Thursday morning, Jeff and I finally got my car stereo installed, and there was much rejoicing. I took off at 11am my time - later than I wanted, but early enough. The drive itself was painless and quick, until I got to Nashville. In the middle of rush hour (also, there was apparently an UT game that night). I hit the 40/440 split and traffic was backed up for a mile and a half. I called the friend I was spending the night with, and did my first stop and go in a stick in a decade or so. I finally got on 440, only to discover that my directions failed to mention that I-65 split off with the right two most lanes almost immediately, and I was not ballsy enough to try to merge over onto what would stay 440 in that traffic. So, it was off at 65, find somewhere to turn around, back on 65, which (thank bob) had a lane that fed right onto 440. I got off on 70 where I should, to discover that Becky had failed to let me know that her apartment complex street didn't have a street sign. Good times.
I eventually arrived at my friend Becky's apartment; Becky and I met when she was in grad school here. She's at Vanderbilt working on a Phd now. :) We got some really good Mexican food for dinner and stayed up too late talking, and it was really, really great to see her.
The next morning, she had breakfast plans, so we both took off. I decided to take 40 to Holly's house, not realizing that 40 joined and separated several other highways and was in general a pain in the rear. I successfully merged as needed, cursing all the while, and eventually found Holly's house (Google's directions were a little sketch there, too.) There was bouncing and squeeing and hugs. Eventually, there was Cracker Barrel for brunch.
Then, there was supposed to be a visit to the Jack Daniels distillery. Ginger had wanted to go the last time she was in Nashville and didn't get to; I love tours that let me go places I'm not normally allowed, and Holly was game. However, by the time we got done with brunch, got back to Holly and Heath's house, and started to get packed up, I did the math on driving to Lynchburg + tour time + driving back to yesthatjill's parents' house... and pointed out that the math just wasn't adding up.
So, we sat around and chatted and played with yarn and cookbooks, and it was just right.
Eventually, we sent Holly and Heath ahead to get in line at the Cheesecake Factory, where we were to dine, and Ginger and I drove down to pick up Jill, through middle of nowhere Tennessee. (This is relevant, as I'd planned on getting gas somewhere along the way. Oh, I was funny.) We got Jill picked up, ate bacon wrapped dates, and met the parents, which was lovely after hearing about them for literally years. (Next time, we'll have to plan some real socializing.) We had to leave eventually, found a gas station, found out that I wasn't actually running on fumes, no matter what my gas gauge said, and got back on the highway and headed for dinner.
Dinner was delicious. Holly got these insanely good looking pork bun things. We all split a fire roasted artichoke. Jill and I ate Greek salads and split a quesidilla. And at the end, there was cheesecake layered with flourless chocolate cake. Damn, it was good.
Afterwards, we headed out to our hotel; an anonymous Fairy Godperson was putting us up in the newly opened Opryland hotel for the weekend.
Having never been to Vegas, I was blinking at the opulence (which led to a lot of "Just wait, Vegas is even more more than this.") The hotel was so huge, we needed a map to be directed to our room (and actually needed the map and the directional signs several times. There's tropical gardens, complete with waterfalls in the lobby. There's a river, complete with boat tours, inside the hotel. It was insane.
The room itself was pretty bog standard, though nice. Very comfy beds. I've had dorm rooms smaller than the bathroom. (We'd ended up in a handicapped room, and the only real difference was the walk-in shower. Which was actually nice, but did not adequately contain water). Free-iush internet (it was included in our "resort fee"). Nice covers, art on the wall. Definitely nicer than the Motel 6 I ended up in on Sunday night, but we'll get to that...
So, Friday night, when we finally got in, we partied hard by... pulling out our respective tiny electronic devices and playing Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies, because that's how we roll.
Saturday morning, we were all awake at our normal times, despite having been up late the night before. This pattern would continue the entire trip.
Breakfast Saturday morning was at the Pancake Factory, where our delightful retired middle school teacher server actually PERKED UP when Jill and I tentatively inquired "So, we read on the internet that you have gluten free pancakes?" Perking up is not the kind of reaction I'm used to. They did have GF pancakes, and she was pleased to tell us about them and very happy they offered them, and it was so nice to be treated like a normal person, not someone with this huge PITA issue. I had the best sausage and cheese omelet of my life and a side of pancakes, noms.
Afterwards, we wandered around the area the Pancake Pantry was in. There was a used bookstore incident, and a tea shop/kitchen shop incident1, and wandering around a frou-frou store (with the cutest dog ever), and coffee, and then it was back to the hotel for a bit. There was more Plants vs. Zombies, and then there was a crafts show and a Christmas tree show (complete with the mildly terrifying Hooter's Christmas tree2).
And then we headed out to the evening's entertainment, a production of "The Piper" put on by Actors Bridge. The play was excellent, if slightly surreal towards the end. We did late night dinner at the Sunset Grill, where we had the best nachos ever and some amazing polenta cheese fries.
Somewhere on Saturday, Jill checked the weather and said "You know, it's supposed to snows tomorrow." And I said "Haha, nice joke." And she said, no, really. But we looked at the forecast and it was supposed to not be too bad and supposed to turn into rain when it hit the mountains. That didn't sound too bad, so I wasn't worried about it.
Sunday morning we got up and moving around and packed up and checked out. There were flurries, but of the "aren't they pretty? And melting when they hit the ground, excellent" variety. We had an excellent brunch at Bosco's, and made a second trip to McKay Used Books (where we once again oogled L. L. Cool J). Meantime, snow was still falling, and I was starting to be a little more concerned, but it wasn't starting to stick yet. By the time we got out of McKay's, it was sticking a little to the parking lot, but still fine on the roads. By the time we got out of World Market like half an hour later on the other hand, it was sticking to the roads and starting to look really messy.
We got back to Holly and Heath's, and looked at the forecast, and we all agreed that if I were getting out of Nashville before Tuesday, I needed to get moving. Not that Nashville wasn't a great place to be, but I had exams to give and final grades to compute, so... we got everything out of my car that needed to be gotten out, I did quick hugs, and got moving.
The roads, to start with, weren't too bad, though there was one slick spot about 5 miles from the house that gave me pause. But, in general, things were moving slowly and people were being sane. However, two hours later, when it was dark, I had no visibility, and I was getting really stressed out by getting passed by truckers and feeling like I was going to get run over, and the roads were worse from accumulation, I gave up and pulled over in Crossville at a Motel-6. (And impeccably clean Motel 6 with free wifi, win.) I had a minor meltdown, which I think was frustration combined with low blood sugar. I ended up with preserved meat product and potato chips from the gas station across the street, because everything was closed. I chatted online with Jeff and my sisters for a little bit, thought about Netflixing but I couldn't decide what to watch, took a hot bath, and tried to get some sleep.
When I pulled over, I was car number three in the lot. (Including the Smart car, which did an excellent job of pulling out in the snow the next day when they left right before me.) The next morning, the lot was full - apparently, a lot of other people had come to the same conclusion as me, which was nicely validating. :) Anyhow, I got checked out and out of the lot just fine, and back on the highway, where to my pleasant surprise, Tennessee DOT must have been working overtime, because things were sanded and plowed and mostly clear. Things were slow but much safer after that (though things did get a bit sketchy going up over the state line again). One of our admins covered my final that afternoon (we have the best admins ever), and I finally got home about 5:45, with a stop to fix my mom's computer.
Best weekend evah, other than that whole snow thing. :)
(The rest of the pictures are over here, though I didn't take that many this trip.)
1. And they had dinosaurs. Curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayl!
2. The whole thing was a big charity fundraiser. No, we did not bid on the Hooter's tree.