Once Fred and I got a taste of the freedom of travel again after our COVID-19 house arrest, we decided it was time to burn our expiring timeshare points.
Timeshares are not the way to go for people that don’t care about or use amenities at a resort and who don’t like to stay in one place for very long. In fact, if you followed our New England trip, you know we prefer to support the mom and pop motels and restaurants and to keep moving.
Not being a fan of temperatures above 75, the South is not an ideal travel destination in August and September for me. We chose it because we had hoped our 16-year old grandson, who resides in North Carolina, would be able to join us for a week and timeshare availabilities were limited because many other Americans had travel on their minds too. We booked a week in Sevierville, Tennessee, which is just outside one of the entrances of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We really enjoyed the park when we were there nine years earlier and being it is close to where our son resides, it seemed like a good fit. We soon learned our grandson would be unavailable to join us, but decided to brave the warm weather.
We had been talking about going to the Ark Encounter since it opened in Williamstown, Ky., in 2016, so we decided to stop on the way. The story is found in the Holy Bible and goes something like this: The people had become very wicked. Noah was a righteous man who walked with the Lord. God told Noah a flood would cover the world and instructed him to build an Ark for his family and land animals, one of each sex. It took Noah and company 120 years to build the vessel. God told Noah when to enter the completed project, prompting Noah, his wife and their three sons and their wives to load provisions and the animals.
The designers of the Ark Encounter had very little to go on from the limited details in the Bible, which included the dimensions, three decks and pitch-coated exterior and interior. They laid out the interior with some features representing the way it could have been, but no one really knows what the original was like and the new one had to be designed to accommodate thousands of guests. It is believed the original had little light as opposed to the sconces, although dim, that light the way for today’s visitors. There was clever use of imagination when it came to designing mechanisms for animal feeding and waste removal, as no one knows how that was handled. The original would have had enclosures to house nearly 7,000 animals. The Ark Encounter version had a fraction of that number with sculpted animals. In these areas a sound system played recordings of how it may have sounded.
God told Noah to build the vessel from gopher wood, but today that wood is unknown. Some Bibles translate it as cypress and others cedar. Since the earth has changed considerably since the time of the flood, it is not known where the first ark was built or if it was in a country where these trees would have grown. The outside of the Ark Encounter’s massive vessel is made from Radiata Pine sourced from New Zealand. The decking is White Fir and the flooring is made from Bamboo. The sixty-four 32-foot columns and headers were made of Douglas Fir and the lodge poles were made of Engelmann Spruce. Noah was told to build his ship 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits tall. The modern-day project is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet tall. There are no steps to climb, as each floor has a long, gradually-rising ramp for visitors to ascend or descend from floor to floor. An elevator is provided for handicapped people.
After walking throughout the three floors of the massive wooden vessel, it was a welcome sight to have shuttles waiting to transport guests to the parking lot.
We drove to our accommodations in Sevierville, Tenn., from there.
We like to avoid chain restaurants, when possible, especially when traveling, rather than have a meal identical to that which is served in a restaurant near home. So, after church on our first full day in Tennessee, we stopped at Five Oaks Farm Kitchen where I tried cornbread salad, minus the tomatoes. Since I had been trying to lose the Covid ten I had added to my girth, along with the 20 pounds from two years prior for which I have no excuse, I had been avoiding pasta, rice, flour and white potatoes. When I made the decision to eat salad with broken up pieces of cornbread, I wasn’t thinking of all of the meals I would be eating over the next few weeks of travel that would come with warm rolls or a mini-loaf of bread, of which I am unable to resist.
Five Oaks was built three years ago on land that had been a farmer’s pasture, but was given the appearance of an older barn-style building that had been in business for decades. Outside the front door was an old truck, which seems to be the norm at restaurants, nurseries, gift shops and whatever businesses choose to put their logo and them and have them driven, towed or drug to their location. An antique tractor and manure spreader were parked near the parking area. Various farm-themed items were found throughout the building. One area displayed boxes which held roosting stuffed chickens. Antique hand tools hung on a small wall and steel wagon wheels lined the upper balcony which gave the impression of a hay mow. Signs advertising International Harvester, John Deere and other farm implements were interspersed on the walls along with animal feed advertisements. From the window near our table we could see bee boxes, which we were told supplied the honey that was served in the restaurant, and a working water wheel.
On another day, we took a side trip to the small town of Dandridge, Tennessee. Our first stop was Tinsley Bible Drug Store, which appeared not to have changed much since it opened in 1911. Each of the four or five booths were occupied, therefore we ate lunch at the counter while sitting on red stools which swiveled on shiny chrome pillars. Nearby, on the opposite side of the counter, were the original pump dispensers that held the sundae toppings. A working pharmacy was located in a back corner. Cabinets and shelving, made of dark-stained wood, which held many bottles, lined the long side wall.
Every business on this block had an awning attached to the front, each in a different design and color and at various levels, which were much appreciated on the rainy day we chose to visit Dandridge.
After driving several miles on a very curvy Route 92 out of Dandridge to US 411, we arrived at the Bush Brothers Bean Plant in Chestnut Hill. Across the road from the plant, in the original A.J. Bush general store, is a museum, gift shop, theater and cafÈ. We didn’t spend much time in the gift shop other than to press a souvenir penny. The museum told the history of Bush products, including the ups and downs and how in 1969 when the canning industry was struggling due to low prices from overproduction, the company introduced a baked bean product based on Kathleen Bush’s secret recipe. Kathleen’s son, Jay Bush and a golden retriever referred to as Duke, after Jay’s own dog, began making commercials for TV in the mid-1990s. Stuffed versions of Jay Bush’s talking dog, were available to purchase. As we exited, a souvenir photo was taken of us in front of a backdrop that featured Duke.
To be continued.