Joel & Sharon’s second big RV trip will cover the Southern U.S. states all along the Gulf coast and across to New Mexico over a 4.5 month period. The night before we headed out we were going crazy trying to get last minute things done and packing completed but we stopped to pull the chicken wishbone and amazingly enough the bone split totally equal on both sides so I guess we’ll both have good luck for the trip! We did manage to get ahead of the snow fall back home but had to do some long driving days to get ahead of the cold front coming down from Alaska. We had winterized the RV and wanted to leave it that way until we got to consistently non freezing temperatures overnight. We were also glad that our Bike cover arrived before we left so we could keep the Mountain Bikes protected.
Our first stop was Woodstock (231 km) to visit my brother Dwight and his family, Petra, Heather and Jill. Heather was learning to curl so we got to go and watch her play at the curling club. The next day we helped Dwight get the new headboard setup for his bed and sort out some boxes in the basement before having a Chinese dinner with Nancy coming over. The following morning we headed across the bridge to the U.S. and started heading south. We stayed at a Red Roof Inn in Sharonville Ohio just north of Cincinnati (652 km).
The following day we drove to the Two Rivers Campground in Nashville Tennessee (462 km) where we thought we would stay two nights but ended up staying three nights, lots to see in Nashville! The nights were cool so we were glad we had brought our Caframo electric heater with us. It was quieter than using the Propane furnace and less costly since we had an electric hookup site. We had light drizzle the first day so we did the new Grand Ole Opry backstage tour, walked around the Gaylord Opry Resort and the Opry Mills mall and had lunch at the Aquarium restaurant. We couldn’t see a show at the Opry because they only had them on Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday and that didn’t coincide with our time there. The backstage tour was really cool though as they showed you where the stars check in and the 8 different themed dressing rooms. The Grand Ole Opry has been running for 91 years but there are only 212 members so it’s a very exclusive club. The one mural in the green room shows a brown water mark where the floods of 2010 came up to.
The Gaylord Opry Resort was all decked out for Christmas and many families were walking around to see the lights and have a drink. They also had specially decorated Christmas trees that you could bid on for charity and win for Christmas. Our favorite was the wine themed tree, hum I wonder why?
The lunch at the Aquarium was interesting as we seemed like the only table that didn’t have kids. The tanks were very nice to look at and they even had mermaids swim in the tank to enthrall the kids. The main course was amazing and we decided to order the Shark Attack, a Chocolate Lava cake for dessert and the waiter said it would take 15 minutes and that’s because the baked an entire cake with chocolate inside that was big enough to feed 4 people! Needless to say we brought the rest back to our camp site so we’d have dessert for the next night;-)
The following day there was less rain so we decided to walk around in downtown Nashville and boy did we walk around! We took the shuttle from the campground to the downtown area and started off walking around the riverfront, saw the Batman building, by the Justice building, the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum, and then to the State Capital building where we did the self-guided tour. We saw gasoliers converted to electricity, the roof mural being repainted in the house of representatives chamber and lots of history re the civil rights movement.
The shuttle bus driver mentioned to us that the TV show American Pickers had a shop in the downtown area and it looked like it was close on the map but the map wasn’t to scale! We eventually reached the Antique Archaeology shop and it was cool to look around as we recognized several pieces that we had seen in the TV show. The building itself was also interesting because it used to be a Marathon Automobile factory and they had all sorts of artifacts from that time period. It was getting late now so we stopped at Jack’s BBQ for a great lunch and we even got to see Jack himself (didn’t get a photo though as he was in a meeting).
After lunch we did the long walk back to the core and went by the war memorial, by the backside of the Ryman Auditorium and along Broadway listening to all the bars with bands playing. It started to rain a little so we decided to do the tour of the Ryman (where the Grand Ole Opry started out and used until 1974). They had a really cool 3D/Hologram projection movie that gave you all the history of the building and then you could walk around the entire auditorium where they had displays setup of the musicians that had played there and the history of the restoration of the building so it could reopen in 1994.
After the tour the rain had stopped so we went back down to the riverfront and saw the train station and walked over the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge for the views. We went to the Goo Goo shop which is a famous institution in Nashville and tried the Goo Goo Clusters. We also bought a speciality one called the Cluckster and had it a few nights later and it was amazing! Next was the Johnny Cash museum and it had a huge number of artifacts about his life. The most touching was a music video of the song called “Hurt” (google this and watch it online) which he filmed just before his second wife June died and he in turn died 4 months later. We closed down the museum at 7 pm and headed to BB Kings Blues club and had dinner and watched the Stacy Marshall blues band for a set before connecting with our shuttle back to the campground. What a fantastic day touring Nashville and boy did we sleep good after all that walking!
The rain finally stopped the morning we were leaving the Two Rivers campground in Nashville and we headed to Lynchburg Tennessee to do the tour of the Jack Daniels distillery. The cask Christmas tree was a cool idea. They make all their own casks. The key difference with the Jack Daniels products is that they charcoal mellow all their whiskeys. The one shot shows the wood pile ready to burn in order to make the charcoal. The whisky is dripped through large containers that hold 10’ of charcoal and it takes a week for it to come out the bottom and this is what makes the whisky very smooth. Next we saw the REO Speedwagon fire engine and the tour guide explained what the staff fire crew have to go through to protect the various buildings. The water source is in a limestone cave and it looked a bit murky the day we were there due to the rain but they have a filter system. Jack Daniels himself was only 5’ 2” but his statue was taller. One day Jack decided to open the safe, something he didn’t normally due, and he forgot the combination. He got mad and kicked it and this eventually led to his death at the age of 61 as his leg got infected from the injury. He never married or had kids so his nephew took over the business. The other uniqueness about their products is that they are made from 70% corn, 18% barley, and 12% rye. The business is 150 years old this year and they’ve only had 7 master distillers counting Jack in that time period. The large white multi-storey building shows one of the Barrel houses where the whiskey is stored. They have 88 buildings like this on the property and throughout the county and they each have about 1 million gallons of whiskey! The cask cut away shows how they make one of their speciality products called the Frank Sinatra Signature series ($150 per bottle). They groove out the cask so the whiskey goes through both charred and non-charred areas of wood to give it a unique taste. At the end of the Angels Share tour we got to sample 5 of their premium products and of course we had to buy two bottles to drink in our travels;-) Before hitting the road again, we also did a quick walking tour of the historic downtown area of Lynchburg.
We left Lynchburg and headed south from Tennessee to Huntsville Alabama (213 km). We would have driven further but we were in Central time zone and it gets dark really early. We started to drive up the mountain south of Huntsville to Monte Sano State park (thanks Susan for finding this park) but it was like we drove in to the clouds so it was extremely difficult to find the park. The camp office was closed and the host wouldn’t come out as their sign said they were off duty (even though it was duty hours). We found the key code to get into the park and we used the campsite photo to find a site for the night. The weird thing was that after we’d had dinner the clouds/fog had lifted and we could see the city lights far below. The next morning there were lots of deer around our campsite and no other campers except on the other side of the campground.
In order to get ahead of the cold weather we headed further south to Eufaula Alabama (407 km). We made a tasting stop at the Jules J. Berta Winery. We bought a bottle of Muscadine, unique to the south, it’s a sweet red fruit wine served cold. We checked into the Lakepoint Resort State Park and decided to dewinterize the RV this night and all went well for the first time doing it. We just had one valve turned the wrong way which was quickly corrected. There were only two other campers in our whole section. The next morning was pretty well the first sunshine we had seen in a week so we decided to stay in this park a second night. Lake Eufaula is one of the biggest Bass fishing lakes anywhere in the states. Our camp host was telling us that during tournaments they have up to 1500 boats fishing. I guess the campsites are all full then! The trees had lots of a lichen type plant hanging from them and of course signs everywhere about alligators (we didn’t see any). In the marina we saw the redneck version of a house boat with a camper on a barge;-) The river area had lots of vultures and Canadian Geese. The trees were full of huge cones so we picked up one to be our Christmas tree. We rode our Mountain Bikes around all the park roads and the hiking trails. At night we went out to the Lakepoint Lodge restaurant and had Seafood Gumbo, Catfish, and the Seafood Platter. It was relatively inexpensive and of course way too much food!