Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crossville, TN 9/20/13-9/24/13

Crossville, TN was planned as a pass through stop for us.  But as we keep finding there are interesting things to see everywhere we go.  Crossville is situated upon the Cumberland Plateau.  It just so happened that our first adventure day out was the local Apple Festival (a fundraiser for the Cumberland Homestead museum)...... Great Country Music, everything apple, lots of crafts made out of gourds, lots of homemade soaps and candles.  For us we had BBQ sandwiches, some of the best, as well as fried apple pies.  While there we also visited the Cumberland Homestead Museum.

History time....Remember FDR's National Recovery Act of 1933 (the New Deal) which created huge public works programs?  Well tucked away in this huge bill was a section called the Subsistence Homestead Communities.  The plan-relocate some of the over populated industrial areas, where unemployment was out of sight, to homestead communities.  The Cumberland Homestead Project was one of the first of these projects.  Almost 2,000 people applied, only 250 families would eventually succeed in home ownership.  Accepted applicants were trained for various tasks (farming, masonry, etc.).  They worked and kept 1/3 of their wages and 2/3 of their wages went into a future home that would be built by the community.  They built the local dam, worked the fields and built their neighbor's homes.   All applicants began living in their barn, and would eventually, if they stuck it out, have a house to live in.  For so many families this was an opportunity few could ever dream of prior.  Hard work, no handouts, and ownership could be theirs.  This was truly considered a success in this area.

While here we went to the Cumberland Playhouse (one of the 10 largest professional theaters in Rural America) which was quite impressive for a small town.  They had 2 different performances most days of the week.  We chose the Chinese acrobats show on a Sunday, but look forward to doing a return visit for a play.  The Chinese acrobats we saw were the Golden Dragons. both agreed that while very good, they were not as polished as the Peking Acrobats that we saw in Santa Clarita. That said, both are very good and if you have a chance you should see one of the Chinese Acrobat troops.  At this performance in Crossville we had front row center seats and that gave us a whole new dimension to the show (highly recommended), seeing the details that you can not see from a distance.  If you look at image 5 on the link above, that was something sitting 2 feet away.  Sorry, no pictures from us as they were not allowed.....check out the link and then go see them if you have a chance.

Our last day, to this short stay, we went to Fall Creek Falls State Park.  They are most known for Fall Creek Falls which is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi.  We rode our bikes here, taking us to Cane Falls, Fall Creek Falls and also Piney Falls.  We also did some short hikes, including down to the big Suspension bridge.  It was a beautiful day and the trails were lovely (although there were a few patches of moss that we had to be careful riding through).  We both agreed, a very worthwhile, beautiful and enjoyable day.

Cumberland Homestead Apple Festival
 Cumberland Homestead Tower
Cumberland Homestead House
Conquer!...Teri does the Suspension Bridge at
Fall Creek Falls State Park (besides the climb down to the bridge,
she is afraid of heights)
Fall Creek Falls Lake
 Piney Falls

The Gorge at  Fall Creek Falls SP
The Gorge at  Fall Creek Falls SP
Wild Turkeys at Fall Creek Falls SP
Fall Creek Falls (tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi)
States visited in our RV since retirement



Friday, September 20, 2013

Nashville, TN 9/13/13-9/20/13

We always enjoy Nashville.  This trip was dedicated to new adventures in Nashville.  Home was Seven Points Corps of Engineers, which was enjoyable, especially with the lake. 

We headed towards Vanderbilt University for a new BBQ find.  BBQ was great and we also walked outside the Parthenon located in Centennial park in Nashville.  The Parthenon was originally built for Nashville's 1897 Centennial Celebration.  It is touted as the only full scale replica in the world of  the Parthenon in Athens Greece.  Of course we needed to ask why.  Well in the 1840's educator Philip Lindsay presented the idea that Nashville, by encouraging the ideals of Classical Greek education, should become known as the Athens of the West.  While that never stuck, the nickname Athens of the South did, that is until Music City and the Grand Ole Opry arrived. We only saw the impressive outside of the Parthenon and will visit the inside on a return visit.

Day 2 and we were off to the local Farmer's market (wow, wonderful) including great food at Jamacaway (reviewed on Drive-ins and Dives).  Teri the adventurer had Ackee and Salt Fish and thought it was quite delicious.  On review it is the National dish of Jamaica.  Across the street from the Farmer's Market we took in a Vintage Base Ball Game. 

Vintage Base Ball (yes 2 words in the 1800's) is not only a reenactment of Base Ball in the 1800's but also a competitive sport.  Besides Vintage rules, all players use vintage equipment, and wear period specific costumes.

At the top of the rules, players do not use any gloves in the game.
A few more of the Vintage rules we observed (not experts by any means):

A striker, aka batter is out if
  1. A bated ball is caught on the fly or on one bounce.
  2. 3 Balls are swung at and missed.
A Base Runner is out if
  1. Forced out at base
  2. Tagged out at base
  3. Runs 2 or more feet out of the baseline.
  4. A base runner may advance at his own risk when a batted ball is caught on one bounce, but return to base on those caught in the air.
All pitches are underhanded with an arc.

Of note, we did not observe any quantity of "balls" that result in a walk, although there well may have been some number.  To us it seemed like batters could wait to swing until a good pitch came in.

During the game one batter launched a high line drive to right field, over the trees, over the wall, over the road and hit a horseless carriage, aka auto. At first we assumed it was a home run, however, in Vintage Base Ball this is a foul ball as all out of the park balls are.  At some later date the rules were obviously changed to reward the finest displays of hitting, rather than penalize them.  The game was fun to watch and we found the uniforms, the spirit and the atmosphere all enjoyable.

Whle in Nashville we made it to Arnold's for lunch.  Arnold's is our favorite Nashville location for good Southern food.  Owners Jack and Rose Arnold have been serving Country Music stars and locals in this very small diner since 1981.  More on Arnold's (and following a dream) can be read at:

And of course we had time for a couple of nice bike rides along the both the Stones and Cumberland rivers. Lots of trees but surprisingly we did not see much wildlife (other than the snake Teri almost hit on the trail).

One evening we headed out to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, which is surrounded by numerous Country Music star mansion estates (that we did a bus tour that included on a previous trip).  In the 1880's Christopher Cheek began a Wholesale Grocery business.  His son Leslie would later join him in the business.  In 1896, Leslie Cheek married Mabel Wood (Cheekwood) and by 1915, Leslie would become president of the family firm "Postum" (now General Foods).  Meanwhile an elder cousin, Joel Cheek, had developed a superior blend of coffee (Cheek-Neal Coffee) and was marketing that coffee at the best Hotel in Nashville-the "Maxwell House".  Eventually Postum would buy Cheek-Neal Coffee and market that Coffee as the Maxwell House brand.  Cheekwood Botanical Gardens is the former home of the Cheekwood's country Estate.

While at Cheekwood we visited the museum on the grounds and also toured the Bruce Munro Exhibition of Light-An outdoor light exhibition by British Artist Bruce Munro. More on Bruce Munro can be found at:  It was a beautiful evening-the lights, the weather and a full moon too.

Last, but by no means least, we were off to Lower Broadway, home to the vast sea of hopeful up and coming Country Music stars where one can take in venue after venue of great and free Country Music performances.  We popped in and out of a few places but finally settled down for a burger and music at Robert's Western World.  On tap during our meal was "The Don Kelley Band".  They had an 18 year, named Daniel Donato on the guitar , who took to playing shortly after turning 12, that was quite incredible.  You can go take a look for yourself at:

Nashville's Parthenon
Meatball (the pitcher for the Farriers), up to bat
Pitcher from the Nashville Maroons, Old Hoss
Bruce Munro Exhibition of Light
Bruce Munro Exhibition of Light
Bruce Munro Exhibition of Light
Seven Points Corps of Engineers Campsite
Early Morning Campsite Visitor


Friday, September 13, 2013

Cave City, KY 8/30/13- 9/13/13

This is a return trip or us to Cave City, KY and in that we were off to see perhaps the considered less 'famous sights/tours'.  But at Mammoth Caves National Park, our experience is that nothing there can really be deemed less impressive.

Mammoth Cave National Park is rich in history.  For beginners, at over 400 miles of discovered and mapped caves, it is recognized as the longest cave system in the world.  And the mapped passageways continue to grow as more areas are mapped each year.

We began this tour of this National Park, this trip, by taking the Slavery at Mammoth Cave, above ground, tour led by the National Park's Ranger.  We learned how slaves were originally used to mine Salt Peter (potassium Nitrate, used in the manufacturing of gun powder) out of the caves.  When this mining became less profitable the slaves were used to do tours of the caves.  While it was by no means unusual that slaves worked as cooks and maids, we found it unusual to see them hired as tour guides, responsible for the well being of whites in such a dangerous environment.

The most famous of these slave guides (who was only 1/2 black, but still a slave) was Steven Bishop.  Bishop is lauded not only for touring thousands of visitors through the caves but also for the many accurate detailed mappings that he produced.  We visited his grave site, although, his gravestone is inaccurately noted as to the year of his death.

We did one cave tour while here (having already done the Grand Avenue tour...highly recommended).  We did the Grand Onyx tour this trip.  We felt fortunate to be able to do this tour.  This tour is only offered 2 months out of the year and limited to 30 people/once per day.  No flash photography or tripods are allowed (sorry for the poor picture quality) and it is visited only via lantern light (one lantern per every 10 people or so).  The history of this cave is so interesting.  This short synopsis only slightly touches upon that.

The Great Onyx cave was opened to the public in 1916 as a direct competitor to Mammoth Caves. A Cave war (not of weapons but of economics) had begun by 1920 in KY with the combatants being the Mammoth Cave Estate and anyone else that owned a cave in the area.  The wars were fierce.  Signs were stolen, ticket offices were burned and a tactic was employed were cars were stopped by 'capper's' (those looking like law enforcement) that told visitors that Mammoth Caves was closed for some bogus reason, and directed them to a competing cave. The situation was really bad until 1941 when most of the Mammoth Caves was purchased by the National Parks for pennies on the dollar from local farmers.  The Grand Onyx cave, however, was so successful financially that the National Parks could not afford the Commendation hearing valuation of the property.   The Great Onyx cave remained a privately held island within the National Park boarders until 1961 when it was finally purchased by the National Parks system.  This cave was also part of some interesting property right laws regarding going under a neighbor's property.  For further information see the attached short article.

While in Cave City, besides the National Park, Teri did her first round of golf and a second round as well.  While the weather was unseasonably hot during our stay, we still had an enjoyable time.

Slave Steven Bishop Gravesite
Touring 2 miles of The Great Onyx Cave
by Lantern Light was a new experience
The Grand Onyx Cave
 A good portion of the walls were covered
in Gypsum that glimmered in our lantern light.
More Gypsum
Grand Onyx Cave Formations


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

West Liberty, OH 8/28/13

West Liberty Ohio is home to the largest Ohio cave system, the Ohio Caverns.  The Ohio Caverns were first discovered in 1897 and had a 25 year tour run as Mt. Tabor Cave Tours in .25 miles of the cave.  Sadly, visitors destroyed the caves contents, removing crystals and writing on the cave walls. 

In 1922 two brothers from Dayton Ohio purchased the property and did a major excavation and mapping of 3.5 miles of tunnels, and later opened the caves in 1925 under the name the Ohio Caverns.  The Ohio Caverns are unusual in that many different types of crystal formations are found in this one location.  Included are iron oxide formations; manganese dioxide formations; calcite formations:  stalactites, stalagmites, columns, flowstone, soda straws, and helictites; and Dual Formations.  The Ohio Caverns is the only known cave in North America to have Dual Formations, which are characterized as being a formation growing on another formation.  In the Ohio Caverns there are calcite stalactites growing on the ends of iron oxide formations.  The number and beauty of the formations here are impressive and the cave is very active with approximately 90% of its stalactite and stalagmite formations still in an active state.

We ended our afternoon with some good BBQ.  I must point out, however, that Bob has not left retirement to open a BBQ place ( other than in his dreams).  But it was a fun and tasty stop on the way back to Wilmington, Ohio where we were calling home for a few days.

Ohio Caverns-Active Stalactite (see the drip?)
 Ohio Caverns
Ohio Caverns-Dual Formations
 Ohio Caverns
Ohio Caverns
Ohio Caverns
Bob's Dream



Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cincinnati, OH 8/27/13

Our first stop in Cincinnati, OH was Spring Grove Cemetery.  While we realize there are lots of people that regularly visit cemeteries, we are not among them (or at least not yet).  But this place sounded too interesting to pass up.  Spring Grove Cemetery is a wonderful place to go to experience history and see beautiful examples of art and architecture. There is gothic and colonial architecture, massive sculptures, busts, ornate mausoleums, grand obelisks and other memorials all of which are so much more than tombstones. Much of what one sees dates back to the 17th century.  As the second largest cemetery in the country, it is home to over 1200 species of native and exotic plants and trees.  On the grounds are 21 state champion trees (largest in the state) and two national champion trees (largest in the country).  There are also 14 lakes and various foot bridges throughout its 775 acres.  The statuary, mature trees, lakes, mausoleums and chapels are both historic and beautiful.

The Cemetery is also the final resting place for many well-known individuals.  Included are:

25 Cincinnati mayors

Businessmen Charles and Julius Fleischman, James Gamble, Bernard Kroger, and William Procter

Dwight Baldwin, founder of the Baldwin Piano Co.

Rudolph Wurlitzer, musical instrument maker

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nicholas Longworth

Judge Jacob Burnet, author of the first Ohio state constitution

34 Union generals from the Civil War

Jesse and Hannah Grant, parents of Civil War general and later president Ulysses S. Grant.

10 governors from the states of Ohio, Kentucky and Arizona

Three Supreme Court justices, including Salmon P. Chase (his face you will find upon all of your $10,000 bills).

Three postmasters general

Two baseball Hall-of-Famers, former Yankees Waite Hoyt and Miller Huggins

More information on the history of this cemetery can be found at:

Next up was lunch in downtown Cincinnati.  We have found so much history in the downtown areas of the Midwest and downtown Cincinnati did not disappoint in this regard.

Historic buildings are found at every turn. We had lunch at Izzy’s, with a history dating back to 1901. They are known for their corned beef and potato pancakes and having tried both we can see the reasons for their success.
Next we headed across the Roebling Bridge. Some of you may remember seeing this bridge in the movie Rain Man with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Rain Man Clip
This bridge was well known long before that, however.  When the Roebling Suspension Bridge opened to traffic on January 1, 1867, its central span of 1057 feet was the longest in the world. But getting to that opening date was no easy feat. There were political and financial obstacles as well as a Civil war.  For those interested, more historical detail can be found at:
Our last Cincinnati excursion day destination was actually in Covington KY (across the Ohio river) - the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption is one of only 35 minor basilicas in the United States (all 4 major Basilicas are located in Rome).  The cathedral project began in 1884 with the construction terminated in 1915.  The Cathedral while quite beautiful, remains incomplete and unfinished to this day. The Cathedral is watched over by a total of 26 gargoyles, all of which were carved in Italy.  At 67ft by 24ft, the Cathedral's North transept window is the largest handmade church stained glass window in the world. The Cathedral has over 80 hand-poured stained glass windows from Munich Germany.  The peripheral walls contain the stations of the cross done in Italian mosaic each containing over 70,000 pieces in its 3 ft by 6 ft design. There is so much art within this Cathedral - this blog has hardly scratched the surface. 

Dexter Mausoleum- Spring Grove Cemetery
Spring Grove Cemetery
Spring Grove Cemetery
 Spring Grove Cemetery
 Spring Grove Cemetery
 Spring Grove Cemetery
Spring Grove Cemetery
Cincinnati City Hall
Cincinnati Music Hall
Plum Street Temple
Roebling Suspension Bridge
Roebling Suspension Bridge
Cathedral Basilica
Cathedral Basilica Gargoyles
Cathedral Basilica  Largest Window
Stations of the Cross Mosaic
Cathedral Basilica Interior