Moline, Illinois and Moscow, Iowa

We had a normal service stop scheduled at Moscow, Iowa for Monday, 4/28. So looking about we found an Army Corps of Engineers Campground on the Mississippi River near Moiline, IL.  Our experience with these campgrounds has been very good, clean, with good services, bathrooms and showers. And they are usually pretty inexpensive.  With our Senior Pass this spot was $8/night.

In Hastings we live just upstream from Lock and Dam #2.  This campground is just upstream from Lock and Dam #14.  Only 8 miles downstream is Lock and Dam #15. The water is high and fast flowing and very turbulent.


There is always something to see everywhere and this area is no different.
The John Deere Pavilion contains historical exhibits about what else, the John Deere company.  It started out making horse and ox drawn plows. Today it builds agricultural equipment for almost every situation in countries all over the world.  In India, they make a simple affordable multi-fueled tractor for that market and for export to other markets. In Germany they build very sophisticated tractors with digital everything. Also for the European market and for export. In China they build specialized rice harvesting equipment for smaller hillside rice paddys.
It also builds construction equipment.  Again all over the world specialized for local markets.  And they are the world’s largest manufacturer of logging equipment. 

An early tractor.

And a bulldozer.

And a farm harvester.

And a farm tractor for kids to try out.

Pretty cool!  All electronic.

And a bug-like walking logging machine!
Green overload!
And then on to the the Rock Island Arsenal.  
This was established shortly after the Civil War not only as an arsenal to store weapons and ammunition but a manufacturing and testing center. It is huge, dozens of giant buildings, many private engineering and production partners.  They specialize in rapid response manufacturing. When HumVees were found to be under armored in Iraq and Afganistan against improvised explosive devises, the Rock Island Arsenal designed, tested and built add on armor in a very short time.  Their mission is supporting troops in the field.  Rows and rows of old stone building.  An impressive row of officers homes as well.
A big museum of course.

More guns than you can shake a stick at. And cannons, rocket launchers, tanks and all sorts of army machines.

Lock and Dam #15 is attached to the island. They had a nice visitor’s center, a barge going through and a Boy Scout Troop of active, noisey youngsters.

And a giant swing bridge that the barge has to go through to get into the lock.

The kids got a big charge out of this.  They had never been here before. We had a good time too. 
We had a small campfire when we returned to the campground.  We toasted the last of our marshmallows and burned a bunch of pine cones that I collected at Hunting Island, SC. A pleasant end to this day as we get closer to home.
Our last stop was Moscow, IA about 60 miles west. In the morning it was windy and the forecast was for higher winds from the east and storms at night.  We set out for Moscow with a 30-40 mph tail wind.  Pretty neat actually. We got 2-3 mpg extra due to the wind.
As we exited the freeway there was a scene RVers never want to see.

SOB (some ither brand) burned to the ground, being loaded on a flatbed trailer. The skid loader ready to clean up all that was left, almost nothing.  Those are the front seat frames stucking up in the front. A wood and aluminum framed coach won’t last long. Ours is welded steel.
The Highway Patrol Officer told me the just retired owner had just bought it used in Arizona and was driving it back to Davenport. 60 miles from home.  Ouch.  Never owned an RV before. Probably had no idea what to look for, what to do, what to check.  Pay money, buy insurance and hope.  Not a good plan.
We drove into the parking lot at the HWH service center, parked with the back end facing the wind and   waited for the storm.  It rained all evening and all night.  Another coach pulled in next to us. We were up early and at the service entrance by 7.  By early afternoon they were done, everything tickety-boo, all present and correct and we debated … A 300 mile run north in the 30-40 mph cross wind or wait it out or get half way and finish in the morning.  Would we make it by dark?
Go for it.  A challenging drive but steady as she goes. Made it home before dark, just barely. Backed into the driveway and 400 ft later with all the lights on right into the barn.  Plugged the coach in, left the refrigerator on, grabbed what we needed, dashed into the house in the rain, turned on the water, the heat, the water heater, the fireplace, got something to eat and went to bed.  Home always feels good.
Warm in the morning, coffee made, house warm, water warm still clean and tidy as we left it.  Lots of room to spread out and get lost in.  A familiar space to get reacquainted with. 
Our adventures continue here. Busy weeks ahead. A list of places to go at the ready. Then where ever we are.
More to come.
Roger and Susan.

Springfield, IL

The capital of Illinois is Springfield. It is also where the Illinois State Fair is located. Most state fairs have campgrounds as does this one. So that is where we stayed right near the center of town, the Lincoln Home, the Lincoln Museum, the Lincoln Library and the Lincoln Memorial. Lots of Lincoln stuff to see and do.

Lincoln bought this home for his family about 1845. It was smaller when he bought it.  He was a fresh new lawyer. As he became more successful he and Mary added the second story and on to the back of the house as well as children. Lincoln added the wall and fence along the street. This neighborhood at the time had just a few homes on each block, most had barns and animals, pigs were common. The roads were dirt. Lincoln’s law office was next to the state capital and close enough to walk to it every day.
The house is the only one the Lincoln’s ever owned. It was owned by several other people and then the State of Illinois before the National Park Service bought up the four blocks around Lincon’s home are restored the neighborhood to the way it looked when lInclon was elected President.
The house has been restored so that it looks as it did in 1860 and reinforced to withstand the hundreds of thousands of visitors who go through the house every year. They have added electric lights, security systems and fire sprinklers.
The house was decorated in what was called a patchwork or crazy quilt or kalidescope of color.
Black and white were the decorating scheme in the decades before and with the coming Victorian age and the availability of color, they went for it whole hog. Very busy wall paper, buzy fabrics, wild color mixes in carpet.  Pretty goofy looking but then life had been so dull before, why not?

This is actually Lincoln’s bed. Mary had her own bed/dressing room, not uncommon at the time. But they did have 4 children so …

A pretty basic kitchen but it was inside of the house.  Having the kitchen in the house was fairly new at that time. Kitchens caught on fire frequently. Keeping then away from the main house kept the main house from burning down. Cast iron stoves started changing that. In a great leap forward in mocernization all of the fireplaces in the house had been bricked over and small stoves installed.  Cleaner, safer, the pinacle of modernity for the time.

As it was in 1860. Lincoln was nominated by the Republicans to be their candidate for President at their convention in Chicago. Unlike today, he was not there and a committe came to Springfield with the news and the offer of nomination which Lincoln accepted.

His five years in office took a terrible toll on both him and Mary.  They lost a second child while in the White house. The Union was breaking apart even before he was sworn in. The Civil War was long and difficult. He held fast to what he considered his utmost duty, preserving the Union.

When he was elected in 1860.

And perhaps the last photgraph taked of Lincoln while was alive just five years later.
A difficult job for anyone.
There is also the Lincoln Museum and Lincoln Library.  There is a Lincoln in Hollywood as well where all of the trappings of movies mad about Lincln are on display.  
The Museum was like several we visited on this adventure, a serpentine path through time with each area a different time.  They stared in the famous log cabin where he was born and went on to his general store to his first law office in Springfield, meeting and marrying Mary, their home in Springfield, losing their first child to TB, his election, the ravages of the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, his reelection, finally the end of the Civil War was near, a night at the theater, his assassination and death, the funeral train and fianlly home to Springfield. It is hard to imagine how a person could hold up and hold true through all of this. The right person at the right time? We should all hope so for if it had turned out differently where might we be today?

I always thought he was taller (he was, 6’4″ at one point. 

Lincoln is buried way under the Lincoln Memorial, only a few miles from his 1860’s home.
He was originally buried near here while the original monument was being build and then moved to a burial vaul inside. Some nasty folks tried to break in to the vault to steal him.  They were stopped. This, I think, is the origin of Illinois Dirty Politics whose triumph is Rod Blagojevich, an American convicted felon and true sleaze bag, may he rot in prison. When the monument began sinking because of a failure of the foundations, also a common problem for shoddy government work, thay had to dismantle it and put in about four times as much concrete in a new foundation to account for the substandard soils.  Then they reburied Lincon way below the burial vault with tons of concrete over him to prevent any more attenmpts at grave robbing and then reassembled the Monument.

After all,of that we had to have a bit of lunch. We tried The Front Burner right across the steet from the capital.  Yum.  A Bacon Lettuce Tomato Grilled Cheese.

And some salmon and risotto.

For less than $20!
And then on to a Frank Lloyd Wright home.  

Wright considered this his most important home design. Even though it was early in his career this 16,000 sq ft house has more than 250 stained glass panels all desigpned by Wright. It was built for a woman who survived her father and husband with quite a fortune around 1900. After her death a business man bought the home and then many years later sold it to the State of Illinois as a historic site. Almost all of the original Wright designed furniture survived and is still in the home making it one of the most complete examples of his work.

Sumac and butterflies were the dominant theme throughout the house. And entertaining was the most important function for Mrs Dana, an important art patron and socialite.
It was a very nice place to visit.

As we have traveled we realize that almost every place we go to has lots to offer, all you have to do is look and not be in too much of a hurry to explore. 34 years ago on our early travels all that was to be discovered had to be found by writing for information or looking for it when you get there. Today internet access from almost everywhere opens up everything to discovery. 
Off to the Quad Cities. Moline, East Moline, Davenport and Bettendorf.
Roger and Susan

Bowling Green, KY

Bowling Green seemed like a good next stop. Less tha 200 miles away from Oak Ridge and mostly along easy going parkways.  So we were hoping to see green farm fields covered in grass and majestic horses, it was Kentucky after all.  And what better place to head to than Bowling Green, sounds like what we were looking for.  Something about Bowling Green made me think there was something there to see. I had to think about it for a while and then it dawned on me, Corvettes!

A look online told us the Corvette Museum was there as well as the Corvette Assembly Plant. Tours were available, reservations were made and a time and destination was in hand. Nearby there was an RV campground that sounded interesting. It was at an amusement park.  Turns out the amusement part was not open for the season yet so,there was almost no one in the campground. It started out on a farm with a farmer who bought an old wooden roller coaster and put it in his back yard behind the barn.  Now it was a full scale amusement park with a drag strip and an oval race track, a 500 site campground and buildings everywhere.  The farmer lives nearby in some grass covered rolling hills  surrounded by miles of perfect wooden fence counting his money and going for a ride whenever he wants to.
On the way into Bowling Green you see Corvettes by the truck load. Not too many on the road though.
10 on this truck.  And the Museum, where Corvettes get to park in front.  We parked in the rear.

The museum followed the history of the Corvette from 1953 through today. It showed production cars, prototypes and racing versions.  There were only 300 1953 Corvettes, all white with red interiors.

This image was pretty neat, made up of thousands of very small images.
Most of the cars on display belonged to the museum, donated by owners, one by Ray Orbison for example or on loan by their owners.
There was one section of the museum where there were no cars, just a big hole. It was swallowed up,by a sinkhole within the last year.

Many cars were crushed, almost all beyond repair.  They are going to try to restore a couple, a tough job.

On to the factory where there are no photos allowed. You couldn’t even carry a cell phone or a purse or any bags, nothing.  So descriptions …
The Corvettes are built in a 1 million sq ft assembly plant.  It used to be a Chrysler pland until the early 80’s when GM bought it to make the Corvette.  Before that they were made in Flint Michigan and then St Louis.  About 700 people work at the assembly plant.  500 are assembly workers.  They work one shift, 10 hours a day right now because demand is high.  The body and paint line work two shift becaust those processes take longer and have to keep up.
The main aluminum frame parts are made elsewhere but the frame is built in Bowling Green on one robotic assembly line.  Robots do every thing and handle almost all of the parts. This feeds another line where the interiors and most if the stuff you don’t see are added including rear body panels. 
This whole thing moves along on a conveyor system where the doors are added.  The doors are made on a separate assembly line which feeds the correct fight and left door for each car on the correct side as it moves down the main assembly line.  The engines, teansmissions, front and rear suspension, and brakes come down a different line and the two merge one on top of the other.  Then the front body panels are added as well as the wheels.  All of this is still on the conveyor system.  
It almost looks complete at this point.  3.5 gallons of fuel, coolant, brake fluid and all of the other fluids are added and the engine is started and run for about 6 minutes.  At this point the Corvette goes through some very bright light tunnels where everything is looked at by several inspectors.  Another station has several people who try everything out several times.  They check everything. Then another inspection station for body panel fit.  If there are any problems they are fixed as they go or noted.  
Finally wheels are on the ground, a driver drives off the assembly line over a series of bumps that shake the car pretty well and into a test bay where the car is on rollers. It is accelerated, slowed, braked and run through about 6 minutes of a preprogrammed tests that the driver follows. More than 800 tests are done on the car while this test is run. 98% of Corvettes pass all 800 on the first try. If not they are pulled aside and fixed and retested. They must pass all tests in one test to get beyond this point.  
Then there is a 14 mile test track that shakes, rattles, rolls and twists the car while a specially trained operator listens for noises and squeeks. Anything they notice is fixed and the car retested.  Then the car goes into the rain tunnel where 25 gallons per second of high pressure water with 40 mph wind is blown on the car for four minutes to look for any leaks.  Any found are fixed.  After all of that, they are cleaned up, wrapped up and ready for shipping.  
135 Corvettes are completed each day.
Engines are built one at a time in a special section of the plant. Each engine is entirely built by one person who signs his name on the engine.  Unless you buy the build your own engine option.  Then you come to the factory and work with an engine specialist to build it yourself.  I guess it gets your name on it.
There is a baby book option as well where a photographer will follow your car through the assembly process  and document its coming to life, step by step. You get a Baby Book.
There is also a take delivery at the museum option where they make a big deal about you getting your car and then you drive over to the plant to a special area where they take pictures.
The 2014 Corvettes start at $58,000 and quickly go to over $127,000 with just a few options.
The most popular color is red either as a coupe or a convertable.
We both were attracted to the Green with tan top convertable.

A new model,is being added for 2015 which will have a wider more race car like body and super car engine, suspension and drive train components. And a Super Car Price I am sure.

So we are overwhelmed. Spectacular cars, beautiful cars. But not quite our cup of tea.  Not much room for camping gear. The tour guide kept going on about how many lb-ft of torque these cars have.  At best it is about 1/3 of what our coach has.  But then the engine and transmission in our coach weigh more than a new Corvette.  Oh well, hard to brag about anything.
A very fun stop.  
Now we are off to the land of Lincoln. Springfield, IL. Or is that where Bart Simpson is from?  Is that a glow we see in the distance?
More later.
Roger and Susan

Oak Ridge, TN

We are starting to work our way north toward home. No hurry, we will take more than a week to get there.

We stopped in Oak Ridge, TN.  It was sort of on the way and not on the freeways. Oak Ridge was a rural, sparsely populated farmland when WWII started.  The Manhatten Project to develop an atomic bomb required lots of working room far from prying eyes and yet not too far from communication, power and transportation.  This area was chosen as well as Los Alamos, NM and a remote site on the Columbia River in Washington. There were many other sites as well, mostly research sites that never get much mention.
The Oak Ridge site had as its main task to produce weapons grade uranium. They had to find ways to transform the raw uranium to the more refined U235 and then concentrate it. This had never been done.  There were several ideas about how to do this and with the urgency of the project, every one got a full on trial. Some never worked in spite of building huge plants to try the concept. Some methods had had millions of dollars invested in building projects before they even figured out how they were going to work. The urgency was so great.
They originally thought there would be several thousand people working there. By the end of the war more than 70,000 people were working and living in Oak Ridge, a city that didn’t exist only a few years earlier. Housing, stores, schools, roads, churches, hospitls, fire depatments, police everything had to be built from scratch. It was more than just a technical and science challenge it was a social engineering project on a massive scale. At the peak of building a new housing unit was being completed every 30 minutes and there was never enough.
There was a nice Science and Energy Museum to visit. Lost of histoical stuff and more than that interesting science exhibits for anyone to enjoy. It was right across the street froma camp walmart where we stayed and next to a post office.
Today, Oak Ridge has about 30,000 people and all of the issues of a smller town.  Aging infrastructue, aging housing, shoping centers that are closed, young people leaving and one major industry.
Still it is a nice looking city. There has to be a lot of smart, well pid folks who,live there which give a city hope.
Sorry, no pictures.  Everything is top secret!
In the morning after a walk to the post office and a couple laps around Walmart we were off to our next stop, Bowling Green, KY.
Roger and Susan

Cataloochee Valley

So why is this one a valley and not a Cove.  Beats me. Cataloochee Valley is in the opposite (NE) corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From Cade’s Cove it is about 100 miles by road not so far as the raven flies.

Cherokee People
One of our side trips into Cherokke took us to the Museum of the Cherokee.  It was a very impressive museum that followed the history of the Cherokee people from their stories of creation through the thousands of years prior to Europeans first arriving and then their story after. Their stories told of a great bird who flew across the land.  With each upbeat of its wings it pulled up the mountains and with each downbeat formed the valleys.  There was a great fire and the bird flew into the fire and used its powerful wings to put the fire out. In the process of doing so its feathers were singed and blackened. And that is where ravens come from. The first Europeans were the British and they got along with the Cherokee. They brought iron tools, guns and disease with them. The diseases killed half of all the Cherokee people within just a few years. The British were respectful of the Cherokee and established trade and treaties that were beneficial to both. After the American Revolution things changed. The Americans decreed that all indians had to be civilized and forced to behave like the Americans thought they should. This didn’t go over so well with the Cherokee or any other Native American group so there was resistance. The Americans sent in an army that massacred half of the remaining Cherokee (including women and children) and round up the remaining Cherokee and forced them to walk to a flat, treeless worthless reservation in Oklahoma.  Half of all the remaining Cherokee died on this forced march through the winter on the “Trail of Tears.” These stories are repeated over and over across America as our ancestors forced Native Americans to give uo their land, their culture, their families, their language and their way of life to live virtually imprisioned in concentration camp like reservations. While there is much to be proud about being an American this is not one of them.  Many Cherokee escaped that original round up in what is now the Smokies and stayed here in the mountains. They are now the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, a proud people, restoring their culture and language and building better lives for the future.
Cataloochee Valley
We drove from Cherokee across the southern side of the park to the road to Cataloochee. It was a 1 1/2 lane wide steep very twisty road up into the mountains about 11 miles. Apparently they have never heard of guard rails here.  No shoulders on the road except for nearly vertical tree coverd slopes where a car would certainly not stop for thousands of feet while to crashed down the mountain.  Susan closed her eyes and held of for dear life. I just hoped there would be a little extra room when we met a giant anything coming down. Anything bigger than a squirrel would have been too much I was sure.   And then the pavement ended. Another four miles. Up through a “gap” (as they call a pass when it suit them) and then a precipitous down hill, brake and low gears challenged, Susan nearly pulling the Jeep grab bar off sort of thing. The screaming was silent. The road narrowed, the switch back turns sharpened. What good was at the end of this? And then we met up with four testosterone enhanced pickup trucks hauling fifth wheel type horse trailers each big enough for four horses. Luckily we had right of way or just took it and we squeezed by.  I have no idea how they got in or expected to get out. There was another way braching off of this road to the east that they may have taken.
Finally we got to,a three mile paved section!  How did they ever get that equipment in here? It led down a fairly steep long downhill to the campground iand the valley. I supposed the paving might have been less costly in the long run than the constant maintenance of a gravel road.
We stopped at the campground to check it out.  There was an older couple there in a smaller motor home with a tow car that had come in the same way we did.  They we glad they were going to be there for a few days to muster up courage for the drive out.  We had a nice lunch and chatted with the campground host, a volunteer.
Cataloochee is a much smaller valler than Cade’s Cove and yet in 1900 there were more than 1000 people living here. The forest has retaken quite a bit of the valley as it advances from all sides. Farms were smaller. But there were schools, homes, barns, blacksmiths shops, a mill, a saw mill and most everything they needed to be self sufficient.
This is a typical barn. The core is made of logs.  The roof is much bigger with broad overhangs to shelter animals.

We found a small cemetary. It had some interesting stone markers.

There was another proclaiming a man murdered by the southern rebels. It was very common in this part of NC that families, neighbors and communities were split by issues and loyalties during the Civil War.
One other route we wanted to check out was the Balsam Mountain road.  Unfortunately while both ends were open the middle section was not yet open.  We got as far as we could crossing a really old bridge only to come to the closed gate.

So a week in the Smokies.  Lots more to see, maybe another time.  Another Foretravel owner was at amn RV park on the north side of the Smokies.  We tried to figure out a meeting time but we were both leavimg the same day about the samr time heading in different directions. The next morning as were left the Smokies heading west across the north side we sam him heading east.  We waved.
On to Oak Ridge, TN.
A story for another day.
Roger and Susan

Cade’s Cove

So when you think of a cove my guess is that you think of a small bay on a lake. I might think of a concave shaped molding. Wel in the smokies it refers to a valley.  So Cade’s Cove is a fairly large valley  about 24 miles south west of the visitor’s center near the north entrance. Then there is a one way eleven mile loop road with several stops at homesteads, churches, a grist mill and of course a gift shop. 

We had to travel from the south entrance over the pass to the turn to Cade’s Cove.  That was 35 miles with a nearly one mile vertical climb. In the Summer and especially in the Fall this drive can take 4-5 hours each way. The 24 mile drive to Cade’s Cove, the 11 mile loop and the 24 miles back is said to be an 8-10 hour drive. No way to do both at that time of the year. It took us about an hour and a half to get across the pass.  There was spring time road repair.  The drive to Cade’s Cove took about an hour.  We spent two or three hours driving through the loop. I can’t imagine it in the summer or fall.
The Smokies are the most visited of all the National Parks.  It is beautiful.  
This home was built in the 1830’s and the farm was lived on and worked by the same family for over 100 years. Most of the other buildings are gone but the house remains.  It was on the edge of the forest with the farm land moving down into the valley.
There are supposed to be elk in this valley but we didn’t see any. Susan saw a black bear though.
The road wound around the valley in pretty much the same location of the original wagon trail. A pretty amazing valley when you consider that this was all forested when settlers moved to this area. The land was fairly flat, there was water, the soil was good and there was no one else here. A hundred years ago there were five ways into the valley, each going off in a different direction. Two of those roads are still in use as dirt off road track leading one way, out. They are only open during part of the year.

At the time when the park was created about 800 people lived in Cade’s Cove.

And they had four or five churches.  The Missionary Baptist, the Primative Baptist, the Methodists and an Episcopal church.  No Lutherans.  We finally figured out what the Primative Baptists were.  It had nothing to do with Peanut Butter (PB) it was all about a split over missionary work. Another church split into two factions over who supported which side in the Civil War. Faith was a big part of southern mountain life.

Most of these were originally log buildings and later rebuilt with sawn lumber when it became available. Very basic.  We stopped at the campground at Cade’s Cove for a picnic lunch.

These girls were trying to cross a little stream mpnearby without getting there shoes wet.

Without luck.
Back home over the mountains.  Another adventure tomorrow.
Roger and Susan

Cherokee, NC

The south side of the Great Smokies is probably like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. 90% of visitors go to the other side. So that is usually our choice, go where the crowds aren’t.

We chose a small campground in the Cherokee Homeland on the south side of the Smokies. It is up in the mountains on a fast flowing trout stream. Very quiet but only a couple miles to the main south 
entrance to the park. The view front the front window was pretty good.

Just upstream a small waterfall entered from the side.

A wonderful background sound. I trid to put in a short video but it seems I can not do that.

Just up the road is the Mingo Falls. 161 steps up to a trail that leads to the 180 ft falls.
This is one of the highest falls in the Smokies. 
At the Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center at the south entrance there is a collection of buildings from the park that represent a typical farm from the early 1800’s to about 1900. Most early buildings were log srtuctures built from huge logs that were split over and over to get slabs about 4-6” thick.  Barms, a homestead, a blacksmith shop, a sorgum mill, a meat smoking shed and meat storgae building, corn cribs and animal buildings.  This area was settled from the early1800’s.  Timber companies bought up huge tracta of land. It was heavily logged and many areas were stripped clear of timber.  The destruction of the natural habitats were the main motivations to create the park and protect the land.
The Great Smoky Mountains NP was established in the 1930’s from land purchased by North Carolina and Tennessee that was donated to the Federal Government for the park.  Most land owners sold and left. A few sold and were allowed to stay while they were alive.  There are buildings remaining throughout the park that are maintained as a historical sites. Most of the roads and bridges, visitors centers, campgrounds and overlooks were built by the CCC from the ealy 30’s up to the start of WWII. A few of these camps were manned by conscientious objectors who continued the work and protected against forest fires.
A good splitter could get several slabs from one large tree.  Some of these pieces were 20″ across. The log would get split down the middle and then one slab split off each side.  Then one llog slab would be used on one side of the cabin and the other on the opposite side to keep things sort of even. All of the logs were notched at the ends with dovetails to lock them together. It was amazing how tight some of those hand cut joints were.  Smaller pieces were nailed on the inside to cover the gaps between the logs. Mud was used to fill the gaps from the outside. Shingles were all hand split. Sawn lumber was not available until the late 1800’s so it was cut from logs with axes and shaped by hand to get what was needed.  Hardware was mostly hand made. Nails were expensive and hard to come by.
Fences like these went on for hundreds of yards around almost every cultivated area. Deer, elk, black bears, wild pigs and just about everything else could ruin a family’s crops if they werent protected. Can you imagine the effort to split all of those pieces?

Nearby was the Mingus Grist Mill where it had stood since the mid 1800’s.  It is still operating today.
The building has been restored to preserve it.  Water flows down from a crude dam up stream through a rock and wooden channel and then down the wooden flume.  Unlike several other mills in the park this one has no water wheel. The water flows into a vertical wooden column down to a cast iron horizontal pipe to a turbine which is spun by the water pressure and flow. These were able to operate on less water than water wheels. A gear box and leather belts and pulleys drove a vertical shaft that went all the way up to the third floor of the mill.  More pulleys and belts drove several different machines used to clean the wheat or corn, grind it using big stone grinding wheels, sift, sort and grade whatever was ground and then send it down little wooden chutes into bags.  Lots of rattling. We bought a small bag of ground corn for corn bread. It made a tasty batch.
There is only one north-south road through the park.  It is a 35 mile steep twisting mountaing road.  We drove up to the top in the Jeep.  Lots of turn outs and overlooks.
The Appalachain Trail crosses the road at the summit.

1972 miles to go. A young gal (younger tha me) was headed up the trail.  I said “Only 1972 miles to go.”  She laughed and said she was only going another 200 miles.  Oh my! We walked up the trail about a quarter mile or so.

Near the summit id the road to Clingman’s Dome. At over 6600 ft it is the highest point in the Apalachains.  Another steep drive. And then a half mile hike up a 12% grade (that is steep) to a lookout tower.  Susan declined to go out on this. These sort of things make mer nervous. I held on although it seemed pretty sturdy.  Long way down.  The Appalachain trail crossed this summit as well as it winds its way along the top of the Appalachains along most of the east coast

The views were great and it was the only place in the Smokies where cell phone service had 5 bars.

The Smokies are called that because of the layers of color and the mists and clouds. This is mostly caused by moisture in the air.  There are so many streams, the vegetation is lush and there is a lot of rain. Mist and fog is not uncommon. Because the park is further south and it has such a wide range of elevation is is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the US.  There are moss covered logs with ferns all around to big stands of Larch trees at high elevations more typically found in Canada.
It is Springtime in the Smokies.  At lower elevations the leaves are out, flowers are blooming and colors are those amazing early spring greens.  At higher elevations, this pine trees stand out against the rest of the trees with buds and early leaves.  The south side of the park on the south side of the mountains seemed behind the north side where everything was much greener.  Not what one might expect but it is much less steep and has many more areas flattening out towards the north.

Well I better get this posted, it is getting long.  Still more to come.
Roger and Susan

Folk Art Center

The Folk Art Center is an amazing place. It celebrates the history of Apalachain folk art as well as the many people who carry on the traditions and skills passed down over many generations.

It is run by the Southern Highland Craft Guild. They have live exhibits like the spinning and weaving that wa happening in the lobby. There is a gift shop, of course. There was also several galleries showing work for sale, some wood, some fabric, some clay, some quilts.
Some of the pottery was especially interesting.  It was done with thin sheets of clay rolled into shapes like birch logs. They were impressed with natural materials.  Looked wonderful.

There was an exhibit of work done with what appeared to be really thick paint but it was fibers, fabric bits, paper and glue and pastes to complete a strong three dimensions surface texture and a resulting work of art.

There was also a special exhibit of quilts called “Eyecatchers: The Hunter Collection”. It contained twenty or thirty quilts from the collection of Robert & Barbara Hunter. They indeed were eye catching.


So, if you go to Asheville, here is another place you don’t want to miss.
Next we are off towards the southern part of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  The vast majority of visitors stay on the northern side near Gatlinburgor Pigeon Forge where DollyWood is. Dozens of campgrounds and thousands of rooms for visitors just outside of the park. We chose the south side and a quiet campground in the homeland of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
Roger and Susan


We have been to Biltmore before but it is worth a second or third look. The gardens are in full bloom and the house was lavishly decorated with spring flowers. Probably the most amazing room in the home is the Winter Garden.  When you go on the tour, you enter  biltmore through the massive outer fromt doors and then the even more massive wooden front doors.  Neither have outside door handles. The butler opens the doors from the inside. The entry foyer is huge, the ceiling high and awe is the main word that comes to mind. Just to the right the very large octagonal Winter Garden awaits.  Down a few steps into an oasis of orchids, whites one one side, reds, pinks and purples finished the room. Orchids of every conceivable shape.

Stunning, massive white oak truss work carries the leaded glass dome and the chandeliers. A system of cranks, swivel joints and geared arms open windows in the dome to help keep the twmperature and humidity just right for the flowers and plants on display. The central fountain has a marble and bronze fountain sculpture “Boy Stealing Geese” by Viennese artist Karl Bitter. At Christmas it is replaced with a soaring tree decorated for the season.

Every time I have visited the house, I marvel at the craftsmanship.  Several hundred skilled craftsmen worked on the house from 1889 – 1895.  They lived in a village built for them at the edge of the 125,000 acre estate.  A three mile long railway spur was built to the home site to transport materials and workers. A sawmill and millwork shops were built. Nearby clay was dug to manufacture bricks in the brick factory and kilns that was built. Once fired, the brick kilns produced 30,000 bricks a day for more than five years.

The house sits on foundations fourteen feet wide and twenty feet high. They support a steel frame structure of columns, beams, trusses and joists reaching all the way to the roof. Bricks, concrete and stone filled in between and then finished materials completed the interiors.  The exterior was covered with limestone blocks shaped on site and mortared together.  All fo the finish detail stone carving was done on the stone in place.

The roof was Pennsylvania Slate wired to the steel sub structure.  There is very little wooden structure to make the home almost fire proof.
The stone work is very detailed and precise. gargoyles (drains) and grotesques were everywhere.
The roof flachings were lead and custom made copper panels with an embossed GV or his family crest or his mother’s family crest. 
There are 16 chimneys venting 45 fireplaces.three of them are in the dining room.
 70 ft ceiling, seating for more than 100.

The flowers in the formal gardens were blooming. The consrvatory and the hot houses were full of new plants and flowers.

We spent all day wandering around inside the house and in the gardens. We went back the next morning so that I could go on the “Architect’s tour”. This gives you a special behind the scenes look at the house that the regular tours never see. This was from the roof.

 And the outside of the Winter Garden.

There is more, better get these loaded.
Roger and Susan

More Asheville

The Grove Park Inn.

We were here about 5 years ago in February. 50’s during the day, low 40’s at night.  Every morning had mist in the low areas. It was a fun visit.  The Arts and Crafts Show and Sale had everything from fine art to silver to furniture to glass to pottery. We learned a lot looking at old stuff. There were a lot of new crafts people there too carrying on the traditions with new work.
The interior is quite spectacular. The lobby was huge.  The fireplace is big enough for several people to stand upright inside of it. The elevators are built into the stone work along the sides of the fireplace. It is still amazing.
More later.