Thursday, January 14, 2010

Travel Notes: Thanksgiving in Nashville

Once we had the Safari Trek, we started thinking about where to take it for a trial run. It was now November and we didn’t have any plans for Thanksgiving and neither did Judi and Gary. So we decided to take our RVs (Judi and Gary also have a coach) and go to a campground that does a Thanksgiving banquet (not your traditional way to spend Thanksgiving - I would truly miss cooking a turkey but we were so looking forward to going somewhere and testing out the new toy).

Gary found a state park in Georgia that did a Turkey Day banquet, but by the time we called to make our reservations, they were booked up. I looked a little further and found a KOA in Nashville that was planning Thanksgiving Dinner for their guests. This would actually be better as Judi and Gary’s younger daughter, Teela was attending Watkins College in Nashville and would likely be able to join us for dinner.

So we made our reservations, loaded up the RVs with Consuelo, me, Sydney and Barley in the Trek , Judi and Gary and their two dogs , Vanna and Izzy, in their Monaco. We left Lenoir City on Wednesday afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving. Consuelo was quite nervous since this was her first time driving without her mentor Gary in the passenger seat. We made it safely to Nashville and I wasn’t at all nervous about Consuelo’s driving and I thankfully didn’t feel any motion sickness – something I suffer from in a regular passenger vehicle.

The dogs loved riding in the Trek much better than riding in a car – all that windshield! Unfortunately, they have no concept of “your head is blocking the mirror” (Barley’s got a big ol’ head). Sydney got quite spoiled on this trip, we put a blanket on the couch and she rode in luxury with her chin propped up on the arm rest. But we’ve decided not to allow this on future trips – it would be too confusing for her to ride on the couch and then not be allowed on the couch when we stop at night.

So we made it into Nashville without hitch, although we ran into some traffic and spent about a half hour creeping along at 5 mph. Consuelo turned on the CB radio and we got our first introduction to the truckers’ world – pretty colorful stuff! From the truckers, we learned there had been a bad accident, reminding us how quickly things can go wrong on the interstate and again making us thankful for the life we have - we realized that for one family there would be less to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day.

We finally made it into the Nashville KOA where Judi and Gary were anxiously awaiting our arrival… thank goodness for the cell phones, as Judi and Gary called us frequently to ask “what mile marker are you at?” so they weren’t too terribly worried.

The KOA campground was very nice with large pull-through sites (meaning Consuelo wouldn’t have to back the Trek into our site – backing is one of her fears). When we checked in, a guy in bright yellow pick-up truck led us right to our site (no meandering around trying to find our site). Judi had made the reservations for two sites next to each other with a nice patio area.

The campground also had a dog park where we took the dogs a couple time each day, and we learned that Vanna and Barley really like each other. Sydney was extremely jealous! The dogs had a great time playing in the park and of course we took them for walks around the campground. One thing about camping with dogs is dog poop - you need to always have a plastic bag in your pocket and be ready and willing to clean up after your dog - dogs have notoriously bad judgment on where to place these gifts. Consuelo has a squeamish stomach about such things, so this was usually my job. No big deal, I used to scoop dog poop for a living when I worked at a kennel.

The Thanksgiving dinner served by the campground staff was wonderful. They provided turkey, ham. dressing, mashed potatoes and green beans and asked all the guests to bring a side dish or dessert. I brought a crock pot with baked onions (which seems to be a New England thing, no one here in East Tennessee has ever heard of them) and Judi brought a sweet potato casserole. Teela was able to join us and so did Judi and Gary’s older daughter, Amber, who drove in from Knoxville. So we had six at our table and it felt like family to all of us.

Since Judi and Gary used to live and work in Nashville, they wanted to show us around to see some of the sights. We went to see the Christmas lights at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel - absolutely stunning! They had a nativity scene out front with life-size figures, all completely in white and lit up beautifully. Inside the hotel, they have huge indoor atriums with rivers and a wide variety of plants. It was most enjoyable walking through these areas.

We also went to President Andrew Jackson’s homestead, The Hermitage. It’s so wonderful to get in touch with the past of this great country and, as Consuelo pointed out, in many countries, even if they have their history preserved, they may not have it open for the citizens to go in and walk around. We stood just a few feet from Jackson’s tomb.

As the last outing of our Thanksgiving weekend, Judi and Gary took us to the restaurant where they used to work - Gary as kitchen manager and Judi as a bartender – the Cock of the Walk on Music Valley Drive. We enjoyed eating great fried chicken tenders and catfish and watching the wait-staff flipping corn bread in cast iron skillets.

Our Nashville Thanksgiving trip was a huge success – a great shakedown. While there, we borrowed a short length of coax cable from Gary so we could hook into the campground’s cable TV, only to discover a bunch of coax stashed in by the fresh water tank when we got home! A gift left by the Trek’s previous owner.

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