Trip to Tennessee, Part II

Thursday night of our trip we arrived in Greeneville (the “e” is very important to Greeneville-ians, their town often spelled it GreenEville just to make sure you know to add the extra E!). Our hosts: Dave, Shannon, Owen, Abbey, & Ethan greeted us at their home with many waves and smiles and helped us run in to the house out of the torrential rain. We spent the evening catching up on the past 6 years and reminiscing about the years before that.

The next morning Dave took us on a tour of the county. Spring rains brought lots of flooding and dramatic waterways in the weeks before our arrival.


After a tasty lunch (chicken salad sandwiches on croissants!) at The Gathering Place restaurant (cash only, how cool) we traveled downtown. First, we toured the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site & Cemetery – We joked about how he was not my favorite president, yet in all seriousness, the visit was interesting to learn about the times (in case you don’t know this president, he’s the VP that took over as President of the U.S. after Lincoln was shot). Our tour guide portrayed the life and times of the Johnson family – a very sad tale filled with tuberculosis woes. The style of the house was interesting as well, definitely designed for a warmer climate.

While at the Johnson house, I snapped a shot of our group and happened to get Owen and Dave’s cool shirts. Aren’t these guys great!?IMG_1033FriendsTshirts

Our next stop in town, the historic Greeneville jail. Ethan tested Jay’s claustrophobia fears by attempting to lock him into a concrete and metal jail cell.

I would think seeing this jail during the era of use would be a great deterrent to criminals. I doubt anyone wants to go to jail, but to go to jail in those times would have been horrible – a dark cold lonely place.

On a humorous note, we must have disrupted the government employee break time – three women came bumbling out of the cells wearing government badges and the place reeked of smoke… Not my idea of a relaxing place to take a break!?!?IMG_1038EthanCapturesJay

Catalyst Coffee Co. – Greeneville, TNIn part 1, I warn about coffee in the south, but leave it to Shannon, a fellow coffee drinker and wonderful hostess, to find us a good coffee shop! Catalyst Coffee Company serves tasty coffee and has a wonderful mission and logo: LOVE GOD…love people…Love Coffee.


Image result for national donut dayWe also splurged on some sweets at the Peggy Ann Bakery in Greeneville – and lucky us, National Doughnut Day was June 1st – the day we went there!

Everyone got a free fresh-baked doughnut in celebration!

Saturday morning, our hosts planned out a trip to Asheville, NC. On the trip over the mountain pass, we stopped at a rest area where Shannon spotted two Akitas! We were able to visit with the owners and get some snuggles from the pups as I made a mental note to wash my clothes as soon as we got home, before our Akita Kit could smell that I had pet other dogs.

Aren’t they gorgeous pups?IMG_1044Akitas

We started our Asheville tour at the Omni Grove Park Inn, a beautiful historic mountainside inn that is home to a huge gingerbread contest. Below is the winning gingerbread house – these contestants don’t mess around, you can see:


Close up detail of the gingerbread house:IMG_1045GingerbreadHouseCloseUp

The inside of the hotel is rustic in a gigantic sort of way:


Some of the fireplace stones had inspirational quotes etched into the face:


Views from the hotel:


The hotel included a textile museum and a restaurant called The Golden Fleece – very interesting to this fiber artist!


After the hotel, we headed downtown to a very modern, eclectic, hippy Asheville. We ate at a restaurant recommended by a church friend of Shannon’s – Farm Burger.

Jay enjoyed a burger and onion rings.

I went with the Market Salad (“spring greens with shaved carrots, cucumbers, roasted local sugar snap peas, pickled onions & garlic, parmesan cheese) and a side of SWEET POTATO HUSH PUPPIES with apple butter – I capitalize this because they were awesome. One of those “I could live on forever” type foods. Being from the NW, I wondered if I could make a baked (rather than deep fried) version?

While much of Asheville was artsy (not much of interest to anyone in our group) we were able to find some fun stores including an April Cornell dress shop (that actually has conservative dresses that are cute!), a honey store that sources local and worldwide honeys that are tested by Texas A&M for pollen type for almost single source honey that makes the tastes very distinctive, and a small music shop selling Woodrow instruments (very similar to a Dulcimer) – they’re so easy to play, I was able learn to play “You are my Sunshine” in just a couple minutes! Jay and I were very tempted to buy one, but getting one home safely was a worry to us. Maybe someday. 🙂

'The Artist' Custom Instruments by Woodrow Instrument
Woodrow Folk Music Instrument

We finished out the day with a tour through “The Basilica of Saint Lawrence” which was quite eye-opening for a group of Baptists. Jay, who grew up Catholic, explained much of the unusual bits to us.

I did laugh too hard, though, when Jay made a loud nose after bumping into a sign that said, “Reverential Silence, Please” (hehehehe). This after Shannon opened the door to a tomb, it was probably time for us rednecks to leave!

Outer building, domed tile ceilings, a confessional, confessional rules, stained glass, more mosaic tiles, a tomb of a saint, and “holy water” 

I did love this etched wooden door with Jesus, the good shepherd:IMG_1080.JPG

On our way out of Asheville, we stopped for some Starbuck’s coffee, milk shakes, and then a pie shop – but at $35+ for one pie, we decided to buy some pies from the grocery store instead! That night we had a sheet of Nachos for dinner (so fun, a whole baking sheet of chips topped with meat, cheese, and all sorts of toppings – great, simple idea!).

Sunday morning, we attended Sunday school and church with our host family. We got to attend a truly Southern church – Baptist, with choir and all! (Check that one off the bucket list!) Singing from hymn books, a well-done sermon, and really friendly folks.

After church, while the family attended a funeral, Jay and I zipped north to visit a nearby Jersey farmer, Ronel.

I think her shirt says: “If it’s not a Jersey, it’s just another cow.”

While most of the land we saw in Tennessee was VASTLY over-grazed, Ronel and her family had the most beautiful pasture. We were so impressed, I even wrote about her farm for the July issue (coming out 7-1) of the North Columbia Monthly. We also came away with some great ideas including a pulley system to lift milk buckets and pour from (custom made by Ronel’s husband):


And “ReCap” lids that fit on top of wide mouth mason jars, making milk pouring easier:Image result for mason jar recap

Well worth the short trip to meet her and her lovely family and cows!


Monday, our last full day in Tennessee, saw us traveling back roads to Gatlinburg.

I made my first major southern mistake by asking the ladies at the information center where we could find a restaurant with healthier-type food. She replied, “Honey, we don’t Dooooooo Healthy, down South.”

Gatlinburg has a number of Ripley’s exhibits. Owen and Jay checking out the Trump records (don’t worry, you’re not missing out on much if I don’t post the list here…)


Weird tourists, getting our picture in front of the Mayfield Jersey:

We actually DID find some healthy food at a restaurant recommended to us. To clarify, the first lady thought I meant rabbit food or vegan, I think. I was actually thinking just somewhere with a few non-deep-fried options. Once we got on the same page, the ladies recommended Calhoun’s, a Tennessee-based restaurant.

Us ladies had salads. We had a fiery discussion about the butter (the waitress brought out the tub, it really was butter, just heavily salted – lol). The bread basket contains a variety of breads, and we requested a second basket of the muffins which are made from the spent distillers grains from the local distilleries (novel idea, they were quite good!)

Shannon and I tried out the Turkey Creek salad (Romaine and spinach with smoked
turkey, sun-dried cranberries, honey roasted pecans, feta cheese, strawberries and honey balsamic vinaigrette dressing.) Another meal I could live forever on – so delicious!

I also tried the “Tennessee Corn Puddin'” – which tasted like baked custard with corn. The combination was unusual to my taste buds, but this summer when we have fresh, sweet, succulent corn, I think I’m going to try making corn puddin’!

And just to be different, Jay ordered the special: “Smothered Chicken and Biscuits”!


After walking through town, we headed to the Gatlinburg Ripley Aquarium where we saw a huge assortment of really odd underworld creatures. Seeing as neither Jay nor I are water-lovers, this aquarium visit was a nice way to learn about the world of creatures underwater without having to go into water ourselves!

IMG_1117 collage.jpg


Including a random Abraham Lincoln exhibit… 🙂

And the most adorable penguins (I want one!)

The last destination of the day – a driving loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! If we ever come back to this area, this would be a place we’d like to tour more – very gorgeous with lots of history.


IMG_1203 In touring a historic cabin, I posed next to the entry way to the cabin…. I am 5’0″ tall. Were the mountain people all as short as me or did they duck a lot?

On the trip home, I spent half an hour trying to check  in for our flight, but the website kept malfunctioning – it’s always the website’s fault, right? Then finally, Shannon said, “The time is one hour different in Nashville!” Sure enough, I waited for the time zone difference of one hour and was able to check in to our flight! I couldn’t imagine living next to a time zone all the time!

On our 4 hour drive home, we zipped in to the Grand Ole Opry for a quick visit (their museum does not exist anymore, unfortunately it flooded a few years back, so we just looked around the grounds and left as there was a crowd of people gathering for the concert with Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, and Tracy Clark that we would have loved to go to.


With the last few minutes, we drove to Andrew Jackson’s home (not to be confused with Andrew Johnson, they’re different presidents! 😉 ). Again, couldn’t see much without paying to go in (I had visited there years ago with a friend, so told Jay about it) but we had a nice time in the gift shop looking around.IMG_1207

We started our return trip Tuesday by waking up around 6 am Eastern time > driving 4 hours to Nashville > flying to Las Vegas (eww, but we survived) > flying to Spokane > Stopping at Dutch Bros 24 hour coffee stand downtown for some real decent PacNW coffee > Driving 1.5 hours home > Arriving home at 2 am Pacific time. Whew, what a day! When we woke up a few hours later, we found that our special house sitter (my dad) had cut most of our firewood pile for us while we were gone. He always takes such good care of the farm, I don’t know why we don’t travel more!! 🙂


We were glad to be home, but will always keep the special memories of our trip to the south. Learning how to say the words (like Sevierville, actually pronounced Severe-ville), Learning what “Southern Politeness” is, Learning how sweet [TOO] Sweet tea is. Sharing times with good friends and making new friends like Cathy and Ronel. Thanks to all who made our trip such an enjoyable time!

Goodbye Tennessee!




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