Jan 012014
An early start to out-run the ice storm.

An early start to out-run the ice storm.

Happy New Year! It is the start of a fresh year and the end of 2013’s holiday party season . . . and time to finish up our holiday road trip. When I last left you, we were waiting for an ice storm to descend on us in Memphis, Tennessee. As we went to sleep, ever-worse weather predictions foretold of ice-covered roads and power outages. The storm was supposed to hit as early as 5 a.m. We decided to wake up at 6 and see how the weather was at that time.

Again, luck was on our side! The storm had not yet arrived and would start around 9 o’clock or so. We looked ahead on our route and as long as we could get further east by 9, we should be able to outdrive the storm. We packed, woke and dressed the kids and got everyone piled into the car by 8:00 a.m.

The weather was rainy but not yet icy.

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Tennessee's musical heritage is its signature.  It was amusing to see Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams honored at the highway rest stop.

Tennessee’s musical heritage is its signature. It was amusing to see Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams honored at the highway rest stop.

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We originally planned to spend some time in Nashville, Tennessee which looks like an amazing, art-filled, revitalized downtown. However, our entire schedule was completely off with our early start. We were too early for lunch and nobody felt much like walking around downtown in the rain. So, we sadly made do with a few drive-by shots of the downtown area and put Nashville on our list for future road trips.

Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville

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We drove on and on until hunger got the best of us. We were completely off our planned itinerary so we were planning on the fly. By Cookeville, Tennessee, we decided to see if there was anything interesting to eat. A quick check on TripAdvisor yielded this yummy find.

World Foods in Cookeville, Tennessee

World Foods in Cookeville, Tennessee

World Foods is a relatively small restaurant but on this day it was packed with locals. It was a great spot to spend a rainy day.

A little taste of Europe -- a case full of cheeses, olives and other yummy things.

A little taste of Europe — a case full of cheeses, olives and other yummy things.

Weeks of travel were finally catching up with me and I began to suffer from a horrible cold that I am STILL recovering from.  The best remedy at World Foods was peppermint tea with honey.

Weeks of travel were finally catching up with me and I began to suffer from a horrible cold that I am STILL recovering from. The best remedy at World Foods was peppermint tea with honey.

World Foods is famous for their pizza, which is really delicious!  My children objected to the oregano sprinkled on top and ate it only under threat of losing dessert privileges.  The owner was personally sad that the children didn't like it.

World Foods is famous for their pizza, which is really delicious! My children objected to the oregano sprinkled on top and ate it only under threat of losing dessert privileges. The owner was personally sad that the children didn’t like it.

Delicious beef schwarma.

Delicious beef schwarma.

A terrific sign behind the cash register.  The owners of this restaurant clearly take this message to heart and put tremendous love and care into their food.

A terrific sign behind the cash register. The owners of this restaurant clearly take this message to heart and put tremendous love and care into their food.

After lunch, we decided to check out one other of Cookeville’s institutions, Ralph’s Donut Shop. We used the convenient drive-through window.

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Ralph's delicious Do-Nuts.

Ralph’s delicious Do-Nuts.

We drove on and on through the rain that afternoon.

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There wasn’t much to do in that part of Tennessee. It was more of a survival day. We headed toward Johnson City, our destination for the night. We checked into the hotel and everyone took a brief nap before dinner. It was still raining when we headed out for dinner.

Rainy night in Johnson City.

Rainy night in Johnson City.

We picked up our planned itinerary at this point and stopped at the southern-sounding Cootie Brown’s.

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It was a Friday night and the restaurant was hopping. It is brightly colored and decorated with caricatures of the fictional world-traveling Cootie Brown. We ate on the heated porch.

My son getting stuck between the table and the small wall that was perfect for driving his cars on while we waited for our food.

My son getting stuck between the table and the small wall that was perfect for driving his cars on while we waited for our food.

My daughter passed the time creating sculptures from the crayons.

My daughter passed the time creating sculptures from the crayons.

There was a great holiday decorating tip from this restaurant. The restaurant itself was already full of so many bright colors and things to look at that traditional holiday decorations like trees and wreaths would have overwhelmed the space. Instead, the owners just added a few ornaments here and there and called it a day. It worked!

You don't need a lot to show some holiday spirit.

You don’t need a lot to show some holiday spirit.

A burger with homemade chips.

A burger with homemade chips.

Tortilla soup.

Tortilla soup.

Cootie Brown's signature dessert: key lime pie.  It was just the right combination of tart and sweet.

Cootie Brown’s signature dessert: key lime pie. It was just the right combination of tart and sweet.

It had been kind of a blah day but we had achieved our prime objective of getting ourselves safely out of the way of the winter storm. We went to bed knowing there was just one day left on our journey. We were all getting excited to be back home.

One thing my husband was not going to miss when our vacation was done was being the bag porter twice a day for all of our luggage.

One thing my husband was not going to miss when our vacation was done was being the bag porter twice a day for all of our luggage.

The next morning, we loaded up the car one last time and headed out of Johnson City.

A humorous sign on a nearby church.

A humorous sign on a nearby church.

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We were glad to see the sign for our home state.

Virginia, I think our sign could use a little more excitement.

Virginia, I think our sign could use a little more excitement.

Cabela's is coming!

Cabela’s is coming!

Another thing we noticed all across the United States during our travels was how decorated the cemeteries were.  For many, the holidays are a time to remember those who are no longer with us.

Another thing we noticed all across the United States during our travels was how decorated the cemeteries were. For many, the holidays are a time to remember those who are no longer with us.

We were a bit off schedule for the day and we weren’t going to make our intended lunch spot before it closed. So, we found a spot to eat in Abingdon, Virginia, The Dunk and Deli Co.

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Reuben and baked potato soup.

Reuben and baked potato soup.

Their baked potato soup was the perfect winter food. And, of course, we couldn’t pass up the doughnuts.

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It was time for the final leg of our destination. We drove through miles and miles of beautiful Virginia farmland.

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We were impressed to see fleets of power trucks from Pennsylvania traversing the highways the last few days. They were headed into Tennessee and Oklahoma the previous day and now that the ice storm was headed east, they were headed back toward the east coast.

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I always try to have our last stop of the trip be something memorable so we end the trip on a high note. It’s not always easy to find such places but fortunately Virginia had something great to offer.

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Getting closer.

Getting closer.

Up a winding road. . . .

Up a winding road. . . .

To the star!

To the star!

Little did we know that Virginia is home to the world’s largest man-made star . . . . and a gorgeous view of the Roanoke valley as well.

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There is even a live webcam so that you can watch people visiting the star. Fortunately for us, it was not functioning at the time or it would have caught ridiculous pictures of me trying to set the camera up for a self-timed photo of our family with the star (which requires a difficult upward angled shot).

One last look.

One last look.

We spent some time admiring the view . . . but not too long as it was freezing. While there are many challenges of a winter road trip, particularly the weather, the one easy part is that it is not as hard to pull the trip to a close. Getting home to a warm, cozy house is a powerful incentive!

“It’s cold! Let’s go home!” everyone cried.

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Thank you for putting up with me as I shared our vacation photos! Some people have told me our road trips are their favorite feature on my blog. By reading my posts, you have also given me the motivation to tackle the time-consuming process of going through hundreds of photos to choose the best ones and scrapbook our trip. I hope you found some inspiration from the many different ideas we encountered on our trip.

Every time we do one of these trips I leave with a new appreciation for the United States and gratitude to be a citizen here. Our family has seen so much but really have barely scratched the surface on what this country has to offer. I hope you also have the opportunity to explore and travel and that 2014 brings you many adventures!

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4 Comments to “Happy New Year! Ruly Holiday Road Trip: Days 15 and 16, The Road Home”

  1. avatar ruth says:

    I wish there was an easier way to access some of these fantastic restaurants and I’m off to check TripAdvisor for local great restaurants as well

  2. avatar Amy says:

    I’ve enjoy this entire trip…just wish I could have seen you in Denver…but, next august is coming soon…Love, AA

  3. avatar dia says:

    Viva USA, 2014 etc. The Roanoke Star provides a Virginia echo to the
    Eiffel Tower, me seems.

  4. avatar Lou says:

    You have left me with a greater appreciation for the U.S. with every trip and with your guide to Richmond this past summer! Thank you and Happy New Year!

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