Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blowing Rock

It was cloudy and quite chilly today so the day started with a debate: to slide or not to slide down the waterfall rocks at Sliding Rock Park. Mar couldn’t bear the thought of being terribly cold the rest of the day with wet hair, so she chickened out.

But Bernie suited up and we headed out with a towel in one hand and camera in the other. Then off she went sliding down the rocks. It happened so fast Mar could hardly get any pictures.

Bernie popped out of the water faster than you can imagine. The water was way too cold, it literally took her breath away. She wished she could go again but the freezing water kept that thought out of her mind.

We left Sliding Rock with fond memories and got back on the Parkway. We went to the Blue Ridge Parkway Destination Center at milepost 384. This is a large visitor center with a theater, gift shop, and lots of displays about the Parkway. The park ranger there told us about the road closures on the Parkway and mapped out a detour route for us.

At milepost 291 we left the Parkway and went to the town of Blowing Rock. The town is small and it took us a while to decide where to park. We found the downtown public parking lot and found a good spot in the corner.

After dinner Bernie decided to go for a walk. This town has free wi-fi so tonight we were able to watch tv on our laptop. A wonderful ending to a wonderful day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sliding Rock

Cherokee is pretty crowded, the streets are lined with store after store selling all kinds of Native American crafts and art. There are people dressed in traditional Native American wear dancing on the sidewalks. We saw a large statue of the chief who created the Native American alphabet.

We went into the ticket center to find out where the visitor center was and found out it was just two doors down. We went to the visitor center to get maps and information about the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We got gas for $2.07 before getting on the Parkway, which seems exorbitantly high to us.

Then we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the southern entrance. We stopped at the highest point on the Parkway (6047 ft) and some of the other lookouts. The views are incredible and the drive is quite challenging.

At milepost 408 we left the parkway and went to Pisgah National Park. We found Sliding Rock Park where we parked for the night.

We took a walk around the park to check it out. The place is beautiful and the water was very, very cold.

We went back to Bella where Bernie made a fire and we had hot dogs on the grill for dinner. Then Bernie decided to take a bath in the river, even though it was cold, and afterwards she painted for a while.

There is no phone or internet access here and Mar is very happy to be able to catch up on her reading.

The weather is very nice tonight and we can hear the rushing sounds of the river next to us.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two forests

We drove east about an hour to Murphy NC to see Fields of the Wood. The largest ten commandments are there. It is quite an interesting place. There are 22 life sized displays of things related to the bible. Bernie got to push the stone from Jesus’ tomb and be ‘almost’ baptized, again.

To get there we drove through the Cherokee National Forest. We had huge mountains on one side and the river on the other for the whole drive.

Then we drove about an hour and a half to Cherokee NC. To get there we drove through the Nantahala National Forest. We drove up and down mountains and around curves where sometimes we were peering right over the side of the mountain with no guardrail.

On the way we stopped at a grocery store to pick up milk. We also stopped at a couple of visitor centers along the way, to stretch our legs and pick up some maps and brochures.

By the time we got to Cherokee it was already dark and we had difficulty finding the visitor center. Someone directed us there and we found a spot to park for the night in the parking lot between the visitor center and the ticket center, right across from the museum. We were right next to the river and listened to it as we fell asleep.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why are they honking?

We were awakened early this morning by a forest ranger banging on our hood and yelling that we couldn’t camp here. He proceeded to collect the trash and then left. We were taken aback by how abrupt he was and quite miffed at his rude behavior. We tried to go back to sleep but it was hard.

Later we went down to the base of the mountain to see the Little River Falls, the 45 foot waterfall that gives the park its name. There is hiking and swimming there. The water was beautiful and crystal clear, but way too cold to get in.

We then drove back to Scottsboro AL for Mar's mail, which did arrive today. Then we drove northeast about an hour and a half to Chattanooga TN.

On the way there we crossed into GA for a little bit and were lucky to find gas for $1.78.

In Chattanooga we went to see a house by Frank Lloyd Wright, which is not open to the public so we were just going to drive by to take a look from the street.

The drive there proved to be quite an adventure. First we went through a tunnel that was barely big enough for just us. We have no idea why but all the cars behind us were honking their horns like crazy.

Then we went up hills that seemed almost straight up. The house sits at the top, looking over a mountain. The owners are out of town - according to a neighbor - so we did some exploring and were able to view most of the house. This house is another impressive masterpiece in a stunning location with a spectacular view of the city below.

Then we drove 45 minutes to the Books-A-Million in Cleveland TN to use their free wi-fi with our store card and to spend the night. We were hungry by then. We had warmed up our dinner on the engine block on our way here so it was ready for us. We really like this system.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chicken dinner

It was so dark when we parked here last night at one of the Little River Canyon National Preserve’s lookouts, that we had no idea what the view looked like. When we woke up today we were awe struck by the amazing beauty of the place.

We opened all the windows and the door to have a full view. There are two picnic tables here and this seems to be a popular spot. We listened as people approached the overlook and gasped in amazement at the breathtaking views of the river 100 feet below. We fully understood when we heard each ahh and ooh.

Around lunchtime we heard some people setting up for a picnic close to Bella. We saw a young man, two older ladies, and an older gentleman. They sat at the picnic table with bottles of Coke and a bucket of KFC.

At one point Bernie could tell they were talking about Bella and overheard one of them wonder if we had a bathroom. Bernie answered from our window, that yes, we have a bathroom but we don’t have fried chicken. Everyone laughed. A little later there was a knock at our door. They offered us the rest of their fried chicken along with biscuits and mashed potatoes. We were so surprised!

Turns out they were siblings who had grown up on a farm just across the street. Nell, Elizabeth, and Fred are all in their 80s and had some fun stories to share. Fred's son, Tim, came with them from Birmingham AL. They were really nice and we were grateful for the chicken dinner.

Later in the afternoon when it wasn’t as hot, we went for a walk and then sat outside enjoying the view and the fresh air until dinnertime. The KFC was so tasty. Our phones and internet don’t work here on the mountain, so tonight we were able to catch up on our reading some more.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You got (no) mail

We went back to the Unclaimed Baggage Center to take a look at the rest of the store. We spent a couple of hours wading through the sea of clothes and got several tshirts for 99 cents each. We like to cut the sleeves off for those hot and humid summer days.

Mar’s mail didn’t get here today so now we have to wait till the post office opens again on Monday. We decided to go with the flow and take the weekend to "camp" at one of the local parks.

After some research we chose Little River Canyon National Preserve. We drove about 45 minutes to the park headquarters in Fort Payne, where the website said to go to get maps and info about the park. We needed the map to locate the three free campsites.

When we got there they were already closed and there were no maps outside the building. We headed towards the park and drove up a mountain, getting lost a bit. Finally after crossing over a bridge we got to the park’s parking lot. There were no maps in the map holder here either, the box was empty.

We decided to try to follow the signs and we took the scenic drive into the park. Suddenly it got dark before we realized it and the road was pitch black. We drove up and down hills and around curves, until we found a lookout spot where we could spend the night.

We were hungry by then and had eggs and biscuits for dinner. These are the delicious, organic eggs we brought with us from the chicken farm. After dinner we got to catch up on our reading while listening to the silence all around us. The only sound was the rush of the river below us. It was so peaceful and relaxing, so quiet and so dark … and so hot … it was a sweltering hot night.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Paper clips and unclaimed baggage

Today we went straight to Whitwell Middle School to see the Children’s Holocaust Memorial. This is an actual train car that was used to transport prisoners to camps during World War II. It was brought over to TN and now it displays eleven million paper clips that the students collected to represent the victims of the Holocaust.

First we went to the school office, where we picked up a tape recorder with an audio tour. The documentary “Paper Clips” describes this project in which paper clips were received as donations from all 50 states and from more than 50 countries. The school also received over 30,000 related documents and letters.

Next we visited the Holocaust Room, the school library, where we saw many more paper clips in different sizes and shapes. This is a very moving exhibit, a great educational experience, and a unique way to revisit history.

Then we got gas on our way out of town for $1.81 a gallon and we drove southwest for about an hour to Scottsboro AL.

Once in Scottsboro we went to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. This is the only store in the county that sells unclaimed baggage. The store is the size of a city block, it has very diverse merchandise, and they stock over 7,000 items daily.

We spent a couple of hours there today and didn’t get to see half the store. We didn’t buy anything so we may just have to go back tomorrow for another look.

Next we went to Walmart to get distilled water for the batteries. There we rented a movie from RedBox. Today we wanted to see “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” to go with our visit to the Paper Clip Project. It is an excellent movie and we highly recommend it.

Tonight we wanted to park near the post office because Mar is waiting for her mail and they close at noon tomorrow. We saw that the Goodwill nearby had a big parking lot, so we went there to park there for the night.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recycled love

There seemed to be quite a bit of activity at the fairgrounds today as we were getting ready to go. There were lots of trucks arriving with people unloading and setting up, probably getting ready for the weekend.

Nashville is having their annual rock and roll marathon this Saturday. More than 30,000 runners are expected to participate. There is also a half marathon, a children’s marathon, a wheelchair marathon, and a bunch of music concerts.

We won’t be in Nashville for the marathon, but today we went to check out the marathon’s Health and Fitness Expo at the convention center. There was no free parking anywhere, so we went to a paying lot.

While waiting in line to buy our ticket from the parking lot machine, a couple drove by and gave us their ticket with two hours left on it. They said someone had given them the ticket when they got there, so they were just recycling the love. We were so very grateful.

The expo was pretty big with lots of new products for athletes. We sampled some sports drinks and energy bars, we got free back massages and hand paraffin treatments, and left with a bag full of free goodies, samples, and coupons.

After that we headed out. We drove southeast on 24 for almost three hours to Whitwell TN. When we got there we went to the address we had for Whitwell Middle School and it turns out the school has moved. While driving around looking for the middle school, we found both the Whitwell Elementary School and the Whitwell High School, but no middle school.

After getting on the phone and on the internet, we finally found the new location of the new Whitwell Middle School. It was late so of course the school was closed. We saw a small shopping center nearby and went there to park for the night, right next to Dollar General.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The campground was nearly empty by the time we were ready to go. Only a few RVs still remained. The temperature was much nicer today, nowhere near as cold as it was last night.

Before we got ready to go Bernie checked the batteries and the engine fluids. She had a few sparks fly by accidentaly hitting the positive post on the house battery, ooops …

Then we headed north on the Trace and today we drove the last 60 miles of it.

At milepost 407.7 we stopped to see one of the few remaining buildings of the Old Trace, the home of ferry operator John Gordon. This home on the Duck River was one of the first brick buildings in the area.

Our last stop on the Trace was at milepost 438. After crossing over the bridge there, we got out and walked down a path to see this double arched bridge that has won several awards for its design. This bridge is 155 feet high.

After that, we reached the end of the Trace just south of Nashville TN. The next thing we saw was the well known Loveless Motel and Café. First we went to their gift shop, Hams and Jams, where you can buy a country ham for $60. We got two T-cakes to sample them because Oprah likes them (according to the sign there).

Then we went to the restaurant to get something to go. The staff was really nice and they were very interested in our travels. We got two drumsticks from the children’s menu and half a dozen biscuits with jam. The very same biscuits that have been made famous by the Biscuit Lady.

Before we left there, we took tonight’s dinner out of the freezer and put it on the engine block to heat it up. We then went to the Nashville visitor center, which was not your typical visitor center. It is inside a huge glass cone right in the middle of downtown. While we were there we got to rock out on a fake stage. Then we walked around the area a bit to get a taste of the Nashville downtown scene.

Next we went to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, which is a gorgeous park. There is an impressive history wall, a walkway with all 95 TN counties, and 31 fountains representing the major rivers in TN. There is also a 200 foot granite map of the state of TN where we were able to “walk” from Nashville to other TN cities.

Then we went to see the Parthenon in Centennial Park. This is the only full scale replica of the Greek Parthenon. It is incredibly realistic in detail, the columns all around the building are massive, and the stone steps are huge.

As we left there we saw signs pointing to the fairgrounds and we decided to check it out. When we got there, we saw an area where several RVs were parked, so we joined them and we parked for the night at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


It was a bit chilly today so we had a cup of hot coffee before getting Bella ready to go.

Then we went across the street to the Rosenbaum House, the only structure in Alabama designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built in 1939, it is an example of Wright’s Usonian style. An addition was built in 1948 and major restorations took place in the early 2000s. The house faces the Tennessee River.

We were fortunate to be the only ones there for our tour, so we had plenty of time to ask lots of questions. It was marvelous to be able to take our time walking through the house while discovering the distinctive elements of design that are so unique to Wright's creations. We absolutely loved the house.‎

After we returned the movies and got gas at $1.91 a gallon, we were ready to get back on the Natchez Trace. We drove west on 72 for about 20 minutes to the Trace and once there, we headed north again.

At milepost 327.3 we stopped to see the location of the old ferry that used to go across the Tennessee River. From here we were also able to see the striking bridge that we would soon take to cross the river.

The Trace crosses the state line into Tennessee at milepost 341.8.

At milepost 385.9 we stopped for the night at the Meriwether Lewis campground, the last of the free campgrounds on the Trace. There we saw the monument to Lewis and the exhibit about his accomplishments as governor of Louisiana and as part of the Lewis and Clark exploration team. We learned about his untimely death at age 35, which remains unexplained.

There were several spots available at this campground. As we drove up we were greeted by the very friendly campground host who helped us pick a spot. After we parked, a few rays of sun were still shining and the evening air was crisp, but not too cold yet, so we went for a walk to do a little exploring. This is a very nice and clean campground in the middle of a beautiful wooded area.

When we got back to Bella, Bernie decided to try a new recipe for white sangria that turned out to be delicious. Then Bernie built a fire to finish heating up our dinner. Tonight we placed it under to hood to warm it up on the way here, but it wasn’t in there long enough.

After eating dinner and showering, we pulled out some extra blankets because it is pretty cold here at the campground tonight. We layered and bundled up as best as we could and went to bed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A tour and some errands

After our cup of coffee in lovely Spring Park, we drove a couple of minutes to Ivy Green, the birthplace and childhood home of Helen Keller. Driving was much quicker (and easier) than our walk yesterday.

The tour was very educational. We learned about Helen, her family, and her teacher and lifetime companion, Anne Sullivan, known as the Miracle Worker.

Helen Keller wrote 14 books and lectured in more than 25 countries. In the backyard we saw the dozens of international gifts she received and the famous pump where she spoke her first word at age seven: “w-a-t-e-r”.

Next, we found a place in Tuscumbia AL to refill our propane tank for $1.89 a gallon. Not bad, compared to what we've had to pay for propane before.

After that we drove about 15 minutes to Florence AL. There we went to Walmart for some groceries and rented a couple of movies from RedBox.

Once in Florence, we found the Rosembaum House and went to their parking lot across the street to spend the night.

Today we tried an experiment. We have heard of engine cooking and decided to try it out, not to cook but to heat up our dinner. We have the frozen meals that Mar prepared during her last cooking marathon but we don't always have an easy or convenient way to heat them up.

We think we found a good solution. We wrapped up tonight's dinner tightly in foil and placed it under the hood while we drove. When we parked for the night, the food was nice and warm. It was so easy and the best part is that it doesn't require any additional fuel or energy. We will be trying this method again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Walking in the rain

Everyone was gone when we woke up at the campground today. After our cup of coffee, we got everything ready to go and by the time we were ready to leave, several other RVs were already arriving for the day.

We drove about 130 miles on the Trace today. We made several stops along the way and learned a lot more about the history of the Trace and what life was like for the people who once traveled this trail on foot.

We are fascinated with the bright colors of all the wildflowers here. The yellows, reds, pinks, and purples offer a spectacular contrast to all the green everywhere. Every possible shade of green in nature is present here.

We passed the halfway point at milepost 249.6 where post riders from Natchez and Nashville would meet to exchange mailbags for their return trip. From here, it would take five days for mail to arrive in Nashville TN, and seven days to get to Natchez MS.

At milepost 266 we stopped at the Tupelo visitor center, where they have lots of educational information about the Trace. On a lighted map of the Trace we saw the “you are here” spot and saw that we were getting close to the Alabama border. After Tupelo we noticed how the terrain changes, suddenly there are more hills and curves on the Trace.

The Trace crosses the state line into Alabama at milepost 308.9. We got off the Trace and drove east towards Tuscumbia AL to Spring Park.

Spring Park is a very pretty park with a playground, pavilions, stages, and restaurants. Walking around the park we saw the world’s largest manmade natural stone waterfall and some pretty amazing statues in remembrance of the Trail of Tears.

At the park someone directed us to the Helen Keller house and because it didn’t sound too far we decided to walk there. Little did we know it was a couple miles each way, going up hill some of the way. On the way back it started raining on us. This was quite the adventure for us.

Back at the park we saw a huge fountain with a center jet that shoots over a hundred feet into the air. On weekend evenings they have a water show with color lights, choreographed to the music of Alabama's artists. Tonight the show started at 8 pm, lasted about half an hour, and it was very nice.

A park employee who had stopped to talk to us earlier, gave us some info about the area and said it would be ok for us to spend the night in the park. We found a spot in a corner of the back lot and we parked for the night.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Free campground

Sarah, the lady from wildlife rescue, called early this morning to say she was coming to get Albert. He had been crying and would not eat or drink a thing. Bernie got up and waited for Sarah who said she had five other babies about the same age as Albert. After she left, Bernie went back to bed.

Much later, we woke up in the parking lot of the Manship House Museum in Jackson MS. After our iced coffee (today was too hot for hot coffee) we went to check out their event called A Day With Shakespeare.

It is a very small event, there were just a couple dozen people or so. We got to watch a scene from Faustus and then we toured the Manship House. This was the residence of the mayor of Jackson during the Civil War. He had the house built for his wife and 10 children. They had 15 children but five did not make it.

Afterward we got gas for $1.89 and then got back on the Natchez Trace. We drove about 100 miles on the Trace today.

We stopped at Myrick Creek to see the beavers. Even though we walked around the whole place, we didn't get to see any beavers. But it was a nice, pleasant walk.

At Madison, we got off the Trace and drove a couple of miles to the Mississippi Crafts Center. Here we saw some beautiful and unique objects and pieces of art, in a very modern concrete building.

Back on the Trace we passed by Kosciusko MS, where Oprah grew up. We didn’t get to stop because it was already getting dark and we wanted to get to the campground.

At milepost 193.1 we stopped for the night at the Jeff Busby campground, one of three free campgrounds along the Trace. It was nearly full but we found a spot.

Yesterday we drove through the Rocky Springs campground at milepost 54.8, just to see it because it was still too early for us to stop. It’s a good thing we didn’t need to stay, because the place was packed. We were lucky to find a spot to park tonight.

Once we parked, Bernie started a fire to cook dinner. It rained today so the wood was wet and it took nearly an hour to get it going using no fuel, just good ole hard work.

As soon as she got the fire going, it started to rain again! We thought fast and decided to put out the awning and transfer the fire to the grill to cook our burgers under the awning. It worked perfectly and we had Bernie’s amazing cheeseburgers for dinner.

Friday, April 17, 2009


It is not everyday you get to wake up next to a woman staring down at you who happens to be 28 feet tall and is wearing a skirt big enough to walk inside. But that is exactly where we where today when we woke up in Natchez MS.

Mammy’s Cupboard is one of a kind. She has been a gas station, a grocery store, and now a restaurant. They only serve lunch so we had to get up early to go inside.

The place was packed on a weekday. The menu has several sandwiches but it was too early for us to eat so we got a piece of chocolate meringue pie for later and headed out.

We went to the Natchez Visitor Center and got a map to help us find the entrance to the Natchez Trace. Today we drove about 80 miles on the Trace. This place is amazing, there is so much beauty, peace and quiet everywhere you go, so much wildlife and history to admire.

We stopped at several mile markers to see, learn, and feel history. Emerald Mound, built by Indians in 1400, is almost eight acres. Mount

Locust is a one room historic inn that used to charge travelers 25 cents for a meal. Owens Creek is a waterfall that is drying up so it’s more like a water trickle but the area was beautiful and the surroundings were breathtaking.

At Port Gibson we left the Trace and drove about ten miles into town to see the Ruins of Windsor. Windsor is the largest antebellum house built in the state. Shortly after it was built, an accident with a lit cigarette burned the house down. Now all that’s left are the 30 feet high columns, which are massive, and some of the grillwork. The ruins have appeared in several movies.

While we were there Bernie found a momma possum stuck in a garbage can with several babies, halfway strangled in a shopping bag so she could not get out. Bernie dumped out the can to let her out. The momma ran off but one of the babies fell off of her. We waited a while but she did not come back so Bernie wrapped it in some paper towels and we took it with us. We named him Albert because we think he’s a boy.

We went back to the Trace and once we made it to Jackson MS we contacted the wildlife rescue and they said they would come get Albert tomorrow. He is probably about 4 to 5 weeks old, he is very little, and is spending the night all cozy in a small box.

Then we found the Manship House Museum where we parked for the night.