Asheville to Nashville and beyond

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Hot Springs Natl. Park

Flag of United States  , Arkansas
Saturday, June 25, 2011

     We are now in Hot Springs, Arkansas, near Little Rock, home of you know who.  Bill Clinton was actually raised right here in Hot Springs, though except for a small sign downtown and another small sign in front of his modest childhood home here (now privately owned), you'd never know it.  We met a guy in a local restaurant who went to high-school with Clinton and knew him well.   "Even then we knew he was smarter than the rest of us," he said.  He was in the school band.   I was on the football team."   Trivia question:  what instrument does Clinton play?  (starts with an S).
     So, we've been from Asheville to Nashville and beyond.  From Asheville we passed through Durham, North Carolina, home of American Tobacco Co. (Lucky Strikes, etc.).  It was a really neat town.  They turned some of the old  brick tobacco factories, with their multiple chimneys, into shopping malls, and the main plant became a huge business and retail mall with a man made canal running through it, complete with water falls, fountains,  statuary and the like.  We visited Duke University and it's beautiful old campus and grand church with vaulted ceiling and amazingly large and ornate pipe organ.
     We continued on to our next stop, a State Park just across the James River from historic Jamestown, Virginia.  There was a free car ferry that ran every half hour, 7 days a week, which took us across to Jamestown.  As you approach from the water you see the masts of the old sailing ships in their harbors.  As the story goes, (can I bore you with this?  Do you have a choice?  Not!),  Of the original 100 settlers who arrived there, nearly 70% of them died from disease and starvation after the first year.  Stupidly, they had not sent any farmers on the first expedition, only craftsmen, who were supposed to build a town and start some kind of enterprise to make money for the Virginia Company back in England.  They thought the native Americans would barter their food for trade goods.  What they didn't know was that the indians were suffering from a seven year drought and didn't have enough food for themselves.  The second big mistake was that the Colonists chose the wrong place for the town, off the coast (which they thought would offer them the best view of any attacking Spanish ships and where there were no indians to fight), but which was also next to a swamp full of malaria carrying mosquitoes.  So the ones who didn't die from disease died from starvation the first winter.  Eventually a hard-scrabble community was established there but it never prospered.  The local government moved to nearby Colonial Williamsburg, which did prosper and which has been lovingly restored and preserved much the way it was 300 years ago.  Just to the southeast is Yorktown, where Washington fought and won a decisive battle with Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War.  Standing on the old battlefield, with the cannon lines marked with white flags, really brings the sickening reality of the battle home.  For seven days the cannonballs rained down on and around Yorktown, violently shaking the earth beneath the soldiers feet and dealing tremendous death and destruction.  When Cornwallis found the French fleet had blocked off his retreat by water, surrender was imminent.  The whole battle is a great story of strategy and luck which turned the tide of the War and secured the country as a free and independent nation. 
     Next stop was Charlotsville, Virginia, a beautiful town with many historic buildings where the likes of Washington, Madison and Monroe met and strategized,  and then to Richmond, where Jefferson designed the State Capitol after a trip to Rome, and home of a great military cannon factory and museum. 
     Then off to Lexington, the jumping off place for the Skyline Ridge Road overlooking the pastoral Shenandoah Valley.  We camped at a beautiful lake for a few days and explored the surrounding area.  I found out about a good fishing Spring Creek not far away but up a twisty, back-country road to the end of nowhere.  It's called Moss Creek and the brown trout in it are spooky and big.  I caught several and spooked several, and missed one on an early strike that was so big it spooked me.
     From Lexington it was off to Nashville, Tennessee, where we listened to great music every night for three days, first at the famous Blue Bird Cafe, where wannabe stars line up on open-mike nights to play their stuff in front of an appreciative crowd.  We were there on such a night and listened to several very good musicians singing songs they had written.  It was a small, intimate place and the sound system was perfect so that you could hear every word they sang just clear as a bell.  Some people had traveled from other states just to introduce themselves and their songs in Music City, perhaps with the hope that a record producer might just be in the crowd, as they sometimes are.  Taylor Swift was discovered there, and many other big stars.
The next night found us at the Grand Ole Opry where each of us watched half the show while the other watched after the dog.  We shared a ticket that night and both got entertained plenty.  The third night found us at the Loveless Barn, where several groups were featured.  Unlike the Bluebird or the Opry, the crowd was drunk and rowdy and never shut up while the music was playing.  Half were talking  loudly while their kids ran amok up and down the isles, and the other half were talking or texting on their cell phones during the performances.  To compensate for the noise of the crowd the house cranked up the sound system to where the music blared at us, so harsh and loud that we could hardly understand a word of what was being sung.  We were in a classy neighborhood surrounded by people with no class at all. 
     From Nashville we traveled on to Hot Springs, Arkansas, just in time to arrive during a Harley Davidson rally consisting of over 4,000 bikers, who took up every parking space in town for three days.  We are now back in New Mexico taking care of some personal business and not sure when or where we go from here.  Stay tuned.

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