Friday, September 30, 2016

It’s Water Over (or Through) the Dam!

I frequently focus on historical places or sites but usually they are now museums, homes, re-purposed buildings.  But on this occasion the site is actually still serving its original purpose…or will be again in the near future!

This is a photo that I borrowed from the Internet.  This is Chilhowee Dam on the Little Tennessee River.  Dam Construction on this dam began in 1955 and was completed in 1957.  The dam's reservoir covers approximately 1,734 acres at normal full pool and has a drainage area of 1,977 square miles.  The elevation of Chilhowee Reservoir is 874 feet above sea level.

The Chilhowee Dam was added to the National Register of Historic Places at some point…but I was unable to determine exactly why it is on the Register. 

The Chilhowee Dam was the 4th and final dam built on the Little Tennessee River and it’s tributaries in the Smoky Mountains that was specifically designed to provide the necessary power for the operation of Alcoa Aluminum’s operations in East Tennessee.  The other dams in this group include the Calderwood, Cheoah and Santeetlah.

So why was the dam drawn down?  Actually it was for a damn good reason!  The earthen portion of the dam on the far side of the above photo had developed a leak…or, as the contractor phrased it, a 38 foot sinkhole!  In time it would have undermined that part of the dam, sending a serious wall of water down river… Of course, with continuous monitoring, that wouldn’t have happened.

This is a challenging project.  From what I could determine, there has been seepage for some time and there was another drawdown back in 2008.  To check out the project’s issues, specifications and scope of work, go to

In any case, our visit to the Chilhowee Dam was prompted by our ‘funky tasting’ water.  Our water supply here in East Tennessee always tasted great until this summer.  A long streak of 90 degree days, warmer than usual water temperatures, combined with problems at our water treatment plants caused a minor uproar in the area.  Laurie, my better half, started digging into the problem and she discovered that the root cause of the funky/moldy tasting water was the drawdown of the Chilhowee Reservoir.  Without going into the details, that action started a chain of events that led to the foul tasting although “safe to drink” water.

You can see the water line high up on the inside of the dam.  One observer said that he used to slide his boat right up to the dam while fishing, ducking under those steel girders in inclement weather.

Note the 2 bridges… The higher one is the current US Hwy. 129 Bridge over Abrams creek which feeds into the Little Tennessee River.  The lower bridge is the one that was covered by the reservoir after the lake was formed beginning almost 60 years ago.

This dam as well as its 3 ‘sister’ dams is owned by Brookfield Smoky Mountain Hydro, a subsidiary of Alcoa Aluminum.  The 3 other hydroelectric dams in the system are much older structures, having been completed in 1919, 1928 and 1930.

This is a view from the current Abrams Creek Bridge.  The old US Hwy. 129 bridge is closest to the remaining reservoir but the pillar bases for a former railroad bridge are exposed as well.  One local resident said he used to jump off the current bridge when he was a teenager…but he had no idea that those other structures existed. 

Here we’re still relatively close to the dam itself so there is still a reasonably large reservoir evident.  The drawdown was not total but rather only about 20 – 25 feet below normal pool. 

In this photo, old US Highway 129 wanders along the old flood plain into the mountains.  As you can see Mother Nature isn’t wasting much time reclaiming the ‘new’ landscape. 

Tennessee’s hydroelectric and navigational dam and lock system is huge complex and interlocking.  Actually, Calderwood, Cheoah and Chilhowee are controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Fontana Dam, which is further upriver. In reality, the TVA with Fontana Dam is the primary flow control facility for the lower Little Tennessee River.

Laurie took this photo of old Hwy. 129 running across the flood plain with the remnants of an old bridge in the center. 

What bugged us the most about this whole project is the fact that we had somehow missed the news about the drawdown and repair project.  Seeing it when it was just mud flats would have been much more dramatic.  We watch the news every day…and yet this drawdown was completed in 2015.  Rumor has it that the reservoir may not be refilled to normal levels until 2017.

This is a photo of that same old Hwy. 129 roadway and bridge shortly after the drawdown.  Mother nature didn’t waste much time greening everything up, that’s for sure!

Upstream further away from the dam itself, the Little Tennessee River is pretty much flowing in its original channel.  As you can see, there was a fairly wide flood plain or valley before the dam was finished. 

This photo is of a similar area of the river soon after the impoundment was lowered.  There was lots of mud and gravel with a bit of old US 129 visible at the left.

For the uninitiated, a stretch of US Hwy. 129 through the mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina is called “The Dragon”or "The Dragon's Tail." It is so named because of its seemingly endless twists and turns through the mountains.  Semi-trucks are not permitted.  Motorcyclists regard this bit of road as ‘the holy grail’ of cycling…something that every cyclist should do at least once in their lifetime.  It is a dangerous trip for those who drive too fast or who pass cars along the route.  Deaths and injuries are part of the scene every year!  “The Dragon” begins where US Hwy. 129 pulls away from the Chilhowee impoundment and heads into the mountains.     

This view is across the flood plain toward the US Hwy. 129 bridges over Abrams Creek.  This area, as well as the remaining Chilhowee impoundment/reservoir is off limits to boaters and explorers until further notice…

FYI…beyond this relatively small Alcoa Aluminum related operation, the Tennessee Valley Authority itself operates 29 hydroelectric dams and, in cooperation with the US Corps of Engineers, is responsible for the maintenance of commercial navigation all the way upriver to Knoxville Tennessee.  From Knoxville, commercial and pleasure traffic can access Mobile Bay Alabama as well as such cities as St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Minneapolis and New Orleans.    

I borrowed these historic photos from on-line Internet posts.  We wondered how many people lived in this valley before it was flooded... While we didn’t see anything this ‘cool’, I did read that the local sheriff departments ‘recovered’ a number of stolen vehicles from the lake after it was lowered!
To view a number of interesting photos that were taken after the 2008 drawdown of the Chilhowee Impoundment/Reservoir you can go to

Just click on any of these photographs to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Food – Creations plus Misc. Dining Experiences

Food/restaurants, historical places, railroads/railroad depots…these are definitely my primary reoccurring themes for my blog site.  From time to time I also throw in some animal photos, scenery, works of art/museums, family posts, old automobiles and airplanes, as well as boats and ships.

However I do believe that the food and restaurants theme is right at the top of my list when it comes to posts on this blog site.  What the heck!  That food focus may explain why my ‘handle’ is Big Daddy Dave!

This post contains some homemade food ‘creations’ as well as a couple of miscellaneous food items that we indulged in over the past couple of months…

This is the menu at our local ice cream parlor.  The Tic Toc Ice Cream Parlor is our favorite place for rich and cream laden ice cream.  As you can see if you enlarge the menu, they offer a plethora of the usual favorites as well as a few interesting flavor variations…

Usually we both have milk shakes…vanilla for me with Laurie being a bit more experimental.  However this time, we both ordered a 2-scoop dish of ice cream, each with 2 different flavors for our enjoyment!

The Tic Toc Ice Cream Parlor is located at 504 Grove Street, (at the corner of Grove Street and US Hwy. 11 in downtown Loudon Tennessee.  Phone: 865-408-9867.  On Tic Toc is rated as the #1 ‘restaurant’ in Loudon!

Very little food goes to waste in our house.  Sooner or later, 99% of our leftovers as well as miscellaneous cans and bags of food are consumed in one way or another…

Laurie created this casserole for us one night.  We had a can of Kirkland Chicken that we had in the pantry for a long time.  So using the canned chicken as a base, Laurie added a big can of cream of chicken soup, spiced it up, and then combined it with a mix of penne pasta and shells from partial boxes.  To provide texture and a bit of ‘crunch’, she crumbled up some remnant garlic pretzel thins and garlic croutons as the topping to the casserole… This was pure comfort food!  

Of course we couldn’t eat that big casserole all in one sitting.  I’m always looking for something I can drop a couple of over-easy eggs on top of for my breakfast!  Yum!

On another morning I was ‘forced’ to re-purpose a breaded and fried pork tenderloin…

So I added a bit of sharp cheddar cheese over the top of the pork tenderloin…

…and then of course I dropped 2 easy-over eggs on top!  After taking the photo, I then doused this breakfast treat with Tabasco.

Enough about breakfast for the moment… How about another experiment for dinner?  We looked at our leftovers to see what we had to work with.  There were a couple of kielbasa sausages and a couple of slices of cooked bacon.  I heated them in grapeseed oil… (Note: I do all the ‘frying’ in this household)

Once the protein was ready, Laurie put together an experimental marinara sauce.  She added a can of Roma tomatoes (crushed) and a jar of marinara to the meat.  Then lots of garlic, (dried flakes and granules), red pepper flakes, pepper and onion flakes were blended into the sauce.

Laurie isn’t a real fan of most marinara sauce, but she liked this one!  Note the mix of penne pasta and macaroni…no waste!  I did too, plus there was enough meat in the mix to satisfy a true carnivore like myself.  Of course there were leftovers and they provided a couple of lunches later in the week… 

There is nothing like a great sandwich! (…except for a great breakfast!) In any case, I put this creation together for lunch one day.  A King’s Hawaiian hamburger bun was fried/toasted in butter in a frying pan.  Then I added Costco’s deli ham slices, a couple slices of leftover bacon and a couple slices of sharp cheddar cheese.  For a little spice instead of my usual Tabasco, I used Wasabi on one side of the bun… I was a happy camper for sure!

Another day…and another breakfast.  This time I had 3 little leftover boneless pork chops.  Add a little shredded cheddar cheese and 2 over-easy eggs and I was good to go!

Yes…this is another breakfast creation.  We’d purchased a package of chicken/kale/mozzarella burgers at Costco.  We had a couple for dinner but there was one left over.  I reheated the chicken patty.  It had melted ‘fried’ cheese on top.  I’d fried/toasted a King’s Hawaiian burger bun in butter.  Then I added 1 slice and a half of mozzarella cheese and placed the chicken patty on top.

You knew the rest of this presentation before you even looked at this photo!  Two easy-over eggs capped off this breakfast creation.  The eggs worked very well with the chicken/kale/mozzarella patty and that sweet Hawaiian burger bun!

That’s enough about breakfast… 

Laurie created this casserole for a dinner party we had at our home.  She significantly modified a “No Peek Chicken” recipe that she found on line.
A family size can of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup, a small can of Campbell’s cream of celery soup, 2 boxes of Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice, a packet of Lipton Onion Dip mix and 1.75 cups of water were mixed and spread out in the bottom of a large baking pan.  Then, on top of the mixture, she placed 12 boneless skinless chicken thighs and topped each of them with paprika as well as 4 diagonally sliced mild Johnsonville Italian Sausages.  She covered it with foil and baked it at 350 degrees for 2 hours. (No Peeking!)

As per our guests, this No Peek Chicken Casserole was a winner!

A few days later, we stopped to have dinner at Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria in Maryville Tennessee before we took Dawn Marie to the airport. 
I’d already posted a blog on our first trip to Barley’s so this is a follow-up.  We decided to try a couple different items this time.  Laurie went for the ‘wrap special’. ($9.00) This wrap was packed full of chicken, spinach, artichoke hearts, feta cheese and tomatoes.  Laurie really liked it!

Dawn Marie and I decided to share a medium 14” pizza. ($17.00)  We thought that it was appropriately named… It’s the “Big Daddy” meat pizza and it was loaded with pepperoni, Italian sausage, ham and beef.  This was as good a pizza as I’ve had in East Tennessee!  There wasn’t too much sauce and it wasn’t sweet.  The meat was of a good quality and it was substantial.  I could actually taste the meat, crust and tomato sauce with each bite.  They didn’t cancel each other out… The crust was thin as we like and the only negative was that it wasn’t quite crisp enough for our liking.

Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria is located at 128 West Broadway in Maryville Tennessee.  Phone: 865-983-0808.  Website:

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

Thanks for stopping by for a look at what’s cooking!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, September 26, 2016

Vittorino’s Italian Restaurante and Pizzeria – Loudon TN

A little over 3 years ago Laurie and I tried a new Italian restaurant in Loudon Tennessee… We are always looking for good Italian cuisine, be it casual or upscale.  Either option is hard to find here in East Tennessee.

It was time for another visit and another chance to re-evaluate Vittorino’s offerings...

Vittorino’s is located in a strip mall that’s anchored by a Food City Grocery Store on TN Hwy. 72 in Loudon Tennessee.

As I paid the bill I asked for a ‘to go’ menu and the fact that I blog came up.  The hostess asked what name I used for my blog and I told her.  She told me that she knew who I was and that her Italian mother wasn’t happy with part of my last ‘review’.  For the record, I checked my last write-up and I don’t understand what she might be referring to.  On Trip Advisor, reviews of Vittorino’s are mixed and perhaps our hostess had me mixed up with someone else.

The interior of Vittorino’s is pleasant enough and it was clean.  Large windows on 2 sides provide lots of light.  Lunch traffic was minimal although there was some carry out business too.  From what we could see, the restaurant’s staff consisted of our hostess/waitress and a cook/chef in the kitchen.

Our waitress started us out with these ‘gratis’ pizza ‘bread’ slices with parmesan cheese a bit of seasoning and the house marinara sauce for dipping.  Laurie had thought it was pretty good the first time and she confirmed her feelings this time as well.  I was neutral the first time but I did like it on this occasion.  It certainly is a nice touch. 

Laurie ordered a luncheon special.  It was the Baked Ziti and it came with a side salad.  The salad was decent with lettuce, carrots, olives, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions. 

The baked ziti consisted of penne rigate pasta with ricotta and mozzarella cheese and Vittorino’s homemade pasta sauce.  Laurie liked her entrĂ©e and said that she’d order it again. 

I’d ordered pizza back in August of 2013 so I decided to try something else this time.  What can be more basic than an order of Baked Spaghetti with meatballs?  I was a happy camper… The spaghetti noodles weren’t overcooked, the marinara sauce wasn’t too sweet, (unlike many Italian restaurants in the south), and the meatballs were very tasty. 

We were happy with our choices during this visit to Vittorino’s.  The price was certainly a winner.  With tax and tip our bill totaled $19.35!  We will have to return again in the short term to revisit the same items that we’d ordered during our first visit.  To read my first post from 2013, go to

Vittorino’s Italian Restaurante and Pizzeria is located at 2761 Hwy. 72 in Loudon Tennessee.  Phone: 865-408-2422.  Vittorino’s is on Facebook at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, September 23, 2016

Nature at Work…In Our Yard!

Once again it’s time to share photos of nature’s visitors in our yard… We do live in a wooded area with woods on all 4 sides.  Across the street it’s completely wooded with no structures to be seen.  In addition, although a new home is being built one lot away on one side, we still have mature trees on wooded lots on either side of our house as well as a strip of trees behind us and our neighbors at the back. 

Nature’s visitors are frequent and they come in all sizes.  We haven’t seen any raccoons, skunks or fox this year but our yard continues to feed and nourish lots of nature’s denizens…

This …. Hawk is welcome in our yard at any time!  Something has to keep our squirrel population under control and this beautiful hunter has the skills that it takes to get the job done.

These turkeys were pecking and scratching their way through the woods at one edge of our yard.  They are big birds and they’re frequent visitors in the area. 

It’s been very dry this summer.  With my surgery back in June, I’ve lost the crab grass battle for the year.  The local flock of turkey doesn’t seem to mind what our grass looks like but they do like the fact that we water regularly.  The only complaint we have is that they sometimes really make a mess in the mulched flower beds as they search for a meal…

So what is this little group of turkey doing by the drainpipe for our downspouts?  The young turkey to the right made a big discovery.  One of our not too bright but enterprising squirrels decided that the drainpipes were a great place to hide his cache of hickory nuts!  Gone!

We’ve had families…no, actually herds of deer in the neighborhood.  They manage to keep our bushes trimmed and our monkey grass under control.  This fawn was one of a pair of twins who visited us one day with their mamma… 

This was the other twin from the pair of fawns…

After a bit mama decided it was time to move on… The good news is that they just ‘trim’ our vegetation before they seek out their next snack.

It was nice that mama deer stopped to look back at Laurie.  This pretty doe posed nicely don’t you think!

We have lots of birds around the house too… They tend to be birds that like the cover of wooded areas.  This Chickadee is one of the many birds that love our big rock that creates a pond whenever we water the yard or it rains.

Time for a quick bath… No problem that a voyeuristic wren has stopped by to watch!

I wonder what that wren was thinking.  The Chickadee has a little preening to do, that’s for sure!

We have a hummingbird feeder up for more than 6 months each year… These pretty little birds really stoke up on the sugar water when they aren’t fighting each other over the feeder!

Late every summer, the local Gold Finch population flocks to our cone flowers for an annual feast.

Then we had this eager Wren who decided to build a nest in the newspaper slot under our mail box.  Laurie couldn’t believe how fast he built this nest in an effort to attract a mate… Hey, a guy has to do what a guy has to do!

This buck decided to visit our back yard one sunny day.  He apparently likes the taste of oak leaf hydrangea!   The only plants that the deer have eaten to the ground are Laurie’s hostas.  They just eat the hostas that are in the flower beds away from the house.  They’ve left the ones alone that are up against our back deck.

One last photo of our little buck… If he’s smart he’ll stay in the neighborhood for the duration of the upcoming hunting season.  He sure is a handsome young fellow!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by to check out our local wildlife menagerie!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave