Thursday, October 25, 2007

Nashville, Tennessee

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
Renfro Valley, Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee

200.1 miles
Heavy rain

I seriously considered not driving today, because the weather was really nasty, but I had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry tonight, with Alan Jackson headlining!!! Couldn’t miss that one!!

So I headed out – I really wish it wasn’t so rainy and dreary and gray – the rolling hills in central and southern Kentucky offer the most spectacular fall colors I’ve seen yet! There are a lot of evergreens amidst the colors, so the contrasts make it all the more gorgeous. Tried a couple pictures, but it just doesn’t come thru. I’m just glad I’ve taken so many other photos over the last few weeks to help me remember how magnificent the display can be!

A few places I passed are good indicators of how the reputation of the area came to be – like the “Longhollow Coon Club” and “Piggy’s Corner Bar”. Such a difference from the elegant horse country to the north! Thankfully, mostly it was the lovely countryside!

Reminds me – yesterday, I had to laugh (to myself, of course) – the mechanic, Brownie, and all his family (his mother, his son and wife and three young boys, who were all underfoot the entire day), had such heavy back country accents that I could hardly understand a word they said! Especially the kids – I said a lot of ‘uh huhs’ and such, simply because I had no idea how to respond. And they never stopped talking! I finally took Penny back to my bedroom area and closed the door, “so Penny wouldn’t get in their way”, because I simply couldn’t figure out what they were saying most of the time!

Back to the drive thru the rain drenched countryside, and oh how I wish I could send the rain to southern California.

There are a number of huge manufacturing plants and technology centers in Somerset and Pulaski County – I’m sure the costs to operate are way lower than many other areas – for instance, Valley Oak Technology Complex “is located on 150 gently rolling acres, covered with lush bluegrass, framed by majestic oak trees and profiled by natural limestone rock. Ponds, trails, flowerbeds and gazebos will further enhance nature’s postcard beauty. The deed and covenant restrictions assure that future technology buildings, daycare facilities, food courts and utilities maintain the image of a high tech oasis in one of America’s most desirable, rural settings.”

Saw quite a few Corvettes in the area, and soon passed the turnoff to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.

And then came Nashville, nestled in among the trees. Music is big business here! And it’s obviously a favorite stop for the RV set – there are at least 5 or 6 big RV parks in a row right here on Music Valley Drive, just a couple miles from the Grand Ole Opry.

As I mentioned, I had a ticket to the Tuesday Night Opry – a two hour live radio broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House. I lucked into a terrific night – there are usually 8 entertainers, playing about 15 minutes each. There truly is a special spirit in this place, and the entertainers obviously take the honor of being a member of the Opry seriously.

This night opened with Jeannie Seely - “”best-known for her 1966 Grammy award-winning Country hit, "Don't Touch Me
", which peaked at No. 1 on three major Country charts. She was one of Country music's most successful female vocalists of the 60s. . .she’s rated #11 on the list of the Most Influential Females in Country Music History.” She’s showing her age, as we all are, but puts on a great show, and is a great opener, telling funny stories and getting the audience into the show right away!

Next came Rebecca Lynn Howard who’s vocal and songwriting talents have drawn critical acclaim both within and outside the boundaries of country music. Pretty young thing who writes songs for many top talents.

Mel McDaniel, with his long blonde hair and black hat, is known for “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On”, #1 in 1984 and still popular, being used, among other things, for a ring-tone on cell phones! Known throughout the music industry for his high energy shows, he offered us his signature performance of “Stand Up,” where he encourages everyone to “Stand up for the U.S.A.”, then walks off stage with the flag waving, with everyone in the Opry house standing up cheering enthusiastically with patriotic spirit.

The Grascals came up next – they just earned their second consecutive Entertainer of the Year award at the 18th Annual International Bluegrass Awards show, with terrific musicians doing fun and serious bluegrass songs. They surprised us by inviting Dierks Bentley, who was to sing for us later, to join them on stage for a song.

Bill Anderson, “Known as “Whispering Bill,” a nickname hung on him years ago as a result of his breathy voice and his warm, soft approach to singing a country song brought out several old favorites. “His credentials shout his prominence - one of the most awarded songwriters in the history of country music, a million-selling recording artist many times over, television game show host, network soap opera star, spokesman for a nationwide restaurant chain, and a consummate onstage performer. His back-up group, The Po’ Folks Band, has long been considered one of the finest instrumental and vocal groups in the business.”

Dierks Bentley had the girls in the audience screaming in ecstasy. He’s cut his hair, and I didn’t recognize him until he started to sing. I didn’t know he was born in Phoenix until looking him up just now online! His first hit, in 2003, was “What was I thinking” and anyone who listens to Country knows it – perfect country song – he won my heart with that one!

Little Jimmy Dickens charmed the entire audience. “Little” because he’ less than five feet tall! A master of the country novelty song, as well as a renowned ballad singer, he’s the Country version of Liberace, with his affection for flamboyant, rhinestone-studded outfits and humor. Sweet, diminutive, positively funny and everyone loved him!

Alan Jackson needs no introduction – gorgeous, handsome, sexy, and oh yes, he can sing! He was in town to record a cut for a new gospel album, and sang that one, among others. And he had something in his pockets, maybe candy?, that he was tossing out into the audience. The girls were rushing the stage to get pictures and whatever it was he was tossing out. I tried to put a video I took of AJ singing in here, but after 10 hours I lost the signal and lost all the work. Oh well!

What a grand night at the Grand Ole Opry!

Wish I could justify staying til Saturday when Josh Turner and Vince Gill are on the playlist! I’m almost glad the only show with available tickets is at 11:30 or some such late hour, which I’d have trouble staying awake for!

Two Rivers Campground
"Where you enter as customers and leave as friends!"
2616 Music Valley Drive
Nashville, TN  37214

Another repair

Monday, October 22nd, 2007


Spent the day in a repair shop – had the oil and air filter changed. But the main reason for the visit was my door. I met a mobile mechanic, when walking Penny around the park, who took a look at the door, which is again causing major problems – as in, I have a lot of trouble simply opening it and closing it.

Some may recall that last year, on my way up to Alaska, I had been following a big 18-wheeler up a narrow two-lane road. He hit a big tree branch and broke it off – it spun back and hit my passenger side mirror. I thought it had hit and bounced away. Not! When I arrived at the RV park a short time later, I couldn’t get out of the coach!

Turns out the branch had somehow spun off my mirror and smashed into the top hinge on the door before falling away. Messed it up really badly. A mobile mechanic came and did his best to beat it back into place, so I could get in and out of the coach, but he warned me that it would ‘remember’ the damage and try to move back into the damaged position.

Many times over the last year, I have taken a hammer to the hinge, trying to beat it into submission. Had a new hinge installed last January when all the other major repairs were made, and that helped for a while. What I really need to do is order an entire new door and frame, but I’ve been told it’ll cost about three grand, so I’m not rushing into it.

When in Connecticut for repairs a few weeks ago, one of the mechanics worked on it for a long time, but whatever he did, it had now reached the point where I had to throw a shoulder into it from the inside to get it open, and I couldn’t close it securely when leaving the coach, or I’d never get it open. Have had to climb in a window a couple times now to get it open.

So – this local mechanic had some hydraulic tools to force major bending – hopefully this’ll last a while. Cross your fingers, please!

Lamb Group Truck & Equipment Repair
8326 N Wilderness Rd (US 25N)
Mt. Vernon, KY 40456

"My Old Kentucky Home" - I wish...

Friday, October 19th, 2007
Cincinnati, Ohio to Renfro Valley, Kentucky

208.3 miles
Partly sunny and windy

Went to Precision Temp this morning to get my water heater repaired. Back in June, I had a new on-demand water heater installed – I love long showers, and RVs are famous for not providing much more than a spit-shower. A 10 gallon water heater doesn’t go far.

And like everything else on this bloody coach, the new water heater turned out to be a problem too. I received a replacement part and had it installed back in Flagstaff in early July, and then was on a rather tight schedule to reach Canada for the tour of the Maritimes. I lived with the fact that my water temperature fluctuated wildly more often than not. It’s been looked at a couple other times, but no one had seen or worked on a heater like this and nothing helped. So I came to the factory.

I’m delighted to report that not only did they find and fix the faulty part, they found a way to improve my water pressure, which has always left a lot to be desired, but of course was ‘as designed’ according to Gulf Stream. So I now get a nice hot shower with good water pressure! What a treat! I highly recommend the on-demand water heater for any RVer!!! And will provide information to anyone who is interested! Worth the investment!!!

Plus, they finished their work way earlier than I anticipated, so I was able to hit the road today, rather than hanging around Cinci another day! Happy to get out of town, because last night I went thru another tornado watch with the wild winds and rain and lightning and thunder again!

I meandered along another stretch of the Ohio River Scenic Byway again on my way south(ish). Just as gorgeous as yesterday!!!!!

Passed thru Point Pleasant, the birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant.

More locks and dams and power plants – lots more small campgrounds along the river bank. More barges moving cargo down the river. Enough wind to create white caps. And there were even waves big enough to surf on, behind the barges!

Into Kentucky – oh, I’m in love. The roads improved, the land is beautiful, wineries and vineyards, rolling hillsides – and then the horse country – white fences around the pastures of bluegrass – lovely estates. I could easily spend a lot of time in this area – of course I’d probably need to win a lottery to be able to afford it, but it sure is gorgeous!

Passed thru Paris, Kentucky – its welcome sign says “Horses, History and Hospitality!”

I’m staying in Renfro Valley, which turns out to be a center of old country music, bluegrass and gospel. This park even has its own big entertainment center, with shows almost every day! I just picked it because I liked the name – had no idea it was a ‘destination’ in its own right!!

I’m surrounded by hillsides in beautiful full color!

Ohio River country

Thursday, October 18th, 2007
Greenfield, Indiana to Cincinnati, Ohio

221.5 miles
Wild weather

I’ve been through some wild storms – I mean, there’s really nothing like the monsoon summer storms in southern Arizona with thunder and lightning and rain and wind…I love those storms – but last night, there was a tornado watch, with accompanying winds and rain and thunder and lightning, and I was actually a bit concerned. Reminded me of the edge of a hurricane I’ve been thru, and made me think again of Annette in my favorite park in Kino Bay this summer when the hurricane passed right over them.

One good thing – in all that driving rain and wind, I didn’t have any rain leaks!! I guess the work that was done in Connecticut a few weeks ago did the job!!!

Anyway, the morning was still nasty – had made up my mind not to go on today, which was not an easy decision because I had an appointment tomorrow to get my water heater repaired. If I miss that, I really mess up my ‘schedule’, such as it is. Then the wind died down, the rain stopped, and the sun peeked out. So I decided to take off. As it turned out, the sun only lasted about an hour, and the winds came up again as soon as I hit the road, but I really wanted to keep that appointment, so I toughed it out.

The fall colors are in their glory here – and after the driving rain last night, everything is clean and glowing…so very pretty!!

Have to give some folks here in Indiana some credit – they are thumbing their noses at the politically correct community - many have special license plates saying “In God We Trust” – good for them!!

Highway 9 calls itself the “Highway of the Vice Presidents” – haven’t seen that before. So called because five of our Vice Presidents came from Indiana, three of those from the area along Hwy 9.

Shelbyville has a HUGE fiberglass factory! And I’m starting to see a number of wineries – but not a grapevine in sight.

And then there is the Hog Barn Restaurant. Somehow that just doesn’t sound appetizing!

This turned out to be a really nice day for a drive in the country – except for the f*ing wind! Beautiful countryside – more geese on the ponds, nice farm lands, neat homes and landscaping. Just plain pretty!

Roadside plaque in Dupont about Morgan’s Raid - a highly publicized incursion by the Confederacy in 1863. For 46 days as they rode over 1,000 miles from Tennessee to northern Ohio. Morgan eventually surrendered what was left of his command in northeastern Ohio. To many Southerners, the daring expedition behind enemy lines became known as The Great Raid of 1863, however in the end, it was just another in a string of defeats. At least so says the write-up in Wikipedia.

“The Regular Old Baptist Church” ?? as opposed to what, I wonder?

Picked up the Ohio River Scenic Byway – and oh my goodness this is a gorgeous area! Driving right on the river edge, looking across the river into Kentucky! Several locks and dams – big barges on the river. Lots of campgrounds and RV parks, although most of them look like my box wouldn’t fit in their sites. I am soooooooooo glad I chose to take this whole drive I had originally planned for this day, rather than cutting it short because of the wind. I’d hate to have missed this beautiful area!!

Just before arriving in Cincinnati, I passed thru Lawrenceburg, where there is a monstrous Seagrams facility! Sure looks big enough to make every single brand they make, but appears to just, just, make Seagrams Gin!

Between the hydro plants and Seagrams, they must employ everybody for miles around!


Wednesday, October 17th, 2007
Portage to Greenfield, Indiana

175.3 miles
Partly sunny

Hoosiers - that's what Indiana residents call themselves!

One nice thing about this area is lower gas prices!!

More about Gary, Indiana – United States Steel – “The Steel City” - The city was founded in 1906 by the United States Steel Corp. as the home for its new plant. The city was named after the chairman of U.S. Steel, Elbert H. Gray.

Among U.S. cities with a population of 100,000 or more, Gary has the highest percentage of African-American residents (as of the 2000 U.S. census). Gary had one of the nation's first African-American mayors, and hosted the ground-breaking 1972 National Black Political Convention. At the same time, Gary suffered from many affluent and middle-class residents leaving Gary and relocating to the surrounding towns and cities.

Gary's fortunes have risen and fallen with those of the steel industry. In the 1960s, like many other American urban centers, Gary entered a downward spiral of decline. Gary's decline was brought on by the growing competitiveness in the steel industry, which had caused US Steel to lay off workers from the Gary area. This had the effect of increasing crime, including use and trade in illegal drugs. US Steel continues to be a major steel producer, but with only a fraction of its former level of employment.

While Gary has failed to re-establish its manufacturing base since its population peak, two casinos opened along the Gary lakeshore in the 1990s. Today, Gary faces numerous difficulties, including unemployment, major economic problems, and a high rate of crime, though the city has made some progress in addressing these issues since the 1990s.

Interesting little piece of history.

This last couple days have resembled what I expected the northeast area to look like – wall to wall town and cities and people, with a few fields of grain hanging on amidst the subdivisions trying to crowd them all out.

Neat time of year in lots of ways – I’m definitely learning there’s something to be said about enjoying all four seasons! I’m keeping the camera handy all the time, because of little things – like all the ducks and geese gathering on the ponds. I’m guessing they’re gathering their strength for the trip to warmer climes. I really want to look up and see the big V formation of geese in flight! (and have the camera to capture the shot!!)

Indiana Beach advertises that “there is more than corn in Indiana!” - meaning Indiana Beach Amusement Resort, with everything from rides and attractions to hotels and camp sites, restaurants and shopping. This photo is off the web.

MAJOR truck traffic on all the roads around here! And they don’t even try to pay attention to speed limits. Handling my big box in heavy winds is hard enough without the crazy buffeting caused by speeding 18-wheelers!

The farm land is gorgeous around here too – huge fields, still green, fringed by stands of big trees.

Tippecanoe and Purdue U too in Lafayette!

I’m getting back into some color again – I’m again reminded how little I knew (or didn’t remember) – I’ve really learned how special the ‘fall colors’ are! And laugh at myself, because with word-of-mouth and advertising, I thought that the colors were only to be found in places like Vermont and New Hampshire. But the Michigan shoreline has magnificent colors – the valleys of New York – Wisconsin, around the dairy farms – nature’s incredible display can be found all around you! I’m loving every bit of it!!

Then here come the dark clouds again, but it’s OK because my spirit has had enough sun to be restored for a while!

It’s flat land through here, but doesn’t feel that way – the trees provide the texture!

Heartland Resort
1613 W. 300 N
Greenfield, IN 46140

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