Sunday, April 17, 2016

Getting my Kicks in Knoxville, TN

Over the weekend I attended a college friend's wedding in Knoxville, TN. I drove halfway and spent the night with friends in Georgetown, KY, then finished the 7.5-hour drive Saturday morning. With beautiful weather and several hours before the wedding, I played tourist in downtown.

First stop was the Sunsphere in the World's Fair Park. Knoxville hosted the World's Fair in 1982, and the park is still a favorite place for joggers, dog walkers, and families with children. However, the "observation deck" on the fourth-floor of the Sunsphere was utterly underwhelming, as most of the park sits low along a creek, and the fourth floor is level with the street.

Nevertheless, from the observation deck I could see people decorating for a wedding in the amphitheater and could hear music from the other side of the tree line. So I set off to investigate. Along the way I crossed a bridge with a picturesque waterfall underneath. Dear Husband would have liked that.

Next I stumbled upon a statue of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), who played his very last concert ever in Knoxville, TN. The next month he died of advanced melanoma.

I had to walk the long way around before I found the entrance to Earth Fest. Wandering among the booths for local recyclers and organic food growers, I decided to take the plunge: tired of using plastic "loofahs" in the shower, I invested in a couple of natural "vegetable sponges," the flexible internal skeletons of the luffa plant. I also got my photograph taken with a "tree" and a "mushroom" (above). At the National Park Service booth I petted Monty the [Ball] Python and put stickers on two of our favorite NPS sites: Muir Woods and the Grand Canyon. Then I tried to give blood, but I had left my driver's license in the car and they couldn't register me.

 View from a bridge near Blount Mansion overlooking the Tennessee River.
Next stop was Blount Mansion, home of William Blount (1749-1800), a politician and land speculator who served as, among other things, the first governor of Tennessee. I was the only visitor they had all day, as everyone else was busy at Earth Fest, the Orange and White college football game, or the big air show. After watching a pretty good video introduction, I got a personalized tour of the house and grounds. The house was built in stages as the family grew and the property changed hands. Blount signed the U.S. Constitution as well as the constitutions of North Carolina and Tennessee. Late in life he was charged with treason for trying to plot with Great Britain and Native tribes to seize Spanish Florida and Louisiana in order to retain shipping rights on the Mississippi River, where much of his property fronted. He died of an epidemic disease at 51.

The house is furnished with period pieces, including a desk with a secret compartment and a rocking bench with a removable rail so the family's slaves could tend the children as they grew from infanthood to childhood. The detached kitchen has a spice box that the matron unlocked once every morning so the cook could get what she needed. There is also a separate office with clay pipes, seals, and a traveling whiskey cabinet.

After stopping nearby for lunch, I wandered through a park (above) to Market Square (below). There were fountains, and children, and dogs, and music, and a group of people doing tai chi. Basically, a wonderful day to be out and about in downtown Knoxville, TN, where there is a surprising lot to do.

Statue to women suffragettes.

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