barn near nashville

Top Things to Do in Nashville

While most people have heard of Nashville, Tennessee, I imagine not as many have heard of Nashville, Indiana.  Nashville, Indiana is a small artist community located in Brown County.  A few years ago, Nashville was named as one of the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit by Smithsonian Magazine.

I stumbled across the town nine years ago during my year-long road trip around the USA and have wanted to return to stay at the nearby Story Inn which is rumored to be haunted.  Finally, I made my return trip after going to Kentucky for the Derby.

I arrived Sunday night and stayed through Tuesday. Monday and Tuesday are very quiet days in Nashville. Some of the restaurants and museums are closed. I liked the quaintness, but for those who want more activity, visit on a weekend, as Nashville is a popular tourist destination and hopping.

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living room at Graceland Mansion

A Guide to Graceland

A Guide to Visiting Graceland

So, I have wanted to visit Graceland for some time now.  Don’t ask me why because I’m not an Elvis fanatic nor do I know much about him.  But I feel as an American, it’s my duty see what all the craze is about.

Over the years, I’ve scanned Graceland’s website thinking I might get to Memphis soon.  Tickets used to be a reasonable $30, but recently with a massive renovation to the complex, the price to enter has sky rocketed. Tours range anywhere from $41 to see the mansion only to $174 for the Ultimate VIP experience.

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Day 65 – East Tennessee Border Tour Part 2

Eastern Tennessee (yesterday)…still a day behind on posts.

OK, so with my detour to Knoxville last night, I ended up driving back to stay in Sieverville, not far from my next scenic stop.  What an interesting place!  Sieverville is just west of Gatlinburg and in the middle of the two cities is Pigeon Forge.  I truly felt like I was in a mini Vegas except instead of walking down the Strip past hotels and casinos, I drove down Dolly Parton Parkway past motels and attractions; magic, theater, miniature golf, speed racing, the titanic museum, moving seat cinema, laser tag, and more!  Well, really Dolly Parton Parkway was a few miles away, but I thought it sounded better to have all the entertainment lining the street named for her.  No worries, I stopped by Dollywood too…though it was closed.

I have to admit, the Titanic Museum peaked my interest, so I purchased a boarding card to enter the ship!  I walked through the ship yard, through the cabin areas (first, second, and third class), up the grand staircase, over the captain’s bridge, and into a memorial room.  The display areas included old black and white photos; letters from passengers; items recovered from the survivors, the dead, and the wreckage; samples of different items on the cruiser, statistics on the Titanic, its fateful course, and more.  The museum was also very interactive allowing visitors to watch water flowing down the aisle stairs, to experience the different slopes of the deck as the Titanic sunk, and to touch the 28 degree ocean water.  The docents dressed in character for each room in which they stood.  It was definitely a museum that accommodated children and gimmicky enough to fit in with the area entertainment!  And for one piece of trivia on the Titanic, it struck the iceberg on my birthday (April 14th) in 1912.  April 14th also happens to be the day Lincoln was shot.

Upon exiting the Titanic with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park my next destination, I saw an “As Seen On TV” Store.  I would have loved to see some of those items in person, but I fought the urge as I had detoured enough and kept going. I’m thankful I did…you’ll see why at the end of the post…ahhh, suspense!  While in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for the most part I followed the main two lane road which tracked the path of a creek or river.  In two areas, I took a one-way loop.  The first loop was the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail which climbed into the mountains past a selection spur trails leading to waterfalls.  I planned on taking the dogs on a 2.8 mile hike to Grotto Falls and back on this spectacular sunny day, but dogs weren’t allowed on the trails due to bears…bummer for them…I went anyway.  I slopped along the muddy trail, crossed four creeks, said hello to dozens of people, arrived at the lovely falls, and hurriedly returned to VANilla as I felt bad the dogs had been cooped up since the rain yesterday afternoon.

We finished driving the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and turned south toward Cades Cove.  Cades Cove, a relatively flat valley between the mountains, was once a farming community.  Sightseers may drive along the 11 mile one-way loop past old cabins, barns, a mill and several churches.  Before I entered the loop, I asked the ranger how long it would take to make the lap as it was after 4pm. With darkness coming and the nearby campgrounds in which I planned to reside for the night lacking showers, I wanted to be out of the mountains at the Lazy Daze for a shower before nightfall and at a place where the dogs could go for more than a five minute walk around the parking lot.  The Ranger’s answer was, “30 minutes if you don’t stop”.  At 20 mph, the posted speed limit, that seemed about right…off I went!  The loop was peppered with turnouts and signs asking slower drivers to be courteous and pullover…evidently half the drivers either couldn’t read or weren’t very courteous.  We had to stop in the middle of the road for more than one occasion to see deer which were a dime a dozen in the area and 98 percent of them didn’t even have antlers!  I’m the first to admit I’m an impatient driver and I even confess to stopping in the road to take a picture of a deer in Virginia, but I didn’t hold anyone up.  Furthermore, had I not already seen more deer than the days I’ve been traveling, perhaps I would have enjoyed the 7 mph pace, but I was rather immune to spectacle except for catching a glimpse of some yearling bucks butting heads.  At this point, while I was trying not to get frustrated, I thought what have I done…I’m going to be lost in the darkness of the mountains…been there, done that, NOT fun!  With a few miles left in the loop; however, the slow pace was completely worth it as I saw two bears and this time I got photos!!!!

The first bear, was about 100 yards into the woods and almost out of sight of the road, but many tourists had pulled over and walked about 40 yards into the forest to watch it eat something.  Normally, I wouldn’t have gotten out, but I missed getting a photo the last time, and I was stopped in the road anyway, so I pulled over, walked into the forest, and made sure at least one tub-a-lard was closer to the bear than me in case all twenty of us needed to make a run for it!  He was big and didn’t look nearly cuddly as the cubs I saw last month.  About 500 yards later, we drove up on another bear out in the field.  He was busy looking down, so I snapped a poor shot from a distance (but the background was pretty) and kept going.  I was SO lucky…No “As Seen on TV Store”, seven pictures left on my camera before the battery died, and only one good one that didn’t come out blurry!  AWESOME way to end the day, especially with a $5 shower before I located the next Walmart. ETB

Day 64 – East Tennessee Border Tour

Eastern Tennessee…(yesterday)

Since the dogs spent most of the afternoon and evening in VANilla out of the rain, our first stop this morning was at a local park in Elizabethton to stretch their legs on a mile walk along the Watauga River. Along with the walking trail, Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area showcased the reconstructed Fort Watauga and related history.  Being the center of the Watauga Settlement, the first permanent settlement west of the 13 colonies, this area is considered significant in Tennessee history.  The organization of the Watauga Association (1772), the Transylvania Purchase (1775), the Siege of Fort Watauga (1776), and the Overmountain Muster (1780) all took place on these grounds.

The Watauga Association was established when the settlers here realized they hadn’t settled in Virginia and were living under the authority of the royal government and beyond the Indian Treaty line.  They formed their own government under the Watauga Compact, the first constitution west of the Appalachians.

The Transylvania Purchase, the largest private real estate deal in US history, was provided for in the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals.  A North Carolinian judge formed a company to purchase 20,000,000 acres from the Cherokees to found a new colony, Transylvania.  The Purchase opened most of Kentucky up for settlement.

The siege of Fort Watauga took place in 1776 when the Indians became concerned with the white settlers expansion and gave the Wataugans 20 days to leave their land or fight.  The Wataugans asked for more time and built a fort.  The Indians, enraged upon hearing of the fortification, planned a surprise attack on Wataugans; however, a Cherokee woman married to a white man warned of the attack so the Wataugans were able to flee their homes and take refuge in the fort.  After three hours of battle, the Indians settled down into a loose siege.

The Muster of the Overmountain occurred in 1780 when Britain’s Cornwallis attempted to invade North Carolina.  Cornwallis ordered Ferguson to protect his left flank.  Ferguson threatened the Wataugan leaders who ordered their militia to the Shoals.  1,100 men from Virginia and North Carolina marched over the Blue Ridge Mountains and joined additional militia units from both the Carolinas and Georgia.  The growing Patriot army chased Ferguson off and Cornwallis was forced to postpone his raid of North Carolina.  This Patriot victory was a turning point in the Revolutionary War.

After our visit to the Sycamore Shoals Historic Area, we revisited “The Mansion” built in 1775 just a few miles away.  The Mansion, built by John Carter, is the oldest frame house in Tennessee.  John Carter was elected the Chairman of the Watauga Association in May of 1772.

We left Elizabethton, took a driving tour through Jonesborough (Tennessee’s oldest town), and stopped at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park.  After I spent another hour trouble shooting iPhone problems with Applecare and setting an appointment at the Apple Store in Knoxville (69 miles away) for the evening, I enjoyed the last of the sun walking the dogs around the park and visiting the site where Davy Crockett was born.  A reconstructed cabin as well as a monument honoring Crockett as a pioneer, patriot, soldier, explorer, trapper, state legislator, congressman, and martyr (at the Alamo) marked the area.

We continued a bit further south along Tennessee’s eastern border to Greenvilleand the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.  The site includes two Johnson homes with 80% original furnishings as

Rare piano in Johnson’s home

well as Johnson’s tailor shop complete with his shears, thimble, and flatiron.  Johnson’s tailor shop became a gathering place to discuss politics.  Johnson served as the military governor of Tennessee when he freed the slaves and upon Abraham Lincoln’s assassination became President of the United States.

Not far from the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, a replica of the building that is believed to have been used at the capitol of the State of Franklin from 1785 to 1788.  Franklin was organized as a state by locals who were left without a government after North Carolina imparted its land west of the Appalachians to the Federal Government.  Franklin, never recognized by Congress, struggled as a state for less than five years before ultimately becoming part of Tennessee.

As I toured the area, the rain grew heavier, so I headed to Knoxville to get another phone.  The touch screen on my replacement phone was not always responsive, and I was left with a phone I couldn’t even unlock after an hour, a hard reset, and a restore.  Hopefully third time will be a charm!  While I wasn’t that pleased with having to take the detour to Knoxville, my return led me to a Walmart in Sevierville and a Mel’s Diner a few miles down the road in Pigeon Forge.  While this diner wasn’t connected with the show Alice, I couldn’t help but think of Flo and a few of her choice phrases:  “Kiss My Grits” and “When Pigs Fly”.  It was a pleasant reminder of my childhood days enjoying Alice.

Day 63 – Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia Part 2)

The dogs and I headed back to the Blue Ridge Parkway to continue south to the border of Virginia and North Carolina before jumping off to visit parts of eastern Tennessee.  The next two stops on the Parkway included Smart View and Mabry Mill.  Reader’s Digest explains the names of each stop fit the description mountain folk applied ages ago.  Given all the stunning views I enjoyed yesterday, I couldn’t imagine what a right, smart view would include.  In this instance, I was taken more to the view of the old, log cabin perched on the hillside than the vast vista of mountains beyond.  After a short walk around the picnic area, the dogs and I moved on to Mabry Mill.

From 1910 to 1935, Ed Mabry ran the mill, a blacksmith shop, and a woodworking shop just to name a few of the businesses that contributed to his reputation as the man that could “fix most anything”.  The mill building, separated into three sections, housed a sawmill, a gristmill, and a woodworking shop.  In the gristmill, Mabry only ground corn as opposed to some of his competitors which also ground wheat.  He used his sawmill during the rainy times when the water flow increased and used his jigsaw and other tools in the woodworking shop to produce wagon wheels.

The site also included a whisky still to brew moonshine and a mule powered sorghum mill and evaporator used to yield molasses.  I found these items interesting as I had never seen the apparatus.  Next to each display a sign documented the production process.

To make moonshine, cornmeal, malt, and sugar are mixed with water and fermented in barrels for several days to almost two weeks.  The fermented mash (beer) is heated in the copper still.  The vapor is then transferred to a flake stand which contains a spiral tube (also known as the worm) that is immersed in a constant flow of water.  The worm condenses the vapor into liquid which flows into another barrel to hold the corn whiskey.

Sorghum molasses became popular during the Civil War when sugar and corn syrup supplies diminished.  A mule, attached to a ten foot sweep, walks in a circle to operate the rollers to which stalks are fed.  The rollers extract a bright green juice that is strained and then cooked for several hours in an evaporator.  Ten gallons of juice produce one gallon of syrup which is bottled once it reaches the proper consistency.

The morning was also the last of the sunlight, as the afternoon brought thick thunder clouds and rain.  The mutts accompanied me through two hours of rain past the first few stops I planned to make in Tennessee, including Watauga Lake and Cherokee National Forest.  Given my recent luck with National forests, the rain was probably a blessing!  And as for the lake, the magical setting created by low hanging clouds over a jade colored water surrounded by mountains was in perfect view through VANilla’s passenger window.

While searching for the next Walmart in Elizabethton, I stumbled across a historic site that I plan to visit in the morning.  In the meantime, I enjoyed a spinach salad at Fatz Café before camping in the parking lot for the night.