What’s New at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee?

We stopped by Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee back in 2020 knowing it is one of the most-visited attractions in that area. Although it was open, we elected not to go in because of limitations due from the pandemic.

It is definitely on our bucket list to go back to what looks to be a world-class theme park. We heard from locals that we made a good decision at the time, but “come back again because they are always making good improvements and introducing something new.”

For 2022, Dollywood officially opened to the general public on March 12th, with season passholders getting a sneak peak on March 11. Dolly Parton was there, her first time at the park since 2019, to greet everyone back.

Dollywood didn’t waste much time with planning exciting updates with a a variety of projects. Here are some of the changes and additions:

🔹The Emporium, a very popular shop with visitors, was updated aesthetically.

🔹Victoria’s Pizza received a kitchen renovation to improve efficiency and help with visitors getting meals faster. An enlarged seating area has also improved the dining experience.

One change that will really benefit the guest experience are the wider walkways and more space for guests to spread out. Congestion has always been a struggle at Dollywood, but now the park is taking steps toward improvement! The park is creating wider walkways and better utilizing spaces throughout the park. Recently crews removed an old mine tunnel near the tracks for the Dollywood Express. This creates more space for visitors to walk, or stop and watch as the train rolls by.

The Flower & Food Festival has quickly become a fan-favorite festival at Dollywood. Now they have expanded it with new iconic Mosaiculture displays that visitors will love, and hundreds of thousands of blooms throughout the park. The culinary team has created a menu full of items that highlights the tastes of spring in the Smokie Mountains.

Another popular festival is the Summer Celebration. In 2022, Dollywood is expanding the Summer Nights drone and fireworks show with even more drones. The show features hundreds of drones flying high above the park, telling a story with 3D animations and a symphony of light.

Dollywood express train

Hoot Owl Hollow

Hoot Owl Hollow is a new area coming to life for Dollywood’s Harvest Festival. It’s located in Craftsman’s Valley and features a number of owl-themed displays in the park and suspended in the trees. The festival has thousands of carved pumpkins, performances from talented artists and Great Pumpkin LumiNights

Dollywood is introducing a brand new season pass structure (Silver, Gold and Diamond) that provides more for guests.

Here’s what to expect with the passes:

🔹Silver – With the Silver Season Pass, visitors get unlimited entries to Dollywood during the 2022 season, 2 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $5 discount on single day tickets. Adult Silver Passes are priced at $149.

🔹Gold – The Gold Season Pass includes access to all-new Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to the park, 4 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets, a $10 discount on single day tickets, free parking, and 15% off select food and merchandise. Adult Gold Passes are $204.

🔹Diamond – With the Diamond Season Pass, visitors receive access to Golden Hours and Events, unlimited visits to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, free parking, 20% off select food and merchandise, 6 Bring-A-Friend Free tickets and a $15 discount on single day tickets. These passes are priced at $314 for adults.

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New SkyFly: Soar America Ride Big Hit at Foot of Smoky Mountains

SkyFly: Soar America open in summer 2021 as has become a signature attraction at The Island in Pigeon Forge entertainment park, located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

Designed in a steampunk style, SkyFly: Soar America is themed to a 1900’s world fair airship that provides tours of America’s greatest natural wonders.

According to Mason Schmitz of P+A Projects, which designed the building, the attraction’s complex and curious exterior leads guests into an inventor’s workshop where they board an “airship” for a ride above some of the most famous places in the United States.

Experience flight! Feel the mists of Niagara Falls, smell the swamps of the Everglades, and soar over seals in Alaska in an unforgettable and one-of-a-kind journey across America.

The sensations of flight are created by a state-of-the-art 50-ton ride platform that lifts guests into the air, feet dangling, before a 50-foot spherical screen. The ride gently moves guests in synchronization to the film on the screen to simulate flight, with wind, scents, and mists providing a fully immersive experience. The manufacturer, industry-leader Dynamic Attractions, helped pioneer flying theaters with their work on the wildly popular Soarin’ rides at Disney parks across the world.

THE STORY

Passengers board the “World’s Greatest Air Adventure” and experience the thrill of flying over wondrous and exotic locations with the famous explorer Peter Wilder. Along the adventure, they meet Peter and his daughter Hannah and learn about their travels and the steampunk airship they’ve invented to make such a journey possible. The story unfolds as guests move through the immersive queue and preshow experiences on the way to the flight deck.

THE FILM

SkyFly features an award-winning film that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world, showcasing footage filmed by helicopters and drones over America’s most beautiful and iconic locations. Some of the best pilots and cinematographers in the world produced shots that visitors say takes their breath away.

THE DESTINATIONS

The Island entertainment destination draws over 12 million annual visitors with 23 acres of amusements, shopping, restaurants such as Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Island Hotel, and attractions like the Great Smoky Mountain Observation Wheel and, now, Sky Fly: Soar America.

“This adventure ride will thrill everyone and will quickly become a top reason for families to visit the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge,” states Clay McManus, The Island’s executive that co-led the attraction development in partnership with Dynamic Entertainment. “I encourage everyone thinking of coming to the Smoky Mountains to come and experience this incredibly fun attraction.”

Tickets are in the $20 range. The attraction begins at 10 a.m. each day.

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Ideas to Do With Your Special Someone

Who knew 2020 would be so limiting and stressful? From toilet paper shortages to wearing masks, our world definitely changed.

However, we decided to make the best of it–as much as we could. Defying the newscasts, Dodie and I even went on a 15-state (plus Washington D.C.) road tour for 32 days in June and July.

Don’t let all this negative news get you down! Love your family and friends. Do something fun.

For today  or this weekend, pick just one!

Bike Ride       

Bowling          

Go to the Zoo    

Cook Together          

Split a Milkshake       

Plan a Road Trip

Pick out Each Other’s Outfits    

Son Brady joined us at SeaWorld.2020.

Go to the Gym            

Aquarium       

Go Tanning    

Match Socks Together          

Take a Nap    

Have a Movie Marathon. (themes: comedy, select movie star, love, drama, horror, classics, sci-fi, etc.) We watch very little TV, but when we do we make it fun with popcorn, etc.

Recently we watched episodes of The Chosen series, Lonesome Dove and even the second season of the 1969s television series Lost In Space.

There’s a big difference in watching the space ones as a man in my 60s vs. the boy I was in the 1960s.

Kiss in the Rain         

Plant a Garden           

Kiss Underwater    

See a Play at a Local Theater           

Paint a Room in Your House       

Shopping        

Buy Matching Bracelets          

Pigeon Forge in July 2020

Ride on a Ferris wheel          

Watch Fireworks    

July 4th Washington D.C.

Scrabble         

Make Breakfast         

Road Trip          

Ride Rails

Write Each Other Letters    

Go to a Vineyard       

Classy Date   

Get Concert Tickets

Eat Ice Cream    

Walk               

Mini Golfing               

Beach             

Kiss at Midnight        

Go Running    

Play the Wii    

Laser Tag

Paint War    

Play Tennis                

Make a Couple’s Video         

Count Stars

Couple’s Scrapbook. Here’s an idea. We have pictures of us how we were in the 1960s.

Take a Picture Kissing    

Put Together a Puzzle           

Sing a Song Really Loud       

Read a Book Together          

Order Chinese Food              

Slow Dance    

Watch a Sunset          

Build a Blanket Fort              

Share Popcorn at the Movies    

YOGA              

San Antonio College Planetarium

Visit Planetarium

Get a Pedicure    

Make Chalupas Together

Silently Stare at Each Other for One Minute Without Cracking a Smile

One of You Draw a Picture. The Other Color It.

Visit a Museum.

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More Suggested Road Trips Opened for COVID-19 Season

American workers, happy to be returning to the travel, food and hospitality fields, are welcoming us back with open arms–only six feet away.

We had wonderful feedback after posting several articles about our recent 32-day, 4500 mile roadtrip from the Texas Hill Country through much of the South, Washington D.C. (for July 4th), to part of the Midwest and back.

We enjoyed Gatlinburg in early July.

Like so many travelers, we learned that our preconceived ideas manifested from mainstream news (and the continually changing regulations around COVID-19) were blown away with the reality we experienced.

Reader feedback confirms what we are seeing: routes and destinations are open to travelers, including campers with self-contained RVs,  virtually everywhere.

Except in the most restricted areas–as determined by local politicians–most restaurants and stores are open with COVID-19 restrictions varying by state, city and location.

We often have trip themes to help make planning and experiences fun.
For example, our “Elvis Presley Roadtrip” took us chronologically to the King of Rock n’ Roll’s rented house while in boot camp at Ft. Hood, Texas. In Shreveport, we stopped at his statue in front of the venue he played on weekends for the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcasts.

We journeyed up the Delta Blues Highway 61 in Mississippi to Memphis. Graceland, Sun Studio, his first house on Audubon Street and other sites chronicled his life at home. Tupelo, his birthplace, revealed much about his childhood and roots.

Per your requests and shared information, here are updates on more great RV, camper and biker road trips around the country.

East Coast Lighthouses

The Atlantic coast provides picturesque lighthouse themed road trip opportunities. With beautiful beaches and lighthouses dotting the coast, there are comfortably accommodating routes. Some of the best East Coast lighthouses locations include:

Cape Cod, MA

Assateague State Park, MD

North Carolina’s Outer Banks (Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Bodie Island)

Hunting Island State Park, SC

Tybee Island, GA

St. Augustine, FL

Maine also has several lighthouses, including the iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park. But as of today, July 25, 2020,  Maine currently has a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for any visitors who are not New Hampshire or Vermont residents.

For the remainder of summer, lighthouses located in the Mid-Atlantic and South will likely be the most accessible.

Route 66 West

In our previous post, we offered information on Historic Route 66 in the Midwest, specifically Missouri through Oklahoma. We’ve since learned the Texas Panhandle through Arizona is fairly wide open.

Going West from Oklahoma, check out the Leaning Britten Water Tower on I-40 at exit 114 in Groom, Texas. The water tower, signage, and geography was the inspiration for the Pixar animated “Cars” movie series. The tower was deliberately constructed to lean to one side to catch our eye and get us to stop in Groom. 

Also in Groom, a giant Cross with statues depicting Biblical scenes is garnering much attention.

The Big Texan Restaurant in Amarillo is open. (7701 E. Interstate 40 Amarillo, TX 806-372-6000). With souvenirs galore, this famous steakhouse has been a Route 66 icon since 1960. It is home to the “Free 72 oz. Steak.” If you can eat their 72 oz. steak dinner in one hour, you’ll get it free.

After leaving The Lone Star State on the New Mexico border at Glenrio, Texas, Route 66 continued west in its original 1926 alignment, through Tucumcari, Cuervo, and Santa Rosa before turning north for Santa Fe.

From the capital city, it ran southwest thru Albuquerque and Grants to Gallup near the Arizona border.

In later years, it would continue west from the Santa Rosa area through Clines Corner on a more direct route to Albuquerque.

Arizona, always a favorite Route 66 destination, has many miles of original roadbeds still open–and minimal congestion on most segments.

The largest city on this route is Flagstaff, with only about 74,000 residents. Other stops along the way are smaller towns where excellent traffic conditions offer a great Route 66 theme drive in Arizona: Holbrook, Winslow, Flagstaff, Williams, Ash Fork, Seligman, Kingman and Oatman.

Some of today’s journey is on I-40, which parallels the old Route 66 in many places. Some RVers drive the segments of the original road where it still remains. Exits from I-40 onto Route 66 are marked in many locales.

Driving time non-stop from Lupton (near Gallup) at the New Mexico border to Oatman is about six hours. We usually split the trip up into at least two or three days, or more if we elect to camp for longer periods of time along the way.

At this point we usually try to carve out time to visit Grand Canyon National Park. It’s possible to visit South Rim with day passes at the southern entrances near Tusayan. Limited overnight accommodations are available, so book your campground reservations early.

I don’t have much personal experience with Route 66 in California, although about six years ago I did see an “End of the Trail” sign on the Santa Monica Pier.

American Mountains West

The motherlode of RV road trips for many, a usual America Mountains West tour begins in Colorado. There are good campgrounds all around Colorado Springs. Journeying outside Denver lets you visit Estes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The national parks may have timed entries, so advanced planning is important.

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs.

We’re hearing Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is controlling the amount of visitors they are allowing and are busy. Good luck.

U.S. Grand Teton National Park, also in Wyoming, is following a phased reopening too, but one reader said it was fairly wide open in mid-July. She also mentioned Montana’s Glacier National Park is real good since they started increasing recreational access in early June 2020.

Due to the temporary closure of the United States and Canada border, visiting the Canadian or Alaskan portions of the Rockies may not be possible.

South Dakota’s Black Hills

Since President Trump visited Mount Rushmore on July 3rd, the area has welcomed more visitors.

The Black Hills in western South Dakota are good for experiencing a different set of mountains. It’s about a 6-hour drive (390 miles) from Denver to Rapid City. You’re also 7 hours (426 miles) from Yellowstone National Park to Rapid City.

Key Black Hills landmarks include:

Custer State Park

Spearfish Canyon

Crazy Horse Memorial

Mt. Rushmore

Deadwood

The Black Hills Wine Trail can be a relaxing way to see the Black Hills region. Many South Dakota wineries began reopening in late May. I’m told most are now open.

California

California is hit and miss and is gradually reopening for tourism. Others are telling us to stay away from San Francisco and Los Angeles for various reasons.

My personal experience has been driving from Napa Valley south along California Highway 1 (CA-1). It allowed us to drive on the lanes closest to the Pacific coastline. It actually is one of most scenic in the state, but I have to admit we drove it in a car, not an RV.

California’s Yosemite National Park is a must-see, but note that you currently need reservations. During the initial reopening phase, the park was issuing up to 1,700 day passes with limited operating hours. As of June 25, 2020, you can visit most of the key landmarks, including:

Yosemite Valley

Glacier Point

Mariposa Grove

Hetch Hetchy

Other inland California landmarks include the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These parks can be a great option if you want to see more Giant Sequoias than what Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove offers. 

Final Thoughts

Although most states are RV-friendly this summer despite the coronavirus travel restrictions, there are a few cautions. We’ve heard Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Milwaukee and New York City areas are not recommended.

Some states, including Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, are currently only open to regional residents.

Many state and private campgrounds began reopening in May or June. We highly recommend you make reservations to secure your spots. Unlike previous camping seasons, some campground shower and bathroom facilities may not be open, but since June 19th (in the South, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions) they were all available.

However some rest stops had restrooms closed and water fountains off. But they tended to be more open as we moved through July.  As RVs are self-contained, you should be okay in most places.

COVID Beliefs Blown Away For RVers-Campers on Iconic U.S. Travel Roads

We have just returned from a 32-day, 4500 mile roadtrip (June 19-July 21) from the Texas Hill Country through much of the South, Washington D.C. for July 4th, to part of the Midwest and back.

Our preconceived ideas from news and the continually changing regulations around COVID-19 were blown away with the reality we experienced. It actually restored our faith in the goodness of America.

People of all ages, creeds, races and sexes were friendly, polite and eager to be traveling. By far, they agreed that what news outlets portray and what is actually happening are not in sync. We met scores of campers and travelers who indicated they had no problems with getting reservations and lodging.

We found our routes and destinations were open to travelers, including campers with self-contained RVs.

Pigeon Forge grist mill in Dollywood.

Most restaurants and stores were open with COVID-19 restrictions varying by state, city and location.

Our plans were modified only twice because of not feeling welcomed due to tourist closures.

1. We bypassed Nashville because the Grand Old Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum were closed. Nearby Murfreesboro was welcoming for an overnight stay.

2. We left St. Louis immediately after driving to the Gateway Arch and seeing seedy characters in garbage, urine and feces infested tent encampments throughout the area. Wildwood, about 20 miles southwest on Historic Route 66, was awesome.

Here are some of the most notable routes we enjoyed and recommend.

Blue Ridge Parkway

A road trip gem, left Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas towards the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic byway traverses the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains across Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. We especially enjoyed Appalachian towns like North Carolina’s Asheville and Mt. Airy (Andy Griffith Museum).

RVers should be aware some roads have tunnel height restrictions. Check the tunnel restrictions for your planned route. The most restricting tunnels have a maximum height of 18 feet. Cell phone reception could be an issue depending on your carrier (we had no problems with Cricket). There were very few gas stations and other amenities limited. We remained anticipatory and planned ahead just in case.

Blues Highway

Highway 61, known as the “blues highway,” is rich with the history of musicians in the Mississippi Delta area. It’s the birthplace of the blues and the roots of much of American music. 

The original route went from New Orleans to Minnesota, but most of the history of the blues is embedded in Mississippi.

We started in Vicksburg, Mississippi,  a great spot to understand some of the roots of the blues. In 1863 Vicksburg was under siege from the Union Army. General John Pemberton (Confederate) surrendered Vicksburg to General Grant (Union) after sustaining huge losses and facing a catastrophic defeat by an army that greatly outnumbered his abled soldiers.

The Blues developed from slaves toiling on the cotton plantations in Mississippi. The war was over and slavery was officially abolished. Opportunities slowly merged forward toward Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago. The music permeated across the Mississippi Delta.

Some say Clarksdale, Mississippi is the birthplace of the blues. While most of the old Juke Joints have perished, we stopped by  Ground Zero Blues Club (co-owned by Morgan Freeman). It’s a great place to see talented musicians perform and enjoy local food favorites including fried green tomatoes, Mississippi tamales and catfish.

At the Highway 61/49 intersection is a famous location known as The Crossroads. It’s where Robert Johnson was fabled to have sold his soul to the Devil to be the King of Delta Blues. Robert Johnson was born in 1911 and died just 27 years later. 

Highway 61 leads to Memphis, the land of Elvis Presley, SUN Studio, Beale Street and Graceland. The Graceland RV Park is conveniently located next to the Elvis Memphis complex and museums.

Natchez Trace Parkway

The Natchez Trace Parkway is an excellent route to see the southern United States by RV. We loved it because no commercial trucking or 18-wheelers are allowed.

Although it’s over 440 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, we started in Tupelo, Mississippi after visiting Elvis Presley’s Birthplace. We stopped often to see waterfalls, prehistoric mounds, and other historical landmarks.

Like the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, there are maximum RV restrictions. The maximum length is 55 feet (including a tow vehicle) and a 14 feet height restriction. 

Route 66

Long before our current national interstate highway system, federal highways, like U.S. Route 66, were main thoroughfares. On historic Route 66, you can explore America’s Heartland and other enchanting pockets of the United States from Chicago to Los Angeles. 

We began the route in St. Louis and took it most of the way toward Branson. Be sure to visit Uranus, Missouri for a fun, quick pit stop.

We did join Route 66 again later in Oklahoma City. Continuing West, we could have carved out time to visit Grand Canyon National Park, but elected to return back to Texas after four weeks on the road.

New Travel Resources

U.S. State Department’s Traveler Checklist. Read more

The TripIt app has a relative new feature that shows safety scores from 1 to 100 for neighborhoods around the world, representing low to high risk. These scores cover a variety of categories, such as women’s safety, access to health and medical services, and political freedoms. Travelers will find safety scores for their lodging, restaurant and activity locations there.

Happy Independence Day From Washington D.C.

Happy Independence Day from Washington D.C. We are proud and honored to be spending America’s 244th birthday in our nation’s capital.

Friday was a beautiful day here walking in the shadow of the Washington Monument and seeing the White House.

In 1975 Dodie played in the Junior College Nationals Volleyball Tournament in Catonsville, Maryland. They returned back to Texas as the national champions with great fanfare.

Last year she mentioned she’d always regretted being that close to Washington D.C. and not visiting it.

This is my 16th visit to D.C. and it’s my pleasure to be spending Dodie’s first trip with her. But it’s a surreal visit. Never have I seen this city the way it is now.

Quiet streets just a few blocks from the
White House. July 3, 2020.

It was generally very serene and peaceful. Families of all races and persuasions were walking the grounds of our monuments with obvious pride and enthusiasm. Joggers were jogging. Bikers were biking. Picnics were held under shade trees. Americans were celebrating.

But there was an underlying dichotomy in the city. The Washington Mall, including the monuments, were surrounded with temporary fencing. Scores of plastic portable restrooms were closed and locked forcing embarrassing accidents and others to relieve themselves in public.

Workers, with cranes and trucks, protected by police escort, were laying concrete barriers at strategic locations not already protected.

I’ve seen the White House during the terms of Reagan, Clinton, both Bush’s, and Obama. I am particularly joyful to be here during Donald Trump’s presidency. But Wow!

A tourist–or a rioter for that matter–can’t get near the White House. The amount of barriers, fences, gates, police and other protection is tremendous.

Installing concrete barriers.

Away from the Mall, Independence, Pennsylvania, Constitution avenues were like a Twilight Zone episode of the 1960s–virtually deserted. Where was the traffic?

We drove by historical Ford Theater to show Dodie the Lincoln assassination site. The area was empty.

A few blocks northwest, we did find some mediocre protest activity for defunding police, “Trans Black Lives Matter,” and “Students For Free Tuition.” It wasn’t impressive, but I’m sure CNN could try to make it so if they practice their usual and predictable folly.

We were there as President and Mrs. Trump were preparing to leave for their Mount Rushmore visit. We felt very safe. We were not afraid.

Although I very rarely post political comments or even follow news anymore (and will to continue to lay low and just get people to the voting booth in November), we said when we began our trip, for fun we’d count the number of Biden and Trump signs and flags along the way.

What is portrayed on news broadcasts is far from what we’ve seen. People are not intimidated by political correctness or backing down from voicing their opinions.

Through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and in D.C., the current tabulation is Trump 65 vs Biden 0.

Interestingly, Dodie as our official counter, has made some interesting observations:

“If there are American flags flying,  usually there’s a Trump flag nearby.”

“These are not little flags. Most are humongous. They’re huge.”

“It’s not just rural areas or country roads. We see ‘Trump’ in cities like Vicksburg, Clarksdale, Memphis, Murfreesboro, even Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.”

Even in Washington D.C., we haven’t seen a single Biden sign.

RVs, with “TRUMP” banners traveling down the highways were especially surprising. Motorcyclists, with American and Trump flags were seen.

On Highway 20, between Tyler, Texas and Shreveport, Louisiana, a large  billboard proclaimed, “I love my President so much I named my dog Donald.”

She didn’t count the billboards, but they are solidly there. At Graceland, in Memphis, I counted six people with either Trump T-shirts or MAGA caps on. In Pigeon Forge, 4. Gatlinburg, also 4. In restaurants we’ve seen only Trump or MAGA. Not one Biden. We didn’t include this in our tally.

We were particularly pleased to see a Marine helicopter flying over toward the White House and wondered if it would be taking the Trumps to Air Force One.

Even at the Texas Roadhouse near our hotel in Chantilly, Virginia I overheard a couple talking about how disgusted they are with mainstream media and “fascist liberals.” They indicated to their server the wanted to get home in time to watch the President in South Dakota.  I honestly didn’t think I’d hear that in this community.

In a rare event, we turned the television on in our room just in time to see Trump discuss the nation’s statues.

“These monuments express our noblest ideals:  respect for our ancestors, love of freedom, and striving for a more perfect union,” he said. “They are works of beauty, created as enduring tributes.  In preserving them, we show reverence for our past, we dignify our present, and we inspire those who are to come…”  

“To destroy a monument is to desecrate our common inheritance,” he continued. “In recent weeks, in the midst of protests across America, many monuments have been vandalized or destroyed.” 

“Some local governments have responded by taking their monuments down.  Among others, monuments to Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, Ulysses S. Grant, leaders of the abolitionist movement, the first all-volunteer African-American regiment of the Union Army in the Civil War, and American soldiers killed in the First and Second World Wars have been vandalized, destroyed, or removed.”

“These statues are not ours alone, to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions; they belong to generations that have come before us and to generations yet unborn.”  

“My Administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory.  In the face of such acts of destruction, it is our responsibility as Americans to stand strong against this violence, and to peacefully transmit our great national story to future generations through newly commissioned monuments to American heroes.”

Later he announced the proclamation to establish a National Garden of American Heroes.

Within 60 days, a Task Force will submit a report to the President proposing options for the creation of the National Garden, including potential locations for the site.

Importantly, and possibly in regard to some of the statues that have been ordered down by local agenda driven politicians, they will “consider the availability of authority to encourage and accept the donation or loan of statues by States, localities, civic organizations, businesses, religious organizations, and individuals, for display at the National Garden.”

“The National Garden should be composed of statues, including statues of John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Daniel Boone, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Billy Graham, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, Dolley Madison, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, George S. Patton, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Betsy Ross, Antonin Scalia, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, George Washington, and Orville and Wilbur Wright.”

“The National Garden should be opened for public access prior to the 250th anniversary of the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 2026.”

“Statues should depict historically significant Americans…who have contributed positively to America throughout our history.  Examples include:  the Founding Fathers, those who fought for the abolition of slavery or participated in the underground railroad, heroes of the United States Armed Forces, recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor or Presidential Medal of Freedom, scientists and inventors, entrepreneurs, civil rights leaders, missionaries and religious leaders, pioneers and explorers, police officers and firefighters killed or injured in the line of duty, labor leaders, advocates for the poor and disadvantaged, opponents of national socialism or international socialism, former Presidents of the United States and other elected officials, judges and justices, astronauts, authors, intellectuals, artists, and teachers.  None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.”

“All statues in the National Garden should be lifelike or realistic representations of the persons they depict, not abstract or modernist representations.”

Jack at White House, July 3, 2020

“The National Garden should be located on a site of natural beauty that enables visitors to enjoy nature, walk among the statues, and be inspired to learn about great figures of America’s history.  The site should be proximate to at least one major population center, and the site should not cause significant disruption to the local community.”

Wherever the Garden is located, Dodie and I will put it down on our Roadtrip Bucketlist.

Roadtrip 2020 Day 12: Rocky Top Tennessee

After our first full day in Pigeon Forge visiting Alcatraz East and the Civil War Theater, we had planned to go to the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Titanic Exhibition.

We decided to let serendipity take over when we learned that morning the Hatfield and McCoys Dinner Theater didn’t have seating for two until three days later.

We drove by Dollywood but decided we’ll enjoy it on a future trip without pandemic concerns.

“Let’s checkout Gatlinburg,” I suggested. Dodie was enthusiastically agreeable.

The 7-mile drive was awesome and a great introduction to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as we winded through.

Pigeon Forge reminds me somewhat of Branson, Missouri and a bit like the South end of the Vegas Strip (minus casinos) in the late 1970s. A long, busy Parkway with competing attractions, tourist shops and restaurants are lined along both sides.

Gatlinburg is nestled in the mountains, twisting its way wherever an attraction, store, or cafe will fit. Unlike Pigeon Forge, it’s possible to find a central place to park and walk your way to most of it.

Some of its key attractions offer sweeping views of the National Park, including the 407-ft. Space Needle observation tower and a Sky Lift up Crockett Mountain, and a 2.1-mile aerial cable car that journeys from Downtown to the popular amusement resort Ober Gatlinburg.

Because of COVID concerns, we were more cautious in Gatlinburg. People are spread out more in Pigeon Forge, but Gatlinburg tourism is squeezed in tighter spaces. 

Almost by accident, we found the Christ Museum and spent a little over an hour inside. Dodie especially enjoyed the voiced over tour depicting various scenes from the life of Jesus Christ.

We walked over to the Gatlinburg Skylift about two blocks away figuring we would be properly socially distancing ourselves high above the town.

At the top of the mountain is the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, where the next evening eight volunteers draped a massive 60-foot long American flag over the side. The flag will stay there until July 5 for the holiday weekend.

The bridge is the country’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. Midway across the 700 foot structure, thick see-through panels replace wooden planks offering a birds eye view of the ground far below.

On the other side we had a view overlooking some of the most famous mountains of the Smokies. When she saw Rocky Top, Dodie started singing:

Rocky Top, you’ll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ol’ Rocky Top
Rocky Top, Tennessee
Rocky Top, Tennessee