Violins and Cats and Running

I got an email from a reader today. I love that! (I haven’t responded yet but I totally will soon!) She mentioned that she was a typical reader in that she was in her 30’s, a violinist, and a cat owner. Hmm. Are you all in that demographic? I suppose that makes sense. (P.S. I love emails and comments. Have I mentioned that before? Why would I do this if I didn’t want to hear from you!)

So I haven’t written about running in like, forever. But, I’ve been running! I’m training for the MO Cowbell Half Marathon in 3 weeks. And I’ve run other stuff that I don’t think I mentioned, so I’m going to do a short recap of my running this year.

As you know, my divorce was difficult (well, aren’t they all!) and I fell off the “fitness” bandwagon and instead decided I was tired of restricting and exercising, and had a few months of just doing whatever I wanted. After awhile I wanted to get back on the fitness bandwagon…and lo and behold! I realized I had become the world’s slowest runner. For instance, I ran the Go All American 5k in 38:18 (in June). And I RAN the whole time, I didn’t even take walk breaks. I kid you not. You can do the math on that. And I’m still that slow, except I’m able to run farther. Maybe I’m a tiny bit faster, but not really.

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(Slow but happy)

I forgot, in my post 5k haze, to put my chin down. CHIN DOWN IN PHOTOS.

And I never (at least I don’t think so) mentioned the 5k I ran on my birthday on June 7. I had received a free race entry to the Creve Coeur Heart to Heart so I ran it. It was fun, and I ran into a former colleague from the St Louis School of Music, who was doing her first race!

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After! Obviously feeling strong. Oh and my time was 40:05. That had a few walk breaks.

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The race was very nice (I never did write my recap, so here I am!) Small but very well run. Well marked course, went through some residential areas which was nice. It wasn’t too hot which is awesome for a summer race, though little did we know it would barely be hot this summer at all! Parking was easy, packet pick up was easy the morning of (gotta love small races!) and there was a 10k option which is pretty rare. Maybe by next year I’ll be a little faster?

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So speed, my speed, I’m slower than a turtle. But I’m running. I look down at my Garmin and wonder how it is truly that I’m running and the first number is  13…but I am still beating people on the couch (so they say, or as they say at least) and I’m getting a more intense workout than walking…even though it might be slower, and I’m having fun. I got new sneakers the other week!

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I’m running in Mizuno Wave Paradox shoes. They are pricey but I’m loving them. This is my second pair. Last year (2013) I only needed ONE pair of running shoes. I got another pair in January of 2014 and now my second pair. My hope is to wear them out sooner. (That means I’d be running more, not that I would be careless with my shoes.)

Anyway, if you are a reader and are running the Mo Cowbell, do let me know! I’ve run the race 2 out of the last 3 years and it’s one of my favorites. I’m looking forward to doing it again, and hoping to finish slow but strong.

I should say: my lack of speed may have bothered me a bit at first, but now I find it amusing. I’m just happy I’m feeling like running again, and doing something good for myself!

Oh, and for you who don’t care about running but love cats:

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I didn’t really say anything about violins. That will come another time, most likely.

Goals

Today should have been a day off, but because I have been called for jury duty on Monday, I had to do a few make up lessons today. If I serve on a jury I hope the defendant appreciates that I am losing several hours of work (and hopefully no more, as I really can’t afford it!). Being self-employed can be tough. No sick days, no jury duty days, and when you finally get good health insurance with a little bit of financial help, they make you submit paperwork that doesn’t exist in order to prove your income…for the future…! I wish I knew the future, but instead I must live day by day and hope that my students continue showing up and paying and that I will continue to play weddings and other paying gigs.

I can’t explain that any better because I’m a little tired AND I’m pressed for time (arghh, blogging is SO HARD!) but anyways. Isn’t it fun teaching out of new books or teaching new songs you haven’t taught before? I had a student request “Spring” from the Four Seasons, so I’ve been working on that a little bit. I have of course played it in arrangements for weddings, and I’ve played the orchestral parts, but never the solo. I also enjoy trying out new books. I love the Suzuki books, but sometimes I get SO tired of teaching the same things, and knowing exactly where the student will have trouble (sometimes it’s great though, because THAT saves a ton of time), and it’s fun to try a little something new. I spent part of the morning emailing parents about new books to buy for their kids, some method books, some scales, some just a new song book (sometimes I don’t like to go straight to book 5 after book 4. If the student is in late middle or high school and is more of a late starter to lessons I find they want to murder Vivaldi if I do that, so I like to add in some of Barbara Barber’s Solos for Young Violinists as a reprieve.)

I’ve been thinking a ton lately about how to improve my studio. I think I have been coming to terms with the fact that I will likely (hopefully!) be teaching some of these students for many more years and rather than MOVING again, which I have done several times in my adult life, I might just be settling down and being here. (That being said, never say never, and I am generally not one to pass up a new adventure). I have some great students and I enjoy teaching, but I want to try to encourage everybody to do even MORE and improve more than they are. I’m working on a Halloween practice project for the younger students, and brainstorming a studio scale project for everybody (except the very beginners). I won’t have too much time for a mid-year recital but I’ve got some ideas on the burner for spring. I’m also thinking it might be fun to get some people out to a nursing home to perform or something like that.

Of course, you know I’m always big on grand ideas. My personal goal for the year is to actually accomplish most or at least some of my grand ideas. Last year was a bit challenging, but I’m generally doing a lot better this year, and so I’m trying to push myself to improve professionally, personally, and in general. That means not just bookmarking teaching ideas on the internet, but actually implementing them. That means not only blogging about upcoming events, but actually attending them. That means making an effort to make more friends since I’ve lost quite a few over the past years…some moved (I miss you guys!), some drifted away for whatever reason (divorce can be hard, I guess?), and some were never really my friends to begin with. 

Anyway, those are my deep thoughts for Friday. And here’s a kitty picture, per request.

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Ahhh…Fall

And I don’t mean the weather. I mean, mostly, finally getting my schedule finalized, and not having to send a million (exact, not approximate) emails about lesson scheduling every day. Finally my students are simply showing up for their scheduled times, learning violin, and being sent home with practice assignments. I feel like I have a handle on my email inbox, and have mostly returned emails and phone calls, and it feels GREAT.

So that just means practice, rehearse, teach, run, and make attempts to clean and continue to unpack from my move. Yes, there is still a lot to do, but I’m having a great September.

The weekend was a lot of fun. In fact the past two weekends have been, and during the week too. Sometimes I pinch myself (not literally) and can’t believe how good I have it right now. *knocks on wood* I couldn’t have predicted my life today a year ago, and going through all the pain and heartache I’ve been through only makes it better now.

I don’t have too long to blog though, because for all my “free time” I’m really buckling down on practicing. Just over a month until my recital, and then fall doesn’t settle down performance wise NOR can I only work on that repertoire now…I’m also really trying to analyze my teaching methods, my organization for teaching, and try to improve. I have some students that are making good progress and others that aren’t as much, mostly due to lack of practicing, but I have to take some blame (and perhaps it is my fault they aren’t properly motivated to practice) so I’m working on some ideas to improve my teaching. I figure I’ve been teaching off and on for about 20 years, and for about 13 mostly full-time, and I still have another 30 or so to go, hopefully, so I don’t want to get bored OR boring. Plenty of room to grow and learn, and really be a top notch teacher, right?

The following pictures are out of character for my blog, but let’s face it, cats don’t swim. I went to the Maplewood Dog Swim over the weekend. Mackenzie, technically my dog now, had a wonderful time. It was actually quite fun watching all the dogs swim. I imagine a cat swim would be far less entertaining…or not…might be pretty violent at least?

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Afterwards there was an opportunity for ice cream due to Eliana celebrating a birthday.

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A vanilla malt. DELICIOUS.

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I didn’t get a picture of it, but it’s important to note that at the Fountain on Locust they blow bubbles at you on your birthday.

I stole this picture from Eliana’s facebook because it is the greatest picture of me ever. I haven’t even approved it for my timeline yet, so you are seeing it here first. But let’s focus on the fun that was had and how delicious the ice cream was. Louie and I couldn’t eat too much though as we had dinner plans with his family, so we had to share the vanilla malt :(

That’s enough updating for me today. I think I need to write more often because I feel out of practice on 1) sharing my life and 2) forming complete sentences. Certainly there is no cohesiveness in this post, but that’s life, isn’t it? If life isn’t random, what is?

Ask me questions in the comments! I’ve been getting a ton of spam comments on old posts lately, and I miss real commenters. Tell me what you want to read about on my next post!

No more bears

So one of the good things about being home is not worrying about bears anymore.

And with that, we are back to work.

For me this year, work consists of about 30 students in addition to my other playing responsibilities. I finally have my schedule organized, my students notified, and for the most part they are showing up when and where they are supposed to, but scheduling this year was a HUGE time commitment. The more students I have, the more challenging scheduling is, as there is less wiggle room. It was a few weeks of stress and panic (double booking students, overbooking, telling them something different than I wrote down, people asking to switch to what had been an empty time a week ago, etc.) but I seem to have everything mostly under control for the moment. I am also losing my fear of losing students, because I have so many that if one drops then another will likely call and take their place.

This is not to say that I want any of my students to drop, because I care about them and want them to continue to learn! And also because it is easier to teach a student I have an existing relationship with than a new one, but simply to say that at the moment I’m not worried about teaching income and whether my schedule will be full enough. (I do have a few openings, but they are very limited!)haydnperseid

Playing wise, I’ve updated my “violin” page to tell you about my upcoming concerts. I’m excited about the Perseid Quartet concerts, but I’m really excited about a “solo” recital I’m playing on October 12. My friend Jen (a wonderful pianist) and I are playing Brahms A Major Sonata and Prokofiev’s D Major Sonata together, and then she is playing some solo organ works and I’m playing Bach’s Sonata no. 1 in G minor by myself. It is a very challenging concert and I haven’t done a solo recital (this is certainly what we called a solo recital in school, even though Jen’s part is just as challenging if not more so!) since graduating from school. I also hope to make it a yearly (at least) activity to give myself motivation, to continue to improve on the violin, and frankly, to stop being terrified of playing alone and that people won’t like the way I play.

I have spent many years being worried about performing solo Bach, that people won’t like the style, that it will be too romantic or something, and honestly, I’m realizing that it just doesn’t matter. I’m pushing myself and it should be a lot of fun, hopefully for me AND the audience. Jen has been wonderful to work with, in addition to being a good friend, and we are excited about our upcoming performances and some other projects we have in the works.

One of the “life” themes I’ve been working on fits into this idea, of not worrying what people think. As I get older, I am really trying to do things that I want to without worrying that people won’t approve. I spent most of my life seeking approval from other people, and I’m realizing that it just isn’t there anyway or that it just isn’t important enough, OR (even better) that people will still be there for you even when you live your life your way (obviously within reason and without purposefully hurting people). Those are your real friends, and those are who matters. This past year has certainly taught me that, if nothing else.

It’s time for me to stop pondering the merits of performing Solo Bach and get down to it. Fugues don’t memorize themselves, do they?

Road Trip Part Four: Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, and Bears

I’m drinking coffee, and I’m just gonna finish blogging about my trip so that we are all happy. Let’s do this!

We left Chattanooga after lunch and headed to the Great Smoky Mountains. We had made a reservation at the Cades Cove Campground for two nights. I was pretty nervous about camping—I hadn’t been since I was a kid. As a kid, I had camped a LOT. We camped on beach trips, weekend mountain trips, randomly, and most interestingly, for two multi-week road trips from South Carolina to the National Parks of the West. One trip went basically from South Carolina to LA, another went more northwest all the way to Banff, Canada.

I saw lots of National Parks–Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Carlsbad Caverns, Petrified Forest, Sequoia, and more.

Standing on the four corners. Louie, you’ll notice my inappropriate footwear. I will always wear sandals in the summer unless it is absolutely imperative that I don’t.

Leslie and I at the Badlands. Did I ever mention I had a perm and perhaps even a slightly awkward phase in middle school?

Jesse (my brother) and I in Sequoia National Park. Fashion was my strong suit.

But anyway. Enough old pictures, right? Sometimes I’m amazed at what my parents accomplished with three kids, honestly. We must have been really annoying to travel that far with.

Louie is really into camping and I promised him I’d give it a shot. One difference between my childhood camping and today is that I had a pad to put under my sleeping bag, so that seemed promising already. I remember many nights sleeping on the ground of the tent and having a small rock or tree root exactly where I wanted to be sleeping and having to avoid it.

We had packed some camping supplies—all the requisite sleeping equipment, a camping stove and cooler, camping pots and pans. We hadn’t packed some other things like plates or bowls, and of course a trip to the grocery store was in order before we got the campground. Now that I’ve been I know what we forgot and what will make our lives better if we camp again (though Louie mentioned backpacking and I started to get nervous again…). The campground would have running water and toilets, but no HOT water or showers…

We made it to the National Park before 6 pm, with the thought of maybe doing something active, but we decided to just set up the tent, forage for firewood and make a fire. It ended up being a really nice relaxing evening. We talked to a ranger and got an idea of the hike we wanted to do the next day, and we were ready to go!

I should go into more detail of our talk with the ranger. We asked, what would you do if you were just here for one day? Well, she freaked out that we weren’t spending enough time in the park, and then recommended a hike that would have been a 2 hour drive away (each way!). We finally got her to give us an idea closer to the campground (that we could walk to) and didn’t really think about the fact that a “13 mile hike” is indeed a fairly big deal. My thought process when she mentioned the distance was that 1) Louie didn’t seem concerned and 2) I run half marathons! That’s not far! Also the ranger told us that we would see a bear up there. The park has a problem with bears—you can’t leave ANY food out and you have to put your trash in special trash bins.

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(We started at the horse, went up the Anthony Creek Trail to the Bote Mountain Trail to the green line which is the Appalachian Trail. Then off to the right for a bit, back across Spence Field, down the Russell Field Trail back to the Anthony Creek Trail.)

Note to readers: it is far. Especially when you add on another 1 mile spur to try to see something the ranger mentioned that you couldn’t exactly recall what it is or how far she said. And another 1 mile or so finding the trailhead. In a nutshell, I’m pretty sure we hiked around 15 miles, which I’m pretty sure is the longest I have ever traveled on foot in a day. And that was up and down mountains, which is even harder than running in downtown St Louis. If I had known how hard it would be I probably wouldn’t have done it, which is just as well then.

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The views up the Anthony Creek Trail were really nice!

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Lots of bridges across the creek like this one.

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There’s something about trail signs that I really love.

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This was the top. Basically. We were on the Appalachian Trail, and it was honestly, really beautiful. We got caught in some rain on the way up the mountain (thank goodness I had thrown in some emergency ponchos) and everything at the top of the mountain was foggy and green. We couldn’t see much of anything, which was pretty cool in itself because we felt like we were alone in the world. Except for the other hikers we saw and a family of turkey vultures or wild turkeys.

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On the way down (when we were exhausted, dirty, sore, and pretty sure) we ran into another couple we had seen many hours earlier (this hike took us from 10:30 am to about 6:30 pm and we walked the whole time, worried about getting home before dark). We chatted with them briefly, they then went ahead of us and then we heard them crying out in excitement.

It turns out a black bear had gone right across the trail in front of them, crossed the creek and was in a tree on the other side. It didn’t see us, but we could see it. The others wanted to see it more up close, but the other woman kept saying “it moved so fast!” and I thought, well, it could be RIGHT BACK HERE any minute now. I was pretty terrified, especially because people always joke, you don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the other people, and I didn’t think I could. On the other hand, they say there’s safety in numbers and that as a group you have a better chance of scaring the bear away (making loud noises, throwing rocks) than on your own. Nonetheless, I was eager to get away from there and managed to pull Louie away—he was trying to get a picture.

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(didn’t know this at the time, but awesome, right? This is backwards from what we did, for the record.)

We made it back to the campsite. Worst part: no showers. I had fallen down once, nothing major, but my legs were covered in mud. I managed to clean off a bit and then we enjoyed hot dogs and wine by the fire. I can’t believe we managed to hike that far—it was seriously amazing and difficult, and probably a little stupid, but I was so happy about it. Oh, and I didn’t know this but do now: black bears climb trees.  Of course they do.

The next day we needed to go home but we decided to drive around Cades Cove Loop first. The Smoky Mountains Park is different than many other parks in that people did live in the area before it was a National Park, and Cades Cove is one of those areas. People were bought out and forced to move. Some of them were allowed to stay for the rest of their lives but their children could not. The history was fascinating. We saw a bunch of old houses and churches, and in fact, some churches that were built AFTER the house that I live in now (1906) which I found very interesting, because my house had electricity and plumbing from the beginning and these did not. Being in a city was so very different from being in the mountains!

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The Cades Cove Loop is a one way road, and it was really nice to drive around and SEE the mountains. The day before we’d be in the mountains and hadn’t really seen them, and now we were down looking up. I actually prefer that view—once you are on the mountain it is harder to see them!

We left the first cabin and then the traffic was totally backed up. I was annoyed at first, and then we realized that it was because everybody was looking at a black bear in tree a little ways off the road! We pulled over and Louie got out to try to get some pictures. I think he did, but he hasn’t uploaded any shots yet. I stayed in the car because I felt I’d seen it enough from the road and thought it would be safer this way.

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For our last park adventure, we decided to drive (well, not me, but Louie was driving) out of the park on Rich Mountain Road, a one way gravel road that was closed in the winter. The ranger we spoke with assured us that while it wasn’t a shortcut, it would be passable in a car and was a nice drive. I don’t think we realized QUITE how slow going it would be (probably about 10 to 15 mph) but it was an amazing winding road up the mountain and then back down again on the other side.

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All in all, we had a most wonderful week of vacation, and I wish it could have been longer. We made it home safely and not terribly late, and I look forward to our next adventure!

Road Trip Part Three: Chattanooga and Rock City

How DOES one talk about a week long vacation in less than four blog posts? I’m not going to try. So here’s the third part. It’s long, but don’t let that bother you. Plenty of pictures too!

Priceline was good to me in Chattanooga. I thought, let’s see how cheap I can get a downtown hotel. And BOOM. Got it on my first try…which actually made me sad because I should have tried cheaper, even though Priceline warned me that I was already trying to bid too low.

Here’s the best part: The hotel was the Chattanooga Choo Choo! It was an historic hotel made from converting both a train station AND a train into a hotel. The lobby of the hotel used to the be the train station and is a gorgeous dome, and the train (yes, the Chattanooga Choo Choo) was outside, with lots of cars that contained hotel rooms. Sadly, priceline did not get us one of those rooms, but there are also three other hotel buildings with regular rooms. It was amazing, and hard to describe in a way that doesn’t sound cheesy. Oh wait, it WAS cheesy, but in a fabulous 1970’s way, that made me think it would be the perfect place for a getaway for a family like say, in Don Draper’s time—several restaurants on the property, one with singing waiters and advertising an “all you can eat shrimp and salad bar”, and others that completely reminded me of places that, in my childhood, I would have thought were just amazing. Not to mention there was a pool for each hotel building, and yes, we tried out several of them. The hotel is going to be renovated, and in fact parts were in progress, and supposedly the singing restaurant will be turned into something a bit more modern (I’m disappointed we missed our chance, but there were so many more appealing places to eat, though none had an unlimited shrimp bar) and honestly, I’d totally stay there again if I were given the chance. That’s my review.

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So I believe I left off with the Tennessee Aquarium, so I’ll pick up after that. We went to a great seafood place downtown called the Bluewater Grille. It was really good and we happened upon a great wine special to go with dinner. It had been nice and cool when we arrived in Chattanooga earlier, and there was a big storm during dinner, and it remained cool. Why do I mention this?

Well, the next morning…it was ridiculously hot. Hot hot hot. We’d thought we might leave for the mountains that day but were so enamored of the hotel and the town that we extended our stay, and decided to spend the day walking around seeing the sights.  IMG_0266 IMG_0267IMG_0270

It wasn’t too bad in the shade, but it was really hot in the sun. We walked by the river a bit and made our way up a hill, and found the Art Museum.

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I hadn’t felt like going the Art Museum in Nashville and wasn’t planning on this one…but we stopped in to get water, and discovered that water and bathrooms were for patrons only…and it was really nice and cold inside…and we decided that it was the perfect day to see the Hunter Art Museum. It was a nice museum, made of three connected buildings, one which was an old mansion and the other two in entirely different styles, which made for an odd building but unique.

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We spent a few hours at the museum and then decided to have lunch at Big River Grille and Brewing Works. I always like to try local beers when I can (we’d had one the night before at a hilarious place called The Pickle Barrel from a different brewery). After lunch we decided to brave the heat and walk across a pedestrian bridge to the other side of the river. I should add that Louie really enjoys walking all over cities to get the feel for them, whereas I am a little more of a “let’s check the guidebook and see what’s best” and “let’s take a break at this coffee house and have a coffee” sort of person, so it was really fun and interesting combining our two styles. I maintain that eating fabulous meals and walking all over cities definitely fits together well!

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You can see my finger AND the art museum in this photo!

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Home of the Donut Sundae. I don’t know how to feel about that.

On the other side of the bridge there were some more cute shops and restaurants and a nice park with a carousel and other stuff. We wandered around a bit, getting totally overheated (to the point where I insisted we go to a drugstore so I could get a gatorade because I thought I was going to pass out)…but it was nice. I just wish it had been less sunny.

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Finally we decided to head back to the hotel and do some swimming to cool off and then go somewhere for dinner.

We decided to have dinner at Urban Stack Burger Lounge which was very near the hotel. It reminded me of Bailey’s Range, a local place, except BETTER! I don’t remember exactly what I ordered (gosh, this is why you should write stuff down right away) but we definitely split an order of pickled vegetables, which was delightful. I recall saying that we needed to try to pickle cauliflower in the future, and Louie suggesting that while it was neat to eat, it was probably a terrible idea to try that at home. I don’t know how involved the process of pickling cauliflower would be, but I suppose it’s easier to steam or roast it.

We finished the night at the Terminal Brewhouse, also right near the hotel. I like hoppy IPA’s and am generally pretty happy just drinking that. So I was pretty happy.

Okay, the next morning we had one more thing to do in Chattanooga, and that was something that had been advertised everywhere. See Rock City.

Here’s the thing: there were tons of billboards about Rock City, and how there were amazing views and you could see 7 states, and all this. So with that and my friend April’s recommendation, we decided to shell out $19.95 each for the views. It was up on Lookout Mountain which is a nice drive up.

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Rock City was named because people thought it was like a city with roads between the rocks. The path got very narrow in places and it was impressive to see all the giant rocks!

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We were enjoying the nature…and then we realized that the bird sounds we were hearing were NOT actual bird sounds, but piped in bird sounds. And then this happened:

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I began to suspect something strange was happening.

But we kept going as if this was just a lovely nature site full of natural sights.

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I got a little nervous walking out onto the balcony there…

And obviously, looking at my pictures, no, this isn’t entirely natural.

But then, we took a little detour and we saw:

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There was a sign saying that the original path in Rock City in the 1930’s went by this (yes, a rock, it looks like a witch…IF we put a pipe in the mouth!) and then a new path diverted and for decades no one saw it. Here’s the thing, I LOVE this stuff. I love thinking about how people used to live, particularly in, say, the 1900’s through 1940’s. I don’t know why, but I am a sucker for seeing stuff about that time period. In fact, anything during the 1900’s is pretty fascinating for me. So I loved seeing this, and thinking about people going on vacations, just like we were, and seeing this kind of stuff.

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Now, the next bit, unfortunately, my pictures just aren’t good.  We entered a cave called FairyTale Caverns, which was damp, dark, and cool…and full of scenes of various characters from stories and nursery rhymes plus more gnomes, under black light. It was so totally unexpected and odd and I LOVED IT.

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My pictures didn’t turn out very well overall, so I’ll just beseech you to GO TO ROCK CITY YOURSELF.

After we left, still shocked by everything we had seen, I did some online research on the place. It has a fascinating history!

This is a great article about the history of Rock City. Here’s another great summary of a visit to Rock City. “Where was I? What was that?”

One more post to go: Mountains, camping, and bears! Coming soon!

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.