December 2017

Tennessee, Alabama & Mississippi

After Missouri, we had a week to kill before our “Christmas House” would be ready for us. I’d like to say we were all up for the adventure but, truth be told, we weren’t looking forward to a week of camping again. We were all struggling in different ways and at different levels with homesickness. It had been an up and down battle since we left town in September but the holidays, of course, increased it exponentially. We missed our family and friends a lot. We missed staying in one spot for more than a few days or weeks at most. We missed familiarity. Full time travel is exciting, for sure. There’s always something new to see or do. It is also taxing. It’s hard to always be a stranger in places. It is uncertain and constantly changing. Sometimes, you just want to stay put in one place longer than you have the luxury to. I think we were all feeling unprepared to move on again, especially back into the tight quarters of our little Sadie. It was cold and dreary and we just wanted to stay inside under the covers for a while but we needed to press on. So we did. We packed up and headed over to Hohenwald, Tennessee to another Thousand Trails Campground right off of the Natchez Trace Parkway, Natchez Trace RV Campground.

Ah…Hohenwald…I’m afraid you will always equate to a low point in this trip. We pushed hard the day we finally arrived at the campground and it had just become dark outside. The last miles felt like an eternity so we were beyond thrilled to FINALLY see the place coming into view. We eagerly pulled up to the gate but there was no one in the gatehouse. The intercom system to reach someone to let us in was yielding zero responses. We had reservations. They knew we were coming. It was only around 6:00 pm. Where in the world was everyone and how in the heck are we going to get inside and settle in and SLEEP?! Our impatience was growing by leaps and bounds and we were starting to get very angry. James was trying to call Thousand Trails but we were so far out in the middle of nowhere that the phones kept cutting out. We had no idea what to do. We were way too far away from anything else to have any other option than to just camp right there in the parking lot for the night without any hookups in 20 degree temps. Ugh. Just as we were about to resign ourselves to that scenario another camper came to the rescue and let us in. Our hero. Thank you random camper man!

Even though it was a rocky start with the missing staff that first night, I have to add that they were all very friendly and kind to us the rest of the time we spent there. The campground, itself, was good. There were learning opportunities nearby. Our history lesson revolved around the significance of the Natchez Trace, and we were right up the road from the place where Merriweather Lewis died and was buried. Our spirits just weren’t up for much. We tried but that was a hard week on so many levels and by the time we finally left a few days later we couldn’t have been more relieved to get out of there.

Next stop was Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We arrived at our hotel there well before dark and so the littles got to spend a good amount of time testing out the pool. We knew we wanted to head out early in the morning to cram in a couple of sightseeing stops before our final push to Starkville, Mississippi, home of our next AirBnB so it was great to have that time to relax. It was our first stay in a Best Western Plus but it won’t be our last. It was a great fit for us…a clean roomy room, nice pool, and a good breakfast selection (Nutella!).

After checkout the next morning we headed over to nearby Tuscumbia, AL to tour Helen Keller’s home, Ivy Green. Thoroughly enjoyed that! The Wheeze was less than impressed and, unfortunately, James missed most of the tour by being his awesome dad self and taking him out of the house and onto the grounds so he could run free. The rest of us got an incredible history lesson. I thought I knew a lot about Helen Keller but found I didn’t know the half of it, after all…very glad we got to do that.

The other thing I did not want to miss while in the area was a visit to the factory of sustainable clothing designer, Alabama Chanin, in Florence. I couldn’t wait to take my girls to see her storefront and take the behind the scenes tour of her operations. They got a glimpse of my pre-Mom life and how clothing is made. It was a highlight of our travels, for sure. Not only did it not disappoint, but my girls really got into it and that was so satisfying to see them light up at something that I have a passion for, myself. Girl time at its best.

Finally it was time for one more travel push to get to Starkville, Mississippi. We got there just as the sun set and were, once again, very pleased with our newest home away from home. After mentioning our certain hot bevarage addiction, the hosts had hooked us up with a brand new coffee pot, a big bag full of coffee and a bucket full of chocolate. Now that is taking care of your guests. The house was larger than we had anticipated, very clean and in a super convenient location…walking distance to shopping, restaurants & a movie theater (hello…Star Wars). We were impressed and looking forward to staying put for the next 6 weeks, by far the longest time we had spent in one location since launching and something that we all really needed.

So the rest of December was really all about rest and finding ways to re-calibrate. Oh, and reconnecting…especially with our eldest! The hands down best ever part of December was the 3 weeks we got to spend with our 22 year old after he joined us in Mississippi. For 3 whole weeks we got to be a complete family again and it was soooooo good! Beyond grateful for that time…he has been sorely missed.

We tried to keep Christmas as “normal” as possible for our family, making sure we kept as many traditions as we could. So, the time we spent in Mississippi was very slow and steady. We didn’t do much sightseeing. The only real exception was a trip to Tupelo to check out the Elvis Presley birthplace. Most of the time we were just hanging around the house. We went to the nearby skate parks a few times when the weather permitted but, for the most part, we just stayed put.

December ended quietly. We still had a couple of weeks ahead of us in our Mississippi house and one more week to spend with our firstborn before he headed back to Asheville. We were securing plans for the next portion of traveling and beginning to slowly emerge from the melancholy into a new sense of anticipation of what was to come with a new year and a fresh beginning to our adventures. The tide felt like it was turning.

Campgrounds & Hotels Mentioned

The Office - AirBnB

A really great place to stay! We could not have been more pleased with our experience. Our host was awesome and the house had everything we needed. Grateful that we got to spend our Christmas in such a comfy space.