Saturday, June 30, 2012

Outer Banks of North Carolina

Because the neighbor in Greensboro who was letting us park in his driveway was out of the country for several weeks, we were able to leave our rig there while we drove our car to the Outer Banks.
Some former RVer friends, Rich & Georgia Griffiths, have purchased a condo in Manteo, on Roanoak Island, and they graciously invited us to stay with them.
Their condo is right in the charming downtown part of Manteo where there are many cute shops and interesting restaurants, and their building is located right on the waterfront.
There is a small historical park called Festival Park located right across the water from their condo and you can walk over there by going over a wooden bridge. Rich works there, and he got us free passes to explore it. Here is a picture of us there, next to the ship called Elizabeh II which is a recreation of the ship that brought the original settlers in 1585, with their condo building in the background across the water.
And here is the atual ship:
The park had a movie about the Indians who lived there before the settlers arrived, and also a large building with many exhibits about the settlement itself and the history of everything. The next morning, we had to walk to the nearby coffee and pastry shop to get some coffee, and noticed this sign:
Georgia also took us to the nearby city park where there was a Farmer’s Market in the morning, which had some veggies but most had craft sellers. Georgia makes jewelry, and sells it in shops all over the Outer Banks, so she knew most of the sellers in the park. One guy made fabulous jewelry using sea glass. Later we stopped at one of the shops where Georgia has her creations for sale, and I took this picture of some of her earrings:
She has a small workshop where she does her silversmithing in the gallery where these earrings were displayed. Then we drove out to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk. In 1899 the brothers, who were owners of a successful bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, started pursuing their dream of manned flight. They were both very mechanically inclined and did extensive research of all the previous attempts at flight before they started building devices of their own. They decided to move to Kitty Hawk to test their devices because of the dependable winds and softness of the sand for landings. In 1903 Orville flew – the flight lasted only 12 seconds and went 120 feet, but it was the first time a manned, heavier-than-air machine left the ground and moved forward under control without losing speed, and landed on a point as high as that from which it had started. Three more flights that same day went longer and farther each time. There is a building with detailed explanations of their experiments and equipment, pictures
models of the plane,
a recreation of the shed they lived and worked in, and markers in the places where the flights started and ended. One of the best parts about visiting the Outer Banks was the availability of good, fresh seafood. Georgia knew a good place to go to buy fish and we went there twice, purchasing some types of fish we had never eaten before, as well as fresh shrimp, clams, and scallops. They had trays of blue crab on offer as well.
You can see that they aren’t really blue, just their claws. And they are quite a bit smaller than the Dungeness crabs we are used to catching in Oregon. We didn’t buy any because Georgia said it would drive us crazy trying to pick the meat out of them when they are so small. Here is a picture of the feast we had one night, with Elaine & Georgia getting ready to enjoy it.
Rich was off work on Sunday, and he and Georgia had to attend a meeting at the beach in the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge, because they are volunteer turtle nesting monitors. We all drove out there and while they were busy, Elaine and I walked the beach. Then the 4 of us drove all the way south on the Outer Banks through all the small communities and national refuge areas, to the Ocracoke Island ferry. On the way, we stopped at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the tallest one in the Outer Banks. It was very hot , there was a $7 fee per person, and we were short of time, so we didn’t climb it.
All the way down to the ferry, we were amazed by the size of the beach houses we were passing.
Many of them are rentals, and apparently the thinking is that several families get together to rent these, and then there is lots of room. Also, then they are tall enough so that there are good views from the upper floors. But they are very expensive to rent! Additionally, a lot of them are built on piers, because there is frequent flooding when a storm hits. Georgia pointed out areas where several of these huge homes were washed away and also entirely new inlets were created. In fact, Georgia and Rich’s condo building has the parking garage on the bottom floor and they said that it gets flooded fairly often. Last year, during the last hurricane, the water level was as high as 11 feet. Ferries run out to Ocracoke Island every 30 minutes, but if there is a long line, they run extra ferries. So it didn’t take long to get on one and then the ride was about 45 minutes. Here is a picture of Georgia and Rich’s dog, Savannah, on the ferry:
When we got to the island, we had lunch at one of the pubs, which was edible but not really worth the elevated price. Here we are at the table:
Then we drove around and Georgia took us to some of the artsy galleries and shops. It is a place with great ambiance, and, like the rest of the Outer Banks, full of rental properties. On the way back to the ferry, we stopped at the corral area where they keep a few of the Ocracoke wild horses on display for the tourists. These horses used to have the run of the place, but when the roads were built, people started to be worried about hitting them, and they messed up the traffic flow, so now most are kept in a large fenced off pasture where they can roam, with a few being rotated up to the tourist area for photos.
These are the descendents of horses that ended up on the islands many years ago when they7 swam ashore from shipwrecks. They even have a reduced number of vertebrae and ribs, so they really ARE different than domestic horses. The next day Georgia and Rich had to leave early to go out to the refuge for turtle patrol, so we showered and walked the boardwalk which goes all around the waterfront near Rich & Georgia's condo. The water was was so still it looked like a mirror. The most picturesque view was of the Roanoake lighthouse, which has been relocated here, very near their condo:
Then we drove back to Greensboro. Martha & Gene were still there, so we had one of Gene’s good dinners together. The next day we drove up here to Waynesboro, and Martha and Gene moved their rig to Boone, a place in the mountains near Asheville.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Asheville & Greensboro, North Carolina

This blog post will be the first in a series to catch you up on what we have been doing for the past few weeks when we haven’t had time to write anything because we were sightseeing and socializing. After we left Douglas Dam and went to Knoxville to get our RV brakes fixed, we went to Asheville, North Carolina. Not only is this a beautiful area, hilly and loaded with trees and flowers, we also have friends there we wanted to see. They were on a cruise with us a long while ago and when we got married 4 years ago, they surprised us by flying out to CA for the wedding. They are Rachel and Connie, 2 sisters, and Jenny, Connie’s daughter. In May Jenny got married to Cory. So our first day in Asheville, these four came over to our rig and we all caught up on each other’s news over Happy Hour drinks.
Cory and Jenny are having a baby boy in about 5 months, and they already are raising the 4 year old twins Cory had with his first wife. Quite a big change in Jenny’s life! Cory and Jenny had to go see his grandmother in the hospital, so they couldn’t join us when we went out to dinner with Rachel & Connie.
The second day we were there we went to the Biltmore Estate, which was the home of George Vanderbilt, and was finished in 1895.
George was one of the grandsons of Cornelius Vanderbilt, so he inherited his money from his father. He only had one daughter, Cornelia, and she married an Englishman named John Cecil. This family lived in the house until 1930 when they opened the house to the public. It is still owned and run as a family business. It is quite impressive to drive in through the grounds, because they still own 8,000 acres, although at one time the estate covered about 15 square miles. Happily, the acreage was sold to the government and is now a preserve. It is fairly expensive to tour this home - $58pp. But if you go on the website and book tickets 7 days in advance, you can get $15 off. Or, if you buy your tickets at the Asheville Visitors Center, you can get $10 off. There is so much to see and do there, that touring can take an entire day. The outside is very impressive and has some interesting things like gargoyles and other figures as part of the façade.
To one side there is a covered courtyard where they sell reasonably priced food, and have restrooms and things like a coffee and pastry stall, an ice cream store and a gift shop. You can do some wine tasting in the gift shop and the wines were made on the estate in the old dairy building. When you enter the house, you pick up an audioguide which is free, and then you tour the home moving along at your own pace, listening to the information and occasionally reading some extra information boards. No photograph is allowed in the house. But I managed to take this picture when we went out on one of the balconies:
The house reminded us a lot of visiting Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA as a lot of the furnishings, art, and even parts of the structure were purchased in Europe and brought over for this house. You get to see quite a few of the rooms, including the downstairs kitchens, pantries, and servant quarters, and the guest areas upstairs. We also paid extra for a tour of the estate grounds with a guide where we saw some of the areas not normally seen by visitors. One place we stopped was at the lagoon where there was an excellent view of the back of the house:
and the guide took one of us there
Upon returning to the house, we walked through the gardens, which are extensive and very well kept. Here I am in one of the covered walkways leading to the main garden:
The main garden has lovely plants and walkways, and there is a greenhouse with some of the more exotic plants inside.
There is also a shop here where people can buy gardening needs including plants. And there is a terrace where you can stop for a snack or drink. We had a picnic down by the lagoon, and then went to the separate part of the estate called Antler Hill Village and Winery. Here there are shops, a historical exhibit called the Biltmore Legacy, a winery, delectable pub fare and ale at Cedric’s Tavern, several medium to upscale restaurants, live entertainment on the Village Green, and a barn area which displays farm life in the early 1900’s. This area is open much later than the Biltmore house and gardens. We did some more wine tasting at the winery and were impressed with many of the wines. About 30% of the grapes come from the estate and the rest are brought in from California. No wonder we liked the wines! There was also a display of George Vanderbilt’s car
It is a 1913 Stevens-Duryea model “C-Six”. There are only 10 in existence today. Too bad he didn’t have very long to enjoy it since he died in 1914. While walking around Asheville, we explored Riverside Cemetery where Thomas Wolfe is buried. He who “Look Homeward Angel”. William Sydney Porter, more commonly known as O. Henry, is also buried there. These are the hometown boys who “made good”. We also went to the local Farmer’s Market, which had lovely fruits and veggies for sale.
We had never bought fresh beets and prepared them, so we got some and first Elaine sautéed the greens with some olive oil, garlic, and toasted pine nuts. Delicious! Later we fixed the beets themselves and they were also very good. Not at all like the pickled ones we had tasted before. The last thing we did before heading out of town was to do the downtown walking tour with the explanation sheet we got at the Visitors Center. There is a lot of history there, and also interesting sculptures, and the area is being rejuvenated with local restaurants, gift shops, and micro-breweries.
In fact, there are more breweries in Asheville than anywhere else in North Carolina! There is a brews tour that looks like fun, but we skipped it this time. Our friends Martha and Gene Merryman are from the Greensboro area and we were delighted that when we called them, they not only were parked there in their RV in their daughter’s driveway, but they arranged for us to park in the neighbor’s driveway. We took turns fixing dinner and eating with them in Debbie’s dining room:
Late last year they purchased a new RV, a 42 foot Country Coach with 4 slides, and although it was used, it looks brand new.
The second day Martha, Elaine and I drove to Ashboro and picked up Pat, Martha’s sister, and we all went to Seagrove.
European settlers brought the traditions of pottery making to this area (called the Piedmont area) in the later 1700’s. There were abundant clay deposits near Seagrove, so lots of them settled there and originally made utilitarian ware such as jugs, crocks, pitchers, etc. Now they are using lots of different techniques to make items that are closer to art work than kitchen utensils.
There are nearly 100 potter’s workshops in this little town!! First we visited a cooperative gallery where the work of many potters was displayed and sold. Then we visited the workshop and gallery of 2 of the potters Pat knew and whose work was excellent. The first one was Ray Morgan, and here are his vases:
Then we had lunch at the little local café, and tried some North Carolina cooking. The afternoon potter we visited had a really extensive workshop and here is a picture of one of his kilns:
He was in the process of making 700 pieces that had been ordered by a big corporation for their employees as a gift at the annual party. After several enjoyable days in Greensboro, with Martha & Gene, playing cards in the evening, and even going to a movie, we moved on to the Outer Banks. That adventure will be discussed in our next post. By the way, the movie we went to was "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", and it was delightful. It is about a bunch of Brits of retirement age who go to Jaipur, India to live in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which has been turned into a home for the elderly. We spent a month in India in 2010 and a few days in Jaipur, and watching this movie was like a trip down memory lane. We recommend seeing this movie, if it comes to your area.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Update From Virginia

6/28/12 Although we have been in North Carolina for the past few weeks and have been doing lots of fun things, we have not had much time to write or post about our activities! Now we have moved north to Virginia and are parked at a very nice Elks Lodge in Waynesboro, which is located at the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley. There are even 2 – 30 amp electrical plugs here which will be nice in the next few days because more hot weather is supposed to arrive and we need 30 amps to run our air conditioner. Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, is in this area but we visited it 3 years ago, so we will skip it this time. Instead we are going tomorrow to Montpelier, the estate of James and Dolley Madison. Additionally, there are many wineries in this area and some of the better ones are near that estate. So we will have to see if we have time to do that after our tours tomorrow. While we were in North Carolina, we visited friends and saw some of the sights in 3 locations: Asheville, Greensboro, and the Outer Banks. I have lots of pictures and will be writing some blogs about those places in the next few days. So check back here in a few days and maybe there will be some interesting travel reports!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Douglas Dam Camping

6/14/12 Today we are in Waynesville, NC which was just an overnight stop on our way to Asheville. Yesterday we took our rig in to the Knoxville Chevy dealer - Reeder Chevrolet, and were delighted with their work. It was easy to get an appointment, they took our rig in as soon as we arrived, diagnosed the problem right away, called Workhorse in order to arrange warranty coverage, installed a new caliper on our rear brake and had our rig ready to go in an hour. This was all necessitated because we noticed a lot of smoke coming out of our right rear brake area when we arrived at Douglas Dam on Saturday. Turned out we had a fluid leak from the caliper, which was hitting the hot brakes and burning. Good thing we didn't have a fire!!! While we were at Douglas Dam Tailwater campground, we greatly enjoyed our riverfront site, had some campfires, walked everyday, and caught up on some RV cleaning and maintenance chores. This is a Tennessee Valley Authority site which was built in 1943 to help control floods, manage wildlife, create recreational opportunities, and create electrical power. There is a headwater campground across the bridge and on the actual lake that was created by building the dam. We had stayed at that location 3 years ago with Laura & Gordon Bornkamp, and Gene & Martha Merryman, which is how we learned about this nice camping location. It is fairly close to Pigeon Forge and Great Smoky Mtn. National Park. And, they honor the Golden Age pass so we got 50% off the camping fee of $22/night for a site with electricity, water and right on the river! We walked down to the dam and were amazed at the number of herons that were sitting on the railing and hanging around the area in the trees across the river and also on some rocks. It was the middle of the day and water was being released from some of the release ports. Later, in the evening, we walked down there again and there were lots of fishermen. They told us that they turn the water off, usually at 8PM, and then the fishing was good there for walleye, catfish, bass, etc. The herons then all fly to rocks which are now exposed in the river, because of the lower water level, and they fish too. We have never seen so many herons in one place before - at one point I counted 30 of them in the area! There was one big guy who was so used to people that he barely ever moved from his spot: Another day we walked up to the overlook and picnic area and from there we took this picture of the lake and other camping area: Today we are relocating to the Elks Club in Asheville and tonight we will be having Happy Hour and dinner with Rachel, Connie & Jenny, three cruise friends from 2006. Tomorrow we will visit the Biltmore Estate, America's largest private home, when it was built.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Natchez Trace Parkway & Nashville

Dear Blog Reader, Towards the end of May, we entered Mississippi and started driving the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is an area, set aside and maintained by the National Park Service, which connects Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. It probably started as animal paths, then hunter’s paths, then paths used by the Natchez, Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians, then the French and Spanish, and finally by the American settlers. By 1785 Ohio River farmers seeking new markets had begun to float their crops and products down the rivers to Natchez or New Orleans. They sold their boats for lumber and returned home, either riding or walking on the Natzhez Trace. By 1810 the Trace was an important wilderness road, the most heavily traveled in the Old Southwest. Comforts came to the Trace in the form of inns, called stands, which were about 20 miles apart – the usual distance a person traveled in a day. Eventually there were about 20, but only 2 are left standing. They provided basic food and shelter. After 1812, when steamboats started to go both down and UP the Mississippi, the Trace became much less important. Started in the late 1930’s, the modern Natchez Trace Parkway parallels the old Trace. It runs 444 miles. We started at the very friendly, comprehensive, and informative visitor’s center in Natchez. They had an interesting movie about the Trace ($3), gave us lots of handouts and maps, and they had free WiFi in an air conditioned and comfortable building with lots of exhibits. Additionally, there were RV parking spaces in the parking lot, although it was difficult to get level. They also had a dump station and water. We spent several days in Natchez because they have many antebellum homes and other historical buildings. They have devised several very interesting walking trails through the town going past these places, where they have information boards telling about the homes that you are looking at while you are actually there. This home, the Rosalie, is a museum now. This home, Glen Auburn, is Mississippi’s grandest example of the French Second Empire style, with its mansard roof. It was built in 1870 and is symbolic of the rise of the merchant class which replaced the slave owning plantation owner class in wealth and influence after the Civil War. One of the homes is that of William Johnson, a freed black slave who became a successful businessman, slaveholder himself, and wrote diaries during the heyday of the cotton kingdom economic boom. His home is owned by the National Park Service, has free entry, and many interesting exhibits about slavery, and freed slaves. Here is a picture of his parlor: (#5) Our friends, Jim and Jan, whom we visited in Louisiana on the way to Natchez, told us about a little restaurant we would pass which Jan always used to see as a child when she was on family trips. So we stopped there and took this picture:
It is called Mammy’s Cupboard, and they only serve sandwiches there about 5 days a week for lunch. Jan says that the paint job on Mammy has gotten much lighter through the years. We were surprised that it still existed, since it is a bit racist. Along the Natchez Trace there are places to stop, with pullouts, so you can see things of interest, especially historical areas. Many of them are places where you can walk on the actual path of the old Trace.
Here is Elaine on a section that has become sunken through the years and because of the many feet and wagons that traveled over it: One of the more interesting stops was at Mount Locust, one of the 2 remaining stands (inns).
It dates from about 1780. It was also a working plantation in order to provide all the necessities for the family that lived here and the people who paid to stay overnight. A staple corn crop enabled the family to offer a meal of corn mush and milk (oh, yum) with sleeping arrangements on the porches and grounds. Here is one of the bedrooms:
Another interesting stop was at a water tupelo/bald-cypress swamp.
Clearly the turtles liked sunning themselves on this log: At another stop, we saw a beaver dam, with freshly cut branches adorning the top. Most of the way, this what the drive looked like through our windshield:
But we did drive through a long section which looked like this because a tornado ripped through here a number of years ago and knocked down a lot of the trees. Towards the end of the drive, we stopped at the Gordon House, which was the only other inn left standing. Unfortunately, it was closed and we didn’t get to see inside. One of the towns just off the Trace is Vicksburg, and there was so much history there that we drove the car in one day to explore. Some other campers had recommended the Coke museum, which is a private one, because this was the first place that Coke was ever bottled. It cost $3.50 to get in and we didn’t think it was worth it. First there is the old soda fountain counter: then some cases of memorabilia:
Other displays were very disappointing. We walked down the hill to a public park where there are about 30 painted murals depicting the history of the town. They were very well done and had good explanations in front of them. Here is one of the Sultana, which was a steamboat on the Mississippi River. In 1865 it went to Vicksburg to pick up Union soldiers who had recently been released from Confederate prisons. The ship was only designed to carry 376 people, but they loaded it up with 2300 soldiers, and it had previously been having boiler problems. When it was about 7 miles from Memphis, three of the boilers blew up and about 1700 people lost their lives. It is said to be the worst maritime disaster in American history. Another mural
shows Teddy Roosevelt’s bear hunt in Vicksburg. Hunters went out ahead of him and captured a bear and tied it to a tree so Teddy could easily shoot it. He refused, and the subsequent media barbs about it brought about the introduction of the “Teddy Bear”. After that we drove to the Vicksburg National Military Park where we saw a very good movie about the importance to the Union army of taking the town of Vicksburg because then that gave them control of the Mississippi River and also split the Confederate states. So when they couldn’t take it in several battles, they put on a siege, which lasted for 46 days before the Confederate forces finally surrendered. There is a huge area where battles were held, fortifications are still present, graves are present, and monuments have been installed. It has been well done by the National Park Service but it started to rain just before we did the drive, so we didn’t walk to any of the sites or monuments. There are 3 free campgrounds along the Trace, and we stayed overnight at 2 of them. There are also nearby towns, and state parks, and we stayed at several of those too. The free campgrounds are very wooded but they do have pull through sites and picnic tables, just no electricity or water. The Meriwether Lewis campground is the largest and we were quite surprised that we were able to receive a signal through all the trees for our satellite TV. Nearby there is a monument at his grave, because he died of 2 gunshot wounds while he was staying at Grinder’s Inn on the Trace in 1809. There was some suspicion that they were self-inflicted. We stopped at Tombigbee State Park for several nights because it was near Tupelo and because we wanted to drive to Red Bay, AL to tour the Allegro RV factory. They have a very good tour, largely because they take you all over the entire place and let you see everything and they have headsets so you can hear the tour guide through all the industrial noise. It was impressive to see all the big machinery they use to fabricate nearly every part of the RVs they produce. They also employ a lot of women, who were doing nearly every type of job, and we were pleased to see that. Their attention to detail and dedication to doing quality work was also impressive. I took lots of pictures so here are a few: the chassis come from some of the big manufacturers, although Allegro makes some too. Here is a chassis with the floor put on and they are starting to install cabinets, which were all made right in Allegro’s cabinet shop. At this stage they are getting ready to put the slide out in. They manufacture their own wire and rather than color code them, their machines stamp right on every wire exactly what it is for and which kind of rig it goes in. This one is nearly finished and is being inspected. They also have their own paint shop in a different location. After the tour, we collected several of their brochures, and the price list, and although we would love to acquire one of these beauties, I think it will be a long while before (a) we need one, and (b) we can afford one!!! Once we got to Nashville, we went to Costco because we needed supplies, and then to WalMart where we stayed overnight. Some new cruise friends, Lisa and Marcia, (twins) came over to our rig and we had Happy Hour together. It was fun to see them again, and we learned that they will be with us on our next 2 cruises in September. The next day we had an oil change at WalMart and then a tire rotation at Costco, before moving east of Nashville to the Five Points Corps of Engineers campground on the J. Percy Priest reservoir. It is a delightful campground and they honor the Golden Age pass so it only cost $10/night to have a roomy site with electricity and water. We could only stay there 4 nights because people with reservations come in on the weekend. So we left today and are now sitting in the day use area while I type this. Either later today or tomorrow we will start heading towards Knoxville. Staying in state parks and COE campgrounds has been pleasant, yet there have been a few natural pests to consider. Here at this COE park we have been attacked regularly by a cardinal He sits in the branches of a nearby tree and flies at our windows. Early in the morning, he pecks at our hubcaps, making so much noise that he wakes us up and our neighbors have complained. On many of our hikes along the Natchez Trace, we either picked up ticks on our bodies, or heard other people complaining about how bad they were this year. So we have been avoiding hikes that go into the underbrush. One of the more delightful experiences has been watching the lightning bugs (or fireflies) as evening falls. They are all over the place, blinking on and off as they fly around. Two of them even got into our rig and were blinking all around our living room and bedroom. Elaine captured them gently and threw them back out. During our 4 days in Nashville, we wanted to do lots of sightseeing. Many people told us to be sure to see the hotel at Opryland because it had recently been redone, so we went there first. Wow, what an impressive place! The various buildings, including the convention center, form an outer wall with incredible gardens, waterfalls, sculptures, restaurants, fountains, etc. all in the center, with a glass roof over the top. It was fun to walk around the whole place. Then we went to the Grand Ole Opry building to try to get tickets for a performance. Here is Elaine at the entrance to the plaza: And here is the front of the theater: We succeeded in getting tickets for the same night, Tuesday at 7PM, because we got tickets in the second to highest row (W), but at least they were in the center. They cost $34 each. Before the performance, starting at 5PM, they have a big stage set up and several of the groups who are going to perform later that night, perform free in the plaza. I’m sure lots of people come who aren’t attending the show. There is a huge shopping mall right across the street, so I’m sure lots of people come over from there too. We arrived at 5 and managed to get seats at one of the small tables in the plaza: Because we had packed drinks and food, and the temperature was so nice, we greatly enjoyed the 2 hour wait for the Grand Ole Opry to start. When we got into the theater, we could see that the way the theater was laid out greatly enhanced the fact that they crammed so many people in there (thousands) yet everyone could see pretty well. They also had 3 HUGE screens showing the performers up close. This is the view of the Oakridge Boys from our seats: And this is a picture of Carrie Underwood taken from one of the screens: Another thing that many people had recommended to do was tour the small, historic town of Franklin, which is located about 15 miles south of Nashville. We drove down there and got the walking tour brochure, had a nice picnic in the park, and then walked around the historic parts. Here is one of the historic old buildings called Clouston Hall, which was built in the 1830’s. It is now an art gallery, and the gal at Visitor Info told us to stop in there and meet the guys who owned it, so we did. Jesse and Elaine are standing in one of the rooms which has art for sale all over it but also is delightful to see because of the restoration to the way it was before the Civil War. It was used as a field hospital after the battle of Franklin and you can still see bloodstains in the floor and the mark left by a cannonball. After walking around the town, we could appreciate why everyone recommended this historic and charming town. Another day was devoted to visiting The Hermitage, the plantation and home of our 7th president, Andrew Jackson. Because he was not a member of the aristocracy, and was the first president elected by the voters and not the state legislatures, he was a “man of the people”. He expanded presidential powers so that the executive branch had power equal to congress. Many of his positions and policies were controversial, and still are. The entire museum and plantation are very well presented by the Women’s Historical society which prevented the place from being turned into a convalescent home in the late 1800’s. Instead, it became a museum in 1889, the first one for a president. Audio tours are provided and are excellent. Here is a picture of the front of the house. This is a picture of the restored dining room. The garden is beautiful and has authentic plants in it from the time of the Jacksons. Both Rachel and Andrew Jackson’s graves are under this rotunda in the back of the garden.
This slave cabin was representative of many more that were here. At one time there were 150 slaves here. Besides growing cotton, which was the cash crop, they also had to raise many animals such as hogs, and grow all the food for the household, the slaves, and the many visitors. For the Jacksons, the enslaved people represented the majority of their wealth since their value exceeded that of all the property (1200 acres), the house, the many outbuildings, the crops, and the farm animals. They treated their slaves well but when emancipation came, the slaves gladly left for freedom. One day we tried to go downtown to explore the historic parts, especially wanting to see the Parthenon, which is the only full size replica of the Italian original. But because this is the weekend of the Country Music Awards, they were setting up big stages down there, and big name entertainers were down there in their fancy Prevost buses, we got caught in a huge gridlock and it took an hour to go about 2 blocks. We escaped as soon as we could and decided to see this part of Nashville the next time we are here. We could have attended a big, free concert down there the other night, and also a big parade, but we opted out because of the crowds. Later we heard there were 25,000 people down there. Thank goodness we stayed away! Tomorrow we will start heading for Asheville, NC where we will visit some cruise friends, and the week after that we will be in Greensboro, NC, visiting Gene and Martha Merryman.