Smoky Mountain Rail Tour
This summer, we're joining Rail Travel Center for another
"mostly train" tour.
Click here to
see the official tour itinerary.
The "hour by hour"
detailed itinerary, with hotel contact information, is here.
We're doing a few days of independent touring in the Nashville
area before joining up with the tour group in Chattanooga.
Unfortunately, time constraints require us to fly to and from the tour, so we
won't get to enjoy a leisurely long-distance train trip this time. I'll be
posting pictures here as we travel through Tennessee, with brief stops in
Georgia and Kentucky, ending up at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.
So come along with us for your own virtual tour of some Smoky Mountain
Part VIII: Biltmore Estate,
Craggy (?), Blue Ridge Parkway, Farewell Dinner
Part VII: Great Smoky Mountain
Railroad, Pisgah Inn, Blue Ridge Parkway
Part VI: Three Rivers
Rambler (Knoxville), Smoky Mountain National Park
Part V: Big South Fork Railroad (Kentucky),
Part IV: Hiwassee Loop Railroad,
Museum of Appalachia, Rugby (pictures & text
updated Thursday evening June 25)
Part III: Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad, Southern Belle
Part II : Chattanooga area
Part I: Nashville / Grand Ole Opry
|Here's an overview map of where we'll be going.
The numbers are (more or less) sequential stops or overnight stays on
our trip. Everything West of Chattanooga will be on our own.
Chattanooga and points East are the tour route.
||We saw this sign at SeaTac....
||...and followed it to this door...
||...which led to this room. I'd not noticed the
"doggy potty" in an airport before. Not sure any of our dogs would
have used this, but I guess one of those little indoor rat dogs might be
OK with it.
|When we arrived in Chattanooga, we picked up our
rental car. I had reserved the usual "econobox" (something like a
Toyota Corolla or a Ford Focus), but when I got to the rental counter
all they had left was this Volvo...
||...which turned out to be a convertible!
||I'll not likely drive another convertible in my
lifetime, so I may as well enjoy this one!
||The convertible roof isn't the usual cloth or canvas
top. It's made up of three rigid sections (two steel sections, and
the rear glass).
||Click here for .WMV
movie of the Volvo's roof operation.
This is not streaming video - you will have to wait for the entire clip
to download before it will play.
|Here's a closeup of the forward roof panel showing
the soft liner attached to the interior of each panel.
||The roof takes up an enormous amount of space in the
trunk. The gray tray is in place to guarantee that you don't load
the trunk such that the roof won't fit.
||If you choose not to lower the roof, you can raise
the tray and have access to a more-or-less normal-size trunk. We
found our two pretty small suitcases wouldn't fit in the trunk with the
roof lowered. So the suitcases had to go in the back seat, or we
had to leave the top up. Not the most practical car for utility
||The raising and lowering mechanism has to be seen in
action to be fully appreciated. It's quite a work of engineering.
This movie is a BIG file, so don't click on the link if you're using a
|Our first stop leaving Chattanooga was in Lynchburg,
home of the Jack Daniel's distillery. This is taken on the
Distillery grounds. The white building in the foreground is the
original office, the brick building down the road is where the grains
(corn, barley, and rye) are offloaded, and way up on the hill in the
background is one of several buildings where the whiskey is aged in
maple kegs. This one building houses more than one million gallons
||Here's Mo with a life-size Jack Daniel. He was
a petite guy.
This link shows a picture of the group with which we toured the
Distillery (this is not our Rail Travel Center group - we'll meet up
with them when we get back to Chattanooga.)
||Jack's statue guards the entrance to the source of
the Cave Spring water used to make the whiskey. The
Distillery was originally located here in the 1860s because of this
iron-free water source, and the limestone cave is still the source of
the water used at the distillery today.
||The story is that Jack Daniel died from gangrene that
set in his toe after he kicked this office safe in a fit of rage one
|This is the building that houses the stills. No
pictures are permitted inside the buildings. It looked much like
any other modern chemical process building. There was an
air-conditioned control room that housed a half-dozen or so screens to
the computers controlling the various batch and continuous process
||In some countries, you can get your whiskey and Coke
all bottled up and ready to drink! At the end of the tour, there
was a large display of all of the products that are shipped worldwide.
All of Jack Daniel's whiskey products are made and bottled in Lynchburg.
||Mo took a break from the heat on the covered veranda
of the Distillery visitor's center,.
||The grounds were beautifully landscaped, looking more
like a winery showroom than a century-old whiskey Distillery.
|Cave Spring Creek flows right past the visitor's
center. Interesting factoid: The distinctive color of Jack
Daniel's whiskey comes from aging inside maple barrels. The
barrels are used for just one batch of whiskey, then most are sold to
wineries, and some go to utility purposes (like landscaping). The
inside of the maple barrels is flamed to carmelize the sugars, which are
then absorbed by the whiskey. I was surprised to learn that the
barrels are used just once.
||We learned that what separates Tennessee sipping
whiskey, like Jack Daniel's, from a traditional bourbon is the mellowing
process. The distilled whiskey is passed through charcoal filters
to mellow it out. The charcoal is produced in this building by
burning the Tennessee hardwood in the background.
||Our first order of business after arriving in
Nashville was a visit to the Grand Ole Opry.
||Since 1974, the Grand Ole Opry has been located in
this new theatre, located East of downtown. In previous years, it
was located in the Ryman Theatre downtown.
|Steve Wariner was performing on Thursday night, and
Mo had a chance to meet Steve up close and personal....
||...Here is Mo's birthday wish from Steve on his new
CD celebrating some of the music of Chet Atkins.
||The entire Opry performance on Thursday was devoted
to celebrating Chet's music. While Chet may be best known for his
guitar work, he was also a master record producer. He signed and
produced some very well-known acts in the early rock and roll years,
like Elvis (on RCA) and the Everly Brothers.
||The Gaylord Hotel is adjacent to the Grand Ole Opry
theatre. This hotel is really a campus of three adjoining hotels,
including expansive interior spaces all under glass and air conditioned
to 70 degree comfort year around.
|The "Delta" hotel features a 1/4 mile canal winding
around the interior. It's reminiscent of San Antonio's RiverWalk,
albeit smaller in scale.
||You can rent a boat to ride around the canal.
This is what happened when Mo piloted hers back to the dock.
||When the Delta canal was first constructed, Gaylord
invited hundreds of communities across the nation and world to
contribute water to be mixed together in the "blending of the
||...there are some familiar sources in Washington.
Like the Hoquiam River!
|A few more water sources in Washington.
||Inside the Delta complex, it's a little like
Disneyland crossed with Las Vegas. In perfect air-conditioned
comfort, we enjoyed an outdoors meal above the canal.
||Several waterfalls and extensive landscaping adorn
||I think we may be getting dumber as time goes on.
Thankfully, Coca Cola has put these helpful marks on their cups so we're
no longer confused about how much ice or liquid to add to our cups.
|I met up with some friends under the glass at the
||There's no mistaking that we're not in Hoquiam
anymore. Tornado shelters are clearly labeled everywhere you go.
||One of the waterfalls in the Garden Conservatory
hotel, which is adjacent to the Delta hotel. You can get an idea
of the scale of the landscaping and water features by noting the person
sitting on the bench just to the left of this waterfall.
||The Jack Daniel's restaurant in the distance, behind
some of the landscaping in the Garden Conservatory.
|The third hotel in the complex is called The
Cascades, for obvious reasons.
||The Cascades has elaborate water features throughout
||The next three pictures are panoramas, each of which
was stitched together from four or five individual pictures. They
give a better idea of the expanse of the air conditioned interior
spaces. I'd like to see the heating and cooling bill for this!
The first picture is of the Delta...
||...this is the Garden Conservatory....
|...and The Cascades.
You can click here to see a .pdf
map of the Hotel complex. Just in case you were
wondering....we didn't actually stay here. The room rates were
$300 plus per day, so we stayed with the rest of the poor folks on
"hotel row" about a mile away.
||While wandering through the Opry Mills mall looking
for a good place to eat, we came across the Gibson guitar store - and
found this Manhasset music stand inside. Dad will know why I took
this picture. There were too many people around for me to pick up
the stand to try to figure out where it is now built.
||Dennis will know why I took this picture.
||Lots of Gibson guitars (and banjos, dobros, and the
like) available here. In the Gaylord hotel, you can rent a guitar
to take to your room for $50/night. This is, after all, Music
|At the Grand Ole Opry, guests are encouraged to take
photographs - even to come up to the front of the auditorium to take
closeups. This is definitely music for the people - "America's
Music" as Vince Gill likes to call it. Friday's Grand Ole Opry
featured an eclectic mix of performers, like Little Jimmy Dickens (now
88 years old)...
||The Opry is broadcast as a live radio show (now on
Sirius/XM Satellite, as well as AM!), so the audience hears the
advertisements from the announcer. It's two hours, no
intermissions. Each Opry broadcast features performances by
half-dozen or more artists, each of whom do just one or two songs.
Here is Tracy Byrd...
||Between artists (during a radio commercial), the
stage crew quickly adjusts from one artist or group to the next.
There are no elaborate sets here - this is straight-up music. Here
is one of our favorites, Marty Stuart...
||Each half-hour is sponsored by a different company,
and hosted by a different artist, who introduces the other performers
during that half-hour. The host performs one or two numbers as
well. Vince Gill hosted the last half-hour of this show (lots of the girls rushed up to the
stage to take pictures of Vince)...
|... Alison Krauss (lots of the guys rushed up to
take pictures of Alison)...
||...performing with Union Station. In case you
were wondering, we stayed quietly in our seats to take our pictures.