Abe Lincoln and Civil War history buffs, head here

One aspect I love about going someplace I haven’t been before is coming upon a treasure I wasn’t expecting. This was the case when I headed to Harrogate, Tennessee to the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. My purpose was to hang out with writers who have an Appalachian bent.

What I didn’t expect was the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Library. My word! In the gorgeous bowl created by the mountains, right across the border from Kentucky, right through the Cumberland Gap, is a museum filled with Abraham Lincoln and Civil War history, including artifacts not found elsewhere.

Evidently, because the people of this area were pro Union Army, Abraham Lincoln envisioned a university here. Eventually, that happened. The Lincoln Memorial University was founded in honor of Lincoln and it is where the museum is located.

The museum’s collection began about the time the university began and has grown to include the cane that Lincoln was using the night he was shot at the Ford Theatre and his life mask. A life mask is when a plaster cast is made of a person’s face while he or she is alive and then used as a mold to create a replica of the person’s face.

You probably know that John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln, but did you know who else might have been involved? Details of the events that led up to Lincoln’s assassination and what happened afterwards are presented in one of the displays. Mary Surratt, at age 42 and one of the alleged conspirators, was the first woman executed by the U.S. government. If I knew this, I had forgotten it, but relearned it when I visited the museum.

Along with the permanent displays, the museum also has exhibits that change. For anyone who is doing Civil War history, the museum’s archives would be an important place to include. Another reason to head here is that the Appalachian mountains are a feast for the eyes.

One way to stand traffic hell

“I am in traffic hell,” I said to my friend over my cell phone Friday right before the I-64 split off I-75 a few miles before Lexington, Kentucky,

I didn’t expect this traffic. It was 3:45. What was everyone doing off work already?

The miles of orange barrels cutting off the left lane, merging traffic from the right, another highway merging in from the left, plus every tractor trailer truck available to humankind had created five-miles-an-hour to no-miles-an-hour speed. Walking would have been faster.

Just three hours prior I had avoided traffic hell in Columbus by taking an alternative route out of the city. Due to construction, I-71 has turned into a mess at Exit 17. I also had braved on during a torrential downpour when I made it as far as the “Florence Y’all” water tower in Florence, Kentucky. I was making good time on my way to Harrogate, Tennessee—until right before Lexington.

That’s when it felt like I had been transported to Los Angeles where traffic is often choked up for hours on the freeways. If I had bubbles, I would have blown them.

A good friend of mine used this strategy to keep from getting steamed whenever he was stuck in L.A. traffic. Once when I was visiting him, he shared the technique.

  • Open the car window.
  • Open a bottle of bubbles, the kind you can buy about anywhere-or make your own out of a mix of dish soap and water.
  • Put the wand inside the bottle to get the right amount of liquid
  • Put your hand holding the wand out the window to let the breeze make the bubbles and carry them away.

The slower you go, the better this works. This, in essence, is reverse psychology. In a sick sort of way, you actually WANT to go slow.

The fun part about this blowing-bubbles-in-traffic activity is the reactions you get from other motorists. As bubbles floated over my friend’s car across the highway, people laughed, clapped, gave us a thumbs up and honked. Traffic had turned fun.

Yesterday, though, on I-75 south, it was hell— until I called my girlfriend who lives in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, a sleepy, quiet town. When I said “traffic hell,” she had one word, “Boston.” Then added, “Traffic. It’s why I moved out of there.”

Come to think of it, my friend who used to live in Los Angeles, now lives in Butte, Montana, a place that also is traffic-jam free. Since I live in Columbus, all I have to do is to keep remembering to avoid Exit 17.

To those of you heading past Lexington–bubbles.

Here’s a post I found about the therapy of bubble blowing. It works in more than traffic.