Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chautauqua: Wernher von Braun

We attended the traditional Chautauqua June festival.  We were excited to get to hear Wernher von Braun.  We went back in time to 1973 just after he left NASA and became VP of Fairchild Industries.

Dr. von Braun explained how the stages of the Saturn rockets worked as they blasted from Earth and into the atmosphere and space.  He showed us how the space capsule and lunar rover interacted to get man to the moon.  It was very interesting.

He told us how heart breaking it was to lose the crew of Apollo 1 and what mistakes were made and how they were fixed before another mission was to take place.  He explained how he personally knew every astronaut.  He reminded us that each man in the program knew and accepted the risks that space travel held.  They would not want to put on hold the mission and that the mission continued toward the moon landing.

Dr. von Braun answered many questions from the audience.  Many concerning his years during the Nazi regime.  He was a fresh out of university and his country offered him a position in his field to pursue rocketry.  Yes, he knew the rockets/missals were going to be used in war.  However, he did not have much choice as to how his rockets were used.  He told us that in the last days of the war, he and one hundred of his colleagues forged documents to travel across Germany and surrender to American forces.  They took as much documentation and work as they could and buried vital equipment for the Americans to find later.

When asked why he worked for the Nazis, he did not answer directly.  He answered in terms of the current situation with Vietnam.  He told us that if he were a young man at this time and his number was chosen for the draft, he would not run from his duty to country.  He would not dodge the draft, he would serve.  For it was his country that called and he did his duty.  I found that quite interesting, the parallel.  He didn't want his rockets used to destroy mankind, he just wanted to reach space.

Why did he mention all these things?  His running theme for his talk was:  What price are citizens willing to pay to expand across new horizons? To seek new discoveries? To create a new future for us all? What rewards do we insist upon to justify the dangers inevitably created?

We use to embrace risk and test limits, as a people, as a nation.  During Dr. von Braun's lecture, I thought about how we have allowed fear and insistence of 100% safety to limit us in our quest of adventure.  I wandered what he would have thought about our space shuttle program being halted and the reliance of other countries to send our men and women into space.  We have become a nation that avoids risks and with that we have lost an edge.

Larry Bounds depicted Wernher von Braun in the Chautauqua portrayal.  His performance was excellent.  He made the audience forget that this was a performance and allowed them to experience a portal to the past.

We were very privileged to get to attend the event and learn more about von Braun.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Brasstown Bald

On our trip to Helen, Georgia we explored Brasstown Bald.  If you are ever in the area, make it a destination for exploration!

The road was winding and steep to get to the visitor center.  I made sure Hubby kept his eyes on the road!  There is a gate keeper at the top entrance to collect a $5 per person 16 and over fee.  15 and under are admitted free.  The admission price includes the shuttle fee to the top of the bald.

Parking was ample for the park.  We arrived at 10:45am and there were several cars in the lot.  When we left a bit after noon, the lot was about half full.  Keep in mind that this was on a Sunday, so I am sure that Saturdays see many more tourists to the park.

The shuttle trip up to the bald was pleasant.  A ranger told us about the floral life on the bald and paused at an opening in the tree line to see how far up we were on the mountain.  He explained how spring on the bald is usually three to four weeks behind spring in Helen.  The bald experiences weather similar to areas in Massachusetts and not Georgia!

We departed the shuttle at the base of the overlook.  The temperature was much cooler at 4,784 ft compared to Helen's elevation of 1,447 ft and even the 4,284 ft elevation of the parking area.  Perfect for a hot day.  The ranger said the temperatures atop the bald have never reached above 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

We climbed the steps to the observation deck and were in awe of the views.  The sky was a beautiful hue of blue and wispy cirrus clouds dotted the sky.  A haze from the fauna in the Appalachian mountains gave the smoky appearance for which they are known.  It was absolutely breath taking!  On a clear day, like we had, four states can be observed.  I will bring the binoculars next time!

Once we finished taking in the views atop the observation deck, we descended the stairs and entered the movie room to see a short film about Brasstown Bald.  I am amazed that the park service has not updated their films.  This one was definitely shot in the early 80s.  It was still informative, but the younger audience was more distracted by the attire of the visitors in the film.

We looked around the historical center after the film.  Learned about how the Appalachian mountains formed. We read about the Native people that called the area home.  We also learned about the settlers to the area and logging industry.

Brasstown Bald was definitely worth the trip and we hope to return when the leaves are changing colors in the fall.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Trip to Alpine Helen, Georgia

We ventured over to Helen, Georgia last weekend.  We have always talked about going and just never took the time to go.  The trip was about three hours from our house and once exiting I-85, the scenery was much more enjoyable.  Rural Georgia in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains was very picturesque with its small towns and gentle rolling farmland.

I love taking back-roads in our travels and this one satisfied me.  We slowly climbed in elevation and soon mountains were in view.  We meandered down the two lane road leading to Helen.  We passed Habersham and its antique store, coffee cafe, winery, etc.  Don't blink!  We came back a day later to explore the busy little spot, but unfortunately the coffee cafe had already closed for the day.  (We got there at 4:30pm on a Saturday!)  We went into the antique store and they were getting ready to close at 5pm.  So, we only explored part of the store.

We found our hotel (Country Inns and Suites) in Helen and liked that it was on Edelweiss Strauss Lane and not on the main drag.  It was quiet and the beds were comfy.  Hubby had arranged for fresh flowers to be delivered and waiting in the room for our anniversary when we arrived.  That was a lovely surprise!

We explored downtown Helen and meandered into the little shops.  We expected more of a festive atmosphere.  The big draw to Helen in the summer months happens to be tubing the Chattahoochee.  It looked like the rubber ducky races many towns hold.  Tubers were packed on the buses taking them up the river to be dropped off and packed in the river as they floated down stream.

We opted to explore other parts of the area instead of tube.  The winding road adventure took us to Unicoi  State Park.  We put it on the list to explore at a later date.  A lovely mountain lake looked so inviting and there seemed to be many places for camping.  We also went up the mountain to see Brasstown Bald.  Our first attempt was to late in the afternoon and we went back on Sunday before we left the area.  It was definitely worth the return visit!

One evening we played miniature golf at Alpine Golf.  It was such a quaint course and very well kept.  It offered splendid views of the sunset over the mountains.  Afterwards we visited the ice cream shop on the grounds.

A model replica of Alpine Golf

We ate dinner at Paul's on the River and enjoyed a delicious meal, our first evening.  It was a bit pricey, but we were celebrating our anniversary.  We had a lovely lunch the next day at a little cafe off the main street in downtown Helen.  The cranberry chicken salad was a delight!   Our final evening in Helen, we ate a Mexican restaurant and the food was okay.  We never got to eat at the German restaurants in town.  They were all very busy and we weren't in the mood to wait.  They will be on the list for our return trip!

Overall, we enjoyed our visit to Helen and will definitely return to explore the natural sites more.