The last of the Road Trip to Tennessee
After Chicago, I officially had been gone about fourteen days. Reaching the end of Route 66 also felt like I achieved this great goal/dream I had been planning for about two and a half years. It all came together! And it felt incredible. And then it was onto another part of a dream I had: moving to Tennessee.
The Taylor Swift concert was sort of the culminating event of the eventful part of the trip. And for me, it was the best way to "end" it. Anything beyond that, and spending time with Amanda, was just fun and extra experiences and memories to add.
- West Virginia
- my final destination — the whole reason I went on this trip in the first place
Read below for all the photos, map, and trip details...
Ever since Amanda chose to attend Ohio University, I had said I would go out and visit her at some point. And although I didn't get the opportunity to do that in the four years she attended undergrad there, I'm glad that she chose to stay there and attend grad school because I was really excited to make a visit to her and Athens as one of the priorities of my trip on the way to Tennessee.
Athens is a lot more laid back than Los Angeles. It's a very small town. A very college town. With one main street. It's about an hour to an hour and a half from Columbus, the nearest major city.
In Athens, I relaxed a lot, and used it as a time to collect all the things I needed to — reviewing the trip, writing letters and postcards, sending packages that needed to be sent. I sort of wanted to clear all these things before moving on to West Virginia and then Tennessee. It was kind of great that Amanda had classes and her job so that I could go to the library or sleep in and spend the time I needed to. I actually was so excited to be there that I changed my trip plans and ended up spending an extra day with her. I also had another moment where we seriously considered me just staying there indefinitely and moving in to her spare room.
I also attended one of her classes. How weird is it that this girl I've known since middle school, who I've shared so many classes with, and shared so many memories with is now able to teach college classes herself? It made me realize how grown we were. And all the responsibilities we were capable of holding. I was/am so proud of her.
One thing we did in Athens — aside from relaxing, watching America's Next Top Model, and eating at yummy places in downtown — was go to a bead shop, Beads & Things! It's a house transformed into this little shop. And there's so many beads to choose from. Sometimes when I have that many choices, I just get really overwhelmed. So the first thirty minutes were used deciding what I even wanted to make. I didn't need anything in particular or another piece of jewelry. And I wanted to make something significant and purposeful.
I noticed some crystals hanging in the window with a couple of beads on the strand, and I got the idea: I would make a hanging crystal piece that used a collection of beads to symbolize the trip.
Another two hours later and it was complete (pictured at the top). It hangs in my bedroom window in Nashville casting rainbows in my room at different times of the day. Sometimes, when I'm in my room and that happens I just sit there and watch the rainbows dance around and change location as the light changes. It's my favorite souvenir of the trip.
Whenever I visited my family in Cincinnati, we would always go to Skyline Chili. I remember one time, when my brother was maybe 12 and I was 10, he took the bibs they provide and wrapped it to the other side of his neck like it was a cape and wore that the entire day saying he was a superhero or something. It's definitely a family favorite, and my Nana makes her own amazing version for us when we're in Los Angeles.
So I was really excited to share it with Amanda! I didn't even know they had a first timer's menu. We even got the kids menu for the coloring pages, and noticed that the restaurant hung up the drawings on the wall. Most of the kids had listed their name and age. So we dutifully put our names and ages — Maddie, 24; Amanda, 24 — and asked if they would go on the wall. The waiter said they would! For every coloring on children's menus I did growing up, for every time I had hoped my drawing would be beautiful enough, drawn in the lines enough, to go up on a restaurant wall, this was my moment.
Mandi and I ventured around German Village in Columbus one day. She had a favorite bookstore — The Book Loft — that we visited. When we entered, the guy at the register told us that there was a secret passageway somewhere in the store.
And just to be clear about a couple things — this isn't like a one-room store kind of store. It's a pre-Civil War era building with 32 rooms of bargain books. It's actually pretty incredible. The other thing to be clear about is Amanda loves mysteries and puzzles, and is also dedicated to completing them. Even if that means going into every single room of the 32 rooms and finding this secret passageway.
And she did.
She saw where one of the bookcases had hinges, and opened it up. It led to a dark staircase that presumably went to an attic of some sort. She started going up a little bit when one of the store managers saw what was happening and asked us what we were doing. I think in our minds, finding the "secret passageway" was like a customer challenge no one knew about. Apparently, it was just a way to get to a storage area. #worthit
After our big adventure, and purchasing some books, we took our quest to ice cream. And Amanda introduced me to Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream — what was to become my all-time favorite ice cream store.
The Country Living Fair was passing through the same time we were. It was located in Ohio Village which is a sight in itself — a living history museum — and included a lot of good food, fun crafts, antiques, cheese demonstrations, and Amanda's first time on a see-saw.
Charleston, West Virginia wasn't too far from Athens, OH. And that drive was maybe my favorite from the entire trip. The leaves of the trees were changing and all there was on either side of the highway was beautiful trees. I didn't expect that.
Charleston itself wasn't exactly what I expected. Everything in the downtown area was metered parking, and I didn't have any quarters. So I picked up some fast food and went to my hotel room, realized that I still had a couple more hours of sunlight, and pushed myself to look up some other things to do.
I found that there was a beautiful drive that led to a waterfall. So I went. I followed Google Maps across a bridge. It told me to turn left onto a one-way dirt road. The light was fading at this point, but I figured I had gotten this far, so why not.
As I was going down this one-way dirt road, I noticed that the maps had changed to become 14 more miles around some kind of loop. I was a mile and a half in at this point, and there was no turn around. I knew I couldn't keep going because I'd probably fall off the cliff in the dark. So I reversed around the curved road and out to my originally starting point. I still didn't find the waterfall. But it was worth the try.
The next day I felt more adventurous. It was the last day of the trip and the first day of autumn.
I took my time in the morning. Didn't eat or leave the hotel room until around noon. I was more prepared this time with some quarters, so I went back to the downtown area and got food from the Pies and Pints pizza place in downtown east end. It was actually really amazing. Especially their cheese pizza — which was basically dough and sauce. But the dough is fresh — all their dough is made from scratch.
Then I went over to the State Capitol building which is beautiful. I went across the street to the waterway and admired the changing leaves and the dead ones on the stairs. And then I went to the West Virginia State Museum in the The Culture Center which was a lot more intense and intricate than I thought. It took you through time. I didn't pay attention the the map and went the wrong way and then couldn't find my way out... Which I needed to because my parking meter (yes, PARKING METERS were all they had) was running out. I finally got out of it though.
And then I started my final drive to Tennessee.
PS. I did drive through Kentucky but I didn't stop anywhere except for gas, so I didn't include it.
I took the last drive by myself. It was about six hours from Charleston, WV with a detour to Elizabethtown — because that's Krystal's favorite movie.
I got to watch the sunset and it was beautiful. The sun was a big ball of blazing orange.
And then I passed the Tennessee state line. Pulled over at the welcome center. The sun had set but the light was still there.
I cried as I drove; put on my Nashville mix from two and a half years ago and cried as "Danza Kuduro" came on. Not the most likely sad song haha but I wasn't sad. I was happy. It felt like I was coming home after so long. And I couldn't even really see anything except the road ahead of me, but I felt it. I felt the end of the trip and the knowledge that I was in the right place.
I got to the Extended Stay America around 8pm. I first went to the wrong one because they're right across the street from each other. I had to park next to this van that had this creepy guy sitting in it. Luckily the one I actually was supposed to go to was across the street and the person who checked me in was the general manager and gave me her business card and cell phone number and also gave me a bunch of tips about finding a place here. She said to go to the grocery store or shopping center around 10pm to see who's shopping there and if you feel safe to go there that late. I thought that was really solid advice.
Then I got into my room (which had a kitchen!) and called my parents before settling down to watch the season premiere of NASHVILLE!! It was also kind of funny because part of the show took place in Hollywood.
Being able to piece this trip together again and share it in it's full extent has been such a wonderful experience in itself. The decision I made to go on this trip, the uncertainty of what was to come, all the planning, and moments beforehand wondering if it was the right decision are interesting to look back on when I'm sitting here, reviewing it, and so glad I made that decision.
Everything of where I'm at now — physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally — is better in part because of that decision. I have found that there's always a reason I can find not to do something. And if that reason is unreasonable fear, then oftentimes, that might be because that's actually a great decision — maybe challenging, but the best path.
I know that this has been the best path for me. Thank you for allowing me to share it!