On the return trip from vacation, I convinced Tammy that we ought to drive liesurely and explore some of what’s on the interstate from Cincinnati, OH to Columbia, SC. I learned from my mother a long time ago that travel is an adventure, not just an ordeal to get from point A to point B. Might as well enjoy the trip and have a little fun.
We broke the trip up into two days. We’d drive up I 26 to Ashville, then take I 40 to Knoxville, where we’d stop for the night. The next day, we’d take I 75 north from Knoxville to Cincinnati. Done in one trip, it would take about 9 hours, but we made it take 2 days.
Our options were wide open – there’s much to see in that first stretch, but we opted for the Forbidden Caverns, just outside Sevierville TN (not too far from Dollywood and Gatlinburg – what I like to call “Myrtle Beach in the mountains”). For $12 a piece (the kids were free) we had an hour long tour through some quite pretty caverns that were once used as a haven for moonshiners and as a winter retreat for Native Americans. What I enjoy is how the beauty of the flowstone and the stalactites and stalagmites were hidden from our view for centuries. It was a great reminder of how much there is in this universe that is hidden from us – species of animals that have not yet been discovered, suns that blaze beyond the reach of the Hubble telescope, remote tracks of jungle or desert islands that have not been seen by human eyes for centuries. All of these things exist simply for the pleasure of their Creator – and their being brings Him glory.
So after our enjoyment, we hit the road and passed a quiet evening in a run-down Days Inn in Knoxville (you can be sure, next time, we’ll stay at Hampton Inn). The next day, we visited the Museum of Appalachia. I’ve been wanting to visit this place for four years ever since I first saw the sign on I75.
I wasn’t prepared for the quality that I found. The main part of the museum was a reconstructed homestead and series of cabins that mountaineers used to live in. In this respect it was like Old Salem or Colonial Williamsburg – you could actually see the restored homes as they would have looked like when used. It was a sobering thought to see how they packed large families into single and double room cabins. We also saw vintage blacksmith shops, corn cribs, and gardens with heirloom vegetables.
But the highlight was the “Appalachian Hall of Fame” which was a large two story (and blessedly air conditioned) building featuring exhibits about famous Appalachians (such as Sgt Alvin York, who was lionized in the terrific film Sgt York), and handicrafts from the region. Many of these people were extremely poor, yet they were not stupid – the exhibits demonstrated a great cleverness and a zest for life – particularly in the section on bluegrass music. It struck me that many of my forebears (such as great great grandfather RY Russell) lived in upstate SC, and these exhibits were giving me a taste of their life. I was struck again with the great dignity we all bear as bearers of the image of God – dare we mock these people as ignorant hillbillies? I think not.
So, an exhibit well worth the trip and the $12 admission price – we spent the whole morning there. Then, the museum being just north of Knoxville, we had a 4 hour trip back home.
Travel is an adventure indeed.