Tale of the Tail of the Dragon

July 31, 2007

One of the great joys for Tennessee residents and visitors alike is driving the backroads through this beautiful state. With your favorite road music blasting, going through the gears–be they on car, a motorcycle, or a bicycle–as the scenery whips past is about as good as it gets.

The best Tennessee roads roll through the eastern part of the state, and last week I came across a website that celebrates these two-laned paths to pleasure. The Tail of the Dragon website gets its name from the section of Highway 129 that skirts the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and crosses into North Carolina at Deals Gap. This stretch of road, according to the site, has 318 curves in 11 miles–not for those who need Dramamine.


Ron and Nancy Johnson, proprietors of Tail of the Dragon

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Opening Brushy Mountain Prison for tourists?

July 30, 2007

The Knoxville News Sentinel has a short article noting the closing of Brushy Mountain Prison and raising the possibility that it be opened for visitors. Prison tourism has certainly paid off for some places. Alcatraz Island is on the short list of “must-sees” in San Francisco and Boston is about to open a hotel–jocularly named the Liberty Hotel–in the former Charles Street Jail. Then there’s this former prison in Oxford, England, where people can spend the night.

As interesting as Brushy Mountain might be to visitors, it has two strikes against it.


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Powell Service Station Airplane to fly again?

July 28, 2007

Just south of Ciderville between Knoxville and Clinton stands one of the more interesting roadside attractions in Tennessee: the Powell Airplane Service Station. Built in 1930, the structure recalls the excitement of a time when aviators such as Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes captured public imagination. It sits along Highway 25W, a stretch of the famed Dixie Highway that ran from Detroit to Miami.

In our time, when one can drive 500 miles in one day and seemingly enter the same gas station/convenience store over and over, we can only imagine the delight of motorists from far away coming around the corner and seeing this fanciful building.

Such structures once graced American highways, but almost all have been bulldozed. This one survives, just barely. A wonderful group calling itself the Airplane Filling Station Preservation Association seeks to restore the station to its original condition. Their website details progress and gives an address to which supporters can send donations.


More photos here.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

NY Times features Museum of Appalachia

July 27, 2007

Nice piece in today’s New York Times Escape section on the Museum of Appalachia in Norris. The article leads off with a look at the famed collection of Appalachian buildings and artifacts, as well as a chat with John Rice Irwin, the founder.  Writer Keith Mulvihill recommends eating in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee at Webb’s Country Kitchen.

The piece wanders through Kentucky and Virginia and comes back into Tennessee, where Mulvihill discovers Jonesborough. He then comes to the Smokies, where he makes the mistake that so many writers do by claiming that more than nine million people visit the park annually. In truth, the Park Service counts nine million visits every year, not visitors. There’s a huge difference between the two.


Photo of Museum of Appalachia courtesy Tennessee Department of Tourism

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

You are so Nashville if . . .

July 26, 2007

Nashville Scene the capital city’s alternative newspaper, has an annual contest in which readers are invited to complete the phrase “You are so Nashville if . . . .” While many of these one-liners don’t make a lot of sense outside the Athens of the South, here are my favorites from this year.

You are so Nashville if:

You accuse Al Gore of hypocrisy for exhaling carbon dioxide. —James H. Williams

Your church has pyrotechnics. —Dan McNamara

You know more members of the band, than members of the audience. —Fred Ramos

You start a church to get back at the church that fired you. —Michael Williams


This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Dreaming of farming in Tennessee? Dream on.

July 26, 2007

There’s an old joke that begins “Do you know how to make a million dollars farming?”

The answer is “Start with two million.”

Daily Yonder, an excellent new website focusing on rural America, has a post today on the costs of farming. Richard Oswald walks through the numbers of raising corn, which many farmers in Tennessee do, and the depressingly few dollars that result from what can seem like a good harvest. He ends his piece by saying:

“If you made it through all these figures, it’s easy to see why we need Federal programs designed to help young families stay on the farm. Many farm parents assist their children as best they can, but more and more, the sheer cost of farming is forcing parents to advise their children to look elsewhere for opportunity.”

Visitors and residents of Tennessee both benefit from a healthy agricultural community. We need locally produced food, and farmers tend to be good stewards of the land. At a time when our country gives the wealthiest citizens massive tax credits, we need to remember those who are closest to the soil on which we all depend.


This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Smoky but no smoking: UT bans butts in Neyland Stadium

July 24, 2007

The University of Tennessee announced this morning that smoking is now banned in Neyland Stadium, the football Holy of Holies on the Knoxville campus. No word yet on whether the Vol mascot, Smoky, will have to change his name. Entire departments of anthropologists could have careers interpreting the policies surrounding this sacred space over the years, so let’s have a little exegesis of the news release dropping this smoke bomb on the Vol faithful. First is a sentence from the release, then an explanation of what it really means.

“In compliance with a new state law passed this year that prohibits smoking in all enclosed public places, smoking will no longer be allowed inside the gates of the stadium.”

All right, y’all, let’s get this out in the open up front. We didn’t make this policy–those nitwits in Nashville did–so don’t blame us.


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The last picture show in Franklin?

July 23, 2007

“No good deed goes unpunished,” usually attributed to Oscar Wilde, describes the situation facing the Franklin Cinema on Main Street. I was just there last month; downtown Franklin is one of the more beautiful and vibrant downtowns in Tennessee, a delight to residents as well as visitors. This 70-year-old movie theater now faces sale and probable demolition precisely because Franklin’s historic preservation efforts have been so successful.

According to an article in the Tennessean, “Franklin Cinema building owner Mark Bloom has given has given Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County officials a Sept. 15 deadline to put together a deal to purchase the former movie theater.” The article mentions a figure of $2 million.


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Eyes of Tammy Faye close at last

July 22, 2007

Tammy Faye Bakker, described in today’s New York Times obit headline with the crossword puzzle-sounding clue of “emotive evangelist,” died of cancer on Friday at age 65. She was a former resident of Gatlinburg. It was to that town that she and former husband, Jim Bakker, fled after their Praise the Lord enterprise collapsed in scandal in the 1980s.


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Country Ham Pizza

July 21, 2007

I just had some reheated pizza for lunch. It was “Quattro Formaggio with Prosciutto,” or, as I would have called it many moons ago,”four cheeses with country ham.” I grew up eating country ham. My grandfather would kill hogs in late fall, rub the hams with a sugar and salt mixture, and hang them up to cure in the family smokehouse. Even though it was called a smokehouse, he never smoked meat, nor did most East Tennessee families.


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