Saturday, October 27, 2007

(37) Florence Alabama to 5 Points

Florence Alabama

Muscle Shoals

Heading south from Lawrenceburg I’ve traveled 39 miles to Florence Al. It’s raining today and is expected to rain for a couple of days, but I had to get to a location that at least had better TV coverage, especially since I may be indoors a bit more with all the rain.

I found a really cute little city park called McFarland Park. It’s right on the Tennessee River with it’s heavily wooded shear rock cliffs on the opposite shoreline, dark grays with white streaks. $15 a night (Electric and water). Nice paved sites, half are pull-thru’s.

Florence is in the NW corner of the state and is a nice sized town. I love the sound of the small town on the other side of the river, Muscle Shoals. It sounds so beachy to me. In any case, I went to the only Frank Lloyd Wright home built in Alabama. It’s the second Usonian built and is considered the purest design in that field. Frank was very passionate about his homes that he designed and often made buyers sign a contract that they would not change anything in them without his approval. The wide expanse of window/doors (which had no hardware on the outside for safety) so they could only be opened from the inside. Every room in this house has access to the outside. His concept of bringing the outside in. Mitered corner windows with no seams to block the views, the horizontal lines of the building and roof lines.

Clearstory windows, fireplaces at the center of each of the main living areas. This was way before Tv, when families would gather around a fireplace. A beautifully restored home and well worth the visit.

I visited the Florence Indian Mound which is the highest one in the area. It’s now surrounded by industrial parks and the port of Florence along the Tennessee River. The area was originally inhabited by the (1) Archaic People over 10,000 years ago. They’re main diet consisted of eating the mollusks from the river thus giving the name to the area, Muscle Shoals. The (2) Woodland and (3) Copena Cultures who probably built the mound arrived around 4,000 years ago, or 4,000 BP (before present). They were replaced by the (4) Mississippian Civilization, then the (5) Historic Indians , the (6) Euchees, the (7) Shawnees from the Ohio River who eventually were replaced by the (8) Cherokees and (9) Chickasaws in 1715. The Chickasaws eventually gave up there claim to the area in 1816 and left on the Trail of Tears.

So what does this all tell us. One is that the ancient Indian tribes migrated into and then out of the area, but more importantly, that later on, each of the Indian tribes that settled here pushed the previous tribes out of the area enjoying the rich lands for themselves. Eventually the last Indian tribes, the Cherokees and Chickasaws being forced out by the U.S. in our quest to settle more land as we moved west. Man seems to want to take over the best lands for themselves. To the victor go the spoils so to speak. Looks like a pretty consistent theme throughout history.

I did a tour of Pope’s Tavern. Darn, they didn’t have any brew-skies chilled either. It’s one of the oldest structures in Florence and was used by both the Confederate and Union forces during the War between the States. It of course was a stagecoach stop, Inn and tavern in it’s time and would have made a great stop along the way. Sure would have been nice if they’d had a cold one waiting for me.

This town has all the major stores on the outskirts of town from Best Buy to Targets to Home-Depot and over 125 restaurants to choose from. Including 14 Barbeque places. Haven’t been able to check out any nightlife but it’s also home to the University of North Alabama so I’m sure there’s something going on around here. The two places I ate in were, Ricatoni’s Italian Grill in the old part of town. I had fresh bread dipped in herbs and olive oil and cheese ravioli in a tomato cream sauce. Great food and I ate at Guthrie’s. Guthrie’s is a fast food place, very nice looking place, with only one thing on the menu. Chicken strips. Includes coleslaw and fries. Really, that’s the only thing on the menu. And I’ve got to admit, they do know how to do a chicken strip justice. Shortest menu I’ve ever seen.

Using my trusty Road Master Road Atlas, I head out again and followed hwy 157 east just past hwy 65 to the Ave Maria Grotto. How did I know about the grotto? Easy enough, it was highlighted in my atlas. This is one of the best map books I’ve found and I use it to discover unique places along the way. I drove along this mostly 4 lane divided country highway up and down steep V shaped hills and valleys. Past dormant corn fields with errant corn sprouting up, and cotton fields with small tufts of cotton still clinging to some of the dead shoots.

The grotto is located on the grounds of the St Bernard Abbey a Benedictine Monastery of men founded in 1891. The grotto is in an old stone quarry and contains miniature replicas of many famous shrines and churches through out the world including a Hansel and Gretel scene built by Brother Joseph Zoeti.

I was able to travel to Bethlehem, St Peter’s Shrine, The temple of Fairies, The Tower of Babel, Lourdes Shrine and Dormition Abbey just to name a few. Anyone interested in historical sites and especially religious significant sites would really enjoy walking through this grotto. What a pleasant surprise out in the countryside of northern Alabama. Fresh air, inspiration, meditation, a sense of peace and joy.

I’m staying at the Noccalula Falls Campground in Gadsden Alabama for a couple nights. Nice park, $16 a night for water/elec./cable tv. Full hookups are available for a couple dollars more. The falls are anemic due to the lack of water, but still a really pretty site. I’m going on the hike around the falls this afternoon.

Now if you want a great meal, check out Gail’s CafĂ©. It’s right behind Paul’s Mountain Meat across from the Noccalula Park. I had chicken over rice, great fried okra, a squash casserole (more like a light delicate soufflĂ©) a roll, drink and banana pudding all for $7.00.

Well I’m heading down to meet up with Ruth Hemrick and her husband James. Just to say hi and talk about all the 5 Points gossip of what’s going on. That should take all of “5” minutes… (chuckle).

PS. Found a campsite called Southern Pines Campground off of CR-212. It’s owned by the Southern Harbor Marina and I was able to get a half off discount of $11 a night, full hookups.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

(36) Bonus Report on Vitamin D

Of course this isn't a travel report, but just something I wanted to share along the way.

Joint Pain, Back Pain.

The miracle of Vitamin D3

I thought I’d share this story about my own experience with aches and pains and the solution that’s worked for me. For a number of years, I have had a fair amount of back pain. Usually occurring if I sit in the wrong position for too long and especially after a nights sleep. I would usually wake up in the morning and had to get out of bed because my back hurt so much. I was even beginning to have pain in my legs at night as well.

Then about a year ago, while traveling on the road, my right arm really started to give me a lot of pain. Especially in the shoulder socket, my elbow joint and then finally my wrist. It was getting so bad, I couldn’t even lay on my right arm at night which I usually did. While driving, I’d have to rest my arm on the arm rest and try not to move it. The pain was almost constant.
I was heading towards my sisters home in lower Mich. And planned on asking her if she could get an appointment with her doctor for me. It was getting that bad.

By chance, one evening I watched a news article on TV with a doctor talking about the benefits of vitamin D. He mentioned first that over 80% of his patients were found to be deficient in vitamin D. Causing weak bones, loss of muscle and tissue, all leading to more aches and pains.

Obviously a light bulb started to blink in my brain. He mentioned that he was recommending that most of his adult patients take as much as 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day. Now we all know that calcium helps build bones and that it quite often comes with a smaller dose of vitamin D which works in conjunction with calcium. But unfortunately the dosage of vitamin D just isn’t enough if your deficient.

Since I had a couple of weeks before getting to my sisters house, I decided to go out and get a bottle of vitamin D and began to take 2,000 IU a day. Trying to be cautious, I didn’t feel comfortable taking 4,000 IU that the doctor had recommended for his patients. It is now believed that an adult can easily take up to 10,000 IU’s per day.

Well, within about a week to two weeks, I really began to feel a difference. After taking the 2,000 IU’s of vitamin D for about two months, my arm was completely healed. The relief from the pain in my joints was a God send.

I dropped down to taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D and continue to take it today. About a year later, I was talking to my other sister and it dawned on me that not only had it healed my joints in my arm, but that my back pain had finally eased to such a point that I was now able to lay in bed in the morning and enjoy a couple minutes more of pain free luxurious rest before stretching and getting out of bed. Completely pain free! Except for an occasional lower back pain after a full day of walking or touring, I never even think about my back anymore.

Needless to say, I practically feel like I have a new body. During this past year or two I have also started to take a multi-vitamin which I’m sure has helped to balance any vitamin deficiencies I may have had and could have contributed to my overall well-being.

I’ve done a bit further research and it’s recommended that one take Vitamin D3 which is a natural form of vitamin D that will be absorbed by the body much more readily. It’s odd that a search on vitamin D will list the many benefits including reducing the risk of cancer and MS, but rarely brings up the benefit of regeneration of muscle, bone and joints. That, I think is the best of all benefits.

Please do your own research as well. I’ve never had such a direct and positive benefit from taking any vitamin or nutritional supplement. I’m not an expert and have little knowledge about the benefits of other vitamins and supplements. However, this was my direct experience and I felt if important to share it with you. I hope it may help you or a friend if you find your in the same situation.

(36) Natchez Mississippi Trace Trail & Lawrenceburg Tennessee

Natchez Trace Parkway TN

Meriwether Lewis campsite

Hohenwald, 20 mile yard sale

Lawrenceburg TN

I sure did like my campsite back in Nashville, the Nashville Country Campground. The folks there were just so darn nice. But at the same time, I felt like a million bucks heading out on the road again. I had to drive into Nashville on 65 and loop around on hwy 40, drop down onto county road 100 to hit the Natchez Parkway. The traffic wasn’t bad so I was a happy camper.

If you’ve been following my travels, you’ll remember I took the Natchez Trace three years ago, starting from the southern end. I had at that time traveled ¾ of the Trace before exiting to go to Memphis. This was my chance to finish the northern end I hadn’t covered the first time.
Now as a refresher, the Natchez is a 444 mile trail that was used during the pioneer era to travel back along after the farmers and trappers traveled down the Mississippi river to New Orleans to sell their goods. They sold their flat boats and walked or road horses back north along the Natchez Trace Trail. It was originally a Chickasaw and Choctaw Indian trail. Today, it’s a wooded parkway with immaculately maintained rolling lawns on either side of the two lane parkway. Only recreational vehicles can use it. No commercial vehicles are permitted on it.

You know I love architecture so the first stop was to get a view and take a couple pictures of the double-arched bridge that spans Birdsong Hollow. It was completed in 1994 and was awarded the Presidential award for Design Excellence.

Now I’m only traveling 90 miles today, but it took me four and a half hours. I know I know. But when you travel the parkway, there are lots of wayside stops with historical markers and small walks to get you out in the countryside. At one of them which showed some of the original ruts of the old trail, I was the only one at the wayside stop. Walking along the black top loop, it was so quiet I could hear the soft footsteps of my rubber soled shoes against the pavement. Crows way off in the distance were circling high above a field, caw caw, caw caw. Letting me know they were there. The air fresh and crisp against a bright blue sky. Talk about feeling good and happy to be alive.

When I finally got to the Meriwether Lewis campsite, right on the parkway I noticed there was going to be a craft show in the park this weekend. As I drove into the campsite almost all the sites were filled. I got one of the last two available. Yippee. Not only that, after setting up, I discovered the campsite is FREE! Now that’s my favorite price to pay. Of course no hook-ups, but I have backup power with the solar panels so I’m all set. And it’s free.

Talked to my friendly neighbors and they told me that just down the street a ways, Lawrenceburg has a small city park, about 5 years old, that only costs $10 a night with all the basic hook-ups. What a deal. They built it on land by the creek which flooded real bad a couple years back. The Gov/city bought the land and tore down all the destroyed homes and built the campground. Better than rebuilding homes and having them destroyed each time a flood occurs.

And, would you believe, the small town of Hohenwald is having their Oktoberfest. About 20 miles of yard sales along hwy 20, a festival in town with live music all day and the craft fare here in the park. All within minutes of my campsite. I drove along the yard sale road and stopped at a couple of them. I love it. You meet the greatest people. Like the M&M lady. All bubbly and full of laughter. So of course I had to take her picture. Haven’t purchased a darn thing, but fun to look at everything.

On Saturday I went to the craft show here in the park. Lot’s of nice local stuff. Some artwork was really inexpensive and I was almost tempted to purchase a painting. But where would I put it? They had a country band, with a couple really big guys. The country folk around here really like to eat. Wow. After having a horrid meal from one of the food vendors, I decided to go back to the campsite and just enjoy a couple of hours of quiet time, reading a book and enjoying the perfect weather we’re having.

By the way, I’m not sure if you know this, but every time I write one of my stories, I think about each and every one of you that are on my mailing list. Many times, I’m writing specifically about something I just know you in particular will enjoy.

I headed out again along the 20 mile yard sale which was going full speed by the afternoon as I slowly crawled along county road 20 heading towards Hohenwald TN. There was to be more music on main street and I just had to go check it out. More country singers, including a young 8th grader doing his best to sing a couple good ole country tunes. Did pretty good on the guitar, but he needs a bit more practice on the vocals. Everyone cheered him on anyway. The town had more craft and food vendors and I at least got a decent hot dog and soda.

It’s been down in the 40’s at night. My gas furnace works well and the solar panels are keeping the batteries charged each day. A couple extra camp blankets on the bed and I’m all toasty warm for a good nights sleep. Today it’s going to get up to a record 85 for this time of year.

About 35 miles down the road, I’ve gotten off the parkway and drove through farm country into Lawrenceburg TN. I was able to find the city campground off of Evergreen and Hayes Ave. There are no signs to tell you your in the park/campground, but there it is, tucked away in one corner with Shoal Creek circling it on three sides. After contacting the local police officer who lives next to the park (he has the keys to unlock the water and electric boxes), I headed out to City Hall to pay for the campsite. Imagine, $10 a night. I’ve decided to stay for a week. Who wouldn’t at those prices.

Now the town is a quaint southern town with a population of about 100 Amish families just north of town. I’ve already seen two black horse drawn buggies ride into town. Right on the main street along with cars and all.

Deep southern accents are everywhere. Meat and two side vegetable specials are served at all the local restaurants here in Tennessee . Today’s special was chicken stuffing, mashed potato’s and gravy, peas, a drink and desert for $5.50. Most places give you a choice of meat and vegetables. I could get to like these prices.

Just heard one person got killed this past weekend during the miles long yard sale. A young Amish boy. Heavy congested country roads, Drivers and passengers gawking, trying to decide the next stop and find a place to park on the edge of the road. Sad. A fun event that has led to a number of deaths each year they tell me.

Oh, I just bought a small side table. It’s a salesman’s sample gate-leg table so it’s just a smaller version of what the salesman would have been trying to sell. The antique shop (one of those multi-dealer places right in the heart of town) told me that these are very rare. Could easily be worth about $300. I paid $46.00. Who knows. It’s a beautiful piece and I’ll use it well.

On the town circle are signs everywhere welcoming Fred Thompson the presidential candidate. He’s from Lawrenceburg. This is also one of the places David Crockett used to live. A statue and a small log cabin office attest to his popularity in these parts. Equally the Cherokee Indians have support in the area to tell their story as the original inhabitants of the area.

My final sort of tour was to Amish country in Ethridge TN. It’s 7 miles north of Lawrenceburg. I signed up for a wagon tour but they kept delaying it. After waiting two hours, I finally drove around on my own. I was a bit shy, didn’t stop at any of the Amish farms, as I didn’t want to say or do anything that would offend them. The Amish live a very simple life, with no electric, cars, or modern conveniences. They plow all their fields with horses and plows. I saw a team of four horses pulling a plow. Your not supposed to take pictures of them either. I saw quiet a few driving their black buggies along the sides of the roads where there was a shoulder, but most times they rode their wagons and buggies right on the main roads. Their farms are very run down and look poorly kept. Maybe they aren’t allowed to buy metal roofing or paint and supplies to keep them up. Not really sure. Sure wish I could have gotten on one of the guided tours to find out. There are like 50 farms that you can stop at and purchase things they make. Everything from furniture to candles, jellies and jams, bread, baskets to saddles and harnesses.

Postscript: A final comment on Lawrenceburg, it’s not a place I would spend a week in again. There’s not much to do here. The town itself is composed of a main square that is barely holding on. The main strip of shops along hwy 48 are mainly drugstores, car repair shops, farm feed and supply stores, discount stores a couple fast food restaurants and one Wal-Mart. All surrounded by some of the oldest derelict buildings around. No nightlife though I understand that during the summer they do have more festivals and music events. They’d have to or a person could die of boredom. One could easily visit here to go on an Amish tour and leave the next day.
And since I dropped Direct TV, having cable or at least a couple off air stations is a must. I have one Christian Tv station and a very snowy CW station. Ekk! Talk about being in the dark ages.

Friday, October 12, 2007

(35) Nashville Tennessee

The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson (7th president)

The Parthenon, Athena

The Grand Ole Opry

Country Music Hall of Fame/Studio B

Well I’ve settled into my new home, Nashville and it really does feel like home. As a full time traveler, you’d think I’d feel like I was always having to adjust to new surroundings. But sometimes, a place just feels right. Not really sure what it is. Perhaps it’s my love of music that makes me feel home. The people are friendly of course, the roads are a congested mass of circles and loops surrounding the city center, but once you get on the side streets, it all feels like normal town and city traffic. The hectic pace slowing down and it’s a bit easier to adjust to these new surroundings.

Nashville is called the Athens of the South for a couple of reasons. One, it has a number of buildings in the Greek style of architecture but also because it became an education center of the south early on. Having built Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities, a medical college and an Academy. Oh and the Parthenon! Can you believe, a full size replica of the original Parthenon in Greece! Including a huge statue of Athena. I was able to go in for free during their weekend “Multi-Cultural Event”. Lot’s of music from around the country, small vendors providing small samples of food from around the world and just good people watching. How neat to be able to see up close a Greek building without even having to leave the states. And isn't that the sweetest little girl taking a rest on a picnic table bench.

I started out my touring and exploring by going to the Hermitage (twice). Actually the first time I got caught between a couple large school groups and decided to leave and come back the next day which was a Saturday and little chance of getting stuck between those “darling” little urchins. The Hermitage is President Andrew Jackson’s estate and it looks much like it did when he built it, except the original 1,000+ acres of fields and grounds don’t have the cotton and other crops growing on them. It’s more a park setting today.

I didn’t learn all that much about Jackson as our 7th president, as the very extensive tour with head phones, tour guides in the main house etc. all concentrated on his life on the plantation or his career as a General in the Army. He served as the first territorial governor of Florida in 1821. Something I wasn’t aware of. The current tours are concentrating on the 150 slaves that ran the estate and their eventual freedom. Providing moving descriptions of the people and their lives.

In the evening, I went to the Grand Ole Opry. I took one of the Grey-line tour pkg. deals which saved on having to drive downtown at night. Well worth the small added expense. For anyone into country music, attending a show at the Grand Ole Opry is like finding the holy grail. Two of the top singers, Porter Wagoner and Tanya Tucker were no shows, but the show was still well worth it.

The show wouldn’t have been the Ole Opry without a few of the old timers like Little Jimmy Dickens with his collection of jokes and a song or two. Bobby Bare another old timer still has a voice that rings true. Having heard the small group at the campground the other night, one really appreciates the level of accomplishment it takes to get to perform on the grand Ole Opry. Like night and day.

Hearing performers like The White’s a family folk group (one of the daughters is married to Ricky Skaggs) I was just blown away by the beautiful harmony and rich sounds this family band made. A shame their music isn’t on the radio except for the small town country stations. But I’ve come to the Grand Ole Opry to hear groups like this and learn more about the really talented musicians that I just wouldn’t learn about any other way. They introduced a couple of new artists as well, but I didn’t catch their names and they weren’t on the play bill, having been added at the last minute.

And last but not least, the Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s more than a museum, it’s where all the country music is stored and re-stored along with vintage movies and interviews. You can actually watch the technicians taking old vinyl records and tapes and storing them onto Cd’s after restoration.

It’s a pretty big place but my favorite part was going on the guided tour of RCA’s Studio B, where Elvis recorded tons of hits along with all the other country greats. But the best part was when our tour guide recognized Gordon Stoker of the Jordonaire‘s. That was the back up group that sang on so many of Elvis’s hits and many other country artists. He told us about his experiences singing until 3am with Elvis, how Elvis was able to sing “Are you Lonely tonight” with all the lights down real low, barely on, and his singing the entire song all the way through the first time without a single error. Well actually, the Jordonaire’s made a mistake on the last note, and that’s all they had to re-record and splice in, one note. He talked about how Patsy Cline had a quick temper and had no problem telling a D.J. off if he asked the wrong question. He and one other living member of the Jordonaire’s still sing back-up and have even sung backup for Ricky Martin. What a career. By the way, I believe he said he’s 87!
Our tour guide told us about song writers. This town is equally interested in writing songs as it is singing them. And this is probably part of the reason why. He told us how Dolly Parton wrote the song “I’ll Always Love You” as a thank you to Porter Wagoner for all his help in getting her career started. Remember when he took her under his wing and did all the duets with her? Then she broke away and started her solo career. Well that song alone has been done many times over with the biggest one being when Whitney Huston did the song for the movie. Well Dolly has made over $20 million dollars in royalties on that one song along. Elvis Presley approached her about singing the song as well, but he wanted part ownership of the song. She hated to turn Elvis down but as a smart business woman, decided to hold onto the songs rights. Smart business woman and $20 million dollars richer.

Oh, and the story about Patsy Cline, who had quite a temper. When Chet Atkins insisted she sing the song, “I fall to pieces” (not sure if I have the songe correct) with a slow beat. Patsy really enjoyed more upbeat songs and wanted to do the song with a faster tempo, well Chet won out and she was so mad, she channeled it to sing the song and now we have that awesome country song sung with so much passion.

Our guide also told us that Elvis loved using the grand piano in Studio B and asked to buy it. Chet Atkins the head of the studio wouldn’t sell it. We of course got to sit at the same piano that Elvis and all the other great musicians used to produce the Nashville sound. How cool. Lot’s of stories, I wish I could share all of them with you.

While touring around Nashville, I got a tip to eat at Sylvan Park Restaurant. A good Ol home town eatery. The place was packed, but I was able to get in and had a real good meal, including fried corn. Have you ever heard of it? It’s corn done in a basic rue of butter (or bacon grease) and flour with salt and pepper and a touch of sugar. Best corn I’ve ever had, yum!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

(34) Lexington to Nashville Tennessee

Mary Todd Lincoln Home, Lexington KY

Boone’s Station KY

White Hall, Gen Clay KY

Mammoth Cave KY

Nashville TN

Before leaving the Richmond Ky area, I had time to visit a couple more sites. Unfortunately most of the historic homes in this area don’t permit pictures to be taken inside. A real bummer for someone like me, who loves to take pictures.

The Mary Todd Lincoln home is the first home preserved for a 1st Lady of a President right in the heart of Lexington Ky. The guide was very careful to put Mary Todd in the best of light. To the point one would think she was a “modern woman”. Having been outspoken, educated, spoke both English and French fluently and could argue politics with the best of men. It was only near the end of the tour that there was mention of her being sent to an nut house. Still well worth learning about a very misunderstood person. Oh and being able to touch the same stair railing that Abraham Lincoln touched is about as close as I’ll ever get to such a great historical person. Whew, I get chilled just thinking about it.

Not far from my campground is White Hall, General Clay’s mansion. Gen Clay was a mentor of Abe Lincolns and a staunch abolitionist and writer of an anti-slavery paper. Kentucky being a middle state had families torn apart over the slavery issue. Mary Todd’s family was split down the middle and she herself was totally against slavery even before meeting Abe. Unfortunately, she was shunned by both the North and south, both thinking she was a spy and traitor. His home, White Hall has been totally restored. History is everywhere around here.

I also had the neat experience of being able to walk around one of those great farms in the area, with their tobacco barns and cut hay fields. It was at Boone’s Station. It’s now a state park and is where Daniel Boone and family established a settlement. Most of the traces of that settlement are buried, along with some of the Daniels family members. It was one of those warm balmy days, the sun shining, but not too hot. No one was around when I got to the Station, so I just walked around, along the edge of the fields, up the sloping hill to the back end of the farm, through the mostly unmarked grave sites of Edward and Samuel Boone, his wife Sarah and their son Thomas, brothers of Daniel Boone and few others who were killed during the Revolutionary war and Lick battle. Life was not easy for the new explorers of our country. I even got to see up close a tobacco field and walk inside the tobacco barn, with the tobacco leaves drying upside down before going to market. A mild hint of tobacco smell as the leaves dried. And yes Kentucky still lets folks smoke just about everywhere. That takes a bit of getting used too if you’ve lived in a state with smoking bans.

I finally got back on the road and headed west along the Kentucky Parkway before heading south on 65. It’s now a free drive, as they stopped charging tolls! How cool, a state that has actually retired their tolls on the road after the road was paid for. Imagine. It’s actually possible.

I decided to stay right in Mammoth Cave National Park. I got a campsite for $17, no hook-ups, so I’m back to using my solar panels. I had plenty of power last night to watch TV and read a book. The power barely went down with the use of a couple of lights and the TV last night. Lots of trees, but there’s enough sunlight hitting the panels to charge the batteries for one more night.

I took one of the many tours into Mammoth cave, just to get a feeling for the place. It’s the largest cave system in the world. Didn’t know that. Huge vast rooms that were once carved out by an underground river, millions of years ago.

One hundred miles down the road and I’ve arrived at my next campsite, Nashville Country Rv park. It’s on the outskirts of Nashville and will be my home base while exploring the city. Besides, the park has a “little Opry” night on Thursdays so I don’t even have to go out at night if I don’t want to too hear some good country music.

Now if you’ve been following my adventures, you know I love to hear live music. So I paid the $8.00 for a BBQ dinner and the free music in the park. A few sprinkles at the beginning of the evening hardly dampened anyone’s mood. As the evening became darker and the little outdoor stage was lit up, a couple of musicians began to entertain us. A 16 year old girl, as thin as a rail, belted out the first couple sets of music. But the evening really kicked up a notch when Tommy Ross came on stage. He’s a middle ages dad from the Ozarks who works as a store manager at Ace Hardware during the day and fulfills his love of music at night. His mom and dad, who I met are his groupies and have even gotten an RV to be able to follow their son around as he performs.

Sitting out on the lawn, everything dark beyond the light of the stage, Tommy began to sing one of his own songs about a truck driver having to leave his family once again to go out on the road. Off behind the stage and up the hill, behind a bank of trees, large semi-trucks with their night lights shining, driving along the highway were a reminder of those men that Tommy was singing about. A few late arrivals in the campground slowly drove past us behind the stage, their big rig Rv’s lit up like the moving homes they are, finally settling in for the night after a long day on the road.

Tommy Ross sang a lot of the old county standards, he knows over 400 songs, a few of his own that he’s written, and he even threw in Jimmy Buffet’s Margarita Ville, which I was hoping he would sing. Bringing me back to my Florida roots I love so much. A pretty good evening, considering I only had to walk about 20 feet from my campsite to enjoy it! Didn’t have to cook or clean the dishes. Life is good.

Lots more to come from Nashville….