Wonderful City of Knoxville
spending the previous week dealing with sweltering heat and huge crowds in the
Smoky Mountains area, I was getting pretty drained, both physically and
emotionally. Fortunately, northeastern Tennessee came to my rescue.
I had spent the past 10 days traveling all across Tennessee, but after I got to
northeastern Tennessee, I quickly decided that this area, with its lush, rolling
hills dotted with picturesque small towns, was absolutely the best part of the
I'm not a real "city person," I enjoy visiting cities during my travels and I
wanted to check out nearby Knoxville, because I'd never been there before and
knew absolutely nothing about it. I left the campground
near Sevierville and drove into Knoxville on a foggy Tuesday
morning thinking that I'd stay only a few minutes, but the sun soon emerged and
the town was so
interesting that I spent about three hours there. As I learned, Knoxville
is, among other things, the home of
the University of Tennessee, which is spread over a large campus on the banks of
the Tennessee River right near downtown, and I spent some time touring the
If you've been following this website, you also
know that Knoxville is the hometown of
winner and fellow Doritos-lover, Tina Wesson. I didn't see Tina but I ate
some Doritos in her honor, and I really enjoyed visiting her city. If I
ever moved to Tennessee, Knoxville would definitely be the place.
left: After traveling through some not-so-great cities in the South, I visited three great cities in one day: Knoxville, Greeneville,
and Jonesboro, all in eastern Tennessee. Knoxville sits on the Tennessee
River and is the home of the University of Tennessee.
center: Knoxville is a pleasant blend of the old and the new. It's
a real gem.
right: Street scene in Knoxville.
left: Knoxville reminded me of Portland, Oregon. Both cities are on a
large river with lots of interesting architecture and with sculptures
center: Hank Williams, one of the founders of country
music, died here at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in
Knoxville on New Year's Eve, 1952. He was only 29 and died of an
overdose. Hank, of course, was the father of Hank
Jr., the guy who sings "Are you ready for
some football?" on Monday nights in the fall.
right: Here's Hank Sr. (with guitar) with his wife, daughter, and
son, Hank Williams, Jr. in happier times.
miracle of modern technology, here's Hank Williams Sr.
singing with his son, who was only a little boy when his
father died. This is There's A Tear In My Beer.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
Tennessee: Ransom Myers, Andrew Johnson and Davy Crockett
My great-great-grandfather, Sergeant Ransom Myers, a one-armed courier with the 10th Michigan Cavalry.
reason I was visiting northeastern Tennessee was to retrace the steps of
my great-great-grandfather, Ransom
Myers. If you've been following my website, you may remember
that Ransom fought with the Union Army in
Corinth, Mississippi early in the war (see News:
June 30, 2001). After Corinth, he was shot in the arm in Kentucky, his arm was amputated,
and he returned to Michigan, where he could've sat out the
rest of the war. Ransom felt so strongly about the Union cause, however,
that he re-enlisted. Of course, it's pretty hard to carry a rifle with one
arm, so Ransom joined the 10th Michigan Cavalry as a mounted, one-armed courier.
of years ago, I discovered a website devoted to Michigan Civil
War history and learned that during the last two years of the war, Ransom's unit
fought in northeastern Tennessee. Thanks to the website, I learned exactly
where Ransom saw action during the war, including places with strange names that I'd never heard
of, like Strawberry Plains, Rheaville, and Chucky
Bend. It was fun to drive through northeastern Tennessee and visit these
areas, as I envisioned the
one-armed Ransom dashing across the rolling hills on horseback while carrying
messages from one unit to another.
unit, the 10th Michigan Cavalry, is probably most famous for capturing the
Confederate cavalry general, John Hunt Morgan, who led several raids throughout
the Ohio River valley during the Civil War. Unionists called Morgan
"notorious" while Southerners referred to him as a
"hero." Anyway, towards the end of the war, the 10th Michigan
and a few other units had chased Morgan all over and finally cornered him in the
town of Greeneville, Tennessee, where, during the ensuing battle, Morgan was
killed. Therefore, in following Ransom's footsteps, I decided that I too had
to visit Greeneville.
learned from a billboard as I was heading into town, Greeneville was also the
home of America's 17th President, Andrew Johnson, and I stopped at the National
Park historic site here that commemorated his life. The site is pretty
small by National Park standards, less than a city block, but it's interesting,
nonetheless, and includes Johnson's house, which is filled with interesting
displays and paintings.
Greeneville's Andrew Johnson,
President of the U.S. from 1865 to 1869.
Being the only visitor there, I talked to the
cute-'n-perky young woman ranger at the front desk for quite a while and she
told me a lot about Johnson's
life. The only thing that most people (including myself,
before I visited Greeneville) know about Andrew Johnson is that he was the only president other than Bill Clinton to be
impeached. Few people remember why Johnson was impeached, but most
Americans probably think that he must have done something bad or wrong, and
therefore probably wasn't a very good president.
discovered, though, from the cute-'n-perky ranger, Johnson was very intelligent and honest, and stood strongly for his beliefs
in the Constitution. Johnson
was an articulate self-made man who started as a tailor here in
worked his way up to the U.S. Senate where, after the outbreak of the Civil War,
he became the only southern Senator not to
resign from U.S. Congress.
Because of that, and because Lincoln wanted to help heal the wounds with the Southern
states after the war, Lincoln picked Johnson in 1864 to be his running mate. Of course, Lincoln was assassinated the next
year, just a few days after the conclusion of the war, and Johnson was thrust
unexpectedly into the Presidency.
President, and as a Southerner, Andrew Johnson didn't
believe that the South should be harshly punished after the Civil War.
This irritated many of his Northern colleagues who wanted to impose severe
restrictions and penalties on the southern states, and this dissension
ultimately led to Johnson's impeachment by the Congress. By a single vote,
however, Johnson retained the Presidency. After he finished his single
term as President, Johnson moved back to Greeneville in 1869 where he lived until
his death, six years later.
left: Greeneville, Tennessee is a pleasant town with beautiful
architecture, about an hour
northeast of Knoxville. This town was named for
Nathaniel Greene, a general during the Revolutionary War and supposedly another one of
my ancestors, even though Greene never actually visited Greeneville. You can see Greene's house in
Connecticut in News: July 20, 2001.
right: Ransom's unit captured the Confederate Cavalry General, John Hunt
Morgan in this Greeneville house in 1864
left: Here's John Hendricks, the curator of the Greeneville Museum, next to a
photo of General John Hunt Morgan. John gave me a great 30-minute tour of
center: President Andrew Johnson's home at the National Park site in Greeneville.
right: Well, at least they're honest.
left: Jonesboro is a another beautiful town in northeastern
Tennessee. Ransom Myers also fought here, as well.
center: Jonesboro is the oldest city in Tennessee, dating back to the 1700s.
It has a lot of
interesting old buildings.
right: A Jonesboro advertisement in the pre-billboard era.
left: Walt Disney lied: Davy Crockett (1786-1836) wasn't born "on a
mountaintop in Tennessee." Actually, he was born here on the banks of the
Nolichucky River. This is a replica of his cabin, at Davy
Crockett Birthplace State Park, near Greeneville.
center: The Davy Crockett memorial.
right: I always get Davy Crockett mixed up with Daniel Boone. Crockett was the
one who died at the Alamo while wearing a coonskin cap. His motto was,
"Be sure you're right, then go ahead" -- good words to live by and
one of my favorite sayings.
Here's Fess Parker and
Buddy Ebsen singing
Ballad of Davy Crockett, from the 1960s TV show. Good thing they
stuck to acting. I'm still looking for the better-known
version, sung by Bill Hayes in 1955.
RealPlayer. If problems, see
Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia
leaving Tennessee, I crossed into southwestern Virginia and stumbled across the pleasant Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area. This area is something like Great Smoky Mountains National Park
a few hours south, but it's a lot less congested. I drove into the Beartree Campground here on a Tuesday afternoon
thinking that I'd camp for a couple nights.
I've stayed at hundreds of
campgrounds in my life, mostly in the Western U.S., and I've always believed
that campgrounds in the West are generally superior than those in the more crowded eastern
half of the U.S. My smugness took a hit, though, because the Beartree Campground is,
quite honestly, one of the very nicest
that I've ever camped at. As an added bonus, it's at over 3,000 feet in elevation so
it was a lot
cooler here than down in the lowlands. The daily high temperatures here
were "only" in the 80s, compared to the 90s or low 100s down
this campground was so nice that I stretched out my visit here to four nights,
which gave me plenty of time to
caught up on my website and process some of the 3,000 digital photos which I'd
taken since leaving Bellingham a month earlier. During my stay, I also made a few forays into the pleasant nearby towns of Abingdon and
Bristol, Tennessee for supplies and fuel, and each night, back at Beartree
Campground, I fell asleep to the sound of chirping crickets and the trickling of
a nearby creek. It doesn't get much more peaceful than this.
leaving Mt. Rogers, I continued heading north for a few hours, then pulled into
Roanoke, Virginia (pop. 94,000), a bustling city that's separated
from the rest of Virginia by the Blue Ridge Mountains, making it feel more like eastern Tennessee than Virginia. Since this was a Saturday, I
had decided not to camp in a campground, which would've been pretty crowded, opting instead to head into town and
splurge for a motel room. So splurge I did, at a Motel 6. Actually,
it was a very nice Motel 6, certainly the nicest one I've ever stayed at and
more like a Holiday Inn. To top it off, I
8-piece box of fried chicken at the nearby Hardee's. A nice, air-conditioned motel room
with AC outlets to charge my laptop and a box of fried chicken... this was like
heaven. Simple man, simple dreams.
left: The peaceful Beartree Campground is one of the nicest campgrounds that I've ever
stayed at. It's in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in southern
Virginia, an area like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but without the
massive crowds. Note the power cord running from my cigarette lighter
to my laptop. I've learned on this trip never again to take AC outlets for
center: A possible candidate for "This Old House," near Abingdon, Virginia.
right: The cheapest gas that I've seen so far was in Abingdon. Gas is a lot cheaper in the South than on the West Coast,
averaging about $1.35 per gallon here, about 20 cents per gallon cheaper than
left: Traveling on the Virginia backroads in the beautiful Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
center: The New River is a misnomer. Actually, it's probably the oldest river in North America and has been
cutting through the Appalachian Mountains for millions of years. It's only
a few feet deep here in Radford, Virginia, and I could've waded across.
right: "Splurging away" at the Roanoke Motel 6.
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
U.S. Trip >
July 14, 2001