10/10/09 Today we are camping at Douglas Dam, managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority, about 10 miles from Pigeon Forge. Other full-time RV friends, Laura and Gordon Bornkamp, are just across the way and we have been doing lots of fun things with them. Happily, the Golden Age pass is accepted here so it is $10 a night for electric & water, and we even have a nice view of the water. It has rained several times since we arrived here last Tuesday, and last night there were even tornado warnings. However, all is well today and it is merely much cooler and overcast.
Before we came here, we had several interesting experiences in Staunton, VA. Until we approached the town, we were unaware that the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and birth home were there. Couldn't pass that up so off we went to learn more about the 28th president. Here is a picture of him that was on a stamp:
He was the only president who actually earned a PhD although he also went to law school and passed the bar. He was the president of Princeton Univ., and the Governmor of New Jersey before becoming our Pres. I had no idea how many huge changes took place during his 8 years in office, between 1913 and 1921 until we went through all the museum displays. If you can enlarge this picture enough to read it, it kind of sums things up.
Just a few of the things that happened during his presidency were World War I, the development of unions, women got the vote, income tax was imposed, and the beginning of the League of Nations. Too bad he never learned to compromise because the League of Nations could have totally changed the way nations of the world interacted together if he had been willing to give a little bit in the organization of it. When he left office, his friends purchased his favorite Presidential car for him, a Pierce Arrow, and here is Elaine standing in front of it:
The home that you tour there is the one in which he was born when his father was a minister in Staunton. It is very well preserved, with most of the original furniture and the tour gives lots of information, as does the museum.
The next day we drove to Charlottesville to visit Monticello, the estate owned by Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd president. He was certainly very accomplished, having been the author of the Declaration of Independence, architect, gardener, scientist, plantation owner, and founder of the University of Virginia. Monticello is the only house in the United States that has been designated a United Nations World Heritage Site. Here is a picture of us on the lawn with the home in the background:
It was a home that was designed and built by Jefferson, then remodeled, rebuilt and enlarged after Jefferson had lived in France for a while and decided to make his home more gracious and comfortable. No one is allowed to take pictures inside, so here is a picture I took in the museum:
It has a lot of interesting features because of Jefferson's interests and inventions. Unfortunately, although there are 21 rooms in the home, we were only allowed to see the first floor, and "the dependencies". These were the workrooms, store rooms, privies, ice house, kitchen, smokehouse, and a few rooms for slaves. They were cleverly located out of sight on the sides of the lawn area because they were lower than the house, and the dependency roofs became a walking deck. Here is a view of the front of one of the dependencies.
The gardens are extensive, not only because there were so many people to feed but also because Jefferson was always experimenting with new plant varieties and also trying to cultivate grapes for wine production.
After the main house tour, we took a tour through the garden area and along Mulberry Row, which was the main street of the former slave quarters. Our guide told us stories about the slaves and a lot of what went on at the plantation, including some of the information about Sally Hemmings and her children. She was the slave who accompanied Jefferson's daughter to France to join him there, and who was rumored to be his mistress. At least one of her sons has been positively linked to Jefferson by DNA evidence, and it is likely he fathered all of her children. His wife had only lived 10 years after they married and only 2 of their 6 children lived to adulthood. It seems so hypocritical that the man who wrote "all men are created equal", kept hundreds of slaves in his lifetime and only freed about 5 when he died. He also was in debt when he died and his slaves and plantation had to be sold. Here is a picture of some of the kids we saw touring the place who had come there in costume:
On the day we were leaving to drive down here to join Laura and Gordon, I woke up early with a bad headache so since we were up, we decided to leave. That meant we were hooking up the car to the tow bar when there wasn't much light and somehow I didn't get my side hooked up correctly and didn't realize it. A short way down the road a trucker honked at us and we saw that our car was going back and forth across the back so we quickly pulled over. The tow bar arm on my side was completely disconnected which allowed all the car movement and which also caused a big bend in the extension arm on the other side, probably caused when we stopped. Only the safety chains kept us from losing the car entirely, or having a lot of car damage. We had to take the extension arm partially apart just to get the car disconnected. We drove separately the rest of the way. The next day we took the tow bar to a Blue Ox dealer in Knoxville, and they ordered a new extension arm for us. It should be repaired by Monday.
Laura and Gordon were with us and since we were in Knoxville, we did some sightseeing. Here we all are together at the tourist information place:
The 1982 World's Fair was held here, and there is still a nice park, waterfall, and Sun Tower still standing from it. You can go up into the sun tower and look out over the whole downtown area.
The downtown area is served by several free trolley lines, and we rode one of those too. Market Square is an old market area where there are now restaurants with outside seating areas which looked very appealing on this sunny day. A lunch visit on another day would be great.
The next day Gordon and Laura drove us up into the Cades Cove area of Great Smokey Mountains National Park. When this park was created, in 1931, a number of sparsely settled communities such as Cades Cove were left uninhabited when they relocated the residents. Although the people were paid a fair market value for their properties, they were still very bitter about being forced out. There are still a few houses, barns, grist mills, churches, etc. that have been restored and are available for viewing. We had a picnic there and drove the entire scenic loop, stopping to do a hike along the way. Here is a view of the Great Smokey Mountains:
They aren't very high, compared to the mountains in the west, but they are very heavily wooded. The trees are starting to change color, but it will still be a week or two before the colors are spectacular. On our hike we saw several deer and they were not afraid of us at all, coming quite near us on the path. One surprising thing is that this is the most heavily visited national park, with 9 million visitors a year. We were very surprised at how many people were driving the loop road, and in the picnic areas, considering that it was a Thursday in October!! Here is a picture of a mill that has been restored and was in one of the old homesteads:
Yesterday we spent the whole day at Dollywood, with Laura and Gordon. It is a fairly charming place with lots of musical shows and thrill rides. Because the shows hold a lot of people it didn't seem as busy as it probably was. The weather was nice until late afternoon, when there were a few scattered showers. Here is a picture of us at one of the photo op places:
Our plan was to hit one of the water rides just before closing, so if we got wet, we would be heading home. So we did that and when the ride ended and we were heading out, the rain started in earnest, drenching us by the time we got to the car. Luckily, it was fairly warm so although we were wet, we weren't cold. Then later there were tornado warnings.
One of the first things we did at Dollywood was look at Dolly's Prevost touring bus. It was customized for her and still had a lot of her stuff in it. One of the things was this pillow, on her bed, which gives us something to think about: