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Super Tuesday.  So many states.  So little time.  

We at CatSynth present the first of two articles to try and virtually visit as many states as we call.  The first installment features Vermont, Virginia and Tennessee.  There is a mixture of natural and human-made points of interest.  I even get to geek out on music in this one with a visit to Memphis.

Of course, with so much geography to cover we can't even pretend to be thorough.  So please don't be shy about leaving comments about your ideas, memories or thoughts about places in these states.  Learning about new places and connecting with readers has been an incredibly rewarding part of this series.

[Originally posted at CatSynth.com with cute highway shield graphics.]

[Originally posted at CatSynth.com.]

Ahead of the Super Tuesday presidential primaries, we at CatSynth will try to virtually visit many, though not all, of the states involved.

We begin in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont along State Highway 114.  It winds its way from the most remote northeastern corner of the state and The Kingdom State Forest eventually into the towns and lakes of the region.


[Photo by Dougtone on flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

The scenery as seen in images often is lush and green, when it isn't brightly colored in the autumn.  It is not surprising that the Green Mountains and the state of Vermont were given their verdant names.  It's also interesting to note how different the terrain and scenery is from neighboring New Hampshire.  As a reader noted in our New Hampshire edition on DailyKos, the Connecticut River that divides the two states also separates radically different geological structures between the Green Mountains of Vermont (an extension of the very old Appalachian Mountains) and the younger, rockier mountains of New Hampshire.  The geography lead to very different settlement patterns, different economies (farming in Vermont versus industry in New Hampshire) and perhaps into the modern political contrasts as well.

In terms of life in The Northeast Kingdom, I often turn to the blog meeyauw, who has over the years mixed great photography from her nearby landscape with cats and mathematics.  I did enjoy these recent pictures from the author's home near Barton Mountain, not far from Highway 16.

We can follow VT 16 back to Interstate 91, the main highway in and out of the "The Kingdom".  Heading south on I-91, the terrain looks a lot like eastern New York, hilly and forested.  We turn off the highway onto US 2 and head west to Montpelier, the state capital. It has the distinction of being the smallest state capital in the U.S.


[By Jared C. Benedict [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

It is in Montpelier that we turn onto Interstate 89, which crosses the state diagonally from New Hampshire in the southeast to the Canadian border in the northwest.  Along the way it connects the capital to the largest city, Burlington.  Although I-89 never enters the city, it is easy to connect to the downtown via US 2.


[By Jared and Corin (Church Street, Burlington, Vermont) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Probably more than any other place in Vermont, Burlington defines the state's current political reputation.  It is home to Bernie Sanders, onetime socialist mayor of the city and current U.S. Senator.  We at CatSynth have long been fans of Sanders, not only for his political views but also his strong Brooklyn accent.  Burlington is also the birthplace of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.  The city itself is on Lake Champlain, and one can look out from its waterfront across the lake to New York State.

Lake Champlain contains several large islands, particularly in its northern half.  US 2 traverses most of these, including Grand Isle via a network of bridges and causeways before heading west at the north end of the lake, where Vermont, New York and Quebec all meet.


[Photo by Dougtone on flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

The islands themselves have small bays and interesting geography, including one bay called "The Gut."


From Vermont, we jump to Virginia, the other state that begins with the letter "V".  We begin just south of Washington, DC at the notorious Mixing Bowl Interchange.


[Visit original article for full-size version.]

The Mixing Bowl, also known as the Springfield Interchange, connects I-95, I-495 (the Capital Beltway) and I-395. The latter heads north into the center of Washington DC, while I-495 casts a wide circle through the suburbs.  The interchange is complex-looking enough and well-known enough to have even gotten its own "Fun with Highways" article back in 2009.  While the interchange in its current configuration is complicated, the aerial view is even more so because of the "ghosts" of ramps that were removed during a massive reconstruction project.

We can stay in Virginia on I-495 heading "west" (though what is west on a circular highway?) and turn west on I-66.  The highway is quite crowded in the growing suburbs of northern Virginia, but starts to quiet as one moves westward.  Along the way, one passes Bull Run and Manassas of Civil-War battle fame.  There was not one but two major battles here.  I am pretty sure there are more Civil War sites in Virginia than any other state, and many in the northern part of the state like Manassas are likely getting absorbed into the expanding suburbs.  I-66 continues west towards the Appalachian Mountains, specifically the Blue Ridge Mountains that form the eastern edge of the range.  Before its end, we can turn southward to Shenandoah National Park and tour the Skyline Drive.


[Wallygva at en.wikipedia [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], from Wikimedia Commons]

Skyline drive runs for 105 miles and offers spectacular views of the mountains.  I have heard (and seen photos) that suggest it can at times get quite foggy as well, though.  Nonetheless, doing the entire drive seems like it would be rewarding if one is not in a hurry.  In addition to the views, there are details such as the rather narrow Mary Rock Tunnel.  The southern end of Skyline Drive connects to I-64.  One can head east towards Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia and one of the country's shrines, Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello.


[By YF12s (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons[]

The geometric aspects, symmetries and design are quite interesting, as are some of the inventions and features inside.  One can tell it was a labor of love (and obsession) for its owner.  For some reason, one thing that stuck with me when visiting is the idea of "a home within a home", a much more modest actual living space almost self contained within the grander designed building.

Back on I-64, we can head  west onto Interstate 81 which runs along much of the Appalachian Mountains.  It passes through hills, valleys and towns along the way, and is indeed a major corridor for the interior eastern US, connecting the northeast with the south.  As such, it connects to our next state.


We continue on I-81 into Tennessee, where it ends at I-40.  Here we leave the interstate and head south first on TN 66 and then US 441 to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It has the distinction of being the most visited national park in the U.S.  It offers great views of the southern Appalachian mountains, both scenic vistas of the mountains and details such as streams and waterfalls.

The other thing I remember from a visit as a teenager was encountering black bears.  Even as one is cognizant of the fact that the bears are potentially dangerous wild animals, there is something quite endearing about them.

We did also go to the top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point in the Smokies and the highest point in Tennessee.

We can west from the park on US 441 to the city of Knoxville.


[By Kg4ygs - Jeffrey Paul Prickett (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

I do like the Sunsphere, though it looks quite out of place, a future retro design from a past era (or maybe a disco ball).  It's the sort of thing one expects to see abandoned as in the New York Worlds Fair, in a delightfully dystopian setting like Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. However, the Sunsphere sits in a well-maintained green park and has been reopened with an observation deck, cafes, and what I am guessing must be quite unique office space  .

Continuing westward on I-40 through the state, our focus shifts to music.  Nashville is of course a major music-industry center, both in terms of records and musical instruments, and is synonymous with country music (though in fairness the city is home to other types of music as well such as alternative rock).  But I think I would identify more with its neighbor to the west, Memphis.   Memphis is home to important early blues, but I think it is the later Electric Blues, early Rock-and-Roll and Memphis Soul (as epitomized by Stax Records) that most interest me - even as a mostly "experimental" composer, the sounds of these genres are a strong influence.  I can't personally speak to an I-40 musical rivalry between Nashville and Memphis, but perhaps some readers may be able to contribute here.

Indeed, I-40 is named the "Isaac Hays Memorial Highway" on its eastern approach to Memphis.  Long before he was Chef on South Park, Isaac Hays was a leading figure in Memphis Soul on Stax.  I-40 and I-240 together form a beltway around this city's outer neighborhoods, but its downtown and many of its most famous landmarks lie further west, between I-240/I-69 and the Mississippi River.  Just off this highway south of downtown is the Stax Museum on McLemore Avenue.  Further north on off I-240/I-69 is large exit for Union Ave, which carries several number designations all at once (US 51/64/70/79).  Union Avenue was once home to Sun Records which produced many of the earlier Rock-and-Roll artists of the 1950s.  Union Avenue also provides access to Beale Street.


[Photo by ChaseGorden on flickr.  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

It is a major tourist destination now with blues clubs, based on its historic significance in the development of the music.  But it did go through a rough period before it was revitalized as the original music industry and the area in general went into decline in the 1960s.  Consider this picture.


[By Jack E. Boucher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

The Daisy Theater is still visible, but other than that the street looks run down - but somehow "authentic."  It is perhaps best to think of the new revitalized touristy street as just another phase of its history.


Because we are attempting to visit many states at once, each one will inevitably get less attention (this is true of the political process that is happening in parallel).  As always, it is great to get feedback and ideas of places we missed.  So please don't be shy about leaving us your comments.

In tomorrow's installment, we will explore a few more states, in particular Ohio and Idaho.

Originally posted to catsynth on Mon Mar 05, 2012 at 09:44 PM PST.

Also republished by Three Star Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nashville is America's 'Third Coast' (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oceanview, stlsophos, catsynth, marykk

    The entertainment industry is huge and impacting American and world culture in a large way. The industry is alive and dynamic. It includes all facets of production including advertising, promotion, video and television production, distribution, agency, and primarily the fostering of pure creativity.

    East Nashville has been called the new Greenwich Village in the New York Times. Creative people from around the nation live in the small mid-century bungalows scattered around the neighborhood and write and sing and collaborate on music genres of all kinds.

    The entertainment industry is so large, you are as likely to know someone who works in it as someone in Detroit would know someone who works in the auto industry. In my community, I know several soccer Mom's and Dad's who also happen to have platinum records, Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards. I couldn't begin to list the number of personal encounters and interactions I've had with musical legends.

    It's fun being from Nashville and living in the area.

    Isn't it discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit? (Noel Coward)

    by Mid10Dem on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 05:51:27 AM PST

    •  My understanding (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mid10Dem

      Is that while NY and LA have a larger music business overall, Nashville has more people in the music scene per capita than the other two. I can certainly believe it. A gospel executive lives on my block, there's some kind of band/act whose home base is around the corner (I see them loading equipment from time to time), a couple blocks down is an obvious tour "bus" (more of a big van) that comes and goes. A session musician used to live next door but he moved a few blocks. I could go on, but if you live here you already know. :)

      Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

      by tcorse on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 08:52:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  a Wonderful diary-thank you! :-) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gordon20024, devis1, marykk

    It reminds us that there is, indeed, life beyond politics!

    Shenandoah National Park's Skyline Drive is always voted one of the best fall foliage drives in the US. (and it's in my backyard-woot!!)  

    Warning: That light at the end of the tunnel just might be an oncoming train.

    by history first on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 06:15:34 AM PST

  •  Don't forget Chattanooga and I-75 from Knoxville (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tidalwave1, catsynth

    One of my favorite interstate drives is I-75 from Chattanooga to Knoxville through the mountains of East Tennessee.  And Chattanooga itself is a beautiful smaller city in a dramatic mountain valley along the Tennessee River.  Every June it hosts the River Bend Festival  with a wide range of music, plus there are numerous art galleries and the lovely Aquarium (the largest freshwater aquarium in the world, I think).  And Nashville and Atlanta are only a couple of hours away.  The drive to Nashville on I-24 is nice, too, especially the first segment along the Tennessee and then over Monteagle Mountain.  At the town of Monteagle you'll want to detour through Sewanee to see the University of the South's beautiful English campus.

  •  Hello (5+ / 0-)

    from the Northeast Kingdom! :)

     

    "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State ..."- Vermont Constitution Chapter 1, Article 16

    by kestrel9000 on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 06:20:54 AM PST

  •  I believe you're right, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catsynth, Gordon20024

    Virginia had more battles and skirmishes than any other state, followed by Tennessee and, somewhat surprisingly, Missouri.

    A petty criminal is someone with predatory instincts but insufficient capital to form a corporation.

    by stlsophos on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 06:53:36 AM PST

    •  Missouri had a lot of little battles (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      stlsophos

      because, like TN and VA, it was a border state, even having both a Union and a Confederate state government (as did Kentucky, which certainly had its share of battles).

      Male, 21, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02, unapologetic supporter of Obama and Occupy. Tammy Baldwin for Senate and Recall Walker!

      by fearlessfred14 on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 01:02:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  VA and VT are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gordon20024, devis1

    two of my favorite states. I visit VA about 4 times a year, but have only been to VT twice in my life.

    The Springfield interchange is pretty big, but nothing compared to what he have in Texas. Also, Skyline Drive is one of my favorite places in the world, especially in mid-October (obviously).  

  •  A wonderful set of books to consult before (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devis1

    making a road trip is the 'Roadside Geology' series.

    Road by road, the author carefully points out in layman's terms the complex bedrock geology and glacial sculpture that combine to create the many landscapes of each region. Anyone interested in geology, general natural history, geography, or history of will find these books an indispensible and enjoyable reference at the most fundamental level.
    Line ~ http://www.amazon.com/...
  •  Ah, the Mixing Bowl (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catsynth

    I always tell people who move here (NoVA) that you haven't truly assimilated until you've driven on the Mixing Bowl without getting lost.

    But as crazy as it is, it's really a huge improvement over what used to be there.  Used to be you needed to change 5 lanes just to get from I-95 to I-395, and exits to Springfield were in illogical places that caused backups onto the ramps.

    All your vote are belong to us.

    by Harkov311 on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 03:07:31 PM PST

  •  Wow. Amazing effort to put this together thanks! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, catsynth

    People, not corporations. Democracy, not totalitarian capitalism.

    by democracy is coming on Tue Mar 06, 2012 at 05:28:29 PM PST

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