Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Category: Tennessee (Page 1 of 2)

Road Trip USA: Chicago

We spent a few weeks this summer driving from Florida to Tennessee where were started renovations of our Knoxville house. It was great to visit the old spots up in the Smokies and play with my grandson who is living there now.

Then we took off and drove up to Chicago to visit Ben and his lovely girlfriend who are living there to attend DePaul University for graduate school. We did the various iconic spots but particularly enjoyed the Field Museum. So much to see that we must go back and also to hit up the other museums that we didn’t have time for!

It was fun riding the trains and wandering city streets again. Oh and going to Eataly which is a large Italian food market and restaurants (yum). We had lots of good pizza of course!

Another great spot was the Morton Arboretum which is a little way out of the city but well worth the drive. Beautiful walks and fun searching for the huge trolls hidden around the park.

So lovely to have our own tour guides as well!

Road Trip Time: Smokies

Leaving Knoxville we headed up to Gatlinburg as a gateway to the Smoky Mountains. The leaves were just starting to change so not at their full color but still pretty.


Cades Cove drive is always lovely even when a bit overcast. We saw lots of roped off areas warning not to stop as there were active bears but we didn’t see any. Turkeys and horses were it.


Great picnic and hike plus play on the river.


Complete with laughing so hard, Max couldn’t get up without help!

Road Trip Continues: Chattanooga and Knoxville


The next couple of days were spent in Tennessee. We used to visit Chattanooga quite often because of the amazing aquarium and children’s museum in downtown. Getting too old now for the museum but the aquarium was just as good as we remembered. It really is one of the best we have been to and we like it better than Monterey and others.


A great evening in Knoxville. The downtown has grown and there are some nice restaurants in Market Square.


It was fun revisiting some places we used to spend time at too such as Ijams Nature Center. We hung out at McKays used book store (actually we had taken a big load up to sell as well) and of course drove by our house.


Road Trip Time

We’ve all been wanting to hit the road since we came back from Dubai but with surgeries it has put things on hold. With Jake’s birthday happening we decided to head up to Atlanta to see him. It took about 8 hours to get there from St Pete but it was a fun drive with a stop for dinner at Cracker Barrel – it’s a tradition!


A little wobbly start trying to find a hotel in downtown Atlanta at 10:30 pm but we did eventually (I know better but somehow just assumed it would be less scary) and then spent a really fun day with Jake as city host.

First breakfast in the restaurant he works at – Home Grown. Incredibly good food with a Southern flair.


Then off to Martin Luther King Jr National Park which was very interesting. We toured his childhood home and freedom center etc. We all learned a lot and were impressed at the place (plus it’s free). Really recommend visiting.




Next was the Margaret Mitchell house – author of Gone With the Wind. Grandma’s favorite and we thought it would be interesting to find out more about the author. Sadly disappointing museum. Very expensive, nothing original, and quite a stretch to call it a “museum.” Don’t bother.

Then it was off to the kid’s choice of World of Coca Cola. I was a bit skeptical at first as it was so corny and over the top plus I don’t really like soda or encourage the kids to drink it. But actually the history of a major US company turned out to be quite interesting and the information was well presented. An expensive venture but good and of course the all-you-can-drink sodas from around the world were met with excitement. It was actually fun to try so many.


We ended the day at a great restaurant then headed off to Chattanooga to stay.


Our town

We have not managed to go far abroad this summer but have been busy with a month long visit from Grandma, wedding (pictures to come), beach and mountain trips, and activities around town. The pool and local fountains have been popular given the heat and humidity here in the south US.


We are lucky to have various fountains and these in the middle of downtown Knoxville are especially fun during the farmer’s markets. Sitting at one of the outside restaurants while the kids run back and forth to the fountains is “almost” Mediterranean feeling!



We have lived in this area for a total of 9 years now and decided it was time we finally went to Dollywood. Our homeschool group had good deals on season tickets so we spent a couple of visits there now. The park is owned by country music singer Dolly Parton who grew up in the town it’s in. It’s themed around Appalachian/crafts and old timey kind of things.


I have to say the park itself is really nice. Good rides with lots of shade and places to sit down. Even water fountains and people who wander around asking if you need help or directions. The shows we have seen have been good as well. Some of the visitors to the park are “interesting” but if you view it as a good sociological study of the varieties of human kind, it takes the edge off!

Glad dad doesn’t mind getting wet:


Charlotte is a little speed demon but Max and I are quite happy on the carousel!


Chattanooga Visit

We live about 1 3/4 hours away from Chattanooga, TN and try to get there a few times a year as they have a wonderful aquarium and children’s museum.

The museum is good for at least half a day with children ages 1-10 years or so. It’s fun to see the youngest of our children playing with some of the things I remember their older brothers playing with when we lived here in the late 90s.


Max loves the science area:


Ben always loved the dinosaur dig! Now he tends to watch the little ones.


The aquarium is fun and has two huge buildings.


One thing we like is the butterfly exhibit on the top floor as all the butterflies come from the Butterfly Farm that we visited in Costa Rica!


Boating on the river

I have to apologize for the lack of photographs and only boring text! It’s sad how busy our regular home life can get and probably why I appreciate the slow travel days with a more relaxed schedule!

But last Friday we did have a day of fun. Everyone had a day off work or switched schedules, public school is back in session (as homeschoolers we like having places to ourselves) and so we took a pontoon boat out for a day of boating, picnicking, and fishing. It was lovely just hanging out together.

Here’s Ben:

And Jacob:

Charlotte and Ben:

Charlotte and Max:

Ben and brothers all wanted to drive. It’s so nice to sit back and do nothing on these trips!


And our fashion boating queen Charlotte:


No fish were caught but no anchors were lost this boat trip and no one fell in. Just good fun with family.

Our church

Just wanted to say thanks to all the people who have sent their messages of hope and good thoughts to our family and our congregation. There have been so many good things to come out of something so awful that it shows the power of love and peace.

Our friend Tammy is the only person left in the hospital and she has been moved to the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and is doing pretty well all things considered. The love and strength of her family and friends is a testament to Tammy’s own positive traits and the care she has shown others in the past. Fingers crossed she will be home soon.

The minister of our church when I first joined was with us all last week which I know many people found helpful. She wrote a lovely article for the Washington Post which I’m going to put in the extended entry here as the link isn’t working for me now. I think it again shows the way Knoxville came together to show care and love. That has been very powerful for our own family.


And here’s the text:

Lynn Thomas Strauss
Post-Traumatic Unity
August 5, 2008

This past Sunday, I participated in the service of re-dedication at the
Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. It is eight
years since I served there as minister, and one week since a man entered
that sanctuary intending to be a mass murderer, intending to be a murderer
of children. He killed two adults and seriously wounded 6 other adults
before he was quickly subdued by members of the congregation.

That beautiful sanctuary that I helped build and bless, had, through a
horrible, senseless act of violence been turned into a crime scene, a trauma
center, a wake, a memorial, a weeklong media event.

That Sunday, the children and teens of both the Tennessee Valley Church and
the Westside Unitarian Universalist church were presenting the play, “Annie
Jr.” But, instead of seeing a play, they saw murder, instead of hearing a
musical, they heard shattering shotgun blasts.

It was hard to believe it had really happened until I ran my hands over the
scarred walls where pellets were embedded. It was hard to believe until I
heard the accounts told in still-shaky voices, over and over. It was hard to
believe until I saw signs of traumatic stress in the reddened, tired eyes of
so many. It was hard to believe until the names of those killed and wounded
were spoken.

The Tennessee Valley congregation was the first church I served as a UU
minister. Moving from Chicago to Knoxville and learning ministry in the
Bible Belt was a profound experience for me. The need for liberal ministry
is clear there, where Christian fundamentalism is strong. The Tennessee
Valley congregation has always stood up for equality, diversity, and
religious liberty. Unitarian Universalism is a faith that values difference
of opinion and belief . As a liberal religion we value people of different
colors, genders and sexual orientations. We believe that all people have
worth and dignity, and we try to live that belief.

Religious groups sometimes build walls, high brick walls between different
faiths and denominations. Some think that those on the other side of their
carefully constructed walls are to be feared or hated. Some apply labels,
and teach prejudice.
In Knoxville, Unitarian Universalists were routinely labeled “Other”.
Unitarian Universalists were often marginalized within the larger faith
community. Our children were regularly told by other children that “they
were going to go to hell” unless they believed a certain doctrine. The walls
between the churches were old and sturdy; the walls were high and

But last week, those walls came tumbling down. Last week the Tennessee
Valley Unitarian Church was the recipient of wondrous love and generous
compassion. Last week, the Presbyterians took in our children as they ran
from the gunman. Last week the Baptists brought food everyday. Last week,
the Jews lit candles for us and attended our vigil. Last week the Muslims
prayed for us. Last week, the Quakers and the Catholics and the
Episcopalians brought flowers and sent cards. Strings and strings of
colorful paper peace doves were brought for the children.

All last week the church was open to the community, open for silent
meditation in the sanctuary, open for shared meals, open for prayer, open
for sharing pain and compassion, open for all who brought blessings and good
wishes. The church was filled with people all day, every day.

Last week, the walls of religious separation came tumbling down. It was a
kind of miracle. A miracle of grace and the human spirit. As Rev. William
Sinkford, Unitarian, Universalist Association President, wrote in a letter
read at the service: “Your love has overpowered fear”. For one week there
were no separate denominations or faith groups in the city of Knoxville. For
one week, we were one grieving family, one in our sorrow, and one in our
resolve to witness to peace.

As the service ended yesterday, lay and ordained ministers walked to the
back of the crowded sanctuary and stood shoulder to shoulder with the Rev.
Chris Buice, minister of the Tennessee Valley Church as he spoke words of
re-dedication of that sacred space. We stood on the spot where the gunman
had stood, near where the first victim was killed; we stood confident that
love overcomes hate, that love is the spirit of our church. We stood as the
congregation joined the children and teens in singing, “The sun will come
out tomorrow” – the song they had not gotten to sing a week earlier. We were
standing on the side of love.

Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of
Rockville, MD.

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