By Anne McKee
I finally talked my husband into a two week vacation. As you are reading this on Friday, Oct. 26, we have just returned. Whew! I am tired – going on vacation is a lot of work, but well worth it! I encourage you to try it as often as you can – leave your worries at home. Believe me; they will still be there when you return.
Our plan was that we didn’t have a plan. We worked late into the night prior to leaving – tried to think of everything we needed to do and everyone we needed to contact before we left town, but finally made the decision that it was impossible, so we just took off!
First, we dropped George and Gracie, plus Patty at the vet’s. That’s the two white adopted kitties and beagle pup. Hey, they were going on vacation, too, at Dr. Tyson’s spa. Dr. Tyson has always said that George and Gracie are kool-kats. I think they like that, and well, Patty is a favorite there, too, at least she thinks so.
Then, we returned home (good grief) to pick up a couple of forgotten things – always something forgotten. So we tried again to leave on the big trip. As we approached the end of our long driveway, my husband asked, “Right or left?”
I said, “Right.” And he turned left, wouldn’t you know it, but then, there was no plan? We tootled along, checked gas prices (gulp!), grabbed a couple of new maps at the Welcome Center, and we were off! Free as a bird, carefree and guiltless – at least this was on our minds as we made our way to the Natchez Trace.
If you’ve never traveled the Natchez Trace – shame on you. The Trace is a big tourist attraction in Mississippi and Tennessee – well worth the drive. From our East Mississippi area, one may hookup with the Trace in Kosciusko, which is a few miles northwest of Carthage. We traveled via the Natchez Trace Parkway to Nashville. It is such a pleasant and sweet ride – no commercialization allowed, just beautiful and peaceful, with nice historic sites along the way, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping as well.
The Natchez Trace is about a 440 mile drive from Natchez to Nashville. It is also known as the “Old Natchez Trace.” The Trace links three rivers: Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The Native Americans used it for centuries before the early European and American adventurers followed the trail. It is recorded that in 1742 the French were the first, other than the Indians, to travel the Trace. It is possible Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, may have traveled the early trail as well. The Trace was highly traveled until the steamboat, when folks began to traverse via waterways. Thankfully we still have the Trace today – allowing a glimpse into a way of life and the culture of that time.
On this day, two excited Mississippians traveled the Trace – hmm, so nice.
We like to travel the back roads -- from Nashville, we drove east through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park – always breathe-taking, no matter the number of times visited. Next, we hooked up with the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, drove north to Skyline Drive in Virginia, and continued northeast toward Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg National Park, and Williamsburg.
I really wanted to visit Washington, DC, but husband said, “No!” Actually, I understood – too close to election time and probably majorly congested with a passel of Democrats and Republicans. Not the stuff meant for a vacation.
We ate barbeque in Tennessee, whoopie pies in the Amish country-side of Pennsylvania, Charleston's shrimp and grits, blueberry cobbler in North Carolina, peach pie in Georgia, but I’ve just gotta tell you. There’s nothing better than Mississippi fried catfish and hushpuppies, black bottom pie at Weidmann’s Restaurant, and my granny’s pecan pie.
We gunned further south to admire Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah. We eased along the Eastern shoreline, admired the Atlantic Ocean (not nearly as nice as our Gulf of Mexico, but then, I am a Mississippian!). From Savannah, we hit old U.S. Highway 80 and headed west toward home.
Home – what a beautiful word! It’s true, Dorothy – there’s no place like home.
Now we could have worried about the price of gas, the cost of lodging, safety on the highway and back roads, getting lost, stuff we would miss while we were gone, and even the cost of the vet bill, but we didn’t. Hooray for us – because you see going on vacation is hard work, but so worth it.
Plan a trip of your own soon. The great American highway is open to all – keep U.S tourist dollars in America.
Anne B. McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her web site: annemckee.net