Our first visit to Dandridge was on a rainy day so we didn’t stop to see a few of the sights along the way. We came back because we liked what we saw the first time around. One of our stops was at Douglas Dam, which is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). TVA was established in 1933 to control flooding in the Tennessee River, generate electricity, and boost the economy of the Tennessee Valley, which was badly affected by the Great Depression. Currently, TVA employs around 11,000 workers.
In addition to flood control and the provision of electricity, the VAT management of the Tennessee river system ensures navigation and recreation, as well as a stable water supply to cities and suitable habitat for fish and game. Before the TVA, the Tennessee River frequently flooded towns and entire farms, washing away fertile soils and making river navigation dangerous.
The purpose of the TVA for the construction of the Douglas Dam in 1942 was to provide the surrounding area with much needed electrical power. Electricity was supplied to two major industries of World War II: aluminum production and the operation of the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The operation was a nuclear development site that played a leading role in the creation of the atomic bomb. The 202-foot-high by 705-foot-long dam was completed by 6,220 workers working around the clock, over a period of 384 days. This was possible because TVA had completed the nearby Cherokee Dam a few weeks earlier. The immediate availability of drawings, experienced engineers, construction workers and heavy equipment contributed to the speed with which the Douglas Dam was constructed.
The dam can be visited from three levels. The first is the lower level up close and personal. A two-level grassy park rises above the dam. A restroom and pavilion are located on the upper level, which makes sense as this is where the best scenes can be viewed.
One of our afternoons in Sevierville was spent playing a favorite game of dominoes, then having dinner with my husband’s classmate and her husband, who were coincidentally staying a few miles from Pigeon Forge. Sharon and Chuck reside in Texas but travel in a large RV with a van in tow for much of the year. This trip came about because they had to oversee the mountainside construction of their daughter’s and son-in-law’s house. We were invited to climb the mountain with the Van Tassels to check the builders a few days later.
The log house had been built in another condition, completely dismantled, log by log, and transported to the site on two low bed trailers. Since the construction site was on the mountainside and there was a steep driveway with no space to rotate the large platform, the crane used to lift the logs lifted and spun the trailers. One trailer was on top of the other and one of the tractors that had brought them up the mountain towed them. Sometimes the events behind the scenes can be very interesting.
After spending the afternoon on top of a mountain near Pigeon Forge, we headed to the Ripley Smokies Aquarium in Gatlinburg. This was our second visit to a Ripley Aquarium, the first being in Myrtle Beach, SC. This particular place had been voted the best aquarium in the United States and was home to over 10,000 sea creatures made up of over 350 species. Poisonous frogs, sharks, stingrays, and penguins were just a few of the common varieties featured, but there were much rarer creatures. Some less common to us were the ornate cowfish, the feathered anemone with their frilly tentacles, and the potted-bellied seahorse, whose males hatch between 300 and 700 young at a time.
The exhibits gave visitors the impression of seeing the creatures in their natural habitat. A people carrier transported guests through a winding 100-meter underwater tunnel through Shark Lagoon. The aquarium had a program in place where children could spend the night in the tunnel. There were a few hands-on activities for kids and adults. My husband is the news reader. I’m more drawn to shapes, colors, and expressions, though aquarium dwellers can have expressions.
We don’t consider a complete trip without at least a little world history, like the time we were on a boat in Glacier National Park and encountered a NY State Trooper and his wife. They lived in Jamestown and both had just retired. The story of this trip took place when we attended the church of a lady I met at TJ Maxx in Sevierville. After the evening service, we learned that her husband had grown up just 30 minutes from our house.
Ever since internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter-actress Dolly Parton grew up in a one-bedroom log cabin on Locust Ridge Road outside of Sevierville, there have been recalls of her in many places. Probably the most popular are the Dollywood Theme Park and Dolly Parton’s Stampede, a dinner attraction set in a 35,000-foot equestrian arena. A six-and-a-half-foot-tall statue of Dolly with Guitar is located on the lawn of the Sevier County Courthouse.
After our week in Sevierville, we drove to Nashville, but not on four-lane freeways. As we had time, we walked the path we prefer the most, on the roads that wind between the small villages. This allowed us to stop whenever something caught our eye, like another dam and a small secluded waterfall.
Our next stop was at a supermarket to refuel my current obsession with avocados. We made the decision to bring a large umbrella into the store, as the sky looked threatening. At the checkout we could hear heavy rain hitting the roof of the store. We made a plan as we watched the rain from the bagging area, near the exit door, while holding six avocados, my husband’s iced coffee, and a 40 inch diameter nest swing (think a very large hoop). I was going to retrieve the car carrying the lonely umbrella and my husband would wait with the awkward present we had bought for our grandchildren. Before I got out, a gloomy woman arrived, stating that she had just come out of the barbershop and did not have an umbrella. Suddenly, my husband was going to sacrifice and walk the woman back to her car, while covering her with our umbrella and I had to wait inside with our purchases. Soon a drenched Fred Rowland drove our minivan out the door, I ran out with the awkward purchase and a stranger with dry, perfectly groomed hair left.
To be continued.