Guest update: The other half (James because Ana said you wouldn’t be sure who it was if I left it at that)

Unfortunately, the beautiful woman who normally regales you with weekly tales of adventure currently has her head buried in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Awakening’ so for this weeks update you get the other, sometimes better sometimes worse, half. I give you prior warning, it is unlikely that I will provide an overview to match those prior, but nevertheless I shall do my very best and make no apologies for any tangents experienced.

Found the Choo Choo

And so we begin this weeks episode on the road to Knoxville, TN. Proud to tick another state of the list we passed into Tennessee uneventfully. That is until we realised we were passing through Chattanooga and had the priceless, ignoring the cost of parking, opportunity to see the ‘Choo Choo’. Although I prefer privacy regarding our relationship, I will make you all aware that occasionally when Ana and I are holding hands we pretend to be a train which often ends in Ana yelling Choo Choo rather loudly in public places. So we moseyed off the highway and satiated our curiosity of the Choo Choo, needless to say it was worthwhile our time despite our under preparedness for the icy cold climate.

We ventured on towards Knoxville and arrived at the house of Ron and Lisa. FYI, preceding owners names with ‘the house of’ makes everyone’s home seem badass. We were welcomed at their beautiful house by a cacophony of ceaseless barks but, following the formal introductions led by Ron, the barking was replaced by belly rubs and ear scratches. If by this point you haven’t realised that Ron has dogs then I can assure you that is the case and the belly rubs and scratches were for them and not human to human. After settling in and enjoying being surrounded by loving animals, Lisa and Ron took us out to a local diner (Fountain City Diner) for a fantastic meal including some outstanding beef stew, a delicious burger and, of course, some wonderful cakes. Penny, who I can only assume was the owner of the diner, came to check on us and got wrapped up in conversation with Ana about a shared love interest, David Tennant, so I seized the opportunity to steal some of Ana’s cake. The rest of the evening was spent enjoying some excellent conversation solving the world’s problems. The next morning was a quick breakfast provided by our hosts before hitting the road again. We are incredibly grateful for meeting such amazing people and we cannot thank Ron and Lisa enough for their hospitality.

Before making tracks to Nashville we swung by the Museum of the Appalachians, thanks Lisa for the recommendation, and spent some time viewing the fascinating and diverse array of, as the name suggests, Appalachian log cabins and artefacts. The stand out for our visit here was our tour guide on what was supposed to be a self-guided tour. We first ran into the tour guide as we entered one of the museum buildings and were then led around the grounds by an exceptionally patient and thoughtful guide. Just when we thought our guide was nowhere to be found, it turned up out of nowhere and at the end, when we started to wander off, our guide dutifully showed us the way. Finally, when we went to leave in our car, the guide came over for one last farewell and we (99% Ana 1% James), were sad to depart. I am sure if it were up to Ana the guide would have a blog post of its own but as a picture paints a thousand words (although I don’t know how it paints without hands) here is our illustrious tour guide.

America’s Top Tour Guide – we named him Franky

I’m making friends…

We continued onto Nashville thankful for the shorter drive. Although a nap was on the cards once we arrived, we braced ourselves and ventured into the unknown. Wandering into the city I was eager to tick off the Museums and sights we wanted to see but Ana’s stomach, the second brain as they say, had other ideas and we went in search of food. This is as good a time as any to say that Nashville, IMHO, was so-so. I don’t enjoy the party atmosphere and particularly don’t enjoy being in large crowds so being surrounded by that may have negatively impacted my views but there it is. After we got lunch, we went to the Johnny Cash and the Country Music Hall of Fame Museums.

A fantastically well set up museum that was enlightening.

In their own way they were fantastic and undoubtedly gave me a greater appreciation of artists and music of that genre. After that we wandered around the city before heading back to our room. Fortunately we had a late and huge lunch that worked as dinner and before you know it we were one night closer to home. In fact, we had decided that we would do a short stop in Memphis before powering home on Sunday.

The rainy weather made our decision not to camp in Memphis overnight an even better one.

Sunday we woke up, drove to Memphis, saw Graceland (which was quite impressive with similar effects as the Nashville museums but rude staff that soured the experience), drove to Little Rock, got irritated that everything was closed due to a marathon, got further irritated that the one place that was open took forever to serve us, drove to Lawton, unpacked the car, and yet again fell asleep.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday were characterised by the super brainiac smart-cookie woman of my life burying her head in the books while I helped by refurbishing our belongings and refitting for our next adventure. Somewhere in there we did some training, caught up with the Shanasys who treated us to a wonderful dinner and enjoyed being among our own things.

Thursday began with a timely departure from our place of residence at 0400, followed shortly by a long discussion on International Woman’s Day and human rights (we do occasionally try to cover some hard hitting topics and solve the world’s problems). Driving through the west of Texas we were treated to some fascinating terrain that fell in stark contrast to the latter portion of the drive through Colorado… Although passing through some agricultural towns challenged my belief that my bowels hadn’t forsaken me as I was sure that even fresh fertiliser could not smell as strong as it did. Fortunately, we passed unscathed and were delighted to discover the plethora of Antelope in this part of the country before arriving at Colorado Springs and gazing upon the Rockies.

As we navigated to Lance and Tik’s house we amused ourselves by chuckling at the fantastic street names such as Hazy Morning Drive, Harvest Moon Terrace, and Peaceful Morning Street: who wouldn’t want to live there! We arrived around midday and then quickly rushed away to check out the Garden of the Gods which is a collection of amazing rock formations.  

Despite our earlier chills along the drive we were treated to some incredible weather for which we were not appropriately attired. However, we ventured forth and, despite the good camera dying a slow and agonising death from which it was later revived with open heart surgery (we swapped the batteries out), enjoyed ourselves so much we were treated to tasty frozen yoghurt. While we feasted on our recently acquired frozen epicurean delights we checked out the penny arcade at Manitou Springs and soaked in the mountain atmosphere. On our adventures we also acquired some super number one tasty fudge and Ana got what is essentially a wooden plank with a bear burnt onto it. Despite it sounding rather average it is incredibly cool. Also, the whole bear thing is starting to get out of control so I am pretty sure Ana is a she-bear.

Rar rar rar, nobody understands you She-Bear.

The rest of yesterday was spent feasting on an incredible dinner of gouda and mushroom stuffed chicken breast. If we hadn’t of already booked accomodation in Denver, Tik’s cooking alone would have been enough to convince us to stay. Post-dinner showers and conversation saw Ana off to bed at the ungodly hour of 1930 while I sat talking to Tik for a couple more hours (Lance was unfortunately predisposed working a night shift).

This morning we decided to do a more well known hike known simply as “The Incline.” Before we left Tik, yet again, made sure we were well fed and prepared by providing us some snacks, and as she would be at work by the time we returned, we said our farewells.

2000ft of gain in a mile, or 1.6km for those of us that use real measurements, was a mixture of emotions. From eager anticipation to despair and woe, I think we covered most of them, but the view from the top was, as it always is, worth it. I am sure that Ana will have more to say about the experience but I am incredibly grateful that she joins me on adventures. I have a habit of adventuring that often doesn’t consider how it will make her feel, physically or otherwise, and it is difficult to thank her enough for enduring. I am never left feeling unloved by her. Following our ascent to the skies we strictly adhered to Newtonian principles and returned back down along a track enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery. Along the way we ended up gathering more rubbish than I could carry and despaired at the thoughtlessness of so many people. Spending more time on trails I am realising how little some people care for the serenity of nature. Once back down, we returned to shower and pack up the car. With some final farewells to Lance, we saddled up with Ana in the drivers seat and headed to the Garden of the Gods Cafe for some lunch. After another delightful meal that left us nearing ‘wafer thin’ levels (if the reference is missed watch Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life) we hit the road and headed up to Denver.

At the top of ‘The Incline’

Taking a break half way up

A one night stop at Denver left us searching out nearby and relaxing things to do so we visited a miniatures museum that had an awesome game called Malacca, it involves moving stones along a board while trying to steal the other players. We played two games and are one a piece so naturally, we now have to buy the game to play the decider. Following this we visited the Tattered Cover Book Store. We both love being surrounded by books and it was hard not to leave weighed down with everything we wanted. But we prevailed and sought out our accomodation relatively uneventfully, disregarding the horrendous traffic.

Trying to figure out how to beat the super brain.

And after all these veritable odysseys we find ourselves relaxing in Denver about to head out to find some dinner after an adventurous day. If you have made it this far we survived together and I am glad it is Ana who does the weekly updates.

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