17. August 2011 · Comments Off on Wordless Wednesday: A Sneak Peek of My Next Post · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
15. August 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
This is officially called “The Confederate Memorial on Stone Mountain”.  It’s the largest relief carving in the world…at least until the Crazy Horse Monument is finished.  We all know who the guys are…who knows the horses’ names?

As I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post about The Varsity, the only truly scheduled activity we had coming into Atlanta was a Sunday afternoon Braves game.  So we had the entire city of Atlanta at our disposal for sightseeing.

What to do…what to do…

Most families staying in downtown Atlanta would have considered the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN Center tour, and/or the World of Coca-Cola.  Zoo Atlanta would have been a good option too…if it weren’t for the incredible heat.

Dave, in his typical train-fan fashion, knew of a tourist scenic railroad in the area.  So that’s what we sought to do.  We decided to grab some same-day tickets to the Saturday night Braves game, and then headed out for the day to Stone Mountain Park which is about 15 miles east of Atlanta.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect — several folks at the hotel breakfast area told us we’d have a good time and that there was “so much to do!”.

Those folks were right!  Stone Mountain Park is very beautiful and there was no shortage of things to do!  We didn’t quite dress for hiking up the mountain (and Dave’s back wouldn’t have been to happy with it either), but we were able to enjoy the scenic train, the skytram right to the top of the mountain, a ferryboat ride, and a fun — touristy — lunch where our yeast rolls were thrown to us by our servers!

Dave and I really enjoyed the Civil War history that’s been memorialized at the park — of course there’s the beautiful bas relief sculpture of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (and their horses!).  There is also an antebellum mansion to tour, and a Confederate Museum.

One could visit the park and make a complete vacation experience out of it — from campsite to the Stone Mountain Inn, you can stay on the property.  If you want to do outdoor activities, there’s hiking, biking, golf and boating to be had!  If you prefer indoor air conditioned stuff, there are the museums, the shops and lots of exhibits and demonstrations.

Stone Mountain is a fascination in and of itself: the dome of cooled magma, which soon became granite rock, poked up over the surrounding geology, rising over 800′ above the surrounding area.  There are gentle rolling hills around Atlanta, but Stone Mountain sticks up pretty high…

While you could pay individually for each of the activities we did, we instead took advantage of the one-day “Adventure Pass”.  This let us do just about all the theme-park activities (there’s this “Ride the Duck” attraction that wasn’t included, but that’s okay).  We had a military discount of $3 off each ticket, yay!

Perhaps because it was August in Georgia, who knows?  The park was not crowded at all even on a Saturday, there were little-to-no lines for any of the activities we wanted to enjoy.

First, the 5 mile train ride around the base of the mountain.

The engine that pulled us.

This is the walking trail up to the top (as seen from the train) — it’s straight up the sheer rock surface so it can get quite dangerous if it were rainy.

Next we enjoyed a touristy Southern comfort food lunch at an in-park restaurant called “Miss Katie’s”.  They’re known for throwing the yeast rolls at you.  I didn’t get a picture of this gimmick, but here’s a picture I found off the web of a Miss Katie’s server throwing a roll, from the Epicurean Family Blog:

We enjoyed southern fried chicken and chicken and dumplings for lunch.  Along with free tossed rolls, fried dill pickles, fried sweet potatoes and free fried onion petals…we were glad we ordered 2 entrees and 1 kid’s meal for the 4 of us!

The lunch was yummy, but unfortunately was priced for tourists and our lunch for 4 was over $50.

After lunch we visited the air conditioned Yogi Bear’s 4D Adventure.  This was merely a stitching-together of 12-minutes worth of scenes from the 2010 movie Yogi Bear…the 3D version.  But we were in a theater that added in real water and wind effects.  We had seen Yogi Bear this past spring but it was fun to experience the water and wind effects.

This is what I usually get from Jacob these days when I say “Smile for the camera!”

Next we visited the Summit Skyride, which was the gondola ride to the top of the mountain.  The gondola has a capacity of 13,000 lbs., and when we were loading up, it was rather freaky seeing the load weight – displayed in tons – get higher and higher.  Luckily, everyone fit on board at 5.1 tons.

We enjoyed the views from the top of the mountain.

Can you see the Atlanta skyline out there?  Trust me, it’s out there!

I have a lot of peak pictures of Dave: here and here.  I have one of him on North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain too…but that’ll have to wait till I get home and dig into my photo archives.

I think this is the very peak of the mountain.  But I could be wrong….

Timmy was very curious about these circular depressions in the granite.  It’s from rainwater “soaking” some of the softer minerals in the rock…when the water evaporated, the dissolved minerals would go with it.

This is the very pretty — and very rare — Confederate yellow daisy.  There’s a festival in September to celebrate it’s full bloom, but they were just starting up about this time of year.

Jacob took this nice picture of Dave and me…I like the rainshower on the left side of the picture, in the background.

This black swallowtail butterfly was fluttering among the yellow daisies.  Way up on top of the mountain.  Love how my 12x zoom captured even the detail of the granite of the mountain top.  There was a tiger swallowtail, too, but he wouldn’t land anywhere for me to photograph him.

We cooled off at the air conditioned Memorial Hall Museum, which has exhibits about the geology of the mountain…and a lot of the Native American and early American artifacts found nearby, as well as exhibits about the making of the bas relief sculpture and the Civil War history in the area.

Did you know?  The original sculptor of the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial was Gutzon Borglum…his design wasn’t used due to differences the artist had with his financial backers in the mid-1920s.  Borglum smashed the models of his designs and left Georgia in anger in 1925.  He went to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota to design and oversee its construction from 1927-1941.

The Memorial Hall Museum.

A view of the “Memorial Lawn” – laser light shows are held every night at 9:30pm during the summer.  We’d have loved to have seen one; apparently their lightshow rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is pretty well known.

Finally, and by this time we were all tired and sore from the walking around, we ended our day at Stone Mountain Park with a ride on their riverboat Scarlett O’Hara.

Dave might actually be sleeping here…we were all pretty tired by this point.

View of Stone Mountain from the riverboat.

We were very glad we chose a day at Stone Mountain Park over the more common tourist destinations in Atlanta!  It was nice to get some fresh — albeit hot — air, and learn more about Georgia’s nature and history.

14. August 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

We took a long weekend and headed up to Atlanta. It’s about a 5.5 hour drive with no stops, plus we have a time zone change. We had nice seats at a Sunday afternoon Atlanta Braves game, and we booked a hotel room at a Comfort Inn right next to Turner Field, so we didn’t have to deal with (or pay for) parking.

Other than the Sunday afternoon baseball game, we had all of Atlanta to explore with our sons — but admittedly they were mostly interested in the baseball. We ended up taking advantage of a same-day ticket promotion the Braves Baseball club has for military members: 2-for-1 Upper Box tickets. So we will see two games this weekend.  More about that later.

Last night when we rolled into town, I dragged the family to one of Atlanta’s most famous restaurants, The Varsity. Those fans of Rick Sebak documentaries will recognize this restaurant from his 1999 A Hot Dog Program.

Tangent: That documentary fascinates me.  I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, necessarily, but I will admit that I enjoy a hot dog on occasion, and more than the food itself is the culture and the people that go into all the unique hot dog stands/restaurants across the country.  Not that I’m necessarily keeping a list, but The Varsity is the 2nd of the restaurants featured on the program.  We visited Gray’s Papaya in Manhattan in November 2005.  Cheapest lunch in Manhattan!  And a trip to the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island is on my bucket list.  Really, it is!

But back to The Varsity: Dave and I will be the first to admit, the food isn’t earth-shatteringly good.  You aren’t going for gourmet cuisine…you’re going for the fast, cheap (dinner for 4 = ~$25!), consistent food.  And the atmosphere!  Folk who’ve been there before will all warn you: at the front counters where you order is a cacophony of “Whaddaya have?  Whaddaya have?” from the dozens of employees all wearing their trademark red paper hats (which are available to the customers).

The drive-in was put near Georgia Tech and on a GT football game weekend is one of the busiest spots in Atlanta — the brick building in the background is on Georgia Tech’s campus, in fact.

A good old fashioned drive-in — America’s largest, in fact!  The drive in part is a cash-only operation as you are paying and getting change from the bellhops directly.  The food is brought to you on one of those trays they clip to your car door.

I didn’t get a picture of the front entrance, but this is the just-as-retro side entrance.  Here’s a picture of the street-side entrance.

There isn’t much to the menu.  Hot dogs, burgers, and that chicken sandwich in the lower right corner.  There are a few other things, but really…not much.  They have this orange frosty drink that I wish I had tried, supposed to taste like orange sherbert!  You can also get a feel for how (relatively) cheap meals are — this is downtown Atlanta, where McDonald’s combo meals cost the same!

The paper hats are available to anyone.  The kids enjoyed wearing them with dinner.

This was my dinner….the #1 Combo.  No points for presentation, that’s for sure.  But lots of points for the look and taste of a classic chili dog dinner!  You probably can’t see through the chili and mustard, but the buns are sliced down the center instead of split side-wise like buns you purchase at a grocery store.

Timmy got the #6 combo: Two “naked” dogs.  He loved that!  You can see better the unusually-split hot dog buns on his plate.  Timmy devoured his dogs and called them the best dogs he’d ever had — and he’s had a lot of hot dogs in his life!

Dave and Jacob had burgers…and Jacob had this chili-cheeseburger that was REALLY a heart-attack on a plate!  Jacob loved the hot-dog style chili so much he asked if he could get a bowl of it in addition to his dinner combo.  Sadly, they only come as side condiments, but being the ever-doting mother that I am, I bought him two little cups of the chili (for $0.80 total) and he ate those.

And then I bought a can of it to take home.  It’s clearly hot dog chili, not really meant to be eaten by the bowlful.  Jacob’s still not convinced of that…after we have that can, I found this Crock Pot recipe that I’ll be trying out for sure!

Jacob wants to go back before the end of the weekend, but Dave and I aren’t sure our GI systems will ensure two trips in one weekend.  We still are planning a trip to Dwarf House before we go home on Monday…

The verdict?  The Varsity is full of history, and their classic chili dogs are an Atlanta tradition that’s worth trying.  It’s cheap, family friendly and close to Atlanta’s biggest tourist attractions.  Worth a visit!

03. August 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
Pardon the glare, I had the window down on the driver’s side, but not the passenger’s side of the car.

On this last trip, I changed things up and bit and took US Route 231/431 up the eastern border of Alabama.  This took us through Dothan, AL and Columbus, GA.  In the past we’ve gone through Montgomery, AL to head towards I-85.

About halfway through this north-south route was a town called Eufaula, Alabama, which sits on a gorgeous lake that straddles the Alabama/Georgia border.  The Wikipedia link will describe the town’s antebellum and post-Reconstruction wealth, and this was evident in how gorgeous this town is.  Luckily, the town was (barely) spared during the American Civil War.  This visitor’s guide has more information about the town’s history, and how the surrender at Appomatox might have spared the beautiful homes!

Not only are there the beautiful buildings and impeccable landscaping, but the lake that winds through the town makes it a popular vacation spot for southern sportsmen.  I saw so many boats and RVs traveling up and down US 231/431, likely headed for Lake Eufaula (also known as Walter F. George Lake, named after a Georgia Senator, so it’s mainly those on the Georgia side who give it the latter name).

Eufaula hosts a traditional Southern pilgrimage every spring, I’d be interested in heading up there and touring some of the historic homes.

When driving north last Wednesday through the town, I was delighted at how beautiful it was.  I made a plan to drive r-e-a-l s-l-o-w down N. Eufaula Street on the return trip on Sunday with my arm out the window with the camera.  That’s precisely what I did.  Enjoy these pictures I took…the traffic was very light and I was able to go about 15 mph down N. Eufaula Street.

The streets are lined with live oaks and beautiful local flowers.

I want to live here 🙂

Shorter Mansion is a museum.

03. August 2011 · Comments Off on Road Trip II 2011: Technology Can Make Those Long Drives Interesting! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

I have a geeky obsession.

“Say it ain’t so Major Mom!”

We have a 2006 Toyota Prius, which we absolutely LOVE!  Sometimes Dave and I wish we had a Mustang instead for the coolness factor, but the practical side of us really appreciates having this car!  All the techno-gadgetry is a Geek Dream come true!

Last week I drove from the Florida panhandle up to Long Island to pick up the kids from their grandparents’ house, where they had spent the 2nd half of July.  This meant two days of driving all. by. myself.  I actually welcomed this, it was a beautiful drive — particularly among the pecan farms of eastern Alabama, and I had minimal traffic and weather problems.  I was well rested, and made sure to eat healthy foods on the road so I didn’t have food comas or tummy troubles on the drive.

I try to keep my brain engaged on my drives, and with the Prius I had not one but two mental exercises that kept those dull kudzu-covered stretches of I-85 tolerable.

Activity #1: Guess What Time I’ll Arrive

Garmin GPSes feature a definitive arrival time.  Ten points to anyone who can guess where this is!!!!  Oh wait, the name of the city is written right there on the screen…never mind!

I have a Garmin StreetPilot c340 GPS, circa 2006, I guess.  It’s older, but it still works.  We updated the maps in 2008 but haven’t done it since.  Unlike our Honda Pilot’s built-in GPS system which tells us how many hours/minutes until our arrival (independent of what time it is), our Garmin presents in the lower left corner the calculated arrival time.  This is great because I can pass along this information to friends and family when I’m getting near my destination.

That anticipated arrival time isn’t very accurate when you pull out of your driveway at 7am with an 11-hour drive ahead.  Last Wednesday I decided to try to arrive at my sister’s in North Carolina as close to the arrival time shown as of 6:15am Central Time.  The arrival time shown when I pulled out of my driveway: 6:08pm Eastern Time.

Equipped with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sodas, water, fruit and nuts, I only had to stop for gas and bathroom breaks, and didn’t even feel the need to buy any food on the road.  I only needed to put gas in the car every 300-350 miles, so I attempted to stop every 150 miles or so just to keep the blood circulating.  Every other stop was a gas stop.

When I stopped — whether for gas, a restroom break or even at a traffic light in some of the small towns I drove through — I’d see that arrival time tick upwards and I’d get frustrated.  When I’d cruise on the interstates at 5-7mph over the speed limit, I’d happily see the minutes peel off the arrival time…about 5-6 minutes per hour.

I arrived at my sister’s house at 6:13pm Eastern Time, 5 minutes later than the GPS predicted I would.

Once the kids were in the car with me for the return trip, there was no way I could play such a game.  But on Day 1 it was fun and kept my brain engaged!

Activity #2: Maximize the Mileage

This is why it’s wonderful to own a Toyota Prius!

Having a Prius means having that nifty screen in the center of the dashboard that can continuously update your mileage.  It’s admittedly quite a distraction when you first get the car, but now I’ve learned to tune it out and pay attention to the road.  On this trip, however, I was greeted with incredible mileages and it made me return my attention to the console.  And it became somewhat of a challenge for me — how high can I get this mileage???

I wrote about this a little bit last week.  This picture was taken at a rest stop on the New Jersey turnpike on Day 2 of the trip. The previous day only averaged about 45-48mpg, so I was particularly surprised at this.  I’d NEVER seen the mileage this good in all the 5 1/2 years we’d owned this car.  With a Prius, the braking action returns energy to the battery.  On I-95, the New Jersey Turnpike and in New York, there was plenty of braking as the traffic was very tight, but moving quickly.  This means more battery use, less gas use.

It turned out my route between Washington, D.C. and my destination on Long Island provided the ideal conditions for maximizing the Prius’s mileage: not too fast, not that much terrain, and plenty of soft braking action, which is more fuel efficient than hard braking/stopping, such as at traffic lights.

There were off and on rain showers, which isn’t as great on the mileage because the windshield wipers and headlights were on…those accessories compete with the engine for battery energy.

However, the temperatures weren’t that high for most of the route, and this meant little-to-no air conditioning.  Also good for the mileage!

If you are a hybrid vehicle owner and would like to learn more about how to maximize the mileage, check out this list of tips.

Now we’re all home again safely, with no more travel for a few weeks.  There’s another trip coming up, but it’s just a quick weekend jaunt up to Atlanta for some sightseeing with the kids…

29. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

First I’ll greet you with this super cool picture:

This is why it’s wonderful to own a Toyota Prius!

Yesterday and today I drove up to Long Island to pick up our boys from Dave’s parents’ house.  Since it was a quick trip and could pack lightly, I was able to take our Prius, and since the conditions worked out well enough, I was able to score over 50mpg today!  Yesterday, in the 100F+ heat coming up I-85 with full A/C and very little use of the brakes, the mileage was more like 46-48mpg.  Once I got on I-95 where you can’t just set the cruise control and the temperatures today were mostly in the 80s (it was raining most of my time in New Jersey).

I’m pretty beat from the drive, but not at all in a bad way.  I enjoy driving, and it was downright peaceful getting to enjoy the scenery with hungry, bored, or fighting kids.  I was pretty worried about making the I-95 trek from Petersburg, VA all the way to New York City…to the point I even asked some Facebook friends their opinions of using U.S. 13 up the Delmarva Peninsula instead!  According to Google Maps, taking US 13 would add about 60 miles and 70 minutes to my trip.  I left my stopover point (my sister’s house in NC) at the right time to go ahead and stay on I-95…I made it through (not around, through) Washington, D.C. around 11am, through Baltimore around 12pm, and through Wilmington, DE around 2pm.  I crossed the Verrazano Narrows Bridge just before 4pm…which is about when the traffic started getting bad.

I also want to write about the airliners I kept encountering on their final approaches (ATL, CLT, DCA, BWI and JFK), as well as the beautiful town of Eufaula, Alabama.  That’s for when I’m awake…

08. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
Easter 2011.

I’ve gotta admit it — my boys travel VERY VERY VERY well. From Jacob and the Amtrak Auto Train to see family at 9 months old, to Timmy and a trip up to North Carolina to find a new house at 4 months old, our boys have learned that long automobile trips are part of the military lifestyle…

I also have to admit that I really enjoy traveling and I like to think that I travel pretty well. But probably not as well as I used to travel, when I’d work a full Air Force day and then hop in the car and drive from Fort Polk, LA to Keesler AFB, MS to spend the weekend with Dave while he was TDY.

(Oops, did I say that out loud?)

Right after Christmas 2006, I took the boys on a 2-week trip to New York and New Hampshire to give Dave some time to prepare for his comprehensive exams while he was at NC State. People thought I was CRAZY, but it turned out to be a really great trip.

January 2006.  Jacob has always been such an angel in the car!

Last month Dave and I parted ways about halfway through our vacation.  I continued northward to Vermont, while Dave caught a flight out of Harrisburg back home since he had to return to work.  Again, folks commented about how brave I am…or how crazy I am to make such trips on my own.

I love driving.  I guess I get it from my Dad.  My sister is the same way — after all, she and her husband drove with their THREE sons from North Carolina to Nevada, taking a “southern route” westbound and a “northern route” (including our house in Nebraska) when they returned eastbound.

In every other way, traveling solo with my sons was great.  I only had one issue: rest stop restrooms.

I’ve put up a blog poll about this before: At what age is your child old enough to go into a public restroom on his/her own?

I believe most of my responses were in the 7- to 8-year-old range.

So here I am, stopping on I-81, the New York State Thruway and I-65 rest areas and was just sending my sons into the restrooms.  But I was GLUED to the exit door waiting for them…my ears were really close to that doorway listening for them making sure they weren’t abducted.

Since I made it back to Florida with both boys in tow, it’s safe to assume that my sons survived the rest area restrooms.  But this leg of the trip certainly got me thinking about how single parents do it — traveling and trusting their babies in roadside restrooms.

Some other tips on how we handled the 50+ hours in the car with two young boys:

  • I will admit, we have the built-in DVD player.  But we put some planning into how much the kids use it.  For starters, we have a “30-minute rule” in our SUV: no movies unless we’re traveling more than 30 minutes.  But on longer road trips, I insist that the boys put some space between their movies, especially of there are particularly scenic parts to the trip (such as driving through downtown Atlanta or crossing the Hudson River on this last trip).
  • I will also admit (boy, I’m doing a lot of “admitting” here, aren’t I?) that my boys have Nintendo DSi’s (pardon the apostrophe, not sure whether it’s used here like this or what….).  On the first day of our road trip, I didn’t give much thought to Jacob having played his DSi for nearly the entire day’s worth of driving!  And that was a long day!  Oops…
  • Don’t rule out good-old fashioned road trip games: The License Plate Game, Auto Bingo, and I Spy are all family favorites!  
  • I’ve heard of other families doing this with success, you could try using the rest area or fuel stops as break points between media: perhaps 2 hours for a DVD, then 2 hours of Nintendo, then 2 hours of “looking out the window”.
  • With young kids, don’t forget to try to work in some activity time to make the hours of sitting less terrible.  Stop for lunch at a Chick-Fil-A with a kids’ play area, or find a rest stop on your route with a playground and pack a picnic lunch.  Dave and I used to frequent the Amtrak Auto Train station in Lorton, VA as a rest area when we’d make our drives from North Carolina to Pennsylvania or New York: there’s a nice playground, and at lunchtime the kids would enjoy seeing the vehicles getting loaded onto the train cars.
08. July 2011 · Comments Off on Road Trip 2011: Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
This is our just-finished-packing-on-the-first-warm-day-of-our-campout-pooped picture. 

Meet Megan, who was my college roommate for my last two years at PSU.  She has a son about Jacob’s age.  Every couple of years we try to get together to hang out.  We aren’t formal about it or anything, but in recent years we’ve been able to take turns with visits and the last time we spent time together was at Dave’s family reunion in 2008 (I think it was 2008….).

So this time it was the Vollmers’ turn to make a trip up a bit closer to Megan; we discussed getting together for a mother/son campout somewhere between Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.  The Poconos and Catskills came to mind.  Megan found out that her favorite music group, Michael Franti and Spearhead, were headlining the Wanderlust Yoga Festival near Stratton, Vermont at the same time we were planning to get together.  We decided to go!

Michael Franti’s uplifting music is a lot of fun to listen to, his most recent album, The Sound of Sunshine, is so full of fun and happiness.  His band is well known for their Top 20 hit “Say Hey (I Love You)“.

We met up at Bald Mountain Campground near Townshend, Vermont.  The weather was pretty rainy and cool most of our time there, with high temperatures near 60F.  I wrote more about the camping itself earlier this week.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest yoga enthusiast!  I have gone to classes before, I know the basic moves, and I guess I’m okay at it.  When I saw the other music groups involved there turned out to be a couple of bands that my sister really likes and have heard before and cinched even more that it would be a good time.

Because of the kids (and our lack of enthusiasm for yoga), we didn’t sign up for any yoga classes but there was still plenty to do before the music.  I think it was in part due to the rain, but the concert went later than we thought, and I have to admit my kids were pretty tired by the time it started.  And they were wet.  But when they broke out several dozen beach balls to toss around the crowds during the song “Sound of Sunshine“, the kids suddenly got pretty happy!  Enjoy some pictures from our day!

The festival was held at the Stratton Ski Resort village, these stilt-walkers were roaming the festival.

I thought these pop-up recycling bins were cool.  One of the openings was actually for compost!

A circus performer was teaching the kids to spin plates, use “diabolos“, and juggle beanbags 

An acrobatic act was going on right in front of us while the kids were enjoying their juggling lessons.

Another stilt-walker.  Note the low clouds coming over the mountain — it rained off and on all day.

Michael Franti led a yoga session.  We stood at the back of the tent and listened.

These are the Mayapuris, a Krishna-inspired kirtan band from Alachua, Florida.  Their music was so wonderful!   

I only had my iPhone camera on this trip, so it was working extra hard to capture concert pictures after sunset!  Here’s Michael Franti himself!
02. July 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
This is what much of my drive up I-59 and I-81 looked like last month.

If you’re unfamiliar with the southeastern U.S., you might have never seen this.  Having lived in North Carolina for 3 years, there were areas where we came to expect it.

So…what is kudzu?  You can read the details, from the taxonomy to the history, on Wikipedia.  To summarize, kudzu is an Asian-native vine that was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s and was encouraged as a soil-erosion control near interstate highways.  Today, the vine is significantly invasive, covering complete mountainsides throughout the Appalachians.

I saw it all over the place on our drive up I-59 and I-81…and it was disturbingly fascinating seeing it in its prime after living in non-kudzu-infested Nebraska for 2 1/2 years.  The vines allegedly can grow one FOOT per day…and there are even legends of folks hearing the vine as it grows!  It covers hillsides, meadows, trees, buildings, power poles and even electrical lines like an enormous plush green blanket.

Kudzu is indeed edible, and on Alton Brown’s 2006 television special Feasting on Asphalt, Brown stopped in Cashiers, NC and demonstrated how you can cut the youngest leaves for salad.  Kudzu is also used to make jelly, soaps and lotions.  The Asians have claimed kudzu’s medicinal benefits.

There’s been recent research about letting cattle graze on kudzu, both as an attempt to control the plant, but also for the benefit of the cattle, since it would be cheap, nutritious feed.  Others have come up with ways to profit from kudzu.

This biking blogger offers some more history and perspective on the weed.  In particular like the map he cites showing the kudzu growth areas in the U.S.

02. July 2011 · Comments Off on Road Trip 2011: A Test and a Cute Picture · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

This is a test to see if my e-mail customers are getting my posts.  Meanwhile enjoy this picture of the boys shoveling coal at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania: