As I mentioned in one of my last posts, September is a big month in my world. This holds true for my best friend too.
Evany and I met on the first day of high school. As an awkward, shy 14 year old with no friends at my new school and no interest in sports, being forced to take a compulsory gym class sounded like the opposite of fun. After introductions from the teacher, she sectioned us off by birth month into teams for whatever intramural sport we were about to be forced to play. Already at 11:10 a.m., I felt defeated. This place was not for me.
That was until the girl with the brightest smile in the whole school walked right up to me and said, “September the 16th, right?”. Wondering how she ever knew my birthday was coming up, I responded with a confused, “ya?”.
We added each other on MySpace and the next week gushed about the new pair off uggs she got for her birthday, and the black pleather Guess purse I had received for mine (thanks 2006). Through high school drama, first loves, breakups, graduating school, and actually becoming functioning adults, Evany and I have been through just about as much as you can imagine navigating your teens and early twenties brings together.
For the past five or so years, we’ve made a tradition of getting each other tickets to country concerts: the Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, Eric Church… the list goes on. We’ve seen just about every act that’s come through London.
So, for the big quarter century birthday we decided what better way to celebrate than to do a road trip down to the home of country music: Tennessee.
This is all about our drive to 25.
This is going to be a bit of a long read. If you’re not into that, scroll down and check out the pictures. I couldn’t quite hold back on the words to do this trip justice. Those of you interested in reading my style guide for the week, be sure to click here.
We hit the road at 5 a.m. and headed for Gatlinburg. On the way we stopped at the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati since it was the only place we figured might make a good half-way stop that wasn’t too far off of the route. And, it was pretty neat! We headed back for the highway and drove for the remaining 6 hours, determined to get there before dark. We did, however, stop to eat KFC, because now, for the rest of our lives we can tell people we’ve actually had Kentucky Fried Chicken IN Kentucky. Totally worth it.
A piece of my heart broke when we got to Dollywood only to find it was closed. Having purchased our tickets in August, we had no idea the fall hours meant that the Queen of Country’s theme park was closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays… yes, seriously. Trying to keep a glass-half-full attitude, we decided to head to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for more time than we had planned. While we left the deserted amusement park feeling bitter, the bitterness completely washed away as we got closer and closer to the magnificent hills. Absolutely breathtaking – do not pass up the opportunity to visit if you ever have the chance!
Nashville here we come!! First up, we went right to the Johnny Cash Museum which was phenomenal (I’ll gush more about him in a bit). Next, we headed to the Grand Ole Opry to take the backstage tour which again, was even cooler than I could have ever imagined. Standing right where all the greats have preformed was something else, and the concert itself was even better! The not-so-fun part was discovering that our Airbnb was in a…. let’s say, not so nice area. Hurdling the second hiccup of our trip, we made the responsible decision to find an alternative place to stay, checked into the hotel, put on our bathrobes and popped some champaign. This is how you adult, right?
Birthday!!! The best part of this day was that we didn’t plan ANYTHING and it was wonderful. We called home, went shopping, ate ice cream, went for dinner, and moseyed down to Broadway where we danced to live music, met awesome locals, and rang in our 25th year together.
Off to Memphis! As excited as we were for the entire trip, both of us agreed that we thought our last stop would be the best. We were right.
While the Opry experience was amazing, going through the town that started it all was just incredible. I grew up on Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis’ music, so as I’m sure you can imagine, standing right there where they once were was completely overwhelming and so, so special.
We spent the rest of the evening on Beale Street eating great food and listening to the blues.
Our last day of being tourists! First up, of course, GRACELAND, the home of Elvis Presley.
Did you know that second to the Whitehouse, this place is the most visited historical site in the states with over 650,000 visitors each year? The more ya know!
This experience was one I’ll remember forever. It was very neat to be able to walk through the place where the King of Rock created such iconic music and a true legacy.
Our last stop of the trip was to the Civil Rights Museum. While the overall theme of this trip was upbeat, I’m so thankful we took the time to visit this incredible exhibit. It was emotional, but so powerful to learn and experience American history in the very place where Martin Luther King was assassinated. Again, I urge anyone reading this to take the time to visit there if they ever have the chance.
It was a long, long way home. 13.5 hours to be exact. We covered so much ground during this trip – we literally toured the entire state from east to west, and went through 6 other states to get there and back. By the time the last day rolled around, we were about ready to head back to our beloved Canada.
Let me tell you though, it was worth the drive.
Thanks for one hell of a trip, Ev.
I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.
I love you a latte.