Archive for August, 2008

New River’s old-timey pleasures in Appalachia

August 27, 2008
New River Trail State Park (Click to ENLARGE)

New River Trail State Park (Click to ENLARGE)

For years I’d been hearing about the New River Trail State Park, the highlight of which is a 57-mile-long crushed-gravel rail trail that for 39 miles parallels the New River in southern Virginia. Wessel and I had a chance to finally check it out last weekend when we were in the mountains of northwest North Carolina doing research for my book “Farm Fresh North Carolina.” (Despite its name, the New River is considered by some geologists to be one of the oldest in the world, between 10 million and 360 millions years old.)

Morning fog shrouds the New River

Morning fog shrouds the New River

We camped Friday and Saturday nights in Sparta, NC, right along the water at the lovely New River Campground, a small, private campground that accommodates tents and campers, with tents being well separated from the RVs. Hooray!! They also rent canoes and kayaks. I made one of my dumbest mistakes ever by mapping a “nearby” New River outfitter with an almost identical web address. Driving there, we went a good 20 mountain miles out of way, and our cell phones (ATT) didn’t have signals. Lo and behold, the one driver I could flag down for help was returning from dinner to his campsite — at New River Campground. How lucky was that?! So back we went, happy to finally pitch our tent just before dark.

Sunday we drove the 20 or so miles to Galax, Va., the southern end of the trail, which officially starts northeast of there in Pulaski. Galax, pronounced GAY-lax, is a former manufacturing town of 7,000 that still seems pretty depressed beyond its very spruced up historic Main Street area. That strip was deadsville on a Sunday morning, so we didn’t get to see it in action nor eat at the famed Galax Smokehouse.

Barn along the New River Trail (Click to ENLARGE)

Barn nearby Galax, VA along the New River Trail (Click to ENLARGE)

Galax is one of the best known stops along The Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. It’s home to the Old Fiddler’s Convention, a famed traditional music convention since 1935, and the Blue Ridge Music Center, a few miles away on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had breakfast at the best choice, Aunt Bea’s, a fast-food crossover that cooks the eggs and meat, but serves it up on Styrofoam. The clientele was very, very country.

Diane cycles on New River Trail

Diane cycles on the New River Trail (Click to ENLARGE)

Fully carbo-loaded, we hit the trail at 10 a.m. for six hours of cycling. We took our time and stopped often, so made it only 22 miles out and back, for 44 total. We were on touring road bikes. Hybrids or mountain bikes, with fatter tires, would be better on this trail, but we were fine. Confession: we didn’t wear helmets! But we did carry them, just in case we ended up needing to be on the road.

Horse camping along the New River Trail

Horse camping on the Cliffview Campground along the New River Trail

We passed several runners, walkers, and cyclists, including families and a Boy Scout troop. Horses are allowed on most of the trail, and though we saw signs of them, we didn’t meet up with any. We passed gorgeous meadows with barns glistening in the sun, shady wooded areas, rushing water, and picnic and waterfront camping areas, one with campsites for horses.

Wessel cycles on bridge across the New river

Wessel cycles on bridge across the New River

We loved cycling over the old railway trestles and many smaller bridges. We first started along Chestnut Creek and then the New River. We saw people and great blue herons fishing, while flocks of Canada geese hung around to watch. We took a side trail to the tiny riverfront town of Fries (“freeze”), which is slowly being discovered by retirees and second-home buyers. With its former textile manufacturing base decimated, I hope new arrivals and tourism save this lovely place. At mile 49.5, we stopped at Cliffview Ranger Station, which has a great little gift shop, indoor restrooms, and ice-cold water in its fountain.

It was a perfect day. Thanks to all the rail-trail advocates and the state of Virginia for providing such a beautiful trail and park.

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A most-unpatriotic travel campaign

August 25, 2008

For better or worse, I read most travel-related press releases sent to me. This one was for worse. Straight from a PR firm in Williamsburg, Va., where you’d think people might be a little patriotic, the ad campaign is called “Escape the Election” and encourages Americans to leave the United States during the presidential election period to stay at a West Indies beach resort. 

It reads:  “As the conventions begin and the campaigns heat up, many may want to get away from it all.” Said resort, it continues, “provides a true escape from the election with no TV or Internet access in the rooms, allowing guests to completely unplug.” Why not just go stick your head in the sand?

Now, if these masters of marketing had simply said, “cast your absentee ballot and go,” I would have been fine. But instead, the campaign promotes ignoring one of the most important presidential races our country has ever seen by offering special rates at a beach resort.

And it gets better. Or worse. During elections involving our first-ever black presidential candidate, Madigan Pratt & Associates is urging us to stay with its client Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis in the West Indies. A plantation, you say? Yes, a former sugar plantation.

That word has such a bad connotation I cannot believe how many developments and resorts still use it — as a draw! Historically, plantations have been farmed by resident laborers, i.e. slaves.

So here’s my advice. If you feel the urge to travel during the election, don’t forget to vote first. And please skip any place that calls itself a plantation, unless you visit one that focuses on history, like our own Stagville Plantation in Durham, NC, to learn how life really was for Americans with dark skin during slavery. (And, yes, we still have a long way to go.)

Madeira Island, a Portuguese pearl

August 22, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Aug. 3, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

Having lived in Portugal for a couple years in the mid-1980s, I’ve always been curious about Madeira and the Azores. So far, I’ve experienced neither firsthand, but enjoyed traveling vicariously through the Gordons. Obrigado!

David and Terry Gordon on the peak known as Pico do Facho, with a view of the port of Machico, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

David and Terry Gordon on the peak known as Pico do Facho, with a view of the port of Machico, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

WHO: Terry, 54, and David Gordon, 56, of Hollis, N.H.

WHERE: Madeira Islands, Portugal.

WHEN: One week in March.

WHY: “I’d always wanted to go,” Terry said. “My parents had been – they were both really into horticulture – and they said it was beautiful. I took their word for it, even though it was 45 years ago.”

PARTLY PAMPERED: The couple, who are regular hikers, signed up for a self-guided walking tour of Madeira through Wales-based New Experience Holidays. The outfitter arranged the route, accommodations, meals, transportation, and luggage transport. The Gordons were happy with the logistical work but not always with the lodging, which was quite basic and not in a town center. “It was budget accommodations without prices to match,” Terry said.

David walking on one of the levadas of Madeira

David walking on one of the levadas of Madeira

CHANNEL CROSSING: They walked about six hours a day, for about nine to 12 miles. “The walking was great,” David said. “Most of it is on levadas,” which are irrigation channels going around the mountains. About 1,000 miles of them crisscross the island, with walks alongside them. “Although all the island is very hilly and steep, you can walk for hours on those and it’s all level. It’s really more walking than hiking.” The island also has hundreds of tunnels cutting through the rock. “You need a headlamp for those,” Terry said. “The terrain was fascinating. I’ve never been in a place where there’s no level land.”

Terry and David at the Northern cliffs of Boca do Risco, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

Terry and David at the Northern cliffs of Boca do Risco, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

CLIFF WALK: “It’s a great trip for people who aren’t really hikers,” Terry said. “Only one day was difficult, but there was a way to do it that wasn’t.” On the walk from Machico to Porto da Cruz, “you’re on a cliff following the coastline and it’s absolutely gorgeous, but there are places you’re actually putting one foot in front of the other. That day really made the trip for me.”

COUNTRY COOKING: Except for an outstanding dinner at Armazem Do Sal, housed in an old salt factory in Funchal, their meals were better forgotten. “Outside of the capital, the groceries were really primitive, like root vegetables and dried fish,” Terry said. “Where we stayed they ate like peasants, with boiled potatoes, boiled rice, and what they call macaroni, and they give you all three every night. And they always have espada. It’s the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen.”

FLOWER SHOWER: The horticulture lived up to its billing. “It was amazing,” Terry said. “I’d never ever seen orchids growing wild. People have orchids like we have geraniums, everywhere. And the protea, I saw fields of them. A cab driver told us one lady had 200 varieties of roses in her yard. It just must be a paradise in the summer.”

El Greco heads south, with Velázquez in tow

August 20, 2008
El Greco, St. James (Santiago el Mayor), about 1610-14. Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 31 5/8 inches. Collection of Museo del Greco, Toledo. (El Greco, also Domenikos Theotokopoulos, Greek, active in Spain, 1541–1614)

El Greco, St. James (Santiago el Mayor), about 1610-14. Oil on canvas, 39 1/2 x 31 5/8 inches. Collection of Museo del Greco, Toledo. (El Greco, also Domenikos Theotokopoulos, Greek, active in Spain, 1541–1614)

Usually when a major art exhibit leaves the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, it moves to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, or Los Angeles. But not this time. If you missed “El Greco to Velázquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III” during its Boston run earlier this year, you can still catch it in Durham, North Carolina. That’s right. Durham. Truth is, Durham isn’t exactly podunk. We have 200,000 residents, as well as Research Triangle Park and Duke University. Duke is why the show is here now, at its Nasher Museum of Art. Specifically, the stunning exhibit is due to a decades-long interest in the art by Nasher curator Sarah Schroth. She pretty much single-handedly uncovered a treasure trove of art from 1598 to 1621, a little known period during Philip III’s rule of Spain — and Spain’s rule of the world.

Boston was involved because Sarah turned to her art historian colleague and college pal Ronnie Baer, who is a curator at the MFA in Boston. The women had studied at NYU together and become lifelong friends. I saw them speak together at the Nasher’s press preview for the show and they were very sweet and excited. They even giggled a little, so delighted they were in this amazing partnership and exhibit. What a testament it is to decades of friendship and toil in a field that, while impressive to many, isn’t likely understood by most people. Duke president Richard Brodhead spoke, as did Bruce Sharpe, who is Triangle Market President at Bank of America, the show’s primary sponsor, Bank of America. Bruce has quite the lovely drawl, and ended his little PR chat with “Thanks, y’all.” I don’t think you’d hear that in Boston.

Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez, The Immaculate Conception, 1618-1619. Oil on canvas, 53 1/8 x 40 inches.  Collection of the National Gallery, London. Bought with the aid of The Art Fund, 1974.  (Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez, Spanish, 1599-1660)

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, The Immaculate Conception, 1618-1619. Oil on canvas, 53 1/8 x 40 inches. Collection of the National Gallery, London. Bought with the aid of The Art Fund, 1974. (Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, Spanish, 1599-1660)

Of the 52 paintings are seven works by El Greco, three by a young Velázquez and works by their contemporaries, including Gregorio Fernández and Luis Tristan de Escamilla. (The show also includes altar pieces and more than 50 pieces of period glass and ceramics. The work formed the foundation of the Spanish Golden Age. That’s according to the Nasher press release. Personally, I know nothing about the lesser-known artists or the time period. I do greatly admire El Greco’s work, having seen much of it at the Prado in Madrid and at the MFA when I lived in Boston. While I can’t say the traditional art stirred me, I value its significance. What I did find magnificent and moving were the three full-length carved and painted wooden sculptures of Spanish saints. Each was carved from one piece of wood. They are exquisitely made and filled  with life and history.

Wessel and I are returning to the exhibit on Saturday, when it will no doubt be jam packed. This time I’ll pay the $15 admission, a $2 savings from the MFA price. Yet another reason to come see it here, y’all.

Update: Wessel and I did go on Saturday. It wasn’t jam packed, but there was a steady flow of visitors. I’m always expecting “blockbusters” in my neck of the woods to be like those in Boston, where you can’t park and have to wait in line for everything. Not so down here! I took the time and forked over the $3 to rent the audiotape and it was amazingly well done, complete with great period music and quotes from the curators and other experts. I highly recommend it!

Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Thamar!

August 15, 2008

Thamar is my schoonzuster, or sister-in-law, and she hits the big 4-0 today! (Her name is pronounced TAM-ar.)

Thamar unpacks gifts

Thamar displays her talent for gift opening

While 40 is considered a “kroonjaar” (a sig-nificant year) because a new decade starts, there’s no hoopla surrounding it the way there is when Dutchies turn 50. But, heck, they have enough hoopla just celebrating their birthdays in the Netherlands. Not only do you always go out of your way to congratulate and even visit the birthday boy or girl, but also their family. So Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag, Thamar! Gefeliciteerd met de verjaardag van Thamar, familie Kok!

Ecuador is located on the equator

Ecuador is located on the equator

Thamar, who works for the Dutch government doing land design, has a wonderful 14-year-old son, Valentin. His Ecuadoran father, Luis, lives part time in a home nearby and part-time in Ecuador. The first time I met Thamar and the rest of the family was in Tabacundo, Ecuador, where she did a college study abroad project, working in irrigation. That was in the early 1990s. (We were all visiting there when I met her in 2003.)

Valentin and Thamar in Surinam restaurant in Wageningen (Click to ENLARGE)

Valentin and Thamar in Surinam restaurant Duniya in Wageningen (Click to ENLARGE)

Now Thamar lives in Wageningen, which is known for Wageningen University (focused on agriculture), where both Wessel and Thamar went to school. Wageningen is also known for a bit of history. It’s where the Germans surrendered to the Allied Forces ending World War II in the Netherlands. The lesser thing Wageningen is known for is that it’s one of the Dutch words I can never pronounce correctly. You try.

Thamar recently became a first-time homeowner (Click to ENLARGE)

Thamar left the world of renters to move into her first house this past October. Home ownership isn’t as common in the Netherlands as it is in the US. So that was a huge achievement and the best birthday gift she could have given herself. We’re very proud of her! I’m sure she’ll get many visitors there this weekend, when everyone stops by to wish her gefeliciteerd. (I can’t pronounce that word either.)

Melting-pot tour of New York City

August 14, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published July 20, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: Connie planned a very interesting trip for her children and the family’s German exchange student. I’m impressed!

Owen Corey (left), Ian Corey, Len Corey, Corry Kieper, and Connie Corey on Ellis Island (Click to ENLARGE)

Owen Corey (left), Ian Corey, Len Corey, Corry Kieper, and Connie Corey on Ellis Island (Click to ENLARGE)

WHO: Connie, 47, and Len Corey, 49, with their children Ian, 14, and Owen, 12, all of Reading, Mass., and Corry Kieper, 16, of Essen, Germany.

WHERE: New York City

WHEN: Two days in March

WHY: “We had a high school exchange student from Germany for three weeks and wanted to show her as much as possible,” Connie Corey said. That included visits to Salem, Boston, Plimoth Plantation, New Bedford, and Newport. “For me the best part of the New York trip was the idea of being able to show someone from a foreign country how much that city is truly a melting pot.”

Connie (left), Owen , Ian, and  Corry at the entrance to the Ellis Island Museum (Click to ENLARGE)

Connie (left), Owen , Ian, and Corry at the entrance to the Ellis Island Museum (Click to ENLARGE)

IMMIGRANT ISLAND: The family stayed at a hotel in Newark to save money. “It’s cheaper to stay there, and my husband went to school in New York and isn’t afraid to drive in the city,” Corey said. They arrived on a Thursday night and started sightseeing Friday morning with a trip to Ellis Island, which Corey said was easier to reach from the New Jersey side. “All three of the kids had studied it in school and were interested in history, so they really enjoyed it.” They drove into Manhattan, where they found parking right outside their lunch spot, Christine’s Polish American, an East Village diner serving Eastern European dishes. “We had the best parking luck all weekend.”

Connie (left), Corry, Len, and  Ian in New York's financial district (Click to ENLARGE)

Connie (left), Corry, Len, and Ian in the financial district (Click to ENLARGE)

TOWN AND TUNNEL: After visiting a popular section of Central Park, “where all the movies are filmed,” they fought their way through the crowds at the Museum of Modern Art‘s “Target Free Friday.” “There were 500 people in line, but at least it was moving. It was so crowded that you couldn’t really see the museum, but there is such excellent modern art there.” They visited Rockefeller Center and drove through Times Square before heading back through the Holland Tunnel.

LIVING IN AMERICA: Saturday started with a trip to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which presents a look at migrant and immigrant life in the 19th and 20th centuries. “They would have 12 people in an tiny apartment with a bathroom down the hall and no tub or shower. It’s really about trying to understand people’s lives and the dreams, the risk, and the work that these people were willing to do to get here. It really puts into perspective how the American Dream has changed.”

CIAO FOR NOW: After enjoying the sounds from Italian-speaking diners at Rocky’s Restaurant in Little Italy, the kids had a field day in Economy Candy. “It’s about 12 feet wide and 50 feet long with floor-to-ceiling candy, with every candy imaginable,” Corey said. After a stop at the Gothic masterpiece Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, they headed home, mission accomplished.

Cycling Oregon to Colorado, in syllables

August 12, 2008
The Teton Range on day 23 of Judy Martell's bike ride

The Teton Range on day 23 (Click to ENLARGE)

I present to you some of the delightful haikus my friend Judy Martell wrote during her solo 1,800-mile bike ride from Oregon to Colorado (via Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming), marking the completion of a goal she set for herself in 2001 at the age of 51: to self-propel herself across the United States. She’s used the route and maps established by the Adventure Cycling Association. On many counts, Judy is an amazing woman, and I’m happy to call her my friend. You can see the entire haiku collection, with Judy’s commentary and photos at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/BikeU. Judy, who lives not far from me in Durham, rides a recumbent bicycle, which makes the uphills even harder and the downhills even wilder.

In her words, here’s how Judy came to write haikus (three lines, 5/7/5 syllables) for her journey:

Judy Martell

“I was unsure of my physical capabilities in serious mountains, and began to train in earnest … but I was more worried about my mental capabilities: could I manage for five weeks without friends and family, without familiar routines, without someone to talk to daily? I decided during my training rides prior to the trip that I should perhaps find a way to focus my head through poetry. I tried writing a haiku as I rode — a short poem that captured the essence of that day’s ride.”

And that is what I love about these haikus, or “bike-u’s” as she calls them. Each one encapsulates her day. Bicycle touring is, after all, poetry in motion.

(Click on photos below to view a larger version)

The McKenzie River, Oregon on days 1-3 (Click to ENLARGE)

The McKenzie River, Oregon on days 1-3

I cross the threshold
that lies between when and now
and I begin to ride.

Always the river:
though the Cascades loom ahead,
today is today.

Someone bring me ice
to tend my two swollen knees:
I have crossed the Cascades!

Hell's Canyon region of Idaho on day 9 (Click to ENLARGE)

Hell's Canyon region of Idaho on day 9

The high desert cooks
below rain-grabbing mountains.
Trees shrink to mere shrubs.

Forty miles downhill
for eight miles straight up the pass.
Is that a fair trade?

The mule pricks his ears.
The deer freezes beside me.
Black llamas just blink

Bitterroot Valley of Montana on day 16 (Click to ENLARGE)

Bitterroot Valley of Montana on day 16

Reverence today
on the trail of the Nez Perce.
We should all seek peace.

The gold rush is dead,
but the tourists unearth it
from their deep pockets.

In a wind tunnel:
Madison Valley wants me
back in Idaho!

Togwotee Pass, WY after a 16-mile climb on day 24 (Click to ENLARGE)

Togwotee Pass, Wyoming on day 24

What a gas this is:
To be touring Yellowstone
on human fuel.

As broken old teeth
from the jaw of Jackson Hole,
the Tetons erupt.

The crickets chirped in
to coax me through the last yards
of Togwotee Pass.

Jeffrey City, WY on day 27 (Click to ENLARGE)

Jeffrey City, Wyoming on day 27

The grass bows my way.
If I’m to cross this prairie,
I must ride the wind.

This is getting hard!
I pitched my tent on concrete
In Jeffrey ‘City.’

They all race across:
squeak pigs, gophers, prairie dogs.
Some just get part-way.

Finish in Breckenridge, CO on day 31 (Click to ENLARGE)

Finish in Breckenridge, Colorado on day 31

White blends to browns, greens,
which dip to yellows, purples:
the earthly palette.

The pine bark beetles
have consumed a full-course meal.
Fire may lick the crumbs.

How does it get done?
With a little persistence
and a mountain gear!

Bicycling in Burma: mingalaba!

August 7, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published July 6, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

Wow! This was a mighty impressive and fascinating bicycle trip. I wish I had been there!

Curt Allen (left), Gary Kelly, Trond Skramstad, and Michael Romanow in ancient city of Bagan, Burma (Click to ENLARGE)

Curt Allen (left), Gary Kelly, Trond Skramstad, and Michael Romanow in ancient city of Bagan, Burma (Click to ENLARGE)

WHO: Michael Romanow, 53, and Gary Kelly, 53, both of Westwood, Mass.; Trond Skramstad, 47, of Newton, Mass.; and Curt Allen, 51, of Marlow, N.H.

WHERE: Burma (also called Myanmar).

WHEN: Two weeks in February.

WHY: “I wanted to see Burma before it opened up to the world,” Romanow said. “I did a bike ride to Vietnam with VeloAsia 12 years ago and knew they went to Burma. So I started e-mailing friends about going.”

WELCOME WAGON: “I was ambivalent, wondering if it made sense to support a regime that has a horrible reputation,” Kelly said, referring to the country’s military dictatorship. “But I was so glad I went. We all were. We had a great time and it didn’t feel oppressive in the way I thought it would be. The Burmese were so thrilled to see us there. Everywhere we rode, everybody would come out and yell `mingalaba,’ which means hello, and slap high-fives.”

Trond Skramstad (left), Curt Allen, Michael Romanow, Gary Kelly, Lizzie (Myanmar guide) at the

Trond (left), Curt, Michael, Gary, and Lizzie (Myanmar guide) at the the entrance to the Temples of Kakku, Burma

TOUR FOR FOUR: Although the men were on an existing tour, they were the only travelers, and had two assistants and a Burmese guide, Melvin. “Melvin really loved his country and knew a huge amount about the central part, where we were, and was a great resource about Buddhism. He rode with us a few times, but mostly he drove,” Kelly said. The foursome brought their own hybrid bikes, and shared the mostly paved but rough roadways with ox carts, tractors, pedestrians carrying goods on yokes on their shoulders, mopeds, and buses.

Back Row (l to r) Gary Kelly, Curt Allen, Michael Romanow, Trond Skramstad with a family at a small shop along the road from Mt. Popa to Bagan, Burma

Back Row (l to r) Gary, Curt, Michael, and Trond with a family at a small shop along the road from Mt. Popa to Bagan, Burma

CULTURAL HARMONY: At Inle Lake they saw floating gardens and fishing villages on stilts. “There was silk weaving, silver making, and rolling cheroots, like cigarettes,” Romanow said. “The work was all labor intensive.” They took a balloon ride over Bagan, dotted with thousands of pagodas. “Bagan was probably the biggest tourist area, with mostly Australians and Europeans,” Kelly said. In and near Mandalay, they watched locals promenade the almost mile-long teak U Bein Bridge and saw hundreds of red-robed monks line up for lunch at the famed Mahagandayon monastery. “The Buddhist presence was just amazing,” Romanow said.

NICELY SPICY: Accommodations ranged from resorts to “a couple funky old places that looked like they should have been in the Alps,” Romanow said. They usually had a Western breakfast, “but for lunch and dinner Melvin would take us to local restaurants. Rice was always the staple and then we’d have all these side dishes, vegetables and meat, with several different condiments. It was really spicy and really good.”

SINCE THE CYCLONE: The news of the cyclone in May brought the men an “overwhelming sadness,” Romanow said. They were able to contact Melvin and donate aid money through a friend of his in Thailand. “His home wasn’t affected, but he was trying to help other families.”

You never sausage a place, part 2

August 5, 2008
Pedro

Pedro at South of the Border

I really am not the type to steal headlines because, well, it’s not right and, honestly, I think I come up with pretty good ones of my own. But I’m stealing this one, for yet a second time, because it’s just so dang meaty.

Credit goes to the ad folks/billboard writers for South of the Border in Dillon County, South Carolina, which is absolutely one of the tackiest tourist traps known to humankind. It’s on I-95, just south of the NC line, I’m proud to report. Because as a North Carolinian, I’m glad it’s not in my state.

Thirty years ago I thought it was kinda cool in its kitschy-ness, but now I think it’s just kinda sad. Not to mention discriminatory against Hispanics, with its Pedro mascots and billboards that often mock Hispanic pronunciations. (“Cool eet with Pedro.”)

Petite Roxy on top of giant wiener dog statue (Click to ENLARGE)

Petite Roxy on top of giant wiener dog statue (Click to ENLARGE)

But, it does have its brilliant moments. Other than its “You never sausage a place” billboard, my favorite South of the Border offering has to be this giant wiener dog statue, which Wessel spotted next to the hot dog stand on the 350-acre complex. My sweet little Roxy (“the foxy doxy with moxy”) was game to hang out atop the humongous hot dog because she agrees there are certain photo ops that simply should not be passed up. And so she posed, with relish.