Monday, August 31, 2015

Daytrippin' Round 'Nooga

The day after our Lookout Mountain excursion, we explored more of Chattanooga. Here are the stops we made...

Chattanooga National Cemetery 

National cemeteries do something me. The evenly spaced white headstones give me a peaceful feeling. Chattanooga's National Cemetery was no exception. Actually, something about the slope of the land, spacing of the trees and naturally placed giant rock formations just stop me in my tracks.

It's history:  In 1863 Major General Geo. Thomas, known as "The Rock of Chickamauga" issued an order to create a national cemetery in commemoration of the Battles of Chattanooga a year earlier. He selected the site himself. It was a 75 acre plot on a slope of land facing Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. General Grant's headquarters had been on this property during part of the Lookout Mountain "Battle Above The Clouds" skirmish. 
Designated Chattanooga National Cemetery in 1867
Placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
Within three short years after its creation, more than 12,800 burials were made in the new cemetery. The dead included those fallen in battles of the surrounding areas including Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain.

Chattanooga's National Cemetery population isn't limited to the Civil War dead though. Seventy-eight WWI German prisoners of war are buried here too. Additionally, the German government erected a monument to commemorate their POWs buried here.

Chattanooga is the only national cemetery that has both World War I and World War II foreign POWs interred. There are 186 POWs from both wars.
The Andrews Raiders Monument, erected by the state of Ohio in 1890, is among the most unique memorials in the cemetery. The granite base and die is topped with a bronze replica of “The General,” the Civil War-era wood-burning locomotive famous for its great chase of 1862.
When we left the cemetery we looked up the location of McCallie School. This high school was a football opponent of Wayne's high school, Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tennessee. He'd never been here it but heard the campus was worth seeing. Senator Howard Baker and Georgia businessman Ted Turner are alumni of McCallie.

McCallie School

Such a stunning high school campus. It's a Christian based boys preparatory boarding school founded in 1905 by brothers Dr. Park and Spencer McCallie with money loaned them from their father.
School Motto: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Next stop today is back in the downtown area to see the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel where we had occasion to stay as guests many years ago. 

Originally opening in 1871 at a cost of $100,000, the five-story Stanton House Hotel, built by John Stanton of Boston, proudly offered guests a dining room, barber shop, saloon, billiard hall and a bathroom on every floor. Fabulous flower gardens could be viewed from guest room balconies. It was opulent. 

The Choo Choo Hotel is pretty run down these days -- at least from our point of view. The property is sprawling and I hope will be returned to the condition it was in when we stayed there.

Missionary Ridge

We also took a drive along Missionary Ridge. This is another Civil War battle site where, in November 1863, the forces of Union General Grant defeated the Confederates led by General Bragg. Missionary Ridge overlooks Chattanooga, Moccasin Bend of the Tennessee River and Lookout Mountain. Crest Road runs along Missionary Ridge and is all residential now. It is narrow and winding, dotted with markers but there are no places to pull over to read the markers. There are no walkways or even enough space to stand to read the markers. Seems a shame.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park 

This Civil War Battlefield is south of Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia and has miles of fields of monuments. We mostly just drove through enjoying the pleasant temperatures and serenity. We did make one stop where we took Lexie and Ozzie for a walk around an area known as Brotherton Field. 

Brotherton Cabin was here during the Civil War battle and was used as a field hospital. 
One of the many battlefield markers.

Other Stops...

Another afternoon Lexie and Ozzie explored Coolidge and Renaissance Parks across the river from Downtown Chattanooga.  As a bonus, we found a Publix Supermarket there. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Making Sense Of Motion Sensors

We have truly enjoyed our new truck. It's a 2015 Ford F-150 Lariat. It's big enough to carry all our stuff in the bed and it is spacious inside. It rides wonderfully, has great options and it feels safe. I like being up high too.

But we were starting to think we'd made a terrible mistake in buying it. The alarm horn is horribly loud and seems to be completely out of control. It seems Ford's new sophisticated and highly intelligent security system can't be turned off. Wayne spent countless hours with the owners manual to come to this conclusion. The loud horn blowing has become a real irritant.

One of the greatest problems is that there are motion sensors inside the cab. This means the dogs cannot be left in the truck. We don't often leave them there but they go everywhere with us and on days when the sun doesn't shine and the temperature is low, we leave the window cracked to eat lunch sometimes

This week we began investigating the possibility of disarming the system. We went to two Chattanooga, Tennessee Ford dealers. They say it simply cannot be done. Wayne announced that he will consider trading the truck. Injury is added to insult with the cost of parts and installation of the base plate and wiring, the factory painted Tonneau cover and the bed liner.  Our truck had begun to seem like a great white elephant.

But alas! We shall not be deterred.  I posted the dilemma on Facebook and one of our friends suggested putting black electrical tape over the sensors. Wayne was a bit skeptical but we did it and it works!

This is a photo of the truck's overhead console with black electrical tape covering the sensors.
Easily removed and replaced as needed for security -- just keep a roll of tape in the glove box. 
We're in love with our new truck again.

No longer known as a white elephant. 

Rock City, Lovers Leap and Lexie's Fall

Rock City

It had been a really long time since I'd been to Rock City on Lookout Mountain. It's one of America's great private gardens and family attractions and it's known to all by those red barns with black roofs advertising simply "See Rock City"....

After a few hours at The Incline and Point Park on Lookout Mountain, we drove over to see Rock City. Again, there were very few people and the weather remained perfect. Parking was a breeze. I checked on tickets: Adult admission tickets to Rock City are about $20 each. Annual Passes are sold for about the price of two single-day tickets and allow ticket holders to visit Rock City Gardens, the cafe and annual events like Shamrock City, Fairytale Nights, EarthDayz, the Southern Blooms Festival, Summer Music Weekends, Rocktoberfest and the Enchanted Garden of Lights for a full year, though some restrictions apply. We loaded the pups into their stroller and headed to the ticket gate.  There are no discounts for old people. Darn.

In 1823 two missionaries came to this area to share their religious beliefs with the local Native Americans. When one of the men reached this part of Lookout Mountain, he wrote in his diary about the natural placement of the rocks looking as though they had been laid there purposefully to serve as roads and streets. That's how Rock City was born. It's been in operation since 1932.... more about that below...

Wayne and the dogs at the Garden Gateway.
Dogs are welcome at Rock City as long as they are not aggressive, on leash, under control and picked up after. Lexie and Ozzie rode in the stroller some of the time and they walked other times, depending on the terrain.

A young employee gave us a send-off from Garden Gateway by telling us that it was okay to leave the dog stroller behind. She told us there were some tight squeezes along the way where the stroller wouldn't fit but if we wanted to take it along anyway, she felt sure we could manage. The stroller folds and Wayne said he would carry it through the tight places if I would lead Lexie and Ozzie on their leashes.

Well, the girl at the Gateway was right and wrong. There were plenty of tight squeezes but there were still more areas of steps to go up or down. Wayne ended up carrying the folded stroller over a much greater distance than the dogs rode in it.

Hard to read the sign at this crevice, but this wedged area along the walkway is called "Fat Man Squeeze" and there's absolutely no way I could have gotten through it. Just no way. 
What the gal at the Gateway didn't tell us was that there is a clear, ADA compliant walkway that goes directly through the park to Lovers Leap, our destination. All she would have had to do was point us to the left instead of pointing us straight ahead.

So we trudged along carrying the folded stroller along for quite a distance. It never occurred to us to look at our pocket guide where the ADA walkway was clearly marked. We could have returned to to the Gateway and taken the flat walkway much easier than going ahead. We were going to be exhausted if we ever reached Lovers Leap. We stopped at one directional sign to catch our breath and again ran into Toby, the young man we had met earlier at Point Park. After a few minutes of map review, Toby went one way and we went another.

Fortunately for us, we encountered an employee who pointed out an "employees only" staircase that would take us to the ADA walkway. Then the "ah ha" moment!  The employee turned his head while we disappeared into the "employees only" stairway.

Within minutes, we were at Rock City Gardens. It was a last stop before reaching our destinations at Lovers Leap. "See Seven States" and Carter Cliffs.  Eureka.

It is said that seven states can be seen from Rock City's overlook
The famous "See Rock City" red barn advertisements were an inspiration born in the 1930's and made popular in the 1950's when more than 800 painted barn ads stretched from Michigan to Texas to Florida.

Still a private residence, this home is known as Carter Cliffs
In the late 1920's, Garnet Carter, along with his wife Frieda began to develop a large walk-through garden on this private estate. In 1930 they developed the garden here. During the Depression, the Carters opened their garden to the public and later they would start one of the most unique promotional campaigns ever envisioned when they began advertising their attraction on barns along highways across the country.

Today, Rock City is preserved as one of America's great private gardens.

Lovers Leap

Close up

From a distance

Lexie's Fall 

It was late afternoon by the time we took the ADA walkway back to the Rock City entrance. Ozzie and Lexie were enjoying being on leash but when Lexie gets too tired to walk, we put her back into the stroller while Ozzie continues on foot. This afternoon, Lexie got too near the edge of the stroller and toppled out onto the sidewalk, causing her lip to bleed.  I grabbed her up and went to the nearest bench while Wayne got a wet cloth for her lip. Not surprisingly, she seemed to recover quickly though we kept a close watch on her. For the next few days we were careful with her.

Just after her fall out of the stroller, Lexie sits on her pop's lap. Little splatters of blood had gotten on her face but she seems to have recovered quickly.  Pop was hurt more than Lexie, I think. 

And that ended our tourist activities on Lookout Mountain for today.

What Are Men To Lookout Mountain?

 The post title is my modification to Jane Austen's famous "Pride and Prejustice" quote, 
“What are men to rocks and mountains?”

From Raccoon Mountain Campground, Chattanooga, Tennessee    On Monday, August 24th, with the last of our late summer committments behind us, we left the serenity of Honeycomb Campground at Guntersville Lake in north Alabama.  There's nothing on our calendar until we rendevouz in Abbeville, Louisiana with friends. That gathering will mark the beginning of a ten month journey scheduled to take us to Alaska next summer.  More about that as the plan develops.

Unseasonably pleasant weather continues to follow us and we remain thankful for it. As true Southerners (notice the capitalization) we know how sweltering, hot and sticky summer can be in this part of the country. If we were going to choose the perfect year to spend a summer in the southeast, this is truly it. All the way back to Crossville in May, when we occasionally wore sweatshirts at night -- to the day I encountered a woman walking her dog who remarked about wearing a sweater on July 4th, we've had more pleasant days than hot ones. Sure, we've had some hot days...  but not great strings of of them.  The weather's been wonderful and it continues here.

For the next couple of weeks we'll be at Raccoon Mountain RV Park in Chattanooga where we plan to revisit some enjoyable places of childhood. Here's how it begins....

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

As a child, I remember riding "The Incline" with my family. It's the steepest passenger railway in the world. The trolley style cars ascend and decend a 73% grade of Lookout Mountain. Our first stop today would be at the upper station where we found very thin crowds, plenty of parking, a nice breeze and superb views. 

A luxury hotel was built atop Lookout Mountain in the late 1800's. A simple narrow gauge railroad served hotel guests in the early years but later, the railroad used today was built. It was a faster and more exciting way to whisk guest up and down. It has always been known simply as "The Incline"...

The incline car beginning its downward trip to the St. Elmo Station.
The first incline cars were operated by steam engines powered by coal. In the early 1900's the engines were replaced by two one hundred horse power motors. Beyond that modification, the incline railway has seen very little change.

Beautiful and clear today with temperatures in the high 70's.
An observation tower atop the Incline's upper station offers views of the historically significant Tennessee River, Civil War battlefields and city of Chattanooga below.

Neither Wayne nor I had an interest in riding the incline, just to see it again and to remember being here as children. We did have pizza lunch from the little cafe inside the station. Then, just a short walk down the street we found our next stop...

Point Park

Chattanooga saw lots of Civil War action and details of the major battles are plentiful and interesting. As commemoration to a scrimish atop Lookout Mountain known as the "Battle Above the Clouds" Point Park was created in 1905 to compliment the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.

Point Park is a small grassy property with a nice paved walking trail, several good viewing areas, monuments and markers to help visitors appreciate the battles fought here.

The New York Peace Memorial
Features a Union and Confederate soldier shaking hands

There's a famous photo of Civil War soldiers sitting on a large boulder here at Point Park. Anytime I've ever seen that picture, I think of how scared I'd be if I had to go out onto that boulder. I guess after what they'd seen, war veterans wouldn't be afraid.

We met a nice young couple while touring the Point Park grounds and enjoyed talking with them. Toby has traveled undeveloped areas of northern Quebec and was excited at our idea of motorhome travel to Alaska. Meeting people, along with seeing the country, is the reason we enjoy travel life.

Toby and Bridget

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

High School Reunion Days

From Honeycomb Campground, Grant, Alabama      It was a short drive from New Market to our destination campground at Guntersville Lake along the Tennessee River between the towns of Grant and Guntersville, Alabama. The route to get there was quite a challenge though. We started out on a nice enough roadway that changed to a narrow one without lines. Those lines. We've grown to recognize one thing for certain... if a road doesn't have painted lines, it will lead to trouble. And that it did. A major road construction detour (through a rural neighborhood) followed by five single lane bridges, one with a weight restriction less than half our coach weight.

Honeycomb Campground on Guntersville Lake is a TVA property. Many of the campsites are right along the lake shore... ours was one of them. The spacious sites are gravel and could use a bit of leveling. None of the short term sites have sewer connections. I really like this campground and indeed, the whole area.  I was told by one of the campground employees that until about 2009, the campground had a pretty awful reputation and was filled with permanent residents living as though the campground was a trailer park. At the end of a lengthy contract, TVA contracted with a new management company who has turned the park around. 

Our campsite at Honeycomb Campground 
This whole area is an outdoor enthusiast's dream with water everywhere. The campground has rental pontoons, fishing boats, canoes, kayaks and possible wave runners. There is a nice beach for campground guests and outside guests are kept to a minimum with fees for entry and additional cars. 

But enough about the campground. We are here for a reunion of classmates of the 1965 graduating class of Columbia Military Academy. Several of Wayne's closest friends will be here and he always looks forward to these gatherings. More so as he ages. On Friday he met with some of the guys who had arrived early but the main gathering was Saturday afternoon.

Leaving the campground for the Saturday afternoon reunion.
Walker McGinnis, Wayne and Dan Duke 

The reunion was hosted at the lake home of Bob and Kim Bell and the setting was relaxing and comfortable. We continue to be amazed at the low temperatures that are so unusual for this time of year in this area.

Ernie brought audio video equipment and recorded short interviews with everyone. We look forward to seeing the final result.  Moments after the recordings were completed, the skies opend and torrents of rain fell for until after dark.

Phil Fikes, Walker McGinnis and Jerry Todaro
Bobby McIver to the far right. 

Wayne with one of his closest CMA schoolmates, Ernie Benko

Host Bob Bell and Walker McGinnis.
Frances Fikes in the background. 

Bill Akin

The "D"s... Dan Digby and Dan Duke

Elliott Montgomery 

Tommy Briggs and wife

Don Ershig 

John Clanton 

Ernie Benko watching the rain

Antics from Dan Duke. Ernie Benko in the background. 

Top Row, Left to Right: Phil Fikes, Walker McGinnis, Tiny Wright, Jerry Todaro, Tommy Briggs, Don Ershig, Steve Vagnier, Bob Bell, Bill Akin. Lower Row: Left to Right: John Clanton, Dan Digby, Dan Duke, Wayne Smalley, Elliot Montgomery, Bobby McIver, Ernie Benko

Monday, August 24, 2015

Pop Goes The Diesel

From Nashville I-24 Campground, Smyrna, Tennessee    With the air conditioner replacement complete, Wayne and I channeled all our worry into the engine problem during our last three days at Spring Lake RV Resort in Crossville. On Thursday, July 30 we left, heading to Nashville I-24 Campground in Smyrna, Tennessee. We look forward to seeing family and friends, including Donna, who manages the park.

Once settled into our campsite, we got in a visit with Cam, Amy and the twins. They are over two years old now, and while they don't have much of a vocabulary, they have plenty to say. I don't understand a word of it. We brought books and a new bowling set as gifts for them. I'm sure the parents were thrilled to have us bring in more stuff...

Granddaddy giving the first bowling lesson.

At Cumberland International
Ready for engine work. 

On Friday, July 31st, Wayne had bloodwork done for his 3-month medical follow-up to see if the cholesterol lowering medication was doing its job. A quick check from the doctor on Tuesday of the next week reports all is well. Hallajuah.

Our Monday morning appointment for engine repair at Cumberland International got pushed back to Tuesday when the Cummins mechanic took an unplanned vacation day. Finally, at 8 o'clock Tuesday morning, August 4th, we pulled Endie into the bay for diagnostics. That was followed by three days of waiting for parts to arrive.

Monday, August 10th, the engine work was to be done, but to our dismay the wrong parts were ordered. Another few days of waiting and then, on Wednesday, the major Cummins engine work was completed. (Interesting how delivery of these parts took only one day but that's another story.) 

After a full day of repairs Wednesday, August 12th, a final diagnostic run showed an additional item to be checked so we had to come back yet again, Thursday morning. Turned out that reading was nothing of consequence and we breathed a great sigh of relief. The engine is under Cummins warranty so our "out of pocket" expense for this work was limited to the routine maintenance items -- a mere $700 or so.  In the great scheme of motorhome repairs, that's not bad... Thank goodness. 

Ours is a Cummins ISL 425 diesel engine, not MaxxForce -- but here we sit in the MaxxForce bay.
No shore power, no sun for solar energy and we couldn't run the generator inside the garage so we're on battery power alone which didn't last nearly long enough.
Cumberland International does not have facilities for overnight parking so for each day of repair, we hauled big Endie from Smyrna to Murfreesboro and back again. What's worse was the greasy mess the repairman tracked down the center of the coach to get to the engine in the rear. 

How to minimize grease tracking into one's home.
Each morning before taking Endie into the shop, we rolled and stowed all our rugs and I covered the co-pilot seat and our bed with sheets. On returning to the campground after each day of engine repairs, I swept, then ran the dry swiffer over the tile floor, then followed that with mopping. It was a dreadful chore especially after being displaced all day but it would have hard for me to complain as I'm sure the mechanic didn't want to be there any more than I wanted him there.

Most of Cumberland International's diesel work is done on trucks though they do motorhome engine repairs too.
Their motorhome business won't grow without hookups and some overnight parking spaces though, I'm afraid.
When the engine work was finished, we stopped by American Tire in Murfreesboro for an all around tire check.
Wayne keeps a close watch on the tires and will replace them before next summer's travel. For for now, we are officially Good to Go!
Over the second weekend in Smyrna, we got in a Sunday afternoon visit with both sons but didn't get to play golf with them as we had hoped. Wayne and I did play a single, 9-hole round the first week while we enjoyed some unseasonable pleasant daytime temperatures. That was a great bonus as summer in the south can be brutal. 

A day for cleaning golf equipment.
Lexie and Ozzie enjoy exploring the truck bed.

While at Nashville I-24 Campground, we discovered a new favorite site and relocated into it. It has a bit more shade and privacy than the ones we usually reserve. Good for summer!

Lexie and Ozzie like being at Nashville I-24 Campground as they get to play with Molly, Donna's dog and they have the run of the office and small apartment. Donna and I plan "play dates" for them while we visit.

Lexie and Ozzie also gets gobs of treats when they visit Donna and Molly.....

Molly and Ozzie taking treats.
Lexie is too afraid to come close.

One final photograph at Nashville I-24 Campground. I took this one late in the afternoon of our last day there. It's a favorite of mine although Donna doesn't like that I'm posting it. She'll get over it.

Donna with (Left to right) Molly, Lexie and Ozzie.
We were in Smyrna a total of 15 days. On Friday, August 14th we broke camp and traveled to New Market, Alabama to be with my sister-in-law and twin nieces to celebrate what would have been my brother's 65th birthday and the twin nieces' 39th birthday -- on Aug 15 and 13th respectively.