Southeast Bucket Listing

My beautiful brother.  I miss him every single day.

We’ve been preparing to leave for an entire year.  After the death of my little brother, I’ve felt like home has been calling louder and louder every day.  It’s hard to be so far away from family, and dealing with Mike’s death in the last year has really brought it home to me how important it is to be close to loved ones, especially considering you never know how long you might have them on this earth to spend time with. 

I promise this is not a sad post.  Because we’ve been thinking and saving and planning for so long, we got to put together a bucket list of things we really wanted to see and do in the southeast before we left.  We didn’t finish the entire list, but we sure gave it a good try.  It was really excellent, especially because some of the best friends I’ve made in my life are here in Knoxville, and they kept us company on all the treks we made this summer.

We did some amazing things!  I wanted to bike Cade’s Cove by moonlight.  The weather didn’t cooperate, so we headed out earlier to start with some sunlight, and ended up biking both at sunset and after… there were moments where the canopy of trees would hang over the road, and since it was cloudy, the only light was from our headlamps.  In the back (I’m a really slow bike rider, guys.  Like REALLY slow…), I would switch off the light as we headed into a tunnel of trees, and when the rest of the group rounded a bend ahead, I was flying downhill into total darkness.  It was exhilarating, amazing… and TERRIFYING.  Needless to say, a memorable experience.  Though the sore muscles for the next week nearly made me regret it…

Before beginning the sunset bike ride at Cade’s Cove.
We hiked in the Smokies and drove the Foothills Parkway. 
Jonathan, Cheryl, their niece, Jason, and I on the Foothills Parkway      

The Smokies are amazing, of course, and while we aren’t exactly mountaineers, we took a day trip with Lara and Biff, two of our very best friends here, to have the experience so many people drive here for.

If I didn’t take a picture to prove it, people would never believe me.

Soooo Psyched for hiking!

Seriously.  I’m swimming here.
Super sweet jellyfish!
Jason and I took a trip to the aquarium in Gatlinburg, which was entertaining.  Clearly you can see this by the pictures we took.
This is a shark, people.  It was right above me.  That’s serious.

We visited two local attractions, the Mayfield Ice-Creamery, and the Sweetwater Cheese Factory.  Holy dairy, it was delicious.  Except we didn’t make it in time to actually tour the Ice-Creamery.  But the redeeming component was Lara’s impression of the Cogdill Dodge commercial from television.  I have it on video, but I’m not posting it here because she made me promise.  

It’s like they’re ON the farm!

We tried our hand at milking.  This cow was unresponsive.

This ice cream was clearly superior to our attempts.  That’s why I’m busy shoving it in my face in this photo.

I don’t know if these are so you don’t get cow patties on your feet, or just to make the experience more entertaining.  It worked for us either way!
Pre- gun shooting.

 At some point, I had to give in to the whole “shooting guns” thing.  If only to make Bentley stop talking about it.  So not only did we have a day at Bentley and Jessica’s property shooting guns and drinking beer (totally awesome)…

Is there anything more country than this photo?
Gotta rock the hat while picking your weapon.

Yup.  We’re that cool.

For the record, I’m a totally safe driver.  Despite my crazy eyes.

Now that’s awesome.

 We tailgated and attended a UT game– I’d never been to a college football game.  In my entire life.  So it was quite the experience!


Mmmhmmm.  Who’s a BAWSE?

The power T.  Magical.  Except UT lost.

 Wait, have you had enough guns yet?  I haven’t.  Jessica and I participated in a Women’s Day that was put on by a local group, and it was AWESOME.  I was on TV.  FOR SHOOTING.  I had no idea it was that easy to be famous. 

Whatever they said, it was funny.  Probably something about me liking guns.

FACT: There is NOTHING MORE AWESOME than a bow and arrow.
I caught my first fish!  At Jessica’s parent’s lake house.

We went back to Jessica’s parent’s lake house and proceeded to catch fish with the fishing pole I won, build birdhouses, and eat meat, which the men cooked for us.  It was like a weapons day combined with a hunting tour.  Only I didn’t hunt anything except fish.  Which I put back into the lake.  But you get what I mean.

Excellent bird houses.  Silly pose.

 AND, we spent a ton of time at the lake this summer, thanks to Vicki and Jim, who are amazing and put up with tons of people taking over their house every weekend when it’s sweaty and a million degrees.  Thanks guys.  We love you.

I’m not looking so great here, but everyone else is fabulous!

OK, seriously, I have to end this post.  Was that a glut of pictures or what?  It is all a ruse to attempt to confuse you into thinking that I actually do things besides rock climb.  I don’t, really.  You’ll notice that in all future posts. 

So, the south, I will miss you.  I’ll miss your sweaty heat that means I don’t have to take a jacket everywhere I go.  I’ll miss passing bourbon around a group while stationed at the camp fire.  I’ll miss hippie dancing to bluegrass in barefeet while it’s raining, and not caring at all if you get wet and muddy.  I’ll miss lake summers and reading on Vicki and Jim’s porch.  I’ll miss backyard barbeques and excellent, amazing, wonderful friends.  I’ll miss the feeling of coming home when I’m rounding the last corner before we turn into the regular climbing campground.  I’ll miss moonshine, even though it’s nasty.  I’ll miss down jackets and sun, which go together so often down here.  I’ll miss hilarious accents, and Jessica’s made up words!  I’ll miss Lara’s colloquial mistakes.  I’ll miss you all, you guys.  Thanks for making the last 5 years some of the best of my life.

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