10. Freedom is not easy.              

Now on Little Rock Arkansas….  as a History teacher, Kelly had taught about the Little Rock Nine.  It is now my turn to learn about them.  We first went to Little Rock Central High School and toured the halls of the still working school.  The school became famous after Governor Faubus ordered the National Guard to be stationed in front of the school to prevent 9 African American students from attending the school.  It was in 1957 and the Supreme Court decision was just made about the Brown vs the Board of Education regarding desegregation.  The Governor gave his plea to prevent the students from attending high school over National TV and since the National Guard is a Federal program the President can Federalize them to fulfill the new laws of desegregation.   President Eisenhower then turned the tables on the Governor and ordered the National Guard to protect the 9 students in the school so that they would be able to attend school safely.  News channels from all over the United States came to Little Rock to watch history unfold before their eyes.  Prejudice was alive and running in the streets of Little Rock!  When we walked over to the museum across the street from the school we had missed the last tour, but we had something better.  One of the tour guides was still there and took a liking to us and gave us a private one on one talk.  He told us how they started out with 200 black students wanting to go to the school but after giving them all kinds of regulations and restrictions it came down to 10.  One of the girls was so tormented that her parents took her out of the school.  It sounded horrible!  I had the opposite problem, in my junior high school in California.  A law was passed to order schools to be more integrated.  Black students were being bused into my school from Los Angeles and they did not want to be there.  


Artwork commemorating the Little Rock 9.


Little Rock Central High School is still in use today.


After leaving Little Rock we headed to an RV Park in Memphis called T.O. Fuller State Park.  It was the first State Park open for African Americans East of the Mississippi.  It was in Southern Memphis and it was interesting to see the surrounding neighborhoods. We went to church in the local area and out of 500 people we were the only white people at the service!  The congregation was so nice and were great huggers!  It was the longest and loudest church service I have ever been to, but lots of fun and we felt God’s presence there.  As we left the church a nice man came up to us and said “I made sure your bikes did not get stolen.”  I then noticed he had a police badge under his three piece suit!  


New Liberty Church in Memphis.


It poured just as we were arriving at T. O.State Park.  We got soaked and the storms was just over our heads.  It was really quite scary!


The next day we headed into town and went straight to open the National Civil Rights Museum.  It is a very unusual museum, because it is also on the same sight that Martin Luther King JR. was assassinated.  The Lorraine Hotel is no longer in use, and is attached to the Civil Rights Museum.  I realized as a kid in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I was very much sheltered of all the injustice that went on in the world at that time.  It did not apply to our family so therefore we never thought about it.  It was really sad to hear and see all the injustice going on for African Americans at that time in history.


The sight at the Lorraine Hotel were Rev. Martin Luther King JR. was shot.


Memphis is a mix of music, BBQ and Civil Rights.  On Beale Street,the main street we found all of those things plus more!  Street performers emerged and entertained us, blues music was radiating from every corner.  It was a street that was alive with activity and was the place for young musicians to be discovered, like Elvis Presley…


I went on a tour of this recording studio “Sun Records” owner Sam Phillips really only liked blues, country and negro gospel music.  He wanted to create a different sound and Elvis Presley was playing around one night with some country musicians and sped up a version of “That’s Alright Mama”.  In the day, you could come into the recording studio and pay a small fee to record a 45 record with two songs on it.  The owner recorded that version and kept a copy for them to play on the radio.  Within a couple of days playing on the radio it was a hit.  Elvis was famous!



This is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley.


Elvis had fabric all over the walls and ceiling in the game room.


This is where Elvis and his parents are buried.  He made a headstone for his twin brother Jesse who died at birth but his brother is actually buried in Mississippi.  After learning more about his life, I had a new respect for him and how generous he was to other people.


I am not the only person that has trouble navigating around these parts!  I have spoken to other RVer’s and they also have problems since one highway can have, or turn into, several other numbered roads!


In between Memphis and Nashville we camped at Natchez Trace State Park.  We took a walk right after we got settled in and another camper came up to us and warned us about the tornado that was about 8 miles from us. He invited us to come into his motor home to watch the weather report.  It came close and the lightening and thunder was crazy!  We had a plan if things got worse, to camp out in the brick restrooms.


Carnton Plantation got its from a Gaelic word “cairn” which means a pile of stones.  The pile of stones sometimes marks a burial site.  The name is fitting because it was was the largest “field hospital” during the Civil War in the battle of Franklin TN.  After the bloody battle the owners gave up two acres to bury almost 1500 Confederate soldiers.  You can still see the blood on the wooden floors inside the house.


This is how they might have set up the operating table during the Civil War at he Carnton Plantation in Franklin Tennessee.


Enjoying the shade and a slight breeze on the back porch in the 95 + degree weather. 


Nashville here we come.   We checked into our “ant filled” KOA campground North of Nashville.  We did not know that you should always keep ant spray on hand to spray the “legs” of the fifth wheel, another lesson learned.


We drove the pick up into downtown Nashville and found out that we could park the “big monster” at the Capital since it was not open.  Then we rode our bikes further into the downtown area.  The main strip is on Broadway St.  It is not as well maintained as Memphis’ Beale St. and was kind of dirty.  Not what I expected.  It was a Friday, and we must have seen 50 sets of Bachelorette parties on the crowded streets of Nashville.


This is the site of the original Grand Old Opry, Ryman Auditorium.  Funny story about how this came to be.  It used to be called the Union Gospel Tabernacle.  Thomas Ryman was a successful businessman who owned several saloons and a fleet of riverboats.  Mr. Ryman decided to go to a tent revival meeting that all the townsfolk were taking about.  His purpose was that he would heckle the charismatic revivalist, Samuel Jones.  After the night was though Mr. Ryman committed his life to the Lord and instantly became a devout Christian.  The businessman and the preacher started working together and turned the Tabernacle into a much larger scale building so that people could hear the gospel preached indoors.  After Ryman died the preacher renamed the building the Rynman Auditorium.  In 1904, Lula Naff, a widow and mother, began to book other types of speaking engagements, concerts and events at the Ryman.  She became the manager in 1920 which was unheard of in that day and age.  It became a cultural center and all the famous personalities wanted to “be there”.  Some of the performers were W.C. Fields, Will Rodgers, Bob Hope and Harry Houdini to name a few.  The auditorium was dubbed “The Carnegie Hall of the South.  It still holds concerts there today.


The acoustics in the Auditorium are one of the best in the United States.  K.D. Lang was performing that night.


One of the flamboyant outfits of a country stars.  The Grand Old Opry was there 31 years.


On Sunday, before we arranged to meet my friend Shannon at the Nashville store from the TV show “American Pickers”, we went to a church almost next door to Antique Archaeology.  It was called Ethos Church Marathon.  It was a very young, laid back, church and the sermon was about a dream the pastor had early that morning.  His heartfelt message was very moving and inspiring to us.  After church we met my friend Shannon at the store, who flew in to visit her brother, Chris and sister-in-law, Judy.  It was great to meet them and also Lauren, one of the cast members from the show for the Nashville location.


Chris and Shannon inside the American Pickers small store.  The original building  was an automobile manufacturer and now the 2 blocks long building is filled with all  different types of retail shops geared towards recycling and re-purposing.  After saying good bye to Shannon’s brother and sister-in-law, Shannon hopped in the truck with us and we headed towards the Farmer’s Market to catch a trolley tour of Nashville.  Some interesting facts about Nashville are:  1. The city has a huge copy of the Parthenon with a gigantic gold statue of Athena in it.  2.  Music Row is several residential looking streets of record label offices, publishing houses, music licensing firms along with other businesses who serve the music industry, instead of large buildings.  3.  I did not know The Grand Old Opry moved years ago to a gigantic location with a mall, convention center, restaurants and indoor gardens.  It is also owned by Marriott and they also own a river boat, bars, golf courses and still owe the Rynman.


One of our favorite highlights in Nashville was the Belle Meade Plantation.   The home is a “Greek Revival” style and was mainly known for breeding racehorses.  The whole house was beautifully decorated and our guide was very knowledgeable about history and the events before and after the Civil War.  This is important since I am with a history teacher!


Lunch time with Shannon was at the famous Loveless Cafe.  I have heard about it in my Southern Living magazine and on TV cooking shows.  The baked goods were really good.  They specialize in Biscuits and Kelly and I shared a Hummingbird Cupcake.                                   (A southern recipe.)


This is the home of 7th President Andrew Jackson.  The “Hermitage”plantation and grounds have been kept up very well and the home had been enlarged to it’s present size.  President Jackson never had any of his own kids, so to carry on his name he adopted a son (who was a twin) and named him Andrew Jackson Jr.


The tomb of Andrew and Rachel Jackson in on the side of the home in the garden.


Now I know what my face would look like on a $20 dollar bill.


I had to take a picture of a picture to get this shot of the General Jackson Showboat.


We had a midday cruise on this boat and they had a country music variety show called Nashville live which featured various artist and types of musical instruments.  This is a look of downtown Nashville.  We also saw a re-creation of the Pantheon in Nashville’s Centennial Park.  This is the second Pantheon there the first one was only made to last several months for the cities Centennial celebration.  


I needed to go back to Seaside for a doctors appointment so I arranged to go back the same time Shannon was heading home.  After a major storm in New Jersey, our plane did not get to us in Houston until after 1am.  We headed down to baggage claim to get Shannon’s bag and the airport closed it’s doors from 1-4am.  We had to try to sleep in the baggage claim department until the airport reopened again.  Shannon was trying to sleep and it was a very longer 24 + hours before we were home in Seaside.  That first day back home I got home about 3pm and slept until 6pm.  I was really tired.  I will fly back in a few days to rejoin Kelly in Knoxville TN.  To be continued…


9. Hot time in the cities!          

As soon as we got out of the truck in Omaha, we noticed something was different.  The weather had changed!  Before it was hot, 90 degrees or more, but now it hit us like a brick wall.  HUMIDITY!  It was not bad doing things outside like biking or hiking but now the same exercise seemed more difficult.   Kelly said it was “hard to breathe”.   I don’t know how the locals do it each summer.  Kelly met our “neighbors” camping next to us.  A really nice local couple who were just camping for a couple of days.  Right away they gave us advice on what to do and what highways to take to get there.  It was so nice to have them next to us.

Whenever we get into a town I like to check Trip Adviser for the top ten things to do in that town.  The zoo came highly recommended so we decided to check it out.  It was voted best zoo in the world!  It was better than San Diego and other zoos that we have been to.  Our favorite was the monkeys.  One of the guides there told us that the gorillas are playful and like to play a game with the guides.  She was wearing a green shirt that the gorillas recognize.  If the guides turn their back against the gorillas then the gorilla will pound the glass really hard to scare the children she is with.  Kelly happened to be wearing a green U of O shirt, turned his back and BAM!  The gorilla slammed the window and scared the grown man next to Kelly.  It was really funny.  You would have had to been there.


We left Omaha the next morning, and said good-bye to our new friends.  Before Kelly left Seaside, our home town, he joined the local chapter of the Elks.  His best friend, Loren, encouraged him to join and to be apart of the organization for his retirement years.  We found out that some Elks lodges let you stay in their parking lot for a fee per night.  Since we wanted to stay near the city core of Kansas City Missouri we contacted the lodge.  A couple had beat us to the only 50 amp hook up and water but they did have 20 amp available for us to use.  We used our own reserve water and had to dump the sewer later. The group of people who worked there were very hospitable and made us feel apart of their lodge.  They told us about the “Hollywood” night dinner and Elvis impersonator show that they were having the next night, so we bought tickets.

My father Robert, was from Kansas City and over the last 8 months I had been working on my Dad’s family genealogy.  I mainly worked on his Mother’s side of the family, my Grandmother Opal.  My sister and I really knew nothing about her since our Father never spoke about her and she died when he was only 16 years old.  I asked the lady at the local visitors center about the Kansas City Library but she recommended going to the Genealogy Library.  So the next morning we headed there to find out more about my family. I would encourage you to find out about your own family history, it is really interesting!  It is kind of like being a detective and solving a mystery.  After a couple of hours, all Kelly and I found was an obituary for my Great Uncle Carl, whom I had met when I was 8 years old.  I found out he had a son, our second cousin??  It is always hard to figure that out.  Still have to pursue that lead. The librarians told me to go to Vernon County by the town where they lived (about an hour away)  and check out the local library which I was planning to do anyway.

Later that day, to beat the heat and humidity, we decided to go to the President Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.  We have been to President Johnson’s house outside of Austin, Texas and home of John Quincy Adams outside of Boston.  When we were Boston, we also went to the John F. Kennedy Presidential library. They all were just fascinating and very educational.  I learned a lot about him.  Of course he became President after President Franklin Roosevelt died. He was the President during the final months of World War II and made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He also helped form the United Nations and after North Korea invaded South Korea he sent troops over there and we became part of the Korean War effort.  He had to make very hard decisions during his Presidency some popular and some not.  He did not have any formal education and was a self taught man (the last President elected without a college education.)  He had a famous saying, “the buck stops here!” The saying basically meant, that he had the ultimate authority to make the decisions and that he would accept the responsibility for those decisions.  Unlike a lot of politicians today!



Kelly at the Kansas City Elks Lodge.


Hollywood night with Elvis and other celebrities at the Elks.

While we were in Kansas City, Kelly went to the World War I museum, I went to Union Station, we took a trolley downtown and ate at the famous Jack Stack chain of BBQ restaurants.  Our last day in Kansas City all we wanted to do was to stay cool.  We decided to go to a water park, but the water temperature was almost the same as the outside temperature.  As soon as we got out of the water we started to sweat!  That morning, we also took an 9 mile bike ride.  The shady bike pathway was nice but as soon as you stopped the sweat came.


Union Station is where my Father came home by train on his leaves from the Army.

Our next stop was Stotesbury, Missouri where my Grandmother’s family is buried.  I have been working on my families genealogy on my Grandmother Opal’s side and wanted to learn more. I have traced back to her Great, Grandfather.  Her two brothers and their wives plus her parents are all buried at East  Liberty Cemetery just outside the small town.  


The town were my Grandmother Opal’s family was from.  We found it no longer exists even though there is still a sign off the highway.


Kelly decided his way was a better use of time and more direct, than my way. But because of a low bridge, we had to go down a gravel road with the fifth wheel.  At one point, I drove while he went on the roof of the trailer to hold back branches from hitting the air conditioning unit. It was the worst road we will ever have our fifth wheel go on!  The last mile I ended up riding my bike over the railroad tracks to the cemetery, but later found we could barely make it over these tracks to get to the main road.


I wish I was closer to help maintain this small country cemetery, like we do with Kelly’s family at the Yoncalla Oregon Applegate Cemetery.


My Great Grandparents.


My Grandmother’s plot.  I wish I could have met her.  After going to Vernon County I did find out that she taught school in a one room school house on the boarder of Kansas and Missouri.  We found an original perfect attendance certificate that she signed.  I wished they would let me have it but they made me a copy. 


Then we went to Fort Scott Kansas just over the border from Missouri. This was where my Great, Great Grandfather is buried at the National Military Cemetery there, he died of small pox at Fort Scott.


His real name was Thomas Jefferson Denton I, but he went by Jefferson Denton.  He died when my Great Grandfather was just a baby.  He fought for the Union side and died during the Civil War.   His brother was a confederate solider, which shows how the war tore apart families.


It was a real surprise to find that Fort Scott was still mostly in tact.    We took a self guided tour in the buildings that we could go through.  This was the back of the hospital where my Great Great Grandfather died.


My Great, Great Grandfather could have died in this room, but with so many causalities during the Civil War, they also had to set up tents in the field in front of this hospital.      Now onto Arkansas….


We made it to Eureka Springs Arkansas on top of the Ozark Mountains.   Eureka means “I found it” in Latin, so the town became popular after European Americans discovered that the several springs surrounding the town had healing powers.  It is also called “The Little Switzerland of America” because of its mountainous terrain and the winding up and down paths of the streets and walkways.  It has a unique character since many Victorian homes are still in the village today and other houses have an alpine look to them which is from the influence of the first Europeans to settle here.


The town reminded me of Cannon Beach with well kept gardens and art abounding.


This church is the only church in America that you enter through a bell tower.


The 1886 Crescent Hotel is considered the most haunted hotel in America.  It was also a Cancer hospital, College for Young Women, a morgue and a sanitarium.  It has been featured on several TV shows because of its scary past.


Because of the threat of health risks the government made the city cement in all the springs so that people would not get sick drinking the room temperature water which could contain bacteria.


We saw the 68′ statue of Jesus and toured the bible museum there.  If the statue was any taller it would have had to have lights on Jesus head, so the sculptor decided it was tall enough.  It is the 45th anniversary of the statue and you can also enjoy the Great Passion Play which is also part of the whole complex.


With over 6,000 bibles in this museum, this one page was one of the most valuable at $100,000 and was written on calfskin.  The collection was 2nd to the largest and most complete to the only other collection which is in Washington DC at the Library of Congress.  They had bibles written in 650 languages.  They have a first edition and 1st printing of a King James bible and that is worth $500,000!   The most valuable to us as Christians are the God given words in the bible that are used for guidance and the words also give us encouragement to live our life the way God intended us to.


Another classic Victorian home!


It took two hours for us to drive to Branson Missouri from Eureka Springs. I had visited the city 10 years before with a senior group when I was a travel agent and a lot had changed since then.  The town now has two by pass roads because the traffic is so heavy at times.  The best time to go is still Spring or Fall.  The first night we went to see Jim Stafford.  He is now 72 and you might know some of his once famous songs like “Spiders and Snakes” or “My Girl Bill”.  Well his singing is more of just a spoken word,but his guitar playing is still very good.  We also saw the acapella group Six, a 60’s song review tribute band, and a magician.  Most of it was good.  If you go to see an act at the same venue they give you a discount, so we took advantage of that. 

On Sunday, we headed off to church.  It was a mega church.  The Faith Life Church with pastor Keith Moore.  I did not know it was going to be so big, (it was close to our KOA.) Turns out the service is televised and the other day while we were flipping through the channels we saw him preaching on our TV as well!  The church had a very professional feel to it and Pastor Keith preached a very good sermon.


We took a “Ride the Ducks” boat ride and went up four wheeling to overlook Lake Taneycomo.  Kelly got to be captain for 5 minutes of the ride.  We also went to Silver Dollar City.  A western themed amusement park outside of Branson.  Kelly got to go on his roller coasters and I watched.  (I did go on one, but my neck can’t take it.)  The park also has musical and dancing shows to watch.


We had a good time watching these performers imitate famous singers at one of the shows we went to.  Can you guess who they are supposed to be?  It was our son’s Andrews birthday that day and I Facetimed him while “Michael Jackson” sang Happy Birthday to him.  “Taylor Swift” also wished him a great birthday. We had a good time in Branson, but it was time to move on to Little Rock….. More later.