It was an eight hour drive to Knoxville, a road trip hubby and I talked about for a month. We amassed our favorite snacks, rented audio books from the library, and packed our bags for the four day adventure. I smiled as I stepped over two remaining hearts from Valentine's Day on my way to the front passenger seat.
This was going to be a good trip, I could already tell.
We know the Chandlers from our Southern California days, and have missed them ever since. Erik drove to meet us the day we arrived in Medina two years ago. They are salt of the earth kind of people, and the trip was refreshing (everything we could hope for, really). I had a few friends and clients comment to me how lovely the drive is and all of the mountains we would see along the way.
The miles we covered were lined with a lush green landscape and a skyline that alternated colors of blues and grey. Occasionally we'd see a waterfall pouring out of shale, a rolling creek, or an overhang of trees. It helped that we were detoured off the main highway in Kentucky, due to construction. Even though the driving was slowed way down and our car almost overheated, the scenery was gorgeous. When we put down the windows, the air smelled warm and damp, like the smell of summer camp. Stephen King and Neil Gaiman told us stories from the stereo, as we inched along.
Eventually, with streets named "Bluegrass" and "Straw Flower Rd," we knew we were getting close. We found "Barley Circle," and the Chandlers welcomed us with open arms and a beautiful home.
Each night together, we enjoyed dinner out, grown-up conversation, dessert, and wine. During each day, we were blessed with the energy and sounds and interaction of children and family.. and naps (glorious!). We attended 6 year-old, Elijah's, baseball game on Saturday with Erik's parents, Joe & Betty. Joe is a retired preacher, and a real character. He and Betty are well-matched in spirit and personality. Between the charm and the drawl, I could listen to the two of them talk all day long.
Sunday's activities included a visit to Fellowship Church, where Erik is one of the pastors on staff. It was a sea of khaki pants and polo shirts, spring dresses and smiles. We enjoyed communing with our southern brothers and sisters, and seeing what a church of 3000 looks like in this part of the country. They have a good thing going, to be sure. P.S. Erik designed the website.
After lunch, we ventured to the Great Smoky Mountains, and Cades Cove. We drove through the national park/nature reserve and caught sight of wild horses, deer, turkeys, and a fox.
Two of the horses walked right towards us and passed us on the main road. This got a rise out of Kim, as she feared they might stick their heads in the car window and snatch her children. It seemed about as rational as my reaction to the gigantic winged bug that came through that same window and dive bombed me. I couldn't stop flailing about, exclaiming, "I can't handle it! I can't handle it!" Thankfully, the men in our vehicle held things together. No babies were kidnapped by rambling equine, and eventually the bug found its way outside.
Our destination was the Historic District where we toured a replica of a mountain community made up of old cabins, churches, and a water mill. While I was hoping to see Dolly Parton in Tennessee, I had to settle for a CD of hers being sold in the Cades Cove country store. Isn't she adorable?
At least two dozen pictures were taken between Erik and myself; and a satisfying drive was made complete with dinner at a barbecue restaurant, where I swear the waitress asked if we wanted a "baby 'possum" as an appetizer. What's that? Oh, she said, "Cactus Blossom." My mistake.
© photo credit: Erik Chandler
© photo credit: Erik Chandler
"I have so much stuff in here, I even have fake beards!" reported Eli, while showing me something in his room Saturday night. He is a witty kid, and he doesn't even know it. Eli is also scary smart and extremely articulate. He reminds me of my nephew, Lars.
My favorite Elijah-isms were when I overheard him talking to Siri on his parents' cell phones. He told me his favorite things to tell her are: "Show me all the spy stuff in the world." "What are adenoids?" "Show me lasers." And, "bring me a cupcake." He also lost his first tooth on Sunday while we were there. He was so funny about it, hesitant then all of a sudden brave. While recounting the drama throughout the rest of the afternoon, he told us how he twisted it, then the bleeding, and exactly how he felt in the moment: "Oh my gosh, I was freaking out!" So many laughable moments with that guy.
Saying goodbye was hard, especially with 2 year-old, Jude, repeating my name over and over again. He is a ginger-haired cutie without fear, a disdain for dirt between his toes, and a laugh that could melt the coldest heart.
I miss the Chandlers already.
The drive back to Ohio was easy and accompanied by a Eugene Peterson memoir on CD, and my Ani Phyo and Victoria Boutenko books about raw foods. InStyle magazine also kept me company, as did texting and cell phone games, and occasional breaks from the audio book to talk with my husband about ministry, relationships, diet, childhood memories, and keeping the Sabbath. I love road-tripping with my man.
Upon arrival, Amanda greeted us with colorful signs and hugs.
Take me home, country roads.