After saying goodbye to Memphis and the soon to be demolished
(to make way for the Gracelands Guesthouse) we took a a ride north east through Tennessee. We stopped a few miles north of Nashville, staying at a KOA (Kampgrounds of America) site for the first time.
It wasn’t cheap at $58 for two nights, but nowhere near as steep as we had been led to believe such site should be. The woman on reception was most welcoming but she had a real problem booking us in It seems that the software on the computer could not cope with British ‘zip’ codes and it had no abbreviation for the United Kingdom. She had to put us down as Canadian in the end, which isn’t the worst nationality to be mistaken for. The really nice thing about this campsite is that if you buy firewood, it gets delivered to your tent along with a very superior type of fire pit (none of your manky old car wheel centres here).
We really don’t like country and or western music, which is a shame as the campsite ran busses to the Grand Ole Opre, where all the big Country stars perform. Not our cup of tea at all, however, so we went to explore the local Manskers frontier/plantation museum. It was fascinating to go there; although the fort compound was a very inaccurate (and quarter sized) reconstruction of ‘something similar’ to the actual structures that had been there in the late 1700s, we were given a tour by a very interesting young man, who was both an expert in woodworking skills at the time and a blacksmith and was researching how people had lived then.
He showed us a range of buildings that, although were an inaccurate reconstruction, made over forty years ago, they contained accurate representations of life for a frontiers person, from the construction of their beds, to how they processed flax, cotton and wool and cooked and how they worked wood. Due to the fact that everything was a reconstruction, you were encouraged to handle the equipment and sit on the beds (rope-laced beds were surprisingly comfortable). I asked about this bit of hessian
and was highly amused to hear that it hid a fire sensor!
One of the other people on the tour introduced himself as a hillbilly (more correctly known as an Appalachian American nowadays), and his descriptions of life as child were not much different to the frontier experience. He knew all about hog killing and dirt floors and how cold a room could be, so much that you had to turn round and round in front of the fire to just keep warm, like a hog roast and how old ladies would raise their skirts in front of the fire to get a little warmth. He also was less than charitable about modern parents that can not get their children to do as they are told. He said he was given one warning by his pa and then, if he disobeyed, he had to go out and cut his own stick. Apparently, you have to get it just right, because, if you cut it too thin, it wraps around you when you get beaten and you get cut, too thick and you get badly bruised. I didn’t dare tell him that my daughter’s room was so messy when she she was little, that when we got burgled and the police looked in, thinking that it had been trashed, I had to tell them that it always looked like that… The guide seemed very professional but what caught our attention was that he said that the various BBC series about life on a farm/in a castle/in a Victorian home etc were very highly thought of and were now being used to train their volunteers. It’s nice to think that us Brits can still do a bit of good around the world.
The second part of the tour was in a house that had been inhabited between the 1780s to the 1960s, firstly with a frontier family and then the local doctor. We got a fairly clear idea of what it must have been like to live there, although we never found out where the six slaves lived day to day.
There were clay pipes on the mantlepiece and the volunteers were convinced that they started off long but got shorter because they were shared and when a new person smoked the pipe, they would break a piece off. Tim then spent a good length of time explaining that the original pipes had to be so long because they were too hot to handle next to the burning tobacco and that the reason that nobody ever found a long pipe was because they were both fragile and cheap and so always broke and got chucked. The guides were gobsmacked and fascinated and ultimately grateful for the explanation, which made a lot more sense than their original one. Over the course of our tour, we found out how flax is turned into linen, being able to handle the raw materials and processing equipment as well, watched one of the guides work spinning wheels, were able to handle original doctors equipment, all the time hearing what it must have been like for people in the day.
I liked this lady’s solution to tension problems in a loom
It was altogether a brilliant afternoon.
In the evening we met a couple who were living permanently in one of the monster rigs and were about to head back home into Texas.
Martin and Linda described many of the things we could expect to see when we get to Texas next spring, although they warned us we would probably have to stay to the south as the weather up north would still be very cold when we finally get there in March or so.
Next to us there were two men who were also braving the weather to camp in mid November. They are two itinerant builders, who had been camping elsewhere, but the campsite would only let them stay there for a week maximum. They have stayed in motels but they prefer camping as they can cook for themselves. The older of the two (the other guys uncle) said he was usually home about every week or two and that his wife was finding it hard to cope with his absences. Later we saw this sign
(one of many looking for truck drivers, looks like there is a national shortage) which said it all….. home every week is a perk?????
On Thursday, after a wet and windy night, we drove on up into Kentucky and then east through the state, enjoying the rolling hills and beautiful weather. One or two things caught my eye on the way
When we knew we had a chance of finding a campsite in
we hit the local Walmart to get some supplies in. It was surprisingly good, having a decent selection of fresh food for a change.. You could not buy anything alcoholic there but you could buy guns, ammunition and some very mean looking bows and arrows. You could buy deer feeders and then this hide for a mere $200
so you could sucker them in and then shoot them. The hunting laws do seem a bit complicated
but its nice to know that the critters are given a bit of a chance of survival!
We finally found an open campground near Corbin. The route took us through the national forrest, a truly beautiful area, that must have been magnificent a few weeks back before the leaves all dropped off.
The KOA site was lovely,
it was delight to camping in a more rural setting after the last few places (no sound of gunfire or police sirens!). We ended up cooking in the dark with Camel’s outside light and our head torches on. We had bought some firewood from the campground, but the logs appeared to made out of asbestos, and after Tim had used about five firelighters and much muttering, we gave up and retired to the cosy warmness of the tent with our much used tent heater.
On a very chilly Friday we managed to drag ourselves out of the tent to a brilliant blue sky
and after breakfast we thought we would tour the local attractions. The first was the original cafe where Coronal Sanders had developed Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Wow, I bet you are sitting on the edge of your seat at the thought of that. It was actually not a bad place to go, especially as it was free. It had a nice little museum and some displays describing how, after a multitude of different jobs, Sanders found himself out of work at the age of about 63 and then used his final social security cheque to tour the USA, demonstrating how to make his ‘secret recipe’ chicken and selling franchises. From that he became a multimillionaire.
We bought the smallest thing on the menu (it wasn’t long after breakfast, after all) just to say we had eaten there. It actually wasn’t bad!
We then drove on to the Cumberland Falls on the (you guessed it) Cumberland River (named because the guy who discovered it said that it was ‘very crooked, like the Duke of Cumberland’). The drive was beautiful (despite the fact fall had fallen) and the falls were lovely.
Apparently, if you catch them on a full moon you can get moon bows!
On the way back we managed to buy some beer and some decent firewood to smuggle back into the campground and went back for a chilly evening, with the weather promising to dip below zero for the night and the south calling us. It was a dreadfully cold night and, despite the fact that I wore two pairs of PJs, I had trouble getting to sleep and woke up feeling cold several times. It was very hard to drag ourselves out of the tent in the morning and it wasn’t until well after nine that the temperature stated to rise much above 0 degrees C. We finally were driven out by nagging bladders and stomachs and the porridge was very welcome indeed.
On Saturday we did a bit of make do and mend and than went for a drive around the local lake, meeting this very hungry duck at a local marina, who looked very elegant
until Tim bought some bird food from the dispenser on the quay, when it went bananas for some grub
The daytime weather was so warm that we had not only experienced a plague of ladybirds in Nashville
and there were several butterflies out by the lake
The scenery was beautiful
and we came to the conclusion, that despite it being so cold that bits were in real danger of dropping off, Corbin in Kentucky was probably one of the nicest stops on our North American travels so far, but we REALLY need to get further south PDQ.