Fort Campbell, Clarksville and Nashville Tennessee

Clarksville, Tennessee

Back to reality…we heard the Stock Market hit 18,000 today.

I really need a hair cut…this has been troubling me on the road.  I have had only 2 people cut my hair in the last 38 years! How is that for stuck?…or maybe obsessive should be the word?  I want something a little “spiky” (not nose ring, tattoo spiky, but sort of perky, 70, spiky)  I did it…not nearly as painful as I had anticipated,  but her instrument of choice was a razor.   Does this mean I am on the cutting edge? Ha, Ha!

A Blackhawk Medivac Helicopter in Bob Johnson's hanger at Fort Campbell
A Blackhawk Medivac Helicopter in Bob Johnson’s hanger at Fort Campbell

Today began three days of fun, fun, fun, with Doug’s former Army buddy, Bob Johnson and his lovely wife Julie.

Doug spent two of the best years of his professional life as a surgeon with the 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles) based in Fort Campbell, Ky. 

B0002719The staffing called for six surgeons to be assigned to cover general, vascular, and thoracic surgery but there were only three. Doug was counted as a general AND a thoracic surgeon – sort of a two for one arrangement. These three Army surgeons were very busy and very much appreciated by the Division. Doug will often talk of the outstanding people he met in this all-volunteer, active, Air Assault division. Bob Johnson is certainly one of these outstanding individuals.

In the den with Bob. Military awards and mementoes cover the walls.
In the den with Bob. Military awards and mementoes cover the walls.

Bob is an Army Aviator – a special type of person. Doug and Bob were both Majors at the time and they both loved to fly. Doug had a little over 1000 hrs of fixed wing flying experience but NO time in helicopters. Bob and Doug became close friends and were even known to fly Army helicopters together on weekends with Bob letting him take the controls when appropriate. Bob was an experienced aviation officer, a pilot and commanding officer of Army aviation units. Bob even came to the OR one night to help Doug operate on a soldier needing emergent surgery. It turns out Bob had thought about going to medical school at one time and his interest remained even that evening. Bob and Doug have stayed in contact for over 35 years – mostly through phone calls. There have been three visits and now number four was this trip.

Bob’s aviation career was long and distinguished. He led the initial Special OPs aviation elements into the Grenada invasion in October 1983 to rescue the British Governor-General held under house arrest by the rebel forces. Cuban “construction details” were building a very long runway for questionable purposes. Bob and his crew completed their mission but Bob was badly wounded by Cuban gunfire. He flew his helicopter to a Navy carrier for medical care and surgery. Bob later returned to flight status and was a lead aviator into Iraq during Desert Storm. More recently, Bob was featured on the Smithsonian channel when they presented the Blackhawk capability in combat operations. Bob has written a book about his Special OPS helicopter unit, the Night Stalkers,  entitled Night Stalkers – surprise! Actually the full title is The Night Stalkers: Top Secret Missions of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The first review on Amazon is written by none other than …Doug! Go check it out! Its a very good read for military aviation buffs. Bob’s coauthor for this book was the pilot that survived the incident documented in the movie “Blackhawk Down”.  

Bob is now retired from the Army and lives with his lovely wife, Julie, in Clarksville. He works at the base as a civilian managing a team that rebuilds and refurbishes the very aircraft he flew for so long – the Blackhawk. He says the desert exposure all our aircraft have had over the last 13 years has been very challenging for these complex helicopters.

Chef Bob dueling with his famous pizza oven. He won this time!
Chef Bob dueling with his famous pizza oven. He won this time!
Bob and Julie with us after another famous Bob Johnson Pizza Dinner
Bob and Julie with us after another famous Bob Johnson Pizza Dinner

Julie Johnson is a fireball on legs.  Bob said it was love at first sight…..she was this cute blond in her flight suit.  She also was a Army pilot and found she didn’t like flying (she gets car sick) so it was suggested she become an Aviation Maintenance officer.  However, because of a personnel shortage in the 101st division, she ended up doing a lot of test flying of helicopters.  After she got out of the Army, she got her masters and then her PhD in computer science. She now teaches at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  She is also considering running the Boston Marathon-AGAIN (Second time!).  Not being a runner myself, she gave me a much better appreciation of the training, qualifying, and recovery from participating in a 26 mile run.  She said, because she is “old”, it would be an approximate 2 year process. I could be her mother! 

Sunday April 24th

Clarksville is a town of 134,000 that borders Fort Campbell Military Base on the Tennessee side.  It has 200 churches. We attended Bob and Julie’s church, Grace Community Church.  If I lived here, my church seeking would stop here.  It is currently held at the high school while their own sanctuary is being built.  It can only be described as “young & lively”.  Doug and I were sure that we would qualify for “most senior” attendees.   While our host, Bob, felt the music was too ruckus……we loved it….guitars and drums…..soulful and singable and a little country.  The pastor looked to be about Sean’s age and his message came from the Sermon on the Mount and really hit a cord with the two of us. Communion was served.  I have never seen “prepackaged” wafer and wine.  We both had a hard time opening it and was distracting.   I can understand the expediency necessary in serving Communion to a large crowd, but this struck me as weird….fast food bread & wine…..WWJD?

Bob is a wonderful cook and we enjoyed 4 meals with them…..from Creole BBQ, grilled pineapple marinated in rum, brown sugar & cinnamon, banana & walnut pancakes to home made pizza.  Dinner one night was in Nashville at a college hang out.  You know, one of my favorites….a hole in the wall with plastic utensils.  It was a Mexican restaurant, run entirely by blacks, and not a  word of Spanish spoken…smile.

Leaving Clarksville for Nashville – People we meet on the road of life (Doug reporting here)

Natchez Trace Clarksville-4250664

In his wonderful book, Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck noted that the real adventure of his travels was meeting new people on the road of life. We agree!  We have met some of our most memorable new friends at diesel pumps and gas stations. When I pull in I may be pumping 80 to 100 gallons – so I have some time. Men pumping diesel are usually traveling or working, and usually friendly. I now have decided that no one should be allowed to run for president of the USA unless they have driven across this country from shore to shore and has pumped their own gas or diesel. Its educational and enlightening.

The young man above is a heavy construction worker, cowboy, entrepreneur, and owns a bison heard! He and his veterinarian wife founded their own local business, parlayed that success into a bison ranch in Kentucky, and now have a home in South Africa! He also told us of a 2 billion dollar solar panel production facility he helped build in Clarksville with 2009 stimulus money. The money came  from the Federal, state and local governments – i.e the taxpayers.  That plant never opened for production! Where have we heard this before?  The plant never produced a single job after it was built! Ouch! We exchanged emails and now we have yet another new interesting friend on our road of life.

Today….  Off to Nashville for 3 nights

Glenn and Doug getting acquainted on our arrival
Glenn and Doug getting acquainted on our arrival
Natchez Trace Clarksville-4250672
The Front Porch Crowd solving the world’s problems in the afternoon. Southern life is GREAT!

Staying at The Grand Ole RV park just outside Nashville in Goodlettsville. It is my favorite so far.  First off we were greeted by a guy right out of Duck Dynasty, Glenn. I have never had a park host come out and disconnect our tow…that is my job (well I am learning).  I am not sure if this is custom or the fact that there were about 5 rigs showing up at the same time.  They also have a cafe in the “lodge” with a cook that is outback smoking ribs all day.  We decided at the last minute to go to an Elvis concert.  The cook put together a dinner of smoked beef ribs.  I told him to give us his favorite sides.  mac & cheese & sweet potato casserole….I am seeing a pattern here.  Glenn found a nest with a bunch of newborn bunnies that have been abandoned by the mommy.  He is so sweet…calling a vet to find formula to feed them.

Elvis and Bonny - Great Show
Elvis and Bonny – Great Show

Got to see the King – a wonderful performance actually.

The Cowboy Church-Theatre where Elvis plays twice a week
The Cowboy Church-Theatre where Elvis plays twice a week

April 26, 2016  Nashville

Fontanel Mansion……home of Barbra Mandrel

Fontanele in Nashville
Fontanele in Nashville

This was a fun tour that was recommended to us of the grounds and home built by Barbra Mandrel. This is the only star home tour in Nashville.   It was like a walk down memory lane of country singers.  It was built in 1988 and home to her family for 14 years.

Bonny in Barbara's Bed. The box of crackers is there to commemorate her famous line "You can eat crackers in my bed anytime, baby ".
Bonny in Barbara’s Bed. The box of crackers is there to commemorate her famous line “You can eat crackers in my bed anytime, baby “.

You would think that after all these years, Doug and I would run out of things to talk about.  We purchased our tickets then went for lunch…we had an hour.   We were so busy talking that we realized we were a few minutes late.  The bus had left…to our surprise the CEO of the property was in the office and drove us up in his golf cart (named Reba) to join the rest of the tour group.  That is Southern hospitality for you. Thanks CEO Bob Eckman of Fontanele in Nashville. Visit this interesting and informative place.

Grand Ole Opry

Great show…If I was a Country Music fan I would have known more of the songs.  Amazing that the 4,000+ seat venue was packed on a Tuesday night.

The Gatlin Brothers at the Grand Ole Opry
The Gatlin Brothers at the Grand Ole Opry

April 27, 2016

Doug humored me and took me to Franklin today for a little shopping.  This is a very cute upscale town about 45 minutes from Nashville.  There was a lot more to see but I was pretty focused on seeing what the boutiques in Tennessee had to offer.  There was one display in a small dress shop that surprised and delighted me.  It was a praying wall.  You could write a prayer request and hang it on the spikes on the wall.

Prayer Request Wall - Franklin Tennessee
Prayer Request Wall – Franklin Tennessee

I was looking forward to dinner at our RV Park and live music on the patio and a bonfire…not to be.  A storm came up and moved everything inside to the RV store.  I do have to say that a backdrop of plungers, antifreeze, and toilet paper diminished the ambiance I had in mind…but the music was great with just a guitar and drums.  The drummer was a gal I had seen around the park and the cook came out with a variety of pots and pans and she played a fabulous solo.   I do have to say, I am sorry to leave tomorrow.  “Come as a guest and leave as friends” is their slogan…….true true true.

The Camp Store Band!
The Camp Store Band!