The Grand Ole Opry

So last Wednesday when we discovered we were going to be leaving Red Bay four days before I had planned to I sat down to find somewhere else to go on our trip towards Des Moines, Iowa. We had already planned a stop in Memphis, TN, Branson, MO, and Kansas City, MO. With a few extra days we decided to stop in Nashville, TN. I immediately logged onto the Grand Ole Opry website to find out who was playing this week. There are wonderful bands and singers and entertainers at the Opry each Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights but a few names popped right out. Saturday Keith Urban was to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry including special guests Trace Atkins and Josh Turner. What a line up! I quickly grabbed up tickets for the late shows since the early show sold out within hours of being announced. While I was looking through more shows just to see who else would be on we saw that Charlie Daniels Band will be here on Tuesday. I initially thought we would leave Sunday to head towards Memphis but Bill is a huge CDB fan so we snatched up two tickets for that night and extended our stay.

Last night we got dressed up and took a shuttle to the Opry for our first night. We arrived at 9 pm when the early show was letting out. It was a mob scene as hundreds of people lined up for the next show and hundreds of people were leaving. Finally once the last stragglers were out they began to let us in. We stopped at concessions and picked up some caramel popcorn and a soda in a commemorative cup (I have a thing for commemorative cups) and went to our seat. As we sat down the show had just begun. Jimmy Dickens was on stage preparing to announce the first group. Jimmy Dickens has been with the Opry for over 60 years.

Going to the Opry was very special for me. When I was small my grandfather and I would listen to the Opry on the occasional Saturday night that I stayed over. My grandfather would pull out his popcorn popper (we bought him an air popper and he thought it was the coolest thing). He would also pull out his giant pot and put it on the stove and stirs us up a batch of homemade caramel corn. Sitting in that seat at the Opry munching on caramel corn and listening to Jimmy Dickens is about as close to the most perfect memory potion to take me back to about 7 years old that I have ever found. I could close my eyes and almost feel him sitting there next to me. The only thing missing was Minnie Pearl.

There were so many amazing performers and some great songs. Songs I haven’t heard in so many years. The Rocky Top X-Press singing “Rocky Top” live right there in front of me! Jean Shepard singing “Tired of Playing Second Fiddle to an Old Guitar” after being diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy only a few weeks ago but not letting that get her down.

Second Fiddle to an Old Guitar

Jim Ed Brown singing “The Three Bells” a song about little Jimmy Brown growing up in a little town in a little valley. Bom Bom Bom. If you would like to hear this fun little ditty.

The Three Bells: Little Jimmy Brown

The main three musicians we came for were Josh Turner, Trace Atkins, and Keith Urban. They are all great but I have to tell you that hearing the old music that I used to listen to with my grandpa was actually the highlight of my evening. I am so excited we are also going on Tuesday. I just can’t wait to get another bag of caramel corn and go sit next to my grandpa who will be there in his own way.

Battlefields and Whiskey

After leaving Red Bay Wednesday we drove about 180 miles north (much of it on the Natchez Trace Parkway) to our home for the next week at the Nashville Country RV Park. It is so nice to see trees and grass again after our two weeks on the runway in Red Bay.

Nashville Country RV Park

Nashville Country RV Park

After of day of running various errands Thursday we decided do some sightseeing Friday. We started the day at the Stone Rivers National Battlefield. The National Battlefield and National Cemetery commemorate a key battle of the Civil war fought on December 31, 1862 and January 3, 1863. The battle was inconclusive; however the Union forces repulsed two Confederate attacks causing the Confederate forces to withdraw giving the Union a morale boast after the defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Stone Rivers National Battlefield

Stone Rivers National Battlefield

After all the battlefields and forts from both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars we visited last year we were OK without doing a through tour of the entire Battlefield.

We then took a drive to Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey to tour the distillery. The Jack Daniel’s distillery is oldest registered distillery in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They do not allow pictures in the various distillery buildings (which is unfortunate).

Jack Daniel’s markets a few varieties of whiskey – the one everyone thinks of is the Black Label Number 7. There is green label which is lighter and less mature. Moving up from Black Label is Gentleman Jack. Gentleman Jack starts as Black Label but takes a second pass thru charcoal filters which is supposed to make it smoother. On the top of the tree is the Single Barrel Jack Daniel’s. The other whiskeys are blended from the contents of multiple barrels where Single Barrel – is well from a single barrel due to their exceptional color and flavor.

Jack Daniel’s is made using the Lincoln Count Process – in which the whiskey is filtered thru a column of charcoal chips before being aged in casks.  Jack Daniel’s makes its own charcoal from stacks of 2 inch square slabs of Sugar Maple. Our tour started in the Rickyard – this is where they store the stacks of timber called “ricks”.   When the time comes the stacks of Sugar Maple are moved under hood and doused with 140 proof Jack and lit. After between 2 and 3 hours of burning the workers know just the right moment to soak the pile with water to get the charcoal they need to filter the raw whiskey.

Jack Daniels - Rickyard

Jack Daniels - Rickyard

From the Rickyard we walked down to the spring cave. This underground source of naturally filtered spring water was discovered by Jack Daniel years ago and was the reason he built his distillery were it stands today. Outside the entrance to the spring cave is a statue of Jack Daniel – it is the only place in the county one can get a shot of Jack on the rocks (the county is dry).

Jack Daniels - Cave Spring, Jack on the Rocks

Jack Daniels - Cave Spring, Jack on the Rocks

The next stop of the tour was Jack’s old office (the only building other than the Visitors Center in which photos could be taken). There is a sign on the wall with a saying they attribute to Jack – if more companies followed that saying we would all be better off.

Jack Daniels - Jacks Office

Jack Daniels - Jacks Office

From there we went by the Grain Mill and into the Distally Building where we saw the copper still (and computer control room – I guess things have changed a bit since Jack was running the place), then into the building that hold the fermentation tanks full of sour mash (what a smell). Then into the building where the output of the still is run thru the massive charcoal filter vats before being put in the casks. The tour guide lifted the top edge of one of the vats allowing us to get a whiff of the 140 proof whiskey. Had to breathe it in thru our mouth so we did not burn the inside of our nose – it was potent.

We then moved into a room that was full of plaques for members of single barrel society. To become a member you have to purchase the contents of a full barrel.  The cost is between $9,000 and $12,000 depending on where you live (state and local liquor taxes). You get about 240 to 250 750ml bottles of whiskey and the actual barrel it came from (along with your name on a plaque in the single barrel society room).

We did not get to see them making or filling the barrels, which was disappointing.  We did see the room where they fill and box the single barrel bottles. The other bottles are filled in a new facility a couple of miles away.

The last stop of the tour was at the oldest (and smallest) Barrel House. The old Barrel House is only 3 stories (where the new ones are 7) but it still is a sight to see from the inside.

Jack Daniels - Barrel House

Jack Daniels - Barrel House

The Jack Daniel’s Distillery is located in a dry county. A few years ago the Tennessee legislature passed a special bill that allows Jack Daniel’s to sell ‘commemorative’ bottles at their facility. A person can only purchase a single bottle.

We had a wonderful day and are looking forward to more fun – we have a couple of nights at the Grand Ole Opry, a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame,  and a trip to Louisville to see Corvettes being made on the plan.

 

The Wait is Over

We are kind of in shock – today around 9:30am we got a call that said come to Bay 45 with empty tanks (fresh, black and gray) for your wet bay floor repair. We knew it would happen at some point so we emptied the fresh water tank yesterday when we returned from Custom RV. However we did not expect to be called in until later in the week.  Of course it was raining quite a bit when they called and had to go outside to dump the other tanks and unhook.

We got pulled into Bay 45 and they got to work. The wet bay holds 3 tanks the fresh, gray (waste from the sinks and shower), and black (waste from the toilet) along with all kinds of plumbing into and out of the tanks along with the valves and connections to dump the gray and black tanks. To remove the floor they have to disconnect and remove the fresh water tank.

The picture below shows the bay with the old floor in. The picture on the left shows the fresh tank the clear whitish one on the bottom. The gray and black tanks sit on a frame on top of the fresh tank – luckily they do not need to disconnect or remove the grey or black tanks. As you can see there are also lots of other wires and pipes in that part of the bay.  The picture on the right shows the side of the bay that is used for filling the fresh tank and dumping the gray and black – they got the fresh water hose reel, plumbing and pump out of the bay before I got a picture.

The Wet Bay

The Wet Bay

They attach straps to the frame the grey and black tanks sit on and help hold them up as they remove the fresh tank from the coach. The fresh tank is set to the side to drain any water left in it.  We have seen them try to remove tanks that are about a quarter full – they get heavy fast. Ours was properly drained which they appreciated.

Wet Bay - Removing Fresh Tank

Wet Bay - Removing Fresh Tank

Then for the first time we could see the actual floor.  As you can see from the picture on the left – there is standing water in spots where the floor has sunk down. Ours was not as bad as a number they have taken out – but did need to be replaced. The picture on the right shows part of the floor removed.

Wet Bay - Old Floor

Wet Bay - Old Floor

The picture on the left is the floor that was in our RV – as you can see it was rotting out a fair amount in places. The picture on the right is a floor that came out of another RV they were working on today – it was almost liquid.

Wet Bay - Old Floor on the Floor

Wet Bay - Old Floor on the Floor

The following picture is of the compartment almost ready for the new floor. They did a bit more clean up and then installed the new floor.

Wet Bay - Almost Ready for New Floor

Wet Bay - Almost Ready for New Floor

Aw you can see in the following picture the new floor they put in is fully covered with plastic and well-sealed in place so water cannot get to the wood.

Wet Bay - New Floor

Wet Bay - New Floor

Then they have to put the fresh tank back in, and start to put everything else back in place.  Once everything is back together the last step is to apply an undercoating to entire bottom of the bay and up the back side to make sure water from the road does not get into the bay and rot the floor. The undercoating is a mix of couple of chemicals that combine to form a strong foam like material. From the size of the tanks you can imagine how many of these repairs they are doing (about 5 or 6 a day – 5 days a weeks). Our technician said he was getting his space suit on.

Wet Bay - Undercoating

Wet Bay - Undercoating

We had a very successful trip to Red Bay and did not have to wait as long as we thought we might, so now we have about 3 and half weeks before we have to be in Iowa for our jobs.

Good things come to those that wait – Next stop Nashville where we will see Keith Urban, Josh Turner, Trace Akins, and Charlie Daniels Band at the Grand Ole Opry.

Repairs and Upgrades

Today was a day full of a repairs and upgrades and a repair that turned into an upgrade at Custom RV in Red Bay, Alabama.

The window shades that were in Serenity are not the typical home window shade. They are accordion type shades that actually have a day / night shade built in one hard to use unit. The lower part is a day shade that lets some light in where the upper part is a night shade that does a good job of blocking all light. They go up and down on a set of strings that are strung thru the blinds. The picture below shows part of the accordion type shade with one of the strings and the holes where the other string was before it broke.

Serenity - Old Window Covering

Serenity - Old Window Covering

We have not had much luck with this type of shade – we had 11 shades and more than half of them broke strings since we bought the RV. The shades can be restrung and getting a number of them fixed was on the list we had when we arrived at the Tiffin facility back in October. That is until we visited some coaches that had MCD shades in them. The MCD shades are day night shades that are more like the window shades that people have in stick built houses – a roller for the day shade and a separate roller for the night shade. And they can be put in the window valences that house the accordion ones. So we took getting the blinds restrung off the list and talked to Custom RV about the upgrade.  The other repairs last October took longer than we wanted and we would have had to say another week (they have to measure – get the shades made in Texas and shipped) so we decided not to do them in October and instead get them done at some point in the future. (I guess the future is now.)

This time we planned ahead and took the coach over to Custom RV for measurements the day after we arrived in Red Bay and then got in line for the Tiffin Service. Here is a picture of the old broken blinds and the new MCD shades.

Serenity - Window Covering Upgrade

Serenity - Window Covering Upgrade

We also had a repair that we wanted Custom RV to handle for us – replacing the batteries. The deep cycle batteries in most RV’s are ‘wet cell’ batteries.  Well it appears that the previous owner of the RV did not know that you have to check and add distilled water to ‘wet cell’ batteries from time to time, so the life of the batteries was diminished and they were not holding a charge.

Over the course of the last year and half we have been in a couple of RV’s that have a ceiling fan in the bedroom. This seemed like a good idea and the people that have them, had very positive things to say. One of today’s upgrades was the addition of a ceiling fan in the bedroom.

Serenity - Bedroom Celing Fan

Serenity - Bedroom Celing Fan

One of the problems with hanging out at the Tiffin repair facility is you hear about all kind of wonderful upgrades and changes that can be done. This is where we heard of the MCD shade upgrade in October. This time we heard of an upgrade that can be done to the drivers control panel to make the controls easier to see and use while navigating a 17 ton vehicle down the road.  It moves the shifter up to where you can see it instead of being behind you and tilts the switches to make them easier to read. It might not look like much to most people to anyone that has driven an RV it is a great improvement. The old panel is on the left and the new one on the right.

Serenity - Driver Controls

Serenity - Driver Controls

The last change today can also fall under the category of a repair. Serenity came equipped with a Sirius satellite radio, which we active on our first trip in the RV bringing it back to Seattle from Colorado. Well the Sirius radio would cut out driving down the road and not work for a couple of minutes. From talking to the owner of Custom RV – when the units start to die – they get too hot and will shut down, once they are cooler they will work again for a while. They were willing to install a new radio and Sirius tuner making the necessary face plate adjustments (since they no longer make units the size of the one that was in our dash). The only issue is there is nowhere to buy a radio and Sirius tuner in Red Bay – we had to drive an hour to Florence, Alabama to go to a Best Buy to purchase the parts.

The day was a huge success – we love the new shades and ceiling fan.  Driving will be so much easier with the new control panel and a radio that does not cut out in the middle of good song. And now we can park somewhere without power for more than 5 minutes.

So what is next – - you guessed it waiting . . .  

We still need the wet bay repair – hopefully soon.

The Rattlesnake Saloon

The other day we were chatting with some folks who are also stuck in Red Bay waiting for repairs and they told us about this little place called The Rattlesnake Saloon. We were bored so we decided to head over and check it out. They are open for lunch and dinner and on weekends they have musicians come in and play.

When you arrive you park in their parking area and a truck fitted with seats in the bed picks you up to take you down to the Saloon.

 

There are 3 seating areas. An outside patio, under the rocks, and inside the Saloon. The patio is beautiful with a bar and under large trees. The rock area is like a cave with a stage area where the music is. The saloon is fantastic. It is built to look like an old fashion saloon. The ceiling fans all run on a single leather band similar to saloons in the old west. Having been in the Old West I can say this looks pretty authentic.


Their menu is eclectic with things like “Snake Eyes and Tails” fried jalapeno slices and fried green beans. Hamburgers and chili cheese nachos. The food is not exceptional but the experience makes up for it.

We arrived about 4pm so missed both the lunch and dinner rush. We had a nice time and loved the atmosphere. We would definitely recommend it as an interesting place for lunch or dinner and music.