I write this within the final hours of our 3,500-mile (85 driving hours) honeymoon journey.
As many already know, Ted and I are the road-tripping type, so the fact that we chose to road trip to Tennessee—one of the few states I had yet to visit—probably didn’t come as much of a surprise. After taking Sunday to spend with family, we left the Monday after our wedding. We took it easy and stopped in Kansas City for some Jack Stack BBQ and Insomnia Cookie (a throwback to our engagement trip in NYC… someone please open one of these in the Midwest!) and called it a day.
The next day we crossed Missouri. First stop was to visit some friends at their new home in Columbia. Heavy rain, thunderstorms and tornadoes plagued our day from that point forward, and we finally had to stop for the night near St. Louis. We used our spare time on this leg of the drive to visit the capital building in Jefferson and enjoy some local treats.
Although I had been through St. Louis previously, I didn’t have the opportunity to visit the top of the Gateway Arch. After a previous day of storms, the next morning was much clearer and allowed for great views. It was fascinating to learn about construction of the arch, including the ferris wheel/elevator-like carts that took us to the top and why the windows are so tiny. Standing at the top gave my mind a bit of a warp!
When we returned to the ground, we were surprised to find a slew of luxury vehicles lining up just outside. Turns out our path was intersecting with the Gold Rush Rally, a luxury vehicle trek across the country. A ticket to ride with them runs a mere $22,000……
Journey to Tennessee
Next up, we made a stop in Metropolis, IL, for a visit to the birthplace of Superman. Today the city is home to the Superman Museum.
We also happened across an old Coca-Cola bottling plant just across the Kentucky border in the town of Paducah. Coca-Cola has a special place in my advertising-lovin’ heart, so it was neat to see some relics of the building’s past.
Nashville, TN, has long been on my ‘to-see’ list, which is why we chose to spend the next several days visiting Music City. Our AirBnB host, Greg, happened to be a songwriter, and gave us a warm welcome to the city.
We hit a lot of the high points in the area, including Music City Walk of Fame, many of the famous bars playing live music downtown, the Parthenon, and a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame, which happened to be featuring an exhibit on Shania Twain, my very first favorite artist and cassette tape purchase!
We also toured Hatch Show Print—a famed letterpress shop known for their rustic music show poster designs. Our tour included plenty of Nashville history and printing our own letter-pressed posters.
Lastly, we visited the Grand Ole Opry for a backstage tour, which afforded us the opportunity to stand on the same 6’ section of stage that artists have performed on since its inception.
On our last night in the area, we grabbed a pizza and stopped by a little-known hangout titled Love Circle. The hill afforded a beautiful view of downtown Nashville and happened to be situated right next to the house of John Rich (of the band Big and Rich).
After three days in Nashville, we migrated east. A cabin in the woods near Pigeon Forge, TN was our destination. The town is situated just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tourist attractions abound in the Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg area so we had no shortage of options. We took many long drives through the park, a few short hikes, toured the nearby towns, and hit up the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery.
On one of our several ganders through the park, we took a gravel road that wound through the mountains. At one point I jokingly commented to not hit that “snake” in the road, referring to the one of many twigs we had seen lying in the road that day. I guess the joke’s on me though—it truly was a snake! Good thing Ted is the only one scared of them though. 😉
One morning we took a horseback ride through part of the park. It sure was fun, but I was glad we didn’t opt for the longer tour because my booty HURT by the end!
On July 4th eve, we kicked off the afternoon on a seven-line zip tour through the tree canopies. Our guides were the most memorable part! Next, we grabbed some more good eats, rode an alpine coaster, and played a round of mini-golf, all before capping our day off with the first Independence Day parade in the nation at 12AM in Gatlinburg.
Our final day was spent celebrating our nation’s independence by taking in a free Craig Morgan concert in the park and some fireworks as part of the annual Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival. All-in-all, the Smokies did not disappoint!
Blue Ridge Parkway
Keeping with our road-trip theme, we set out to find a scenic route north to get us started on the journey home. I’ve had the Blue Ridge Parkway—dubbed “America’s Favorite Drive”—in my mind for a long time, and was excited to finally have a chance to take it (even if it wasn’t fall :)). We took the route up through western North Carolina and Virginia before turning west again.
West Virginia was the next state to cross off my list. While passing through, we stopped at the Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park. When I was looking it up online, I recognized it from one the of puzzles I have and remember making while growing up. We also found a waterfall along our route.
Kentucky was next. We passed through Lexington, the horse capital of the world, which looked just like the many pictures I’ve seen of the rolling, manicured green pastures and white picket fences. Oh, and a castle.
Passing through Louisville allowed for a stop at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Although this topic has never held a lot of interest for me, I must say this is one of the best tours and museums I’ve ever visited.
Our last scheduled stop was at the Louisville Slugger Museum where we took a factory tour and had the opportunity to view many baseball relics.
At the conclusion of this trip, I have three states left to see (Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina), which are slated for next year. Ted certainly kept to his vows, especially the part about encouraging me to try new foods on this trip! What an amazing journey, and what a blessing to share it with the love of my life!