Have you figured out by now there is no method to the madness?
Looking back over the past few years I have so many places to still post about sometimes I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start… or to stop. I guess the best thing to do it just keep going. So here we go, another post from 2017, the road trip I took with my Mum from New Jersey to Texas crossing 8 states and driving over 1,700 miles!
Last summer my grandma passed away suddenly. My mom was en route to visit her family in New Jersey for the summer when I got the call that this had happened and had to share the incredibly sad news with her over the phone. Within a couple weeks all of my family gathered to pay tribute to my grandma, Irish Catholic style, and I had to miss the funeral due to our prescheduled trip to Seattle. Since Mom drove to New Jersey by herself, I felt strongly that I needed to go be with her and not let her drive the long journey home alone.
So, I bought a one way ticket to Newark and spent the first few days with her and my Grandpa listening to old Navy war stories and putting up photos of my grandma and then wrapped it up with a big family barbecue at my Aunt’s house. The last night Mom and I went to the Tom’s River boardwalk on the New Jersey shore, ate a giant slice of pizza, watched the sunset and managed to make it out of there with only 2 huge bags of taffy and one Jersey Shore t-shirt… which is still the most comfortable of all my t-shirts!! Saying goodbye to my grandpa was hard but once we were on the road we had no choice but to keep moving.
Distance: Started in Toms River, NJ and ended in Austin, TX. Link to Route here
4 days 3 nights, 8 states and over 1,700 miles
What we did: Gettysburg, PA, Blue Ridge Highway, Ashville Antique Tobacco Barn, Great Smokey Mountain National Park, Hike to Clingmans Dome, Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville, Hot Springs Arkansas and Mountain Tower
Where we stayed: 1 night in Roanoake, VA, 1 night in Nashville, TN, and one night in Hot Springs, AR
Historic Round Barn & Gettysburg
Leaving Tom’s River we first made our way over to Gettysburg, PA. On the way we found a cute little antique barn, Historic Round Barn & Farm Market which was filled with local crafts and antique dealings.
Then we over to tour around the battlefield and visitors center. The museum is very well done and the staff was all helpful. The nice thing about Gettysburg National Military Park is that you can actually do a self driving tour at your own pace, or buy the cd to play in your car and learn about each marker. We only had about 3 hours so we self drove the main loop. The park is beautiful and haunting. Beautifuly well kept fields sprawling just over 9 sq miles, and where the bloodiest battle of the Civil War was faught, just over 55,000 people died, you can really feel the power of this place by setting food on the ground.
“I didn’t realize the battlefield was so sprawling and that it took up so much of the area, even though it was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Also, I was struck by all of the “Unknown” grave sites. I felt a bit sad, that the soldiers families never knew the outcome of these guys and that they always would wonder what exactly happened to them. By making them unknown or nameless, they couldn’t leave their mark for future generations. That didn’t make their contributions any less, but it made me realize there are countless unknowns in war.
It reminded me of that summer in 1988, when my parents came to Germany/ Switzerland/Italy to visit us. We drove on the outskirts of Florence, Italy and found a pristine, immaculately kept WWII cemetery. We (your Dad and I, you 2 girls, and my parents) got out of the car and wandered through it. We were all kinda looking at different headstones, when my dad just stood at one with a funny expression on his face. He said, “Well would you look at that?” I came over to him and asked him what. He said that was a headstone of a neighbor boy when he was growing up. The kid had joined the Army around the time my dad joined the Navy, but they had never know what had happened to the kid. By the time my Dad was out of the Navy, the kids mom had moved away and he never knew what happened to his boyhood friend. But there he was, in the cemetery in Florence. In a way it was a sort of closure for my dad to get an answer, even if it was over 45 years later.”
Blue Ridge Parkway / Ashville – NC
After Gettysburg we got on the road and hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway just in time for sunset, even spotting a black bear on the road! For years I’ve always wanted to visit The Blue Ride Mountains and I’m so happy I was able to see them for the first time with my mum. I only wish we had more time to enjoy, so I’ll have to bring my family back here one day.
We spend the first night just outside of Roanoke, VA (at about 16 weeks pregnant this was the first night I felt the baby move!) and then woke up early to grab some grub and then back on the Blue Ridge Highway down to Asheville. We had a long day ahead of us but really wanted to enjoy each location. We first grabbed some lunch at Farm Burger in downtown and then headed over to the Antique Tobacco Barn in Asheville.
We had too much fun in the Tobacco Barn. My mom always took us thrifting when we were kids, we could find something fun anywhere we went, dressing up, laughing and enjoying life. The barn did not dissapoint. But, everywhere we turned there were these random mannequin hands, why!?!
“It’s odd, but whenever I see old or even new rusted stuff, I want to grab a can of spray paint and paint it so it won’t be rusted. I don’t see the charm in letting something rust away, where it is not useful anymore. I guess it stems from conversations with my dad when I was a girl. We had an old wrought iron metal patio set (table and 4 chairs) when I was a girl that my dad would take a stiff wire brush to every spring. It would take all the dirt and debris and paint flecks off, and he would spray paint it again. He would say it kept it looking nice.It changed color over the years, from white to grey, even mint green at one time. They had it before I was born way up to when I left home to join the army. Amazing what a can of paint can do.” – Mom
Great Smokey Moutains National Park
Midday after the barn we headed to Great Smokey Mountain National Park. We rushed to the park trying to beat the sunset and really wish we had a lot more time to spend here together. I don’t remember exactly when I asked Mom about the wildlife she wanted to see but Elk was on the list and as we came up on the headquarters, all these cars were pulled over, and we turned to realize there was a field full of Elk! Mommas and papas and babies chilling in the grass and not even phased by humans.
We picked one place for a quick hike, Cingmans Dome. At an elevation of just over 6,600 feet it is the highest point in the Smokey Mountains and the highest point in the state of Tennessee. A half-mile paved, short, steep trail leads to the 45-foot observation overlook. The hike got steep really quick but Mom did great, and we had a BLAST hiking up to the top, I say sarcastically. The view however, was spectacular and made it toally worth it. Mom, you know I love you.
“I have heard songs and read books about the Blue Ridge Mountains, but never realized how beautiful they were, and that there were so many layers…. When we got to the tower top, we could see some of the trees that were dead, either from a tree blight, old age or from pollution.
I thought of the stories I read as a kid, about early animal trappers and hunters and how they made their way through the woods and forests. While I thought of them, I was glad I was not living that hard life. I was thankful to not be on a horse or on foot, carrying a huge pack of all my belongings, but to be in a comfortable car with air conditioning. I was enjoying smelling the clean air, and the fantastic scenery without the hardship. To those who came generations before me, it probably wasn’t a hardship, but a pleasure or at least their way of life.
Of course on the other hand, had I been living that other life, I would have been in fine shape, and had no problem at all climbing up that little mountain and would not have been so out of breath. So it is a trade off.” – Mom
The drive through the park was really beautiful and I’m so glad I could share it with my mom.
Cheekwood, Nashville – TN
We scrambled to make it to our hotel outside of Nashville. It was late and we were tired and ready for bed. Packing in 3 big things and the drive to Nashville was lot more than we thought and got in late. The next morning we woke up fresh and made our way out to enjoy Cheekwood Botanical Garden. Little did we know, it was sweltering out! It was soo hot out and I was having a really hard time with breathing. Being pregnant I overheated pretty easy. I didn’t realize it at the time but when I overheated my ears would clog and it became very uncomfortable. Being outside was pretty rough and though it was beautiful, it wasn’t a typical botanical garden like I was used to or expecting. The exhibit I had wanted to see (Chihuly) was already closed. We walked around and then thankfully sumbled upon this awesome Downtown Abbey exhibit inside the old estate house! Air conditioned salvation. It took a while to cool off and Mom was so sweet the whole time while we enjoyed the house and beautiful costumes.
“Hot and Sultry: No wonder you had trouble breathing. It was not as spectacular as I would have thought for a botanical garden, though maybe they have it more glorious during different times of the year. It was nice to have the building with the Downton Abbey exhibit, that gave us some respite from the sticky heat, and the clothing exhibits were interesting to look at.” – Mom
Hot Springs – AR
After lunch at Cheekwood we packed up for the 2nd to last stretch over to Hot Springs, Arkansas. I had been here once before and paid to take part in the full bath house experience and wanted to make it to Bath House Row before sunset to show mom the old hotels and we made it just in time to check in and take a walk. For dinner we found a delicious little underground German restaurant that was perfect for our last night out. Mom told me stories about living in Germany and we talked about the future.
The next morning we got up early and went to the Hot Springs park headquarters inside the historic Fordyce bath house. You can tour the house for free and as a museum it is presented as it would have been back in the day when people visited the bath houses for fitness, massage, spa treatments and vacation.
Before we left downtown I wanted to grab a coffee… While walking on the main strip this car came out of nowhere charging from an elevated parking garage down to the street, wheel screeching drenched in anger nearly running us over. I gave her a stare down as we jumped out of the street. This girl, stopped in her car and started yelling, “Dont F**king look at me!” over and over, and “I wasnt going to run you over, what the f**k are you looking at?!” and so of course I started to reason with this maniac saying “well maybe you should slow down” but it was worthless, she was so upset and just driving like a crazy person. Mom and I started creating stories about what could have happened to her, bad break up, got fired, strained relationship, or all of the above.
“As for the crazy driver that almost ran us over when we were out walking, after the initial shock of her “What the F are you looking at” I thought that we should have talked to her, offered her a cup of coffee or a cool drink. She was obviously feeling awful and definitely should not have been driving with all that rage in her. But she went on her way quickly, which means we will never know if we could have calmed her down.” – Mom
Behind Hotel Row are the walking paths/ old promenade where you can find the actual Hot Spring. Off the scenic drive is the Hot Springs Moutain Tower. Don’t fret, you wont have to climt the entire 216 feet up, you can pay and take an elevator to the top for a breathtaking view of the Ouachita Mountains.
The Wind was fun:
In the end we made the final stretch to Texas stopping only for potty breaks and a fro-yo in Athens, TX. Tre met up with us outside Temple and we said our see ya laters. (Thankfully mom only lives an hour from me all the time so we get to see each other all the time).
Anytime you travel with a new person there will be challenges. I’ve traveled with my mum several times of course when I was young but now as an adult, going on this trip with my mom was a lot more meaningful. Sure I think there were moments where maybe I shouldn’t have snapped or maybe we shouldn’t have tried to pack so much in to each day, leaving us arrive to our hotels really late at night, but we had a blast trying to see as much as we could and learned a lot about each other along the way. Being pregnant on the trip also made it extra special knowing this was an Epic ladies trip to take with my mom before having a family of my own. She inpsires me to have fun and not take things too seriously, to live life and be kind. To talk to people and have real experiences. Truly one for the books. I LOVE YOU MOM!
Who else has traveled with their folks? Would love to hear about your experience.
Keep on keeping on, y’all!
Meanwhile... Tre was in Great Sand Dunes National Park
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