Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tennessee Recap

The original plan for the Knoxville Marathon weekend was to drive down Saturday for the Sunday race and take a vacation day Monday to drive back home. As luck would have it, I had recently started my new job and didn't have the vacation time. (Which is really frustrating because I now get 28 days per year...I just can't use days until I accrue them!)
We cancelled one night at our Knoxville hotel and booked a hotel Friday night about six hours from Cleveland. We also bought sandwich fixings and snacks so that we wouldn't have to stop for dinner, to save some time.

I guess we still got pretty lucky that it was a Sunday race, since there was no race day packet pick-up. We both worked a full day on Friday (I actually got stuck late..I definitely need to set some boundaries with my boss); I dropped Michael off in the morning, and then picked him up in the evening, since his work was on the way to Knoxville, and basically on the way to my work.

I had heard on the radio in the morning and after work that there was snow around Akron, but I half didn't believe it. The roads were clear at first, and most rush hour traffic was over, so I got cocky and assumed all was good. I got a little worried when cities south of Akron had plows and salt trucks waiting in the medians, but there was still no snow. Until, you know, there was.

The picture (that Michael took, just to be clear) doesn't do the situation any justice. The roads weren't salted, and one of the two lanes became impassable due to accumulation. Now I understand why the South explodes when it snows...turns out driving sucks on unprepared roads! Based on when we actually got to the hotel, I estimate the snow added an entire extra hour of drive time. Never again. (Side note - why do all our trips to the South get derailed by snow?!)

Once we cleared the snow, the drive was pretty clear. I was shocked Sunday how much traffic was on I-75 (and that it was only two lanes - what a horrible idea that is), so we made great time at night. Cincinnati was also super pretty all lit up! My new state is pretty cool.

Though obviously I managed to take no good pictures of it.
MSU also got the 10 PM Sweet Sixteen slot, so we had something to listen to for the last part of the drive. We found a channel that streamed the games, but for some reason it would randomly switch between the games. I passed out when it went to the other game in our time slot and woke up just in time to hear the last two minutes of our game. Go Green!

We didn't get to the hotel until 1 AM. I'm glad we made a reservation, because all the hotels in the area were booked solid. Michael gets a huge shoutout for doing all the late night driving on this trip while I snoozed. He is totally awesome.

But I think I should get a mini-shoutout for finding the nicest Red Roof Inn ever.
We I had planned a pretty jam-packed Saturday of activities, but that was predicated on the idea we would be in bed no later than 11 PM. (Ok, maybe midnight because of the game, let's be real.) Michael and I were totally beat, so we opted to sleep in and only do one of the two hikes I had found for us. With a marathon the next day, I'm glad we prioritized rest.

We left the hotel around 11 AM and went to the Waffle House just down the road. I thought this would be a quick stop, but after having to ask four separate people for our bill because the waitress completely forgot about us, it turned into an ordeal of more than an hour. We still had plenty of time for our hike, so all's well that ends well, I guess.

Our next stop was Obed Wild and Scenic River. Wild and Scenic Rivers are a type of Park operated by the NPS, but I don't think I've ever been to one. Because of the nature of the Park, the visitor center was located in downtown Wartburg, with nearby access to the river proper. The drive was close to two hours and took us through lots of back roads. It was really enjoyable to take a scenic detour, instead of just more time on 75.

After the very nice ranger played the introductory video for us, I poked my nose into the gift shop to get my park stamp (and yes, I keep my Park stamp book in my firebox when I'm home, and I'm not ashamed).

The main activities in the park are kayaking and rock climbing, though there are lots of hiking opportunities. Very few people must come to hike, since the brochure basically said: "Yes, there are trails. Ask a ranger," so I'm glad I had planned in advance. The trailhead was about 15 minutes away, though it took about 20 after we missed a turn.

It was really hard to find information online about the hiking options in the Park, but I found several sites that recommended the Point Trail. The pictures sold me, and I'm so glad we did it. There was a minor snafu where we turned around at the beginning so Michael could change shoes (his old hiking boots were too big), but we were for real on the trail by 3.

There were a few other people on the trail, but all were heading back to the cars, so we enjoyed the hike in solitude. (My favorite, obviously.) The beginning of the trail started out easy, but it quickly got very rugged. (Also my favorite.)

My all time favorite hike ever is Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, because the actual arch itself isn't visible until you turn the final corner of the trail. The Point Trail reminded me of this because, while we had some pretty incredible views on the way out, there were no clear overlooks until the end.

However, before we got the end, we had to make a stop at the small sandstone arch near the end. I thought it might be hard to find based on what I read since it was "off-trail," when it reality it was clearly visible and about 20 steps off the beaten path.

After about 45 minutes of hiking, we finally reached the terminus.

We hung out for about 10 minutes, and even took a sort-of successful selfie.

It felt like we hiked back at top speed, but it still took about 40 minutes. Once we got back to the parking lot, I had the horrible realization I had parked in a handicapped spot! In my defense, the lines were painted white, and there wasn't a post. Both of us made several trips to and from the car when we got there and somehow didn't see it, so the sun must have been hitting at a weird angle. There was still another handicapped spot open, but it made me feel bad nonetheless.

We finished off the sandwiches from Friday (which turned out to be a Bad Decision come race day) and headed out to Knoxville.

Packet pick-up was downtown at the Holiday Inn, which was conveniently next to a parking garage, free on weekends. (Good job, Knoxville!) The expo set-up was huge, but almost all the vendors were packed up when we got there, with about two hours left. Lots of cute running clothes were on sale, but I didn't need anything, so we were in and out pretty quickly.

Our next stop was dinner, of course. We walked through the really nice downtown to the Downtown Grill & Brewery.

With a quick stop to see Rowing Man.
There was about a 30 minute wait at the restaurant, but the food was really good, so I'm glad we stuck around. A bus girl brought our food and I inhaled the fries so fast, the waitress got really worried none had been brought to me when she checked on us a minute later. Runger is real, people.

Because of the wait, the Panera right by the restaurant was closed when we left, but I found one nearby that stayed open an hour later, so the crisis was swiftly averted. After getting our pre-race bagels and some sunscreen, we finally made it to the hotel. But obviously we had to stay up late to see the Kentucky game, but were disappointed when Notre Dame imploded at the end. (Ick...can't believe I typed that sentence!)

The next morning saw us up dark and early to run the Knoxville Marathon, which you can read all about here.

After hobbling back to the car, we moved to a parking garage downtown and walked to the YMCA next door to shower. The showers were private (yay!), and the YMCA was in a really cool historic building, and it was neat to walk inside there a bit. I finished before Michael, so I caught a few minutes of MSU's Elite Eight game against Louisville on TV, though we were down a lot at this point.

We hopped in the car a little before halftime and couldn't find the game on the radio, so we streamed it on my phone. Using the data was totally worth it - since we ended up winning in OT! Louisville normally has our number, so it was so nice to finally get a victory and earn a Final Four slot. In Izzo We Trust.

But I'm pretty sure the cars around us though we were nuts, since we couldn't stop screaming and high-fiving. I was sad at the time that we couldn't watch on TV, but after seeing highlights later, I'm almost glad we couldn't. Some of those shots defied gravity in getting in...I think it was better not seeing!

After passing Lexington, I pulled over at an Arby's, and then Michael finished the rest of the drive. We were in bed before midnight, which wasn't the worst. Both of us were pretty beat the next day, but it wasn't the struggle I had prepared myself for.

Though I have to say I'm glad we gave ourselves three weeks between trips. I need some time to recover before driving seven hours again!