On the road, from FL to KY (or summer travels: Part One)

What follows is a lightly edited and mostly stream-of-consciousness travel log of my journey from Florida to California and back again.

20160516 – Monday

Yesterday my partner and I drove from JAX to ATL, about a six hour journey, through some side roads and away from the highly populated areas. This was awesome in that we got lovely rolling hills, small amounts of traffic, and a relaxing driving experience but this also meant we were without cell service! Something we’d need to get used to on this journey 🙂

We stopped at Indian Springs State Park, in GA, on our way to the jimjilbang, or Korean Spa Jeju Sauna outside of ATL. The spring was lovely and a quick pitstop to grab drinking water for the next day or so.

If you’ve never been to a Korean Spa, you should. It’s a surreal experience filled with same-sex nudity, puncuated with korean food served tavern-style, and everyone is wearing the same oddly cut pastel uniforms. Conan O’Brien did a lovely piece on the cultural experience, and it’s honestly the cheapest way to ‘visit’ Korea without purchasing a plane ticket.

Foot reflexology/massage late at night before passing out in a jade sauna for the transition from Monday to Tuesday.

20160517 – Tuesday

Tuesday morning, we found a nearby gym/training facility that catered to everything from strong man, to weightlifting, to powerlifters, to CrossFit, in Quest Nutrition and Athletics. I completed some anaerobic work while my partner squatted and pulled herself up. After a round of showers in our respective locker rooms, we were back on the road: north to TN.

In Tennessee, we were aiming for Cherokee National Forest, more specifically the Indian Boundary Campground. These camping sites were on a lovely tract of land that straddles the border between TN and NC.

The drive there wound us through the rolling hills and into the heart of Appalachia. My partner navigated the twisting roads and lateral g-forces like a pro, and we found an unoccupied site near the adorable camp store and host, Doug M.

Doug’s a lovely fellow, a southern drawl wrapped up in a mid-sixties retired carpenter. He had a comforting mustache and a slow rhythm about him. As the host of our group of camp sites, he oriented us to the area with a stapled map and rulebook, while we unpacked the car and set up camp.

After a long day of driving and an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet before leaving ATL, we were pooped and crashed that evening before dark.

20160518 – Wednesday

Waking up in the morning around 7a, my partner went on a walk while I started the morning coffee grinding the beans and heating the water for my french press.

Looking up the trail, I saw that Doug had his stove going with a chimney puffing away. I walked over and asked him if I could set my kettle on his stove and he said sure. As I walked back to camp to grab the coffee grinder and kettle, he pulled out a lawn chair in front of the fire, next to his.

While grinding the beans and waiting for the water to heat, we sat and got to know each other a bit his history and how he was born and raised about 8 miles from the campground, as the crow flies, but about 45 by car. As a host for the campgrounds, he is on duty for a few more weeks, then returns in September to finish out the campground season until November.

My partner joined us a few minutes before the kettle started to bubble, then we headed back to camp to brew the concoction of coffee and butter and coconut oil. After enjoying a cup each, she set about taking down the tent and repacking the loyal automobile which is ferrying us across the country. I ventured along the dirt paths to the nearby Indian Boundary Lake.

I completed a quick 5RFT of sprints, lunges, and push-ups along the trail, then jumped into lake to rinse off the sweat and wake up for good. On my ramble back to the car, I helped a stuck turtle and got the squirrely idea of asking Doug to participate in an interview.

My partner had suggested the idea earlier, and probably knew that I had considered it already after we sat down and chatted with him over the heating kettle water. I knew he’d be good on the microphone, and a wonderful addition to the podcast he’d be the first parent, grandparent, and person older than 30. I wandered over to his host site at the intersection of the only throughways of the campsite, and he quietly agreed to the interview.

We had a few tractor trailer interludes, windy bits that almost blew out the sensitive mic, a visiting audience member, and a mail drop-off at the very end. Overall, a great conversation that wove into the religious and occasionally dove into the emotional. It flowed well, despite the wackiness around the recording and the fact that he’s twice to three times as old as previous guests.

I was nervous going in, but approaching the interview in an off-the-cuff manner, without planning too much, allowed me to stay present and enjoy his accent and folksy wisdom. I think listeners will enjoy this different perspective, compared to previous guests. He’s a different type of person and that shows in the most lovely of ways long form conversation.

After wrapping up the interview and the last bits of camp, we headed northwest to Dylan, TN, a small town with a lovely atmosphere. Originally, we were planning on driving straight through, but I was getting a bit antsy and looking for an adventure.

As I was driving, I saw two signs that formed my decision to stop in this little mountain town: one billboard that claimed this town was ranked one of the best small towns in the entire state of Tennessee, and another sign for a business called Monkey Town Brewing Co.

The logo for the small business was a roughly printed monkey hanging with a beer underneath it: a cute and simple bit of branding. With the knowledge that this is an up-and-coming little town in the area, and that this brewery is in said little town and has the attention to detail to have a lovely and clean logo, solidified the decision to stop there for a refreshing lunch and tasty beverage road break.

These loose associations and weak casuational chains in travel logic are my favorite aspect of being on the road: you don’t really need fully formed ideas to experience something new. Have a half decent reason for stopping at a hole-in-the-wall? Do so! You are not on anyone else’s clock, so you can move entirely at your own pace.

So, we stopped at Monkey Town Brewing Co. and were delighted by their pine needle IPA, build your own mac and cheese, and casual atmosphere we set up shop outdoors under the sun and on top of some picnic tables. I worked on drafting parts of this post. My partner completed some administrative work for a student group with the medical school.

We stretched a bit before hitting the road once again, this time aiming for Land Between The Lakes on the border of KY and TN. This little bit of national park sits between two bodies of water as the name implies, Lake Barkley to the east, Kentucky Lake to the west, with KY up north and TN down south. We arrived to the campground a bit after 9p, well into the setting sun and the slightly different timezone.

The park rangers were friendly and delightfully willing to help out and accomodate our late arrival. We picked a camp site and quickly crashed in our tent getting pretty speedy and efficent at popping up a bit of shelter out of the automobile.

Long Form Sundays

On Death Podcast

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