Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Planes, Trains,* and BBQ: Our Tennessee Adventure

Our trip to Tennessee was interesting. It was my first time in the South (other than a week I spent in Alabama for Space Camp in high school but that doesn't count because I spent almost all my time in a mock space shuttle- coolest experience of my life!). So the South is.....different.

Getting ready for airplane rides (and according to signage, "beer ahead!").

Waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. Also: sammiches!

It blew me away how polite everyone is. Like genuinely polite. In Seattle, we are passive aggressively polite. We say things we don't really mean just for the sake of appearing nice. In Tennessee, complete random strangers will pass you on the sidewalk and ask, "how is your day?" And they will actually wait for you to respond! The first time it happened, I can't lie, my knee-jerk reaction was "what do you want?" In Seattle, the only strangers who ask you about your day are panhandlers and over-aggressive college age Green Peace volunteers who lure you in with platitudes only to ask you to sign your life away (and make you feel guilty when you refuse... "can you spare one minute for the starving babies in Uganda?"). So that was nice.

Also, everyone call you either "sir" or "ma'am." The first time someone called me ma'am, I wanted to shout, "seriously, do I look like a ma'am?!" To me, a ma'am is a fifty plus year old woman with grey hair and failing memory. But in Tennessee, people of all ages will call you ma'am. Even people older than you will call you ma'am. After a while, I kind of got used to it. In fact, I kind of grew fond of it-- a verbal manifestation of the politeness all around.

For our trip, we flew into Memphis and immediately drove to Nashville (3+ hour drive with traffic) where we stayed for two nights. We then drove back to Memphis in time for my sister's wedding. I have to say that, compared to the Pacific Northwest, Tennessee was not much to look at. I had been really excited about spotting the Mississippi river (Mark Twain!) but I was kind of disappointed to discover that it was brown and mucky looking.

At the end of winter, there are no leaves on any of the trees in Tennessee. This is in stark contrast to the flourishing green of the pine needles everywhere you turn in Washington State. The ground was flat everywhere. Unlike Washington, there were no majestic mountains around every corner to take your breath away on a surprisingly clear day. Everything was brown: the trees, the river, the grass. I'm spoiled to live in Seattle, a metropolis of color ranging from pink sunsets behind purple mountains over deep blue water to crisp green forests surrounding white-peaked dormant volcanos to the rich blue and green of the salty Puget Sound. Yes. I am spoiled. Puget Sound has ruined most of the United States for me.

Although I was ready to take on new culinary adventures in Tennessee, I decided that I was not a huge fan of southern food. The bbq was good. But I really only need to eat pulled pork once a year. The fried chicken was good. But I just don't eat a lot of fried chicken. Huge fan of hushpuppies. Not so much a huge fan of collard greens or fried catfish or okra.

I remained adventurous and didn't let my lame palate spoil the trip but for the last night in Tennessee, I convinced my husband to take us to an Italian restaurant. I'm ashamed to say that that Italian meal was my favorite and most memorable meal in Tennessee. I sat there and savored every bite of the rosemary bread with olive oil dipping. I finally got my hands on a real actual salad, complete with tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese and savory balsamic dressing. OMG. I never thought I would have felt so close to heaven eating a plate full of leaves.....but I wanted to die right on my plate and pass into the afterlife. The crunchy pizza topped with rich sauce, cheese, and sausage was soul soaring. I had never in my life been so excited to eat something other than items of food coated in fat or bbq sauce. After enjoying my Italian food so much, I felt really guilty. Like I had cheated on the South. But, nonetheless, that meal will forever live in infamy.

In non-food related adventures, we visited the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. It was pretty cool. At least I assume it was pretty cool. While my husband was perusing (ever so slowly!) the exhibits, I was wrangling, shepherding, and chasing two children who preferred to run around the maze of a museum.

Enjoying music in the Johnny Cash Museum

Sent to baby jail for running through the exhibits

Ryan very much enjoyed this museum...can't you tell.

The second day in Nashville, we decided to reward the kids' almost-patience by taking them to an indoor trampoline park. 50,000 square feet of indoor trampolines. They were in heaven. Jacob spent most of the time jumping or swinging into a giant foam pit. Ryan was content to keep it simple by jumping straight up and down on the trampolines (and landing on his butt). That place was so much fun. If I hadn't been experiencing intense all-day sickness, I would have jumped my heart out too.

Back in Memphis we visited the Civil Rights Museum. Well, we TRIED to visit. Most of it was closed for renovations. At least we got to see where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and marvel at the outside of the motel where he had been staying that very night. I'll say this about the South, it's very cool to walk the ground where so much history has occurred. Parts of the Civil War were fought on the land we walked! Can't say THAT for Washington State.

MLK was shot at the balcony of the Lorraine Motel (precise location marked by a wreath)

One day we spent exploring downtown Memphis and walked down Beale Street (home of the blues, I think?). We passed several old school shops with soda fountains and dime candy. We stopped to use their bathroom and get warm and the kids were lured in by hot chocolate. So I let my husband continue down the street while we parked our buns at the soda fountain eating Lemonheads.

Obligatory pose with the Elvis.

Ryan enjoys floors.
It's awesome being a kid when your dad carries you everywhere.
Also visited in Tennessee: amazing Children's Museum of Memphis (a MUST SEE for anyone with kids), Graceland (Elvis' home and also a MUST SEE), and the Grand Ol' Opry (over-rated and way too expensive - we chose not to go in).

Outside the Grand Ol' Opry.

My sister got married on the Saturday of our trip. The wedding was small and intimate and beautiful. Wow. Southern boys can dance. All us rhythm-lacking, foot-stepping white folk watched from the side of the dance floor as we were schooled and put to shame. This did not stop me from shaking my booty in ridiculous fashion to Robin Thicke. My sister was so very happy and I was so very happy for her. After spending 12 hours getting pretty and setting up and posing for photos and being a bridesmaid and making a speech and chasing children around a nature preserve, I was glad to walk into the hotel room and collapse on a bed at the end of the day.

As I mentioned before the kids were absolutely amazing during our travel including four airplane trips, a delayed flight on the last leg of our journey home, and two 3+ hour road trips. I was so very proud. Especially because their good behavior required very little bribery.

The kids' favorite part of the entire trip occurred during our 2 hour wait for our delayed flight home. They spent the entire two hours riding moving sidewalks up and down the airport. And by riding, I mean laying on their tummies (surfing), sitting on their butts (driving cars), and trying to walk backwards (Jacob). I only allowed this behavior because there were no people around us and because it was keeping them incredibly quiet and occupied. Not to mention it was pretty funny (don't worry, I was carefully supervising).

Ryan discovered that he is very fond of airplanes. He could not stop talking about riding in an airplane for days afterwards.

As adventurous as our trip was... there really is no place like home. Seriously. My house was such a mess when we got back. Laundry everywhere. Luggage littering the hallways. Toys sprawled everywhere. I had never seen a place like it (except maybe on an episode of Hoarders).

*My post title did not lie. We did in fact see trains. I convinced my husband to follow signs for a Railroad Museum which turned out to be one tiny room full of model trains and no actual, real trains, must to the kids (and my!) disappointment.


  1. Tennessee is glorious green in the spring and summer, and riotous fall colors in fall. You were catching it at a bad time!

    Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  2. I wondered if that was the case. I'll have to go back!

  3. It sounds like a fun trip! I love the pics of Ryan on the floors. Looks familiar to me too! :)

    Also - I'm totally jealous that you got to go to Space Camp!