Saturday, 9 November 2013

Catchup part five - Leaving Washington

On Friday morning we started out for home and left our Crystal City hotel about eight thirty.

So that we could take in a few different sights on the way home, we did not return via our outward route and instead headed west on route 66 for a while before taking the i81 south.

Our route took us down the Shenandoah Valley between the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

The Blue Ridge Mountians of Virginia, I still could not get that song out of my head.
We drove past Harrisonburg, named after Thomas Harrison and early settler c1737, and Lexington.  Lexington has a museum in the house that once belonged to Stonewall Jackson, who is buried in the city, Robert E. Lee is also buried there.  We passed Staunton, which also has a long history.  Founded in 1747, it was once the capital of the British territories of that part of America and was named after the British Governor's wife, Lady Rebecca Staunton. 

Driving through Virginia

We took a Subway lunch stop at Roanoke that was founded in 1852. This city was originally known as 'Big Lick' because of a large natural salt lick that attracted wildlife to the area. Later it was renamed Roanoke, which is said to be the Native American name for shell money, a currency used by some of the local tribes in the area. Roanoke is one of the larger cities in Virginia and has a population approaching one hundred thousand. Notable for being the birthplace of Mark Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. Its major role in the USA is commerce and transport.

Roanoke c 1920s.  How is that for a high street crossroads

It has some museums worth a visit, but we were on a tight schedule and the weather was closing in again and we did not stop after eating.

We travelled on along the i81 for another 140 miles or so, passing Bristol and on into Tennessee.  Bristol, named after the city of Bristol in the UK, has a curious geography in as much as driving one way down State Street, you are in Virginia, but driving in the opposite direction you are in Tennessee, since the state line passes down the centre of the street.

From there we continued on the i81 for another hundred and thirteen miles or so to our stop for the night at Knoxville.  On the way we passed by the turn off to Morristown, a name that has meaning to me. (My name is not really Snafu)  That route heads northwards to Kentucky and passes through the Cumberland Gap, a place name made famous to us wrinklies, who may recall it from a popular song from our younger days.

In Knoxville there is still a remnant of the 1982 World Fair, looking for all the world like a giant Van de Graff generator.  It is the Sunsphere, a tower topped by a golden ball.  It serves no practical propose but is a great landmark.

Knoxville has a violent history. First the Anglo French war fought across this area, followed by the War of Independence and finally the American Civil War. The Knoxville area was largely Cherokee territory and when settlers started to arrive, it took a while for peace to be negotiated between them. During the American Civil War Knoxville was occupied by both sides at different times and suffered a lot of damage. Oblivious to all of this, we arrived at our hotel there and after checking in, went for a meal at the nearest Cracker Barrel.

Cracker Barrel restaurants are always worth visiting if you are looking for something to eat in that part of the world. They seem to be found only in the Southern States and the food is well worth travelling out of your way to find one. They are built along the lines of a traditional nineteenth century general store, which you have to go through to get into the restaurant. It is a real store, but does not stock all the things you will see in a John Wayne type of movie, but nowadays has candy and souvenirs.

The next day we headed off along the i40 to Nashville. Nashville is the Tennessee state capitol and has a population of over a million. It is known for its music industry, but what we (TBH and I) did not know was that the city had a full sized accurate reconstruction of the Parthenon. It is used as an art gallery and contains a full sized reproduction of the statue of the goddess Athena.

The reproduction Parthenon

The huge statue of Athena more than thirty foot high

Her shield is a work of art all by itself.
The rear of the shield

All this because Nashville describes itself as the Athens of the South. We had a short stop and walked around the Parthenon, visited the gallery and then continued on towards Jackson.

As I mentioned earlier, the weather was deteriorating fast as another wave of storms swept across from the West. As we approached the Tennessee River the heavens opened when we hit the edge of the band of storms heading East. The rain was so heavy we were forced to stop and sat in a small car park until reasonable visibility returned.
Heavy rain and near zero visibility
Checking the weather on the iphone.  The green band is the belt of storms we have to drive through. Fortunately it did not include tornados that day.
The rain lasted until Jackson where we stopped for the night. Jackson was founded around 1820 and originally named Alexandria, but had its name changed to Jackson in honour of President Andrew Jackson, a local hero of the War of independence and later President of the USA.
 In Jackson is the grave of the engine driver Casey Jones, who was born there.  He achieved fame by staying on his train to operate the brakes and was able to reduce the speed of a crash and so save all the other lives aboard except his own. This heroic action turned him into an American legend and songs and movies and even TV shows have been made about him or characters based on him reinforcing the legend.   Born Jonathan Luther Jones, he became known as 'Casey' Jones because he lived in Cayce Tennessee most of his childhood and there is a monument to him there.

The next morning it was sunny and we drove on through Memphis.  Memphis is named after the capital of ancient Egypt and is famous for producing many big music stars, such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.  Smaller than Nashville, it is probably more famous as a result.  Memphis has a very modern sports arena that we passed on the way through and seems to stick with the ancient Egyptian theme.

There was still plenty of standing water and we saw a lot of floods around the Mississippi
 At Memphis, we crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas.

The Mississippi River
It has long puzzled me as to why Kansas is pronounced Kan-zas but ArKansas is pronounced Ark-en-saw, when it should be Ark-Kan-zas, but there you go, Towcester in the UK is pronounced Toast-er and the river Thames is pronounced Temms, not Thame-es; people are crazy.
In Arkansas, we headed north west for Jonesboro, passing through very flat countryside, with alternately flooded fields from the heavy rain the day before and what turned out to be rice paddies. Apparently that area produces about forty per cent of all of America’s rice production. Something I always associated with the far East, not the USA.
A flooded field, or maybe a rice paddy, probably both.  There had been a lot of rain.
Jonesboro, founded around 1819, was named after the senator William A. Jones and was originally spelled Jonesborough.  Whilst being a fairly large city in Arkansas, it seems to have avoided much of the turmoil of the more eastern cities and has very little history.
This was the last day of the journey home and we crossed back into Missouri on route 63 and through West Plains heading north west and passing the Mark Twain National Forest.  An area that was created to conserve American woodland and named after one of Missouri's most famous inhabitants.
Roadkill around here was either turtles or armadillo, not hedgehogs like we get at home. I have come across this before in Texas, but of course the armadillos were larger there.

Not a sign you see much in Wiltshire. There was an Amish community near here.
We stopped for lunch at Mountain Grove and then headed for yet another Springfield. Springfield Missouri is on the old Route 66 highway and claims to be its birthplace. In 1926, the president of the US Highway 66 Association came from Springfield MO and this group planned for, and succeeded in making route 66 the first completely paved highway from end to end. Another claim to fame for this Springfield is that it is where Wild Bill Hickok had his first quick draw shootout with the unfortunate Davis Tutt, launching Wild Bill’s reputation as a gunfighter. From Springfield we returned to Kansas City and so the final leg back to TS’s home and the end of our Washington DC trip.

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating tour, snafu. If you ever decided to come out of retirement, you would make a great tour guide. It's awesome that you have created some wonderful memories for you and TBH