Hello everyone! Thanksgiving Week is upon us here in the United States, and turkeys are being rounded up by the thousands. Pecan and pumpkin pies are going in the oven and families are preparing for long drives to relatives’ houses around the country. It is our busiest travel weekend of the year, so please be safe on the roads out there. It’s also a distinctly American holiday, which I’ve always been fascinated by. As I mentioned at Easter, many Americans don’t give off a lot of hints as to their ethnic background until you visit them at Christmas or Easter and then you’ll see old family recipes they don’t even consider as anything but “what we’ve always eaten”. Of course millions of Americans don’t celebrate these Christian holidays at all, celebrating their own religion’s holidays instead. This is an amazing time to visit these Americans’ homes and learn their traditions. It’s really only the 4th of July and Thanksgiving we celebrate all together with some form of consensus on the menu. So Happy Thanksgiving America. Eat lots and get extra exercise this week to make up for it. Watch some football and throw the ball with your kids. Enjoy your family and friends and ask them how they are and if they’re happy and healthy, laugh out loud and hug often while you are together. Leave the politics and B.S. off the menu for a day and just enjoy each other and our special American day.
I’ve spent lots of Thanksgivings on the road, so I’m ready for it. Two that were particularly memorable had me fixing a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for tour groups of 13 people. One was around a campfire in Key Largo in Florida and the other was in a ski lodge in Stowe, Vermont. In the first instance my group was out snorkeling all day and in the second they were skiing. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope it’s where you want to be.
I will be here in Georgia! I have made my way into the Peach State and had a fabulous first week in Georgia’s Far North. Most people probably don’t associate mountains and Georgia, but they certainly go together well. My week has been spent out in the woods, enjoying cool but sunny weather in Georgia’s State Parks and natural areas. It’s been an amazing week exploring this region and has really whet my appetite for the rest of my stay here.
After finishing last week’s weekly update, I did head down to the Cumberland Gap and stopped in to the National Park Service Visitor Center there to watch the film about the Gap. The Cumberland Gap was an important route through the mountains for hundreds if not thousands of years. Dr. Thomas Walker led a group through the Gap in the earliest documented account of Europeans passing through, but even he remarked that he found evidence of others going before him. Daniel Boone made his way through many times over the years and helped develop a route through called The Wilderness Road which 200,000 emigrants would use to move west. It is a fascinating place and the movie was very well done.
It was nice to be back in Tennessee for a few days, stopping by some of my old haunts and remembering my time there last spring. I spent one night in Knoxville and two in Chattanooga as I finished up some work and recorded my second Kentucky podcast. I also needed to do some maintenance work on my van and equipment, and Chattanooga had everything I needed there. I was shocked when I filled up my propane tank after a year of making coffee every morning, cooking from time to time and occasionally using the propane setting on my fridge to have only gone through 4.1 gallons. That was $15 worth of propane that lasted a whole year. Now, I don’t use my heater or my hot water heater, but still I think that’s pretty amazing. I got my tires rotated and a new sewage drain cap and a few other parts for some repairs I need to do. It was great to have a day to just catch my breath and sort some things out for a change. I also got the chance to get up to Sugar’s Ribs, someplace I missed because of all of the festivals happening when I went through. I was glad to finally give it a try, and it was well worth the visit. Great ribs, great sides and a fantastic view over Chattanooga.
Before leaving Tennessee, as I mentioned, I did finish off my second Kentucky podcast, which you can find HERE or by searching “American Anthology” wherever you get your podcasts. This episode looks at several stories from the history of Southern Kentucky. It starts with the story of Loretta Lynn and her rise from coal miner’s daughter to Coal Miner’s Daughter. Then I’ll tell you the story of Daniel Boone, and the mystery surrounding his final resting place. Last week on my blog I wrote about Berea College and the passage of the Day Law which forced racial segregation at the school in 1903. This podcast will tell you the whole story. In 1925, cave explorer Floyd Collins got trapped in Sand Cave trying to find a new entrance to Mammoth Cave and the rescue attempt that followed was one of the biggest non-political stories of the time. This story will give you chills. Finally, I’ll tell you the story of James “Sweet Evening Breeze” Herndon, a gay, black, drag queen who was a fascinating part of early 20th Century Lexington society and sounds like he was a wonderful person. The episode also features music I recorded at the Barn Dance in Renfro Valley. The podcast makes good driving listening!
Finally finished with that, I made my way across the border and into Georgia, where I will be for the next month. I started my Georgia journey with a visit to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the first National Military Park to be designated and the site of some pretty fierce fighting during the civil war.
With my head full of history to ponder, I headed out towards Cloudland Canyon State Park in the far northwest corner of Georgia. This place was spectacular. The views from the rim are great, but going down into the canyon was even better. With all the rain we’ve been getting, the waterfalls were really raging and so beautiful to see. I spent hours taking photos and enjoying the forest scenery and then climbed out right around sunset to see even more great views of the canyon in better light. As dark descended, I made my way out to Dalton for the night.
Sunday I headed out into the North Georgia mountains and Chattahoochie National Forest. I spent a nice chunk of the day at Amicalola Falls State Park. The park’s namesake falls drops 729 feet making it the tallest in the state of Georgia, and it is a really beautiful waterfall to see. I took a bunch of photos of the falls themselves, but a lot of the smaller drops along the river were really beautiful as well. This park is also the jumping off point for the Appalachian Trail which starts about 8 miles away atop Springer Mountain and heads all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
I spent Sunday night in the beautiful town of Blue Ridge, one of the many impossibly cute mountain towns that dotted this part of the state. I enjoyed a quick beer at Chester Brunnenmeyer’s Bar and Grill before heading out to have a relaxed evening in my van. For the first time in now over a year, I got the dreaded knock on my window at 11 p.m. and got to have a conversation with Blue Ridge’s finest. They were actually incredibly friendly and courteous and told me that there had been a string of recent shoplifting incidents at the Walmart I was parked at. They told me the store called them to check me out and that I was welcome to stay the night but they just wanted to run my ID. In a strange side-note, when they did run my license, they found a provision that I’m not supposed to drive during rush hour, something we all had a chuckle about but which I will need to clear up the next time I’m home. The rest of the night passed quietly.
I spent a little bit of time in Blue Ridge on Monday morning, trying to catch up on a few things, and then headed down scenic Route 60 to the tiny and adorable town of Dahlonega. Dahlonega (“Da-Lawn-uh-guh”) was the site of the Georgia Gold Rush, something you may hear about in my next podcast, which resulted in a U.S. Mint being placed nearby. Fascinating Dahlonega Gold Museum State Historic Park tells this story and displays all of the different coins minted there including rare $2.50 and $3 coins. It is also Dahlonega Gold which covers the Georgia State Capitol Building. I had a great conversation with one of the rangers there, a retired history teacher, who also showed me some of the gold in the bricks used to build the old courthouse which now houses the museum. The museum was a little pricey at $9, but it was worth it to see the old coins from this historic and long shuttered mint.
Leaving Dahlonega behind I headed up to Helen, a super kitchy but also super cute little town further east. Built to look like a Bavarian mountain town, this place was fun to wander through, especially as they prepare for Christmas. My camera was having a fantastic time shooting all the cool buildings, especially as some really dark, ominous clouds moved in and dusk settled on Helen. I enjoyed a nice German beer and some good sausages before heading on to Clayton for the night.
The following morning, I had a nice breakfast at the tiny Clayton Cafe, a wonderful and friendly place right on the main street in town. With my guts full of goodness I set off to Tallulah Gorge State Park for another great morning of hiking and waterfalls. It sure was busy for a Monday, and then I realized it’s Thanksgiving week here in America and apparently kids are off from school. After getting my fill of Gorge-ous scenery, I dropped south to Toccoa Falls on the campus of Toccoa Falls College. It is a stunning waterfall and it was such a beautiful day I just sat and hung out there for a while soaking up rays and the view.
After lunch, I headed further south to see the Georgia Gudestones, a 38 year old granite monument set in a field in the middle of nowhere and inscribed with a message in 8 modern and 4 ancient languages. The message is a simple one, but one worth at least pondering. It makes 10 recommendations for a healthy planet which are as follows:
1) Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
2) Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
3) Unite humanity with a living new language.
4) Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
5) Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
6) Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
7) Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
8) Balance personal rights with social duties.
9) Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
10) Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
It was an interesting place to see and I enjoyed wandering around the surrounding field and taking photos of the monument. As afternoon started to wear on, I headed down here to Athens, where I am writing you from today.
I’ll be in Athens for the rest of the day and then maybe head down to Atlanta tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, to avoid some of the traffic. I’ve actually spent Thanksgiving in Atlanta before, so it would be familiar and I’m sure I can find a good dinner somewhere. I’ll only be in Atlanta for a day or two, as I have spent a lot of time there in the past. Then I’m headed on west and south to the bottom left corner of the state. I haven’t made a lot of plans for the coming week yet, but I want to visit FDR’s “Little White House” and head down to Jimmy Carter’s hometown as well. I don’t really know where I’ll be at this time next week, so you’ll just have to tune in to find out.
Have a wonderful week out there everyone. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends, Happy Autumn to the rest of you in the northern hemisphere and for all my friends down south, I hope you are excited for the coming summertime! Wherever you are, I’m very thankful you are reading this today. Have a good week and be good to each other out there!.