Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tour de Tennessee- Days Two and Three

Ok, I'm picking up from where I left off on Day One (see previous post).

Day Two

After leaving the luxurious LaQuinta in Jackson, TN we headed toward South Central Tennessee just east of the Tennessee River (Linden, Centerville, Decaturville, and Charlotte). My only objective for the day (besides work) was to find and snap a photo of the Minnie Pearl statue in downtown Centerville. Driving through through this part of Tennessee, we soon realized the area is largely agricultural and still very rural. The small towns that dotted the countryside largely consisted of a couple of houses and maybe a gas station at best. And much to our surprise- A Dollar General. Let me just say that Dollar Generals were located in almost every single town we reached. We even created a game to see who could spot the first Dollar General in each town. Just now I checked out their website and they currently operate over 8,200 stores and are based in Goodlettsville, TN. They specifically target communities that aren't large enough for a Wal-Mart. I guess that explains why so saw so many along the way.

Around mid-morning we reached Centerville and I was able to find the statue of Minnie Pearl directly across the street from the County courthouse. The statue was erected after the town recieved an anonymous donation of $150,000 in honor of the late Sarah Cannon (a.k.a. Minnie Pearl) Many people think that Minnie Pearl is from "Grinder's Switch". Although there is an actual railroad switch named after the Grinder family, there is no such town by the same namesake. It is a fictional town located just outside of Centerville.

After we finish driving the rest of our routes, we decide to have a late lunch at the famous Loveless Cafe on the way back to Nashville. The Loveless Cafe and Motel is located along Highway 100 near the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway. Loveless Cafe began serving their southern style dinners in 1951 out of the early 1900s house owned by the Loveless family. Famous for their fried chicken and biscuits, the Loveless Cafe is frequented by celebrities and locals alike. The adjoining motel ceased operations in 1985 and the rooms were converted to small shops. The Loveless gift shop is a must-see as it is full of kitschy souvenirs: Dr. Burton purchased Loveless band-aids that look like bacon strips. With my belly full of fried chicken, mac n' cheese, creamed corn, and biscuits, we called it a day knowing we would be back on the road bright and early to drive out to the Upper Cumberland region for Day Three.

Day Three

Day Three of our trip found us driving around the Upper Cumberland region. Specifically, we visited Carthage, Smithville, Gainesboro, and Byrdstown. I lived in this region during college when I attended Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, so I'm very familiar with how beautiful the landscape is as you reach the Highland Rim. We saw lots of rolling hills and scenic farms and took a beautiful scenic route (SR-52/SR-53) from Gainesboro to Livingston that took us by the entrance to Standing Stone State Park. Unfortunately we had a job to do, so no stopping at the park! We decided to have lunch at the The Apple Dish restaurant/antique store on the historic Livingston town square. Here you can order a hamburger and peruse various antiques all in the same spot. They have some really cool antique jewelry here and I coveted several pieces, but seeing as how I have a wedding coming up in the near future, I need to save my money.

I didn't really take any photos that day because the weather was so overcast, but I did take the following photo of a souped-up Rascal scooter at a gas station in Livingston. I was impressed at the time this older man took to "pimp his ride". Check out the awning and cooler.

Well, I'll continue with Days Four and Five in the next few days or so. Hope you're enjoying!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tour de Tennessee- Day One

This week I happen to be traveling all across Tennessee for a work-related project. Myself and two UT professors, Dr. Mark Burton and Dr. Larry Bray, have been driving around Tennessee in order to collect data for a planning/economics research study being developed. We've specifically visited 19 counties, and in the process have driven just about every corner in Tennessee. I of course brought my camera along, and while there is no way I can possibly cover every place we visited, I'd at least like to hit some of the highlights from each day.

Day 1:

From Nashville, we started West on I-40 and exited the Interstate at US 641 just past the Tennessee River and drove through Camden until we reached Paris, TN. In Paris, I had to stop off at Memorial Park and see the famed Eiffel Tower replica. (It was constructed in 1991 I believe) After taking a couple of snapshots, we continued west on State Route 54 and drove on to Reelfoot Lake/Tiptonville. When we reached Reelfoot Lake, Dr. Bray (who recently retired from TVA) told me to pull over and check out the Reelfoot Spillway located on State Route 22/21. The spillway was built in 1931 and controls water levels for Reelfoot Lake. TDOT just recently obtained permits to build a new spillway about a 100o ft. upstream since the old spillway is deteriorating and has outlived its design life. I'm not sure what will happen with the historic spillway, but I hope the community steps up and preserves its past by at least documenting its existence through photos and oral histories.

After leaving Reelfoot Lake, we drove back down to Southwest Tennessee before heading to our hotel rooms at the luxurious LaQuinta in Jackson. (I joke because its the only hotel in Jackson that takes state govt. rate, but I can't knock it too much because I slept great that night.) Unfortunately, on the way there we encountered torrential downpours (the remnants of Hurricane Faye) and since I'm the only one authorized to drive the state car, it fell upon me to drive us through the mess.

I'll post about Days 2,3,4, and 5 of my trek across Tennessee when I get back into town. I'm in Atlanta right now with my fiance's family and plan on driving to NC on Labor Day in order to raft the Nantahala. I'm always on the go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Feature

I'm just letting any readers out there know that I'm adding a new feature to my blog. For now on, I'm going to try my best to link the locations I write about to a Google map. So, as you're reading about a specific place like Cedars of Lebanon State Park, for example, then you'll just click on the link and it will take you to a map of the site. From there, you can enter in your address and Google will give you directions to the location. Let me know if you encounter any problems with this feature. Thanks to all for suggestions!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hidden Hollow

Sadly, as I write this, rumor has it that Hidden Hollow no longer exists. Throughout my college days at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, TN, my best friend, Rachel, and I would often shirk our homework responsibilities and escape to this rural retreat located off Mt. Pleasant Road southeast of Cookeville.

Hidden Hollow was created by Arda Lee in the 1970s as a tribute to his mother and is a popular destination at holidays due to the elaborate light displays. The private park includes a 50-foot tall illuminated cross at the top of a mountain (this can be seen from I-40), outdoor wedding chapel, petting zoo, game room, large swings over a pond, and various odd sculptures. Words cannot describe the crazy things you can find at Hidden Hollow. Did I mention that bunny rabbits roam the park? Rachel and I had a theory that Arda Lee had magical powers and misbehaving children were turned into rabbits and doomed to a life of roaming Hidden Hollow.

We'd often go to the park at sunset, and our favorite thing to do while visiting was to swing over the algae-ridden pond at dusk as soon as the millions of Christmas lights illuminated the park for the evening. Then we'd drive up to the top of the mountain where the illuminated cross gleamed against the night sky. Sadly, during our last year in school, Arda Lee passed away and we found the park in major disrepair. Last I heard, the park had closed but was going to be re-opened for weddings and events. I can only hope that the park "art" remains as is for the public to enjoy for years to come. I leave you with some photos of interesting "objects" found on the grounds, and ending with a shot of the cross taken at the top of the mountain.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Horse Cavin'

With Labor Day weekend coming up soon, I thought I'd reminisce about last year's Labor Day trip to Horse Cave, KY. Brian and I set out early that day to tour Horse Cave as well as Diamond Caverns in nearby Park City because you just can't beat being in a cave when the weather's hot and humid. Kentucky is famous for its many limestone caves, but we chose to go to lesser-known ones in order to avoid the holiday tourist rush. We started in Horse Cave, KY where we found a practically abandoned Main Street.

After a quick look around the caving museum, we descended into Horse Cave which (according to Wikipedia) housed the world's only air-conditioned tennis courts around the time of World War I. In fact, several of of the historic buildings located on Main Street got their air condition by pumping cool air out of the cave. The town also got their drinking water from the cave, and unfortunately it became severely polluted with sewage and the cave was forced to shut down to tours for 50 years. Due to reclamation efforts, the cave now boasts pristine waters once again.

After our tour of Horse Cave, we drove down historic Highway 31W (aka Dixie Highway). Highway 31 originally began as a buffalo path and later became the first paved road and toll road in Kentucky. For you fellow Tennesseans, 31W eventually becomes the blighted, prostitute-ridden Dickerson Rd. in Nashville. Highway 31W in KY, however, is full of kitschy mid-century tourist traps such as the Wigwam Village motel (built in 1935) and greasy Shoney's-style diners such as Jerry's. We couldn't resist the charm of Jerry's neon sign and the fact that my dad's name is Jerry, so we decided to eat lunch there. It was nothing spectacular, but we noted that slaw comes with EVERYTHING on the menu.

Last stop on our trip was Diamond Caverns. This was a bit more of a tourist trap and although it has some nice formations, the tour just wasn't as interesting as Horse Cave. So if you happen to be in KY, I'd recommend driving Highway 31W between Horse Cave and Cave City, and skipping Diamond Caverns. Finally, I'll close with this picture of me kissing a giant concrete ape outside what appeared to be an abandoned motel on Highway 31.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

UFOs on Signal Mountain

So I'm going back in time to last May when my fiance and I traveled down to the Chattanooga area. I could write a novel about all the interesting places we visited while there, but for now I'd like to focus on Signal Mountain.

Just north of Chattanooga on Walden's Ridge, Signal Mountain was used during the Civil War as a communications spot where Union soldiers maintained a signal line. In 1913, a streetcar line was extended to Signal Mountain and the Signal Mountain Inn was erected. This Inn catered to those on their way to Florida, and as a result, a resort town was formed.

As we drove up the mountain, we were struck by the quaintness of Signal Mountain and its densely clustered lots comprised of early 20th century architecture. We stopped at a park called Signal Point that commemorates the Civil War history of the mountain. From here, you overlook one of the most stunning views of the Tennessee River Gorge (which happens to be protected by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust). We happened to go at sunset and it was truly spectacular.

While on Signal Mountain, you would be remiss if you didn't stop and check out the "Spaceship" house located along Highway 127 inside a hairpin curve. The Spaceship house was built in 1970 and surprisingly is almost 2000 square feet. Just this year it sold at auction. I'd love to see the interior-if only it were open to tours!

There's so much more to post about my experiences in the Chattanooga area, but its nearly 9:00 pm and this ole' gal needs to wind down before going to bed. I'll be going back to the area next weekend since Brian will be cycling 100 miles for the Three State/Three Mountain event. You can bet I'll be taking my camera.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Search for the pearl necklace

Yesterday was one of those rare August fair weather days that makes you want to get out of the house and go on an adventure. So I drove to my parents' house without a plan; and my mom (pictured at right) and I decided to hunt for a vintage necklace to go with my wedding dress. I hadn't been to the antique shops on downtown Lebanon in a while, so we hit Highway 70 headed east towards the square.

We looked through several stores, including the infamous Cuz's- home of the half-human, half-mutant head that used to sit in the storefront window. (I didn't see it this time, so perhaps someone bought it??)

No luck at any of the stores, so we take a break and get delicious thin crust pizza at Painturo's and take a look around Goodwill. On our way back to Mt. Juliet we see this insane sign located on Highway 70 at a ice-cream dive named "Emo's":

I'm terrified of clowns so of course I had to snap a picture. (It's kinda like staring at a car wreck- I know its bad, but I just can't look away)

At the end of the afternoon, we ended up at Rawling's antique shop in Mt. Juliet where I walked away with a gorgeous vintage 4-strand faux-pearl necklace. Score!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Coca-Cola in Coffee County

Yesterday I drove down to Decherd, TN near Winchester in order to pay a visit to my best friend who just moved back from Utah. She's living at her in-law's house along with her husband, two babies, and dog. Needless to say- she needed an escape plan for the day and I was more than willing to oblige her by driving down and whisking her away to the nearby town of Tullahoma.

We have a tradition of driving to Tullahoma and making a stop at the discount shoe store Marti & Liz, followed by stops at Sweet Aroma Cafe and various antique stores in the historic downtown area.

Sweet Aroma Cafe is a cool little retro cafe located inside what used to be the Coca-Cola bottling and distribution plant for Tullahoma now known as the Coker building. The Coker building is a cool 1930s Art Deco building with huge glass windows originally intended to show off the bottling functions of the plant. Now it houses Sweet Aroma cafe and some other shops, with Silver Mine being one of our favorites for its beautiful, yet affordable jewelry. At the cafe, I ordered a delicious ham and cheese sandwich (with an ice-cold Coca-Cola of course!) and Rachel and I split an iced sugar cookie covered in chocolate sprinkles.

I didn't end up making any purchases, but Rachel found a cool World War I bayonet that she bought her husband for their 11th anniversary. Although I love my hometown of Nashville, its nice to get away every once in a while to a small town located off the beaten path for some good ole' rest and relaxation.