Saturday, October 30, 2010


michaela This Mad Hatter is Michaela, our future daughter-in-law. Isn’t this costume just awesome. She is so talented and creative. She won first place and $500 last night at the big Halloween party in Billings.

Michaela & ZoeyThis is how beautiful she is when she isn’t playing the Mad Hatter.

fightingOur son, Todd, went as a member of Fighting Gravity. A fabulous group that I would love to see perform.

This is Todd holding the fish he caught when he and his Dad went fishing this summer.

ToddfishThis is their li'l pupkin - Zoey.

Friday, October 29, 2010


IMG_7596 We spent the night in Russellville, AR at a really nice small RV Park called Ivy’s Cove.

IMG_7598 After we left Russellville we headed towards Oklahoma on I-40 which took us through the Ozark Mountains. I bet they were really pretty a few weeks ago but now the leaves are past their peak.

IMG_7601 And they really aren’t mountains. At least not when I think of when we talk about mountains.

old-moonshine-still As we drove through this area I wondered if there were stills hidden up in the trees. This area is famous for moonshine and revenuers.

IMG_7599 And doesn’t this just make you think of something the Beverly Hillbillies would have? They were originally from the Ozarks. (In case you can’t tell – this van has a window air conditioner sticking out of the back.)


Jackson, TN -CaseyJones Unlike many other legendary characters in American history, such as Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan, the story of Casey Jones is a true one. It began on March 14, 1863 in Missouri when Jonathan Luther Jones was born. In 1876 his family moved to Kentucky and settled in the small community of Cayce. When he told people he was from Cayce, the nickname Casey Jones took hold.

In 1878, at the age of fifteen, he left home to become a railroad man. On April 29, 1900 Casey and Sim Webb pulled into Memphis where they were supposed to lay over until the next day before making the run back. However, Sam Tate, the regular engineer, had become ill and Casey agreed to take his place and make the return run that night. He asked for his regular engine No. 382. No. 1 out of Chicago was late and Casey and Sim did not leave the Memphis station until approximately 12:30 hour and a half late.

IMG_7583 A fast engine, a good fireman, and a light train were ideal for a record-setting run of the 188 miles from Memphis to Canton. And even though it was raining, steam trains operated best in damp conditions. But it was also quite foggy that night, which reduced visibility. And the run was well-known for its tricky curves, which could prove deadly.

By the time he got to Durant, 155 miles south of Memphis, he was almost on time. His orders instructed him that he was to meet a northbound passenger at Vaughan, but he would have priority over it. He pulled out of Goodman only five minutes behind. With 27 miles of fast track ahead Jones doubtless felt that he had a good chance to make it to Canton by 4:05 AM "on the advertised".

But the stage was being set for a tragic wreck at Vaughan, 15 miles away. There were three other trains at Vaughan – 2 freights and one passenger. They were trying to get all three trains off the main track but four cars overlapped on the main line right in Casey’s path. They were preparing another track when an air hose broke on No. 72, locking its brakes and leaving the last four cars of No. 83 on the main line.

IMG_7594 (Casey Jones' home at the time of his death.)

Meanwhile, Jones was almost back on schedule, running at about 75 miles per hour toward Vaughan, unaware of the danger ahead, since he was traveling through a 1.5-mile left-hand curve which blocked his view. Webb's view from the left side of the train was better, and he was first to see the red lights of the caboose on the main line. "Oh my Lord, there's something on the main line!" he yelled to Jones. Jones quickly yelled back "Jump Sim, jump!" to Webb, who crouched down and jumped about 300 feet before impact and was knocked unconscious. The last thing Webb heard when he jumped was the long, piercing scream of the whistle as Jones tried to warn anyone still in the freight train looming ahead. He was only two minutes behind schedule about this time.

382 Jones reversed the throttle and slammed the airbrakes into emergency stop, but "Ole 382" quickly plowed through a wooden caboose, a car load of hay, another of corn and half way through a car of timber before leaving the track. He had amazingly reduced his speed from about 75 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour when he hit with a deafening crunch of steel against steel and splintering wood. Because Jones stayed on board to slow the train, he saved his passengers from serious injury and death. Casey himself was the only fatality of the collision. His watch was found to be stopped at the time of impact which was 3:52 AM on April 30, 1900.

A black man named Wallace Saunders worked in the roundhouse in Canton. He was an engine wiper and loved to sing. He remembered Casey in rhyme and a catchy tune that soon would become a favorite of his fellow workers and eventually the world.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


jack We took advantage of a break in the weather to head down to Lynchburg, TN and the Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

IMG_7554 It was a great tour even though we got absolutely drenched. It was interesting to learn that Jack Daniel’s is the only distillery in the US that makes it owns barrels. The whole process is fascinating but there is way more info than I can cover in the blog. But if you visit their web site They do a great job of explaining it. You have to enter your birth date to prove you’re over 21.

IMG_7562 While you’re there – be sure to read the stories about Ole Jack himself especially the one where he kicked the safe.

IMG_7574 We stopped in town to eat at the Caboose Bar-b-que. Cute place, but wouldn’t stop there again. It was okay and that’s it. Wanted to go to Miss Mary Bobo’s – but once again I didn’t make reservations in time.

IMG_7568 P.S. – No they do not give out tasting samples at the end of the tour. They do offer you a glass of lemonade.


IMG_7530 This vehicle was sitting in the parking lot outside Studio B.

IMG_7552This is the AT&T Building in Nashville. It was supposed to look like a telephone resting in its cradle (remember those?) but it definitely looks more like batman’s helmet.


hall of fame When you say Nashville, you think country music and you must go to the Hall of Fame.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has been the home of America's music since 1967. It moved into it’s current building, located on the west bank of the Cumberland River, in 2001. The first three inductees were Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and Fred Rose.

IMG_7539 There is a room where the exhibits change on a regular basis and while we were there they were honoring Tammy Wynette, the first lady of County Music.


These are the clothes I think of when I think country music. I still haven’t gotten used to the relaxed jeans and sneakers look. Sparkles and rhinestones.

The museum is full of tributes to country music stars.

IMG_7551 They even have Elvis’s solid gold Cadillac.

This is a must stop on your visit to Nashville.

Monday, October 25, 2010


IMG_7529 Studio B was built by Dan Maddox in 1957 at the request of Chet Atkins. The plans for the studio were drawn up on a napkin and took four months to build. The actual studio itself measures 42.5' by 27' by 13'. In 1960 and 61 an addition was added with office space and rooms for tape mastering and a lacquer mastering lab.

rca The studio became famous in the 1960s for being a part of what many refer to as the Nashville Sound. Think Eddy Arnold. A sophisticated style characterized by background vocals and strings, the Nashville Sound both revived the popularity of country music and helped establish Nashville as an international recording center.

IMG_7523 Studio B stayed in active use until 1977. In its heyday, Studio B saw the creation of numerous chartbusters, such as Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and Charley Pride's "Kiss an Angel Good Morning." Imagine being in the same room where these artist’s actually recorded these songs that I know so well. Wow!

IMG_7527 This is the actual piano that was used by Elvis – can’t you just imagine him sitting there, with the Jordanaires standing around the piano at 2:00 a.m.

dolly In her 1994 memoir, My Life And Other Unfinished Business, Dolly Parton recounted how she was rushing to her first recording session at Studio B in September 1967 (shortly after having signed with RCA) and, in her haste to make the session on time, drove her car through the side wall of the building. She noted how the spot where her car impacted the building is still visible.


We took a trolley tour of Nashville and these are a couple of places that we stopped. Mostly it was a driving tour. Very informative.


The Tennessee State Capitol, completed in 1859, is located on a high hill in downtown Nashville. During the Union occupation of Nashville (1862-65), the Capitol was transformed into Fortress Andrew Johnson. The artillery located there never had to be fired in battle, but were used for drills and celebrations.


In order to save the one remaining view of the Capitol and to commemorate Tennessee's 200th birthday, the concept of a mall similar to the one in Washington, DC, took shape. This is the view of the capitol building from Bicentennial Park.

IMG_7518In 1897, this was the site of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition and was renamed Centennial Park. After the exposition ended, most of the buildings and exhibits were dismantled, except for a full-scale model of the Parthenon in Athens.


IMG_7505 On January 1, 1780, Nashville was founded when James Robertson led his group of pioneers across the frozen Cumberland river to a place called The Cedar Bluffs. It was here that these men built a fort called Nashborough which would be shelter for the first families until Indian attacks ended in 1792.

IMG_7507This is a replica of the fort and is located right downtown Nashville on the river bank.


IMG_7474 We finally found a campground north of Nashville about 15 miles. Nashville Country RV Park. It’s okay and reasonably convenient for exploring Nashville.

The first thing I did after we got set up was to call the Opry to get tickets for Friday night’s show. They had lots of tickets available and we had really great seats up in the Mezzanine.

But before we go to the Opry we need to see some of the pictures of the flood that hit Nashville last May.

flood This is where we purchased our tickets for our tour and caught our trolley.


flood2 Even the Grand Ole Opry was underwater.

flood3The Cumberland River really devastated this area but they are coming back strong. The Opryland Hotel is still closed but plans to reopen the middle of November. The Mall that is next to the Grand Ole Opry House is still closed and no one is sure if they will be able to reopen. The Bass Pro Shop, one of the mall’s anchor stores, has reopened.

Here are some of the pictures posted on their website showing how deep the water was. Just amazing.

The performances at the Opry are a live radio show which makes for a very interesting and different experience. It’s definitely not like a concert and is very laid back.

MVI_7482The performers come out and do two songs and then there is a commercial. Then the next performer comes out and does two songs and then another commercial. Also, people are moving around the stage all the time even during the performances.

MVI_7495The line up for our performance was: George Hamilton IV; Jimmy Dickens (who is 89 and still going strong).

Dailey & Vincent (bluegrass) MVI_7503

Connie Smith


Riders in The SkyMVI_7501-1 MVI_7497 John Michael MontgomeryMVI_7496 Stonewall Jackson MVI_7490 Restless Heart

IMG_7484 Did you notice the round circle of wood that is a different color on the stage? That piece of wood is from the Ryman Auditorium where the Opry performed for several years before they opened their own stage in 1974. It was on this piece of wood (when it was still at the Ryman) that Patsy Cline performed. Jim got to meet Patsy at a fire fighters hall in VA and it was exciting to know she stood on that piece of wood when she performed.


IMG_7460 Seven Points COE Park is a beautiful park but I messed up and didn’t make reservations. We could only stay the one night. A word to the wise – if you’re going to the Nashville area – make reservations. I did not think they would be this busy at this time of year. Boy was I wrong.

IMG_7463We would definitely stay at this campground again but next time reservations will be made.