US Road Trip Week 4: Nashville, Atlanta, Great Smoky & Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville & DC

Feeling especially exhausted from a particularly packed week. And I thought the last week was too full! I left New Orleans and drove up the Natchez Trace Parkway, a truly beautiful and historic route, to Nashville.IMG_20190505_160358613_BURST007.jpg

I’d planned to stay here two days as well, including a ticket to attend the Grand Ole Opry one night!IMG_20190507_181813698.jpg

I wasn’t sure what to expect in Nashville. I hadn’t heard much about the city before or been recommended much to do here, so instead I did what any good traveler would – I asked a local. After some museum and downtown wandering, I stopped in for a drink at the Woolworth and struck up a conversation with the bartender. He was very nice and helpful, and recommended some great spots to go for dinner and fun-but-not-too-touristy live music.IMG_20190506_183445459_HDR.jpg

So it was that I found myself sitting at the Merchant’s restaurant bar in downtown Nashville, chatting it up with the folks sitting around me, when I hear “Becky?!” I look up to see a familiar face placing my food in front of me. Who would be calling me that? I stopped going by that nickname in college. After a stunned pause, a lightbulb went off. “Melanie?!” I couldn’t believe it. I was looking at one of my dearest high school friends, all grown up and serving me my dinner. What are the odds? I haven’t seen this girl in 17 years!

We caught up all night, chatting in between her serving rounds, and then going out for drinks after she got off work until 3am. Then we hugged goodbye, promised to stay in touch, and onward I drove to my next stop: Atlanta. I only had a few hours to spend there. So I looked up the coolest spots on Atlas Obscura (highly recommend this resource!) and hit them one by one in rapid succession: the Rainbow Crosswalks,IMG_20190508_163736855_HDR.jpg 54 Columns art sculpture, IMG_20190508_165919286_HDR.jpgJunkman’s Daughter store, IMG_20190508_174145214_HDR.jpgKrog Street Tunnel graffiti walk, IMG_20190508_182758758_HDR.jpgand then dinner at Krog Street Market, where two men sitting next to me at the bar tried to give me $100 for winning their “bet” about who had done the craziest thing in their life. Guess being a former stuntwoman has its perks (though just to be clear, I did not take the money).IMG_20190508_184920795_HDR.jpg

After Atlanta, I drove back north to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Smoky indeed! It was so smoky and windy that day, I could barely see any of the 522,419 acres many call the “Wildflower National Park”, even from the lookout on Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet.IMG_20190509_134701851_HDR.jpg

Slightly disappointed, I drove on along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was much more visibly beautiful. That more than made up for it. The beauty was so distracting (not to mention the hilarious scenic outlook names like Devils Courthouse, Big Witch Gap, French Broad, and Grassy Knob), that I didn’t notice I was starting to speed. A lot. Well much to my surprise, I got pulled over. My first of the road trip! Didn’t help that I was one of the only cars on a less-traveled road in a remote area where rangers/patrolmen have little else to do. Don’t worry though, I sweet talked my way out of a ticket. Not my first rodeo. 😉IMG_20190511_102708_381.jpg

Despite that one minor mishap, I will say the Blue Ridge Parkway’s distractingly beautiful backdrop did provide excellent inspiration for all that introspection I’d intended to do on this road trip. And the long monotonous route allowed me to switch my brain into self-talk mode. Which is to say, I talked to myself. A lot.

And so as I continued on down that picturesque parkway, I found myself making some significant discoveries and decisions about my life, my goals, and some potential next (post-road trip) adventures. I only stopped when I reached Asheville, and felt it a good pausing point for a breather, a brief wander, and (breakfast for) dinner break. IMG_20190509_184454604.jpgWhat a strange pocket of hippies in the middle of North Carolina. This is the same state where I saw a billboard to this effect:

Christian: “God, why haven’t you sent us another savior?”
God: “I did, but you aborted him.”

I was so distracted by the absurdity of it, that I totally failed to get out my phone and snap a picture as I drove by. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

After Asheville, I realized my schedule was running a tad behind. So I got on the highway and (after an overnight along the way) booked it to and through the lush green paradise that is the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.IMG_20190510_125743789.jpg

And then shortly thereafter, a slightly-less-brief exploration of the Shenandoah National Park. I basically just drove the incredibly scenic 105-mile Skyline Drive through the length of the park, stopping at nearly all of its 75 overlook turnouts for some gorgeous photos.IMG_20190510_161713922_HDR.jpg

Then in the same day (because time was still tight), I made it all the way over to Washington D.C. where my dear friends Lauren and Chris were awaiting my arrival. I hadn’t seen Lauren in ages, and in that time she’d gotten married and pregnant. So a visit was long overdue. I’d set aside another two whole days of my precious road trip time for this part. And it was a thankfully quite relaxing one. Instead of rushing around trying to pack in the sites (partly coz Lauren was less mobile and partly coz I was so exhausted), we just lazed around their home, took their dog for short walks, ate home-cooked meals, and did lots of catching up.

A lovely and perfect end to a lovely but overwhelming week.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: 10 Life Lessons From My Solo Road Trip Across America | The Writes of Passage

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