Saturday, July 13, 2019

Just Around The Bend - An Impromptu Road Trip To Tennessee

I mentioned in my last post that converting a van into a "home on wheels" and traveling the country has been Bill's dream for several years now and we're recently begun taking some steps to bring that dream to fruition, though it will most likely still be another year or two before we embark.  But in that pursuit, Bill found a van earlier this week that showed some potential.  It appeared to have everything we were looking for, the most important of which is a high ceiling.  If we are going to make this our home for a couple of years, we want to be able to stand up! :). It also had lots of windows, was less than twenty years old, had low mileage and it was within our price range, + + + +!  And to slather the icing on the cake, it was only about four hours away in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and we're always up for a trip to the Smokies! So Bill changed his work schedule around a little and we pulled everything together and took off late Thursday afternoon.  Right now we have the back of our SUV converted into a camper and when we camp we either stay in state or national parks, or we seek out a BLM spot, which is honestly our favorite thing to do. But because this trip was rather spur of the moment, we decided to boondock at the local Cracker Barrel, which essentially means we spent the night in their parking lot!  Most Cracker Barrel locations across the country allow this, as well as Walmart, but we prefer Cracker Barrel and in return for their hospitality, we always try to eat breakfast there the next morning.  We pulled in around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, just as a light rain was starting to fall. It wasn't the most restful night we've had, it was pretty hot and humid, but that's just the part of the adventure!

The next morning, after we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we headed to where the van was located. We had a couple of hours to kill, and since one thing Cracker Barrel is not known for, at least in our opinion, is their coffee, we decided to seek out a quiet place where we could brew up a cup of instant Starbucks, which is a staple in our camping kitchen! The first six pictures you see above are of the little spot we happened upon. This is actually a picnic area that one of the white water outfitters provides for its customers, but since it was several hours before they opened for the day, we took a chance that they wouldn't mind if we borrowed one of their tables and enjoyed a cup of coffee. I was immediately flooded with memories from my childhood when I saw the swaying willows and the bright pink blooms on the catalpa trees. My parents had a weeping willow and several catalpa trees in their yard when I was growing up, and I would spend hours playing outside and cooking up imaginary meals, pretending the tiny catalpa leaves were green beans. At some point in the season they sprout these long bean pods which I loved as well, and I would open them up and pretend they were English peas. I even fed some to my brother once, which resulted in a frantic phone call to poison control! He survived, but after that I my mother kept a closer eye on my foraging! It was a such lovely little spot, and I would have loved to linger longer but as the temperatures began to rise the gnats set in and drove us away.

In the end the van just wasn't quite tall enough.  Bill couldn't stand up in it and my head reached the very top, and since the plan is to fully insulate it and build a new floor, we knew that would raise the current floor a little higher and neither of us would be able to stand up in it comfortably.  The van is owned by a guy who works as a guide for Smoky Mountain Outdoors and takes people white water rafting, so it was right on the river as well. But we were so busy looking over the van and taking measurements that I didn't get a chance to take many pictures, other than that cute little make-do garden in the picture above. But Cory, (the van owner and resident guide), graciously invited us back before the end of the season to ride the rapids and we already have plans to take him up on that! If you're interested in trying out some white water rafting yourself, especially if you don't live far from the area, I would highly recommend getting in touch with them!  Cory is a GREAT guy and we can't wait to make the trip back and have some fun! I'm sure that then I'll be able to take a few more pictures, because the area where it is located is so beautiful!

In typical road-trip fashion, we took the long way home.  We're not opposed to interstate travel, especially when timing is a factor. But overall we like to travel much like we try to live our lives, in the ★ S L O W ★ lane! We are seekers of side roads and small towns, and love leaving room to stop in at places that pique our interest along the way. One of the places we stopped on this trip was a used book store. I won't mention the name because overall we wouldn't give it the highest rating.  But they did have a wonderful section of seasonal crafting and cook books, which I proudly resisted perusing except to take a quick picture. And I did find "Pooh Corner" in the children's area endearing. If the rest of the store had been as charming and the staff had been friendlier (they never even acknowledged us), I might have enjoyed it more.  Eventually the road wound through Abingdon and Damascus, two of our all time favorite places. The mountain laurel is in full bloom right now, pictured last above. It was such a beautiful drive home and I hated for our time to come to a close.

I'm excited that we'll be making the trip back again, and we've also decided to spend a week in the Damascus area towards the end of October and hike Grayson Highlands and The Virginia Creeper Trail.  In the mean time, as we continue the quest for our van, I'm sure there will be other impromptu trips that pop up along the way, providing ample opportunity for seeking beauty and traveling in the
★ S L O W   L A N E ★!  And of course, I'll be sure to share!

Until then my friends, seek out beauty wherever life takes you this weekend!

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