Tennessee Dispatch

Good morning from beautiful Pigeon Forge, TN! Yesterday we left Pittsburgh after saying my final goodbyes and cleaning my apartment to a previously unimaginable level of cleanliness. It was a lot easier to leave than I thought it would be. Krista packed the car like the final level of Tetris, and much to my amazement & surprise, somehow everything fit. We are not uploading pictures every night, but we will come back and add some later! Believe me, we have taken a lot of pictures.

We drove south on 79 to 81. We stopped at an antique mall somewhere in West Virginia & bought a pair of salt & pepper shakers – two little bears with their arms wrapped around each other. SO CUTE. We stopped at a Sheetz gas station, where we had a surprisingly delicious iced soy latte (who knew sheetz even carried soy milk?).

We stopped at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (formerly the Weston State Hospital), which is a 150-year old Kirkbride building built to expose the mentally ill to “beauty and light” as a cure for their mental illnesses. We took a tour of the first floor, including the civil war wing, and the wing for the criminally insane. It was really fascinating – from a mental health perspective, to see how treatment had evolved over the years, from the perspective of historical buildings & struggling start-up non-profits trying to preserve things other people would rather knock down. It was really cool, anyway, if you are ever in Weston, WV.

We also stopped outside of Fayetteville, WV, at the New River Gorge National Park, home of the New River Gorge Bridge. The bridge is one of the world’s longest single-arch steel span bridges and was built in the 1970s by two Pittsburgh-based companies – US Steel & American Bridge. Wow! It is long. I mean, it is really really long. I almost wish the outlook had been on the OTHER side, so that I didn’t have think about how high up we were when we finally drove across it. Bridges make me a little nervous to drive on, which I admit is silly since I lived in Pittsburgh for so many years – that city is home to more overwater bridges than anywhere else in the world, yes, even Venice.

Now we are in Tennessee. We slept in Pigeon Forge last night, very near where Dolly Parton spent her formative years. Today we plan to visit Dollywood (“The Pilgrimage”) and make our way across this beautiful state. By tonight, we should be in Memphis. GRACELAND! What day of the week is it? We have no idea! It is so fun to just drive and laugh and see beautiful and weird things together.

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