Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thursday 17th June Chattanooga Tennessee – Atlanta, Georgia

Today we woke up thinking we were one day ahead of schedule then after reading the itinerary we realized we weren’t. Reality check time…we were in a slight state of shock, we really needed to head back to Atlanta today, our holiday was nearly over boo-hoo. We got a late checkout from the RV Campground so we could get rid of the poos, wees and grey water and do a thorough clean of the shower, sink and toilet as these would not be used again. While I was laboring away Geoff and the kids were swimming lengths in the pool.

Lauren here. We went a long way down an elevator to a cave. It was over 1000 feet deep it was cool and COOL. A lady took us on a tour, she was a bit of a strict meany and kept telling us all off. We walked a half a mile deeper into the caves to the waterfall which they had lights on and it looked really beautiful. We walked right around behind the falls and then walked back another half a mile to the elevator. On the way back the group is called survivors so we obviously are still alive.
Bernise again. Ruby Falls was quite the surprise...its motto is "200 million years in the making". Ruby Falls is an indoor 145 foot waterfall located about 1120 feet below the top of Lookout Mountain. Pretty dramatic and with plenty of force. The water comes from the roof inside a cave. They're not entirely sure how the water gets to the Falls but rain or shine the Falls are working although there is a much stronger force when it's raining on the outside. These are the most beautiful caves I have seen, and very educational for the kids with all those Stalactites and Helictites from the ceiling and Stalamites’ from the floor??As usual with every attraction they exit you through the giftshop and try to sell you a $25 photo. There was a lookout above the caves which gives great views over Chattanooga. Another fun day to add to the blog.
After quite a full day we then travelled to Atlanta arriving at 10pm.

Wednesday 16th, June Memphis Tennessee – Mississippi – Alabama – Chattanooga Tennessee.

Wow … Memphis is for blues every bit as much as Nashville is for Country and Western and it all fits together how Elvis became famous for the new combo crossover style sound of Blues, Country and Rock-N-roll, after visiting Beale Street you can see how it happened. Beale street is the heart of the whole scene and BB King seems to be the hottest star down here. The whole town has a Blues thing happening, we were there during the day but I bet it would be rocking at night. We ate lunch at the Hard Rock Café because it had the best aircon, we were again cooking. We found the Gibson Guitar factory but I was outnumbered on a tour of the factory. Before we headed out of town we dropped into the Pink Palace, we were expecting a Biltmore house type showing, boy were we disappointed, it was big grand ole house but the city that took it over really didn’t know what to do with it (the owner who went bankrupt before he ever finished it would be turning in his grave), as a result this grand ole building with some badly thought out extensions had about 4 different exhibitions going on at the same time, Civil War, Astronomy, Miniature Puppet land, Dinosaurs, even a shrunken head from Africa with a recipe on how to do it (Guess I better not piss off Bernise), it’s a kind of liquorish all-sorts / jack of all trades master of none deal, but it at least cooled us down again before we drove onto Chattanooga a 300 mile jaunt down the interstate. All was going well until a wee altercation with the long arm of the law in Alabama… A thunder-storm had knocked out a traffic light in this little hick town…. A cop was parked in the adjacent Gas station with his lights flashing … I thought he was writing out a ticket, but nope he was waiting for little ole unsuspecting me to sail through his unmarked intersection… He came screaming down the road so I pulled over waiting for him to zoom by after someone else… nope it’s me he wants… Can I see your license…. Errr it’s a NZ one and there’s a story there… I don’t want to hear stories (his voice going up an octave or 3) where’s your license… Well officer I left it behind in Charlotte after I went Nascar Driving … yeah right, where’s your proof of Insurance … errr I have a copy on my computer but I need to have Internet Access to show you… you do know your license plate has expired sir… errr yes but the tags are done, they unfortunately are back in Georgia, I left without taking them… About now this Cop was ready to blow a fuse, he ordered us to turn around and head back to his wee town. As you can imagine I’m thinking this is gonna get ugly and we might be here for a couple of days at this rate. After parking up in his little rest area, I approached him with all my documents to back up the storys told, lucky for me he’s cooled down a bit and I think he has come to the conclusion that I am going to create him more headaches and paper work than I'm worth. So after a lecture he sends me on my way. I’m sure we were both happy to be out of his jurisdiction.

Tuesday 15th June Memphis Tennessee

Bernise’s little detour was a very good one, we were officially Elvis’s neighbor, his place was straight across the road and the tour was a quick walk through one gate. We were surprised at how many people walked through his house, there was a constant cue, and this was on a week day. I can confirm Elvis is alive and well we saw him at least 100 times today, probably more like 10,000 times, his face was on every imaginable piece of Merchandise that you could think of. The tour to his house was pretty cool; everything has been left exactly as it was, a true time capsule. Because you get the headphones as part of the tour there are a lot of interesting insights into various parts of his life and the house itself. We now know why Elvis was called the King, He died on the throne???? He was found upstairs in his bathroom by his girlfriend Ginger You could see the true Elvis fanatics (there were plenty of them), it was like the Holy Grail for them. For us it was amazing that he rose to such high highs but towards the end it was also a bit sad to see this over-weight druggy who was obviously not a very well unit. Elvis died at only 42, Way too young. We now know why Elvis was called the King,. He’s buried on the property right next to his mum and Dad… Everybody stops to check out his Plaque.
That evening we all headed off in a Pink Limo for dinner, the local restaurant runs a free pick-up and drop off, the restaurant itself was chocka full of oldy world Blue stuff unfortunately the food didn’t quite live up to the same standards as the décor, but it was still a bit of a laugh.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Monday 14th June, Nashville, - Memphis, Tennessee / Arkansas

Still in cowboy boot land. The town was a lot quieter on Monday, CMA is finished and we won’t have to line up for hours for the touristy stuff. What we haven’t mentioned so far is that Nashville had a huge flood about 3 weeks before we got there, a big section of the city was devastated including the KOA we first stayed at, apparently 3 quarters of the campground was under 8 ft of water, the toilets and showers were closed, yee gads even the pool was closed and only a small portion was back in operation. Also affected was the famous Grand Ole Opry… Nashvilles #1 attraction… The longest running Radio Station in the USA, which host mega concerts as well. They apparently had just finished the renovation and the floods wiped it all out again and so all we got to see was a grumpy security guard and some yellow tape. What was still to see was the Ryman Auditorium which is where the Grand Ole Opry evolved from, this has been a venue where most of the early country stars made their name, unfortunately the venue got to small in the end and so came the Grand Ole Opry. Ryman sat derelict for many years until it was restored, now it occasionally hosts country superstars who love it for its history and acoustics but is mostly here for the busloads of tourists traipsing through. In between stops we popped into a souvenir shop to get some aircon where we bumped into a lady from Hillsborough Auckland, just up the road from where we live (it’s a pretty small world). Next stop was the Country Music hall of fame, the highest honor a country star can aspire to. From what I can work out you have to be dead or all but to make it here. The building opened in 2001 so is the modern and trendy. We were told it would take 3 hours to walk through; we were done comfortably in under an hour, I guess that says a lot about the Milliken understanding of Country and Western music. Lauren (now a Taylor Swift superfan) was mesmerized by Taylor Swifts dress,(I dint quite get it). What was there was really well done, lots of interactive buttons and shiny records. A round feature room for all the inductees with their bronze face plaques immortalizes them for all time, finishes the hall of fame tour off.
Next stop Memphis a short 250 mile hop down the road, we made a slight boo boo on the address and ended up driving into Arkansas ( 5 minutes offor a bit where we soon realized that we had to head back over the Bridge to Tennessee. (At least we can add another state to our travel bragging book when we publish it).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sunday 13th June, Nashville Tennessee

Hi it’s Lauren. Today was an awesome day it’s on my top 3 list since we’ve been in the US,…… guess………..a TAYLOR SWIFT CONCERT!!!!!! As soon as I heard she was doing a concert and signing autographs I had to go see her. The line was crazy long so we decided not to wait 3 and half hours for an autograph but waited to hear her sing. Taylor Swift sang some of her album Fearless. Lalalalaaaaaalaaaa fearless lalaaaalalaaaa Taylor swift singing live. We had perfect seats and did you know she was signing autographs and giving hugs for 13 hours oh yea it’s all free. She sang 4 songs from her album fearless! How awesome got some pics and videos too. We got some t shirts with Taylor swift on them. So who could say they saw Taylor Swift live, me me me me me I did I did !!!!!
It’s a great day in the Milliken family, the girls prefer Taylor Swift now, so out the door with Miley Cyrus yippee, welcome relief for my ears.

The whole town is a buzz of country and western fans, the main street Broadway is shut down and live concerts are showing at 3 venues not to mention every Bar having its own bands as well. We ended up down by the River and heard two Bands do their thing. Some Country Rock as opposed Country Country is actually pretty good, well at least live… I’m not sure that I would rush out and buy the CD. We all struggled again with the heat, We found water sprayers on every street corner and free-bee Ice block handouts all went down veeeeery well. Thomas has a temperature reader on his radio and it was 41 degrees C in the RV when we got back. Finally back to the Yogi Bear campground for a swim about 8pm

Saturday 12th June Pigeon Forge, - Nashville Tennessee

In theory we were going to head off to Nashville on Friday but as we headed out of Pigeon Forge we came across a Hot Rod show setting up for Saturday Sunday called the All Chevy Supernationals …. Well what’s a man to do but grovel with the wifey for an extra day of course. This would complete the car trifecta…Indy Cars, Nascars, Hot Rods, To be fair Bernise gave in without much of a fight as she was keen to go back and do another shop at the Outlet Mall. The show was in a big outdoor parking lot and unfortunately the day started out steamy and hot with showers, this kept a few of the fastidious top show cars locked up in the back of their trailers but there was still a good range to check out and of course the obligatory T-SHIRT or 3 to add to the collection. Pigeon Forge got 3 days of our tourist Dollars and we are all rested and well ready to move on. The drive to Nashville was straight down a good Freeway, the tropical storms continued and when it rained boy does it bucket down. First week into the trip we broke a Wiper Mount, well one week to go and the other one broke, this time it was light and a safe straight piece of road, so no dramas. So I parked the Starship up at the next exit and then removed it and carried on with just one wiper, we’ll find another one in one of the upcoming cities.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Friday 11th June Pigeon Forge

Lorenzo here…First thing we did was wait in a long line just to see Dollys old bus/ RV … when we got in it was more better than our one I have to say, she had a huge make up room which is crazy and the comfiest looking bed. Did you know that Dolly Partons bus can drive from Nashville to LA non stop and she did that lots of times. We went to see a dancing , singing show with people doing lots of flippy, floppy flops which makes me want to take up gymnastics. We saw lots of country singing people that was related to Dolly. My favourite thing was Adventure Mountain, its where you get attached to a rope and you walk around lots of difficult obstacles really high up, I got wet from the geyser. It wasn’t scary for me, but I saw one big girl and she was really scared. My second favourite was the River Battle because you get drenched. Then I got Dippin Dots as a treat as we left. I had a fun day, it wasn’t as good as Hersheys or Disney but it was still cool.
Thomas here… The bus was quite boring, all you did was just walk in, you weren’t allowed to touch anything. We cruised around on the old train, the whistle wasn’t as loud as I thought it would be (I was blocking my ears). Dollys cousins and Uncle were singing on stage and they were really good. Lunch got a plate that we will keep because it has a cool picture on it. The best thing in the whole Dollywood was the boat thing where you splashed water on each other with water guns, I got so wet afterwards that Daddy and me had to take off our shirts and squeeze them. Dad and me did it first and we pretended to Mum, not to get wet. When she went for the first time, Dad and I squirted Mum, Lauren and Olivia until they were really wet. I did it the most of the whole family, I wanted to keep doing it but Dad and Mum said it was time to go.
Olivia Here … My best thing was the water squirt, you have to hit the arrows and you get squirted also the people on the outside and inside are all trying to squirt me while I am trying to squirt them. We all got really wet but didn’t matter because we were really hot. I did it with Thomas 4 times. I did an obstacle thing where a rope is attached to me, where if you fall down, you don’t really. There was one rope that I got stuck on and I had to do the harder way and Lauren helped me. We went on a big train and I didn’t like the smoke in my eyes.