For the next several days, I am going to bore you to tears with vignettes and photos from our eight-day epic family road trip down south. This is not the whole story, but snapshots that I hope will evoke my senses and transport me right back to the real-time moments. It is one of the reasons writing has become a lifeline for me --- when I blend reality with writing, a powerful thing happens. Memories get brought to life and I get to relive them all over again. And oftentimes, I'm able to see how beautiful those moments really were when I write about them.
So here's my try at making magic. Writing these precious memories down in hopes that soon I find myself burying my toes in the sugary sand of the Atlantic, strolling underneath a canopy of Spanish-moss trees in a Savannah square, or sinking my teeth into a juicy Georgia peach.
Thanks for coming along for the ride, Papa and Grandma. We loved having you there and I know Cruz grew pretty accustomed to having you just a door away. I wonder how long he'll wake up and ask, "Where's Papa? Where's Gandma?" Mom, I'm honored I got to see you experience the ocean and the mountains for the first time. You showed me the importance of always experiencing things as if you've never experienced them before. Because the sight of a mighty mountain chain should always make us cry; the sight of the infinite ocean should always take our breath away.
So without further adieu, Day 1...
...started around midnight. A rented Town and Country mini-van, one fully equipped with every child-friendly amenity a family about to travel 21 hours would need, packed to the brim with all the essentials for our week trip. You know, things like a tackle box of snacks for Cruz, a bucket for seashells, and a wide-rimmed beach hat unpacked so it wouldn't get squashed in the luggage. I asked Beau if there is a such thing as a professional packer because I'd most definitely get the job. I'm that good.
...after repacking for Mom and showing off the sleek wheels Beau and I were pretty excited about (we may just become mini-van people after all), we got a sleepy Cruz out of bed and transported him to our cozy set of wheels. He woke up for a minute, but went back to sleep easy and slept until the sun came up.
...we had pop tarts and bananas for breakfast and didn't stop until poor Cruz woke up and had to potty...bad! We pulled off on the first exit we could, but boy did he have to go. He cried and cried in fear that he wouldn't make it, but he did and after that, he was back to his happy self. Strutted through the gas station parking lot in his pjs and tried on his very own set of headphones, ready to watch his first movie in the car.
...we picnicked for lunch at a rest stop in Kentucky. Sandwiches with pickles, blueberries, and chips. Cruz pouted a little, which is really quite an adorable sight to watch. He retreats just far enough away to still be within ear shot, sticks his bottom lip out, and waits for somebody to console him. This time it was Beau, and before too long, they came back to the table, hand in hand with a smiling boy.
...the guys talked us into a detour through the Wild Turkey Distillery in Kentucky. Cruz loved the bus ride, Beau and Dad loved the American Honey samples, and I loved the photogenic whiskey barrels. We played a lot of restaurant with the free water on the wooden porch and Cruz requested we watch 'Despicable Me' on the big screen TV that provided an overview of the distilling process.
Cruz learned to say "Yee Haw" on this trip. I think it's quite fitting ;).
...we stopped at a little hillbilly shack in Tennessee for some Minnetonka moccasins for the baby. Nearly 14 hours in and we were all still smiling!
...we pulled into Pigeon Forge, TN about dinnertime. Our destination for the first leg of the trip was Mama Bear Cabin, a three-bedroom cabin deep in the woods of the Smoky Mountains. We were expecting a mountain town - one road, remote cabins, and if we're lucky, a grocery store, and were shocked by our first impressions of Pigeon Forge. Beau described it as a mix between Branson, Vegas, and Disney World - a giant Titanic boat, an upside down maze house, countless carnivals and mini-golf arenas, and one giant King Kong towering over the small city. We drove through and listened to Cruz plead, "Me want to do that! Pwease, pwease, pwease!" and promised Beau he would still get the remote, wilderness experience he was planning on! What a weird, amazing little town!
...our first impressions of Mama Bear, however, was exactly what we were hoping for! After an adventurous jaunt up a steep mountain, we pulled into our own little neck of the woods and saw the most charming cabin awaiting us at the end of the driveway. Everything from the front porch lights on welcoming our arrival, to the patchwork quilts on the bed, and the wrap around porch creating a bridge to a world of trees, wildlife, and black bears, we quickly forgot about the drive and embraced our cozy home for the next couple of days. We had entered a new world, a peaceful, faraway one, and I secretly promised Mama Bear I'd visit her once again.
...ate at Old Mill Pottery restaurant, had our first sweet teas of the trip, swooned over fried green tomatoes and hot spiced cinnamon apples, and of course, Cruz ordered his usual of chicken nuggets and chocolate milk, to which Beau and I promised we'd order for him from now on for fear he might turn into a chicken nugget.
...Cruz went from being an angel in the car to being an angel in the cabin. He fully embraced cabin life --- playing on the porch with the Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Sheriff cars Grandma brought him, curling up on the unfamiliar couch to read books before bed, and falling asleep peacefully in his very own bed in our loft upstairs. He looked so cute cuddled up in that patchwork quilt, happy to stretch his legs and have his people so close.
I fell asleep happy and content, listening to the sounds of cicadas and dreaming of living in a cabin forever. I could get used to living in the boonies.