Tennessee Time (October 17 – December 27, 2018)

After our hectic summer travels, we decided to spend an extended stay in Tennessee visiting family, getting RV maintenance performed and just generally relaxing. We had scheduled our RV maintenance at our dealer’s facility in Knoxville on October 29th so we decided to spend the prior 11 days in Nashville. Since our preferred campground, Grand Ole RV Resort, was full, we spent the first four nights at Two Rivers Campground in a 30 amp pull-through site. Jason, Jarrod and Jess dropped by to visit while we were there. Phil took the truck to the Ram dealer in Mt. Juliet for some required maintenance. Since Opry Mills was only a couple of miles away, we visited it twice for shopping and dining.

On Sunday, October 21st, we moved 27 miles to Goodlettsville where we spent a week at Grand Ole RV Resort. We were able to get site #2 which is a long 50 amp pull-through site. We had spent a couple of weeks in this site in April 2018. The site is near the office and playground so there was a large open area by our door side, making it feel like we had a huge campsite.

That evening, Jason, Jarrod and Jess came by for a dinner of spaghetti, salad and Butterfinger cake. Although it was rather cool, we ate outside at our picnic table and listened to the musician who was performing on the office’s porch. We bought some firewood and, after considerable effort to get the green wood to light, we had a roaring campfire.

On Tuesday, we drove into Nashville and visited the Tennessee State Museum. Despite having no admission charge, this was a very impressive museum that provided lots of exhibits dealing with the events, good and bad, that had shaped Tennessee’s history.

On Wednesday, we met Jason, Lizzi and Amanda (Lizzi’s roommate) for dinner in Nashville at the Cheesecake Factory.

On Saturday, we met Jason, Jarrod and Jess at the Regal Cinemas at Opry Mills and watched the latest version of A Star is Born. After the movie, we headed to a nearby go-kart course where all but Phil raced go-karts. Phil’s shoulder was still hurting from the long drive from the West coast so he served as photographer.

On Sunday, we drove 204 miles to Heiskell, TN where we spent the night at Raccoon Valley RV Park. We have stayed at this Escapees park several times and, as members, get a very good rate. Since we didn’t know how long we would be at our dealer’s facility, we had reserved two nights but we ended up only staying Sunday night.

On Monday, we drove to RVs for Less in Knoxville where we ended up spending five nights parked on their lot. Fortunately, three of the major repairs (replacements of the power cord reel, water valve and vanity slide gear box) were covered by our extended warranty. In our first three years, we have already recouped more than the price we paid for the 7-year extended warranty. We also had our bearings repacked, brakes replaced and extensive caulking done to the rig. The repair of the fiberglass panel that had separated from the undercarriage turned out to be a fairly inexpensive job. The most expensive item was the replacement of all four trailer tires which had taken a beating during our Alaskan adventure. The caulking job required power-washing the trailer first so, when we left the dealership on Saturday, our rig looked much better than it had when we arrived.

On Saturday, November 3rd, we drove 20 miles to Anchor Down RV Resort near Dandridge, TN where we stayed eight nights. Anchor Down is a beautiful RV resort with outstanding vistas overlooking Douglas Lake. We had originally only reserved four nights (Sunday through Wednesday) but, after our repairs were completed on Friday at RVs for Less, we added Saturday night. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to reserve the same site so we spent Saturday night in site 152 before moving to site 125 on Sunday morning. On Sunday morning we went ahead and extended our stay for an additional three nights.

On Tuesday we drove through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to reach the 5.5 mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The road was very narrow and winding in spots, definitely not designed for our dually tires, but we managed to only clip our tires on the rocks a few times. We were not obviously the only people who decided to drive the Motor Nature Trail as the road was quite crowded. The foliage appeared to be at peak fall color, despite it being several weeks after the usual peak for fall color in the Smokies. We pulled off the road several times to enjoy the scenery. We stopped to examine the Bales homestead where Ephraim and Minerva Bales raised their nine children in a two-room cabin from about 1890 to 1930. While exploring the Bales’ barn, we encountered a flock of wild turkey.

The weather got considerably cooler and wetter for the balance of the week, causing us to limit our outdoor activities somewhat. On Sunday, November 11, we drove 145 miles to Chattanooga, TN where we spent eight nights at Raccoon Mountain Campground. We had stayed at this campground two years earlier. We had a long pull-through site on the edge of the property. The campground was largely empty for most of our stay but filled up a lot for the weekend.

The first several days and nights were extremely rainy and the ground around our site became quite saturated. Fortunately our rig and truck were parked on hard-packed gravel that kept us above the puddles.  On Wednesday the rain had largely stopped so we ventured out to downtown Chattanooga to do some shopping. We would have done more exploring but the weather was uncomfortably cold and windy.

By Thursday the weather cleared up and the temperatures rose to a more pleasant level. We decided to take a drive and headed out to the Ocoee Scenic Byway. This 26-mile byway, the nation’s first National Forest Scenic Byway, travels along the rocky bluffs of the Ocoee River Gorge. The Ocoee River attracts lots of whitewater enthusiasts and is one of the busiest rafting rivers in the world. We stopped briefly at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, home to the 1996 Olympic Canoe/Kayak Shalom competition.

On Saturday, while we were waiting for our clothes to dry in the laundry room, we hiked a portion of the campground’s hiking trail. The trail was quite steep and not particularly well-marked but it provided us with a good workout. We were sorry we had to turn back before completing the climb but we only had 40 minutes on the dryers.

On Sunday we visited the Chattanooga Market where we visited lots of booths selling a variety of foods and crafts.

On Monday, November 19th, we drove 144 miles to Goodlettsville, TN where we spent six nights at the Nashville North KOA. That evening we picked up Jason and met Jarrod and Jess for dinner at Lockeland Table. The dinner was a celebration of Jason’s 36th birthday as well as a Bon Voyage for Jarrod and Jess, who depart for their Australian adventure on Wednesday.

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On Tuesday we worked on getting our food for Thanksgiving. Given the limited cooking space in our RV, our initial idea was to order take-out from Cracker Barrel. However, when Jan called to place the order, she learned that all the local Cracker Barrels were already sold out of take-out orders. We then considered dining in at Cracker Barrel but learned that there is often a multi-hour wait to be seated there on Thanksgiving. We finally decided to get a ham from Honey-Baked Ham. We learned our lesson from this experience and will be ordering our Christmas meal well in advance.

On Wednesday we dropped Jarrod and Jess off at the Nashville airport. After a week visiting friends in Los Angeles, they were headed off for several months in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. They were kind enough to let us use their car during the balance of our stay in Nashville. After a few days of navigating our one-ton Ram dually through the narrow streets of Nashville in heavy traffic, we were very grateful to have a smaller vehicle.

On Thursday Jason came over and we celebrated Thanksgiving at home. We dined on our ham and a multitude of side dishes. Although we were all quite stuffed, we each found room for a slice of Phil’s first homemade pecan pie.

Pecan pie

On Friday night we picked up Jason and drove downtown to watch the Nashville Christmas tree lighting. Several choirs performed prior to the tree lighting and various city officials spoke. Although rain had been forecast to hold off until later that evening, it began to drizzle as the last choir performed. The actual tree lighting occurred as the rain grew harder. Fortunately we had worn our rain jackets and brought our umbrellas. After the tree lighting, we stayed downtown and went to Demos’ restaurant to celebrate Jan’s birthday.

It rained the rest of Friday night and most of Saturday. Jason came over on Saturday afternoon for a dinner of gumbo and cornbread. On Sunday afternoon we visited two Christmas craft fairs, the Fort Houston holiday market and the Vintage holiday market.

On Monday evening we went with Jason to watch the Nashville Predators play the Buffalo Sabres at Bridgestone Arena. We stopped downtown at Oscar’s Taco Shop for a quick dinner before the game. Although we were seated in the upper section of the arena, we had a good view of the ice hockey game. The Predators won 2-1. The game was very exciting and Buffalo had numerous opportunities to tie the score in the last few minutes.

On Friday, December 7th, we went to see the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium, known as the “mother church of country music.” The lineup included performances by Emmylou Harris, Toby Keith and many others. All the performers were very good. We dined at Oscar’s Taco Shop again before the show.

Upon returning home, we discovered that our furnace was not operating.  The fan was on but there was no heat.  We have the Cheap Heat system that is designed to allow us to run our furnace using electricity, rather than propane.  We had used electric heat almost exclusively for the last three years without any problems.  It appears that the thermocouple in the heating coil had burned out.  Fortunately we were able to switch over to heating with propane but this was not a condition we wanted to live with long-term, especially since the nighttime lows were in the 20s.  Phil called and arranged to get the Cheap Heat system repaired at our dealer in Knoxville on Dec. 18th.

On Saturday, Jan got together with Lori Davis for a “girls afternoon out.” They had brunch at The Sutler.

On Tuesday evening we returned to Bridgestone Arena with Jason to watch another Nashville Predators game. This time it was against the Ottawa Senators and the Predators won 3-1. Once again we dined at Oscar’s Taco Shop before the game.

On Wednesday afternoon Jan met Linda Forrest and Pam Bogle at BrickTops for lunch.  On Thursday, December 14th, Jan decorated our home for Christmas.

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That evening, we went to the Douglas Corner Café to see Levon perform. Levon is a country trio that is under contract with Sony Music’s Columbia Nashville and Epic Records. One member of the group, Ryan Holladay, is from Jan’s hometown, Camden, TN. They are outstanding musicians and harmonize beautifully.

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