Category Archives: Tennessee

Tennessee Part III: Memphis

Okay, so we didn’t TECHNICALLY stay in Memphis, OR Tennessee, during our last stop in The Volunteer State. We stayed about five miles from downtown Memphis on the opposite side of the river at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas. There were only a few options in the area, and we narrowed it down to this place or a campground adjacent to Graceland, behind the Heartbreak Hotel. Tom Sawyer’s was much bigger and less expensive, plus the setting was more unique AND Mike could fish from this park. It was also the closest to downtown, where we spent most of our time away from home. We were a little nervous about making the reservation since the park’s website was very up-front about the possibility of flooding. However, since there were no terrible rain events during this leg of the trip, it turns out that we made a great decision in the long run.

Memphians are duly proud of their musical heritage and their BBQ, although I did enjoy some righteous fried poultry at the original Gus’ on South Front Street. Music and delicious food are two things near and dear to our hearts, so we really liked this place! We made it to most of the major attractions in the area including Graceland, Beale Street, Sun Studios, and the Parade of the Ducks at the historic Peabody Hotel. We saw lots of live music at the Beale Street Music Festival and at the original BB King’s Blues Club. We happened upon BB King’s just as a GREAT act started to play 2 sets. The 3-man band was called Memphis Jones. All the music they played originated in Memphis in one way or another (about, written or recorded there, or sung by a native). The lead singer prefaced each song with a mini music history lesson. I’ve never seen a band entertain an audience in such a unique and interesting manner. I think that might have been my favorite part of our entire week. We could have eaten at a different BBQ place every day, but we practiced self restraint and selected Central BBQ for a sampling of some delectable ribs. Yes, these two Texans gave a big thumbs up for the Memphis-style smoked meat. Mike caught lots of fish that week, and our park was big enough for the dogs to get long walks each day… so it was good for all of us. Lastly, the whole experience of watching the barges make their way up and down the Mighty Mississippi gave us a whole new perspective on the amount of commerce that takes place on the major rivers in our Country.

We didn’t take tons of photos on this stop, but here are a dozen that summarize some of the fun we had.

Elvis' private jet was on display at Graceland. It was lots of fun to be able to go inside and see the interior customized into different rooms and parlors. Lots of shag carpet.

Elvis’ private jet was on display at Graceland. It was lots of fun to be able to go inside and see the interior customized into different rooms and parlors. Lots of green shag carpet.

The living room is the most 'tame' and conservative at Graceland.

The living room is the most ‘tame’ and conservative at Graceland.

The city closes Beale Street to auto traffic each night.

The city closes Beale Street to auto traffic each night.

The antique trolley system in downtown Memphis added lots of charm to the area.

The antique trolley system in downtown Memphis added lots of charm to the area.

This barge had so much cargo that it needed a tug boat along side to help it down the river.

This barge had so much cargo that it needed a tug boat along side to help it down the river.

We accidentally ended up in Memphis in May... which is an organized thing. We really felt lucky when we learned that the Beale Street Music Festival was scheduled for the first weekend we were there. Perfect weather certainly didn't dampen our spirits!

We accidentally ended up in Memphis in May… which is an organized thing. We really felt lucky when we learned that the Beale Street Music Festival was scheduled for the first weekend we were there. Perfect weather certainly didn’t dampen our spirits!

There were five stages at the music festival, which is set on the banks of the Mississippi below the bluff where downtown is situated. We got to see Blues Traveler, Buddy Guy, JERRY LEE LEWIS, and Daddy Mack Blues Band. Two of our favorite acts were by bands we had never heard of before: Memphis Dawls and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The music festival was the first event of Memphis in May. It started on Friday afternoon and ended on Sunday. We chose to go on Saturday when it opened around 2PM, and stayed until the crowd got really thick and pretty drunk just after dark.

There were five stages at the music festival, which is set on the banks of the Mississippi below the bluff where downtown is situated. We got to see Blues Traveler, Buddy Guy, JERRY LEE LEWIS, and Daddy Mack Blues Band. Two of our favorite acts were by bands we had never heard of before: Memphis Dawls and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. The music festival was the first event of Memphis in May. It started on Friday afternoon and ended on Sunday. We chose to go on Saturday when it opened around 2PM, and stayed until the crowd got really thick and pretty drunk just after dark.

Mike's fascination with geese continues... as does Piper's. For different reasons, of course.

Mike’s fascination with geese continues… as does Piper’s. For different reasons, of course.

A view from my morning walk with the dogs. This campground was large and spread out, with several walking paths in the surrounding natural areas. I just had to be on the lookout for snakes, raccoons, rabbits, and bugs.

A view from my morning walk with the dogs. This campground was large and spread out, with several walking paths in the surrounding natural areas. I just had to be on the lookout for snakes, raccoons, rabbits, and bugs.

This is probably the only campground we will stay at that is situated directly on the banks of the Mississippi River. Their website indicated that the area floods regularly, so I was a bit nervous about making the reservation to stay there. However, the weather held out and there were no issues at all. It turned out to be a very unique setting. We enjoyed our time there very much.

This is probably the only campground we will stay at that is situated directly on the banks of the Mississippi River.  It turned out to be a very unique setting. We enjoyed our time there very much.

Most of the coaches or trailers that stayed at Tom Sawyer's were only there overnight, so our neighbors were constantly changing. It was fun to see the new ones arrive each evening, and there was usually a big exodus between 7 and 9 each morning.

Most of the coaches or trailers that stayed at Tom Sawyer’s were only there overnight, so our neighbors were constantly changing. It was fun to see the new ones arrive each evening, and there was usually a big exodus between 7 and 9 each morning.

We crossed over the Tennessee River on the way to the banks of the Mississippi.

We crossed over the Tennessee River on the way to the banks of the Mississippi.

Tennessee Part II: Nashville

We went to the middle of Tennessee for our second stop. It wouldn’t be right to spend a month in the Volunteer State and not see Nashville, so we found a campground at Percy Priest Lake on the east side of Music City. We stayed at a placed called Nashville Shores, a combination campground – water park- zip line tree top adventure park-marina. Luckily, the waterpark season had not started yet, so it was quiet and relaxing. If we had been guests of the campground when the water park was in full swing, I’m sure the sounds of screaming kiddos from dawn to dusk would have been a little much to take over the course of seven days.

We spent half of our time enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of the lake, and the other half exploring all the major attractions of Nashville. We had a great time when we were there.  Nashville is a beautiful city. It was funny how we overheard so many people comparing it to Austin while we were there.

A selfie at the Ryman.

A selfie at the Ryman.

We went to the early show at the Bluebird Café on our last night in Nashville. The place is tiny, and we did not have reservations. We got in line about an hour before the doors opened. There  24 people in front of us. We know this because they said they could take the first 24 in line, and they shut the door after the gentlemen in front of us passed through. We waited another 45 minutes at the door, and finally made it in when someone with reservations did not show up. The music was phenomenal, and the experience was fun too!

We went to the early show at the Bluebird Café on our last night in Nashville. The place is tiny, and we did not have reservations. We got in line about an hour before the doors opened. There were 24 people in front of us. We know this because they said they could take the first 24 in line, and they shut the door after the gentlemen in front of us passed through. We waited another 45 minutes at the door, and finally made it in when someone with reservations did not show up. The music was phenomenal, and the experience was fun too!

We spent a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon at the famous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Kris Kristofferson signed one of the ceiling tiles above our bar stools. I took that at a good omen because I drool over that man. (Its okay, Mike knows).

We spent a couple of hours on a rainy afternoon at the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Kris Kristofferson signed one of the ceiling tiles above our bar stools. I took that as a good omen because I drool over that man. (Its okay, Mike knows).

The original Grand Ole Opry Stage. Tom Jones was playing a concert there while we were in town. We would have loved to have seen him, but we had already seen a show at the 'new' place in Opryland. Our fixed retirement income does not allow us to spend $250+ on concert tickets in one week. We took the self-guided tour instead. I did put a concert at the Ryman on my bucket list, though. I heard a docent telling another group that the acoustics in that building were second only to the Morman Tabernacle. I see a return trip to Nashville in my distant future.

The original Grand Ole Opry Stage. Tom Jones was playing a concert there while we were in town. We would have loved to have seen him, but we had already seen a show at the ‘new’ place in Opryland. Our fixed retirement income does not allow us to spend $250+ on concert tickets in one week. We took the self-guided tour instead. I did put a concert at the Ryman on my bucket list, though. I heard a docent telling another group that the acoustics in that building were second only to the Morman Tabernacle. I see a return trip to Nashville in my distant future.

The Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to Emmy Lou Harris for sparking its historic restoration and bringing it back to life.

The Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to Emmy Lou Harris for sparking its historic restoration and bringing it back to life.

The Rhinestone Cowboy went all out with the bling on the golf bag.

The Rhinestone Cowboy went all out with the bling on the golf bag.

It rained a bit while we were in Nashville. One morning during a storm we watched a skunk family transport their newborn babies from under a garbage bin by the bath house to their den in the woods. One had a fat white stripe down the top of its back, and its mate had two white stripes down the sides of its body. They ran back and forth in front of our window for more than an hour as they transported each baby skunk individually by the back of the neck in their mouths (like a mama dog carries a puppy). I was so thankful the dogs were inside the coach, and we could watch the nature show without fear of getting sprayed.

It rained a bit while we were in Nashville. One morning during a storm we watched a skunk family transport their newborn babies from under a garbage bin by the bath house to their den in the woods. One had a fat white stripe down the top of its back, and its mate had two white stripes down the sides of its body. They ran back and forth in front of our window for more than an hour as they transported each baby skunk individually by the back of the neck in their mouths (like a mama dog carries a puppy). I was so thankful the dogs were inside the coach, and we could watch the nature show without fear of getting sprayed.

The Grand Ole Opry in motion.

The Grand Ole Opry in motion.

That would be on of the most beautiful voices ever... Vince Gill.

That would be one of the most beautiful voices ever… Vince Gill.

I loved the lights in the lobby of the Grand Ole Opry. They shimmered above the crowd in various shades of red, and reminded me of a dangling microphone.

I loved the lights in the lobby of the Grand Ole Opry. They shimmered above the crowd in various shades of red, and reminded me of a dangling microphone.

A Friday afternoon view of Percy Priest Lake from our spot at Nashville Shores.

A Friday afternoon view of Percy Priest Lake from our spot at Nashville Shores.

The Parthenon in Centennial Park is the only full-scale replica of the original Athenian masterpiece in the United States.

The Parthenon in Centennial Park is the only full-scale replica of the original Athenian masterpiece in the United States.

No big deal... only a man completely covered in silver paint meandering along the streets of downtown Nashville.

No big deal… only a man completely covered in silver paint meandering along the streets of downtown Nashville.

We could have spent an entire day at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The exhibits were all so interesting and informative. I also love how the building is reminiscent of piano keys.

We could have spent an entire day at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The exhibits were all so interesting and informative. I also love how the building is reminiscent of piano keys.

We loved the fact that there was live music in downtown Nashville at all hours of the day and night. We got to have our pub crawl AND be home in time to watch the evening news!

We loved the fact that there was live music in downtown Nashville at all hours of the day and night. We got to have our pub crawl AND be home in time to watch the evening news!

The Tennessee State Capitol Building was smaller than I expected.

The Tennessee State Capitol Building was smaller than I expected.

The Grand Ole Opry at Opryland. A giant perk about the location adjacent to a giant mall? There was a Chuy's Restaurant, so we got some REAL Tex-Mex after the show. YUM!

The Grand Ole Opry at Opryland. A giant perk about the location adjacent to a giant mall? There was a Chuy’s Restaurant, so we got some REAL Tex-Mex after the show. YUM!

The view from our dining room window during out week at Nashville Shores.

The view from our dining room window during out week at Nashville Shores.

The first spot we were assigned to at Nashville Shores was miniscule. We after we got parked, I took the dogs and scouted out other possible spots that we might move to. When we got back to the Monaco, we lucked out because Mike had discovered that the water faucet leaked when he started hooking us up. We had the perfect excuse for asking to move spots. They said yes, and we picked #20 on the end. With the fence around the perimeter, we ended up with our own 'yard' for the dogs!

The first spot we were assigned to at Nashville Shores was miniscule. After we got parked, I took the dogs and scouted out other possible spots that we might move to. When we got back to the Monaco, we lucked out because Mike had discovered that the water faucet leaked when he started hooking us up. We had the perfect excuse for asking to move spots. They said yes, and we picked #20 on the end. With the fence around the perimeter, we ended up with our own ‘yard’ for the dogs!

Tennessee Part I: Lenoir City

We started our month in Tennessee on the eastern side of the state at Lazy Acres RV Park in Lenoir City, which sits on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, and is also located about 30 miles south of Knoxville.

During our two weeks at this location, we went into Knoxville a few times. The Annual Dogwood Festival was in full swing, so we drove through some beautiful neighborhoods with bright gardens on display. We also went back on a Saturday for a downtown street festival featuring 5 stages of musical performances (we ended up hanging out by the Opera stage).

We also took a drive to our east one day, and visited the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. I would not put the two tourist towns on my list of places to revisit, but the Smoky Mountains themselves were spectacular.

On another daytrip we drove 90 miles south to see Lookout Mountain and Downtown Chattanooga. Rock City and Lookout Mountain were the same place: an amazing geological rock formation high on a mountain outside of Chattanooga. We accidentally went on the Saturday of the Easter Holiday weekend, so it was PACKED with tourists. I think we would have enjoyed ourselves much more if we had chosen to visit on an ‘off’ Monday morning -when there might be fewer tour buses in the parking lot. Downtown Chattanooga was a nice city center on the banks of the Tennessee River. We had a good time walking around the public parks and busy streets before we settled for lunch on the patio at Hair of the Dog Pub.

I’m keeping with my new “picture book format” on the blog, so the rest of our story from this stop is highlighted by the photos and captions below.

There was a marina with a restaurant near our campground in Lenoir City. It was the perfect place to grab a meal with a view on a clear day.

There was a marina with a restaurant near our campground in Lenoir City. It was the perfect place to grab a meal with a view on a clear day.

This parking garage in downtown Chattanooga had a rock climbing wall on its exterior. We both thought that was a very clever use of usually ugly urban space.

This parking garage in downtown Chattanooga had a rock climbing wall on its exterior. We both thought that was a very clever use of usually ugly urban space.

There were all kind of characters at Rock City, we thought this smokin' rock was humorous.

There were all kind of characters at Rock City, we thought this smokin’ rock was humorous.

Mike was extremely adamant about getting my picture in this exact spot while we toured Rock City. I don't think the sign that happens to be above my head is a coincidence... If you can't read it, it says "evil queen lurking".

Mike was extremely adamant about getting my picture in this exact spot while we toured Rock City. I don’t think the sign that happens to be above my head is a coincidence… If you can’t read it, it says “evil queen lurking”.

The weather was overcast and misty when we visited Lookout Mountain, but at least we made it to the place where seven states were out in the distance before us. The view was quite remarkable, despite the limitations.

The weather was overcast and misty when we visited Lookout Mountain, but at least we made it to the place where seven states were out in the distance before us. The view was quite remarkable, despite the limitations.

I don't particularly like high places... or at least the edges of them, so Mike had to take all the pictures looking down.

I don’t particularly like high places… or at least the edges of them, so Mike had to take all the pictures looking down.

Henry, the social and free-roaming cat, lived next door to us at Lazy Acres RV Park. Piper parked himself by the front door at all times we were at home and inside, in desperate anticipation of a sighting.

Henry, the social and free-roaming cat, lived next door to us at Lazy Acres RV Park. Piper parked himself by the front door at all times we were at home and inside, in desperate anticipation of a sighting.

We did a lot of hiking through the woods in East Tennessee. Since the dogwoods were in full bloom when we arrived, this is the type of vista we would see when the trails came close to the water.

We did a lot of hiking through the woods in East Tennessee. Since the dogwoods were in full bloom when we arrived, this is the type of vista we would see when the trails came close to the water.

We usually had the public trails all to ourselves for our afternoon walks. The dogs got great exercise on this leg of our trip.

We usually had the public trails all to ourselves for our afternoon walks. The dogs got great exercise on this leg of our trip.

I've learned it is not so uncommon to stumble upon a random stone fireplace in the middle of the woods.

I’ve learned it is not so uncommon to stumble upon a random stone fireplace in the middle of the woods.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge were giant tourist traps, but the natural lands in the Great Smoky Mountains were incredible.

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge were giant tourist traps, but the natural lands in the Great Smoky Mountains were incredible.

I didn't realize there would be so much flowing water in the Great Smoky Mountains.

I didn’t realize there would be so much flowing water in the Great Smoky Mountains.

This picture taken through the windshield does not adequately reflect the beauty of our drive into the Great Smoky Mountains.

This picture taken through the windshield does not adequately reflect the beauty of our drive into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Fort Loudoun Lake (part of the Tennessee River), was just through the woods at Lazy Acres RV Park. We could see the water through the trees when we arrived, but the leaves were budding so fast, the view was almost completely blocked by fresh green foliage by the time we left two weeks later.

Fort Loudoun Lake (part of the Tennessee River), was just through the woods at Lazy Acres RV Park. We could see the water through the trees when we arrived, but the leaves were budding so fast, the view was almost completely blocked by fresh green foliage by the time we left two weeks later.

We visited Knoxville during the famous Dogwood Trails. Lucky Mike got to drive around with me all afternoon looking at pretty trees in quaint neighborhoods. He had a blast... that is what I told him.

We visited Knoxville during the famous Dogwood Trails. Lucky Mike got to drive around with me all afternoon looking at pretty trees in quaint neighborhoods. He had a blast… that is what I told him.

I don't even know what kind of pink tree this is. It looks like a giant cotton candy statue.

I don’t even know what kind of pink tree this is. It looks like a giant cotton candy statue.

It was very weird to be on campus of UT and be strangers! The Volunteers' campus is adjacent to downtown, and their stadium sits right on the Tennessee River.

It was very weird to be on campus of UT and be strangers! The Volunteers’ campus is adjacent to downtown, and their stadium sits right on the Tennessee River.

We were surprised dogs were allowed at Rock City and on Lookout Mountain. Piper and Cessna enjoyed their tour of the caves and crevices.

We were surprised dogs were allowed at Rock City and on Lookout Mountain. Piper and Cessna enjoyed their tour of the caves and crevices.

A wonderful fountain of cannons on the river in Chattanooga. (At least I think they are cannons).

A wonderful fountain of cannons on the river in Chattanooga. (At least I think they are cannons).

A dramatic waterfall flows down the side of Lookout Mountain. I can't believe this was once someone's private property!

A dramatic waterfall flows down the side of Lookout Mountain. I can’t believe this was once someone’s private property!