2015-08-23_06h01_10PROBUS PICKERING Clubs latest updates…
click a club name below:


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PLEASE EMAIL ME to reserve your seat:
Richard Szpin

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SPEAKERS: Probus Guest speaker Professor John Sabean was a hit !

The Art of Pickering: from Fothergill to Falkenberg

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Dr. John Sabean is a historian of a different cut. His earned Ph.D. must stand for Positively Hilarious Delivery!

Dr. John holds a formal degree, a Ph.D. in Sixteenth Century British and European History but this man is no dry wit of a prof. Instead, he is a truly erudite scholar who delivers a lecture that entertains as much as it educates. The retired College professor spoke to the PROBUS PICKERING Club on Aug 26th teaching us many things about the art history of the Pickering region. Sporadically asking us if we knew this piece of Pickering history or recognized the house in the displayed photo or if any one knew the location of a particular landmark in the region. Surprisingly, the members responded with positive answers confirming they knew a fair bit about their home city. Professor John then proceeded to enlighten the club about the famous Thomson family, more than one of whom was a recognized as being almost as accomplished as an artist as the well-known artist Tom Thomson.

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Though his credentials could intimidate almost any one, the professor’s relaxed manner belied a serious and very knowledgeable lecturer with authority firmly founded on things like his being the President of the Pickering Township Historical Society, for 14 years; founder and past Chair of the Durham West Arts Centre; member and present Chair of the Pickering Public Library Board; Chair of Heritage Pickering; Executive Member of the Ontario Historical Society and Chair of the Honours and Awards Committee. Just as we thought we caught our breath from hearing of his extensive credentials, we then learned that he is a published author too having published numerous books: A Boy All Spirit: Thoreau MacDonald in the 1920s and Time Present and Time Past: A Pictorial History of Pickering. Finally, he has been recognized for his academic contributions to Pickering’s historical heritage with several awards: the City of Pickering Civic Award for Heritage; the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship; and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

It was positively delightful hearing Professor Sabean chuckling away with his humorous explanations about the risqué stories relating to renowned Pickering artists who did more than just brush paint dried canvas. Dr. John held a different light to Pickering’s history and had us laughing at the historical escapism which he described, though not to the same colourful detail as his descriptions about the art work of these painters, from their square cows to photographs of corded trees.

A memorable talk which really brought life to Pickering’s artistic past.


Past President Frank Greene asks Prof. Sabean to pick a 50/50 draw ticket.

With notes from Sue Porter.



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Just to keep you up to date regarding the PROBUS PICKERING Club and its club activities, view the latest information for this fall; simply click one of the links.

The updated information will be automatically displayed for you.



            BILLIARDS:        Fall update

            BOOK:                   Fall update

            BRIDGE:               Fall update

            CRAFTS:               Fall update

            GARDENING:     Fall update

            GOLF:                    Fall update

            MAH JONG:         Fall update

            SCRABBLE:          Fall update

            TECH:                    Fall update

            WALKING:           Fall update

CPR TRAINING Fall Session:    info not yet available

If you have any questions, email the appropriate convenor:




            CPR TRAINING:




            MAH JONG:    





Please be reminded that the AUG 26th meeting of the


link to map:  MAP to DON BEER Arena



ANNOUNCEMENTS & NEWS: Register for CPR TRAINING Session, Oct. 6



ANNOUNCEMENTS & NEWS: Announcement: Ken Trites has passed away



ANNOUNCEMENTS & NEWS: A comment on the Canadian federal election



Sarah was in the fertilized egg business.She had several hundred young pullets and ten roosters to fertilize the eggs.

She kept records and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced.


This took a lot of time, so she bought some tiny bells and attached them to her roosters. Each bell had a different tone, so she could tell from a distance which rooster was performing.

Now, she could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells.

2015-08-22_15h41_40Sarah’s favorite rooster, old Butch, was a very fine specimen but, this morning she noticed old Butch’s bell hadn’t rung at all! When she went to investigate, she saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing, but the pullets hearing the roosters coming, would run for cover.

To Sarah’s amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so it couldn’t ring. He’d sneak up on a pullet, do his job, and walk on to the next one.

Sarah was so proud of old Butch, she entered him in the Dowerin Show, Australia’s most impressive agricultural show. Old Butch became an overnight sensation among the Aussie judges. Old Butch was awarded the two highest prizes of the show, the “No Bell Peace Prize” and the other, the “Pulletsurprise.”

Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making.
Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the unsuspecting populace and screwing them when they weren’t paying attention?

Vote carefully in the next election. You can’t always hear the bells but you know there are politicians out there ready to pullet.

And this is no yolk






Thanks to R. W.

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Interested in taking a computer course this fall? The DURHAM CATHOLIC Board offers many courses. Note also there is a PHONE number and a web address for your use.


The Technology Workshop which are provided to PROBUS PICKERING Club members, are open to the public in general at the PICKERING main library, but these courses deal with electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones rather than computers. However, be aware, the PICKERING library also does workshop training in computer use.


Contact me if I can assist you further.







Aug 26th meeting location



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WALKING: Walking into the Fall in Pickering

2015-08-23_06h01_102015-08-14_10h28_06Need to get into a little better shape? Lose a bit?

Consider joining our walks. Casual, easy going and not strenuous, the Walking Club strides its way around various parks, conservation area and woodlands in the Pickering area. Enjoy the fresh air, get in better shape, improve your health and meet new friends with whom you can socialize while walking with them.


 Next walk:  Friday Sept 18th, 9 am start 

 Meetup: Meet in parking lot just west of bridge in Whitevale. We will walk south. This is a very scenic trail, with some hills. 2hr approx. Hiking sticks useful if you have them. 


Depending on interest, I will try to have Friday morning walks regularly starting this fall. Come on out and enjoy nature in Pickering with me!

Please call me if you are joining the walk.

905 839 7600



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Monday, Aug. 1oth, the day started out promising sunshine and warmth. City of Pickering organizers were thrilled as their scheduled Seniors picnic would likely be a great success. Then, by early afternoon, the deluge hit and the heavy rain drove picnic attendees in from the Petticoat Creek Library fields inside to the meeting rooms. Thankfully, the storm was a summer flash in the pan and passed quickly returning the glory of an August summer day back to the event.

Pickering Probus Club sponsored a booth which was organized and set up by VP Melanie Hancock with assistance from her husband Don, Fran and Joe Sancroft, Richard Szpin and others. The Pickering residents who attended the picnic were able to learn about Probus Pickering Club by reading the hand outs distributed by the various club executives who manned the booth through the afternoon.

Finally, after the presentations inside concluded and the caterers fired up the barbecues, everyone enjoyed great hamburgers and old fashioned h0t dogs in the beautiful setting behind the Petticoat Creek Library.

A great inaugural Seniors Picnic appreciated by each of the seniors who attended. The City of Pickering is congratulated on the new and very successful attend. We all hope for more consistent summertime weather next year !


Melanie is helped in setting up the booth by hubby and Fran.


Yes, it was a slow moving line too !


Probus Pickering Club execs lining up for the bbq goodies !


Barb Twiner, we recognize ya even in your Hollywood mode !


Joe, Fran, Chuck and Mary Lou line up with appetites !


Pickering firefighters were on hand…just in case !


No way to cook those burgers faster, is there ?



Some of the picnic had us in stitches !

Kudos to the City of Pickering on such a successful event, despite the balky weather !




GARDEN: Garden Club tours Sophie Bingham’s Gardens


Sophie Bingham is a gardener and green thumb activist with an amazingly beautiful garden in Brooklin. The Garden Club toured the Bingham gardens in August.

Convenor Trish Stephens always organizes garden tours which harvest bouquets of oooh’s and aaah’s from all the participants. Of course, the attendees also add some mmmm’s as Trish organizes great restaurant lunches as conclusions to her tours, making them ‘must attend’ events.

Photos: Gail Dowber

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Gardening isn’t all hard work as these Garden Club members demonstrate.


Convenor Trish compares notes with another pro, Sophie Bingham.

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BOOKS: The Light Between Oceans

2015-08-10_15h33_55Tom Sherbourne, a WWI veteran, returns to his homeland, Australia and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper at Janus Rock, an island off the southwest coast of Australia. Though Tom is able to take shore leave very sporadically, every couple of years, he goes through a whirlwind courtship and weds young Isabel Graysmark. The marital spark burned brightly but fate dealt Izzy a cruel blow, not once, not twice, but three times. Two miscarriages and a stillbirth. Somehow Izzy survived and Tom encouraged her in every possible way as they lived their isolated life on the island.

When a dinghy is washed ashore on the island, the couple’s lives are changed dramatically. Tom finds two bodies in the dinghy, an adult male, dead and an infant girl, miraculously alive.

2015-08-10_15h35_10The couple raise the child as if she is their own but within a couple of years, Tom and Izzy learn who the child’s biological mother and now the stage is set for a significant moral question: should the child be torn away from the loving step mother who is the only mother she has ever known and returned to her real mother ?

Izzy has no difficulty with the question, Lucy is her daughter! Tom, whose moral compass has been honed by his brutal war experience, is polarized by the dilemma which he faces: return the child to its rightful mother and crush his wife’s heart or keep the child and reject that she belongs with her real mother.

The moral question is a universally popular theme used by many authors and plotted into many movies. Ben Affleck’s directorial debut film, Gone Baby Gone poses a very similar dilemma. Should a child now living with good step parents in a loving home be prevented from being returned to her rightful mother by the court system. The biological mother is portrayed as a drug using, drug dealing addict who seems to care little about her own daughter’s welfare though she claims love for the child and that she should be returned to her legitimate mother. Again, the husband is the one caught on the horns of the moral dilemma. The movie’s ending is less palpable than the one of the book.

Polished writing throughout

M.L. Stedman’s debut novel is based on the author’s native Australia, years of working as a lawyer in London, England and exhaustive research at the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom. Stedman scratched her writing itch by finding a writing tutor who helped her develop her budding career as a writer.

Stedman’s research went beyond the library stacks. She actually visited lighthouses and researched logbooks and correspondence of lightkeepers of the era in which her story is set.

Surprisingly dynamic in breadth

One would think setting a story with just two people on a isolated island might be very limiting as to scope of material, but Stedman keeps her plot developing with descriptions about the imaginary island and the ever deeper love the couple has for their step daughter. It becames an endearing and warming facet of the book as the step parents raise their daughter as if their island seems actually very unlimited in wonder and beauty even though it is isolated from society and people of the mainland.

Licensed for manipulation

Stedman manipulates her readers well. The real mother, Hannah is made less attractive for the return of the daughter because of her marriage to an Austrian, who all the townspeople see as being one of the Teutonic enemy. Even Hannah’s wealthy father who wishes his daughter to wed, opposes and even disowns Hannah for years when she chose who she did. Her husband is far from a German villain as pictured by the bigoted minds of the town and is portrayed as a gentle caring sort even when tested by taunting and bullying by the villagers.

After one harrowing incident of violent assault, Hannah’s husband likely sought refuge with his infant daughter in a dinghy in the town’s harbor. Carried out to see by the tides, we never learn how he died and yet, the infant survived.

2015-08-10_15h35_55Tension maintained and developed

The suspense and tension are developed well by the author when the true identity of the child is uncovered and Tom Sherbourne is jailed as a kidnapper. As the impending trial develops the tension, the reader is constantly reminded of the moral question as to who should be the mother of the child.

One cannot help but sympathize with Izzy, the loving step mother who has lost three babies before fate gave her another. She devotes her heart and soul to her stepdaughter but again the moral question arises. Hannah is the real mother. She too is portrayed as a caring and loving woman but begins to have doubts whether restoring her daughter to her real mother is possible or should be done. Again, the author opens the door to new possibilities with manipulated rationalization.

The final word…

This book as polished and well written. The story is plausible and believable with characters who are charismatic and personable and it unfolds in a way that a reader wants to hear more, read more. The story becomes captivating pulling the reader along more deeply into the plot, and making the characters more colourful and attractive page after page.

On the surface, the story seems very simple and straightforward: couple finds lost infant and raises the child for a number of years as if she is their own; the real mother’s identity is discovered; should the child be returned to her true mother or left with the only mother she has ever known, one who has loved her and cared for her as if she were her very own flesh and blood.

You will be torn yourself with the difficult dilemma. But you will be assured of one thing: this book an excellent book.

Highly recommended!


Posted in BOOKS, Pett Crk BOOK CLUB, REVIEWS (books) | Leave a comment



Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn…

a jewel in the Appalachians!




“On top of old Smokey, all covered in snow,

I lost my true lover, by courtin’ too slow”

 The Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn, a must for your bucket list.

Atop a mountain in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn is a rustic, pastoral jewel within the treasure of the Appalachian mountain range. It offers a lot: numerous activities relative to the surrounding region, fine dining, first rate accommodation and comfortable ambiance. This resort should be rated as five star accommodation in any travelogue.

A large stone cairn at the side of Hwy 143 marks the entrance to the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn eleven miles northwest of Robbinsville, North Carolina. Want fine dining? Energetic hiking? Exciting fishing? Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn is your getaway haven. It can accommodate all your restorative needs: rest – it will take  you away from the hustle and bustle of city life; recharging – it will re-energize you with its comfort and pampering service; revitalizing –  it will resurrect your waning spirit with its modern and soothing ambiance. It really is a wonderful place to stay!

Stretch limos in moonshiner country

Arthur Wolfe, the owner of a Chicago based travel agency specializing in tours to the southern states built the inn in the early 1940’s. Tour groups stopped overnight in Gatlinburg, Chimney Rock, Bryson City, and Tapoco after arriving in Knoxville via a Chicago train. Then the groups toured the mountain area in a stretch limo, no less…its final stop, the lodge.

The lodge has all the necessary amenities for the reviving one’s inner self. However, it does lack something, electronic gadgetry: no TV’s, no radio, no internet, no Wi-Fi. Geeks and nerds need to go elsewhere; those seeking peace and tranquillity, recharging and re-energizing, the inn is your idyllic retreat.

The rooms, rustic in décor with their wood siding, retain the quality of modern hotels with the most important of essentials: outstanding beds. Double beds with wooden end tables, wooden bedside luggage stools reinforce that this is a countryside inn. The premium beds guarantee deep, restful sleep till dawn. Then the birds singing and mountain breezes gently waken the sleeping guest.

Exhausted by the ‘Dragon’ but not defeated

My riding partner and I arrived after a long and arduous ten hour ride capped by an additional 11 miles riding the motorcycling challenge, the tortuous ‘Dragon’s Tail.’

We were mentally exhausted. The circuitous roads puzzled our sense of navigation. Even our GPS device found navigation impossible, one moment the distance to the lodge was 5 miles in one direction, the next, 6 miles in another direction. It became an exhausting and unsolvable riddle. However, as we rode more deeply into confusion, we spotted a beat up pickup truck parked in a shaded roadside pullout, its driver sitting by the open window. When asked if he was a local, he “Garumphed,” a reply which we interpreted as positive. “Was he familiar with our accommodation destination?” Another “Garumph.” We listened like grade school pupils studying for a final, one we were doomed to fail, His instructions were indecipherable. His accent, a mangling of syllables defied all comprehension. Tennessean or North Carolinian, it didn’t matter. He might as well have been speaking Greek. In fact, Greek may have been more comprehensible. We rode on.

Soon we came upon a middle aged woman walking along side of the road. We pulled up. Immediately, she backed away from us. Two bedraggled riders in the dusk of a Smokey Mountain roadway might frighten anyone. Her hesitation at our approach was understandable but she responded to our pleas for direction assistance. She nodded that she knew our destination well. Again, an accent that demanded complete and dedicated attention. Though her accent was very pronounced and challenging, her instructions were incredibly concise and clear: “Strayeet allong this road til y’all come to a big stop sign. Not too farrr, y’all heeer? Turn leffft and git along ‘nuther 7 mile or so, til y’all see a ‘nuther stop sign. Git yerself left rite ‘way…yer there!” I could have hugged her for speaking so clearly and precisely. To our great relief, we found the lodge easily.

entrance 01

The enclosing shroud of the darkness meant a clear view of the lodge would wait till morning. The entranceway stairs felt like Mount Everest climb after the long ride.

Staff who know the meaning of the word ‘Service!’

Ada, the lodge’s receptionist greeted us as if we were long lost explorers. We were. We were dog-tired arriving six hours later than planned. Still we arrived, safe, sound, intact but totally beat.

Ada was the epitome of southern charm and hospitality. Her relief at our safe arrival was palpable. She listened attentively as we gave our fatigue-dredged explanations of the puzzling paths of the Snowy Mountain roads. She empathized with our explanations and sympathized with our exhaustion. She assisted us with all our gear bringing our torturously long day to a close. Ada took care of our lodging needs as if she were caring for her own family members, our needs her first concern, the highest priority on her duty roster. She was simply marvelous.

Though the supper ended long ago, the chef thankfully had not left the premises! A great steak and an excellent cabernet sauvignon…dining heaven!!

“Cigars and cognac !”


After dinner, we adjourned to the rustic bar next to the dining room. ‘Rustic’ does disservice to this wonderfully wood sided bar sitting room that murmured, “Cigars and cognac!” State smoking laws mean the only smoking done in this room is by the natural stone fireplace on wintry nights when patrons sip away while ensconced in wide, leather smoking chairs. There goes that “smoking” word again, but to no avail for cigar aficionados. However, a tennis court was added to the lodge’s property. Why? State law exempts any accommodation with a tennis courts from the liquor service prohibition in this “dry” county. Strange laws and strangely named roads too, “Moonshiner 28, Rattle Snake, Dragon’s Tail.” The cognac? “oooo !” Again, the lodge shone. Hennessey, VSOP? “Yup.” Courvoisier VSOP? “For sure!” Remy Martin, extra special at $250 US a shot …“No thank you !”

Shall we adjourn to the bar for a cognac!”

Every meal here reinforced Chef Rich as no hick in the food department: breakfasts with a European flair, the French toast so good, my riding partner ordered it twice! Dinners smacked of professionalism comparable to any prepared by the likes of one of the Iron Chefs, Emeril Lagasse or Michael Simon, or one of Toronto’s best chefs, Massimo Capra or Michael Bonacini. Even the baked-on-the-premises desserts were “let out your belt a notch” delicious! Of course, cognac and coffee to end each splendid dinner was de rigeur.

One added perk: the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn provides patrons every day of their stay: brown bag lunches, though calling them ‘brown bag lunches’ is an injustice to its kitchen staff.


The Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn really is great accommodation in the Smokey Mountain region. Patrons are pampered like royalty; the bar stocks no moonshine among its wide assortment of scotches and renowned selection of bourbons, not to mention, a wine list that will satisfy the most demanding of oenologists; the dining, epicurean; the accommodation, comfortable, clean and modern. If your interests lie in heavily forested mountainous areas like the Smokey Mountain, then visit the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn. It will be one of the best woody mountain stays you will have ever experienced.

Book a holiday at this great resort.

Snowbird Mountain Lodge
Innkeeper: Robert Rankin
4633 Santeetlah Road
Robbinsville, NC 28771
Phone: 828.479.3433
Toll free 800.941.9290

 2. The Riding 

A ride that roars back and can bite ya too!

2015-08-01_10h44_58Ride a motorcycle? Put Deals Gap Dragon’s Tail on your ‘bucket list.’ A spaghetti bowl of roads near Robbinsville, NC claiming to have more than 300 switchbacks in 11 miles, more than any other road in the United States. It may be true. I was too afraid to count. Touring bike riders are pushed to their limit by the roadway’s endless array of head snapping curves and skill testing twists. Sports bike riders find the route an irresistible challenge as they try to decrease their riding times with repeated runs. The Dragon throws down its gauntlet at your wheels, challenging you to try again and again until….

My first attempt at riding the ‘Tail’ years ago was rained out. I promised myself to return. Riding a rain slicked ’Dragon’ is inviting disaster. Enough fatalities happen when the road is dry: many riders ride too fast, overestimating their riding skills, overrating their capabilities to their sometimes fatal shock. Don’t taunt the ‘Dragon!’ Still, every motorcyclist must ride it, arguably the best motorcycle ride in the entire eastern United States.

2015-08-02_10h54_31My riding partner and I arrived at the top of the ‘Tail’ after ten hours of riding. Our hopes of finding an easy route to our destination were drastically waylaid by the zig zag maze of the Smokey Mountains roadways. Even a GPS device struggles in its constant search for the correct route to its programmed destination. The forest-sided roadway is dark and murky even on the brightest of sunny days giving the roadway an eerie atmosphere. But we had no choice as our accommodations were at the other end of the ‘tail.’ We listened to last minute ‘tail’ riding tips from other riders at the Dragon Pit Inn: “Reduce your speed. Stay in second or third.” The advice served us well.

Riding a ‘Dragon’s Tail

We rode the ‘Dragon’ twice, once to get to our accommodation, the second time on our return trip home. The first time we rode it, we had arrived at the top of the ‘Dragon’ by error. Our belief had been that this junction point was an easy ride to our accommodation in Robbinsville. We erred. The junction was the top of the tail and we were forced to make our debut ride of the ‘Dragon’ with little real preparation.

Maybe the most famous motorcycle roadway in the eastern United States, the ‘tail’ has 318 “S” turns in 11 miles. The ‘Dragon’ is considered by many as one of the best motorcycling roads in the world. To settle any debate, I rode it and I can say, “It stills your heart!”


The ‘tail’ begins at the Fugitive Bridge on the North Carolina side of the Smokey Mountain range. The bridge may be so named because it is where Harrison Ford jumped into the waters of the Cherohala Dam in the movie, The Fugitive. The ‘tail’ ends miles later across the mountain at the Tabby Cat Creek Bridge in Tennessee. This section of Hwy 129 climbs through The Slide, a steep series of “S” curves where you don’t want to meet any oncoming traffic. Then it flattens out quickly becoming a whole new set of curves called the Crossroads of Time. Riders take breaks here, shopping at the Deals Gap Resort retail store before resuming their rides.

goin downThe ‘Dragon’ is a real challenge to ride, especially in rainy weather. Though normally the forested mountain area is quite desolate, riders may have numerous non-vehicular encounters: bears, wild turkeys, deer, mountain boars, downed trees and too frequent patches of slick gravel or loose pavement. Thankfully, the tractor trailers that used to use the route as an interstate shortcut are banned from the road now because of the many accidents in which they were involved. The ‘Dragon’ is no road for the queasy or riders who frighten easily. The ‘Dragon’ can scare even the most courageous rider!

wear gear


Tickets for the policemen’s ball

State troopers sell tickets to the ‘annual state trooper ball’ to riders who ignore the 30 mph speed limit. We never met any of the ticket sellers, possibly because our ride took place very late in the day. Still, the many riders we encountered either paid no heed to the speed limit or else they were excellent dancers. My partner and I rode carefully and cautiously as our dancing shoes were back home.

A rider of the ‘Dragon’ should know that on any given weekend during the summer, the ‘Dragon’ roars at more than 15,000 motorcyclists a day. Many of its curves have somewhat dramatic names: the Pearly Gates, Thunder Road Bend, Carousel Corner, the Whip, Brake or Bust Bend, the Wall, the Hump, Little Whip, Crud Corner, Shaw Grave Corner, Gravity Cavity, Horns of the Dragon and Hog Pen Bend.

2015-08-02_10h57_34Our first encounter with the Dragon was a success. However, another challenge lay ahead, finding our lodging.

That evening the bartender maître de, Butch, a bike rider himself, filled us in on the rides of the area. “Given that you are in the area for one day only,” he said, “I suggest riding the Cherohala Skyway to Vonore and then coming home via the ‘Dragon.’” Good advice, nice riding!

The local AAA office would have been proud with Butch as their rep. His knowledge of the region and its excellent riding routes was incomparable. Only a fellow rider would understand and relate to what is good riding. Butch was our man. He knew we were there to ride the Dragon’s Tail but he was correct in assuming an older rider as I am would enjoy a relaxing, scenic ride as well. The Cherohala Skyway was perfect: sweeping curves, tight corners, short straightaways and beautiful panoramic lookouts overlooking magnificent expanses of green Tennessee/North Carolina valleys, each demanding a stop to view and photograph. We swung northward, our goal the rural town of Vonore.

2015-08-02_10h58_24We liked the Cherohala ride so much, we chose to ride it back to the lodge. Riding the ‘Dragon’ again would have to wait till the next day. My partner, Daniel, told me later, he was hard pressed to keep up with me this time. I explained, ‘familiarity makes any route easier’ but Cherohala still demands close attention constantly. Day one riding: amazing!

After supper at the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn as we sipped our cognacs, Butch regaled us with descriptions of all the good rides in the area. “You really need to stay here for 5 or 6 days to do justice to the routes that are available here, in Tennessee, and in Georgia, too. There are so many great riding roads: Deals Gap, the Rattlesnake; the Cherohala Skyway, the Devil’s Triangle, Moonshiner 28, and Georgia’s Six Gap. So many.” The area’s roadways must have been created by a biker deity for the whole area is a rider’s paradise.

The ‘Tail’s an esaggeration…maybe!

In Butch’s opinion, the ‘tail’ is the least of the riding routes, its reputation perhaps exaggerated by repeated praise relating to its challenge. Still we thought ‘the tail’ was a great ride though it was made riskier by the endless parade of ‘rider’s waves.’ Every oncoming motorcyclist must have some irresistible urge to wave a greeting. I stopped waving after doing it once early in the ride. I never waved again. I was too frightened to let go of the handlebars. To ride one handed on this road with its steep drop-offs and lack of guardrails invites disaster. One slip…

After riding the area around Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn, our hotel, we fully agree with Butch’s belief that the variety of great rides in the area should be undertaken with a five to seven day stay.

I’ll be back !

 3. The FOOD 

Epicurean excellence in a mountain oasis!

In July, my nephew, Daniel, and I motorcycle toured one of the best riding regions in all of North America, the Dragon’s Tail at Deals Gap just north of Robbinsville, NC. Just a few years ago, finding accommodation and good places to eat was a hit and miss endeavour. Usually, you asked your hotel/motel receptionist. Today that hotel/motel clerk is likely to be a high school or college student working part time with no first-hand experience of fine dining or quality accommodations. But Daniel, a 25 year old, typifies the youth of today. If you can’t ‘google it,’ they know nothing about it. As incredulous as this may sound, it is the norm among the youth of today. Google it! Trip Advisor it! Yelp it! Without Internet connectivity, the young are totally lost. Provide Internet access and they will find loads of useful and valuable information.

Our youth know nothing !

Imitating today’s youth, I used the Internet to find our accommodation in Tennessee/North Carolina. The online reviews were right on, The Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn was excellent. The lodge was equipped with all the necessary modern amenities except the expected electronic ones but it had Wi-Fi connection to the Internet. 2015-08-03_10h31_24Nothing else, no radios, no TV’s, not even a desktop computer workstation, truly a great place to get away from the energized excitability of the rest of the world. I thought Daniel might miss TV; I thought I would miss access to radio’s music. I was wrong. Neither of us missed TV or radio. Perhaps this is indicative of a generational shift in our times. We can live without radios and TV’s, as long as we have Internet access. In fact, many of us prefer the Internet to the old modes of communication and entertainment. Be that as it may, one thing has not changed. We still eat and appreciate good food.

2015-08-03_10h36_02The food prepared at the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn surprised us. Our expectation: eating well, old fashioned ‘home cooking.’ How wrong we were!

Great eating at the lodge!

Our arrival at the lodge was many hours later than planned. We were greeted at the receptionist area by one of the most charming southerners we had ever me. Ada, the receptionist was the epitome of North Carolinian charm and hospitality. She sounded sympathetic when we explained why were so late in arriving. She empathized with our trip descriptions and sympathized with our exhaustion. After moving our gear into the room and to our great relief, Ada informed us that though the supper hour had long passed but something to eat might still be found in the kitchen. At this point, Butch, the inn’s stupendous bartender/maître d’ reinforced her by reassuring us that a reasonable supper would be found. “Reasonable?” It turned out to be one of the best T-bone steaks either of us have ever enjoyed.

2015-08-03_10h39_02A lot at steak !

One might think we enjoyed the steaks so much was that we were so hungry. A grilled leather boot might have gotten rave reviews. Thankfully, this inn’s kitchen rises much higher level than grilled leather boots. Butch asked us our preferences. Given the late hour, I guessed a steak could be done with minimal effort provided the main cook or the chef were still in the kitchen. Butch confirmed our order was very feasible and that the chef was still on site.

Our steaks were two perfectly cooked US prime cut AAA grade beef. The chef had not left the premises! Cooked properly as requested, medium rare and rare, both steaks were done right. “Rare” is a real test of the grill person’s skill. It is far too easy for many grill staff to become anxious and remove the meat from the grill too soon. A good grill person knows the steak will continue to cook a bit even after being plated. Hence, it is a real challenge to get the timing dead on. Not cooked enough, raw meat is chewy and may even be cold in the center, a real dining turn-off. More cooking means the meat becomes drier and less tasty, This poor grilling skill was reinforced at another night’s dinner at a franchise eatery, Ruby Tuesday’s in Kentucky. The poor grill skills of the chef were very evident by the coldness of the center of the raw steak. Complaining would have been non-productive as replacement of the steak would have meant delay without guarantee of proper results. In fact the cook’s anxiety might have guaranteed failure in the wrong cooking direction. The grill person at the Snowbird Mountain Lodge was at the top of his game, both steaks were done properly as ordered. A small salad, some green veggies, dining bliss! Thank you chef !!

A different kind of smoke !

Let’s back up a bit. When we sat down for our late supper, Butch asked if we wished to have a drink. Daniel has a discerning, educated and acquired taste for good scotch, possibly to his uncle’s credit. We nodded to each other to test the lodge’s bar. Butch proudly assured us that the lodge had a good selection of our favoured libation, in fact, more than 80 scotches he boasted proudly. “Lagavullen,” I ordered. Butch nodded and disappeared. Moments later, the unmistakable peaty bouquet, the signature trademark of ‘Lag’ wafted up to o

wineur noses from the elegantly wide glasses. Good omens of what was available at the lodge!

The dinner wine was another Butch suggestion and an excellent one: a moderately priced cabernet sauvignon which was outstanding. This man knew his stuff and again the lodge hit the mark on another libation.

No beef about the beef here !

Dinners throughout our short stay were spot on. The second night a filet with a light blue cheese sauce done just right. Such a sauce can overpower the taste of the beef, but again the kitchen staff was very adept with this preparation. I have dined well in many superb restaurants, a number of them even in the southern USA. I remember the coffee steak prepared for me exclusively at a hotel in a Knoxville. Amazing! However the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn executive chef, Frank Davi, can stand as tall beside other great culinary professionals, whether one of the renowned Iron Chefs, New Orleans’ Emeril Lagasse, Cleveland’s Michael Simon or one of Toronto’s finest such as Massimo Capri or Michael Bonacini. For late arrivals, Executive chef Davi’s assistant, Chef Rich, steps in for his boss with his own admirable and fine skills.

Daniel chose another entrée:2015-08-03_10h40_43

Loosen the belt…dessert!

Then desserts: “let-out-the-belt-a-notch” baked-on-the-premises preparations that will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. We had an apple crisp threatened mom’s for outstanding taste.

were great day starters’ at the inn, again indicating that the inn ranked among the best with its kitchen’s productivity. Would you believe the lodge has fresh eggs from its own chicken coops? Believe it! Fresh fruit cocktails, eggs done in European style, with parmigiano cheese. The French toast so delicious, Daniel ordered a second serving!

grotsTrue grit !

Then, you must dine like a local and try the “grits” with your breakfast. Northerners with no familiarity with this dish, might think porridge or oatmeal. A southerner would shudder at this comparison. Still, it is a dish that must be tried. I was quite amazed at the many guests heartily eating the dish alongside their omelets or breakfast fruit cocktails. Before rejecting the dish as a breakfast sidedish, diners should remember northern Italians and their love of  polenta, the cornmeal cousin of grits.

Finally, it would be sadly remiss if the lodge’s “brown bag lunches” didn’t get mentioned. At the conclusion of every registered guest’s dinner, the diner is presented with a selection menu for ordering their personal brown bag lunch. Choose the beef or the turkey; you can’t go wrong. The next day your tagged brown bag lunch awaits you in the lobby’s mini fridge. Prepare yourself for when you unwrap the sandwich on its multigrain bread, you will bite into one of the most delicious sandwiches you have ever tasted. I like to think it wasn’t the riding in fresh air that made the brown bag lunch taste so good. Rather, it was the quality of the ingredients. Be sure to check off a fresh fruit and don’t worry about a drink. The lodge’s packs a bottle of water automatically.

The short of dining at Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn is that it is five star dining in the most unexpected of places. You are in the middle of the mountains of North Carolina, moonshiner territory, the backwoods, some mistakenly think the Ozarks, a region further west in Arkansas but Smokey Mountains area may have its own share of stereotypical rednecks, residents who might be first looked at as being much like the people of the Ozarks. These people live in very isolated areas of a rough land, heavily forested with wide, broad valleys. In the summer, humidity and heat reach very uncomfortable levels. In the winter, a 12 inch snowfall receives a blink of an eye in acknowledgement. So such quality accommodation as the Snowbird Mountain Lodge Inn is very surprising and such five star dining is beyond description.

I look forward to another visit with whetted appetite and great anticipation.

Richard Szpin


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