What I did on my Summer Vacation

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So, Deb took my unusually busy summer schedule and carved out 11 days for us to actually have a vacation. It meant coming home from Austin for a mere four days before hitting the road but now that we’re back I can confirm it was totally worth it.Unfortunately, the six weeks allotted to the online grad courses meant the laptop had to accompany us and required time nearly daily to be set aside for me to be a student, but Deb took good advantage of the time.We headed south to see her brother Jeff in Chattanooga but broke up the drive by stopping in Roanoke. We were quite pleasantly surprised to find a market square filled with restaurants of all kinds, some with live music. The worst of the heat was over so we sat outside as I enjoyed the first of many a fine barbecue meal at Blues Barbecue Co.We celebrated my birthday by driving. A lot. Thankfully we both wanted coffee and stumbled into Marion, Virginia, a small little town with a most excellent coffee shop. We browsed an antique shop that had comic books and when the owner heard I uncovered several I edited, asked that I sign them.Arriving in Chattanooga, my brother-in-law Jeff and his girlfriend Diane took us to dinner at JC’s Family Barbecue, located “down in the holler”. They live in a lovely community and the food was pretty damn good.We spent that weekend playing tourist, checking out Rock City, site of the climax to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, taking the train up and down the Lookout Mountain Incline Railroad, and explored the amazing cave at Ruby Falls. Deb really wanted all the southern tastes so we had the best local southern fried chicken at Champy’s and then the delicious biscuits at  Tupelo Honey. A visit to the local, large and tasty Farmer’s Market completed the visit.We headed further west to Nashville and stayed at the gorgeous Union Station hotel, a converted train station. It was strategically located so we could walk just about everywhere we wanted and boy did we walk. The first night we headed a few blocks into the Gulch district and Burger Republic.That Monday, we drove out of town to The Hermitage, home to President Andrew Jackson. We toured by foot and horse-drawn carriage, taking in all the historic sights. That afternoon we wandered down the block to take in a tour of The Ryman Auditorium, one of the most significant performance halls in the south. After some recovery, we wandered back downtown, first for dinner at Merchant’s then taking in the music at the Silver Dollar and Robert’s Western World bars. While not necessarily to my taste, they were certainly entertaining enough.The following day we took a walking tour of the Germantown district http://www.localtastesofnashville.com/, which turns out to be the first settled part of the city. Our guide, Mary, was enthusiastic and knowledgeable which helped. Of the seven of us on tour, three of us were teachers, so we found things to chat about as we sampled everything from crepes to Rueben sandwiches. The tour ended at Bicentennial Park which has a marvelous decade by decade marble display of events, quotes, and personalities from the eras. There’s even a section devoted to the geological formation of this part of the continent. There’s a set of tall bells that played a variety of familiar tunes and a gigantic multi-ton globe floating atop a thin pool of water. Pretty damn impressive.After cleaning up from the intense heat and humidity, we almost beat a thunderstorm to the Grand Ole Opry. Once things let up, we explored the massive hotel and atrium complex before heading over to the auditorium. The live performances were engaging and I actually knew a few of the performers and songs so that was a plus. Once the show ended, we took a backstage tour of the facility that honors its heritage in many nice ways.The following morning we were up early and took a long walk to the well recommended Pancake Pantry and got in before the line stretched out the door. We were impressed by the variety of choices, including the batters used. Then we tromped through Vanderbilt University en route to Centennial Park and the recreation of the famous Parthenon. By then, the heat beat us so we gave in and summoned an Uber driver to bring us back to the hotel. We enjoyed a leisurely, cool lunch at Bar Louie before taking a leisurely afternoon off. There was a final barbecue dinner at the Gulch’s Peg Leg Porker, a hidden gem.By sheer coincidence, a former colleague of Deb’s was not only in Nashville, but staying in the same hotel so we caught up with him and his coworkers at the adjacent Flying Saucer.We were just about done with being tourists but there was one stop left. We headed out for the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge. There, we took a bus tour of the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, formerly home to the Manhattan Project. Now, here was some recent history that was worth a look.Finally, we headed to a remote part of the state, located on the Tennessee River and settled in at the White Stone Inn. This place sprawls over many an acre but its quiet, serene and just what we wanted. There are eight miles of hiking trails and we covered just about every foot while there. Our room in the main Farmhouse building was spacious and most comfortable. Deb was able to knit, spin, or read while I caught up on school work or actually did some reading. We got a package that included a horse and buggy ride, which was fun, and an onsite dinner that was quite good. The owner that evening invited a number of us to join him on his boat to watch the moon rise, because it was a special occasion: a blue moon. It was gorgeous and wonderful to watch from the calm waters.Last weekend saw us wending out way home, stopping back in Virginia to check out crafts and stay once more in Roanoke.  Then we headed for our final destination, Harpers Ferry so we could check out the Civil War sights. We wandered through town and stayed at a local bed and breakfast that was most comfortable. One evening we dined with Dave and Simantha Galanter, who live nearby and it was a lovely visit.Finally, on Monday, we took a tour of John Brown’s Trial and Execution before a local lunch and the final hour-plus leg home. All told, we traveled 1695.1 miles, managed to listen to The Girl on the Train as an audiobook (fairly engrossing, just what we needed), and had a memorable experience together.Deb is, of course, already figuring out where to go next spring and summer.

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