Road Trippin’: Itinerary & Photo Journal

Bags are unpacked, laundry is caught up, our young Marine has arrived in Cali, Madeline is back in school, and we are rested after a whirlwind seven day road trip through eight states last week!

Bradley graduated his MOS training and is now a Marine MP. We drove out to Ft Leonard Wood to enjoy time with him before he headed off to his PDS.

The boy did not have as many days off as we did, so we arranged a little mini-vacation around Madeline’s spring break and our travels. I love planning road trips, and this one was no different!

I have never let others plan for us; the goal is always to try to pick activities that fit our interests, see as much as we can to get a feel for so many fabulous things our beautiful nation offers, and we leave plenty of time to be spontaneous.

To begin planning I always put our destination into the GPS and look at all our routes; this time we were shown two distinct ways to travel to Ft Leonard Wood. Our entire little family has a goal of visiting all fifty states (hubby has visited 49 of them; I’m at 29 & it’s become quite a contest between our 4 kiddos), and airports don’t count. With two routes showing Madeline pointed out she could add two new states to her list so we decided to loop this trip.

We would leave Atlanta and head west through Alabama, Mississippi, skirt Tennessee with a pass through Memphis into Arkansas and head up into Missouri as we drove out to see Bradley. Coming home we would go through St Louis into Illinois, Kentucky, back through Nashville, Tennessee and back into Georgia.

With our route chosen we had an idea of places we wanted to see along the way and we set out to see what we could see! I thought our itinerary was a lot of fun, and had a couple of requests from social media to share it, so here we go!  Of course some of this was tailored to visiting Bradley, but you should find plenty of ideas for planning your own trip!

Day one we left about four in the afternoon after Audley had gotten off work. We love driving backroads, especially during rush hour, so we when we left on Thursday afternoon we took 2- lane roads from Cartersville, Georgia into Gadsden, Alabama before hitting I-59 into Birmingham. With spring really starting to show up it was a beautiful drive past farms and flowing rivers and creeks as we’ve been blessed with a lot of rain this year.


Our first stop was for supper just outside Birmingham. We chose a quirky little sushi restaurant called Rock-N-Roll Sushi. We absolutely loved the classic rock theme of both the decor & sushi rolls!



Madonna & Tommy Lee Rolls



Journey & Motely Crue Roll

With our bellies full we drove through downtown Birmingham and headed west on I-22 into Mississippi.  Once in Tupelo we stopped for the night at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Day two began nice and early (7:15 am) as we wanted to make a stop by Elvis Presley’s birthplace (we were in Tupelo after all), which has been made into a public park as well as museum. We stopped by before they opened for a morning stroll through the park. While we didn’t get to see the inside of the home, no crowds and the peacefulness of the early morning was worth the stop. It’s a park that’s been tastefully created and quite lovely.






We left Tupelo and passed through Memphis where we stopped at Elvis’s Graceland, a last minute decision since we had visited the birthplace early that morning.


Graceland has changed a whole lot since I visited 24 years ago which meant we only viewed the house from a distance. We didn’t want extra museums and planes, we only wanted to walk the grounds; see the memorials and the gravesite. We were not paying $70/each to do so!

We paid $10 to park; Madeline bought a T-shirt, we walked to the wall by the gates (that looks so trashy since they allow people to draw graffiti all over it), took a few photos and was back on the road in 45 mins. I’m not a tourist trap/circus fan when it comes to historic or cultural locations.






We crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas where we hit backroads through the Ozark Mountains into Missouri to Mansfield.


Y’all, it’s a stunningly beautiful drive, and you never know what unique towns you might pass through.


Mansfield was the final home of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was so excited for this planned stop! It’s not a huge tourist trap like Graceland was (thank goodness), but a tastefully done memorial to recall a fascinating life! Admission was $12/each for both the Rock House their daughter designed and had built for them and the Rocky Ridge House, Almanzo constructed. We spent a couple of hours here, and made it our last stop of the day.

Everyone was so knowledgeable, friendly and just lovely to be around!


despite the rain, this was such a memorable destination!


I’ll share more of this beautiful and historic location in another post!

At the recommendation of one of the girls at the Wilder Museum, we hit the backroads (make sure your gas tank is topped off) out of Mansfield and stopped in a little Amish community for an all-you-can-eat Friday night fried fish and chicken supper.




Amish peanut butter …. you MUST try it!

It was amazing.


And we didn’t eat again until around 1:00pm on day three.

We rolled into St Robert, Missouri around 8:00 and checked into the Hampton Inn on historic Route 66.

Day three allowed us to enjoy a little extra sleep as our Marine and adopted Marine were sleeping in themselves. We picked the boys up from the base and headed west again towards Branson; an hour and a half drive. Lunch at Steak and Shake, shopping at the Tanger outlets was the perfect way to spend an afternoon with teenagers. Branson has so many shows and activities to choose from, We wanted something where we could have fun interacting and savoring time together, so the Branson Murder Mystery dinner theater was definitely the best choice!



Our kids volunteered for the roles of the James brothers and Kay Marte (the local town gossip). With dinner and an interactive show we had a crazy fun evening filled with a lot of laughs!




Day four we worshiped with a little congregation just off of base in Waynesville. Everyone there was so welcoming, sweet and friendly. We won’t forget our visit anytime soon.


After lunch, Bradley let us know he had to return to base earlier since it was Sunday, so he suggested we make a stop at Uranus Fudge Factory, a quirky little tourist stop on Historic Route 66.



And if the truth be known I probably was not mature enough for this general store and fudge factory, especially when the guy behind the counter at Uranus asked how I wanted my “fudge packed”.


Y’all all I have to say is you have to have a warped sense of humor to make this stop which is why Bradley wanted to stop I’m sure.

After we dropped Bradley back off at the base we had plenty of daylight left so we ventured out to drive a little of Route 66. We drove over to Devil’s Elbow Bridge, and stopped by the George M Reed roadside park. Roadside parks were common back when people traveled Route 66 as they made great places for picnics and stretching your legs while on your road trip!





Roadside parks would be fabulous now as we travel, but unfortunately we live in a society where people would rather abuse and destroy than appreciate and preserve.

Day five was partially spent on the military base for Family Day as we were given insight to our Marine’s career path and an opportunity to see the kinds of equipment he’s been trained to use.


After the ceremonies we took our adopted Marines out for the afternoon for an entertaining lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and an adventure at Ft Wood Escape Room. Thank goodness for my Submariner, because the Marines really struggled with this one!



We also went bowling. 🎳 Thats all I have to say about that one adventure.

It was bad.

The boys had to be back in the barracks by 1730, so Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 a different direction for some colorfully fun backroad highlights.


Once back in St. Robert we stopped in at the Route 66 Diner for burgers and fries. Service was phenomenal, and the food, although simple was delicious!




Day Six started off with MOS graduation. Followed by a tearful goodbye, our Marine boarded a bus headed to the airport.





After he left Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 towards St. Louis. We passed through Cuba where we had a fabulous lunch at The FOURWAY Diner and drove through this historic little town.





Cuba, Missouri is known as Mural City

We arrived in St Louis in time to take the last car up to the top of the Gateway Arch. It was the perfect way to end our Route 66 travels.





After supper, and moving on down the interstate we stopped in Mt. Vernon, Illinois for the night at the Doubletree. There we caught the end of my Alma Mater’s basketball game that put them in the NIT finals.



Day seven we finally made it back home, but not before stopping at at a fantastic little western store in Marion, Illinois (McKinney’s) for some boot and hat shopping.




We also made a swing by Lipscomb University (my alma mater) in Nashville to catch a little basketball fever. So much has changed in that part of the city ( in a positive way), and I enjoyed the pass through off of the interstate. Lipscomb holds a lot of precious memories for me!




My old dorm



The tradition of the painted mascot continues on…

While this was a lengthy post, I hope you found some inspiration for your own vacation plans as summer is right around the corner! I plan to detail our visit to Mansfield, St. Louis and a little glimpse of our short drive on Route 66! Hope you’ll stop back by!


Southern Highlights: Foster Falls Small Wild Area

At last the steady, warm temperatures of spring have arrived!  I don’t know about you, but when the weather is nice, it is so difficult to keep me indoors.

Recently we were able to take a trip home to Dad and Mom’s house in Tennessee.  My parents live in an amazingly beautiful area in the Cumberland Mountain region and we love to take advantage of gorgeous days; looking for fun and adventure whenever we are in town.  This last trip found us venturing off to Foster Falls Small Wild Area for a little hiking.  Foster Falls is in Marion County, about a 40 minutes drive west of Chattanooga.  It is a part of the South Cumberland State Park area which also includes Grundy Lakes and the old coke ovens we visited last spring. 

Foster Falls1

Foster Falls is not a new area to us at all as we have camped (mostly primitive camping) there several times over the years and my kids frequent the area when they are with their grands.  While the camping is nice, Foster Falls is well-known for its hiking, especially its climbing, and of course a gorgeous 60 ft water fall.

View from the overlook

View from the overlook

Foster Falls6

Rushing water leading to the falls

Rushing water leading to the falls

Hiking around the falls is available for all levels, from the casual to the endurance hiker.  We enjoy the trail down to the base of the falls, which is not difficult, but can be rocky as well as slippery if there has been a lot of rain.  It’s about a 15-20 minute hike down to the falls.

We were casual hikers, just out to enjoy the spring weather on the day that we visited Foster Falls

We were casual hikers, just out to enjoy the spring weather on the day that we visited Foster Falls

Foster Falls Bridge

Bridge leading to the base of the falls after the 15 minute hike down

Glimpse of the falls through the trees

Glimpse of the falls through the trees

At the base there are other trails as well as a deep pool that is so cold even in the summer!

Normally the pool is emerald green, but the southern spring rains had the pool looking a little murkey.

Normally the pool is emerald-green, but the southern spring rains had the pool looking a little murky.

Longer hikes include trails that eventually lead you to the portion of South Cumberland State Park known as the Fiery Gizzard trail (12.5 miles one way) and is a very popular trail to hike!

View across the South Cumberland Mountain area  from the top of Foster Falls

View across the South Cumberland Mountain area from the top of Foster Falls

The trail leading to the Fiery Gizzard goes along the side of this creek

The trail leading to the Fiery Gizzard goes along the side of this creek

Climbing is the same way.  My kids did a little free-climbing while we were there, but we have brought gear before for attempting some serious climbing!  The area is actually known to be a prime destination for serious climbers in the Southeast!

Free Climbing at Foster Falls

Free Climbing at Foster Falls2

Pack a picnic, bring plenty of water, and plan to spend the day if you come out.  There is much for you to enjoy!  Foster Falls is dog friendly and you will encounter many along the trails.  Leashes are a must, and remember to bring baggies to clean up after your pet.

Our sweet little Corgi enjoyed her outdoor adventure ... except for the mud.

Our sweet little Corgi enjoyed her outdoor adventure … except for the mud.

If you don’t camp, lodging is available in both Kimball, Tennessee down in the valley, and in Monteagle , Tennessee on the top of the mountain near the main entrance to South Cumberland State Park. Plan for several days to soak up nature and history all around the roughly 25,000 acres that comprise this state park system.

Foster Falls is so peaceful and gorgeous

Foster Falls is so peaceful and gorgeous

Inquiring minds want to know:  What do you like to do when the season begins to change and warm up?

Grundy Lakes & Coke Ovens

Last week was spring break, so we found it to be the perfect time for a trip “home” to see family.  We were so blessed to spend the Easter holiday at my parents in Tennessee feasting and playing, while catching up with my siblings, nieces and nephews and of course our own married daughter.  It was a perfectly lovely time indeed!

I desperately tried to take a picture of all four of our kids, but it was an epic fail…..


But, I’m OK with that because it truly shows how blessed that I am.


And how my kids love each other & can still have fun together.


My girls did cooperate for one quick photo …. just before the boiled egg battle commenced.


There comes an age when hunting eggs is no longer the “in” thing to do!

Easter Sunday was memorable indeed and marked only the beginning of a near perfect week.

It’s sad, you can spend your teen & young adult years (as well as a few years between moves) in an area and never really know that area.  I can only blame myself for this as I spent more time rebelling against this small town than embracing this beautiful area in Tennessee.  I’m a city girl through and through, but I do love to go home now, and discover the hidden treasures of middle Tennessee that I avoided as a snotty teen.

Momma planned a day for the kids (well the two that didn’t have to work) and I to enjoy a little state park near their place.


Located in Tracey City, Tennessee on the top of Sequatchie/Monteagle Mountain (part of the Cumberland Mountain range) is a sweet little state park that is a part of the South Cumberland Mountain park system.  Grundy Lakes is a unique little park perfect for an afternoon picnic, a little fishing, hiking, biking, swimming and strolling around soaking up a little history.

Bradley ready for his brike ride around the lakes at Grundy

Bradley ready for his bike ride around the lakes at Grundy

Over 100 years ago, the area that is now Grundy Lakes State Park was home to the Lone Rock Coke Ovens.  These 120 “beehive” ovens were built into the ground around 1883 which worked well for the community as Tracey City was a coal mining area.   It was also an area in ruin where coal had been burned into “Coke” a fuel that didn’t contain a lot of impurities and burned so hot it melted iron; one reason it was manufactured.

A few of the grown-over coke ovens

A few of the grown-over coke ovens

While coke ovens were a boost to the economy they eventually destroyed the communities and environment that made up the surrounding area.

In the 1930’s, during the height of the Great Depression in an effort to bring  jobs to what was a devastated coal mining community, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) took control of the land, built the lakes, planted trees and shrubbery and turned the area into a recreation area that is still lovely today.




Side of one of the ovens.... I loved the small water fall.  Most serene.

Side of one of the ovens…. I loved the small water fall. Most serene.

I appreciate when the restoration of the land was being completed, the history of the area was preserved as well.  Some of the coke ovens have been cleaned out and maintained for visitors to see the structures, while others are lined up in the woods for you to enjoy as you stroll about.

Madeline and Momma taking a break on their bike ride around the lakes ... yes, Madeline is turning cartwheels!

Madeline and Momma taking a break on their bike ride around the lakes … yes, Madeline is turning cartwheels!


Madeline standing beside one of the original coke ovens…. there were originally 120 of these built in this area.


A little more history of the present-day Grundy Lakes

A little more history of the present-day Grundy Lakes

As I mentioned, Grundy Lakes is a part of the South Cumberland Recreation area.  Within 20 miles of this little park is the Foster Falls recreation area (fabulous rock climbing and primitive camping), the beginning of the Fiery Gizzard Trail (hiking for the experienced hiker), & Savage Gulf State Natural area that hosts a bevy of outdoor recreation that can appeal to everyone in the family.  The exclusive University of the South is also on the mountain.  If you love architecture you have to stop for pictures and tour!

I love this area on the mountain as it is so peaceful and totally off the beaten path.  If you want adventure, history, and an opportunity to get away from it all, this is the perfect area for you!  Located of interstate 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga Taking the Monteagle/Tracey City exit at the top of Monteagle Mountain.

Coming into the Grundy Lakes park area

Entering into the Grundy Lakes park area

Happy Trails!


Real Estate Love: Tim McGraw & Faith Hill’s Franklin Estate

I am a huge country music fan and even more so of country sweethearts Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
I love their exquisite taste and style, so when I learned they were selling one of their residences in the Nashville area, I had to check it out!
Listed at $20 million (pocket change, right?), part of this beautiful estate once belonged to Hank Williams Senior, so there is much history there.
With four residences on the property from a main house to a caretakers apartment in the stables, this place has so much to offer.  Check out these gorgeous pictures.
(**All pictures are from
The interior of this house was used in the video Tim & Faith did for their duet “I Need You” while it was being remodeled.
Don’t you just love the exposed wood wall?  SO rustic, yet elegant!



Check out those gorgeous hard-wood floors!


I love that their decorating choices didn’t take away from the style of the house.  Such a calm color scheme.  It is most definitely an escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy schedule.


Sitting out on this porch with a cup of tea would be most relaxing indeed.



According to real estate blog Zillow, the parcel of land that is being sold is 753 acres!




A guest house perhaps?


Looks like there is plenty of space for a kitchen garden!




I totally could see myself living here, but alas, I’m a little short of funds for this gorgeous home!
What do you think of Tim & Faith’s style?