Monday, October 14, 2013


When we left the Cumberland Gap, we headed southeast into Tennessee, to the small town of Jonesborough. This is the oldest town in the state however the rest of Tennessee has pretty much passed it by, leaving the area mostly rural and peaceful. We camped in Davy Crockett Birthplace
The view out our windshield
State Park, just east of town, with the Nolichucky River flowing past, literally right in front of our windshield. But we were not there to learn about Davy Crockett nor to admire the Nolichucky. My former office manager/receptionist, Kelly, went to Jonesborough after I closed the office down because her son and, more importantly, her granddaughter lives there. She is actually currently staying with her sister in Rhode Island but returned to Jonesborough for her granddaughter's third birthday.

The birthday party was on a Saturday and we were invited. After acquiring a suitable gift (a junior doctor kit), we arrived at the party only slightly late. There were about 6-8 other children there along with various assorted parents,
Joey meets a schnoodle
grandparents, ex-spouses, friends and other relatives. Kelly's son, Christopher, grilled hamburgers and bratwurst and passed out samples of his homemade peach moonshine which we tried, risking God only knows what sort of bodily damage. (It was actually quite tasty). It took a while for the guest of honor, Joey, to finish opening all of her 500 birthday presents but eventually they were all unwrapped and ready to be crammed into her room. Christopher dealt with the mountain of wrapping paper by piling it up in the back of his yard and setting it on fire. You couldn't get away with that in Southern California. In short, a good time was had by all.

The next morning we went to breakfast at IHOP with Kelly's family, then packed Kelly and the schnoodles into our car to tour around the local area. Jonesborough has a fairly well preserved
County courthouse
historic downtown area including a number of colonial period buildings. There is a log cabin built in 1777 and an inn built in 1797 which is actually still in use. The biggest building in town is the Washington County Courthouse which was decorated for autumn/Halloween and as courthouses go was suitably impressive. Jonesborough is also the home of the International Storytelling Center which is an organization dedicated to the preservation of the Appalachian storytelling traditions. They have an annual National Storytelling Festival which was to be held the weekend after we were there. This is unfortunate because we had prior commitments to be elsewhere but fortunate because tickets were $150 a day and it would have severely impacted our budget. They also have resident storytellers who do evening "concerts" intermittently but none were scheduled during the time we were there. A smaller (and cheaper) event like that we would have liked to go to.
Storytelling center
The Chester Inn, circa 1797

After wandering around downtown Jonesborough for a while, we packed everyone back in the car and drove to Greensville, the next town down the highway. It's claim to fame is that it was the hometown of Andrew Johnson, the unfortunate vice president of Abraham Lincoln who took over
Kelly and Vicki walking the dogs
after the assassination. As president, he was in pretty much constant conflict with Congress over legislation to punish the South after the Civil War. Johnson tried to follow Lincoln's plan of reconciliation but with all of the southern Democrats gone the Republican Congress could do pretty much whatever it wanted. He vetoed a number of their laws but to no avail since they had the votes to override him. Finally the Congress got tired of dealing with president Johnson and tried to get rid of him by impeaching him, making him the only president afforded that particular honor. In the end, they came up one vote short of conviction so he got to serve out his remaining term, then he happily went back to Greensville. After he got home, he actually got reelected as a congressman making him also the only president to serve in Congress after his presidency.

Andrew Johnson was, by trade, a tailor and they have built a small museum at the site of his original tailor shop. To preserve the shop, they actually built the Museum building around it. They then moved his family home next door from its original site a few blocks down. I was fairly impressed that a tailor with no legal or military experience could actually rise to the office of president. I don't think it would happen today.

Davey Crockett's birthpace (his grandparents' cabin)
After that we spent the afternoon driving around rural Tennessee and enjoying the countryside. It is really a beautiful area. It is hard to get used to how much water there is in this half of the country. There are streams and rivers everywhere and the fields and yards are lush and green despite the fact that these people have no idea what a sprinkler system is. Finally, we went back to our campground and hunted around until we located the cabin where Davy Crockett was born. It looked remarkably like the other 40 or 50 log cabins we have seen in the last few weeks except the signs around it talked about Davy Crockett instead of Daniel Boone or Joseph Martin or whoever. In case you can't tell, we're getting a little blasé.

Kelly had heard of a German restaurant in Johnson City and we took her there for dinner and had schnizels and kraut. It reminded us of our time in Germany although we didn't think it was as good as our local gasthaus in Schweinfurt. They did have imported German beer and 1 liter steins to serve it in but we are too old and feeble for that kind of activity so we judiciously stuck to pints.  We dropped Kelly off at her son's house and said goodbye. Hopefully we will see her again next year when we return to the East Coast.


  1. It was so nice to see you both. I had a wonderful time and am so happy that you got to meet my Joey. She makes quite an adorable Doctor. Hope to see you on the next go 'round.

  2. A wonderful way to enjoy the day. But I got hung up on that $150 a day for the festival. Holy Cow! That would never, ever fit in our budget.

  3. Well, I blanched a bit. It would have been $450 apiece for the full three days which seemed pretty pricey. But then again, we just spent $45 each to go to the Grand Ole Opry, so on a per minute basis I suppose it's not too out of line. The real question is how many hours can you stand to sit in a folding chair listening to stories?