Labor Day in North Carolina

8 Sep

For the Labor Day weekend, Travis and I flew out to visit our good friends, Mark and Sarah, and their 2-year-old daughter, Ellie. They live in Charlotte, NC, but we actually didn’t spend much time there. Our flight left at 6:15 on Friday morning (meaning our wake-up call came at 3:30!) and everything went smoothly. We were relieved to not have to check our suitcases at the gate due to full overhead bins.

We arrived in Charlotte around 3 pm and Sarah and Ellie picked us up from the airport. Mark met us at their house and we spent the evening catching up and eating a delicious home-cooked meal – cheesy beer chicken and noodles, garlic bread, and cooked broccoli. It was so good, I went back for seconds. Even though in Denver time it was only 7:30, we went to bed at 9:30 Charlotte time. We were exhausted!

The next morning, we got up around 7:45, took showers, ate breakfast and packed up for our trip up to Sarah’s parents’ cabin in the Smoky Mountains. It’s in Transylvania County, which is also known as the Land of Waterfalls. The elevation increases 2,000 feet in 4 miles and it rains 80 inches a year, so it’s technically considered a rainforest (and it definitely looks like one with all the kudzu growing everywhere!).

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On our way up to the cabin, we stopped at Sky Top Orchard to pick apples and eat some apple donuts. I hadn’t been apple picking in forever so it was fun to be there, but I have to admit that the humidity slightly ruined it for me. I’m not cut out for that anymore! It just makes me feel exhausted and sleepy. So we only stayed at the orchard for about an hour and a half.

Travis was the wagon puller.

Of course, we had to get some Honeycrisp. The orchard had actually picked all the Honeycrisp trees clean that morning but we found some decent ones on the ground and got them for 1/2 off. They were still delicious!

Some of the trees had tons of apples on them – very pretty.

They’re such a cute little family! Sarah is pregnant with their second child, due in February. She finds out today whether it’s a boy or a girl!

After picking apples, we ate the sandwiches we brought and some fresh, hot apple donuts. They were so yummy – I could have eaten all 6 of them.

We drove another hour and a half on the windy mountain roads and then stopped at a roadside store that sells boiled peanuts. The store has been there since 1947 and is a tradition with Sarah’s family. All I can say is that I think boiled peanuts are gross. Travis said that he thought that when he first tried them too but he muscled through half the bag and then they started tasting good. I don’t know why he does that. I did not muscle through. I ate 2 and decided that they were not for me. Kind of like pork rinds. Ew.

Finally, we got to the cabin.

After we unloaded and chose our bedrooms, Mark, Travis and I took a walk around the neighborhood to see all the unique houses and pretty gardens while Sarah and Ellie napped. When we returned, we read and hung out for a while and then ate dinner – North Carolina-style BBQ, bean medley, and mac & cheese. We watched TV for a bit until I started falling asleep. I got my second wind to play 2 games of Scrabble and won the last game (though Mark would have won if he had remembered to play Qi, which is a special word for Chinese life force). Then it was off to bed.

The room that Travis and I slept in had french doors that opened out on to the screen porch, so we left the doors open at night to let the mountain air blow in.

We slept in until 9:30 both mornings we were there! That was one of the many great things about this trip – it was very relaxing. We got a lot of good time to just hang out and talk with Mark and Sarah and be amused by Ellie. She is so cute and hilarious. I hope our kids are as cute someday!

Sunday morning, we ate breakfast (banana pancakes made by Mark) and then hiked up one of the mountains nearby. The hike was no joke! It was challenging for me, I think mostly because of the humidity (it’s amazing how much that makes it hard to breathe just like high elevation), but maybe also because I hadn’t hiked since the Fourth of July. I have discovered time and time again that triathlon/running shape does not equal hiking shape. I must admit that I was very frustrated on the way up during this hike because it seemed like everyone else, including Sarah who’s pregnant, was in better shape than me! They were just moseying up the mountain while I was hacking up a lung. This just reveals my pride in being “athletic” – something for another blog post.

Nonetheless, we made it to the top. The view was definitely worth it.

I called this a Beach Project picture because it was so bright where we were looking (though you wouldn’t guess it from the clouds) that I could barely keep my eyes open. That’s why I look slightly weird.

I’m not particularly fond of this picture but I’m including it just to show the massive sweat stains on my shirt. I was disgustingly sweaty from the hike up. Ew. Ew. EW. Luckily my shirt was dri-fit so the sweat evaporated fairly quickly.

After our hike, we grabbed some snacks to tide us over and went to a place the locals call “Little Sliding Rock.” Instead of explaining what it is, I’ll just post pics.

It’s a rock you can slide down. Mark and Sarah said that this was the busiest they had ever seen it so I only went down twice. The first time, a couple of little girls starting sliding down from the deep hole (see below) right as I was coming down and I ended up running into one. I pulled her to the surface to make sure she was ok. (She was.) Whoops.

That’s Travis going down the rocks. In the upper right, you can see kids hanging out in the middle of the rock. That was actually a huge hole – so deep that kids were literally jumping off the rock into it. It was also a popular hang out spot although the water was so cold, I didn’t really see the fun in hanging out in it.

Travis and Mark went down several more times and even pushed each other down so they’d go faster. Boys.

Nice and refreshed, we went back to the cabin for a nap and dinner. We had steaks with sweet potatoes and salad. Another delicious meal! Mark and Sarah really fed us well. 😉 I also had about 2 Mike’s Hard Lemonades a day. Calories don’t count on vacation, right? After dinner, we got sucked into watching a Dateline Mystery. Sarah said that SNL has done a spoof on the narrator guy. He was pretty hilarious to listen to. I’ve never heard so many rhetorical questions be answered by the person who asked them. Then we played 2 more games of Scrabble and hit the sack.

I woke up around 4 am to what I thought was a really loud fan in our room. Nope, it was rain. We had known it was supposed to start raining during the night and continue all the next day – in fact, the weather reports listed the chance of precipitation as 100%. There was no chance it was not going to rain. And they were right. It rained all day. I welcomed it, though, because it was such a nice change of pace from Colorado where it has been 95 degrees and sunny everyday. (Who knew that cloudy days once in a while could be nice?)

We just kind of bummed around the cabin until late morning and then headed over to Highlands, a nearby town. We shopped for a while, ate lunch accompanied by delicious white hot chocolate, then went back to the cabin. The boys went to a waterfall and swam in the natural pool at the bottom while Sarah and I enjoyed listening to the rain and reading. When they got back, it was time to pack up and head back to Charlotte.

On the drive back, we stopped for a true Southern meal at Waffle House. There are Waffle Houses out here in Denver but somehow, it just doesn’t seem the same. I had an egg and cheese biscuit with a side of grits. You could not have fit one more plate on our table, we had so much food!

We got back to Charlotte around 10 pm, just in time to go to bed. The next morning, we showered, ate breakfast and left for the airport around 10:10… we were supposed to leave for the airport at 9:30 for our 11:30 flight but that didn’t happen. The security line was ridiculously slow – I get so frustrated at the security personnel. They lolligag and take their sweet freaking time while the rest of us are frantically trying to get through because we’re about to miss our plane. To add to that, I forgot I was wearing a belt and didn’t take it off when I went through the full-body scanner (that’s the first time I had to do that!) so I required an additional pat down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to stand there for a couple of minutes while the security lady watched another guy go through the scanner. I wanted to be like, “Hello! I am going to miss my plane. Can you hurry the eff up?”

Travis and I ran to our gate and arrived just as they were starting to board. Whew. We made it.

Our connecting flight in Minneapolis was only slightly less eventful. When we got off our plane from Charlotte, I looked at the departures board and I swear it said our gate was C4 – on the complete opposite side of the airport. Since we had an hour and 15 minutes, we decided to eat lunch at Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Express. Despite the debaucle of their ordering system, I had a very delicious Chicken Tortilla soup with avocado and goat cheese – seriously, I will use that idea myself. The goat cheese melts so it’s like sour cream, only healthier.

Lunch eaten, we headed to our gate. Only it wasn’t our gate. It was for a flight to Philadelphia. Maybe it was C7? Nope. Hmmm… we went and looked at another Departures board.

Our gate was F9.

Are you joking?

We had to walk all the way back around the airport. Travis was mad. I was mad at his being mad, in addition to my mind reeling. What? How did I think it was C4? Did I remember that from the Charlotte airport – no, that was an A gate. Did I look up Charlotte instead of Denver? No, that gate was for a Philadelphia flight. Do I even remember looking at the Departures board? I must’ve because Travis said I did. 

A slight redemption came when we made it to F9 and there was a little old lady who was also at the wrong gate. The airline employee said that the gate had been switched and she now needed G17 instead of F9. Maybe that’s what happened to us?

Either way, we made our second flight as well. The only bummer was that they made us check our suitcases at the gate, and then proceeded to let people on behind us with their luggage. We were slightly annoyed. I am not impressed with Delta’s overhead bins at all. But they do give out free pretzels. Bins or pretzels? Bins or pretzels?

Overall, our trip to NC was very fun and relaxing. I hope to see Mark and Sarah again soon!

{Just a quick note – things at work have finally picked up, so my blog posts and comments will probably be a little more sporadic. But I’ll still try to post and keep up with your blogs as much as I can!} 

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