Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jack Daniel Distillery Lynchburg Tennessee

The Welcome Center at Jack Daniel Distillery has a collection of old bottles.
While visiting Huntsville Alabama we took the opportunity to drive into Lynchburg, Tennessee and tour the Jack Daniel Distillery.
The place is huge, so big that there are shuttle buses circling the parking lots to drive you to the Visitor Center if you don’t want to hoof it.
The grounds are lovely this time of year. Everything is lush and green with flowers blooming and half whiskey barrels overflowing with blossoms and vines. Stone fences surround much of the property and were beautiful to see.

These barrels can only be used once for making whiskey.
Jack Daniel Distillery established in 1866, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Those that work their are proud of that heritage and are happy to share stories of Jack and his legacy.
We opted to take a 1½ hour guided tour through the distillery and to see the operation in progress while listening to some of those historic stories.

The color of whiskey changes as it ages
Tours begin at the Visitor Center where we purchased tickets for a Flight of Jack experience. There are some interesting displays to look at while waiting for your tour to begin. There are cabinets of old style bottles, a variety of vintage Jack Daniel merchandise and explanations of the distilling process.
We met our tour guide Leslie and climbed onto a bus for a ride to “the top of the hill”.
Leslie was charming and enthusiastic full of stories about the history of the distillery and about making whiskey.
The top of the hill is where wood is cut and dried before being turned into charcoal. Hard sugar maple pallets are burned here 3 days a week to be used in the filtering process.

Fred and the Vintage REO Speedwagon Firetruck
There are vintage fire trucks near by, a reminder that whiskey making is a very flammable process.
Leslie led us to a cave with a spring, the source of all of the water that goes into Jack Daniel's whiskey. We learned that Jack Daniel grew up learning how to make whiskey and by the age of 16 had founded his own distillery using the water from Cave Spring Hollow. Leslie told us that in whiskey making water is everything and that the limestone in this cave filters iron from the water while imparting other trace minerals.
Cave Spring Hollow, the source of all water for Jack Daniels Whiskey
We walked through the office where Jack Daniel worked and where he reportedly kicked a safe in frustration because he couldn’t get it to open. That injury and the resulting infection would eventually take his life. Leslie was delighted to show us a picture of Jack Daniel. She reported that he was no taller than her own 5 ft 2 inches but that his big personality and manner of dress made him an impressive figure.
We walked upstairs and into a filter house where enormous vats of hand crafted sugar maple charcoal give Tennessee whiskey their “extra blessing”.  Every drop of Jack Daniel Whiskey spends 2 weeks in a charcoal mellowing vat before finding its way to the barrel. The smell was amazing. We were told that this charcoal filtering process also called the “Lincoln County Process” is the difference between whiskey and bourbon.

Whiskey Barrels
We toured a barrel house where 7 floors of barrels rest and wait for the perfect time to open them. Barrel house climates are not controlled. Top floors are hotter than bottom floors. Inside rooms are cooler than outside walls. Jack Daniel Distillery does not move the barrels once they are placed The blending of those varied barrels by a master distiller is what makes a consistent product. Master Distillers also choose which barrels are perfect all on their own and earn a designation of single barrel select.
Our Sampler
Our tour ended with a treat. We sampled 5 different whiskies. Gentleman Jack, Old No. 7, Single Barrel Select, Tennessee Honey and Tennessee Fire.
The Single Barrel Select was stellar and both of us enjoyed it the most. I did not care for the flavored whiskies although Fred enjoyed the Tennessee Honey. We left the White Rabbit store with a bottle of White Rabbit because you can only buy it in Tennessee.

The Lynchburg General Store now sells Jack Daniel Merchandise
The distillery is right in Lynchburg so it was a short walk to town where we saw a few restaurants and gift shops. We stopped at the hardware store to see a large variety of games, furniture and other items that are made from whiskey barrels. The barrels are hand crafted for use in the aging process but can only be used once. Many are sold to be used to mellow other liquors and even wine and hot sauce but some find there way to local craftsmen that use them to make beautiful things.

Fred with Gentleman Jack.
Jack Daniel Distillery
133 Lynchburg Highway
Lynchburg, TN
open daily 9-4:30

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Visit to Red Bay, Alabama - Home of Tiffin Motorhomes

Red Bay is a city in Franklin County on the border of Alabama and Mississippi. It was founded in 1907. Red Bay is home to the Tiffin Motorhome Company. So after our visit to Gulfport/Biliox, MS we started driving on US-49 & I-59 to Marion, AL for a one night stop on Monday April 10th.
The next day we were off again on US-45 north to Red Bay. We arrived at about 2PM Tuesday afternoon. We found one of the many "Service Type" camping/parking areas. So we parked and set-up the coach for the night. Only $20 dollars per night with full-hookup, paid by envelope on an honor system.
We had a appointment with Nick Brewer RV Electronics - Satellites & Antennas on Wednesday morning April 12th. Nick is part of the Tiffin After Hours group and was going to install the second-hand DirecTV HD Satellite Antenna on our motorhome.    I picked up the dish in Bradenton, Florida last November for only $75 dollars at an RV park Garage sale.
The first day we had to just wait for our appointment. We visited the Tiffin Parts Store. We found a few small items to make some repairs within the coach. We also got some small bottles of touch-up paint for the coach too. We visited the Piggly-Wiggly Market in town. We stopped at the Mason Jar on Main for breakfast.
Finally on Wednesday morning I called Nick, but found-out that he could not work on the motorhome till about 5PM. So we just stayed around the coach for must of the day. But at last it was time to take the motor home to Nick's shop about 1/2 mile down the road.

The Behemoth has a new crown
After about two and half hours the Satellite Antenna was installed, Radio Aux Jack was installed, new CCTV Jack plus about 50' of cable was also installed too. All of this work was completed at a very reasonable cost. Thanks Nick for a great job.

Chassis waiting for a build.
On Thursday morning April 13th we visited Tiffin Motorhomes  and enjoyed a factory tour. One of the things I liked was that Tiffin has a complete wood working section/shop. They make all of the cabinets, tables, and counter-tops for kitchen and bathroom that are installed within all of the motorhomes that they build. Talk about some great wood working tools and equipment wow!!! I loved it. 

Tiffin cabinet makers at work

Cabinet build in progress.

Kitchen cabinets being built
Waiting for the glue to dry.

Wiring harness shop
Then we left Red Bay on a short drive of about 60 miles northeast to Huntsville,AL for a visit to US Space & Rocket Center. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gulf Island National Seashore and Fort Massachussets

Twelve miles off the shore of Mississippi's coast in the Gulf of Mexico sits a small piece of land named Ship Island that is part of the Gulf Island National Seashore.
Ship Island Excursions provides a ferry service to the island twice daily from the Gulfport Yacht Harbor. The Gulf Islander delivered me right to the dock in a little less than an hour. The trip was enjoyable and a pod of dolphins came to play in the wake of the ferry. Most of the travelers on the Gulf Islander were prepared for sunbathing and picnics, some had come to visit Fort Massachusetts. There were a few serious fishermen and one women with long lens camera equipment who was planning to photograph birds in the afternoon light.
Fort Massachusetts from the dock.
The ferry docked on the North side of West Ship Island. A stingray was surfing the shallow waters of a sandbar as we were getting off the boat.   A boardwalk joins the dock and leads across the island to the south side where the best beaches are located. It is a pleasant walk and goes right past the fort.

Ship Island was originally settled by French explorers in 1699. They valued its deep port and the protection that the island provided from Gulf storms. Ship island served as a base of operations for those explorers settling French Louisiana, land which now makes up the center of our country.
Ship Island has seen action over its years as a port.
During the War of 1812 British ships gathered here before their unsuccessful bid  to capture New Orleans.
That war showed the country's borders to be vulnerable to attack and as a result the US War Department made plans to expand coastal defenses with brick forts known as Third System Forts. One of those forts Fort Massachusetts was to be built on ship island.
During the American Civil War Admiral David Farragut used Ship Island as a supply base as they captured the port cities of New Orleans and Mobile. The brick walls of Fort Massachusetts were only waist high at that point and didn't provide much protection. Ship island was held by Union forces and Confederate forces at different points in the Civil War.

Interior of Fort Massachusetts
Fort Massachusetts was completed in 1866 but never fully fortified. Events at Fort Pulaski during the Civil War proved that the forts defenses were no match for rifled guns whose higher velocity ordnance easily penetrated those thick brick walls.  Fort Massachusetts and other Third order forts that dotted the coast of the United States were made obsolete before their construction was completed.
It is small in comparison to other 3rd order forts that we have visited. There are no parade grounds at the center as we saw in Fort Pulaski and Fort Jefferson, no quarters or storage areas like at Fort Pickens and Fort Hancock.
A park ranger was on site to tell the story of the fort and to answer questions about its construction. It is amazing to me that such imposing structures with such precise details were completed with hand tools, levels and plumb bobs.

Gulf Islander waiting to bring us home
The beaches of West Ship Island are wild and beautiful. No manicuring is done here so you will find driftwood the size of logs, bits of shell and fishing equipment and the occasional plastic bottle dropped from someones boat. 

The beaches on West Ship Island had a combination of light and dark sands.
I expected the sand to be white as seen on other Gulf coast beaches. It was dark like the sand at Caspersen Beach near Venice Florida, and made interesting patterns as the water washed over it. I enjoyed a long leisurely walk along the south side of West Ship Island and was happy to spend some time breathing in the sea air. We are heading inland now and won't breath the ocean air until we arrive in Astoria Oregon in late Summer.

Resting with the fishermen on the way back to the marina.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mississippi's Gulf Coast: Katrina Sculptures

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast of Mississippi on August 29th, 2005 changing the landscape and the lives of thousands of people.
Left in the wake of the storm were live oak trees that had stood for hundreds of years but had not survived the winds and 24 foot storm surge.
Wood artists Marlin Miller,  Dayle Lewis, and Dayton Scoggins saw possibilities in this standing deadwood.


They turned the broken branches and bark stripped trunks into works of art that celebrate the resilience of the waterfront and the people who live there.
The sculptures are spread over 40 miles along US 90.
Fred and I made it our mission to find as many of them as we could.
Most of the art is based on sea creatures with dolphins appearing in many of them. We also saw a sailfish, turtles, and a sea horse. There was one stretch of US-90 near the University of Southern Mississippi that featured birds. There were eagles, hawks, and herons.
Our favorite was the Angel Tree in Bay St. Louis. The Angel Tree has a story. This tree saved the lives of 3 people and a dog that clung to its branches in desperation after their house was destroyed.

Soaring Eagles across from the University of Mississippi in Long Beach
Herons in Biloxi
Waterfront hawks in Biloxi
The Angel Tree in Bay St. Lewis.

Waterfowl at the Visitor Center 

The sculptures are easy to spot but not always easy to get to. Many of them are on the median of US-90. Its a good thing there are two of us. Fred put a lot of miles on the truck circling back to pick me up.
It was a great day and a fun treasure hunt. We even found a wonderful waterside restaurant in Bay St. Louis near the Angel Tree. We sat for a while at The Blind Tiger listening to live music and talking about the sculptures we had seen.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mississippi's Gulf Coast: Beauvoir and the Biloxi Lighthouse

Beauvoir the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Our trip to Mississippi had to include a visit to Beauvoir, the last home of the only President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.
This part of Mississippi sustained such damage by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that we weren't sure what we would find. I had seen this stately old home once before on a Girl Scout trip and Fred had spent some time at here in the Air Force but that was a long time ago.

We stopped at the Visitor Center on Beach Blvd to get some information about hurricane recovery. We wanted to know how Biloxi, Gulf Port and Beauvoir had fared. My Mom Ella served as a Red Cross volunteer for many years. She was in this area working for several months after Katrina and had told us of how little was left.

Beach Blvd is US-90 that runs right along the gulf coast in Biloxi.
The cast iron Biloxi Lighthouse
In front of the Visitor Center on the median between the divided 4 lane highway stands the Biloxi Lighthouse. We were told that after hurricane Katrina the 64 foot cast iron structure was the only thing standing on that portion of the waterfront. One of the most iconic photographs of the post Katrina recovery effort is one of the lighthouse draped in an American flag.
You may climb the Biloxi Lighthouse but only at 9 AM. The docent at the Visitor Center assured us that no one wanted to be inside the brick lined cast iron tower once the sun got hot.
We believed him.
The Biloxi lighthouse was placed into service in 1848 and was tended by keepers until its automation in 1960. Notably most of the keepers of the light were women. One of them Maria Younghans tended it for 51 years.

We headed west to Beauvoir a few miles West of the lighthouse. Interestingly the construction of the Biloxi Lighthouse and Beauvoir were completed the same year, 1848.

Beauvoir meaning "beautiful view" was named for it's expansive and unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico.  Mr. Davis had been staying in Hayes Cottage on the grounds while writing his book The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. He later made arrangements to acquire the plantation.
Beauvior was his only post war home. It later became a museum and housed his Presidential Library.

Jefferson Davis' funeral carriage. Note the crossed swords and rifles.
The Confederate museum lost many of it's exhibits to Hurricaine Katrina. There was a major archaeological undertaking in the hurricaines wake to identify and restore the museums artifacts  It is estimated that 35% of the library collections were lost. Many items were damaged and some are still awaiting repair like the antique piano on the museums upper level that was totally submerged in salt water.

We learned that Beauvior had survived hurricane Katrina due to it's superior construction. The structure was saved by it's 6 large brick fireplaces, 3 inch thick heart of pine floors and a slate roof with sealed edges designed to be pushed down by the wind instead of being lifted.
It's porches were destroyed and part of the roof was gone but other buildings on the property were completely demolished. The Presidential Library, Hayes Cottage, and the detached kitchen have been rebuilt.

Beauvoir is built in the Antebellum raised cottage style
Beauvoir is an impressive home. It's antebellum architecture is described as "raised cottage" but it is like no cottage I have ever seen.

Front gate of Beauvoir overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
The front of the house faces the Gulf of Mexico and is wrapped in a wide porch that provides plenty of room for sitting and enjoying the view. The 8 foot tall doors and windows on front and sides open completely to let in the sea breezes. That breeze also blows under the house cooling the floors.
You enter into a wide central reception hall. The formal living room, a library, one bedroom and a parlor can be entered from the hall. There are 2 wings in the back. The left wing has 2 bedrooms and the right a butlers pantry and 2 dining rooms, one designated for children.

Beauvoirs wide porches and tall windows allow maximum airflow.
You must access the rooms in the wings from the back porch.
The most impressive thing to me about Beauvoir is the painting. Walls, ceilings and woodwork are all painted in the trompe l'oeil manner meaning "fool the eye". The original paintings of the home were completely restored after Katrina. The home survived the 180 mph winds but nothing could protect it from the black mold that followed a 24 foot storm surge.

These ornate looking moldings are all paint.

Frescoed ceilings and faux window surrounds beautifully restored.
Walls and ceilings are ornate and beautiful. The door which are made of cyprus have been given details of solid oak, and fireplace mantels are paint rather than marble.
Several of these details were discovered during the restoration effort.

Solid Cyprus doors painted to look like oak.
The docent that led our tour was knowledgeable and answered our questions with southern charm.
He reminded us to visit the farm animals stroll through the rose gardens before leaving.

One of many blooms in the rose garden.
Biloxi Lighthouse
1050 Beach Blvd
Biloxi, Mississippi

2244 Beach Blvd
Biloxi, Mississippi

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Friendship Oak Gulfport, Mississippi

Friendship Oak
There is a grand old oak tree in Long Beach Mississippi.
It stands on the front lawn of the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Park campus, overlooking the Gilf of Mexico.
The campus is graced with many live oaks but this is the mother tree, the largest of them all.

She is older than the United States having sprouted from the earth in approximately 1487.
Before Christopher Columbus.
Before Ponce deLeon.
Before the lost colony of Roanoke Island.
Before any European explorers had walked the land.
She has witnessed our development as a nation, our growth, our progress, our wars and our mistakes.

The Friendship Oak was last  officially measured in 2011 standing 59 feet high with a trunk diameter of 5 feet 9 inches. The circumference of the trunk is 19 feet 9 1/2 inches. It's foliage spreads out 155 feet providing 16,000 square feet of shelter.

It was a great experience to sit in the shade of the tree.  To put my hand on its trunk and feel a part of something so precious. The friendship oak has limbs that have stretched so far out to the side that their weight has pulled them back to the ground where they rest and then continue.
If you are near Long Beach Mississippi I recommend that you come and sit for a while. Breathe the air filtered by it's leaves and enjoy the shade.
It's good for your soul.

Friendship Oak
University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus
730 East Beach Blvd
Long Beach,

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Panama City

We had a nice camping site in Panama City.
We were fortunate to be able to spend a few days at NSA Panama City. where we enjoyed a waterfront parking space in the RV park/Marina.
This base in located right on St. Andrews Bay in Panama City Beach. It is home to the Navy's Diving and Salvage Training Center and Experimental Dive Center.
We were interested to see 2 LCAC's docked and to hear those massive airboat style engines when they fired them up on Monday morning.
That sound was impressive.
We took a drive down the coast on Sunday toward the small fishing village of Carrabelle Florida.

Cape San Blas Lighthouse
Port St. Joe was on the way so we made a stop to see the Cape San Blas Lighthouse located at the Welcome Center. The lighthouse, an oil house and it's 2 keepers cottages were moved here in 2014 to protect it from a receding shoreline. One of the keepers cottages, Sleeping Beauty has been restored and serves as a museum and gift shop.
Cape San Blas has some history in common with the lighthouse on Sanibel Island. The steel structure for this light was on the ship that sank in the Gulf while carrying the Sanibel Lighthouse. Both had to be recovered from the submerged vessel in order to be put into use. Quite a feat in 1884, even in shallow water.
We made a quick stop for coffee and continued south.

Crooked River Lighthouse
Carrabelle is home to the Crooked River Lighthouse.
This iron and steel structure stands 103 feet tall. It is painted red on top and white on the bottom. The Crooked River light was decommissioned in 1995 and has been acquired by the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The current light is a reproduction of the original 4th order Fresnel lens.

Fred climbed the 138 steps to the top.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the lighthouse park and a quick look at the small museum and gift shop that is located in a replica of the Keepers house. Fred paid the $5 fee and climbed the 138 steps to the top.
Carrabelle has a pleasant downtown waterfront area with a seafood restaurant, live music playing (at least on the Sunday we visited) and specialty stores.

The smallest Police Station in the World.
We were delighted to find the World's Smallest Police Station.
It's a phone booth.
Six and a quarter square feet of real estate.
Ii guess it would be hard to find a smaller one.
The Police Station was placed in the 1960's. It was really a police emergency phone that allowed officers to make and receive emergency messages. There was no police station so the St. Joe Phone Company placed the phone in a booth.
We met a village resident in the park near the phone. He was a retired fireman and happy to report to us that the story was true. The mayor of Carrabelle had even been on the Johnny Carson show to talk about his tiny police station, he said. The story continues that the phone booth was frequently used by tourists sneaking into it to make clandestine long distance calls.  Eventually the dial was removed so that only incoming calls were possible. We have enjoyed the convenience of cell phones for so long now that the issue seems absurd. Our new friend explained to us that the station we were admiring was a replica. The original has been vandalized and attempts have been made to steal it more than once. It is now kept at the office of the Chamber of Commerce.

Sea Serpent in a Carrabelle Florida Pond.
Carrabelle is also home to a bottle house. I have been fascinated by this art-form that celebrates repurposed materials  since we read about the ones on Prince Edward Island. We were not able to fit viewing the ones on PEI into our one day visit so i really wanted to see this one in person.
The directions given on the Roadside America app were a little obscure but we eventually found the right place.
We even managed to spot a sea serpent along the way.

Bottle house

Bottle Lighthouse
The bottle house is a tiny dwelling built by retired art professor Leon Wiesner.
It is in the yard of his home and studio and is accompanied by a lighthouse.
They are built with glass bottles and mortar. The clear, green, blue and brown glass must look spectacular from the inside on a sunny day. We identified bottles with both round and square bases. I can't imagine how many it took to complete the project.
We enjoyed looking at them and imagining the process.
We were happy to have spent a day driving along Florida's Forgotten Coast. The small towns of Apalachicola and Mexico Beach will call us back with their casual attitude and white sand beaches. We may have found our next Florida vacation location.
We are moving on tomorrow. The Behemoth hasn't left Florida since October. Next stop Gulfport, Mississippi.

Cape San Blas Lighthouse
200 Miss Zola's Way
Port St Joe, Florida
(850) 229-1151

Crooked River Lighthouse
1975 Hwy 98
Carrabelle, Florida
(850) 697-2732

The Bottle House
604 SE Ave F
Carrabelle, Florida
(850) 653-7197

World's Smallest Police Station
US Hwy 98
Carrabelle, Florida

View from the marina at the Cape San Blas Lighthouse