The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is the first national park I can remember visiting. Although I think my first national park visit was really to the Grand Canyon when…
The Great Smokey Mountains National Park is the first national park I can remember visiting. Although I think my first national park visit was really to the Grand Canyon when my parents looked like hipsters and drove a van. A real van with a moon shaped window and an airbrushed mural. I probably rode on my mom’s lap while she warmed my baby food in the dashboard window.
We aren’t as cool as my parents were. We drive a big white diesel Chevy that hasn’t been washed since October. But at least we use seat belts.
The Great Smokey Mountains is the first park I can remember visiting. I remember the river churning with rapids as white as doves but as unpredictable as cats. I remember the mountains poking out of the clouds like giant tombstones in a foggy cemetery. I remember my teenage self getting ticked about something and pouting on the Appalachian trail. I probably didn’t get to curl my bangs that morning.
I didn’t remember John Ownby’s cabin. Or the history. I didn’t remember the land was originally home to the Cherokee Indians who were driven out. I didn’t remember settlers were evicted from their homes and lives to make create the park we now visit.
So many old and new memories being pulled or created and stashed in this already challenged brain of mine.
Few things make me as happy as the smell and velvety touch of a horse’s muzzle. As I was struggling with depression, 5 days on a farm was just what my soul needed to be able to soar again
My uncle works at a small farm at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains in Maryville, Tennessee. We played with the goats, gathered colorful eggs, stroked the horses’ woolly winter coats, hiked in the quiet wood, and cuddled, book in hand, as the rain poured outside.
Every morning, Thing 2 rushed for his boots the minute he heard the rumble of my uncle’s truck coming to feed the horses. Thing 1 got into “shoving matches” with Julie the goat. Nico and Nigel met new friends and enemies when Julie decided to give them a friendly headbutt. I think Brent was the only one to escape Julie. I have never met a more ornery goat. (Not that I’ve met a lot of goats.) She headbutted me into the wall within 2 minutes of our introduction.
I felt free. I felt alive. I felt at home.
Yet, the clouds move and I’m caught in their shadow dance. Being at the farm reminds me at how at heart I’m a country girl who ended up in a beach town. A girl who feels more comfortable in a saddle than on the sand. I’m all too aware that as long as we live in Ventura we will not be able to have goats, chickens, and horses.
Thing 2 keeps asking with excitement in his eyes, “Mama, can we live on a farm?” My little animal boy. How I want to gather him in my arms and say, “Yes we’ll have goats, chickens, and Arabian horses!” When God chiseled horses I’m certain his first was an Arabian.
We woke up this morning knowing we were headed to Nashville. We didn’t know that we would be spending the night with old friends. We didn’t know that we would…
We woke up this morning knowing we were headed to Nashville. We didn’t know that we would be spending the night with old friends. We didn’t know that we would be having dinner with new friends. We didn’t know that Franklin Tennesee was much more than a little suburb of Nashville. We didn’t know that we would get to go on a date. We didn’t know Smoked Tea with Plum ice cream could be so good.
Old Friends – Mike and Jen moved to Franklin from Ventura 10 years ago. We parked our RV in their driveway on a quiet cul-de-sac next to a lake. We felt right at home. They showed around Franklin and took us to Leiper’s Fork. They made us dinner and we stayed up late sharing stories and laughter.
New Friends – We had just got settled when we got an invitation for dinner from friends of one of Brent’s clients. Brent had told his client that we were going to be in Franklin and much to our surprise and delight they called us. Dinner that with strangers ended as dinner with friends.
Date Night – Mike watched the boys one night so Brent and I could spend some time alone. Being the adventurers we are we went to Trader Joe’s. Romantic, huh? Afterwards, we drove around Nashville and spotted a little pizza and kebab place called PizzeReal. As we waited for our food we decided to check the Yelp reviews. Not a good idea. The restaurant had poor reviews. We hoped for the best and weren’t disappointed with the Tusan Garden, pizza topped with kale, mushrooms, garlic, mozzarella, and labne. Sooo good. It just happens that an ice cream place, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, we wanted to try was around the corner. We got a Black and Tan sundae made with Salted Carmel and Smoked Tea and Plum. Splendid, indeed. Do not miss Jeni’s if you are in Nashville.
Franklin – Franklin takes pride in her history. The downtown is lovely, clean, and quaint. The visitor center provides a plethora of maps and brochures. One is a historic downtown Franklin self guided walking tour map. There are six tours routes to choose from: the Great American Main Street, Art & Antique, Haunts a & Headstones, History Homs of Hincheyville, Battle of Franklin, and Margin to Main. Unfortunately due to rainy weather and time constraints, we didn’t complete any of the walks but we did see many places on the walks. One of which was the The Carter House grounds. The Carter House, a National Landmark, served at a command post during the Battle of Franklin and was the home of the Carter family who sought safety with their slaves in the basement during the battle. One of their sons, Todd Carter, had joined the confederacy. He was mortally wounded during battle and was brought to boyhood home to die.
Adventure Science Center – Our last day in Franklin was a rainy one a perfect day to visit the Adventure Science Center. It’s part of the ACST Passport Program which means free admission and I like free. The boys played giant instruments, zapped germs with lazers, and experienced what it would be like to walk in 1/6 gravity. Fun times for all.
In the morning, we visited Graceland. I’ve never been a huge Elvis fan but it was fascinating nevertheless. What struck me was his charisma and charm not only in his Hollywood movies but in his home movies. What a playful force of nature. Not sure why I never noticed it before but this was the first time I saw the soul behind the icon. It was the first time I saw the playful boyish grin that won hearts the world over. His house was decorated for Christmas with his original decorations. It’s strange place…a mixture of homeyness, hoopla, museum, and shrine.
In stark contrast to the commercialization and glitz of Elvis, we walked in the rain along the concrete shore where the Wolf River and Mississippi rivers merge. It was here where Jeff Buckely, an artist less famous although no less talented, drew his last breaths before being swallowed by the river’s current. It’s a spot Brent had been wanting to visit for years. I lingered back so Brent could walk ahead of me to spend time in his own thoughts. Brent introduced me to Jeff Buckley. In our 13 years together, his hauntingly beautiful voice has been a part of many our memories. If you have never listened to Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah you must. It’s an amazing song (It was a sad day when I heard such a beautiful song had been forever attached to an ogre.) on it’s own but no one sings it like Jeff Buckley.
We ended our day in Memphis with a warm drink at the Peabody Hotel where everyday at 11 am and 5:o0 pm the famous Peabody ducks, lead by the “duck master”, waddle down a red carpet like celebrities as they have been since 1933.