This post is part of the momondo experience series, where momondo asked me to explore Nashville, Tennessee. Fortunately they did not think to ask what my definition of “explore” is these days…
As I was coming back from my (solo) trail run in the Cherokee National Forest in Ocoee, Tennessee our camp neighbor (large RV, no tent in sight) asked if I’d seen any bears.
“Nope,” I answered. “I haven’t seen any wildlife at all.”
He nodded. “A man over there saw a mama and two cubs out on the road,” he spoke with a heavy southern draw while nodding his head towards a campsite past the bathrooms.
“Oh,” I said. “How lucky.”
He huffed a little, disagreeing with me. “Well I don’t know about that. Last year, right around here, a 12-year old boy got pulled from his tent in the middle of the night and eaten by a bear.”
“Eaten?” I asked in horror.
He shook his head. “Eaten. It was all over the news and everything. They shot the bear but still (southern draw on the L), a damn tragedy.”
“Where did that happen?” I asked. “Here?”
He nodded and fanned his arm out over the campground. “Right around here.” He shook his head gravely and patted the solid walls of his RV. “Ya’ll be safe now.”
And that was when I decided it was time for a hotel room.
Our campsite in Ocoee, Tenessee which may have also been the location of a murder-by-bear.
Actually, the bear mauling was the least of it. We’d been in a tent for so many days I’d lost count. My clothes had that pungent, earthy smell of sweat and woodsmoke and funk. I wanted to eat dinner without being dive-bombed by mosquitos and shave my legs and maybe even turn on the cable.
Plus, our next stop was Nashville and I didn’t want to wander the streets of a bonafide city looking like I’d just stumbled off of the Appalachian Trail.
Sometimes when the reality of living outside gets to be too much, I plan elaborate itineraries of all the civilized things that Brian and I will do when we leave the forest. It’s an escape mechanism that I regularly employ when I am feeling like I have erased the past 100 years of hygienic advancement.
For example, when I walked the Camino de Santiago in one set of dirty clothing, I spent hours daydreaming about buying dresses – something I have fantasized about neither before nor since. In India, I became obsessed with lotions, deodorants and perfumes. Now that I live in a tent, I often think of washing machines, climate control and fancy soap.
Around the picnic table at our campsite in Ocoee I planned a whirlwind itinerary for our time in Nashville. We would eat breakfast at The Pancake Pantry, go beer tasting at Yazoo Brewing, and listen to live music at Robert’s Western World and The 5 Spot. And that was just during the first 24-hours.
Planning everything we wouldn’t actually do in Nashville.
So it was with the best of intentions that we pulled into Nashville and unloaded our bags into a hotel (central air!) with a pool shaped like a gigantic guitar.
I took a warm, bug-free shower. I shaved my legs. I put on clean clothes and crawled under crisp, white sheets. And then I looked at Brian, who’d done the man-version of the same thing, and told him I didn’t want to leave the hotel room. And he said that neither did he.
Just like that our good intentions for Nashville floated away on the breeze like a rift of honky tonk music.
Here is what we did do in Nashville.
We went to Centennial Park for daily runs.
Centennial Park has a life-sized replica of the Parthenon. I don’t get it either.
We drank beer at Blackstone Brewery (no IPA on tap- what?) and 12 South Taproom (great place, wonderful beer selection), ate over-priced yet delicious ice cream at Jeni’s Splended Ice Creams, and took a walk around the beautiful campus of Vanderbilt University.
We showered twice a day, did laundry, and walked around the city in clean clothes.
We did not go to a single honky tonk bar. In theory, I wanted to. But, see, bars are loud and smoky and my hotel room was quiet and climate controlled and I was halfway through The Goldfinch and remember the pool! shaped! like! a! guitar!
We might not have done Nashville the right way but it was good enough for me. See, when you live in a tent an overpriced hotel by the highway feels like The Ritz. It’s all about perspective my friends.
That time I left my hotel room in Nashville to have a beer.