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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Anticipating Lazy Days in Destin, FL

We left Americus, GA around 8am under dreary skies. We even hit some rain! The weatherman lied - what a shocker!! But, we crossed into Florida and the sun came out and the temperature hit 70!! Boy, that's some good publicity for Florida! :)

We had a long day today; drove 6 hours to get to Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, Florida. I know, 6 hours doesn't sound like much and when you're not towing 15,000 pounds behind you, it wouldn't be; but after about 4.5 hours, Randy starts
getting tired. However, we wanted to get to Destin today so that we could spend a couple of days with our new friends, Russ & Pat, who we met while in Pigeon Forge.

As we drove into Destin, we were so surprised. We had no idea how busy a town this is. Let me tell you, everything you are in to, you'll find along Highway 98. There are outlet stores, restaurants, beaches, state parks, and more. If it was a little more gaudy, I would have sworn we were back in Pigeon Forge!

We pulled into Henderson Beach State Park around 1:30 or so. This is a beautiful park! Each site is very private with trees and shrubbery enclosing it. We have a great pull-through site that is very spacious. Russ & Pat drove by to greet us as they had just come back from the store. They invited us to dinner tonight which is such a gracious thing to do. Nothing like having someone cook for you after being on the road all day.

After getting set up, we took a walk along the beach with Russ & Pat. Oh my gosh, what a gorgeous beach. The address for this park is Emerald Coast Parkway. I had shared my curiosity with Randy earlier in the day as to why the road would be
named that. Well, we didn't even get onto the beach before I discovered the answer to that! The Gulf of Mexico water is actually a beautiful teal color. Yes, it is!! I could not believe it. The sight of that water lapping up onto the white sand was breathtaking. And it was sunset, so that just topped it off nicely. As we strolled down the beach, we watched the sun set and all four of us almost purred. We stood there expressing to one another our total contentment and gratitude for being able to share in the gloriousness of such a moment. What a great life we are living.

After our stroll along the beach, we headed back to Russ & Pat's for dinner. They had made a crockpot chicken dinner that melted in our
mouths. Pat kept saying she hoped we'd like it. I told her that I was sure we would, but that she could make me a bologna sandwich and I would love it. My theory is ANY food made for me is good food. If I never had to cook again, I would love that.

Fairly soon after dinner, we profusely thanked Russ & Pat for their hospitality and asked their forgiveness for leaving so soon after dinner, but Randy was fading rather quickly. We made plans to get together again tomorrow.

We're looking forward to a couple of lazy days here. No sightseeing, just relaxing and enjoying getting to know Russ & Pat better. It's so much fun meeting new people and finding common ground. This is one of the best things about this vagabond lifestyle. Hope each of you take a moment to relax and thank God for the life He's given you! Until the next time . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Andersonville Civil War Prison Site

We visited the Andersonville Civil War Prison site on Wednesday. It is such a beautiful area, it's hard to believe such ugliness happened there.

We first found the actual town of Andersonville. It sits across from the prison/cemetery site. I never thought of there being a town, but the prison was really called Camp Sumter but since it was located in the town of Andersonville, that is how it is known.

The town is quite small, you can walk it in under 15 minutes if you wanted to. But, their whole thing is being the place where the
commanders of the prison were stationed. The oldest building in town (and it really, really doesn't look like it's the oldest) was built in 1847 and is now a restaurant. Originally, it was the home of the Dykes family. Dr. Dykes was the surgeon for the prison. Other buildings are either original to the town or have been moved here and restored to represent what the town looked like during the Civil War.

The Civil War Prison Site and Cemetery is now a National Park dedicated to the
honor and memory of all prisoners of war. There is a museum on site that tells the story of POWs throughout history. This museum is very interactive and moving. I was only able to go through about half of the museum before I had to leave it. I was taken aback at how emotional I became reading the stories and hearing them as well. You know, I've always been amazed at the willingness of our armed forces to do whatever it takes to keep this country free, but now that I have a son serving in the Army, all of this takes on a very personal meaning.

There was a group of service personnel from Fort Rucker in Alabama was touring the facility. I couldn't help but wonder what they were thinking as they explored the site and read about the POWs from the Civil War as well as the stories told in the museum. How I appreciate each and every one of them. And I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to tell them so.

Anyway, back to the prison site. Camp Sumter, its official name, was built in early 1864 and was comprised of about 16.5 acres. In June 1864 the site was enlarged to
26.5 acres and was designed to hold about 10,000 people. Before it was closed, about 45,000 people had been held there over the 14 month existence of the prison. The largest number of people in the prison at one time was 32,000 in August 1864. Can you imagine? 32,000 people in an area meant for 10,000. Because the Confederate Army was hampered by a deteriorating economy and Union blockades that kept supplies from getting to various areas, they were unable to supply adequate food, clothing and medical care to the prisoners. Conditions at the prison became deplorable very quickly.

By the time the prison closed in May 1865, more than 12,000 were dead. Because of the recordkeeping of one of the prisoners, Dorence Atwater, relatives of the dead were able to be notified. It is also the reason only 460 of the Andersonville graves needed to marked "unknown."

On the grounds of the prison site and in the cemetery, you'll find monuments erected in memory of those who died while imprisoned there. The monuments are by state and list the number lost. They are quite impressive. One of the monuments was placed by the Women's Relief Corps and is in memory of those lost in eight states which do not have individual monuments.

The cemetery is an active National Cemetery. Veterans from all wars can be found
buried here. It is a breathtaking site to stand at the edge of the cemetery and look out over thousands and thousands of white markers, each of which represent a life who was willing to make a sacrifice so that I can be sitting here writing. Again, these are truly special people who serve our country.

One note of history on the prison site; there is a spring located near the North Gate. It is called Providence Spring. The story goes that the prisoners had begun
praying for fresh water as the water supply from the creek that ran through the camp had become dirty because of the less than desirable hygiene conditions in the camp. One day, after a storm, a spring suddenly burst forth from the ground - where there had not been one before! Obviously, God had answered their prayers and provided water. To say the least, the prisoners were delirious with joy. Of course, others have a more "reasonable" explanation such as the spring had been buried and lightning from the storm split the earth open and allowed the spring to come forth. I totally believe God answered those prisoners' prayers - how He did it doesn't really matter, does it?

Walking back into history and trying to feel what these people felt is overwhelming. There were families as well as single soldiers locked in this camp. I can't imagine trying to keep my family safe in such conditions. What were they thinking? How did they survive? The human drive to live is a miracle in itself. We are survivors. I am just grateful that I have never been placed in such a position. I hope that I can be just as brave if the need arises. And I am reminded to be grateful each day for the time in which I live and the many blessings that have been given me.

We're going to Destin, FL on Thursday to meet up with a couple, Russ & Pat, who we met in Pigeon Forge. Then on Saturday we'll be in Alabama!! YAY! Until then . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Brickyard Plantation RV Park in Americus, GA

Tuesday, we had a great day to drive the 3.5 hours from Atlanta to Americus. The skies were a beautiful blue and the sun was shining. It doesn't get much better than this! About 1.5 hours down I 75 we stopped at a Flying J and fueled up - both the truck and us! :) It wasn't Cracker Barrel, but it filled the void as Randy would say.

We got to Brickyard Plantation RV Park a little after 2pm. It was a good thing I happened to be looking out the window, because all of a sudden I saw the sign for the park! The GPS said that we had another 7 miles to go! Just another reminder that the GPS is not perfect, by a long shot! Anyway, we pulled in, were met by the park host and shown to our site.

This park is family owned and has been since the Civil War. They can trace back ownership to seven generations. Isn't that cool? Originally, it was farmed with crops of peanuts, cotton and wheat. The park and golf courses consist of 800 acres; the original farm was 7000 acres. The farm had its own cotton gin, commissary, blacksmith, cane mill and housing for its labor force. The bricks used to build the houses were made on the farm. Hence, the name of the park and golf course. The pro shop for the golf course is located in a mule barn from the original farm. It was relocated to its current place and remodeled to house the shop. snack bar and office.

The golf course is on one side of US 280 with the RV park on the other side. If you stay at the park for a month, the green fees are free! Overnighters pay just $5 in green fees. Pretty good deal.

We love this park!! And there's really no big reason to - it's nothing fancy at all! There are few amenities; just a bath house, laundry room and a catch & release fishing pond. Many folks wouldn't think this was a great park, but we love it. The sites are all pull-throughs (those RVers out there will understand why that is so great) and level. There are virtually no trees which is great for satellite reception and keeping the top of the RV clean. And lastly, but certainly a huge deal, it's cheap! The Passport America discount is $15/night, unlimited. You get full hook-up and 50 amps for that price. Unbelievable!! Plus, the monthly rate is just $350 and also includes electric.

This is a park we will mark for return. There are a few historic things to do in this area; Andersonville Civil War Historic Site and Jimmy Carter's home in Plains, just to name two. We plan to visit Andersonville on Wednesday. But, we'll also come back here when we have no place specific to go and just want a nice, quiet place to settle for a few weeks.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Picking Out the Christmas Tree AND Setting It Up

We had a fun morning with Missy and the kids. We went to IHOP for their delicious pancakes (pumpkin for me and carrot cake for Randy - again!) and then headed for a local nursery to pick out a Christmas tree for them.

This nursery had some beautiful trees; very full and TALL! They had a section for 9
foot trees! I don't think I've ever seen anyone have a 9 foot tree in their home. Missy & the kids picked out a great 7 foot tree. Randy got it secured in the back of the truck and we head back to the house to set it up.

Setting it up was interesting. It took Randy, Missy, Tara and MacKenzie to get it positioned exactly the way Missy wanted it. It looks great, though. And, I'm sure once it's decorated it will be just lovely.

Boy, it's been a long time since we've gone and picked out a Christmas tree! Even before we were living on the road, we hadn't bought a live tree in about 18 years.
Kev is allergic to the pine sap, so once we figured that out, it was a fake tree for us. In some ways, it was so much easier. But, I always felt a little sad that my kids didn't get that experience each year because one of my best memories from my childhood was picking out the Christmas tree. It was my daddy's and my job - we'd go to the lot and pick out the best one and bring it home. When I think back on those outings, I always smile. My daddy and me; I loved it.

Here's a pic of our beautiful nieces and nephew. From left to
right, it's MacKenzie, Tara and Patrick.

Another great day in our lives. Spending time with family and each other. Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this. Hope you've had a fantastic Thanksgiving celebration, too! Until the next time . . .

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Good Family Celebration

I hope your Thanksgiving celebration was as fun as ours! Nothing beats being with family and having fun at the same time!! Everyone pitched in; setting the table, mashing potatoes, carving the turkey, etc.

It was especially good being with Randy's sister, Melissa
and our nieces, Tara & Mackenzie and our nephew, Patrick. We don't get to see them as often as we'd like so celebrating a holiday together was very special. After dinner and clean-up, we all stumbled into the family room to watch a movie. Great family time.

Today will be a quiet day, I'm sure. You won't catch US anywhere near a shopping center!! Randy's just getting back from having the oil changed in the truck - gotta
keep it running smoothly!! While he was gone I made sure we still have money left at the end of the month! You all know how that is. :) And later today we'll go on back over to Missy's and hang out.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving afterglow . . . Until the next time . . .

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope each of you take a moment to thank God for the many blessings in your life. I know that we will as we celebrate this holiday with family. Enjoy!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

We're in Atlanta - or Close Enough to It

We are now settled in Cumming, Georgia which is northeast of Atlanta. We are staying in Twin Lakes RV Park as it is the closest one to Randy's sister, Melissa who lives in Alpharetta. We'll be here for the next week. Really looking forward to spending time and celebrating Thanksgiving with Melissa and our nieces and nephew, Tara, MacKenzie, and Patrick.

We had an uneventful trip from Nashville. That's always a blessing - a boring trip is a good trip! :) It was one of our longer days, we left Nashville at 8am CST and arrived here a little before 4pm EST. That's a long day for us. We generally only spend 4 to 5 hours on the road. But, we did cross yet another Cracker Barrel off the list! I thought it was our 40th, but alas, it was only number 39. I'm sure we'll hit 40 before we get to Alabama in December.

This will be a very laid-back week. Just spending time with family and catching up with what's going on in their lives. But, I'm sure I'll have a posting or two, so check back.

Take care. Enjoy each day. Until the next time . . .

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Downtown Nashville

We went into downtown Nashville today. Randy & I were in Nashville in June of 2004 with Jason and Lindsay. We attended the CMA Fan Fair and really enjoyed ourselves. But, I wanted to see Nashville without all of the hubbub of the festival. This really, really isn't Randy's thing, but being the good sport that he is, he went along with it.

I had just planned to walk around downtown and get pictures of some of the famous bars and honkytonks that I've read about. But, friends of ours, Darrell & Judy, told us that we had to go to the BiCentennial Mall near the state capitol. So, that's where we started.

The Mall is a beautiful park that was originally created for two purposes; one, to preserve the last remaining view of the State Capitol; the views from the south, east and west had been obscured by the construction of the many skyscrapers built in the 1950s and 60s. The other purpose was to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Tennessee. It is similar to the mall in Washington, DC.

At the opposite end of the mall from the Capitol, a courtyard is found that is dedicated to the musicians, performers, singers and the musical heritage that is closely associated with this city. Surrounding the courtyard are carillons containing 95 bells that represent the 95 counties of Tennessee. We happened to be there at noon and were treated to the playing of "The Tennessee Waltz." So very cool.

On either side of the mall are two walkways; one is the Walkway of the Counties. Embedded in the walkway are 95 disks upon which are written the name of each county; date of establishment; the county seat; square mileage; and a short blurb about its history. Buried under the disks are time capsules which will be opened at the state's 300th birthday in 2096. The walkway is divided into three sections: East, Middle & West Tennessee and along the path you'll find descriptions of the geography of each area as well as foliage of each section planted along the way.

The other walkway is a history of the state beginning at the dawn of creation! I am not kidding you. This 1400 foot wall has inscriptions of all of the major historic events that have happened over the past 2000 years. Most of the history pertains directly to the establishing of Tennessee as a state. The history lessons begin in earnest at the 1796 mark, when Tennessee became a state. The pathway ends in 1996 as this was built for the state's bicentennial.

Also found at the mall are beautiful green areas; a World War II Memorial in which another time capsule is buried and to be opened in 2045; a river walk; a 200 foot granite state map highlighting major geographic formations and roadways; and a memorial to the Civilian Conservation Corps.

We were a little concerned about driving into downtown Nashville because our truck is sometimes not the easiest to maneuver in cities. But, we had no problems and actually found a parking lot that we could fit in!

All of the landmarks I wanted to see were in close proximity to one another, thank goodness. After walking the mall for an hour, I wasn't sure how long my knees and ankle would hold out! But, I persevered. (I know, I know. Such a trooper. And humble, too!) We first went to the Country Music Hall of Fame. This was a great tour when we were here. And it's a neat building, too.

From the Hall of Fame, we walked up to to Broadway which is home to the honkytonks in which many of the musicians we know got their starts. Tootsie's Orchid Lounge is one that many people have heard of and many country music stars played before we knew who they were. And, from what I've read, some of them still drop in from time to time to jam. How cool would that have been to see!

I got pictures of the Ryman Auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry was formerly housed and still holds concerts and shows. We walked down to the Wildhorse Saloon which has been showcased on Country Music Television (CMT) and in which many stars still appear. Folks were beginning to line up for the night's entertainment.

We wanted to see Fort Nashborough, a replica of the original settlement of Nashville. It sits on the riverfront of the city, which is just one block over from the Wildhorse Saloon. As we were walking along the riverfront, I looked across the street and standing outside the back entrance to the Wildhorse Saloon was Bucky Covington! Now, many of you may not know who Bucky Covington is, but if you
watch American Idol, you will. He was standing with his back to me, but I knew it was him because of his hair! :) So, I hollered over to him, "Hey, Bucky?" He turned and smiled and I asked if I could get a picture. I had just planned to take a picture of him, but he invited me over. Well, I wasn't going to turn that down! What a nice guy he seemed to be, very polite. He was getting ready for a show at the Wildhorse. After the picture, I wished him good luck on the show and off we went. I know he's not a big star, but it was fun anyway. You never know . . .

Fort Nashborough was the site of the 1780 Cumberland Compact which established the government for this new settlement. Its founders were James Robertson and John Donelson who lead two groups of settlers for nearly 500 miles overland and about 1000 miles via the river to get to this area. This replica of the fort is just a quarter of the original size, but allows visitors to get an idea of how those pioneers lived. All I can say is that I am grateful for those people and the trailblazing they did, but I sure am glad that I live in this era. I like my amenities!!

We had a great day touring Nashville. And there is still so much more to see. We were unable to see some of the historic areas outside of town. And we never got to The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson.
We'll be back, I'm sure.

Tomorrow will be packing day; getting ready to travel on Monday. We will arrive northeast of Atlanta and will be spending a week there so we can spend Thanksgiving with Randy's sister, Melissa and her kids. Really looking forward to that as we were last here in April. Gotta get that family time in.

Hope your weekend is going well. Friends and family up north, stay warm! Take care of each other. Stay in touch. Until the next time . . .

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, TN

Today we drove about 2 hours to Lynchburg to tour the Jack Daniel's Distillery. We had heard from a couple of sources that this was a great tour. And no, there were no free samples! One of the first things you learn on the tour is that the distillery is located in a DRY county! Isn't that ironic? The distillery was just given permission in the last 10 or so years to sell collector bottles of whiskey to those who tour the plant. But that is the only whiskey sold.

Our tour guide, Bettie, was just fabulous. She shared the history of the distillery and Jack Daniel in such a conversational way, with plenty of anecdotes and flair. We really lucked out with her. Sometimes the guides on these tours are wooden and seem like they are spouting rote. She was a treasure.

The distillery was established in 1866 when Jack was only 16 years old. The story is really neat. Jack had left home at a young age and was raised by a minister, Dan Call, who was a family friend. Mr. Call's other vocation was making whiskey. Apparently Mr. Call was conflicted about his warring vocations and decided to give whiskey making and devote his life to the Lord. He sold his still to Jack in 1863 - and Jack was only 13! The distillery is the oldest registered in the United States and it's on the National Historic Register.

Supposedly, one of the ingredients that makes Jack Daniel's whiskey so good is the water used. It is pure, cave spring water that flows right along the distillery site. It's the reason Jack chose the site.

The first label made for Jack Daniel's Whiskey is Old No. 7. Apparently there are many stories of how Jack chose that name; one is that it was the 7th recipe or 7th trial batch. But I like the one Bettie told us. Jack never married, but never lacked for lady friends. At the time he created Old No. 7, it's said that he had 7 girlfriends and that's why he named it Old No. 7. Only Jack knows the truth! Now there are several labels made under the Jack Daniel name.

We were led through the whole process of making whiskey. And not just any
whiskey, but Tennessee sippin' whiskey. Apparently there is a BIG difference! And whiskey starts out as bourbon, did you know that? The process that makes it Tennessee sippin' whiskey is the charcoal mellowing. The liquid that is really bourbon drips through 10 feet of charcoal and once it gets to the bottom, it is Tennessee sippin' whiskey. There is only one other distillery that makes whiskey this way. The charcoal used for Jack Daniel's is made from sugar maple trees.

The smell in the still house was pretty gross. When you first walked in, it wasn't too bad. It actually smelled a little like a bakery, doughy. But, then you walked into the fermenting area and UGH! It smelled like someone had lost his lunch. Then we looked into one of the fermenters and, I swear, that lost lunch was in there!! I have never cared for whiskey and this just confirmed that feeling!

The barrels used to store the whiskey while it's aging are made from hard white oak. And they are made on site by hand. Each barrel is only used once. However, they are recycled; many are re-crafted into furniture that is sold in the Barrel Store in
Lynchburg, some are used for flower beds, signs, just about anything you can do with wood.

There are 75 warehouses within a 2 mile radius that house all of the barrels of whiskey. The warehouse we walked through was a small one; it only held about a couple thousand barrels. And yes, I said it was a small warehouse!

After the tour, we drove into town - 2 blocks away. And the town consists of a small mercantile square. If the distillery didn't exist, I don't think "downtown" Lynchburg would, either! When we drove into
the square, I felt like we had stepped back in time, to the late 1950s maybe. They had some type of food establishment on four corners and two general stores. My favorite store name was "Lynchburg Ladies Handiwork." Doesn't that sound like you'd find Mrs. Cleaver, Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Anderson there chatting? I love it!

We had a great afternoon. The weather has finally settled into a beautiful, crisp sunny pattern. The drive to Lynchburg was nice - we went through lots of farmland and the trees still have lots of color. A good day, all in all.

Oh! And we crossed off another Cracker Barrel!! Randy is in hog heaven!!

Tomorrow we're going into downtown Nashville. I'm really looking forward to getting pictures of some of the famous spots in town. We've been there before back in 2004 during the country music festival, but don't have those pictures, so I want to get them this time.

Until the next time . . .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Visit to The Opryland Hotel

After a relaxing day at home, just enjoying the sunshine from the inside because of the VERY breezy cold air outside, we went back to the Opryland Hotel so we could see the Christmas decorations all lit up. I couldn't wait! I love Christmas lights!!

There was no disappointment - the decorations were 1000 percent better at night! We had dinner at the Irish pub in the hotel and then walked around taking more pictures. I wish I could have taken even more, but as stated in previous posts, my camera doesn't take good pictures at night.

I could have wandered around the hotel all night. Everywhere I looked there was another decoration or display or light to ogle. Once again, I was like a kid in the candy store - so much to see, so little time. Plus we found some wall murals that were just beautiful.

It's off to the Jack Daniels Distillery tomorrow. I know, I said that yesterday, but it was soooooo cold out, neither one of us wanted to go outside. The wind is supposed to vacate tomorrow, so it's down the road we'll go.

Until the next time . . .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Opryland Hotel

The weatherman predicted another ugly, rainy afternoon for today - UGH! But, we woke up to beautifully sunny skies, so we decided to get out of the RV for a little while before the rain hit. So, off to breakfast at a local diner and down the road we went.

There is a Camping World just down the road a little so, of course, we needed to stop there. For those of you who do not camp, this store is the Home Depot for campers. Men can always find something they need to get at Camping World! :)

A little further down the road is the Grand Ole Opry and the Opryland Hotel. The Grand Ole Opry was closed because they are getting ready for The Radio City Rockettes show to come to town. The Opry Shop was open, though, so we meandered through it. The actual Grand Ole Opry shows are being performed at the Ryman Auditorium downtown through February. We looked at the schedule and there's no one I really want to see, so we won't be going to a show.

We also wanted to go through the Opry museum, but it was closed, too, until February!! I didn't quite understand that 'cause it's not like folks don't come to
Nashville in the winter! Oh, well. Another item for the list of "things to do when we come back."

Next to the Grand Ole Opry is the glorious Opryland Hotel. This hotel is something to see. If you ever come to Nashville, you must put this on your "must see" list. To say it is gorgeous, doesn't begin to do it justice. Even more so because it is
decorated for Christmas! The hotel is laid out like a wheel - all of the rooms run down hallways like spokes off a wheel. In the "hub" are several stories of landscaped walkways, restaurants, and gardens. We spent more than an hour walking through the different stories, taking pictures of the beautiful decorations. I'm sure we looked like country bumpkins in the big city for the first time as we oohed and ahhed our way through the hotel. I can't put all of the pictures here, so please be sure to check out the other pictures on our Webshots site.

We timed our exit from the
hotel pretty well - it began raining as we walked to the truck. Just as we got in, the skies opened up and poured!! It was a tense drive home; I was grateful we only had about a 15 minute drive. It was ugly. We've had thunderstorms all through the afternoon. It's still raining off and on as I write this. And I'm not complaining, I know how desperately the rain is needed.

Our plans have changed. Since the weather has not been the best, and the forecast is for less rain but much colder weather the rest of the week, we decided to take it easy while here. I know, you're thinking about how much there is to do here and how can we not go sightseeing??? Well, that's the beauty of our lifestyle - we can come back anytime we want! And that's the plan. We want to come back next fall and stay for a couple of weeks so we can sightsee without feeling pushed to do it all in just a couple of days.

We will probably take a drive down to
Lynchburg tomorrow or Friday so we can tour the Jack Daniels Distillery. My sister and her husband did that when they were here and Paula said it was a good tour. And I do want to go downtown and get some pictures of some of the famous spots. So, we do have plenty to do.

Hope all is well in your world. Take care of one another. Drop us a line when you can. We love to hear from you! Until the next time . . .

Monday, November 12, 2007

Watch Out, Nashville - Here We Are!!

We had a great trip from Pigeon Forge to Nashville today. The sun was shining, it was warm (over 60 degrees!!) and highway all the way. We couldn't have ordered a better day. Thanks, God, for always watching over us.

To make it even better, we stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast! I know, you're thinking, "Good grief, they just ate there last night!" And you're right, we did. But, today is another day. And there are so many CBs to choose from. So, Randy got to check off one more CB. That makes 38! :)

We pulled into Nashville Country RV Park a little before 3pm. What a nice park! A few trees, level sites, easy in and out. In under 2 hours, we were set up and relaxing. AND we found out we are now in the central time zone. That was a surprise, but a nice one . . . we got an extra hour in our day.

We're going to take it easy this week. There's only one thing we really want to be sure to and that's visiting Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage. Other than that, we're going to play it by ear and see what happens.

Hope everyone has a great week. Until the next time . . .

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Getting Ready for the Road, Again

We had a nice relaxing weekend. Saturday was spent watching TV, playing on the computer and working on a stitching project. Great way to spend the day.

This morning we got up and went to church, a very down-home southern worship. Lots of music and praying, it felt good to be there. This afternoon saw us getting ready to head out tomorrow. I did laundry, Randy packed away some of the stuff we used while here and took down the internet satellite.

After such a backbreaking load of work (HAHA!), we decided to reward ourselves with dinner at one of the two Cracker Barrels in town. Yes, as small as this town is, they have TWO Cracker Barrels - one at either end of town. And although we have eaten out quite a bit while here, Randy has been great about eating at some of the other restaurants. But, tonight we crossed off our 37th CB!

We've enjoyed our visit to Pigeon Forge. It's a beautiful area. I'm sure we'll be back sometime. We got to meet some good people, Russ & Pat and have hopefully started what may become one of our traveling friendships. Russ & Pat are making their way to Atlantic Ocean before they turn around and head for Texas to spend Christmas with family. We hope to run into them again somewhere down the road.

Tomorrow we have a four hour drive to Nashville. We're actually staying a little north of town in Goodlettsville. A couple we camped next to at Lake Ridge RV in Virginia had just come from Nashville and had stayed at the park we'll be staying in - Nashville Country RV Park. They said it was very nice. Always good to get a good review when you haven't stayed somewhere.

Take care of one another. Be sure to say a prayer for our troops and say thank you to a Veteran today. Until the next time . . .

Friday, November 09, 2007

Walking Tour of Historic Gatlinburg - NOT!

We were really looking forward to taking the walking tour of historic Gatlinburg. As you all have found through reading the blog, this is something that Randy & I really enjoy. Well, we had a great walk through the town (and worked off a little of the great breakfast we had!) but didn't find a lot of the history of Gatlinburg. We were pretty disappointed.

Although there were many spots outlined on a map, with descriptions of each spot, we couldn't find most them! The majority of the "historic spots" no longer existed. Instead we'd find a modern hotel, or store, or . . . nothing. There wasn't even a marker detailing what used to be there. We were pretty frustrated by the time we
had tried to find the fourth or fifth spot. So, we gave up and just enjoyed the walk up and down the main drag of Gatlinburg. Along the way, we did find a couple of historic buildings and made note of them

Gatlinburg was originally known as White Oak Flats. But, in 1854, an "outlander" from Georgia, named Radford Gatlin, came to town and opened its second general store. When the town's post office was established in Gatlin's store in 1856, the town's name was changed to Gatlinburg. Gatlin and his wife were very colorful citizens and caused lots of controversy during their stay in town. And although Gatlin left town under duress, abandoning his property, the town's name has remained Gatlinburg.

The first historic building we came upon is now known as Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. The school now holds many sessions of classes in all types of media; glass blowing, textiles, woodcarving, pottery, etc. It was originally founded as the first school in town in 1912 as an endowment from Pi Beta Phi Fraternity. Although this group was a "fraternity," it was actually a national women's organization that had a long standing tradition of helping those in need.

The other historic building we found is Ogle's Cabin, the first home built in Gatlinburg. William Ogle bought the site in 1802, cut and hewed the logs for the
cabin and then returned to South Carolina to get his family and bring them to Gatlinburg. He had found "The Land of Paradise" as he told his family. Unfortunately, Mr. Ogle got sick and died in 1803, before he could get his family here. But, his wife, Martha, persevered and brought the family to Gatlinburg in 1807. Following directions William had given her before he died, they found the site and the hewed logs and completed the cabin as he would have. The community of Gatlinburg then grew up around this first family home. The Ogle family continued to live in this cabin until 1910. The land was later sold to Pi Beta Phi and the cabin was moved to the school's campus.

Gatlinburg is much like Pigeon Forge in that you can find whatever you need on the main parkway. Many gift shops, restaurants, ice cream places and fudge! But, we were good - we just walked by all of it. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed being out in it. Just shows even if the day doesn't go as planned, there's always something good to be found in it.

I did get a picture of bears, though! They are statues, but hey! They are bears!! :)

We're going to have a quiet weekend, just relaxing at the campsite. Sunday afternoon will be spent getting ready to break camp on Monday morning. We'll be heading to Nashville and spending a week there.

Hope all of you have a great weekend, too, spending it just as you'd like. Take care of one another and drop us a line once in awhile. Until the next time . . .

Pigeon Forge Winterfest

Last night we bundled up and headed to the Pigeon Forge town park, Patriot Park, to see the kickoff of the 18th Annual Winterfest. Our neighbors, Russ & Pat, came with us, so that added to the fun of the evening.

There were a couple of glitches, of course. First, everyone else in the town decided to attend the festivities, too, and that was fine except it caused a major parking problem! As most of you know, we drive a Ford F550 pick-up truck and it's just not that easy finding a space to park that thing. You just don't squeeze it into a space. But, we prevailed and parked across the parkway in the church parking lot. That was a suggestion given to us by the owner of the needlework shop I visited the other day. And it was a smart one - we didn't have to deal with the traffic leaving the park after the event. We just need to be sure not to get run over by the cars as we ran across the parkway!

The other glitch was that we didn't bring chairs!! When I called the town office to find out details about the evening, nothing was said about needing chairs! Oh, well. We persevered and stood for almost two hours awaiting the flip of the switch for the lights.

We did hear some good bluegrass music - yes, it is good music!! And listened, of course, to the local politicians thanking everyone for their volunteer work. (Have you ever seen a politician NOT take advantage of a captive audience???) Finally, it was time to light the park! And it was a nice display of lights; there was a huge steamboat, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, and a globe with a big arrow pointing to Tennessee and saying, "You are here" and several others.

Of course, there were the trolley rides. Free this night only - and if you didn't know that before coming, you would know from the lines that wound around the parking lot! Well, Russ, Pat, Randy & I looked at each other and said, nope, not for us. We'd already stood in the cold for 2 hours, we weren't interested in standing around any longer. Yes, we are party poopers. However, we had a better idea. We went to dinner at one of the buffet restaurants, had a good dinner made better with getting to know each other; and then, we went on our own ride through the town. To quote Russ, "We don't need no stinkin' trolley!" Randy did a great job chauffering us through the lights. :)

I didn't get any pictures of the lights because our camera doesn't take pictures at night very well. They come out blurry no matter what setting I use, so I've learned not to bother. But, Russ was able to get one picture of the prettiest display. So, I'm a happy camper - literally! :)

We're off to Gatlinburg today to do a walking tour of some of the historic areas. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Good Breakfast and the Dixie Stampede

It's great to wake up and know that you have nothing to do! That might sound boring or lazy to some, but for us, it's a great feeling. It means we have no worries, no appointments, and that we can decide to do something or nothing at all. This retirement thing is OK!! :)

Once we got up and moving we did decide that we needed to make a grocery run. Of course, that being said, it turned into a propane, post office, fuel, AND grocery run. Well, in order to do all that, you have to have a good breakfast in you, right? Of course, you do. And we are so fortunate to have many choices for that in this town. Randy had heard that IHOP had carrot cake pancakes on the menu and he loves carrot cake. So, that's where we went. Found out they have pumpkin pancakes, too! I love pumpkin anything, but thought pancakes might be a bit much. But, the waitress promised they tasted just like pumpkin pie without the crust, so I figured what the heck! And they were soooooooooo good. Randy's carrot cake pancakes were good, too. He said the only thing that would have made them better would be to have had more of them! Thus fortified, we set off to do the rest of our errands. Ah, this is the life.

Last night we went to the Dixie Stampede. This is a dinner and show attraction and is one of Dolly Parton's productions.
The show is a mountain/western theme, of course, and live animals are a big part of it. They have horses, pigs, ostriches, goats, and sheep. We totally enjoyed it!! It was a Christmas production and the scene that depicted the birth of Jesus was so good, complete with shepherds, wise men and camels. There were also horse races, pig races and OSTRICH races!! Girls actually rode the ostriches. It was a hoot. Sometimes when we do tourist attractions we feel like it's okay, glad we did it, but won't do it again. But, this was totally worth it! We had a great time.

Tonight we're going over to the town park to watch the kickoff of its Winterfest and the official lighting of the town. We met our neighbors, Russ & Pat, and think they may join us. They've been full-timing about as long as we have. I'll let you know what happens! Until the next time . . .

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Right along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is Cades Cove. For about 100 years the Cove was a busy farming community made up of about 130 families, or 700 people, at its most populated in the early 1900s.

On our way to Cades Cove, we stopped at a few country stores that dot the route to the park. Though I'm not a big knickknack person, I love walking around these country stores. Often they have things you don't see anywhere else and, even more often they have stuff you'd never want to see again! But, these stores did have some neat crafts, particular to the mountains and a couple of them were decorated so cute that I had to take pictures.

Although Cades Cove is very close to the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina, there is no evidence that Native Americans ever actually lived in the Cove. They often came to hunt and camp because of the excellent source of deer, elk, bison and bears, but never set up living quarters.

The families of the Cove were farmers, for the most part. They first came to the Cove around 1821 and began clearing their land and building their homes out of the trees they felled. The first major crop was corn, but eventually wheat, tobacco and a little cotton were grown as well. The tobacco and cotton were mostly grown for personal use. Other occupations were blacksmiths, carpenters, storekeepers and distillers. Every family had a vegetable garden and some even had orchards. Of course, they raised hogs and cattle and hunted the various game found in the forest.

Cades Cove has many of its original homes preserved for visiting. There is a touring book published which gives you much of the history of the Cove and its more than 70 historic buildings.

I will tell you, though, people are ignorant! I have to rant al little because every one of these wonderful, historic buildings had graffiti all over them!! UGH!!!!! It makes me so mad that people don't know how to keep their hands to themselves and
can ruin things for those who come after them. I can honestly say, I have never graffitti'd anything in my life. My momma taught me that if it don't belong to me, don't touch it!!!! Okay, rant is over.

The oldest home still standing is John Oliver Place. It was built in the early 1820s. For the size of families in those days, this is such a small home. But, the boys slept in the loft upstairs, with the
parents and daughters sleeping in the main room on the first level.

The first church established in the Cove is the Primitive Baptist Church, founded in 1827. The current building was built in 1887. The church actually closed during the Civil War because, interestingly, the congregation was pro-Union and the Rebel influence was so strong in the Cove that the church decided to close its doors until the war was over.

There were Methodists also in the Cove, so a Methodist church was established as well. The original log building of the church was built by a local blacksmith and carpenter in 115 days for $115. This building was later replaced in 1902 by the one currently standing. Again, the Civil War caused a problem in a local congregation and this church split and those who left formed Hopewell Methodist Church on the opposite side of the Cove. Unfortunately, that building is no longer standing.

The third church found in the Cove is the Missionary Baptist Church and was formed
in 1839. The building standing now was built in 1915. This congregation was established after a group of folks was kicked out of the Primitive Baptist Church for favoring missionary work. What a shocker - dissension among the Baptists!! :) Once again, a church had to close due to the Civil War and the disagreements caused by it among the members. The church did begin to meet again after the war, but without those who sympathized with the Confederacy.

The second house in the Cove is Elijah Oliver Place. Elijah is the son of John and was born in the Cove in 1824. His homestead has more buildings than his dad's. In addition to his home, which is much larger than his parents', there are a springhouse, corn crib, and barn.

The Dan Lawson Place was built in 1856. Its brick chimney is unusual for this time and area and the brick was made right there onsite. The
original home was built of the hewn logs used before sawmills came to the Cove, but you can see the additions to the house are made of sawed lumber. A big difference between the two types of lumber.

The largest house still standing belonged to the Tipton family and was built in the early 1870s. "Col. Hamp" Tipton had served in the Mexican War and owned this property. He lived, however, across the mountain in Tuckaleechee Cove. It was his daughters who lived in the house in Cades Cove; they were schoolteachers in the Cove. Eventually, the McCaulley family moved into this house and bought it from the Tipton family in the late 1870s.

James McCaulley added several buildings to his homestead; a cantilever barn, smokehouse, blacksmith & carpenter shops, and a double-pen corn crib. Randy & I figured he must have done very well because this is the largest homestead in the Cove. At least, it's the largest one still standing.

The last building on the tour is Carter Shields Cabin and is one of the smallest homes
on the tour. I have to admit, this is the cabin that I think of when I think of cabins in the Tennessee mountains! Its setting is just beautiful. It sits along a small creek and is nestled in the trees. Of course, the fall colors sure made the picture complete!

All through the drive there were plenty of opportunities to take scenic pictures. And even though I've taken LOTS of scenic view pictures on this trip, I couldn't resist taking a few more. There's just nothing like standing and looking at the gorgeous creation of God. Sorry, if I bore you with that, but I just can't get tired of being a part of this. It is amazing.

It was in 1927 that the first tract of land was purchased for inclusion in the national park. Most families had sold their land to the federal government by 1937 and moved out of the Cove. However, not all families had to leave. If they were willing to take less for their land, they could remain on it until they died. Their descendants could not, though. The Cades Cove post office closed forever in 1947.

Most of the land in the National Park System had already been owned by the federal government before becoming part of the park system. This is not the case with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. All of its land was privately owned before purchased for the park.

Although there is much wildlife in the park, we didn't get to see much of it. We saw one deer and two young bear cubs. I was so excited about the bears because in all the drives we've taken, that's what I wanted to see the most!! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a picture of the cubs because Randy wouldn't slow down long enough for me to do so!! There are signs all along the way saying you shouldn't stop, but use the pullover areas. However, everyone else in front of us had slowed down, almost to a stop, to get a picture of these bears. But, there was a ranger there, so my husband didn't. UGH! I was so annoyed. Oh, well. I'm sure that with all of our travels, I'll get a picture of bears someday.

I know this is a long post, but there was much to see in Cades Cove. It was a great day. We're going to see Dixie Stampede tomorrow night and Thursday night is the kickoff of the Pigeon Forge Winterfest! I'm sure I'll have more to share soon. Until the next time . . .