Nashville, Tennessee 

The Parthenon, beer, beer, and more beer…

After leaving The Farm I drove until just about five miles short of the northern terminus of the trace, stopping here and there for a better look at the impeccable view of the mountain-sky jam packed with globs of piercingly bright stars. Mississippi may have been the most beautiful state I had witnessed so far but the sky above the Smokies is the best stargazing I’ve ever encountered. A sign that read no parking dusk to dawn at the bottom of a winding hill caught my eye. This looks like a good place to settle in for the night, I thought as I quickly pulled off. And I was right. I would wake up to the view of a bustling city nestled into a mountain below the stony cliff I was parked on.

Unfortunately, the only cops I had seen on the trace thus far took a spontaneous stroll up the hill and found the camper. After a refusal to let them search the van I was forced to journey off the trace and into the back of a hotel parking lot in Nashville for the night. I would get kicked out of here also late the next morning, but at least I got myself some continental breakfast first.

I spent the first day writing in Centennial Park with the elaborately designed architecture of the Parthenon as my muse. And I spent the first night dancing around town and with a bachelor party and another solo-female-traveler I met, beer as my muse.

I was lucky enough to have my parents drive in to spend the weekend with me. We drank so much that we were getting funny looks from frat boys. We were singing at the table and dancing out on the floor. We even ended one night with karaoke. I’d love to expand on the details of this portion of my time in Nashville, but the details are too fuzzy.

And when they left the city I had plans to leave too. Except things never seem to go according to plan and I ended up staying in Nashville for an extra week. I stayed with a gentlemen I had met my first night in town. I was excited to take him up on this offer as Nashville is an extremely lively city. There are shops up and down every street. Live music is echoing out onto the road all down Broadway, seven days a week at any time of day or night. There are always tons of people out and about. And there are endless tours and attractions to take advantage of. But instead, I ended up taking full advantage of actually having a house to hangout in and spent most of my time hanging out with my host at home, a much needed change of pace.

However the road is always calling my name and I had to say goodbye and continue on my journey. The next stop was in my home state, but this definitely was not the area I had spent my life calling home. Shawnee National Forest is as close to a fairy tale as Illinois gets. I spent a weekend camping there with a friend from college. Garden of the Gods featuring Camel Rock had spectacular views over looking the hills dense with dark colored trees. We hiked many trails, explored many caves, and even checked out an old iron furnace, but I’d have to say my favorite was the hike around Burden Falls. It was my fist long hike in a while and I was grateful for the submersion in nature.

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