A Very Unparked Domain
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Live from Little Rock

We’re going through our morning routine right now (washing, eating, programming) in an Extended Stay America (again) in Little Rock, Arkansas, gearing up for another big driving day.

We had a good visit with our sister-in-law Paige, our nephew Tyler, and Paige’s mom Donna in Seymour, Tennessee on Thursday, but Paige and Tyler both have hacking coughs (or, in Paige’s words, “the crud”), so we got a little room in Knoxville for the night. (It was enough of a dump that we won’t be reviewing it, but we sure got a great price on the room!)

Paige has been trying to take us to take us to The Old Mill restaurant in Pigeon Forge ever since we visited last fall: we tried twice last year, and every time the wait for a table was well over an hour, sometimes as long as two. Thursday was our third try, and maybe because we had Donna along for good luck, we finally got to eat there. You order your own entree and the sides are served family-style, in big bowls for the table to share. Dinner was very reasonably priced and included a bowl of their house corn chowder, green salad, corn fritters, and a choice of three deserts. While this might not be an optimal dining location for vegetarians or people with restricted diets, we managed just fine. (My heart goes out to vegetarians in the South, it truly does.) Take a look at The Old Mill recipe page if you want to try some Tennessee country cooking at home.

(Pigeon Forge sports possibly the highest billboard density of anywhere I’ve ever traveled; after driving along tree-upholstered interstates for several days in a row, the contrast is a little over-stimulating.)

We managed to put in 8 hours of driving yesterday, traversing almost the full width of Tennessee. After a full day of map reading, the Tennessee’s trapezoidal shape really reminds of the Pink Pearl erasors we had when I was in elementary school.

We started the day with breakfast in a Knoxville Cracker Barrel. Not familiar with Cracker Barrel? Just like Piggly Wiggly, you really have to see it first hand to believe it. We’ll write more on Cracker Barrel in a future post. (More on our dietary restrictions in a future post, too.) Suffice to say that trying to eat a gluten-free, corn-free, meat-free breakfast at a restaurant that prides itself on its generous portions of biscuits, cornbread and pork products is a great way to avoid over-eating.

We stopped in Nashville for an Indian vegetarian buffet lunch at Woodlands. I realize that vegetarian Indian food is a far cry from typical local cuisine, but we are rapidly approaching our lifetime quota of Cracker Barrel meals, we were craving vegetables, and accommodating our dietary restrictions on the road can be very challenging. The food was great, and their dosas (rice crepes) were amazing, even if Neil wound up with a very limited number of dishes he could eat.

(Why are there so many Indian buffet restaurants named Woodlands? I’ve eaten at oodles but I’ve never figured out why the name is so common. Does anyone know?)

We drove straight through Memphis, over the Mississippi River, into Arkansas, and on to Little Rock. (We’ve visited Memphis before, years ago, and since we’re trying to make good driving time right now we didn’t feel compelled to stop this time around.)

We enjoyed a light, if late, Turkish dinner in Little Rock at Istanbul Mediterranean–and throughout the meal thought of our friend Sean-Paul Kelly who is in Turkey at the moment. SP, if our menu last night was in any way representative of Turkish food, I am newly and even more deeply jealous of your trip!

There was so much severe rain and thunderstorms predicted for Tenessee yesterday that we thought we might have to put pontoons on the Mini to clear the state. We were delighted to discover that, even in some fairly heavy rains, the humidity felt lower than in Charleston or Richmond. The weather also feels subjectively much cooler without the humidity: yesterday we were stretching our legs in an Arkansas rest stop and felt comfortably cool, even though it was 91 degrees.

Yesterday’s drive represents the early stages of a 5,000 mile odyssey we have planned for the next five weeks. (More on that soon, too.) We are pleased and excited to see how well we are falling back into our heavy-travel routines, and remembering and relearning “how to do travel”.

Places mentioned in this post

Map of yesterday’s drive(s)


Geographic Locations (links from WikiTravel where available):

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1 Sean Paul Kelley { 05.18.09 at 7:36 am }

I imagine it was pretty good there in Little Rock! The spices and whatnot that go into Turkish food, for the most part, are readily available in the US, unlike say some East Asian countries, e.g. Korean food, which is really excellent but quite hard to duplicate! Glad you two are back on the road!

2 Shaula { 05.20.09 at 8:00 pm }

When we lived in Dallas, our Saturday routine was to go to acupuncture at the student clinic in the morning, and then have lunch at a really good Korean restaurant. We actually ate “Korean” last night…and while it was good, it wasn’t quite as Korean as I had noped–for example, none of those delicious side dishes that make a Korean dinner such a treat. But the kimchee was very good, and made the meal worth while.

Are you picking up Turkish cooking while you’re there?