After a loooong day of driving (and a week of lots of driving), we arrived home last night around 10pm. In less than five hours, we'll be heading north to NJ for the weekend. MiL kindly dogsat Whiskeydoodle for us, but I need my dog back, so up we go.
So do not want to pack the car again and drive for five hours. I'll be fine once we get there, though.
I had grand plans for today, but have scuttled them in favor of resting in bed or on the couch.
Anyhow, last Wednesday was spent at Warriors Path State Park in TN. melanie
and her family (minus L, working as a teen slave laborer) came out to see us. It was great to see them all, even if we planned poorly for our fire (no hatchet, no kindling).
We drove (with the rest of the Bonnaroo traffic) West the next day, then cut South and West before Nashville's rush hour could catch us. We stayed at David Crockett State Park that night, just outside of Lawrenceburg, TN. I didn't realize that area had an Amish settlement. Sadly, we were driving through too late to check out the cheese shop.
We had a short drive down the Natchez Trace on Friday. We stopped at a few of the pullovers and then zipped over to Piney Grove on Bay Springs Lake. It was hot. Stormy. My folks have AC and we took full advantage, lazing about on their comfy furniture. Saw a cousin and his wife (up from LA) and their converted Prevost tourbus. That was cool. They will likely never fish out of Grand Isle again, so they were paging through my folks' guidebooks and planning some trips which don't involve giant oil spills. My mom kindly Ronan-sat so that Tom and I could run into Booneville for provisions.
The reunion was Saturday. It's always fun to go up to someone and ask how we're related. (Who's yer gran-daddy?) Tom thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in a very, very different dialect. We had some good conversations about the difference in word play and word use between the deep South and the MidAtlantic/Northeast on the way home. After the reunion wrapped up, my great-uncle Bob asked us to come over, so we went to visit with him. I like Uncle Bob--he's my grandfather's younger brother (grandpa was the eldest in their batch of kids) and we stayed with him five years ago. I hope he wasn't hurt that we didn't stay with him this time. We had originally planned to take Whiskey with us, but I couldn't find any place which could accommodate him for a few hours on Saturday without boarding all weekend. My MS relatives aren't really dog-folks, so I didn't even bother asking Uncle Bob, I just made reservations for the campground. Now that I know MiL will dogsit, we will definitely stay with Uncle Bob next time.
Mississippi was lovely, but hot. Very hot. And humid. Heat indices up around 105-110F. We were tent camping, but my folks were just a few sites away and kindly lent us a box fan and extension cord. Our site had electric, so we were able to sleep with a breeze on us. Still, it was so hot and humid that I gladly took cold cold cold showers. Cold showers normally give me a killer headache, but they just felt right while we were down there.
After MS, we drove through Huntsville, AL, and visited the US Space & Rocket Center. We were just going to go look at the rockets outside (visible from the road), but Ronan asked to go inside. I could tell Tom really wanted to go in and I'm never one to turn down science museums of any sort--especially this one. I also knew that our local museum membership would get us free entry (ASTC reciprocity). Ronan was impressed by the Saturn V and also enjoyed looking at bits and pieces here and there. I was just happy to get some Dippin' Dots ice cream--several flavors are safe for me.
Later that afternoon, we set up camp at Rock Island State Park in Tennessee. Before supper, we went to the local swimming hole--a natural sand and gravel beach on the Caney Fork River in the Great Falls Gorge. It was cold, as any stream draining the Cumberland Plateau would be this time of year. Brrrr.
Monday morning, we broke camp and then went on a hike in the river gorge, hopping boulders and scrambling over large flat areas of rock. We then drove to the Smokies. Elkmont campground was booked solid, so we went over to Smokemont. We wanted to see Elkmont's synchronous fireflies, but we'll just remember to make reservations for that another year.
Smokemont is a lovely campground and we spent two nights there. There are no shower facilities (typical for a national park campground), but it wasn't so hot up there. On Tuesday, we drove down into Cherokee and on to Sylva for some provisions, stopping back at the Tribal Grounds coffeeshop and the dancing fountains. Ronan loves the fountains, I love the coffee. It was storming heavily off and on that day, but our tent was just fine. I did notice a couple very slow drip spots--I'll need to seam seal the tent for the first time in five years.
Yesterday we took the long way home. We wanted to drive the parkway from Oconoluftee to Asheville, but there's an impending landslide/rockslide/mountain cleavage north of Pisgah, so we detoured down through the National Forest. The available detours took us out of the way either direction (151 was closed for repaving), so we opted for one (215) that would drop us on the West side of Asheville. We then headed up and around Asheville and on toward I-81 for the long, slow haul up through VA. It took forever, probably because we spent time at the Oconoluftee visitor center and at Waterrock Knob visitor center . . . and because the Parkway mostly heads east from Cherokee/Oconoluftee, not north.
Anyhow, home is nice. I'm resting and doing laundry and soon will start packing for the weekend up in NJ.