Tennessee, Briefly

What a week! After our last night underwater in Arkansas,20170503_173005 we charted a course to Memphis, and headed out. Oops…after a couple of hours on the road, we hit an Arkansas State Highway which was closed by flooding. Detour. Oops…this other State Highway is also closed. To make a long story short, our 4-1/2 hour trip to Memphis turned into an eight hour ordeal.

First impressions of  T.O. Fuller State Park (12 miles from downtown Memphis) weren’t encouraging, but that was quickly overcome. The thick brush alongside the campsites was overgrown, and the campground had kind of a forlorn look to it. But we were won over by an onsite washer/dryer (only $1.00/ea), and a free ice machine! Not to mention sparkling clean, if aging, bathrooms. Fuller SP was the first State Park east of the Mississippi River to admit blacks. And, this was in the 1930s! It seems incredible to me.

The National Civil Rights Museum was our target for our first cycling trip into town. It was a long, crazy ride through some rather sketchy areas, punctuated with 20 minute wait for a freight train. The Museum is located at the old Lorraine Motel, site of Martin Luther King Jr’s. assassination.20170506_140122 The Museum is a testament to the everyday struggles non-white Americans have shared over the years to be granted equal rights. Why should that ever have been an issue? The bus on which Rosa Parks staged her quiet protest is there. 20170506_131845Remember the lunch-counter sit-ins?20170506_132258 Bus bombings? 20170506_132842One of the most moving areas (for me) was the section devoted to James Meredith’s struggle to gain admittance to Old Miss. The film clips are devastating to watch. So many reminders to all the shameful eras of US race relations. The lines to get into the Museum stretched way down the street – blacks and white, old and young. There are lessons to be learned here.20170506_134609Next stop was David Crockett State Park, where we had another history lesson. Near US64, the park encompasses portions of the original Trail of Tears, the route taken by the Cherokees (and some other Native American tribes as well), when they were forcibly relocated from their homelands in NC, GA, VA, and SC to new reservations west of the Mississippi. The sections here were along the route taken by 650 Cherokees led by Captain Bell. 20170508_112759Nearly four percent of the group died on this three-month trip. Lots of history to be absorbed here.20170511_113416 Jezzy was tuckered out after all the learning.20170508_135739 Camping at Crockett SP was great. 20170510_142613We had a huge campsite, and met our Canadian neighbors in their brand-spankin’ new Alto trailer. What a gem. It’s a step up we could seriously see ourselves making.

Onward to Tims Ford State Park in Lynchburg. The only game in town there is the Jack Daniel Distillery, so we took the tasting tour. 20170510_12321020170510_121339If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll know that the word ‘whiskey’ has probably never been seen in print here. We’re beer drinkers! But, when in Lynchburg… And, we are happy we did take the tour – there’s much to appreciate here. Let me give you a few fun facts.

  1. Jack Daniel owned his first distillery when he was about 14, through an odd combination of circumstances. He was a small man – only 5’2″ (with a size 4 boot!). In a fit of rage, he kicked the safe in his office one day, and broke his foot, which never healed properly. After several successively more aggressive amputations, he eventually died of gangrene, after having the rest of his leg removed at the hip. This statue is entitled “Jack on the Rocks”.20170510_122214
  2. They make all their own barrels onsite, and also produce all their own charcoal, which is used to filter the whiskey. All the water used comes from a spring on the property.
  3. All the Jack Daniel’s whiskey sold in the world are produced in Lynchburg. Even more crazy is the fact that Lynchburg is located in a dry county in TN – the only place to get a drink in the county is on a paid tour of the distillery.
  4. During many sections of the hour-long tour, photos are off-limits. But we got to sniff and look at all areas, and watched a portion of the specialty bottling line.

Then is was time for our tasting. 20170510_130737To my surprise, I really enjoyed four of the five selections (the exception being Tennessee Fire, which is JD + cinnamon liquor).

Southern Tennessee is beautiful, rolling country. 20170510_16223220170510_105856Our travels from camp to camp were enjoyable as our eyes feasted on lush green forests and barns of every shape and age.

Crossing back into the Eastern Time Zone for the first time this year, we’re now camped at Thunder Rock Campground, along the Ocoee River. 20170512_151356This is the site of the whitewater course in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and our campsite is right on the river. We’re so fortunate to be here on this day (Saturday), as the dams have been opened for the day, and water is rushing along at 1400 cubic feet per second. Daredevil kayaks, river rafts of all sizes and careening downsream, with sometimes unexpected results.20170513_11590920170513_12013320170513_111738 It’s thrilling even to watch.

We cycled down to the area near the National Whitewater Center, and parked ourselves along the rocks to watch. It brought back memories of my rafting down the Gauley (WV) River two times many years ago. What a thrill. Our National Forest Service Campground is fabulous as well, with the only drawback being its proximity to US64. Lots of car and truck traffic. There are dozens of  hiking and mountain bike trails here. An adventurer’s paradise.

Sorry I haven’t included any links to these places or any additional background information. We haven’t had any phone signal or WiFi for a few days, so I’m sitting in the truck in the parking lot at the Whitewater Center, grabbig a bit of signal. The longer I leave these posts unwritten, the worse they get.

This is our last week of camping before turning the big red truck north and scampering for home. We still have Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and our Blue Ridge Rally to finish off this long trip. Can’t say we’ve enjoyed EVERY minute, but it’s certainly been an adventure.


Quick – tell me something you know about Herbert Hoover. Um, me too – couldn’t come up with much. Not to worry. I’ll help you out with some info in case you get asked at your next cocktail party. Here’s what we learned at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum in West Bend IA, our last big stop on our way home.wp-1477663349493.jpgIf you Google unpopular or worst President, Hoover’s name will be near the top, if not in the top spot. But, he had a pretty interesting road to the White House – he was orphaned at an early age, separated from his siblings, and raised by a variety of relatives. His Stanford degree in Mining Engineering took him to live in China and Australia, where he earned the rather astonishing (to me, anyway) salary of $10,000 in 1898.wp-1477663341240.jpg His rise in the political world came in 1914, when he was recruited to lead the effort to relieve famine in Belgium. Later, his popularity soared as Secretary of Commerce (he was often referred to as Secretary of Everything).wp-1477662753953.jpg In the 1928 election, he crushed his Democratic opponent Alfred E Smith (444/87 electoral votes).

Then came October 1929. Banks crashing, nearly 25% unemployment, widespread dispair. Hoover declined to provide direct assistance to families, relying instead on voluntary efforts, “A voluntary deed is infinitely more precious to our national ideas and spirit than a thousandfold poured from the Treasury.” He didn’t stand a chance in the 1932 election. Roosevelt trounced Hoover. (472/59 electoral votes) Back to private life. wp-1477663153688.jpg He briefly emerged in 1946 to assist Truman with global famine relief.

Fun facts? He was one of only two US Presidents to donate their salary. (Yep, Kennedy was the other). He abolished the White House stables, and mothballed the Presidential yacht upon entering office. He did propose a $50/month pension for all Americans over age 65, but that idea never went anywhere. Seems evident that he suffered from a lack of political clout, combined with the true passion to make things happen.

The Museum and surrounding area was interesting – I really liked the sculptures that are shown in the photos. There weren’t many folksy or fun things in the Museum, but I did enjoy this Life Mask, created in 1919.wp-1477662712138.jpgWe’ve now visited all the Presidential Museums but four – Nixon (we went there this spring, but it was closed for renovation), Bush, Bush, and Carter. Hope to see the first three this winter on our westward advanture. No plans to visit Georgia in the near future, but the Carter Museum will be one of our first stops, for sure.

Our last couple of camping nights were spent in great sites, near water in quiet nearly-deserted campgrounds (Lake MacBride State Park IA, and Illini State Park, IL) A calm way to finish off a great vacation.wp-1477663321637.jpgwp-1477663371483.jpgA few last thoughts…wp-1477663262804.jpgDon’t forget to vote.wp-1477663306758.jpg



History Lesson and a Bicycling Lesson

Pickwick Landing State Park in Counce, TN is the perfect jumping off spot for exploration of Shiloh National Battlefield, site of one of the early big, strategic battles of the Civil War.   Pickwick is an older State Park, with odd campsites – most are not remotely level.20140424_070727 All have electric and water, but the water is all on the wrong side for an RV or trailer. Bathroom facilities are clean, but old.  The humidity level in the bathroom is killer!  Eh, so what?

We decide to spend our first whole day in the area at Shiloh.  John maps out a bike route for the 18 mile ride to the Battlefield.  Part of the road will be on a busy State Highway, filled with logging trucks (cyclist’s worst enemy) delivering huge loads of pine to the PCA plant along the way.  But, we thought we would only be on this stretch of road for a mile or so.  HA!  The road he had mapped out didn’t exist.  We were trapped on the Logging Expressway for about 6 miles.  What a horror.  The biggest laugh is that there is a big sign (familiar to all of you) along the roadside proclaiming Bicycle Route.  That sign should have said Cyclist/Organ Donor Route.  The road itself was the minimum width for a State Highway, with about a one foot, crumbling shoulder.  Most of the pavement along the shoulder was non-existent.  The lumber trucks roar past, not giving an inch of pavement, with bark, dust, and whatnot flying off the back. It was a nightmare. There are NO good roads in this area for cyclists. Not an extra inch of pavement exists for safety.

Shiloh was somber and informative, as well as very beautiful.  20140424_13530320140424_13240520140424_132242The Union Army originally hoped for a quick victory in April 1862, paving the way for a collapse of the Confederate Army.  But, an unexpected attack by General Johnston (killed at Shiloh – to date, still the highest ranking US Military Officer killed in battle) drove the Union troops back on Day 1. The tables were turned on Day 2, pushing back the Southerners, who retreated on Day 3, setting the stage for three more years of battle.  The film at the Visitor Center was amazing – personal stories of soldiers on each side, and graphic depictions of the strategy/tactics made the Battlefield site much easier to understand.  With our maps in hand, we cycled along the route, stopping at each of the points, set in chronological order. 20140424_134609 John’s great-great-great-grandfather fought at Shiloh as part of the 15th Michigan Infantry, and we saw many markers of their participation in this great battle.

The cemeteries always hold great interest for me.20140424_12531220140424_125337 This was no exception.  Sobering in the size – so many markers with numbers, yet no names.  The hardships of the Civil War are so difficult to comprehend.20140424_125759 The logistics of thousands of dead soldiers, and many, many more thousands wounded are staggering to comprehend. 20140424_130137 Memorials on the Battlefield site are abundant – many are elaborate. 20140424_141809 One of the memorials that I found particularly moving was the one dedicated to the Confederate Army. 20140424_13415120140424_134303 One side (the right) shows heads in profile held high – signifying the high spirits and hopes of the soldiers entering into the battle.  The left side has the same profiled heads bowed in defeat.  My photos don’t do justice to this memorial – it’s quite striking.

We arrived back at camp exhausted from cycling 50 miles in (mostly) awful road conditions.  Had enough time to cook a quick dinner, and bundle Jezzy into her Thundershirt before the storms rattled with windows most of the night.  When they stopped, the coyotes began.  There must be a dozen of them, and it’s amazing to hear the range of calls and sounds they make.

Thursday was camp day.  We’ve been living the high life, and not working too hard to keep our gear looking sharp.  So, we spent the day washing the truck, and meticulously scrubbing bugs from 10 states off the grille, and doing the same for the Fireball.  We’ve washed both along the way, but this was the first time we actually detailed all the tiny parts.  Windows are shined, floor mats cleaned, and all the mystery wings and legs are cleaned off the headlights.  Not a fun day, but we’re very happy to have spent the time doing it.  The inside of the Fireball got tended to as well, and it’s now ready for the BRR!

Spent the rest of the day exploring the park on foot with Jezzy, then cycling to the dam/locks to check things out. 20140425_162415We did find the dock to nowhere.20140425_152801 No big discoveries, except for the gigantic wisteria growing near the entrance.20140425_165747 It’s wrapped around a tree, and has flowers extending 30 feet into the air.  Never have I seen one so big.  20140425_165801

Saturday morning, we head off to Cloudland Canyon SP in Georgia.  Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?