Meals on Wheels, The First Course: Tennessee
In recent months, we have attended family events that drew large numbers of relatives. While we enjoyed the opportunity to visit briefly with everyone, we realized that our interaction with each person was much too brief. To really catch up, we needed more time with fewer people, not less time with more people. Hearkening back to our old Polar Express treks to deliver holiday gifts to our nieces and nephews when they were young children, we conceived the Meals on Wheels Tour.
Like our long ago winter whistle-stops in Santa’s footsteps, the idea of the trip would be a brief visit with one family unit only. To ensure it would not interfere with their regular routine, we would meet them at a restaurant of their choosing. That way they wouldn’t need to worry about cleaning their house. The meal would, of course, be at our expense, and at the end of it we would part ways.
After we volunteered to drive our travel buddy Steven to Alabama for a visit with Nanamama, his return home to Tennessee seemed the perfect time to implement the first course of Meals on Wheels.
SUNDAY: Kathy and Steven at Drake’s
FRANKLIN, Tennessee—It was Easter Sunday, the last day of his spring break, when we drove 13-year-old Steven back home to Franklin, Tennessee. Rachel had come home from college for the weekend and we just missed her by a few hours, but we’d catch her on another stop.
Fortuitously, we had the opportunity to participate in Steven and Kathy’s clever restaurant lottery game. Last year, they compiled a list of restaurants in Franklin, and there are many—both local fixtures and regional and national chains. The names of all these eateries were inscribed on index cards and placed in a bucket. Each Sunday Kathy and Steven draw three cards from the container and pick one of those three for a meal. Having three options keeps the game interesting and lively because they still have an element of choice. The ones not selected are returned to the pail.
|Steven and Kathy, a great pair of trivia partners!|
The biggest news we learned from Kathy and Steven was about Steven’s plans to attend a special three-week college campus program through the Duke University Center for Summer Studies. Scoring in the top 1% nationally among seventh graders in math on the ACT was his ticket to eligibility. This 13-year-old is very excited about getting a taste of college this summer.
MONDAY: Alison at Crescent City Po Boys
GALLATIN, Tennessee—Cousin Alison, a teacher of gifted middle schoolers much like Steven, was our lunch date for Monday, her spring break beginning as Steven’s came to a close. We met in downtown Gallatin near Alison’s cherished First United Methodist Church, where she has been singing in the chancel choir for 16 years. The church was a short walk to the reinvigorated Gallatin town square and Alison’s favorite local restaurant—Crescent City Po Boys, purveyor of fresh, authentic Cajun and Creole food.
|A little place with a big impact on downtown Gallatin|
In addition to hearing the latest news about her family, we learned from Alison how to determine a dog’s previous name. Last year her family adopted a ruggedly handsome Bouvier des Flandres (Flemish cow herder), a black-coated shaggy dog, from a local animal shelter. Learning that their new pet was almost five years old, Alison was convinced he had a name from his prior home, though the shelter staff had no information available.
|This Crescent City food didn't last long.|
MONDAY: Rachel and Gavin at The Cheesecake Factory
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee—After a brief walking tour of downtown Gallatin, we drove east for our dinner date with niece Rachel and her friend Gavin. They chose The Cheesecake Factory near the University of Tennessee campus. With almost 200 locations around the world, the restaurant had its humble beginnings in 1972 when Detroit natives Evelyn and Oscar Overton moved to Los Angeles and opened a bakery selling cheesecakes made with recipes Evelyn had spent 30 years perfecting. With a flair for business, their son David soon opened a restaurant featuring both entrees and a wide variety of desserts to showcase his mother’s creations. The Cheesecake Factory was born. In the intervening years, the chain has built a faithful following with its eclectic menu and generous portion sizes.
|It had been at least 20 years since we visited a Cheesecake Factory. After our delicious dinner, we wondered why.|
|The lovely Rachel and charming Gavin|
TUESDAY (Knoxville to Asheville)
With no engagements on Tuesday, we letterboxed our way from Knoxville to Asheville along a picturesque section of I-40. Near the state line, we had parked on the shoulder of a side road to fetch a letterbox hidden on the Appalachian Trail nearby. From our vantage point on a hill overlooking the road, we noticed another car pull over behind our vehicle. After disembarking, the driver took a quick look around. Finding no one in the vicinity, and with a look of desperation we recognized only too well, she demonstrated that it is indeed possible to view a full moon in the middle of the day.
|Check out the blazes. We're on the AT!|