Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014-16 Lebanon Tennessee


Nashville Tennessee

Antique Archeology

Campground:  Army Corp park, J Percy Priest Lake:  Poole Knobs campground.  Senior rate $12, regular $22 for water view sites.  Water/Elec. 50amp.  Mostly pull-thrus with many having lake views.  Heavily wooded.

Campground:  Cedars of Lebanon State park.  $17.50 (senior rate 25% discount)  water/elect. 50 amp. No wi-fi signal and very poor Verizon signal.

the 50amp sites are close together, but very neat and paved

Since I needed to stay in the area for 4 more days waiting for my appointment to have the TV connections fixed on the camper, I was able to get a site for 4 nights with water views at Poole Knobs campground.  What a difference from a heavily woods campsite to open water views.  Bringing up a point about anyone who camps full time, we have the most diverse views from our campsites and they never get boring as we are able to change them so often.

a wonderful rock ledge at the base of my campsite

The fireflies are once again lighting up in the evening putting on a blinking light show, a frog croaks near the waters edge and a lone great blue heron flies in to the shoreline hoping to catch an evening meal. The shoreline along the campsites is a no-wake zone making for very pleasant and quiet viewing of the boats and ski-doos as they go by.

Just a note regarding last weeks report.  Did you know that Barbra Mandrel had quite the accident years ago just before building the mansion that I visited?  She was in a car accident and didn’t have her seat belt on causing lots of broken bones and a couple of years of recovery on her part.  One gal on the tour who lives in the Nashville area remembered it well and said how everyone in her family from that day on, used their seat belts.  She also related how because of that accident, many state laws were enacted requiring seatbelts and also stepping on enforcement of those laws.

Well since I’m in the Nashville area for a few extra days, I’ve continued my touring and decided to use one of my Total Access Passes to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame which has been expanded to double it’s size since I was last there.  It is also the repository of the largest collection of country music recordings and memorabilia in the country.  Many of their exhibits have been improved, though a new one which was good overall, on the influence of Bakersfield California in the development of country rock music, could still use some tweaking.  In particular much of the music in the Bakersfield exhibits overlapped making for an unpleasant cacophony of sounds and music.  Hope their able to fix it as it could be a spectacular exhibit.

extensive collection of instruments

archive collections can be seen in the background of film and recordings

the one and only, Patsy Cline

Elvis's gold cadillac

she paid for a music education wing

Main lobby

Now your probably going to get a chuckle over this next one.  My good friend Kathy Schnedler recommended that I go see the “American Pickers” store in Nashville.  They have one of those reality shows that follows to antique pickers as they travel the back roads finding great vintage pieces to resell.  Well, I did a quick search using my smart phone and set it on GPS directions.  Got to the Marathon Motor Works, an old factory that has been converted into shops and is the location of the American Pickers store.  Now this is where it gets interesting.  I parked and walked around the place, also hoping to find a place to eat, walked into a shop called “Antique Archeology”.  Inside was all this old stuff and a huge line of people that completely wrapped around the interior space looking to me like they were waiting to have their orders for sodas or ice-cream taken.   I quickly walked out, still looking for the American Pickers.  Hunger won out and I left the area in search of food.  A few days later, I drove back and asked the first person who I walked past if they knew where the American Pickers store was.  You guessed it, it was the store I had stumbled into.  By the way, the only sign outside is a rusty rooster over the front door.  How was I supposed to know?  Fortunately it wasn’t as crowded this time and I got a chance to look around the shop.  I was surprised they didn’t have as much “stuff” as I would have expected, but they did have lots of Antique Archeology merchandise in the way of t-shirts, hats, books and such.  T-shirts were going for $25.  I did not buy one even though I like the show, figured they didn’t need my money, but still, it was fun to explore what finds they had come across and remember seeing a few items that were featured on their tv show.

I love old water towers

the old Marathon Motor Works building

Antique Archeology
Antique Archeology

Antique Archeology

Antique Archeology
Antique Archeology

Here’s another oddity.  While I was at one of the Tennessee visitor centers I happened upon a brochure advertising the National Banana Pudding Festival.  It’s held in October in Centerville TN and they have a banana pudding cook-off, two stages with music and entertainment, visit the puddin’ path and soooo much more.  Well I guess there is now a festival for just about anything you could think up.   I doubt I will make it to the Pudding Festival but if you do, please let me know what you think about it.

Distance Traveled:  38 miles

Lebanon Tennessee

A short drive to get to the RV repair folks and then onto my campground where I’ll stay over the 4th of July holiday.  Sounds easy doesn’t it?  38 miles.  No problem.  Welllll, until I get to the address of Dunlap Rv and it’s not there.  Where could it be?  It’s not a couple more miles on down the road.  After stopping and asking a few folks in a gas station, we figure out they moved to new headquarters and didn’t bother to change their website.  To make a long story short, they did just move into their new headquarters.  All the repair guys are around the age of 18-20 something.  Mine checked out the non functioning tv booster and antenna, not even sure what he was looking at as he pointed at the booster and said “what‘s that?”, then said he’d call it into the manufacturer and get back with me by noon today.  Do you think he called, left a message, anything?  The answer to that would be no.  Tried calling a few times from the campground but I have such poor cell phone reception it kept cutting me off before I was able to make a connection.  As you can see, it’s not all touring, pretty scenery and fun every day.  But I’ll work though this and let you know the outcome.

Thought I’d try and fix it myself, since I figured it was just the tv booster that was bad.  Picked up a new one, gave it a try but that was a no go.  Drove over to Dunlap’s to find out the story over there and the guy said he could assure me they were working on the issue.  Couldn’t tell me if or what had been ordered.  No real apology for not calling.  I may decide to drive up to Indiana to get the thing fixed at the factory, but we’ll see what happens over the next week. After all 458 miles, it’s doable for a full time Rv-er.

In the meantime while I’m here in the Lebanon Tennessee area, I have no cell phone coverage or wi-fi service at the state park.  First time that’s occurred in quite some time.  Actually the phone picks up a signal briefly and downloads e-mails and face book messages and quits.  It’ll have to do until I head on to the next location.  Life is tuff on the road sometimes.  No TV, No Cell phone and no wi-fi, I feel like I’m really roughing it this week.

One more oddity, I found this new strip mall on the outskirts of  Nashville, abandoned or empty with no paved drive or parking lot associated with it.  just out in the middle of a field, empty.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

2014-15 Nashville Tennessee


the next country star?

La Vergne 

(suburb of Nashville Tennessee)

Campground:  Army Corp park, J Percy Priest Lake:  Poole Knobs campground.  Senior rate $10, regular $20.  Water/Elec. 50amp.  Mostly pull-thrus with many having lake views.  Heavily wooded.  Water sites are $12/$22.

Distance traveled:  128 miles

I could have easily stayed in the Crossville area for much longer, but I’d already made reservation at a campground outside of Nashville, so 128 miles down hwy I-40, the truck purring it’s pleasure at being out on the road I arrived at Poole Knobs just a little too early to set up.  Someone was still on my campsite and check out time is 2pm.  After sitting around for a little while, I dropped the camper at the entrance and decided to go get some lunch in town.  Got back and my site was ready.

I don’t have water views this time around, in fact I’m perched on a hill surrounded by trees.  I can barely see the road below me as my site is a pull-thru on the side of that hill with thick brush everywhere.  Plenty of level space at the top of the grade to set up.  Completely private, I can’t see another camper at all from my site.  But darn, my tv antenna does not have power to it so I won’t have tv for the week.  I’ll call an RV repair shop tomorrow.  I’ve done a bit of checking myself, but since it’s still under warranty, I’ll let them fix it.

I finally got a hold of Dunlop Rv and was able to make an appointment for Thursday, a week and a half away.  This of course puts my plans in a bit of a shambles as it is getting close to the 4th of July weekend and campsites, especially on the east coast, will get completely filled.  So after a couple of hours of checking online, I’ve been able to extend my stay here at Poole Knobs campground until my Thursday appointment.  Hopefully the repairs will be done quickly and I’ll be able to get to my next campground, but even if it takes all day, I was able to get a campsite through the 4th of July weekend at the Cedars of Lebanon State Park, just down the street from the repair place.  Besides that, I discovered that Tennessee gives a 25% senior discount during the busy season and a 50% discount off season.  How cool is that?  Didn’t expect to spend any time in Lebanon Tennessee but that’s where I’ll be over the 4th of July.

Speaking of campsites and such, I was checking back over the past couple of months and I’ve been doing very good on camping fees with the month of June being the best.  Here’s the tally so far:

April:   $17.50 (average daily camping fee)
May:    $14.25
June:    $13.10

Considering that I try to keep the average camping fee around $18-20, I’d say I’ve done really well this season.  A lot of it depends on which part of the country I’m in.  During June I was able to use my Passport America, a couple of Army Corp/TVA sites and a Tennessee State Park with a  senior discount all adding up to the $13.10 a night average rate.  I love saving money.    

Broadway street, with all the honky tonk bars

I drove into Nashville a few days later after getting all my campsites lined up through the 4th of July holiday and felt I could now concentrate on doing a bit of tourist type activities.  The major highways around and leading into Nashville are heavily congested and I did not like traveling on them, once in the center of town, I had to pay for parking.  And pay dearly I did.  $20 for 3 hours.  I headed over to the visitors center and got some great information on where to park in the future.  The Baptist Church owns an entire city block between 6th and 7th street and has a very reasonable daily rate.  Most of the parking lots are privately owned and as you can tell by what I paid, are very high priced.  Making for a really bad taste in my mouth as the saying goes.  Note:  The visitor center in the Bridgestone Arena is top notch and you can be assured of getting some really good information there.  Including having your picture taken with a mike and guitar.  These workers enjoy their job and it shows. Thanks for all the great info guys and gals.

Bridgestone Arena, great visitor center

My first stop was at the Ryman Theatre, the “Mother Church of Country Music” and was the original home of the Grand ole Opry.  It was built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle.  From 1904 when it was renamed the Ryman Theatre until 1943 it was used for many events from revivals, jazz recitals, operas, ballets and even political debates.  But from 1943 till 1974 it was the home of the Grand Ole Opry and to this day still has a major place in the hearts of anyone who loves country, blue-grass and folk music.  It sat idle for many years after the Grand Ole Opry moved into a much larger building.  Then in 1994 it was reopened after renovations and is once again used for many concerts.  It gave me tingles just to walk around the building, seeing the stage from the balcony seats as a company was setting up for the next band to perform there in the next couple of evenings.  Nice to see a grand old building come back to life.

Ryman Theatre

Mother Church of Country Music

balcony added in later years

My next stop was to the new Johnny Cash museum and without going into great detail I’ll just say it was hardly worth the entrance fee.  It was crowded, the headphones and displays did not work on many of the displays and overall it just was a bit of a small town effort in a very large town with many better places to visit.

Johnny Cash

I stopped in a few of the honky-tonk bars that line Broadway between 4th and 5th.  Free music at most sites and no cover to enter.  Great way to experience the always hopeful stars to be.  Then my meter was running low and I headed out back to the campground taking a local route US 41 all the way back, a few more lights, but none of the traffic congestion on the major highways.

RV Tip:  Tired of always having to put everything away before moving down the road to the next campsite?  I use Loctite fun tack, also known as Poster Putty.  I put it on the bottom of all my lamps, coffee pot, toaster and do-dads around the camper.  It keeps everything in place and I don’t have to put anything away when heading on down the road.  It can  easily be removed and won’t harm any surfaces.  You can find it in the office supply area of Walmarts, Family Dollar and other discount stores.

Since I’m in the area for a couple of weeks, I took a few days off and then headed out to visit Fontanel, the mansion originally owned by Barbra Mandrel.  It’s the largest log cabin home in the world which her husband built.  The logs were cut and put together in Colorado and then shipped here to Nashville to be put back together.  The Mandrels lived in it for 16 years and then after the kids were all grown up, sold it and downsized.  They still live in the area.  Our tour guide, a musician himself led a small group through the large home giving little tidbits of info along the way (I would have preferred more) with lots of time provided to let the group wander and look around on their own.  We were permitted to touch just about anything in the house and we could even sit on the furniture if we wanted too.  Not your typical tour that’s for sure.  The attic alone is over 6,000 sq ft of space that was used as a large closet for all of Barbra’s production outfits.  The home was purchased by a couple of music agents as an investment and of course has been opened to the public with many of their awards, guitars and photos of the singers they managed lining the walls.  It cost $9,000 a month for electricity to run the a/c and lights in the log cabin mansion.  Imagine.



The Mandrel Sisters

main lodge living room

formal dining room, the kids never ate in this room

guest bedroom

guest bedroom

the kids wing, balcony 

Barbra Mandrels phone book, she knew everyone

the covered swimming pool

At the end of the tour, our bus driver drove us back down the one mile drive to the shops and restaurants out front.  I stopped at Prichard’s Distillery for a great taste testing of their finest whiskeys and bourbons.  The moonshine was really, really strong.  I bought a few select bottles and hope to share with my camper buddies back in AZ if I make it there this winter.  Just a note, I did not purchase the fine bourbon as it was $79 a bottle. But a peach mango blend is particularly fine, I just hope it lasts till I get out west. (grin, hic-up).  Tennessee has enacted a new law that permits boutique distilleries throughout the state and I understand over 40-50 have been built since the law was enacted.  Prichard’s having been around even before that law went into effect.

That’s about it for the week.  It’s really hot and steamy here in Nashville this time of year.  Getting into the 90’s and very humid. Thank goodness for a/c and great shaded campsites.

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