It has come to my attention that some of my posts about traveling have convinced people to actually VISIT these places.
Which makes me happy on so many levels!!
First of which is that people are actually reading my blog!
THEN taking my advice!!
So head here and here for my posts about the beautiful Chattanooga area, here for Atlanta, Georgia and here for Louisville, Kentucky.
Are you seeing a trend?
Yes, we love the South.
I mean, really, what’s not to love?
The slower pace, the friendly residents, and the beautiful views.
Oh and the food!
And the music!
And the weather!
Did I mention the slower pace?
And the music?
Just making sure.
So every time I go down to visit my parents, I write the blog post in my head as I am experiencing new things.
I take the pictures, trying to be very present in the moment but at the same time stepping back to take it all in, while taking the snapshots of how I remembered it at that moment.
And it is always when I am done taking the pictures that I usually say, “how I wish I could just take this home with me”.
I may have even said at one point, ” I wish I could copy and paste this into my backyard”.
Corny, yes but is it ever true.
I want to bring the South home with me every time we visit.
So here is my love letter to a portion of America that restores my soul every single time I am there.
On our way to Chattanooga, we ran into something very familiar to us Chicagoans:
So we decided to wait out the rush hour in the city of Nashville, Tennessee.
We had driven through it several times on our way to mom and dad’s but never had time to stop.
I am so glad we stopped.
So many words.
Not enough adjectives.
The main drag, Broad Street, is SO COOL but don’t miss the amazing side streets as well.
It was hopping on this Friday night when we stopped in.
People everywhere, music everywhere.
The vibe was just amazing, I was so glad the girls got to experience it.
Boots are big down here.
So this store was the only exception to the whole friendly people thang the South has goin’ on.
Four employees in this store, not one person addressed us.
In fairness to the unfriendly boot people, we probably didn’t look like their average boot buying clientele.
Nine hours in the car with two kids, we must’ve looked a hot mess.
Sweaty, wrinkled and a six-year-old who when we walked in said, LOUDLY, “those boots right there are ugly”.
In her defense, they were.
This you also need to know, boots, the good kind, are expensive.
Like 400 dollars a pair expensive.
So I am sure they didn’t see their next commission coming from us.
But secretly I was hoping to find a cheap boot store on the strip so I could pull the whole Julia Roberts Pretty Woman scene with our big bags of cheap ass boots.
Taking in all the sights.
Yes, that is a man in a tuxedo.
Yes, that is a man in a cowboy hat driving a horse and carriage.
THIS CITY IS AMAZING.
The above is the Acme Farm Supply building which is now owned by Alan Jackson.
He is turning it into a restaurant/ rooftop bar/ store/ COOLEST PLACE ON EARTH.
We took our girls to a bar.
We said we didn’t want us to eat dinner at a Red Robin or Hard Rock while downtown.
Not that there is anything wrong with those places but we have those at home.
I wanted them to experience the cool vibe of Music City.
On one of the side streets, we saw a cool bouncer-type guy with boots on because I bet he gets a discount.
We asked if we could bring kids in and in his adorable accent he said SURE COME ON IN!
He brought us to our table right across from all the booze.
The music was LOUD, there was a musician in the front room playing music for money and it was perfect.
The girls gave him some money and asked if he could play Zac Brown.
We ate bar food, listened to amazing music and it was then that Ellie, the 6-year-old, said: “I want to live here.”
Not the bar.
By the way, we were worried that people would give us looks at a bar with two kids.
But while in the bathroom with my youngest, who will strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere…wonder where she gets that from……it was where three 20 years younger than me women started talking to us like we were old friends.
Only in the South can you meet new friends in the bathroom.
We almost exchanged email addresses.
The day after we got into Chattanooga, my mom, Annie and I got to go to lunch alone.
At this place:
I stalked this restaurant on Twitter a few years ago.
I don’t know how I found out about it but the premise is amazing: a whole restaurant dedicated to, wait for it, chicken salad.
They have other things but WHO WOULD WANT THEM WHEN YOU CAN HAVE LIKE 10 DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF CHICKEN SALAD????
This is something you need to know about the South, they have MAD decor skills in stores and restaurants.
I chose the original chicken salad and my side was broccoli salad.
HOLY PETE ROSE the broccoli salad was as good as the sammich but this you need to know: this is the best chicken salad I have ever eaten.
I am what you would call a chicken salad sherpa.
Or someone who eats a lot of chicken salad.
So I know good chicken salad.
We went TWICE in a four day period.
Oh, and I tried Grape Salad for the first time in my life.
Only in the lower part of the United States can they make grapes into a decadent dessert.
I LOVE THE SOUTH.
Time for a gratuitous foot picture.
My feet and I are in Tennessee, Y’all!!!
We went to the Chattanooga Market again this year.
Open air markets are fun!
But it was hot.
In fairness to us Northerners, we have been having a season, let me know if you have heard of it, called Fall this Summer.
Yeah, I don’t know what that is anymore.
This man was wearing a sunflower on his head like that’s what you do.
Sir, you are my hero.
On a Sunday.
I LOVE THE SOUTH.
Yes, that sign says possum.
Yes, that’s a stuffed possum.
No, I didn’t eat any.
WAIT, DOES THAT SIGN SAY BBQ SUNDAE???
I am intrigued.
And a little grossed out too.
There is my Georgia Peach sign from last year!
Only this year, they made them set up shop outside.
Literally kicked them to the curb.
It’s okay Georgia Peaches, you still rock my world.
I had to take a picture of this.
There was literally six babywearing families at the sangria station.
Like it was a baby wearing convention.
There is a funny subtitle here, I just can’t for the life of me find it right now.
Kind of like slug bug.
Only don’t punch that guy in the arm because BABY.
We went to Frazier Avenue in downtown Chattanooga for lunch.
This cool little hot dog joint has a really unusual menu.
Like you can get your fries with fried eggs on top of them.
So by unusual, I mean AMAZING.
I LOVE THE SOUTH.
The bottle cap floor was my most favorite part of the cool decor.
Dogs that are allowed to hang out in stores are why I love this street.
It’s exhausting working retail.
Speaking of doggies, my doggie sister celebrated her eighth birthday while we were there.
We had cake.
And squeaky toys.
For the adults, not the dog.
Southern BBQ dinner.
This donut place.
Oh, my heavens.
I can still smell this place in my dreams.
Breakfast on the porch.
There are lots of companies that have roots in Chattanooga.
Amazon and Volkswagen are two big ones.
And Little Debbie snacks are made right there in the mountains.
So we always stock up at the Little Debbie factory store near my parents home.
I love Little Debbie.
But when I saw this?
So those are supposed to be “Swiss Rolls”.
I call them “fatal marketing ploys”.
Because they look like poop.
Little stuffed poops.
For $2.99 you can have your own felt piece of poop to take home!
No thank you, Debbie.
I will just get my Nutty Bars.
We didn’t go on the “Choo Choo of Death” this year.
We drove up the mountain instead.
For those who will be visiting the area, the REAL name is Incline Railway.
I don’t want to mislead anyone.
It goes very slow.
But it is very steep.
So instead of putting the family (READ: ME) through the experience again, I decided to Google maps the actual address of the station at the top of the mountain.
Because when you take the Choo Choo of Death, you don’t get to see things like:
The entrance to the battlefield.
There was a battle fought upon this mountain.
We were on the “economy tour” of Lookout Mountain on this day.
“Economy tour” is code for we had hungry children.
And if you took the Choo Choo of Death, you wouldn’t get to see this!
My someday mountain writing home.
For when I become a famous writer.
And I need a “writing home”.
Because that’s what writers do and junk.
Do you know how hard it was for me to not grab those signs?
But then I would be thrown off the mountain.
Or made to go on the Choo Choo of Death.
That guardrail is the only thing keeping us on this road.
You don’t get THAT on the Choo Choo of Death.
I guess you kinda do.
Mike and I never take a good selfie.
We have literal big heads.
Well, he has a particularly large melon but mine isn’t far behind.
So the two of us in a selfie looks like his large head is eating my semi-large head.
And double chins/awkward smiles are involved.
It’s not pretty.
So when we took this picture at the top of Lookout Mountain, we were shocked.
Maybe it was that mountain air that made our heads shrink.
I LOVE THE SOUTH.
On the way home, we decided to break up the 11-hour trip by stopping outside of Nashville to stalk country singers.
Maybe stalk isn’t a good word.
To browse country singers!
The stalking browsing began while still in Chattanooga.
Annie would look online, for what, I have no idea.
I think she was literally Googling, WHERE DO TIM AND FAITH LIVE?
WHERE DOES KENNY CHESNEY DO HIS GROCERY SHOPPING?
WHAT ROAD DOES KEITH URBAN DRIVE DOWN WITH THE WINDOWS OPEN TO LET HIS BEAUTIFUL HAIR BLOW IN THE COUNTRY BREEZE?
I might have made the last one up.
His hair IS beautiful.
Our 14-year-old, found out via her Internet sleuthing that Tim and Faith are “selling their home” for “20 million” and that they live on “Keith Urban’s Hair Road”.
I am protecting their privacy because after being in the South for a week, I feel very territorial.
That and they don’t actually live on “Keith Urban’s Hair Road.”
So while at the Cracker Barrel in Brentwood, Tennessee, the four of us formulated a plan.
Okay, the three of us.
Because the six-year-old could care less about the country singer stalking browsing and more about creating a fort with her bacon while shoveling pancakes in her mouth.
We would drive around Franklin, a beautiful suburb of Nashville, and do some stalking browsing.
Apparently, everyone from Brad Paisley to Carrie Underwood lives in this beautiful suburb.
Behind gated three mile driveways.
But we had an address for Tim and Faith’s “home” on “Keith Urban’s Hair Road”!
We set our GPS and off we went!
But not before dropping 35 bucks at the Cracker Barrel gift shop.
Because we wanted Goo Goo Clusters.
And Halloween decor.
And a plastic miniature horse.
As you do.
The town of Franklin.
It is a beautiful town but when you are only on hour three of an 11-hour drive home?
You do a drive by.
That there up above is the hardware store!
That Tim McGraw buys his screws!
And other stuff guys buy at hardware stores!
OK, I don’t know for sure if Tim buys his hammers there.
But in my world, it’s where he buys his saws.
The best part is that there are rocking chairs and ferns outside the entrance.
But you can’t see them very well because
We followed the GPS to this exact location:
But still skeptical.
I mean, if I were Faith and Tim, why would I have a house right on “Keith Urban’s Hair Road”?
Why wouldn’t I build a house set far back from stalkers browsers?
Then we saw this:
THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS A TOUR BUS!!!
A TOUR BUS Y’ALL!!!!
It’s a little blurry and kind of far away but IT’S A TOUR BUS Y’ALL!!
Turns out, it’s not Tim and Faith’s house.
Not even close.
It’s some company LLC thingy.
Totally its name.
You mean everything you read on the Internet isn’t true?
I knew I should have suspected something when Keith Urban’s hair was involved.
Never trust a man with better hair than you.
Still, it was beautiful and we did see tons of gated loonnnnng driveways all over the countryside.
So I know we were near someone who makes lots of pretty music.
Let’s just pretend we saw someone.
And pretend that tour bus is Tim’s that he is loaning out to the company LLC thingy.
For a field trip.
To Keith Urban’s hair salon.
Back on the road, we also decided that we would stop at Mike’s Alma Mater.
Eastern Illinois University.
In Charleston, Illinois.
Also known as IllinoisIsHellaLongAndItBreaksUpTheMonotony.
Also known as the home of Jimmy John’s.
This is the original store.
Except when it’s not.
The actual original store was just up the block.
This used to be a Hardee’s.
It was pretty and all but it didn’t stand a chance after coming from rolling country roads, mountains, and just Tennessee.
I mean, that’s like comparing my hair to Keith Urban’s hair.
Mine is pretty awesome but next to Keith Urban?
It doesn’t stand a chance.
It was so good to spend four days with my parents, celebrate my sister dog’s birthday, and cleanse my soul for a few days after a rough summer.
I won’t soon forget blasting the radio on US 24, singing Tim McGraw and Jake Owen at the tops of our lungs.
I won’t soon forget the smells from the backseat.
I won’t soon forget all the Little Debbie snacks that we ate on the way home while talking about life, love, and randomness.
Heading to Google to find me some cheap ass boots while eating a Goo Goo Cluster.
I LOVE THE SOUTH.