A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving in Tennessee



I was reminded last night in line at Sprouts, listening to the young mid-twenty-something cashier, why I'm the type of mom that I am.  And why, since becoming a mom to Wren almost 25 years ago, and then Chase a couple of years after that, my #1 job in life has been and is Mom. The cashier was being asked by the customer if he spent Thanksgiving with his family. He said no, he didn't go to Nebraska (which isn't even that far), because his parent's never came to visit him while in college, not even once, they only came for his graduation. So now he makes minimal effort to see them. I think it's fair to say, he's a bit bitter and hurt. Obviously, I don't know his parents' circumstances as to why they never visited, but I am willing to say, they didn't put him first and he clearly knows it. Whatever their circumstances, had they wanted to make it happen, I know that in at least 4 years of college, they could've made the effort for a weekend visit. It all comes down to who you're putting first and where your priorities lie. You or them.

I want my kids to know that I am always there for them. I believe it is my job as a parent to be the one to put forth the time and effort to see them and make sure they are an important part of our lives. Especially as kids get older and go off to college, start their independent life and then eventually may start a family of their own, they're busy and wrapped up in their lives, just as we all were at certain stages in life. As the parent, you make the effort. You go the distance to put your kids before anything else. If that was a perpetual cycle in society, I'm confident in saying we'd all be more mentally stable and healthy. But selfishness has a way of creeping in.... 

So, about a month or so ago, when I asked Chase if his girlfriend had made her planned visit out to Tennessee, he said no. Talking about anything personal with him is like pulling teeth and I only get vague, short direct answers to each question I pose. So I followed up and asked if he and his girlfriend of over a year were still together and he said no they'd broken up. Sensing that he was of course a bit upset I knew where we'd be spending Thanksgiving, even though it wasn't really planned for. Chase, being the complete opposite of Wren, would never be the one to say that he's sad, or he's lonely, or he'd like to see us so I asked him if he needed a parental visit, possibly for Thanksgiving. He replied with, "well, if you want". So yes, I'll take that as a firm yes. And that's how we came to spend a Non-Traditional Thanksgiving in Tennessee last week. 

We went for a short two night, three day stay with a variety of activities from one spectrum to the other! I'm going to share with you what we filled our days with over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. I always try to throw in something I think each person will like and that will be fun as a family. If you've followed us on our adventures before, you know we're an adventure seeking group and love to eat too! Although we missed Wren on this Holiday weekend, there is sure to be more.

Chase is stationed at Fort Campbell so it's pretty convenient to fly into Nashville. We arrived around noon on Thanksgiving Day, with Chase picking us up at the airport. Knowing I wouldn't be cooking I had spent a lot of time researching places that serve up a good Thanksgiving meal in and around the Nashville area. I really wanted to be on the outskirts of Nashville as we didn't want anything too fancy or be bothered with parking. We also love a good buffet, but there were not many options for that. I found a cute restaurant spot that had great ratings, availability and was in a darling southern style mansion built in 1942! We had our Thanksgiving meal at Mere Bulles  and it was pretty good. They were definitely cranking out the pre-set meals and service and ambiance were great. I'm sure this place is even better on a regular day or evening when they don't have hundreds of reservations. 

We then headed south because we wanted to stay a little closer to our big activity scheduled for Friday. Caving. We headed to McMinnville, TN, a little town with a few motels, a cute historical downtown and Cumberland Caverns. I think this town would be a great weekend getaway in late spring, summer or fall. Seems like there are a lot of outdoorsy things to do with a river, caves and hiking and good down home cooking. Forget Nashville, Tennessee has so many other places to see that are absolutely gorgeous with lots to do. I think I could live there!

We stayed at one of the few motels in McMinnville, the Hampden Inn. It had only been open for 3 weeks and had no available pictures, so I wasn't even sure I was booking a real motel. I finally saw a review that it was newly opened, so I went ahead and booked it for the night. It was nothing fancy, but clean, convenient and free coffee in the morning, always a bonus! We needed a hearty breakfast before our big adventure so we headed to the little downtown and found a cute little cafe called Cumberland Biscuit Company with one of the best breakfasts I've ever had. Highly recommend.

We did an extreme caving tour called the Legacy Tour Adventure and quite honestly, I was a little apprehensive after talking to the guy we booked it with. He wanted to know when the last time we went caving was and how big we were and what shape we were in because it's strenuous. I assured him we'd fit through the box they use to reflect the smallest area you have to crawl through, that we were in decent shape, Chase excellent, and as for caving before....Well, not since 6th grade for me and never for them. He tried to talk me out it. I booked it anyway and then hoped I hadn't gotten us in over our heads. Let's just say, it was extreme and really fun. Would definitely do it again. It took about 3 1/2 hours in the cave and you are constantly climbing over boulder fields, sliding, hanging on to ropes to get across tiny ledges or down deep holes and climbing ladders up or down into the abyss. Not for the faint of heart, really out of shape, overweight or claustrophobic folks. If you're sure on your feet, don't mind getting very muddy and like to challenge yourself, you'll love it! As a side note, you really will be fine in a light t-shirt even though it's 56 degrees and you definitely need gloves. The tour was worth every penny!


Of course we were starving afterwards and went on the hunt for some good BBQ. We randomly chose Wild Bills BBQ & Grill. We checked out the reviews and decided to give it a try. Delicious. Ambiance wasn't great, but the food was really good. I haven't had a ton of BBQ, but I'd say it was the best I've had. We all agreed. We then headed back towards the Nashville area to spend the second night. We took the scenic route and once again, were surprised at how beautiful Tennessee is. We went through an area that was full of tree/plant growing nursery's. I've always wanted to work in a nursery, so I even found my job!  

I left our third day a little open and figured we'd do some walking around. We have never checked out the area around the Grand Ole Opry so thought we'd give that a try. Once was enough. Wouldn't do that again. We stayed at the Inn at Opryland. Dump. Double the price of our cheap motel the night before and double the dump. Don't waste your money staying in this area. We did walk around the Grand Ole Opry but were disappointed with that. Hideous late 1960's building and of course you have to have tickets just to walk in. I'm sure it's fun and quite an experience to go to a show there but we didn't do that. We then walked over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel. It was pretty inside but a big tourist attraction that almost felt Disneylandish. For around the same price, go to Disneyland instead! I don't recommend staying around the Grand Ole Opry and if you don't have a show to go to, go to a different area of Nashville. Much more to see than this commercial touristy area.


We decided to leave this area and get back to what we love. Old historical tours. We went to President Andrew Jackson's Hermitage and went on the mansion and grounds tour. It was beautiful, the tour of the mansion was informative (although a bit quick I thought)  and it was fun learning about the history of the 7th President of the United States. Most of which I had no idea. He is buried in a tomb behind the house in the family cemetery and as we stood reading the plaques, Chase remarked that it was pretty crazy we were standing in front of a U.S. President's grave and the General who led The Battle of New Orleans. Yes, it was! 


After spending several hours at the Hermitage, we had just enough time for dinner before hitting the airport. Shawn and Chase wanted BBQ again, so we looked for a BBQ gem around Nashville. There were many to choose from. We picked Edley's and it was really good too. We definitely eat well on these weekends away!  And being the Blush Detective that I am, I tuned in quickly to a couple on their first or second date. Not long after we sat down, I remarked that I should save them both time and tell them it was never going to work, they were totally mismatched. The date ended up being very awkward and when he went and spent 8 minutes in the bathroom, she was swiping Tinder to see what her options were. Front row entertainment! 

Then it was off to the airport for a late night flight home after a great non-Traditional Thanksgiving spent with our son Chase. Time well spent!

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