February 28, 2009

Reflections on February Blogging


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It's the night of February 28th and the official end of the Slow Travel "February Bloggers." I've actually managed to post every single day of the month (fortunately a short month), and only posted late a handful of times.

I was one of the very first Slow Travel bloggers back in 2004, recruited by Pauline when we went on our long trip. Most people didn't even know what a blog was back then. My "Grand Tour" blog was like a diary, as I posted very detailed journal entries for much of the 14 months. I didn't post many photos at all back then. I didn't know how (!) and was working from internet cafes and over a phone line most of the time, and it was difficult to upload photos.

Then in 2006 I started this "Trails" blog, mainly to blog during our travels. I blogged consistently during our summer trips in 2006 and 2007 (and did post lots of photos), but I decided not to blog last summer. It made the trip more relaxing, but I missed the discipline of periodic blogging and even viewing my experiences from the perspective of what I might write about.

This month is the only time I've ever blogged about my daily life; my other blogging has always been about our travel experiences. Even though I've blogged about our travels, I've always been pretty open about sharing something of myself and our family interactions, but this month was something different. I experimented with several different kinds of topics, so my posts seem kind of all over the place. Sophie's visit at the beginning of the month created a little excitement, including our trip to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. I shared something of my past, my family, my friends, my work, and my city. I really enjoyed "the letter N," but I didn't do any other lists or quizzes. I didn't post any recipes (which I thought I might do if I ended up with "bloggers block"). I thought about joining in on the photohunts and maybe this is something I'll do later.

Here's what I enjoyed about my February blogging:

- I liked the interaction with the other bloggers very much. I enjoyed reading their blogs, leaving comments, and interacting with them when they commented on my posts. I learned more about some Slow Travel friends and got to know some new people I hadn't known before. It was definitely fun to be part of this February blogging community.

- I enjoyed writing again. I've missed it! I enjoyed coming up with an interesting topic every day and writing about it. I think that writing causes you to think introspectively and keeps your mind agile.

- I think I have a perspective and some interesting experiences to share beyond my travel stories.

- I did like the discipline of blogging every day. And because there was a group of us doing this together, I felt I had some accountability to keep it going.

Here's what was difficult for me:

- This was a stressful month for me and the daily blogging added a bit to the stress. This month I had my regular teaching, a non-credit class one night a week, a houseguest, a dinner party for 12 people, and an overnight trip. I had a lot to do for our summer tours and family trip. I started working on our taxes. Daily blogging definitely added to the load.

- I enjoyed the blogging much more than some other things I should have been doing... like grading those stacks of papers. It gave me another reason not to take the papers out of my case.

- I realized once again that I'm not that good at taking shortcuts. I'm somewhat obsessive. I can write quickly, but I like to edit and look up details. None of my posts were really quick and easy. I don't think I could work in a newsroom on deadline.

- I felt a little guilty about not getting around to everyone's else's blog on a regular basis, especially those people who were good about coming to mine.

- Blogging involved more time working on my computer when I could have been interacting with my husband and daughter. I think I spend too much time on the computer and internet already. (This is why I'm resisting Facebook and Twitter...)

Despite these difficulties, February blogging was a great experience for me. It wouldn't have been near as much fun alone, so thanks to my fellow bloggers and others who have been reading along with us.

I am going to continue regular blogging, though beginning tomorrow, I will no longer be a daily blogger. I admire those who can do it! My plan now is to try to post every weekend (on Friday, Saturday or Sunday) in March and April and occasionally more often if there's something to say. We leave on May 5 for our 2-1/2 months in Europe, and I will blog again while we are traveling. I also want to keep up with the blogs of all these friends I've gotten to know.

Here's to March and springtime!


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Before wrapping up tonight, I want to announce a new blog just started by the Slow Travel Tours group. There are nine of us in the group, all Slow Travel members who lead small group tours in Europe that follow the slow travel philosophy. We've been communicating over the last year, sharing ideas and encouragement-- I've described the group as an "informal affiliation." With Pauline's help, we put up a simple webpage that lists all our tours and links to our individual websites. Now we have a blog too. Each week one of us will post to the blog, sharing some aspect of our approach, our trip, or the area where we base our group.

Last weekend's post was our first weekly post, written by me. I gave some background on the Slow Travel Tours group and our approach to travel. Bill Steiner of Adventures in Italy will be posting tomorrow. Charley and I met Bill and his wife Kristi at the Slow Travel Gathering in Savannah last spring and had a long lunch with them in Asheville last week. They are great people who offer unique weeks in Orvieto, Italy.

Check out our Slow Travel Tours blog every weekend-- you'll hear a new voice every week.


February 27, 2009

Beware of dogs

It was a pretty day in early April, late on the afternoon of Good Friday, just two years ago. We had returned a few weeks before from a great spring break trip to Provence. Kelly was 13 years old and had a holiday from school. She had a new ball glove and suggested that she and Charley go outside to play softball. They headed down to the open grassy area in the "glen" between the two dead-end streets of our neighborhood. I stayed at home, working in my office.

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Charley and Kelly in Marseille (March 2007)

From my desk at the front of the house, I have a clear view of our little street just a few yards away. I happened to notice two white dogs trotting by, big dogs I hadn't seen before. They looked a bit like white chows, with big heads and pointed tails. I briefly wondered if Kelly would see the dogs. Although we no longer had our own dog, she was a big dog lover and never missed a chance to interact with dog owners and pet their dogs. I quickly turned back to my computer.

Some time later I became aware of a frantic screaming outside. Was it Kelly? I could not hear her clearly from inside I opened the front door and there she was, shrieking hysterically for help. "Don't let the big dog get Daddy!!!" Everything was happening in a blur. I saw Charley coming down the street... staggering down the street, it seemed, carrying a big rock. Our next door neighbor was running alongside, waving a cane. The two big white dogs were following behind.

Kelly and Charley came inside, and Charley went immediately to the bathroom. I saw that his hand was bleeding. Kelly was still screaming. I called 911 to report two stray dogs in the neighborhood that had apparently attacked my husband. The 911 operator told me that Animal Control was already on the scene. Did I need an ambulance? I didn't think so. I was more worried about the two stray dogs on the loose in our neighborhood than my husband's injury.

Charley called me to the bathroom. "I need to go to the emergency room," he said. "I can see the bone." He had wrapped his hand in two old towels. We live only five minutes from the hospital, the place where Kelly was born. The three of us quickly got in the car and headed out. Near the front of the neighborhood, I saw a group of neighbors clustered by near the doorway of a house. An Animal Control truck was nearby, a woman officer in the car. She was watching the two white dogs.

"Those dogs attacked my husband," I said. "I'm taking him to the emergency room." I vaguely remember asking her a few questions. I was worried about rabies, thinking that these were stray dogs. I had heard about shots in the stomach with long needles.

"I'm about to pass out," Charley said from the back seat.

A few minutes later we were at the emergency room. Kelly went in with Charley while I parked the car. Only when we were together in the emergency room did I see how badly he had been hurt. His blood pressure dropped terribly and he was ice cold. His left hand was ravaged, and he had been bitten on both arms. The doctors and nurses stabilized his blood pressure and then strangely left us alone. I had forgotten to bring my cell phone and was still focused on the possibility of rabies. I used Kelly's phone to leave a message for my parents and then to call a friend who was a top official in our county government, to try to connect with Animal Control and find out about the dogs.

Two sets of neighbors came by the emergency room to see us and were allowed to come back. One couple had been walking their dogs and the big white dogs had tried to attack them. They used pepper spray to drive the dogs away. They told us that the dogs had attacked another neighbor's pet, and that dog was seriously injured. (We later learned that a dog in another neighborhood had also been attacked.) The other neighbors lived next door to us, and the woman was the one who had been outside with Charley. Kelly had banged on their door, screaming that Charley had been attacked by a dog. Kelly hoped the husband could help, forgetting that he had broken his ankle and was using a cane. The wife ran out with the cane to help. The Animal Control officer was already in our neighborhood because they had received three calls about about these dogs.

I learned more from Kelly and Charley about what happened, and still more over the following days. The two dogs had appeared in the back grassy area where Charley and Kelly were tossing the softball. They seemed friendly and eventually approached my husband and daughter. Charley bent down to let the dog sniff his right hand, palm down and fingers curled. When he straightened up, the dog lunged for his left hand, the handd with the ball glove, knocking the glove off and fastening his teeth on Charley's left hand. The smaller dog laid down and just watched. Kelly began screaming and threw her ball at the big dog. At some point she ran for help. Charley said the dog was tossing his hand like it was a rope pull toy. He tripped on some rocks and fell backwards, the dog on top of him. The dog weighed about 100 pounds.

Charley is a strong man and somehow he found the strength to pull open the dog's jaw with his right hand and get his poor left hand out. The dog then began attacking both of Charley's arms. Charley grabbed one of the rocks and stood up. He thought he would kill the dog with the rock if he had to. He managed to make his way back to our street, where he met Kelly and our neighbor. The two dogs followed behind.

The dogs were Akitas, originally bred in Japan as fighting dogs. (I remembered the Akita only as the type of dog owned by Nicole Simpson when she was killed.) They are considered a highly dangerous breed of dogs. These dogs belonged to a family who lived six miles from our home. Their teenage son had been left in charge and left a door open and the dogs escaped. It was the next day before anyone realized they were gone. The dogs came across three of the busiest roads in Knoxville (including the interstate) to reach our little neighborhood, intersecting with Kelly and Charley the only time that they had ever played softball in the grassy area out behind our house.

After about five hours in the emergency room, Charley wounds were cleaned and bandaged and he was admitted to the hospital. His left hand was especially badly hurt, the most serious damage on the inside of his hand. My parents rushed to join us as soon as they got our message and were with us much of the next few days. Charley was in the hospital three nights, and had microsurgery on his hand the day after the attack. The doctor said the tendons weren't severed, but the damage was extensive. His two fingers (the two left fingers of his left hand) were almost ripped off.

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After surgery, the day after the attack

We learned from Animal Control that the dogs weren't strays but did have owners and that their shots were current. So my initial concerns about rabies were at least set aside. The Animal Control officer told me there hadn't been a case of rabies in a human in our county for something like 40 years.

When Charley came home from the hospital, we had to change the dressings on his hand and arms twice a day, a process that took about 30 minutes each time until some of his wounds began to heal. He wasn't able to drive for the first ten days and had physical therapy three times a week for several months. About six months later he had a second surgery to remove scar tissue, outpatient this time, which was much more extensive than we had expected. Skin grafts were taken from the inside of his arm (where it bends) to repair his hand. The second surgery resulted in another round of major physical therapy.

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After the second surgery, almost six months later

Charley had just turned 62 at the time of the attack. Although he spent most of his career in chemical sales and later worked as a stockbroker for several years, in recent years he's had a home renovation business. He has enjoyed using his woodworking skills, and he enjoys solving problems and helping people. For hobbies, he does woodworking (he's made several violins), plays piano and uses his computer. He's played the piano pretty much every day since he was a boy. See a theme? He makes his living and finds much of his pleasure using his hands. Because of his injury and the two surgeries, he wasn't able to work for most of 2007.

Now almost two years later, Charley's left hand is permanently damaged by the dog attack. His two left fingers are curled to the palm and other than some tingling, he has no feeling. They're useless. At one point he even talked about having them amputated, since they were useless and got in his way. In the year since his last surgery, he's found other ways to get things done (he never typed with 10 fingers anyway), but some things he'll never do the same. He's started playing the piano, learning to play again using only eight fingers. He can't lay his palm flat when he works and is unable to do projects that require full use of both hands. Two simple things-- he can't wear his wedding ring or hold my hand with his left hand.

We're are lucky, though, and so thankful that Charley wasn't more badly hurt. His fingers or hand could have been severed. The dog could have ravaged his right hand instead. (He is right handed.) The dog could have lunged for his throat while he was struggling on the rocks. His face could have been attacked. The second dog could have gotten involved. Charley could have been killed. Or the dog could have gone for our beloved Kelly, who so loved dogs, instead of Charley. Charley would have tried to save her, and who knows what would have happened. An older person, a weaker person, or a child would not have been able to defend themselves as Charley did. We hate what happened, but it could have been so much worse.

We just assumed that the dog would be destroyed. As you read this, you might assume that too. But that didn't happen. The dog (named Zeus) went to "trial" and was found to be "dangerous" (but not "vicious"). The owners actually appealed the "dangerous" verdict, which meant that they were supposed to use a muzzle to take the dog off their property and put a cover over the outdoor pen. We submitted a protest along with some photos, and the "dangerous" verdict was upheld. When we read the summary of the hearing (which we were not allowed to attend), it was obvious that the owners were highly distraught about their pet and the inconvenience to them-- not Charley's injuries and the impact on his life.

We ended up filing a lawsuit, since we had major medical bills, loss of income for about nine months, and Charley's permanent disability. At the time of the attack, we had private insurance with a high deductible, so our out-of-pocket medical expenses were significant. Our case was just settled out of court a month or so ago. The dog owners' were covered through their homeowners insurance company. We've been able to pay off the medical bills and some other debts that accumulated over that time. We're happy to have the money and get those bills behind us, but it wasn't a large amount considering how Charley's life was changed. Half of the settlement went to our health insurance companies (who paid most of the medical expense) and our attorney. (Note: The laws in Tennessee have since been strengthened to protect victims of dog attacks and hold owners more responsible.)

Our family is now extremely cautious of dogs. We definitely stay away from big dogs who aren't on leashes. When Charley goes for a walk, he carries a baseball bat, just in case. Kelly was initially extremely fearful of dogs and had a lot of guilt about leaving her dad down on the rocks with the attacking dog. She was shaken by the image of her strong father screaming after being knocked over by a big dog. We've assured her that she did the right thing to go get help, and she's worked through her issues in a very mature way. She now much prefers cats to dogs.

I have posted a few photos to show what happened to Charley that pretty April afternoon. You might be shocked, so please look at these pictures with caution. Don't feel you have to look. I thought the photos were important to share to give an idea of what a dog can do to a person.

In the emergency room

Four days later - palm

Four days later - top

Five weeks later

Two weeks after second surgery

For those who love dogs, as I always have, do be careful. Be especially careful around strange dogs or dogs who may be anxious. Watch young children around dogs. I never would have thought that a dog could change my husband's life in just an instant. And I'll always thank God for watching over Charley and Kelly that Good Friday afternoon.

February 26, 2009

I'm happy to have a job, but....

This is an unusual time we're living in now... in 2009 and in the midst of a recession. Sometimes it seems that life is normal and times are good. We went out to eat last weekend and the restaurant was packed. There were plenty of people shopping at Target. But I know all around us, people are worried, even if they are not saying anything. And some people's lives have been affected deeply.

I teach Business Strategy in the College of Business Administration at our state university. This is a new career for me, after 27 years in the corporate world, most of it as a VP of Human Resources. I pursued this type of work after our long trip to Europe because I wanted flexibility. I would have summers off to travel and we could have our little business on the side, running our small group trips in Provence and now other places. Initially I started teaching as an adjunct, but I'm now in my second year with a 75% faculty appointment. 75% means that I teach six classes a year and get benefits. I also do some project work that I get paid extra for, sort of like an in-house consultant. I make about 50% of what I made in my former corporate life, a trade-off I was willing to make to get summers off and much more flexibility.

I also have a different kind of "risk" in my work. After years being part of the "inner circle" in my corporate world, I'm now part of a second-tier group in the university world: a "non-tenure-track" faculty member. Sinice I don't have a PhD, I don't have the same kind of job security. People like me get a new contract every year. In today's world that can be an uncomfortable feeling. If my contract isn't renewed, I don't get severance pay. I'm not even sure if I would qualify for unemployment.

Because of the work I do, I'm immersed with the stories of the recession. My students and I read the Wall Street Journal every day. We start each class with a discussion of current events-- what's happening in the external environment that companies need to respond to? How are companies adjusting their strategies? Which companies are finding opportunities? Which are going out of business? After several students report a continuing saga of business downturns, I'll usually ask "Does anyone have any good news to share?"

My students are seniors in their last semester of college. Last year's seniors were busy interviewing, trying to decide between job offers. This year's graduates are facing a different job market. Many fewer recruiters are coming to campus. I've heard of very few offers. Some students are now planning to go directly to graduate school, and others hope they can at least continue working their retaurant or retail jobs. At least they don't have house payments.

Our state is in a budget crisis, and higher education is impacted. They are looking at a 25% cut across the entire state university system. At my campus, this will potentially mean a 9% tuition increase as well as a few hundred layoffs. Our heat has been turned down to 68, and travel has been eliminated. I'm lucky I got a new computer in August, as equipment purchases have now been frozen. I'm happy to have a job, as it appears that I am "safe" and will be continued next year.

The biggest impact on me personally is that my classes are much larger-- 50% over last semester. This is one way to cut costs-- make classes bigger which means fewer classes and teachers. In six previous semesters of teaching strategy, my classes have averaged about 30 students. This semester I'm teaching four sections (the most I've had before is three), averaging 45 students in each class. It's a heavily discussion-oriented class, with 20% of the grade is based on class participation. I now have 180 students, and I should know each student's name. I use name cards and try to use students names often. I've made up picture charts too, but it's very hard. Right now I might know half.

I enjoy the interaction with the students very much and I like the classroom teaching. I think I'm becoming a good teacher. The worst part-- the terrible part-- is grading. I have a grad student to grade my quizzes and enter the grades in a spreadsheet. But the written assignments need to be graded by me. There are four short papers-- how I wish I had constructed the syllabus to have only two! So figure this-- 180 papers to grade for each assignment. Even if I spend just 5 minutes on each paper, this is 900 minutes (15 hours!) to grade each lot. I make up little grading rubrics (kind of check sheets) to help me move through the process fairly and quickly. This is one of the most tedious thing I've ever done. Just between us-- I absolutely hate it.

Still, as I said, I'm happy to have a job these days, and what appear to be good prospects to continue it next year. My husband's home renovation business is slow, but he does have some work, and he's drawing social security too. We're in good health. We don't owe much money. Our European trips are remarkably mostly full for this year, and we are spending 2-1/2 months in Europe this summer.

My stepdaughter works in retail and her job as assistant manager was recently eliminated. She was given a chance to stay as a sales clerk with a pay cut, which she took. She's not happy, but she has a job.

My former company, where I was head of Human Resources for 10 years, recently closed abruptly when they lost their bank financing. This was a 65 year old company, an industry leader, employing 450 people. There was no notice, no severance pay, no vacation pay. Many people have been hired by competitors, but I know many are still out of work.

Elsewhere in our community, two other major companies have closed. Our boat companies have closed several plants. Our city newspaper had a layoff and did an across-the-board pay cut. And our community is in better shape than others.

These are challenging times we live in. I'm struggling with my realities right now (all those @%#! papers to grade), but at least I have a job... a family I love... and the flexibility to travel.

February 25, 2009

Several Interesting Things You Might Not Know About Knoxville (Part II)

Here are ten more things you might not know about Knoxville. Come visit us here sometime!

11. Knoxville has been home to several people with literary connections: Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses), poet Nikki Giovanni, James Agee (A Death in the Family), Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden). Writer Alex Haley (Roots) moved to the Knoxville area later in his life and was very active in the community. There is a 13-foot, 4,200 pound bronze statue of Alex Haley in a Knoxville park, thought to be the largest statue of an African American in the US.

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12. These famous Knoxvillians have been involved in the world of movies and television: Patricia Neal, Polly Bergen, Quentin Tarantino, John Cullum, David Keith, Brad Renfro, and.... Johnny Knoxville. Tina Wesson, the winner of the second season of Survivor, is from Knoxville. (I met her at a fund raiser and had my picture made with her.) The movie October Sky was filmed in and around Knoxville.

13. The main campus of the University of Tennessee is located in Knoxville. The school was founded in 1794 and today has 26,400 students (20,400 undergraduate and 6,000 graduate). There are 8300 faculty and staff members, one of whom is me. There are over 400 different academic programs. U.S. News and World Report ranks UT Knoxville as 51 among all public universities. They ranked UT's College of Business Administration (where I teach) 24th in the nation among public universities.

14. The UT Football stadium (Neyland Stadium) is one of the largest in America, seating over 104,000 fans. The team is known as the Volunteers, the Vols and also the "Big Orange," and fans come to games dressed in bright orange. Hundreds of fans arrive by boat on the nearby river and are called the "Vol Navy." Peyton Manning was the quarterback of the Vols for four years beginning in 1994.

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15. The University of Tennessee women's basketball team is known as the Lady Vols and is consistently one of the top women's basketball programs in the country. They have won the national title eight times, most recently in 2008. The team has been coached for 25 years by Pat Head Summit, who just won her 1000th game.

16. Knoxville is home to more than 20 museums, including the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The world's largest basketball (10 tons) is locatd on one end of the building. The most interesting "museum" in this area is the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee, which is a living museum showcasing life in this area in pioneer and frontier days.

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17. Knoxville is 20 miles from Oak Ridge, a town built during World War II to develop the atomic bomb that ended the war. Today Oak Ridge is home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which employs about 1600 scientists and engineers and is an international center for energy research and development. The laboratory occupies about 58 square miles of U.S. government land.

18. Two-thirds of the US population lives within a day's drive of Knoxville. (See here to see how far you are.) We are located where I-81, I-40 and I-75 come together.

19. The main street of downtown Knoxville is Gay Street. Two beautifully restored historic theaters are located on Gay Street: the Tennessee Theatre (1928) and the Bijou Theatre (1909). There is a real emphasis on downtown revitalization, highlighted by the opening of a very successful Mast General Store on Gay Street a few years ago.

20. Knoxville has a strong and varied economic base. National companies headquartered in this area include: Scripps Networks (HGTV, Food Network); Pilot Corporation (travel centers); Bush Brothers (baked beans); Regal Entertainment (movie theaters); Ruby Tuesday (restaurants) and Clayton Homes (manufactured homes). The boat industry has been a major industry in this area.

February 24, 2009

Several Interesting Things You Might Not Know About Knoxville (Part I)

Up until this month, my blogging always focused on our European travels. I know a lot about many places in Europe, especially about Provence. To be honest, I know more about the Luberon than I do about Knoxville, Tennessee, which has been my home for most of my adult life. Last year I did a lot of research on Savannah, Georgia for the Slow Travel Gathering and helped write a whole series of weekly posts about Savannah for the Slow Travel message board. I felt a little embarrassed that I knew much more about another US city where I've never lived than I knew about my own city.

I'm actually a transplant to Knoxville and East Tennessee. I first came to Tennessee from the Baltimore-Washington area when I was 17 years old, to a small college about 70 miles east of Knoxville. Except for a year and a half in Philadelphia for grad school and our 14 months in Europe a few years ago, I've been here ever since. I'm proud of many things about this area, but I've never written much about it.

Earlier this month we hosted our friend Sophie from France and tried to share the best of our city and state with her. In my opinion, Tennessee is often a very misunderstood state, and most people don't know anything about Knoxville at all. So I thought I'd use the next two posts to share some interesting things about my city of Knoxville, Tennessee.

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1. Knoxville was founded in 1786, by James White, who came here from North Carolina. His fort has been restored and sits on a bluff just adjacent to downtown Knoxville. The oldest house in Knoxville is Blount Mansion, which dates to 1792.

2. Knoxville is named for Henry Knox, President George Washington's Secretary of War. (But we have nothing to do with Fort Knox.)

3. During the Civil War, Tennessee seceded from the Union and aligned with the Confederacy, although there were some strong alliances with the Union in East Tennessee. Knoxville was a major trading center of some strategic importance, and several key battles were fought in the Knoxville area. The Union forces defeated the Confederate army at the Battle of Fort Sanders in December 1863 and controlled Knoxville for the rest of the war.

4. Knoxville is situated on the Tennessee River and Fort Loudon Lake. The Tennessee River is formed where the French Broad River and Holston River come together, just east of Knoxville.

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5. Many of Tennessee's rivers were dammed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) during Roosevelt's "New Deal" to stimulate the economy after the depression. As a result, there are many beautiful lakes in this area. There are seven large TVA lakes within 30 minutes or so of Knoxville. The lakes provide some wonderful recreation and scenery but are also used for transportation. TVA corporate headquarters are in Knoxville.

6. There are about 180,000 people in the city of Knoxville, making it the 123rd largest city in the USA and the third largest city in Tennessee. Knoxville is the county seat of Knox County, which has a population of about 420,000. (My address is Knoxville, but I live in the county-- not the city.)

7. The mayor of Knoxville is Bill Haslam, who recently announced that he is running for Governor of Tennessee. He is a down-to-earth guy with a lot of integrity. Bill was a businessman before he entered politics just a few years ago. He is from one of Knoxville's most prominent and philanthropic families.

8. Knoxville is 37 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited park in the US park system (8-10 million visitors annually). The park is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The park covers 814 square miles and has 800 miles of trails, including a 70 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The highest point is Clingman's Dome at 6,643 feet.

9. The 1982 World's Fair was held in Knoxville and did a lot to help with road construction and redevelopment in the downtown area. There were 11,127,786 visitors. This was the last successful World's Fair in America. The 266 foot Sunsphere was the "theme" structure of the fair and provides a unique element in the Knoxville skyline today.

10. Knoxville is considered the "cradle of country music," and many famous stars such as Dolly Parton, Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins and the Everly Brothers got their start here. Country western star Hank Williams Sr. spent the last night of his life at the old Andrew Johnson Hotel in downtown Knoxville, dying somewhat mysteriously on December 31, 1952.

"The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for." - Louis L'Amour, Ride the Dark Trail

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