23 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 17 - Nashville (TN) to Knoxville (TN)

As the Civil War (1861 - 1865) plays a significant role in the history of the United States, I decided to learn some more about it. Several battle fields are located in Tennessee. On my way to Knoxville (TN) I stopped by the Carnton Plantation, located in the small community of Franklin, south of Nashville.

This area is known today for the Battle of Franklin, which took place Nov 30, 1864. Confederate General John Bell Hood launched a massive assault on the Federal troops, commanded by General John Schofield. The combat went on for five hours and left ~ 10,000 dead, wounded or missing. The above plantation, inhabited by John and Carrie McGavock and their children at that time, was turned into a devision field hospital after the battle. It sheltered up to 300 Confederate soldiers who were brought to the house for surgeries and medical care.

About 48 km east of Franklin is the city of Murfreesboro, site of the battle of Stones River. Union troops under General Rosecrans claimed victory in this battle, which cost the life of more than 23,000 soldiers.

After reading and hearing about all these depressing facts on the Civil War, I needed to stick my head out into the sun again. The countryside of eastern Tennessee is very beautiful. I came by lots of large mansions surrounded by acres and acres of land. (If I had such a property, I would grow a whole lot of veggies!!)

Got mail?

People driving past me probably wonder what the heck is so fascinating about such an ordinary farm in the middle of nowhere. :-)

Here is a funny thing I noticed since I got to the central states: Whenever people ask me where I am from, I tell them "California." Someone had even asked, which part of Canada I am from after he saw the Canadian tag attached to my backpack. Trust me, I have spoken to many people and given them all the same answer and none of them has ever queried it so far! Are people too polite to scrutinize my answer or is it lack of interest? Or does my English sound just so different from theirs, that "California" seems close enough?

More to come.

22 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 16 - One more day in Nashville (TN)

I kicked off another day in Honky-Tonk town with a visit to the farmers' market. It has been operating since the early 1800's, is located close to downtown and open 7 days/week, 362 days/year. The market re-opened in August 2010, after being closed for four months due to the severe flood that had hit Nashville that year.

The gentleman from "Smiley's Farm", 30 km north of Nashville, mentioned that not surprisingly, the busiest days are Sat/Sun and Fri. They are slowing down for the year now. The tomatoes in those buckets were picked green (but will ripe within 5 days), before the killing frost, which the farmers expect by the end of the month. They usually close down by Thanksgiving, maybe earlier, depending on the weather.

I selected some Arkansas Blacks, the apples from the buckets on the far left. They come from a 180-acre (~ 0.73 km2) farm that grows 30 different apple varieties. According to the farmer I talked to, the farm is not certified organic because of all the costs and bureaucracy that come with achieving and also maintaining the certificate. But they apply organic farming methods as much as they can. For example, they have many bird houses around the apple trees to encourage birds to nest nearby. The birds help with pest control and limit the needs for pesticides. He also mentioned the bird droppings as helpful fertilizer.

This market is a really neat place. Every 3rd Friday of the month they have a night market to "Shop and sip under the stars", with live music and wine.

In addition to the sheds, there is the Market House - home of varies restaurants, anything from the usual BBQ to Chicago-style gyros, Indian, Sushi, Cajun, Italian and Jamaican. I decided for the latter and had some tofu curry with kale and rice.

It looks like many people who are working in the office buildings nearby come here for lunch.

Guess who the kid in the middle is!

You might rather recognize him here:

Yep, Johnny Cash (1932 - 2003), a.k.a. the Man in Black. Nashville has a very impressive Johnny Cash museum, initiated by one of his longtime friends. It's the largest in the world. (Well, are there others?) I spent several hours browsing through this archive, listened to many of his songs (which I actually really like, especially the ones later in his career) and learned that Cash even was guest star in one of the "Columbo" episodes and "Little house in the prairie" series.

I also explored the Tennessee State Museum, which is free and was on my way back to the car. To refer to Sonja's comment on my Oct 20th post: When 2,800 volunteers were called from Tennessee for the 1812 war, over 30,000 responded. Well, one could say these were patriots fighting for freedom and liberation from the British Kingdom. Or were these simply a bunch of desperate hill billies, looking for an adventure and who could not wait to rush into death. Maybe a bit of both?

Wrapping up the day with greetings from the "Batman Building":

Well, it's simply the at&t office but everyone here calls it otherwise. ;-)

More to come.

21 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 15 - Nashville (TN)

Yee-Haw! In the City of Music today's day was dedicated to ... music. I used "NashvilleMoves", a family-owned shuttle service, from the hotel to The District, where the city was originally founded in April 1780.

On Broadway, there is everything a cowboy needs.

Most of them are Made in the USA, price range $250 - 400.

Um, not sure about this one.

I continued onto 5th street for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which is full of glittery stage costumes, instruments and (country) music history.

Interesting remake ...

I happened to have read John Steinbeck's novel "The grapes of Wrath" when I was in Germany earlier this year; German title "Früchte des Zorns". One level of the museum features this part of the American History: the dust bowl, a period of severe dust storms during the 1930s. This phenomenon was caused by severe drought and incorrect dryland farming methods in the U.S. and Canadian prairies. My Bed & Breakfast host in Pawnee City (NE) had told me that she still remembers her mom talking about this time as their farm was also effected. To prevent such wind erosions in the future, farmers had then planted bushes and trees. But she also criticized that these trees are being chopped nowadays, so farmers can plant more crops. And that they are repeating the errors of the past. ... Anyways, the dust bowl led settlers migrate to the promised land California. They brought the country music e.g., to Bakersfield. I was not aware that Bakersfield played such an important role in country music. (I was not aware that it plays an important role at all.) ;-)

During my stroll through the city I noticed some booths (near Victory Park), which looked like a Christmas market. I stopped by and had to find out that they were not for real but a set for the TV show "Nashville". The film crew was about to shoot the 9th series, to be shown in January 2015. From what I heard, the story is about the mayor of Nashville and his wife, who is - of course - a country music star. ...

Broadway at night reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but with focus on music and food instead of primarily alcohol. Restaurants and bars all had live music!

The "Honky Tonk Highway"

I selected "Rippy's Ribs" restaurant for some pulled pork, seasoned curly fries, coleslaw and Yazoo Pale Ale, a local beer. The food was great. It certainly had enough salt.

Yep, the beer is the focal point.

In case you were wondering: no, I did not finish the full portion, but took left-overs with me for tomorrow. Well, I ended up giving the box to some young homeless at Broadway who were more than happy about the food.

Savannah Candy Kitchen: Any room left for dessert?

Some of you might be aware that Starbucks had changed the design of their city mugs a few years ago. I collected them from several locations in Canada and the U.S., but - to Guido's delight - I stopped collecting when the new design took over. But I had to have this one! Sorry Guido.

More to come. (But no more mugs!)

20 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 14 - Henderson (KY) to Nashville (TN)

Driving through parts of Kentucky and Tennessee today was awesome. The total ride of ~ 230 km was comparably short and I took my time to explore off the beaten path. With success - for the most part.

Darn! I guess, I have to turn around.

There is obviously so much space that cars and junk (oh, I'm repeating myself in the below cases) are simply left sitting there. And sitting there. And sitting there. Well, at some point nature will have taken care of it.

Longterm parking?

I learned a lot about Kentucky today: Its nickname is "Bluegrass state" because this perennial grass species can be found a lot here. It is one of four commonwealths in the U.S.; the other three are Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Its state capital is Frankfort! It has the world's longest cave system (Mammoth Cave National Park in central KY and certainly worth a visit. Next time.). And it also ranks 2nd in tobacco production, behind North Carolina and outcompeting its neighbor Tennessee.

Open barn with drying tobacco leaves

Happy hay for sale!

Around mid-day I got welcomed by the "Volunteer State" Tennessee. Like Missouri, it has borders with eight states (obviously Kentucky and also Virginia to the north, North Carolina on the east side, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi to the south and on the west side Arkansas and Missouri.) Many soldiers who volunteered during the War of 1812 came from Tennessee, which explains the state's nickname. Tennessee's state capital is Nashville, where I will be staying for the next 2.5 days.

As mentioned earlier, Tennessee is also very big in tobacco production. Three types of tobacco are grown in Tennessee: burley, dark-fired and dark air-cured and according to the USDA, burley is the most prominent one. Tobacco has been commercially produced in the U.S. since 1612!

One more snapshot from Tennessee's beautiful scenery.

I noticed one more thing today: I am obviously approaching the southern areas of this country because I'm having more and more trouble understanding people's dialect. Why can't they just take the hot potato out of their mouth? ;-)

More to come.

19 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 13 - St. Louis (MO) to Henderson (KY)

This Sunday morning I did what many Americans do: I went to church.

Religion plays a very important role in this country. There is a large variety of religious beliefs and practices. And if I want to learn more about people, what better way is there than to join a service. I selected Grace Church in Maryland Heights north of St. Louis, because their website looked inviting. It is considered an inter-denominational church. Thus, a church that worships God without an affiliation to a specific religious group.

Wow, this is not simply a church but a full campus including a cafe, bookstore and lots more. The 1.5 hour long service is held in the auditorium, which resembles a conference room. Several hundred people of all ages and colors showed up. A band started playing modern christian music. The lyrics were displayed on the large screens left and right. People were standing and singing, clapping their hands and got all enthusiastic. After an update on community events, money collection and several prayers the sermon was held for 45 min. More songs and prayers concluded the service. This is what I would call 'modern church', so vivid and different to what I had ever witnessed before.

Grace Church auditorium

Sermon to Romans, chapter 6

For the first time ever it came handy that hotel rooms all provide the Holy Bible. If I want to I can revisit what the Reverend talked about. :-)

Back on the road, I followed Hwy 50 east into Illinois  - the "Land of Lincoln" - and Indiana.

Not sure if Hwy 50 was such a good idea. For the most part the pavement is poor, in consequence driving is slow and the worst: the curbside is mostly too narrow to stop for pictures!!

Even I started to define this as 'boring'. ;-)

Some entertaining spots along the road.

Sadly, I noticed lots of road kill: roughly one killed raccoon every other km! After passing by Darmstadt I finally arrived at Henderson, Kentucky. No state sign picture either. The sign was located on the median strip, right before a bright with no place to stop. Didn't I complain about this already?

There is a KFC next to the hotel, should I really? Ah, probably not.

More to come.

Across the U.S., Day 12 - St. Louis (MO)

Overall, I am impressed by St. Louis. It has lots to offer, particularly in terms of architecture and culinary specialties. I started the day with a visit to the Soulard Farmer's Market, south of downtown. It's the granddaddy of the farmer's markets - the oldest west of the Mississippi River.

It has a large variety of locally grown fruits and veggies, locally produced cheese, eggs, honey and baked goods. I picked up some wild honey (unfiltered, uncooked & pure, as it says on the label and produced in nearby Illinois), a jar of bee pollen (supposed to be a healthy adjunct to oatmeal) and some tomatoes. Mine in Sunnyvale have more flavor though. BTW, the St. Louis area has a total of 38 farmers markets!

Pumpkin time!

On my way to the Gateway Arch, I came by the Citygarden. This little park really speaks to my inner child, with its sculptures, native plants and fountains.

"Big White Gloves, Big Four Wheels",
artist Jim Dine brings Pinocchio to life.

Untitled (two rabbits in marshmallow style), Tom Claassen

"Big Suit", Erwin Wurm

St. Louis celebrates its 250th anniversary this year and birthday cakes are all over the place.

Celebrating historic "Laclede's Landing",
the site of the city's original settlement

When I got to the Gateway Arch, many people were already in line to get up on this 190 m tall monument. It commemorates St. Louis's role in the westward expansion (gateway) of the U.S. and is the nation's tallest monument.

However, I decided not to spend my time waiting in line to get to the top. Also, I happen to have my pepper spray with me which would have caused trouble at the security check. Nevermind, there is so much to see on the ground.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

This massive Romanesque building, completed in 1914, is decorated on the inside with over 41.5 mio. individual pieces of glass, marble and stone to form mosaics. Covering over 7,700 square meter, they took more than 75 years to complete.

The Cathedral has its cake, too.

St. Louis is also known for its blues music tradition, especially its more piano-based type of blues. To be honest, I'm not very familiar with this music, but names like Chuck Berry, Ike Turner and Miles Davis sound familiar even to me.

St. Louis Blues cake

I finished the day with a stroll through The Hill, St. Louis' little Italy, in the south-east of town. A cafe latte and an Italian ice cream were exactly what I needed before heading back to the hotel.

Even the fire hydrants wear
Italian colors in The Hill.

I would definitely come back to St. Louis. There is so much more to see, such as the City Museum, Missouri History Museum, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery including Clydesdale stables and of course to explore the night life. The above however shows only the positive, sunny side. We have all heard about what happened in Ferguson, in the north of the city, and the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer. Investigations are still ongoing and conflicting information can be found in the news. What I noticed when walking through certain parts of the city where many homeless, like in most large cities. They were all black. So much about equality of opportunity.

More to come.