Thursday, October 11, 2018

#GCFallBreakExtravaganza2018





From the time I was able to write, I have been journaling the many vacations my family took throughout my childhood and into adulthood.  My brothers had to be forced to write every night, but I could easily fill up page after page at the end of each day (though most of it described what we ate...some things never change!).  As an adult, the desire to write while I travel hasn't changed either.  I love to write and I love to travel and explore so it makes sense that I would put these two things together when I can (hence the original birth of this blog).

You can find my previous travel posts here, including some flashback posts that include my childhood journal entries (still working on getting a lot of these posted). Continue reading for a look into our quick little fall break trip!






Day 1 - Friday, October 5, 2018 - Johnson City, Tennessee

I called home right after school on Friday to let my mom know they finally caught the crazy murderer that had been hiding out in the woods nearby for the last week.  My dad answered the phone and asked me if I was on my way to Johnson City yet. "No," I told him, "I'm going home to pack right now." His response was, "you haven't packed yet? that doesn't sound like you..." (#TypeAProblems) "Yeah, I know," I told him. "I haven't been home a single night for the past week, I haven't had time to pack." "Yeah, that sounds more like you." he replied. He knows me.

Our intention was to leave right after school on Friday, but my aforementioned inability to spend a night at home slightly delayed these plans. Luckily, my school gets out earlier than Caitlin's, so I was able to be semi-packed up before she arrived.  By the time we had everything ready to go (including our necessary road trip Sonic waters!) it was 5PM before we hit the road.  After crawling through Nashville traffic on I-40, and having to slow down in Knoxville due to traffic, we finally made it to Johnson City around 11PM.


Day 2 - Saturday, October 6, 2018 - Asheville, North Carolina

Between the time change and the slight altitude shift, I could already tell it was going to be a headache day, so I began implementing my headache prevention strategies before I even got out of bed. We took our time getting up and getting ready (or in my case, reading Harry Potter for an hour), grabbed cheesy potato poofs from Pals for breakfast *insert heart eyes emoji x5 here*, and didn't leave for Asheville until around noon.

We had a hard time finding new things to do that we hadn't already all done.  If you haven't yet been to Asheville, I highly recommend touring Biltmore Estates!  The home and the grounds are beautiful, though the ticket is pricey.  We'd all toured the house before and only wanted to tour the gardens this go-round, but unfortunately there is no partial ticket, so we ended up going mural hunting instead.

The River Arts District of Asheville isn't the cleanest part of town, but it has been overtaken with art, both internally and externally.  Some are intentional murals, others are just strategically placed (and probably intentional) graffiti which was still really cool!






   









We stopped by The Montford Rooftop Bar for late afternoon beverages and food.  Tori had a flatbread pizza that looked delicious, Caitlin got the local cheese plate, and I had apple pie and ice cream. (Not the most conventional dinner, but headaches limit the things my stomach can tolerate. Its weird, I am aware.)

I struggle to get more than 5-6 hours of sleep as it is, but after spending the day in the mountains, I barely managed four.  I love the mountains, but they do not like me! Altitude change has a crazy effect on my body, and I never know if/how I'm going to react until it hits.






Day 3 - Sunday, October 7, 2018 - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood!! Despite all the traveling I've done in this area, both as a child and now as an adult, I had never been to Dollywood until this day. I'm really glad we went, but honestly it was kind of a let down. There were only like seven roller coasters to go on, and once you've been to Disney, Six Flags, Cedar Point, etc. its hard to be excited about the minimal attractions (yes, I recognize my privilege).  Lucky for me, I can (and do!) get excited over just about anything, and it turned out seven rides turned out to be kind of perfect for the day.

We got there around 11AM and started on the rides right away.  One coaster in and I was already in need of some Tylenol! Somehow I managed to only have a headache while we were actually ON a ride, and was fine once we were off of them.  Being a Sunday, the lines were pretty short and we didn't wait more than 25 minutes for any ride.  The only one we didn't go on was the water ride, because even though it was pushing 90 degrees, there is nothing enjoyable about walking around all afternoon in wet clothes. The park was covered in pumpkins and other Halloween decor in celebration of fall and their Great Pumpkin LumiNights experience. My favorite roller coaster was the Eagle because your feet dangle and you never know if you're upside down or right side up! The only down side is the uber-tight chest strap that is comforting when you're twirling in circles, but panic-inducing once you've stopped and realized its cutting off the air circulation to you lungs.

                          

Prior to leaving at the end of the afternoon, we stopped at a shop within the grounds to get some sugary sweet cinnamon bread as a snack for the ride home.  Our car also just happened to pull into the Russell Stover parking lot, where we had no choice but to get caramel apples. What can you do?! 

Day 4 - Monday, October 8, 2018 - Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia

Tori had to work today, so Caitlin and I set off for Bristol, the city where some of the first recordings of country music came from. Bristol is on the state line of Tennessee and Virginia; in fact, you can stand in the middle of main street and be in both states at once.


There isn't a ton to do in Bristol, but it was a neat little area.  According to a local, the nightlife is semi-enjoyable, but otherwise the town lacks in things to do. We wandered down main street, Tennessee on one side, Virginia on the other, and browsed the little shops before stopping in Burger Bar for lunch.  The legend is that Burger Bar was the last place that Hank Williams was seen alive prior his to pronounced death in West Virginia. We definitely stood out as outsiders, and after getting hit on by a man in his 60s, we knew it was time to leave!


















If you're in the area, a few attractions include the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the Bristol Speedway, and the Bristol Caverns.

Day 5 - Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - Home bound

I got up Tuesday morning and finished my book/began another as I waited for Caitlin to get up.  We left Johnson City a little before 9 and made it home around 1...at which time Caitlin realized that she had left her car and house keys in Johnson City! Luckily I had a spare to her apartment and she had a spare car key there as well.

Overall, it was a good trip.  I wish I had put a little more planning time into it, but honestly I just haven't had the free time available to do that. I would have liked to do some hiking, though my reaction to altitude change makes that wish difficult.

It was great to get away for a few days, but I'm happy to be home and actually do some relaxing (HA!) and others things around here before schools starts again on Monday.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - September





Squeezed in some last minute pool reads before the pool closed for the "winter." Slowly making my way through books that I’ve been meaning to read for ages and giveaway wins. Somehow I still never seem to make a dent in my reading list...


*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)



66. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (3/5 ★)

Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life—which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job—Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does.  That’s when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping—until, one night, he nearly kills himself. 
Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio.  There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.


Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it’s definitely a funny story.


I've been wanting to read this one since it first came out, back when I was in high school or maybe late middle school I believe. I have the DVD and thought it was alright, but when I saw the book at the bookstore for a quarter I had to get it. It was a little slow getting into, and also pretty unrealistic. I was disappointed in it, but it is a YA book, and I think if I would have read it when I originally added it to my list I would have liked it a lot better. An interesting fact is that the author of this story wrote it immediately following his own five-day stint in a psychiatric hospital.



67. Sold by Patricia McCormick (3/5 ★)

Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family's crops, Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at "Happiness House" full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution

Picked this book up from McKay's for a quarter, because I had liked another book by the same author. It was a story written for a middle grade audience that gave a good intro to a very mature topic. It was a sad story, but had a happy ending. I had hoped it was intended for an older audience when I got it. If you're looking for a true story on a similar topic, I recommend The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam.


68. The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry (4/5 ★)


Katy Thatcher was the bright and curious daughter of the town doctor. She was fascinated by her father’s work, and even as a child she knew that she too wanted to be a doctor. She wanted to know about people. Perhaps it was this, her insatiable curiosity, or simply the charm of Jacob’s gentle intimacy with animals large and small, that fueled their friendship. Although Jacob never spoke to her or even looked at her directly, Katy grew to understand him from the moments they spent together quietly singing to the horses. She knew there was meaning in the sounds he made and purpose behind his movements. So when events took an unexpected and tragic turn, it was Katy alone who could unravel the mystery of what had occurred and why.

Another book by Lois Lowry that I hadn't read yet, but I am glad I cam across it at McKay's. It was a very sweet, but sad story, and ended rather abruptly.  I liked it, but the quick ending through me off.  I definitely would have enjoyed this story in middle school.



69. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (5/5 ★)

"There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year, and they will test the champions in many different ways … their magical prowess - their daring - their powers of deduction - and, of course, their ability to cope with danger." The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter - but that doesn't stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe'en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through - alive!


My goal is to re-read the whole HP series this year.  I read books 1-3 in March because I had the illustrated editions, but since the fourth doesn't come out until 2019, I'm finishing the series off in my worn-in original editions.  I'm not going to leave an actual review because everyone is familiar with the HP stories, and if you're not you should get on it!

Reading Challenge: 69/52 books read in 2018

You can find previous book reviews here!