Friday, March 26, 2010

Knoxville Road Trip

A little drive into Knoxville today just to mess around and enjoy the weather. First stop was at the Knoxville National Cemetery, we try to visit every National Cemetery if we happen to be in the area. Took a picture of a Medal Of Honor recipient for Cathy's genealogy blog, I looked up this guy and he was one of the more common Civil War recipients.

From here we drove next door to the Old Gray Cemetery, this the oldest cemetery in Knoxville and has a ton of Governors and Senators buried here. This is one of my favorite type stones, a mystery where you have to go home and figure out what it means, thanks to GOOGLE it now only takes a few minutes and you know the fantastic and interesting story behind the Immortal 600, give it a try.

During our wandering we discovered that we were close to the Ijam Nature Center so we made a stop there, it was getting a little chilly so we didn't do any of the trail and just went in the nature center instead. They have a few displays but not a ton, a few different type turtles, the picture is of a soft shell turtle that normal hides under the sand with just his hear exposed.

A slice of a 353 year old White Pine,that means it started growing in 1595,28 years before the Pilgrims arrived here. It was cut in 1948 when it was damaged by a storm, it was the largest in the nation at the time.

We also read about the Passenger Pigeon which now extinct, they were called Passenger Pigeons because they travel in mass around the country. Audubon recorded instances of observing flights of more then 2,000,000,000 pigeons in one flock, they were so many that they could eclipse the noonday sun for hours at a time and were capable of reach speeds of 60 to 70 mph.

The great state of Michigan, our home state, helped make them extinct, Petoskey Michigan in 1878 with over 2000 workers killing and shipping, one firm boast that they sent five rail cars a day for over 30 days to market in New York, in two years over 12 Billion birds were killed for market. After this killing spree only a few scattered flocks remained. The last Passenger Pigeon, Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo, September 1, 1914. In just a few decade the most numerous bird on earth was gone.

A short walk back to the parking lot produced these pictures.

On the way home we spotted a Qboda Mexican Grill, we've never been to one but I remembered that one of the travel blogs I read said that they loved them so we decided to give it a try. Wow, Cathy got the Grilled Quesadilla and I got the Three Cheese Nachos, both were great and really filling, next time we might just split a dish. Just barely made it home in time for a siesta.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Zoo's and Garden's cheap

Do you love to stop at Zoos and Gardens when you travel, well here's how to do it cheap.
We love to visit the different garden's and zoo's around the country and we found that the best and cheapest way to do this is to become a member of one of the gardens or zoo's.

We joined the Toledo Zoo about ten years ago with the Grandparents membership which allows us to enter with any kids under the age of 18 at about 125 different zoos across the country, free, a few are ½ price, but most are free. Our membership is $45.00 a year, we usually save about $250 a year in admission charges.

We do the same with our membership to the University of Michigan (M GO BLUE) Botanical Gardens which cost us $50 a year and allows us entrance into about 250 gardens around the country. With this one we probably save about $300 plus a year.

It's a great feeling to watch the party in front of you pay between $8 and $20 a head and then all you do is show your membership card.

List of Zoo's:

List of Gardens:

It pays to check out the membership fees at the different zoos or gardens in your area as some of the membership will be $35 and some will be a hundred plus and both will accomplish the same thing. Another benefit is the 10% discount at the gift stores.
Just something to look into.

Now since it's a nice day we're going to head down to the Knoxville Zoo and take a little walk around, for FREE.

It's been a few years since we toured the Knoxville Zoo and they have made a bunch of changes, normally you would think this is a good thing, not in the case of Knoxville. First of to paraphrase a line from the movie Jurassic Park “Eventually you are going to have animals in your Zoo,right”.

There were very few animals that were in an area that they could be viewed, many of the exhibits were marked with signs that the animals were somewhere else or this exhibit is being worked on. They have moved a lot of the animals but the new enclosures had to be designed by some one who was about 7 foot 6 inches tall, because all of the main beams and such were right at eye level, for a normal person, so you couldn't see anything. At least it was a beautiful day and we were able to enjoy it outside walking around.

We did have to pay five dollars for parking, this is also something new, but because of our membership we did NOT have to pay the $17.00 per adult admission to be disappointed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pigeon Forge or Bust

I was going to title this Dolly World or Bust but that would have been redundant.

It going to be a sunny day and we're wearing shorts again so it must be road trip time, we thought that we would drive down to Pigeon Forge and see how things have changed since that last time we were there. That was before Dolly World or anything else was built here, the last time we drove through there the only thing was the old mill and the Pigeon Forge Pottery Company and nothing else.

But first we found a nice little restaurant just down the road from the campground, Amber's (½ mile east of I-75 at exit 117) breakfast special 2 eggs, bacon or sausage, two biscuits with either a bowl of grits or sausage gravy for $2.99. After the repair bills on the car we need a little bargain now and then, plus the food was great, and now back on the road.

Well as soon as we got off of I-40 we discovered that things have definitely changed, we drove through all the tourist traps and figured that we would just go down to the old mill, walk around take a few pictures and check out the Pottery Company. We never found the old mill it must have been hidden behind one of the outlet malls or bungee jumping towers or may be the three level go cart track, where every they hid it they did a good job. We drove south until we hit the National Park and decided to turn around and take the first road we saw heading west and worry about where it took us later. Five minutes later we're away from traffic and and heading through the foothills, Cathy punched Maryville into the GPS and we're on our way.

When we were in Texas last winter we both became big, I mean huge, really monstrous fans of Sam Houston, The Sam Houston School house is near here so that is now our quest.

The school house was built two years before Tennessee gained statehood and when Sam was 18, in 1812 he took a job as a teacher here. The schoolhouse has been restored on its original location, it's a typical one room school but they have a very nice little museum with so unique artifacts worth seeing

After restoration and Before

Original desk that Houston studied law at in his home.

Brass Knuckles found during the restoration, notice Sam Houston scratched in them.

Houston's First wife a long mysterious story behind that marriage.

One log was left out on each side to provide light and ventilation, these were able to be blocked in the winter.

We got back on the road leading to Knoxville but Cathy spotted one of those brown signs that read, “Home of John Sevier – First Governor of Tennessee” next exit, guess where we went.

Marble Springs was John Sevier's plantation and where he lived when the state legislature was not in session. There are about five building here that have be restored on their original foundations.

Back through Knoxville and on the road home but just to make it a really great day we made a stop at Five Guys Burger and Fry's for a late lunch.

Friday, March 19, 2010


We were on some back roads heading home from Knoxville and decided to stop in a Wally World to pick up a few things. We pulled into the parking lot and I cut the steering wheel all the way to the left to pull into a parking place, we heard a small squeal and the engine stalled. I re-started the engine and went to back up a little to straighten out the car and the power steering was gone. We were letting the GPS lead us back to camp. so we're really not even sure where we are, guess we'll worry about that later. We went in the store and got what we needed along with a bottle of power steering fluid, when I check the reservoir it was dry, so I filled it up and figured we would try to find a repair center for a new power steering pump. About two blocks down the highway we spotted a repair center and pulled in, they said that they could take care of it today but first let's take a look at it and make sure it's not just a bad hose.

Twenty minutes later he comes out of the shop and ask me to come see something, the good news is it's not the pump, the bad news is it's the rack and pinion assembly, the good news is we can take care of that, the bad news is all we have to do is find the parts. We spent about 40 minutes on the phone calling all the parts places and parts suppliers in the area but no luck, the only place that had one, and only one was the Chrysler warehouse in Atlanta, so it's going to be two days before we get it. The mechanic topped of the fluid and told me it would be OK to drive it the 12 miles back to camp and they gave me a bottle of fluid to make sure it was topped off when I brought it back.

OK now it's time to figure out the price of this little adventure, over to the computer and start hitting the keys and the GRAND total is just that, 8 cents short of a Grand. Sure is a good thing that we raised our daughter to be a CPA and she got us a nice big rack and pinion assembly for a refund on our taxes this year.

10am, Got a call that the part was in and to bring in the car, since this is going to be about a 4 hour job Cathy decided to stay home, I grabbed my book and netbook and I was on my way. About an hour after they pulled it into the garage area the manager came out and said he wanted to show me something. When he said that Tuesday it added about $800 to the bill so I was hesitant to go with him. He pointed out that the front brake were down to being paper thin and that I really should replace them. Now we haven't had any problems with the brakes at all, no squeals or other noise, no pulling, nothing but they were down to nothing so I agreed to the repair.

You would think the you would be able to get more then 70,000 miles out of your original brakes, now I have to call my CPA daughter and tell her to redo our tax return and figure out how to get a brake job added on to the refund.

You know the worst thing about this is we spent all that money on the car, and when we look at it, it looks exactly as it did before, you can't see where the money went, kind of like spending a week painting the kitchen the same color it was, you bust your butt but don't see any difference.

Oh, I did joking with the manager tell that for this kind of money I should get a bonus oil,filter and lube. To my surprise they did it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cabin Fever

Decided that we needed a little road to break up the cabin fever, so we just started wandering around and taking any road that looked like it might be interesting. We stumbled through a few little towns, Clinton and Lake City, Clinton had an interesting looking Historic Downtown area and Lake City didn't appear to have much of anything for us.

We saw a sign for Norris Dam and decided to head that way, just outside of town Cathy spotted a sign at a cemetery “Coal Creek Mine Disaster Burial Site” so we pulled in to check it out.
According to the markers over 200 miners were killed in a mine disaster in 1902 not to far from here, 36 of the miners are buried here.

Tombstone of one of the miners.

Click here for more information about the mining wars and disasters Very Interesting

Here are two notes left by miners that knew they were dying.

After leaving the cemetery we went to the Norris Dam overlook, this was the first dam built by the TVA, they were doing some maintenance on it but we were still able to drive across to Norris State Park.

Here we found and old Grist Mill and Thrashing Barn, both would have been flooded when they built the dam so the C.C.C. dismantled the mill and moved it to this location, the barn was put in storage for 34 years until they decided to give it to the state and they rebuilt it here.

While we were walking up to the mill we started hearing a loud panicky meow, Cathy spotted a little cat that was up on top of the water wheel trying to figure out how to get down, it would climb down about half way and then decide that it was to steep and to high to jump so it would climb back to the top. After about twenty minutes of talking to the cat it finally founds its way down and immediately ran up to Cathy and started rubbing against her leg, it seems like they can always tell what person is allergic to them, the cat seemed to have the philosophy that if you save my life then you have to take me home and care for me forever. Now I thought that this was a pretty good idea but Cathy used one of her veto's to shoot it down, fortunatly another car pulled up and the cat decided to try them.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Party's Over

The reason for our trip to Michigan, the Birthday girl with her new I-Touch.

The weather started getting nice in Michigan so we figured that was a sign for us to leave and head south to catch all the spring rains. It was a pretty easy drive until we got near Corbin Kentucky, then the radio station we were listening to did the Beep Beep Beep thing and came on with a weather alert that said we were heading into a major thunderstorm with some really big winds. It was time to gas up and get something to eat so we made a stop at the original Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin. We've stopped here before they made it into a museum, it's an interesting stop if you're in the area, about 5 minutes off of I-75.

I worked with a guy that was born and raised in Corbin Kentucky, his house was behind the original Cafe and restaurant. He told me when he was a kid he would sit out on the back steps at night with his dad listening to the Kentucky Wildcats Basketball games, a couple of nights a week as soon as it got dark they would see the Colonel sneak out of the back door of the cafe and cross over to the Widows house a few doors down the street, true or not who can say but my buddy swore to it till the day he died. Or maybe the Colonel was just being an innovator again and starting home delivery.

Mean while we're back in Knoxville sitting out the rain and hoping the temperature will rise a little so we can get out and do a few things.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Glasses I don't need no stinkin glasses

Our grand daughter had her birthday party today, last week we found out that her parents were getting her an I-Touch so we got her and I-Tunes gift card so she could put a bunch of music on it. We had forgotten to get a card to put it in so I was assigned the mission of running down to the corner CVS and picking out a card, no problem. I go to the section that marked Grand Daughter's Birthday and start looking, I normally get them goofy type cards but I figured I better get one that Cathy would like. There's a pretty pink one with butterflies and flowers and when you open it up it's all about birthday hugs, how can I go wrong with that. Sign it with our birthday wishes and put the gift card inside and seal it up.

Party Day:
Everybody is gathered around the kitchen table and Rach is opening her gifts, she starts with the cards and the first one she opens she just rips it apart and shakes it to see whats in it (money or other good stuff), her mom tells here “NO NO NO, you have to read the cards out loud so everybody can hear you and knows what they say”(Thanks mom). About the third card she opens is the one from Cathy and me, she holds it up and in a nice strong vaudevillian voice reads “Dear God Daughter”, GOD DAUGHTER, Cathy and I both jumped up and looked over her shoulder at the card and sure enough now with my glasses on I can plainly see that it does say God Daughter and not GRAND Daughter. What can you do but hang your head and walk away from all the laughter at the table. Mean while Aunt Chris, who is the God Mother and never one to let an opportunity slide by, runs across the room gives Rach a big hug and sez,” I hope you like the I-tune gift card I got you”

My punishment for my sins was that I got the smallest piece of cake and no ice cream, Dam my eyes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Winter Wonder(why we are here) Land

We spent the other day driving north to the kids house in SE Michigan and we've already seen enough snow to last the rest of the year, I tried to talk Cathy into making some snow angels so I could get a few pictures but she's not having any of it.

We normally leave the rig in Chattanooga when we drive up but this year we decided to try a park near Knoxville, this knoxs (get it Knoxs) about two hours off our drive time and we can miss the rush hour traffic in Knoxville. Can't say that it got any colder as we made our way north since it was about 29 degrees when we left predawn and it was 33 degrees when we got there in the afternoon.

The Dad's Club at the kids school, St William, does a fish fry every Friday during Lent, and Don is one of the cooks, so that's where we head for dinner Fridays. Their fish dinner can rival any that we have had around the country, last night they served over 900 meals, all the kids from the school work as the servers and it normally turns into a giant neighborhood get together, plus it makes a lot of money for the Dad's Club which sponsors all the sporting events and school teams.

Big birthday party this Sunday for our grand daughter, a week of goofing around with the kids, hopefully not it the snow then it's back south where we hope it might actually get warmer as we go.