Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hwy 81 into Hershey, PA

On the way out of Nashville I spotted my home! Wouldn't it be fun to live in a place like this? The tree-lined driveway is about ¼ mile long.

On to Knoxville to visit with a family friend. 

After we left Knoxville we headed towards our campground for the night. It ended up being just outside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. YAY! What a bonus. We hadn't planned to head in that direction, but the available campground took us that way. It was a bit of a drive after a long day, and we couldn't see much of anything when we arrived, but we woke up in a beautiful setting nestled in the woods along the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains.

After showering and getting the RV ready to go we hit the road and headed into the park towards Gatlinburg, TN. What a beautiful drive. Below are some of the images that I managed to get. I was so in awe that I kept forgetting to take photos. Silly girl! But I did buy some beautiful postcards at the park gift shop. Along with some Smoky Mountain Blackberry Jam. So good!

We stopped in Gatlinburg for lunch and a quick walk down the touristy main street. Lunch was really good. Tennessee BBQ at a place called Calhoun's. The ribs are amazing. They've won several awards for them, but to be honest the side dishes were what really blew me away. Tennessee corn puddin' (like a corn souffle but not too puffy) and Spinach Maria (creamed spinach with cheese on top that is browned under the broiler...yum, yum!) They have the recipes on their website and I fully intend on making these dishes for my family when I get home.

The town is very touristy but also had a sweet quaintness to it.

While walking a few blocks down the street it started raining really hard. But it was so warm out I actually welcomed getting soaked. I am having a little trouble with the heat and humidity. Basically I whine several times a day while I feel as if I'm melting.

As we headed out of town towards our campground in Bristol, TN we spotted an 8 mile drive of area Arts & Crafts. What a wonderful experience. There are a little over 100 artisans along this drive that sell either out of their homes or out of homes that have been turned into artisan studios. I wish I had days to spend here stopping at every single place. Luckily for my pocketbook the RV couldn't fit into most of the driveways. I did manage to stop and find a really cool gift for Shawn made by a guy who does a little leatherwork, a little woodwork and is just learning to chip arrowheads. Loved it!

The next morning we headed towards Hwy 81, a beautiful scenic drive thru the Appalachians and the Shenandoah Valley which runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

A short detour on to Hwy 11 which zigzags back and forth under and around Hwy 81 gave us this great view of Pal's hotdog stand.  Tons of ducks hanging out in the parking lot.  I got a huge glare from the owner when I tossed a little snack out to them.  Ooops!  Sorry!

PS...note the men standing in the french fries?  I didn't even notice this until tonight when I adjusted the image for the web.  LOL

We stopped at a great little diner out in the middle of nowhere called Casey's and I had one of the best hamburgers ever! Along with handcut fries. Kathy had a grilled chicken sandwich and Patti had catfish. All really tasty.

Sadly, we got lost for a good 40 minutes trying to find our way back to the highway. Neither the RV's GPS nor the one on my phone could manage to figure out where we were. Hopefully someday they will get a better signal in this area as I think Casey's Diner deserves more patrons!

We drove to Harrisonburg to have dinner before heading to our campground.  Here are a few images from this town.

An old Piggly Wiggly building.

An ornate Catholic church.

A close-up of those amazing doors!

Hey look!  Another one of my houses!   They're everywhere!

Finally back on Hwy. 81 we drove until nightfall and got to see a pretty amazing electrical storm. Again, an amazing site for a CA girl. We have lightning once in awhile, but it looks nothing like this type of lightening. Some of the flashes lit up the entire sky a rosy pink shade. Very pretty.

Up the next morning and back onto Hwy 81 towards Hershey, PA. We drove in 4 states in about a 30 minute time period. Something totally amazing for a girl from NorCal, where it takes a good 4 ½ hours minimum to get out of CA. We went thru Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. How fun! Then all of a sudden we were in Scotland! LOL

We ended up needing to stop at an RV repair place in Harrisburg, PA for a few minor fixes and actually spent the night in their parking lot that night as the repairs ran until late in the evening. It is part of the service they offer. They are open 24/7!

It stormed pretty heavy with lots of wind and rain and because we were parked on asphalt we could really feel the RV moving in the storm. Flash flood warnings in the area but we were safe where we were located.

Sadly, the campground we wanted to stay at tonight had some flooding issues and couldn't take our reservation. We're hoping to stay there tomorrow night after our visit to Chocolate World (doesn't that name just sound awesome!?) tomorrow.

Here is a view of the sunset from the campground we're at tonight.

And here is dinner! Yum, yum!

Off to indulge in copious amount of chocolate tomorrow! I better get a good nights sleep!

See you all again as soon as I can make time.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nashville Tennessee

Friday, September, 23rd, 2011. I arrive at the Nashville, Tennessee International airport and my sisters are there to pick me up in my new home. This is my first view of the RV. It's a nice one with high 7' ceilings, an important feature for a family that hovers around 6' tall and more.

Off we went to dinner and I was starving. I had just had a 12 hour travel day with a single veggie sandwich from an airport vendor I'll spare you the details, but just suffice it to say that I had trouble deciphering some of those veggies! Traveling is always an adventure!

After dinner we pulled into our space at the Two Rivers RV park just around the corner from the Grand Ole Opry.

Saturday, September 24th, we started the first day of our journey together. Remember my sisters had started this trip from San Diego, so they had already been on the road for a little over a week. First we had a very HUGE breakfast at a Cracker Barrel, then Patti decided I should drive today! Nothing like tossing me right in there! LOL Actually, I have quite a bit of experience since I've been driving our truck to shows for so many years. We drove around the Grand Ole Opry. We had looked into getting tickets for the venue there this weekend, but since it was Dolly Parton it has been completely sold out for a while. Impressive building as was the Opry hotel across the way.

Next stop was Centennial Park in Nashville, a beautiful park and right in the center is a replica of the Greek Parthenon. Since there was nowhere for us to park the RV I just pulled into the bus area and ran up the steps and down into the grass to take this photos. Pretty impressive. I would have loved to have gone inside to see everything. Like its predecessor in Greece, the Parthenon in Nashville faces east. In antiquity this would allow light to come into the building as the sun came up and the doors were opened.

Here is a close-up of some of the ornate structures on the building.

The bronze doors weight 7.5 tons each. They measure 24' high, 7' wide and 1' thick. There are two sets (4 doors total) of these enormous doors in the Parthenon. This makes them the largest set of matching bronze doors in the world. The Parthenon doors in antiquity were only slightly lighter and were wooden with a bronze overlay.

This is a close-up image of one of the decorations on the door.

I lucked out as there happened to be a craft faire happening at the park that day! How fun! There are few things I enjoy more than seeing the wares of local arts and crafts folks. But just where would I find a place to park this beast? As we drove around the circular drive of the park I just happened upon about 4 parallel parking spaces really close to the faire. They were right next to a large mud puddle so I think most folks avoided them. They were perfect for me! Patti napped and Kathy and I walked around the faire.

After this we drove over to see the Belle Meade Plantation. A 30 acre historic site 6 miles west of Nashville. The centerpiece of the property is the Belle Meade mansion built in 1853.                           

I spotted this sundial on the massive lawn in front of the estate.

And over the side are the old dairy building (that they now store cases of wine in) and one of the slave quarters in the background.             

And this is a replica of an old cabin on the plantation.

From there we drove to the Belmont Mansion. Belmont Mansion is the largest house museum in Tennessee and one of the few nineteenth century homes whose history revolves around the life of a woman: Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham.

To end our evening we went to the Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater and had a buffet of overcook veggies drenched in butter, fried chicken, meatballs in a mushroom gravy, something smothered in BBQ sauce and Nilla Wafer pudding! All while watching past their prime country singers.
This image of a stunning willow tree in Centennial Park is for Shawn.  Look how beautiful it is!

Today we head to Knoxville for a quick visit with an old family friend. Then we're On The Road Again.....

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Journey Begins

I'm heading out the door in a few minutes.  My bags are packed after at least 1/2 a dozen tries.  I had to leave behind things I never thought I could live without....I just bribed myself that if I couldn't survive I could always go buy another.  Odd how we can trick ourselves like that.  It's like setting the clock back 10 minutes so you're always on time! 

Because we'll be driving with the morning commute traffic (how do people do that every day!) we're needing to leave extra early to get me to the airport on time.  But I don't mind, it will be over 2 hours alone in the car with Shawn.  It will be nice to have that time with him just before I leave.  I cannot even express how much I am going to miss him.  And my kids!  And my dogs! more of that!  I don't want to start crying again.

SFO here I come!  A short (hopefully) layover in San Diego then I'll be in Nashville by dinner time!

Shawn bought me a point and shoot camera as a gift for my trip, so I'll be sure to take some lovely photos of all the sites I'll be seeing to share with you all!

Talk to you soon!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All I need....

If packing for a month long trip isn’t enough to convince me that I must have multiple personalities, I don’t know what will! Or even worse, I am beginning to feel like Navin from The Jerk. All I need is this book of matches, and this chair, and this thermos….

As I am preparing for this several thousand long mile journey with my sisters in an RV I am trying to determine what the best projects (beads, knitting, tangling, etc) as well as clothes to bring would be. I decided I am far too scattered today to even think of which projects to bring…ala Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about that tomorrow! However, I need to get my clothes situation in order. At the moment my entire king size bed as well as every open surface in my bedroom is draped with almost every article of clothing I own. What a mess! The only things I haven’t pulled out of the closet are my velvet show clothes….altho, now that I think about it, what if we go to dinner somewhere fancy one night? Argh!

Here is the tentative guideline of the part of this road trip I will be on:

Starting September 23rd, I will fly to Nashville, TN from there our itinerary is roughly:
Kingston, TN
Knoxville, TN
Appalachian Trail
Bedford, VA
Hagerstown, MD
Hershey, PA (CHOCOLATE!)
Buffalo, NY
Niagara Falls
Albany, NY
Keene, NY
Concord, NH
Somersworth, NH
Kennebunkport, ME
Salem, MA
Boston, MA
Nantucket, MA
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Providence, RI
Hoboken, NJ (Don't ask!)
Baltimore, MD
Washington, DC
Chesapeake Bay, VA
Chantilly, VA
Virginia Beach, VA
Alligator River, NC
Wake Forest, NC
Seagrove, NC
Charleston, SC
Savannah, GA (Hello, Paula Deen!)
Daytona Beach, FL
Orlando, FL
Miami, FL
The Keys
Naples, FL
The Everglades
Tallahassee, FL
Sometime around the end of October I will return home to Cotati, CA

Now…just what does a girl (plus size at that!) pack for so many different weather variations when all she can bring needs to fit into one suitcase? I am laughing hysterically at the moment as I contemplate this thought over and over again.

I imagine I could just bring 2 skirts, 2 pants, 2 tanks, 2 shirts, 1 sweater, tons of undies and a few pairs of socks along with several rolls of quarters so I can hit up the Laundromats often.

Any packing advice? I have only 12 days left and I can’t find my bed!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Best Friend...

Shawn and I have been together almost 30 years. He jokingly said last night, “I think I’ve been with you longer than I’ve been with myself!”

As I’m preparing for this road trip with my sisters, that is planned to be about a month long, I started to feel anxiety about being away from my family. My husband. My kids (we do Sunday dinner almost every week). My dogs. The anxiety kept building until I had to look it in the face and figure out what my big problem was. In the almost 30 years that Shawn and I have been together, the longest we’ve been apart was 10 days. And we still talked to each other every single day. Out of approximately 10,579 days together the longest stretch apart was 10. Dang!

I imagine for some folks they might look forward to the break. And I’ll be honest, a little break is nice now and then…from anything! But for me a day or two is plenty. Shawn is my best friend. He’s my husband, my springboard, my biggest cheerleader, the person who I trust to go to for advice about life, my art, if these pants make my butt look big…pretty much everything. After 10,000+ days I’ve come to depend on him for so many things in my day to day life. Some might analyze that and question whether it’s healthy or not. All I know is that it works for both of us. We actually like each other as people, trust each other, we have a good time together. We see things the same way (well, for the most part), we enjoy doing a lot of the same things and if there is something one of us enjoys that the other doesn’t we either compromise or go our separate ways for a few hours.

So, can I handle being physically apart from him for that many days? I have an anxiety disorder. Will my anxiety rear its ugly head and cause problems? Will my sisters know how to handle me if my anxiety gets too intense? Will I be able to deal with it? Shawn is my grounding source if I have a major panic attack. Can I have one without being able to physically touch him to help make it stop? I have absolutely no clue at all.

I do know that Shawn, while also sad and stressed that I’ll be away for so long, is fully supporting that I take this trip. It really is a once in a lifetime adventure for a gal like me. He is concerned about how well he’ll be able to handle the business alone for that long. I’m only a phone call away, I say. We reassure each other whenever one of us gets slammed with the reality of what I’m about to do…in just over 2 weeks from now! What a beautiful trip it will be! I so wish I could do it with him.

I haven’t booked my return flight home yet. It somehow eases my stress to know that I can come back home sooner if I need to. My best friend, Shawn, suggested that to me. He really knows me very well. He always has my back.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Caught up in a Tangle!

I've been dealing with some painful back issues lately. As a way to escape from the pain without over medicating myself I thought to do a little drawing. Something I used to do in what seems like now a past life! Actually from about the age of 8 to 20. After I got pregnant and started my family it seems the drawing just got set on a back shelf and forgotten about.

So, when I first picked up a pen and paper I just sat and stared at the blank whiteness of it for a good 10 minutes. Nothing came. I guess I thought it would be like riding a bike and I would just sit down and art would spew forth from my fingers. LOL Not the case!

After 10 minutes I finally managed to draw a little made up cartoon character I used to draw. I've drawn him a 1000 times, so it took all of 60 seconds out of my day. Not what I was after. I was searching for something that would let me immerse myself in the pen and paper, let the creativity flow and help me escape the pain for awhile. Something other than my beads that I always turn to in times of need. Why no beads? Because at the moment I am stuck in a zone of needing to create for either classes or kits and my mental state of mind is not conducive to that. Trust me! I tried.

After dealing with the frustration of not having a single thought in my brain that I could draw, I remembered having seen a few beady friends talk about Zentangles. Basically, from what I knew, a way to doodle starting with a set of steps that would then allow you to experience the "zen" of drawing. Seemed silly to me...drawing was always zen-like for me. Why would I need to give it a name, or start in a certain sequence in order to get there? Why do I always have to question everything?

So, I googled and got 474,000 links! LOL Let's start at the first one! This took me to the website. These are the folks who coined this term and the sequence of events. They have a plethora of information, lots of additional links, instructions, patterns, etc. Looks like fun! So, I took a trip to the craft store for a sketch pad and some nice pens. They didn't have the pens suggested (Sakura Pigma Micron) and their sketch pads were all generic. But as I was walking thru the store I spotted some stiff paper cutouts in fun shapes like leaves and butterflies. Maybe I could just draw on one of those? I headed to my local art supply store, Riley Street, for the pens.

When I got home I was really anxious to get started. But in normal fashion for me, I tend to not follow the "rules" (actually they are just guidelines, but if they act like a rule I seem to run in the opposite direction). This is something that many times in life has gotten me in big trouble, and other times has allowed me the freedom to discover things I love. So...I don't fight it! LOL

Here is my first (finished) "zentangle" which isn't really a zentangle but more of doodling the zentangle fashion on paper.

I actually started doodling on this leaf shape first, but the butterfly shape was sitting out on my table and it kept screaming my name. So I set the leaf down, completed the butterfly and then returned to this second "zentangle"

I promised myself that I would try to draw on un-shaped paper for the next one, trying to follow the guidelines. I got close! I didn't do the dots in the four corners thing, but I did draw in my sketch book for my third zentangle.

I am totally experiencing the zen-like state of mind I was searching for. It is a wonderful escape!

I am planning a long road trip with my sisters Kathy & Patti to start later this month. I can't wait to see what shapes I see while driving around the country that I can add to my drawings!

I also plan to blog about this journey, so if you'd like to follow along while I travel from Nashville, TN up to the northern most corners of the US and down to Florida, check back here often!

~ Beki