The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad

This is Brandt, a conductor on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. Brandt has been with the railroad for over 24 years - he spent four years working in the repair yard before moving over to the shops and taking a role on the train. 

If you take a look at the movie the Fugitive, you’ll see Brandt in the background after the crash scene. The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad was responsible for staging the scene; they crashed three different types of train to get the rollover action they were in looking for. (Brandt says Harrison Ford was delightful). 

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Goodbye Mountains!

We will miss so much from these three months in the mountains – from everything that makes Asheville so quirky to everything that allows the surrounding small towns to feel so down to earth.  

To kick off our last full day in Asheville, we headed once again to the mountains. This morning we hiked Graveyard Falls; if you follow us on Instagram, you can see a few snaps on our “story.”

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Behind the Scenes: A Rather Real Take

After almost 17 years living in Massachusetts and five years of home ownership in Salem, Justin, our two cats, and I hit the road for a year of being digital nomads in our VW campervan. I wish I could tell you that it has been all 100% great. Truthfully, it’s been tough. 

Part of our goal with this project was to write authentically and photograph honestly within the places we visit and the people we meet. Along those lines, it seems that we owe Tendency to Wander a reality dosed post.

Selling our home and leaving a very familiar place was both exciting and terrifying – but we did it with a few safety nets comfortably billowing below our tightrope. 

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The Biltmore

After being in Asheville for almost three months, we finally made it to the Biltmore. Throughout our visit we kept exclaiming, “Dude!” and, “what was it like to live like this?” 

With five acres of living space in the home, the estate was built to impress. Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted modeled the home off of a trio of classic French chateaux. 

Docents and guides spoke to Vanderbilt’s philanthropy, including the founding of the first national forest (although Vanderbilt selling much of the family’s land outside of Asheville seemed to have as much to do as avoiding the new property tax as it did his love of conservation and hiking).

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The Eagle Has Landed: a Visit to PARI

In July 1969 the words ”Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed” were beamed from outer space down to the Rosman Tracking Station. 

From there these words were transmitted throughout the world, announcing that the United States had just put a person on the moon. 

What you might not have known was that the Rosman Tracking Station wasn’t located in Houston - but instead tucked away in the remote 500,000 acre large Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.

Since those famous words were heard around the world, the Rosman Tracking Station has been home to many uses including an NSA station during the cold war. 

In 1995 the Department of Defense closed the base due to budget constraints and in 1998 the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, or PARI, was founded. The following year the former base was opened to the public for research and tours.

While planning our visit to PARI, one thing became clear: the sheer size of the radio antennas was going to be a challenge to convey in a photo. (Since PARI is a learning institute, we figured we’d drop some learning here in regards to choosing a focal length for this specific challenge.)

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