Carl Sandburg Home

The Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, North Carolina is perhaps one of the greatest historical treasures I have visited. This simple white frame farm house with adjoining goat farm on 245 acres was where this remarkable two time Pulitzer Prize winner lived with his wife and daughters from 1945 till his death in 1967. In 1968 his wife and daughters packed their suitcases and sold all to the National Park Association. What a gift they gave America. It is an entirely intact home filled with Carl’s worldly possessions. There are over 17.000 books, his clothing, typewriter, and even an intact kitchen. It is a unique snapshot of a life well lived.

Abe and the Pulitzers

Carl Sandberg was born 13 years after the Civil War in a town not far from Springfield, Illinois. Here he became enamored with Abraham Lincoln who he studied most of his life. He eventually created a six volume tome of Abe’s life which he whittled down to one volume. For this he won his first Pulitzer Prize. His next Pulitzer was for poetry, and he is credited as the only individual to earn two of these prestigious awards in separate venues.

Early Life

Leaving school in 8th grade to help support the family he later prowled the states as a hobo working odd jobs eventually serving in the Spanish American war. From there it was a time in college where a professor encouraged his writing. He never finished that college degree but began to write and worked in newspapers for over 2 decades. His major interest was always in political concerns for the welfare of mankind.

Later Life

Along the way he met a beautiful and intelligent woman who he convinced to marry him and had 2 daughters. Lilian Steichen Sandberg, besides sharing his interest in social reform also held many avocations. She was an avid farmer and award winning goat farmer. In these circles she is credited for changing the goat farming industry with her innovative ideas. Goats still remain on the farm for viewing and are gentle and friendly.

Carl Sandburg never stopped singing or writing throughout his life. He wrote long hours into the night often going to bed as Lilian began her farm work. Known to have a strong sense of humor he stated that writing was, “95% perspiration and 5% inspiration.”

Visiting The Property

Enjoy the visit and start with the movie where you will meet Sandburg’s granddaughter. Here she describes growing up on the farm and life with her famous grandfather. See the house, visit the goats, and take a walk on the property. It is a truly delightful experience.

In closing is a simple quote from Carl which sums up this remarkable American who gave so much to the world.

“…be careful, be careless, be what you want to be.”

The Basilica of Saint Lawrence: Rafael Guastavino

The Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, North Carolina

For anyone who visits Biltmore the name Rafael Guastavino resonates as the Spanish architect and builder who was responsible for the construction of the Biltmore arch supports and swimming pool. So fascinated by this structure I sought out the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville to see more of his work. This church is the only property where Rafael was the primary architect and builder. He is also buried in the Basilica.

Rafael Guastavino spent three decades in America involved in crafting many American structures. Following are a sampling of his credits:

  • New York City – Carnegie Hall, Grant’s Tomb, Grand Central Terminal, St. John the Divine Church
  • Boston – Boston Public Library
  • Washington D.C. – Supreme Court Building
  • Chicago – Rockefeller Chapel at University of Chicago

He developed a system of self supporting arches which he patented as the “Tile Arch System.” Using tile and mortar his system was used in domes and other vaulting systems throughout the world. To date his process is still in use. Below is a more in depth picture of the dome of the Basilica of St. Lawrence.

Thanks, Rafael for coming to America.

Asheville Day 2: Biltmore

Biltmore is considered by most as America’s only castle. With building construction beginning in 1889 and lasting over 6 years, 1000 workers crafted this majestic residence. Two architects worked in concert to produce this amazing property. Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame created the outside landscaping and gardens, and Richard Morris Hunt, the architect of the home. While assessed on tax rolls at $64 million it is priceless and pricey to visit but well worth the fee as the visit is captivating and one you will never forget.

After obtaining tickets to the venue there is a long drive to the home through forested lands. It is amazing to think in 1896 this was desolate farmland recreated as a forest on Olmsted’s recommendation.

The forest continues as you walk to the mansion from the parking lot. Then the awesome structure appears at the end of a grassy courtyard. Walking closer to the entry large stone lions greet you as doors open into a foyer of plants with a domed ceiling.

From the spectacular entry walk to the dining room where George and Edith Vanderbilt dined with their guests on 6 to 10 course meals.

In the library is George’s immense collection of books. He also entertained great authors and poets in this room discussing their works. If only walls could talk.

Then there is the room housing priceless tapestries..

And take a glimpse at George’s bedroom..

Next visit the exquisite gardens, greenhouses, and forest. Stroll the many many trails. You will understand why George chose this spot to build.

Tours are timed for entry with limited numbers of visitors allowed making for a comfortable visit. Audio tours are an additional cost but well worth the price. Purchase your tickets on line a week prior to visit for savings. There are interesting back stage tours given by docents. Read the bios to see what fits your desires and interest. It takes at least 90 minutes to view the 39 rooms and spaces for tour in the home. There are docents in each room to answer questions. Christmas is the best time of year for visit as Biltmore glows with festive decor.

Bathrooms are not available in the house so to ensure a comfortable visit take care of those needs prior to visit. Walk past the entry doors of the home to a complex which has food, retail, and bathroom facilities. Here there is much to buy, eat, and sample. Wine tasting is included in the price of admission, however the larger tasting is available off-site at the Antler Hill Village and Winery. Here there is also a small animal farm for children, interesting trains, and a museum explaining more of the Vanderbilt’s life.

To make every aspect of your tour a valuable experience pick up a copy of “Your Visit to Biltmore,” which is available through the Asheville on line services. Also, investigate the extensive Biltmore web site for all specifics and needs. I highly recommend reading information on the Vanderbilt family prior to visit. This will make your visit even more valuable.

Asheville: Day 1

Within 30 minutes of destination a horrific rain storm occurred while driving through the mountains. Though some folks stopped on the shoulder I continued. Once the rain abated a scene of mist from the mountains rose with a pink sky and the harvest moon in the back drop. Asheville certainly has a beautiful pink sky.

Upon arrival and with greetings completed we ventured to the downtown Asheville area. This is a busy spot with much music playing on this, Friday, the 13th. Besides the weekly drumming group in the square there were other musicians playing as folks strolled the streets.

Asheville is a town with many older, well maintained buildings with quirky stores repurposed from older venues. F. W. Woolworth was a collage of many smaller stores with some original artifacts remaining.

Then there are the restaurants and bar venues. We stopped at an Asian tapas restaurant and later heard more music from an eclectic group.

Never had a Friday the 13th quite like this!

The Drive to Asheville and Noise

The Biltmore. They didn’t have a vacancy so we Air Bnb’d it….

My next few blogs will come from the Asheville, North Carolina area as I am meeting my daughter there. While North Carolina is beautiful, the drive was long and annoying with many towns having 45 mph speed limits.

Stopping at a gas station I was particularly perturbed over a noisy, supped up Ford Mustang which graced the neighboring gas stall. Though I probably shouldn’t have made comment, I did. Even though he could have pulled a gun on me and shot me dead I didn’t care. Working nights and sleeping days in my room which I have dubbed the Cross Bronx Expressway has gotten to me.

Ford Mustang

With this sleep schedule I am frequently woke by revved up motorcycles, cars blaring radios, loud mufflers, and trucks. I was in no mood for this Ford Mustang and gratefully he waited to continue his antics till off the gas station property.

So I remained alive and it brings back the question of noisy vehicles. Why? We hear you, and we notice you. Do you really need to make all this noise? Remember, there may be someone trying to sleep after a night shift. Be considerate.

As I continue to contemplate this issue guys with big pick up trucks came to mind. In my experience and from the chatter of gal pals through the years those boys buy big to compensate for parts small. Question answered.

It’s Kathleen and if you don’t like what I say… well, you know the drill.


Coffee and Doughnut

Today after a 12 hour shift where I had been repeatedly verbally abused by psych patients I decided to take myself for a cup of brew and doughnut. I could tell the young man at the counter was not into his job, however for a $2.50 sale I gave a 75 cent tip. He saw me do this and said nothing. This concerns me. While I know working in the service industry is challenging I would have liked a smile or thanks which is in order. It hurt.


I will still remain generous in my tipping however these incidents occur frequently. I’m glad I am a good cook and don’t eat out much. And the next time I need a lift, I’ll go to the grocery store and get something.

It’s Kathleen, and if you don’t like what I say it’s still Kathleen.

Cell Phone Blues

Bye, Bye Samsung….

My hearty cell phone bit the dust at the Greek Fest. Guess the dancing was too much for her. I noted this predicament while driving from Goldsboro to Raleigh. She wouldn’t charge, or should I say he? Let’s keep it neutral.

At the fest I tried a variety of different cords and several vendors gave me a hand to no avail. Upon completion of my visit I began my drive home with 8% juice remaining or 19 minutes. While this wouldn’t allow Waze to get me home I was hoping for a close proximity. As the phone died I found myself somewhere outside Raleigh. North Carolina is either rural or city, and I was rural.

What does a single woman do in these circumstances? Pull out Randy McNally, and after several trials found my way only adding a half hour to the journey.

This saga brought up many thoughts and most especially how much we depend on technology and what do we do when it fails?

Thank God for maps.

It’s Kathleen.. and hope I’ve given you something to think about..

Buy one…

Everything Greek!

Recently there was a Greek Festival at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds. If you have never been to one of these, go. It will be pricey but as they say it is “Priceless,” and your stomach will thank you. Caveat: Wear roomy clothes so you can take it all in. Ha!Ha!

Here were some of the selections:

I chose the full dinner with leg of lamb in a tomato sauce, veggies, rice, and grape leaves. Thank God for take out containers to bring food home. What a delicious feast to continue tomorrow.

Served cafeteria style everything was warm and tasty. The line was long but with quick turnover. Next stop was the wine station where I tested one ounce samples of 7 different Greek wines from the homeland. Delicious, however only can get these in Greece. ? Next trip?

From there it was dancing. All ages of Greeks participate and give quite a show.

Then at the conclusion of a busy day time for a vanilla ice cream sundae with granola, honey and chocolate syrup topping. YUM…

So set your calendar for next year’s fest. You’ll be glad you did.

The Billy Graham Museum

What a fine tribute to an amazing man. Let’s start with a little history of this incredible individual who served 11 presidents and gave more than 60 years to God and the world.

Billy Graham was raised on a dairy farm of 80 acres with 60 milking cows. The Graham Brothers Dairy was key to Billy’s life. Stop and see his boyhood home as the first part of the visit. While his mom redecorated in 1962 and Billy never lived in the redecorated home it is a lovely home to see.

From here stop and see the graves of Billy and Ruth in the Memorial Prayer Garden. Then enter the actual museum where you are greeted by…..

After leaving our Holstein cow there is a movie about Billy’s life and several rooms filled with memorabilia from his career. Billy met his wife Ruth in Wheaton College. She was the daughter of medical missionaries who lived in China.

A picture of Ruth and Billy along with a replica of their home. The translation of the saying over the fireplace is, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

When Billy graduated from college he ministered at one church, then was called to a revival meeting. His message was so strong that his 3 week engagement lasted 8 weeks. From here his career began in radio and before long he was ministering to the world.

While Ruth stayed at home raising 5 children she was able to travel with Billy at times. Billy often said she was the finest Christian he had ever known. Both now have left us but their children remain active in ministry with their focus outreach to those in tragedy.

Franklin Graham is having a Decision America tour in North Carolina. Here are the following dates and cities:

  • October 1 Fayetteville
  • October 2 Greenville
  • October 5 Wilmington
  • October 6 Raleigh
  • October 9 Greensboro
  • October 10 Hickory
  • October 12 Charlotte
  • October 13 Asheville

Billy’s legacy lives on through his children.

Nascar Museum in Charlotte

As the bio of the Nascar Museum states this museum is a shrine to the history and heritage of Nascar. Nascar began in the South with moon shiners and bootleggers developing cars to out pace police vehicles.

The actual still of one of the bootleggers.

Illegal booze was an industry in the South which fed the family so it was key to not be caught by police as delivery of product occurred. The faster the car the less likelihood of being caught.

First Cars

From this home town racing began and in 1947 a man named Bill France got folks together to develop an organized and regulated sport. Since cars were racing on Daytona Beach this was the ideal place to start. Later a racetrack was created nearby which developed into a prestigious race, the Daytona Beach 500. All this is covered to in the museum’s introductory movie so make sure to stop and see that first.

Nascar Founders

The museum hours are 10 to 6 with Tuesday their black out day. Admission is from $25 to $49 with the higher admission giving an opportunity to sit in a car and race on video. Parking is available on the street and in garages. All that said, let’s look further at the place.

After the movie the doors open on to an actual track with race cars. Every 3 months the cars are changed. There are 100 Nascar tracks across America and each one has a different incline and turf.

Cockpit safety is key for this industry and has dramatically reduced injuries. A pit stop for cars during the race takes 12 seconds with 4 tires being changed during this time. On each car sponsors are listed and they range from Cheerios, Wranglers, Staples, Lowe’s, 3M, to Oreos. This is an expensive sport built on rivalry and competition, the American way.

The Hall of Fame where the race lives on allows patrons to hear their favorite drivers speak along with a list of their accomplishments. Below is a case of prizes awarded.

The Martinburg track gives a grandfather clock to the winner. Wonder what you’d do if you won the race 7 times? Alot of clocks to gift others with. 🙂

And then there is the clothing…

All in all, a fun visit and a must see for car enthusiasts. And to think how it all started.