March 15, 2011

By Bill Arnold
Washington, Indiana

I  usually plan on going to the radio show at Charlotte, North Carolina just about every year.  Of course, this is quite a drive from southern Indiana.  Normally what I like to do is stop along the road at antique shops and end up in Knoxville, Tennessee for the night.  The next day is spent going to the Biltmore Estate and ahead to Charlotte, North Carolina.  The house is built like a castle and there are more and more rooms being restored and on view to the public.  I like to visit that although it gets sort of expensive

Last year I toured the winery and ate at the restaurant next to the Biltmore house.  I know from that, there are two things that I will not do again.  The winery is included in the price of the tour of the grounds but I am not a wine drinker and I really didn’t enjoy that.  The restaurant had good food but was a little expensive for me.  There are other places where I can get a sandwich cheaper.

Still, the tour of the house is quite something.  There is even one room in the house that has gold in the wall paper.  We might call that excess, but you have to remember these were the wealthiest people in the country.  They were the first to have electricity and they had all of the luxuries of the rich.   Of course, they had everything you can imagine even a bowling alley and inside swimming pool.  The servants prepared all of the meals and the lifestyle must have been extravagant as well.  There were passages to the bedrooms so that the servants could go directly to a room.

Even the grounds are well manicured and the gardens are beautiful.  I am sure it took a host of Gardeners to keep the place looking pristine.  I’m usually a little early for the spring flowers which are stunning later on. I get there just before Easter.   One year I was there in time for the Easter egg hunt.  I vowed never to do that again.  There were kids and Easter Eggs everywhere.  There were also people dressed as Old Mother Hubbard, Little Bo Peep, and Humpty Dumpty.   I am sure the kids liked that but to me it was really crowded and the kids were not interested in seeing the house only the Ester Egg Hunt.  That was the last time I wanted to do that.   Now I try to catch the estate during the week when it is not as crowded and I can enjoy the tour better. I usually get the audio tour which describes each room that is open in detail.  I don’t think you would get much out of the tour if you don’t know what you are looking at.

This breaks up the monotony of the trip on the way out and is about half way from Knoxville to Charlotte.  I generally arrive in the afternoon in time for some of the seminars. I like to see what others are doing and pick up some new techniques from time to time.  Of course, that varies from year to year.  Some of the topics are not as interesting as others.  I also go out to eat in the evenings and check my email at the local library.  I am generally not in a big rush to leave the host motel since I am just across the Interstate from there.  As long as I get back before it gets late, I can freshen up before bed.

The radio meet is on Friday and Saturday although the best day is Friday.  In the afternoon, the radio club holds an auction and that pretty well takes the crowd from the flea market.  It seems to be deserted because everyone is at the auction.  Many of the items are stuff that didn’t sell in the flea market and the sellers are trying to get rid of it.  If you stay in the flea market, most people are closed up or away from their stuff.  Even if you find something you want, there is no one to sell it to you.  I have found out that if you want something, it is best to buy it rather than wait.  There also seems to be different vendors on Saturday and also different stuff for sale.

I generally go back to the meet Saturday just in case there are some different stuff that I want.  This is the day for bargains and many times there is free stuff to be had.  It is doubtful if some of this is worth taking home but the price is right, so to speak.  I try not to stay too long because I like to get west of Knoxville for the night because it is a weekend.  The rooms may fill up or I might have to stay in an expensive place for the night. Of course, I would be no big deal to be out for another night.

This show is considered to be one of the best radio shows.  I guess I like it because of the other side trips. I generally like to visit some antique shops along the road on the way to Knoxville.  On the way back, I will be traveling on a Sunday and the hours are limited.  I will probably not stop much except to go to the bathroom and for coffee.

I usually like to get out of the car every couple hours and walk around, anyway.  If I have a chance, I stop and get new road maps.  I can’t catch them open if I am out too early, though.  I usually try to bring back a map for my neighbor kid.  He likes those and always asks if I brought him back a map.  The maps are free and he is pleased.  I wasn’t as interested in them when I was a kid but we didn’t have the money to travel.  The kids like different stuff these days and they have more money than I had.

This year it was rainy the first couple of days and the drive was crummy.  I even took the shuttle from the parking lot of the Biltmore estate to the house for the tour.  It was misting and I didn’t want to get wet.  I had been there before and it didn’t take as long to go through the house this time. Still, it was later than last year.  I was thinking the gate opened up at 9:00 AM but it was not open until 9:30.  After I got the tickets, I drove to the parking lot where I caught the shuttle to the house.  It was not open until 10:30 so I went to the gift shop.  It was crowded with a lot of kids. I asked if they were on spring break but was told this was just a school tour. This delayed my plans for lunch and  I decided to eat at the Stable restaurant.  It was more expensive than I wanted but since it would have taken me another half hour to eat outside of Biltmore estate, I decided to eat while I was there.  I am convinced the Vanderbilt horses got better care than I did.  By the time I got out of Biltmore, I had spent $45.00 to get in and a little over $15.00 on food.  I suppose I should not complain but it was clear to me I spent $60.00 on that not counting the seven pencils at 75 cents each. I got one for each of my nephews kids and one for a couple of the neighbor kids.  That was a little over $5.00 with tax. I wished I could say it was worth every penny but I guess it is only once a year.

The drive through the mountains to get to Ashville from Knoxville was uneventful but was a pretty crummy drive. I would guess the rest of the trip out of the mountains east of Ashville was that way as well. At least the rain slacked up a bit and I really didn’t have a problem.  I wanted to check my email and stopped at one town North of Charlotte.  Lady at the library didn’t like my email and kept running it down. I finally told her no other library was having problems.  I think the problem was her.  I left and when I got into Charlotte, I had no problem.  The only thing I didn’t like was the fact it was crowded since school was out and there were a lot of kids at the library.

I was told there was a 35 minute wait for the computers that allowed an hour.  I asked if there was a 15 minute one and was informed the wait was only 10 minutes.  I decided that would be just fine for my needs.  I did use that one and only had a few messages.  After that, it was on to the show.  They were supposed to have some seminars but due to the bad weather, it was decided to have the radio meet inside where it was dry.  I am glad someone decided that because no one wanted to get literature or nice radios out in the bad weather.

On Thursday night, I caught up with some friends and decided to go across the street to the buffet to eat.  Shortly, another couple joined us and we had a good time talking and eating.  I left to go back to the host motel to see if another friend was there.  We were to share expenses on the room I had at the Red Roof Inn and I wanted to see if he was set up.  I stayed around a while but since I was tired, I left to go back to the motel.

The next day, Friday, was spent at the radio meet where I browsed around but really didn’t buy anything. I saw one radio just like I have at a ridiculous price of $450.00.  I bought mine for $125.00.  It was obvious to me that their price was too high.  Maybe they thought it was more valuable than it was but if you want to sell stuff, you have to be realistic about value.

The flea market lasted all day but when the auction began at 1:00, everyone closed up, covered up their stuff and went to the auction.  As with all auctions, some radios went cheap while others went too high.  I didn’t go to that because there was nothing I needed.   I left around 11:00 to go out to eat and check my email.  I stayed around the auction for a while but went back to the Motel to wait on another couple to go out to eat.  We were to meet at 4:30.  We generally go to a Seafood place which is just down from where we were staying.  Since we needed a couple of cars, I told the man driving, I would follow him.

I took my friend that was sharing expenses with me along and we followed to the restaurant.  The parking lot was full as this was a good place to eat.  We all enjoyed a good meal and company of everyone.  As we were leaving, there was more people coming in and the parking lot was full.  There were cars driving around to just find a spot to park.  I thought the fish was good and the salad was fresh.

On the way back we followed the other car to the motel.  My friend who drives around Nashville was a little intimidated by the drivers out on the Interstate.  Even though, I was trying to drive defensively, there were cars darting in and out in the traffic. One guy crossed three lanes right in front of me to get over to the left hand exit.  He asked if I saw that, and I told him that there is always someone doing something stupid in front of you.  It didn’t bother me as much as it did him.  I told him if he didn’t like the driving, to close his eyes.  I have no idea how he got along living in Nashville all those years if that bothered him.  I know from experience, the drivers are more aggressive around the cities.

We got back and rested up a little before going to bed.  The next day we checked out and I stayed at the radio show for a couple hours. I did pick up a shell to cover the power supply that powers up a battery set. It makes a modern power supply look like an old battery. I also got a cone speaker for my friend in Shreveport.  I will see him in July.  I also picked up some tubes at a good price to use for spares.

Shortly after, I was on the road again.   It was a rainy drive as I made my way back west through the mountains.  There are even some tunnels to go through on I-40 but they are dual lane and it is not a problem to drive in them.  Since I like to stop every two hours, I stopped for lunch once and stopped for gas before I stopped for the night.

I arrived west of Knoxville rather early but was tired.  I rested up a bit and went out to Cracker Barrel at 5:00 PM.  I was told it was a 3 ½ hour drive to Nashville but it was more like 2 hours for me.  I suppose that depends upon how fast you drive.  That was on a Saturday and I wanted to get in early because the rooms fill up on the weekends.

There was a decent restaurant on that exit and the motel was nice.  I noticed it had a microwave and refrigerator.  There was also a coffee pot so that I really didn’t need to go out for breakfast.  Sometimes it is too early when I take off to find these places open.  Of course, some of these stops are on Central time and if you get there too early, the eating places are either closed or they want to serve breakfast instead of lunch.

I was up early the next day and fixed coffee.  I noticed there were no cups for the hot beverages and when I checked out, the man at the front desk gave me a cup.  I told him I already had the coffee ready and someone must have forgotten the cups when they cleaned the room.  I didn’t think it was a big deal although he apologized for the trouble.  It was a Sunday and the traffic would not be bad going home.  Just south of Nashville, I made a stop at Mt. Juliet exit to use the bathroom and get coffee.  I was going to stop just before I got to Hopkinsville, Kentucky  but the flea market south of there was closed. I was probably too early since they are on Central time.

My next stop was in Henderson, Kentucky for gas.   From there is it roughly an hour back home.  I stopped in Petersburg for a sandwich at McDonalds.  My next stop was  at my sisters house to unload what I had brought back for them.

I was finally back home with stuff to unload and laundry to do.  My next trip will be Nashville Tennessee in April for the Radio show there.  I usually set up the night before and am ready to sell radios when the doors open the next day.  I always have a variety to sell and it is good to see all of my radio collector friends.

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