It’s been a while. About two months! What have you guys been up to? Hope you rang in 2021 well and prayed HARD for a better year! We are at our home base in Sneedville, or Thneedville if you are a Lorax, where we’ve spent most of the time since early November. The plan was to get the remaining work done on our pond and road before the rainy season hits. We have managed to get the pond intake pipe under the driveway lengthened and raised and add an additional outlet pipe through the dam. Mr. Wonderful (MW) also cleaned up a bunch of invading trees and brush and had the tree that was in the pond removed (it was going to die sitting in 3′ of water). The old barn is also gone, and I was surprised at how sad that made me. When we first bought this property, I saw that barn as “in the way” and wanted it gone. But after cleaning up and getting rid of the collapsed chicken coop, the giant barn became our welcome back when we came to Sneedville. The flood in February of last year, though, made it clear that it needed to come down. Sitting in a bog, the support timbers were rotted. Had it not been constantly wet there, we could have saved it, but with the water there was no option. So, we pulled a bunch of the wood off to keep some of the history of this place (a possible accent wall in the future house, a table for the previous owner Lorraine Carroll, and some for our son, who builds amazing things and loves the history). Then we contacted a guy who recycles barn wood and had him do his thing. With all that finished, what remained of the skeleton was knocked down, and the whole pile was burned.
The next step is to raise the driveway between the dam and the barn by about 2′, but even though the contractor has been available, it has rained every few days leaving the ground one muddy bog. The rainy season may have come early. Ugh! I’m still hopeful, though, that we can get the messy part finished and maybe get my weeping willow planted and the pond stocked before we head out again. A girl can dream!
While at the barn, we had a visit from my BFF Tina in November. We took the 4-1/2 hour hike to the top of the mountain at the back of our property…3 hours up, 1-1/2 back. The latter is practically straight down, which is harder than up with fake knees. Whew! The view is totally worth it, though. Well, at least until you wake up the next morning! LOL. Most important, Tina and I had some good BFF time. We both miss that since MW and I moved to our home base to Tennessee.
Also in November we met Mom and Dad2 outside of Chattanooga for a little respite, something we have done for a few days before Thanksgiving for at least 20 years. (Sadly, Covid preempted our normal family Thanksgiving, which can be anywhere from 13 to 40 people. I really missed it!) This visit also gave them a chance for a shakedown of their new-to-them travel trailer, and it did great. We stayed at Hawkins Pointe Campground, which is basically parking spaces lined up side-by-side. There are no picnic tables or fire rings, or even space to sit outside (not that the weather would have allowed that without a BIG fire). It was full-hookup, but with no bathhouses or other amenities, we thought it was a bit steep at $55.39/night. If we go back again, we will try the Holiday Travel Park Chattanooga across the street. (It had no availability for the dates of this trip.) The weather wasn’t great, but we spent some time driving around the area, including Chickamauga battlefield park, where MW went back for a hike. Food deliciousness included takeout from Hickory Pit BBQ, homemade Thanksgiving dinner, and dinner out at Portofino’s. The best part of the entire trip, though, was just visiting. I was missing my Mommy! (So much visiting and only one pic…SORRY!)
December brought a weekend visit with our daughter Amber and her two Boogers (Angel and Cutie). While I really enjoy traveling, I miss spending time with my kids and their kids. There was lots of fun, including plenty of giggles, some good food, and catching up. Angel Booger helped Papa out with some chores, too. After a flurry of final shopping and shipping (including a day trip over to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, for a particular bottle of bourbon), MW and I spent a quiet, white, and very cold Christmas at the barn, thankful for the blessings of the birth of the Lamb.
The next morning we woke up to 4 degrees! Seriously…FOUR DEGREES!! For the most part, Petunia soldiered through. The only glitch so far this season has been the water line to the kitchen sink freezing, which is on the back wall. It has happened twice, both times when it stayed well below freezing for more than a day. No leaks, thank goodness, but we will probably drop the Coroplast when the weather is warmer and see about insulating that line a little better. (Before the RV folks jump in, we do take steps to keep it from freezing, but the line actually runs right along the back wall.) Right now we are in the middle of a different RV project, but that is another post.
Around the first of the year, we went over to Greensboro to see our kids Ryan and Alene, and their kids Booger Butt, Little Booger, and Cutie Booger. The weather was cold, but we were able to have a proper cookout in the HUGE fireplace at the campground pavilion, complete with s’mores and lots of laughter. Our oldest Booger will turn 13 in March, and it was time to start planning for his EPIC TEEN ADVENTURE. (They all get a special trip when they turn 13, a tradition we are adapting from MW’s Grand Mary.) While in the ‘boro, we were also able to catch up with friends Missy, Roger, Chuck, Dempress, and Ravi while having a terrific dinner at @Elm Street Grill (one of my favorite restaurants in Greensboro). Of course, we hung out with Tina again, which is just going to happen any time we are within striking distance.
Sadly, about the time we were planning to head back to Tennessee, Tina’s precious Daddy, James Ring, passed away. He was such a sweet man. For many years he had struggled with his health and was ready to join his beloved Anne. His departure leaves a gaping hole, though, in the hearts of Tina, her babies, his brothers and sisters, and many who knew him. We extended our stay to help where we could and celebrate his life.
On the way back we stopped for a few days at Warriors’ Path State Park in Kingsport, Tennessee. This place was pretty awesome. It has a lot to do, including boating, paddle boarding, disc golf, swimming, hiking, biking, golfing, fishing, horseback riding, and other things. The campground has 94 campsites with water, electric, tables, and grills. Our site (47) was an odd setup, paved somewhat like a parallel parking space requiring some maneuvering to get in. The purpose, though, was to keep the view of the woods and the river below. It is a lovely, wooded campground, although there are quite a few small sites that will not accommodate larger rigs. The park has a couple of cool things that we have not seen before. The first is a really neat hammock campground with posts and hooks for hanging and fire pits. The other is the most unique playground I’ve ever seen. Called Darrell’s Dream, and designed around “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, it runs along a creek that meanders along and has a bunch of stations with different play areas, including a tree house. The amazing thing, though, is that every part of this remarkable playground is handicap accessible. It was truly wonderful!
Although it isn’t too far from the barn, we never get over to Kingsport except passing through. I’d read a few good things about the area, which precipitated our stay. The weather wasn’t great for walking around, but they have a really nice downtown with metal benches commemorating famous songs. Another interesting place in the downtown area is the church circle, located at the intersection of Broad and Sullivan. Designed like the circles in Washington, DC, it is indeed surrounded by churches…First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and First Broad Street United Methodist sit prominently. Despite the long shadows of the churches, Kingsport is also the home of the Long Island Iced Tea, at least by some accounts. Their version of the story says that in the 1920s during Prohibition, “Old Man Bishop” mixed whiskey, maple syrup, and five liquors in a local community named Long Island in Kingsport (not that NY place). Later, his son Ransom Bishop, tweaked the recipe. It was quite different from the current version, which uses cola, sweet & sour mix, triple sec, tequila, vodka, rum, and gin. (I can tell you with a great deal of authority that the latter will knock you on your butt! Looks like the other might have done it faster!)
While in town we did find a couple of pretty great places to eat. The first was The Bagel Exchange downtown. I LOVE a good bagel, especially accompanied by cream cheese, lox, and capers. In addition to the normal breakfast assortment, they also had a large variety of delicious-sounding bagel sandwiches, along with muffins, cinnamon buns, and scones. It was so good that we ended up going twice! The second was Riverfront Seafood Company, where we had lunch. It was very good, with a nice variety of fried and grilled seafood, plus burgers and other sandwiches. We would definitely go again
On the 16th as we headed to the barn, it was snowing to beat the band. It was beautiful, but we were happy to get parked. The next weekend, we had a visit from our Boogers from Blaine, Angel Booger and Missy Booger. It was fun Yaya time and gave our daughter Amber a much-needed break and time to complete some projects at her house. Then, to finish out January, Chuck and Dempress came over for the weekend. We did a little hiking up at Cumberland Gap, and had lunch at Gondolier in Harrogate. We’ve been there twice now, and both times the food was great. (The Calzone will feed you for at least two, if not three, meals!) They have this awesome cake case up front, and Chuck took home a slice of the carrot cake. No kidding…it was over 7″ tall and about 3″ wide! He and MW both said it was delicious. MW also took them on a line-marking hike. They started by the front gate, and it is almost a crawl on hands and feet up that steep hill. After the reports upon their return, I decided my backache might have been a blessing! Chuck helped MW with part of the current RV project while here, too. We always enjoy their company and look forward to the next time we get together.
Since then, it has mostly been a couple of doctor’s appointments and ramping up for tax season. (I still do bookkeeping and taxes for a select group.) We have had a good deal of rain and more snow the first week of February, so pretty days have found us driving the back roads, enjoying the sunshine. We also spent a beautiful day hiking more of the property line. Last weekend we headed over the mountain to Rogersville, Tennessee. It was a beautiful drive with a bonus at the end…Bull Babies downtown for lunch. Yum! Two brave sisters opened this restaurant back in August during the height of the Covid chaos, and it appears the gamble paid off. We’ve now been there twice (see below), and there was a consistent stream of traffic both times. The food is mostly sandwich fare with some salads thrown in, and everything is fresh and delicious. Don’t eat too much, though, because you MUST save room for their desserts, which are displayed in a case right next to where you order. Check this place out if you are in the area. You won’t be disappointed!
One of the things to think about when moving to a very small town is the availability of healthcare. That grows more important as we get older, too. We are blessed to have a little hospital in Sneedville, which can handle a lot of emergency stuff or air evac you out to Knoxville. We also have primary care and our dentist at the Sneedville Medical Center, which is nice. For anything else, though, we drive to Morristown, about an hour away. On Monday, the Jones luck struck when MW smashed his thumb with a hammer while working under Petunia. It was pretty swollen Monday night, and on Tuesday, we decided to get it checked out with our Nurse Practitioner. Well, of course, he needed an x-ray. Problem was, the techs apparently split their time between offices. The bad news…they were in Rogersville. The good news, we got to eat at Bull Babies again! Okay, okay…the thumb was fine, too.
That catches you up to this moment, when I am sitting here in my pajamas. It is supposed to start raining this afternoon and continue through the weekend, but I’ve just had a text from a friend I haven’t seen in AGES, saying she will be passing through. I LOVE surprises like that! We plan to hit the road in March, although the exact timing isn’t laid out yet. Stay tuned, and I promise to take you with us!
Coming soon…SERIOUS MOD to Petunia and camera upgrades! See you on the path!
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