Thursday, May 23, 2013

Another week - Week 6

You can learn a lot from books, maps, and statistics, but the road is a better teacher.

That is such a true statement. My friend Carol Rayburn loaned me her Natchez Trace Parkway book. As I read through it before reaching the parkway, my mind created a picture of what it would be like. Then as I drove the parkway I realized how incomplete my book-driven vision had been. Words, and even the pictures in the book, fell short of the actual experience. In fact, I don’t believe any book could do this route justice – you just have to explore it in person.

My last day on the Natchez Trace Parkway
With less rain in the forecast, I started my last day on the trace. It was less than 100 miles to Nashville and I was beginning to be bored with the Trace. Today’s route took me northeast into the corner of Alabama and then on into Tennessee.

Colbert’s Ferry
Crossing the Tennessee River was a traveler’s problem in the early 1800s and an enterprising man built Colbert’s Stand to offer warm meals and shelter and started a ferry for crossing the river. At that time it was a wide and fast flowing river. Today the river, though still very wide, has a calmness created by TVA dams and locks built in the 1820s and 1930s. I took this picture right before driving over the bridge.

Bored? On The Trace
Just as I was starting to feel bored with the Parkway, I rounded a bend in the road to find large meadows on both sides – all aglow with golden flowers. An unexpected splash of joy!

Run! Squirrels
I just about had some fresh-killed squirrel meat for dinner! Two of those frisky guys were tussling as I drove in their direction. Evidently knowing they were in peril, they split – one to each side of the highway. Then one squirrel decided to join his friend in the opposite direction and almost didn’t make it as I drove by. I do enjoy watching the squirrels – they are great entertainment at campgrounds.

Time to leave the Trace and find an RV Park in the Nashville area. Found a pull-out and put the park’s address in my Garmin.

Frustration with my GPS
I sure didn’t want to have a tour of the suburbs of Nashville and definitely didn’t want to drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic down Broadway (probably the busiest street in town on a late Saturday afternoon). To calm my frustration I contemplated what the “good” was in this unexpected, meandering drive. In my conversation with myself I said: “this semi-rural area with horse ranches sure is pretty”, and “look at all those interesting stores – and people – on Broadway!” My unplanned drive also took me past Vanderbilt University and Hospital.

Didn’t want to, but that’s where my Garmin sent me! ‘Turn here; turn here,’ I was instructed, over and over again! As I passed some large apartment complexes I joked with myself that perhaps I should just rent an apartment rather than continuing on! I’m hoping the Garmin ‘problem’ can be fixed by changing some settings on it.

After this round-about route, I did end up at Two Rivers RV Park just blocks from Opry Land and Opry Mills (mall), checked in, parked and relaxed. I’m just not a “tourist” person and had no desire to mix with the mobs of tourists. I did walk the mall on Sunday morning. The stores were all closed but I enjoyed looking in store windows and this is where I decided my choice of footwear (sneakers) is seriously not in style. (see photo below) Starbucks and Subway were open) so I had a cup of coffee and choked down about a third of one of Subway’s less-than-tasty breakfast offerings. I decided to get back on the road and continue east.

Next Stop – surprise entertainment at Cumberland Mountain State Park near Crossville, TN.
I much prefer parks where the campsites aren’t right next to each other – and this park was super. Finally, breathing space, good weather, for two nights!  As I was relaxing outside, I felt something on my leg – looked down and it was strange looking. Before he could crawl off, I took a picture. (double-click for a larger photo)

On my walk around the park, I enjoyed some bird-watching time at the Byrd River and the picturesque bridge over it.

And surprise entertainment! From my campsite I could hear some good music; some country/western and some bluegrass. I followed my ear and discovered an informal jam session. Of course, I walked into the campsite, met some of them and found out this music group – from all over the area – camps together several times and year. In all there were probably a dozen musicians, their spouses and friends.
One of the friends – a man named Ralph – told me about the group and gave me a CD of their music. At their evening jam, I again joined in to enjoy the music. Next thing I knew, Ralph was practically dragging me into the musician group so I could “sing” with them! “It’s easy – just two words” he explained as I protested. Well, I did sing with them – the words are ‘alfalfa hay’ sung numerous times to the tune of "How Dry I Am".

Ripplin’ Water
With the laundry bag full, my next stop was Ripplin’ Water RV Resort near Knoxville. The ‘entertainment’ at this park was a serious thunderstorm. Heavy rains at time, some hail, and lots of lightning and thunder. Realizing the campsites were in a low area and the Pigeon River was on the other side of a earthen berm, I mentally rehearsed my steps for possible evacuation. Glad when the storm passed!

How many beans do I weigh?
A stop at the Bush’s Beans facility was next – it is a huge processing plant in the tiny community of Chestnut Hill, Tenn. My RV friend Carol Landau told me it was a “must see” stop and I’m so glad I did. The visitor portion of the plant consisted of a store, a café, along with an entertaining video giving the facilities history and showing the process. Numerous displays – some hands-on – provided more information. There were a couple cute videos about the dog Duke, who has many schemes to “sell” the family’s secret recipe. My favorite activity was stepping on a scale to see how many ‘beans I weigh’. See photo below:

And speaking of recipes, the bean company hands out recipe cards – the one that intrigues me is for Bush’s Pinto Bean Pie.
RECIPE and directions
1 unbaked pie crust
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup melted margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup Bush’s Pinto Beans, heated and lightly mashed
½ cup finely chopped pecans
2 eggs, well beaten
Combine all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350-degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Center of pie will be slightly unset. Can be frozen

Warriors’ Path State Park
This is another state park to enjoy – tall, green trees, a lake practically hidden nearby – a good place to spend two days. Tomorrow – Friday, May 24, I’ll drive to Abingdon, Virginia to visit Mary Anne Multer, a gal I met when she was a campground host at Anza Borrego State Park (southern Calif).

I sure haven’t seen much sun this week – and tonight’s forecast is for more thunderstorms. I like the trees, but do miss seeing sunrises and sunsets!

Here you can see my route so far: