One Last Hurrah

While walking yesterday morning, I listened to a podcast in which J.R. Havlan, a former writer for The Daily Show, shared some advice for storytellers. Whether writing comedy, a short story, a journal entry, or a blog about traveling, the writer would do well to take Havlan’s advice seriously.  If I hadn’t heard that podcast, I too might be wondering, “Why  am I writing about our Girls’ Trip to TN?”

Havlan says that a writer should always look beyond the facts. What’s important are the emotions and the feelings beneath the facts and not the facts themselves. ASK: What does this piece of writing mean? What does the story mean to you? What’s the reason you’re writing about it? Make it about something. Otherwise, why bring it up?

I’ve been writing a chronicle of our three days in the mountains that happened a couple of weeks ago but why? Do I have aspirations of becoming a travel writer? Not at all. Then why?

  • Time is fleeting and we need to just do it. It’s a big beautiful world out there and yet too often we stay securely in our own narrow little worlds.
  • Also, traveling is a huge memory-making thing. I’ve known my fellow travelers all of their lives, and now we have some extra special memories outside of our regular environment. When’s the last time you rode with someone on a chair lift up and down the side of a mountain, sang in a diner at 10:30 at night, or laughed so much that your stomach hurt?

Back to my story. Since this was our third and final day of our mountain Girls’ Trip, we wanted to make hay while the sun shone. Up early, we packed the car, checked out, and headed towards the downtown area.

After locating the sky lift, we parked the car, and my sis and I plunked down our $15 and headed up the side of the mountain oohing and ahing over the majestic beauty of it all. While we steadily rose up, up, up for a better view of the surrounding mountains, including Clingman’s Dome, our daughters explored some shops along the “Tourist Strip.”

By now everyone had done something on her bucket list except for my niece, and Katherine really wanted to visit the Apple Barn in Sevierville. I’m so glad we stopped there. There are a number of enticing shops where one could buy food, wine, and all manner of apple-related products. Lunch was nice, and although the meal itself was tasty, I have to admit that I most enjoyed the fruit julep and the soup.

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I can’t recount all of the fun things we did and saw, but here are a few:

  • We took turns taking pictures with fellow travelers. Cars careened off of the road onto the overlooks and people sprang out of the car for a quick look and photo op before heading off to continue their mountain adventure. Most of the time, they volunteered to take our picture if we would agree to reciprocate, but sometimes one of us approached them first. Our favorite group was a couple with a young child who stopped for the sole purpose of taking our picture. From about an hour away, they said they made the trip every month or two and gave us some tips for our next visit.
  • We survived the parking nightmare at Tanger, a shopping mecca so crowded that traffic cops were there to direct traffic, both automobile and pedestrian.
  • We found a Bible that had been left at a church in Cades Cove; the owner had written a special passage about his fervent desire to marry someone and his concern over whether she would say yes.
  • We tasted fried pickles, ate the most decadent chocolate brownies ever, and shared a huge banana split to honor my other daughter’s 39th birthday.
  • I watched an adorable Chinese child crumble her saltines in a small plate and eat them with a spoon.
  • I learned that my sister wants to change the spelling of her name to Ayan and that my niece has developed an interesting accent. According to her mom, Katherine now adds an “a” to the end of many of her words, and soon we were all doing it.

The story beneath these facts is that road trips are worth every dime and every minute of time that you spend. I know without a doubt that there are three other South Carolina gals who are still singing Mickey’s “Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggidy dog” and remembering one last hurrah before heading back to school.

 

 

 

Is It Already Monday??

Sad to be leaving and yet happy to be touring the Capitol before heading home, my sister travelers and I got up a little earlier on our last day in the capital. Knowing that it would probably take between eight and nine hours before pulling into my driveway that night, we needed to get an early start with our sightseeing.

After another yummy breakfast (this time with crispy, tasty waffles), we piled in my car, and Tilara drove to a perfect parking spot within a block of both the Capitol and the Library of Congress. Walking towards the Capitol, we again remarked on the statue that sits atop its shiny dome. It had to be a famous Native American chief, we figured. Wrong. That morning we learned that the statue is called “Freedom” and that it’s a female.

We excitedly waited in line with some other upbeat folks for our tour time of 9:50. As we walked through security, the alarm went off, and I was the culprit. Not too worried, I figured it was my bracelet. But no, it was my tiny pink Swiss Army knife. I was sternly told to take it outside and throw it away. I must have looked dumbfounded because the guard again demanded, “Go outside and throw it away or leave the tour.” I hated that! That little knife and I have been inseparable for years, and it’s come to my rescue on many occasions. It even had a nail file and a tiny pair of scissors. Nevertheless, I chunked it and decided to share this little episode so that others would know to leave their weapons outside.

The tour was magnificent. The young tour guide was knowledgeable and upbeat, two positive attributes for a good guide. As she pointed out many of the statues in “The Crypt,” the area beneath the Rotunda, she mentioned that John C. Calhoun from South Carolina had, hands down, the best hair of them all. I was fascinated by the star in the center of the floor that illustrates the point from which the streets of Washington are laid out. We also visited the beautiful Rotunda with its statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King, and Ronald Reagan.  There was also a representation of three well-known suffragettes, including Elizabheth Cady Stanton. The fresco painted in the Rotunda’s dome is breathtakingly beautiful and beyond my ability to describe.

Capitol tour completed, we made quick stop in the gift shop for souvenirs before entering the tunnel leading to the Library of Congress. Even the tunnel itself was awe-inspiring with its posters of book covers. We learned that the Library is the largest one in the world by shelf space and in the number of books. Although the Library is open to the public, only people with a reader identification card can actually enter the reading rooms. The four of us quietly and almost reverently walked through the facility, taking pictures and absorbing the ambience. After a quick walk through Thomas Jefferson’s Library, we reluctantly left the building and headed towards my trusty Highlander.

With Tilara at the wheel, we cruised out of the city, wondering when we’d get back again. As we were riding along the Potomac, Tilara turned to look at people strolling in Potomac Park and inadvertently missed our exit. Upset for about half a second, she soon got over it as we all relished our last look at this historic river.

Within seconds we were on the interstate heading south. We chatted about our favorite sights and memories off and on for much of the trip back to South Carolina, and we realized that although we had done and seen a lot, there was so much more that we wanted to see. You know what that means, right? Another trip!