The Great Smoky Mountains, USA

Ever wondered what it is like to visit the great wilderness of the Smokies? Two British Idiots did, and this is what they found.

Look below for an English idiot’s view of the Smokies, including a stay in the deep forests, and visits to Clingman’s Dome, Elkmont, and Pigeon Forge. If you are travelling here, this is a must-read before you go.

Pelting rainfall followed by swift summer heat, incredible panoramas of mirror-still lakes, verdant trees and winding roads as far as the eye can see, slipping like gloves into thick cloud coverage. A Vegas-style town dumped in the middle of the wilderness—lights, music and alpine rollercoasters. Ghost towns nestled in the trees, a still image of times long gone. These are the most intense memories of a place beyond splendid.

The dream was a wooden cabin in the thick of the woods, quaint and secluded in trees, and fifteen miles from the nearest town. Branches hung thick over what might be described more accurately as a tree house; the perfect location—we thought. The reality was actually two English idiots living in the wilderness, frightened by the calls of wild animals and the worrisome nightly noses that seemed to close in after dark. Insects threw themselves wildly at the windows, yowls and barks filled the silence. We soon realised we were very poorly prepared to deal with the real American outdoors. The dark was a complete dark, open eyes or closed eyes made no difference. We made sure we had everything ready for the night to come before the sun fell. Feeling vulnerable was an understatement. In reality, we found, the thick of the wilderness was a daunting place to stay. Even during the day we didn’t stray far on foot and kept our eyes about us. We carried walking sticks, not really knowing what we would do with them, but they did offer a little comfort.

Clingman’s Dome is a major tourist attraction; the highest mountain in the Smokies, and therefore presumably, boasting the very best views. We looked forward to a secluded, possibly romantic spot, to look out over the clear horizon, over heads of trees and blue waters, and soak in nature at its finest. The reality, when we got there, was insufficient parking, thick crowds of people and a foggy outlook. We circled the inadequate parking lot for nearly half an hour before admitting defeat. Jumping out a short photo session was possible, only to realise the low cloud coverage had all but obscured what would have been an incredible view. Even at 2000 metres, the humidity was stifling, so I was glad to recline back into our air-conditioned vehicle. This is probably best visited on off-peak times of the year, or if this is not an option, early in the morning, before the crowds.

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Elkmont ghost town is also a stop worth seeing for most tourists. It is situated in the Little River Valley of the Smokies, in the state of Tennessee. In the early 20th century, it was the base for logging, providing nearby places with their building needs. Now it is deserted. The wooden cabins stand hauntingly like statues of times passed by. Being English idiots, we assumed an abandoned village would have hundreds of years of history; we were surprised to find that the buildings were just over 100 years old. This is old, perhaps, for America, but is barely scratching the history books for an English country couple; I was raised in a black and white cottage, in the English countryside, with a plaque over the fireplace reading ‘1601’, where my mum often digs up little medicine bottles from the 1800s, and arrowheads from the Stone Age in the back garden. Despite this, Elkmont had an awful lot of charm and told an enchanting story of a life and a time that is nearly forgotten. It was only a snapshot of what life must have been like, and undeniably immersive.

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Pigeon Forge was a town that immediately struck us as tourist central—it was Dolly Parton’s Vegas. A seaside resort, slash theme park, dumped in the thick of the forest. We enjoyed the ‘only in America’ feel of the area with its bright lights, and attractions in an onslaught of colour. There are all manner of entertainments to be found: alpine rollercoasters, go carts, mirror mazes, out-of-this-world crazy golf courses and a choice of excellent night time horse shows. It is a shame a lot of people might go here thinking they had seen the Smokies, when in fact there is a lot more to offer. It is in stark contrast to the tranquil hills and treetops half an hour’s drive outside town.

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Of the more ‘different’ attractions included ‘Goats on a Roof’. Which, surprise it or not, is exactly what it says on the tin; The goats live between a hilarious inter-network of platforms between the buildings, and can be fed by tourists by a pedal-powered conveyor-style device which lifts a cup of food to the storey above; the goats are well accustomed to this. Often, the goats allow the food to comically fall over their heads before devouring it. The best view for this is an upstairs window overlook, which can be entered from the ground floor shop. The goats seemed to worship this contraption, rubbing their head against the still mechanism, waiting for it to move.

One of several shows available is the Dixie Stampede—which seems to get the best reviews of the area. It is a dinner show, with fantastically behaved animals. I was brought to tears by the beautiful bond the riders had with their horses, and there is the chance to pet them if you get there in good time before the show. You can see herded buffalo, ludicrous little racing Shetlands and baby pigs. If you are an animal-lover then this is a must-see! It was a powerful and entertaining show with a patriotic ending. I left with a feeling that I knew more of what America is really all about by the end of it.

The meal that came with it was more than sufficient—but that might be coming from an English girl with a very small appetite. I was saddened to see the waste at the end—whole chickens left uneaten—especially when there was the choice of a doggy bag to take the food home. Being that we were travelling, we took all our excess food back, and it lasted us two days and was superbly good. When booking seating, we didn’t understand—being English idiots—that you get to choose North or South, and on the night it determines whether you are on the North or South side of the civil war.

 

See USA- The Amish in Tennessee

If you have ever wondered about the Amish, this is a post to read!

The Amish are a people that have always been of a fascination for me. We see limited snippets, living in England, in film or perhaps on TV, and always a stereotypical version of what I expected. I wanted to live as close to their community as possible, and learn as much from them as I could in the real world.

Fields ploughed in pleats; fat tomatoes tug heavily on limbs of living green, all tucked up tight in military parade; fields undulate into the horizon with perfect stripes into the distance. Wooden stalls packed with home-grown goods, and open spaces teeming with the well-known cogs of a close-knit community. Everyone assists: men in the back lifting crates of all things to sell—jams, candles, potatoes, watermelons; women on stands selling produce; boys in old-fashioned wagons shifting produce from place to place. An 1800s flashback of movement and simplicity.

At the stalls, the women stand passive in lengthy pastel dresses, white hats hide long hair, never cut. Men wear solid colours and straight-cut suits, and teeth in the young oft look far-gone from a dentist’s arm. Farmsteads with sheds full of scythes and sickles, and horse drawn ploughs, belonging well before our time.

 But still—they are not a ‘strict’ Amish community.

The Amish reside, amongst other places, in Tennessee, Lobelville. There is a very useful place to stay using AirBNB, with Krissie. She lives in Lobelville, in the heart of the Amish community, in a stilted cabin overlooking the beautiful and unspoiled Buffalo River. Our host was a bright personality, brimming with energy and filled with exciting views. We chilled out by the river that afternoon, sharing our beer, and talking the light to bed. Her freckles bunch about her nose as her face pleats into laughter at a joke. She is an amazing woman, full of life and energy, with many fascinating stories: a pleasure to meet.

Krissie has a duck ranch and tries to live entirely from her own land—a fairy-tale dream for many of us. When she isn’t growing crops or harvesting eggs she uses the river for recreation, and is happy to rent kayaks for you to drift down the river back to her personal jetty.

It is worth contacting her about the time you wish to stay, as there is flooding from time to time, hence her keeping ducks rather than any other creatures.

Her AirBnB accommodation is an old RV, and by her own admission is not by any means a five star accommodation. It is simple and sufficed very well. She is keen to meet new people and travellers who share their stories from anywhere. Her cabin and location is enchanting, especially being only about a fifteen-minute walk from the Amish community. Waking in the morning with the wild noises and scuffles of ducks is a beautiful way to be tempted out of dawn’s slumber. There are other more comfortable places to stay in Lobelville, but not in the heart of Amish country here. Afternote:  having been in touch with Krissie, she has mentioned taking down her AirBnB listing in favour of an enduring structure, so I do not know how long this lovely area will be available to stay in.

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The people, as you wold imagine, are simple folk. You are guaranteed to see the black cloth wagons and rustic wooden accommodation in which they live. Many do not have electricity and suffice with old-fashioned outhouses as a toilet. However, they are not a ‘strict’ Amish community, compared to some.

The clothes are very unrevealing despite the incredible summer heat. All the women wear long dresses in simple colours and plain white aprons. They wear basic caps on their heads and never cut their hair, although it was not visible as they wear it tied up. Men wear straight-cut suits or opt for the lighter shirts with braces in summer, and everyone in solid colours. No jewellery in sight.

The timber houses and barns are rudimentary; there are no modern-day amenities to be seen. I would imagine generation after generation live in the same accommodations.  Barns are ubiquitous, with spare metal wagon wheels and antiquated farming equipment—sickles and similar. Nothing electric. Unused bird houses hang from the rafters, ready to be populated. A ginger cat who had lost his tail wonders past, unknowing, but well fed.

They grow their own food, as much as possible. They sell melons, fruit, veg, jams and candles. Many are ‘serve yourself’ honesty stalls, which I felt speaks volumes about the people. The money made from superfluous produce goes towards what they cannot make themselves, but need to survive, such as rice and beans.

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I managed to speak to a number of the locals; some seemed very unwilling to converse with outsiders. I hope I did not break any rules of their community. I learned it is best to enquire first before asking questions, and most certainly before taking photos.

A girl, all in restrained blue and no older than fourteen, mans an ice cream stall. Her light blonde hair wisps about her face as it escapes from her bonnet in the resilient midday heat. “Coffee or peach”, she asks timorously, unknowing how to react to people with strange accents, I guessed. I wonder if the English rarely venture this far, if ever. She was very unwilling to participate in conversation; she answered my questions in monotone, as her eyes wondered purposefully towards the table and her task before her. She looked happier to be engaged in her work than to engage with me in conversation. She watched, with head askew, as we doused ourselves in insect repellent. I suppose they do not have such luxuries, or they learn to live without them. Do you become immune to their bites after a while, or just suffer in silence? She revealed that she was part of an eight-child family and is schooled in the Amish community, but most answers were a very reluctant, ‘umm’, ‘ah-ha’, or straight ‘no’. I didn’t wish to make her feel more uncomfortable so I said ‘thank you’ and left her to man the stall.  The ice cream was fantastic and a release from the incessant heat and humidity during the summer months.

Two young boys were driving a horse wagon nearby. I decided to apprehend them. They were far more open. They were no older than sixteen. They mentioned their job was to ‘raise food’. Their long vowels drew out sentences in an arable stereotype—it was beautifully lyrical to hear them talk as they spoke about their lives as part of the Amish community. Despite their hard work, they took just one trip a day in the evening to ‘cool off’ at the river. It is fairly certain their teeth had never seen a dentist.

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Farther down the road, we met a seller at an organic stall. The farm was enormous, fields must have spanned over a mile as we made our way towards it. She was far more willing to speak, and more open about life in the community. This might be because she was not native to the Amish life, but joined it afterwards as a desirably simple way of living. Her arms folded tight as she spoke, despite her verbal acquiescence—perhaps a sign to the community in which she lived.  She described the waterwheel as a ‘labour-saving machine’, and explained how they have no modern-day equipment such as washer. Instead, they washed clothes by hand using wringer-washers, with no motor, which could take an entire day. She did not seemed phased by the extra work this caused. Her family makes Maple Syrup from the sap of the nearby Maple trees and they keep animals. Much of the produce is shared internally around the community.

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All the women in the community aim to have their babies at home, and she is the midwife with her background in medicine, even though that was not her speciality.  Originally, her history is medical, and she serves the needs of the community in this manner. She mentioned that they have a communal vehicle, which is used for medical emergencies and travelling to family, as far as New York State. They travel locally using ‘buggies’. They are an hour away from the nearest hospital and they have, on average, fourteen babies a year in the community, but the C-section rate is far lower than the country’s average (3% rather than 25%). She felt this was due to the people being in good health, but mentioned ‘it is nice to have a hospital there if you need it’.

Generally, she mentioned, the people there have large families; she has five children, and more than 50 acres to tend to grow crops; it made me wonder the ratio of farming to schooling the children had in the community, but I felt it would be inappropriate to ask.

Interestingly, the people we met who were not part of the Amish community, all seemed to adopt a similar way of life; growing their own food, living away from the hum-drum of modern society, and home-schooling their children.

The area we were staying by the river felt very tranquil, but in the late afternoon, we heard a number of gunshots. We did not know whether this was normal, being that the gun laws in the USA are far more lax than in the United Kingdom. It was frightening not knowing which directions the shots at wildlife were being fired. Krissie, thankfully, shared our views, and was keen to stop the shooter.  Two sheriffs greeted us in Krissie’s residence to find out more information about the anonymous shooter. It was a pleasure to meet them, and they made us feel far safer. The sheriffs gave us a hug and a picture and went to deal with the person shooting wildlife. It is good to know the law is so strict in the area, and that the vicinity was well protected.

It was incredibly refreshing to see a community where everyone knows one another, and everyone has their place. I compare it to England, where, in most cases people all have their flat screen TVs and two storey brick semis—or similar— with square back gardens, filled with flowers and green grassy areas, ever so slightly overlooking next door’s sitting area. We all have food enough to feed our family, no matter what happens. People do not depend on one another as they once did, they do not need to, but that is not a reason for community to be lost. Does need drive the neighbourhood-ly bond? This bond, to me, seems part-and-parcel to human existence, and it worries me what will happen if people learn to live without this love for others around them.

All photos taken with Lumix TZ80.

 

New Orleans and Plantations

If you are going to New Orleans or the area, make sure you read this first!

New Orleans

The city that defies America in a clash of colour, music, life. It is oozing culture from every street corner. The French quarter feels truly French with its filigree balustrades and shuttered windows—this centre of the city is filled with gossamer handrails. Foliage drapes over balconies; emerald waterfalls into the street.  This city didn’t have the hugeness and exaggeration of most things ‘American’ but was more of a pinch of finely selected herbs, delicate and very nearly European. The streets feel quaint and unassuming; a territory of quaintness, with its yoghurt pot colours—a western vibe, in fluorescent. There were ladies on bicycle wagons with colourful neckerchiefs, alive in art with the numerous galleries to be found around the centre.

It feels as though the outside world always associates New Orleans with the terrible tragedy of Katrina, but the people, and the city pulses with vibe and positivity—cheer, even. It is a city seeming to want to forget the bad and move on to the better.

Most of all, the area is not threatening. It is a very comfortable place to wander through. Despite staying on the outskirts of town, in what some may call a ‘questionable area’, we found the people to be very friendly, and more interested in us and what we were doing as tourists rather than causing us any trouble. The locals were excellent fun to converse with, and many had never met a person from England, which was an interesting experience for them.

It is also worth seeing the flea market in the French Quarter, and Audubon Park, which has a different vibe entirely. A Segway tour is a good way to see the city, taking you to all the major sites. Complete with training and knowledgeable guide. Summer is a bit warm for such an excursion though, unless you feel heat is not an issue. City Segway Tours is one of others to choose from.

At the waterfront can be found a softer atmosphere. A more laid back life, watching the Mississippi flow by. But this is still not devoid of culture. Listen out for the tones of the Natchez’s boat pipes, belching out tunefully from the riverside for a mile around. These are played by a pianist on the roof of the ferry. The boat itself seems to be driven by waterwheel and entirely made of wood but, as the waterwheel was running steadfastly when the boat was stationary, this may be a deceptive driving force of the vessel. Tickets can be brought from the water’s edge and you can take musical experience up and down the river. Even if you do not decide to ride, the atmosphere is enchanting.

Many people associate the city with its history in Voodoo. There is a Voodoo museum you can visit in the city. There was a lot of information which negates the classical idea of Voodoo, and although worth seeing, it was a dusty collection, and far smaller than expected.

The Mardi Gras festival, held in February, is the pinnacle of the year, although we were not lucky enough to be there during the festival itself, I understand it is a memorable and very colourful parade where the streets come alive with masked people, costumes and floats.

Plantations

Around the New Orleans area can be found a number of plantation houses. If you don’t have access to a vehicle, then there are numerous places offering excursions to visit one or more from the city. These will often pick you up from your hotel and give you a lift back afterwards.

We visited the Evergreen Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana. which is what I believed to be one of the more well-known houses, due to its use in films locations for movies such as Django Unchained and hit series such as the new Roots, although this is one of a choice in the area.

The campus of Evergreen is enchanting with its abundance of the charming moss-draped trees that can be seen lining the long driveway. They remind me of hump-backed old ladies with weather-beaten faces; the ones who speak to no one and drape too many shawls over their shoulders, struggling with twenty shopping bags. And you wonder whether they have a home to go to as they pass you by.

There are grasshoppers the size of your hands that are fairly happy to be handled if you have bug-lovers in the party, and both outhouses, slave houses and machinery that has been saved from the time when this was a working plantation house.

Best part of all was the tour guide, a local, with all the charm, character and enthusiasm that you would hope for in a place with such a colourful history. He spoke melodiously about the architecture, the history of the slaves and their jobs around the plantation, the machinery, the local area, the foliage, the families who had inhabited the house over the years, the use of the location in film and TV, and he did it all as though it was the first tour he had ever taken. He was very informed, and his talk made the trip very worthwhile, despite being so far out from the city.

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There are also numerous books and photographs lovingly labelled in the reception which detail more information to fill in the gaps between the talk. You can spend as much time perusing these as you wish, plus, if you sign the visitors’ book then your next visit is free of charge. The Plantation has seen several major stars in its time, not including those on film location, including the likes of Patrick Stewart. Interestingly, although the exterior of the house was used in a number of films, the interior wasn’t, due to its deceptive smallness, which could not be guessed from looking only from the outside.

Pictures captured using Lumix TZ80, August 2016. Apologies for the focus, it was the first time I had used the camera, and with far too much enthusiasm, I took pictures which were terrible quality. Best viewed small! Later are much improved.

 

Travel USA- Florida to New York

We’re road tripping from England to the USA this summer: Florida to New York (with a bit of Deep South thrown in for good measure).

After ten years of travelling the globe at every opportunity, I felt it was time to share my experiences and some of the things we have learnt along the way.

The summer Holiday

2 weeks, 3 days, 21 hours, 56 minutes and 38 seconds to go; the travels crawl closer.

Working in a school means I am privileged to take time during the long breaks to soak up the splendours of the world. When the winter frosts subside and the winter months slip away, I feel it inch closer. When the daffodils rise in spring and the blue bells paint the fields blue, I know it steps closer. When we exchange scarves for sun cream and when the sun lights the world until 2 hours to midnight, then I know it is imminent.

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My colleagues decide to spend their holiday time in different fashions—some people travel to one sunny place with a pool and sunbeds and all inclusive everything. They roll from side to side like a grilled sausage turning various shades of maroon and finally returning brown. Some people lounge around their houses all day, every day, and remain very white indeed. They spend all their energy growing—sideways.

 

Me, I live for the holidays, it’s the time I can spread my wings, stretch my legs, and T.R.A.VE.L. It is the most important thing to me bar my husband, family and good friends. It is the sober ecstasy of living. Me, my husband, a rucksack filled with the small necessities and I am absolutely in my element.

It is the adult’s version of the night before Christmas—but the anticipation never outweighs the moment, and the memories are cast in amber. This yummy little fizz of exhilaration is very predictable this way; if I wait too long I will burst like grape too full of nectar.

Let me introduce you to our travels this summer:

For our July/ August 2016 adventure we are visiting the USA again. Our last USA trip was a road trip with a  camper through 7 states in Western USA to see Vegas, LA, Yellowstone and canyon country. This year we are staying more to the south and East and are doing it using AirBnB. This is roughly our route (thanks Google maps):

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Where are we staying?

Over the month that we are travelling, we’ll be staying in some pretty quirky places including a tree house in the middle of the Smokies, an old RV in the middle of Amish country, someone’s garage, and a tiny ‘chalet’ that looks suspiciously like a garden shed!

AirBnB has been a very positive experience so far; planning has been easy, with most hosts replying within 24 hours and providing us with plenty of information. I can’t wait to meet them and put a person to our conversations.

What will take the mileage?beetle-155267_1280

We are looking to hire a small car—something Focus-sized. Last time in America we hired a gas-guzzling camper and fuel was expensive, not to mention having to fill up several times with every journey. Despite this, the camper was ideal for the last trip because we were able to kip in some pretty epic places in Canyonlands and thereabouts. We also chose a quirky company who spray-painted their vans with vibrant designs called Escape Campervans; this worked as a great ice-breaker with people. This time we are seeing more cities so a camper isn’t ideal, plus it was six times the price and campsites still had to be paid for despite having living accommodation on wheels. Another thing the camper did not have is air conditioning. It was sweatily missed.

So, how much does a small car set you back? If you are doing our journey, then we found ours for just over £400 for 30 days with Alamo.

You are probably wondering how we found it so cheaply? Firstly, check EVERY car rental and secondly, check a few variations of your route; we found travelling south to north was half the price of travelling north to south. Presumably this is because everyone wants to start cooler and gradually get warmer, so cars travelling the other way are cheaper because you are saving them the bother of getting the cars back to point A.

How are we packing?

Backpack is the preferred choice. Why? Because they are easy to carry between places where suitcases are awkward and cumbersome. They also have the added advantage of segregated storage so it is easier to find the little things that always get lost in the vast expanse of suitcase-dom. Only disadvantage; they often have to be checked in to over-sized baggage which is a separate kiosk in the airport and I always worry they might get lost—has not happened yet!

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Rookies’ first lesson—if there are two or more of you, make sure you pack a few essentials into another person’s bag. These essentials should be enough to last you a few days, making sure you include any important meds. Why? Sometimes, just sometimes, a bag will get lost in transit. If you are unfortunate enough and this happens to you then at least you will have some panties to tide you by until they can send your luggage to you.

What do we pack?

This depends very much on what you are doing. I have about six different packing lists depending where in the world I am travelling and what I am doing. For America a few essentials, as far as I am concerned, include good old English tea and powdered milk (because it’s impossible to find a good brew over there and creamer is not the same as milk). A copy of all paperwork electronically on a  phone or cloud, plus a paper copy in each person’s backpack. Paperwork is one of the most important parts of the trip, without it you won’t get far. On the note of paperwork, English travelers will need to purchase an ESTA to travel to the states, which are fairy easy to obtain and I recall costing about £14.

I always like to have independent cooking facilities so we have a one ring travel hob and kettle we take with us and we buy pots and pans there to save space. These items are slightly heavier and bulky but if you travel light then it isn’t a problem. The stodgy American burgers and things don’t digest so well with me so at least I have the freedom to whip up something else. You may ask why when we are renting apartments – because many of the apartments class ‘cooking facilities’ as a microwave and a small fridge; check the small print.

Sewing kit and string—you wouldn’t believe the uses.

Head torches are also great because they leave your hands free—just be careful not to blind your partner by looking them in the eyes!

Cool bag and mini freezer blocks are essential if travelling long days without a fridge and you want to keep some refrigerated items.

For all trips where the climate is warm I take antihistamines; these stop me blowing up like a puffer fish whenever I get bitten. I also take a small pipette bottle of virgin olive oil to soften ear wax applied every night for a week before flight; it only takes one bad flight to realise why that is essential.

Medicines can become easily mixed up, especially if you have quite a few for a long trip. To remedy this I use zip-up freezer bags. Each one I label according to their contents; too much in or out (anti-sickness, diarrhoea, constipation meds), travel meds (including disposable toothbrush for long flights and travel sickness meds and face wipes, making sure everything is below the ml limit for commercial flights) etc.You can see how that goes…

My best advice is to pack light and wash more when it comes to clothes. Washing can be done pretty easily in most places and doesn’t take too long. Always leave at least enough space to take some memorabilia home, or take old clothes that you don’t mind dumping to replace with new ones (this also doubles up as memorabilia).

So where exactly did you say you were going?

Miami

As I say, this is our second trip to the USA; at the end of it we will have ticked off 16 states. We have a flight from Manchester, England to New York return (returns are always cheaper, sometimes even if you don’t need the return leg). Then we are taking a plane from NY to Florida, Miami. We are staying on South Beach; what looks to be the beachy peninsula from Miami. It is a little way to the main city, but we have always preferred a bit less of the city anyway. We are renting a typical Miami apartment for two days. Highlights include jet skiing around the mansions of the Miami islands, tandem cycling around the city and a boat tour.

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Everglades

We drive to Everlades where we squeeze a lot into 24 hours including a mangrove tour and a 10,000 island tour. I am also hoping there will be time to rent a bike and cycle some of the local boardwalks, as our motel  (no AirBnBs in the area) has a free cycle service. We will also drop in on a gator reserve and take a few snaps (hopefully not receive them!)

Kennedy Space Center

We will then take off to the Kennedy space center where we have found a charming man nearby who we can join watching the rockets launch from his back porch. We have also pre-booked (recommended) a day trip to the center itself to get completely spaced out.

Deep south

From here we travel west, a long way west, to the deep south. We will adventure by segway soaking up the mood in the city of New Orleans. Following this we turn north to Memphis ; former home of the king of rock and roll, I believe, where we are a staying with another wonderful person near the city center who has a beautifully quirky residence with themed rooms.

Amish Country (Tennessee)

We then head onward to the Smoky Mountains, casually heading north Washington-wise. There’s a brief stop in Amish country where we’ve hired an old RV on a river; we’ll hike and fish and kayak and explore our wilderness-y roots after visiting the Amish markets and learning about their way of life.

Smoky Mountains

 Once in the Smokies we will see the Dixie Stampede dinner show in Pigeon Forge and feed some goats—who are said to reside on a roof! We will visit a ghost town and climb the highest point in the Smokies: Clingmans Dome. In the evening we’ll kick back in a tree house and watch the starry firmament unravel and catch it all on our new GoPro. On our way out of the Smokies is when we will be staying in the ‘Chalet’ which is clearly a garden shed. Needs must and all that, none of this five star absurdity for us British folk; we like to pee in in wilderness and sleep under the stars—well, at least two of us will put up with it for a good time.

Washington and New York City

We head to Washington and the Capitol for a whirlwind tour guided by yours truly before spinning up to the city that never sleeps where we have a private tour to peak at the off-limits exhibits in the Natural History Museum (which was very kindly organised by a friend enthusiast and collector- thank you Andy!). Of course, we will see all the tourist sites and are staying in a room smaller than a ferry cabin because everywhere is very expensive.

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Not our usual style as there are so many cities involved. I am an English country lass after all and cities always make me feel claustrophobic, but you can’t see a country without seeing its cities—it is all part and parcel.

50 hours driving, over 3000 miles, and I think I counted 9 states. Apologies America, here come the English! 🙂

Only 2 weeks, 3 days, 20 hours, 30 minutes and 48 seconds to go… closer again!

(Many thanks to www.pixabay.com for the images- I will put up some of my own after I have them!)