Life on the road is full of unexpected occurrences. There are the happy ones, like discovering the creamiest and richest peanut butter ice cream we’ve ever had (more on that later), or the warm hospitality of strangers (we’ll cover this below), to the stamina-building mechanical breakdowns like the one we experienced upon pulling into Paris, Tennessee. Yes, gentle readers, we had an “event” and we continue to see how blessed we are.
In the way of background, since Wyoming at the end of September, we were making great progress on our Florida-bound journey zipping through Nebraska and Iowa, spending a few days visiting the Amana Colonies on our extended research into religious-utopian communities. The Amana Colonies definitely fit the former category. The religious community was founded in Germany in 1714 when the leaders objected to the influence of the Lutheran church and advocated faith renewal through reflection, prayer and Bible study. Their belief, one shared by many other Pietists, was that God, through the Holy Spirit, inspired individuals to speak. This gift of inspiration was the basis for this religious group that became known as the Community of True Inspiration.
After years of religious persecution in Germany, they came to the United States in 1840s first going to Buffalo, New York and then headed west looking for more great agricultural land. In 1855 they bought twenty-six thousand acres of rich bottom land along the Cedar River in southeastern Iowa. Over the century, they built a total six villages with over 1,500 church members. They initially lived communally, running their income-generating saw mills, textile mills, clockmaking and breweries. Children attended school six days a week, and fifty communal kitchens provided three meals daily to all the Colonists. By 1932, the communal way of life was seen as a barrier to achieving individual goals, so rather than leave or watch their children leave, they changed. They established the Amana Society Inc., a profit-sharing corporation to manage the farmland, the mills and the larger enterprises including Amana Refrigeration (originally owned by the Amana Society now owned by Dakin Industries). Private enterprise was encouraged. The Amana Church was maintained and today claims 1,200 members, holding two services on Sundays, the first in German and the second in English.
From there we headed to Nauvoo, Illinois the town most famous as the first major settlement of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Nauvoo is a fascinating place in so many ways and the rich and controversial history of the town is well preserved by two religious groups, the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church) two denominations that share a common heritage in the Church of Christ founded by Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830. Putting aside the sometimes dizzying complexities of which historical interpretation we were reading, the commonly held facts are these: Joseph Smith arrived in the sleepy town of Nauvoo, Illinois on the Mississippi River in 1839 after being driven out of both Ohio and Missouri.
In a very intense seven years, the town of Nauvoo was built and prospered under its leaders. In 1841, they began building the first temple on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, relations between the newcomers with their puzzling religious beliefs and some residents in surrounding towns was filled with strife, suspicion and animosity. In 1844, it led to charges against Joseph Smith and his brother Hyram, some political (Smith was the mayor of Nauvoo), others theological, or social, and religious. The two went to nearby Carthage where Smith faced charges for inciting a riot and after paying bail, he was then charged with treason, presumably so that he would be not permitted to leave. Held in jail and with no protection, the prisoners were overcome by an angry mob, shot, and killed. Smith had planned to move his followers into unsettled territory in Utah’s Great Basin where he hoped to be insulated from further harassment. After Smith’s death, under the leadership of Brigham Young, the first 143 people left Nauvoo in February 1846 to blaze a 1,300 mile trail west, arriving in Utah in July 1847. Over the next twenty years, 70,000 Mormons made the overland journey to their new Zion.
From Nauvoo we had planned to spend one night each in Illinois, Tennessee, and northern Alabama on our way to Montgomery, Alabama where we were looking forward to three nights at Gunter Hill, one of the Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds that we really like before entering Florida. All of that changed (as things occasionally do living on the road) when we backed into our site at Paris Landing State Park.
It was a paved site that required backing in uphill and to the right, not impossible but challenging enough after a long day on the road. On the second attempt uphill, Peter cut the wheel to change the direction of the Airstream and I heard a peculiar sound, like rocks rattling around inside a hub cap. We didn’t think much of it, neophytes that we are, until the next morning when we got up to head down the road to Alabama. The “rocks rattling around” continued and as we pulled in to the dump station, one of the neighbors came over and said something like, “Well that don’t sound good!”. Peter cringed and somewhat hesitatingly said he thought it might be a bad bearing and the guy nodded in agreement that it sure sounded like it.
Sunday morning in Tennessee there is no one around to talk to about a bad bearing. We eventually found a mobile RV service but we were out of his service area and the people who covered us were off until Monday morning. And so it began – the long wait for some expert help. There was lots of good news. We were able to pull T2 back onto the same site since no one had reserved it. We decided to be as positive as possible since this was way out of our field of knowledge and we couldn’t even get in touch with our Airstream gurus on a Sunday.
By Monday when the RV mobile service came by he confirmed it was the bearing and in fact, it had actually chewed up the axle pretty seriously. Airstream told us the axle was still under warranty (100,000 miles) but we would have to deal with the manufacturer directly and they pointed us in the right direction. The folks at Dexter Axle Company were very helpful, that was the good news. The bad news was they did not have an axle in stock for our 2015 model Airstream and they would have to make one. The soonest it could ship would be Thursday, in other words three days from the time we called. The RV repair service was just 1.5 miles down the road and they had a really nice repair facility and allowed us to have the axle shipped to them since they could do the replacement.
Crating up an axle results in a piece of freight that weights over 300 pounds and expedited shipment was going to be FedEX freight with delivery on the following Monday. So in a situation reminiscent of our 2016 unanticipated long visit to Amarillo, Texas (we had a problem with the braking mechanism on the truck) we were going to be in this place for seven more nights. We had to figure things out and spent the time doing some interesting things in the area. Peter toured a Civil War Battlefield one day, we took advantage of one day in seven without rain to drive up to Nashville for lunch and a visit to the brand new Tennessee State History Museum. The state-of-the-art gallery design, information, and technology was so impressive. It was possible to walk through the museum and experience videos (all with closed captioning) that ran on a continuous loop in small galleries that were separated enough from one another that one could hear and not be overwhelmed by ambient noise. Well done.
The visit to Nashville included brunch at a wonderful local farm-to-table restaurant called Marche Artisan Cafe. The food was incredibly tasty. Peter ordered a buttery Croque Madame and my omelette packed with fresh veggies was a winner. We treated ourselves to a slice of coconut tres leches cake. Wow.
We made a visit to a living history museum from 1850, called The Homeplace. Situated in Land Between The Lakes, a National Recreation Area formed by reservoirs created by dams constructed on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. The mixed-use region includes, in addition to the farm, the ruins of a blast furnace operation from the mid-1800s, and healthy-looking bison and elk herds.
Traveling through downtown Paris to do shopping one morning we came upon Sweet Jordan’s, a local favorite spot for yummy peanut butter ice cream and baked goods. We made a return trip just before we left town to taste their mint chocolate chip. Oh yeah. One of the most memorable events of our time in Paris included spending a rainy Sunday morning in the gracious company of the folks at Grace Episcopal Church. It turns out that this particular Sunday marked the farewell visit of the retiring bishop of West Tennessee, the Rt. Rev. Don Johnson, and the congregation was holding a potluck brunch honoring him. We were warmly invited, and welcomed to the event and appreciated the open hearts and warm hospitality of these kind people.
On Monday, October 15, after nine nights in Paris, and more pouring rain, the axle arrived. The good people at Little Eagle RV replaced our worn one with the new one. We left the garage at 4:30pm and headed for the Alabama border in a very rare commitment to covering territory late in the day. We pulled into Huntsville, Alabama, four hours later, found a Cracker Barrel and for the first time after 200 different campgrounds, we boondocked in the parking lot (having gotten permission from the manager). What a way to end our unexpected adventure in The Volunteer State. We are winding up this long post with this delightful urban sculpture (actually a bike rack) at the Nashville Farmer’s Market. Now on the road to Florida.
Peter and Liz are heading to Florida and their winter volunteering at Koreshan State Park, as the pilgrimage to here continues.