Dear America: Tennessee, Texas, Utah

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm really excited about this post because it includes two of my favorite states (sort of ... I have many).

Saw Tennessee on my road trip with Megan. I fell in love with the state, but Nashville especially. We stopped at a Dairy Queen along the highway on our way to Knoxville, which my first time at a Dairy Queen. I ordered a pumpkin blast or something equally disgusting.

I wasn't impressed with Knoxville, I have to say. We didn't want to pay big money to stay at a nice hotel, but that left us with very limited options. We drove out of the immediate downtown area pretty late at night and checked out our options. We decided on a motel with a Santa-like guy sitting at the front desk, which should've been the first indication of how our stay would be. Let's just say it was probably the dirtiest place I've ever stayed in!

We had dinner at this cute place called The Tomato Head, which was across the street
from a park. There was an ice skating rink set up in this park when we were there.

Downtown Knoxville during the holidays

On our way westwards, we drove through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at sunset. The part we saw was very simple and understated, but still one of the most beautiful national parks I've ever seen.

After the Smoky Mountains, we drove through Pigeon Forge, Dolly Parton's hometown. Oh my goodness. We were assaulted with lights. It was like Vegas of the South. Ridiculous, over-the-top, but so much fun (although we did not once leave the car). Unfortunately, I was so mesmerized by the bright lights that this was the only photo I caught -- a billboard for Dollywood.

Nashville was wonderful. I loved nearly everything about it. We had barbecue on 4th Avenue, drove down Music Row, had dinner at The Germantown Cafe (really romantic) just across the Cumberland River, in Germantown. There was a touch of magic in the air, I thought, while I was there. I don't know if it was the holidays looming or just Nashville being Nashville, but I loved it and I can see myself living there.

Country Music Hall of Fame

Now if my Tennessee write-up wasn't long enough, here's mine for the great state of Texas ... I flew into Austin for a drive with my friends to Los Angeles. I really enjoyed Austin ... I had a particularly memorable meal at The Omelettry, where I stuffed myself silly just hours before hitting the road (very smart). I couldn't help it -- an amazing omelet larger than my head came with a short stack of gingerbread pancakes. After a certain point, I didn't even feel like I was still eating. 

The sunset from my friend's backyard in Austin

Ruby's BBQ in Austin

From Austin, we began our drive to Los Angeles, stopping a couple times before reaching El Paso near sundown. El Paso freaked me out. I don't know what it was about it, but I just did not like it one bit, and all I really saw was the highway with all the billboards. It was just eerie to me.


A crooked photo from the car

... and we come to Utah. I stepped foot in Utah for the first time during my trip to the Grand Canyon/Zion National Park in 2000 or so, but it's actually Salt Lake City I love. Have you been? It's absolutely stunning, especially in the wintertime. 

I visited for the first time in March 2009. I had a few days of vacation I had to take from work before April, and David Archuleta was ending his first solo tour in his hometown of Salt Lake City, so I thought ... why not? It was the best 3-day trip I've ever taken.

Crown Burger was the first stop after arriving, for the pastrami burger and regional "fry sauce"

Temple Square

The library downtown

The view from the roof of the library

The view from the Capitol Hill area

I couldn't stop taking photos of the mountains. I couldn't believe they were right there.
In fact, "they" were everywhere!


2002 Salt Lake City Olympics torch at the University of Utah

That especially bright street on the left is the main street, State Street

We even drove to Park City. It's a lot smaller than it seems.

I made a quick stop in Salt Lake City again that summer, on my way back to Denver after Yellowstone.

The Great Salt Lake. It's not really worth going there, and the stench is almost unbearable.

We left Salt Lake City for Denver as the sun rose

Of course, the artist who reminds me always of Tennessee is Dolly Parton. Appropriately enough, David Archuleta performed her song "Smoky Mountain Memories" on American Idol, so here ya go. Beautiful, beautiful song.

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