July Road Notes, Day 11: Alone in A Small Fort


July 15, 2021, Harrisonburg- Every so often, I encounter a soul who tosses out a corner of the truth, even as the greater arc of history escapes him. Such was my visit to James White’s Fort, in Knoxville, this afternoon.

I bid farewell to my stalwart friends in Crossville, around 10:30 CDT, then headed to northeast Tennessee’s cultural and commercial hub, with the intent of getting Elantra serviced, though nothing is amiss with my trusted steed, at this point. A pair of slowdowns, which were mainly pre-emptive reactions by a few commercial rigs to warnings about “construction”, (there was none in progress), added nearly an hour to the fifty-minute drive. Thus, the decision was made to wait until I get to Saugus, to have the oil & lube done. Friends in Knoxville were also not available to visit, so my stop there consisted of lunch, a walk around the Court District and a visit to the above- mentioned fort.

The Court District includes, among its amenities, a fine little establishment called Yasmin’s Kitchen. It’s a Kosher Moroccan restaurant, and the “plates” are filled with delectable Mediterranean staples, sufficient for two meals. The cheerful young ladies running the place made everyone in the busy lunch crowd feel at home. Yes, that’s what cheerful people tend to do, and it was a much-needed break from the late morning’s road grind. It also saved me from a dinner stop, as plenty was left over, in the falafel plate.

The Knox County Courthouse includes a spacious yard, where a few people were whiling away their lunch hour. Here are a few scenes of the Court District.

Knox County Courthouse
Courthouse Garden
“Beloved Woman of Justice”, by Audrey Flack

The area also has a couple of churches, of architectural note.

First Baptist Church, downtown Knoxville
St. John’s Cathedral, downtown Knoxville

Then, there is this memento of the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair (Knoxville International Energy Exposition).

Knoxville Sunsphere

Whilst looking for a Riverwalk, of sorts, I found the Holston River was fairly surrounded by private enterprise: A well-guarded Marina, a branch of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and an outfitter called Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center. Giving up, at least for now, on the riverbank hike, I spotted James White’s Fort.

The docent was chatty, if flinty-eyed, and gave me a well-practiced primer on early Knoxville. He then sent me off, on the short but jam-packed walk around the compound. It is quite similar, in terms of household goods and furniture, to other historical sites of the late Eighteenth Century, particularly those of the Appalachian frontier. Nonetheless, this is the beginning of Knoxville’s story. https://knoxheritage.org/our-work/neighborhood-tours/historic-downtown-knoxville-walking-tour/james-whites-fort/

James White’s Fort-Courtyard, Main House (left) and kitchen (right)
Outside storage, kitchen area

As an indication of my mildly fatigued state, I was puzzled by this sight. It looked, to my mind’s eye, like the cover of a land mine. I later showed the photo to the docent, whose flinty eyes just got a bit flintier. “That is an upside-down kitchen pot”, though he acknowledged the land mine cover as a possible interpretation.

Dogtrot, so named because it was a place to sit, during the Dog Days of summer.
Main kitchen
Hearth and study, Main House
Sleeping area, Main House
Salt bin, outdoor grill and secondary pantry
Loom, in artifacts building
Mr. White’s tool room (I’ll bet he wished for such relief, as the modern air conditioner shown above!)
Forge and bellows, Blacksmith Shop
Courtyard, James White’s Fort

After my walk-around, the docent asked me a rather simple question: “Since you’re from Massachusetts originally, where was the first per European settlement, in these United States?” My overloaded, foggy brain heard “Massachusetts” and replied, “Plymouth”. AAAIIT! Wrong answer! “Nope, it was Jamestown, 1607”. Turns out, though, we were both wrong, at that point. I remembered, later, about St. Augustine (1565), the real first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States. He then made other comments, that suggested he may be in for some surprises, in the months and years ahead.

No harm, no foul-and on I went on my way- up the road to this Shenandoah

The Home Base That Wasn’t


June 25, 2019, Tryon, NC-

In the gloom of Spring, 2011, I was casting about in my mind, as to where I might plant myself.  At the time, I had one immediate goal:  To make my way to New Hampshire and attend the wedding of my sister’s youngest daughter- for whose happiness Penny and I had prayed for several years.  Other parts of life were in a state of suspension.  Though I worked the rest of the academic year, following Penny’s funeral and Aram’s life was slowly coming together, with the Navy on the horizon, I had ME to get settled.

Several locations presented themselves:  I could have relocated somewhere else in the metro Phoenix area, or somewhere else where I had family nearby.  Then, there were places with no family in the area.  One such place, to which I’d never been and of which I knew nothing, was Tryon.

I happened upon this town, whilst en route from Knoxville to Columbia.  It was dinner hour, so at long last, I left the highway and found a space for my car.  The place seemed magical.

It had been a fairly good day in Knoxville.  The East Side was hardly as intimidating as the earlier news reports had suggested.  There were troubled people in the room directly below me, but they kept their troubles to themselves and I had a good night’s rest.  A nice lunch, a workout at Planet Fitness and a car servicing at Big O all took place across town, and by early afternoon, I was back on the road.  If you’re ever in Knoxville and want a good, quick lunch, I recommend “Best Bagels in Town”- a small place, behind a Walgreen’s, just a couple of blocks north of Big O, at 120 S. Peters Road. I promised the owner I’d send a shout out, so here it is:  Best Bagels is true to its name.


Back to Tryon: The downtown is compact, with a well-known equestrian resort a few miles further east.  I am more of a cozy downtown type, so while resorts are nice and all, give me a small coffee shop/cafe restaurant, any day.  One such place is Huckleberry’s.



One of the recurring themes in my life is how much I want for the younger generations to realize their dreams, to succeed-often in spite of the powers that be “moving the goalposts” and recognizing when a young man or woman gets things right.

Georgia got it right, albeit being rather self-effacing and business-like. The sign that Huckleberry’s owner put on the wall says it best:


Georgia did keep busy, though, greeting, seating and doing half the serving.  I’ll say it again and again:  We Boomers are in good hands,  as we hand off the baton.

Tryon has a thing for bears-and for its claim to fame:  Horses.  The first sight that greeted me, as I parked was a wooden bear.


Horses adorn a couple of spots along Tryon’s two main streets.



This multi-coloured horse is found near the Post Office.


Any town which claims Nina Simone as a Native Daughter has my fullest admiration.  A consortium of artists is working to restore the home of her birth.



I chose Prescott, AZ, of course, as my Home Base-largely because it was familiar and the family had property, for the first 3 years of my time there.  I will continue to call Prescott my Home Base, until we see where my little family settles, next year.  A place like Tryon would not necessarily be out of the question.

NEXT:  Fair Columbia









No Choo Choo In This Gig


June 24, 2019, Chattanooga-

I stopped here, “en route” from Crossville to Knoxville, as I have driven on through this fascinating city, several times, on the way to this or that appointment- when going from Atlanta to Nashville or Knoxville.  My idea was to visit at least one of Chattanooga’s Big Three:  Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain Summit and Rock City. Ruby Falls got the nod, as it sits off by itself, whereas the other two are  closer together.  Of course, I could have walked the steps up to the Summit, after the two hours or so spent underground, but the heat was lingering-so, another time. Ruby Falls and Rock City are equally pricey-each is $21.95 for an adult; a package runs $43.50.  There is also the “obligatory” photograph, taken before one is allowed into the cave.  In the end, one can choose to purchase the photo ($40 per person/group) or, as I did, say “No thank you”.

The cave is privately-owned, thus the entrance fee.  It is, though, well worth the time and money, to see the deepest underground waterfall in North America.  ( I think VietNam has one that is actually deepest on the planet.)  Several tour options are available- I took the Classic Waterfall Tour, with a group of about twenty people.  Down we went, 26 floors, via elevator.

Here is some of what we saw, in Leo Lambert’s boyhood playground-which he later named for his wife, Ruby, after exploring professionally with a team of spelunkers.

Leo had to crawl, for seven hours, through places like this, to reach an area where he could actually stand.


Crystal deposits added a magical sense to his meanderings. (The blue lighting, of course, was added by the family, later.)


It looks like this stalactite is actually holding up the cave, but it just kept on going downward, until it met the ledge.


Here is where Mr. Lambert was first able to stand up, after seven hours of crawling.  I don’t know as my circulation would allow for that.


Below is one of the few formations which people are allowed to touch, and even sit.


The Leaning Tower actually does resemble the landmark in Pisa, though it’s not subject to shifting ground.


This looks like it came out of a pasta maker.


Imagine tobacco, drying in the sun.


This looks like a frozen waterfall, but it’s more mineral deposit.


The Falls!



It was for this, that the Lamberts opened the caverns to the public, in 1929- a year when Americans needed all the comfort they could get.  So this afternoon, 24 of us stood, 1,120 feet underground, and marveled at what nature has put together.  It’s not Niagara, but it’s subterranean.

This is one place that Chattanooga Choo Choo isn’t going.  Once off the mountain, though, I took an hour to check out downtown and get some fine ramen, with bubble tea on the side.


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBack up to Knoxville it was, afterwards. I had seen a news report about a gas station robbery, on the east side, a day or so ago.  I ended up at a motel just down the street from that gas station.  No worries, though-people just did their own thing and left me alone, for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Life goes on.

NEXT:  The Little Town That Almost Became Home Base



The 2018 Road, Day 35: One Good Ville to Another


June 29, 2018, Crossville, TN-

I sent a text message to an online friend in Asheville, who would not have time for a short visit, and another to a friend in Knoxville, thinking she might be joining what I figured would be a gathering of old Xanga friends, tomorrow, in this town in the western foothills of Appalachia.

I spent time in both cities, en route to my destination.  After bidding farewell to W, I headed north to I-40, then west to Asheville, stopping for an hour’s introduction to what is sure to be a key stop on future journeys across the South.  I have said, and meant, that about so many places, that I may as well hop on a Greyhound local and be done with it.  The thought is comforting, though, to say the least. It’s nice to feel welcomed, whether in new places or old.

Here are some scenes of downtown Asheville.   Here is the lobby of Asheville Community Theater, with its stage areas both to the right and extending eastward from the lobby.


From this spot, near my parking place, on the north side, I walked back towards the city center.  Art deco towers are not common in Appalachia, but the Jackson Building, built on the site of a tombstone shop run by William Oliver Wolfe, the father of novelist Thomas Wolfe, is such an edifice.


This braided girl, inspired perhaps by Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel”, is one of several statues that grace downtown.


Zebulon Baird Vance, like so many figures of the Confederacy, was a mass of contradictions.  He reportedly taught some slaves to read, though that was never confirmed.  A life-long Christian, he strongly advocated for total religious freedom, and fought against anti-Semitism.  He sincerely believed that freed slaves were being manipulated by the Federal government and needed a time of separation from whites, thus his insistence on imposing racial segregation in North Carolina, during his post-war term as governor.  This unfortunate series of actions has re-ignited a debate, as to whether his name should be removed from this obelisk, in Pack Square.  Asheville, in recent years, has been a socially forward-thinking community. So, the Vance Memorial is something of an anomaly.


One other unique feature of Pack Square is a series of farm animal sculptures, whose purpose is unclear.


West of Pack Square, there are a number of small cafes. Being in the mood for a Cubano, I chose Bomba Latin Cafe.  The place was a friendly introduction to Asheville’s active foodie scene and the sandwich was all a Cubano should be- freshly shaved pork, with shredded cabbage and small, diced bits of Habanero pepper, on a freshly-baked bun.


Well-nourished, I got back to my car, with six minutes to spare.  I got in one more full view of downtown, from Pack Square, before heading back onto the freeway. Asheville City Hall is visible, in the background.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I had plenty of company, headed west, as I-40 was packed with people headed to the Great Smokies.  Once past the exits to Boone, Cherokee and Gatlinburg, the sailing was a bit smoother. My primary stop in Knoxville was to service my Elantra, at Big O Tires.  Being expected in Crossville by 5:30, or so, I headed straight here, once the service was finished.  Knoxville has  several places of fascination, not the least of which is my online friend’s art gallery.  These wait for a visit more focused on that area.

Settling in to the serene home of L and C, I look forward to tomorrow’s gathering, however large or small it may turn out to be.

Tales from the 2016 Road: Midsouth Meanderings


July 19, 2016, Nashville-  Brother had to shove off pretty early for work, so I headed out, northward, around the same time.  North Georgia passed by fairly quickly.  Since I was headed beyond Atlanta,  the traffic winked at me, going in the other direction.

I stopped briefly, outside Chattanooga (normally a destination worthy of 2-3 days, in its own right), and called an online friend, who lives outside Knoxville.  The message back was that he had time for coffee and catch-up, and would meet me in Lenoir City, east of Knoxville, in mid-afternoon.

I stopped in Ooltewah/ Collegedale, northeast of Chattanooga, and enjoyed a lovely lunch at  4 Corners Cafe, a gem that’s hidden in the Apison Center strip mall at the junction of TN Rtes 317 and 321.  The kids manning the place were in the last days of high school and university breaks, and were still most enthusiastic about 4 Corners’ fare.  They were especially delighted to learn that I was from Arizona, and had chosen their place as a lunch stop.  I’d go back there again.

Further along, on I-75, I took a brief drive through the small city of Cleveland, finding gracious people and a delightful ambiance.  The town would also be worth a day or so, on another journey.  I had to make the effort to get up to Lenoir, and as it happened, there was yet another accident, tying up northbound traffic.    I did make it to the Starbuck’s in Lenoir City, about 3:30.  My friend from Xanga days was there, with a few stories of his own meanderings in the general area of eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and Alabama, and the beeline to New Orleans.  Some of you may remember that my last visit with him was in Ocean Springs, MS, in February, 2015.


JR and I swapped yarns of the road, for about an hour.  Then, it was time for me to get eastbound, once again, with the goal of avoiding the worst of Nashville’s rush hour. With the aid of my Elantra’s GPS, I got to downtown Nashville, and to a cramped, but adequate parking garage.  I prefer garages, when in a large city, with the chance to walk about in the interesting downtown.  I’m still mastering the smart phone camera, so please excuse the photo quality.


I chose Old Spaghetti Factory, in the Printers’ Alley district, for a satisfying meal of salad, along with spinach & cheese ravioli.  Jeremy was an enthusiastic waiter, and there were a couple of birthdays that night, so the atmosphere was most effervescent.  Nashville is always a fascinating place to stop.  I would like to spend 2-3 days there, sometime.

The schedule calls for me to be in Boulder, at 9 AM, Friday, so I drove on, past Clarksville, TN, the Land Between The Lakes, and Paducah, KY, each a worthy stopping place.  I chose Marion, IL, as my rest stop for the night, with a friendly couple greeting me at Airport Inn, on the road towards the university town of Carbondale.  I made good time today, in spite of the tie-up, and will head across southern Illinois, Missouri and at least part of Kansas, on Wednesday.