The next destination

We need a vacation. We need to get out of town. I’m thinking it will be Black Mountain, N.C. and Centers Bed and Breakfast.


Down on the farm with John Keller

I spent part of the morning at Kelmont Farm in Maryville. I was there to do a freelance assignment about John Keller, who was recently chosen Tennessee Farmer of the Year.


View of the Smokies from Kelmont Farms

View of the Smokies from Kelmont Farms

He and his wife, Susan, are such warm folks. I met Susan about 10 years ago when I was county government reporter for The Daily Times. It was good to catch up and know that CAPPE still holds its annual ChiliFest. I plan to make the next one, though it is months away.

Kelmont Farms cow staring me down.

Kelmont Farms cow staring me down.

Three things to do in Tellico Plains, Tenn.

Get out a map and put your finger Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It’s off the beaten path, an hour south of Knoxville. If you look closely, you’ll notice it’s on the door step of the Cherohala Skyway, one of the most scenic highways in the southeast.

Motorcyclists flock here, but food brought me to Tellico Plains, though. Here are three great things to do in this tiny East Tennessee mountain town.

1.) Visit Tellico Grains Bakery.

This is an image of the Tellico Grains Bakery sign.

The Tellico Grains Bakery sign is weather beaten but not old. The bakery opened in 2003 in the old Tellico Bank and Trust building.

We went Saturday morning when they cook their scrumptious pizza. It’s cooked in a wood-fired oven, so it came out with crispy crust and golden-brown cheese. The place was packed.

We sat next to a retired Marine and his wife who were touring the Skyway on their motorcycles. The Marine had salt-and-pepper hair and an ease with strangers. He knew the history of the building, and he chatted up my wife.

“Did you see those guns?” she said, a reference to his big, tan arms.

We splurged and got a chocolate cupcake with butter-cream filling. That was the appetizer. It was too much. But it was the kind of bad you love in the moment.

2.) Browse The Bookshelf, Used Books. Great little store with a broad selection. Some used bookstores smell like garages and attics. This one was funk free and set up so that you could actually find the books.

The owner looked like a retired TV actor and had the manner of a book lover. He knew his stock and pointed us toward some great deals on children’s books.

This is a picture of the lovely chocolate cupcake.

Delicious. Irresistible. The chocolate cupcake at Tellico Grains Bakery.

3.) Drive the Cherohala Skyway. You knew I was going to get around to this, right? Sorry to tip my hand.

It’s great on a motorcycle. But you can love it from a car, too. The Skyway is a National Scenic Highway that passes through the Cherokee National Forest and Nantahala Forest. There are no gas stations up here. No billboards or buildings to block your view. Pick a pull off. Breathe the air. Put the cell phone away. (Not sure you’ll get service anyway).

You’ll forget for a moment about work and stress and whatever else clouds your mind.

Millennium Manor

I drive by this fortress every day. OK, it’s not a fortress or castle, exactly. It’s a house  made entirely of pink marble from Friendsville with a wall thick enough to survive zombie hordes.

It draws visitors, photographers and curious neighbors like myself all the time. I pass it on the way to work and the park. It stands in contrast to the hulking industrial metal shell of the Alcoa South Plant nearby.

It’s called Millennium Manor, and you can tour it at  certain times of the year.

This is an image of a photo by the News Sentinel of Millenium Manor.

This is the Millennium Manor in Alcoa. Photo by

5 things I like about Bryson City, N.C.

My weekend in Bryson City, N.C. was mostly about water: tubing and rafting. And I spent it with a group of friends who had traveled from Colorado and Georgia to experience Western Carolina. I didn’t have time to bike and hike like I planned, but the company was great.

Here are my five favorite things about this little mountain town: Continue reading

Call of the Oconaluftee

I take two routes to Western North Carolina: Interstate 40 or U.S. 441 through Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. I chose the more scenic route through the park last week. I stopped at the Oconaluftee River Trail and Mountain Farm Museum behind the Oconaluftee Visitors Center. It’s a tranquil spot and a good place for a break before venturing into Cherokee and Bryson City, N.C. Continue reading