Saturday, November 23, 2013


If you know me and/or read my blog, you know that I like to post summaries of trips that David and I take as I continue to do art shows and visit with galleries in order to promote my wildflower art.

When I was accepted into the World of Art Showcase several months ago, we knew it would also provide a great opportunity to explore the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. We were in North Carolina in the Spring of 2012 for the Highpoint market and we were both intrigued with the area in general. We were looking forward to returning to North Carolina but by doing a road trip there and back this time, we would have even more chances to visit places that neither of us had ever been before. And since the show was set for Oct. 31-Nov. 3, we were looking forward to catching some fall color as well.

Falls Colors outside our hotel in Raleigh, NC.
We were not disappointed! Our 3-week trip took us through 9 states and covered more than 4,000 miles. Along the way we were treated to swamp lands of Louisiana and Alabama; tall trees, rolling hills and quaint towns of Georgia; the beaches and ocean views of South and North Carolina coasts; downtown Raleigh and surrounding towns; the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains; the mayhem of Gatlinburg and the surrealness of Pigeon Forge; horse farms of Tennessee and cotton fields of Mississippi; and finally a final push home through Arkansas and back into the Piney Woods of East Texas on our way to the Hill Country.

We left for our trip on Oct. 22 and drove across Louisiana and into Alabama before turning northward toward Atlanta. Along the way we stayed over in Lake Charles, took a detour and spent a little time in Layfette where we enjoyed a stroll in the downtown, and ended up in Atmore, Alabama, for another layover. We then headed up to Georgia with the Atlanta area being our destination where we were able to visit with David's sister and her family. 

After a few side trip visits in the Atlanta area to Roswell and Marietta, where we visited with gallery owners, we hit the road for our next stop, Savannah. We spent some time walking through the historic downtown area that Friday evening and would have liked to have spent more time but we needed to make our way to the next stop, which was Charleston, South Carolina.

Charleston Church
Both David and I were enamored with Charleston and its French Quarter district. Numerous galleries filled storefronts throughout the downtown. We walked on cobbled stone streets,  by historic churches and through well-manicured parks. The area was pedestrian friendly and inviting. We've both put Charleston on our list for a return visit. We made some great gallery contacts and we're in discussions with one in particular for future representation.

Our next layover was Myrtle Beach, where we caught the sun rising over the horizon the next morning as we walked on t. While we would have liked to spend more time, we decided to push ahead and made it to Wilmington, NC, for our next stop. After some more gallery visits we then we hit the road for Raleigh, where we arrived on Oct. 29, a week after leaving home.

The October sunrise on Myrtle Beach was ... breathtaking!

Daytrip in Hillsborough, NC
We were scheduled for the loading dock at the Raleigh Convention Center early Wednesday morning. Of the many shows that we've done in similar facilities, this was one of the easiest set ups, from the unloading and working with the staff to move out at the end of the show, every step went smoothly. Since we were set up and ready to go by late Wednesday, we spent Thursday doing a little exploring, visiting nearby Hillsborough and Chapel Hill.

While the World of Art Showcase did not open for the public until Friday, they hosted a VIP reception, a masquerade ball, Thursday night that featured live music. David and I donned matching masks we had picked up at a costume shop earlier in the day to get into the evening's festivities.

Ready for Masquerade Ball!
The next three days were spent visiting with collectors and art lovers, as well as making contacts with gallery owners and networking with fellow artists. In addition to the show hours, events were planned for the exhibitors for Friday and Saturday night, so our schedule was filled for the most part. We did, however, find time to walk around downtown Raleigh Saturday night where we enjoyed seeing the state capitol.

Sunday evening we packed up our booth, returned to the hotel for our last night in Raleigh and starting mapping the next portion of our trip.

High on our list in visiting North Carolina was to spend time in Asheville, which was the next stop over as we began to make our way back to Texas. Many of our friends suggested that we make Asheville a "must see" since it's consider a magnet for artists and many set up studios and call the area home. We arrived after dark so didn't get to start checking it out until the next day. We spent the better part of the Tuesday roaming the historic downtown, visiting galleries and getting a feel for the area. What we found was a bit discouraging. Yes, it was very artsy and had a "bohemian" vibe along with some intriguing architecture. But it was difficult to not turn a corner and be approached for a hand out. It was both sad and disturbing to see so many "homeless" people concentrated in the downtown.

Pleasant surprise in Montreat, near Black Mtn.
Once we left that area, we made the decision to not return and to, instead, use Asheville as a jumping off point to visit surrounding towns and take drives in the country and through the mountains.

In case you are wondering, we did not attempt to visit the Biltmore Estate. We are putting that on our list for a return visit. 

Two highlights of our time there was a visit to Black Mountain and nearby Montreat, about 15 miles east of Asheville. Black Mountain reminded me a little of Gruene but larger and with a few more galleries. But it had several cute little shops and restaurants making for what looked like a thriving business district. Montreat, from what we could tell, was more of a bedroom community to Black Mountain and is home to a college. We drove up one road until we came upon a park where we spent some time walking and taking photos.

The second day trip out of Asheville that I'd like share was our visit south west of town, about 15 or 20 miles, down to Chimney Rock. The winding road provided a scenic drive but it was the lookout over the country side and Lake Lure from Chimney Rock that made a lasting impression.

The awesome view from Chimney Rock!
We visited a few more towns, and galleries, during our stay which flew by too quickly. On Friday we checked out of our Asheville hotel and headed for the mountains. Instead of using the Interstate we took the scenic route, getting on the historic Blue Ridge Parkway and following it as far as we could before we needed to head toward our next stop, Cashiers and Highlands and then our layover, which was Franklin, NC.

We left North Carolina on Saturday, heading over the Great Smoky Mountains to Tennessee.

The Great Smoky Mountains.
There is no way to get into Tennessee using this route without going right through Gatlinburg. And what a mad house that was! We could only assume that we caught them on their "holiday" kick off weekend and thousands of people were streaming into Gatlinburg, which was decked out in lights and Christmas decorations. Relieved once we got to the other side of town, we had no idea what waited for us up the road. Soon we were in Pigeon Forge. Yes, home to Dollywood but driving through town is reminiscent of driving down The Strip in Vegas...just without the casinos and bit more "family" friendly. Not to overuse the word, but it really was very surreal.

By now we were getting toward the final leg of our trip and needed to home within a few days. So our objective was to make the best time we could but still enjoy the drive and attempt to visit a few more galleries along the way. We had two layovers in Tennessee, one near Knoxville, and the other near Memphis. We decided to take a detour though Mississippi, on to Arkansas where we did a few gallery visits in Little Rock. By then we found ourselves out of time and decided to head for East Texas for one last layover before making the final push for home.

We saw some jaw-dropping scenery, met some wonderful people, made some great gallery contacts and, all-in-all, had a wonderful trip. We are looking forward to returning to several of the areas for extended visits and to continue our explorations!
Whitewater Falls in Southwestern North Carolina, just one of the many "colorful" stops!