Talking Family Road Trips and East Tennessee (Ep. 35)

It's always great to catch up with travelers I've met on social media and this week, I was driving through East Tennessee and had a chance to catch up with Clayton Hensley aka @KnoxRoadTripper. Having worked in Knoxville for both television and newspapers, he's taken his flair for writing about East Tennessee and his family travels and turned it into a blog. I wanted to chat with him about where he travels to, how he engages his kids, and find out more about what he likes to do in and around East Tennessee.

Show Notes


Drew (00:13):
Hello everybody, and welcome to Travel Fuels Life, the show we share stories, tips, and inspiration to help you live a travel lifestyle. I'm your host, drew Hamish, and this is one of my favorite weeks of the year. It is Tex Week. And Tex, for those of you that don't know, is a travel conference. And I am headed out to Montana to not only reconnect with some of our guests that we've had on the show in the past, but to meet some new guests that will be coming on the show sometime over the next year. So good stuff, more travelers, more travel knowledge, more travel hacks, all the stuff that we need to be able to live this travel lifestyle. So definitely looking forward to that and what is coming up in the near future. Meanwhile, I am just getting back from Bourbon trip number two, and on this trip I was doing a lot more collecting of information for a book I'm working on.

Oh, interesting information there. More details to come, but on the way back, I had a chance to stop off in Clinton, Tennessee and meet with Clayton Hensley. Clayton goes by the name Knox Road Tripper on Twitter, and we have chatted back and forth a few times. And so I thought, well, it'd be nice to go talk with him and meet him face to face because his spin is actually more on family travel and localized traveling. And we get so into talking about these world trips that sometimes we forget to kind of focus in our own backyard. So we're gonna talk about road trips, we're gonna talk about East Tennessee, where he lives, some of the stuff that you can do around there, a bit about family travel as well. And we might even discover a place that has some characteristics of Area 51 Aliens, maybe?

No, no, no, no aliens. But it is a highly secretive area, and we will talk about that coming up on the show today. So we met at a local restaurant there in Clinton, and they were doing some business, so I think we were both trying to be a little bit courteous and quiet, so we're not too boisterous throughout this conversation. But there's also moments where you'll hear some background noise with customers coming in and that sort of stuff. So it all worked out in the end. I think So. So let's head on out to East Tennessee to the town of Clinton. This is Clayton's hometown, and check out my conversation with him. Knox Road Tripper here on Travel Fuel's Life. All right, Clayton, well welcome to the show.

Clayton (02:53):
Good to be here.

Drew (02:54):

Clayton (02:55):
Actually good to have you here in East Tennessee,

Drew (02:57):
So Absolutely. I haven't done as much traveling here as I probably should. It's not that far from Nope. Where I grew up in Asheville. And so here we are. We're not in the great state of Franklin, are we?

Clayton (03:10):
No, you're gonna go a little bit further east, but I actually am from the great state of Franklin. So are

Drew (03:14):
You? Yes. You, you and Davey Crockett? Yes.

Clayton (03:16):

Drew (03:17):
County, really? Same county.

Clayton (03:18):

Drew (03:19):
Is that Green? Green County. Green County. Okay. Andrew Johnson Johnson was also from there,

Clayton (03:25):
<affirmative>. Okay. And named after General Nathaniel Green, which is why Greenville has the extra E in it.

Drew (03:30):
Ah, okay. My favorite revolutionary award. I figured that. So all the traveling people are going, oh no, they're not gonna be talking about history this whole episode. We do have that in common though. Yes. I think we both enjoy history. So I wanted to start off actually by talking a little bit about road tripping, because I haven't really had anybody on the show yet who's really more localized and tends to do the shorter road trips. So I thought kind of get a feel for how you do road trips versus how I do road trips.

Clayton (04:09):
Well, most of our road trips have always included. I have wife and two kids, so a lot of it's been family oriented a lot of the places that we've traveled because people say, well, why don't you just fly there? It's mainly because there are no airports near where we're going. And also being where I am now, we have an incredible amount of stuff that's just within three or four hours of here. So a lot of times you can just do it in a day or just go do a short weekend, long weekend. Just plenty to see. So

Drew (04:41):
When you're talking about one of those places that you'd like to go to that you can't fly to, what would an example be?

Clayton (04:48):
The Iowa Missouri trip is definitely one of the ones, yes, you can fly, but my wife's family is her mother's side of the family is from Unionville, Missouri, which is about four and a half hours from St. Louis. And about three hours from Des Moines <affirmative>, and about three and a half hours from Kansas City. So by the time you do all your trip preparations, try to get to one of those larger airports and everything we figured out you would've taken about the time it would take to drive there. So,

Drew (05:19):
Nice. <laugh>. How do you do your planning? Are you a planner or do you just go and grab sites along

Clayton (05:26):
The way? I'm very much a planner. I'll look at the routes that we're gonna take, see what we might be able to see along the way. Of course, I'm very distracted sometimes by road signs to things that sound interesting that I didn't see. Were coming up <laugh>, so we might venture off and do some of those as well. But if it's a longer trip, we'll figure out where we're gonna be staying. If we're gonna stay overnight, usually if it's gonna be the trip to Missouri or if it's gonna be 12 or 13 hours, we'll usually break it up <affirmative> into two days. We do take a trip to New Orleans every year kind of have family there that we stay with. We go for Mardi Gras.

Drew (06:07):
Okay. So describe that, because I was actually looking at your blog about how a lot of people don't consider New Orleans to be a family friendly kind of a place. Your opinion.

Clayton (06:20):
Well, there are definitely parts that aren't family friendly but those are easy to avoid. <affirmative> Mardi Gras is actually a very family oriented event. There would be times that the extended family there we camp out along the parade routes or we shouldn't say camp out, but we stick out a spot on that. And there might be times that we may have as many as 40 or 50 family and friends just gathered on that spot. So you're all sitting and sharing food, sharing drinks, all that kids sitting watch parade. We've taken several people down. Several kids have taken their friends down and have just been in awe of all the stuff that you can manage to get from Mardi Gras parades, how many of them are, how elaborate they are. But there's also, there's just so much history. Food in New Orleans is amazing. So kids always look forward to having beignets every morning. And my son and I love it when it's crawfish season. So you just go into the grocery store, grab two pounds of crawfish in a bag and sit on the parade route and eat. Oh

Drew (07:29):
Wow. So do you ever do Disney World or is Mardi Gras and New Orleans kind of your own Mardi

Clayton (07:36):
Gras, new Orleans? My wife would love to go back to Disney World. She has very fond memories of going there in high school with the marching band. I went once in 1982 right before they opened Epcot. And

Drew (07:52):
So you've never seen

Clayton (07:53):
Epcot? Nope. I enjoyed it, but I remember we got up very early the next morning, drove to Tampa and went to Bush Gardens, and I had much more fun at Bush Gardens

Drew (08:03):
<laugh>. You're a rollercoaster guy then.

Clayton (08:06):
Yes. I like rollercoaster. So nice.

Drew (08:08):
Yeah. So what theme parks have you traveled to?

Clayton (08:12):
Well, Dollywood is the mainstay here. Okay. I have been going to Dollywood since, well, before it was Dollywood. I've been going probably since 1980, just about every year. Not quite every year, but just about every year. There were many years we had season passes. We've had passes to both the theme park and the water park. So I've watched it grow and evolve over the years and that's usually what I recommend. We've taken lots of people there as far as roller coasters now, they're gotten much better with the roller coasters. So they have some stellar

Drew (08:46):
Rollercoaster, you would think in the mountains. They could come up with something that was pretty incredible view wise. And

Clayton (08:51):
They have but, well, there's actually two rides at Dollywood that stand out for views. One is a Wild Eagle <affirmative>, which is a coaster that is called a wing coaster. So you actually kind of feel like you're flying but when you get up to the very top of it, it's one of the best views in the smokes thing is it only lasts for about five seconds and then you drop. So you're not really paying attention. But they recently added line, which is a tower ride that goes, I think 300 feet up in the air and then you circle around and the view from there is just spectacular. So yeah, they work in their mountain surroundings pretty good. So

Drew (09:30):
How is Gatlenburg doing now? Because I know they had the fires a couple years ago and

Clayton (09:35):
We went over shortly after the fires. It was really kind of sad to see all the stuff that had happened, but they've bounced back very well. I don't really know from tourism numbers that they are, but every time we've gone over there, they've still had very significant crowds still get stuck in traffic. <laugh>. Most of the stores main business section was not harmed in any way. So it was some of the resorts and some of the hotels and stuff that were damaged. Pigeon Forge, which of course is nearby. And Sevierville Sevierville just announced they're building a water park which the name was kind of funny, is Soy Mountain Water Park <laugh>. And it'll be built. I know. Yeah. It'll be built next to the Wilderness Lodge and Water Park.

Drew (10:26):
Is there a sound effect of every time you come in <laugh>. Oh man. So when you're doing these road trips how old are your kids?

Clayton (10:40):
I have one that is 14 and freshman in high school and a 19 year old who's a sophomore in college.

Drew (10:45):

Clayton (10:46):
But they've been traveling since they were born.

Drew (10:49):
So when you were doing the road trips at that younger age, did you have little road games and stuff that you would play with them to pass the time?

Clayton (11:00):
No, we had portable DVD players, <laugh> or Game Boys for a while. Oh

Drew (11:05):
Lord <laugh>. I

Clayton (11:08):
Know every now and then we would probably play some games, but by and large, they seem to just go off on their own little world and watch movies and stuff like that. So

Drew (11:18):
Did you travel a lot when you were growing up?

Clayton (11:21):

Drew (11:23):
Did you have little games that you play

Clayton (11:26):
<laugh>? No, I don't really remember too much. I do remember us taking a trip out to Nebraska when I was five or six. Actually, I may have been a little older than that. And I remember we were in a white pinto station wagon with a lime green interior and no air conditioning.

Drew (11:46):

Clayton (11:47):

Drew (11:48):
I, I've been in that world of, my first car was a Pinto station wagon. Yeah.

Clayton (11:52):

Drew (11:54):
We called it the Party mobile.

Clayton (11:56):

Drew (11:56):
It was yellow with a brown interior. Lovely.

Clayton (11:59):
But there were lots of trips to, there were lots of trips to the beach. We did Jackal Island and Georgia several times did Fol Beach and outside of Charleston several times. Then we would also do trips, a lot of trips involved, family or whatever. So we took several trips to West Virginia. My mom is really big into mountain music, so she would also take us to all kinds of fiddler's conventions and old time music festivals in different places. One of my favorites that we did was Carter Cave State Park <affirmative>, which is between Lexington and Huntington. And while she would go off and do the music stuff and everything, I'd just go explore the park, which is not only are there something like 50 caves on the property, not all of which are open to sea <affirmative> but there's also five or six natural bridges on the property, which are just fabulous. So

Drew (12:56):
What got you into establishing yourself as kind of a local travel or day trip type travel person?

Clayton (13:05):
Well my background was television news. I was a producer for about 15 years. After a second layoff, I started doing work for the Knoxville New Sentinel actually started writing business stories, which was kind of odd cause I'm not a business minded person. So they ended up being business features. Well, at that time, the New Sentinel was doing a series of travel articles that were based four hours or less from Knoxville. So I thought, well, that's easy. We do lots of these trips. Anyway, <affirmative>. So I was like, why not write and get paid for it? So started doing that. So all of a sudden we found ourselves just going to all kinds of places that I just hadn't been to in a while or places that I wanted to introduce my children to. Some of the first ones that I did was I took them to Ro Mountain, which is on the Tennessee North Carolina line, which has the world's largest road of Ding Gardens <affirmative>. So we did that. I took them to Breaks Interstate Park, which is on the Virginia Kentucky line, which is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the South. It's just absolutely

Drew (14:18):
Beautiful. I know nothing about these places. I've lived here my whole life. I know nothing about these places on the wrong side of the state line, I guess.

Clayton (14:26):
And then of course, then we branched out a little bit. I got to do some other things at the same time. I was also writing for an online publication called examiner.com and was mainly doing day trips there. So it was things that you could do easily from Knoxville and just go up and spend the day. And a lot of times that was just based on my own experience or where I was already traveling. So eventually things changed with the newspaper industry so I no longer was writing there. So that's when I switched and decided I needed to do my own blog. And that's how Knox Road tripper.com came to be.

Drew (15:00):
Nice. So you started as Day Tripper though?

Clayton (15:03):
I started as Day Tripper, and some of that goes back to those days when I was doing examiner.com. Yeah. Cause was I was the Knoxville Day trips examiner. And so that's how I stuck with that. But then the more I looked at it, we were going lots of places that we were actually staying overnight, staying multiple days. And then I also wanted to figure out ways to incorporate our trips to New Orleans or our trips to the Midwest, or, and my son and I took we were actually on a mission trip to New Jersey for a week back in 2016. And so we did all kinds of different things along the way there. We went into New York City for the day. We did Philadelphia for a few hours. We went to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Drew (15:43):
You sound like my kind of travel where I pop in and pop out. It's like I've been here, I'm onto the next one. You can spend all of this time in the Tennessee and North Carolina and South Carolina area, and then you get to New York and you're there for 15 minutes. Yeah.

Clayton (16:02):
<laugh>. Well, it was really kind of interesting the day in New York or whatever. By the end of the day, my son and I were exhausted. <affirmative>. We went back to where we were staying in New Jersey. I asked him, I said, do you want to go back on Saturday before we leave? And he said, no. Yeah. I said, I, I've seen it, I've done it. I can say I've been there. And so then after we had done Philadelphia, we stayed the night somewhere in the area there. And I said, well, we can do DC or Baltimore on the way back through if you want to. He said, no, I'm done with cities <laugh>, I don't wanna do anymore cities. So that's how we ended up at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, which

Drew (16:37):
Was That's great. Which

Clayton (16:38):
Was perfect.

Drew (16:39):
So yeah, a lot of history there. It's beautiful area. Did you walk up to Jefferson's Rock?

Clayton (16:45):
No. Okay. Not that I know of. We weren't there for a long time, but I remember on another trip through there, I remember driving through Harper's Ferry and being on the other side of the river and seeing it and not being able to get out and get to it and see it. Yeah. And that always stuck with me. I don't like to do

Drew (17:01):
That. Takes a little climbing to get up there.

Clayton (17:03):
And my kids get annoyed with that a lot too. It's like I'll see something along our trips and I'm like, oh, we gotta get off and see this. And they're like, no we don't.

Drew (17:11):
<laugh>. Like,

Clayton (17:13):
We're never going to get there, dad. So

Drew (17:15):
Yeah, there is a lot of impatience and kids they want to get off the road and to the destination.

Clayton (17:22):
Well, it was funny too. It's like I would take my daughter on a couple of trips. There was one summer I took her on several trips and there was one place in particular, which was Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, which is about an hour and a half or so north of Nashville. And it's an old resort community and she really didn't want to go <affirmative>. And she made that very clear almost all the way out there. So she didn't really want to go and all that. Well, by the time we were done there, she's like, do we have to go? And when are we coming back? <laugh>? And she'll do that. She would do that a lot. So I think part of it's just her not quite knowing what a place is going to be like and will Will's a little bit like that too.

Drew (18:03):
But yeah, I guess too, we tend to get our heart set on what we're headed towards and any deviation feels like, yes, this is not what I was anticipating. What are we doing? Yeah, I brought up the great state of Franklin. Yes. I find that fascinating that we almost had a 14th state before even Tennessee was considered to become a state.

Clayton (18:32):
I don't know all of the details. I know that that Greenville at one time was the capital of the state of Franklin and they actually have a little recreated cabin downtown that they call the capital. And there's so much stuff in that area that's named State of Franklin or named Franklin. I think basically what I understand is Tennessee was part of North Carolina, but yet was because of the mountains that divided the physical barrier there. The East Tennessee section was just far removed from whatever was going on in North Carolina. So they kind of felt the need to be their own state. And that's how it grew. Of course, it never became a state,

Drew (19:16):
But, well, and the part I had heard was that they named it Franklin because they wanted Benjamin Franklin to get behind it because they thought he would have some poll and he sent back a letter saying, well, I've been overseas and I really don't know what you guys are doing, but I'll look into it and get back with

Clayton (19:38):

Drew (19:39):
<laugh>. And apparently he didn't get back with him until,

Clayton (19:41):
Of course it didn't take too long until Tennessee became a state. So the state was in 1796, so

Drew (19:48):
I didn't wanna leave that state of Franklin thing. No hanging out there. So it's

Clayton (19:53):
Certainly a unique part of the state. It's certainly full of history that, as I say, it was also the home of Andrew Johnson, which of course had nothing to do with state of Franklin. And even though he was probably not one of the most beloved presidents, I always felt it was always felt a connection from being there. I actually attended church when I was a child with his great-granddaughter. Oh wow. Who is actually buried in the same cemetery plot at the National Cemetery in Greenville as President Johnson's. Huh.

Drew (20:28):
I always was interested in him because he has my same first name, Andrew.

Clayton (20:31):
Okay. Yep.

Drew (20:32):
<laugh>. Yep. Yep. So Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson always were of some kind of interest to me. Yeah.

Clayton (20:38):
Now I do. The fact that both of the kids have, they may not say that they like history so much, but oftentimes when there'll be some kind of historical conversation, they know the answers usually. Yeah. And they'll be like, oh, it's because we stopped there or we did this, or it's like, or Dad, you talked about this. So that's kind of instilled in 'em. See,

Drew (21:01):
I think that's interesting too because I had a father that drove us all over the place and it was always history wherever we went. And I think that love of history just goes from generation to generation and road tripping. I think it's the same thing mean, do you see them having interest in doing it on their own or is it a little too early to gauge that?

Clayton (21:23):
Probably a little too early. As I say, my son is, who is 19, he spent his entire summer in Ames, Iowa, working with his uncle. And I dunno that he really had the opportunity to go do things on his own much. He did have I think three trips to Vermillion, South Dakota, which apparently was not a place that he really wanted to go. But he did say, well I did work in two more states cuz one of the days that we drove, we ended up going through Nebraska to get there. So he got to Nebraska in South Dakota. So

Drew (21:56):
Nice. So

Clayton (21:57):

Drew (21:58):
Get him all you can. Yeah. <laugh>, I used to think I'd never get to Nebraska. So when I took a trip across the country, I made sure I took a side road and at least nipped the corner of Nebraska. Of course later I ended up going through Omaha because I was planning to go to North Dakota and then a tornado was coming through <laugh>. So I decided to go to Omaha instead. But so speaking of weird events while you're out driving along the highways and byways as a road tripper I saw you got a toll ticket here

Clayton (22:31):
Recently. Yes, yes. Yeah. Well actually I was expecting that one. So yes, I was going to Jacksonville, North Carolina and I was actually at a conference for work in Charlotte. And so there is a section of us 74 where Google told me it was gonna be 30 minute shorter. If I took the toll road, it was only gonna cost $4. I'm like sure cuz I'm in a hurry. So I took that and I got that. But I did find out from our trip to Missouri and Iowa back in May, we didn't realize that the bridges in Louisville had become toll bridges. So we came across the bridge. Well I got on their website to find out that they don't invoice you until you've gone the other direction. They

Drew (23:16):
Invoice you to go into Kentucky but not into Indiana. Okay. Yeah.

Clayton (23:20):
Well if you do a two-way trip, then you get a bill but they won't bill you until there's two tolls on

Drew (23:26):
Really. So you could go that way and then come back another way.

Clayton (23:29):
And that's exactly what we did a few weeks ago. We got off, went to downtown, went across the old bridge and went into Indiana. So I <laugh>, I avoided the toll bridge.

Drew (23:37):
Oh. Those things you learn if you cross over into the, I always laugh about this and my Pennsylvania friends will laugh at this too. When you drive across the Ben Franklin Bridge to go or the Walt Whitton Bridge to go to New Jersey, it's free, but you have to pay to get back into Pennsylvania. In New York it's the same thing you have to pay to get into New York, but it's free to get into New Jersey. Which makes me say, what does that say about New Jersey

Clayton (24:04):
<laugh>? I thought about that once on a trip to there. Cuz I think when you're going up 95 and you cross into Delaware, it's like you only go through that little tiny stretch of Delaware and it's like you have to pay like 25 bucks to see Delaware <laugh>.

Drew (24:18):
Yeah, it's like yeah or something like that. Ridiculous. Yeah.

Clayton (24:21):
Oh yeah. My son and I had lots of toll stories that were to us were just frightening cuz I was just not expected to shell out as much money as we did for tolls.

Drew (24:30):
Well, and the shock is now that you'll drive through areas that are tolls, but there's no toll booth.

Clayton (24:37):
That's the North Carolina road is, and that's how the bridges are in Louisville. We were trying to figure out, well how much is the toll going to be? Where are we going to pay it? And then realizing that now they just take a picture of your license plate and send you a bill <laugh>. But apparently the Louisville people don't send you a bill until you've gone both ways. So

Drew (24:57):
Oh, okay. It doesn't make it very comfortable to drive, but then you can use GPS and say avoid tolls, but then you're gonna go through every little town.

Clayton (25:06):
Well and then we got to one point where we apparently didn't have, it was one of those where you had to have exact change cuz there's no cold parts. So we were literally grabbing every single piece of change in the car we could and just throwing it into the machine

Drew (25:24):
<laugh>, oh man

Clayton (25:26):
We learned our lesson after that. We stopped at one of the travel centers and got two rolls a quarters or something after that. So that wouldn't happen

Drew (25:34):
Again. It'd just be nice if they all standardized so that you knew because sometimes I get this chill down my spine when I'm driving and I'm going, oh no, do I have money for tolls that they come up? Yeah.

Clayton (25:46):
Well I think well at least it seemed like in the Northeast they're all on the same easy pass system. So you can go and prepay, but if you don't know how much you're going to need if you're just visiting, it doesn't make much sense. I guess if you're up there and you drive it all the time, you know what to expect.

Drew (26:03):
Yeah. Well and it's confusing for me too because when I flew up to Minnesota and was renting a car, they tried to tack on extra money for Easy Pay as part of your rental fee. And I was thinking, well I'm going to Canada, but I don't know if they have easy pay anywhere along my route. And so they can really almost get you to pay for something you don't need. Cause I didn't need it. There were no toll. Yeah, they do have easy pass also up in Canada, so I understand. But there was no need for me to do it cuz I was driving in the middle of nowhere and <laugh>, they know can't tax people to not go to the middle of nowhere. Otherwise nobody will go to nowhere. <laugh>. So tell me about, cuz you just recently went to Oak Ridge, was that your first time going to Oak Ridge

Clayton (26:53):
Energy thing? Well, to do the Department of Energy tour, yes. The Department of Energy tour is because so much of it is basically just a large military installation. So there's very high security and all that. So really the only ways to get in and kind of see some of the inner workings is to do this Department of Energy tour, which it's a bus. They have 35 people. They only do like three or four tours a week, <affirmative>. So we just happened to be at the American Museum of Science and Energy and they announced they had four spots left on the bus. So I asked my daughter and her two friends or whatever, I said, would that be okay if we do that? And they all said yes. I think that points, they were probably bored, but they also thought it was kind of neat to, but it did take you in. It did help me understand a little bit more about what each of the facilities there did during the Manhattan Project and what they do today,

Drew (27:46):
Which was the development of the atomic bomb. Right.

Clayton (27:49):
And then just to be able to see the graphite reactor, which was, if I'm not gonna say was the first nuclear reactor in the country. And it was a research reactor. I mean it did produce energy, but they were doing it for research purposes to figure out, I guess, I don't know, it was way over my head as far as the science part, but IR had known about it. But it's a national historic landmark. And so you get to go in there and you see where all the rods go and there's all kinds of color coding and they kind of explain how different things were put in these different things. So the kids actually got into that trying to, cuz there's a chart on one side that says how many of this rod there was and how many of this. So they were trying to count up to see if they could find six of those dots on there. And it was just cool old building. It was just nice to finally see that.

Drew (28:40):
Is it just recently opened up for people to be able to go

Clayton (28:44):
There? No, they've been doing the DOE tours for a long time. I just haven't had a chance to do it. And after nine thing, lots of things changed as far as that. The only ways that you can do the tours, you have to be an American citizen. You have to be, I think 10 years, you have to be at least 10 years old. You have to have proper ID and you have to present all that stuff. And there's like two or three different ways that they check things. So basically it's kind of my understanding that after you've signed that you're going on it before the bus actually arrives and everything. They're actually doing background checks on you.

Drew (29:19):
Oh, okay. Oh

Clayton (29:21):
Man. No one got pulled off our bus. Yeah, but you do go through some heavy security checkpoints. And in fact, that was one of the things that just absolutely threw my daughter office when we got to the Y 12 visitor center, which is the Y 12 national security complex. And we walked into the lobby and there guys in their fatigues with machine guns,

Drew (29:43):
<laugh> a little intimidating.

Clayton (29:46):
And then she sees this sign that says no cell phones, which is actually, it wasn't really no cell phones for you. It was really no, if you were a government employee, you had to have a certain type of sticker on your cell to allow you to use it. But they moved us over to the little auditorium area and the little history part or whatever, and she saw some guy with his cell phone out and she saw me. I said, dad, you're not supposed to

Drew (30:07):
Have that out <laugh>. The guys with machine guns are gonna come over here <laugh>.

Clayton (30:12):
But then a little bit later we got to when we were going into the OR n, Oak Ridge National Laboratory section or whatever, and going through the security guards there, you have to stop, the security guard has to come onto the bus, check all the papers that you've signed earlier and all that. And he has to give a visual look over to make sure that there's that many people and all that <laugh>. And the guy said, or tour guide said, just make sure that you're quiet. You don't say anything inappropriate or whatever when he comes on and all that. And so I'm like that. And so my daughter looks at me and says He's cute.

Drew (30:47):
<laugh> <laugh>.

Clayton (30:49):
I was like, you probably won't wanna say that too loud. But anyway, so she and her friends thought that was great. Seeing the

Drew (30:55):
Nice, yeah, you didn't see any glowing people. No,

Clayton (30:58):

Drew (30:58):
This is funny because we used to pass by Oak Ridge all the time when we go out to Texas on road trips and I just always knew just enough about the history of it and then the whole nuclear reactor and all of that. As a kid you could have some fantastic visions of what that place could have been. All of

Clayton (31:18):
That, even growing up here, I mean we've made those comments before too. So especially when you don't know exactly what they do. And I actually have a friend that's in the communications department at Y 12 and she can tell me some things that they do, but obviously she can't say everything. So

Drew (31:36):
It's kind of like the East coast version of Area 51 without the aliens <laugh>.

Clayton (31:44):
Although of course, who knows, there could be aliens there too. I don't know. Yeah, we won't wanna start that

Drew (31:49):
Rumor. That would be a good diversion. Yeah. <laugh> out looking in that area. 51, they're all over here. So somebody's coming to this area. What's a must see? What's something that you think is also something that you think is maybe underappreciated?

Clayton (32:06):
Okay. Well, right here in Clinton which is where I live, I've lived here for 22 years. We have a place that's called the Green Macadoo Cultural Center in Museum. I think sometimes the name may throw people off cuz they don't know exactly what that means. Some people may think it's an art museum, it's, it's actually a museum in the old African American school up on top of the hill near downtown Clinton. That is where the first 12 African American students to integrate a public high school in the south. It's the school that they attended elementary school. And by law, because the schools were segregated, they actually had to ride a bus to high school to Austin East in Knoxville, which was about a 30 minute drive, even though they went right by the high school that they would attend. So in 1956, which was the year before Little Rock <affirmative> they actually came in started attending school under court order. Things were fine for a while. There was probably some gering and stuff like that, but things really were very quiet. And then some outside agitators came in and things kind of took, not necessarily a violent turn, but a very mean turn to the point where the National Guard was called in. Oh wow. There's actually film of tanks coming across the bridge I can see from my house, which just is bizarre. I think I would really freak out if I saw tanks coming across the bridge.

And so things kind of got a little bit rocky. Then the outside agitators left. And then in 1958 there was a bombing at the high school. So even though it happened overnight, so no one, luckily no one was injured, but it did leave the town without a high school. And so it happened to be the time Oak Ridge was starting to switch over to civilian use. They had an empty school. So the students at Clinton High School used that for their high school until they could rebuild here. And apparently, it's my understanding too that it was, there was people from all over the world that were sending money here to rebuild the school. Oh. Because of what happened. So this museum tells that story and it's that story <affirmative> and it's not a very big museum, but it tells it in a really good thing. And I think now there are several members of the Clinton 12 that are still alive. In fact the surviving members were actually here just this week, <affirmative> for a special ceremony that they did. They did a big proclamation in their honor and they did a symbolic walk from the Green Macadoo Center down to what is now Clinton Middle School, which was the high school. Yeah. So

Drew (34:48):
What else in the area would you say is kind of underappreciated?

Clayton (34:52):
The other thing that's kind of underappreciated is the coal mining history in the northern part of Anderson County which is not a real developed tourism thing, but there is a history trail. It's the site of some what they call coal mining wars. When prison labor was brought in to run the mines. And so their violence broke out. There were two very large coal mining explosions, which one of the interesting things there is after the explosions is how they buried a lot of the miners they're buried in, there's several cemeteries that have what they call a minor circle. So there's actually a big monument in the middle. And then the miners are built in the, or buried in a circle around that monument. And then the names are usually listed on it. And so there's like three or four cemeteries that have those. And what I like to do sometimes is when I'm taking people to the cemeteries, I don't really tell 'em what they're about and have them go ahead and look around. Then when you start seeing multiple tombstones with the same death day, oh yeah, it just kind of sinks in. Okay, this is more than just a cemetery. Another thing, I don't know that it's necessarily that it's underappreciated, but I think a lot of people realize there are seven national parks in East Tennessee,

Drew (36:14):
So got great smoke east.

Clayton (36:16):
They have great smokes. Which of course I think most people, everybody knows. Yeah, it is the nation's most visited national park. Now granted, there's a lot of places within the park that a lot of people don't know about. I always suggest that people seek that information out from rangers, from locals, that type thing, if they're gonna go over there and wanna avoid the crowds. We have Big South Fork, which is on the Kentucky, Tennessee state line. It's about an hour and a half from Knoxville. And it's a mix of lots of beautiful river gorge and a lot of there's coal mining history and some other history there. Lots of trails, lots of natural formations. That has always been my go-to park, just because you can walk forever and not see anybody <laugh>. And they have a lot of easy trails too, especially if you're walking the trails that go along the river. Actually pretty easy to go. There's Cumberland Gap, national Historic Park, which is actually in Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. My mom actually lived up there for several years, and even as a kid, we would stop there quite often. Just some significant history there, but a lot of natural beauty too.

Drew (37:28):
That's a place I really want to drive through, especially in the fall.

Clayton (37:32):
And it's lots of places that are easy to drive to and see all the fall colors. There's lots of trails there. There's some cool land formations there too. And it's just a really nice part. And then of course you have the Andrew Johnson National Historic site up in Greenville, which is in two or three different places within downtown Greenville. All fascinating. Of course you have his Taylor shop, which is well preserved in a building around it. That's where the visitor center is. Then you have the home he lived in after he was president, and then the National Cemetery where he's buried. And then they have a couple other things there. And then even on a, it's not part of the park, but there's also the Andrew Johnson Presidential Library at Tutus College, which is nearby.

Then of course there's the Chattanooga Chi MAGA Battlefield Park, which of course part of that's in Georgia <affirmative>. But a good portion of it's in Tennessee up on Lookout Mountain. And then there's Obed, national Wild and Scenic River, which is I've only been there once, but beautiful River Gorge, lots of landforms, just very remote area. It's not a very big park, but it's very well maintained and pretty easy. And if it's also my understanding that at some point during the month, I don't remember which weekend that they actually do free rock climbing. Okay. For all skill levels. Or at least they used to. I don't know if they still do that, but that was a cool thing there. So let's see,

Drew (39:09):
You, there's one that I'm wondering if it's too far out for you to mention land between the lakes.

Clayton (39:15):
Yeah, that's a little far. Yeah.

Drew (39:17):
Cause that's, that's over Nashville, but that's where I saw my first buffalo or bison, I should say, to be correct.

Clayton (39:24):
I went to land between the lakes when I lived in Nashville, but I did, I don't remember at that point. I don't necessarily think there were

Drew (39:32):
Bison there.

Clayton (39:33):
Bison up there at that point. Yeah. So yeah, I'm trying to think if I,

Drew (39:36):
I've seen many since then. But that's because if you go to North Dakota, you're gonna see bison. Yeah, <laugh>.

Clayton (39:43):
But Lane between Lakes is a place that I would like to go to again. So yeah, hopefully I have made it to Clarksville several times, but it just didn't go much past Clarksville, so

Drew (39:52):
Very nice. So lots to see. Yes, lots to see. Well, I appreciate you being on the show today and taking some time out and getting a chance to learn a little bit about a place that's very close to where I grew up, but I just for some reason haven't done much over, this was drive through country for me, between and Nashville. That happens. The main thing I remember is in Knoxville, seeing the World's Fair Suns Fair. Yep. Yeah,

Clayton (40:21):
Of course. You're at Petros right now, which was I won't say invented for the World's Fair, but the first Petros was actually located on the world's fairgrounds. It was one of the most successful food venues at the Fair <affirmative> to the point where they ended up going to New Orleans in 1984 and selling 'em there. And then they finally branched out the original Petros. Of course, yours was in a cup. The original ones were in Frito Lay bags. Yeah. That were cut along the side and then they put the chili and cheese and all the toppings on there and you ended out of the bag.

Drew (40:55):
Nice. Well, I like it. It's a good collection of things I like all in one spot, <laugh>. Yep. Well Clayton, thanks so much for being on the show and tell everybody how people can keep up with you, your website and social media.

Clayton (41:10):
The website is knox road tripper.com and then you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I mean at Knox Road Tripper. All

Drew (41:19):
Right, very good. Well one, these days we're gonna have to do a bourbon tour, cuz <laugh>, you need to add some of those in. Or when you come down to South Carolina, we can hit some of those Revolutionary War sites.

Clayton (41:31):
I'd love to do that.

Drew (41:32):
Yeah, fantastic. Okay, well thanks for being on. Thank you. Well, thanks everybody for tuning in for another great week of Travel Fuels Life. And if you want some more information on Clayton and his website and social media channels, go out to travel fuels life.com/podcasts and look for episode number 35 and you'll find the show notes page right there. And as I get back from Tex later on, actually I got more coming up. I'm actually headed to South Lake Tahoe and to Carson Valley, Nevada. I've never been there before, so I am really looking forward to my trip there that'll be following right after Montana. So got lots of fun stuff to do and I'm gonna be sharing all of that stuff out on facebook.com/travel Fuels Life. And you will also find me at instagram.com/travel Fuels life. And if you are interested in being on the show, especially you t Beckers, and you've got something that can inject some of that fuel into our travelers, then give me a shout out at twitter.com/travel fuels life. And until next time, have yourself a great week. Safe travels and thanks for listening to Travel Fuels Life.


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