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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Motorcycles - the ultimate classroom

During the last 4 summers (06-09) I have taken my son, who will be 13 in Feb 2009, on long motorcycle trips with friends.  Each trip has been filled with great roads, good food, amazing vistas, and superb educational opportunities.  We have greatly enjoyed each trip and each year I have worked to increase the educational aspect of the trip.  It is one thing to study about geographical landforms and another to see and touch them. Reading about the Civil War is fine, but standing on a battle site, beside a cannon, or behind a bulwark deepens the understanding and reality of the conflict.  Many more examples could be given.

Two historic sites we visited are the Fort Donelson National Battlefield and Fort Donelson National Cemetery in Dover Tennessee (83 miles NW of Nashville - Map).  Fort Donelson was located on the south side of the Cumberland River and was fortified with earthworks, a natural bluff, and a lot of cannons.

The visitor center is located on Hwy 79. The center has several displays with many artifacts from the Civil War as well as exhibit about the Underground Railroad.  We picked up a self guided tour map before starting out on the six mile tour.

We stopped several times to walk around and view the earthworks confederate soldiers had erected.  We visited a one room log cabin that is a replica of the type of shelter that some of the soldiers would have lived in.

At the far end of the tour we viewed the Cumberland River bluff fortifications and cannons.  It was easy to see why this location was chosen; a clear view of the river in both directions.
After touring the battleground we stopped by the National Cemetery. This is a humbling site.  Headstones lined up row after row.  The big trees and dense forest around the cemetery made this a quite and solemn place.  There are soldiers from various wars and conflicts buried here.  We took time to stop and talk about the sacrifice of those buried and those currently serving our country.
Both the battlefield and the cemetery were educational, beautiful, and thought provoking.  There is no entrance fee at either location.  The battlefield has over 5 miles of hiking trails and is open 8am - 4:30pm.  The cemetery is open 8am - 5 pm.

We really enjoyed tour both sites and I think you would find it worth a ride up to Dover to see the battlefield and the cemetery.

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