The Hermitage … and then home

The last part of our trip was an overnight in Nashville. I had booked a motel room in Hermitage, since it was close to the highway and along our route from Bristol. At the time I booked, I had no idea the significance of the name “Hermitage.” In fact, it refers to the estate of President Andrew Jackson.

On the first day of our vacation, as we drove from St. Louis to Bristol, we had kept our eyes open for the Hermitage exit we would be taking 9 days later. As we neared it, I spotted a huge dam with four big spillways. It was right before our exit. I made a mental note to check it out when we came back through.

Anyway, we ate lunch at a rest stop about an hour west of Knoxville. The weather was wonderful, so we ate outside at a picnic table. While we were eating, I let Josie crawl around in the grass. She began standing up again like she had at our uncle Jerry’s house.

After that, we hit the road, and got to Hermitage, Tenn. soon after. We checked into the motel, dropped off some things, then headed north a little ways to The Hermitage.

The estate was big and beautiful (but a little expensive to get in). We decided to try the additional horse-and-wagon tour for the girls.

The girls got a big kick out of being in the wagon, although they absorbed absolutely nothing the driver said in the way of history, etc. 🙂 There was a lot to see: cattle, a donkey, chickens running around, log cabins, old slave quarters, cotton crops, and just the whole vast estate.

After the wagon ride, we did things sort of backwards, heading to the garden and graveyard. We saw Jackson’s tomb which he shares with his wife Rachel, as well as the headstone for a slave named Alfred who eventually became a free man and later worked as a handyman and tour guide at the estate until he died in 1901.

As the sun set and closing time neared, we decided we needed to tour the inside of the house. Volunteers in period costumes take you through various areas and tell you all about them. We had only looked at the first floor when Ludi began complaining she wanted to go potty and began crying and raising cain. I had to flee with her to the main building (pretty far away). Once we were in the bathroom, she said she didn’t have to go. Well, after all that effort, we weren’t leaving until she went. I was firm with her and she cried (I wonder what the other guy in the bathroom thought), but eventually she did her business and the world was happy again.

We rushed back to the house only to learn that Yoli and the other two girls had already finished the tour. but even though the house was closed, the ladies offered to take me and Ludi upstairs to see what we had missed. Very nice of them. The thing that stuck with me was the notion that the estate had anywhere from 20-50 guests at any given time, and that most of these were men. They had to share beds, with sometimes as many as 5 men to a bed and many on the floor. WOW!

After that we watched a very well-done movie about Jackson (narrated by Martin Sheen), and it was time to head out.

We ate some food at a barbecue place. The girls started off well, but began their food antics after a while… refusing to finish, etc. Jadzia eventually came around, but Ludi wouldn’t finish her mini-corndogs. Yoli and I came out of the restaurants with huge bellies from all the eating. (with some leftovers, which we just ate today)

Back at the motel, we settled in to watch some Food network and HGTV. We were amazed as the girls one by one fell asleep: first Josie, then Ludi, then Jadzia. It was the most painless evening ever. And the kicker was we got to keep watching TV even as they slept. But we were so tired that it didn’t last long. We fell asleep watching Alton Brown, and decided it was time to hit the hay.

The next morning was the final leg of our trip: the return to St. Louis. Before we hit the open road, we drove over to the J. Percy Priest Dam to take some pictures and shoot some video. It was pretty impressive.

The drive home was fairly uneventful, although we did take a couple detours.

The first opportunity was afforded when we saw a billboard in Tennessee around the Smoky Mountains area advertising factory-direct cast iron skillets. We were in the market for a skillet, so we headed down the road and checked it out.

The Lodge Factory Outlet Store in Sevierville was a pretty neat place. Jadzia, Ludi and I headed inside to stretch our legs while Yoli fed and changed Josie. We came out with a 10-inch, made-in-the-USA skillet and cover, plus two oven mitts.

Back on the road, after we passed through Paducah, Ky., we decided to take a scenic/practical route change. Instead of across Illinois into St. Louis, we elected to drive west on Route 60 from Paducah to Cairo, Ill., and then across the Mississippi River into Missouri. From there we’d head north on I-55.

It was an interesting detour with some nice sights along the way; certainly more scenic than the Illinois drive. But after a long lunch stop at a restaurant in Kentucky, I had to drive pretty fast to make sure we got home by 4:00. Yoli had to work that day.

As it turned out, we got to the library with 3 minutes to spare. We dropped off Yoli directly, then went home.

I was ready to collapse; the girls were ready to play and eat.

Home sweet home.

About Josh Renaud

I'm the Emperor of the Renaud Empire, which is to say that I'm the husband of a Boliviana and the father of three daughters and one son. When I'm not conquering lands and expanding borders, I'm a newspaper designer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Find me on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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