June 29, 2009


Sorry about the huge font size in the previous post, gang. I've tried to fix it three times. It's normal in the edit window....

Thanks for the heads up, Julie.

pimpin' ain't easy

Hey gang,

First of all, I have to say hello to all the recent visitors! Welcome to the murky depths! I kid. Mostly.

No major news or anything, but I do have goodies for you all!

First up, the newest addition to the blog roll, The Katy Chronicles. A sweet, sweet young lady I'm sure you'll all love!

Now I have a favor to ask. Don't groan. It's not lady-like. Besides, you will love it. And you may even win a prize.

I would love for you to visit to of my friends. They're both members of a social networking group that Cody and I belong to, and I happen to think they're pretty great guys. Aside from their overall awesometasticness though, they have some pretty cool stuff to check out.

First up is Dan. Dan is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to homes. He is or has been involved in many facets of real estate and design, and he's good at what he does. Dan has recently started writing about home staging for examiner.com. As much as we would all love to move to our dream home, it's not a reality for the majority of us. So why read about how to stage a home if you're not actually selling? Simple. Dan offers great advice that is applicable whether you plan to move or not. I got a lot out of his most recent article concerning sticking to one room at a time while cleaning, and the best way to go about de-cluttering. So GO!

Next up is Robert. Robert, together with his partner in crime and time Bud, own and operate The Great Lakes Design Collaborative. They are a Cleveland-based design firm that strives to be as "green" as possible. I would encourage all of you to check out their site (Mr. Architect in particular), as they have some great plans for the future of building and design. Quite the team, these two.

For those not looking to formally update or build (wish I could afford it myself, but that's neither here nor there...), you still need to check out the blog. Robert writes the majority of the time, with Bud popping in now and then to write as well. These guys not only know their stuff, they're passionate about it. Robert is also passionate about spreading knowledge about how we can all make an impact. The Great Lakes Green Pages is a blog you'll all definitely want to add to your reader!

In honor of the late Billy Mays:

But wait!!! There's more!!!

Robert is actually having a giveaway this week! If you subscribe to his blog and leave a comment on the appropriate post, you would win a prize! Robert is also a phenomenal photographer, and he is currently drawing names to win one of his limited edition prints!

Like I need another reason to troll blogs all day, people are giving me stuff to read them now!!! Seriously!

I've puttered around on Robert's art page before, and he really is good. So subscribe today and be sure to leave him a comment or two this week. You just might win some art.

Even if you don't get your hands on one of these stunning prints, I guarantee you'll get something out of visiting both of these sites!

This is making me wonder if I should have a contest too.

Oh! I know!

You all compliment me on my gardens and wish you had them, right? So maybe the funniest commenter gets to help me pull weeds?!


June 28, 2009

thanks, mom

I've always had a propensity to clean when I know company is coming. Turns out that holds true for this space, as well. I know my regular crowd (all five of you!) tend to keep up with me in your reader, so I don't clean house too often. I know when I click through my reader to leave a comment on your blogs, I'm always surprise at the changes in color and theme and such.

Since there have been a couple of new people dropping by, I figured it was time to tidy up the place a bit. I know absolutely nothing about changing themes and layouts and crap, so I pretty much just switch back and forth between two pre-made themes.

I had to get rid of that Heinz app on the sidebar. The picture was so big it covered part of the text. Can't have that, now can we.

I also added one of those neat little blogs I follow widgets that I've been seeing more of lately. Every time I go to Pete's page I think, "I gotta get me one uh them there doo-dads!"

I also updated all the blogs I've been following as well. I give you guys shout-outs a lot, but I put on a few other sites that I enjoy.

And I swear, Robert, I've been following your blog since it was mentioned in the newsletter. I didn't just add you cause you dropped by. Honest. Well, maybe a little...

What? You guys didn't know there was a newsletter? You thought all the crazy people from Focus on the Family were making that up? Oh no. It's real. How do you think we know what's on the "gay agenda"? The gay newsletter, of course!

I kid. It's actually a newsletter put out once a month by a social group Cody and I belong to. It just happens to be an exclusive gay and lesbian only social group. Because world domination will be achieved in .pdf format!

Seriously though. Go check out some of those other blogs!

Speaking of, I've had a lot of fun this past week or so getting back into updating regularly. Maybe it will stick this time? Maybe I'll not delete two years worth of posts again? Maybe I'll cycle again next week and it'll all be a memory?

Who knows?

I'm having fun in the process though!!!

P.S. K, I didn't add your link because I'm not 100% clear on whether you want that to be public knowledge. Your call, sweetums!

for pete's sake

I was pleasantly surprised to see these had bloomed this morning!

I'm so happy with the flowers I chose for my baskets this year.

This monster was less than two feet tall the first year I had it. It now shoots up over 4 feet in about two weeks!

The Japanese maple seems to finally be on the upswing! It was hairy for a while there! I love how striking the green of the sweet potato vine is against that deep red background.

This is the bed I dug up and re-planted earlier this year. It'll be kinda sorry looking this year, but hopefully it will fill out next spring.

I'm still not happy with the pond this year, but what can you do?

they move me

It's been a pretty big day in the blogosphere, folks.

Love, grace and healing.

Acceptance, understanding and joy.

Forgiveness, patience and reward.

June 24, 2009

...the rest of the story


Two posts in two days! That's a record for me, I think. I used to post more often, but we won't get into that conversation.

I hope y'all are happy. I'm skipping my morning dose of Rachel Maddow to write this. I record her show at night and then watch it before work while I'm having my coffee. As I was checking my mail this morning though, I got Tim's comment and was reminded of my promise last night to pick up where I left off.

Speaking of Tim's comment, he sure did hit the nail on the head with facebook, didn't he?! He always leaves such nice comments. It's like coming home from the grocery store and finding a nice note taped to the door. "Stopped by to say 'hi', but you were out."

Or maybe I've been reading too much Jane Austen (in the period of her novels, visitors leave a card/note when the people they popped in on aren't home to let them know they were there). Okay. That made sense in my head. Honest.

On a side note, if you guys haven't read Tim's blog, I highly recommend you start. Add him to your reader, and you'll find yourself fairly blessed. I actually use his posts as part of my daily "devotions" in the morning. I put devotions in quotes because I'm horrible about setting aside time for them. But I know I can, at the very least, spend a few minutes reading Tim's latest insight every day. Makes me feel a little better on my lazy days anyway.

Now where was I headed last night when I stopped? Oh, right: church.

So, as I mentioned, things are a little different than I'm used to there. The thing that's important, to me anyway, is that nothing is different enough to be uncomfortable. The exciting thing is, they are actively learning and growing, and there are some changes in the works. It's not all stuff that will happen overnight, as they are trying to do things slowly, purposely, and prayerfully. It turns out I started attending at the tail-end of years of planning, research and praying in this congregation as to what God's plans and intentions for this body are. So not only is it exciting for me as a new member, it's also an exciting time for everyone else too.

I had been saying for weeks that I needed to really spend some one on one time with God talking about whether or not to join this church, but never got around to it. Then Sunday morning would come and at the end of service, I would want to head up front to declare my intent to join, but I couldn't without talking to God first.

So on Sunday morning two weeks ago, I was going down my list and praying and actually remembered to drop this off in God's mail slot. Well, turns out all I had to do was ask. God quickly made it abundantly clear that this was the right direction for me at this point in my life. I've only had a few moments in my life where I've had that much indescribable peace about a decision.

I then made sure that it was okay with Cody before church that morning. He's gone a few times, and I didn't want him to feel like I was making this decision without his input. I let him know that I wanted to become a member and wanted to make sure he didn't have any objection to it. He may or may not become a member there eventually himself, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn't becoming a member somewhere he was uncomfortable. He asked me what all that involved, and pretty much said that, so long as I didn't have to sacrifice a live animal to do it, he was cool with it. Gotta love him...

Turns out I genuinely surprised the Pastor when I walked to the front of the church, too. He has since explained to me that he knew I had been struggling for a while with my faith and finding a church. He knew from emails I had sent him and from reading one of my posts here that I'm pretty picky (for lack of a better word) about where I worship.

One thing I find particularly awesome is that Pastor has agreed to help me out one-on-one with some pastoral counseling. I had explained to him that I've had issues (understatement much?) with depression and anxiety in the past that have cause problems for me and also in my relationships. I didn't go into detail at the time, but I mentioned my past experiences with therapy and medication. Since I had agreed back in September to try therapy again with and/or without Cody, I still haven't seen anyone though.

I pretty much asked if Pastor would be willing to be an accountability partner for me in my therapy, and be available to talk about it on occasion to try and make the process a little more comfortable. I hoped that a little guidance from him would alleviate some of the concern with the sometimes conflicting secular/spiritual aspects of therapy.

Well, thankfully, Pastor agreed to not only help by being my accountability partner, he offered his pastoral counseling as well!

So this past Monday, I had my first appointment to talk with him, and it was wonderful. He really is a good man, with a huge heart, and he actually listens without judging. I'm so encouraged by that first visit, and have great expectations of blessings to come.

I talked a bit more in depth about my past experiences, which fairly well mortified him, and we spent some time discussing "The Plan" a bit more specifically. He's totally on board with the idea of seeing him as well as a "traditional" therapist. The therapist can deal with things outside of his scope, and Pastor will hold me accountable to make sure I'm actually participating as well as be a sounding board for how therapy is going in general. Additionally, he has agreed to help me with the spiritual side of my struggles and relationships.

I really am stoked!

I also really am going to be late for work if I don't wrap this up....

June 23, 2009


Hi guys!

I have a few "free" minutes, so I figured I'd write a quick little update.

I've been so damn busy doing nothing lately! Honestly, I don't know where all my time goes. I need to manage it better. I have decided to delete my myspace account at the end of this week, as there are only two people I'm friends with on there that I don't communicate with any other way and one just signed up for facebook. I feel sorta guilty since the other one is my aunt, but other than reading her status updates and looking at her pictures, I don't do much with her there either. It's just one more website to check in on every day.

I've also given up on twitter. It was becoming a real pain. I found myself stopping in the middle of what I was doing to tweet, and that just wasn't cutting it anymore. Not to mention, the majority of what I see on twitter also gets posted to facebook, so I was reading the same thing twice every day.

I'm still following quite a few blogs, but now that I'm using a reader, it doesn't take nearly as much time. The only problem is that I tend to get lazy with commenting now.

As for my "real" life, things are going fairly well, I must say. I've been participating in this "Million Step Challenge" at work for the last month or so, and I'm actually getting into it. I don't know that I'll make it to 1,000,000 steps before the deadline, but I'm getting a little healthier trying. Last time I weighed myself, I had lost 7 pounds since the start date! It's not much, but my jeans aren't tight anymore!

It's honestly kind of fun. I'm challenging myself to get more and more steps every day, and so far I'm succeeding. The problem is the weekends! I can get over 20,000 steps in on a work day, but on weekends, I'm lucky to break 4,000 steps a day. I need to start walking the dog or something. The pedometers they gave us don't register steps after going to "standby mode" until you take 5 in a row. So since our house is small, I can walk back and forth all day, but never far enough for it to count them. It's frustrating, to say the least.

I've been walking laps around the parking lot at lunch, and most days I go across the street to the park after work and do laps around the track there. My goal for the week is to walk a consistent 5 minute lap and be able to jog the 10th lap entirely. I'm hoping that by the end of summer I'll be able to jog every other lap.

Other than that, it's been pretty busy. Cody is still laid off, but he's been helping friends with odd jobs lately. So that sort of throws the dinner schedule all out of whack. I try not to complain though, because it gets him out of the house and puts a little money in his pocket.

I've also become an official member at the church I have been attending. I've been going since the end of February or so, and I really feel at home there. It's not like any church I've attended in the past to be honest. So there are some things that are a little foreign to me. Overall though, I love it. The pastor there is incredible, and also incredibly nice.

Crap. So much for a "quick little update" huh? I've got to go get dinner started, so I'll wrap this up.

Suffice it to say, after attending for a while and shooting a couple emails back and forth with Pastor, and praying about it of course, I've decided to make it my home church.

I'll try to post more soon, I promise!

June 15, 2009

pictures are up!!!

Wow, that was freaky.

I tried posting earlier, and for some reason the letters were going onto the screen backwards. I re-started the computer and double-checked that I was virus-free. Everything seems fine now, thank God.


Just wanted to let you all now that I finally got some of my vacation pictures uploaded to Flickr. There should be a little badge on the right you can click to visit my page, or you can just click here.

I opened it up so anyone could see so that y'all could peek at them for awhile!

I know it seems kind of lazy to not post any here, but I took the time to re-size and upload over 200 pictures this morning. I really don't feel like fighting with blogger right now, and their upload tools suck if you have more than a few to post.

We took over 2,600 pictures in 9 days, so I tried to get the highlights for you.

June 13, 2009

psst, pete. i'm posting!

Hey gang!

So Pete not-so-subtly reminded me a few days ago that I never got back on here and finished posting about vacation. It has been on my to-do list, I swear! You know how I am though, I can spend hours online reading everything YOU write, but I'm so horrible about writing myself. I used to love doing this, but I just haven't been able to get back into the swing of posting.

At any rate, I left off the last time getting ready to head to Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. I have to say, despite getting off to a really questionable start in the morning, this day made up for all the changes in plans and re-routing of the previous week. And then some.

It was a fairly cool morning, like upper 50's, so I opted for jeans and luckily was smart enough to throw a jacket in the car "just in case". Cody drove me to the estate, and I stopped to get tickets on the way in. I had to get my general admission ticket, of course, but I also bought tickets for the two tours that I didn't take advantage of two years ago and have regretted since. We'll get to that later.

Now, this is an estate in the old sense of the word. When George Vanderbilt bought this property, he didn't but a couple of acres to build a house. He bought MILES of property. Which means you don't just pull in off of the road and into a parking lot. You take a scenic drive through 3 miles of estate grounds which were planned by Frederick Law Olmsted. Name sound familiar? Yeah, that would be the guy who designed Central Park in New York among other notable parks and gardens.

So Cody drove me up to the house and pretty much dropped me off at the front door, like the genteel Victorian lady I am! Okay, not really, but it was still nice. The access road obscures any view of Biltmore House by design, and for good reason. Your initial spotting of the the roof line through the trees forces your mind to start going, "Are you serious?!"

Yes. He was serious.

The house is referred to as America's Castle for a reason. Immense doesn't really come close. There are, of course, many other public and private buildings that are much bigger.

I could go on babbling, but I'll just cheat a little here and do a little copy/paste job:

The History of America's Largest Home

Building Biltmore was, at the time, one of the largest undertakings in the history of American residential architecture and the results were astounding. Over a six-year period, an entire community of craftsmen worked to build the country's premier home. The estate boasted its own brick factory, woodworking shop, and a three-mile railway spur for transporting materials to the site.

A New World Château

The celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt modeled the house on three châteaux built in 16th-century France. It would feature 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, bowling alley, servants' quarters, kitchens, and more.

An Environmental Wonder

The grounds of the 125,000-acre estate were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of New York's Central Park and the father of American landscape architecture. He not only developed acres of gardens and parkland, but in his efforts to protect the environment and reclaim over-farmed land, Olmsted established America's first managed forest.

A True Family Home

George Vanderbilt officially opened the home to friends and family on Christmas Eve in 1895. He had created a country retreat where he could pursue his passion for art, literature, and horticulture. After marrying the American Edith Stuyvesant Dresser (1873–1958) in Paris during the summer of 1898, George and his new bride came to live at the estate. Their only child, Cornelia (1900–1976), was born and grew up at Biltmore.


Yeah. Two hundred fifty rooms. Not to shabby, huh?

So Cody dropped me off shortly after 10am, so I had just under half an hour to kill before my first tour. It just started to sprinkle as I was getting out of the truck, and it was so cold. I thanked God again for the foresight of bringing a hooded jacket on this trip and headed off to find the bathroom!

After a quick potty break and a smoke 'em if ya got 'em last chance for a while cigarette, I went to the meeting location for my 10:30 "Behind the Scenes" tour. While waiting for the tour to start, it started pouring to beat the band. Let's not forget the thunder and lightning now! Let me tell you, thunder and lightning causes little girls to shriek like banshees. Little girls shrieking like banshees under a stone porte-cochere is just about too much for my ears to take. Everytime the thunder "clapped" these girls would do it again, which they found highly amusing. Everyone with ears over 8 years old, however.... A lot of wincing going on.

The tour was rather interesting, and believe it or not, I met a couple who used to live in Euclid! When I told him I lived near the golf course, he of course knew where it was and informed he had been a part of the group that worked to have it built! Small world and all that...

Our tour stayed mostly near the "Bachelors' Wing" hall and stairway. Being a smaller more private stairway designed to allow the single male guests to flit in and out at all hours of the night quietly and privately, it is fairly segregated from the main common areas of the house. It's close proximity to the working rooms and hallways of the house allowed us to see a lot of what went on behind the scenes of the estate (hence the name of the tour) and the life the employees led.

We also got to see some of the workings of the house itself, which was actually pretty fascinating to me. I walk by my furnace and hot water heater every day on the way in and out of the house, but never give them a second thought. Seeing what was involved in providing comfort for a house this size in 1895 was quite remarkable!

Mr. Vanderbilt made sure when he built this house that it had all the amenities available in any of New York's fine hotels of the period. Trust me, this place has amenities in spades!

Now during this tour, there were a couple of times that the guide would normally have taken us out onto a walkway or courtyard outside. Since it was raining, we had to settle for looking out the windows instead. No big deal really, as there are certainly plenty of windows in this house to look out of.

Problem was, I was supposed to go out on the roof during my next tour!

Once the tour was over, I headed out for the bathroom and another quick smoke break. My next tour was meeting up in the main foyer at noon, and I only had about 15 minutes.

Once I got to the foyer, one of the docents (they're all so nice!) saw me just sort of lollygagging and asked if I was there for the 12:00 "Rooftops & Walkways" tour. I informed her that I was, and to my dismay she informed me that they did not go out on the roof during electrical storms. I didn't take the opportunity to inform her that it was actually a thunderstorm that just happened to have a lot of voltage running through it...

At any rate, she told me I had a couple of options. I could take the tour, sans rooftop, I could re-schedule for later or, my least favorite option: Go on the "Behind the Scenes" tour since they were the same price. I groaned and informed her that I had already taken that tour. She suggested that I take a few minutes to mull it over before I met with my guide and made a decision.

After some bitter thought, I started to head to the information counter having made up my mind to just re-schedule and try my luck later. As I was approaching the counter, another docent saw me and met me halfway. She had correctly assumed that I was her 12:00 tour.

We pretty much covered the same ground as I had with the last lady. My guide, Marilyn, seemed to have a little sense of adventure though. She actually seemed willing to take me so long as I was willing to go. So I thought "Why not?"

One thought that kept crossing my mind through this whole thing though: "Jake. Seriously. You're afraid of heights. So you want to pay $15 for the 'priviledge' of walking on a wet roof? C'mon. You're kidding, right?"

Somehow, I was taken over by a braver soul than my own and actually uttered the words, "Well, I have a hood on my jacket, so it you're willing to take me, let's go!"

Marilyn, completely calm grabbed an umbrella and said, "Follow me."

Now, the whole time I'm talking to her, the realization is creeping up on me that there is no one else here. Don't get me wrong now; there are hundreds of people milling about. The conversation with Marilyn was completely one-on-one though. And I finally realized that my tour would be also.

So I was bummed that I wouldn't get to go out on the roof. I was actually a little relieved about it too if I'm being honest. But I was going to get a personal, private tour of areas of Biltmore House no one else gets to see!!!! The tour normally has a small group of 10-15 people, but the rain was preventing all the sane and rational people from signing up!

Lemme tell ya, on the inside, I was shrieking like those little girls in the thunderstorm!!!!!

(I personally think that was worth more than five exclamation points, so no complaining from the grammar nazi's!)

This tour was beyond words. Marilyn guided me down hallways that no one but staff (and the owners family, I'm sure) get to see. I got to peek into rooms that have yet to be restored and see the condition that the house was in when restoration started. I learned about the process and saw all the many pieces of furniture that were not in use. They use the rooms that aren't open to the public to store all the furniture that is either not needed at the time or has not been restored yet. And since they store like items together, there are literally rooms full of head and foot boards for beds. Rooms full of mirrors. Astounding. Simply astounding.

One of the cool parts was that we even went into and through rooms that were on the normal tour. Except we were standing on the other side of the velvet ropes! It was so cool to be following this guide around from room to room, and when we'd come to a roped off area, she would unclasp the rope from it's pole and allow me to pass through, re-attaching the barrier behind me.

At one point we went into a room that the main tour goes through as well. Except they were on the floor, and we were walking across a little balcony that went around the perimeter of the room!

People were gawking at us. Some of them staring in amazed wonder. More than once, people would stop what they were doing and "eavesdrop" on our conversation to hear about the "insider information" that was being provided to this V.I.P. guest. Okay, not really, but it was fun to pretend I was some special diplomat or something. Truth be told, anyone willing to fork over the 15 extra bucks would have gotten the same treatment.

Well. Maybe not the same. I got a private tour, after all. Tee hee!

To my absolute delight, about halfway through this tour, the rain stopped. The sun broke through the clouds. My heart was all atwitter with anticipation!

When we got to the point where we were ready to head out onto the roof, Marilyn seemed almost as excited as I was! This lady absolutely loves her job, and loves this house. That's why I can remember her name, actually. She did such a phenomenal job and made such an impression on me that actually requested to take her picture when we were all done, and I made sure to get her name tag in clear view to be sure that I never forget her.

Anyway, the reason she was so excited was due not only to the fact that the rain was clearing up so we could head out onto the roof, but because of the mist.

We see the mist and haze around here when the sun breaks through the clouds right after the rain. It's an entirely different story when it happens in the mountains though. It's absolutely stunning! I'm a lover of mountains, and a lover of this house. As it turns out, Marilyn is as well. So she was positively giddy that I would be able to see the house in the mist.

"You're going to be able to get some great pictures today!"


Oh yes. Another absolutely phenomenal surprise. See, you can take as many pictures of the house and grounds as your heart desires (and believe me, my heart took a lot of photos!), but you aren't allowed to take photos or video at all inside the house. I had my camera bag strapped on to take pictures of the house and gardens later, but it never occured to me that since I would be on the roof, I was most definitely outside the house and could snap away.

So like two giddy little schoolgirls, Marilyn and I climbed out onto the roof.

Oh. My. Lord. In. Heaven.

I can't even begin to describe the views I saw that day. Not only the absolutely majestic peaks rising behind the towers and dormers along the roofline of this spectacular castle. Seeing the house itself from above rivals almost anything I have seen before or since.

I got some great pictures, which Cody says are awesome. I'm not as excited. Try as I might, I was not able to capture what I saw in a way that does it justice. Remembering later that night that I had a frickn' video camera in my bag about brought me to tears. I wish more than anything I had remembered it at the time. Alas.

I was on an absolute high the rest of the day. The sun stayed out and warmed things up enough to take of my jacket. I toured the house proper after my super-special-awesome tour was over. The fact that I had been through before made it cool too. Since Cody wasn't with me I was able to stop and hover over the stuff I liked the most or had missed previously. They opened a new wing this year as well, after finally having restored it to it's former glory. Astoundingly beautiful, this "Louis XV Suite" was one of the guest suites in the home. The most beautiful of the rooms in this suite is the "Louis XV Room" itself. Named for the king who inspired the decor, it is absolutely stunning.

Moving on to the gardens and grounds, my trigger finger was firing constantly. I had made it at the tail-end of the peak bloom time in the Azalea Garden, and I was taking all sorts of pictures. Unfortunately, the pounding rains from the week prior had wreaked havoc on these delicate blossoms. While I was indeed able to get some rather nice pictures of the plants in general, with their striking size and color, any close ups were mostly curtailed by the damage caused by all the rain.

I spent a good deal of time in the formal gardens and conservatory, but didn't have much time to walk too far on the grounds. My focus was on the Spring and Azalea Gardens, and I just didn't have the time to walk the rest of the way to the bass pond like I did the last time.

Cody was planning to spend the day tooling around town and had to be back on the grounds by the time the gates closed for the day. When I called him a little before 4pm to let him know I was almost ready, he was already in a parking lot on the grounds waiting for my call. He would have let me keep going until the shut down for the day, but I was trying not to take advantage of his kindness. With just enough time left, I quickly ascended the hill facing the house for some more pictures of the house and foregrounds before Cody came to pick me up.

I'm sure Cody would laugh if you asked him whether I had a good time or not that day. The poor guy. From the moment my hand hit the door handle of the truck until well into dinner over an hour later, my mouth did not stop moving! Like an excited little kid, I talked non-stop and only breathed when necessary for staying conscious.

The day was capped off by a fantastic dinner at a German restaraunt, which made us both quite happy (and full)!

The following morning, we headed off to pick up the last (and highest) leg of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We went through a little faster than either of us really wanted to, as there was (surpise, surprise) rain forecasted for that afternoon. Since we would be twice as high as we were when we drove through Shenandoah, we knew we didn't want to get stuck in the mountains when the thunderstorms arrived.

We did manage to take a quick hike to another waterfall though. Not as high as the one we saw earlier in the week, but it was a bit wider with a lot more volume. The sun being out was a nice touch, as was the puppy that was playing in the water with his humans. I think Cody was more enamored with the puppy than the waterfall to be honest. He mentioned the possibility of dog-napping more than once.

Having made it to the entrance of Smoky Mountain National Park without incident, we popped into a gift shop/information center to fulfill our mission of purchasing the souvenirs we never got two years ago.

Unfortunately, as we headed out across the park, it started to rain. Nay. POUR. A good, heavy, soaking mountain rain. I had to drive up and over the mountain in it. Mountain roads don't really bother me, but when it's raining that hard, it's another story entirely. Add to that the SUV that was crawling up my ass the entire time (despite my going 5-10 mph over the speed limit), and it was a little aggravating!

It finally stopped raining by the time we got through the park into Gatlinburg, and we stopped to be tourists for a bit. We had such a blast the last time we were there that we just "had" to stop again since we had time. Forgetting that there's not much to do except shop unless you've got time and money, we basically paid $8 to park there long enough to walk the strip and have a late lunch. Ah well. What are you going to do?

We actually popped into a fairly large Christmas store (who's surprised here?) in Pigeon Forge, which I was totally unimpressed with. There wasn't a whole lot there that fit my taste, and the stuff that was to my liking was over-priced and then some. That's saying a lot coming from me. As much as I love all things Christmas, I'm quite accustomed to over-paying for glitzy and gaudy. So when I think you're charging to much, that's something.

The rest of the day was a fairly uneventful, but beautiful drive through the mountains of Tennessee and Virginia to our hotel in I-forget-the-name-of-the-town.

I have to stop here and say this: We drove a LOT on this vacation. Ohio to Pennsylvania to Virginia, passing through Maryland and West Virginia along the way. On through North Carolina to South Carolina and eventually to Georgia. Back through the Carolinas, through Tennessee and on to Virginia. Up through West Virginia and straight up through Ohio.

Tennessee wins the contest for worst drivers. Ever. Hands down.

Had to get that off my chest.

The drive from Virginia back home was fairly nice, although I was quite aggravated with the weather. After spending a week in 75 to 85+ degree weather, spending my days and nights where palm trees grow naturally in the ground and not just in pots in greenhouses, coming home to 62 degrees and having to put pants on just to unload the truck was not my idea of a good time!

Okay, that was long to say the least. Hopefully that will placate you for a little while.

What's that? Pictures?


Yeah, yeah... Sometime this week, I promise. But it's 10:30 on a Saturday morning, the sun is shining and I'm still in my pajamas. Y'all are gonna have to wait.