We ended our last post with me soaking wet and ticked off as we hit the road on Friday morning. It continued to rain, but wasn’t heavy enough to make driving too bad. In a few miles I was back to my normal self, which may or may not be good depending on who you ask. We headed over to Pall Mall, Tennessee, which is the home of Alvin C. York. Gary Cooper??? No, the actual REAL Sergeant York! (If anyone reading this has not seen Sergeant York the movie, I suggest you run right out and get it. Cooper won the Oscar for Best Actor.) There was a nice break in the rain, so we were able to look around a bit. This guy was pretty amazing. He came from a large family that lived in a two-room cabin in a very remote valley. Education was not a priority in an area where the children helped the parents run farms, but Alvin was an expert marksman and fisherman and knew his way around the woods (which he would later credit with helping him survive). Initially given to drinking and fighting, he found Jesus in 1914 and vowed to become a better person. Drafted in WWI at the age of 30, he initially applied for conscientious objector status due to his religion, but was later convinced that serving was not a contradiction. In 1918, he went to France, and in October of that same year found himself in a position that most of us cannot even imagine. Corporal York was assigned, along with 16 other soldiers and their leader, to infiltrate enemy lines and take out a machine gun position. They quickly lost 9 soldiers (3 wounded, 6 dead) including their Sergeant while capturing a large group of German soldiers, which left York as the highest ranking man. Leaving his men to guard the captives, York went to silence the machine guns. By the time his 15 minutes of fame was over, York and his 7 men led 132 German prisoners back to the American line. For his actions that day, newly promoted Sergeant York received the Medal of Honor along with a chestful of other decorations from multiple governments. You’d think that is where his story ends, but you’d be wrong.

Alvin York returned to Pall Mall where he would marry his sweetheart Grace in a ceremony on the mountainside performed by the Governor of Tennessee. Over 1,400 people travelled to that tiny, inaccessible valley to witness the event. A grateful community gifted them a house and land for a “proper” farm. (The house is available for tours, and by 1930s standards in that area, is a mansion.) Having seen the world outside of the valley, Alvin strongly believed that educating the children was imperative and lobbied state and local governments for a school and better roads into the community. When WWII rolled around, he was not able to enlist as a soldier, so he joined the Army Signal Corps and lent his fame to raise money for bonds for the war effort. It appears that his one flaw was a lack of skill in administration and money management, something that would cause problems for him periodically. Throughout the rest of his life, though, he lent his time, effort, and fame to a variety of causes, always with an eye on “doing the right thing”. It is said that folks showed up just to shake his hand for the rest of his life, often staying for dinner and occasionally spending the night with the family. After Alvin suffered a stroke in 1948, he received a state-of-the-art bed (donated by the inventor) to make his life easier. As with his wedding, folks flocked to the valley to see their hero receive his gift. Sergeant York lived until 1964, when thousands of fans once again made the trek to the small, but thanks to Alvin’s efforts, less remote valley for the funeral. It wasn’t the final trip, though. To this day approximately 250,000 people visit a year. His children, two of whom are still alive, would say that the military part of his life, for which he is famous, is only a tiny part of the hero that he really was. Honestly, if you are in the area, check this place out.

After visiting the house, we went to the cemetery. While there I saw cloud dancers, which reminded me of another trip. Many years ago we were in Kentucky when our car alternator died. We managed to get to Advance Auto, which was open on Sunday, and ordered the part. The guy there sent us to the Benham Schoolhouse Inn, which I’m sure you guessed is in an old school building. It was lovely, and after settling in, we made sandwiches and headed to their gazebo to enjoy lunch. We hadn’t even sat down when it started raining torrentially. When it is hot and humid in the mountains and it rains, sometimes we get what I call cloud dancers. They are clouds/steam that form down in the trees on a mountainside and very slowly rise up, swirling and twisting. They look like ballet dancers coming up out of the trees. It was such a pleasant afternoon that now, whenever I see those clouds, I go right back to that gazebo. We learned two things from that trip: 1) Take things in stride, because the delay might lead to an experience you would otherwise not have, and 2) Always use Advance Auto! When MW went to pick up the part the next morning, the manager went out and totally installed it for him so he wouldn’t get dirty, then shook his hand and sent him on his way. We wrote a nice letter about that guy and have been loyal Advance customers ever since.

The rain held off for the entire York visit, and when we finally got back on the road, it wasn’t too bad for the rest of the drive to our destination, Big Ridge State Park. This park has a large playground, volleyball court, picnic areas, beach, and several hiking trails. The sites in the campground are close together, but it is very wooded and several are oriented to face into the trees, making it feel more private. It was getting pretty full when we arrived mid-afternoon, and there were lots of kids riding bikes and fishing. After setting up, we relaxed for the evening.

What I haven’t mentioned up to now is that our house went on the market on May 6, and we signed a contract on May 24…2-1/2 WEEKS! I expected it to sell fast, but thought it being that far out of town would make it take a little time. I managed to put off stressing out about everything we’ve got to do when we get home for a couple of weeks, but it was catching up with me at this point and affecting my sleep. I tried to relax and enjoy the respite from the coming chaos, but it just wasn’t to be.

On Saturday we got a slow start while I worked on this blog and some bookkeeping. Around 11:30 AM we headed over to Morristown to find a self-storage facility, our first step in the “move our stuff” chore. We were lucky right out of the gate, so after lunch at Firehouse Subs, we headed over to Sneedville to check the mail and see our new foundation and well. Progress…yay! It was irritating to find actual mail in the property mailbox since we have told EVERYONE to use the P.O. Box which is forwarded. (I’ll have to forward that one too, I guess.). Finished with the short list, we went back to Petunia, cooked dinner, and settled in with some TV.

The next morning I worked some more on the blog. At mid-day we headed over to The Museum of Appalachia. What a neat place, although a bit pricy at $15 each with the military discount. You start out in a store/restaurant building where you buy tickets to the museum. It is a large assortment of buildings and memorabilia from all over the Appalachian region that shows what life in the area was like. There was a one-room cabin that a man lived in until 1989 that was about 8′ x 8′ with a little covered front porch. It had a cot, wood stove, basin, and chair. The man who lived in it said it had everything he needed. (That is similar to the lady who owned our property in Tennessee. She was in her 90s and had electricity, but no bathroom or running water. A local church was going to install a bathroom for free, and she TURNED THEM DOWN! That was a STRONG woman and a whole different way of life!) Among the buildings represented were a school, a church, chicken houses, smoke houses, and cabins (one that was used in the Daniel Boone TV series back in the day). Tools and equipment from days gone by were also on display, as well as goats, cows, sheep, ducks, chickens, and peafowl (I had no idea that is what they were called).

Although I don’t recall ever reading about peafowl populating Appalachia naturally, they were the coolest. Two interesting things happened with them. First, as we were walking into the building having just arrived, we noticed four peahens gathered around something small in the grass. They looked genuinely bewildered and confused, stepping forward and cocking their heads sideways like a dog will often do, then stepping back, circling around, and coming back to do it over again. Upon closer inspection we found that what they were looking at was a small bird, probably just learning to fly. It was clearly scared to death by these giant hens, but they were not doing anything to hurt it. In fact, it almost looked like they were maternally scared for it. Inside the clerk said a cat had been stalking the bird, so maybe that is what the hens were upset about. Later as we were walking around the farm exhibits, we came upon a beautiful peacock sitting on a fence. I stopped to take pictures and a video, trying to capture the sound for the Boogers. As soon as the video started, he stopped calling, but he did jump down from the fence and pop open the beautiful feathers for me. What a beautiful show!

We enjoyed the rest of the museum, then headed back to Petunia to start getting ready to head home. On our way back into Browns Summit, we will drop her at Bill Plemmons RV World for some warranty repairs prior to her becoming our fill-time home. That means we have to take a LOT more stuff out and fill up the back of Brutus. We took care of most of it before settling in for the evening. The rain held off until bedtime, but then it was torrential for a while, and I had a good night’s sleep for a change.

On Monday after taking care of the final unloading and tank dumping, we were on the road to North Carolina. Traffic starting out was a bit heavy with the Knoxville commuters, but it thinned out fairly quickly. The weather was grey and drizzly early, but cleared up as the day progressed. Our only two stops prior to dropping Petunia off were lunch at Popeye’s in Bristol, Tennessee, and fuel in Wytheville, Virginia. We made it to Plemmons in the early afternoon and got everything squared away there. It felt almost like leaving a family member when we drove off without her.

There seems to be no process in the world that needs an overhaul more than RV repair. I read a LOT of RV forums, and that seems to be the chief complaint. (There are always folks who are just ticked because something is broken, but I try to keep in mind that our girl is bouncing down some pretty rough roads all the time, so stuff is going to happen. It’s better for my sanity! LOL) You’d think, though, that when the inevitable happens, it would be like your car. You’d call your dealership, drop it off, and pick it up in a week or two. Wrong! We called in May to schedule, and got their earliest appointment…July 8. WHAT????? (We were told that if we could drop it off before that, they MAY be able to work in a little diagnostic time, which would help on the back end. We opted for that, as we will be homeless in mid-July if everything goes by the current plan.) It doesn’t seem to matter what part of the country you are in or what specific dealership you use. From what I’ve read, they all give you a “drop-off” date with no real commitment to when you will be able to pick up. The explanation is that they often have to tear down to diagnose, then wait forever for parts from the manufacturer, then get it into the schedule to put it all back together. There are so many brands with so many parts that it’s impossible to keep anything in stock. Really, though, isn’t that exactly what car repair places go through? Honestly, I think that the industry as a whole could benefit from some good Industrial Engineering. They are definitely in need of process improvement! HEY, WAIT A MINUTE! MW doesn’t have a job now!!! He’s an Industrial Engineer!!! I’ve gotta run take care of some resume work!

See you on the road!


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