah repair shops which closed in 1963. They are trying to preserve the old landmark buildings. While the grounds are clean and walkable, there isn't much here. A few cars and a couple of locomotives are on display. We spent about an hour exploring but mainly because I am a train nut. My suggestion would be to try and visit when the museum is holding some sort of an event.
Out of twenty or so Tree Spirits that are located around St Simons Island, Georgia, eleven are located in publicly accessible areas. You can pick up a brochure telling you where their locations are. This creates a sort of scavenger hunt. Warning: some tree spirits are difficult to find. Some of the trees, in which they inhabit, are beginning to consume them. Here are photos of all eleven of the public Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island.
We woke up early to try and catch the sunrise at Jekyll Island, Georgia. It was brutally windy and cold. Our first stop was to Driftwood Beach. What a fantastic place to explore! Old trees littered the beach making for some interesting shapes to photograph.
We stayed at the Grey Owl Inn during our trip to St. Simons, Georgia. The inn is a fantastic bed and breakfast. We couldn't have been happier with our accommodations during our stay. It's quiet and centrally located to all the places we wanted to visit. If we were ever to travel back to St. Simons this would be our first choice as to where to sleep.
We took a road trip down to St Simons, Georgia. I have to say I wasn't impressed. I had high hopes that it would be an upscale beach town. Nope, just your average touristy beach area with cheap Chinese imports in all the downtown shops. The only saving grace was that the food, from all the restaurants where we dined, was delicious.
Do you like dahlias? At the end of summer, the dahlia gardens at the Haywood Community College, in Clyde, North Carolina, are in full bloom. There are two dahlia gardens on campus where you can find all sizes, shapes, and colors of dahlias. The gardens tend to be a bit muddy, if it has rained recently, so don't wear your good shoes. The end of August and the beginning of September are probably the best times to visit.
After a wonderful breakfast, we decided to take a tour with the animals at The Kentucky Castle. The property consists of 110 acres in which to farm and raise animals. We visited with the critters in the stable area as well as the fenced in area near the castle. Goats, sheep, donkeys, llamas, cows, and horses were all in need of scratches behind the ears. A totally enjoyable experience!
We like to stay in wacky places when on the road. For our 34th wedding anniversary, we picked The Kentucky Castle in Versailles, Kentucky for an overnight adventure. But not just any room would do. We chose to sleep in one of the tower suites!
We found a gem of a toy train museum in Versailles, Kentucky. Nostalgia Station Toy & Train Museum occupies a former Louisville and Nashville passenger station, which was originally built in 1911. On display are toy train items from the 1890's to the 1990's. There are two operating vintage dealer type layouts. Other items in the museum include Lionel, American Flyer, Ives, Marx, Bing, Carlisle & Finch, Dorfan, and Hafner trains and accessories. You can also find items available for purchase. What a neat way to spend an hour or so.
Anakeesta is a fun little park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They are expanding constantly. You can see beautiful landscaping and the views of the Smoky Mountains are the best in Gatlinburg. Take a leisurely ride up the mountain by using the chairlift. For the thrill seekers there are agility courses, gravity coasters, and ziplines. While we were there, they had a display of critters all built from Legos. We try to make the trip here to visit every couple of years or so. It's fun for the whole family!
Our Summer doesn't officially begin until we make a trip to Blue Ridge Daylilies in Alexander, North Carolina. This is one of my favorite gardens to visit each year and it is just a short trip from Asheville. You can also purchase many of the daylilies that are grown there. Don't miss it when the flowers are in full bloom.
We took a little road trip to the Western North Carolina Air Museum in Hendersonville, North Carolina. The small museum houses mostly flyable scale replicas/ experimental aircraft. While nice to look at, I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more actual vintage aircraft. It is probably best to visit when the museum is hosting a special event.
While in Hendersonville, North Carolina, we made a quick stop to visit the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club. They operate a sizeable HO-gauge layout in a former Southern Railway train station, that was built in 1902. Blue Ridge Southern now uses the tracks nearby. The club members are friendly and willing to chat about trains. It's definitely worth a visit.
We often find ourselves walking the trails around Haywood Community College in Clyde, North Carolina. It is a great resource and usually not crowded.
We took a short trip over to Wildcat Ridge Farm to visit their Peony Gardens. It's a nice garden near the Pigeon River. The garden is small, but it is pretty. If you visit, be sure to have a high clearance visit as the driveway is gravel and it is rutted.