The Only Ten I Saw

Two Saturdays ago I flew down to Nashville. But first I had to fly home to Chicago for a couple of hours.

And if you find yourself with some time to kill in the American Airlines terminal, probably should get a torta from Xoco (although it has a different name these days...just go to the torta place, whatever they're calling it now)

I dig a classic logo

My plane to Nashville had revoked its support of something...

Okay, see you again in July, Chicago! (Flying away I realized I could see my family's church from the window. It's between all the cemeteries. Ehh...I think you just have to trust me on this.)

And then, boom, I was back in Nashville, right back in the arms of the Rasmussens

They took me straightaway to preferred and famed taco spot Mas Tacos Por Favor where some fellows were chain stitching in the parking lot.

For me: a ground beef taco and a pork taco, tortilla soup, and those chilaquiles!

Amigos with their tacos

While we eat, the next round of folks consider all the Mas Tacos offerings.

I have to say, rolling up to Mas Tacos and taking a spot in the parking lot, then getting in line with all the fine Nashvillains patiently waiting (not too long) for their tacos out in the sun but it wasn't too hot, it didn't make me miss New York one bit. The menu was full of things to discover and the restaurant full of rooms we could have eaten in, along with a nice covered patio. To put it in Brooklynese, it was something like a Mexican Roberta's, maybe...(but also nothing like a Mexican Roberta's).

Avec tacos, we head to the Hermitage--that's the plantation that Andrew Jackson built and lived on. There was a museum to learn all your Andrew Jackson stuff at first before you checked out the grounds and the house.

Then on to the grounds. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house. No big deal.

Now I bet you were expecting some pictures of Nashville or something at this point. Nope! We did not go back into Nashville. Instead, we headed for the Smokey Mountains, stopping in Knoxville along the way at 10 o'clock to watch Captain America. Then it was an hour or two more to our mountain destination.

I keep saying "Smoky Mountains" but where we stayed was called Gatlinburg. Jeff sold me on it by telling me it was a lot like Branson, MO. Cruising the strip Sunday, I saw what he meant (but also I'd later find out that I was only seeing the half of it [or the half of the half of it]).

We lunched at a humble Italian eatery that Jeff had had a pizza from years before, although upon seating we were immediately reassured that the establishment was under new management.

Then it was time to head up into the mountains. First things first: We visit the Visitor's Center to ubicate ourselves.

Onward to the mountains!

Jeff and I hiked to this outlook. I hope you like pictures of curving cement walkways, because that's what you're getting!

Then, into the woods with us. Our destination was a place called Cade Cove that was like a road that would go through the trees to a big opening where there would be an animal and then back into the trees and then out into another opening over and over. It was nice seeing the trees and the animals and the sun setting and everything. Before we got to Cade Cove we saw a mom bear in the woods with her two cubs. At the Cove we saw another bear and cub, making it a total of 5 bears we saw, which seems pretty high. I don't have any pictures of those bears because they were always pretty far away but I do have pictures of a fox. Oh and also there was an old church in the woods of the Cove.

For dinner? My first ever visit to a Texas Roadhouse. They won me over by having their own Awesome Blossom (RIP).

Monday: Another beautiful morning in Gatlinburg!

We started the day by hitting Yelp and deciding to visit a hot dog place that sounded pretty good.

Then we walked the Gatlinburg strip. So many simulator rides and museums of the odd and themed chain restaurants, I counted five Ripley's Believe It or Not! branded establishments. Gatlinburg's got a funny split personality thing going on where it can't seem to decide if it's going to play up the Southern thing or be Bavarian.

Then we went back to where we were staying to take advantage of the pool for a bit. I hadn't been swimming for so long! Turns out I hadn't forgotten how to.

Then we posed with animals at the nearby mini-golf course. We couldn't figure out if we were Owners or Guests so we didn't ask to play. I was tickled to figure out we were staying at a property owned by those people in the Queen of Versailles movie.

Then we headed to nearby Pigeon Forge to see the Branson, MO flavor in full effect. Everything was empty, not because Pigeon Forge had fallen on hard times, but because we were few weeks early for the busy season. Come summer vacation time, all these parking lots would be packed and the strip would be bumper to bumper and it would make sense that there were so many go-kart places.

Hit up a local grocery store for ice cream and to check out the RedBox selection. RedBox didn't do it for us, so we went back to the condo and watched Top Secret from my computer. Glad I brought my HDMI cable.

Then suddenly it was Tuesday morning. We got up early and got out of there, I had a plane to catch and a lunch reservation to make.

The Rasmussens were good sports about letting me check out Husk. Having been reading Sean Brock's cookbook for the last year+ (and roasting chicken after his manner), I was excited to check out his restaurant. I found it to be a real fine place, nice down-home elegance. Lunch was an affordable and delicious event, I'd like to check out their dinner, where the menu seems to lean more towards humble showstoppers, someday.

And then, shoot, it was time to head right on over the airport, another magnificent Nashville trip complete. Don't worry, I'll be back soon to meet the baby.