Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Smoky Mountain National Park, Part II - Views

The National Parks do an excellent job of providing many places to get off the road for spectacular views. In a few places there was some color starting to appear. It was too early in the year to expect much.



In this part of the country, we are not used to seeing very far. There are too many trees blocking the view. But some of the pullouts offered great panoramic scenes.

As we were driving through the Park one morning Kristin noticed some clouds moving across the valley. This was on the North Carolina side of the Park.


One of the stops we made was Clingmans Dome. From the parking area there were grand views of the surrounding mountains. A short, but steep hike took us to a tower atop the mountain. This was the tallest point in the Park.



This is Kristin and Rachael on the tower.


The View from the cabin was pretty good too. This was the view each morning at sunrise.


And of course, my favorite view of the trip - my girls.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Smoky Mountain National Park, Part I - Waterfalls


We just got back from our family vacation. This year we went to Smoky Mountain National Park. We rented a cabin outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We had four days to enjoy the surroundings.

We wanted to get out and see the park. So we grabbed our cameras and found a listing of waterfalls in the park. Of the four shown here, two could be driven to. The other two required hiking in. Rachael did pretty well on the hikes. Of course, Kristin did have a Kelty backpack carrier for Rachael to ride in for much of the hiking! (And do not say Rachael has it so easy - if I hear that one more time...)

On to the falls...

This is The Sinks. It is right off the road. Actually, it is under a bridge in the road. It is the first of two falls we saw that you can drive to. It is not very large, but carries a large volume of water.




This is Meigs Falls. It is the second falls we saw that could be driven to. It is about 100 yards off the road. If you are not looking in the right direction you will miss it. But it is an impressive falls.




This is Laurel Falls. It was my favorite hike. From the parking area it is about 1.3 miles to the falls. On the way up we saw a Black Bear scamper down the hill. I saw a second bear leave the trail on its way up into the woods. As I have wanted to see a bear in the wild for a long time, I thoroughly enjoyed this.



And finally Mingo Falls. It is one of the tallest falls in the Appalachians. It is actually just outside the southern side of the park, in Cherokee, North Carolina. There was about a 1/2 mile hike straight up to get to these. But they were well worth the walk.



Saturday, September 20, 2008

More Smallmouth Fishing

I made it out this morning for some more Smallmouth Bass fishing. I met up with a gentleman from Georgia. We geared up and out we went. We each caught around 10 fish. Mostly Rock Bass with some Longear Sunfish and Smallmouth Bass thrown in.

A Longear Sunfish. The coloring on these fish in this particular water is incredible.


Here is a Rock Bass. Sometimes referred to as a Redeye or Goggle Eye. (Depending on what part of the country, Redeye and Goggle Eye can refer to completely different fish)

And the last Smallmouth of the day. It looks like its' tail had been broken at some point. I've never seen one with a tail quite like that.

Good weather, good company, and good fishing. All in all a great trip.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Varied Images

Here are some other photos taken during this trip. Enjoy.

These pictures were taken at the hotel. These two are in a courtyard between buildings.



The waters in the courtyard are full of Koi.


This is a picture from the conference room in the factory. The buildings are the dorms many of the workers stay in. It is a nice campus.


This is an area where people go to get away. This is relatively quiet for China – not too many people here.


This Buddha was at one of the gardens. The detail is amazing.


And for your viewing enjoyment, some more signs.

Is this a statement or threat?


I confess, I did not actually peek behind the tea garden to view the hardship.


I wondered where that crisp air went.


And finally, here is a perspicacious word. vi·res·cence – state of becoming somewhat, though usually not totally, green, due to the abnormal presence of chlorophyll.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Annals of Automobile Abominations, Part II

There are too many tails to recount in merely one blog entry. So I have broken the account into two parts. Here are more tails of the automotive atrocities encountered.
  1. There is so much traffic in China that you have to make opportunities for yourself. If you need to turn left and traffic is stopped, you just start moving forward. As you move forward cars start to swerve around you. Eventually they can swerve no more and you are blocking a lane of traffic. You repeat this procedure until you are across the three lanes of traffic and turned into the lane you need to be in. This was a daily occurrence leaving the hotel.
  2. We left the factory late one night. As we were nearing the hotel, on what was a relatively quiet drive, a scooter pulled the above mentioned procedure. He pulled out, blocking traffic. It would not have been so bad, except all of a sudden this scooter appeared between two cars, directly in front of us. Our driver slammed the brakes. We stopped with a few inches to spare.
  3. During another drive back to the hotel I looked out the window only to see the hood of an SUV inches from my face. The SUV was honking his horn, obviously not happy with our driver. But our driver remained in front. We drove down the road a bit further, only to have the SUV pass us. The SUV slammed on the brakes, and the driver stuck his head out the window shouting. Our driver stuck his head out the window and shouted back. We are pretty sure he was cussing based on the hand gestures. Our driver then the driver missed a turn and ended up driving down a narrow street. There were vendors on both sides selling various wares. We had to drive through the vendors with cars, bikes, pedestrians, and scooters coming at directly at us. After finally making it through the maze we reached the hotel, only to have a group of people standing in front of the ramp. The driver honked and went right through, scattering people as he went.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chinarrhea

Chinarrhea – it is exactly what it sounds like. Caused by eating stuff in China. And no, it is not fun!

Frog Feast




After lunch I went over to the grocery store to pick up a couple things. Wandering through the store, I ended up in the meat department. There was a tank with live fish. Under the fish was a tank with live turtles. And above the fish were live frogs.

I wonder if they are sold by the pound?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Emerald City

Lunch anyone? This is one of the places where we often find ourselves around noon. It is a large shopping center called Emerald City. There are various restaurants, with a lot of variety. And there are a few staples of Western life. If you look closely you may see a KFC and a Pizza Hut in the photo. There is also a sandwich shop and German restaurant.

Inside is a shopping mall. The bottom level of the mall has a grocery store, for those times the company store is not open and you need a little something.

And plenty of taxis when you are ready to return to the factory…

Monday, September 8, 2008

Annals of Automobile Abominations, Part I

What would a trip to China be without tails of driving horrors? I have often stated that Chinese streets were designed by watching water flow. If you pour two containers of water into a third container the water will merge, resulting in one seamless stream of water. If water works this way, why not traffic? After all, liquids and solids are not that different.

Here are a few experiences.
  1. One morning on the way in to the factory we came upon a new intersection. As this was in a newer area of the industrial park, they had not yet put up any traffic lights. There was also no stop sign, and no one directing traffic. Naturally, all four directions have the right away. Cars would come from all four directions at high speed and move through the intersection. In the middle was a series of braking and turning that would leave a NASCAR driver envious. And out the other side the cars would go. Just for added interest people walking, riding bikes, and riding scooters would also try to cross the street at this intersection. No wonder China does so well in Gymnastics.
  2. I was walking in front of the hotel one afternoon. Suddenly I heard wheels screech and looked up to see a taxi come safely to a halt, without so much as a mark on the car in front of him. The gentleman on the scooter behind the taxi was not so lucky. He came to an abrupt halt as the scooter introduced itself to the taxi. There was a loud thud as plastic flew into the air. The man got off the scooter. Amazingly enough he was not already halfway through the rear window of the taxi. He had a few words with the taxi driver. Both then drove on their way.
  3. One fine morning, on the way into the factory, we took the hotel shuttle instead of a taxi. Usually the shuttle is a large bus. The bus is nice and comfortable. Best of all you sit up higher and cannot see the many cars that nearly turn into you. Today, however, they used a Buick van. The traffic was worse than usual, and the driver was in a hurry. This is not a good combination. While the experience was not actually new, it demonstrates a situation that I find myself in all too often here. In one instance the driver did not want to wait for the cars that were stopped in front of him. So he drove down the right shoulder, only to find cars turning right up ahead. He slammed on the breaks and swerved back into the traffic, narrowly avoiding the cars. Further on down the road a car was making a left turn from a side street into the flow of traffic. Well, we could not allow that. The driver sped up. The merging car screeched to a halt, mere inches from the side of the van.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Breaking In

As we sat at lunch today we watched in awe as three gentlemen walked to a doorway across the square. The doors had a chain lock around them. But the men were not to be deterred – they were carrying the largest set of bolt cutters I had ever seen. With one man watching, the other two proceeded to cut the chain off the door and go inside.

While I do not expect any prohibited activities were taking place, I was surprised at the lack of attention this act generated. Even the little boy relieving himself in the square did not look up during the commotion.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Rapid Development


The tall, completed building in the photo is the Shangri-La Hotel. When I was here in January and February it was the tallest building in this area of town. When I returned in June construction had begun on the two nearby buildings. And now, in September, it appears the two new building will be as tall as or taller than the Shangri-La when complete.

Development happens very quickly in China. Blink and you will miss it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Open for Business

At the factory there is a small company store. They sell snacks and drinks. You can get all kinds of edible delights. From the individually vacuum packed boiled eggs to the chicken flavored potato chips, there is something to delight every palate.

There is, however, a hindrance to obtaining these delicacies. The store must be open. The posted hours are displayed below.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Friendly Splendor

A sign over the urinal (yes, I said over the urinal) reads:

All the splendor 1 in the world is not worth a good friend.

Today’s topics for discussion:
  • What exactly is Splendor 1?
  • Precisely how much is it worth?
  • How much Splendor 1 is in the world anyhow?
  • Is there a Splendor 2?