Does anyone besides me think that Stephen King’s The Stand is one of the greatest stories every written? (Forget the miniseries of the early 90’s which failed to capture the real terror of the book.) In King’s epic tale, a lethal strain of the influenza virus is accidentally leaked from a Department of Defense laboratory in Maine. Within a matter of months, 99 percent of humanity has died, leaving a few immune souls to rebuild the world. The nickname given to the virus in the book is Captain Trips. COVID19 is not Captain Trips by any stretch of the imagination, but I think of that book every day lately!
COVID19 is not Captain Trips by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s been interesting to watch this unfold as we travel from state to state and witness how people in different areas are reacting. When we left Florida, it was pretty much business as usual. The concert at the winery was less than four weeks ago. Music and dancing at The Villages town center was about three weeks ago. After that, Bob attended the Bike Week events. I subscribe to a Facebook page from The Villages (the country’s largest retirement community with more than 120,000 residents, most of whom are older than 55), and it is amazing how long people there insisted that the virus was mostly “fake news.” In that community where the kitchen is the least-used room in the house, and live music and dancing is a way of life 365 days a year, group entertainment was only halted in town centers one week ago, and some restaurants only closed yesterday after the Governor issued orders. It’s pretty wild that a community with so many high-risk residents has been so resistant to taking this seriously.
About 10 days ago, we were in Stephen Foster State Park for a couple of days where other campers were cautious, keeping distance from each other. After crossing out of Florida, we spent two nights Walmart/Cracker Barrel sleeping before landing in a funky state park in Warrior, Alabama. Rickwood Caverns State Park is three miles uphill from the interstate. The closest groceries were at The Piggly Wiggly about 5 miles away, and the GOOD grocery store, Publix, was about 18 miles away. Both lots were packed and, seeing a ton of cars in the tiny Piggly Wiggly lot, I decided to drive to Publix for a better chance at getting what I needed. Boy, was I shocked to find no meats, no milk, almost no eggs or bread! At the time, there were only a handful of coronavirus cases in the state, but people were apparently stocking their freezers for the apocalypse (although you can’t freeze milk and eggs, so … hmmmm). There were also no sanitary wipes at the entrance or exit, although there was an employee cleaning carts at the store’s entrance. I’ll admit, I sped 18 miles back to the motorhome to wash my hands!
We spent four nights in this park, saying hello to other campers from a distance. Bob toured the cavern with a half-dozen other people. The tour guide led the way down the steps, running a disinfectant cloth down the bannister as he went. That was great for the person directly behind him, but not so much for the remaining five! In any event, Bob said the cavern was spectacular. It was water-formed over 260 million years ago and still contains active “living formations,” as water droplets build colorful structures and flowstones. The cavern was carved from an ocean bed, and shell fragments and fossils of marine life are clearly visible along the cavern ceiling and walls. It’s also the roosting spot for Tricolored bats, which are the smallest bats in eastern North America, measuring about the size of your thumb and weighing about 1/4 ounce.
There are also hiking trails at this park, and as we were taking Tessa for a walk we came across a gravestone in the middle of the woods with a few wooden crosses behind it. This is the grave of Alexander Abner Burns, Sr., a Sargent in the Continental Army and his wife, Ellen. Alexander was a native of Virginia who settled in Alabama after the revolution. The cross may be the graves of family members. Alexander died in November of 1829 and Ellen passed one month later. There is no information on why the graves are located here, but I guess we can assume this property was their homestead at the time.
The main reason we stopped in this area was so that we could visit an old friend of Bob’s. Mike Shaw was one of Bob’s roommates in his young and crazy days. Mike recently accepted a job in the Birmingham area, so he and his wife Carol moved there just a few months ago. We visited their beautiful home and had a great time catching up. It was so much fun to hear Bob and Mike reminisce and laugh over old stories. We had a lot of fun!
From Alabama, we continued north to Crossville, Tennessee, and our first taste of cold in quite a while. It was 46 degrees when we woke up this morning! Brrr! Despite the cold and the virus shut-down, we’ve been filling up our days visit my sister, Carolyn and her husband, Bob. They’ve taken us driving around the area so that we can get a taste of Tennessee. They love it here, and we can see why. It’s beautiful country with lots of green farmland. We visited Fall Creek Falls State Park and saw the beautiful waterfalls. There’s been a lot of rain recently, so the falls were gorgeous. Pictures don’t do them justice.
They also took us through an area of “homestead homes” in Crossville.
After the devastation of the Great Depression, the election of 1932 put Franklin D. Roosevelt into office and allowed him to begin his “New Deal” for America. One of the first Bills to really impact American society was the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. This bill created huge public works programs including one called Subsistence Homestead Communities. This controversial program gave the President a $25 million revolving loan fund to relocate some of the over populated industrial areas to rural areas to both develop a community as well as livelihoods for the families chosen to live there on low-cost leases. The application process was stringent. Most of the chosen homesteaders were displaced coal miners, unemployed timber and sawmill workers, factory and mill workers and small time farmers bankrupted by the Depression.
The first order of business was clearing the land and building the roads, which provided the first employment opportunities to the homesteaders. As this work progressed, sawmills and kilns were built to process the wood used in construction of barns and homes. The exteriors were made from local hand-quarried Crab Orchard stone. Each house had a drilled well from which water was hand pumped to storage tanks in the attic and gravity fed to indoor kitchens and bathrooms – quite modern for the Cumberland Plateau in the 1930’s! The homes were wired for electricity during construction because of the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority to generate power from dams and coal-fired plants, although it was three years before electricity came to the Homesteads.
Many of the homesteaders gained valuable on-the-job skills in carpentry, stone masonry, roofing and plumbing which they were able to continue as lifelong professions. Others became profitable farmers on the land they leased, co-ops were formed, and the county as a whole received an economic boost from the Homestead development.
With World War II and the end of the depression, the government began to divest it’s interest in homestead settlements, and homesteaders were allowed to purchase their properties with low-cost loans. Of the original 251 homes built in this county, 219 still remain and are now listed on a historic register. As we drove down a road in Crossville, we passed at least a couple dozen of these beautiful houses. I’m so glad they have been preserved and will remain so!
We have two more days here in Crossville and then we continue the drive northward. We are not in too much of a rush, as we know nighttime temperatures are still dipping into the 20’s in Connecticut and we don’t want to freeze our tanks. But, we are anxious to return to family. Know that we are healthy, and our most sincere wish is that you all remain healthy, too! See you soon!