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Spring—Road Trip with a Graduation

One of the things I enjoy about retirement travel is being able to see family and friends without having to ask for time off. Of course, I shared with my wife more than 30 years ago that you cannot just take trips to visit family. We do have other travel planned.

I recently took two separate road trips to Columbia, South Carolina, one to get things some things moved and one to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s graduation with a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of South Carolina.  My daughter accompanied me on the first trip and my wife on the second.

In Columbia, we all enjoyed walking along the Congaree River. The trails are part of the Three Rivers Greenway Trail. We have walked on these trails many times. The flooding in Columbia in October of 2015 did shut down the Cayce / West Columbia Riverwalk that we enjoy so much. On our most recent walk, a portion of the trail still remains closed. We saw several art carvings along the path that were fun to find, including a group of turtles carved from a tree stump with a live salamander resting on top of them.

A fun side trip for us in South Carolina was a visit to a Revolutionary War battle site at Musgrove Mill.  The historic site was hosting a reenactment weekend. It was cool for us to see the costumes and interact with history. Several revolutionary sites are available off of highway 26. This one was easy and accessible.

My daughter, who traveled with me on trip one to Columbia, enjoyed a visit to the Biltmore Estate. The azaleas were in full bloom and the whole area was breathtaking. Visiting the house gave me the opportunity to share that buying too much house is an issue, as evidenced by the current owners needing to open the house to the public to keep it going.

We enjoyed live music inside the Biltmore house and the salute to the Titanic movie. In several rooms they had the clothing worn in the movie, from the same time period as this historic house on display in the rooms. It was like seeing the past come alive.


Fun with Biltmore Hats


Other highlights:

Tennessee is having fun with its rest areas. We noticed musical notes and a theme as we stopped in at a few stops on our journeys through the state. On the sidewalk, to emphasize their musical contributions, are musical notes.

Lessons learned:

  • Graduation and moving are all times to pause and reflect. Graduation and retirement have a lot in common. The message for graduates is you accomplished a lot here, now go somewhere and make a difference. A similar message applies when we retire. We made a difference in our work, now we need to go make a difference in our communities and with our relationships.
  • I read an interesting article about an NFL player retiring and living in a van. Joe Hawley’s story was a fascinating reminder about how you can create your own experience. His message is to live with less and experience more. You can follow his blog here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH-fGbXb-BCZ2d7c1LIXjdg

Activity statistics:

We did not ride bikes during the two trips to South Carolina. We did hike along the Congaree River as well as walk in the state park and around the Biltmore estate.

Ft Jax Bike Enter restricted area

Picture from one of my favorite Columbia bike rides–around the live ammunition firing range!


The Biltmore Estate, America’s Largest Privately Owned Home

We visited the Biltmore Estate in lovely Asheville, North Carolina, and had a great time. If you were a bachelor from one of America’s riches families and grew up in New York City, of course America’s biggest house on 125,000 acres (now only 8,000) in North Carolina would be a dream.


The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

We visited the fairly land house and really enjoyed our time. We did manage to stay the evening prior to our tour at the newly constructed (2015) Village Hotel and loved the accommodations.

The tour the evening before included a drive around the grounds from an Estate driver (tour vans hold about 20 and we had it to ourselves), a walk on the grounds, and wine tasting in Antler Village. It was a perfect evening and the food, locally grown on the estate, was tasty.

We did tour the estate. Wow! We were up before the tours start and decided to bike on the estate. We were not the only riders out that morning. It was a fun time and we enjoyed the wildlife and the quiet scenes along the French Broad River.

After breakfast and checking out of our room, we took the van to the estate. George Vanderbilt, and later his wife and daughter, lived in Vanderbilt’s 250-room French Renaissance chateau after it was completed in 1895. The finished home contains over four acres of floor space, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. We loved the in-ground pool with electric lights and the bowling alley. Our favorite rooms were the library with over 10,000 books and the porch that had great views of the country side.

After the tour we strolled through the conservatory and gardens and walked to the Bass Pond dam as well and saw the Glen Bridge on, of course, Glen Road. We needed a picture! Kim enjoyed the waterfall from the dam and we were all set to enjoy more waterfalls.

I did run into a former co-worker who had just completed the Rooftop Tour and loved it. Our tour was of the main house and it was almost overwhelming. We did the audio package and it was well worth it.

I said fairy tale house; I met a man whose 5-year-old daughter thought that the house was a fairy tale castle. She had on a princess dress as we went into the wine tasting. We did see the 5-year-old girl on the tour the next day and she was in heaven enjoying the house in her princess dress.

A few travelers shared their advice and thoughts on how they get along in retirement.

One of our van drivers on the estate was retired. He moved back to the Asheville area after retiring and loved the Biltmore.

  • He was glad to hear we were not moving to town as he said too many already have.
  • His thoughts were to find what you love.
  • He grew up in the area and does not consider driving on the estate work. He indicated that the Biltmore will have to pry him out of his seat to get him to leave.


After our house tour we ate lunch with another retiree who had just come up for the day with his season pass.

  • This gentleman had been retired for a year and was looking to get back into the workforce.
  • He missed people and wanted to get back into society. He thought the Biltmore did not pay enough. Interesting contrast to the van driver in his outlook.
  • Lesson learned–try things out and keep active. It is harder to re-start.

Other highlights: Several of the local residents have season passes and come often to the grounds. We can see why; we plan to come again for another season of the landscapes in the fall or for Christmas.

Trip by the numbers:

Travel days: July 18-19

Visited two states, Tennessee and North Carolina

Activity statistics:

  • Biking miles: 8.3 miles, 1 ride.
  • Hiking/Walking 3.4 miles, not including the house—all around the estate.
Bike at the Biltmore Estate--River

Early morning biking along the French Broad River at the Biltmore Estate.