Thursday, July 1, 2021

Day 6 - Fontana Lake

 *Edited - content and photos added.

Okay, so for those who don't know, unlike the Rocky Mountains, there aren't a lot of natural lakes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Thus, as a little background history of this lake and lakes in this area,  in 1933, as part of the New Deal to help pull the United States out of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created 2 civilian job corps via Congressional charter, known as the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the TVA  (Tennessee Valley Authority).  

The Roosevelt family, Teddy and Franklin, both Republican and Democrat, whatever their flaws, were also both big conservationists and were largely responsible for creating and maintaining our national forests and parks - and I, for one, am very grateful to both for it :)

Both job corps not only helped build the rural roadways and the stone structures fences along them, but the TVA in particular helped provide power to rural parts of the country, harnessing the power of water, not only for agricultural, fish, and wildlife purposes, but assisting with the provision of power/electricity.

Thus, the TVA built several dams on nearby rivers to create several manmade lakes and reservoirs, both large and small, and Fontana Dam is one of the larger lakes created - still maintained today by the TVA.

(However, the CCC was closed when WWII began, as the draft provided incomed solider jobs.)

Thus, everything you see here, under water, used to be a mountain valley - and what you're seeing now above water is the very top of the mountains :)

Both the CCC and the TVA were very successful job corps, providing jobs for millions during the Great Depression.  

On that note, I don't want to get too political, here, because as I said  in the post about our recent experiences in Blowing Rock (because we wore masks in small stores), I'm on vacation and I don't care what anyone's politics are (unless you're in my face, rude, and bullying with it).

However, after that experience -  plus after reading even more than I already knew about the TVA history in this area -  I do have to say, it amazes me that this area is so heavily Republican, anti-Democrat, and anti-big government (well, only when it's Democrat-led), after FDR provided this area electric power, water systems, phone service, and most importantly - so many jobs for them during the Great Depression!?!

It's similar to my dad's people, Harlan County, continuing to vote Republican despite literally having a war with coal corporations, to the point of calling in the Democratic federal government themselves to help them - but okay :)

And many in these Appalachian areas are on food stamps/welfare government assistance today!  

It makes zero sense.

It is NOT that they're stupid, or even necessarily a lack of education.  It's something else ...

So, as briefly as I can, here's my summarized theory on what turned the political tide, and it contains two factors - skip this if you're not into political history - both factors having to do with with the Republican Party's unpopularity hitting an all-time low after FDR's unprecedented popularity, and then after pro-semi-big-government-Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhauer left office, when the Republican Party was scrambling for a viable candidate, and unfortunately found the extremely unethical Nixon ;) 

Now, remember, up until the 1960s, the Republican Party was the party of the North and Lincoln, so therefore hated in the South, so this was not going to be an easy feat.  

Then in the early 1960s, after the first live TV debate (in which Nixon looked unshaven, pale, very unkempt, and shady, losing to Kennedy mostly because of it), the Republican Party was now in a desperate, mad scramble. 

IMO, the 1960 Nixon VS. Kennedy debate debacle was the impetus for the desperate Republican Party to radically change to a strategy that would eventually become the first factor to turn the Southern and rural tides from Democrat to Republican, resulting in their mass jump to the Republican Party after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Desperate after that debate and election loss, the Republican Party - now unfortunately largely under the direction of the very unethical Nixon - apparently figured out the only way to combat the even more-beloved-than-FDR John F. Kennedy was to stoop - manipulate the existing fears of a very large U.S. agricultural and rural population - fear and distrust of outsiders/anyone not like them "taking over" and forcing them out of their way of life - particularly the aging subset of that population, who most feared a changing world.

And as we know now, unlike many prior Republicans before him like Eisenhauer - Nixon was an insincere, ethically and integrity-challenged populist - essentially a political prostitute and crook - who used whatever group and means would help him get elected, and has been quoted as saying, "Fear is a very effective motivator - they don't teach you that in Sunday School, but it's true."

Now - in the South and Appalachia especially, on the heels of both unhealed wounds from the Civil War about the North, as well as recent Northeastern corporate-labor exploitation/forcing them off land for resources etc. - combined with not having broader personal experience in a bigger world (not just lack of educational experience) - convincing them that their sworn enemies, Northerners, were now all Democrats who were invading their party, was a cakewalk for the Republican Party under Nixon's direction ;)

(You will note that this is exactly when the KKK, the American Nazi Party, and other known racists jumped parties from Democrat to Republican,  especially after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was congressionally approved after Kennedy was shot, and followed through upon by LBJ, because he had no choice, it was a done deal - whether he agreed with it or not - which many say he did not, as LBJ was supposedly very racist ;)

Not helping, of course, were LBJ's antics after Kennedy with policies such as the "War on Poverty" (which created welfare; designed to help them, but with so many stipulations, it became a trap you couldn't get out of, unless you had money or a new high-paying job, which was nearly impossible, if not eligible for the military), as well as his disastrous choices with Vietnam -  virtually undoing all the good work, recent accomplishments and legacies of FDR and Kennedy, and tarnishing the Democratic Party  :(

(Hey, the man was an old-school Democrat from Texas, at a time when, as I said, Southern Democrats were very racist, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made them all jump Republican - and if people like my racist, staunch-Republican, crooked-as-a-country-mile father loved him - those two things should've been red flags about LBJ lol.)

The second factor contributing to this tide turn, IMO, was a related and similar manipulation, with the plethora of veterans in rural areas, as the military is often the largest employer/steady source of income for men from rural areas -  by appealing to their "US VS. Them" soldier-mentality training - "If they're not wearing your uniform, they're your enemy - shoot."

Regardless, IMO, this tactic us still used and is still effective on rural people and areas in which the military is a large employer/has a large veteran population - and it seemingly overrides even their own economic/labor concerns.

In fact, it's intensified - in other words, my theory is that rural/largely military-employed populations choose their manipulated fear of the unknown/outsiders "taking over" over even their own economic well being, and thus vote this way.

(This explains why labor is on the right side of U.S. politics, along with corporations, rather than the left, as labor tends to be as in other Western countries ;)

In other words, these Appalachian rural areas have historically requested federal help from Democrat administrations several times, and have received that help several times - but nevertheless continue to buy the Republican fear-mongering and thus vote Republican/big corp anyway, which just floors me and saddens me :(

As a final note on this subject, Obama tried to implement something similar to the CCC job corps to help rebuild our infrastructure (highways and bridges) during the Great Recession, but Congress refused to approve - obstructed by Republicans like McConnell, of course :(

But I digress (ahem)  ... so ... Fontana Dam and its resulting lake was completed in 1942  lol ...

And this is Fontana Dam today (my pic, from the water) ... 

Even though this lake is literally out in the middle of nowhere - and where we stayed, Fontana Village Resort and Marina is literally it's own little town and zip code, literally 20 miles from the nearest anything - we were willing to try it because  Fontana Lake has the only marinas on any lake in Kentucky, Tennessee, or North Carolina that allow you to bring your dog on rental boats (at least that I've been able to find) :)

Fontana Village is far from luxurious, but it has its charms, and the food is terrific - you just might have to wait a little longer for it than usual :)

In addition to the marina and the lodge (which has the best accommodations, but doesn't allow pets), it has cabins, townhouses, and roundhouses to rent  - but I highly recommended paying for the premium ones, considering the mishap we first encountered upon our arrival, which they quickly remedied for us (see below).

By the way, this is the only bear we saw during our entire time in North Carolina lol ...

As because it's my new tradition to buy at least one Christmas ornament from wherever I go, I bought two Christmas ornaments from the gift shop - a hand-carved dragonfly and a hummingbird :) 

As for our cabin ... well, there's a story there - the pictures below aren't the original cabin we checked into ;)

So ... we checked in at around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night.  Now, I didn't expect luxury, I'm no princess or Karen - and I expected  I might come across "critters" - bears, racoons, squirrels, crickets, bees, wasps, salamanders, mice, and even Smoky Mountain scorpions.

What I didn't expect, however, was that it had been so long since someone cleaned the cabin that there were actually mice droppings on the bathroom sink, and evidence of mice having eaten into the hand soap.


Okay, so I can take rustic, I can take a lot in a mountain camp - I spent my summers on a farm growing up, and went camping with my dad and grandparents in the boonies - but mice droppings on the bathroom sink AND eating into the actual soap for $180 a night was a little too much for me and turned my stomach lol.

So I very quietly, calmly, and kindly went over to the lodge front desk and whispered, "Hey! Can I show you a pic?  This is our bathroom.  I really don't mean to cause a problem, but anything we can do about this?"

Front Desk"Oh ... my ... GOD!  Eww, that's absolutely disgusting, I'm so embarrassed!  Please, please know this isn't our usual - allow us upgrade you to a much better cabin for the same price?  We only have two left, so it's closer to the activities than you wanted, but I promise you, it's renovated, spotless, and this one has Wifi, too."

Me:  "No worries! You all have great reviews, so I kinda figured you'd rectify the situation for us, we appreciate that.  I just thought you might want to know that housekeeping must have accidentally skipped that one today, and neglected to mention a possible problem in there? lol"

And they kept to their word :)

Nothing fancy, or like the luxury cabin we had in Boone, but we didn't expect that - just a clean cabin near the lake that allowed dogs,  is all we were after :) 

Early the next morning, I woke to the smell of bacon - because after I had done most of the cooking all week, my sweetest of all possible husbands in the world surprised me with cooking breakfast ... 

Then on to the marina and the lake - and being that they had no pontoons left, let us take Brookie out on a bass boat, which was more fun anyway!

At the marina, you can bring your own boat or rent pontoons, bass boats, canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards.  Pets are allowed only on the older pontoons, but the marina manager that day let us take Brookie due to being sold out of pontoons - SUPER nice of him.  The bass boat was faster and more fun anyway!

It had all basic bells and whistles, including a depth finder, fish finder, and GPS ...

We were worried about lack of cover for Brookie in the sun, so we brought an umbrella for her :)

After a fast run up the lake ... 

Here's a series of three videos which chronicle our latest Griswold adventure lol ...

In the first one, I attempt to interpret the ways of my people in the south to the Yankee from Detroit lol 

(I actually grew up in Cincinnati, but my entire family is from Kentucky, including my dad being from Appalachia - thus, I'm often left playing interpreter to both North and South lol)

You can't really see what I'm referring to in the video because they're too far away, but in addition to the floating cabins that you can see in the video,  there were also houseboats (AKA party barges).

Now, in the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest, a "houseboat"  today means something entirely different and refers more to a fixed-location floating cabin -  but in the South, a "houseboat" is a true boat, in that  unlike a floating cabin, it can actually cruise/move and you can dock it in different marinas. 

You can see that style of houseboat, a smaller, older one, in the first photo of the lake as we left the marina, behind Mark and Brookie -  and here's an example of the newer, larger one, which can cost you anywhere from $250K to $500K.  I pointed to one far away in the video, but it was too far away to see, so this is not my picture ...

In addition to having a cabin cruiser (eventually traded in for a bass boat), my paternal grandparents also had a houseboat on Barren River Lake (also a TVA-built dam and lake, and sometimes Lake Cumberland) that was smaller, looking very much like this one ...

In fact, though you can find houseboats all over lakes in the South - Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Tennessee, and especially the Ozarks in Missouri, Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, is actually the capital for lake houseboats, and if you want to buy one, that's where most of the sales of these type of boats happen.

I think that's when I fell in love with the sound of gentle waves lapping against the boat, lulling me to sleep :)

Next, I attempt to use sea terms for boating, knowing none, because I'm only familiar with lake boating like this; thus, my sea vernacular is limited to old books, movies, and what Captain Picard uttered on Star Trek/Next Generation lol ...

So ... do you get more points for hitting kayakers or -? lol 

(JUST KIDDING, we kayak, too lol)

We found a quiet little cove where no one else was ... 

... where I proceeded to change from my travel linen shirt and travel hat into a T-shirt and put up my hair in a ball cap - serious Southern fisherwoman attire ...

... and proceeded to fish for bass :)

Mark cast, too, but after a time of neither of having a single bite, midday, as expected - he decided to both fish and nap ;)

Now, we both knew it was the middle of the day and the chances of actually catching a bass at that time of day was almost 0%, but it was just fun.  I hadn't bass fished since I was a kid, and it had been a decade or more for Mark.  Whether you catch anything or not, fishing is one of the most relaxing, Zen thing you can do - the of the water lapping the boat and the shore is one of my favorite sounds in the world :)

And yes -  I did bait my own hook with earthworms, thank you very much - though I did apologize to the worm and thanked him for his sacrifice first lol ;)

My dad used to have a fancy bass boat and enter all of the tournaments, so I was used to that, though we most often used spinners.  It took me a minute to remember how to cast properly, but after a few tries, I casted like a pro again :)

Then, after a boat rid back home, in which I drove (like a madwoman, fast as it would go, weaving and hitting others' wakes on purpose - hee hee) - I proceeded to make us our final grilled meal from local stock - grain-fed beef burgers, red/yellow/orange bell peppers, corn on the cob, and a salad with creamy buttermilk Parmesan dressing.  

(Fresh-squeezed lemon juice, fresh parsley, garlic, buttermilk,  grated parmesan, and I use Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise for less calories - it's low-cal and Mark's favorite dressing that I make :)

We ate our dinner while live music was played at the nearby bar and grill, by a local guy, who was actually really good, especially when he sang John Prine songs, including "Angel From Montgomery" - one of my favorites :)

The next morning, we headed out to Cherokee, North Carolina, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, snapping a few shots of the TVA-built dam along the way ...

Which as I said, is still maintained by the TVA to this day :)

Next post - Cherokee, North Carolina, and the Eastern/North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park ... 

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