Monday, November 30, 2009

Parkway aims to save vistas

From the Citizen-Times:

Private development is eating away at the Blue Ridge Parkway's biggest asset, and parkway managers say their ability to do anything about it is limited.

Surveys show that long-range scenic views are the main reason people visit the parkway — and they are not coming to see trophy homes on ridge tops.

Standing at the parkway's Bad Fork Overlook near Bent Creek Gap southwest of Asheville, Hendersonville resident Henry Simmons said recently he visits the parkway “just to see the sights, to see the way the overlooks look at different times of the day.”

Much of the land along the parkway “is already developing,” Simmons said. “At some of the lookouts, you can just see the difference.”

The rapid escalation of home prices and home construction that Western North Carolina saw during most of this decade has brought more large homes to areas easily seen from the parkway. ...

It's the most N.C. time of the year

I meant to reference this subject last week -- you know, BEFORE Thanksgiving -- but, alas, t'is better late than never.

Granted, these numbers are a couple of years old (too much work to research the new ones), but the point is still valid.

"I've always found it somewhat fascinating that beginning with Thanskgiving, millions of Americans will indulge in goods that are dominated by the state of North Carolina," yours truly wrote almost [two years ago] ...

At that time, the state was the second-largest turkey-producing state after Minnesota. (And probably is still.)

And then there are the sweet potatoes.

North Carolina has been the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. "Today more than 40% of the natinal [sic] supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina."

And, finally, the holiday season closes out with Christmas trees.

"The North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested and first in the nation in terms of dollars made per tree," according to the N.C. Christmas Tree Association.

"The North Carolina Fraser fir has been judged the Nation's best through a contest sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association and chosen for the official White House Christmas tree nine times (more than any other species) 1971, 1973, 1982, 1984, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2005, and 2007 [and 2008]."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, North Carolina!

We here at the Society offer our warmest holiday wishes to you and yours. We can't speak for everyone, but we feel blessed to live in this wonderful state.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. ...

They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. ...

-From Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation, "this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Battleship N.C. featured on 'Ghost Hunters Academy'

Tune into the SyFy channel tonight at 10 for "Ghost Hunters Academy," which will devote an episode to supposed hauntings on-board the USS North Carolina in Wilmington.

"Ten sailors died in action aboard the North Carolina during World War II. For decades, visitors have reported strange phenomena aboard the vessel, including hatches opening and closing and strange noises. Many of the tales were collected by longtime caretaker Danny Bradshaw in his book, 'Ghosts of the Battleship North Carolina,' available at the memorial's gift shop," according to the Star-News.

In addition, visitors (as well as Bradshaw) have "seen the figure of a blonde man in passageways. Another figure sometimes appears in portholes. Doors and hatches open and close without explanation, and paranormal research groups report recording electronic voice phenomena (EVPs)," according to

(Image from

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick hits: A 'good year' projected for N.C. films, and how far away is Barstow?

'Good year' seen for local film industry
"Two statements earned spontaneous applause during the Cucalorus Film Festival State of the State address Thursday at Thalian Hall[ according to the Star-News].

"Both came from EUE/Screen Gems Executive Vice President Bill Vassar. The first put into words what most of the 100 or so people there have been hoping for since the 25 percent film incentives bill was passed in the spring by the N.C. General Assembly.

" 'We’re going to have a good year next year,' Vassar said. ...

"An audience member wanted to know if Wilmington or North Carolina in general could ever compete with Hollywood.

"Tenney replied with a simple, 'Yes.' He said his business, Southern Gothic Productions, has already proven this. It is an independent film company that has raised money in North Carolina, produced scripts by local writers, used local actors and employed local crew. ..."

'Barstow, Calif. 2,554' sign stolen, won't be replaced

"Want to know how far it is from the eastern end of Interstate 40 in North Carolina to the western end in California? Punch it into your GPS or try MapQuest.

"The Star-News of Wilmington reported today a popular sign showing the distance between Wilmington and the end of I-40 in Barstow, Calif., has been stolen for at least the fourth time — and the last.

"State transportation engineer Joe Chance says with the repeated thefts, there won't be another sign reading 'Barstow, Calif. 2,554.' ..."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poll: Southerners OK with federal help, even more OK with help for jobs

A new poll shows that people in the section of the country that has historically been more interested in states' sovereignty wishes the federal government would do more about job losses and the economy.

The Winthrop Poll of 866 respondents in 11 Southern states found the economy was the top concern of four in 10 - the same share of people who said they were concerned about losing their job, according to the AP.

Overall, the economy was the biggest worry for 39 percent of the Southerners, followed by health care and unemployment at 12 percent each. Meanwhile, 38 percent said they were somewhat concerned or very concerned about possibly losing their jobs during the next year. ...

The poll found abundant finger-pointing for the economic mess as nearly three-quarters of the respondents said banks and financial institutions took unnecessary risks and shouldered a "good amount" or "great deal" of the blame. The same percentage blamed economic problems on consumers for taking on too much debt and big businesses for poor management decisions.

Getting out of the nation's financial mess is something the government should take the lead on, the poll respondents overwhelmingly said.

Nearly 72 percent said they favored new government programs to create jobs. Meanwhile, 63 percent said the federal government needs to give aid to states in serious financial trouble. Those positions were strongest among Democrats and independents, while Republicans were narrowly opposed.

Nonetheless, nearly 58 percent of the Southerners polled said the current federal stimulus efforts were making things worse or having no effect. ...

The Winthrop Poll also found a sizable number of people who weren't decided on a national health care overhaul, the nation's biggest ongoing political and policy debate. Southerners were asked if they'd call on their federal legislators to vote for or against the legislation. Just under a third said they would encourage a vote for the bill and 42 percent said they'd encourage a vote against it. ...

The Winthrop Poll involved randomly dialed land and cellular telephone interviews with 886 people 18 and older in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The interviews were conducted between Oct. 24 and Nov. 7. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Parkway at 75: Asheville almost didn't get route

The Citizen-Times is doing a series on the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This first article looks at how Asheville -- the unofficial capital of Western N.C. -- almost didn't get a route to the scenic drive.

"It is hard to imagine Asheville without the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"For most visitors and locals, it seems as though the 469-mile road has always wound through the mountains of Western North Carolina, providing stunning views and access to miles of hiking. ...

"It was a very real possibility that the Blue Ridge Parkway could have bypassed much of Western North Carolina, dipping into the state and passing through Blowing Rock and Linville before heading into Tennessee and terminating at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"It was the hard lobbying of Asheville's tourism boosters, including the chamber of commerce and the newspaper, the Asheville Citizen, state highway officials and well-connected politicians that persuaded federal officials to choose the high-mountain route through Asheville and points west before ending in the Smokies. ...

"As the Blue Ridge Parkway prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010, it is important to remember that the parkway was not always a done deal, said Dan Brown, former superintendent of the parkway and president of Blue Ridge Parkway 75 Inc., the organization heading up anniversary activities. ..."

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

WRAL explores the 'Devil's Tramping Ground'

I've noted before my childhood love of North Carolina's wild and varied ghost stories and general spookiness. One of my favorites has always been the "Devil's Tramping Ground" in Chatham County.

A couple of years ago I described it as the place where "Old Beelzebub himself apparently does his nightly planning here by walking in a circle. (A circle that never disappears!!!)"

My friend Chris took some video of the place back then; now WRAL has joined in with its "Tar Heel Traveler" series.