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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Autumn

I'm pretty certain that there are cold and snowy days right around the corner.
Thanksgiving is next week.  November is flying. Christmas is coming up fast.  So this past Monday when the weatherman predicted warm and sunny, Bob and I hitched the bikes to the back of the Jeep one last time before we dismantled the bike rack and tucked the bikes into the garage until spring.

We wanted to try a new venue and settled on Duke Farms, (as in Duke University and Doris Duke).  Her estate covers 2,700 acres, and is populated by lush landscapes  and nine man-made lakes such as this one we stopped to view along our way:

JB Duke, Doris's father, made his millions in tobacco as head of the American Tobacco Company.  But JB Duke also had a love of nature and a special soft spot for creating dramatic landscapes and using hydro electric power.  He had the nine lakes dredged on his vast property and even installed huge waterfalls. As we tooled along the narrow roads that wound through the park-like farm, we spied quite a few of these lakes and even one waterfall.  The farm is no longer a private residence but has been opened to the public and is run by a foundation for preserving the pristine land.

 During the Dukes' lifetimes the farm was run by dozens of workers both inside and outside of the mansion.  The staff actually had their own residences on the farm.  Bob and I passed many of these cottages on our tour.  In fact, Bob use to work with a guy who lived in one of them when his friend was a security guard for the Duke property. I sure wanted to get a peak inside one of these sweet looking cottages.  Some are still occupied by workers, so I settled for a quick picture from the front lawn.  Looks like something out of a fairy tale!

Some structures have suffered the ravages of time, like the Hay Barn.  Only the stone walls were left after a devastating fire, but Doris turned it into a sculpture garden.  She loved the arts and we got to reap the benefits of the lovely views she created.

The most stunning surprise on our adventure was the orchid conservatory.  Doris Duke was quite an eccentric lady.  Later in her life she became a horticulturist.  She was devoted to growing hothouse orchids. Luckily, the greenhouse is open to  the public and it put on a spectacular show.

Inside, the variety of orchids was amazing.  Take a look!

Spanish moss dripped from the branches that housed the potted flowers, and the fragrance was so sweet and intoxicating, I didn't want to leave.

What a lovely way to end our biking excursions for the season.  Bob and I can't wait to return to Duke Farms again in the spring when everything will be blooming and coming to life.  I know it will be spectacular and almost an entirely different experience.

Now the question is....what do we do in the winter?  Any suggestions?  What do you do for some extra fun when the snow starts? (PS.  we don't ski, skate, or snowboard!)  We old folks!