Today’s blog is about our trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, in The Great Smoky Mountains, to reach the highest point. That means you are going to learn more than you probably want to about this parkway and mountains.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was the first national parkway to be conceived, designed, and constructed for a leisure-type driving experience. It connects The Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Running from Skyline Drive, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina, it is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States.
Begun during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the project was originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway. Work began on September 11, 1935, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina. On June 30, 1936, Congress formally authorized the project as the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Parkway meanders for 469 miles of which we drove 73 miles today. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The road is carried across streams, railway ravines and cross roads by 168 bridges, 26 tunnels and six viaducts. Elevation ranges from 649 feet at James River in Virginia to 6,053 feet, the highest point on the parkway, at Richland Balsam in North Carolina, which is here:
I was able to stand on the tippy top of the mountain.
The mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are blanketed with a smoky haze that gives the region an almost magical quality. The Smoky Mountains are home to millions of trees, bushes, and other plants. The atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of oil, which, in combination with dust particles and water vapor scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in color. The blue light that is scattered from the sky is between you and the mountains causing the mountains to look blue.
When European settlers arrived in the early 1800s, they took inspiration from the Cherokee language when they named these mountains The Great Smoky Mountains.
Tidbit of Information: You will notice there is no “e” in Smoky. Now you can call them the Smokey Mountains, as do many of the locals, especially here in North Carolina, but the more prevalent Tennessee spelling is “Smoky” and that was chosen as the official adjective of the park. Perhaps it was a cost saving measure. The elimination of all of those “E’s” over all those years must have saved a small fortune on signage and printing costs. I mean, that could be millions of “E’s” saved over all of the years since the park was dedicated. And when you think about it, it’s not smoke at all. It’s mist, or fog, or ozone and other greenhouse gases being emitted from the foliage. But the Cherokee named the range Shaconage which roughly translates to the place of blue smoke. (Richard Weisser).
Johnathan Creek is a babbling, frolicking little creek that alternately rushes and meanders along its course through the Great Smoky Mountains. We hiked the part the goes through Maggie Valley, North Carolina.
It use to be farmland around here.
But time has taken it’s toll:
Some of the older homes are pretty neat.
This modern house was just completed on the creek:
It has all the modern conveniences you can ask for, including a Jacuzzi and hot tub that looks over the creek.
Unfortunately, when everything was said and done, they realized they forgot to put in a bathroom.
No problem, they improvised:
We have been here now since July. The pool was supposed to be finished when we arrived.
No progress in the last 4 months.
The campground normally has many activities, but most have been cancelled because of the china virus.
However, today they did have a New Year celebration.
I guess they had leftover decorations. There was entertainment.
Plus it was chilly.
He was Ok, but won’t make the circle.
Watching all the fires on the west coast, and being a firefighter for 28 years, got me wondering about fire protection here in the Smoky Mountains. As it happens, there is a fire station about 1/4 mile from our campground.
The Savannah Volunteer Fire Department was organized in June of 1978. Darrell Woodard was one of the founding members. He became Chief in October 1984 and continues to hold that position today. On July 1, 2009 he became the only paid permanent member of the department.
I spoke with Chief Woodard today who told me that his fire district covers 27 miles and his department currently has 42 members.
So far this year they ran 147 calls. Most of the calls are for traffic accidents and medical emergencies. They only have about 3 structure fires a year.
The Fire Department gets its name from the The Savannah River drainage basin which extends into the southeastern side of the Appalachian Mountains just inside North Carolina, and runs by the fire station.
Since we are in the middle of a forest, I asked if his fire department is also responsible for forest fires? His response was “if no structures are threatened by a forest fire, they assist the forest service.”
Like Fallston, Md, my home fire company, there are no hydrants in his district, however Dillsboro, with the closest fire hydrant, is only 7 miles away, which allows them to refill the water in their equipment.
In comparing my fire company with his, we found there was no real differences. Same structure, problems, and politics.
Tidbit of Information: Benjamin Franklin, at age 30, established Philadelphia’s first fire department. Sometimes called Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade, Benjamin Franklin was a volunteer firefighter in The Union Fire Company, formed on December 7, 1736 (that’s 40 years before the revolution).
This area was first settled around 1838 when the Indians left. Originally named Painter, it was renamed Cullowhee in 1903. Downtown Cullowhee was destroyed in the flood of 1940, and never rebuilt.
The area is most noted as the location of the Judaculla Rock. Supposedly this stone was carved 1,500 years ago, that would make it year 520. Petroglyphs are images and designs engraved within a rock’s surfaces to symbolize important places, stories or events. If done today it is graffiti, if done a thousand years ago, a Petroglyph.
The name of the town is derived from the Cherokee phrase joolth-cullah-wee, which translates as “Judaculla’s Place”. Judaculla was the Cherokee legendary giant and master of animals. According to Cherokee legend, Judaculla was a slant-eye giant (that would be considered racist today) who lived high up in the Balsam Mountains. He guarded his hunting grounds from Judaculla’s Judgment Seat, today known as Devil’s Courthouse, a site on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
As legend has it, once, a party of disrespectful hunters came through his land, Judaculla chased them down the mountain. With a mighty leap, the angry giant landed here on this boulder. Putting his hand down to steady himself, he left his mark on the rock’s surface. The impression of his hand can still be seen at the lower right of the rock.
I was not impressed with the rock. In fact, if I were not told it was a Petroglyph, I would have just stepped on it, continuing on my hike.
Maybe the rain and weather of a thousand years has made it less impressive. Here is an illustration of what the rock carvings are supposed to look like:
What do the carvings mean? Fortunately, the Cherokee left us a message:
Sometime things just don’t work out.
We visited Cross Creek RV Park, located in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, where some of our RV friends were camping, about 45 minutes from us across a mountain range. (Maggie Valley is 35 miles west of downtown Asheville.)
The first white settlers moved into this Valley, called Cataloochee Valley, in 1805. Maggie Mae Setzer was born in this valley on December 21, 1890. Her father, Jack Setzer, wanted to establish a post office in the Valley as the nearest one was 5 miles away, over the mountains. In 1900 he petitioned the U.S Postmaster. The Post Office Authorities required a name for the post office, so Jack submitted his daughter’s name. Four years later, on May 10, 1904, Jack received a letter from the US Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock that the post office authorities had granted his petition. The official name of the mountain settlement post office was to be Maggie, NC.
The Town is mostly closed because of the China Virus. However, we were informed that there was a hiking trail from the campground up the mountain that led to a spectacular waterfalls.
Our plan was to meet our friends for breakfast, hike the trail to the waterfalls, and then spend the rest of the day and evening playing cards, and games.
The trail was a well marked gravel stone path. However it was a steep 6% to 9% grade.
We hike the trail to the top, about 1.5 miles, which took us an hour and a half. This is what we saw:
No waterfalls. Not even an overlook. Just a circular end.
It took us 55 minutes to go back down the trail. I think the return trip was harder on our legs than the trek up.
200 yards from the beginning of the trail was this:
I hardly call this trickle a waterfalls.
The campground in which we are staying (Fort Tatham RV Park) has a zip code of Sylva, North Carolina. The city of Sylva, and now the County Seat of Jackson County, NC, is about 5 miles from our campground (see Day 1348). The closest Town to us, about 4 miles, is Webster. In April 1853 for one hundred dollars an eighteen acre tract of land bought from Nathan Allen became the site of Webster, Jackson’s county seat. Five years later an act to incorporate the town of Webster was passed by North Carolina’s General Assembly. Webster was for sixty years the county seat.
Jackson County was named for the Democratic president and North Carolinian, Andrew Jackson, while the County’s government center of Webster was named for the New England Whig, Daniel Webster. Prosperity came to the region. Webster, with its agriculture, mining and small businesses, became an active little town – the nucleus of Jackson County.
During the construction of the Western North Carolina Railroad, county residents fully expected the railroad to run through Webster. However, the county’s state government representative — said to be fond of his drink — was taken aside at a crucial moment in the voting process and plied with liquor by an individual desiring a route through Sylva, 1 mile away.
Change came in 1913, when most of the businesses in the Town of Webster were destroyed by fire. That and the fact that the railroad went through Sylva, resulted in the County Seat of Jackson County being moved to Sylva, where the Court House was built.
Today, in Webster, there is no downtown area. Individual buildings do remain, such as the Webster Methodist Church built in 1887.
And Walter E. Moore’s house built in 1886, one of the oldest homes in Webster that escaped the destruction of the 1913 fire.
The Webster Rock School was constructed in 1937 from local river rock by the Works Progress Administration in colors of tan and brown. The WPA was a New Deal agency, employing millions of job-seekers (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads. Do you think we need that today?
Went to three rock Concerts:
Indian Creek Falls
Juney Whank Falls
Toms Branch Falls
Indian Creek Falls is actually more of a water slide than a true waterfall. It is 45 feet.
The other 2 falls are each 80 feet.
We arrived at these falls by way of the Deep Creek Trail, which was one of the first trails constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the newly legislated (June 15, 1934) Great Smoky National Park. This part of the park is just a few miles from Bryson City (see Day 1336).
Today, the park bearing the name of the Smoky Mountains encompasses more than 800 square miles. Just over half of this landmass lies within the state of North Carolina, with the rest in Tennessee. The park boasts 750 miles of trails, including 71 miles of the Appalachian Trail which runs along the crest of the Smokies.
The creek’s gentle gradient, plus the fact that while it may be shallow (12-18 inches) it is deep by Smokies standards, making it ideal for floating downstream on a tube.
As you can see, although North Carolina has a high infection rate of the China Virus, everyone practices social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
Part of our hike to the falls took us on a horse trial. Barbara said the horse that left these droppings is 45 minutes ahead of us.
She determined this by noting the temperature as she squished through her fingers.
I will leave that thought with you until next time.
Let’s start today’s blog with a trivia question: Why is this woman famous?
Her name is Elizabeth Blackwell. If you know the answer before I tell you below, let me know in the comment section. Fabulous prizes could be yours.
Asheville is best known as the location of George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate and the home of American novelist Thomas Wolfe. The first we have been too a number of times before we started RVing, and the latter I will discuss shortly.
Samuel Ashe was born March 24, 1725 (that is 50 years before the American Revolution) in Beaufort, Province of North Carolina. He studied law and was named Assistant Attorney for The Crown in the Wilmington district of the North Carolina Colony. He ultimately became involved in the revolutionary movement. After serving in the War, he became active in politics, and in 1795, the General Assembly of North Carolina elected him governor at the age of 70. He served three one-year terms, the maximum constitutional limit, before retiring in 1798. Thereafter he remained active in politics until his death.
In 1784 a town was established where two old Indian trails crossed. By 1793 the town had grown and was named Morristown. In 1797, Morristown was incorporated and renamed “Asheville” after North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe. (Of course you know all about Samuel Ashe, because I just told you.)
We strolled through Asheville utilizing their 2 mile walking self-guided tour. I was not impressed with the city. It was dirty and grungy, and they did not do a good job of preserving their rich history. Most historic sites merely had a plaque that identified it, as the historic buildings themselves had long ago been destroyed.
All museums and public buildings were closed as a result of the china virus, even the Basilica of St. Lawrence. This building had not been previously closed since it was built in 1909. If a house to God is closed, what is left?
In 1924, the Jackson Building became North Carolina’s tallest skyscraper. It is 13 stories.
North Carolina’s most famous writer is Thomas Clayton Wolfe, born October 3, 1900 in Asheville, North Carolina. He could not have been that famous as I never heard of him, and I minored in English Literature in college.
Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, was published in 1929 and although a commercial success, was not well received by the citizens of Asheville. They recognized the characters were based on them, and they did not appreciate their dirty laundry aired.
Thomas’s mother ran a boarding house, called “Old Kentucky Home” where he grew up. It is now a memorial too Wolfe.
Usually open for tours, but not now.
Another Asheville native is Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, who began her medical studies here and was the first women to receive a medical degree in the United States. Medicinal herbs decorate the bench honoring Dr. Blackwell.
We walked another portion of the Little Tennessee River Greenway.
This took us through a butterfly garden.
The trail crossed the river by bridge 4 times during this walk.
Of the four bridges, this is the only one from which you could not commit suicide.
Probably because the water was so murky they did not want you to get sick if you did not die.
We stopped by the waterfalls.
We saw the mower’s convention.
All and all, a pretty nice day.
The town was named for Jesse Franklin, born March 24, 1760, in Orange County, Virginia, who surveyed and organized the town in 1820. Jesse Franklin served North Carolina as a senator and as its 20th governor. The town of Franklin was not incorporated until 1855.
The town is located in a valley surrounded by some pretty high mountains. Driving here we had to go up and down 8% grades. As usual, I just kept my eyes closed.
Throughout these mountains rivers and streams run. Naturally, some of the restaurants in Franklin are on these waterways.
Prior to the White Man taking over here, the Cherokee Indians called this area home. The area that is now Franklin was named “Nikwasi” or “center of activity”. The remains of the Nikwasi Mound are still visible in downtown Franklin, marking the location of Nikwasi’s spiritual center. A Council House used for councils, religious ceremonies, and general meetings was located on top the mound, as well as the ever-burning sacred fire, which the Cherokee had kept burning since the beginning of their culture.
In 1761 the British, former allies of the Cherokee, destroyed Nikwasi. After the Cherokees rebuilt, the Americans destroyed it in 1776. The Cherokees rebuilt again and lived here until they were forced out in 1819.
You are probably wondering how I know all this. Simple, the Cherokee’s left a plaque.
Tidbit of Information: William Holland Thomas was born February 5, 1805 on Raccoon Creek, two miles east of Mount Prospect, later called Waynesville, North Carolina. He was related to the Calvert family, the founders of the colony of Maryland, through his mother the grandniece of Lord Baltimore. Thomas had the distinction of being the only white man to serve as a Cherokee Chief, and an adopted member of the Cherokee Nation. But, that is a story for another time.
In 1997, Duke Power acquired property along the Little Tennessee River, which runs through Franklin, to built power lines. After completion of the power system they deeded the property to the Town of Franklin who constructed the Tennessee River Greenway, a 4.7 mile paved trail along the River, part of which we walked today. Thank you Duke.
Like all the cities and towns we have come across in this area of North Carolina, there was a statute dedicated to the Confederate soldier who died defending his home in the war of northern aggression.
Bryson City, North Carolina is located about 70 miles southwest of Asheville, NC.
The historic courthouse is now the city visitor center, and for a change, was open with a nice exhibit on the area.
The Tuckasegee River flows directly through the City.
Bryson City use to be the Cherokee settlement of Kituwa, which stood here for hundreds of years.
Thaddeus Dillard Bryson was born February 13, 1829 in Haywood County, North Carolina. On September 7, 1861 he was Commissioned a Colonel in the 20th North Carolina Infantry of the Confederate Army. After the war, in September 1868, he acquired a large tract of land on the north side of the Tuckasegee River. 17,000 Cherokee Indians had been forced out of the area in 1838, leaving the land open for white man settlement. The town was originally called Charleston. The Postal Service screwed up the mail because it confused this city with Charleston, South Carolina. They are not even close to each other. Nevertheless, in 1889 the name was changed by the citizens, population 25, to Bryson City, to acknowledge the many services rendered to the city by Thaddeus Bryson.
We hiked the Bartram Trail in the Nantahala National Forest to a lookout tower on Wayah Bald said to present a spectacular 360 degree view of the Nantahala, Appalachian, and Great Smoky Mountains. We were not disappointed.
Wayah Bald is the highest point on the trail where it crosses the Appalachian Trail (which is blazed white, for those that are interested).
The trail is named for William Bartram, born April 20, 1739 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a naturalist, who crossed here in 1776 looking for new plants.
The drive to Wayah Bald can be a dizzying one if you aren’t used to hairpin turns and switchbacks. From the bottom of the mountain at 2,095 feet above sea level, to Wayah Bald lookout tower at 5,342 feet is a 40 minute 13.2 mile drive over a winding very narrow road. The last 4.5 miles are on a dirt fire service road. A Bald is an area of a mountain top not covered by trees. Wayah Bald was named by the Cherokee Indians who called the area Wa-ya, Cherokee for wolf, which inhabited the area.
The tower was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corp to accommodate personnel observing the Nantahala National Forest, keeping watch over the area for wildfires.
Three miles from the top, we came across the first forest ranger station of the newly formed Nantahala National Forest, built in 1916.
The forest got it’s name from the Cherokee word meaning “Land of the Noonday Sun.” Because of the dense trees, the sun only hit the ground at high noon (as opposed to low noon?).
We then went to Bridal Veil Falls, a 45-foot waterfall not too far from the lookout tower. I could not find it.
Oh, there it is. I was under it the whole time.
Well, the china virus has finally effected us. No, we don’t have it. Our plan was to leave North Carolina and proceed to Maine. Maine’s border is closed to anyone traveling through New York State. Not just New York City, but the whole state.
When we booked our campsite at Moonshine RV Campground, we booked through the July 4th holiday, and planned to move north. By the time we tried booking in Maine, and New York, the campground here had completely booked up through September. We spend two days boon-docking in the middle of the woods, with no facilities (water, electric, sewer), which was fine with me, we can be independent for up to 7 days.
We found our current campground had openings. It was only 21 miles from Moonshine campground. Actually, we are on another creek (there are dozens of them in the mountains). This is the view from our side window. Tough life, huh?
Although it is called Fort Tatham Campground, there is, and never was, a Fort Tatham. Sun Resorts like to name their campgrounds “fort”.
We are on the other side of the city of Sylva, which we have already talked about (Day 1348) still in the mountains.
From one side of Sylva to the other, North Carolina: 21.0 miles
1 hour 10 minutes
Waynesville, North Carolina, is located 30 miles southwest of Asheville, N.C. between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge mountains.
The town of Waynesville was founded in 1810 by Colonel Robert Love, born May 11, 1760, in Augusta County, Virginia, a Revolutionary War soldier. He donated the land and named the town after his former commander in the war, General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. General Wayne was born January 1, 1745 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him promotion to brigadier general and the nickname “Mad Anthony”. Waynesville was incorporated as a town in 1871.
On May 6, 1865, Union Colonel William C. Bartlett’s 2nd North Carolina Mounted Infantry, the Union Garrison at Waynesville, were attacked by a detachment of rebels from Col. William Holland Thomas’s Legion of Highlanders, who had been summoned by the locals of Waynesville. Thomas’ Legion fired “The Last Shot” of the Civil War here. The following day the Confederate and Union commanders negotiated a surrender. They had been made aware that Generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston had already surrendered and that continued hostilities would prove pointless.
The claim that Waynesville saw the last shot fired in the Civil War is unsubstantiated, and the Battle of Palmito Ranch is considered as the final battle of the Civil War. It was fought May 12, 1865, on the banks of the Rio Grande east of Brownsville, Texas (see Day 269).
We explored Waynesville to look for evidence of the last shot theory, but nothing has been preserved from the Civil War. In fact, no mention of that theory is mentioned anywhere (although it might have been in one of their closed museums).
So, I set off for the old Strand Theater which is now a coffee and ice cream shop. Sadly, it was closed today.
Waynesville today, although the County Seat, is nothing more than antique shops, and tourist traps.
Lake Junaluska in the Blue Ridge Mountains was named after Chief Junaluska, a Cherokee leader, born in 1775.
He fought alongside Andrew Jackson and saved his life at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27, 1814 (see Day 807). The Chief was alleged to have said upon the removal of the Cherokee Indians from North Carolina by President Jackson: “If I had known at the battle of the Horseshoe Bend what I know now, American history would have been differently written”.
Tidbit of Information: During the Civil War, The CSS Junaluska of the Confederate States Navy was named for him.
We hiked the 2 miles around the lake.
We got caught in a rain shower and were able to take refuge in a gazebo along the lake.
There was plenty of wildlife along the lake.
and I don’t know what this is:
Along the lake were manicured lawns.
and a rose trail.
with roses coming into bloom.
We are now, literally, in the middle of the mountains in Western North Carolina, a few miles from the city of Sylva. The campground is just South of the Great Smoky Mountains in the mountain range known as Plott Balsam Mountains.
Smack-dab in the middle of this photograph is Moonshine Mountain Creek Campground, where we are currently located.
If you look really, really, really hard, you still can’t see us. Turning 180 degrees is the Great Smoky Mountains.
Our campsite backs up to Moonshine Mountain Creek, which is part of Jones Creek. Because so many creeks are in this mountainest area, the origins of their names have been lost.
Going through these mountain with our 22 foot truck and 40 ft Sphinx was a challenge. It really didn’t bother me as I kept my eyes closed most of the time. I had to tune out Barbara’s screaming.
At the campground, we played various games with some friends. Their campsite had a deck built over the creek, how cool.
The town of Sylvia developed as a center of local commerce after the coming of the railroad in the 1880s. Incorporated March 9, 1889, Sylva is named for Danish handyman William D. Selvey. I guess some people are just impressive.
The Jackson County Courthouse, on Main Street, was built in 1913. The Courthouse served as the county’s courthouse from 1914 until the present Justice Center was built in 1994. The courthouse building is now the county library. The Courthouse can be reached by climbing 107 steps from Main Street.
Because of the China Virus, access to the library is by appointment only. We convinced them to let us in to look at the structure and was directed to the historical librarian who gave us a verbal tour of the building.
Like all public buildings in North Carolina this week, we were required to wear “face coverings” (I guess they changed the name to get around people wearing batman masks).
The literature said there were 107 steps leading up to the library’s front portico from the plaza at street level. Barbara counted only 105. I told her she should go back and recount them. However the historical librarian told us two steps were taken out when the fountain was installed. Barbara was relieved.
From the top of the Courthouse steps was a neat view of Sylva.
If the town looks familiar, you probably recognize it from the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” which was filmed here. You remember movie houses, those places where people met and ate popcorn.
McDonald, Tennessee to Sylva, North Carolina: 141.7 miles
3 hours 45 minutes
Today’s hike took us to Moccasin Bend, Tennessee. The trail goes through the forest,
Because we were so close to the swamps, the trail was pretty muddy.
I made sure Barbara went first to clear all the spider webs.
Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga choo choo? I am sorry, but this song is racist, it will have to be removed.
Chattanooga welcomed its first rail line with the arrival of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in 1850. A few years later, in 1858, the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad also arrived in Chattanooga. The city quickly became a railroad hub with industries springing up in the area to take advantage of the new transportation corridors.
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, was founded by a small group of local residents in 1961 who were intent on trying to save some American history by preserving, restoring, and operating authentic railway equipment from the “Golden Age of Railroading.”
The museum operates 3 miles of tracks near the original East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad right of way.
We rode locomotive 4501 which ran for Southern Railway throughout East Tennessee during its career. It is a 2-8-2 Mikado-type steam locomotive built in 1911 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia.
The name “Mikado,” a Japanese word meaning “emperor,” came about because the first engine of this type was sold to the Japanese state railways. “2-8-2” refers to the wheel arrangement: two small pilot wheels in front, eight large drive wheels, and two small trailing wheels in the back to help support a large firebox.
We rode this train from Grand Junction
to East Chattanooga and back.
Since there is only 1 track between the two stations, when we got to East Chattanooga the engine and coal car are disconnected from the passenger cars and placed on a turntable which rotate it around so it can go on a parallel tract to take it to the other end of the passenger cars for the return trip.
The last car of the train, in which we were riding to East Chattanooga, now becomes the first car on our return trip.
Uh-Oh, this fell off, do you think it will effect anything?
Barbara still goes for those guys in uniform.
A long time desire of Steve Hunt to have a winery was realized in March 2006 when he opened “The Ocoee Winery” in Cleveland, Tennessee.
We spoke with Steve Hunt who told us he does not grow his own grapes, but purchases locally-grown grapes to make his wine.The wine is made on the premises and sold only in the winery.
We went there with friends to taste the wine of this local winery.
Steve gave us a tour of his bottling plant including a demonstration of this label maker.
He explained to us how this machine corks his bottles while holding up a finger to show us a missing digit when he did not heed the warning not to put your hand in the corker.
I bet the person who bought that bottle of wine was surprised.
Cleveland is located in southeast Tennessee roughly 15 miles west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Established in 1838, the first Europeans to reach the area now occupied by Cleveland were most likely an expedition led by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto on the night of June 2, 1540 (it appears he was not here during the day).
Andrew Taylor, born November 2, 1760 in Augusta County, Virginia, came to what is now Cleveland as one of the first settlers. His settlement, known as “Taylor’s Place”, became a favorite stopping place for travelers due largely to the site’s excellent water sources. By legislative act on January 20, 1838, Taylor’s Place was established as the County seat of Bradley County to be named “Cleveland” after Colonel Benjamin Cleveland, a commander at the Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolution.
Walking through Cleveland we saw some unique houses, such as Casper the Ghost’s house. I’ll spare you their history, as I can see your eyes are glazing over.
For over 100 years politicians have given speeches from a bandstand sitting on this spot in front of the Courthouse. Ok Barbara, I will do whatever you say.
John H. Craigmiles was born in 1823, Cynthia County, Kentucky. He was a prominent businessman who made his fortune selling goods to the Confederate army during the war. On October 18, 1871 his 7 year old daughter, Nina, was riding with her grandfather, Dr. Gideon Thompson, when the buggy in which they were traveling was struck by a train. Dr. Thompson was thrown clear, but Nina died instantly.
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was built by the Craigmiles Family in memory of their daughter, Nina. The Craigmiles were a very prominent family in Cleveland and therefore no expense was spared in the building of the church.
Saint Luke’s was completed on October 18, 1874 the third anniversary of Nina’s death.
Cleveland, Tennessee was a divided community at the start of the Civil War, with a majority favoring the North. The Confederates occupied the city to control the railroads from June 1861 until November 25, 1863 when Union forces took the city and held it to the end of the war.
I took a picture of this Confederate Monument erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911 before they tear it down, which seems to be the trend now-a-days.
I also took this picture of Lee University before they change the name to Floyd University. Actually the university was not named for Robert E. but for Flavius J. Lee. Don’t you love parents who would name their child Flavius. “Oh Flavius, time for dinner.”
Lee College, now Lee University, was founded by the Church of God as a Bible Training School on January 1, 1918. Named for Flavius J. Lee, second president of the college and church leader.
Is that Captain Morgan, no, it is Colonel Benjamin Cleveland.
Colonel Benjamin Cleveland was born in Orange County, Virginia, on May 28, 1738. He was an American pioneer and officer in the North Carolina militia where he fought in the Battle of Kings Mountain (see Day 251). Cleveland Tennessee is named in his honor, but not Cleveland Ohio, which was named after another Cleveland.
Got to go before the tornado touches down.
McDonald Tennessee is a small community outside Cleveland, Tennessee. Nobody seems to know anything about McDonald. It is thought it was established in 1850, but no one knows why, or for whom it is named. Isn’t that pathetic?
Some of the places we visit suggest wearing a mask:
They were not amused.
Cave City, Kentucky to McDonald, Tennessee: 247.4 miles
5 hours 8 minutes
Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world with 400 miles of surveyed passages.
The cave’s name refers to the large width and length of the passages. These passages were formed by the flow of the Green River which also carved out huge rooms.
The park was established as a national park on July 1, 1941. The cave has a long and storied history spanning hundreds of years, which you would probably find boring.
Normally Mammoth Cave has 8 guided tours. Because of the China Virus, they have all been cancelled. Now, most of the Cave is closed to the public because of its narrow passages which would cause people to bunch up. The only thing that is open is a self guided tour of about a mile and a half into the cave limited to the wide passages and rooms.
Concluding from trash left behind, archeologists have determined the cave was first explored about 4,000 years ago.
What? A room built inside the cave? Yep, For a while parts of the cave were used to treat tuberculosis patients. It was thought that the air of the cave rendered a cure. They were wrong.
You do have to watch out, you never know what will come out of these million year old caves.
In October, 1853, 4 businessmen from Louisville, Kentucky, formed a land company and purchased the land Cave City now stands. They envisioned a resort town to accommodate the visitors to nearby Mammoth Cave. Cave City was incorporated in 1866 as their vision became a reality. Aside from tourism, the city’s economy is largely retail focusing on antiques and consignment stores. However that reality is now over as we toured the city to find, as a result of the china virus, every single business closed, with the city looking like a ghost town.
So, we looked for other things to do.
We went to Munfordville (named after Richard Jones Munford, who donated the land to establish the new county seat in 1816) to view Kentucky’s Stonehenge.
It is the creation of Munfordville native Chester Fryer. After acquiring over 1,000 acres of land here, Fryer relocated nearly every large rock he could find in order to create his masterpiece. I sure would like to know how he moved and stacked those suckers.
We spent the rest of the day hiking the Green River.
The Green River is a 384-mile-long tributary of the Ohio River. Over thousands of years this river formed Mammoth Cave, located along river miles 188 to 210.
In a theory that is too complicated for my pea brain to understand, part of the river flows underground, as the river flows through what is now the cave, it dissolved limestone deposits causing multiple layers in the cave, these started as sinkholes.
Looking from the top of part of the mountain I could not see the sinkholes. I hiked down the mountain and found one.
I wanted to take a photo looking straight down the sinkhole, but as I took the next step after taking the above photo, I began to sink into the riverbed. So, that is the best I can give you.
I am not exactly sure how this underground river works, but this diagram is supposed to explain it.
This is what we saw:
Nevertheless it was a nice, strenuous hike, particularly climbing back up the mountain.
Columbus, Indiana to Cave City, Kentucky: 151.6 miles
3 hours 2 minutes
We are leaving Amish Country and heading for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.
As we are leaving the campground, we pass the pasture with the Amish Belgium Work horses. You can tell they are Belgium by their accent.
We stopped here in Columbus for one night without unhooking the Sphinx from the Truck.
And, therefore, did not explore the town or the area. Sometimes you just want to stop for the night and lay around and do nothing. Since I am laying around doing nothing, I decided to do some calculations. We have now been on the road for 4 years. Including campsite fees, food, diesel, propane, restaurants, admission to museums and events, and hotspot coverage for communications and internet, our costs are $90.34 a day. At home our costs were about $120.00 a day.
Shipshewana, Indiana to Columbus, Indiana: 227.9 miles
4 hours 28 minutes
When Lewis Fidler returned to Goshen Indiana after serving in the Navy during World War II, he opened up a filling station. He made a decent living, but the nearby land proved to be more valuable. He purchased the land intending to sell it to developers, but used it to start a sand and gravel business.
Then in 1955, Fidler bought a ready-mix concrete company, followed by a concrete block company. Taking the gravel from the ground create a huge pit, which filled with water and today is called Fidler Pond, after being purchased by the city of Goshen for $550,000. The city turned the land into Fidler Pond Park, opening Labor Day, 2013.
Today’s hike took us around the pond.
The pond, at its deepest, is 69 feet.
This is the same turtle we saw at Goshen Millrace. He must have followed us here.
When we met with Orvan Fry to have the Sphinx inspected by him for repairs and possible updates, he suggest we have the vehicles weighed. We do this once a year or so. There are limits as to what the Sphinx can carry. It is rated for 16,000 pounds. From that we subtract the weight of all the contents, bed, sofa, chairs, etc. All those weights are given us when we purchased the RV. We are also informed of the cargo capacity after those weights are subtracted, which is 3,175 lbs. That would be all the stuff we put in the RV, clothes, food in the fridge, lawn chairs, etc. Don’t forget we also add water and poop (Barbara more than I). Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. We have three 40 gallon waste tanks, and a 60 gallon fresh water tank.
We took the truck and Sphinx to a granary where they had a scale for large vehicles. We weighed the truck first, then we weighed the truck hooked up to the Sphinx, but only the truck wheels on the scale. We subtract the stand alone truck weight from this weight which tells us the amount of weight the Sphinx hitch is placing in the bed of the truck. We then weigh the truck and Sphinx together. Subtracting the truck and hitch weight from the total weight of the 2 vehicles tells us the weight on the axles of the Sphinx. Listed on the truck (just like your car) and the Sphinx are the actual weights each vehicle can carry. As it turns out, we are 80 lbs below our maximum weight.
Barbara now realizes she can buy 80 more pounds of stuff. So off we go to the little shops run by the Amish in Shipshewana.
Unfortunately, we walk by a candy store where I stocked up on my favorites, now she can only buy 70 lbs. of stuff.
While Barbara was shopping, I was talking to an Amish guy making fresh caramel popcorn. It turns out he and his wife offer a home cooked Amish dinner for us tourists. So I signed us up.
John and Elaine have a small farm just outside Shipshewana. We arrived early and walked around.
They plant a garden and grow a lot of their own food. Being Amish, they are not hooked up to the electric grid. However, they do have solar panels to supplement their diesel and propane generators.
We were joined by 2 other couples for dinner.
After dinner we sat around and talked. Thereafter Elaine played on a keyboard
and we sang non denominational songs, like Amazing Grace. Then more leisure conversation to wrap up the evening.
All this, an Amish tradition.
The Goshen Hydraulic Canal (The Millrace) was put into service on April 18, 1868, the same day Goshen, Indiana was incorporated as a city. It was designed to provide water power to the new industries in the area and was progressively used for steam generation, electrical generation, ice production, recreation and much more.
A Millrace is a body of water used to turn a water wheel.
We hiked the canal.
Along the banks you can hear the croaking of frogs. Once in a while, they would greet us on the trail.
You never knew what is going to pop up out of the canal, a snake,
Wildflowers were abundant.
When you came to a widening of the canal, ducks and geese would gather.
We came across this family
At the beginning of the trail, you could take the path we took along the canal, or another path that took you through the woods. Both were about the same length, 5 miles round trip. This made this sign very amusing. At this point the trials crossed. To take this picture I am standing on the woods trial. The cross traffic that does not stop is us. (As you can see, Barbara did stop.)
Various bridges crossed the canal
One of the oldest and unique was this stone bridge. Originally built of wood in the 1880’s by the Hawks Furniture Company, it was rebuilt of stone in 1905 when the wooden bridge was destroyed. Its purpose was to carry people and goods between the company’s two building on either side of the canal.
We had to pause as Barbara herded a gaggle of geese across the trail.
Is this the source of the canal?
While the Sphinx is being worked on, we toured the Amish towns in the area. We began with a hike on The Little Elkhart River.
Just off the river were some very nice parks
Continuing our walk along the river we came upon the Bonneyville Mill.
Normally we would go through the mill, looking at the millstones and explore the grinding process. Because of the china virus, the mill was closed to visitors. However, the mill master did give us a verbal tour, him inside, and us out.
We then drove the Heritage Trail which took us through 6 small towns: Elkhart, Goshen, Nappanee, Middlebury, Bristol (is this where the Bristol Stomp came from?), and Wakarusa. This time of year, the main draw of the trail are the six Quilt Gardens.
Starting last week, and proceeding through September 14, 2020, Gardens are designed and planted in the shape of Quilts.
We stopped at Enchanted Gardens, where they had a petting zoo
However, some of the animals were practicing social distancing
This ostrich wanted to pluck my eye out.
We talked to Sara who is the chief planter of the Quilt Garden in Wakarusa, Indiana. This bed was planted two weeks ago. 15 volunteers planted 3,000 plants in 4 hours to make this design.
Well, I see it is time to go:
Because of the China Virus we spent an extend time in Louisiana, just above New Orleans, where we got caught in the Country Lockdown. Now that the lockdown has been lifted, we find that the reason we would go to our next destination is not available at this time, with all museums and public places still closed. So, we decided, now is a good time to have minor, non-essential maintenance done on the Sphinx.
The best place to have work done on a Cedar Creek 5th wheel is a small shop in Topeka, Indiana. So off we went (one of the great things of having your house on wheels), through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, and Indiana, 1008 miles, 8 days, where we set up camp in Shipshewana, a few miles from the repair shop.
We have been to Shipshewana before (see Day 417). Indiana is where 70% of all RV’s are manufactured. Forest River, the manufacturer of the Cedar Creek 5th Wheel, is located in Elkhart, Indiana, because of the heavy Amish population whom they employ for their highly skilled craftsmanship.
The shop we took the Sphinx today, Amish Family RV, is owned by Orvan Fry, who was employed by Forest River, Cedar Creek Division, for 17 years. When he left there, he opened up his own shop and works strictly on Cedar Creek Recreational Vehicles. He is renowned throughout the Country for his workmanship. We had met him at a Forest River Rally in Goshen Indiana a number of years ago (see Day 420).
While we were at his shop today to outline what we wanted done, he pointed out other items that, if attended to now, would help us avoid other problems in the future. We also decided to have some upgrades made to the Sphinx, since we are already here.
Elizabethtown, Kentucky to Shipshewana, Indiana: 332.6 miles
6 hours 48 minutes
Diesel: $1.94 gallon
I know the suspense is killing you. Where did Thomas Lincoln, his wife, Nancy Hanks, and their 2 year old daughter Sarah Lincoln go when they left Elizabethtown?
They only moved about 10 miles to a 300 acre farm Thomas bought after being kicked out of his previous farm because of a land title dispute involving the person from whom Lincoln bought the farm and the previous owner. On the new farm, their cabin was a standard dirt floor, one room log cabin, their property was named Sinking Spring Farm because it contained this spring that bubbled from the bottom of a cave. (The water dripping is from the recent rains.)
On February 12, 1809 Thomas and Nancy had their second child, a son. They named him Abraham. Although Abraham did obtain some modicum of success, his life was cut short on April 15, 1865, when the 56 year old man was shot and killed.
The original log cabin of Abraham’s birth has long deteriorated and was dismantled long before anyone knew he would be famous 50 years later. A replica of this log cabin was built and placed in this Memorial Building.
Because of the current china virus pandemic, the building was closed, and you could not see inside.
In 1793, one year after Kentucky became the 15th state of the Union, Colonel Andrew Hynes, born February 28, 1750 in Hagerstown, Maryland, who was an officer during the Revolutionary War and an Indian fighter thereafter, purchased 30 acres of land in the Severn’s Valley Settlement of Kentucky. This settlement, 14 years earlier in 1779, was the first permanent settlement in the area and was called Severns Valley after John Severns who came here with 17 pioneers and their families, mostly from Maryland and Virginia.
Haynes surveyed and laid off the land into lots and streets and formed Elizabethtown, named in honor of his wife, Elizabeth Warford Hynes. The town was established by the Kentucky Legislature on July 4, 1797 as “the town of Elizabeth”.
The community became an important stop along the railroad and a strategic point during the Civil War.
In fact, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s Raiders arrived in Elizabethtown on December 27, 1862, appearing on the brow of the hill that is now the City Cemetery. The main objective of the Christmas Raid was to burn two Louisville & Nashville Railroad trestles on Muldraugh Hill north of the town. The Confederates placed artillery on the hill and demanded the surrender of the Union garrison. They refused and Morgan’s artillery opened fire. The bombardment lasted twenty minutes. 3,900 Confederates engaged 652 Federals, 107 rounds were fired upon the buildings of the town killing or wounding 7 of the soldiers who had taken refuge there.
You’ll never guess what we found on Mulberry Street.
We found this blue building with a big arrow on it.
During the Confederate barrage one ball hit the bank building located on this corner, lodging in the wall just under a third-story window.
In 1887 a fire destroyed the entire block and the cannonball fell with the wall. When the building was rebuilt, the cannonball was placed in the same spot, as near as possible, where it had originally landed.
From 1871 to 1873, the Seventh Cavalry and a battalion of the Fourth Infantry, led by General George Armstrong Custer, were assigned to Elizabethtown. They were stationed in the community to suppress the Ku Klux Klan and Carpet Baggers and to break up illegal distilleries which began to flourish in the South after the Civil War. Custer died 3 years later on June 26, 1876 of arrow ventilation.
Abraham Lincoln did not live here,
but Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks did from the time of their marriage, June 12 1806, until their removal in 1808. Thomas Lincoln was born on January 6, 1778 in Linville Creek, Virginia. He was descendent from Samuel Lincoln, who in 1637 landed and became part of the English settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
After boundary disputes due to defective titles and Kentucky’s chaotic land laws, complicated by the absence of certified land surveys and the use of subjective or arbitrary landmarks to determine land boundaries. Lincoln, his wife and daughter moved 10 miles down the road to another farm he had bought.
Athens, Alabama to Elizabethtown, Kentucky: 229.8 miles
4 hours 22 minutes
Athens, Alabama, named after the city in Greece, was incorporated in 1818, one year before the State was admitted to the Union.
We went to Athens, but it was closed. Even the Church was refusing sanctuary.
We hiked along Swan Creek, a Tributary of the Tennessee River.
This is the first time in months we have been able to hike. It was a beautiful pleasant day.
Meridian, Mississippi to Athens, Alabama: 236.6 miles
4 hours 20 minutes
After spending 119 days, 18 hours, 34 minutes, and 11 seconds quarantined, we are again on the road. The only casualty was our frog mascot who lost his head in the violent storm 2 days ago.
We were one of the last to leave this usually full, 260 site RV park.
On our way to Indiana, our first stop is Meridian, Mississippi.
Previously inhabited by the Choctaw Indians, the area now called Meridian was obtained by the United States in 1830 during the period of Indian removal.
The Mobile and Ohio Railroad and Southern Railway of Mississippi crossed at what was to become Meridian, Mississippi. The town was chartered in 1860 and built an economy based on the goods supplied by the railroads. Its name was chosen because the townspeople wrongly thought it was synonymous with “junction”.
Ten years after the town’s founding, Weidmann’s restaurant was opened by Swiss immigrant Felix Weidmann (I wonder if he was documented?). It was first established in the Union Hotel,
now the visitor center, where I got a lot of this information. In 1923 the restaurant was moved to 22nd Avenue where we ate lunch today (excellent, by the way). Weidmann’s is the oldest restaurant in Mississippi.
We walked the town of Meridian, looking for the Civil War history trail of the city.
We came upon the General Supply and Machine Company, still selling windmills.
The Union Station, still the hub of the town, has a new building.
We wanted to make a phone call in the station, alas, no phones anymore.
The sidewalks of the town have embedded plaques
to mark those famous artists that where born in Mississippi.
We searched in Rose Hill Cemetery looking for the Confederate Burial Mound, containing the mass burial of unknown confederate soldiers, and the grave of Charles Read, the “John Paul Jones” of the South.
We found both.
Read’s tombstone was toppled, which might have been done by the recent storm. If you look closely, is that his head you see?
We also found, to our interest, the final resting place of the King and Queen of the Gypsies
On January 31, 1915, Kelly Mitchell, “Queen of the Gypsies,” died in a gypsy camp in Coatopa, Alabama, trying and failing to give birth to her 15th child at age 47. Her husband, King Emil Mitchell, took her body to Meridian, just across the Mississippi boarder, because it was the nearest place with a refrigerated morgue. The Queen needed refrigeration because it took 12 days before America’s gypsies could assemble for her funeral. It was an elaborate service, attended by over 20,000 gypsies. Emil died 27 years later and was buried next to his wife.
The graves of the King and Queen are easy to spot in the cemetery, they’re festooned with Mardi Gras bead necklaces, trinkets, flowers, costume jewelry, and offerings of whiskey and loose change. These are not tokens of affection, but are bribes left in the belief that they will entice Kelly or Emil to enter your dreams and solve your problems.
One of the places recommended in the literature we got from the visitor’s center was F.W. Williams Home, described as
“F.W. Williams Victorian Home, circa 1886, evokes an era of the fashionably rich. Elegant interior decorating details reflect how no expense was spared.”
However, this is what we found:
It feels great to be on the road again. Keep an eye out for us.
Robert, Louisiana to Meridian, Mississippi: 209.0 miles
3 hours 51 minutes
Here we are, still in Louisiana, as we sit and sit and sit and sit. Louisiana has closed its boarders, we can’t go out, and no one can come in. Currently this is in effect until May 1st.
Although it’s not the end of the world, it most likely is a tectonic shift.
Barbara is so excited – it’s time to take out the garbage. She couldn’t decide what to wear?
I must confess, a couple of weeks ago I went to Walmart and hoarded some essentials: Ice cream, pop-corn, coca-cola, candy and cookies.
Now, I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.
My body has absorbed so much soap and disinfectant lately that when I pee it cleans the toilet.
Most of the people we were playing games left the first of the month before the travel band.
We even had to give up our wife swapping club.
It seems a shame to have this blog and nothing to write about. I am open to suggestions. When I was working, (can you believe that has been 4 years ago?), I wrote many articles for the County law bulletin, and some magazines. However, I don’t think you would be interested in law related items. No doubt those articles are no longer relevant, as the law has changed much in those 4 years, and I certainly haven’t kept up to date.
Well, time to go, I think I will make myself a strawberry milkshake, sit outside in my rocking chair and watch movies on my iPad.
It is time for us to make a decision. Where to go from here now that the warm weather is arriving. Our choices are Disney World with our family; Branson, Missouri with the group we went to Alaska with; Death Valley (my choice); or the Pacific Coast from California to Washington State. Because of the Chinese Virus, we are going nowhere.
All Federal and State parks are closed, including Death Valley (I guess they don’t want you dying of the Chinese virus in Death Valley). Disney World is closed. All museums and tourist venues are closed. In fact, some of the States we would have to travel through have closed their borders.
So, here we stay. At least they are giving us a break on the price. Nevertheless, all the attractions that bring RV’ers here, including the pool and lazy river, are closed.
This park has 210 sites. With Easter break coming all these sites were booked. Now,
they are mostly empty.
Looking optimistically to the future, the park is building an additional 25 sites.
We do get together with a group of people here to play cards and dice. They, like a lot of other people still here, are leaving at the end of March to go home. Since these are the same people that have been here for a number of months, they are already isolated in their RV’s. Don’t tell the Governor we are congregating.
Cough! Cough! Sorry, did I get any on you?
Chicken Little says: The sky is falling, the sky is falling!
Because of the China Virus, everything is closed, and therefore no blogs have been posted recently, as we have been relaxing in the RV Park. Even here, all activities have been cancelled.
The most exciting thing going on is we got a new toilet seat, you know, the one that closes slowly. Watching that is facinating.
Went to the Infinity Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi. Dedicated in 2012, the 70,000 sq. ft. center features an education wing, as well as indoor and outdoor artifacts.
The feature exhibits were on Apollo missions, and hurricanes.
It was ok, nothing I haven’t seen before on the Apollo missions. Although there is a better museum on hurricanes, and Katrina in particular, in New Orleans, there was one new interesting thing I did learned:
Anyone out there know what this is? Fabulous prizes could be yours.
Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras day,
the last day of the carnival celebration,
and the last day of parades.
The parade attendees go all out, so let’s look at them:
Even the Pope showed up
Don’t ask me
They came in all shapes and sizes
Some people really get into it
and some had better seats than others
No one was there with a long face, except maybe this horse.
Have you seen this man?
Does she color? Only her hairdresser knows for sure
Some look better from behind
Is this a man or a women?
What a clown
These are only the people around me,
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This is definitely a fun time of year.
Mardi Gras Parades are everywhere
Even here at the RV park we are staying
Residents decorated their gulf carts, and around they went.
We attended the Madisonville boat parade last year (see day 883).
Since it such a unique thing, we did it again.
Madisonville is located on the Tchefuncte River. Access is controlled by a bridge that carries Rt. 22 traffic. Unlike most bridges, this one pivots and swings out to let boats pass.
You might have a dog in your front yard. Here is the Deep South they have hogs.
The second best view of the parade is from a drone
The best view is a bird’s eye
There are over 50 parades in the New Orleans area during Carnival Season.
Since we have been here during Mardi Gras a number of times, we will only go to 2 or 3 parades, as they become redundant.
We went to this night parade in Mandeville, Louisiana
There were marching bands
Lots of Floats
Dancers – These are the milkmaids
And, of course, the gift shop
Throw me something, mister!
Barbara kidnapped this little boy. Notice she is wearing a lighted crown. I stayed away from her, so as not to be embarrassed.
We saw the lazy-boy recliner motorized group
We will probably go to the Boat Parade next.
In Maryland, the day before Ash Wednesday is called “TUESDAY”. Here in the Big Easy, the day before Ash Wednesday is called “Mardi Gras”. Louisiana is the only state in which Mardi Gras is a legal holiday.
Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday”, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.
Mardi Gras season became a prelude too Lent, the 47 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Traditionally, in the days leading up to Lent, merrymakers would binge on all the rich, fatty foods—meat, eggs, milk, lard, cheese—that remained in their homes, in anticipation of several weeks of eating only fish and different types of fasting.
Mardi Gras this year falls on Tuesday, February 25. However the parades of Mardi Gras began here on January 6th.
So, you might ask, who builds the floats, and where are they stored until parade time? Today, we searched out that answer.
We visited Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. Kern Studios was founded in 1932 as a float building company for New Orleans’ Mardi Gras parades. Roy Kern was a local New Orleans artist who worked his way through the Great Depression by painting signs for barges and freighters in the Port of New Orleans. Roy’s son, Blaine Kern, was also an artist and in 1932 father and son were invited to build a float for one of the krewes for the Mardi Gras Parade. They have been doing so ever since. Today, Kern Studios builds parade floats for 18 different krewes.
We found the workers hard at work:
The floats start as a nondescript piece of styrofoam that is shaped into the various pieces of the float.
It is then papermached to become a seamless piece
and then painted.
Plywood pieces are painted with various designs
and then cut to be placed on the float.
There are a gazillion accessories that are available to add to the float
even spare body parts.
The floats are completed by being placed on a chassis (sort of like the one the Sphinx is on) to be pulled by a motorized vehicle.
These completed floats will be delivered this week to the various Krewes that ordered them to be in their respected parades. The cost of the float, from conception to completion, is between $100,000 and $250,000 each.
Well, I will post my next blog when pigs fly:
Since we have been at this campground 7 times, I am running out of new sites to see. So what do we do? Gamble.
Drove just over the Mississippi line to the Silver Slipper Casino.
Now, I can not just stay home and be bored, but I can stay home and be bored broke.
Actually, not that bored. There are many activities at the campground we are located, but I am anxious to get back on the road.
We have reached our winter destination. It took us 6 days to cover the 1,372.9 miles. This is the 6th time we have stayed at Reunion Lake. We will winter here until tax day and then move on to our next destination. Barbara’s brother, nieces and nephews live in the area, plus other RV’ers we have camped with in the past are here at the park. Since we will be here for Mardi Gras, we will go to New Orleans for the parades.
Chattahoochee, Florida to Ponchatoula, La: 355.7 miles
6 hours 32 minutes
For our last night on our trek to Louisiana, we are camped out in Chattahoochee, Florida. There is nothing here. We had to drive 15 miles to Walmart to get DEF for the truck. Chattahoochee is a name derived from the Creek language meaning “marked rocks”. I did not see any rocks, much less marked ones. If we were staying here longer, I would seek them out.
Tomorrow we will drive 358 miles through the rest of the Florida Panhandle, through Alabama and Mississippi to Louisiana, it should take us about 7 hours, with a rest stop or two.
Hardeeville, South Carolina to Chattahoochee, Florida: 348.8 miles
6 hours 31 minutes
Today’s one night stand brings us 8 miles north of South Carolina’s southern boarder. Tomorrow we will travel through Georgia to our last one night stand, Florida.
Fayetteville, N. C. to Hardeeville, South Carolina: 250.1 miles
5 hours 30 minutes
Another short layover on our beeline to warm weather. Did some maintenance and repairs. When you take your house and shake it like a cocktail, something is always going wrong. Barbara calls them “challenges”. I call them “I can’t believe this is happening.”
But we manage to meet them all. All is good now, and we are back on the road at sunrise.
Ashland, Virginia to Fayetteville, North Carolina: 236 miles
4 hours 32 minutes (It’s downhill)
We have broken away from Maryland and are making a beeline to warm weather. Today we are in Ashland, Virginia. We will be here only one night. Tomorrow, North Carolina, then South Carolina, and Florida.
When we hit Florida, we will turn right and travel the panhandle to Louisiana, where we will remain the rest of the winter.
Because we are staying only one or two nights at each campground, and we have been to these places before, we will not be doing any sightseeing.
In April, we will decide our next move. I want to cross Death Valley. Barbara wants to go back to Branson, Missouri. We still haven’t traveled the West Coast, up the Pacific Highway from California to Oregon.
In the past, when we have taken a vote which ended in a tie, I lost.
Bar Harbor, Maryland to Ashland, Virginia: 182.3 miles
5 hours 3 minutes
Harbor place, Baltimore City, Maryland, opened on July 2, 1980 as a centerpiece of the revival of downtown Baltimore
The last time I was at harbor place, was 4 years ago when I tried a case in the Baltimore City Circuit Court (I won, of course). The first thing I notice was how clean the harbor was. Usually full of trash and debris, it was crystal clear. The reason, I discovered was the Inner Harbor Water Wheel.
It uses old and new technology. Powered by the water and the sun, it can produce up to 30 kilowatt-hours of electricity. The Water Wheel is capable of removing 50,000 pounds of trash every day.
The Light at Seven Foot Knoll marked the outlet entrance to Baltimore’s harbor and was manned from 1856 to 1948, when the Coast Guard automated it. In 1988 the lighthouse was retired and moved to it’s present position at Pier 5 in the Inner Harbor.
Going through the 3 pavillions that make up Harbor Place, I found that 80% of the stores were vacant. Far cry from the vibrant hustle and bustle of 4 years ago. This is probably explained by the fact that as of May 30, 2019, Harborplace was placed into court-ordered receivership.
Joppa was founded as a British settlement on the Gunpowder River in 1707. The settlement was named for the Biblical town of Jaffa, in the ancient Holy Land of modern day Israel.
Joppa was a major seaport in colonial times and served as the county seat of the original Baltimore County. The town proper was located on what is now called Rumsey Island, where the Big Gunpowder Falls and Little Gunpowder Falls meet to form the Gunpowder River. The wide harbor could accommodate the largest ocean-going ships of the day and, long before Baltimore Harbor was established, Joppa was one of the busiest ports in the western hemisphere. It became the focal point of virtually all aspects of public and political life in colonial central Maryland.
Benjamin Rumsey was born October 6, 1734 at Bohemia Manor in Cecil County, Province of Maryland (the Revolutionary War won’t take place for another 44 years). He settled in Joppa about 1768 and lived here the rest of his life. When a new state superior court (the Maryland Court of Appeals) was created in 1778, Benjamin Rumsey was appointed as its first chief justice. Maryland sent him as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776 and 1777, he was not one of the 4 signers of the Declaration for Independence from Maryland.
Tidbit of Information: Maryland send a total of 19 delegates to the 1st & 2nd Continental Congresses.
Over the years, the Gunpowder River and the harbor silted up and in 1768 the county seat was moved to Baltimore, which became Maryland’s major shipping port. By 1814, Joppa was mostly abandoned.
Church of the Resurrection is an Episcopal Church in Joppa and is a community of the Episcopal Church and the American Anglicans. Located on Rumsey Island in the city of Joppatowne. It was established in 1724. The present Episcopal Church of the Resurrection is located on the property of the original 1724 brick church.
When ‘redevelopment’ threatened to destroy the original townsite, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy intervened and the grounds of St. John’s parish church, along with adjacent lots, were acquired by the Episcopal Church. The church was reconsecrated and renamed Church of the Resurrection, preserving the archeological ruins.
To commemorate their original accomplishments, the church puts on an annual celebration.
We attended a concert by the colonial band,
Received sage information from one of the old timers,
Learned the craft of photography of the time.
They say this was the Maryland flag of 1724, but I found no corroboration of this, and I seriously doubt this flag was present in 1724. Maryland was the 7th state admitted to the Union on April 28, 1788, but it wasn’t until October 11, 1880 that a flag was first flown representing Maryland, and it wasn’t this flag.
The Susquehanna River, named for the Susquehannock tribe, is the Chesapeake Bay’s main tributary, providing nearly half of the Bay’s fresh water, stretching from New York to Maryland.
Back when our Country was being developed, many settlements grew up along the Susquehanna River. One such settlement was Rock Run. We are hiking along the Susquehanna River above Havre de Grace (see Day 1047).
We took the trail of the old railroad bed that paralleled the river. We were told this trail was not maintained
and they weren’t kidding
Of course, we kept an eye out for wildlife:
We did not realize it until we came upon this lock,
that we were hiking between the river and the old Susquehanna & Tidewater Canal.
We hiked from Rock Run to Lapidum. This settlement traces its history to 1683 with the granting of land patents for the tracts along the river. As the surrounding land was transformed from wilderness to farmland, Lapidum grew in importance as a commercial center. Corn and tobacco grew along the river bank at Lapidum and a bustling fishing and ice harvesting industry developed here. When we arrive here today, about 2 miles from Rock Run, all we found was a parking lot with no evidence that at one time it was a thriving community. From dust to dust.
Hiking back to Rock Run, where our car was located, we came upon the Rock Run Grist Mill. The mill, erected in 1798 by prosperous businessman and landowner John Stump, is a former flour mill. During its most successful years, flour from the mill was sold to both local and international markets.
On the hill which overlooks the mill stands the Carter-Archer House. The 14-room stone structure was built in 1804 by John Carter, a partner of John Stump in the Rock Run Mill. When Carter died a year later, the house passed to Stumps’ daughter, Ann, and her husband, Dr. John Archer, Jr.
James Jay Archer was born in this house on December 19, 1817 to John and Ann Stump Archer, the 8th of 11 children. He studied law at the University of Maryland and established a successful law practice. In 1847 he left the practice of law to enter the U.S. Army as a Captain.
Captain Archer resigned his commission and joined the Confederacy in 1861. Ultimately he rose to the rank of General, leading many campaigns. He was captured at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, being the first General captured from Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
John Rodgers, born 1726, and his wife Elizabeth were immigrants from Scotland and one of the first families to settle in Susquehanna Lower Ferry, now Havre de Grace, Maryland. They owned and operated Rodger’s Tavern. The Rodgers home, built in 1787, survived the British attack in 1813, and is still standing as the oldest building in Havre de Grace.
Unfortunately, today it is an abandoned, dilapidated building.
John and Elizabeth Rodgers had eight children.Their son John, born near Havre de Grace July 11, 1772, was a career navy seaman. In the War of 1812, he captained the 44 gun three-masted frigate, USS President, which engaged the British ship, HMS Belvidera on June 23, 1812, five days after the war had started, in the first naval battle of the war.
Tidbit of Information: In 1789 the House of Representatives voted as to the permanent location of the Capital of the United States. It was tied between Havre de Grace, Maryland, and what would be Washington, District of Columbia. The deciding vote was casted by the Speaker of the House. I am not going to tell you his vote.
John Rodgers’ son, also named John Rodgers, commanded ironclads in the Civil War. (So, John Rodgers’ father’s name was John Rodgers, his son was named John Rodgers, obviously no imagination in naming their children in this family.) The Rodgers family includes four generations of naval officers.
Keep your eyes out for future blogs.
Back in the early 1900’s Havre de Grace, Maryland, was known mostly for its duck carvers. Because of it’s position on the Susquehanna River, migratory ducks would stop here. Duck hunting was a major sport.
Because duck hunters are basically lazy, they wanted the ducks to come to them. Hence the industry of duck decoys.
Decoys are models of birds used to draw waterfowl within shooting range of hunters. The Indians made decoys of straw long before the first settlers arrived in the area. By 1812, wooden decoys, carved and painted as a particular species, were common in duck hunting.
Decoys were a simple tool designed to enhance a hunter’s chances. Decoys were made for one purpose, to kill ducks. It didn’t have to be a work of art, but every decoy maker had an idea of what they were supposed to look like.
The decoy was hand made of wood and hand painted. Each decoy maker had his own design of painting. Decoy making soon became an art form.
Sinkboxes resembled a floating coffin. The sinkbox is surrounded with over 200 decoys. The hunter sits down in the box where it was difficult for the ducks to see him. A hunter could expect to bring in over 100 ducks a day. The sinkbox rig was too successful at luring in ducks. It was outlawed in 1935 to protect the declining duck population.
Are they live or memorex?
If you know what I am talking about, you are really, really old.
Ok, bottoms up!
John O’Neil was born in Ireland on November 23, 1768, and came to America at the age of eighteen. He was a gunsmith and served in the military under General Harry Lee during the Whisky Insurrection in 1794. Lt. O’Neill also served in the Navy in 1798 against the French. He married and moved to Havre de Grace, Maryland, where he ran a nail factory.
As stated before, the British attacked Havre de Grace on May 3, 1813. Because the citizens knew the attack was eminent, they all fled. As a member of the militia, O’Neill was manning the Potato Battery cannons at Concord Point when the British ships appeared. He commenced firing, but his fellow militiamen ran away. Firing the cannon alone, he was injured by the gun’s recoil and fled into town. British forces landed at Concord Point and eventually captured O’Neill who had continued to resist with musket fire. Word reached the town that he was to be hung as a traitor the next day. His 16 year old daughter, Matilda, rowed out to the British vessel bringing evidence of his commission in the militia, and pled for his release, which was granted.
His courage earned O’Neill a presidential appointment as first keeper of the Concord Point Lighthouse on November 3, 1827 for a salary of $350 a year. Lt. O’Neill served as keeper until his death in 1838. Four generations of the O’Neills would serve as keepers at the Concord Point Lighthouse until it’s automation in 1920.
The Concord Point Lighthouse was built in 1827 by local contractor John Donahoo, who built 13 of the earliest lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay. It only measures 26 feet tall with a lantern on top, bringing the total height to 36 feet. The walls at the base are 3’1” thick and narrow to 18” at the top. It has 27 steps and a six rung latter to the lantern.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1975. We could not go into the lighthouse because it is now closed. I guess they couldn’t find a keeper.
Aunt Jemima says hi:
One of the great things about traveling in the Sphinx is what adventure or challenge will meet you around the next corner. We are currently in Abingdon, Maryland in a campground on the Bush River. Because of unforeseen circumstances we have been here for 3 months and will winter here. We anticipate departure shortly after my father’s 99th birthday on the same day Christ was born.
Bar Harbor RV Park & Marina is on a peninsula in the river. It has short term stays waterfront. Long term stays are half the price and we are about 200 yards from the river. Last night I went out to see the sunset and found water around the Sphinx.
We were still on dry ground, but the water came up to our electrical box.
I got Barbara up and we walked the high ground to the camp office and saw this sign:
This morning the water receded and did not actually reach the Sphinx itself. Other’s were not so lucky. Those who paid the high priced water front were surrounded by water, but not flooded out. We became waterfront at the reduced price.
Isn’t life great?
The history of Havre de Grace, Maryland, begins with the voyage of Capt. John Smith here in 1608. In 1652 a treaty with the Susquehannock Indians led to settlement of the area.
Godfrey Harmer was born in Sweden in the year 1598. The land on which the town of Havre de Grace now stands was laid out for Godfrey Harmer on July 19, 1658 and called Harmer’s Town. Naturalized as a citizen of Maryland in 1661, he transferred his allegiance from the King of Sweden to Lord Baltimore. Harmer was an Indian trader and interpreter.
The town sits at the confluence (I love that word) of the Susquehanna River, (which originates 444 miles north at Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, New York) and the Chesapeake Bay.
The city got it’s current name from the Marquis de Lafayette [statute above] who visited this town shortly after the Revolutionary War, and said it reminded him of the French port city, Le Havre de Grace, which means “The City of Mercy”. The residents incorporated the town as Havre de Grace in 1785.
We walked the 3 mile Lafayette Trail which took us to all the still standing historic sites, like the Aveilhe-Goldsborough house,
built in 1801.
Most of the house in Havre de Grace were destroyed by the British on May 3, 1813. During the War of 1812, the British burned Washington and then proceed up the Chesapeake Bay, bombarding Fort McHenry, and then proceeding to Havre de Grace to destroy the Iron Foundry here. Like Fort McHenry, they fired Congreve rockets. They were developed by Sir William Congreve, born May 20, 1772 in Kent, England. The rockets gave inspiration to Francis Scott Key to include in his poem: “and the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”.
The 45 mile long Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal was completed in 1839 and ran from Wrightsville, Pennsylvania to Havre de Grace, Maryland. In fact, it ended at the spot I am standing,
where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Barges would travel the canal, pulled by mules, until 1897, when railroad signaled it’s death knoll. The canal was stilled used locally until 1909.
Unforeseen circumstances has brought us back to Maryland. We are camping at Bar Harbor, on the Bush River in Abingdon, Maryland, for the next couple of months.
Abingdon is the birthplace of William Paca, third Governor of Maryland, and is named after the same place in England.
Technical Stuff: Placid Drive, Md. to Bar Harbor, Maryland: 23 miles
1 hour 2 minutes
We are home, again. Come see us.
Technical Stuff: New Market, Va. to Fallston, Md.: 192.2 miles
4 hours 29 minutes
Today is the 1,000th day of our travels in the Sphinx.
We will be returning to our house in Maryland tomorrow to celebrate our great granddaughter’s 1st birthday.
We have pulled the Sphinx: 38,242.8 miles
We have travelled another 40,000 miles sightseeing in the truck.
The daily cost of our adventure is $99.14. That includes campground fees, diesel, food, propane, restaurants, attraction fees, mobile phones and internet. It does not include all the trinkets and souvenirs Barbara buys.
This is my 561st blog post of our adventures
Technical Stuff: Llama Farm, Tennessee to New Market, Va: 307.7 miles
5 hours 48 minutes
Theodrick Carter, Tod to his friends, was born March 24, 1840 in this house built by his father in 1830, Fountain Carter, located in Franklin, Tennessee.
The name “Theodrick” had been in the Carter family since 1676. He was an exceptionally bright child who had an ear for music and was well versed in Greek, Latin, history, poetry and the Classics, skills that allowed him to study the law at a very young age.
By the beginning of the Civil War, he had garnered a reputation as a “brilliant young lawyer,” his practice was located on Third Avenue South, not far from his home.
When the Civil War broke out, Tod, like his brothers, enlisted in the Army of The Confederate States of America. On May 1, 1862, Tod Carter was promoted to the rank of captain and appointed assistant quartermaster. He began writing as a correspondent for the newly created Chattanooga Daily Rebel, under the byline “Mint Julep.” After surviving numerous battles Capt. Carter was captured during the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863, just east of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Capt. Carter was transported as a prisoner of war, first to Louisville, Kentucky, then on to Johnson’s Island, a Confederate officer’s prison camp near Sandusky, Ohio. (We were there, see Day 90.) In February, he was being transported to Baltimore, Maryland when he managed to jump from the transport train and escape. He was immediately pursued, but through his cunning he eventually made his way through enemy territory back to Tennessee and his Confederate company, which he rejoined.
On November 30, 1864, the Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield were retreating to Nashville to join up with other Union forces in Sherman’s “March to the Sea”. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, of which Tod Carter was quartermaster, was deployed to stop them.
Gen. Cox, of the Union Army, believing that the Carter family farm, Tod’s birthplace, and the hill on which the house was located, “was the key to a strong defense,” took command of Fountain Carter’s home at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of the battle. The Battle of Franklin was a 5 hour battle that started that evening at 4 p.m. The Union Army of 27,000 men verses the Confederate Army of 27,000 men.
Although Capt. Carter’s duties as assistant quartermaster exempted him from engaging in battle, he vowed, “No power on earth could keep him out of the fight.” So it would be. At 5 p.m., he mounted his horse, drew his sword, extended his arm and led the charge shouting, “I am almost home! Come with me boys!” Just 525 feet from his home, a volley of nine bullets felled the young captain, mortally wounded, but not dead, he laid on the battle field, along with 10,000 other soldiers, until found by his family just after midnight.
Capt. Carter was carried to his boyhood home and taken inside. Two days later, on December 2, 1864, 24-year old Capt. Tod Carter, the “brilliant young lawyer” died in the room just across from the one where he was born.
54,000 soldiers firing on the battlefield that surrounded Carter’s home left much evidence in the form of bullet holes in all the buildings.
This building, which at the time served as the farm office, was not occupied at the time of the battle.
The bullet holes are most evident from inside the building.
The tallest building in Nashville today is the Batman Building.
The party goes on day and night.
Here, Barbara is trying to get a group to sing:
I don’t thing they will make it to the Circle.
Stopped in Ernest Tubb’s record shop, yes they still were selling records, when I was surprised to see a tribute to Spec.4 James T. Davis.
Davis was in the same type of unit I was in the Army, Army Security Agency, and was the first soldier killed in the Vietnam War on December 22, 1961.
One of the great things about Nashville, you can walk into any bar
and see live music, with no cover charge.
Barbara said I should get a close up
I don’t think that is what she had in mind
Jasper Newton Daniel was born September 5, 1847 in Lynchburg, Tennessee, a small town founded in 1801.
At the age of nine (oh, they grow up so fast) he left home to strike out on his own. He ended up at the home of Dan Call, a preacher at a nearby Lutheran church and the owner of a general store. There, Reverend Call also happened to sell whiskey that he distilled himself. Jasper showed an interest in learning to distill whiskey and was paired up with a slave, Nathan Green, who was a master distiller. Nathan was born into slavery and emancipated after the Civil War. He continued with Reverend Call as a freeman.
Jasper learned his craft well. A short distance from the Call property was a spring in a cave, where the water temperature was a constant 56 degrees. Perfect water for whisky. The property was purchased and Jack began his distillery.
We toured the distillery. Barbara took the wet tour and I the dry.
Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee Whiskey as opposed to a Bourbon because the whiskey goes through a charcoal mellowing process while it is still moonshine. Then it heads to the barrel to age, just like Bourbon.
I didn’t have to taste the whiskey, as between smelling the fermentation and the charcoal mellowing, I was high.
This safe killed Jack Daniels.
One morning in 1906, Jack arrived at his office before anybody else. He tried to access the company safe, but had a terrible time remembering the code. After a few frustrating minutes, he kicked the safe as hard as he could. He badly bruised his left foot and immediately began to walk with a limp. The limp only grew worse with time, and he later discovered the injury had led to blood poisoning. Then came gangrene, then amputation, and then death.
Let’s not forget, we are in the South.
When we were previously in Nashville, Tennessee, we attended the Grand Ole Opry at The Ryman Theater. Today we attended the Grand Ole Opry at it’s current location, The Grand Ole Opry House, about 12 miles from Nashville center. The new facility saw it’s first show on Saturday, March 16, 1974, and was built to accommodate a larger audience, from 2,000 seats at the Ryman to 4,000 seats here.
The show is hosted by Eddie Stubbs, born November 25, 1961 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. For 24 years Stubbs has been the announcer for WSM radio and The Grand Ole Opry.
Today’s performers included Raiders in the Sky
and Ricky Skaggs
Prior to the show, we toured the backstage of the Grand Ole Opry House. We saw the dressing rooms of the stars of the Opry.
Just the other day Dolly Parton sat here:
Got that picture in your head?
To carry on the tradition of the show’s run at the Ryman, a six-foot circle of oak was cut from the corner of the Ryman’s stage and inlaid into center stage at the new venue. Artists on stage stand on the circle as they performed.
It is the dream of all the hopefuls in Nashville to “make it to the circle”.
It has been a year since our trip to Alaska and the Arctic Circle. This year, part of our group are touring the Canadian Maritimes. The rest, since we are from all over the country, decided to meet for a reunion in a central place, and we chose Nashville, Tennessee. We did a lot when we were here before, see days 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, and Day 223.
One of the great things about Nashville, there are entertainers, mostly singers, everywhere. Even the campground we are staying has nightly free entertainment. After we set up the Sphinx, we walked to the outside pavilion and watch “Pork” sing. This guy could really handle a guitar.
Technical Stuff: Calera, Alabama to Nashville, TN: 232.1 miles
4 hours 38 minutes
The city of Calera, Alabama, was incorporated in 1887, and named after the Spanish word for “quarry” for all of the limestone deposits located in the area.
We are here because it is halfway between Pensacola, Florida and Nashville, Tennessee, our next destination. We are staying at the City’s campground, which is on a small lake.
Technical Stuff: Pensacola, Florida to Calera, Alabama: 233.0 miles
5 hours 3 minutes
I haven’t blogged about lighthouses in a while. The Pensacola Lighthouse was built in 1859, and is located on the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida.
At 191 feet we climbed 177 steps to get to the top.
Tidbit of Information: Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place? The Pensacola Lighthouse was zapped in 1874 and then struck again the following year. Nature took another swipe at the lighthouse on August 31, 1886, when a rare earthquake shook the tower.
The top of the tower offers stunning views of Pensacola Pass (where Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico).
What comes to mind when you say “Pensacola, Florida”? The Blue Angels flight exhibition team of course.
We went to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola to watch the Blue Angels.
At the end of World War II, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, had a vision to create a flight exhibition team in order to raise the public’s interest in naval aviation and boost Navy morale. Nimitz ordered the establishment of the Navy Flight Exhibition Team on April 24, 1946.
The team of top pilots performed its first flight demonstration on June 15, 1946. The team was introduced as the “Blue Angels” at the Omaha, Nebraska air show in July of the same year.
The first of 26 Blue Angel pilot fatalities occurred 106 days after their first demonstration, on September 29, 1946, when Pilot Lt. j.g. Ross Robinson failed to recover from a dive while performing a maneuver at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.
The Angels use the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, which has been their plane of choice since 1986. Each plane costs 21 million dollars.
We drove to the barrier island off the coast of Alabama. The south side of the island faces the Gulf of Mexico, and the north side, Mobile Bay.
Madoc Gwynedd, born 1150 in Dolwyddelan Castle, Conwy County Borough in North Wales, was a Welsh navigator who came to this Island in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus’s voyage in 1492. He was a Welsh prince escaping the conflicts in his home country. (This obviously debunks the theory that people thought the world was flat.)
In 1519, the explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, born 1494 in Spain, was the first documented European to visit, staying only long enough to map the island.
The French arrived on January 31, 1699, when the explorer Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville, one of the founders of French Louisiana, arrived at Mobile Bay and anchored here on his way to explore the mouth of the Mississippi River. D’Iberville named the island “Massacre Island” because of a large pile of human skeletons he discovered here. The gruesome site turned out to be a simple indian burial mound which had been broken open by a hurricane, not a massacre site.
The island’s name was changed in 1712 (probably because it dampened tourism) to Dauphin, in honor of the eldest son of the King of France, who was the Dauphin of France (dauphin was the title given to the heir apparent to the throne of France). The city was incorporated in 1988.
The island is a thin strip of land, 17 miles long, by a few feet to a mile and a half wide, which explains their thin houses.
The main attraction of the island is Fort Gaines. I wanted to visit the fort as it is across the bay from Fort Monroe, which I blogged about on Day 322.
Construction of Fort Gaines was begun in 1853. Congress named the fortification for General Edmund Pendleton Gaines who had died in 1849. While still a young officer, Gaines received national recognition when he led the detachment which captured former Vice-President Aaron Burr, who had been accused of participating in a conspiracy to commit treason. Burr was found not guilty. (So, how many of you were thinking Benedict Arnold, when I am saying Aaron Burr?) Burr shot his political rival, Alexander Hamilton, in a duel on July 12, 1804, ending his political career, not to mention Hamilton’s.
During the Civil War, Mobile Bay was a strategic location because it controlled the junction of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
The primary contribution of the Confederate Army to the defense of Mobile Bay were three forts. Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines at the entrance to the bay. In addition, they set up Fort Powell, which no longer is in existence.
The Battle of Mobile Bay took place on August 5, 1864. The Union fleet, commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, attacked the Confederate fleet and the three forts that guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay, which had been heavily mined by the Confederates (mines at that time were known as torpedoes). Rear Farragut is noted for his exclamation: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
If you have been following my Civil War Battles on these posts, then you know the Civil War actually ended in Alabama (and for those not following, you probably thought it ended in Virginia). See Day 324.
Technical Stuff: Convent, Louisiana to Mobile, Alabama: 207.7 miles
4 hours 55 minutes
Jim Patton, born February 24, 1953, was a cultural anthropologist (a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans) and craft beer brewer. Considered one of the pioneers in the craft beer brewing industry, in 1986 he founded the Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs, Louisiana, which we visited.
The company brews its beer with water from the artesian wells in Abita Springs (see Day 874). An artesian aquifer is trapped water, surrounded by layers of impermeable rock which apply positive pressure to the water contained within the aquifer. A well sunk into an this aquifer would cause the water to rise to a height where hydrostatic equilibrium is reached. This is supposed to be the purist of water (no fish poop).
Tidbit of Information: Artesian wells were named after the province of Artois in France, where many artesian wells were drilled by Carthusian monks from 1126.
Some of us were not wearing proper footwear and therefore had to wear these blue booties.
Gramercy, Louisiana, is one of the small towns near us. It was originally a trading post between the Indians and French settlement. Although settled around 1739, it was not incorporated until 1947.
It’s distinguishing mark today is The Colonial Sugars Refinery. Founded in 1895 by a group of financiers from Gramercy Park, New York, from which the town gains it’s name, the refinery is still in operation and currently owned by Savannah Foods.
Ok, I know, not very picturesque. It’s a slow day.
As you have probably noticed, Barbara is fascinated by churches as we have been traveling around the country. Something about beauty, style, and symmetry.
Since we have been staying in Convent, Louisiana, we have been to Thibodaux a number of times, as it is the only sizable city in the area (and has a Walmart). By “in the area” I mean an hour’s drive.
This necessitates us crossing the Mississippi River.
Barbara has been driving recently, as we are sharing that responsibility. I get to be passenger.
Because of it’s position on the Mississippi River, Thibodaux was an early settlement in the area, and attracted people of many faiths. Therefore it has quite a few churches (I don’t recall seeing any synagogues).
The most notable is St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. The original church was built in 1819, then rebuilt in 1849 and destroyed by a fire in 1916. The present church was begun in 1920, and completed 3 years later. On March 2, 1977 Pope Paul VI established the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, and the church became a Co-Cathedral.