Happy Traveler

Greetings from northern Virginia! Yep, I’m traveling again, but this time it’s purely for fun. And am I ever having fun! cue: boring vacation photos

I left home at 6 a.m. Sunday and stopped at Burgess Falls State Park in Cookeville, TN. I’ve visited and passed this area more times than I can count, but finally took time to check out this park I’ve heard so much about.

Burgess Falls is a series of falls actually. The first falls:


The trail up is not only NOT paved, it’s not a particularly “clean” trail:

Burgess Falls trail

In addition to a million (or so) tree roots and a rain-slick, slippery-leaf trail to navigate, there are rocks jutting up in inappropriate places. Well, I guess it’s appropriate if you’re into the natural state. :) For someone not known for grace and coordination, the obstacles were a little unnerving at times.

About a half-mile of hiking later, the middle falls:

Burgess Falls middle falls

I immediately forgave Mother Nature for the tree roots and rocks. These falls were magnificent. I could’ve stared at them for hours, but I had a little bit more hiking to do, not to mention another 300 miles to drive.

Unfortunately, the last bit of hiking was almost straight up, with lots of this going on:

Burgess Falls steps

I will NEVER again feel like a gym geek for hauling my bench step into the gym with me. The hundreds (thousands?) of step-ups paid off in how easily I was able to climb. And climb and climb. Even if my quads had been screaming bloody murder, seeing the big falls would have made it worthwhile. Oh my word:

Burgess Falls big falls top

There’s an observation deck for standing and gawking, which I did for quite a while. As I was reluctantly turning to leave, I spotted this sign:

Burgess Falls trail sign very strenuous hike

Y’all know me. I hike my subdivision and Target. Paved greenbelts. Beaches. Not trails (well, there was that one time) and certainly not “very strenuous” trails.

Burgess Falls big falls

Oh yes I did! I didn’t make it ALL the way down. I was by myself and there was some boulder clambering required to get to the very bottom, so I satisfied myself with stopping at the halfway point. I’ll go to the bottom when there are others there to call for a rescue team. :)

After making my way back UP the cliff to the top (I see were they get the “very” in “very strenuous”), I reluctantly backtracked to my car. Along the way, I encountered the worst obstacles of all: hordes of other people! It was after noon by that point, and people were flocking to the trail. And, of course, I’d meet them at some juncture of the path that was intended for one person to walk on. Lots of twisting and side-stepping involved. More good core work. :)

So. That was an exciting start to the trip! Next stop: Abingdon, VA and The Virginia Creeper Trail.

trailhead virginia creeper

This trail is about 34-35 miles long and is really popular among cyclists. I hope to ride it some day, but with only a short time available, had hoped to walk in a couple miles for a good leg stretch and mind-clearing.

abingdon mud and main street

Thanks to overnight rains, the cinder path was more cinder-ish, if you know what I mean, and I was wearing my new Asics. As you know, these shoes don’t do mud, so I returned to my natural habitat and hiked the sidewalks of downtown Abingdon which was quite an enjoyable experience in its own right.

Yesterday was a wash-out, literally. I had planned to tour Staunton, VA all morning, but pouring rain shortened that excursion. Lovely city that I hope to explore more fully on my trip up here.

staunton va

Lots to see and do here if you’re not soggy. I’m eager to go back on a sunny day.

That wouldn’t be today. More steady rain moving through and I get to cross the Capitol Beltway in it. This is the third time I’ve had to cross Washington in a torrential downpour. I must remember to make a potty stop before I get into the city. :)

I’ll be meeting friends later today (so!excited!) and gearing up for a weekend of fun before setting off for home on Monday. I hope you’re having a splendid AND DRY week and that you’ll have a marvelous weekend!

Alphabet Soup: It’s All About I

Okay, so it’s not grammatically correct. It’s the best I could come up with at the moment. :)

Time again for another installment of Alphabet Soup, my letter-by-letter look at the words and concepts that help me in weight management. I have to tell you, I’m quite proud of myself for getting all the way up to ‘I’.

the letter i, antique lookYou probably won’t be surprised to read that my #1 I-word is “I“. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the past 7 or 8 years is that I hold the keys to my success. Sure, I get help and support from some (thank you all very much!) and encounter obstacles and stress with others, but ultimately I am in charge of my actions. As long as I remember that (even when I am not doing such a great job of it), I’ll be fine.

Another i-word that’s important to me is imagination. In the beginning, I imagined how I wanted to live my healthier life and then built a successful path to get there. Along the way, I used my imagination to come up with entertaining (to me, anyway)schemes and tricks to help keep me focused and engaged. (How I long for another Cake Day Challenge! Maybe for Christmas. :) ) I’ve always had a fertile imagination, and learning to use it as a tool in the process has been rewarding and downright fun.

My last i-word is inspiration. This is where you come in. :) I’m inspired by your willingness to share your stories–your successes and your struggles–and feel comforted and energized in knowing that we’re all moving forward, all striving to be the best of ourselves. I get goosebumps just thinking about it! If I haven’t said it lately, I should have. YOU inspire me and keep me working for a better me. Thank you!

I’m also inspired (and awed) by your contributions to the alphabet soup. What i-words get you going?

I have to mention the ‘I’ image above. I treated myself to this rustic, tin ‘I’ to remind myself just who is in charge of me. I think of it as a reward for being the one who is in charge of me. :)

Respite…and Just in the Nick of Time

Ahh, home again and getting back in the groove. Again. :)

This week’s adventure took me back to middle Tennessee, but an hour or so south of Nashville, to a little town called Winchester. Along the way, I spotted this interesting castle near Arrington, TN:

castle gwynn

We don’t see many castles in TN, so I looked it up later. This is Castle Gwynn and it’s the home of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival in May of each year. I might have to check it out some year.

This week’s luxury accommodations {snerk!} were at the Best Western. (For the record, I like Best Westerns, in general, and budget travel, specifically, but my company is notoriously tight-fisted and it shows in some of the places I stay.)

Best Western Winchester TN with a padded headboard

No pillowhenge, but what’s up with that headboard? I kept expecting someone to force me into a straight jacket, and at one point, I thought it had happened but more on that in a sec.

After getting work out of the way on Monday (gotta love that 10:00 a.m. quit time. :) ), I headed for Lynchburg, TN. And headed and headed and headed. Up over ridges, down into hollows, around crazy curves–I thought I’d never get there. But I did.

Lynchburg scenes--Jack Daniels and Moon Pies

Lynchburg is best known for the Jack Daniels distillery located nearby. While I enjoy a teensy bit of JD every now and then, I did not visit the distillery for a tour. I did, however, tour the downtown square and purchased a bottle of Jack Daniels Pineapple BBQ Sauce (review next week, probably) before heading out to my next destination, Tims Ford State Park.

tims ford scenes including trail and bridge

In addition to camping and cabins and a golf course, Tims Ford has many miles of paved (and not) walk-bike paths around and across the lake. I thought about bringing my bike, but when I saw some of those hills, I was glad I didn’t. I’d have spent more time walking the bike up and down them anyway.

So I spent a bikeless hour walking up and down hills, pausing for a moment to check out the bike bridge. But only a moment, because that thing felt a little rickety to me. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to tackle it on wheels either. :)

Sweaty and exhausted, I returned to the sanitarium motel for rest and to complete the morning’s paperwork. I’d no sooner gotten situated when I heard loud banging on my door! BAM!BAM!BAM! Not what someone with girly parts who’s traveling alone needs to hear.

I peeped out the curtains and saw a man who also saw me and shouted, “Open the door!” I, of course, shouted, “No!” He shouted back, “Open the door NOW!”

As I was turning to go call the hotel desk, I caught a glimpse of shiny. A badge. Attached to a cop. At my door. (Flashback: I might have made an illegal u-turn and also slightly exceeded the speed limit a time or two that day. Plus, there were those padded headboards and potential straight jackets to consider.)

I opened the door and spotted another cop right behind the first. The shouter told me to bring John to the door. “Who?” I know four Johns. Three are gay and the other is in a nursing home. None of them likely to be with me in a hotel room.

“Who are you?” Officer Shouty-pants demanded. I told him and he asked how I knew John Smith. Really? John Smith? Who lets someone check into a hotel under that name without a whole bunch of ID.

I assured him I didn’t know any John Smith and that he was welcome to check out the room. As I eased the door open to do the dramatic arm sweep thing, I saw that there were two more officers on that side of the door. (Scorekeepers, we have four officers at my door and a fifth plain clothes guy lurking in the parking lot behind them.)

Y’all know me, so it won’t surprise you that this is the point at which I started laughing. One of the previously hidden officers was trying not to laugh, too. In a much softer tone (but still stern), he asked my name again and whether I knew this mysterious John Smith. I assured him I didn’t and told him that I was there on business and didn’t know anyone in town, much less this fellow, John.

About that time, yet ANOTHER cop walks around the corner and whispers something to Officer Shouty who then says, “Oops, wrong room, sorry.” And they all slide one room to the right and start banging away on that door. I asked if I needed to vacate my room, and they said I didn’t so I went back to my paperwork, or tried to.

After listening to them pound and shout for a couple of minutes, I realized I had information they might need, so I opened my door and told them I hadn’t heard a peep out of that room (no TV, no door opening and closing, etc.) in the time that I’d been there. (It’s a BW, I would’ve heard.) They asked if a red jeep parked in front of my room had moved, and I told them it hadn’t. That’s when the same officer who’d brought critical information before returned to let them know “John Smith” had been moved to a room at the other end the day before.

I couldn’t resist. “Y’all are 0-for-2 so far. Hope this one works out for you.” To give him credit, Officer Shouty was the first one to laugh.

A half-hour or so later, I went to the hotel office to get my fax sent in and saw my new BFFs on the other side of the hotel banging on a door over there. Apparently “John Smith” gets around a lot.

I guess they decided not to search every room in the place, because they headed back to their cars. As they passed the lobby, most of them waved and mouthed, “sorry” again. Nice guys, doing a hard job, but they need to stop shouting so much. But at least they gave me story to tell. :)

After all that excitement, I was eager to get out of town the next day, so after a great training session I hit the road. Staying within the speed limits of course.

I paused in Fayetteville, TN long enough for lunch:

lunch collage- cheeseburger and a mini-moon pie

Oh, did I forget to mention that I bought a mixed box of mini-Moon Pies? Must have slipped my mind. :) This one was salted caramel. Four bites of YUM! (No, I didn’t look at the ingredients list. I don’t want to know.)

The cheeseburger was from Firehouse BBQ and Grill in Fayetteville, TN. It was a really good burger, freshly prepared. Since I virtuously skipped the fries, I enjoyed 110 calories of Moon Pie for dessert. A good pairing, as it turned out. :)

Given the drama and the 5-plus hour drive home, I was in much need of a mostly-rest day yesterday. I did stumble out of the house long enough to clean most of my gutters.

gutter with scoop duct-taped to a broom handle

I call this my redneck gutter cleaner. It’s my normal gutter scoop duct-taped to a broom handle. Just trying to cut out a few climbs up the ladder. It even works, sort of. :)

I tried to procrastinate going to the grocery, but not having anything for dinner motivated me to go ahead and go. Boy, I’m glad I did!

fresh fruits veggies and yogurt clearance-priced

Almost everything I needed (and a few things I didn’t need right away) was on clearance! Red lentils for $1.25! Red pears for $0.50/pound! Yogurt for $0.39 each! Broccoli slaw for $1.29 and salad for $1.49–minus a $0.45 coupon to make it $1.04! Not pictured are bananas (I sprang for full price) and 5 pounds of chicken breasts for $8-$9 (sale + coupon). It was like a grocery lotto!

And now I’m going to try to take it easy for a bit. No more work trips scheduled and I head out for vacation a week from Sunday. A nice time to rest for a while, and just in the nick of time.