Friday, April 11, 2008

History, Gatherings & Grandparents

Tuesday, April Fools Day: I haven’t written for a bit and this morning is rainy and it’s still dark outside as the sun hasn’t lightened up the sky; so what better time to get started. Didn’t really feel like writing but the mood has come back. And, since I have five days of activities to write about I had better get caught up.

History is an integral part of the South, just like it is in any other region of the US. Traditions, customs, language are uniquely theirs. History is one of my favorite subjects and I have found that Southerners like theirs and like to do something about it. The majority of Georgia towns I visited or went through have historical districts, very distinctly marked via signage. One town I went through was Acworth GA, near the McKinney Campground. Acworth is named after Acworth New Hampshire. It has it’s Civil War history, it’s rebirth history and has beautifully restored it’s downtown district. It’s not a big district but has very unique shops that would be worth investigating by someone interested in history and an interesting shopping and eating adventure. Not for me though, as I don’t have the need (maybe the want) for one thing, nor the room at home. I enjoy and retain the pleasures of what I see and like to tell others.

Across the street from the shops and stores in downtown is a parking area very tastefully landscaped and elevated enough to be able to see the three or four blocks along the main street. Perhaps there had been some businesses where the parking area is but today the parking area serves as a better purpose. I have learned to take all in as a unit and not spend a lot of time looking. If I look too long then I start nitpicking - the seemingly obtrusive “Closed” sign (was before 10 a.m.) that didn’t fit in with style. A sense came over me that there was a “Signature” look to what I was seeing, except for the interesting little cafe towards the end of the block. Signature being from the mind of one (or perhaps from one architectural firm), much like an artist’s work. Being very familiar with the Main Street program, it was like an architect (or his like-thinking firm) came in and presented a rendering of what the downtown could like and that is what was done. I like it and the contiguous look is very pleasing to the eye. I am sure they are very proud of what has been accomplished and I am too.

As I left the downtown area I inadvertently got into an older residential area nearby. I immediately had a feeling of being in a residential area of a small New England town. The sense was that the north (architecturally) had come to the south and was artfully blended together. It was an interesting feeling and I drove around for quite a while just looking (probably more gawking). I even saw a bit of the Craftsman style worked in.

When I left Acworth I stopped at the local Wal-Mart. I only mention this is because the architectural style of the store was beautiful. It wasn’t the big brown/blue box that you see with it’s big red Always over the doors. Wal-Mart must have really wanted to come to town. It is brick veneer all the way around, has wrought-iron fencing all the way around the parking lot, cupolas, and is beautifully landscaped. It looks like Wal-Mart inside. Congratulations to the Acworth community, on having such a beautiful addition to your town.

On my way to the Sequoyah Caverns Campground, near Valley Head AL, I stopped in Summerville and met Mike, a fellow Casita owner. I got a took a little break and visited he and his wife Kathy’s beautifully restored farmhouse. We sat on the back porch (oh was that nice too) and I had a hard time keeping my attention focused on what Mike was talking about, and not wandering off to the beautiful backyard, forests beyond, the Hills, flowering trees, listening to the birds. I would definitely spend a lot of time on that porch.

Now I am getting into the really hilly country and the roads are just like a roller coaster ride (more the old style - not the ones that twist you upside down nowadays), two lane with no shoulders. Up, up you go, twist to the right and then to the left and then back to the right again. Wow that was fun! And opps, what goes up must come down and now we do it all going downhill. I found the Caverns Campground finally. I didn’t use the directions that were posted in their brochure or website but came in a back way so to speak and arriving a day ahead of the others coming to this particular gathering.

The first in was Gus and Yvonne in a pop-up trailer, then Tom and Cheryl from Cookville TN with their ‘07 Casita, Mike and Kathy from Summerville GA with their ‘01 Casita, Dennis and Susie with a 13 foot Scamp, Sam from Enterprise AL with his Scamp, Ron and Stephanie from Chattanooga, and coming in on Saturday was Jason and Linda from Kansas City Kansas and their new to them Scamp (yes, they came all the way over just for the weekend and do a bit of sightseeing on the way home).

The weather wasn’t particularly hospitable but we did with rain or no rain. Saturday morning we did a flea market - this is the area for flea markets if you like to go to them as they are all over the place! I almost got a nice ride down the Interstate when Stephanie missed the turnoff to the flea market but she realized it in time and we backed up the on ramp (and they have loooooong ramps) and made it to the location - she had hoped that no one saw us but she didn’t get away with it.

Mike and I toured the Caverns and they were interesting, not real flamboyant but interesting - to us the entrance fee of $13, plus tax was high. I just hate it when gate or entrance fees are not published on brochures - sends up $$$ warning signs to me. And, having done many a brochure in my life, I can understand about not putting prices on some because those old ones will still be around and meanwhile prices have gone up since that printing. One of the coolest parts of the tour was when the guide turned off all the lights. It was totally dark in there. The guide told us because the eye is constantly looking for light and not finding any in there that it would go blind in three weeks. So remember that when you go caving.

Saturday night we had a potluck supper and sat around a campfire. It sprinkled for a few minutes but that didn’t dampen our together time.
It was so much fun visiting with those folks, and oh the stories that were told. Dennis could really put those yarns out there. I think all the men did a pretty good job of handling that part of the fireside chats. Oh, these Southern men can really tell the stories - and they are true as I believed every one of them! The wives are, understandably, as good humored as their husbands, they let their husbands tell the stories though - just something about a male voice and storytelling. Many of them will be getting together in Townsend TN in a few short weeks. I was so surprised to meet a young couple from Kansas and spent a bit of time talking with Jason and Linda. He is an outdoors person and has a number of adventures in his short life. I think Linda will be adding some to hers too and to her credit she is jumping in with both feet. I really had a fantastic time with them and it is one of the highlights of my trip.

I left the group on Sunday morning heading toward Norris TN. I headed up I-59 to Chattanooga, then taking I-24 thru and hooking up with I-75 to Cleveland TN. There I decided I didn’t want any more Interstate so headed east (or perhaps south or north, not sure which) to US411, then northeastward. At Maryville, I started getting sleepy so pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot to take a “short” nap. Hah. I ended up spending most of the night here, getting up around 4:00 a.m. and hitting the road. I thought I would hit Pigeon Forge (home of Dolly Pardon’s Dollywood) to say I had been there; and, got in a little before 6 a.m. After I saw all the nighttime glitz and glare at 6 a.m. I had a breakfast at Shoney’s and headed out of town. That was enough for me. Gatlinburg would have been very interesting if I was into craft shops; and, pottery is a weakness of mine. Pigeon Forge is Branson MO or as the locals tell me Branson is Pigeon Forge TN.

I drove up to I-40, hit the bypass 640 around Knoxville to I-75N and then got off at the Norris exit. Opps, this doesn’t look like the area of twenty or so years ago I visited briefly! I did a couple of tours around Norris and then headed for the Norris Dam State Park and got in around 9:30 a.m. I had to back in. Oh no, I have to back in as there wasn’t one pull-through in either the east or west sections. I chose the west section and was that another one of those roller coaster roads getting here- hate to have had a big rig and there was one here. Luckily, there were only two other rigs here at the Park when I was giving my exhibition. Unfortunately, two Park Maintenance guys were (patiently) watching and waiting for me to get situated. They were very sympathetic to my plight - afterwards.

Why am I here at Norris TN - about 15-20 miles north of Knoxville? I use to come visit my maternal grandparents when they lived here. They are not from this area but “Bopar” worked for the US Bureau of Mines and was stationed here back in the late 30’s and 40’s. The houses they lived in are still here as is the school and a couple of other buildings I remember that were here at the time. But it is not the small little community it was back in the 40’s. A 4-laner was put in nearby and that opened up the area. I can still see the other well-maintened older homes but there sure a lot of newer ones. Tuesday I (Picture at right is Grandfathers office)will go explore a bit more plus go to the Museum of Appalachia.

It’s daylight out now and time to go do some visiting.

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