Nashville daytrip

We went to Nashville for the day on Saturday, July 3. It was a long day, about 21 hours, in fact.

We left at 5:35 a.m. and did not get home until about 2:20 a.m.

The reason why we went to Nashville in the first place was an Alabama concert, which was originally scheduled for last July, pushed back a year because of the pandemic.

Since we had never been to Nashville before, we made a full day out of it.

Our first stop was breakfast at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. We went here because it’s next door to the Grand Ole Opry. This is a large hotel, with a beautifully designed interior. There are water features inside, including more than one waterfall. There are different sections of the hotel. My favorite was the Delta section, which looked like New Orleans. We got breakfast at a grab and go marketplace, and walked around the hotel.

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After time at the hotel, we went to the Grand Ole Opry for a 9 a.m. backstage tour. This tour was about an hour. It included an introduction show at the beginning. We saw all of the artist rooms, the wall of plaques listing Opry members, and got to walk out on stage.

I was disappointed with how the tour handled the stage part. Everyone got to walk out on to the famed circle (a circle of wood taken from the Ryman Auditorium) and a photographer took a picture. You had to pay for the picture. It cost $25 dollars to get three copies, one large and two small, of the photo, which was poorly printed. I understand that there had to be a way to control the group across the stage, otherwise everyone would have huddled around it waiting to get their own picture, but the photographer should have offered to take photos with people’s own phones and cameras. We ended up sneaking a photo of the photo with our phone, so at least we have proof that we stood in the circle.

However, it was a thrill to stand in these places on the stage where so many famed artists have stood before.

Overall, we enjoyed the tour, and we would like to come back to see a show.

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After our tour, we headed into downtown Nashville. The Opry and Gaylord Opryland are a few miles away from downtown, in a section called Music Valley.

We walked the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge over the Cumberland River. The bridge is short, compared to the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge in Chattanooga.

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After that, it was time to check out Lower Broadway, the main tourist area filled with honky honk type bars, shops and restaurants.

I am sure that things were busier than usual due to it being the 4th of July holiday weekend, but we were both quite overwhelmed by the amount of crowds and noise. A lot of the bars had open windows and doors, and there would be a band inside playing ear splitting music. It seemed like the bars all had a contest with each other to see who could play the loudest.

I think I would enjoy Broadway much more during an off-season visit, and earlier in the morning.

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Some other things that we saw included the Music City Walk of Fame, which is similar to the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, the Tennessee State Capitol, and the Instagram famous What Lifts You wings mural by Kelsey Montague.

We were having a lot of difficulty finding parking, exacerbated by getting stuck in traffic all over the city, so Derek dropped me off at the Union Station Hotel, a historic train station, so I could take a few pictures, while he drove around the block.

In the afternoon we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The highlight for me was seeing Kacey Musgrave’s exhibit, All the Colors. It was a treat to see the white lace jumpsuit that she wore to the Houston Rodeo performance, a show I saw in March 2019.

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Other neat things were the hall of gold records, Willie Nelson’s shoes and bandana, a dress of Dolly Parton’s and hand written song lyrics from Brooks and Dunn.

The last thing we did during the day was the whole reason why we came to Nashville, the Alabama concert. It was a great show. Martina McBride was the opening act, and it was awesome to hear her sing “Independence Day.”

There were two surprises during the show. First, Gov. Bill Lee came on stage and made a proclamation designating July 3 as “Alabama in Tennessee Day.” Second, Tim McGraw came on stage and sang a song with Randy and Teddy.

I got to hear a bunch of their songs that I had not heard during the first concert in Houston. I was excited to hear “Roll On,” which is one of my favorites.

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After the concert, it was time for the two hour drive back home. At the end of the day, my phone had recorded 22,000 steps! Also, I learned a lesson; do not wear pointed toe cowboy boots! My toes were squished all day and hurting, but at least I had no blisters.

Overall we had a good day, and we learned a lot so we can make the next trip a better one.

Little did we know …

Four years ago today, July 30, we were half way through our cross country move from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania to Houston, Texas. It was a 24 hour, 1,600 mile drive that took three days.

Our second day was a long 900-mile stretch, from Harrisonburg, Virginia to Picayune, Mississippi. Chattanooga is somewhere in the middle.

My parents had been to Chattanooga before. They reenacted the 150th Battle of Chickamauga (we used to be Civil War reenactors) and while there, they took a quick trip up to Chattanooga, to see the National Cemetery. My dad also loves trains and wanted to see the Andrews Raiders monument.

Tennessee was the first new state that we had driven through, so I think that was why I committed that part of the drive to memory, more so than any other sate.

My dad was driving to Houston with us, pulling the U-Haul trailer behind his truck. We were communicating with walkie talkies. As we were driving around Chattanooga on I-24 West, Dad was pointing out landmarks. From the road, we could see the flag pole on the top of the National Cemetery’s hill. Dad also made sure to point out Lookout Mountain, where the Civil War “Battle Above The Clouds” took place.

I specifically remember being in awe driving around Moccasin bend, around the mountain and the Tennessee River.

We took the Lookout Valley exit and stopped at a Subway for lunch. We ate in the parking lot. And then we were on our way, reaching the Georgia line just a few minutes later.

Little did we know that Chattanooga would be come our home three years later!

This past winter, I wrote an article about a new real estate office opening up in Lookout Valley. I drove past that Subway, and it was fun to reminisce. I think it would be fun to go back there and eat lunch again and think about how different things were the last time we ate there.

Here are some photos from that trip:

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An afternoon in South Pittsburg

Our pots and frying pans all seemed to lose their non-stick coating all at once, making it really frustrating to cook. We have been looking at different cookware options but couldn’t settle on anything.

I looked into Lodge Cast Iron, which is a nation wide brand, made right here in Tennessee.

Cast iron seemed like a great alternative, one that would last a long time, and I thought it would be a good thing to support a local brand.

Since Lodge Cast Iron’s foundry and main store are only 40 minutes away, in South Pittsburg, I looked into what else we could do for the afternoon.

We arrived in South Pittsburg right before lunch, and enjoyed a few minutes walking around what looked like their “main street” (actually called Cedar Ave.) and snapped some photos. There were some stores open, but we did not stop in.

South Pittsburg is home to the National Cornbread Festival, held every April. This year’s festival was cancelled due to the coronavirus. I would like to visit again for next year’s festival, if possible.

For lunch, we had originally planned to each lunch at a to-go coffee shop called Dragging Canoe. Repurposed in an old bank drive-through building, you can only walk up to the to-go window to order, and eat outside. We thought this was a perfect option in order to stay safer and keep our social distance. However, it was closed for the holiday weekend!

Instead, we ended up at Stevarinos, an Italian restaurant. I had a delicious Mediterranean pizza. Everyone wore masks, us included while we ordered, and the tables were all spread far apart. It worked as a plan B.

After lunch, we headed to the Lodge Cast Iron store. We bought two pans, a small one and a large one, and a dutch oven. For the dutch oven, and the larger pan, we bought factory seconds, meaning that there was a small imperfection in the casting, but it will still work just as fine. We saved a few dollars that way. The larger pan has a neat buffalo nickel design on the back.

Our last stop before going home was to stop at the edge of the river and snap a quick photo of the Shelby Rhinehart Bridge. We took that bridge home, into New Hope, Tennessee, instead of the highway, and we enjoyed some great views of the mountains around Nickajack Lake.

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Derek on Cedar Ave. We decided to keep our masks on for the photos so we could remember these crazy pandemic times!
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Stevarinos, where we had lunch.
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This Mediterranean pizza was so good!
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Yes, I am smiling under my mask!
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A pretty view of the Tennessee River.
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Shelby Rhinehart bridge.

Visiting old friends, and getting a glimpse of the Smoky Mountains

One of my best friends Dawn, and her family, live in Sevierville, Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. We used to work together in Pennsylvania, and have stayed close. We moved to Houston in August, and her and her family moved to Tennessee that November, so it had been over three years since we last saw each other.

When Derek found out he got the job at UTC, I texted Dawn and said, “Best friends will be reunited again in the great state of Tennessee!” It is comforting to know that I have a friend relatively close by.

We spent the day with her two weeks ago, and we got a good preview of the Smoky Mountain region, and some of the things to do in the nearby tourist towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

We got there early in the morning and all headed out to breakfast at Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin. I had heard that this part of Tennessee was known for their pancake houses, so I was happy to experience one. I loved the decor inside!

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Dawn with her twin daughters at Flapjack’s. Not pictured is her husband Brian, who was also with us.
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Strawberry pancakes for breakfast.

Our first stop after breakfast was the Dolly Parton statue, in front of Sevierville’s court house. Dolly was born in Sevierville.

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We drove down the Smoky Mountain Parkway, on the way to Gatlinburg, and Derek and I were amazed at how many tourist attractions there were. Most of them looked quite cheesy! I knew that was what the area was like in general, but I didn’t expect so much of it.

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An example of one of the tourist attractions: The Hatfields and McCoy’s dinner feud.

We drove through Smoky Mountain National Park for a few miles to get to Gatlinburg on the other side, and we were shocked at how much traffic there was. We had thought we would miss the foliage crowd by going in November, but it was a sunny, mild day, so that was probably the last of the tourist rush.

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A quick shot through the windshield while driving through the National Park.

We were initially planning on finding parking in Gatlinburg, and then getting out and walking around for a little bit, but it was a madhouse. We quickly abandoned those plans. However I am glad that it ended up happening that way, because now I know what to possibly expect when we vacation there, hopefully next year.

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Scarecrows lined the streets in Gatlinburg.

We ended up going back towards Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg seems to be the most popular of the towns, so the traffic died down considerably.

While in Pennsylvania, Dawn and I would get together on Friday and Saturday nights at our houses, and enjoy cups of tea together at our kitchen tables, while chatting about anything and everything. Many, many hours were spent together with cups of tea. Therefore it was important to us, and symbolic as well, that we get drinks together during this visit.

We stopped at Espresso Yourself, a small coffee shop in Pigeon Forge. It was great to continue our chats as if no time had passed at all since we last saw each other.

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Chatting and drinks at Expresso Yourself.

Then we headed to the Apple Barn in Sevierville. It is a large complex that consists of two restaurants, a general store, a winery and more. What a nice store! I could have bought a lot more than we did. We bought red and white plaid table place mats with apples on them, plus some apple butter and a big jug of apple cider.

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Dawn and I at the Apple Barn.
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Inside the Apple Barn general store.

After that we got a quick mid afternoon bite to eat, and then we headed back to her house to say our goodbyes. We had a great day together. They will come visit us in Chattanooga next, sometime after the holidays.

Friday nights at the Mountain Opry

We have found a gem of an event; an authentic Tennessee experience – the Mountain Opry.

The Mountain Opry takes place each Friday night at the Walden Ridge Civic Center on Signal Mountain. Musicians have been gathering here each week since 1979, and it has been written about in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Music starts at 8 p.m. and doesn’t end until 11 p.m., which is way past my bedtime, but we did stay until 9:30, so we saw two full sets.

The two groups we saw were the Scenic City Ramblers and Barefoot Nellie and Co.

The music was a mix of gospel, bluegrass and country. Some numbers were just music with no lyrics, too. Most of the songs were unfamiliar to me, so it was nice to hear something new. I was excited to hear Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors though! The next morning I looked up some of the songs we heard and listened to them on YouTube. I am sure if we keep going to this event, my country music catalog will grow!

The event is low key, and makes for an inexpensive night out. It’s in an old auditorium room. Lots of groups were there and everyone was saying hi to friends and chit chatting. We were the youngest there by at least 30 to 40 years though! There is no admission, but they pass around a paper bag for donations. There is also a concession stand with popcorn and soda.

It was a great evening and I can’t wait until we go back again!

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Barefoot Nellie and Co.
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The building where the Mountain Opry is held.
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Performing Coat of Many Colors – click to play video.
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Performing Little Georgia Rose – click to play video.

Sniteman cabin

I have been busy the past week, with interviews and appointments. This has been giving me the opportunity to visit and explore more areas.

I was at Greenway Farms, a park in Hixson, Tennessee, which is about 15 minutes from our place. It’s a large park with hiking trails, a dog park, community garden plots, and an old restored cabin.

The cabin is host to events throughout the year. While I was there, there was a type of mommy and me class happening.

The cabin was built in the 1850s by Christian Sniteman. The Snitemans were a pioneering family of the area.

It was originally tucked back into the woods, but was deconstructed and rebuilt again back out in the open.

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First impressions of Chattanooga

I have officially been a Chattanooga resident for over two weeks, in addition to the week and a half I spent here throughout August, with one foot in Tennessee, and the other foot in Texas.

I’ve been thinking about the differences between Chattanooga and Houston, and my first impressions of the area, which has grown into a long list.

  • Even though we moved up north, I feel more in the “south.” Everyone is so friendly, there is a church on every corner, and most everyone I came across in the first few days had an accent. 
  • Grits, grits and more grits! In Houston, I had to make a specific trip to Target when I wanted to stock up, and even then they only had the Quaker Instant kind. At our new local store, Food City, there was a whole shelf dedicated to different kinds of grits, including homemade kinds. Grits are on just about every restaurant menu I’ve seen, and I’ve bought them at the Chattanooga Market too.
  • The mountains are gorgeous. I don’t think I will ever tire of looking at them. When I left Food City that first morning after we moved in, Signal Mountain loomed over me on the drive home, and I was in awe.
  • Another Food City related thought: The check out system is different. The cashier takes your cart and unloads it for you on their side. I watched this happening with the customer in front of me and at first I couldn’t figure out who was the cashier and who was the customer. I think my confusion showed because the cashier explained it to me. I told her I was new to the area and then her and the bagger both gave me recommendations for things to do in the area. How friendly! 
  • There isn’t any Chattanooga traffic to speak of, except for some areas that get a little backed up due to construction. We are driving the same amount of miles to get to places (no more than 10-15) but the drive times are shorter.
  • It is a lot easier to get around in Chattanooga and gain a sense of direction. After three years in Houston we were still largely unfamiliar with the city.
  •  It still feels just as hot as Houston does, but the mornings and evenings are cooler. It is also less humid too, which is doing wonders for my hair, haha.
  • It is quiet here at night. Almost too quiet. It is strange to not hear the Metro whistle, cars whizzing by, and the occasional loud group of people walking on the sidewalks.
  • I love the Civil War history everywhere! We have explored a lot of downtown and riverfront areas, and there are plaques everywhere, detailing what happened over 150 years ago.

A New Home

Welcome to Seeing the Scenic City!

My name is Rebecca, and my husband’s name is Derek. We have spent the last three years in Houston, Texas, while Derek pursued a master of fine arts degree in graphic design at the University of Houston. Before that, we met and married in rural Tioga County, Pennsylvania, where we also received our undergraduate degrees at Mansfield University.  

Derek is a full-time lecturer of graphic design at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

We are both excited to explore our new home, Chattanooga. We are an adventurous couple, always finding something to do on the weekends. Neither of us had ever been to Tennessee before this opportunity.

Follow us as we see what the Scenic City, and surrounding areas, has to offer!