Thursday, Aug 30
This vacation had a bit of abrupt ending as today we decided to head for home.
Yesterday Tom did the Ruby Falls Cavern tour on his own – I wasn’t ready to venture underground again. He says it was the most beautiful cavern he has ever been in . . . and he took a few pictures to prove it.
I stayed put at the camper and did a few housecleaning chores and rested. It had been 8 days since my cave accident/injury, and I was beginning to feel that I was not coping physically as well as I should. The biggest problem was muscle spasms making it hard to relax or sleep at night, and lasting into the late morning.
This morning we made the decision to head for home (easy, 9-hour drive), and I called and made an appointment for tomorrow with my doctor. I am assuming that some physical therapy will help speed up the healing – I am convinced that nothing is seriously hurt or broken.
This decision means that we will be home for Labor Day Weekend, and for the first Ohio State Buckeye game. We’ve already made plans with Caleb and Halie to come over for a game-day huddle, which adds a very positive note to going home early!
We have plenty of fall camping left to enjoy, and I want to get in good shape for every minute of it!
Tuesday, Aug 28
You see the signs way before you ever enter Tennessee . . . SEE ROCK CITY! Although I grew up in Tennessee . . . I have never been!
Near Chattanooga atop Lookout Mountain sits a geological and botanical wonder. There are monumental rock formations, over 400 species of plants, trees, and shrubs and from the high cliff look-outs you can see “See 7 States.” Tom and I were both unprepared for this magnificent walking tour . . . the ¾ mile Enchanted Trail.
It is hard to believe that this trail was first conceived by Frieda Gardner in the 1930’s and was marked with a ball of string winding around giant rock formations and ending at an outcropping known as Lover’s Leap. This is the location from which you can “See 7 States.”
There are many other points of interest along the trail: The Grand Corridor, Needle's Eye, Gnome Valley, Mushroom Rock, Wild Bird Observation Deck, Swing-A-Long Bridge, Sky Bridge, Fat Man's Squeeze, 1000 Ton Balanced Rock . . . . Here is a peek at what we saw.
The temperature was in the 90’s and parts of the trail down in the canyons were much cooler. Charlie and Jasper enjoyed the walk (except for the swinging bridge), and there were very frequent water-breaks for them. I think on a cooler day we would have lingered a little longer – but the whole thing was so spectacular we might come again some day!
In the evening we went down to check out a River Boat ride down the Tennessee river, but were not very impressed with what we saw. We drove back to the river-front area looking for a nice dinner. Our first choice (the Squeaky Squirrel) was a total bust. The menu was so strangely written that Tom asked if it was the Vegetarian Menu. “NO”. . . .but the waitress offered to get us one! We left! Just down the street was the same little Terminal Brewhouse that we had eaten at the night before. We knew the food was good, the atmosphere was pleasant, and this time Tom knew what beer to order!
Monday, Aug 27
This morning we decided to fuel up with a Waffle House breakfast, and after that headed for the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park – the oldest National Military Park established in 1890. We watched the movie and Tom talked to the Ranger and picked up a touring map of the Battlefield. We retrieved the pups so they could enjoy the long driving tour around the Battlefield.
The seven-mile auto tour is accessed through a phone# on your cell phone, along with the map of the stopping points and the battlefield. It is very nicely done and very reminiscent of the Gettysburg experience. Our only compliant was that it was 93 degrees and too hot to get out and do much exploring – or even to drive with the windows down.
We spent a couple hours in the Silvermine, waiting for it to cool off, and then headed out for the downtown area of Chattanooga – The Chattanooga Choo Choo! It is the location of the old train station, but much of the structure has been turned into a hotel – with accommodations in old railroad cars. The architecture itself is beautiful, but it does not seem to be a very happening place, and was almost deserted.
We walked to the nearby Terminal Brewhouse restaurant for supper. Housed in an old warehouse, the food was great, but Tom struck out both times on beer choices.
Back at the Silvermine we reviewed our options for tomorrow -- there is an awful lot to see and do in Chattanooga. Maybe Rock City?
Wednesday, Aug 22 – Saturday, Aug 25
It’s been 5 days since my accident, and I have taken a little time off from blogging while I am healing. For the sake of our records, I am going to recap those five days. . . NO PICTURES!
On the day after the accident, I had the whole day to laze around at the campground.
Thursday was spent in the car as we relocated from Meramec Caverns to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Riding in the car was not much of a problem, as my best position is reclining on my back – with the heated seats fired up to high! That night I was good enough to go to El Mazatlan Grill, a great Mexican restaurant close to the campground.
Friday we toured the Visitor Center of Mammoth Cave National Park and Tom took a 2-hour tour. In the afternoon we went to see the new movie MEG . . . I just love a good shark movie!
Saturday, I was up for a visit to the Corvette Museum. That was interesting – especially the exhibit that showed the cars that were victims of the sink-hole cave-in a few years ago.
That brings us up to today – Sunday. We left Mammoth Cave and headed to Chattanooga – an easy 5-hour drive and a move back to Eastern Standard Time. We are staying at the Holiday Travel Park just minutes from Ruby Falls, Rock City, Lookout Mountain, and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park – a ton of stuff to see and do.
After settling in we drove to the top of Lookout Mountain to view a projection-mapped, digital battle presentation of Chattanooga’s Civil War and the “Battle Above the Clouds.” The Chattanooga battles (coming right at the time of Gettysburg) changed the outcome of the Civil War; from here General Sherman staged his “March to the Sea.” We walked around Point Park and were amazed at the beautiful views of the City of Chattanooga open in the valley before us.
I got a few pictures from Lookout Mountain and Point Park, and with that, I think I am back to continuing my blog in more detail!
Tomorrow we have more planned in Chattanooga.
Tuesday, Aug 21
Want to hear the story of me falling in the cave, and having to be salvaged by EMS and Fire Department? Here goes:
Fisher Cave is a large, spectacular cave inside the Meramec State Park. The entrance (and ticket-purchase window) is just down a short road from our campsite, and this was to be our first cave tour on our Cave Caper safari.
The cave does not have wiring for electric lights, and each person is given a flashlight. Along with the tour guide, Tom, and me, there was another family of 3 on our tour. Near the front of the cave is a long passage where the ceiling drops to 50” high from the floor, requiring you to walk bent over at the waist. Not a problem on the way in.
For whatever reason, on the way out I suddenly got off balance and fell off the concrete trail, into the small trench alongside, landing on my back in a semi-reclining position against a rocky lump . . . in the water. The pain was immediate and intense, and I knew I wouldn’t be getting up to continue the short walk out of the cave. I lay in the little water-filled ditch for awhile until it was decided that I really needed to make an effort to get up on the path. Oh, the pain – and the certainty that I WOULD NOT be able to get up and walk out of there (remember -- bent over at the waist for quite a distance.) Tom, with help, managed to get me up on the walkway to lay down flat on my back.
The cave guide left us to go and call the “extraction” team. They arrived 20 minutes later with all kinds of equipment to carry me out. So, imagine a swarm of EMS managing to lift me up onto a backboard and shuffle me over to a “litter/cage” – and then carrying me out. At times the ceiling was very low for them and at times the walkway was very, very narrow, allowing only the front and back persons to carry. Use your imagination!
At the cave opening I was mustered from the cage to a regular litter (still on the backboard) and slipped into the ambulance. Here they were able to do a preliminary assessment and start an IV. Oh the relief of their pain medicine – I begged for more on two different occasions on the 20 minute ride to the hospital.
At the hospital some more detailed diagnostics started up, and as the pain medicine was helping considerably I was fairly comfortable. As the doctor worked his way through his assessment, we both began to feel that there were no broken bones – just some very deep muscle damage. X-rays confirmed this! With a load of medicine for swelling, pain, and muscle spasms, I was discharged to go home – the Airstream. There, I was very relaxed in my own bed, lying on my back, propped by pillows – for the next 16 hours.
The accident happened at the very end of the cave tour -- here are some pictures that I took before.
I will post this little episode on our Cave Caper trip, and then I"ll probably take a little rest for the next few days before picking it up again!
Saturday, Aug 18
Tom spent time last winter planning a summer camping trip to visit various caves – Tom’s Great Cave Caper! Having a theme to plan around made it easy to plot a route through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia, searching out caves. . . and other points of interest. First stop – a visit with Micah and dinner at City Bar-B-Que followed by an overnight at nearby East Fork State Park.
Sunday, Aug 19
After we navigated across Cincinnati into Indiana, we followed Route 50 along the Ohio River and then angled up on familiar roads through Bloomington, Bean Blossom, Yellow Wood, Little Nashville – all popular spots around beautiful Brown County State Park. We crossed into Illinois (time change!) and reached our destination of Lincoln Trails State Park by 1:30. Large trees, clean, grassy campsites and almost totally deserted on a Sunday afternoon! Later we were to find out that there were two campgrounds and we had checked into site #40 of the wrong one. Later, as we walked the dogs, we stumbled on the other campground right next door – deeply wooded, no grass and no bath/shower houses!
Monday, Aug 20
A drippy, rainy morning made us glad that we had not unhooked yesterday - - - quick take-off at 8:00 . . . and a short distance to drive. We slashed through Illinois, crossing the Mississippi River, Passing the St. Louis Arch, and entering Missouri by noon . . . destination Meramec State Park and Meramec Caverns. It was here that we spent our very first night in our TAB teardrop with Caleb 14 years ago on our way to Yellowstone. A photographer was out scouting photos for the new Missouri State Parks pamphlet and website; he decided we were the prime representation of camping and our photos graced the promotional pamphlet for several years!
With schools back in session, the campground was mostly vacant. The Meramec River flows nearby and there are warning signs along the roads about the possibility of flooding as well as a lot of silt build-up from previous flooding.
In the afternoon we drove to the visitor’s center to watch the 20-minute movie about the area, and pick up information to plan our tour of the park. Tom also bought two bundles of wood with an evening fire in mind, which we had after a steak dinner and a bottle of our favorite Lancer’s wine. We didn’t linger around the fire very long as the air stilled and humidity and mosquitoes settled in. Inside we watched two episodes of the Season 1 of Get Smart – a gift from Micah!
Friday, Aug 10
We were off early for the Farmer’s Market -- smack in the middle of town. The “Galax Leaf-Lady” was there with her fresh and dried Galax leaves and plenty of instruction on how to keep them alive and well for 5 months. There was a country jam session on the sidewalk in front of Barr’s Music Store and that entertained us until the stores gradually began to open. After a little shopping we were treated to a private tour of the downtown area, and then turned loose to explore on our own. We had all been given a $10-savings card for Subway, and that made lunch an easy decision.
At the campground we had a 2:30 concert, but Tom and I laid down for a rest and slept through it! By 4:00 we were off to the last catered dinner of the rally – a BBQ at the Crossroads Convention center. This also included the “closing ceremony” for the Airstream rally – and with that we were on our own for the rest of the weekend. We headed for the convention site – tonight was the showcase for the bands, and we all wanted to attend!
Our chairs were set right by the flatfoot stage – simple sheets of plywood on the dirt. Oh the dancing! Tom must have been intrigued because he ended up at the end of a line of flat-footers and showed them what-for! Halfway through the video you’ll see Tom get up to join in, and after that he starts smokin’ ‘em! Click on the link and watch to the end!
Competition band-playin’ is very different from performance. There is a stage crew husteling to set up the booms and sound system between each act. Each performance is for 2 minutes -- then make way for the next band! The bands were numbered but didn’t seem to play in any order for the judges; they were announced by name/number and appeared to go whenever they wanted. Certainly, the big-name bands hung around until the end.
Aside from sitting in our chairs, there was also the fun of walking the campground area where all these pickers were mixing and mingling and grouping and re-grouping for jam session. Some of the biggest names in the business were showing the finer techniques to the newest youngsters. We videoed a few of the sessions, and rotated back and forth from the jam sessions to the battle of the bands.
The bands were interrupted by a clogging team, and after their performance, we headed to our Air-home . . . tired, but completely thrilled by all we had experienced!
Thursday, August 9
Our NOVA group is known for it’s wonderful breakfasts. What could be better? A breakfast ordered and served up at the Country Cupboard – a mile away from our campground – and we didn’t have to cook! And...the breakfast was a part of our rally fee . . . almost free! As we walked in there was a display of hand-drawn napkins that were created by a local diner!
We hustled back to the campground to walk the dogs and hop in the cars for another caravan – destination Wayne Henderson’s workshop and museum. Way over and around the mountains . . . 38 miles away.
This is where words fail me. I simply can’t conjure up enough superlatives to describe Wayne, his craftsmanship or his picking. Remember that he is the guy that played a concert for us yesterday – a world-known picker and instrument maker. He is all wrapped up in a humble little appearance with a soft voice, mild manner, and a host of understated remarks that hide his many talents.
We sat in his workshop while he steered us through the basics of the guitar-building process, and he tuned up to demonstrate some of his amazing instruments. We’re talking $40,000 works-of-art! His guitars are played by the best: Eric Clapton, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Doc Watson . . . It means much more to Wayne to have his guitar treasured and played by a big-name picker, than to score the money that each instrument might be valued at. Mostly, he barters, swaps, and haggles his masterpieces for things he desires, leading to some wonderful stories of acquisition.
Just as modest as Wayne is, he had a little "store" where you could buy t-shirts and hats. Help yourself -- leave your money in the cup!
Wayne also had a museum (in an undisclosed location), in a climate-controlled room behind a vaulted door, where he displayed his many magnificent acquisitions. Every single instrument had a story! I didn’t take any pictures for the blog – because then I’d have to kill you . . . or Wayne would have to kill me. You need to go see it for yourself!
We left Wayne’s and headed down the road for a late lunch at a country restaurant. At the campground we were treated to an ice cream social, and afterwards, a concert. . . by world-class performers who have played for the Queen of England, and around the world.
Tom and John were the night-owls again, and headed out to the convention site for some night action. They don't sit in the seats in front of the band stand and watch the competition -- they walk the infield where all the campers and tents are set up. Here, the pickers, famous and beginners, are mixing and mingling and jamming -- and tuning up for their competition performances! We're all going to do that tomorrow night!
Wednesday, Aug 8
A note from last night at the convention: Tom and John found out that a good part of the music at the convention location is performed casually in the camping area where all the musicians are headquartered. There are pop-up jam sessions all over the place, with all of the premier musicians that participate in the competition relaxing for fun play in the evening
This morning we changed gears as we went from a music celebration to a historical focal point. We caravanned to Hillsville, VA Courthouse, the scene of the infamous “Allen Tragedy” in 1912. It was a shoot-em-up of the first degree. Members of the "Allen Clan" and local lawmen engaged in an epic gunfight that made national headlines and shook the community like an earthquake. In barely a minute, a judge, prosecutor, sheriff, juror, and witness were killed or mortally wounded. A year later, a father and a son would die in the electric chair.
Our treat was to take seats in the court house room where the shooting took place; members of a period cast delighted us with the story of all that took place that day in the court room. Following that performance we toured the Historical Museum downstairs, with many of us buying the definitive book about the incident.
John pointed out one of the two bullet holes in the outside stair steps from when the indoor shoot-out moved to the outdoors!
From there we went to the 5-story-high (+basement) Historical Carter Mansion where we had lunch: ham, beans, cornbread, cole slaw. The home is half-way through a major renovation, and we were able to eat inside or out on the veranda. We had the full run of the 5 different levels; the upper two levels were not yet finished, but the lower floors were magnificently done and an indication of what the final overhaul would look like.
We shopped a little in the surrounding stores and invaded the downtown Hillsville Diner intrigued by the sliding barn door that opened onto the street, and an astonishing indoor décor. A landmark to Hillsville since 1946, the Hillsville Diner is now the oldest continuously operating streetcar diner in the entire state of Virginia. The facility was moved here from Mt. Airy, NC where a young Andy Griffith frequented. We had no intent to eat – but we all ended up buying t-shirts of this historic eatery.
This is a long story -- but the brief version is that Tom brought the manager a carton of Rocky Road Ice Cream. For this he earned a hug!
Back at the campground there was to be a guitar concert by a 14-year-old prodigy – a thunderstorm moved in and washed it out. We didn’t get the word that it was moved into the basement of the facility until every spot was taken and listeners were spilling out the door into the rain! All reports were that the young man had talent beyond belief.
The rain cooled things off and we enjoyed walking the dogs and sitting outside for a quick supper. John and Tom headed out again for the convention site – probably to attend the jam session again at the camping location. I am ready to put my nose in the book: The Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy by Ronald W. Hall.
Tuesday, Aug 7
The day started with coffee outside under the awning. It progressed with Terry navigating his drone for overhead pictures of our rally site! Thanks for sharing your picture, Terry!
By 9:15 Sue, Suzie, Patsy and I loaded in my truck, and I lined up in the caravan for the Ladies Breakfast Tea. It was a 25 minute drive that must have taken every turn and every back road in the county. Our target was a beautiful little B&B country home.
The meal was delightfully set and served in a large room that our hostess built for “any group to use” and there was time for get-to-know-you introductions and chatting.
Our way back into town was more straight-forward and took us through downtown Galax – right past Roy’s Diamond Center. We had noticed many of the women wearing distinctive Galax-leaf jewelry, and this was the place it was available. It seemed to be a 5-generation project: Roy was in charge, assisted by his daughter. . . her daughter had been the bass fiddle player of The Loose Strings band from Sunday night. . . her daughter was 8 months old and in the back of the store, being cared for by Great Grandma! On top of that Roy’s granddaughter had been in the youth competition the night before, and we had heard her performance! Needless to say, we all made a purchase!
We didn’t get back to the campground until 1:10 – the caravan had already left for the next episode on our agenda. We linked up with our boys and headed out on our own to the Blue Ridge Music Center, not far away. Here, we were treated to a music gig by Wayne Henderson.
Wayne Henderson is a top-notch finger-picker and a luthier of great renown. He specializes in the crafting of handmade, custom acoustic guitars but also occasionally makes mandolins, banjos and fiddles. Today we got to enjoy his music and later this week we will travel to see his museum.
Our little NOVA delegation had a fabulous fajita fest for dinner – unbelievable seasoned beef and chicken and vegetables off of John’s Blackstone griddle, and every kind of Mexi addition you could add to a flour tortilla. I NEVER had better fajitas! As we ended a storm moved in, urging us into quick clean-up mode.
Tom and John headed off for the night’s competition at the convention – Old Time Fiddle, Dobro & Mandolin. The rest of us snuggled down in the Airstreams for a deserved rest from the active day.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown