A moon lit night as the sun falls for the day. Wow – what can I say. I’ve been looking forward to spending time at this RV resort since I made the reservations some 14 months ago. It was everything all have said about it, and more. Truly one of the best, if not THE best, RV resort I’ve ever stayed in. As a bonus, I got to see lots of friends while here, including reconnecting with a former workmate I’ve not seen in 40 years. I had a wonderful time here, but alas as always, it went by too fast.
The RV Resort
Much is written about Anchor Down RV resort in many of the RV groups I regularly follow on Facebook. It has been rated among the top three campgrounds in the country, along with Disney Fort Wilderness in Orlando, and Ocean Lakes in Myrtle Beach. With its perfectly manicured and level sites, to the custom fabricated stone fireplaces, the lakeside adult and kids pools, or the lakefront beach area complete with inflatable lake toys, this place is definitely a slice of heaven. But its finest amenity has to be the spectacular view of Douglas Lake, with the Smokey Mountains in the background. Many an afternoon and evening was spent gazing upon the lake and mountain scenery, perhaps sipping a glass of wine, and catching up on some reading. Life simply does not get any better than this!
But what brought about this wonderful RV resort and the beautiful lake? Well, turns out the lake is man made thanks to Douglas Dam. This dam is a hydroelectric dam on the French Broad River in Sevier County, Tennessee. The dam is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which built the dam in record time in the early 1940s to meet emergency energy demands at the height of World War II. It is a gravity-type dam 1705 feet long and 202 feet high, thus creating the 28,420-acre Douglas Lake. Construction of the dam flooded some 40 square miles of fertile farmland important to the local canning industry (e.g. Bush canning – famous for their Bush Beans), as well as required the relocation of over 500 families and over 30 cemeteries, and the rerouting of several miles of roads. But today, in addition to its power generation capabilities, Douglas Lake is a popular recreational destination for up to two million visitors per year. Primary uses of the lake and its shores are fishing, boating, water skiing, swimming, camping, hiking, and wildlife observing. With the Great Smokey Mountains in is background, this area is nothing short of a slice of heaven.
Catching Up With Friends
What a great time and place to catch up with friends. I was was thrilled to have hosted visits from three different groups of friends here at the campground, and another friend I went to visit them to get a private tour of her terrific town.
It started with my former GDIT workmate Carl, and his wife Melinda. They too are RVers, though not yet full time. They were out camping somewhere north-west of me, and decided to see if they could spend a couple of days here at Anchor Down while on their way back home to the panhandle of Florida. Luckily, they were able to score a mid-week reservation, and along they came. We had a wonderful visit, steaks on the grill one night, and a super campfire in the stone fireplace. It was great seeing them!
The following week, I traveled to Bristol, TN to visit with Sue. She is a long time friend of my sister-in-law Helen, and we’ve all gotten to know her through family get togethers as she would often be present. She owns and operates a really cool boutique shop in Bristol called Misty Mountain Designs. She has also been a longtime resident of Bristol, and was an excellent tour guide. More on that later.
On a bright and sunny Saturday, one of my former GDIT workmates Jimmy, his wife Mia, and his family drove to the campground from Asheville, NC. It was great seeing Jimmy again, and meeting his family for the first time. They all enjoyed swimming in the pool and lake, and playing on the inflatables. We shared a dutch oven chicken dinner, then had S’mores and Banana Boats for dessert. It was a wonderful day spending time with them, and I very much appreciate their driving out for the day.
Perhaps my most special friend encounter I had while in Dandridge was with Pam and her husband Tod. Back some 40 years ago, I was 20 years old and an Air Force newbie stationed at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas, and Pam was in her late teens presumably still in high school, living in North Little Rock. We both worked part time in a downtown movie theater called the Other Center Cinema – she worked in concessions, and I was a projectionist. It was a family run operation and we all became good friends. We’ve stayed somewhat on and off in touch with each other over the decades. It so happens she now lives in Knoxville, TN, not far from my resort campsite. I reached out to her and she and her husband were kind enough to drive out on a Sunday afternoon so we could reconnect after all these decades. We had some wine, chatted about the old times, and looked at some old pictures from back in the day. We even recreated a picture that we had done together some 40 years ago! We topped off the night with a nice dinner in Pigeon Forge, while we continued with the catching up. It was truly a special day spending time with someone who I’ve cared for and often thought about over the years. Thanks Pam and Tod for an absolutely wonderful reunion!
It’s amazing just how much there is to see and do in this area. Pigeon Forge is largely a tourist town, with all the typical touristy things – much of which I ignored. But there were plenty of cool things to see and do while in the area – not the least of which is Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The bluish mist, which clings to the mountainside and fills the valleys, give the park its name and remains among the most distinctive feature. The park was established in 1934 to protect the last of the southern Appalachian forest. It once covered some 4 million acres, but was virtually eliminated by logging and fires. What remains as the national park is some 521,000 acres. More than 11 million people visit the park annually, giving it the designation of the highest visitation of any national park. I can certainly attest to that fact, as the place was jammed with tourist on the day I visited, and that combined with me having my monster truck, made for some limited places that I could go and see. But it was a spectacularly beautiful area with lush wildlife, streams, and lots of hiking trails.
One of the places I checked out in the area was this Muscle Car Museum located in Sevierville, TN. The museum was created by Floyd Garrett, who is recognized as a muscle car expert, and who had a fairly extensive collection of cars. From its opening in Apr 1996, the museum has featured all kinds of cars from his private collection, as well as featured loaner cars from other collectors. Today, there are over 90 vehicles in the museum of all sorts and types. One of my favorites was the ’57 T-Bird. A must see if you are in the area.
While I was in Bristol visiting with Sue, she took the better part of the day to show me around town. One of the sites was a visit to the Birthplace of Country Music museum. Now if you are like me, you might have thought Country music was born in Nashville – a large city filled with all sorts of country music history and legends. Bristol on the other hand is a small, relatively unknown little town with a population of around 27k. But, with its US Congress declaration in 1998, Bristol is recognized as the birthplace of Country Music. Better said, Bristol is the home of some of the first recordings of country music. It would be Ralph Peer, a NY-based record producer, who travelled to Bristol in 1927 and setup a two week recording session to capture the unique Appalachia country, blues, and folk music of its locals. Over 70 recordings were made by some 20 different artists. These included Earnest Stoneman, the Carter Family, now know as the “First Family of Country Music”, and the “Father of Country Music” – Jimmie Rodgers. These recordings went on to be very successful and were among the most significant sound recording events of all time. Who knew!
We also visited the local park which features a veteran memorial, and sculptures representing the strong musical history that continues to live large in Bristol. We also had an afternoon drink on the roof-top bar of a newly renovated and very nice hotel in downtown, which offered some very nice views of the overall area. I was also very impressed with the fact that downtown main street of Bristol was thriving. Most of the storefronts were occupied with various shopping and dining offerings, making for a vibrant and lively downtown. I had a great time and truly enjoyed learning about Bristol, and appreciate the exceptional tour guide skills demonstrated by Sue.
No RV stay would be complete without visiting some of the Roadside America sites. The first was a visit to Houston’s Miracle Water. The legend has it that in 1931, William Avery Houston was suffering from ailing kidneys, and the doctors feared it would soon kill him. One particular afternoon, he was visited by an angel (or a voice in his head) and told to walk out his door to a specific spot near his house and drill a well exactly 252 deep. Despite his neighbors thinking him a nut, he followed the instructions, and in fact hit water at 252 feet. He drank the water for several weeks, and to the amazement of his doctors, he was cured. He wanted to share this “healing” miracle water with the world, so he built a well house complete with pumps, and began selling the water. The pump house remains today, and they continue to sell the water. A drink from the water fountain however, is free. Of course I had to have a sample, so I hope it keeps me healthy!
Besides the Country Music museum and the Nascar short race track, the other claim to fame of Bristol is State Street – the dividing line that separates Bristol, TN from Bristol, VA. This dividing line was particularly made famous by the Geico commercial (seen HERE). I have to admit, it was kinda cool to stand in the middle of the road and span two states – though the passing traffic would certainly think otherwise.
Leaving this absolutely amazing campground resort was difficult. It was so beautiful and offered so much in amenities that it was a sad day when I had to hook up the RV and move on to my next adventure. But alas, that is exactly what this lifestyle is all about – my next adventure. Who knows what lies beyond the next curve in the road. I’ll be making a quick 3-day stop just north of Lexington, KY, followed by a short week in the area of Lima, OH. I continue to head north to ultimately land in Michigan, where I’ll spend the better part of the summer exploring and enjoying the lakes and other wonderful attractions of this state that I’ve never visited before. So, onward for me! Till next time, safe travels.