Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rio Grande ~ Old Town ~ Albuquerque, New Mexico

We arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico on our Cross Country RV adventure on a beautiful sunny day and noticed that the city sure has grown since we were here last. The metropolitan population today is 845,000 (522,000 city) and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Albuquerque is roughly half of the population of all of New Mexico. When we were here last, the population was about 385,000. That trip we didn’t stay but drove thru to Santa Fe for overnite.

Welcome to Old Town Albuquerque, NM
My memory is not always the greatest, but some things one just doesn’t forget.  There was a visit to Old Town Albuquerque on my list for a very long time so we made sure to see it on this visit.  The day was overcast for our visit in Old Town and it is also not a high tourist season at this time so we could wander in and out of several shops without crowds.  We were impressed with many artisans products and enjoyed the cultural treat.

Old Town ~ La Placita
Old Town was founded in 1706 so that explains the age of some of these buildings. They’re definitely old but much has been done to maintain the ambience of La Placita, meaning ‘little plaza’ in Spanish. This typical La Placita was built with buildings, homes and churches surrounding it and still stands that way today. It was 1846 when they raised the flag of the USA over the plaza, which then became the site of a major military outpost.

Mucho red chili peppers
Red chili peppers are a common decorating item in the southwest area and this storefront was one of my favorite displays to see. There are hanging bundles or shapes for centerpieces and wreaths using the red peppers, decorated with raffia. Other colors are used, too, but red is most common and has the best impact. The bright, beautiful and decorative peppers are bred solely for ornamental purposes and valued for their looks, not their flavor.

Street vendors sell their wares in Old Town Albuquerque, NM
Many vendors lay out their wares daily on the sidewalk under the overhang shown in this picture. They will be there, no matter what the weather is like selling mainly jewelry. We saw the same in Santa Fe all those years ago and it was the very coldest of winter but they were there, all bundled up to sell their wares.  Some things remain the same over the years.

El cafe is one of many in Old Town
The railway arrived here in 1880 and located east of town so Old Town ceased to be the hub of downtown Albuquerque but did continue to be a vital part as town center. It is still a major commercial area and a tourist attraction, as well.

The San Felipe de Neri Church
The San Felipe de Neri Church has continuously served as a House of Prayer for 200 years. They’re now in the process of restoring and preserving this landmark, an effort that is expected to take several years to complete.  The name on the building is Sister Blandina Convent, so must have served as that as well at some point.

The vibrant autumn leaves on the Rio Grande river path
The fall leaves are showing off their best right now and as we’d driven over the river in the sunshine, I saw a great photo op. and I was determined to get it. There is no stopping on the bridge, which is on the freeway so we had to try and find a way to the river, without a map, and lots of driving and walking. We did find a place to follow a path and the trees along the path were so colorful but still didn’t give me that ‘photo’ I was after.

Viaduct near Rio Grande in Albuquerque, NM
On one of our epic walks to reach the river, we had parked in a schoolyard and were apparently trespassing when we were at this spot. Another 10 feet and we were in a state park and safe again! I was not giving up on finding a place to get to the river for pictures but thought if I couldn’t get there, I would at least have pictures of trees and water!

Rio Grande River near in State Park
This turned out to be the best I could do and it wasn’t the photo I was hoping for. The river is lined by the colorful trees for miles and a sight to see. Now if I could just get a helicopter for an aerial shot………… ! The Rio Grande River is the fifth longest river in North America at 3,034 km (1885 mi.) and was designated as one of American Heritage Rivers in 1997. The natural flow is only 1/20th the volume of the Colorado River or 1/100 of the Mississippi River so is barely navigable at all, except for small fishing boats.

Snow covered Sandia Mountains border Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque, New Mexico has an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, but we happened to manage being there for one of the other 65 days ! The city is one of the highest of any major city in the USA with an elevation of 1490 m. (4900 ft) at the river to 1940 m. (6700 ft) in the residential foothills. The morning we left had started out very foggy and visibility was poor, but by the time we left the fog was lifting and when it did we were able to see a very surprising sight, it had snowed overnite and left a dusting on the Sandia Mountains east of the city.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nashville ~ Grande Ole Opry ~ Ryman Auditorium ~ Parthenon in Tennessee

We love rving but one of the challenges is driving in strange large cities with many freeways and not getting onto the wrong one in rush hour. Nashville, Tn has a population of 626,144 but the metropolitan population, which includes all the counties, is 1,550, 733 so that makes for a large center but we had no problems getting around and with all those freeways, the traffic flows well and easy.

We wanted to spend a couple of days in Nashville, Tennessee but had no plans of what we would see and do while we were there. We’d booked our RV park, which was a few miles north of the city and once settled in we would make a plan. All we knew was that we would have to see Nashville and the rest would just happen, much like the rest of our RV adventure!

Grande Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee

One could never come to this city without going to the Grand Ole Opry They have performances on four nights of the week, so we were lucky to find out in time that our first night there was the only night of our visit there was going to be a performance. Be sure to check that out if you’re going to Nashville, by visiting their webpage. You do not want to miss that experience.
We booked tickets on the phone and were able to catch a shuttle from the RV park, so that made this very easy, especially for our first evening before we’d found our way around the city. The shuttle was late picking us up due to heavy traffic so we were not able to look around before the show but went back the next day to take pictures. We are country fans but were not necessarily fans of the old country style but we found they have integrated both old and new so that the show was great and covered several decades of country music. Several artists are featured each night but sing only a few songs each so the show moves quickly.

Legendary Stage inside Grande Ole Opry

There is a five foot circle inlaid into the stage floor that was cut from the original Ryman auditorium floor and that is obviously a place of honor to stand. Some performers are long time Opry members and are wonderful to see in person after listening to them for years, the young singers are gracious and express their thanks for being able to perform on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. It was great to be here and feel the spirit.

The Grande Ole Opry is broadcast four times a week on radio and is the oldest continuous radio program in the US. It has been ongoing since the first broadcast October 5, 1925. It is now also televised on Saturday nights.

Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

The Ryman Auditorium was originally built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by Thomas Ryman. The story goes that when Ryman was 15 yrs old his father died and left him as the owner of a saloon. Within a short time, he had built his business to include 15 saloons as well as other businesses of the day that were not approved of by many. He built the Tabernacle to put himself in good standings with those people. It was renamed after him following his death in 1904.

Restored staircase in lobby of Ryman Auditorium

The stories we heard about the backstage and the stars of days gone by were great. Johnny Cash and June Carter were here, and there are windows donated by Johnny Cash  in order to be back in good standing with the Opry. They had very strict rules about a couple of things and one was that you could not be late for your performance, and there was no swearing or using cuss words allowed and they stuck to those rules with few exceptions. I wish could tell you more but I suggest you take that walking tour on your visit to Nashville and hear all those stories.

Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl

Minnie Pearl was one of the original Grande Ole Opry members, from 1940 until she died in 1996. Her name was Sarah Cannon but she built her icon act of Minnie Pearl to have wide recognition and when she was offstage, she corrected those that called her Minnie, her name was Sarah ! She’d gotten her theater major then taught dance and also became a drama coach previous to her Grande Ole Opry career. Her own personal battle with cancer caused her to become an advocate for cancer research and education and she willed her estate to benefit the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center when she passed away.

Ryman Auditorium Center Stage

The Ryman Auditorium was used for the Grande Ole Opry during the years 1943 to 1974 but once the Opry moved to the present facility, the Ryman sat vacant and fell into disrepair. Emmylou Harris performed several concerts there and created a renewed interest in the building and due to that, it was reopened in 1994. There are pews as seats so it is often called “The Mother Church of Country Music”.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway

We bought a ticket for a walking tour of downtown Nashville and had a great tour guide who told us lots of stories from behind the scenes of the music industry. It was great to hear some history and in such a fun way. Tootsies Orchid Lounge was and still is a very famous bar that features beginners in the country music scene. The interior has not changed in many years and has pictures of many very familiar famous faces of those that have performed there over the years. Many interesting stories about this place.

Broadway Street, downtown Nashville, Tn

Many of these buildings have a history related to the days of old. The printing business is one of the founding businesses of Nashville and there is one that has been making posters for the famous for many years and still work with the same system of all those years ago.

Nashville High School

The neoclassical architecture in Nashville added some very interesting buildings, altho I don't know if that fits the description of the school to those that know the difference. Whatever the style of design is, it certainly is a commanding figure sitting near the center of town where some famous names such as Dinah Shore graduated high school from. Nashville is the home of 24 post-secondary educational institutions, colleges and universities. Education is one of the top industries of Nashville.

The Parthenon Nashville

The Parthenon Nashville is a full scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. A temporary structure was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, which had been influenced by the fact that Nashville had been called the “Athens of the South”. The original was built of plaster, wood and brick as it wasn’t intended to be a permanent structure but was not demolished at the time. It was rebuilt on the same foundation in concrete in a project that started in 1920, the exterior was finished in 1925 and the interior was finished in 1931. It is used today as an art gallery.

Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park

The Pathway of History is a marble wall that extends 1400 ft (427 m) and covers a 200 year time line about the state’s history. It was built in the Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park across from the State capital building and is remarkable to see. At the one end of the park, it is filled with pillars with chimes in them that play on the hour ever hour. One of the songs played is the Tennessee Waltz. So pretty to hear. 
Nashville has much to offer and is a very diversified city to enjoy.  The welcome mat is always out there and nowhere will you find friendlier people.  Come and visit, you will enjoy it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Atlanta, Georgia ~ Chattanooga ~ Crossville, Tennessee

We drove through Atlanta, Georgia on a wet and dreary day but there was one bright spot during the day and that was the Georgia State Capital building. We were busy concentrating on the changing freeways, which can be challenging while pulling a long RV, anytime but especially in busy times when not everyone is willing to let you change lanes when necessary. I would even say that ‘no one’ is willing to give you the space. They will even race up to pass rather than let us move over, but I digress, I saw the gold dome almost shining like a beacon up ahead as we made our way to the RV park just north of the city.

Atlanta, Georgia

The 75’ diameter gold-leave dome was first gilded with 43 oz. of gold from the Georgia mountains in 1958. It has been touched up twice since then in order to retain the shine. The 22.5’ female copper figurine topping the dome is holding a torch and sword and weighs 1,250 lbs. It would have been amazing to get a closer look as well as an inside look but sightseeing in the city while still towing the fifth wheel isn’t recommended, nor is it wise to ask the driver to look at the sights while he is battling the traffic on a busy freeway !

The next morning was a sunny one and we headed north to continue on our way to Tennessee. We followed I 75 N and would pass through Chattanooga, Tn on our way to Crossville, where we would spend a couple of days. We stopped at the travel info center on the south end of Chattanooga (I love that name), to get maps of the state and information that might be interesting. You usually need to ask for the state map and their tourist book at the desk. They’re very willing to give them to you, but at most info centers on our travels you won’t usually find them on display with advertising brochures.

Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tennessee

We then get back onto the freeway to carry on. It looked so easy on the map but as it turned out, the signs didn’t direct us onto the right access to the road we wanted. We wanted to take the secondary highway and not the mountain pass, but rather than make a third attempt to get onto that road….. we decided we would take that scenic mountain route and enjoy the drive ! Therefore, I only got one picture of Chattanooga, too busy reading the map and trying to navigate to get more !

Valley view in Tennessee

Our drive up Hwy 27, getting to Hwy 127 was a winding but scenic drive up through the mountain pass and we enjoyed seeing the small communities on this fall day. The leaves had started to turn and gave some pretty scenes on this sunny drive.

Colorful viewpoint on Highway 27

We pulled over on the only viewpoint we found to stop for lunch and enjoy the view. Traffic was very light thru here and only the few locals would use this road. It would have been the only highway at one point before the freeways were built and was still in good repair. We do enjoy taking the roads less travelled at times and this one was a good choice, albeit not intentional.
We passed through Dunlap, Tn and almost every business in that town had decorated for the season. Even government buildings will have pumpkins, bales of hay, straw people and other autumn and Hallowe’en decorations, it is great fun to see.

Breckinridge Lake in Tennessee

We arrived at our destination late afternoon and once set up at our RV park, we drove through the countryside getting familiar with the location and enjoying the Tennessee countryside. It was a peaceful place to be.

Cumberland County Courthouse in Crossville, Tennessee

Crossville, Tennessee is 110 km (70 mi) north of Chattanooga and is centered around two major federal highways, which implies it was named for it’s location. It sits atop the Cumberland Plateau with an elevation of 565 m (1854 ft) and a population of 11,498.
Cumberland County was formed in 1856 and with Crossville being nearest the center of the county was chosen as the state seat. The city was incorporated in 1901 and still has an old downtown core but has spread out to include a large commercial center that brings in a lot of traffic from outlying areas.

Heritage Mural in Crossville, Tennessee

This Heritage Mural was painted by Katie Yamasaki of Brooklyn, NY. The wall was donated and although the information I found doesn’t say how long it took her to complete the mural, it would have taken quite awhile to do it. The mural is 73’ long x 19’ high and is bits of history told by many of the locals Katie got to know on her visit and includes bits of many people living there today. It is a great tribute to the history of Crossville and apparently has begun a trend of upgrading the buildings in the area.

Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee State Park

Fall Creek Falls State Park is more than 20,000 acres of what is said to be the “most scenic and spectacular outdoor recreation area in America”. This is Fall Creek Falls and drops 78 meters (256 ft) and is the highest in eastern United States. We were told the width varies from year to year and has been much wider or narrower than this other years.

Interesting rock formations on Cane Creek

We spent several hours in the park following the paved roads and stopping at several places with a viewpoint or another photo opportunity. This was a pretty place with a wide spot in Cane Creek that gave great reflections of the interesting rock formations.

Cane Creek Falls in Fall Creek Falls State Park

There are other falls in the park, this one is Cane Creek Falls, and there is also Piney Falls as well as Cane Creek Cascades. We walked down the staircase for viewing of the falls and then down rock steps to get down to the bottom of Cane Creek Falls. There were several other people down there enjoying the sound and the view as well.

Reflections in Cane Creek

On a sunny autumn day many miles away from any large center, we found there to be a lot of people enjoying the Fall Creek Falls State Park. The leaves were turning and that may have been the big attraction but we were surprised at the numbers. All, young and old were there to enjoy the peace and the beauty.

The Historic Homesteads Tower Museum

The tower was constructed in 1937-38 as the government administrative offices of the Cumberland Homesteads. The homesteading program was part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression.
The octagonal stone tower holds a water tank and a stairway leading to a lookout platform at the top. Most of the original 252 homesteads can be seen from here. . Visitors may climb the stairs, all 97 of them to the lookout platform to enjoy the view from the top. The building was opened as a museum in 1984, with the four rooms housing a gift store and museum displays, many of which come from Homesteader families.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Georgia ~ Savannah History, Forsyth Park, Haitian Monument and Spanish Moss

I have always wanted to visit Savannah, Georgia. The pictures we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard have always made it look and sound like a beautiful place to be. And it is all that and more.

 We started at the Visitor Center at the Savannah History Museum and the Roundhouse Railroad Museum to get a feel of the history behind the city.

We bought ourselves a ticket on one of the sightseeing tour trolleys. The windows roll up to give us a great view and our driver/guide is full of information to share.

The historic part of the city isn’t large but the 90 minute tour was definitely the very least to take for getting some of the history of the area. I am sure that our guide knew the date of every house built in that city, well almost all. She was a wealth of information and also did a great job of driving us thru the busy streets, which to me was a fine feat.

Oglethorpe St. with moss dripping off the trees
The first street of the Historic section is Oglethorpe Street. It immediately takes me somewhere that warms the heart. The Spanish moss hangs from the trees and creates a storybook look to the tree lined streets. I feel like I have been taken back in time.

Savannah Square ~ Jewel of the City
There are Squares every couple of blocks that are referred to as “Jewels of the city”, and that they are. They are filled with trees so large that it only takes a few trees to cover the complete square. Some of the squares have a fountain, but most have a statue of a prominent person of the past. Their stories are told by our guide as she slowly weaves her way thru the traffic and around the square. Imagine being able to look out your window at this every day.

Historic District Street ~ Savannah, Georgia
The districts are separated only if you notice the difference between the era they were built. We are treated to seeing the Historic, Victorian and Colonial districts. There are distinct differences and time of construction and it’s very interesting to hear the stories behind the era.

The fountain in Forsyth Park was beautiful to see
Forsyth Park was much larger than the squares we were seeing and once we were done the tour, we walked back to the park. The original fountain was restored in memory of an early mayor and his wife by their children in 1961. The fountain is so beautiful and with the walk leading up to it, it is a picture to remember. I just had to go back to get a good one to keep. I only wish I could do that beautiful fountain justice but at least you see what we saw.

A front step to enjoy in Savannah, Georgia

Wrought Iron Railings ~ Savannah, Georgia
We carried on our way and I was able to get pictures of more homes, many with wrought iron railings and trim. Most of the places we saw were not commercial but residential. It is mandatory that the homes be kept in their original historical style and if anything new is built, it must stay within the same style so that it really makes you feel you have gone back in time, especially when you’re hearing the horse-drawn buggies clip-clopping down the street.

Haitian Monument ~ Savannah
We then walked down to the City Market to take some pictures of one very important monument that is built nearby in Franklin Square. The Haitian Monument honors the largest unit of soldiers of African descent who fought in the American Revolution and were from Haiti. I wanted to take these pictures to honor some very special people who now work tirelessly to help the people of Haiti today, our friends at Starthrower Foundation.

Surrey with fringe on top
There are several ways to tour the city but the most romantic would be to ride in the horse and carriage.  They are waiting to give you a tour and help you enjoy the experience like they would have years ago.

Historic bell ~ Fire Hall in Savannah
This historic bell stands in front of the Firehall and would ring to call the firemen together. It still stands in a place of honor. 

Savannah Waving Girl Statue

Savannah Waving Girl Statue has a very interesting story behind it. Florence Martus was a young girl who would stand and wave at her brother who worked across the water at one of the lighthouses. She never stopped doing it, although her brother was no longer there, but spent the rest of her life waving daily at the ships that would pass thru the area.

Now, sadly, it is time for us to leave Savannah. No one standing out there waving at us but we’re on our way to another RV adventure, but first check out another part of our Savannah visit at


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Charleston to Savannah, Georgia

Charleston to Savannah, Georgia

It is not a secret that we love rv’ing but there are trials and tribulations that come along with all that fun. We’d left New Burn, N. C. on a very pretty sunny day and were planning on getting into Savannah, Georgia for our next stop. There had been some rain and heavy cloud during the last few days so we were pretty excited about spending time in the sunshine, after all, we were in the sunny South.

The Ravenel Bridge over the Copper River

We hadn’t planned on staying in Charleston, Georgia but we did stop for a late lunch there, enjoying the sun before carrying on for a couple more hours to Savannah.
There is a lot of traffic on the freeways there, it is a very busy place and we were about 20 minutes from lunch when Keith saw smoke coming from the rear RV wheel and made a quick stop under the underpass of another busy freeway. There is no fire, thankfully but he believes it is a wheel bearing. We can do nothing about it so call our trusty travel insurance, and after a lengthy conversation with a couple of people we have help on the way. We wait beside a very busy freeway, unable to enjoy that sunshine.

Help did arrive after waiting almost 3 hours since we’d stopped. Then it was too late to get a replacement part so our serviceman helped us move the truck and RV down the road and we spent our nite at the local Rest Stop ! It was a nice place if we had to be stranded overnite in a rest stop, but not how we’d planned on spending a beautiful sunny day and evening in Georgia ! The serviceman arrived early the next day with the new parts and had us on the road by mid rainy morning. And it rained so heavy all the way to Savannah !

Gathering place for the swan family
When we arrived at the park, it was filled with lots of puddles but we managed to get a spot with a small puddle and were looking out at a lake within the park that was filled with several kinds of birds, ducks and swans. What a treat that was, rain or shine.

Trees adorned with egrets
The egrets fill the trees across the lake for their evening rest.  They are not a small bird and are 94-104 cm (37"-41") tall so this would give you a better idea how amazing this picture was to see in real life.

Young swan family

The swans swam within a group which appears to be the mom with her growing babies. The egrets are so graceful to watch fly but it isn’t easy getting that picture. I sat out under the large pine trees at the lake’s edge waiting but never got one to share. The ducks swim up looking for dinner when they see someone near.

The Great Egret stands quietly on shore

The large white heron we saw is called the Great Egret. They’re found around the world but not something we see much of in Canada. They’re the same family as the Great Blue Heron, which we do see more of in Canada, but are smaller. The Great Egret used to be called the American Egret but that has changed because the range extends beyond the Americas and farther than other herons.

Waiting for the lake to clear

Early morning shows steam rising off the lake. The egret sit lakeside watching for the early fish for their morning feed.  They're so graceful as they take flight but that was the elusive picture of the day.

Early morning sunrise in Savannah, Georgia

The RV park is quite a natural setting and the lake adds much to that, or maybe the RV park’s natural setting adds much to the lake. Either way, it is very nice to watch the birds that we wouldn’t normally see, and in such big numbers, carry on their wildlife ways.

Early morning swim

The swans were very comfortable in spite of all the visitors enjoying them.  They're well fed and seem to have blended well with the other birds of the area and  Mr. & Mrs. Swan are raising a beautiful family.

Click on this link and see what other gems we saw on our visit in Savannah, Georgia.


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