Sorry to be so long in writing, but we have not had internet access in the mountains for several days.
May 18, 2016
Last night we drove to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, just west of Knoxville.
When we went into the museum this morning to sign up for the bus tour, we were told that there were no more seats available, but we would be the first two on the waiting list. Most people register on line, so there was a possibility we could get on. Since we had an hour and a half before the tour began, we went back to the r/v to eat breakfast.
Returning at 11 o’clock, we had to wait 20 more minutes to learn that 3 people did not show.
At the first site on the tour, we saw a film that gave a history of the Manhattan Project including the purchase of land, construction of the city and the facilities where the atomic bomb was created. “The mission in Oak Ridge was production of the uranium isotope
U-235 by three different methods-gaseous diffusion, electromagnetic separation and thermal diffusion-for a bomb.” The project began in 1942 and the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. For some reason, the actual bomb was named “Little Boy”.
The second stop on the tour was the small church which held services for different denominations at different times. The guide said there was actually a person who participated in the war of 1812 who was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the church. Next we proceeded to the Y-12 building, where the electromagnetic separation of uranium occurred. (It is no longer in use.) The last two sites we drove by: X-10, where the Graphite Reactor was built, then K-25, where gaseous and thermal diffusion processes occurred.
One of our unexpected sites, upon leaving Oak Ridge, was a small flock of wild turkeys. This was our first of several sightings over the next few days. What fun it is to see these birds walking along the highway, so free and unencumbered.
Thursday May 19, 2016
We went to the Stone River National Battlefield Visitor’s Center. The volunteer on duty gave us a brief overview of the battle, explaining that there were several times when the victory could have gone to the Confederacy. But the Union won out in the end.
There are several large artillery guns on display through out the park. We learned that there were even more soldiers in this battle than at Chickamauga. Over 23,000 died in that campaign. The cemetery is a silent reminder of the huge loses to both sides of the conflict.
After lunch Roger drove South about 50 miles to transmit on a section of Natchez Trace Pkwy. just south of Nashville and E. of Murfreesboro. After a couple of hours, we headed north again.
Friday, May 20, 2016
We had another fun, unexpected event. We received a call from a couple whom we have maintained contact with since Roger was in the Army in the 1970s. Joe and Maureen called and told us they were headed west to see their son and could we meet them at Mammoth Cave. We told them that was great. It was a perfect day to go caving, as it had been raining since yesterday. Cell phone coverage was terrible in the mountains, but we finally connected and met them for the cave tour.
Our guide explained that this is the largest cave in the world. They have excavated 400 miles of tunnels, thus far. But volunteers continue to search unexplored tunnels, adding to the length of the cave’s structure. What is so extraordinary is that these tunnels are located in an area of only 7 cubic miles. At first this confused me. Then the ranger gave me and example of a large city, like Nashville. It has hundreds of miles of roads with in only a few square miles of land. The cave’s miles are measured up and down at different levels, as well as linearly.
There have been 27 entrances of various sizes that have been discovered so far. The part of the cave that we toured was mostly dry and a constant temperature of 54 degrees. But because of the rain, it was obvious where there where openings, as the water flowed freely through the few holes in the ceiling.