We begin our deep South road trip on March 28, the day after my birthday. It is a Thursday. We started out bright and early in the morning, at 7:15 AM. First stop: Biltmore Village McDonald’s for Rob‘s favorite, cinnamelts. Much to Rob’s great sadness the cinnamelts have been struck from the menu of all McDonald’s nationwide. In despair we set out once again to find rob some breakfast, this time at Dunkin’ Donuts.
After breakfast of donuts, we really hit the road, heading west on I-40. Our first point of interest along the way was to check out the site of the rockslide on the interstate that happened about five weeks ago. We heard they would still be working on it. It turns out they are. There were 5 guys rappelling from the rock face working on something. Not sure what. But it was a big section of rock and probably was a very nasty slide when it happened.
As we continued driving west through the mountains of Tennessee and on into the flatter sections, we enjoyed seeing an abundance of purple redbud trees and dogwoods in bloom along the route. Our first supercharge stop was at a strip mall just west of Knoxville. The parking lot was filled with dogwoods in full bloom. We decided it was the prettiest parking lot we have ever seen. Further along we started to notice little green leaves on some of the trees along the way. It’s feeling very springy!
Our first stop of note was the Russel Stover factory store. We wandered through the grass from the parking lot, along the side of the factory, to get a picture of me underneath the large name painted on the building, then hiked back, dodging random holes in the grassy ground, to buy some discounted chocolate. We bought a lot!
From here, we set off on back roads, avoiding the Interstate. This allowed us to get a better feel for central Tennessee. It is a rural landscape, full of grazing cattle and rolling hills. You can generally see quite a ways back from the road, there don’t seem to be many trees. We noticed the prevailing house/land type for those who are well to do is a house set far back from the road, often about 100 feet or so. At the road is a fence, often with fancy stone around the entrance. Many have an electronic gate. Then the massive front yard/field sends the eye soaring way to the back where the house stands in solitary glory with maybe a single tree or two nearby. Often the house is massive, made of brick or bright white, so as to stand out from the green landscape all around. I tried to get a shot of one for an example, but it was tricky to do while driving at highway speeds. Of course, these are just the wealthier folks. We drove past plenty of small, more modest houses, as well as plenty more mobile homes throughout the countryside. Even when we entered the bigger town of Franklin, this house/land layout continued. The houses in town were closer to the road, and closer to each other, but still often set back much farther than we are used to and still with some interesting entrance at the road with a long driveway.
Most of the towns we drove through were the sneeze-and-you-miss-it kind. We also noticed a larger than usual percentage of houses with metal roofs. Many in red, green, or blue. I like a metal roof. I enjoy the pop of color and I think it has a neat look. It was cool to see so many gathered throughout rural TN. One thing that I missed (because I was digging around in the snack bag in the back seat) was an Amish man driving his horse and buggy. Rob called it out, and I turned back just in time to barely glimpse him. I stayed on Amish alert for the next 40 minutes or so, but there were no more sightings.
We stopped in a cute little town called Bell Buckle. It’s really just one little street with a post office and railroad tracks on one side and a collection of about 7-10 shops on the other side. The shops varied from antiques, to cafes, to gift shops. I bought a green silicone spatula in the first shop we stopped in and a bracelet made from pieces of old china cut up and mounted on silver backings in the second shop. We arrived at the ice cream parlor advertising homemade fried apple or peach pies too late in the day to get a fried pie. Grandma makes them fresh everyday and you have to get there early to get one (it was about 3:00 in the afternoon when we wandered in).
Our next stop was the aforementioned Franklin. It’s a much bigger town with a proper square in the middle of Main Street with a roundabout around it and 4 Civil War cannons in the middle. It was nearly 5:00 when we rolled into town. I figured most of the shops would close at 5:00 so we didn’t try to do any shopping. There were plenty of shops to choose from, all very cute. Some were local boutiques or gift shops, there were also some chain stores like Anthropologie and Chico’s. Plenty of restaurants and bars were also interspersed. I saw a restaurant listed on Tessie’s map called the Frothy Monkey. I liked the sound of that. The website said it served Southern Comfort food in a hip space. True statement. It was an old, brick house just a block off of Main Street. I tried to order one of their drink non-alcoholic drink specials, but they were out of it. I did get a grilled cheese sandwich with avocado, cheddar, mozzarella, fried egg, and basil mayo. It came with tortilla chips and the freshest, yummiest salsa I’ve had in a long time. The sandwich was also really tasty. Definitely comfort food! Rob tried to order the pretzel, but they were out (story of the day, I guess) so he settled on a side of bacon. Turns out is was pretty amazing bacon, from a place in Kentucky. We might have to order some online when we get back home. Our tables were reclaimed wood, the decor was very shabby, with exposed brick and old-fashioned wooden chairs. The lighting was fairly industrial. I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner there.
After dinner we continued on to Dickson, TN, about halfway across the state. Here we were treated to a really nice sunset with lovely pink hues as we drove in to town. We’re staying the night in a Best Western. Tomorrow we hit the road again.