When I was growing up in middle Tennessee, my family lived in a sweet, small, new neighborhood on the outskirts of a medium-sized town. As it seems everything has done recently, that town has expanded into becoming one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and our quaint little neighborhood is now close to a major bypass due to the population and housing boom. Nonetheless, my childhood was spent in that close-knit community with some truly wonderful people. The closest of whom lived in a cute little row of three homes. The first house was ours; my parents, a very young couple raising three kids. The middle house was of Nikki + Gary’s and their daughter, Cassie, who is two years/grades older than me. And the third is of Mrs. Betty + Mr. Ken’s and their same-aged daughter (also my best friend since age 3), Chelsey. These people, I consider my family. In these three homes, I grew up. The three of us girls roamed between the three connected yards, so much so that even the radio fence for our dogs surrounded all three instead of each individual house. I had the playground, Cassie had the garden and trampoline, and Chelsey had the pool. My memories have never been very vivid, and, for whatever reasons, and don’t have many to recollect. However, that life of holding our breaths as long as possible in the pool, jumping on the trampoline, learning to plant in the garden, drinking Pepsi and sweet tea, ditch-swimming after torrential rainfalls, epic adventures of thoroughly enjoyed snow days, and hanging upside-down on monkey bars are the brightest, most long-lasting ones stored in my hippocampus. Through divorces, split-living, growing up, different high schools and activities, new friends, going to college/military, moving away, and inevitable distances from beginning our own lives, somehow, we have all kept that neighborhood bond. We can go months or even years without speaking, and can pick right back up as if nothing ever separated us. Now, my father still lives in my childhood home, as do Chelsey’s parents in hers. Nikki + Gary were an inspiration to me because they figured out this insane world enough to be able to retire very early by societal standards and moved away. They bought a parcel of land in the western North Carolina mountains that had a very small, very old home on it. Over time, they rebuilt and expanded that home into a gorgeous mountain getaway on a beautiful creek with a large garden, backing up to government lands and forests. It is beyond relaxing. Zen-like in its atmosphere, far reaching from modern civilization where cell phone service and wifi are nonexistent. The first time I visited was right after I started anesthesia school as a girls’ trip with Chelsey and Mrs. Betty. I didn’t know at that time how much I needed that trip, and how impactful it was for me to see them living like that: simply but without want beyond their needs. Of course, seeing the beauty of the area cannot be understated, but learning little (to them) things like how to make butter, canning from the garden, and just living without an alarm clock blaring at my ear at ungodly hours was soul-soothing. Luckily, having a very first date that I was excited about to a Titans football game with a certain someone (ahem… Ross) at the end of that girls’ trip weekend was the only thing that dragged me away from that mountain sanctuary. Otherwise, they would have been stuck with me. I’m just saying. Years passed, over five years to be honest. My best friend, Chelsey, had been talking for the entire duration about returning to that haven, but I was always too busy- grad school, moving all over the country for work, trips with Ross, etc. When we went on sabbatical, that was it. She’d had enough. “We are going. We are going the weekend of April 7th-9th, and you will be there. With the tiny house, and Ross, and the dogs. Period.” I don’t mess with stern Chelsey. Yes, ma’am. We’ll be there. That was planned in January. Not making it happen was not an option. Which brings me all the way from Memory Lane back to the continuation from my previous blog post…
We had left the Outer Banks of North Carolina and trekked across the state to the western North Carolina mountains, on the way to our neighborhood kids’ reunion back at Nikki + Gary’s mountain home. We were still a few days early so we decided to stop in what is probably our favorite area of the country so far. Ross + I had been to the Asheville area quite a few times in the past. It’s “our place” when we needed a drivable break from Tennessee, so we had explored it on many short trips. This time we decided to go a little farther southwest and hit the Brevard area. Do it. Plan it now. Just go. We randomly decided on staying at the Davidson River Campground in the Pisgah National Forest. Y’all, gorgeous! The work-campers do such an amazing job keeping it maintained. We parked in a boondocking spot near the back (read: cheaper) because you must reserve the normal spots online ahead of time, which we did not due to our free-form travel life. It was great, and actually rained quite a bit so we had plenty of water, though we did have to use our awesome Honda generator for back up. (Get it here: HONDA EU2000i Companion Inverter Generator, 1600W) The first day, we gave a bunch of tours to the campers (it’s just what we do at this point). We also drove to the Looking Glass waterfall and Sliding Rock. Ross went down [cold] Sliding Rock many times and had a blast. We also played at The Hub and Tavern and got Ross’s bike tire fixed up there while we ate at the food truck and had some beers at the Tavern.
Brevard is such a bike friendly area. There are tons of trails and outdoor things to do. We hiked around a lot, but felt like with the crazy weather it was too wet to be messing up the trails on our mountain bikes. That night, we were invited to a fireside jam session with a bunch of the camphosts, most of them retired and really enjoying their lives and freedom. I love people like that. We had a wonderful night, despite Ross falling backward out of his campchair. Y’all, he hadn’t even been drinking, but, man, it was funny. The next day it was rainy, so we kept getting lulled back into morning dreams from the rain tapping on our metal roof. We finally got moving and explored downtown Brevard and of course chilled at the Oskar Blues Brewery, sipping some brews and playing Connect4 while I worked a bit on the laptop. It was a great, relaxing two days.
We went to Nikki + Gary’s that Thursday. Our convoluted route had to be planned because of towing the tiny house. Free-form travel is awesome, but it does take a bit of pre-planning to safely tow our 13,000lb THoW. What would take a normal vehicle an hour up and down a mountain to get there took us about 2.5 hours to go around and gently up. Once we got there, it took a little while to get the beast backed into their driveway, but once we were there, we had a whole evening to relax and talk and just be. Lovely. Chelsey was due to be there that next afternoon, so we spent the following morning hiking through the woods around their house and hunting ramps (these little onion-like plants that are apparently really popular and sometimes difficult to find). Chelsey and her boyfriend, Cliff, arrived and all the fun, relaxing festivities began!
Saturday, we went hiking in the area and to the Dillard House which is an amazing family-style, home-cooked, giant restaurant. You just sit down and they start bringing out more food than anyone’s ever seen. Sunday morning, the boys smoked an insane number of wings. We spent our days hiking old logging trails, exploring creek watering holes, reading books in the sun, or just talking. We spent our evenings playing Monopoly Deal and Scrabble, drinking wine and warming by the fire. It was wonderful. Every single moment.
Unfortunately, Chelsey + Cliff had to leave Monday and go back to the reality of full-time jobs. Ross + I decided to stay longer for more hiking and exploring. Nikki + Gary dropped us off at one trailhead near Standing Indian Campground and we hike all morning on the Appalachian Trail to where they picked up at Winding Stair Gap.
It was awe-inspiring to meet all the AT thru-hikers who had just begun their northbound journeys the week or so prior. Y’all, I got the AT bug. Not anything creepy-crawly, but the desire to really do it, to thru-hike the whole over 2,100 miles. My wheels are spinning—how cool would a tiny house caravan be? Strategically park a few THoWs along the way and hike with some other like-minded tiny housers so when we get to certain spots during the nearly 6-month long journey we could have some creature comforts before moving on. It would take some serious planning and prep, but oh man, how cool would that be?! Anyhow, we also helped Nikki + Gary plant their spring garden, explored the Whiteside Cliff Trail, ate some Fat Buddies BBQ for Ross’s early birthday dinner. We hiked a lot, ate a lot, and talked a lot. What a splendid week we had.
When we finally said our goodbyes and left our mountain vacation, we traveled through a beautiful area and saw part of the Ocoee River (which was very low) and an Olympic park area. The truck and tiny house made it through the mountains with absolutely no problems.
It wasn’t until we passed Chattanooga on I-24W that we heard a loud bang and I saw smoke near the rear-passenger side of the tiny house. Oh, no. We had blown a tire. Ross [skillfully] got us quickly over onto the shoulder, as narrow as it was, so we could get out and assess the situation. Shredded. Gone. Not going to patch that sucker. We had a spare for the tiny, so we got that out and started the process of changing the tire. The old tire came off fine and the wheel wasn’t damaged. But, the new tire. Oh, the new tire. It would not fit. The bolt pattern was right, but was too narrow/deep for any tire iron to reach. Dang, we had prepared, we had a spare, we had everything to fix our normal wheels, and then this. Ugh. We called a few tire shops and no one would come to us because we were either too big or too small for their companies. Finally, Best One Tire Service sent us an awesome guy who just hummed while he worked on switching our old tire for our new spare tire onto our old wheel. We were off and back on the road within an hour and a half. Well, thank goodness.
We finally got to my mom + stepdad’s farm, and thought we were good. Nope, wrong again. Have I told y’all about the monster driveway at the farm? I’m pretty sure we talked about it in the very first post. The one that basically goes straight up. Now, we’ve done it with our truck + THoW in tow before. It was scary, but we did it without issue. Construction trucks get up it for the house they are building, cattle trailers, etc. Well… not us. Not this time. We got about ¾ of the way up the monster driveway hill and just stopped. And started rolling back. Ross [again skillfully] got us braked and emergency braked and sat, hearts racing, as I called my mom + Don [my stepdad] to come help us figure this mess out. Don quickly decided we need to get the bad boy tractor and hook the truck and tiny up to drag them both up the hill together. It was the only way at this point. We couldn’t go backward. We couldn’t go forward. We. Were. Stuck. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 15 minutes or so, Ross and Don with the help of the tractor and revved up truck, got to the top of the hill.
Mom and I started heading down the other half of the hill to her parked vehicle to get us back up when I looked back up and saw white steam/smoke billowing out. Oh, nooooo. No. No. No. We couldn’t tell if it was the truck or the tractor, but we knew it was expensive, whichever it was. It was the truck. Yep. Overheated. We got the tiny house unhitched and settled and found out the primary radiator was busted. Somehow, the fan shroud got shredded into the fan throwing hard plastic everywhere and gashing the radiator. Lots of margaritas happened that night. We knew we would spend the next few days fixing all of that, and we did. My brothers, Don, and Ross replaced the radiator and fan shroud, while I ran a bunch of errands in town. Also, in the midst of fixing the truck, we worked the whole cow herd of about 50 for checkups, vaccinations, etc. And planted in the garden. Farm life is never dull, y’all.
We took a break on Saturday for Ross’s birthday! Ross’s parents, sister, and soon to be brother-in-law came to the farm to play. They met all the animals (cows, horse, sheep, chickens, ducks, pigs, dogs, etc.) and got to go shoot guns. Total country Saturday. We then went into town and met up with my dad and his girlfriend to do an escape room. So. Much. Fun! And we didn’t even escape! We totally would have, given about 2 more minutes. Alas, the nuclear holocaust blasted us. Oh, well. We then went to Old Chicago for his birthday dinner. It was a great day, especially after all that stress with the truck.
The next day was Easter Sunday, so we did the Henry family Easter at my dad’s house, which was wonderful by the way, getting to see my whole family. We decided to test drive our fixed truck the 30 miles or so to Dad’s. Oh, the radiator was fine. But, now the transmission temperatures were insanely high. Expletive, expletive, expletive. We got to Dad’s and my sweet brothers and Ross changed the transmission oil and filter and blah, blah, blah.
We thought we were good. Nope. On the way back to the farm, the transmission started overheating again and now slipping as well. Awesome. We HAD to leave by Monday to start our journey to Dallas for the Earth Day Texas festival for which we had to be there in person with the tiny house by Wednesday morning. They had been advertising that we were coming, all arrangements had been made, and it was kind of a big deal seeing as how they were estimating over 100,000 people would be coming to the main event. This can’t be happening, right? Thank goodness for my stepdad and his truck that is big enough to haul our tiny house. He let us borrow his truck to get to Dallas.
Worn out and ragged, we left the farm with our tiny house and Don’s truck, not knowing at all the craziness we would discover at the Earth Day Texas 2017 Tiny House Village. But that’s a story for next time.