Summer Fun: Exploring History

Y’all, it is HOT.  And our access to a swimming pool is gone.  It is hard to want to leave the air conditioning to have summer adventures, but we managed three days of fun this week.
I couldn’t get it together till Wednesday, when we had to leave the house for an appointment anyway.  Immediately thereafter, we drove downtown to visit Blount Mansion.
I vividly remember my own first encounter with this bit of Tennessee history as part of a seventh grade field trip–I was unimpressed and thought it wasn’t much of a mansion at all!  This time I was absolutely enthralled with such details as panes of glass installed in 1792–the first glass windows in town–and still there to be looked through over 200 years later, and the desk on which the Tennessee Constitution was signed, and William Blount’s very own fancy shoe buckles still in their original box.
Our guide did a great job of bringing history to life for us.  We spent close to two hours in the museum, the house, and the gardens, and Lorelei was NOT bored which she had come expecting to be.
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Thursday we went out for ice cream for the third time this summer. (Did I mention it was hot?) Lorelei and I enjoyed it but William did not like how fast the ice cream melted in the heat (we were very messy by the end!).
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Friday was really exciting.  Last week William had a follow-up appointment with his oral surgeon in Oak Ridge.  There was a traffic jam along our usual route back over the Clinch River to Knoxville, and Siri routed us a way I had never seen before.  Along this lovely country road we spied signs for an historic cabin and cemetery, and we passed right by a park.  On Friday, I told the kids we were having an adventure and we drove back to explore these places.
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We discovered that Bull Run Park has a swimming area and made plans to go back and enjoy it!
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Next we headed to the David Hall Cabin, and were conducted on an informative tour of this two-hundred-year old cabin and a couple more by the one of the owners, whose wife’s father was raised in it.  The Baumgartners live behind the cabins on four of the original 50 acres.  We thanked Mr. Baumgartner for all he and his family continue to do to preserve this history for us to enjoy and learn from!
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After looking at the cabins, we went back into the woods and explored the Arnold-Hall Cemetery, where David Hall (a Revolutionary War veteran) is buried along with other members of the families.  Y’all may know I love cemeteries, so that was a treat for me and the kids indulged me!
That’s it for this week.  I’ll be honest–I can no longer promise to do something every single day.  But I DO have some plans for next week!
For more summer fun, read on:
Why We Can’t Have a 70s Summer and What We Are Doing Instead
The Summer Fun Continues . . .
More Summer Fun
Summer Fun Update
Summer Fun:  Vacation
That 70s Summer
In Which I Grow Lazy

Pleasant Forest: A Tale of Two Cemeteries

PF41Pleasant Forest Cemetery is a hard one to miss.  It’s enormous, for one thing, and it’s on a well-traveled road. I’ve driven by it many times and it’s been on my list to visit for awhile.  Occasionally my graveyard trips are serendipitous and unplanned, but for a place this large, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to explore.
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I visited over a year ago, and maybe it’s because I’m expecting some unpleasantness that I’ve held off writing about it for so long.  But I’ll get to that.
First of all, the good stuff.  And it’s really, really good stuff.  The cemetery is immaculate, with obvious efforts to clean and repair stones.


This is an historic cemetery, established over 200 years ago, making it one of the oldest in the area.  And the people who run it are obviously cognizant of and proud of its rich history.  This cemetery even has its own website!  The history of the place is recorded there in great detail, as are the names of most of the folks buried there.  Here’s the earliest grave:
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And there are other graves just as primitive, the hand-carved names rendered illegible by time.

There are many that you can read, though, even some very old ones.
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If you read the inscriptions, you will have seen that some of the stones carry names important in Knoxville history.  One of the things I loved about this cemetery is how it appreciates and showcases history–even its own.
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But this is also very much a living cemetery, with an assortment of interesting and beautiful memorials to folks who died relatively recently, and whose families are still regularly visiting and decorating their graves.

Pleasant Forest is large, hilly, well-kept, and beautiful, as I’ve said.

But there’s another part of this cemetery’s story.  In fact, there’s another part of this cemetery.
The part I’ve been showing you is on the right side of Concord Road heading south.  It’s large, and bordered with a combination of wooden and wrought iron fencing and stone walls.
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But if you cross the busy road, you’ll see another side of this cemetery.
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Here’s what it looks like.
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The contrast to the pristine conditions on the other side of the road couldn’t be stronger.  As I walked the grounds I was unable to make sense of what I was seeing–the exposed red earth, the tumbling stones, the un-raked ground.  And as I read the names I began to get a sinking feeling.  Surely this couldn’t be what it was beginning to look like–an African-American section of Pleasant Forest looking for all the world like an ad for separate and unequal?
But that’s what it is.  Here’s what a little online research turned up:  “Pleasant Forest Cemetery is an old cemetery, founded in 1796. It lies on both sides of Concord Road about one-half mile south of Kingston Pike. Most of the cemetery receives some maintenance. I am told that State of Tennessee provides money for cutting the grass. The cemetery functions as two cemeteries. The portion east of Concord Road and the southeast corner of the portion west of Concord Road are a black cemetery. The white portion of the cemetery which receives state maintenance funds was fenced early in 1989. The black section was fenced out and appears [in 1989] to receive little to no maintenance.”
Now, the black section that’s physically part of the larger cemetery isn’t treated any differently from the rest of it.  I am at a loss to explain why no one is caring for the other section.  Look, I KNOW maintaining cemeteries is a labor of love and largely taken on, in the case of historic graveyards, by volunteers.  But this is part of the same cemetery, under the same ownership now, according to publicly available records, whatever the case may have been originally.  What excuse can there be for ignoring this part of it so completely (as of March 2016, when I was last there)?  If the excuse is that it doesn’t receive state maintenance funds and the other side does, that doesn’t comfort me much.
I expect publishing this post will lead to my enlightenment on these matters as it often has in the past.  I hope it will not also lead to unpleasantness.  As always in these pieces, I’m just describing what I see, and what I’m seeing looks bad.
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For more of my graveyard musings, click here.
 

Spring Fun in Chattanooga

We didn’t go anywhere for Spring Break this year, except to the zoo.  Today’s planned trip to Dollywood was canceled due to illness.  So I got to feeling nostalgic about last year’s Spring Break trip, which I had never gotten around to sharing here.
Because I’ve waited a year to write about this, the details of the trip are less than clear.  So I’m going to dump a LOT of pictures here, with less explanation than usual.  But let me start by saying that if you live in Knoxville, and you’ve never taken a trip to Chattanooga, you are missing out.  If you live farther away, it’s still worth the drive.  We only did about half of what we wanted to do last year–the children’s museum, the nature center, the art museum, and more all await another visit.
So one year ago yesterday we packed up and drove 90 miles to Chattanooga, where our accommodations were cheap and convenient and that’s the best that could be said about them.
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Clearly, Echo was not in favor of our leaving!
Tickets to local attractions are available at reduced prices online, so we were ready to get started as soon as we arrived.  We began at the bottom of Lookout Mountain and rode the Incline Railway to the top.
I’ve ridden this thing before, years and years ago, but the cars were more enclosed than they are now and the . . . STEEPNESS . . . did not register with me.  It registered with poor William, though, and he was not a fan.
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Once at the top, the first thing to do is marvel at the beautiful views, which are not in short supply on Lookout Mountain.
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We also got a look at the machinery that runs the Incline Railway.
Our first stop was Battles for Chattanooga, right down the street.  On our way we enjoyed the beautiful homes and gardens we passed.  We browsed the gift shop which is replete with Civil War memorabilia while we waited for the show to start.
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The show itself is a combination of film and one of those models of all the battlefields that lights up to illustrate the various campaigns.  You may have seen something similar in Gettysburg or Atlanta if you’ve been there.  This was the first time I’d been to this attraction, and it was very instructive and provided context for Point Park, our next stop.
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History, rock formations, and views are plentiful in Point Park, which charges a small entry fee on the honor system.  There’s a little self-guided museum, and miles of walking trails which I am hoping to return to explore one day.  Seriously, it’s so beautiful and you could spend an entire day right here.
We had other places to go, though, so we rode the Incline back down (William had to be very brave!) and drove the car back up so we could SEE ROCK CITY, just like the barns say.
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Rock City is an attraction that is hard to categorize.  The brainchild of Mr. and Mrs. Carter above, what began as an extension of the garden around their home is now a network of trails, massive rock formation, nerve-wracking bridges, breathtaking views, and more.
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Above you see a nice solid rock bridge and a swinging bridge.  Can you guess which one I walked across?
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I bet you guessed right! 🙂
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Directly above you’ll see a shot of Lovers’ Leap (with the waterfall turned green in honor of Saint Patrick!) and then what Rock City is probably most famous for: the view of seven states which strikes me as totally possible on a clear day.
There are some rare white fallow deer housed at Rock City.  I didn’t get a picture but you can see Lorelei and William looking at them below!
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The white deer are part of the fairy tale motif for which Rock City is known.  Gnomes are plentiful, and there’s a whole gallery of nursery rhyme scenes.
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At the conclusion of our Rock City adventure, we found a family-friendly Asian restaurant nearby before retreating to our lodgings to rest up for the next day’s activities.
We started the second day of our trip with another iconic Chattanooga attraction:  Ruby Falls.
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All I can say is that it’s a good thing God chose Leo Lambert and not me to discover His handiwork and reveal it to the masses.  The story of his harrowing crawl through the pitch-dark and tiny passageways is terrifying. Luckily we can experience the beauty of the caverns without doing that.  I’m just sharing a few pictures because even with an iPhone (WAY better than the Kodak with flip-flash I had the first time I visited almost 40 years ago!) it’s just hard to capture good images in the low light.
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With Ruby Falls behind us, we headed down Lookout Mountain and into downtown Chattanooga with the Tennessee Aquarium next on our agenda.  They’d added a whole new building since our last visit.  One building showcases freshwater and the other seawater creatures.
I’d give more info on these creatures if I could, but it’s been a year and my memory of what things are is hazy.  William would be able to tell me if I asked him–it’s fun to hear him announce the names of obscure animals without reading the informational placards.
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These guys I recognize and you will too.  There are many of them in the bayou area and it was fun to watch them.
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I love all the beautiful colors and patterns–living art.
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Water creatures share the Aquarium with some other wild things.  This was taken in the butterfly room, where if you are lucky you may find yourself a perch for several butterflies!
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And while penguins seem a bit out of place to me I’m not going to complain because look how cute they are.  We had a hard time dragging the kids away.
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These guys though–they are creepy.
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The other-worldly, ethereal beauty of jellyfish is always fascinating to me.
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And there were more to come, as the Aquarium is currently hosting an art exhibit with jellyfish and art inspired by them.
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I’m pretty sure my kids would name the Aquarium if you asked them which part of our visit to Chattanooga they enjoyed most.
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We were there until closing time and then we hit downtown to search for a William-approved restaurant (Genghis Grill) before heading back to the motel.  We squeezed a lot of fun into two days and I was just talking to John today about how much more there is to see and do in Chattanooga.  We will be back!
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Why is This Election Different?

On the eve of the 2012 Presidential Election, I put up a post about how I would be voting, and why.  By now, if you’ve been keeping up, you know whom I will be voting for tomorrow.  And I’ve even explained how I approached making this decision, as a Catholic.

What you might still wonder, though, is what is different about this year.  In 2008, I didn’t vote at all.  In 2012, I wrote in None of the Above.  What has changed?  Did I just convince myself to vote for Hillary Clinton because I love her so much and because I’ve always secretly yearned to vote for a Democrat?

Actually, I would have liked to have voted for President Obama in 2008.  I preferred him to McCain and I wanted him to win.  I would have liked to pull the lever for the first black President.  But I couldn’t find a proportionate reason to do so.

By 2012 I had serious reservations about our President, but his policies were still more agreeable to me than Romney’s were.  Yet, again, I did not vote for him.

What is special about this election?

Two words: Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is my proportionate reason for voting for Hillary Clinton.

Don’t misunderstand–I LIKE Hillary.  I don’t believe most of what the conservative media says about her.  I agree with nine-tenths of her ideas (and I don’t think I have to explain to you which ones I don’t agree with).  And I find a great deal to admire about her.  Plus she’s the most qualified person to ever run for President.

But if Jeb Bush were running, if John Kasich were running, if John McCain or Mitt Romney were running, I might be voting for one of them or writing in None of the Above again tomorrow.

Donald Trump CANNOT and MUST NOT be President.  I believe he poses a clear and present danger to the residents of this nation, to everything it stands for, perhaps even to its very existence.  All the harm he would do as President constitutes–for me–the proportionate reasons my conscience demands.

Now, as you may know, I am in Tennessee, which I have no doubt Trump will win tomorrow.  I’m not in a swing state, so why am I “endangering my soul” by the remote material cooperation in evil of voting for a pro-choice candidate?

It would be hypocritical for me to expect other pro-life Catholics in swing states to vote against Donald Trump if I refuse to do the same.  My vote may not go directly toward defeating Trump, but it may encourage others whose votes have that power.  I will also be demonstrating, through my vote and my testimony about it here and on my blog, that while there is a Catholic process for choosing your candidate, there is no one right choice for every Catholic.

So tomorrow I will cast my vote for Hillary with a clear conscience and the firm belief that Donald Trump and everything he represents must be repudiated.

 

Fall Fun at Oakes Farm: SPONSORED

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As y’all know by now, I’m a US Family Guide blogger, which means occasionally I share offers for admission to attractions with you, then visit the attractions and honestly review them in this space.  In return, I get free tickets for me and my family.  Today I am sharing an attraction that I already know you’ll enjoy because I’ve visited it before.  Here’s what they’ve asked me to share with you:

Oakes Farm is the place to experience an amazing corn maze, a delightful pumpkin patch, an old-fashioned hayride, and lots more! Fall is simply fantastic at Oakes Farm … so, join us for a day that will provide a lifetime of memories! We’re becoming famous for our amazing corn mazes, which are works of art when viewed from above (of course, we have pictures) and challenging, life-size puzzles when you’re inside them.

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General Admission includes admission to the “Back 40” and a hayride. The “Back 40” includes over 25 fun attractions! A Giant 9 Acre Professionally Designed Corn Maze, Giant Slide, Bouncing Pillow, Kids’ Corn Maze, Pedal Karts, Giant Sand Play Area And much more! Fun for all ages and any occasion including groups, field trips and birthday parties!

SAMSUNG

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Located about 12 miles north of Knoxville, TN, Oakes Farm is a wonderful place for both the young and the young-at-heart to enjoy a truly unique outdoor experience at a very affordable price.

And guess what!  My readers get to save on your visit! $1 off General Admission – to Oakes Farm Tennessee Corn Maze! Valid for up to 19 guests!  Just click the link below for your coupon:
Oakes Farm Coupon for readers of Life in Every Limb

Hope to see you there!  And be sure to check back in a few weeks for my review, which will include lots and lots of pictures!

REVIEW: A Weekend of Ripley’s Fun in Gatlinburg (SPONSORED)

Happily, none of the attractions I wrote about below were damaged by the recent wildfires. Please make plans to visit soon to support the business owners and the local economy.  I know I will never take it all for granted again.

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It’s been a couple of months since I let you know that I would be visiting all of the Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg and reviewing them here.  That’s because there are EIGHT separate attractions, and we needed to pick a time that we could visit them all.  Originally we had intended to go up for the day (Gatlinburg is less than an hour away from us) but we ended up planning a weekend trip–just me, John, and the “little” kids (not really so little, but that’s what we call them here!).

We left Knoxville on Thursday evening and couldn’t even make it all the way to Gatlinburg without stopping to eat.  We picked Joe’s Crab Shack.

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We all love seafood, so this was a good decision.

We made it to the hotel with barely enough time to enjoy the pool for half an hour, but since the pool is the main point of staying at the Glenstone Lodge (a family favorite from when the big kids were small, but where the little ones had never been) we stayed until they turned off the lights!

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The next morning we got up early and headed to the Pancake Pantry, a Gatlinburg tradition.  Once we were fortified, we headed out for our Ripley’s adventure.

We started with the Aquarium, because that’s where we had to pick up our tickets. (I received free tickets for my family in exchange for my honest review of the attractions.)  Okay, you ask yourself, why is there an aquarium in Gatlinburg? There’s no ocean there.  Is this an aquarium highlighting things like salamanders and crawdads?

But that’s one of the things that’s really neat about Ripley’s–they always find a way to link their attractions to the locale, and I will be showing you several examples of that in this review.  Here’s how they frame Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies:

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I don’t know about you, but I thought that was pretty clever.

I have a lot of pictures to share with you.  The Aquarium is a good-sized attraction and took us a couple of hours to go through.

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Every exhibit is accompanied by an informative sign like the one above.  What was fun for me was having William announce what the creature was before reading the sign, and being right about 99% of the time.

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Y’all, I could not stop taking pictures of the jellyfish.  I think they are magical.

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It’s probably a good thing that Lorelei kept stealing my phone to make You Tube videos.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

In addition to all the interesting species, we also got to take a peek into the way the Aquarium operates:

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There are also interactive opportunities.  Below you will see Lorelei petting a horseshoe crab and William getting his dead skin eaten by some kind of fish (NOT piranhas, although they had those too!).

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These things are scarier than piranhas to me though:

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Apparently they actually EAT spider crabs in Japan.  I know it would amount to a lot of meat, but those things seriously give me nightmares.

The Aquarium is very kid-friendly, with play activities, interactive opportunities like I’ve already shown you, and entertainment (like these mermaids):

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At 14, William was not as interested in the kids’ activities, but he was fascinated by this prehistoric specimen, which he of course already knew EVERYTHING about:

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But the highlight of the Aquarium for all of us, and I think for pretty much anyone who visits, is Shark Lagoon.

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In addition to looking down on the sharks from above, visitors have the opportunity to get closer thank they ever thought possible by going THROUGH the lagoon in a transparent tube, being moved along via conveyor belt.

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If it’s not obvious, we loved the Aquarium.  It’s expensive, but it’s worth it, and I recommend it to anyone who is visiting Gatlinburg.

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Now, that would have been enough fun for anyone, but remember we were still getting started at that point with seven attractions left to visit!  We made it out through the gift shop relatively unscathed and then started heading to our next destination, which we picked because according to the map we’d been given, it was the next one we would come to as we walked along the main road.  That was the Mirror Maze, which was pretty much exactly like the one in Baltimore, which I already told you about here.

Our next stop was the Guinness Book of World Records Museum, a place that has been in Gatlinburg for as long as I remember, and which I’m assuming Ripley’s acquired at some point as its most likely competitor!

Here again a lot of effort was expended to showcase records that would be of particular interest to local folks:

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Aside from the local exhibits, I was most impressed with the Space area, which included a neat video about the moon landings.

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The exhibit below reminded me of my grandmother and the many, many afghans she made for us:

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There were some fun interactive displays also, like these:

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And of course we all loved this:

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This is just a small sampling of what was available, much of which will be familiar to regular readers of the Guinness Book of World Records–tallest man, fattest man. et cetera.  I think we spent about an hour there.

Our last stop of the day was the Ripley’s Odditiorium.  I remember this when it was called the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.  Or I should say that’s what its predecessor–a much less impressive affair–was called, before it burned in a fire some years ago.  It’s a Gatlinburg attraction I remember from my childhood, although we never went there.

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I’m going to get my complaints out of the way at the beginning: it was crowded and hot, especially the first part, which is a balcony over an area that is open to the street and hence is not climate-controlled.  I much preferred the set up of the Baltimore Odditorium, but there were plenty of new curiosities to see here.

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We were welcomed by a holographic version of Mr. Ripley himself, inviting us to come along with him on his adventures.  I thought that was pretty cool!
I learned in my last Odditorium experience that I could expect to see authentic artifacts and I was not disappointed.  This actual piece of the Berlin Wall was a thrill:

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There was a dark and creepy area that showcased instruments of torture and other creepy things:

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There was a very interesting prison display, that managed to insert some local color:

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We met an old friend from our last Odditorium visit:

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And here are just a few more interesting sights.  I wish I had more pictures, but I had to fight with Lorelei for the camera all day, as she is an avid filmmaker and needed footage, 😉 and by this time my battery was running low as well!

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The above portrait of Eminem is made of M & M’s, by the way!

Luckily at this point we were right by the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  We’ve tried most restaurants in Gatlinburg at this point, and frankly most of them aren’t very good now that all the ones I remember from 20 years ago have closed up shop.  But we hadn’t been to Bubba Gump, and we did enjoy it.  After that, exhausted by our long day and the searing heat, we trudged back to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening enjoying the pool and the air conditioning.

Day Two of our Gatlinburg-Ripley’s adventure began with a buffet breakfast at the hotel and one last quick swim before checking out.  We drove down to the main road and found a centrally-located garage and then made our way to our first destination:  Ripley’s Haunted Adventure.

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See that guy in the bottom picture? He leans out of there and heckles passersby! I had never been there–frankly, I’m not big on seeking out scares because life is frightening enough already–but I was a little bit excited about this.

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See Lorelei’s sweet little smile? It was about to get wiped right off her face.

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After we passed by that lovely sight, we headed for this cage-like elevator that you have to board to get up to the top of the attraction.  Along the walls we read the setup for the whole thing which I won’t explain except to say that it was another way of anchoring the attraction to the area.

We were in the elevator with two middle-school aged boys.  When we debarked, our guide gave us such a speech about how scary this was going to be and the need to decide RIGHT NOW if it was going to be too scary that the boys left!  He then told us to grab hold of the shirt of the person in front of us and no matter what happened not to let go and not to run.

You may notice the absence of pictures in this part of my story.  That’s because it was too dark to take pictures, nor did I have a free hand.  The first couple of rooms we were in were very well done.  This isn’t like a warehouse with people jumping out and screaming at you (not that there weren’t people jumping out and screaming too of course!).  It’s well-decorated, well-done, with a theme running through it.  But it wasn’t long at all until Lorelei was sobbing, and then we made a wrong turn and were in a completely pitch-black area, and when our guide asked us if we wanted to leave we were all thrilled to say YES!

Well, John wasn’t thrilled.  And although William was walking through with his eyes closed, he was hoping we would finish and that someone else would tell him what happened!  But Lorelei and I were VERY glad to be out of there.  I guess if a scary house scares you that much, it’s a good one, right?

Happily, this was right next door:

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They were showing the same two movies that we had already seen in Baltimore, and the motion makes both William and me sick, but it was just what was needed to calm Lorelei’s nerves.  So William and I sat on a bench outside and waited while John and Lorelei watched the movies.

The last two attractions were outdoors, and the weather was looking a bit foreboding:

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Still, we didn’t have anything else to do, and I wanted to be able to finish my review, so we retrieved our car and drove toward Pigeon Forge, stopping here:

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This is another place I’d never been.  For years there was another golf place here, Jolly Golf, with a dinosaur theme, and before that there was Mystery Hill, which is somewhere I did visit as a small child and have never forgotten.

Did you know that mini-golf was invented in the Southeast?  So that makes this the most appropriate attraction of our weekend, even though the connection between Davy Crockett and the decor of the course (at least the course we chose–there were two) escapes me!

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It certainly gave off plenty of that hillbilly vibe that visitors to East Tennessee seem to crave.

Anyway, we had fun.  Lorelei was the first to get a hole in one!

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William was a bit sulky at first, but as he proved surprisingly good he began to perk up a little bit.

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Toward the end of our game it–you guessed it!–began to pour down rain!  We intrepid golfers did not let that stop us from finishing, however!

We had one more attraction left to see at this point:  Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf.  But y’all, we were golfed-out, and hungry, and ready to stop having fun, honestly.  We went to a favorite restaurant in Pigeon Forge (Fusion Cafe), and then went home to collapse.

But the awesome thing is that our tickets are good for one year from the date of issue.  And our final destination is in Sevierville, not Gatlinburg–right next to Joe’s Crab Shack. 🙂  And also by the Tanger Outlets, if that’s your idea of fun (it isn’t mine).  Anyway, we will head back out there in a few weeks and I will update you then.

So what are you waiting for?  You can go right here to read more about all the attractions.   My readers will save $3 off Adult and $2 off Child Admission to all of Ripley’s Attractions in Tennessee.  You’ll need to make your purchase online and enter the following promo code when you check out: USFAMILYGUIDE  Click here for more information about this offer and about U.S. Family Guide.

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Please consider a donation to the fund Dolly Parton has set up to support families who lost their homes.  Over 700 structures have been reported destroyed so far.

Walking in Knoxville: North, South, and Further South

Emily and I can’t stop exercising just because we finished up the Urban Wilderness Trails.  Our weekend treks have been sporadic of late (Christmas holidays, trips out of town, and hello SNOW!) but we’ve explored a number of trails in and around Knoxville in the past few weeks.
First we took a trip to the north the walk on the Songbird Trail in Anderson County near Norris Dam State Park.  We made the mistake (big mistake) of trusting Siri for directions, and it ended up taking us way longer to drive there than it did to walk the nice, flat, paved trail.  We did discover that there are many other trails within the park that we may come back and investigate another time.
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There’s more to South Knoxville than the Urban Wilderness, y’all.  High Ground Park is a new area to explore, on Cherokee Trail near that awful water tower.  There you will find some historic information (because it’s the site of Fort Higley), a trail, and a nice place to “set for a spell.”  We ran into one obstacle in that the parking lot was chained off for no apparent reason, but we found a gravel lot nearby and we persevered.
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Going back to our car we discovered the existence of another, as yet unfinished, trail system (River Bluff Wildlife Area) that I have been reliably informed leads to some amazing bluff views.  As you can see by the picture below, this is under development, but I believe that the eventual plan is that these trails will eventually connect somehow with those of the Urban Wilderness and the ones at Fort Dickerson.
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The trails at IC King Park were another happy South Knoxville surprise.  When I thought of IC King Park at all, it conjured up thoughts of a somewhat sketchy place where brave souls might go fishing.  But it’s been cleaned up now–with even an on-site satellite Sheriff’s Office–and if you don’t mind risking your life on Alcoa Highway to get there, you’ll be rewarded with eight miles of trails.  We just scratched the surface so I’ll write more on that another time, so consider this a preview:
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Finally, we are making it a goal this year to do more hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains.  You local folks realize, I’m sure, that thousands of people travel from all over the country every year to enjoy what we have in our own backyard.  And I know growing up we took way too little advantage of that.
So we are going to try to take one Saturday a month to hike in the mountains.  I think there are 900 miles of trails all together and some of them are out of our skill level at this time, so it will be many, many years down the road before I am able to blog that we hiked them all!  We started with a couple of Quiet Walkways that are close to Gatlinburg.
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I’ve often wondered about these little trails and have longed to pull off to explore them, so this was a real treat.  It doesn’t take long before you can’t hear the traffic anymore and there is always something beautiful and surprising to see.  For example, I’ll be devoting another blog post to the graveyard we discovered (on top of a VERY steep hill) on the first walkway.
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We are so lucky, so blessed, to have so much beauty to explore just an hour’s drive away, aren’t we?  In, near, and around Knoxville–so many walks and so little time.

Throwback Thursday: An Autumn Afternoon at Holloway Cemetery

I know most of y’all are probably champing at the bit for Spring to arrive.  Me, not so much.  I’d like at least one good snowfall first.  But today, I want you to stop thinking about Spring for a few minutes and instead remember Autumn.
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I’m behind in recounting my graveyard adventures, and I seriously considered not posting this and going with something more seasonal, but you know what?  These pictures are just too pretty not to share.
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Holloway Cemetery is at the corner of Bakertown and Robinson Roads, and I’ve driven past it hundreds of times.  When I was in high school, it was on my shortcut from my home in Cumberland Estates in Northwest Knoxville to the home of one of my best friends in West Knoxville.  Graveyards weren’t on my radar in those days, I guess, although I’ve certainly driven past it as an adult as well.  My daughter Emily was the one who noticed it recently and suggested we should check it out.
When we first got out of the car, we thought it might turn out to be a disappointment.  There was just one tiny grave near the road, a little baby who apparently someone is still remembering:
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We combed through the underbrush and found nothing until we walked all the way up the hill, which is where the rest of the graves are.
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Apart from the fact that the name on the sign appears to be spelled wrong, my research didn’t turn up much about this place.  I have no idea who is responsible for its upkeep, but at the risk of offending whoever it is, it really could use some.
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I don’t just mean that it needs mowing.  I’m going to be charitable and assume that our visit just happened to fall around the time they were getting to mow it.  The problems I noticed were a bit more serious.
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It has taken some time for things to get into such a condition.  Some of those trees have been growing for years.  The interesting thing about this place, though, is that there are some relatively recent burials and signs that people have been visiting regularly.
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I wasn’t able to discover anything about the history of the land or the cemetery, and it’s interesting to note that whoever the Holloways were, none of them were buried here, unless they are among the many buried namelessly.
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The latest burial here took place in 2001, a member of the Garrett family.  The Garretts are the only family here with more than two graves to their name.  There are a lot of them, including most of the more recent and better-tended graves.  Interestingly, the earliest marked grave–1890–belonged to a woman who was born a Garrett.  If I had time, I could probably find out more, but I don’t have time to fall down that particular rabbit hole today.
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Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting stones:
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Even though the condition of this cemetery made us both sad, I was so grateful to Emily for suggesting it.  October never looked so beautiful.
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Edit: I’ve learned since this writing that this was at least originally a pauper’s cemetery, which would help answer some of my questions.
 
 

Voting's Not a Game–or It Shouldn't Be

I have to tell you, I am pretty disgusted with some of my fellow Tennesseans this morning.
No, NOT because Rick Santorum won our primary.  Let’s be honest–the pickings are slim in the Republican field.  You’ve got to vote for somebody, right?
It’s not the Republicans I’m disgusted with today–it’s some of the Democrats whose comments I read on Facebook last night.
Tennessee has open primaries.  That means if you are a Republican you can choose to vote in the Democratic primary and vice versa.  President Obama having no challenger, many Democrats chose to vote in yesterday’s Republican primary.
Full disclosure:  I did not vote yesterday because I did not take care of getting my address changed in time.  I believe I am registered as a Democrat.  Had I voted yesterday, I would indeed have crossed over, and would likely have voted for Mr. Gingrich because 1) He is smart; 2) He is against abortion; 3) He doesn’t want to ship all the illegal immigrants back to Mexico; 4) Mitt Romney doesn’t stand for anything but Mitt Romney; and 5) Rick Santorum doesn’t know what “preferential option for the poor” means.
I may have mentioned before that we are politics junkies in this house.  John majored in International Politics at Georgetown.  He really gets into this stuff, and we talk about it all the time, even with the kids from the time that they were all small.  And we’ve always thought the open primary was a neat opportunity to get to have a say in picking the very best nominee from the other side.  Last election, for example, we were excited to cast primary votes for Hillary Clinton.
What an open primary apparently is for a lot of other people, though, is a big joke.  These people make a mockery out of the democratic process.  Voting is a right, a responsibility, a sacred trust.  People have fought and died for this right.  It’s a right many people in the world still don’t have.
I wonder what Susan B. Anthony and company would have to say about Democratic women who voted for Rick Santorum, whom they characterize as a lunatic and worse, with the goal of ending up with a weak nominee whom President Obama can beat in the General Election?   All these people were chortling over their supposed cleverness on Facebook last night.
Yes, I am sure there are Republicans who would have done the same.  So what?  Does that make it any less morally reprehensible?
There’s no room for levity in the voting booth, people.  This partisan bullshit is getting out of control.  If you can’t bring yourself to cast a serious vote in the other side’s primary, stay on your own side and remember what you are doing–or supposed to be doing–when you pull that lever.  Then you can look at that waving flag with a little pride.

False Fronts: A Visit to Gatlinburg

Just a little over a week ago I wrote of the fires that have been consuming East Tennessee.  One of those fires raged out of control last night and destroyed over 150 homes and businesses in Gatlinburg.  Just about all Knoxvillians have fond memories of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains, and we are all grieving today.  Thinking about all this made me remember this post, one of the first I ever wrote, which alludes to a side of Gatlinburg most people probably never see.

My family and I spent part of our Easter Break in Gatlinburg.  Most of our vacation time and money is used for trips to Baltimore to see my husband’s family, but we try to make little trips to Gatlinburg at Christmas or Easter.  It’s close, there’s plenty to do, and we’ve found condos to stay in so that we don’t have to pay for two hotel rooms and can cook some of our own meals.

Despite living so close to the Smokies, my family rarely visited when I was a child.  Once a year at the most we picked up some fried chicken at the Kentucky Fried Chicken at the last stop light in Gatlinburg–it’s still there!–and took it to Metcalf Bottoms for a picnic.  My father hated Gatlinburg so we hardly ever stopped there, although we did stay at the Glenstone Lodge just one time.

Gatlinburg has changed a lot since those days–it’s even changed a lot since I was in college.  The family owned gift shops that used to line the streets (like Rebel Corner, which was lost to a fire), full of hokey gifts like Indian headdresses and souvenir shot glasses, are mostly gone now.  In addition to a lot of tacky t-shirt shops and martial arts stores, there are many nicer gift shops.  Ripley’s seems to have taken over the town.

I do love The Village.  Anchored by the 50-year-old Pancake Pantry, this copy of a old-time European town is attractive and peaceful, and we love the German restaurant there.  The golf course at Reagan Terrace Mall is well done too, with little plaques at each hole that detail the history of Gatlinburg.

There’s more to Gatlinburg than the main strip, though–there’s a side of it that many tourists never see.  It reminds me of those Old West Towns with their false fronts, which made the little buildings behind them seems fancier, with two stories instead of one.  That strip isn’t the real Gatlinburg.  Back behind it there are homes and neighborhoods.  And there’s history.  We discovered some of it when we were there.

white oak flats

 Keep reading this blog and you will discover that there’s nothing I love quite so much as a stroll through a graveyard.  Taking a shortcut, my teenagers discovered an enormous cemetery that was established in 1830.

cemetery view

 In nearly 40 years of driving through Gatlinburg, I had never seen it or known that it was back there, just one block behind all the excitement.

baby stone
My little boy kneels by the stone of an infant, which made him sad.

From the graveyard, you can see all the activity down below, all the changes that have come about since 1830–really most of them since 1930.  Yet the graveyard remains, testimony to the Gatlinburg that once was White Oak Flats, and most of all to the Ogle family, who were the first settlers.
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ogles everywhere

kids and graves
My children have learned to enjoy visiting cemeteries along with me.

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Two nice surprises in the graveyard: this trillium (I think!) . . .

clayton's stone
and my Great-Uncle Clayton’s grave! I had no idea he was there!

The graveyard wasn’t the only surprise in store for us.  We found a shortcut back to our condo that took us right past this lovely Methodist church.

Gatlinburg Methodist Church

Look at the interesting contrast in the photo below.  I call it “Two Spires” and it’s a view of the steeple of the church above juxtaposed with the top of the Space Needle, as seen from Reagan Terrace Mall.

two spires

Maybe there’s a message for us in the sign below:

Please consider donating to help alleviate some of the suffering of those who have been affected by this tragedy.  There’s a partial list of efforts available here.