Saturday, January 8, 2011

December 20th

I got up, packed up and headed back up to the Mt. Airy area....Pilot Mountain, to be exact.  You might remember it as "Mt. Pilot" from the Andy Griffith Show.  As I drove through town I knew immediately when I was getting to the home of Larry and Rachel Charpiat because all you could see were Christmas decorations.  Larry and Rachel far...have the biggest property and the most decorations of any of the places I visited.  FIVE ACRES of lights, wire frames, little houses with animated figures in the windows, blow molds...everything!  I hung around with them all afternoon and they showed me a grand time.  We went down to "Mayberry" and ate at Snappy Lunch, which is the first ever real Mt. Airy business that was mentioned on the TV show.  I had to have their world famous pork chop sandwich...holy was DEEELISH and I'm sure responsible for packing on at least five pounds right there on the spot.  We then went over to Floyd's Barber Shop, in which the barber, whose actual name was Russell, was holding court.  The guy must be about 97 years old but he was sharp as a tack and took a lot of time to talk with me about when he cut Andy's hair and then he had me sit in one of his old fashioned chairs and had a picture done with me.  I loved every minute of it.  The next stop was the little complex that held the "Mayberry" courthouse and featured a real squad car from the show parked out front.  I went into the courthouse and met an Andy look-alike who was playing the Sheriff and  who posed with his old fashioned phone for me.  There was a couple there waiting for him to marry them!  And he says this happens all the time!  Of course I had to have my photo take in one of the jail cells!
Larry and Rachel wanted to take me on a Squad Car Tour but the same guy who was playing the Sheriff was the one who does the tours and there wasn't time to wait for him to finish the wedding!

In all it was a blast of a tour through Mayberry, a town I never in a million years imagined I'd visit.  And I do want Larry and Rachel to know that I was wearing my Mayberry sweatshirt at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and someone actually stopped me to ask where I'd gotten it.  The guy was stunned to learn that there is a real "Mayberry."  I am certain he is going to visit there one of these days!

We took the last bit of time we had before we had to get ready for the evening and Larry and Rachel drove me up to the top of Pilot Mountain.  It's the funniest looking mountain you ever saw, as you can see in the picture above.  What a beautiful view from the top.  It was just so peaceful and quiet.  I'd like to go back up there someday and have a picnic.

But the real fun was yet to come.  I went  to the hotel just to spruce up for a bit and by the time I returned to the Charpiat's house it was dark and all lit up.  Traffic was already lining up to park in their parking lot...yes, they have a parking lot on their property!  They have way too many lights to synchronize, so they just synchronize in a few select spots.  I honestly cannot describe how amazing the whole thing is. They made paths through the wooded area and people get out of their cars and walk through the five acres of "Santa's Enchanted Forest" of  lights(over 200 thousand!), animated figures and things.  There's something everywhere you look Larry has been decorating since the 1960's and has many pieces, like the animated figures in the houses, that he has kept since then.  I should explain that Larry and Rachel are retirees and this is their hobby...they do it together and look for pieces to add and plan it all year round.  I thought that was really cool that they have a hobby they can enjoy together and that makes other people so happy.  I'm serious when I say that this place is practically an amusement park.  If they wanted to charge five bucks a head I'm sure people would pay it, but when I mentioned that Larry said that would mean a lot of families wouldn't be able to afford to come, so they only accept donations from people who want to help cover the cost of their electric bill. 
If you want to see pictures and watch the local news bit about the concert that night then go to the website here:
And congrats Larry and Rachel for doing so much for the Pilot Mountain Outreach Center.  I was proud to be a part of it.
As it has been EVERYWHERE I have gone on this tour, it was really hard to leave Larry and Rachel behind. What a couple of dear, dear people.  I know we will meet again and in the meantime you will be in a special place in my heart. God bless you!!
PS...William Bottomley from Ennice came up to the concert with the van from the TV station where he works and he filmed some of the Pilot Mountain concert for their news broadcast.  If you'd like to see it, check it out here:  Thank you so much William!

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