Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Our cars have been moved - tree limbs break with ease here with just a little snow so living in the woods the cars are in the field, plus the headlights help light up the "sled paths". DadToCherubs even mowed a "sled path" with the mower today - cut really short so as to need less snow for sledding. DadToCherubs is working until 3am, and has promised to wake us up if there it at least a dusting. Sleds, mittens, hats, and gloves by the door. Hot chocolate ready to make - just have to heat the water.
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM THURSDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST THURSDAY NIGHT.
A WINTRY MIX OF SNOW AND SLEET WILL DEVELOP BEFORE DAYBREAK THURSDAY LAST INTO THURSDAY EVENING. THERE MAY BE A MIX WITH LIGHT FREEZING RAIN IN THE MORNING...AND WITH LIGHT RAIN IN THE AFTERNOON.
TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS THROUGH THURSDAY EVENING MAY TOTAL FROM 1 TO 4 INCHES. SOME LIGHT ICE ACCUMULATIONS OF AROUND 1/10 INCH WILL ALSO BE POSSIBLE.
So, as per our tradition, our sleds are by the door with mittens and hats, at the ready .... and we will be sure to snap some photos if it actually comes .....
...WINTRY PRECIPITATION EXPECTED THURSDAY...
A COLD AIR MASS WILL REMAIN OVER THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN REGION WEDNESDAY NIGHT...AS MOISTURE ASSOCIATED WITH A DEVELOPING LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM OVER THE GULF COAST MOVES NORTH ACROSS THE REGION. THIS MOISTURE WILL FALL AS MOSTLY SNOW WITH SOME POSSIBLE SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN ACROSS SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE AFTER MIDNIGHT WEDNESDAY NIGHT. SNOW WILL THEN SPREAD EAST AND NORTH ACROSS THE REST OF EAST TENNESSEE...SOUTHWEST NORTH CAROLINA AND SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA BEFORE MORNING. THE SNOW SHOULD GRADUALLY CHANGE TO A MIXTURE OF SNOW... SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN DURING THE MORNING AND THEN TO RAIN BY LATE AFTERNOON ACROSS SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE...CENTRAL EAST TENNESSEE AND SOUTHWEST NORTH CAROLINA...AS WARMER AIR VERY SLOWLY MOVES NORTHEAST UP THE VALLEY. SOME LIGHT TO POSSIBLY MODERATE ICE ACCUMULATIONS ARE EXPECTED THURSDAY ACROSS SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE...CENTRAL EAST TENNESSEE AND SOUTHWEST NORTH CAROLINA. IF TEMPERATURES STAY AT OR BELOW FREEZING THROUGHOUT THE DAY MORE SIGNIFICANT ICING MAY OCCUR. FARTHER NORTH...ACROSS SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA... THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS...AND THE NORTHEAST TENNESSEE MOUNTAINS PRECIPITATION WILL BE MOSTLY SNOW... MIXED WITH SOME SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN THROUGHOUT THE DAY THURSDAY. RIGHT NOW...IT APPEARS THAT SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 4 INCHES WILL BE POSSIBLE ACROSS THE VALLEY AREAS OF EAST TENNESSEE AND THE SOUTHERN CUMBERLAND PLATEAU THURSDAY...BEFORE THE TRANSITION TO A MIXTURE OF SLEET... FREEZING RAIN AND RAIN LATER IN THE DAY. SNOW OR WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES WILL LIKELY BE ISSUED FOR THESE AREAS BY AFTERNOON TODAY.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
...STRONG COLD FRONT WILL MOVE THROUGH THE AREA ON SUNDAY...
AN AREA OF LIGHT RAIN WILL MOVE EAST INTO THE AREA EARLY TONIGHT. THE RAIN WILL CHANGE TO SNOW OVERNIGHT AS A COLD FRONT MOVES SOUTHEAST THROUGH THE REGION. BRISK NORTHWEST WINDS WILL RESULT IN LITTLE OR NO TEMPERATURE RISE ON SUNDAY. WIND CHILL READINGS WILL BE IN THE MID 20S. LIGHT SNOW ACCUMULATIONS ARE POSSIBLE. SNOW ACCUMULATIONS WILL RANGE FROM A DUSTING ACROSS VALLEY LOCATIONS TO NEAR 3 INCHES IN THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS. BLUSTERY CONDITIONS WILL CONTINUE SUNDAY NIGHT AS WIND CHILLS FALL INTO THE SINGLE DIGITS.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
We were tired ... actually, tired was an understatement. We were just plain exhausted - every single one of us. We decided that on the way back to the hotel we would stop to have dinner, and then we would not have to "go out" again that evening. So we went out for dinner. Everyone was SO wiped out !! After dinner, the children went swimming at the hotel while DadToCherubs and I soaked our poor aching muscles in the hot tub. After the trip to the pool area, everyone was bathed and in bed ASLEEP by 9pm. Not even a peep from anyone when "bedtime" was announced. I think even the children were secretly happy that bedtime had finally arrived.
On Tuesday morning we got up , packed our bags again, and loaded the car. We sat in the hotel's Breakfast Area and enjoyed breakfast together, while talking about our grand adventures in NC and all the fun we had together. Then we set out via the interstate to head home just a little after 10am.... and found no wintery mix , no wind or rain, and no ice ... clear skies and smooth driving the whole way home. We arrived home around 1pm.
After a wonderful few days in NC, and they were indeed wonderful, we are all happy to be home again .... and our pets (and Grandpa) were happy to see us return as well. What excellent memories we have to savor ... and we are anxiously anticipating the next Winter Getaway.
Side Note: Since coming home from Cataloochee, the children have each asked if it is possible to ask Santa for ski passes and lift tickets instead of toys so that maybe we can go skiing more than 1x per year. HA ! They have all said that their favorite thing about winter is skiing. I think they are "hooked".
End Note: Cataloochee Ski Resort is located in Maggie Valley, NC.
Here is the link for the resort. http://www.cataloochee.com/
Photo 1: Cherub 4 getting ready to "squat down" and ski. Leave it to him to try something risky !!
Photo 2: Cherub 2, Cherub 6, and then Cherub 4 on the Beginner Slope "lift".
Photo 3: Cherub 2 after a fall ... trying to be graceful. HA !!
Photo 4: Cherub 5 "mid-shriek" after stopping "on purpose" FINALLY !!
Photo 5: Cherub 1 working on his turns and positioning.
Photo 1: Cherub 6 in his favorite LL Bean sweatshirt - this shirt was a gift to Cherub 1 on his 2nd Christmas (almost 11 years ago !!). He was getting tired ... this photo was taken around 330p, after skiing since 930am.
Photo 2: Cherub 6 skiing - headlights, frenchfries PERFECT ! He got a turn on the Intermediate slope, but was with DadToCherubs the whole time because no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to stop at all ... he jsut zoomed until he crashed. HA !!
Photo 3: Cherub 3 seemed to pick up skiing the fastest ... this photo was taken on one of his first "runs" down the beginner slope. He did well on the Intermediate slope without needing help from DadToCherubs.
Photo 4: Cherub 4 LOVED skiing, but had issues with stopping. She knew HOW to stop ... she jsut did not WANT to stop. But eventually she did as she was taught. She went down the Intermediate slope with DadToCherubs and squealed the entire way down - HA !!
Photo 5: Cherub 1 took his skiing very seriously, and had a grand time. He did well on the intermediate slope as well WITHOUT help from DadToCherubs.
We did not want to "waste" a moment of our skiing time, and we were not very hungry after our HUGE breakfast .... so we decided to have a granola bar, some yogurt, and water for lunch. And then of course a day of skiing would NOT be complete without HOT CHOCOLATE. After lunch, we hurried back to the slopes for 3 1/2 more hours of skiing before our day was finished.
Photo: Lunchtime in the lodge.
DadToCherubs can ski !! HOORAY !!
But there is more to the story .... DadToCherubs learned to ski when he was 2yo, and has always LOVED skiing. His strokes changed his balance quite a bit, and so changed a lot of things he could and could not do. Most of those things he can do again after a lot of healing and some accomidations. He tried to ski last year in Pittsburg, and was unable to balance, so he was unable to ski. He just could not get the "feel" of it again. And he was very disappointed about it. So this time he decided to take it slow and steady, and see if maybe he just had to "start over" and relearn. So he played a bit on the beginner slope, and then played a lot on the Intermediate slopes. By the end of the day, he was skiing on the Black Diamonds again without difficulty. And unlike the rest of us, he did not fall ... not even once.
Above is a map of the slopes at Cataloochee .... then there is a photo of Mount Omigosh from out on the hill in front of the lodge, and the last photo is of DadToCherubs as he finishes his first "try" on the Black Diamond slope .... what you cannot see in the photo is the huge "I DID IT !" smile on his face.
It was beautiful to see him SOOOO happy and feeling SOOOO accomplished.
Photo 1: Actually, this photo was taken at the end of class. Cherubs 1-6 with their Ski Pro's ... Ms. Michelle and Mr. Beau.
Photo 2: Cherubs 1, 3, 4, 5, & 6 at the top of the Beginner Slope. Cherub 2 had just taken her turn, and Cherub 6 is starting his turn right now ... "Headlights", "French Fries" were his instructions. (headlights means hands on knees of balance, and frenchfries means skis parallel like frenchfries)
Photo 3: Everyone in class is listening closely, except Cherub 6 who just "caught" us watching and taking photos. See his "photograph" smile ?? HA !!
Photo 4: All students listening to the instructors from the top of the Beginner Slope.
Photo 5: When the Cherubs first arrived at the classroom, each was assigned a "bib" with a number and their equiptment information and their names. They were getting the "you ahve to listen and do exactly as we say" speech in this photo. They were SOOOO excited ... but were "excellent" students according to the Pros.
Photo 1: DadToCherubs in the lead ... trying to figure out where we need to go to get passes and equiptment.
Photo 2: View of the TOP of the intermediate slope from the Lodge.
Photo 3: Photo of 6 VERY excited Cherubs outside the Lodge immediately after our arrival at Cataloochee.
Photo 4: Photo of the lodge at Cataloochee from where we parked. (we got a great parking spot !)
Photo 5: We are all checked in, and have gotten all 6 children in their boots and fitted for skis ... next we treck over to the CAT TRACKERS and CAT EXPLORERS classroom.
We decided that the logistics of teaching 6 children to ski who have never done it before was rather daunting. So we signed them up for 2 1/2 hours of instruction with Ski Pros. Cherubs 1, 2, and 3 were to be in the CAT EXPLORERS class (ages 8-13yo) and Cherubs 4, 5, and 6 were to be in the CAT TRACKERS class (ages 4-7yo). The Pros were very sweet. The class would be 15-20 minutes of "classroom" instruction, followed by 2+ hours of "on the slope" instruction, plus a snack/drink break. (more photos of classes to follow in next entry). And the children would be allowed to get "coaching" as needed throughout the rest of the day as needed. DadToCherubs and I took the children to the classroom (log cabin) and then went to get our own equiptment.
While the children were in class, DadToCherubs got to get "reaquainted" with skiing (more on that later) and I (MomToCherubs) tagged along with Dad on the easy instruction slope, and then went to the Intermediate Slope. I have only skiied 2x prior to this day, so I needed practice. But by the end of the day I was doing fine, and had a lot of fun even with some falls.
We stopped back several times to watch the children in their classes, and getting to SEE them improve. We took lots of photos which we will post separately. In between "turns" down the slope, they were having a ball eating snow, throwing snowballs, and making snow angels. Cherub3 even managed to make a small snowman.
Then at 1230p, class was over and we were all back together again. And we were all having a GREAT time.
On Monday morning, we woke up at 530am to begin our "Big Day" at Cataloochee Ski Resort. We hurried to get dressed, and decided to go "out" to breakfast.
We went to a place called "Joey's Pancake House" which has been a staple in the Maggie Valley area for many many years.
The resturant was so cute, the service was great, and the food was FANTASTIC. We stuffed ourselves full of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and toast ... had fresh orange juice and hot chocolate (Mom had coffee of course) ...
We nearly had to "waddle" to the car, but knew we had very full tummies that would last most of the day while we were on the slopes. We were hoping that after a really good breakfast, we would only need to have a quick healthy snack mid-day ... so we could ski for the most time possible instead of sitting for a while having lunch. (Cherub 4 said "We can eat lunch at home, but we cannot ski at home. " That's the spirit !! HA !!)
So at 730am we headed back to the hotel to change into our Ski Wear .... in several layers, which takes time for little people, and even big ones .... and then we got in the car at 830 and headed up the mountain to Cataloochee Resort (arriving at the resort just before 9am).
Here are our favorite things about the Ramada Limited:
1. It was only approximately 3 miles from the Ski Resort (Cataloochee).
2. It had an indoor pool to occupy us in the evenings. And it had a hot tub next to the indoor pool - so DadToCherubs and I could "soak" while watching the children play and swim.
3. We were able to get 2 rooms that connected, giving us a bit more room to spread out AND it gave us 2 bathrooms (always a plus for a family of 8).
4. It was very reasonably priced, and had a program through Cataloochee Ski Resort (Kids Stay Free Program) that for each paying adult, 2 children stay free. So for the hotel, we only got charged for 2 children. Also as part of the "Kids Stay Free" package is a free LIFT TICKET for each "free" child ... meaning that 4 of our children got FREE lift tickets to ski at Cataloochee. When we checked in, the owner gave us 2 more free lift tickets to cover the other 2 children. So that was a HUGE expense saved for us .... lift tickets were approximately $25 per child if we had to purchase them. So the hotel actually SAVED us $100-150.
5. Both rooms had wireless high-speed internet that made it possible for DadToCherubs to keep up with his work while we were away.
6. One room had 2 Queen beds, and the other had a King bed. Each room had a refrigerator and microwave. And each room had a balcony that overlooked a beautiful "creek". (it seemed more like a river to us, with rolling white water).
7. And lastly, there was a Continental Breakfast free every morning. There were several kinds of juice in addition to cofee, tea, and hot chocolate. There were 5 types of cereal with milk, oatmeal, grits, danishes, muffins, toast, several kinds of fresh fruit, and Belgian Waffles with condiments. We ate breakfast in the hotel on Tuesday morning before leaving town, and it was wonderful. Much better than the normal "Continental Breakfast" that hotels usually offer.
The hotel was very nice, and we would definately recommend it to others planning a visit to Maggie Valley, NC.
So we arrived in Maggie Valley, NC, on Sunday evening ... in the POURING rain. We went to the hotel (see other post) and checked in, and unloaded our bags. And we realized we were STARVING !!
So we decided to go to dinner at a local "family resturant" called "The Salty Dog". It was an adorable place, with lots of "fish" and "dog" decor. They served seafood in additon to general American foods.
DadtoCherubs had shrimp and oysters - he loved the shrimp, but now knows that he HATES fried oysters (as do the other children who generally like seafood). Cherub1 had a HUGE bowl of Clam Chowder. Cherub2 had CornDog nuggets. Cherub3 had Popcorn Shrimp. Cherub4 had Popcorn Shrimp. And Cherub5 & Cherub6 split a PBJ. And everyone had a huge mug of hot chocolate topped with a mountain of whipped cream. When trying the fried oysters, Cherub2 said "Oh - these are good - if you LIKE fried oysters - which I do not." HA !! Always a diplomat, she is !!
The childrens food was served in "dog bowls" of varying styles and sizes. It was cute, but DadToCherubs and I did not think it too appetizing. However, the children were thrilled !! Anyway, it was a great "start" to our vacation. (we try not to do things on vacation that we can do "anytime" at home - no McDonalds, fast food, etc.)
After dinner, we drove back to the hotel and got into our bathing suits .... and spent a few really fun hours playing in the indoor pool (and soaking in the hot tub) ....
Then we got ready for bed and were all asleep by 9p. We needed our rest for Monday, because it was to be quite a "BIG DAY" for everyone.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
After watching the weather this past week with great focus and anticipation, on Saturday we finally decided the risk of rain for our trip was minimal ... so we started packing.
On Sunday morning, we loaded the car and were on our way. We brought along the laptop and speakers so the childrne could watch movies. (BTW - that was one of the best ideas we have ever had for a long road trip !!)
The planned route to Maggie Valley, NC, was going from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, NC, by way of the Cherohalla Skyway. We were a little concerned about some winter weather, but planned a leisurely scenic (no hurry) drive. Then from Robbinsville, we would travel to Bryson City, NC, and then on to Waynesville, NC, and then finally getting into Maggie Valley, NC. Total trip time calculated including a quick stop was 3 1/2 hours point to point, without hurrying.
The scenery was absolutely breath-taking along the skyway, even in the pouring rain. However, at about 2000 feet above sea-level the wind picked up considerably. So we slowed down a bit. (note the LAST photo above of DadToCherubs at Obidiah's Gap - 4000 feet above sea level - you can "see" the wind in the photo). We stopped a few times to take pictures - never have we seen so much of the "smoke" that the Great Smokey Mountains are so famous for. It was amazing - God is a Master Artist !!
At 3000 feet above sea level the rain turned to a definate wintery mix - and we started seeing progressively bigger icecicles hanging off of the enormous, sheer rock faces that line the road in so many places. And the water in the "run off" gulleys along the roadside were definately slushy, and getting more icy with each mile. At this point, the temperature had dropped to 33 degrees (before the windchill) .... 14 degrees lower than the temperature had been in Tellico Plains at the start of the Skyway. So we slowed down even more ....
At 3500 feet above sea level, the temperature was dropping steadily and the wintery mix had more "winter" in it than "mix", eventually becoming ICE .... and the road was covered in true BLACK ICE. The temperature at the "top" was 32 degrees on the dot before taking into consideration the windchill. Being from New England, we knew what this meant .... 1st gear, NO brakes unless certain death was imminent, and slow slow slow. Turtles move faster than we were (HA !). The trees moaned and bent under the weight of the ice that coated the branches .... and sparkled .... under the eerie "wintery mix" clouds ...
So we continued up and up, being way too far to turn around and go back (more risk by going back - we were almost to the top) .... and at 4500 feet above sea level we were at the top .... literally IN the clouds ... and it was 30 degrees exactly. It would have made an incredible photo, BUT we did not want to stop even for a second if it was not "necessary", and anyway it would have been just a light grey "solid" appearance. And we wanted to get off the ice-covered roads with all speed, although we did not dare "rush".
At this point in the drive, we had seen 2 other cars TOTAL along the entire skyway. And they were pulled over at "scenic overlooks" ... we are guessing they were southerners who were a bit afraid to continue. It was very daunting, but being "trapped" at 4500 feet in a winter storm with 6 children on board was even scarier.
So - now we started down the mountains ... slow and steady ... and the fog lifted ... and eventually the "winter" was less and less in the "mix" .... until it changed back into rain (just below 3500 feet). We eventually rolled into Indian Springs, NC, and then into Robbinsville, NC.
We stopped for lunch at the Brushy Grill. The man said "What in the world are you driving ?" with a look of shock on his face after we told him we had come across the skyway. He said the Emergency Services Dispatch Radio said that from mile marker 13 and up was nothing but ice .... well, we thought it might be a bit further up than that on THIS side, but not much, and that it was worse on the other side. He was amazed .... NO ONE CAN DRIVE IN ICE HERE he said. We told him how we did it - 1st gear, NO brakes, and as slow as you can possibly manage ... he said most people do not "know" how .. they think the brakes will save them, and that 1st gear is for mud. HA !! (Our children decided that "winter driving skills" should be taught to all new drivers regardless of climate. I think they were a bit proud of their Dad at this point, but did not say so.)
So - our trip had been MUCH longer at this point than planned, but now we contniue on our way (much relieved !) .... and finally arrive in Maggie Valley, NC, at our hotel in one piece just after 5pm .... and thankful to be there after a 5 1/2 hour ride that was "supposed" to take 3 - 3 1/2 hours total.
**Above are a few photos taken along the Cherohalla Skyway at 3500 feet and below. Now you can see WHY the Great Smokey Mountains are called as such. Apparently it has something to do with high levels of moisture in the ground. The photos do not do it jsutice, but you can get the idea. If you ever have the opportunity, please come see for yourself !!
Friday, January 19, 2007
We have been planning a short WINTER GETAWAY in North Carolina for a while now, our 1st Annual Beck Family Winter GetAway (a tradition we are hoping to start). The place we chose is approximately 3 1/2 hours away, through the Smoky Mountains to the other side.
We wanted to find SNOW !! We thought we might try a "winter sport" of some kind like iceskating, skiing, snow tubing, or snowboarding. And we also might spend an afternoon making and throwing snowballs, sledding, making snow angels, building a snowman ... just playing in the snow. Our "agenda" is pretty loose, and as long as our activities involve SNOW it will be a great trip. And of course we will have LOTS of hot chocolate, complete with marshmallows !!
So we set up our plans and waited for January to come, with much anticipation. But lately we have been anxiously watching the weather forecast, and suddenly we were not sure we would be able to go afterall because it was predicted to rain on the "play in the snow afternoon" we planned, and again on the only "full-day" (set aside for a Winter Sport) that we would be there. But now the forecast has changed and it seems we will be able to go ahead with our Getaway as planned. HOORAY !! The weather will be perfect - cold and clear - perfect "go to the snow" weather.
So our reservations are made, directions printed, and plans made.
Now all that is left to do is to PACK .... and ...
Cherub 2 celebrated her 11th birthday on January 18th. It seems so hard to believe that she is growing up so fast.
One of her gifts was a new pair of earrings. She had her ears pierced when she was 6yo, but has had trouble with the piercing ever since and has been unable to wear earrings because she seemed to be "allergic" to any type. So on the advice of a friend, we went to the Jewelry Store and bought 14K gold (yellow gold) earrings ... DOLPHINS (her favorite animal) .... and so far she has not had any issues at all. Her ears are not red or warm, and are not bothering her in the least. She is thrilled !!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
We invited our friends the "O" Tribe to play kickball this afternoon. So we had 2 adults and 9 "O" children and 6 Cherubs, plus a Birdie (neighbor) who volunteered to be the designated pitcher. We only played for an hour because it was quite chilly here today (low 40's and breezy). We forgot to keep score (HA !), but had a lot of fun, and hope to do it again sometime maybe when it is warmer.
** Our 2 dogs were very interested in "playing along", plus Birdie 1's dogs came for a visit. I think the dogs had almost as much fun as
Sunday, January 14, 2007
We all went into town Sunday afternoon after church for some Family Fun .... and today that meant Bowling. Even Grandpa went with us. So in all our party was 6 Cherubs and 3 adults.
The 3 adults played on our first lane, and DadToCherubs won every single game. And then the 6 Cherubs played on a second lane. Of those games, Cherub4 won the first game by almost 30 points !! And in the last game the girls beat the boys (Cherub 2 in 1st place, Cherub 5 in 2nd place) by atleast 20 points.
We had a lot of fun, and decided not one of us is a Pro.