Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Beautiful Tennessee - Friends and Family

Friday – August 26….Beautiful Tennessee – lovely rolling hills, gorgeous lush green lawns and shady trees and HOTTER than blue blazes!  Gracious, I don’t know what happened to the good weather!  We’ve been so blessed to have beautiful temperatures until yesterday, and I feel like I skipped all the rest of the trip and jumped right back to Florida!

We are staying at Nashville East/Lebanon KOA ($38 a night if you’re following our RV info). Pretty typical KOA – very nice but nothing particularly memorable. Way too hot to sit out and enjoy reading so we relaxed inside until time to go meet "my other daughter" Wendy, Glenn and Phoenix and family. For those who don't know, Wendy is the daughter of my best friend, Sheila and Orlan Thomas and let me just say, the four of us raised our six kids together. haha

Saturday - super excited about our plans for the day, although we are packing it in for a BIG day today as it's our only time to do this since we're leaving in the morning.  

I am reading a series of books by Tamera Alexander that are just fascinating. I was so ready for some light reading after reading several espionage/spy/terrorist type plots. These fit the bill, and it's been a long time since I've read just light, enjoyable historical fiction. Sheila recommended them to me one afternoon when we were talking on the phone about books we were reading, so I quickly ordered from Amazon on my Kindle and I was captivated by the first page. There are two series, the Belmont Mansion series that I've finished (until the 3rd book comes out in January) and the Belle Meade Plantation series that I'm about half way through the first book. Both these series are based on the postbellum world of Nashville, TN.

Though I knew the author lived in Nashville and the books were based on the area, I hadn't really thought about the specific properties being here until we checked into our RV park and in our info which they always give with details about what to see in the area, the mansions were mentioned and I KNEW I wanted to see them, so Earl graciously went along with me. The first on our tour was the Belle Meade Plantation. If you're not interested in this type stuff, feel free to scroll way on down....I'm doing this primarily for Sheila and for my own memories.

This was in the lobby of the gift shop entry where we had to go to purchase our tickets.

Sheila, this is the house it talks about in the book where William Giles Harding was born, long before he built the plantation home. When you start this series, these pictures will just pop into your mind while reading. Belmont Mansion is next, and I know you've already read those.

There are many outbuildings, although most of them are gone now, just a few are a strong reminder of what life was like in the south, with much of the story not only about the owners, but on the former slaves and the author used their real names and the positions they held at Belle Meade.  

 During the nineteenth century Tennessee dominated the thoroughbred racing industry in the United States, with Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville serving as the preeminent stud farm in the nation. Does the name Secretariat sound familiar? What about Seattle Slew? These champion thoroughbreds and countless others all trace their lineage to this estate. At its peak there were 5,600 acres!

Unfortunately we were requested NOT to take photos inside the mansion which was disappointing, but our tour was large enough and others going on as well that I wasn't even able to sneak a few.... but here's a few more of the outside areas.

 Sitting on the front porch awaiting our tour guide.....
 This was our first guide, who then passed us off to a different guide for every section of the house. Quite a lengthy tour and I'm disappointed to not have photos of the interior of the mansion.
I took this photo just prior to her telling us we were not allowed to take photos.  haha

Immediately after touring Belle Meade, we then drove over to Belmont Mansion (talk about mansion overload - I can't believe how patient Earl was to go through all this for me. I guess he loves me!
Sheila, you will love these since you've already read these books. The mansion sat on a lavishly decorated estate including gardens and statues. Both pairs of cast iron lions at the entry are original. 

Belmont (meaning beautiful moutain) originally consisted of 177 acres and numerous outbuildings including a water tower (circa 1857, 105' tall, providing irrigation to the extensive gardens and fountains), aviary and gazebos (several are still standing), as well as an ice house, conservatory, art gallery, bowling alley, bath house, and zoo.

Adelicia considered it a disgrace that Nashville had no public park, so she opened the grounds to the public as a private "Acklen Park, however she closed the grounds on Sundays so visitors would be encouraged to attend church, like she did.

Union troops cut all of the trees and shrubs during their occupation prior to the Battle of Nashville, but Adelicia had the gardens restored in 1866.

The limestone walk in front of the mansion is original and was lined with boxwoods, candytuft, and red geraniums.

Sheila, remember in the first (or maybe the second book?) it talks about the statues in the entrance to the home - this one below is the first 2, I believe of 6 children, Adelicia Acklen lost. Their names are engraved on the base.

We were waiting in the foyer for our guide so I snapped these before she too, said we were not allowed to take photos. I asked why and there was some reason about flash photography harming the contents of the house (whaaaat?) At any rate, my phone doesn't do the flash so I knew it wouldn't hurt anything, so Earl often kept her occupied with questions while I sneaked a few photos.  haha The things I do for you, Sheila!!!
You have to actually stand in this room to realize the enormity of size! Easy to see how she held grand events for up to 1000 people!

I was amazed at how MANY dining areas are in the mansion! Why on earth so many places to eat?

There is an extensive collection of art and objects throughout the mansion, many of which were purchased in Paris, on the many trips Adelicia made there.

The photo below is of the main dining room where parties were held, typically around 8:00 at night and seldom ever ending prior to midnight.
It was interesting to find out that no matter the number of bedrooms in the house, the boys slept in the same room.

The original 177 acres is largely now occupied by Belmont University, originally a school for girls, but is now a Christian co-ed University.  While I anticipated seeing the grounds as I envisioned them in my head, it was rather jarring to look out windows and instead of expanses of lawn with all the buildings described in the books, to see just beyond windows - another huge building! But estates like that died with the past eras of southern living.
This is the bedroom shared by Adelicia and each of her 3 husbands prior to their deaths.
This is the adjacent nursery. Talk about an example of the PAST, the pallet found at the end of the bed was for the slave who was like a nanny to the children. I found this very disturbing to see such a tangible reminder of the times. After the war, and the slaves were emancipated, many chose to stay on in paid positions, because they were treated very well by Adelicia and her family.

This is the staircase that led up to the cupola where Adelicia had a telescope where guests could go up and view the stars. Since her parties seldom ended before midnight, it was very common for guests to just stay over in the many bedrooms in the mansion.

I hope those of you who read this who have no interest in mansions and story books will forgive my indulgence with all the photos here....Sheila, next best thing to taking you with me was imagining your seeing these and knowing exactly what they all represent from the vivid scenes from the books.

We left the mansion with very little time left but to rush to meet our dear friend from Eustis, who now lives in Nashville, Martha Shaw. We missed seeing Rick, but loved our short time spent with Martha. We came to Nashville on purpose in order for us to visit Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet. If you follow me on FB, you'll have seen several posts I've shared from Pastor Greg Locke whose boldness I greatly admire. What a surprise to find out that's where Rick and Martha go to church! Cool! So Martha went with us for the Sat. night service although they usually go on Sundays.
Oh I almost forgot, we went to a great BBQ place for dinner, and Martha raved about the ribs, so I told her I'd just share them with her. When THIS came out, I was amazed!!! We could have easily all 3 shared and had leftovers still! Needless to say, Rick got to enjoy at least 1-2 meals from our leftovers.
And here we are with Pastor Greg Locke....what a great service. He preaches with all the energy and passion you see on his video clips!

 This was an interesting sculpture in downtown Nashville.... I have no idea of the meaning, but it caught my eye.
Whew, busiest Saturday we've had in ages! I should have had a FitBit - I bet we walked 15,000 steps! We're moving on in the morning, planning to surprise our pastor friends, Ron and Beth Allen at Living Word Church in Cookeville. Can't wait to see them.

 We left earlier than usual this morning to allow time to drive to Cookeville. The "surprise" got spoiled last night when I had asked a mutual friend if they knew if there was room behind the church for us to pull the RV and have room to drive around, as we can't back up when towing. And they texted Ron to ask him! Oh well, still fun to be there with them for worship this morning.

I could KICK myself for forgetting to take pictures of all of us together!!!  I try so hard to get photos of everyone we see and Kim Arro-Barnes took Ron and Beth and us all out to a wonderful lunch and we were just having so much fun laughing and chatting, that it totally slipped my mind until after we left! Bummer!  I did get this one shot of a painting on the side of a building in Cookeville. My favorite President!

After lunch, Kim took us back to the RV and we left for Knoxville. We arrived at the Clinton/Knoxville North KOA late afternoon and got settled in. We feel like the last 2 days was a whirlwind. And not ready to settle down yet as full plans for the next 2 days.

This is not a good picture of either of us- Brooke and I both in tears sometimes recalling the things God has done for them - but we quickly got this one just before leaving our delightful lunch. Brooke Phillips is a friend from FL who used to be one of our awesome agents at VBSR, so it was wonderful to meet with her, and hear the amazing testimony of one miracle after another God has been doing in their lives. We didn't get to see Dan or the kids, but the time we spent with Brooke was wonderful.

We got back to the RV in time to relax for about an hour before we then headed into Knoxville to meet more friends from Florida. We first were introduced to Scott and Hedie Wiens by mutual friends who referred them to me in listing and selling their big home in Umatilla. So in the process, we became fast friends and then sold them their new house down there. Now that we're retired, when they found out they were moving to Knoxville, they called Ryan and he sold their house there in 15 days. What a whirlwind for them, and we were so thrilled to see their beautiful new big brick home in Knoxville and hear all the God-stories they shared with us! We also enjoyed meeting Grant, a college friends of theirs who regaled us with funny stories of their college days.  They had a fabulous salmon dinner for us - Scott, you are the MAN! Wow, that was some good salmon! Very enjoyable evening. We left talking about how God has so blessed and enriched our lives by the wonderful friends He has given us. What a blessing!
Tuesday, we could hardly wait for Jason, Sarah and Benjamin to come over to the RV. Dana unfortunately had to work today (we'd planned especially for a Tuesday as that's typically been a day off, but she had to fill in for someone else) and Grace was in school.

We all went into downtown Clinton to explore the shops there, and have lunch at an OLD diner... Hoskins originally built in 1930 I think, and little has changed! They had built a soda fountain in the 40's and it's still original, so it was fun to step back in time and have lunch together.

Jason picked up Grace and Dana and then we met at Cheddars for dinner. Love this sweet family. So proud of every single one of them. Sad we see them so seldom, but they're coming back down in October, so we'll look forward to that!

This will be my final blog for this RV trip..... tomorrow we will begin to gradually wend our way back to FL.....taking time here and there to just relax and read and explore small towns, maybe see a couple of movies if anything is out. I doubt there will be anything particularly blog worthy.  We have to be home by the 10th to have a few days before we leave to go to Hawaii with Mark and Lisa for their 10th Anniversary. Really looking forward to that! I'll likely do one more blog after that trip and then no more till spring next year when we head out again.

So thanks for traveling with us. I am grateful for the relationships we have with all who follow our travels. Blessings and love -
Earl and Vangie