My vacation for this summer had already been decided last year. A trip to a military base to watch my daughter celebrate her passage through boot camp became a necessity and everything else took second place. As an avid outdoor enthusiast and a writer this vacation would serve multiple purposes, I determined.
|DESTINATION: ALABAMA OR BUST!|
Excited to break into a new genre, I goggled ‘expert tips on travel writing’ and printed a few out before my long drive to Montgomery, Alabama. Visions of farms, mountains, and country folk doing a whole lot of front-porch swirled on my mind, so a suburbanite like me needed to capture that laid back feel, which would require unplugging from constant Wi-Fi. With a little initial pain the laptop got left behind in favor of yellow lined paper and some small notes on the back of maps. With extra paper, a small duffel bag for four days of clothes and dried fruit snacks with nuts, I headed for the dirt roads west and south of Baltimore.
|HOW COULD I NOT PLAN THIS PARK INTO THE TRIP?|
Purpose of Trip
This became more than a long drive to support my daughter. More like a quest to show myself that I still had my adventurous spirit buried somewhere under stress, my ability to find my way through a hole in a needle and quite honestly – I needed a long drive to clear my head. Driving had always been therapeutic for me and I needed therapy in the worst way!
|ENVIABLE RAFTING TRIP DOWN THE POTOMAC - |
OH, IF I HAD MORE TIME....
Never mind the southern heat. Already trekking a steady path through my own Hades on earth, what would it kill me to endure some heat in the good ole south for a few days? I took the long way on purpose. I’ve seen the common Route 95, which is a shorter distance but I willed to simply wing it on small roads along the way. My inner-compass always points to the scenic routes and surprises and real people.
|HARPER'S FERRY - ONE OF THE UNEXPECTED STOPS |
BUT WONDERFUL PLACE FOR A HISTORY BUFF!
By the time I reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the once weary spirit within felt as rejuvenated as the forested state. At a rest stop I started taking notes about the difficulty of grappling my steering wheel off route 70 and turn south on 81. I looked at my ‘travel writing notes’, shook my head, and went inside the visitor center for a state map, feeding the ‘expert travel writing notes’ into a trash can.
|SNOOPY - MY WRITING MUSE AND TRIP NATIVATOR|
HOLDING 'ANTIQUE' MAPS - MY PREFERENCE STILL!
From here on in, this journal would be from the heart. (No GPS used until Montgomery city limits.)
In four days I covered 2200 miles, a round trip through 8 states. (No energy drinks consumed besides coffee or coke either!) As I reached each state line I added a new map to my collection, some coupon books, water and a deep breath of new air. The closer I came to Alabama a more noticeable change in my attitude and peace I achieved.
|PEACE & TRANQUILITY - EVERYWHERE!|
(A ROADSIDE WATERFALL IN THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS)
Social Media Marketing
After reading about some small places to visit, some of them I imagined would be awesome were (at best) unimpressive. And vice versa - for places that didn’t call out to me at the starting line were surprisingly wonderful. Except the Great Smoky Mountains – that was the exemplary star along the way. I became wonderfully lost and added five hours of driving time that day, with no regrets.
|GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK BYPASS|
AROUND AND ABOVE GATLINBURG, TN - A MUST SEE!
(GOOD THING I DIDN'T BRING MY HIKING BOOTS -
I'D STILL BE THERE & LOST ON THE 800 MILES OF TRAILS!)
My phone memory quickly filled up with pictures and Facebook blurbs about Gatlinburg, Newfound Gap, Cherokee, Nantahala Mountain valley, Georgian corn and peach farms in the afternoon sun along the original Trail of Tears, and Alabama’s golden sunset at Cedar Bluff. I reached my destination way past bedtime - exhausted, enlightened, satisfied, and shared. (now you are seeing it here).
|A GREAT SHOT OF NEWFOUND GAP LOOKOUT OVER|
THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, TN & NC
Several Articles From One Trip
The next day landed top 5 in life experiences – the whole day! My goal was to arrive safe and cheer my daughter as she marched in the graduation parade for AF ROTC field training. In a sea of blue uniforms, our finest young brave cadets pledged to protect their land and people. Ding! I reached the one of my proudest moments as a mother, and then assigned a new mission of fulfilling my cadet’s request for Mom’s Famous Baked Macaroni & Cheese for her when she came home. Life was on again! I wrote about my daughter’s decision and sacrifice she made to join and submitted it upon return. And a more personal account posted on Soothingprose.com, my own blog.
|A GREAT PARENTAL PRIDE MOMENT - WATCHING MY DAUGHTER MARCH|
AMONG THIS SEA OF BLUE WITH OUR NATION'S FINEST YOUNG CADETS!
Acceptance of Diversity and Changes
It seems when we are running from something (even if just taking a break) the journey is usually a lot more enjoyable and satisfying. The first night driving back was the exception on this trip. After a long shower and a short rest, I reached Chattanooga, TN before sunset munching on boiled peanuts and drinking Mellow Yellow.
|WHEN IN THE SOUTH, EAT AS THE SOUTHERNERS EAT!|
BOILED PEANUTS - FOUND AT EVERY CORNER IN THE SOUTH!
Another thing I love about inner compass driving is finding those beaten-path hidden places that you swear were waiting for you! On a whim, and with the sun still another 60 min. before setting over Chattanooga City and the Dam, I took an exit to try and glimpse Ruby Falls in the hills nearby. The admissions office just closed when I reached it, but I kept going uphill anyway, discovering a quiet upscale residential paradise, a train depot for touring the mountain, scenic lookouts over TN/GA states, and a bed & breakfast with a convenient ‘vacancy’ sign meant just for me!
|MY OWN VICTORIAN COTTAGE WITH GOURMET BREAKFAST. |
THE LUCKY FIND OF THE TRIP!
(THE GARDEN PATH, LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, GA)
|I FELT LIKE A PRINCESS FOR THE NIGHT!|
Synchronicity at its finest! I expected a cheap hotel chain room that evening so finding this garden amongst whimsical Georgian Victorian proved a sleepy traveler’s paradise. So reasonably priced too, and I could not resist a restful sleep in a posh cottage of my own! Booked. Mine.
|A WRITER'S HEAVEN - MY OWN PATIO FOR COFFEE & WRITING|
& NEW WRITING RETREAT!
Too amazed to sleep at first, I spent a couple more hours on a second wind taking pictures and walking around and writing. It would also be an insult not to enjoy the china cup of peach herbal tea in my room. The hidden treasures and tiny charming details lasted through the morning and my breakfast on a veranda amidst bird baths and fountains.
|I COULD GET USED TO THIS - BREAKFAST AT THE INN|
ON THEIR PORCH RESTAURANT
Lessons Learned From The Trip
I hated to leave but did I feel like my life sat quietly waiting in New Jersey to suck me back in? No. Responsibilities were back there.
Life was here, finding it and living it on a whim on the road.
|RIGHT OFF THE ORIGINAL TRAIL OF TEARS,|
I ALMOST DID CRY IN RELIEF - MISSION SUCCESS
SWEET HOME ALABAMA!
The most satisfying revelation - I still had a long distance drive endurance, befriending quirky and loveable people is still fun, and the knowledge of using real (now antique) road maps, my original and still preferred GPS.
|CHATTANOOGA CITY IN THE SUNSET|
|CHEROKEE CITY, NC|
Angle of Story
So far three articles came out of this trip, with another in the makes. And they are all different. Oh, the articles I read and threw out were informative, listing these as important virtues for good travel writing: purpose of trip; angle of story; planning ahead; writing several articles off one trip; social media marketing; acceptance of diversity and changes; what I took from the places I visited; how did it affect me.
|DON'T I LOOK MORE RELAXED? SELFIE TIME!|
(GATLINBURG IN THE VALLEY)
I went. I saw. I shared. Got it. All good stuff. Sharing the trip in words and pictures to virtually put a reader there in the passenger seat and keep them excited enough to go there based on your experiences is the REAL mission in traveling writing.
Until next trip report, visit my other FB page, Get Your Hide Outside.
|YA'LL COME BACK NOW, YA HEAR?! ;)|