Lake Lure, North Carolina Nov 14 – 21

From Alan:

Lake Lure, North Carolina
Population = 1192, Latitude 35º 26’ N, longitude 82 º 11’ W, Elevation = 1125 feet above sea level. Average January low temperature = 21.3, July high = 83. Average sunny days = 218, annual snowfall = 3.6 inches.

Our place in Fairfield Bay was snuggled into the rolling hills of the Ozarks. Lake Lure is perched on the mountainsides of the Appalachians. It took a few days to get used to driving on those roads, but gradually, it became less hair-raising. You have to get over your fear of plunging to your death over the edge of the road and just play the video game that is your windshield. It helps to lean into the sharply banked curves.

VideoGame
Playing the video game windshield.

The lake is a sparkling jewel, surrounded by foothills and mountains. The elevation stated is for the lake itself. Add about 500 feet straight up to account for the homes people have somehow managed to build on the mountain tops around the lake. I’m sure the view is amazing, but the commute must be tough.

lakeview
A cloudy day on Lake Lure

During the summer, Lake Lure is a vacation destination where the city folk come to escape from the North Carolina heat and humidity. Flocks of pontoon boats and flotillas of fishing boats ply the cold, clear water. We arrived after the lake season was over. There were still canoes for rent but that would have been a very cold day. Instead we played some golf. The courses here were much less strenuous than the evil ones in Branson. We were delighted to find what was, I believe, bermuda grass on much of the fairways. This stuff grows something like sphagnum moss, thick and spongy, and it holds the ball up a little so it is easy to get a club under it. Great stuff!

GolfCourse
Try to keep it on the fairway

Other than golf, we spent our time mostly relaxing in our cabin, sightseeing, and enjoying the local people and food. The Epic Burger at Larkins On The Lake stacks burger, roast beef, and pulled pork for a monster burger that is truly, well, Epic.

onthedeck
Mountain sunrise from our deck

Lake Lure is a nice little resort community. Great place to visit in the summer. If you are way into fishing and hunting, or mountain biking and hiking, you might consider living here. For us though, it is a little too remote, too small, too nerve-wracking to drive in, to be a possible place to settle. Next stop, Asheville.

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Crossing Tennessee Nov 12 – 13

We debated staying a few nights in Memphis and Nashville and taking in the sights. But, in the end, we decided to stay another day in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas and then just push through Tennessee to get to our new home in North Carolina with minimal hotels stays.  We stopped at the visitor center in Memphis for area maps and saw monuments for the three heroes of Memphis: Elvis, B.B. King, and Bass Pro Shops.

elvis
Elvis

Rolling down from the Ozarks, we came to the plains of Tennessee.  Cruising along the interstate, we saw farmland, low rolling hills, and forests of pines and leafless deciduous trees.  The scenery reminded us of early October in Northern Minnesota or Wisconsin, complete with the occasional herd of cows out grazing.

bbking
B.B. King

We stopped for the night in Nashville.  On a recommendation, we went to a nearby restaurant for some good ol’ Southern BBQ but were disappointed by what appeared to be a pile of soggy pork from a slow cooker.  Good flavor but certainly not the tangy, smoky ribs we were imagining.  Our hotel was nondescript, although the biscuits and gravy they served for breakfast was pretty good.  More regrets at not having the time to explore a city with such rich history and culture.

BassProShopsPyramid
Bass Pro Shops pyramid

Back on the road again the next day, we start climbing the Appalachians.  These were much taller than the Ozarks and offered spectacular views of peaks and valleys.  Crossing into North Carolina, Gypsy’s GPS directed us around Asheville and south to our destination, Lake Lure.  From the nice wide interstate, we are led to a road that is just barely 2 lanes wide and twists and turns through mountain passes and tiny towns.  Every bit as “fun” as the roads in Fairfield Bay and only 25 miles of this road to get to our first home in North Carolina.

appalachians
Driving into the Appalachians

Our Arkansas Home

From Marylu  (11-17-15)

Life in a Small Resort Town – Arkansas Style

The trip from Branson, Missouri, to Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, was a little harrowing.  The roads changed from typical highways winding through scenic hills to narrow roads with no shoulders, lots of hills, twists and turns. We took turns laughing out loud as we would rise to the top of a hill unable to see what’s coming next.  I swear there were some figure-eight road signs!

Road on the way to Town and Back
Road on the way to Town and Back

At last we reached our next home.  Our unit was on the first floor this time, so lugging all our possessions into the unit was a bit easier.  What’s for dinner? No groceries except the bag of sugar, coffee, and a few other staples we decided to lug around.  We made it to the little grocery store (up and down that crazy hill) and had petri-fried chicken.  There were six dining-out options in our little community, not including the occasional lunch at the Senior Center or the Fitness Center.  We made up a weekly schedule since the restaurants varied the days they closed.  I included the deli at the grocery store and the gas station “restaurant” in the total count.  The gas station pizza – well, let’s say it was served in a unique box.  (See Alan’s post.)  We did enjoy dinner at El Poblano, large quantities of good Mexican food but no beer or margaritas.

We’ve been fortunate having laundry facilities in our temporary homes.  You know there’s something great about moving every week – I don’t have to wash the sheets and towels!!  On the other hand, getting used to a new bedroom – bathroom arrangement is a challenge for nightly visits to the biffy.

Alan and I did get to play golf at each of the two courses.  After our experience in Branson, we were ready for “mountain” golf and were pleasantly surprised by our ability to find our lost balls.  We did play “fall golf”, which under our rules means there’s no penalty for a ball that disappears into foliage on or within a couple of feet of the fairway.  We became very good spotters for each other’s shots.  At the Indian Hills course, we took a little side tour to clamber up to Indian Rock Cave, noted for a visit in 1542 between the Indians and DeSoto on his search for the “fountain of youth.”

Outside the big cave

There were old Petroglyphs and new graffiti drawings in the cave. I’m harboring harsh thoughts about the modern additions but am trying to imagine these new scribes were the descendants of the originals.

Petroglyphs in Indian Cave
Petroglyphs in Indian Cave

Back on the course – at hole 17 we experienced an attack of the ladybugs!  There were hundreds, maybe thousands enjoying the bright, warm sunlight as much as we did.  Before we sat back in the golf cart, we had to debug each other or look forward to some unusual tie-dye.

Most notable about our visit was the friendly atmosphere created by the both the short and long term residents of the community.  Having gotten used to the availability of aqua aerobics in Minnesota, I was not looking forward to being dormant during our travels.  Yippee for Fairfield Bay!  Their health center had a partnership with the resort, so I could dash and splash in the morning.  Although we were there only a short time, it was easy to join in conversations and get opinions about places to visit and avoid.  Most of the people we met were seniors with lots of traveling miles on their records.  One woman and I shared stories about downsizing, her challenges more serious than mine.  She is going from a 3200 square foot house with four generations of stuff.

As far as places I’d revisit given the time and money – Fairfield Bay would make the list because the people made it a welcoming community – sort of like a southern, mini-Sun City.  Goodbye Arkansas.

Lots of Beautiful Scenic Shots in Arkansas
Lots of Beautiful Scenic Shots in Arkansas

Next stop – Lake Lure, North Carolina.

Fairfield Bay, AR Nov 7 – 13

From Alan

Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, population 2338
Latitude 35°36′7″N, Longitude 92°15′51″W, elevation 870 – 906 feet
Average low temp January = 25.3°, average high temp July = 92,
Annual rainfall = 50.4 inches, snowfall = 4.6 inches, sunny days = 219

I find it hard to believe the statistics I found for the elevation in Fairfield Bay. As you approach the town, you are treated to a series of roller coaster hills and dips and hairpin curves on narrow roads that keep a flatlander’s knuckles white on the wheel. Climb up the double diamond ski slope, clamber over the crest, and you are actually OVER the top of the hill before you can see road again. Add a tailgating pickup truck with extra bright headlights for a little more excitement. We resolved right away to not drive anyplace at night.

FBroads
Arkansas roads

Fairfield Bay is primarily a summer resort and retirement community. Back in the mid 1960s, the Little Red River was dammed to form Greers Ferry Lake. Developers bought up the land around the lake and built resorts, timeshares, two golf courses, a marina, a park, and some houses. The full-time residents numbered 2338 at the 2010 census, but if you add in the timeshare visitors, there are about 27,000 people per year.

When we were there, the boating / fishing season was pretty much over. We visited the Marina and saw huge docks with hundreds of boats and pontoons tied up, quiet and serene in the clear mountain water. We tried the golf courses and mostly enjoyed them. It was late fall and leaves blew around the fairway, effectively hiding the errant golf ball. Our strategy was to hit only as far as we could see the ball. But then there were THOSE holes. Several of the back 9 holes were designed by golf sadists whose mission in life is to torture golfers. Beautiful, scenic, and voraciously hungry for stray golf balls.

FBgolf
Just a little par 3- across the Valley Of Death

After all the whoop-dee-do of Branson, Fairfield Bay was a nice relaxing week at “home”. We cooked, wrote, watched TV and DVD movies, and sipped beers while watching the sun set. Marylu went to the very busy and active Senior Center for aqua aerobics. I went for a beginner’s clogging lesson but was disappointed that it was cancelled. Once in a lifetime opportunity, right? Oh well, maybe somebody has an online video.

FBview
A foggy morning in Fairfield Bay

Once again, we found the locals to be friendly, chatty, and curious. Most people seem to be visitors from elsewhere and want to know where you are from. These are Southern people though. Maybe I was expecting redneck goobers when we got this far South. What we are finding are sweet, polite, fun, really nice people, with various strengths of accent. But this is the Bible Belt. There are 6 churches in Fairfield Bay. We tried a little radio and got mostly Gospel. This is a dry county. One thing we thought was hilarious was a pizza we had one night. It came in a box with an ad for Bass Pro Shops on the top, some scripture on the side; “The task ahead of you is never as great as the Power within you”, and, on the bottom of the box, gun shooting targets. Very Southern.

Roots (Branson)

From Marylu – 11-11-15

People want to hear about which is the biggest change we’ve made. I’d say leaving the familiar behind has been tough. Although we consider ourselves “homeless”, I’ve discovered that my roots are my home. Family, friends and acquaintances, they are my roots, my home. Making connections with people as we travel is fun; but, I miss seeing the people we know. And that leads to the second biggest change…

Technology. Fogeys that we are, we have been forced to embrace it and blessed to have it. In addition to being homeless, we are also trying to be paperless. Who wants to carry around stacks (pounds) of paper. It’s no surprise that most of the trash we leave behind, actually try to recycle, includes lots of paper. Thank heavens for cell phones, GPS, digital cameras, the internet, and all the websites that have gotten us from there to here!

Currently, here is Fairfield Bay, Arkansas. First though, I would like to share some bits about Branson that Alan left out.

Branson at Sunset
Branson at Sunset

Golf courses, after all, we brought the clubs so we’d better use them. And, use them we did at Thousand Hills Golf Course in Branson! The name tells just part of the story. It’s more like: Thousands of Hills, Bunkers, Water Hazards and Trees Golf Challenge. During the final 4 or 5 holes on the course, we played our own version of best ball, not only to speed up play but to conserve on balls. In addition to course challenges, we had to adjust to Daylight Savings Time and beat the shadows of the “early” sunset. The first course we played, Point Royal, was merely a warm up to Thousands of Hills.

Gotta Get Up and Over Those Rocks!
Gotta Get Up and Over Those Rocks!

We did spend some time at the Branson home in our one-bedroom condominium enjoying the nice deck and the hot tub. Since we’re really not on “vacation”, we try to cook at home as much as possible. Keeping in mind that some of our Minnesota friends would encourage otherwise, we decided to check a few BBQ places and learned there is a difference between sweet and vinegar styles. The quest for BBQ will continue throughout our nationwide tour.

Included in our tour of the area was a visit to the dam and fish hatchery in Branson. We didn’t fish but had a close up view of lots of them.

Who's looking at you, kid?
Who’s looking at you, kid?

Branson is a place for entertainment; so, I convinced Alan it was time to be entertained by someone else. We made it to three shows: Haywood Family (very good laser light effects and a couple of zip-line stunts), the Pierce Arrow show with Tim Storms (I sent my daughter a text message during the Pierce Arrow show letting her know not to answer the phone when I called. She’s the one who researched and told us about Tim Storms being in the Guiness Book of World Records for singing the lowest bass note. Of course Alan said she could just have easily tried You Tube – not as fun for me, though); and, a favorite of people offering recommendations – the Shoji Tabuchi show (not as good as expected).

Pierce Arrow Lazer and Zipline Fun
Pierce Arrow Lazer and Zipline Fun

If traffic in Las Vegas is as slow and geezerly as in Branson, I can’t imagine spending a week there!

Favorites: An amazing sunset, staying in touch with friends and family, exploring the area golf courses, and learning I am home.

End of Branson Sunset
End of Branson Sunset

We heard an interview with super model, Gisele Bundchen. Our ears are attuned to sound bites related to our current situation, so naturally we caught this: “With no destination, anything is possible.”

Onward – we thought there were hills in Missouri… well, welcome to the Arkansas Ozarks with narrow roads, high rolling hills, and no shoulders!

Branson MO, Oct 31 – Nov 7

From Alan:

Branson Missouri,  Population 10520
Latitude 36º 38’ N, Longitude 93º 15’ W
Elevation 1340 to 754 feet above sea level
Average low temp January = 21º, average high for July = 90º
Average days > 90º = 37, under 10º = 7

Branson from a scenic overlook
Branson from a scenic overlook

As you approach Branson, the hills become taller, the valleys deeper as you begin climbing into the Ozarks. It is late fall here and about 2/3 of the trees have shed their leaves, while the rest display a gaudy spectrum of red, yellows, and oranges. It is dusk as we reach the outskirts of the city and we stop at a tourist info center for maps and tips. Everybody has the same map of the city, drawn with little geographic detail but pinpointing every major theater, hotel, golf course, restaurant, and tourist attraction in the city. We are advised that it is rush hour about now, the early shows are letting out, and traffic would be a lot lighter on the Red Route (A.K.A. Shepard Of The Hills Expressway). Gypsy feeds me step by step navigation (Thank God and NASA for GPS!!!) as I join the slog of tour buses and dazzled, bewildered, turn signal impaired geezers trying to find where their show is. We finally find our place amongst some VERY steep hills, unload, and settle in. I would not want to go anyplace in this town if there were any snow in the forecast.

Driving into Branson
Driving into Branson

Branson is a city of shows and attractions. The main streets are adorned with neon palaces and the signs promoting them. Even the water towers have neon on them. Everywhere you drive, you know you are in a town whose main business is entertainment. Bring lots of cash because that entertainment is expensive, usually $30 – $40 per. Most of the shows are Country & Western, with a lot of Gospel thrown in, and here and there, a touch of Rock & Roll or Comedy. Our arrival on November 1st coincides with the start of Christmas season, when all of the musical reviews trot out the Christmas schtick and the decorations go up.

BransonWatertower
Branson watertower

The people of Branson are friendly and chatty and curious about you and where you come from. The amount of Southern accent varies from a slight twang to full-on drawl. The drawlers are hilarious and seem to love laying it on thick for the out-of-place Yankees. Miss Marylu and I love chatting with them and getting their advice on where to go, and what see, and, most importantly, who has the best BBQ. There are many nominees, including Wisconsin export Famous Dave’s, but the all around favorite is Danna’s, a classic BBQ joint where you stand and order then they bring it round to your table.

The Pierce Arrow Show
The Pierce Arrow Show

The non-resident tourists are mostly retirees. Wherever we went, there seemed to be a disproportionally high ratio of people with white hair and canes or walkers. Either driving (slowly!) huge SUVs or 4 door pickups, or else riding in gigantic tour buses. The tourists are chatty too. Many of them wear ball caps or shirts with their favorite topic to geeze about: home state, home team, or military experience. (FYI: geeze is a verb, to geeze is to talk at length on topics of no interest to anyone except yourself. A person who geezes is a geezer.) I wear a beer brewery shirt from Wisconsin. Not that I’m a geezer.  Just love that beer.

Neon and traffic jams
Neon and traffic jams

Overall, I would have to conclude that Branson can be a fun place to visit. It is a vacation city that caters to tourists, mostly seniors with lots of disposable income. Do it for a few days, take in the sights and shows, and then go home. Personally, I would rather go to the party, than live in it. In the long run, we are looking for a normal, comfortable retired life, not an endless vacation. Thanks to the good folks of Branson, y’all, for that lesson learned.