Monday, November 16, 2015

Memorials and Yet Another Sorrow

Another catch up blog from our summer travels

It would have been so easy to spend more time in Nashville.  I would love to spend more time here but I know for sure I would like to be here another time of year rather than summer.  The heat and humidity certainly were oppressive.  

I have been a fan of the TV program Nashville that is filmed here in Nashville.  It was fun to see the sights that I have seen on the program.  One such place was the Bluebird Cafe.  In the TV program it is a destination of song writers and who get together and often an impromptu concert happens at this small little place.  In truth there are many such places in Nashville where the new songwriters and artists come together hoping to find their way to stardom.
Not knowing how these things work,
I got out my trusty Google friend and the GPS brought us to the Bluebird Cafe.  We were hoping for a little lunch.  But that was not to be.  We did find the little place, but the doors didn't open until 6:00.  We arrived at 2:30 and there were people in line hoping for one of the 90 seats at an open mike night.

Many songwriters and artists have come through the doors for an audition or open mike session.  During one of the audition dates on June 6, 1987 a young man by the name of Garth Brooks walked through the door for an addition for a Writer's Night an A&R representative at Capitol Records, saw Brooks.  Brooks was signed to Capitol the very next day.

In 2002 that The Bluebird Cafe received an Academy of Country Music Award for Night Club of the Year.

At fifteen years old, another young singer/songwriter was also discovered at the Bluebird Cafe by music executive Scott Borchetta. You might recognize her name, Taylor Swift.  The Bluebird is definitely a mainstay of Nashville and Country Music.

We didn't wait to go inside and ( ) generally reservations are required, except on Sunday and Monday nights, but it certainly sounds like a fun place to soak up the atmosphere.   But our time in Nashville had come to an end and we were headed out.....
to see Graceland.

 We arrived at Graceland as the sun was dipping low in the western sky.  We had heard that the tickets (which range in price from $40 to $76) to go inside of Graceland were sold out long ago as we were here during the week of the Anniversary of Elvis's death.  I must say there is a bit of a carnival atmosphere around the mansion.   It is in a very run down section of town and the area directly around the mansion is full of  touristy shops and large tents catering to the huge influx of visitors.

Elvis Presley died at the estate on August 16, 1977. Presley, along with his parents Gladys and Vernon Presley, and his grandmother, are buried there in what is called the Meditation Garden. A memorial gravestone for Presley's stillborn twin brother, Jesse Garon, is also at the site.


Graceland lite up at night

We were allowed to walk up the long driveway surrounding Graceland to the side of the house where the meditation Garden is.  It is has beautiful gardens and the lighting makes it look surreal. 

One of the entry gates

 Notes to Elvis left on the wall surrounding Graceland

Sunset as we left Graceland.

The next morning we headed out with plans to .... make some miles.  But you know by now how plans go for me.  We were driving through Little Rock, Arkansas which is the State Capitol.  I love seeing the state Capitols although we always seem to hit State Capitols in the late evening or on Sundays which prevent us from the 'inside tour'.  We arrived in Little Rock on Sunday with plans for a drive by and photo op.   We did drive by, but traffic and impatient drivers prevented a picture of the capitol.  Parking in the area did not allow us to find a parking place big enough for the RoadTrek.  
 (from the internet)

I did enjoy rubber necking as we drove around the historic area of  Little Rock sans the impatient drivers.  As we were preparing to reenter the Interstate heading west, my eye caught a sign pointing to the Clinton Presidential Library.   In all my travels I had never visited a Presidential Library so off we went.  We were fortunate to find a HUGE parking lot so off to another first.

I have never been in the White house, but there were life size rooms that give a glimpse of the grandeur of the white house.  It was easy to imagine the people in high powered meetings in the White House.

Since we are from Washington State we are familiar with The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum in the Seattle Center, so we recognized this piece and recognized this gift in the Library immediately as made by Dale Chihuly. 

Their were walls and walls of cases of memorabilia from the Clinton Presidential years.  The displays covered the highs and lows of the presidency and those turbulent times.  But it was a changing world and during those eight years we witnessed many changes.


I think permission WAS given ...... Is it too late to rescind that permission?

Our next stop was one of the most memorable stops of the entire visit.  We have visited many Memorials and Museums, some with very difficult subject matter.  I choose our route partly due to my desire to visit Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. The memorial is located in the downtown area on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed in the 1995 bombing.

      One Minute





            One Hundred and Sixty Eight lives were lost that day including nineteen children.

                                                       Lone tree that survived the blast
The inscription around the inside of the deck wall around the Survivor Tree reads:
The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.
Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing in public and private places all over the United States.

And Jesus Wept

Unlike many of the Memorials we have witnessed, the power of the memorial was not the details or or our understanding what happened, but rather in our witnessing the sheer raw power of the visual presentation.   It was so powerful in fact, that we decided to forgo the Museum and let the searing power of the Memorial speak to our hearts and souls.

We spent several hours just being there, in the quiet, feeling the stillness, absorbing the loss.
In the face of senseless tragedy, how can we ever be the same.

The resolve of the people of Oklahoma City was remarkable.  They were (are) determined that the events of April 19, 1995 would not crush them.  

The Memorial was dedicated five years to the day later, so that all would remember.

It has been two months since we visited this solemn place and our world faces yet another tragedy
in our world.  In all the efforts in the last twenty years, the war on terrorism seems to have made little progress.

So many sorrows

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Nashville, City of Fun and Music

When ever I think of Nashville my heart breaks out in song.  It has long been on my must visit list.  While I don't prefer to hang out in urban settings, I am willing to make the necessary adjustments to stay near Nashville.  But were are here to visit the Country Western center of the world.

Not far from Nashville just off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee, we stopped for a short visit at the site of the first Cracker Barrel Restraurant and Country Store.  Founded in 1969 the founder, Danny Evins, started the restaurants as an alternative to fast food near Interstate highways featuring rocking chairs on the front porch, a blazing fireplace and down home country food with gift shops featuring homemade jellies treasures for every member of the family.  Cracker Barrels restaurants are the darling of RVers who love to sleep a few hours and enjoy a meal along the way.

 (This location did not have space to welcome overnighters) 


After a brief visit and a yummy piece of pie with a scoop of ice cream, we headed out to Nashville.

While we were in Nashville the summer heat and humidity still in high gear so we made plans to stay at our KOA campground. The lure of cool air conditioning calls to me, and the swimming pool beckoned Hailey.  I'll certainly use the opportunity to catch up on some laundry while we are here as well.  The daily chores still need to be done even in Nashville.

There are two KOA's in Nashville and we chose the one a bit farther north which turned out to be in a quieter location which worked well for us.   We later drove by the other KOA which was located off of a busy highway.  We made a good choice.

There were tours available of downtown Nashville with stops at major attractions. We were picked up by a shuttle and headed into Nashville to board the bus and view a number of sights including The Rymen Auditorium (The Grand Ole Opry) and the Country Hall of Fame.

  Outside The Rymen Auditorium (The Grand Ole Opry) 

         The most recognized view,
             The Grand Ole Opry,
 Can't you just hear Minni Pearl, shout out........ Howdeeeeee!

The costs of the entrance fees to the Grand Ole Opry and the Hall of Fame (were included with the tour bus costs) and close to the cost if we had drove in and paid the fees directly. came with free commentary and air conditioning!   We decided to stay in Nashville and have dinner and walk about near the waterfront and listen to some of the music.   

The Ryman Auditorium was names after a prominent riverboat captain and Business man Thomas Green Ryman whose generosity of time and money built the Union Gospel Tabernacle  which was renamed the Ryman Auditorium in his honor in 1904.

It became the home of Country Music and became the home of the filming of the Grand Ole Opry television show.

Country Music Hall of Fame
Budding stage actresses are awed on Broadway of New York city.  Movie actors are drawn to Hollywood, but this is the epi-center of the Country music world.  In this place I see evidence of all the music stars that I have watched from afar....and know that they have walked this place.  Yes, I am awed.....but I can't sing a note in my head only in my dreams. 

We left our tour at the Hall of Fame and stayed down near the waterfront to spend more time in the city, have dinner and enjoy the vibe of the nightlife near the waterfront.

Nashville Walk of Fame

Nashville  has become a major recording destination for many kinds of music.

 State Capitol

 Another women's notable point of interest
A Statue of Reverend Billy Graham

It is fun to walk around the streets near the waterfront.  There are breweries, restaurants, shops..... a little something for everyone.

The nightclubs often have large windows and doors that open up to the sidewalks allowing sidewalk concerts for everyone.

I had a little fun with color 

 So Long Nashville, We Will Seen You Again!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Foggy Shenandoah Mountains

(Another catch up post from Summer Travels)

For as much as I love DC, the heat, all the people, and the expense of traveling back and forth, while leaving the Road Trek tied to the power pole, I was more than ready to move on.
It was definitely time for some nature time.  I answered by playing a little song from YouTube for Hailey, none other than Shenandoah sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
I must say she wasn't impressed but it set the stage for me and I could definitely hear Shenandoah calling.

Just a 2 hour drive from Reston,Virginia, We headed out to find cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, a quiet wooded hollows along Skyline Drive, within the 200,000 acres of protected land.  In addition I had emailed one of my favorite bloggers and found out they were staying at the Meadows campground.  Since we didn't have reservations, I didn't know if we would be able to stay nearby but we hoped to meet them during our time in this wonderful National Park.

As we winded up to the Skyline Drive the weather cooled down and we entered a peek-a-boo zone.  Lots of fog with hills and peaks poking through. Pictures would have to wait for better conditions and I wanted to get up to the Meadows to hopefully snag a campsite.  Ever hopeful, we did stop at pullouts hoping to see the views before the pea soup filled in the landscape.   I also knew we would not be heading back north so this was a one shot deal.  We would need to see everything that we could as we drove through the park.  We did get a great lay of the land but no usable pictures.

After arriving at the Big Meadows Campground, we did a drive around to check out for available sites and found several on the same loop as the Brave Motorhome I recognized as belonging to David and Sherry of the Blog, In the Direction of Our Dreams.

One of the advantages of owning a Class B motorhome is the availability of a larger number of sites available since most any site that is level works great.  It works well when you are entering a park with only a few sites to choose from.  Larger camping units are often out of luck since there larger unit may only fit in a few sites.

We quickly picked a site and settled into our site, along with the fog.   David and Sherry were not at home as we settled in but arrived shortly and
Sherry recognized our rig as they drove up in Ruby, their tow-behind toad.  We had a great visit and talked and talked, and talked.....

David took these foggy pics.  At times it was even foggier.  Since there is nothing we can do to change the fog, we embrace it.  The weather made a trip perfect time to spend at the visitor center to learn more about the National Park and the history of the area. Probably one of the best little visitor centers I have encountered.  A great combination of history and geology.

Shenandoah was authorized in 1926 and fully established on December 26, 1935. Before it was a park, much of the area was farmland and there are still remnants of old farms in several places. The Commonwealth of Virginia slowly acquired the land through eminent domain and then gave it to the U.S. federal government provided it would be designated a national park.

In the creation of the park [the Skyline Drive right-of-way was purchased from owners without condemnation], a number of families and entire communities were required to vacate portions of the The Blue Ridge Mountains. Many of the residents in the 500 homes of Virginia were vehemently opposed to losing their homes and communities.

At least the Visitor Center tells the story details of how this park came to be and more history of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) which was very active in the construction of the National Park . 

Once again the rights of individuals were devalued for the value to  'benefit the greater good'. While some residents were allowed to stay until their deaths, others were loaded up in trucks and moved off the mountain they had long called home.

After wandering around the visitor center it was nearing sunset so we drove to some of the viewpoints near the campground and hoped and prayed for the fog to disperse for some sunset pictures.

 Overnight it rains, and rains and fog, certainly more heavy fog was the result.

In the morning we have visitors to our campsite.  I watch this little momma and her charges and they stop for a little breakfast while I enjoy coffee.

We stop for a little visit with David and Sherry before we head out to see more of the sights before we head out to Nashville.  They suggest a nearby hike and if we can get to Rapidan Camp a visit to the 'Brown House'.  We were able to snag 2 tickets on the shuttle ride and so we headed out after a few pics with our new friends.

It was great to meet Sherry and David in person as I have followed her blog.... In the direction of our dreams since before I sold my house when I first started thinking about full time travel.  Life has a way of stirring up the pot just when you think you know the direction you are going.  David and Sherry and I have all experienced had experience adjusting our life course.  We pick ourselves up and move forward with the next best plan.

So glad we had the opportunity to meet in person as well as blog land!  
Happy Trails, I hope to see you again down the road.

We have so few pictures of Hailey and I together, I included another of Davids pics so that I would have it.
Great job David!  

Our tickets are for 1:00 in the afternoon so we hike to the Dark Hollow Falls in the morning.  The hike was approximately 2 miles which is not a bad length for me....except more than half of it is uphill so it is good that we hiked to the falls first as the ride in the van would allow me a little rest time.

I love taking pictures of the surrounding area.
Especially flowers and landscape as they are stationary and I can take all the time I need.

There were many, many butterflies and as much as I tried the little fluttering devils moved as I took the photo.... This was the best I could do.   

Along the way was a cemetery of previous residents on the mountain.  This one is known as the Cave Cemetery.


 Not only are there family members from times past from the 1800's, there are more current burials in this place.

 On to the falls. There is a lower pool and then a sharp climb up the hillside to the upper falls.

There was a family having a lovely lunch on the rocks around the lower pool.  Thanks to the powers of editing I was able to bring you just the falls.  After viewing the falls, it was a sprint up the path to the van so that we could make it back to the visitor center to ride in the van to our stop at the Presidential Retreat.   One mile steady, but all up hill! Oh, did I feel that!

Our Driver and tour guide for the Camp Rapidan Tour.

Shortly after the Election in 1928, President Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry established this quiet retreat, know as Camp Rapidan

 The main lodge as it looked when the Hovers used the camp for quiet retreats and the meeting place for World Leaders and friends during the years in the White House that he fondly named Camp Rapidan.

Our guide took us through the modest house and another building still standing at this retreat though no photos are allowed inside the building.


It is not difficult to imagine President Hoover fishing in the River as his wife watched from the porch.  The peace and tranquility that the Hoovers found in this place remain still.

After our return to the visitor Center we indulge in a wonderful blackberry milkshake (Thanks Sherry!  It was MMMMMMM Good!) and head out to the meadow before heading south along the Skyline Drive where we will be stopping along the way to take in more of the views. 


Shenandoah is a wonder Park that I would love to spend more time in.  Sherry and Dave spent the entire summer here.  Sometimes our desire to see and do it all leads us to travel at such a pace that we miss many of the little moments.  I must rethink again how I travel and what is important to me.
I wonder what it would be like to travel and stay......until I feel ready to go.

We had not seen a bear our entire trip.  Until now.  As we drove along the Skyline drive on the southern end we came around to a viewpoint and I recognized the telltale signs....  Tourists out of there cars rushing along the roadside with cameras in tow.


I turned around and saw this cute little fella playing along the roadside.  We pulled over but I remained in the van and got these great little shots.  Far less hair than the bears out west but we were excited to see one this year.

It was fun to sit and watch the little fella scavenging on the hill side.  He rolled over rocks as if they were paper and ate as he went.

He occasionally turned around to watch the spectators.  He looked a bit stressed so on we went.

That's all folks!