CA to CT Road Trip… Days 3, 4 and 5

When I was looking for places to stop along the way for my move from Orange County to Connecticut, I really didn’t even know where to begin. It got to the point for our second night on the road where I just picked the town with the biggest font on the map. And I was I was joking even a little bit, but would you know where to stay between Oklahoma City and Nashville?

Day 3: Ft. Smith to Nashville, Tennessee

We woke up on day three in Ft. Smith, AK and what I thought would be a random town, turned out to be absolutely beautiful. This town is a Midwesterner hipster’s heaven. We woke up at our Courtyard Marriott in downtown Ft. Smith not knowing really what we drove into the night before but we did a little googling and found out that Ft. Smith had 19 murals painted throughout the town by one artist. We loved it! So we started our morning off at the brand new Ft. Smith Coffee Company which had just opened 3 weeks prior. Too cute! And then we took our coffees on a morning stroll throughout the town. Coffee in one hand, cameras in the other. We found about half of the 19 pieces of art. Definitely such a random town that I’d love to go back and visit. There were tons of restaurants, breweries and little mom and pop shops.

But we got on the road and headed toward Tennessee because we knew we wanted to have lunch at a BBQ spot in Memphis and be in Nashville by the start of the Stanley Cup playoff game, which was in downtown Nashville.

Until I locked my keys in the car at a gas station. Oh Arkansas, your people are amazingly beautiful people. Just about an hour, and small little rain storm later, we were back on the road and lunch turned into a 4pm stop in Memphis. Not going to lie, next time we will have to do a little more research on the whole BBQ stop. The food was good but definitely not what I was expecting to get in the best city for BBQ in the country. Also, the setting was not what I was expecting. I wanted picnic benches and beer, not downtown Memphis. By the way, many of the mom and pop BBQ restaurants are closed on Mondays, and guest what! It was Monday.

So moving onto Nashville, TN. We ended up stopping at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel a little later than expected thanks to our extended stay at the gas station back in Arkansas. A whole post will come later this month about this amazing hotel, but because we arrived later than expected, we debating on going out or staying at one of the many hotel bars. We were traveling right in the middle of the hockey playoffs and that Monday night just happened to be the night Predators beat the Penguins at home. So celebrating the home team’s victory a block from where the game was played definitely trumped staying at the hotel.

So we headed out to Broadway and let me tell you… this night was the icing on the cake that was our cross country adventure. We stopped at a few bars including Tin Roof, the Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar and Honky Tonk Central and really there were so many options, but besides Tin Roof which was a recommendation, we stumbling into the others. Honky Tonk Central was definitely a favorite of the night.

We ended the night eating at the Diner Nashville which is a 24 hour diner with 6 floors of amazing views of downtown Nashville. Besides normal diner food, they also had a full bar, sushi, oysters and small bites. Hello foodie lover’s paradise. Oh and they serve alcohol for 23 hours of the day, but if you’re not done with your drink at 3am they will take it from you. But don’t worry, you can order another one at 4am. That was defiantly our sign that we had to go home.

Day 4: Nashville to Knoxville, Tennessee

Yes you saw that right. We drove a measly 3 hours on day 4 simply because we were recovering from our 4am return to the hotel. Like I said, I’m going to do a whole post on this amazing resort but we spent the entire day at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort and then headed through Tennessee to Knoxville where we had a good old fashioned sleepover. We knew it was our last night of our drive and the next day would be our longest driving day so we ordered way too much pizza, got wine and watched HGTV until we fell asleep. Mellow Mushroom, for picking a random pizza place off of google, these girls who grew up on New Haven pizza were pretty impressed. My favorite was the Holy Shiitake Pie, but we also got the Loaded Potato Pie and the Great White. All of them were amazing.

Day 5: Knoxville to Connecticut

When I tell you I never thought we were going to get out of Virginia, I mean it. Ok, so we stopped at a winery for two hours for a tasting and lunch, and then also detoured onto the Blue Ridge Parkway but damn, Virginia is big! We stopped at WhiteBarrel winery in Christiansburg and it was well worth it. The wine was fantastic, food was delicious and the views were absolutely breathtaking. I had never thought of Shenadoah Valley as a place to go for wineries but was I mistaken. Definitely much smaller than the California and Oregon wine countries I am used to but beautiful. I did a tasting of just reds and loved every single one, but the Cabernet Franc was my favorite. We left with a case of wine and orders from the owner of the winery to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way home.

So we took an hour long detour off of Route 81 and headed into Shenadoah National Park. Just a warning this is a super windy, narrow drive for much of it. And also there is no quick way out. This route is definitely a commitment, so if you’re in a rush I wouldn’t recommend it.

Six hours later we were finally out of Virginia and on our way straight through New York City and home into Connecticut.

This trip was the therapy I needed to spend time with my sister and best friend before heading home after seven years. We had such an amazing time and got to see so many areas of the country that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. It gave me a lot of respect for the middle of the country. I never knew how beautiful Oklahoma, Arkensas, Tennessee and Virginia were and I am so glad I didn’t just fly over these amazing parts of our country like I have so many times in the past.

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