Wednesday, August 13, 2014

weekend getaway: tennessee lakehouse

It's August, and once again I find myself out of work, out of money, and traveling all over the country. This past weekend, we went to J's family's lakehouse in Nowheresville, Tennessee Union County, TN, somewhere in the eastern side of the state and right smack dab in the middle of the Smoky Mountains. It was a rainy, lazy weekend, spent mostly inside catching up on reading and knitting, although the weather did clear up for quite a while on Saturday, giving me just enough time to drink a beer and read a book in a giant oversized inner tube.

I did have to wait an extra six hours for that beer though. After we landed in Knoxville and drove nearly an hour to Maynardville (pop. 2,390), we stopped at the local Food City for some necessary provisions. In the checkout line, our cashier informed us that he was not able to sell us the six-pack of Corona Lite, but not because it was a Sunday (it was a Thursday). No, we were to become temporary teetotalers because there is a law in Tennessee that forbids alcohol sales on election days, and as luck would have it, there was in fact a local election taking place that very day. We were more than welcome to come back after the polls close at 8pm, though, because Food City stays open until 10 and he'd gladly sell us the beer then. As I picked my jaw up off the floor, he asked me if I still wanted to purchase the two limes laying helpless on the conveyor belt. No, I do not want to purchase those limes, thankyouverymuch.

Friday evening's dinner was at Bubba Brew's, the local watering hole that offers both a boat-thru pickup window and Friday night karaoke, neither of which we participated in. Even as we were docking the boat, strains of an impressively off-key version of "Before He Cheats" floated up from the outdoor seating area. After getting past the six-man bouncer team comprised of neon tank top-clad guys with biceps bigger than my head (who checked my bag but not my ID), we were given prime outdoor seats right in front of the karaoke stage.  They did have Blue Moon on tap, but I instead chose a Bud Light to accompany my burger, rightly assuming that this was neither the time nor the place for even the slightest hint of cerevisaphillic pretentiousness. Though the vast majority of the clientele were sporting more than a few tattoos as seen through their cutoff jean shorts and ripped tank tops (grunge is back, kids!), there was one man who had a face tattoo to rival Mike Tyson's. We didn't think much else of him once we had made the obligatory face tattoo comments, but while we were waiting for our food to arrive, we heard the unmistakable first few bars of Sinatra's "New York, New York." J and I looked at each other to make sure that we were, in fact, sitting at a sticky picnic table in eastern Tennessee, and then rolled our eyes in sarcastic anticipation of what was sure to come. But before we could fully complete our eye roll, we heard something pretty darn close to Sinatra's voice ring out, loud and clear - "Start spreadin'..the news..." We looked up. It was our friend with the face tattoos. Luckily, it started to rain, and we moved to an indoor table before I was forced to reconcile my preconceived notions about the type of talent found below the Mason-Dixon line.

The rest of the weekend was taken up with boredom-combative baking that resulted in comically-sized chocolate chip cookies AND pancakes (and our new favorite phrase, "when in doubt, Uncle Buck it!") and a pleasantly surprising amount of photography. It turns out that Jerry, J's father, is a pretty serious photographer in his spare time, and was more than happy to lend me a few of his crazy fancy lenses and take me out to an overlook point just to shoot the sunset. Granted, it was a fairly hazy night and there was more cloud coverage than actual sunset, but it was still really cool to spend an hour just playing around. Since I was using one of Jerry's extra tripods, I was able to set my ISO to numbers I hadn't previously been able to use (my own tripod is one of a billion things on the when-I-get-a-stable-job wishlist), and though the pictures were still a bit dark and grainy, I was pretty pleased with the results.

Though I did snap a few iPhone pics (the requisite feet-at-the-end-of-the-dock, and a few of my beer, once the good people of Food City were finally allowed to sell it to me), the photos in this post were all taken with my DSLR (Cannon EOS Rebel SL1) and edited in Lightroom. Looking at them now I realize they're all a bit dark and forlorn, but I assure you that wasn't the mood of the weekend! I guess it was just that a rainy weekend in the mountains caused me to be a little more focused and introspective than I normally am - and as a result, have even more close-ups of branches and flowers than I usually do ;)

If you go:
The house we stayed in was located on Norris Lake, in Maynardville, TN. It's one of those areas in which the dichotomy between rich and poor is blatantly obvious (massive McMansions lay just half a mile from dilapidated barns and trailer parks), but the scenery is gorgeous. Local activities include hiking in the Smokey Mountain National Park, spending the day at Dollywood, and any number of water sports on the lake itself. Bubba Brew's is located at 170 Beach Island Rd., Maynardville, TN, and is offers both fifteen flat-screen TVs and "1200 feet of floating fun."

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