Duke, the Talking Dog, is determined to unlock the Bush family’s secret recipe.

Once Fred and I got a taste of the freedom to travel again after our COVID-19 house arrest, we decided it was time to burn our expiring timeshare points.

Timeshares are not the way to go for people who don’t care about or use resort amenities and don’t like to stay in one place for very long. In fact, if you’ve been following our trip to New England, you will know that we prefer to support mom and pop motels and restaurants and keep moving.

Not being a fan of temperatures above 75, the South is not for me an ideal travel destination in August and September. We chose it because we were hoping our 16 year old grandson, who resides in North Carolina, could join us for a week and timeshare availability was limited as many other Americans had the trip in mind as well. . We booked a week in Sevierville, Tennessee, which is just outside one of the entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We really enjoyed the park when we were there nine years earlier and given that it is close to where our son resides, it seemed like a fine fit. We quickly learned that our grandson wouldn’t be available to join us, but decided to brave the hot weather.

We had been talking about going to the Ark Encounter since it opened in Williamstown, Ky. In 2016, so we decided to stop along the way. The story is in the Holy Bible and goes something like this: People had become very wicked. Noah was a righteous man who walked with the Lord. God told Noah that a flood would cover the world and asked him to build an ark for his family and his earthly animals, one of each sex. It took 120 years for Noah and his company to build the ship. God told Noah when to enter the completed project, prompting Noah, his wife and their three sons and their wives to load provisions and animals.

The designers of the Ark Encounter had little to say about the limited details of the Bible, which included the dimensions, the three decks, and the pitch-coated exterior and interior. They laid out the interior with some features to represent what it could have been, but no one is quite sure what the original looked like and the new was to be designed to accommodate thousands of guests. The original is believed to have little light unlike the sconces, albeit dim, which light the way for visitors today. Imagination has been skillfully used to design animal feeding and waste disposal mechanisms, as no one knows how this was handled. The original would have had enclosures to house nearly 7,000 animals. The Ark Encounter version had a fraction of that number with carved animals. In those areas, a public address system played recordings the way it might have sounded.

God told Noah to build the ship from gopher wood, but today this wood is unknown. Some Bibles translate it as cypress and others as cedar. Since the land has changed dramatically since the time of the Flood, it is not known where the first ark was built or if it was in a country where these trees would have grown. The exterior of the Ark Encounter’s massive starship is made from Radiata pine from New Zealand. The decking is white fir and the floor is bamboo. The sixty-four 32-foot columns and headers were Douglas fir and the pavilion posts were Engelmann spruce. Noah was told to build his ship 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. The modern project is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide and 51 feet high. There are no steps to climb, as each floor has a long, gradual ramp that allows visitors to move up or down from floor to floor. A lift is provided for disabled people.

After walking through the three floors of the massive wooden ship, it was a welcome sight to have shuttles waiting to transport guests to the parking lot.

From there, we drove to our accommodation in Sevierville, Tennessee.

We like to avoid chain restaurants when possible, especially when traveling, rather than having a meal identical to what is served at a restaurant near us. So after church on our first full day in Tennessee, we stopped at Five Oaks Farm Kitchen where I tried the cornbread salad, minus the tomatoes. Since trying to lose the Covid ten that I had added to my girth, as well as the 20 pounds from two years before that I have no excuse for, I had avoided pasta, rice, flour and white potatoes. When I made the decision to eat the salad with pieces of cornbread, I didn’t think of all the meals I would eat in the next few weeks of travel that would come with hot rolls or a mini loaf. of bread, which I cannot resist.

Five Oaks was built three years ago on land that had been a farmer’s pasture, but has been given the appearance of an older barn-style building that had been in operation for decades. Outside the front door was an old truck, which seems to be the norm in restaurants, nurseries, gift shops, and any business that chooses to put their logo on and have them drive, tow, or drug themselves up. ‘to their location. An old tractor and a manure spreader were parked near the parking lot. Various farm-themed artifacts were found throughout the building. One area featured boxes containing stuffed chickens perched. Ancient hand tools hung from a small wall, and steel cart wheels lined the upper balcony which looked like hay mowing. Signs advertising International Harvester, John Deere and other farm implements were dotted on the walls along with advertisements for animal feed. From the window near our table we could see bee boxes, which we were told provided the honey that was served in the restaurant and a working water wheel.

Noah and his wife are depicted in one of the many realistic scenes of the Meeting with the Ark. Beverly Kehe-Rowland Pictures

Another day we took a detour through the small town of Dandridge, Tennessee. Our first stop was Tinsley Bible Drug Store, which didn’t seem to have changed much since it opened in 1911. All four or five stalls were busy, so we had lunch at the counter sitting on red stools that swiveled on shiny chrome pillars. . Nearby, across the counter, were the original pump dispensers that held the sundae toppings. A working pharmacy was located in a back corner. Dark stained wood cabinets and shelves, which contained many bottles, lined the long side wall.

Each company in this block had an awning attached to the front, each in a different design and color and at different levels, which was much appreciated on the rainy day we chose to visit Dandridge.

After driving several miles on very winding Highway 92 from Dandridge to US 411, we came to the Bush Brothers Bean Factory in Chestnut Hill. Across from the factory, in the original AJ Bush general store, is a museum, gift shop, theater, and cafe. We didn’t spend much time in the gift shop other than squeezing a souvenir penny. The museum told the story of Bush products, including the ups and downs and how, in 1969, when the canning industry struggled with low prices due to overproduction, the company introduced a product baked beans based on Kathleen Bush’s secret recipe. Kathleen’s son Jay Bush and a golden retriever called Duke, named after Jay’s dog, started doing television commercials in the mid-90s. Plush versions of Jay Bush’s talking dog were available at the store. ‘purchase. As we stepped outside, a souvenir photo was taken of us in front of a backdrop featuring Duke.

To be continued.

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