Friday, September 22, 2017

Wagon Train/Caravan 'Rally'

On the Labor Day weekend, we’d driven out to Tellico Plains Tennessee for dinner… As it turned out, we were also treated to something that we’d never seen before!

From the parking lot of the Tellicafe Restaurant in Tellico Plains we spotted these horse and mule teams pulling wagons down the road.  I’d heard of a Corvette Rally, or even a Studebaker Rally, but this is apparently the equivalent event featuring wagons or caravans with horses and mules. 

This is an annual event, one that we’d never heard of despite living the next county over and only 35 minutes away from Tellico Plains for the last 8+ years.  A bit of research revealed that nightly entertainment is provided for the participants on Friday and Saturday nights.  Admission for the general public this year was only $5.00 per person.  Featured artists this year were the Moonshine Creek Band and Hunter Grayson. 

To sample Hunter Grayson’s music, just go to

We took a bunch of horse and mule photos because we love horses and think that mules are one of the smartest, most interesting 4-legged creatures around…

…Are you looking at me?!  Mules are so darn smart and they really know how to get us human’s attention too.  

So, the questions were…just why and when did this whole wagon train thing started?  The answers to these questions were partly practical and partly a lobbying effort…

The Tellico Plains Kiwanis Club, as part of their efforts to promote the creation of a Tennessee-North Carolina highway, organized the first wagon train on the 4th of July in 1958.  On that date, 67 covered wagons and 325 horseback riders made the trek through the Smoky Mountains from Tellico Plains to Murphy North Carolina.

Such enthusiasm was generated that 5 years later, the trek was incorporated as a non-profit named the Western North Carolina Wagon Train, headquartered in Andrews North Carolina.  Apparently this annual event or rally had some positive impact, because in 1967 construction began on what is now called the Cherohala Skyway, which now stretches from Tellico Plains Tennessee to Robbinsville North Carolina. 

This annual event was originally known as the Tellico to Murphy Wagon Train.  Apparently to the surprise of most folks, interest grew and people came from all around to participate and witness the spectacle.  The original wagon train left Tellico Plains on an early morning in late June and they were greeted by spectators all along the route.  On July 4th of 1958, they arrived in Murphy where they were welcomed by a cheering crowd of thousands of spectators.  

For the next 5 years, the wagon train used the same route.  Interest has spread so far that various routes have been traveled throughout the mountains, always ending with a parade on the 4th of July in a town to which they’ve been invited. 

Traditionally, every 5 years, the wagon train travels the original route from Tellico Plains to Murphy.  In recent years, due to the difficulty of getting clearance for routes through the mountains and securing campgrounds for the event, the Wagon Train has stayed in Andrews North Carolina and staged their July 4th parade in that town.

…More mules checking out Laurie as she took their picture.

In 1963, the wagon train group was incorporated as a non-profit corporation…the Western North Carolina Wagon Train…with their headquarters in Andrews North Carolina.  The board of directors is made up of members from North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and North Georgia.  In 2004, the organization officially expanded their original mission to include the encouragement and promotion of fair treatment of equine livestock.

Laurie captured this team of horse pulling a wagon down the street in our direction by shooting the photo through our windshield.  Very cool!

If you would like to view a video of the 2011 July 4th Wagon Train Parade through downtown Tellico Plains, just click on the following link:

This year’s Labor Day Parade, (which we weren’t aware of), formed up at the campgrounds and proceeded through downtown Tellico Plains.  Anyone could participate including floats, wagons, horse, mules, tractors, four-wheelers, antique cars, emergency vehicles, etc.  The William Blount High School Marching Band led the way and local TV coverage was provided by WBIR, Knoxville’s NBC affiliate.

This is one of the 2 free camp grounds being used by the Wagon Train participants.  In this case, it’s the late Charles Hall’s field across from the Hardee’s Restaurant, (and next to Tellicafe, where we ate dinner), in Tellico Plains.  Note the mountains in the background…

This is the other camp ground that was available for the wagon train.  It was also loaned to them free of charge and a local farmer furnished the water needed for the visitors as well as their livestock.

This is one of the longest lived wagon train events in the United States.  This was its 60th anniversary!

While the participants in these photos have trucked their horses, mules and wagons across the mountains to Tellico Plains, many others apparently were on the way via the ‘old fashioned’ method…by wagon across the mountains. 
This event was listed as the Second Annual Tellico Plains Tennessee Labor Day Ride.  The trek wasn’t for sissies.  It began in North Carolina on August 31st.  At the end of the first day, the wagon train had covered 14 miles and spent the night at Charlie’s Mountain.  

On September 2nd, they covered another 13 miles…4 of it paved and 4 on gravel (with a 10 – 12% grade), stopping at Old Furnace.  The 3rd day was along another 13 mile route with 6 miles paved and 7 miles on gravel.  They stopped at Conesaga Falls.  On Labor Day, this group was scheduled to have a short ride into Tellico Plains for the parade at 10 AM.  

We included this photo because we liked the more traditional ‘look’ of this covered wagon…

…and I’m ending this post with another team of mules, one of which is giving Laurie the ‘eye’. 

We will put this event on our calendar for 2018!  Between the 4-legged attractions and the music, it is not to be missed when it comes around again.  To learn more about the Wagon Train as well as future events, you can go to the organization’s website at

That’s about it for now!  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave and Laurie 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beth Thomson’s Paintings - #2

Continuing with my homage to my mother’s paintings as well as her many multi-media arts and crafts creations, this posting is all about her watercolors, something that she seemed to really focus on in her latter years…

To begin, these first 3 paintings were among her earliest watercolors...probably from the late 1940s or early 1950s.  

I have no idea when she created these 2 very impressionistic watercolors...both featuring flowers and/or other vegetation.  

As with her oil paintings, Beth loved to paint flowers. These style of impressionistic watercolors are among her grandson David's favorites... 

You are right!  This is not a painting... Mom loved photography too and I have hundreds of her old photos.  They frequently provided a basis for future paintings...

This is a perfect example of the symbiotic relationship between her photos and her art...

This whimsical painting includes some colorful little mushrooms or toadstools...

...and then there are the paintings that are beyond my limited artistic imagination!  

This series of watercolors are all about the forests, foliage and greenery.  Our son and his family in Omaha have many of his grandmother's paintings on display throughout their home.  

These little paintings featuring people, including a mother and her daughters, are a departure for her usual watercolor subjects, but Laurie and I love them.  Laurie especially relates to the hair styles in the first one as she worked for many years as a hairdresser...

...yet another photo leading to a painting.

Mom's impression of pebbles in a stream...

 These paintings continue with her usual theme or subject...nature interpreted in art.  

Sorry for the glare in so many of these paintings. The glass protects them but it also makes them harder to photograph.  

This certainly isn't a great photo but it is one of the more meaningful paintings from my perspective.  Mom painted this for me because it was one of my favorite views near her home in the countryside near Concord Michigan.  This valley is in the upper reaches of the Grand River...

I do believe that I see caterpillars in this second painting...a whimsical touch.

Love the fall leafs and with the rocks...

These last 3 paintings were among the last ones that she did.  The style is much different, because as was her tendency, her desire to try something different, albeit a painting style or different artistic medium meant that she was always in a learning mode.

There will be two more posts about my mom's art work.  The next one will focus on multi-media efforts including weaving, pottery and 'crafty' creations.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them...

Thanks for stopping by for a 'gallery tour'!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dinner in Tellico Plains Tennessee…Plus

It was the Labor Day Holiday weekend and I told Laurie that we were going to go out for dinner.  When I discovered that my restaurant of choice was closed for the long weekend, I had to refocus and find another dining destination that wasn’t too far from home… 

We’d heard from a couple of friends that the food at Tellicafe in Tellico Plains Tennessee was both good and reasonable.  This restaurant is about 30 minutes from our home but, given the recommendations and the fact that we’d driven by it so many times before, I decided that this was the time to finally give it a try!

Tellicafe’s lobby/waiting area is large and pleasant.  However, since we were very early for dinner, there weren’t many customers around.

There are 2 separate dining rooms at Tellicafe, each one off one end of the lobby.   D├ęcor is simple but pleasant and the dining area was very clean.  Laurie was patiently waiting for me at our table… FYI, I’m not a fan of booths and find chairs much more comfortable, at least from my perspective. 

We started out with an order of Fried Green Tomatoes, a southern staple food item. ($6.25) I felt that they were about average…just not great.  The dipping sauce definitely improved them.

Other appetizers on the menu include such items as Trout Cakes, Loaded Potato Skins, Onion Tobacco Straws, Fried Pickles, (This is what Laurie really wanted instead of the Fried Green Tomatoes!), and a quesadilla.  They also have a Green Tomato and Country Ham Soup on the menu.

For her dinner, Laurie ordered the Catfish Dinner. ($9.99) She really liked the catfish…and for that matter, her entire meal.  She especially enjoyed those little hush puppies and, to my surprise also gave a thumbs up for her green beans!  I tasted a piece of catfish and a hush puppy and I concurred that they were better than average…

The menu was fairly broad and varied.  Other dinner items include Stuffed River Trout, Coconut Chicken, Steaks, Roast Turkey and Dressing, Beef Tips, Cherahala Chicken Cordon Bleu with Benton’s Bacon, 4 pasta dishes, 4 vegetarian offerings plus sandwiches and hamburgers.

You’re right…this isn’t exactly health food!  This is Tellicafe’s Country Fried Chicken Dinner. ($9.99) I’m not sure that I’ve ever had boneless chicken breasts before but they weren’t “tenders” per se, and they were shaped like complete chicken breasts.

The fried chicken was very nice indeed and the white pepper gravy was a great added touch.  The French fries were OK but I thought that the meat enhanced turnip greens were a very nice variation on the norm.  Another plus was that they had Tabasco on hand! 

The food and bang for your buck at Tellicafe was definitely a cut above average.  Our waitress was efficient, friendly and helpful.  We will return to try other items on the menu.  Tellicafe is located at 128 Bank Street in Tellico Plains Tennessee.  Phone: 423-253-2880.  Their website is at   

As we drove around Tellico Plains after dinner, I spotted this old International Harvester/Oren Fire Apparatus Company fire truck…a pumper…for sale and parked behind a local building.  It had served with the Avoca Volunteer Fire Department near Bluff City Tennessee.

This fire truck is probably at least 35 years old.  Oren was founded in Virginia in 1917 and the company was purchased by Grumman in 1976.  They phased out the Oren name by the early to mid-1980s. 

Moving on down country roads as we made our way back home, we came across these 2 young cows by the fence.  Since Laurie has a soft spot for most animals…and especially horses, dogs, cats, mules and cows, we had to stop so she could talk to them and take their picture.

That’s about it for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave