Wednesday, June 20, 2007

VA Excursion: Day 4

(Tonight, I'm blogging from the Jefferson Inn in Dandridge, TN, just east of Knoxville, located squarely between the Cumberland Mountains and the Smoky Mountains, in a valley that I'll be following up to Virginia in the morning. The clock on my laptop says 10:34pm, but it is actually 11:34pm. The eastern third of Tennesse is in the Eastern Time Zone. Miles travelled since leaving Leander, TX: 1,545.9! My poor car. Heck, my poor backside.... )

The drive from Memphis to Nashville was thankfully uneventfull. I say "thankfully" because I-40 continues to be clogged with tractor-trailors, which makes for some nerve-wracking driving. Needless to say, I avoided risking snapping photos on the road, but picture the landscape just east of Bastrop, TX, but with a greater assortment of trees, and you'll have a good idea of what the western half of Tennessee looks like: gently rolling hills, covered with forests with occassional clearings for pastures and fields, much like central Arkansas was.

Since I overslept a bit, I didn't roll into Nashville until about 1:30pm. I spent most of this afternoon at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (immediately adjacent to the Tennessee State Capital building) looking through the Rhea family papers, but did not have time to dig all the way through them. I’m looking for the original references to Matthew “the Rebel” Campbell, the progenitor of the Rhea line. I had previously viewed the microfilm of the collection via Interlibrary Loan, but the images were of such poor quality that they were largely illegible. Having seen how difficult some of the originals are to read, it is no wonder. I’ll probably go back there Monday (after spending Sunday in Lincoln Co.) to pick up some requested photocopies and continue looking through them. I made sure to request photocopies of the Rev. Joseph Rhea’s journal describing his passage from Ireland to America aboard the “George” in 1769. It is fascinating material, and at the end he even jotted down some sea shanties sung by the crew (yarr!). The whole collection should be published in print or on the Internet. The political and military correspondence from the Revolution and the War of 1812 alone would make worthy fodder for history graduate students looking for a dissertation topic. I wish I had more time to delve a bit more deeply into the collection, or at least permssion to make digital photos of the items.
The Tennessee State Capital Building

The Manuscript reading room closed at 4:30pm, so it was time to hit the road again. It was rather bad timing for leaving Nashville, as their rush hour traffic seems to rival that of Austin. Once clear of the city, I grabbed a bite to eat, then pushed on. Gradually, the hills started getting larger and larger, until they began to resemble the Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas. Suddenly, I found the road taking a long steep grade up to the top of the Cumberland plateau, where the terrain levelled off a bit (it being, well, a plateau). After a while, the road pitched downward again for another long, steep grade off the plateau and through the Cumberland Mountains. By the time I reached Knoxville, night had fallen. I pushed on for a little while longer until reaching Dandridge, where I decided to stop for the night.
Heading towards the Cumberland Plateau

Heading down from the Cumberland Plateau through the Cumberland Mountains

Tomorrow, the final push through to Richmond, VA!

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