Tennessee Trip
July 2006



With our collection amassing very quickly, our options of where to go 
next were shrinking at an equal pace. In order to get the most out of our 
vacation, we opted to go to Tennessee, where we could visit three presidential 
burial sites. Though we flew into Nashville, we immediately set out for 
Greeneville, which is located on the other side of the state. That way, we could 
finish our trip in Nashville and not have to rush back to be at the airport on 
time. Several hours later, we found ourselves driving though Greeneville's 
empty streets. I asked my father if we could drive past the Andrew Johnson 
National Cemetery that night, just to see what it would look like from afar. 

When we arrived at the closed cemetery, we got out of our vehicle and 
stared at President Johnson's large monument, poised up on a hill. Looking 
around, my father noticed that a pedestrian entrance to the cemetery was 
unlocked, and suggested that we enter. Horrified, I refused to do such a thing, 
but later found myself walking up beside him to the president's grave. It was a 
very eerie setting. In addition to being surrounded by hundreds of dead people, 
there was heat lightning lighting up the sky and dogs barking in the distance. At 
one point, a car pulled up to the cemetery and stopped. Though at first I 
feared we would be caught, the vehicle turned around and left several 
moments later. After an adventure filled evening, we departed and headed for 
our hotel. The following morning, we returned to the cemetery so we could 
take some still photos. While we were in town, we also took some photos of 
Johnson's home and tailor shop. Once that was accomplished, we decided to 
have some fun and go to Dolly Parton's water park in Pigeon Forge. I had a 
great time, except when I was forced to go down a 70 foot slide that was 
nearly vertical. That matter aside, we both enjoyed ourselves, and were in a 
happy state of mind as we headed toward Memphis.

That changed that night however, as we got caught in traffic on the way 
there. After an hour of barely moving at all, every car came to a dead halt. We 
could only take a half an hour of that, and eventually resorted to exiting via the 
on ramp, as several other cars were doing. It was very late at night, but we 
were miraculously able to secure a hotel room. Thinking the worst was over, 
we naively entered our room and became overwhelmed. It was horrific! The air 
conditioning in our hotel room was broken, and it was over 90 degrees outside 
on top of it. But worst of all... the television remote was broken! Somehow, we 
survived the night and ventured on to Memphis, where we visited Elvis' 
Graceland and Sun Studio, where "The King" made his first recording. I truly 
believed that I was going to die walking to the latter, as it was 102 degrees in 
the shade, never mind what the humidity was like. I was rewarded for not 
perishing however, as that night we stayed at the Peabody Hotel. The Peabody, 
which is over 80 years old, is very architecturally elaborate and known for its 
ducks that come down an elevator and swim in the hotel's fountain everyday 
for six hours. Over the next 24 hours we were able to watch the "March of 
Ducks" several times, and were pleased as we departed for our next 
destination.

Once we punched our next hotel's address in our NeverLost® (which we 
had actually requested this time), we drove back to Nashville, the home of two 
presidential burial sites. Shortly after our breakfast, we scurried over to the 
Tennessee State Capitol Building. President Polk was originally buried on the 
grounds of his home, Polk Place, but the building was demolished in 1893. Upon 
this event, the remains of the president and first lady were brought to the state 
capitol and buried on its grounds. Polk's white tomb definitely adds character 
to the surrounding area, yet it still did not feel to me that the grounds were the 
proper burial place for the president, as it goes against his wishes. Figuring it 
was not our choice either, I just stood there and smiled as my dad snapped 
several pictures. 

Within minutes, we were at the Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson. 
We watched several half hour documentaries on the 7th president and recieved 
a guided tour of his mansion. Our tour guide, dressed in 19th century attire, 
told us how by 1856 Jackson's adopted son, Andrew Jackson, Jr., had fallen 
into debt and was forced to sell the estate to the state of Tennessee. One 
benefit did come of this transaction however, as the majority of the original 
furnishings were also put under the state's care and were not lost or destroyed 
over time. Once we had finished touring the mansion and its slave quarters, we 
strode over to the garden, where President and Mrs. Jackson are interred. As 
we had anticipated, there was a fence blocking us off from the limestone 
structure. We soon took our photos, but we just hung around for a little while 
afterward. Our persistence soon payed off; all bystanders departed within 
minutes. With some help from my father, I was able to climb the tall fence and 
get right next to the large cupola-like memorial and pose for some 
photographs. Shortly after we heard more visitors approaching, and I climbed
back over to the other side.

The following day, with plenty of time to kill beofore our flight, we drove 
from our hotel back to the state capitol. We took some more photos at James 
Polk's grave, and then sat there in the grass for an hour, gazing at 
neighborhood children playing in a nearby fountain. I figured that if out of this 
chaotic hobby we could get a peaceful moment like this, it was all worth it.
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