Harrah’s Casino Resort Bringing Large Business to Reservation

Harrah’s Casino Resort (courtesy of Harrah’s Casino Resort)

By Jamie Angle, 2017

Our drive out to Murphy, North Carolina began with great music, conversation, and excitement about the adventure ahead. Five hours into the drive, this excitement had long petered off. We were exhausted, hungry, and ready to arrive at Harrah’s Casino, the first stop on our trip. Just when we were almost at the destination, we realized there was not one, but TWO casinos of the same name, within an hour of one another. We had typed in the wrong address. I could feel my heart sink as I watched the GPS add another hour to our arrival time.

We finally arrived at the hotel around 8:30PM; still hungry, still exhausted. The way the hotel is set up, guests are either forced to pay for valet parking in the front of the hotel for direct access to the lobby, or they are forced to walk through the entire casino bottom floor to reach the elevator to go upstairs to the lobby. Unwilling to pay for parking, we walked for five minutes through the brightly colored slot machines, retirees playing blackjack, and skilled quick-moving dealers. Classic sounds of jingling, excited shouts, and dramatic losing sighs filled the air as thick as the lingering cigarette smoke. We made our way through, checked into the large lobby, and headed to our rooms to settle in.

The hotel rooms were decent at best. While it was a spacious room with a large king-sized bed, the pillows were cheap and uncomfortable, wifi was not included, and the shower had a dark substance in the molding that I did not wish to question. Even so, exhausted, I fell into bed for a few minutes before making a move downstairs to meet up with the guys for dinner.

Downtown Murphy is about ten to fifteen minutes from the hotel, and every restaurant we looked up downtown closed at 9. This gave us very limited access to food, and we settled for a casino restaurant. The casino housed a Starbucks, hotdog shop, pizza place, and sandwich shop. Of these options, we chose the sandwich shop. While my hunger drove me to devour the first half of my sandwich, the second half I actually remember tasting. The second half was warm with melted cheese, meat, and Italian dressing. It tasted good, but was nothing to write home about. There was nothing particularly special about the sandwich, we got what we paid for. Originally, I had expected the food to be very overpriced because of its location in a casino, however, the price was not bad, it was a $6-7 sandwich, not much more than you would pay at Subway.

After dinner, the boys headed to bed and I headed to place some bets. As a young adult, I would have regretted it if I had not at least tried to gamble a little bit. Therefore, I went in with $30 to play (not very well) some Blackjack. The first couple games were not bad. There was a $10 minimum and I was fascinated by the speed of the hands of the dealer and the bets of the crowd around the table. I was easily the least experienced player. The two women to my right seemed to be having a lot of fun; they expressed their excitement with every win and their disappointment with each loss. The woman to my left was less excitable, but winning more than everyone else at the table. Finally, the two men to her left seemed rather grumpy and expressed nothing.

Everything seemed to be going well until my last game. The less-excitable woman to my left won blackjack in the beginning and I kept playing until my cards reached 16. Aware that I was unlikely to win (and that this was the last of my cash), I resounded myself to a loss. However, when the dealer dealt her own cards, she busted, or so she thought. After the money was delivered, the woman who had already won blackjack decided to point out that the dealer had made a mistake and had scored 20 before dealing her last card. This brought about some issues, the dealer called over her manager, who doubled as her father, in order to correct the mistake. Tensions were high as we tried to recount our cards, return the money we thought we had won, and scowled towards the woman who had pointed out the mistake.

I returned my money and escaped the situation before things got out of hand. There was a lot of money on the line for the other players. Personally, I was happy just to get out of there; although I was a bit bitter towards the dealer after the game. Drained from the day of travel and dizzy from the smoky atmosphere of the casino, I happily collapsed onto my uncomfortable pillows in my average hotel room and instantly fell asleep.

The Daily Grind & Wine

The rooftop view at Daily Grind & Wine (photo by Jake Hackman)

By Johvonn Smith, 2017

On our first full day on the trip, we started in Murphy, NC. We decided to get up
relatively early since we knew that we had a full day of traveling ahead of us. After checking out
of the hotel, we decided to head toward downtown Murphy where we hoped to find people to
talk to and find a place to eat breakfast. The drive was no more than 10 minutes and we
immediately started walking and taking pictures once we found a safe place to park. Jake stopped
to ask a police officer where we could eat breakfast and she directed us towards The Daily Grind
and Wine. This small diner/coffee shop had a quiet and southern vibe that seemed to fit perfectly
in Murphy. We immediately realized that The Daily Grind & Wine was a staple in Murphy.
Every customer that entered was known by name, and the workers also knew exactly what the
person was going to order. After wandering around and looking at the menu for a while, we
finally decided to order.

Inside the Daily Wine & Grind. (Photo by Johvonn Smith)

I ordered a cheese and bacon biscuit and hot chocolate, with no expectations considering
I was not familiar with the city or the diner. The hot chocolate came first which was perfect
considering I was extremely cold from being outside. The hot chocolate had whipped cream on top, and was made with fresh ingredients; most importantly, it tasted amazing. Even though I ordered a small drink, the size was still rather large, which made it even better. Shortly after drinking some of my hot chocolate, my biscuit came out, again giving me a pleasant surprise. The biscuit was made with their own special recipe, and it was delicious. The only downside to the biscuit is that the bacon was rather rubbery, but aside from that the texture of everything else was amazing. Overall, the taste was amazing, and I would definitely recommend The DailyGrind & Wine if you ever find yourself in Murphy, NC. Their servers are extremely nice and welcoming and provide a southern atmosphere that you would expect in a small town likeMurphy. In addition, you will find pictures and tons of rich history posted throughout the diner,along with a plethora of wine options to choose from in the back of the diner.

The Magic of Murphy

Winthrow has lived in Murphy for over 20 years. (Photo by Jake Hackman)

By Jake Hackman 2017

Standing at a stark 5’8”, Rob Winthrow looks almost childish in comparison to his 8-foot pot, shaped like a gnome. “He hasn’t been named yet,” said Winthrow. “Usually it takes me a couple of weeks to figure out what I want to name them.”

This was the first and only encounter that I would ever have with the bearded man, whose smile was as infectious and warm. The ease with which he began unfolding his life before me was as if e were narrating his own biography—only stopping the narrative to take small sips of black coffee.

“I originally grew up in Colorado where I spent most of my younger life,” said Winthrow. It wasn’t until after I stopped working labor jobs, that I found I wanted to do something artistic with my hands.”

Peachtree & Alpine St. One of the locations where Winthrow’s work is sold. (Photo by Jake Hackman)

At the time, Winthrow hadn’t a clue what that idea meant. Using your hands? He had no sense of direction, no driving force, no influence, he simply wanted to do something with his hands. This started a season of his life, he titled trial and error. During this period, he experimented with a plethora of work including painting, drawing, and constructing, but nothing seemed to stick.

Finally, he received a ceramic kiln from his wife. Having no background or experience in ceramics, Winthrow just began spinning, practicing his new craft each day. His passion quickly grew as he enrolled in classes at John C. Campbell Folk School—an art school in Brasstown, N.C. Here, his work was fostered and encouraged by other local creatives and his skills grew exponentially.

“The Folk School really made an impact on me because it was an environment full of encouraging people all looking to express themselves,” says Winthrow.

Over the last 25 years, Winthrow has resided in his quaint home nestled in the valley of Cherokee County, throwing a variety of pots and vases that have earned him awards in local craft shows. Some of his work is displayed in local shops in both Murphy and neighboring towns. He also has taken up teaching at the Folk School, as a way of giving back to the art community that helped him discover his passion.

“What has always struck me about Murphy is that time stops here. We are literally 20 years behind everyone and that says something about us,” said Winthrow. “In the last 25 years, I never once have had to lock the front door to my home or take the keys out of my truck.”

Winthrow’s love for Murphy extends far beyond his comfortability, he even asked me if I wanted to come to his art show to see the work of other Murphy artists. There is an aura about the place, as if each person was feeling the same thing that he felt, a common bond amongst all those folded into the jagged mountains. When asked what this is Winthrow says it’s pretty simple:

“It’s magical here, and no, I don’t mean some type of metaphor for magic, I mean the real stuff. This place and these people are truly magical.”

The Daily Grind & Wine in Murphy

By Molly Spero, 2016

Delicious black bean burger served at The Daily Grind & Wine.
Delicious black bean burger served at The Daily Grind & Wine.

The excitement was palpable as we pulled into a parking space in front of a coffee shop called The Daily Grind & Wine in downtown Murphy, NC. A four-plus hour car ride from Elon to Murphy had stiffened my legs—and “nature called.” The café was situated in the “Town of Murphy,” which was founded in 1835. Originally founded as Huntington after the first Postmaster Col. H.R.S. Hunter, Murphy gained its current name after Archibald D. Murphey, later dropping the “e” in Murphy. Since 1851, Murphy has been the county seat of Cherokee County. The Cherokee Indian Nation called Cherokee County and the surrounding area home prior to 1839, until they were removed to Oklahoma over the “Trail of Tears,” which follows a pathway out of town.

Located downtown in the historic building, The Daily Grind is nestled among several shops, including a neighboring bookstore and a basement music shop. Since May 2000, the coffee shop considers itself to be “the ‘Cheers’ for locals and visitors alike” and serves espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes. All day customers can choose off the breakfast and lunch menu that offers fresh baked goods, wraps, salads and grilled Panini sandwiches. Hanging chalkboards display the menu on the wall behind the cash register.

I opted for a black bean vegan burger with a whole slew of toppings—lettuce, tomato, mayo, Italian vinaigrette, provolone, and pickles—all on a skinny wheat bun and served with a choice of chips, grapes, or potato salad. Trying to be health conscious, I went with grapes. (This health craze didn’t last long; my diet became progressively saturated in fats, carbs, and sugars throughout the trip.)

The cashier gave me a table tracker, where the number card was displayed upright, inserted between two wine corks. This was a fitting nod to The Daily Grind’s other service: wine. With its Celtic themed wine and beer bar, the coffee shop doubles as the only retail wine shop in downtown Murphy. The bar specializes in regionally crafted brews and prides itself in being “a great place to meet old friends and make new ones.” In a small section beside the bar, a few tall tables were clustered together, inviting people to sit and enjoy their wine. Close by, wine racks lined the surrounding walls, serving as a little shop.

Molly flips through The Daily Grind & Wine scrapbook.
Molly flips through The Daily Grind & Wine scrapbook.

I sat down with my number at a two-seat table with Dani. Sam and Christian occupied the one next to us. The seating area was small and cozy, brightened by the natural light streaming in from the long wall of windows. While I waited on the food, I spotted a photo album resting on a seat. Curious, I opened it to reveal a scrapbook that documented the history of The Daily Grind through pictures and news articles: a flyer announcing its grand opening and promotional free concert, the first menu, pictures of the shop’s original layout, and many more pages.

Although the coffee shop had been around for less than two decades, the history within the scrapbook and the bustling vibe of the small eatery showed just how homey it felt, helping to create the friendly environment of Murphy. I looked around and saw locals and visitors alike enjoying the quaint, comfortable, and chill atmosphere.

My vegan burger arrived shortly in a basket lined with newspaper. The vegan burger, textured with black beans and a combination of breadcrumbs, onions, corn, and other seasonings, was moist and flavorful. The toasted wheat bun was crisp and warm, complementing the burger and all of its condiments.

After the long car ride, The Daily Grind & Wine provided an excellent pick-me-up stop. The atmosphere was cozy and relaxed, making it easy to talk with people, and the menu offered many tasty breakfast and lunch options perfect for a light meal. From my co-travelers, I heard enthusiastic approval of the coffee and appreciation of the local wine collection. If you are looking for a place in Murphy to sit back and relax while eating delicious sandwiches and drinking rich coffee or regional, unique wines, I highly recommend you skip a chain or fast food place and come to The Daily Grind.

Trekking along the Murphy River Walk

By Dani Halliday, 2016


Single track trail on the Murphy River Walk.
Single track trail on the Murphy River Walk.

I pulled my car into an empty dirt parking lot. A nearby sign advertised seasonal farmer’s markets held in the lot, but today, on a brisk Friday afternoon, it was empty. A small wooden post showed the trail outlined in red through the forest. Due to our crunched time schedule, we chose to do a small section of the trail that made a wraparound back to where we had parked.

This section of the trail twisted down to the water line. The sun reflected off the river and illuminated the trail, enhancing the brightly colored leaves along the ground and those still clinging to the trees. Sam was on the search for the perfect fall leaf. The one she chose was about the size of her face.


It was an easy walk with very few roots popping through the dirt, a relatively flat surface, and solid ground. One section was a little muddy, but the people of Murphy had put down wood planks to protect our shoes from the gooey mud. There were no obstructions in the path, no obtrusive trees and bushes leaning in, so people of all ages and athletic ability could enjoy the beautiful nature and fresh mountain air of Murphy. If we had the time, we would have liked to complete the three-mile trail, but we needed to hit the road to get to Brasstown.


Nancy from Murphy

By Dani Halliday, 2016

Town of Murphy historic center.
Town of Murphy historic center.

Nancy, an elderly twenty-seven-year resident of Murphy, NC, works in the visitor’s center in downtown Murphy. As we had just arrived, maybe an hour prior to entering the center, she was the perfect person to talk to.

“I used to be a real estate agent, so I know all about the town and it is my job to make it seem as great as possible,” she said when we asked her about the town itself. Nancy went on to say that she loved the small-town, family feel of Murphy. “We don’t wave with our middle fingers here, and we only let nice people in.” Her blue eyes sparkled as she told us of a time when a family she was showing a house to asked if there was somebody who came around and swept all the leaves off of the streets. She did not like this family too much and apparently, they chose not to move there.

She handed us some maps of the River Walk we were about to embark on and gave us directions to the Murphy to Manteo sign. “It’s just down Highway 64. You turn right at the McDonalds and keep going.”

As we shook hands to leave, Nancy had to know how Christian ended up traveling with such lovely young ladies. We explained our research task of interviewing and exploring the towns of Highway 64, and that Christian was the only boy in the class. We waved goodbye and as we opened the door to leave for the Murphy to Manteo sign, Nancy turned to her colleague and exclaimed, “How cute!” I have to agree with Nancy; we are adorable.

Car Ride to Murphy

By Dani Halliday, 2016

Dani, Molly, Christian, and Sam pose at the Highway 64 sign on the border of NC and TN.
Dani, Molly, Christian, and Sam pose at the Highway 64 sign on the border of NC and TN.

Our day began at 8:00 am with a quick stop in Dunkin Donuts. With our stomachs full of coffee and breakfast sandwiches (two in Molly’s case), we pulled onto I-40 to start the 300 mile journey to Murphy, North Carolina in the Great Smoky Mountains.

It took about an hour for Molly and Sam to fall asleep in the back seat, leaving Christian and me to watch the road. As miles passed by, the temperature began to drop from a cool 55 degrees to a brisk 37 degrees. It was the coolest it had been all month, with the average heat hovering in the mid to high 70’s all month long. Drops fell from the sky for minutes at a time, but nothing of any concern as my trusty Hyundai Elantra cruised down the road.

The mountains rose out of the ground, welcoming us as we approached Highway 64. The Smokies are much more inviting that other mountains, specifically the Rockies. The Rockies look exactly how they sound: rocky. They are full of harsh edges and steep slopes. Grays and browns make up the landscape of the western mountains range, but this is not the case of the Smokies. The trees erased all the sharp edges, making them look cushioned and soft. You could not even see the ground through the thick covering of fall foliage that hadn’t yet let go of their branches. It was such an amazing sight, watching the trees burst into color as we drove closer and closer to the mountains. The leaves in Elon hadn’t changed yet, even though it was late October. The unnatural heat of the season prevented autumn from emerging at school. It was a welcome change.

As we drove closer and closer to the mountains, the trees became leaner, taller, and more closely packed together. Their branches reached up towards the sky, like sunflowers, trying to break through the thick coverings provided by their fellow trees. Fir trees appeared more and more along the side of the road. Sam and Molly woke up as we reached our exit and the excitement was palpable. We were all ready to get to Murphy for food and to finally be on the highway that we had heard so much about these past few months.

Our exit onto Highway 64 appeared towards Hendersonville appeared to the left after about three hours of driving. The road was similar to I-40 for a long while, until about another hour had passed. We were finally in the mountains. The road wound around the mountains, up and down, making some of my passengers feel relatively car sick, but the views were worth the stomach pain. While I have never lived in the mountains, I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in Connecticut. The fir trees were fewer, and the roads narrower, but the bright oranges, reds, and yellows brought the same sense of autumn. Handmade signs advertising boiled peanuts, homemade jams and jellies, as well as local honey were scattered along the side of the road. Ramshackle stands for selling these wares seemed closed, even though it was only early afternoon on a Friday. It only took about an hour and a half to pull into Murphy, right across from the town hall. It was finally time to start our research.

Not Just Another Days Inn

By Rachel Fishman – 2014

What could have easily been just another Days Inn chain became a valuable source of information, culture, and hospitality for our journey in Murphy. The concierge of the Days Inn along Highway 64 enthusiastically welcomed our group and, despite our 11:00pm arrival time, began to engage us in a lively conversation about our plans for Murphy. She taught us that the Trail of Tears was just down the road and explained the impact of the Cherokee tribes on the culture of Murphy. It would be impossible to stay here without getting suggestions of activities to do and restaurants to try, in addition to a comforting feeling of being welcomed into this lovely small town. These unexpected benefits were amplified by the fact that the hotel was just a 5-10 minute drive away from everywhere you would want to go in Murphy, from the Cherokee History Museum to the Cherokee Cellars Winery.

 Our Days Inn Hotel, as pictured on the website
Our Days Inn Hotel, as pictured on the website

Fields of the Wood Bible Park

By Katherine Makepeace – 2014

The world’s largest Ten Commandments at Fields of the Wood Bible Park – Murphy, NC
The world’s largest Ten Commandments at Fields of the Wood Bible Park – Murphy, NC


“And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing ye shall receive,” [Matt. 21:22]. This was just one of the many biblical quotes embedded in the infrastructure of the Fields of the Wood Bible Park, home of the world’s largest Ten Commandments. This quote and the others like it set the tone for a day of self-reflection. Gentle, early morning rains kissed the open grounds of the park, including the giant Ten Commandments that sprawled across a tall hill and displayed itself open-faced toward the sky. There were no other visitors on this weekday morning. I was tired from the 6-hour drive the previous night, but my spirits were still high.

I am not a religious person by any means, but I am spiritual. I believe that all religions have different ways of representing fundamental truths about the universe and the meaning of our existence. Still, I was unsure of what this place would hold for me as a non-Christian visitor. I wondered if I would appear noticeably out of place or unknowledgeable about the contents of the park. What I found was an ideal space for personal reflection, set amidst a field enclosed by a gorgeous wood, a warm and welcoming staff, and a perfect start to my morning.

What surprised me about the park were its many multi-purpose buildings and features. The property’s highlight is, of course, the world’s largest Ten Commandments. The park also has a baptismal pool, outdoor and indoor chapels, a picturesque duck pond, replicas of Jesus’ tomb and Golgotha, picnic areas, nature trails, a gift shop and café, as well as my personal favorite – Prayer Mountain.

The Ten Commandments can be viewed best from a hill opposite, from some steps at the bottom of Prayer Mountain. The archway that marks the beginning of this path features quotes from the Bible, such as the one mentioned at the start of this article. Beyond the archway is a long path of steps that leads to a concrete courtyard. The path is lined with signs, sponsored by Churches of Christ from all 50 states, that address popular religious topics like the seven deadly sins, the importance of observing the Sabbath, or the dangers of drug abuse. These signs refer specifically to morphine and opium, and the significance that temperance held in the early-to-mid 20th century. The dated references were not unwelcome to me, as they reflect the fascinating historical significance of this park, and reveal it as a snapshot of American Christian values over time. The path also features a burnt tree that was struck by lightning, which many understand to be a message from God. At the summit, the Lord’s Prayer is displayed on a plaque. There is also an altar for prayer, where hundreds of visitors have left a myriad of notes in different colors, outlining their hopes and dreams, which they hope “shall be received.” As I peered down at this soggy rainbow pile of people’s deepest worries and desires, I somehow felt closer to humanity.

A Courthouse Wedding

By Katherine Makepeace – 2014

The Murphy Courthouse, an unexpected venue for romance – Murphy, NC
The Murphy Courthouse, an unexpected venue for romance – Murphy, NC


Love was the last thing I expected to witness as I walked through the cold, vacuous marble halls of the courthouse, expecting instead to interview the magistrate about local crime in Murphy.

A young couple approached us, “Hey girls, would you be witnesses for our wedding?” Shrill with excitement, we followed them to the magistrate’s office where he performed the marriage; his desk was the altar, littered with rose petal paperwork. Leaning against the wall, I accidentally bumped the light switch and the room went dark for just a moment.

We were over-enthusiastic about the wedding. We asked how they met, expecting a romantic or quirky story. Their response: “we’ve known each other a while and been friends.” The couple is from West Virginia and the bride (like many Murphy visitors) has Cherokee family roots in the area. Also, unlike in West Virginia, North Carolina does not require a waiting period for a marriage to process.

As they were on their way out, we were shown a glimmer of their quiet and reserved relationship: matching tattoos, with each other’s names wrapped around their ring fingers.