Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
October, 2017 - Mexico

Monday, October 31, 2016

Chickamauga National Military Park

Late yesterday morning we visited the Chickamauga National Military Park in Georgia, about fifteen miles from the RV Park. There are two National Military Parks in the Chattanooga area where two significant battles were fought during the civil war in 1863. We visited the other one at Point Park on Lookout Mountain on Friday.

We started our visit by looking at the exhibits inside and then watching a movie that explained both battles fought here in this area in the fall of 1863.


The Battle of Chickamauga took place over a three day period in September. Both battles were about the control of Chattanooga, the gateway to the South.  The Confederates were victorious at Chickamauga, causing the Union Army to retreat to the Lookout Mountain area in Chattanooga. The problem was the Union still controlled Chattanooga, so in November the Confederate Army attacked again. This time the Union was victorious, and was able to cut off an important supply route to the South.

In 1890 the battlefields of Chickamauga and Chattanooga became the nation's first national military park, five years before Gettysburg. Civil War veterans spearheaded the legislation through Congress. There is an auto tour route where you can see many of the memorials that were erected by different organizations.

This one is from a Florida regiment.


Another beautiful monument.


And, of course, lots of cannons. Thousands of soldiers lost their lives in this beautiful scenic area. So sad!


Here's a site you don't see too often. This rig was on the interstate in front of us a few days ago. Some people really like their toys. There was a motorcycle on a lift, the car on a tow dolly, two bikes on a hitch on the car and two kayaks on top of the car. Wow!!


Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Rock City

Yesterday we visited Rock City, the last of the three attractions on Lookout Mountain. It's an unusual place mixing natural beauty with touristy type traps. They describe themselves as a geological and botanical wonder.

It began in the 1920s when Garnet and Frieda Carter began to develop a large walk-through garden on their private estate. They marked paths through the huge rock formations. Frieda gathered over 400 varieties of plant life to form gardens. In 1932 they opened their Rock City Gardens to the public.

We wandered through the maze of paths until we got to the highest lookout point. Along the way there were interesting rock formations and some tight squeezes through the rock walls. Here is a view of Lover's Leap. There is a waterfall coming down from the top into a pool. Legend has it that two Indians from warring tribes fell in love and eloped. When their families caught up to them, they threw the groom off the cliff. His distraught bride jumped after him. Gruesome story!!


Seven states are supposedly visible from atop. It was a bit hazy, so I have no idea if we actually saw all seven of them, but I'm going with it.


Flags from each of the states are also on display at the top.


Views from the top were spectacular. This corn maze was visible; a different perspective than you usually get of a corn maze.


Frieda collected statues and gnomes which are on display throughout the gardens. I particularly liked this eagle statue with the fall leaves behind it.


Each weekend in October they are celebrating "Rocktoberfest". We sat and enjoyed listening to a German band while Kevin tried their Octoberfest beer. One of the band members played a song using cow bells. Pretty awesome.


They also have a raptor show three times a day. I think this was the best part of the place. Several raptor birds were brought out and the presenters told us about them. A few of them even flew over the heads of the audience. All of the birds are not able to live in the wild for various reasons mostly having to do with human imprinting.

This is a barred owl.


Next is a barn owl. The circular disk around their face acts like a satellite dish and makes them hear super well.


This eagle was shot when it was quite young, and its left wing had to be amputated. His handler is an avid hang glider and has fashioned a sling so the eagle "flies" with him. How cool is that. He's even written a book about their adventures.


Of the three Lookout Mountain attractions, I think Rock City was my least favorite. It is a pretty area and the path through the rocks was pretty cool, but that was about it. Having the German band there made it more interesting, as well as the raptor show.

As you continue to follow the path towards the exit, you go through Fairyland Caverns. Inside are scenes depicting different fairy tales using figures and black light. I'm sure kids enjoy it.

The Carters were certainly ambitious and entrepreneurial. Garnet invented the first miniature golf course called Tom Thumb which became a franchise. He also started a unique promotional campaign to bring tourists to his gardens. At its peak the phrase "See Rock City" was painted on over 900 barns along highways leading into Chattanooga. It's amazing to me that this somewhat hokey attraction still draws huge crowds, including us :)

Aside from the attractions, Lookout Mountain has many grand and stately homes on top as well as some Bed and Breakfast hotels and even a Starbucks. It's a pretty place, but the road going to the top is very narrow and windy.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

Since 1980, we've driven from Wisconsin to Florida five times to vacation. We've always been in a hurry to get there, so didn't stop much along the way. Each time I'd see the many billboards for Lookout Mountain and Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Now that we travel at a much more relaxed pace, I decided it was time to stop and explore. I did some research and purchased a triple pass for Rock City, Incline Railway and Ruby Falls.

Yesterday we started the day at the Incline Railway. With a grade of 72.7 percent, it is the world's steepest passenger railway known as "America's Most Amazing Mile"; and has been designated a National Historical and National Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

Here's the view from the bottom. The track runs through that narrow gap in the trees to the building at the top.


At the top is a building with some observations towers, a gift shop and an exhibit about the building and mechanics of the railway. It was originally built in 1895 and powered by steam engines. In 1911 it was converted to electrical power. Today, two 120 horsepower, electric engines power the trains. Huge wheels with cables move the train cars like a pulley system along the single track system.


One car is going up while another is going down. Near the middle at the switch, the track splits into two to allow the trains to pass each other, and then goes back to a single track.


At the top, we walked a few blocks to Point Park, a National Military Park. Here the "Battle Above the Clouds" was fought in November of 1863. Chattanooga was considered the gateway to the Confederacy because of the Tennessee River and railroads that carried supplies. The Union army was victorious and this battle was later considered the death knell of the Confederacy.

Inside the Visitor Center is a huge mural depicting "The Battle of Lookout Mountain". It measures 13 feet tall, 30 feet wide and weighs 700 pounds.


Here's a view of a train heading back down the track.


The fall color is not that great in this area. Many of the trees are still green. Chattanooga is on track for the driest year in history; October will be the driest on record. There are burn bans and a drought; so far 18 inches below average rainfall. Of the five days we will be here, three of them will set record warm temperatures. Strange weather all over the country.

Our next stop was Ruby Falls. Several of my Facebook friends had recommended we do this tour, and I'm glad we did. Ruby Falls is America's tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public. You descend 260 feet by elevator and then walk about one-half mile into the mountain. The waterfall is 1,120 feet below the top of Lookout Mountain.

Along the way our tour guide pointed out many interesting formations and shared how they are formed. We've been to several caves, so that part was okay, but nothing new for us.

In 1928 Leo Lambert and some fellow explorers had blasted a shaft into Lookout Mountain looking for a cave. They spent 17 hours on their hands and knees exploring the cavern they discovered. They were awestruck by the waterfall they found at the deepest point. Leo later named the falls in honor of his wife, Ruby.



The pool at the bottom has lights which create different colors. Ruby Falls is 145 feet tall. It was a spectacular sight. You can hear the water as you get closer. As you arrive, it is dark until the guide turns on the lights, to give you the full effect of the amazing experience.


The visitor center building at the top is modeled after a 15th century Irish castle and was constructed from the limestone reclaimed from the elevator excavation in the 1920s. Ruby Falls is on the National Register of Historic Places.


The views from the top of the tower of Chattanooga were great, although it was a bit hazy.


We are staying at Holiday Travel Park in Georgia, just across the border of Tennessee. The park is built on land that was a battlefield in 1863. There is a monument to the 84th Indiana Volunteer Regiment that was placed here after the Civil War by some of the men of that regiment. The date is September 19, 1863.


We saw another tiny house; that makes three so far since we left Wisconsin. It seems the tiny house movement is really catching on! It had a plaque on it for the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. I did a little research on them. Their factory is located in Colorado. Makes you wonder how this tiny house ended up at a campground in Chattanooga.


Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bush's Visitor Center

While researching things to do in this area, I came across Bush's Visitor Center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee. Yesterday we drove through some very windy roads to get there.

Bush Brothers and Company makes those famous Bush's Beans. Their company is located in a rural area in the foothills of eastern Tennessee where the family has been doing business for four generations. They started in the late 1800s as a small canning company and have grown into a huge corporation.

There are several plants. This is a photo of the plant in their original location.


We watched a very informative movie of the history of the company and family, and also how the beans are processed. We then walked through a museum area. I didn't know the company has a connection to Wisconsin. In 1962 they purchased a canning company in Augusta, Wisconsin. Condon Bush was sent there to run it. The plant wasn't doing well, and Condon needed something to improve operations. He came up with Bush's Original Baked Beans from a secret old family recipe.  The rest, as they say, is history. The company went from a canning company of all kinds of vegetables to a baked bean company. It sure was a profitable decision.

At the end of the museum area, they take your picture with the famous dog Duke from the commercials. (It's a backdrop, Duke isn't really there.) All of this is free of charge.


Outside is this truck, which is also seen in the commercials.


There was a general store with all kinds of items for sale. There is also a cafe on the grounds with lots of bean dishes on the menu. One of the items they suggested trying was pinto bean pie.  I got a piece to go and tried it later. It tastes kind of like pecan pie, but you can definitely taste the beans. It was okay, but I doubt I would eat it again.


There were lots of people at the visitor center. I guess I'm not the only one who enjoys these quirky kind of touristy things. The rest of the day we spent wandering. We stopped at a quilt shop in Sevierville, but I didn't find anything. We also stopped at an Amish craft market, Bass Pro and a few other shops. Eagle Springs Winery offered free tasting, so we had a few samples. Their wine is made with grapes grown in Tennessee. Some of them have honey in them. Their Pride of the South was very tasty, so I bought a bottle for my mom.

Today we move further south to Chattanooga for the weekend. The weather has been fantastic since we left Wisconsin. It's actually supposed to be in the 80s for the next few days.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

We arrived at the Dumplin Valley Farm RV Park in Kodak, Tennessee on Monday afternoon. The drive from Frankfort, Kentucky had some amazing scenery. This RV park is a large field with sites, but it is perfect for our needs. Full hook-up, level, lots of room and quiet. I'm so glad I didn't choose an RV park closer to the national park. It would have been super stressful to tow our big fifth wheel through the horrible traffic to get to those parks.

When I planned our trip from Wisconsin to Florida, I intentionally routed us through Kentucky and Tennessee thinking we would see some great fall colors. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea. Yesterday we drove the 25 miles from Kodak to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It took us 1.25 hours to get into the park.

Traffic in Pigeon Forge was very heavy, and Christmas sure has come early.


It was bumper to bumper all the way through Gatlinburg and to the entrance of the national park. We sat in stop and go traffic for over 30 minutes. Luckily, the scenery was outstanding. We were passing through tunnels of trees in full fall color.


We finally made it to the Sugarlands Visitor Center and were lucky to get a parking space as someone was just pulling out. The place was packed. I finally got up to the counter and a nice woman gave me a map and showed me a few places we might like to hike. I told her we had been to the park in July, 2000 and it was crowded then, but nothing compared to now. She informed me that this is their busiest time of the year, with July being the second busiest. I guess I need training in trip planning! Before heading out we watched an interesting and informative movie.

I'd heard of the Trail of Tears and knew it had something to do with Oklahoma. I didn't realize that Cherokee Native Americans were marched by our government from Tennessee to Oklahoma. Many died on the way. Those who hid reestablished themselves and were eventually given a small section of land on the southeast corner of the national park as a reservation. Sometimes, when I learn about the history of our country, there are sure shameful events that occurred.

We drove the 20 miles on Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome. So did a million other people. We sat in stop and go traffic for 30 minutes to get to the parking area for the dome. We were again lucky to snag a parking spot at the end of the lot. For a while I thought we would just have to leave without stopping because the parking lot was a mob scene.

We hiked the half mile trail up to the 45 foot dome tower which was built in 1960. It's a nice paved trail, but its a very steep incline for the entire half mile. The altitude is 6,643 feet at the top, the highest point in Tennessee. We had to stop a few times to catch our breath. We're not used to the quick change in altitude. I forgot to take a picture of the dome, so here's one from the web. The half mile trail is before you get to this point.


The views from the top were majestic. We have been very fortunate to visit many national parks. The beauty at some of the locations is indescribable. Yesterday was another one of those days when my spirit was so moved. I feel so close to God when I witness the amazing nature he created. These experiences are far more spiritual for me than any man made structure provides. I love this life!!



The view below is of the Tennessee/North Carolina border. Part of the Appalachian Trail is down there.


It was certainly worth the trek up to the top of the dome for the breathtaking views.


I don't know what type of trees had these berries, but it was so pretty. The leaves were all gone, and just the berries were left. Gorgeous.


It was sad to see a lot of dead Fraser fir trees, victims of a European insect. Another threat comes from acid precipitation. The average acidity of rain here is 5 to 10 times higher than normal. Pollution is also the cause of the haze even though we were here on a very clear day. You should be able to see 100 miles; but because of the pollution, you can usually only see about 20 miles. Sad!


We stopped at a few pullouts on the way back down to admire the scenery. This was another one of those days where pictures just don't capture the beauty of what we were seeing.


Our next stop was the Laurel Falls Trail. The parking area was totally full, so we parked at another spot a half mile away. We hiked the 1.3 miles to the waterfalls. This area has been suffering from a drought all summer. The waterfall was pretty, but I'm guessing it would have been even better if the water level was higher. Our entire hike here was 4 miles plus the 1 plus mile we did earlier. A good workout.


One more picture of pretty leaves. The sun was shining through and really made the colors pop.


We stopped in Pigeon Forge to visit the largest Christmas store in the south, or so their sign said. Nothing out of the ordinary and rather disappointing, I thought. Dinner was at the Smoky Mountain Brewery. Kevin said the beers he sampled were good. It was Pizza Tuesday, so all pizzas were 50% off. The food and beverages were very good, and the price was right.

Even though the crowds and traffic were the worst we have ever experienced at a national park, I'm still glad we went. The scenery was worth it!! If anyone is planning a fall trip to this area, I would recommend getting a very early start to the day or going late in the afternoon. We left home at 10 am and seemed to be in the worst of the traffic all day.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Lexington Horse Farms

Yesterday was one of those perfect fall days; crisp air, sunny skies and vibrant colors. Kevin was nice enough to chauffeur me along part of the Kentucky Scenic Byway that takes you through some gorgeous areas of horse farms in the outskirts of Lexington.


Many of the roads were very narrow. I can't imagine towing a horse trailer on them. We saw one magnificent farm after another with miles and miles of fences surrounding them. I imagined the fences to be white. While some of them were, most of them are black.  Many of the barns are nicer looking than many houses we've seen. Here are two that stood out.



 We saw miles and miles of pastures, but not that many horses. On one of our previous tours, we learned that each horse needs about five acres of pasture to prevent overgrazing of the land. That's a lot of land for not that many horses. We also learned that the make up of the ground and soil in this part of Kentucky was found to be perfect for growing bluegrass. The blend of nutrients in the grass is excellent for feeding horses. That's one of the reasons why this area became the horse capital of the world.


Many of the properties have gates at their entrances. This was one of the more ornate ones we saw.


It was hard to get many quality pictures from inside the truck. Sometimes, you just have to enjoy the view without trying to photograph it. That's what the drive yesterday was like.

Dinner was endless shrimp at Red Lobster in Lexington. It was fantastic, and we were both plenty full when we left. I love their cheddar biscuits and brought a few home in a doggy bag to enjoy with today's meal.

I'm giving Kevin a day of rest from sightseeing today. I'm sure he'll enjoy watching some football and relaxing. There is a nice laundry at this campground, so I plan to do a few loads while all of the weekend warriors depart. It was quite full for the weekend.  We leave tomorrow for Kodak, Tennessee for a few days. It's near the Pigeon Forge area, so I'm sure I'll find plenty for us to do there.

I discovered another tiny house at the RV park we were at in Paducah, but forgot to post a picture. I'll be curious to see how many of them we see this winter.


Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Downtown Louisville

Yesterday we spent several hours exploring downtown Louisville. We found a parking lot next to the river under the highway for $3 for the entire day. What a great deal for a downtown area. Our first stop was the Louisville Slugger museum and factory tour.  Sometimes it pays to get older. October is BOGO for seniors, so we both got in for $13. Outside of the building is a 120 foot replica of Babe Ruth's Louisville Slugger bat.


We enjoyed the tour, museum and movie and learned lots of information about bat making. Picture taking was not allowed on the tour. At the end of the tour, each person was given a Louisville Slugger mini bat.

J. Frederick Hillerich started a woodworking business in Louisville in 1856 making butter churns, bedposts and other wood items. In 1884 his son Bud made a bat for professional baseball player Pete Browning who was known as The Louisville Slugger. His father was reluctant to change the business to bat making, but when butter churn use declined, the business became focused on bat making.


Today the company produces 1.8 wooden bats per year, including the mini bats. To accomplish this 40,000 ash and maple trees are cut down each year in New York and Pennsylvania. New trees are planted and the forests are kept healthy.  Big league players use between 100 and 120 bats each per year at an average cost of $90 per bat.

The company has a secret patented guided boring machine that produces the maximum number of billets per log. The billets are dried and then shaped into bats. It used to be done by hand and took 30 minutes per bat. It is now done by machine and takes 30 seconds per bat.


The finishing of the bats is still pretty much done by hand including the branding and painting process. I never realized how many colors and finishes bats can have. Professional players are very particular about their bats.

There was a special exhibit at the museum by Ripley's Believe it or Not. This is the smallest street legal car. It's only 54 inches long and 40 inches wide, weighing 175 pounds. A 6' 6" person can fit inside, yet it can fit in a standard size elevator.


How about this toothpick replica of Yankee Stadium made with 125,000 toothpicks and lots of Elmer's glue.


And, being a woodworking company, they had to make the world's largest vampire stake for Halloween.


Over 8,000 professional players have signed contracts with the company. Their names are displayed on the Wall of Fame.


Just down the street from the bat museum is a 30 foot David statue unveiled in 2012 by the 21c Museum Hotel. There were several other sculptures in the area. It was quite a surprise to see this large David in Louisville rather than Florence, Italy.


Our next stop was the Bluegrass Brewing Co. for some craft beers. Kevin had the sampler with seven flavors.


I had read about a special dessert in Louisville called Derby Pie and made by Kern's Bakery. It was on the menu at the brewery, so I had to order it. It's kind of like pecan pie only with walnuts instead of pecans. They served it with chocolate and caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. It was DELICIOUS!!! I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting.


We wandered around some more and stopped at the visitor center. They had some interesting exhibits including one about KFC and Colonel Sanders. He led an interesting life and didn't start franchising KFC until he was 65 years old. He died in 1980 at the age of 90. He is the only non-governor whose body was laid in state at the state capitol. What a great success story.


Louisville is on the Ohio River. We explored Waterfront Park which is a beautifully landscaped area next to the river with sculptures and water features. I was impressed with what a great job the city has done in revitalizing their downtown area and how clean it was.


The arena is called the KFC Yum! Center. I didn't know that Yum! is the name of the corporation that owns Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. I just thought it meant KFC was yummy.

We had dinner at Gordon Biersch. A Mint Julep was on my list of things to try in Louisville. It was okay, but not something I would order again.


Our last activity for the day was a free ghost walking tour sponsored by the visitor center. A nice lady took us on an hour tour and told a few ghost stories about buildings in the area. It was not the best walking tour we've ever been on, but I guess you get what you paid for.

We ended up walking 7.5 miles and very much enjoying our exploration of downtown Louisville.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!