Rosie, the 35 MPH winery dog

It is a known fact that my husband Paul and I are inveterate adventure seekers or we wouldn’t be trundling down all sorts of roads in our RV.  Seeking a plot of land on which to park our rig for the night, we entered a realm of adventure that was way beyond our expectations. 

We met the amazing 35 MPH winery dog, Rosie, an irresistible pouch who sets off cross country and outruns her master’s car every time and we almost burned up the brakes on our tow car. The culprit, a 2″ diameter Meyers Lemon trapped in the brake safety system that is hooked to our motor home. Be these adventures as they may, our HARVEST HOST, Tom Burgiss gave us not only the plot of land to park on for the night but a life story that left us breathless. 

TOM BURGESS owns the THISTLE MEADOW WINERY, nestled into the Blue Ridge Parkway in the town of Laurel Springs, NC. We were simply looking for an overnight camping site. What we got was an over-the-top adventure. His winery/farm is a member of HARVEST HOST, an RV membership group that offers travelers a mecca for a night for no charge. You may stay on a farm, vineyard, cheese factory or other land.   

Tom grew up on this farm and inherited the house and land from his folks.  Now approaching his 81st year, he has accomplished enough for several life times. He never stops or runs down according to his breathless employees. Tom and his wife Nancy moved into the family home, expanding it into a luxurious lodge. It served as a B & B, a dance hall, wedding parlor and more for 35 years. They now rent the house for family reunions and weddings. The winery is adjacent to the house and contains the vast wine production and bottling facility, a tasting room, home wine maker supply shop (the Grapestompers) and general gift shop.  
His dad was a dentist with his dental office a step away from the house. The old dental drill ran by battery. Pity the last patient of the day. His dad also raised cattle and gave the young Tom 3 calves to raise. Tom grew those calves into a herd to sell, putting him through college and school. He in turn made enough profit on cattle to send his 3 boys to college.

Tom, the Pharmacist taught as adjunct professor for years, flew a plane and raised cattle, and I am sure did more that he didn’t tell us. Traveling through Canada one time, he was given a bottle of wine and liked it so much he went back for more. Learning that the wine was home made  caught Tom’s attention. He turned wine making into a successful enterprise and now produces about 60-65 types of wine, making all of it in small batches, environmentally controlled, and constantly under his firm and watchful eye, bottled and corked in beautiful blue bottles. Furthermore, he is opening several retail locations in North Carolina.


We tasted several and purchased the Malbec (yes, Tom imports all of his grapes, including Malbec grapes from Argentina).  Our limited storage space diminished our purchases, this time. We’ll return. 


Tom loaded us into his car for a tour of the family house as described above and then raced up the hill to the retirement home he and his wife Nancy now live in, accompanied by Rosie leading the way.  The retirement house features a “great room” with kitchen, dining area and living room in one space. The bedroom swallows up the king size bed and has a large walk in closet with chest of drawers strategically placed in the center.  The house is “wheel chair ready just in case.” Aging hasn’t stopped Tom at all. He is creative, adventuresome and maintains a pure love of life. What fine people these are. 


After our wine tasting and sending Tom home for his dinner, with Rosie in for the chase, we spent a beautiful night on the farm, along side the bubbling brook and facing west into the glorious sunset. This is the spirit of this mecca along the Blue Ridge. 
For more, see http://www.thistlemeadowwinery.com/  and http://www.grapestompers.com/ 

As for Rosie the 35MPH dog, I couldn’t catch a photo of her–she was too fast for any camera.

Ann Carol Goldberg

Give me Liberty, Gold, and Pizza, (views from the road)

Along with the first Model T Ford, roadside distractions have caused havoc along the way. There were the simple days, litter on the road, potholes, billboards, Burma Shave ads, tuning the radio, scolding noisy kids in the back seat. Then fast food came into being and drivers began to reach for McD’s hot beverage or chomp on the triple cheeseburger, others would comb their golden locks, apply makeup, or get a close shave with a razor


Teens cruisin in their dad’s Olds flirted with attractive girls in hot pants. They would marry and have kids who would fight over the DVDs to watch in the backseat, mall sprawl went ballistic. Next, then on to cell phones, Ipads or Ipods, billboards gone video and perhaps the deadliest, TEXTING.  From my seat of the motor home, I have become a habitual voyeur, observing the trends as the nation drives down the road. Next?


The highways have gotten a bit bumpier with a new distraction, an epidemic of young (mostly male) “sign wavers.” These characters are exuberant, full of energy, often dressed in costume as Statues of Liberty, bulls, bear, cowboys, clowns. They hoist big arrow-shaped signs trying to draw the driver to their employer’s business. They beg you to sell your gold, buy Liberty Tax Services, fast food, a car, boat, vacation, an endless list of gimmicks. Does this ploy work? Does it sell product or lure in the driver from their original destinations? I just had to investigate and learned the following from Jerome Osteryoung’s Posting:on Jan 27, 2012;

Read more here: http://www.bradenton.com/2012/01/27/3825314/sign-wavers-an-effective-ad-tool.html#storylink=cpy

The idea was hatched by Liberty Tax Services, their sign wavers wearing flowing glowing green robes, Statue of Liberty halos and waving signs to lure customers to their corner and away from H & R Block’s block. Two former sign wavers, working in 2002 started their own company–AAROW ADVERTISING. They have upwards of 500 employees and offer a franchising operation, not only on our home turf, but internationally. They deem eye contact and a big smile as essential to success.


From my observation out of the RV windshield, excessive enthusiasm, endless energy to dance, hop, skip, jump, wave heavy signs and smile ear to ear is imperative. Also, the willingness to perform in sweltering heat and cold driving rain helps too.

You may ask, what is next? Sadly, it looks like the human element in the new profession of “sign waver” is already doomed. I observed an electrified sign waver fully clothed in Liberty’s best green garb flapping and waving to catch your attention away from the road ahead, albeit, tirelessly for 24/7. Another case of robotics taking over our jobs. 
Keep alert and drive safely
Ann Carol Goldberg

We Hit The Jack(son) Pot on Shabbat

Jackson Mississippi sits in the southern end of one of our favorite byways; The Natchez Trace. We have traveled the Trace from north to south and south to north first with car and tents and then via our motorhome for years.  We keep coming back so we can savor the two lane strip of highway not to exceed 50 MPH speed limit.  One breathes in the sense of history and discovery following this road, calling up images of the “Kaintucks” or the “boatmen from the Ohio river Valley.” They floated their furs and other wares down the Mississippi River by raft to sell and then trekked on foot about 500 miles from Natchez to Nashville forming the Natchez Trace. The 30 day trip must have been packed with adventure.

Jackson too  is a city deeply immersed in history, founded in 1821 situated on a bluff along the Pearl River. Noting that this location had “beautiful and healthful surroundings, good water, abundant timber, navigable waters, and proximity to the Natchez Trace,” the General Assembly authorized this location as the permanent seat of government for the state, naming the city Jackson in honor of Andrew Jackson, soon to be the 7Th president of the United States. http://www.jacksonms.gov/visitors/history


The role of the city throughout the years since its founding is long, involved and brilliant and today, players in that history are celebrated including Medgar Evers, Eudora Welty and so many more. 


Arriving in Jackson on a Friday, we searched the web for info on the local Jewish community and Shabbat services.  We found Beth Israel Congregation and were surprised at its deep roots and long history. Founded in 1860, it was the first synagogue in Mississippi, serving 15 families. The first rabbi was hired in 1870.  He moved the congregation to embrace the Reform movement and offered his sermons in English. Notably, On September 18, 1967, the then new temple building was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan, followed two months later by the bombing of Rabbi Nussbaum’s home. Damage was done, but no one was hurt. These acts of terrorism “helped to galvanize Jackson’s white community to action” in the Civil Rights Movement. 


Knowing that Shabbat morning services begin at 9:00 AM and Torah Study at 10:30, we walked into the synagogue after being greeted by Gavin as he arrived on his motor cycle. He directed us to the front door. The welcome was golden as we were greeted by member after member introducing themselves, asking where we were from and extending pure southern hospitality to us. We felt at home, stayed for the moving service and participated in the stimulating conversation about the Torah portion of the week. 


Rabbi Valerie Cohen gave us a tour of the synagogue and the honor of Aliyah, blessing Torah. We enjoyed speaking with Rosemary, orienting us with prayer books and seats, with Carol from Chicago, now in Jackson for a year helping her grandfather through the loss of his wife of many years (Carol’s grandmother) and with his up-coming surgery. Gavin is also facing multiple surgeries and rode his motorcycle for what may be the last time on his road to recovery. We wish everyone well and once again, celebrate having acquired new friends. How we have benefited from fine hospitality and continue to thrive as we continue on down the road. 


Ann Carol Goldberg

A Turn of the Welcome Mat

We are a hugging nation. Publicly, hugs are encountered everywhere, airports, shopping malls, encounters on a neighborhood street, playground, park, at the country club, at the movie theatre and more. Hugs are frequent in private, at home, at family parties and celebrations, an endless list. Americans hug strangers as we make fast friends, find common threads of interest or share a humorous moment. 


It is no myth that we are a welcome-mat nation, long known for opening our arms to generations of immigrants; a Melting Pot, weaving our fabric of ethnic diversity. In light of recent revelations, when it comes to welcoming visitors to our shores, the status of our welcome-mat becomes quite another matter. 


According to a New York Times article, March 15th and sited below) those seeking a visit to our nation must answer off the wall questions or confess, if they dare, to outrageous secrets. Before traveling to just visit the USA, a foreigners  must pay $14 to complete an online United States government form called ESTA, short for Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

ESTA has space for your personal data, (name, date of birth, the usual.)  It also asks whether you are guilty of “moral turpitude,” whether you’re planning crimes or “immoral activities” and whether you suffer from “lymphogranuloma venereum” (don’t ask).  How would you answer these questions? Mostly just leave them blank out of astonishment if no other reason. The request to fill out such a form to visit our country is unique in the realm of travel. Most democracies do not require a visa let alone require such a nasty form and charging a fee ($14). 


As a child, I remember hugs as being special, performed for good or specific reasons. They were proper for family,. for close friends or a special someone you haven’t seen for ages. I do celebrate and enjoy our growing friendliness and the hug-epidemic of today. Hugs are so welcome and comforting when sincere and warm.  Americans are seen hugging all over the place, expected in some locations. 


Why then does this ESTA form get thrown in the face of would be tourists or alleged trying encounters with gruff immigration personnel?  We the citizens did not make these rules, we wish to maintain our aura as the friendly Americans  that we truly are, hugging and welcoming, open and eager to meet folks from other lands. 


Is this another wall put in the way of foreigners coming to our shores?  I was astonished by the article that I have quoted above an offer the URL if you would like to read more.  I worry that all foreign visitors will be required to speak English before they disembark from the plane or ship that brought them here. 
 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/16/opinion/the-unwelcome-mat.html?_r=1&ref=opinion


Ann Carol Goldberg

WesMar Goat Farm

CLICHE WARNING; Good things come, yes, in small packages. When traveling on the road, we find these small packages, sightsee-ers joy, best kept secrets, you’ve got the idea. The latest find is a small “artisan” goat farm in the heart of Moreauville, Louisiana,  In the campground office (of a very large Casino/hotel/spa/ complex, I picked up a flyer directing us to the farm. And what was better, it happened to be their farm  market day.

From the sound of the information card, we expected a large, commercial operation. After all they promised 2 hour tours of the farm and facilities with advanced reservations, except on Thursday, Market Day. We drove from Marksville southerly a few miles to the farm. Crossing a bridge over the Bayou we immediately faced the farm, a rustic, un-manicured entrance, the driveway a mix of dirt, rocks and gravel, some spanish moss overhead and an unpolished-style charm of the old south. No fancy, over the top commercial facility here but a warm southern welcome with coffee, fresh pecans, generous samples of the Goat Feta, and the Brie that Marguerite Constantine (The Mar in WesMar) is developing. We were invited to sit under the rustic shelter to join their friends and some customers having coffee and treats. One gentleman was holding a 2 day old goat. As cute as could be, of course.

West (the Wes in WesMar) was busy helping a mom and her children with a stalled motorcycle, asking us to enjoy ourselves until he was free so we could taste the cheeses. That would be the farm market part. We chatted for a while, learned about some of the processing techniques in making the cheeses and goat milk as well as a variety of flavored soaps and chocolate covered truffles. 

We resisted the delicious truffles but purchased two containers of the garlic and herb Chevre — kept frozen until ready to use, a container of Goat Feta and a quart of the Goat Milk. It is all delicious and we were restricted solely by the space in our RV’s refrigerator. We chatted some more and grabbed some more PR fliers to take back to the RV park office for others to find. We said our goodbyes and Marguerite stopped us on the way to the car and handed us a full, round 4″ wheel of her new Brie. She asked us to “taste-test” it and to email feedback to her. How delightful to be part of the response team. We will indeed follow up with our opinions and are so delighted to have met the Constantines. They are hardworking and devoted to their work.

The towns of Marksville and Moreauville, LA are another fascinating story.  Marksville survives mostly on the back of the huge Native American Casino run by the Tunica Biloxi Tribe and was the first land based Casino in Louisiana.  Casinos are not our usual haunt, we don’t gamble and the smoking is overwhelming. However, Casinos are famous for having wonderful RV camp sites at very reasonable prices (such as $8 to $10 a night for full hookups).

Moreauville, the location of the goat farm is rustic looking, featuring many old buildings still standing in various stages of disrepair and is a low key, small  Louisiana town about 63 miles from Baton Rouge. The population is currently 927 and all that we met were Southern friendly. We know life is tough there, with upwards of 9% unemployment, and falling below the National poverty level.  There are 4 old bridges and an average traffic pattern of 2,830 vehicles per day, (oh the wonders of the Internet). 
Travel is so full of unexpected delights, just keep the eyes open and the mind flexible. Thanks for reading my ramblings this far. It is now time to take out Marguerite’s Goat Brie and fulfill our part of the bargain to taste test the cheese and provide feedback. Bon appetite. 
Ann Carol Goldberg

Kindle Spirit

I swore I would never give up paper books. I meant it, I still believe it, but I have cheated on my constant declaration of loyalty to the printed book, I have cheated on the friends and family that have heard me so declare my loyalties, I have cheated on my public library and favorite home grown book stores around the country. 


Yes, I admit that I now own a Kindle Fire. I brought it home and glared at it for a few minutes and then by some miracle of technology, realized that my first copy of the New York Times was awaiting my caress to be brought to life. There it was, articles listed under tabs of Front Page, National, International, Editorial, Arts, Books, Science, Sports, Most emailed stories, the paper clone, a.technological wonder. I read the first article and wasn’t struck down as a fraud. I could touch a word or phrase and a blue highlighted link would appear like a genie out of a bottle teaching me more about the subject from someplace on the web. I could link to the web for relevant articles, look up definitions.  I was hooked. 


The first novel I downloaded was THE BIRTH HOUSE by Ami KcKay. After another twinge of guilt, I bookmarked my place electronically so I could return to the page I had left off reading, just like using a favorite specimen from my paper bookmark collection. I could highlight words or phrases, I could annotate notes in the virtual margin, I could instantly look up definitions of words, find the origins, archaic usages and on and on. I took a deep breath, I am now hooked on ereaders and have never turned back, except to force myself to take a breather and read the paper magazines that still come in the mail, or read a paper book so I don’t forget how.


How angry I sometimes get at the device–that is the lingo, when I loose the place or it shouts at me that I have 15% battery left and I had better find a plug to give it a re-charge. Resistance to progress has always gotten in my way.  I have lived long enough to have had to learn to adapt to CD’s from Vinyl, velcro instead of laces, microwaves, Cuisinarts, LED light bulbs, liquid soap, keyless locks, digital imaging, DVD’s, social media and so much more. Move ahead say I. Life is progress and progress is life.


Now, my game is to download and collect many books into my device, to form a virtual bookshelf reiterating the bookshelves in my house. Now, I don’t have to worry about the overweight of books on the motor home. I do miss the trading libraries as we travel but I can still share book titles and savor the written word. Searching for a new book is almost as enjoyable as walking into my favorite home grown book store and I do worry about the future of the book store. There has to be a way to transform the bookstore into the modern age, but perhaps not in the way proposed in Amy Stewart’s novel, THE LAST BOOKSTORE IN AMERICA.  Read it. By the way, it is only available downloaded on to your device. 


Ann Carol Goldberg

Sorry”

Sorry, oh, sorryI’m sorry,… Have you ever noticed how often we use the word sorry sub-consciously, as a reflex, more often spoken into the air or under our breath than directed at a specific person? This word is one of the most overused in the English language. It is involuntary, along with the phrases how are you or have a good day.


The word slips out when we shuffle our way into the middle of the row in a movie theatre or concert venue when it’s the aisle sitter who chose to block our way in the first place. Americans are so sorry when we almost run down each other’s shopping carts at a blind spot at the end of a grocery isle or reach for the same pear or orange on the produce counter or encounter a hiker along a narrow spot on the trail. The host or hostess in a restaurant or a cashier who took 30 seconds to wait on you says he or she is sorry.  We utter sorry when we vie for the same seat on the subway or send a belated email response or, on and on. Fill in your own triggers for uttering  the catch-all word sorry.


Being American born, saying sorry is part of my nature. One of the first words I learn when visiting a foreign country is their word for sorry. (Spanish, lo siento or perdon, Hebrew, Slicha, French, désolé, Turkish, ozür dilerim…)  There is even a board game called SORRY that has been around  since 1934. Although, I don’t believe in the course of the game that the players share their sorrow for knocking each other back home or off the board.


I have read that Americans apologize to strangers constantly as we cruise through the day but that saying thank you or apologizing to loved ones is hard in coming. The flower and sweets industries says that they thrive partly on the backs of folks that send flowers or chocolate because that comes more easily than actually saying thank you or I am sorry in person. 


Europeans on the other hand, are not known to apologize if they bump you in a grocery line or enter the rapid transit or subway car before you are allowed to exit. They are purposeful in their actions not giving thought to manners but continuing on their way. Americans say “sorry” when we have nothing to be sorry about. It is under our skin, an ingrown trait. Does it stem from our Puritanical heritage, from what our mothers taught us or just that we are too darn polite? 


Ann Carol Goldberg