Mo & Terry Smedley


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Smoky Mountain Rail Tour
June, 2009

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 railroading!

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), Cumberland Falls

Part IV: Hiwassee Loop Railroad, Museum of Appalachia, Rugby (pictures & text updated Thursday evening June 25)

Part III: Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad, Southern Belle Riverboat

Part II : Chattanooga area

Part I:  Nashville / Grand Ole Opry

Smoky Mtn Rail Tour 2
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 use. 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 dialup connection!
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 of whiskey! 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 day. 
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 stages.   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 waters".... ...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 the canal. 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 Delta hotel. 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 its interior. 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 City.
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.