Travelogs of Tennessee, 2009

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Domination of Eiler Journal #21: The Tennessee Spring Offensives
May 2009

It's time for Tennessee vacation, and lots of it. But the clock is ticking, because the kids get out of school soon. Instead of a mass three-week vacation, the Domination of Eiler is going to take advantage of its Nashville-Tennessee base to have a break between trips.

What Is the Domination of Eiler?

In one sense, "The Domination of Eiler" is a political entity modeled upon the Holy Roman Empire. Which is to say, it works through national and local political entities, but transcends nation-state boundaries. You may already be a citizen without knowing it!

In another sense, "The Domination of Eiler" is a pen name for an amateur but very prolific web journalist. Perhaps you may enjoy these travel writings, given this simple guide:

  • The Domination of Eiler is led by, of course, the Dominator.
  • The Domination has an advanced base in Nashville-Tennessee, and is looking to expand its holdings nearby.

  • Offensive 1: Tupelo-Mississippi

    Day 1: Wednesday 6 May 2009

    Domination of Eiler Frontline: Hohenwald-Tennessee
    The Natchez Trace Parkway
    The Domination of Eiler begins pacification of the Tennessee countryside.
    Where Half of Lewis and Clark Ended Up
    Half of Lewis and Clark ended up in the Tennessee woods. See also:
  • The Old Settler Trail
  • Using a complicated formula that accounts for weather fronts, grade school schedules, tech-sector activity, free musicals, and the general suckiness of Saturday night hotel stays, the Domination of Eiler has decided that today is the day to begin its large-scale pacification of Tennessee. The first offensive is southwest, along the Natchez Trace Parkway toward Tupelo-Mississippi.

    • The Natchez Trace is the original settlers' route from Nashville toward Mississippi, and Nashville names a street after it. The Natchez Trace Parkway is the U.S. Gov's modern implementation of same, and starts well outside Nashville. Fortunately the Domination's expeditionary force avoided confusing the two.
    • The Natchez Trace Parkway is similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway: limited access, but winding two lane road with no shoulder. When the Gov set its speed limit to 50 mph and declared it a bike route, they were actually living on the wild side for once.
    • Attractions along the parkway include several scenic overlooks, several wild turkeys, an old tobacco barn, and a monument near where Captain Meriwether Lewis of "Lewis and Clark" fame died suspiciously and was buried. For food or gasoline, though, one has to go well away from the parkway. This was done in Hohenwald, Tennessee.
    • Hohenwald also has the Lewis County Museum. The prominent local citizen is of course Captain Lewis, but local hunters Dan and Margaret Maddox dominate the museum with their trophy kills from around the world. They're not of endangered species, or at least they weren't at the time they were shot.
    • Yes, I'm Sure
    • By the time food, gasoline, and museum submitted, it was time to allow a cheap and convenient hotel to submit. Hohenwald has one of those too, plus a Mexican food place and at least one bar (George's) with dollar drafts for Happy Hour. It's a shame that screaming children are apparently considered a community standard for those who would dine on any food finer than hamburgers, though. Isn't that backward?

    Tomorrow, the Domination will start picking Civil War battlefield targets, which abound along the Tennessee - Mississippi line. Unfortunately, dry counties abound there too.

    Day 2: Thursday 7 May 2009

    Domination of Eiler Frontline: Tupelo-Mississippi
    Museums, a battlefield, and enough Elvis Presley to make it worth skipping Memphis.
    Elvis Was Born In This Bed
    The Elvis Presley Historic House in Tupelo looks a lot like any other historic house. See also:
  • Another Historic Tupelo Building (Preserved by the Town Museum)
  • Alabama Scenic Bridge
  • Mississippi Scenic Bridge
  • WWII Victory Magazine Covers
  • The expeditionary force moved out in excellent order, and advanced swiftly down the Natchez Trace Parkway toward Tupelo-Mississippi.

    • Some rest stops were taken in wooded areas, and one stick was conquered in Alabama.
    • But as Deep Southern travellers have known for centuries, this is the time of year when the woods become pestilential. This was especially obvious due to recent rains.

    With distractions thus kept to a minimum, the force was on station in Tupelo in time for lunch and afternoon patrols across the town.

    • The Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center is in Tupelo. It submitted historical exhibits and a medallion for the new Alabama stick, plus valuable local intelligence including discount coupons.
    • Logan's Roadhouse submitted a nice lunch. It's a chain restaurant, but it was cheap and it proved Tupelo is not in a dry county.
    • Tupelo abounds with hotels, and they're still building more. The Microtel Inn didn't honor a discount coupon, but it had especially cheap barracks anyway. And the neighbors can't loiter by their car outside your door there, because the door's inside!
    • The Oren Dunn City Museum is Tupelo's local museum and historic village, with a separate operation for military memorabilia. $3 admission, plus a donation to see the military stuff.
      • The militarists noticed the Dominator's stylish "US" belt buckle. (It's from the Battle of Nashville Gift Shop, though many gift shops now offer those same cheap buckles.) Hey, the Domination of Eiler actually made a U.S.-patriotic statement! What better place than on Confederate-wannabe soil?
      • The museum covers Tupelo history since the Ice Age, just like in any other town. A Tupelo commemorative quilt was conquered there. It's much like commemorative quilts anywhere.
      • Oddly, the museum doesn't talk much about Tupelo's most famous citizen. But they do talk about...
    • The Battle of Tupelo (July 1864) has a National Park site, but that site is much smaller than the battle itself, and is now surrounded by the town they fought over. Locals all say, you'll be disappointed.
    • Tupelo's most famous citizen is Elvis Presley! The Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum is now a historic village of its own; his house and his favorite church are preserved, alongside the relatively recent museum/gift shop and Elvis Presley Chapel. $12 admission.
    • Dinner at Outback Steakhouse near hotel, though Fancier Places exist a mile away in downtown. One local Fancy Place in the middle of the hotels was given first chance at dinner, but it needs to discover draft beers fancier than Bud Light. In that same neighborhood, Shoney's seemed best for dessert.

    The Tupelo radio tonight invited the Domination of Eiler to plan its Nashville getaway! Despite some disadvantages, in the Domination of Eiler the getaways happen the other direction.

    Day 3: Friday 8 May 2009

    Domination of Eiler Frontline: Jackson-Tennessee
    Battlefield Day
    The Domination of Eiler actually gets a lot of education from local historical sites. Today is no exception.

    Civil War battlefields and Elvis Presley history both teach the lesson, northeast Mississippi is useful to move through but not so much to hold on to. For instance, the Federal army won their battle for Tupelo, then turned around and advanced northward the next day. Today the Domination of Eiler follows that same victorious path, through three other battlefields where the Confederates attacked northward.

    • Caveat: Confederate generals didn't just abandon the region, because they needed the farm produce. So says the autobiography of General Hood, who was in charge of defending Atlanta and then attacking Nashville.
    • The Domination of Eiler doesn't need the food of northeast Mississippi so much as the Confederates did, because food is pretty much all standardized now. No grits or biscuits for breakfast in the hotel, for instance.
    Battlefield Content
    Other Tourist Content
    You Know You Want
    July 1864
  • About 15,000 men per army.
  • Confederates attacked and lost.
  • Federals gave up the battlefield anyway.
  • Confederates didn't do what they needed, which was to annoy General Sherman.
  • See yesterday's entry.
  • Tupelo's tourist brochure claims: "A Tradition of Hospitality". Tupelo is in a wet county. One suspects, people from nearby dry counties come have fun in Tupelo. Tupelo is apparently proud of that.
  • Tupelo Battlefield
    The battlefield of Tupelo today. See also:
  • The Monument
  • Brices Cross Roads-Mississippi
    June 1864
  • About 5,000 men per army, but Confederates were outnumbered.
  • Confederates attacked and won.
  • Confederates didn't do what they needed, which was to annoy General Sherman.
  • About three miles from the battlefield but close to the highway, the town of Baldwyn operates the battlefield visitor center (admission $3). From its gift shop, a hiking stick medallion was conquered.
  • Later at the battlefield, a pinewood hiking stick was conquered to be adorned with said medallion and represent Mississippi in the Dominator's personal collection.
  • Brices Cross Roads Battlefield
    The Brices Cross Roads battlefield. See also:
  • The Visitor Center
  • Corinth-Mississippi
    October 1862
  • About 20,000 men per army.
  • Confederates attacked and lost.
  • Corinth and Gettysburg are probably the only towns which had street fighting in the Civil War. That makes their towns part of the battlefield, if not the historic park.
  • The National Park Service considers Corinth's battlefield to be a satellite of Shiloh's battlefield, but Corinth's Visitor Center is bigger and more comprehensive.
  • Corinth's city museum is at the railroad depot. The prominent local citizen is the railroad itself. Admission $3.
  • Corinth also has a Coca-Cola museum! It got its franchise to bottle that beverage in 1907 or thereabouts. Admission $3, but it comes with a free bottle of Coke. $1.75 extra for ice cream with it.
  • Corinth is proud of its local dining options, but their tourist brochures don't mention what these are. No major chain restaurant will sanction the place. Corinth is in a dry county.
  • Corinth Battlefield
    Quick, shoot the kids! Cannon at the Corinth Battlefield Visitor Center.
    April 1862
  • About 50,000 men per army.
  • Confederates attacked and lost.
  • Target of attack was Pittsburg Landing, a Tennessee River ferry point.
  • However, battle was named after nearby Shiloh Church which still exists today.
  • Battlefield admission $3.
  • Pittsburg Landing itself is currently closed by the U.S. Gov for improvements, probably so as not to allow the clueless public to drive their cars into the river. But monuments that closely overlook it are all open, so the travellers' experience should not be impeded.
  • Shiloh Church has a replica log chapel, but now lives in a real building run by Methodists. It is apparently a junior church in the Methodist hierarchy, as judged by a 9 am service time - because pastor is probably busy elsewhere during sensible 10:30 service. Sorry, Shiloh Methodist Church.
  • The Visitor Center Gift Shop sells "Hike America" hiking sticks for $30 - from a chestnut tree plantation in Germany. The Natchez Trace Visitor Center sells those same sticks.
  • Coincidentally, at least thirty-two gift shops of the National Park Service are subcontracted out; indeed, the contractors are proud of it. They may therefore not be paying attention to any present or future governmental dictates to Buy American.
  • Shiloh Battlefield
    The target point of the Shiloh battlefield. See also:
  • The Reproduction Shiloh Church
  • The Modern-Day Shiloh Church
  • General theme of the battlefields: Confederates always attacked, but with decreasing force against decreasing enemy presence. They sometimes won, but they didn't do what they needed. That's probably why Confederacy lost the war.

    It took heavy campaigning to learn this stuff, though. Afterward, the Domination of Eiler staggered into Jackson-Tennessee to find barracks and good dinner (one stop each for salad, sushi, and dessert, and only one stop was Shoney's), and write this journal.

    May go conquer local Casey Jones birthplace tomorrow. (Apparently Casey Jones was once a real person.) Then probably skip journalling, go home to Nashville (now two hours' drive via Interstate 40), and recover from vacation.

    Day 4: Saturday 9 May 2009

    Casey Jones vs. Loretta Lynn
    They both have tacky tourist villages. But whose is tackiest?
    The Casey Jones Historic House Brought To You By Crisco
    The Casey Jones Historic House in Jackson, Tennessee is not terribly important to his tourist village.
    Historic poster of Loretta Lynn, brought to you by Crisco. See also:
  • Historic Frontier Homestead - With Animatron
  • Loretta Lynn Coal Mine
  • This was meant to be a homeward day, with commentary unnecessary. But two tourist villages along Interstate 40 are so tacky they deserve comment.

    The Casey Jones tourist village (Jackson, TN) is so tacky, they've closed their museum but kept the shops open!

    • Casey Jones is a real person who earned his fame around 1900. His museum (the Casey Jones Homestead and Railroad Museum) was not kind enough to give details, but at least it had a historic placard out front, plus a train car to give the general idea.
    • The village is convenient from the highway.
    • Heavily attended this day.

    The Loretta Lynn tourist village (Hurricane Mills, TN) is so tacky, their museum won't even tell you when she recorded her first song! If you ask the staff, they'll just say, "Didn't you see the movie?" That would be the "Coal Miner's Daughter" bio-picture for sale in the gift shop, not any movie they show on the premises.

    • Loretta Lynn is a real person who earned her fame around 1970. Her museum (the Loretta Lynn Coal Miner's Daughter Museum) was not kind enough to give even that detail. It does have her actual tour bus parked inside, though. Also many awards, dresses, and photos of her family and her celebrity friends, with hand-lettered and barely legible descriptive placards by herself.
    • The village is seven miles from the highway. Hotels at the nearest exits, and camping onsite. Lightly attended this day.
    • Historic pioneer homestead $3. Memorabilia museum $10. Country-retreat home and replica mine tour $12; this last was bypassed. A room full of dolls (including many Loretta Lynn dolls) is free.
    • The Domination of Eiler has not seen so much personality cult in one place other than Mark Twain's city Hannibal-Missouri. Hannibal existed before its celebrity did, and may be excused some hucksterism to survive, but Hurricane Mills was built for hucksterism. Not even Tupelo-Mississippi is so worshipful of Elvis Presley, even though he was born there.

    Today may not have had the best tourism, but it had the right amount. Home and an afternoon of rest await.

    Offensive 2: Gatlinburg-Tennessee

    It becomes increasingly obvious that the world wants people on vacation more than it wants people at work. The Domination of Eiler is ready to deliver.

    Day 1: Tuesday 12 May 2009

    Domination of Eiler Frontline: Oak Ridge-Tennessee
    Oak Ridge-Tennessee
    Historic A-Bomb factory in the hills.
    Happy Birthday, Oak Ridge
    Happy Birthday, American Museum of Science and Energy.

    Mission targets for this week are Knoxville and the approaches to the Smoky Mountains. Allies from the north are expressing an interest in coming to Tennessee and hiking the Smokies - but one doubts they'll want to see all the roadside attractions along the way. That's what solo missions are for.

    Evil enemies of the Domination stole an hour from today's mission when the expeditionary force crossed into the Eastern time zone. But today that's okay, because it was designed to be a short mission day.

    Today's target is Oak Ridge-Tennessee. It had a role in the creation of the atomic bomb, so it has an American Museum of Science and Energy that also serves as their town museum and "Discovery Center". Admission $5, and takes at least an hour.

    Oak Ridge is still an active nuclear weapons processing facility, though mostly they take them apart nowadays. It's congested with workers including business travellers, and this week with women's rowing teams too. The Domination's expeditionary force got the last room in Staybridge Suites. It's as pricey as the fancy hotels in Nashville - but it comes with free buffet dinner and beer! (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only.) That's worth at least $20 right there.

    Tomorrow, it's a half hour drive into Knoxville. Will likely stop for an oil change along the way, so as to resolve a "check engine" light that lit up today.

    Day 2: Wednesday 13 May 2009

    Domination of Eiler Frontline: Gatlinburg-Tennessee
    Pleasant enough, but probably too busy for its own good.
    The Sunsphere
    World's Fair building 1982; mostly office building 2009.

    (Personal note and advice to travellers: Reviewing e-mail at 2 am can be a spectacular opposite to a cure for insomnia.)

    On the way into Knoxville, Jiffy Lube gave a partial fix to car issues, but weren't sure they could do the whole thing. They'll probably be given another chance, just not at that location.

    Downtown Knoxville will probably not submit a hotel room. That's because Tennessee has no income tax; they just tax the tourists. So even when a fancy and convenient hotel room sounds like fair value, a state and city 14% tax says otherwise. Or at least it said that in Oak Ridge.

    But Knoxville does have these other things to submit, to the lucky traveller who can find just enough free parking at the World's Fair Park and then mount up on bicycle:

    • The Sunsphere from the 1982 World's Fair.
      • A Simpsons episode said it was mostly filled with unsold T-shirts. Perhaps, but it's labeled like it's an office building. And it reports, the 1982 World's Fair achieved its visitor goals and made a modest profit.
      • Free public observation deck on a lower floor; evening restaurant for grownups one floor up. Convenient public restrooms nearby, plus a security office with bike parking that proved to be safe today.
    • The Knoxville Convention Center was kind enough to provide a downtown restaurant map, but is otherwise unmanned. Perhaps they've given up on tourist traffic at the Sunsphere. Still, the map led to lunch.
    • Knoxville's Downtown Grill and Brewery. Gay Street has this brewpub, plus most of downtown Knoxville's dining.
    • The East Tennessee History Center was nice to raid for $5, especially if you care about how East Tennessee tried to secede from Tennessee and shut down the Confederate railroad net during the U.S. Civil War. The Center also has about as much biographical information on the famous East Tennessee singer Dolly Parton, as Loretta Lynn's museum has on Loretta Lynn - though that ain't sayin' much.

    Knoxville has a couple more historical mansions from previous governors, plus an art museum. But having successfully subdued the local trinity of Brewpub, History, and Tourist Site, the Domination of Eiler saved some money and evacuated downtown Knoxville in the direction of Gatlinburg.

    • EilerBase has been established for the next two nights at the base of the Ober Gatlinburg tramway, and two blocks from the Smoky Mountain Brewery and Restaurant. If such a brewpub existed, it would have to exist in Gatlinburg. And Gatlinburg so allows. Wikipedia to the contrary, the County Sevier which contains Gatlinburg is wet!
    • More on Gatlinburg tomorrow.
    • But back to Knoxville... Gatlinburg gets Knoxville TV. From this, more was learned about Knoxville.

    Knoxville has traffic issues; they actually shut down part of Interstate 40 for improvements. A disproportionate amount of the local news is traffic bulletins, even more so than Nashville, Boston, or Chicago. It may be too busy for its own good.

    Day 3: Thursday 14 May 2009

    Sometimes, touristy is good.
    From the Museum of Salt Shakers
    Volcano-shaped tableware, from Gatlinburg's Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers. See also:
  • Lots of Shakers
  • Tramway
  • Chair Lift
  • Dukes of Hazzard Museum
  • Tacky Dixie T-Shirts
  • A full day has been allocated to spread the Domination of Eiler throughout Gatlinburg. This may be overkill, but it does lead to a relaxing day for once.

    Gatlinburg has at least four Ripley's and Guinness facilities (possibly more like ten), and too many game arcades to count. Ripley's aquarium is said to be world-class, but aside from it these targets will be bypassed. Of course, one may leave town and hike, but that's not in today's plan. The plan does have:

    • The Dukes of Hazzard Museum at Cooters' Family Fun Center. Thanks to this valuable educational resource, the Dominator now knows whether to call a bad Tennessee driver "Bo Duke" or "Luke Duke" based on hair color. (Bo's the blonde.) Free admission, but it may be worthwhile to stop by the gift shop and buy a "Luke Duke" driver's license for $4.
    • Yes, I'm Sure
    • The Ober Gatlinburg Recreation Area. The same sort of amusements as in town, only with a better view. Of interest are a bear zoo ($5), a tram ride ($10), a chair lift going further up the mountain ($7), an alpine slide that starts from halfway up the chair lift ($7), and a restaurant (catfish sandwich $10, and plenty of clueless children and their incompetent handlers to help you enjoy the family dining experience). But no walking up or down the mountain!
    • The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum submitted 20,000 sets of specialty tableware, including outhouse-shaped sets and a Mount St. Helens-shaped set. $3 admission, though if you buy an $18 set of shakers from them you'll get an admission refund... This opportunity was bypassed.
    • The Smoky Mountain Winery submitted free half-ounce portions of wine to taste. In return, the Domination purchased two bottles of same. One might say the winery came out ahead in this deal, but the Domination still has the wine.
    • The New Hope Thrift Store submitted some really cheap radios plus a free Bible, mostly of the sort that people swipe from hotel rooms. The Bible and one radio will be immediately useful in the hotel room. Now that's what Appalachian shopping should be like.

    Some patrols happened by bicycle, but this was scary. The roads are all either congested boulevards or winding hilly cow paths. Locals go where they want, of course, but this probably annoys everyone. As for visitors, the Smoky Mountains National Park says "share the road with bicycles", but this is impractical and annoys the drivers no end, according to tourist reports.

    Conquered dinner on foot, at Smoky Mountain Brewery like yesterday. During their five-hour Happy Hour (2-7 pm), their beer prices sink nearly to South Lansing-Michigan levels. And the anti-rain Domination Effect defied the weather forecasts and kept Gatlinburg dry, until the Dominator was safely on a barstool.

    • Restaurants in Gatlinburg may either have smoking or children, but not both. The Dominator is not sure which he prefers. The best restaurants have neither.

    Gatlinburg has only two parts of the Trinity of Dominance: Beer and Tourist Sites, but not History. The closest thing Gatlinburg has to a town museum is in Knoxville. But a more common complaint about Gatlinburg is, "It's gotten all touristy since ____ ". People around here say "since 1975", but the Dominator's mother once said "since 1945". One supposes there's a demand for "touristy", for it to survive in the face of all these complaints.

    Day 4: Friday 15 May 2009

    Out of the Smoky Mountains
    Barely in time to avoid the tourist onslaught.
    The Junior Ho Chi Minh Trail of Tennessee
    Smoky Mountains, or Junior Ho Chi Minh Trail? See also:
  • Cherokee Masks (including the Wild Potato Tribe)
  • Domination of Eiler force doctrine is to vacation where and when normal people don't. With the weekend fast approaching, normal people are flooding into the Smoky Mountains. The Domination therefore floods out.

    • The Smoky Mountain National Park has a Sugarland Visitor Center two miles from Gatlinburg. It has stuffed animals and nearby trails; senior citizens were seen hiking from town. The Domination took the place by car, though; it's on the back way out of town.
    • The center was mobbed. So was the park "scenic" road to Cades Lake. The expeditionary force was glad to exit into the town of Townsend.
    • Unlike Gatlinburg, Townsend has a historic museum and village, the Appalachian Heritage Center. It's proud of its 22-minute film about the poor displaced mountaineers of the region, who largely lived in Cades Lake where the "scenic" roads now go. The Domination took those 22 minutes to go see the exhibits instead, though.

    The day has time to consult with a second Jiffy Lube about further auto repair. They've formally recommended that the Domination of Eiler refer its increasing automotive issues to more well-equipped mechanics. This will work best near EilerBase Nashville.

    So the expeditionary force declined further tourism, passed by self-proclaimed historic towns Maryville and Cookeville, and made it home from the far point of its four-day vacation in about four hours. Think global; vacation local.

    The offensive has shown these signs of success:

    Conquered two new sticks to represent Alabama and Mississippi in the Dominator's private collection. Someday this collection will be placed on exhibit, just like Loretta Lynn does with her own memorabilia. Worked on two old sticks. These, the least among the sticks of the Domination of Eiler, are now the envy of the Smoky Mountains.
    Lots. Two of these will decorate the new sticks. Lots.
    Mostly decent and cheap. None with swimming pools, but all with wireless Internet, even in the Tennessee back country. Essentials first, luxuries second. Mostly excellent and only sometimes overpriced. Only missing hot tubs.
    Mostly decent. Mostly excellent, usually from brewpubs.
    Targets of Amusement Value
    Several every day. Several every day.
    Practically none. Practically none.
    Writing of Fiction
    None, but it's practically caught up anyway. None, but there's not much backlog.
    None. The bike would have come in handy one time in Tupelo, but not enough to make it worth dragging it along through the occasional rain. Enough to be useful.

    The expeditionary forces may be battered, but one thing is constant. The Domination of Eiler triumphs as ever, all praise to the One Maker.

    (signed) Dominator S. Eiler, Fist of the One Maker, for the Domination of Eiler.

    A Sequel

    The Domination of Eiler believes in free sharing of information. But if you wish to reproduce significant parts of the commentary within, be aware that it is © copyright 2009 by Eiler Technical Enterprises. And have a niiiice daay.