Knoxville, Tennessee

There is more to say than I could possibly share with you.

The past few days have been just wonderful, filled with music and conversation and everything inspiring and true.

Knoxville was great; Scott and Laura were so much fun. There were the four dogs, who were just ridiculous- Po (white trash), Billie, Miles, and … I forgot the last one’s name. Miles was the licker. He licked and licked and would probably lick until his tongue came off. For an OCD-tendency individual like myself, this was hard to handle. However, Miles ended up being my favorite of the four, with his black hair and adorable face. His licking was atrocious, though, and although he eventually learned that it freaked me out and left me alone a bit more, he still managed to learn the art of the drive-by lick, where he would casually, happily trot on by, and surreptitiously lick my leg. Hahahah, drive-by lickings. Too ridiculous.

The other day I met up with this guy, Zach, from couch-surfing, who ended up being a really great guy. He showed me around the University of Tennessee campus, talked a lot about sports and 80’s music, haha, and it was nice to spend the day walking and talking with him.

The night before I had to leave, we all went to a sushi bar where Scott was playing with his buddy, Dave. So Laura and I had yummy sushi (my second time ever) and listened to the band play until late into the night. It was fantastic to watch Scott perform – it was a completely different, yet just as authentic and real, side of him, and he was really quite charming and dynamic. He played the harmonica and the saxophone, and sang wonderfully. His buddy, Dave, was the acoustic guitarist… and he was incredible. Let me tell you, he sang a Tom Waits song called “Picture in a Frame” that basically had me on the floor. Which reminds me, I was able to “borrow” a bunch of awesome music from Scott’s external hard drive, and pass a lot of great stuff back along to him. I have more music than I possibly know what to do with now – over 11,000 songs on my ITunes.

So, all in all, my stay in Knoxville with Scott and Laura was absolutely wonderful. It was so hard to believe that these people would have remained strangers for the entirety of my life, had I not been open to the whole couch-surfing experience. I thank my friends who encouraged me to look into it, and I thank everything good in this world that all has gone well on this crazy trip of mine. It truly has been magical.

There is no way I can begin to share everything with you. I almost feel like giving up, just because I’m overwhelmed with the concept of writing all that needs to be written.

After Knoxville, I headed to Nashville. Oh, Nashville.

Nashville Nashville Nashville.

But that’s a whole other story, and I’ll save that for the morning. πŸ™‚

Smoky Mountain National Park

Today was a wonderful driving day. Occasionally it became haphazard and awkward, but overall I really enjoyed my time by myself, in my car. It had been a while (about 9 days) since I had been on the road, so it was long enough that I could appreciate it again.

I said my goodbyes to Doug and Lisa this morning (okay fine early afternoon) and it was really bittersweet, because on one hand I was really happy and honored to have gotten to know them so well, but on the other hand I literally had to tear myself away. But it was time – time to move on, time to meet new people and see new things.

So in the spirit of seeing new things, apparently, I drove directly back the way I had came a week earlier, heading back to Cherokee. Haha – oh well, it was still a beautiful drive. I was actually really happy to drive it again. In fact, my favorite part of the day was very unexpected, and completely based on a whim. I was driving all the curvy roads, when I saw this abandoned farm-like place on the side of the road. I remember seeing it on my way to Georgia, and wishing I had stopped to take a picture. Well, this time I did exactly that, in abundance. I pulled over on a side street, walked down into the property, and took about 300 pictures (in fact, in total today I took around 800 photos!). The location was just so inspiring – everything was deserted, there was broken glass and boxes in one building, and bird’s nests and farm equipment in another… it was really a photography heaven. I’m hoping to get the chance to edit some of the pictures tomorrow and post them; I’m really excited about that.

Of course, that threw me off course by about an hour, so by the time I arrive in Cherokee, I was well behind schedule. I entered the Smoky Mountain National Forest, and before I knew it I had to start pulling over to take pictures, since everything was breath-takingly gorgeous. I stopped at the old Mill, and at a couple of the lookouts, and then did the hike up to Clingman’s Dome, where I stayed until the sun set.

Which, naturally, threw me more off course (that, and the adorable baby bear that was on the side of the road), and all that made me even later to arrive at my final destination .

Which is where I am now – in Knoxville, Tennessee.

On my way here, I drove through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, which were ghastly, haha. But more than that – it was the unbelievable way you enter into Gatlinburg. One moment I’m driving through beautiful bendy roads of light and trees and tunnels, and the next I’m bombarded with neon lights and fast-food restaurants. It was the STRANGEST thing – at first I was sure I was hallucinating, but alas, it was real. It was a like a mini, hick-filled Vegas. Oddest thing. And the worst part is I felt this incredible, morbid fascination with the entire place. In fact, I almost pulled over and decided to spend the night, but I kept myself strong and kept driving. But I’m telling you, I want to go back – the perversion of it all, the bright lights and tacky storefronts… oh man, it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe that this was Tennessee.

But here I am now, in Knoxville, with Scott and his wife. I arrived later than anticipated (around 10:30), but Scott welcomed me so kindly; in fact, they both did, and we instantly started having fantastic conversation. Scott and I spent the last couple hours talking, about this and that, and it was great. I think, so far, my favorite part of this trip has been the fantastic conversations. How I have longed for profound, intelligent, humorous conversation -with people who are passionate and inspired and open-minded, and poets at heart. πŸ™‚ It’s been wonderful. And I’ve had a beautiful fill of such conversations, and such people lately.

Which reminds me – as I was driving the last stretch of road into Knoxville, I had serious heart-pangs about leaving Ellijay. More than anything, I wanted to be sitting in my bed there, on my computer, listening to doo-wop and drinking sweet tea, and knowing in the morning Lisa and Doug and the deer would be there… but alas, I had to move forward. Regardless, it was bittersweet to miss something so acutely. It’s been a long time since something was that wonderful enough to miss.

Tomorrow? Well, I guess it involves a little boat, and traveling to the Gulf of Mexico.

But Scott might have been joking about that.