2009 10 26 Chattanooga and Hermitage on way to Murray State
For the first time since we’ve started RVing we began the next leg of our trip, leaving Cheaha Mountain without having decided in advance where our stop would be for the evening.
As we drove down off the mountain, the clouds followed us.
The autumn foliage was gorgeous, despite the rain that followed us north.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to get a photo that gives it justice through the raindrops.
It had been ages since we did a commercial RV park or stayed close to a major city.
After several days of intermittent rain and fog, we decided it was time for a down day where we could update the blog, update our budget actual, and regroup to plan the remainder of our trip.
While the Trav-L-Park in Chattanooga may not be our favorite kind of park, since it makes no attempt at being ‘in nature’, and at $33.30 per night, it was definitely beyond our $20 per night average budget, it was really nice to have Internet and cable TV and great restaurants nearby. The other great part of this park was Steve Oliver. While he wasn’t the owner, he was the main person we worked with at the front desk. He was very hospitable and helpful with restaurant recommendations and directions.
It’s interesting that, while at state parks our motorhome usually seems to be on the high-end compared to the neighboring RVs, at a franchise RV park like this we seem to be the poor-folk sitting next to the London-Aires, Prevosts, Country Coaches, etc.,
Since we have done some cheap overnights this month at Corp of Engineer parks, overall we are still staying slightly below our $20 per night average on campsite costs, so we seem to have that figured well.
Now eating out, that is a different story. Ken and I both really love to try new restaurants so our $240 a month budget just isn’t cutting it. We will have to figure that one out. Right now since we are not using our budgeted $80 for satellite TV or our budgeted $60 for an internet wireless air card we are ok overall.
Speaking of eating out…we now have 2 great recommendations on Chattanooga restaurants.
The Rib n Loin is considered the #1 BBQ joint in Chattanooga and definitely deserves that distinction. Ken and I shared the rib platter for two which included 2 lbs of ribs, two huge fully loaded baked potatoes, fried okra, cole slaw and texas toast for $25.99. Every single dish was really tasty and the service was good as well. We had enough leftovers for a great lunch the next day back at the rig.
The next night we took Steve’s second recommendation which was a family-owned restaurant named Eidson’s that has been in business since 1954 and is particularly known for its fresh and from-scratch dishes. Ken had the fried Red Snapper and I had the grilled. There was fresh homemade cornbread and hushpuppies on the table. The fish was perfectly prepared and we’d especially recommend the marshmallow candied yams. Again, I had twice as much food as I needed which meant a great lunch the next day.
Sorry we have limited pictures on this phase of the trip. The camera setting got juggled and we went about 48 hours with trashed pictures before we realized what was happening.
After looking at our options for the days before the next game, we decided our next stop should be at the J. Percy Priest Lake at the Seven Points Campground . Online info noted that this is the busiest Corp of Engineers campground in the nation.
After driving, yet again, through rain for several hours we arrived at a campground, and quickly decided that this park rivals Corinth as our new favorite location. Definitely had the ‘it’ factor with gorgeous sites, many overlooking the lake. Of course, the $10-12 rate for Water/Electric sites using Golden Access Pass made it even more attractive. Also, while civilization ‘felt’ far away, you were only a mile or two from stores and only 5 miles from the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s plantation home.
View of the lake from our site
We would have definitely stayed at this park right up to game day but, unfortunately, it was only open for two more days and then closing for the season.
We enjoyed a long talk with the gate attendants, fulltimers who worked the park 7 months out of the year and then toured the Southern states during the winter months. They explained a little bit about how Corp of Engineers hires workkampers. I had expected that all these workers were hosts who did the work in exchange for a site but apparently they bid for the position annually and make about $100 a day (depending on location/bid) besides having a full hookup site. It was obvious this couple felt blessed to work at this beautiful campground where they say they have few problems and meet lots of great people.
We devoted Wednesday to a visit to the Hermitage.
While there are tour guides in the plantation itself, we spent most of our time outside the home following the tour with headphones with numbers at each key point where you can key in the number and get more information on what you are viewing. In fact, they have different ‘childrens’ numbers that tell the story at a grade school level.
One of our favorite areas on the plantation was Rachel’s Garden, especially the herb garden where they encouraged you to clip and smell the oregano, sage, rosemary and many other fresh herbs. In fact, Ken pulled a couple twigs of the abundant rosemary and put it in his pocket. Later, he used it on some grilled salmon back at the rig—pretty neat having General Jackson contribute to our evening meal!!
Did you know the Jackson was one of many of our early American leaders who was at a high level with the Masons? This caught my attention since I recently read Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol that focus on the Masons in the US.
Andrew and Rachel Jackson’s tomb takes up one corner of the garden. Apparently, from his many letters, Andrew idolized his wife, Rachel, and her tomb has a long and loving inscription he’d written for her. In contrast, by his direction, the slab over his tomb simply identifies him as General Andrew Jackson. Even during his 8 year presidency, he preferred to be addressed as ‘General’ not as ‘Mr. President’ considering his military position as his primary accomplishment and contribution. When, due to some structural issues, it became necessary to open these tombs a few decades back, a mystery was ‘unearthed’. As expected, based on practice of the time, Rachel’s coffin was found under 6 feet of earth. However, Jackson’s coffin was down 6 feet but, contrary to practice, was covered with no dirt.
In the plantation fields, we stopped to inspect the cotton crop. Ken and I had never had the opportunity to actually walk in to a cotton field before. We learned that cotton is not considered a viable cotton crop in Tennessee today because it requires a 200 day growing season and is always in danger of being wiped out by early frost this time of year. This crop is still nearly a month away from harvest. We picked a boll to take a look at what the cotton looked like inside at this point of the growing season.
Some other parts of our Jacksonian education:
1. Jackson owned between 100 and 150 slaves. While his policies showed a man passionate about the rights of the common man, he considered these rights only applicable to men who were white. In fact, he signed the legislation that resulted in the Indian Trail of Tears march and, from what is found in his letters, was not at all hesitant to direct flogging of any of his slaves who got out of line. This explains why the Jackson slaves were quick to desert the plantation when emancipated. He also was notably against any consideration of equal rights for women.
2. Jackson’s beloved wife, Rachel, hated to be away from the Hermitage and was not at all looking forward to moving to Washington DC when her husband was elected president. As it turns out, she died suddenly only a month before they were schedule to move. Apparently her funeral drew 10,000 people to the estate. Amazing since it was a 4 hour buggy ride from Nashville (less than 20 minutes by car today!). There was a peculiar event that occurred during the interment when suddenly the household parrot suddenly got loose and disrupted the ceremony with a loud tirade of cussing—requiring that he be captured and removed before they could continue.
3. While Jackson supported displacement of the Native Americans, he showed personal compassion when, after a military campaign, he became aware that a little Indian boy had been left orphaned when his mother was killed in the battle. He took the child back to the Hermitage and raised him there.
4. Andrew and Rachel bore no children of their own. Andrew Jackson, Jr. was actually one of a set of male twins born to Rachel’s brother. Apparently, upon the birth of twins, this son was offered to Andrew and Rachel to raise as their own son. It’s hard to fathom this kind of arrangement.
5. Jackson descendants have been buried in the garden as late as the 1970’s. Surprisingly, there is also one of Jackson’s slaves buried in the garden as well. When the Jackson family fell upon financial hard times in the late 1800’s, Uncle Alfred came back to the estate and actually bought some of the original furnishings for the cabin on the property where he lived. Around the turn of the century he acted as one of the first tour guides when the property was opened to the public. In exchange for the return of the original furniture to the historical society, it was agreed that Alfred would be buried in the garden beside the tomb of Andrew and Rachel.
It was very late afternoon by the time Ken and I left the estate. We dropped in to the Panera Bread along our route and were frustrated by not being able to get their wireless to work. I am finding that only about ½ the places that say they have wireless internet have a functional connection that they understand how to troubleshoot when there are problems—arghh!! There was a Kroger next door so we knocked items off our grocery list and then headed back to the campground just ahead of the next rain front.
The weather is suppose to be rainy now up until the weekend so tomorrow we plan to go ahead and make the drive to Murray, Kentucky, where we can set up a hunker down for the heavy rains while only a few blocks from the stadium.
Will update you on the game as soon as we find internet again!