West Baden Springs Indiana

West Baden Springs Indiana
Inside of the AMAZING West Baden Springs Resort in Indiana.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Gatlinburg Tennessee

I mentioned my personal sadness about the fires in and near Gatlinburg back in November.  This is such a great area, full of great people, and I felt this region's pain as property, businesses, and lives were destroyed.

We did talk to a local who told us some of the gossip about the fires, the young kids who are accused of starting it, etc.  I was interested to hear from someone from the area about what the local community thought.....

AND the area went through heck with this fire... there is no silver lining in the loss of 14 lives and infinite other losses....  but I saw a lot that brought me joy as I explored the area, four months after the tragedy.

The strip in Gatlinburg still exists.. and it looks great.  If you didn't know that a fire had been through here, you wouldn't know now.  Businesses were busy, and people were enjoying themselves.  The only fire damage I noticed was fire damage that I looked for.

I talked to someone with "inside information" on the main day of the fires who told me that the whole area was "gone".  Luckily, I had been watching some live local news online, and I knew that this wasn't true.  Still, there were rumors going around very quickly that specific businesses were gone, and THANK GOODNESS... those rumors were false.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rocky Top Tennessee Post Office

When we have explored Tennessee, driving south from our area, we have noticed signs for the town of "Rocky Top". 

I think everyone has heard the song "Rocky Top."  I think I have heard it at every baseball game I have attended in eastern Tennessee.  It is a fun song!

I didn't realize that there is an actual town called Rocky Top.  I did some googling around, and it looks like this town has been known as "Lake City" for years.  Not too long ago, they changed their name to Rocky Top!

There were some legal hurdles though, but it does seem that the town is now officially called "Rocky Top".

After reading about all of this, I really wanted to get an official "Rocky Top" postmark for my collection!  I called the post office, and they VERY recently got their Rocky Top cancellation device!

I stopped by here while we were close, and the very friendly staff was able to help me out!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pigeon Forge Tennessee Trip

We have found ourselves in the Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area at least once a year for some time now.  We have been trying to vary our trips to the area up, as it is easy to get into a habit of doing the same things...  but there is just so much to do and see in this neck of the woods.

This year, we knew we wanted to do some things in Pigeon Forge specifically, and we wanted to actually visit some other towns nearby that are often missed on eastern Tennessee trips.

We found a GREAT B&B that we loved in the area on our last adventure, but we decided to try an entirely new place this time- for location conveniences.  That went well, and I am very excited to give a big thumbs up to the Berry Springs Lodge.  Much more on that place later.

AND, as time goes on.... we really enjoy relaxing at a new place (like the previously mentioned Berry Springs) with a local themed book in hand.  I was able to do a lot of relaxing reading on a balcony with a great view!

I will be putting some photos from this trip up over the next few days.......

Monday, April 24, 2017

KFC Yum! Center and Neil Diamond in Louisville Kentucky

A pal of mine was planning to take his wife to see Neil Diamond in Louisville this past Friday.  Well, something came up and his wife was unable to go with him, so I lucked into a ticket!

This was my first time actually going in to the newer mammoth structure in downtown.  I have driven by it many times, and I have walked by it going to other places, but this was the first time that I was able to actually go in and check it out.
The last time I was at a major event in Louisville, I saw their old indoor football team take on the Owensboro Rage at Freedom Hall.  I thought Freedom Hall was fine, but big new venues downtown seem to be popular these days.

Getting in was no problem, though there is the airport style security I see more of here and there.  Still, we went from standing outside to being inside in probably under a minute.  The security people were efficient and friendly.

Our seats were in the upper arena area, and we did take a long escalator to our seating area.  It went up several stories, and I did not want to look down.  I have nightmares about escalators like this.

We made it to our seats easily and with no real hassle.  Plus, being that this is Neil Diamond, this was a mature concert crowd in every way.  Everyone was polite and casual.

I am honestly not a big fan of Neil Diamond, but I enjoyed this show a lot more than I expected.  As I listened to his songs, I realized that the man had a ton of hits...  many that I had forgotten about.  AND, for a guy in his 70s, his voice is still strong.

I really enjoyed "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" which is such a sweet and sad song.  His other hits were all fun to hear live too- "America" being the other one that really popped for me this particular evening.

On the other hand, I have heard "Sweat Caroline" way too much.  I mean, it is a great song, but I hear it all the time.  Back when I was going to a lot of baseball games, I think every team (not just the Red Sox) played that song at some point.

Well, you know this song was played at the show... with several false endings to most of the crowd's delight.

Still, I left this show with a much deeper appreciation for Neil Diamond.

We took our time leaving the Yum Center, as there was a bit of a wait to get back on those tall escalators and make our way back down.  We left the venue to a cold, rainy evening.  Luckily we were parked in garage close by.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"The Alamo Remembered- Tejano Accounts and Perspectives" by Timothy M. Matovina

Its funny to me how easy (and often enjoyable) it is when you get caught up in researching a historic event.  You visit a site, or read a book about something, and before you know it, you are chasing bits of information "down the rabbit hole".

I feel that way about the Alamo.  After our first (of 2) visits to the shrine in the last year, I found myself reading various books about the place, the battle, and its participants.

Which somehow brought me to Timothy M. Matovina's book, "The Alamo Remembered- Tejano Accounts and Perspectives".  I wanted to pick this one up as it is a great source for material linking pretty much directly to the battle, AND from an interesting perspective, the Tejanos.  As Matovina notes in his conclusion, the Tejano Alamo stories represent a very difficult, middle ground area. 

That conflict affected neighbors, and families.  Mentioned extensively in this book is the Esparza family. Gregorio Esparza fought defending the Alamo, while his brought fought with Santa Anna's army.  Luckily for historians, Gregorio's family survived the battle, and their accounts of the battle are in the book.

Most of the accounts in this book are from people who were at the battle, witnessed it from a distance, or rubbed elbows with people directly involved.  At least one witness mentioned in the book is doubted by others about being inside the Alamo.  Many accounts contradict other accounts (especially relating to the deaths of some of the notable defenders).

One very interesting account is from the diary of a person who spoke to a prominent politician at the time.  The diarist tells how the politician believed that Santa Anna left part of the fort free, hoping the Texans would leave.

Many of the accounts involve specific moments of Santa Anna, the Alamo leaders, and the ways that the dead (on both sides) were dealt with after the fighting.

A huge part of the appeal of this book comes from the fact that there are really few first hand accounts from the battle.  AND, since every defender who fought on March 6th died, those direct accounts of the battle will always be lost..... which makes these accounts even more interesting.  I want to hear from the surviving spouses and children......but the diary account from 1846 where a man talks to a San Antonio resident who wasn't even in town at the time of the battle has value.

"The Alamo Remembered" is a great easy to read volume full of first hand (and close to first hand)accounts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Alamo:A Story Bigger Than Texas- Battlefield Tour

Last year, we made our first visit to the Alamo in San Antonio Texas.  There is something very intriguing about the site, and about the famous Battle in 1836.

After our time there, I did pick up a couple of previously mentioned books, and I did a lot of reading on the site and it's history.  This history, the very specific fight that took place there, and the mysteries surrounding some of the facts can really get your attention!

So, on this visit, I wanted to do a little more at the Alamo.  I wanted to do a bit more than just walk through the preserved chapel, and hang out for a few minutes.

This year, we ended up taking a "Battlefield Tour" (formally titled "The Alamo: A Story Bigger Than Texas") which is a one hour tour around the Alamo with a tour guide.  Its $15 a person.

We were lucky enough to have Kolby Latham (I think I read his name badge correctly) who was a very nice fellow/absolute expert on the Alamo as our guide!

The tour goes pretty much around the area in front of the chapel (the main area most people think of when they think of the Alamo).  Kolby pointed out lines showing where walls of the fort previously were located.  He covered the monument to the defenders, and he discussed many other details of the battle, and the structure.

One thing that I find so amazing about the Alamo (and I think something that surprises first time visitors) is that it seems small.... and it is surrounded by touristy businesses.  It takes some time for it to sink in that the actual fort was so much bigger.  Also, blood was spilled all over the area that is now a thriving tourist area covered up by restaurants, hotels, and other shops.

Businesses and busy roads run through where much of the fort and the defenders were.  The chapel... the face of the Alamo still stands (though it has gone through some changes) from the original battle.

I was pleased to hear from Kolby that many of the businesses in the area have been told that they must move over the next few years.... as there are plans to restore some of the Fort!  For more info on that, go here!

Some of the buildings in this area have become historic in their own right, and I am not sure how much of the Fort they hope to recreate, but I am sure impressed by the fact that they are planning to do this.  It reminded me of the work that the Civil War Trust is doing.  I will have to look into this more, because I am excited to hear about this. 

Kolby kept the tour going, and pointed out several areas of interest around town.  Jim Bowie's death site was in a grassy area near the chapel, while it is believed that Crockett died near the front of the chapel (there is a marker).

He also took the time at the end of the tour to point out specific battle damage done to the chapel.  It was the kind of stuff that I wouldn't notice myself, and might just assume had happened through weathering.

This tour was an hour long, but I felt like we got more out of it than longer tours I have been on at other sites.  I also want to mention that there were four people in our party- and this was the one thing we did in town that we ALL rated a perfect 10.  One friend in our group was not a history fan, but they really enjoyed this and marked it as a main event on our trip.  For someone like myself who really enjoys learning about history at this point in my life, and for my friend who doesn't- well, we both enjoyed this tour a lot.  The Alamo: A Story Bigger Than Texas gets my highest possible recommendation.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Teddy Roosevelt at the Menger San Antonio Texas

I have already talked a lot about the Menger Hotel in San Antonio (like here for example).

Anyway, this hotel is nice, old and historic.  Standing right next to the Alamo, it might be the second most historic building in town, maybe even in the state.  OK, I am pushing it.  Top 10 at least.

Teddy Roosevelt recruited guys for his Rough Riders in the bar here, and I think that is pretty cool.  In fact, there are some display cases for of related memorabilia here.

Here are some pictures......

Friday, April 14, 2017

Reimagine the Alamo

As I end my ramblings about our trip to San Antonio....  I wanted to mention some VERY recent developments going on with the town AND the great historic site!

Check out the Reimagine the Alamo page for some major plans that have been announced!  I am sure they will cover all of the good info, but there are plans to really redo the area.  Early, I thought they were going to try to almost rebuilt the fort.  Well, that isn't exactly the plan......  I think what they are planning looks very interesting.  A lot of glass is involved.....  and moving some stuff around.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Battle For Texas- San Antonio Texas

A very short walk from the Alamo will get you to the Shops at Rivercenter Mall.  At this mall you will find the museum exhibit "Battle For Texas."

This is a great companion attraction to the Alamo, as the museum has many relics from and relating to the battle. 

We ended up spending a couple of hours here (you could spend more or less) and we all had a good time.  Costumed guides were here telling about the weapons, people, and other aspects of the battle.  They were very hands on, and let us look at and hold a rifle!

I do like displays and recreations....  But when I visit a museum I really want to see authentic relics.  I want to see items that were directly connected to the history I am learning about.  Battle For Texas did not disappoint.  Check out my photos.  I really enjoyed looking at the weapons collection on display.  Several authentic  Santa Anna items are here too.  AND, John Wayne's costume from the movie was on display in the gift shop!