One large factor that contributed to my decision to move back home was the mile-long bucket list of places I want to visit in the US. From road trips in Minnesota to flights to Arizona to see my grandma, I have big plans for the upcoming year. I am fortunate to have many friends and family members who also enjoy traveling to accompany me in these adventures, as well as many friends who live in the many places I hope to visit. I may be moving home, but I don't foresee myself spending a lot of time there. (Sorry mom! Although you can use that as an excuse to join me on a trip...)
With these big plans in mind, I´ve been reminiscing on some of my most recent stateside adventures. One of the most memorable was my trip to Tennessee in July 2020 where I got to spend the week with 2 of my childhood best friends. My friend, Jess, had moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee a year prior and had been begging me to visit her since. Eager to visit both her and explore the state of Tennessee, when I was home this past summer we found some time for me to visit.
The first stop in my week in Tennessee was Nashville. After Jess picked me up from the airport the two of us hit the town. Due to covid restriction, many of the restaurants and bars were closed. The new restrictions only allowed restaurants and bars that had 80% or more of their sales related to food- not alcohol- to stay open. This left only 3 bars on the Strip to stay open. The bars were also allowed to hold only a fourth of their capacity. The bright and busy Nashville you see and hear of was not the city we experienced.
To find a way to cheat the new restrictions, 1 bar “just happened to leave a window open that they were selling drinks from.” Ironically enough they had left a few tables outside on the sidewalk by the window as well… Jess and I got comfy here for an hour or two and gawked at how dead the city was. Making our way to one of the 3 actually open bars, we stopped to take a picture in the middle of the road. At 10pm, on a Friday night, we took a picture in the middle of the Strip in Nashville. It was eerie how this was possible, and even more eerie to see so few cars and people in the background.
After waiting in the short line to get in, we got comfy at the bar listening to the live music and nibbling on our bar snacks. By midnight we were tired and had our fill of people watching for the day, and made our way back to our hotel for the night.
The next morning came and we grabbed our continental breakfast of a granola bar and banana and made our way to The Gulch. Much like yesterday, many of the businesses and restaurants here were also closed due to the new restrictions. We sipped our smoothies while wandering the streets taking pictures with the different murals. We walked past the Grand Opry and the Music Hall of Fame. Besides a few bachelorette and bachelor parties, the streets were empty with the 2 of us being the only tourists in sight. Eager to get to Chattanooga to meet up with our friend Devin, we loaded the car and set off.
That night the 3 of us were reconnected again for the first time in over 2 years. With Devin living in Florida, Jess in Tennessee, and I in Australia and South Korea, we hadn't been able to all get together in 1 place for some time. We explore downtown, before making it home for our slumber party that night.
Saturday´s first stop was a bridal boutique where we helped Devin pick out a wedding dress and Jess and I tried on bridesmaid dresses. As a big fan of all things wedding and lovey-dovey, I had great fun picking out dresses for Devin to try on. When Devin and I were young, we spent most days after school daydreaming about our wedding, drawing pictures of our dresses and flowers. It was bittersweet to come full circle and see our friend in a white dress ready to marry the love of her life. Unfortunately, Devin´s wedding date was moved ahead to March 2021. Jess and I were unable to attend, making that morning and those pictures all that more memorable.
Following our Say Yes to the Dress experience, we had brunch at the Chattanooga ChooChoo and did some shopping. Eager to cool off, the 3 of us headed to a nearby swimming hole where we floated around and caught up with one another, followed by a visit to a winery. That afternoon we were reconnected with Jess´ boyfriend, Wyatt, and the 4 of us grabbed dinner together.
Our weekend together concluded with a hike Sunday morning in the Appalachian Mountains. The view was beautiful and we were able to see a waterfall. Too soon, our weekend together ended and Devin was on her way back home. Hopefully, soon enough the 3 of us will have another adventure together.
Wanting to get out of state and explore somewhere new for the both of us, Jess and I headed to Savannah, Georgia the next day. Our first stop was Tybee Beach. Although it was a hot summer day, the beach wasn't nearly as busy as we imagined it would be. Finding an empty spot in the sand, Jess and I laid out in our bikinis and soaked up some sun. After a quick shower, we grabbed dinner along the water that night and watched a sunset on the harbor. Like Nashville, there were very few tourists out and many restaurants and businesses closed.
Before heading back to Chattanooga the next day, Jess and I ventured to a historic estate in Savannah. We drove along with the stereotypical oak trees and braved the extreme heat walking around the ruins on the plantation and the museum. A guide at the park recommended a restaurant nearby where we ate on the wharf watching fishing boats come in with their loot.
Back in Chattanooga, Jess and I took a day to stay at home sitting poolside and ran some errands. Mid errand run, we made a stop at a nearby trail and walked along a creek. Neither of us was dressed for a hike, and we had a good laugh as we slid along the trails in our flip-flops and sandals. That evening the two of us, and her boyfriend Wyatt, found a sunflower field nearby. Being like every other stereotypical person at a sunflower field, we took tons of pics and bought some flowers. A great last night together.
The next day I was off to Nashville where I caught a flight back home to Sioux Falls. Although it was only a week, I saw and did so much in both Tennessee and Georgia. I am so thankful to have such great friends to share these adventures and memories with. An extra big thanks to Jess for hosting us and playing tour guide for the week. Until our next adventure. A belated bachelorette party maybe?...