Saturday, January 12, 2008


On New Year's Day we hit the road to begin the long journey back to Tupelo. This would be a much different drive than the one we made on the way up to Bangor, though. On our way north, we were in a hurry to get to Bangor as quickly as possible, so we could get unpacked in time for Christmas. On the way back, however, we took the longer route so we could visit with friends in DC, Charlotte, Greenville and Atlanta.

Our first stop was Falls Church, VA, just outside of Washington DC. Here we got to have breakfast with Andrea, a friend of Rob's from college who was staying with her parents for the holidays. Andrea's been living in France for the past 15 years and is now married and has 2 kids with both US and French citizenship. We didn't get any photos of Andrea or her kids, since our camera batteries had just died, but here's a link to some photos of them in France.

Our next stop was a suburb of Charlotte, NC, where we spent our 2nd night on the road with our friend Greg. We met Greg when we both lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we got to re-connect with him when we lived in Guatemala and when we were traveling in Mexico. Greg has been traveling Mexico and Central America for the past 2 years since he quit his corporate job in a quest to set up a new enterprise somewhere south of the border. For this visit he was spending the holidays at his mom's house, but getting ready for another 6 months down south exploring Nicaragua.

Another great visit was with Peachy, who is Carley's best friend from college and who also happens to be Rowan's god-mother. Peachy is a native of Rolla, Missouri, and when we last visited her she was working on a masters degree at University of Texas in Austin. However, now she's taking a sabbatical from school to work in Greenville, South Carolina, as a regional manager for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

We didn't actually get to meet Barack Obama, since he was campaigning in New Hampshire. However Peachy and her staff were elated on the day of our visit (Friday, January 4th), since Obama had just won the first democratic caucus in Iowa the night before. Unfortunately, Peachy is so busy with campaign work these days that she only had time for a brief late-afternoon lunch with us.

After that we made the 2-hour drive to Atlanta to spend the night with one of Carley's high school friends, Corinne, and her husband Reeve.

Corinne and Reeve are another inspiring couple. For one thing, both are extreme athletes - Corinne is an avid rock climber, and Reeve is a former professional kayaker and river guide and was getting ready to run in a 50-kilometer race. (That's about 32 miles - 6 miles longer than a marathon!) Additionally, Corinne has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and now teaches at nearby Kennesaw State University. They live in Marietta, a large suburb northwest of Atlanta. We were surprised at how beautiful the area was. As you can see in the photo, there is a creek and a good-sized wooded area just behind their house.

We spent the night in their guest room with its own balcony that looks out over the creek and woods.

They also have a nice little deck down by the creek, which is probably great for entertaining guests or just relaxing with a good book.

The wooded setting gave us a great opportunity to get some exercise with a little hike along the stream.

Smoky Mountains

In addition to all the enjoyable visits with friends, we also spent a night on our own in a cute cabin in the Smoky Mountains.

In addition to 2 master bedrooms, the cabin featured both a fireplace (downstairs) and a foosball table (upstairs).

It was nice having a fully stocked kitchen, as opposed to the typical hotel room where you're lucky if you have a microwave and small refrigerator.

The closest town was Bryson City, North Carolina, about 2 miles away. This area is much more serene than the north side of the Smokies, near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which by most accounts is getting to be severely over-developed and over-crowded.

The view from outside the cabin was gorgeous, as it was located only half a mile from the southern (Deep Creek) entrance to the Smoky Mountain National Park. This entrance is not nearly as popular as the north entrance, because you can't drive more than half a mile into the Park from here. Instead, you park at a trailhead where you can find trails that will take you just about anywhere in the park, if you've got the right gear and you're ready to do some serious hiking.

The location was absolutely perfect for us, since we were looking to hike to several of the nearby waterfalls along Deep Creek and its tributaries. This was also a great opportunity to try out the REI Baby Carrier pack we got for Christmas. Above is the first of 3 waterfalls we visited - Juney Whank Falls, located a couple hundred yards uphill from Deep Creek on a beautiful little loop trail.

The 2nd waterfall - Tom's Branch Falls - was probably the prettiest of the 3.

By the time we got to Indian Creek Falls, Rowan was absolutely miserable and would not stop crying. And no wonder - it was only about 17 degrees Fahrenheit!

On our way to the Smoky Mountains we stopped for lunch in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. We've long heard that Asheville is an oasis of progressive culture, and we were glad to be able to finally check it out a little bit. We loved our lunch at the renowned gourmet vegetarian Laughing Seed Cafe, a truly awesome establishment that inspires us to both cook and eat better. The photo above was taken on Wall Street just outside the Laughing Seed, where due to the high altitude, there were remnants of previous snowstorms visible on the ground for the first time since we left Pennsylvania.

Rowan and Kina were generally excited to be on the road. Rowan is turning out to be pretty good at dealing with roadtrips. He occassionally reaches his limit where we'll just have to get him out of the car, but for the most part he's good for hours at a time, as long as we keep the toys and snacks coming. Also he loves being out in public, especially at restaurants, where he spends the whole time looking around trying to make eye contact with other people in his quest for more attention.

After 5 days and more than 1500 miles on the road, we rolled into Tupelo about 3pm on Saturday, January 5. We were relieved to finally be home, despite the fact that the trip went so smoothly with no problems at all, and that we had such a great time visiting with everyone. Rowan, on the other hand, was really cranky the next day, as if he expected some more excitement, rather than staying at home all day. We're pretty sure he'll be ready for a big roadtrip out to Arizona and California this summer!

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