Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New blog site!!

Hello readers- my husband has decided to start blogging about travel as well, so we've decided to merge our blogs into one.  We both have very similar styles, but unique perspectives that I hope you find enjoyable.  Follow us both at http://southernwanderings.blogspot.com

Happy reading!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Summer Waterfall Tour

Stillhouse Hollow Falls
This summer has been dreadfully hot, and as a result I've been hanging around a lot of natural water features each weekend.  Besides my normal summer weekend routine of kayaking, I've also (as you can guess from the title) been seeking out swimming holes at the base of waterfalls.  In fact, my friend Sarah and I have dubbed it, "The Great Middle Tennessee Waterfall Tour of Summer 2010." 

Since Sarah is out of town this weekend, Brian and I decided to take the dogs and venture out to Stillhouse Hollow Falls located 20 minutes southwest of Columbia in Maury County.  Its a state natural area and features a small waterfall and a larger waterfall (Stillhouse Hollow Falls) with a 75-foot drop.  The trail is  only about 2/3rds of a mile, but features a pretty deep descent into the hollow.  When we reached the base of the falls, there were a couple of families swimming in the shallow pool below, but we noticed an area where we could climb to a ledge under the falls and let the cool water rain down on the tops of our heads.  We let the dogs off leash and watched them revert to puppies, splashing around and running back and forth between the different families.

Since we got a late start, we didn't stay long since I wanted to visit the gravesite of my paternal great-grandparents. They're buried next to an old church and spring at Cave Springs cemetery (est. 1853) along Liepers Creek Rd. in Maury County.   We encountered quite a few detours on our way due to the extensive damage caused by the May flood, but with the aid of modern technology (Brian's iphone), we finally found our way to the cemetery.  As I was taking photos of Emry Davis and Mamie Davis' gravestones, an elderly man with striking blue eyes and one arm stopped by and informed me it was Decoration Day.  We also determined we were distantly related and shared the same last name, but as quickly as he appeared, he got back in his truck and drove off down the gravel road.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cold Beer Under Bridge

I’ll be the first to admit: I am a Southern girl and love my native Tennessee, but dang, “Why there gotta be so many rednecks?” I really looked forward to a weekend of kayaking down the Buffalo River and mountain biking/swimming at Bryant Grove in Long Hunter State Park, but had no idea I would be surrounded by my mulleted brethren almost the entire time.

I guess my first indication was when we pulled up to Bells Bridge, the put-in spot for kayakers and canoers on the Buffalo River, and noticed a handmade sign that stated, “Cold Beer Under Bridge” and pointed to a beer shack that indeed was under the bridge. It was only 9:30 and the shack was hoppin’ with underage kids trying to buy a cold can of Bud Light. Brian and I determined it was too early to hit up the beer shack and promptly took off down the river in our kayaks, only to be surrounded by drunk/high teenagers in canoes and dudes with rebel flag doo-rags. The few times we were able to break away from the crowds and experience the soothing sounds of nature, were quickly interrupted with the distant yelling of the “F-word” by rowdy teens who apparently cherished the use of this particular curse word.

We still managed to have a good time (and got in a grueling workout) despite the crowds and empty cans of beer that lined the river banks, but will undoubtedly never return. The 2-hour drive from Nashville just isn’t worth it when there are less crowded rivers like the Piney nearby.

The following day, I met up with my pal Sarah to hit the Jones Mill Mountain Bike Trail at Long Hunter State Park. We pulled into the empty parking lot at the trailhead and I was relieved to find that we had the whole trail to ourselves. The Jones Mill Trail offers a 4-mile and 2-mile loop so we opted for the longer 4-mile loop and enjoyed hopping numerous rock formations and riding along a ridge overlooking Percy Priest Lake. We both managed to stay on our bikes the majority of the time, and I was only thrown from my bike once- where I promptly remembered to scream out that word that the teens on the Buffalo River were so fond of. I woke up to bruises on my knee and ankle, but I’m quite proud of my “battle scars.”

After the ride, Sarah and I decided to head over to the Bryant Grove swimming area to take a cooling dip in the lake. Mistake. First of all, the water was murky and not at all cooling- it felt more like tepid bath water. Second of all, we were surrounded by children in swim diapers (gag) and a young boy with a shaved head and rattail that put my long hair to shame. We promptly exited the swim area and returned to Sarah’s car where we passed a man with sagging pants and teardrop tattoos lugging his two kids toward the beach. It was time to go home.

Monday, May 31, 2010


A little less than two weeks ago, I had a septoplasty and turbinate reduction.  What is this, you say?  Hell if I know, but it has something to do with straightening out the cartilage in my nose and reducing the size of my sinus cavities.  Oh...and it hurt like hell.

For years, I've had problems with my sinuses and problems breathing during sleep so the hope is that this will correct all that.  For those who are considering this surgery, here is a brief description of what to expect:

On Monday morning, my husband drove me over to St. Thomas hospital where I checked in, got a wristband, and sat around feeling out of place in a sea of elderly people.  For the next few hours, I was transferred from one room to another where I doled out free samples of my urine and blood, and finally landed in the recovery room where I got dressed in a hospital gown and socks.  Here, Brian and I sat behind a curtain and listened as they wheeled in post-op patients either crying or moaning.  This is a not a good place to be while waiting for your own surgery.  Soon, the nurse came in and told me I was not pregnant (okay- I already told you I was on birth control), and took my vitals.  Next, I was wheeled into yet another room where they stuck my hand with a needle (Ouch!) and administered some kind of chemical that made me sleepy.  Next thing I know, I wake up with a gauze mustache taped across my face, the surgery is done, and I feel awful.

The nausea from the anesthetic causes me to throw up blood in the recovery room, but the nurse tells me this is normal.  Since when is throwing up blood normal!  They release me to go home and that's where the real fun begins.

The next few days are a haze of nausea, headaches, a swollen nose, and constipation.  I have splints stitched into my nose to prevent my newly staightened septum from collapsing and as a result, I can only breathe through my mouth.  Four days later, I have the splints removed and although I've never had a baby, I imagine its somewhat like giving birth, except out of your nose.  The rest of the week is spent battling headaches, fatigue, and jaw pain.  I still cannot breathe well out of my nose, but I'm supposed to go back to the doc's next week to have my nose vacuumed.  Lovely. 

So far, I can't tell the results- it takes a few months for the nose to completely heal.  At this point, it has not been worth it, but once healing takes place, I may be singing a different tune.  Okay- now where's my Afrin? 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Crossing the Finish Line

Yesterday I accomplished a goal that I began working on last November- I finished my first half-marathon.  It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I've ever completed, but the rewards far surpass any pain I experienced along the way.  To top it off, I completed the 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 24 minutes, averaging around 11 minutes per mile.  Not bad considering I hadn't trained in nearly a month, and was still dealing with pain from achilles tendonitis.

To recap yesterday's events, I woke up at 5 am, pinned on my racing bib and laced up my running shoes, and Brian drove me over to the starting line at Centennial Park.  Along with approx. 30,000 other runners, I made my way to my corral and began to stretch for the longest run I've experienced at this point.  I really don't know the science behind the proper fueling of my body pre-race, I just ate a huge pasta dinner the night before, and listened to my body during the run.  I could tell when I needed water, or when my body needed salt.

Before I knew it, the race was on and I made my way down Broadway as hordes of spectators cheered us on.  I gave children high fives as I raced past them, watched a guy run while juggling at the same time, and passed a group of spectators dressed as the band Kiss as I made my way through the Gulch.  I was pacing myself particularly well for the first 7 miles, but around mile 8, I could really feel my mental and physical energy begin to drain.  I could feel blisters forming on the bottom of my feet and began to feel a little sick from the mixture of water and energy drink that I inhaled at each fuel station.  By the time I hit mile 12, I felt like I couldn't go any further, but I knew I was almost to the end and had to keep going.  I wish I could say I sprinted to the finish line for the last mile, but it was more of a shuffle.  Regardless of my pace, I crossed the finish line and it was an incredible feeling.  As soon as I crossed, we were herded through a line where we recieved our medals, grabbed up food and water, and had our pictures taken.  At this point, I felt like my legs were going to give out at any moment and all I wanted to do was find Brian and go home.

Brian and I reunited in the family reunion area and promptly headed for Mitchell's Deli for a turkey sandwich, and then I just crashed and enjoyed a nice nap.  My legs are very sore and stiff today, and I'm suffering a bit of post-race depression, but I'm already planning my next race.  I'm hooked!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

John C. Clayborn Millennium Trail

April in Tennessee brings out a kaleidoscope of colors as wildflowers blanket the forest floor.  My mom is a wildflower enthusiast (or maniac depending on how you look at it) and wanted to see the colors in their full glory by taking a long hike.  We've been talking about hiking the 8 mile Millennium Trail for a couple of years now, so we decided to quit talking about and just do it.

Located within Edgar Evans State Park, the John C. Clayborn Millennium Trail follows the outline of a peninsula in Center Hill Lake and passes by old homesteads where the only remnants of human influence are seen in the low rock walls so typically built by Scots-Irish immigrants to Tennessee.  We also passed the remains of an old springhouse before we began our strenuous ascent up the ridge.  The wildflowers did not disappoint, and every switchback revealed a new flower, a new color.  While I highly recommend this trail for its scenery and history, it is extrememly strenuous and literally sapped me of my energy.  I was so grateful for the PB&J sandwich and trail mix that my mom packed because it literally gave me the boost I needed to make it over the last few hills.

If you do decide to hike this trail, I highly recommend you stop at the visitor's center at the entrance of the park and climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower.  The tower overlooks the Center Hill Dam and from a distance, you can even see the abandoned cooling tower from the defunct nuclear plant in Hartsville, TN- which is nearly 40 miles north of Edgar Evans State Park!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Urban Bicyling Expedition

With temps in the 60s and the sunshine casting its golden rays, the past few Saturdays have been ideal for a bike ride in Nashville.

As many of you already know, I've been training for the Country Music half-marathon in April and have suffered a few leg injuries as a result. My orthopedist recommended riding my bike as a low-impact alternative, so I've been spending the last couple of weekends in the saddle. Luckily, my friend and fellow half-marathon trainee, Sarah, has joined me on my cycling adventures, and can testify to the strange characters we've encountered along the way.

Two weeks ago, we set out from the Shelby Bottoms trailhead in Shelby Park and rode all the way to Percy Priest Dam. Along the way, we decided to follow an unpaved trail to McGavock Spring House that piqued our interest. The trail was most certainly not a mountain bike trail, and after wrestling with and ultimately destroying a small sapling, we decided to ditch our bikes at a fallen tree and walk the remainder of the way. The trail was quite overgrown and right as were about to turn a corner, Sarah tells me, "I could totally see a homeless person living out here." Sure enough, we turned the corner to find a homeless man spread out on a blanket surrounded by a multitude of jugs. We turned and hightailed it out of there, laughing the entire way. Further along the trail, we passed an Elvis-look-alike, nearly escaped a 3-bike accident at a busy intersection on Lebanon Road, and witnessed a young boy begin to pull his pants down to expose himself to us as his grandparents fished from the pond nearby. Afterwards, we inhaled ice cream cones from Pied Piper Creamery.

Last Saturday, we met up at the Downtown Presbyterian Church and decided to do some urban exploring. I had heard that you could technically ride your bike from the Metrocenter greenway all the way to Percy Priest Dam. We decided to ride the portion between Shelby Bottoms and Metrocenter since it was 'new territory' to explore. Starting from Church Street, we rode all the way to Metrocenter, encountering all kinds of industrial scenery, homeless persons, and various tent cities along the Cumberland River. The wind was ferocious on top of the Metrocenter Levee, and we pushed to make it back downtown, even though the ride is primarily flat. After we passed under the Jefferson Street bridge, we rode over to the Farmer's market, locked up our bikes, and enjoyed New Orleans-style snowballs from Fleur de Lis (owned by a New Orleans native and colleague of mine, Tanisha Hall).

Post-Snowball consumption, we continued on our journey by riding over the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge, down Davidson street, and into Shelby Park. More industrial scenery here, with views of the PSC Metals scrapyard and a Feed the Children warehouse. On our way back, we rode our bikes along a portion of Broadway, and at one point as we waited for the light to turn red, I looked over to see a horse-drawn carriage in the lane next to me. With no metal shield to separate me and the horse next to me, I realized how alive I felt by being on my bike.