Family Reunions & Fried Green Tomatoes: A Post-Vaccine Road Trip

The scrumptious fried green tomatoes we enjoyed at Asheville’s Tupelo Honey Cafe

Who knew the coronavirus would blow up all over again? I certainly didn’t approximately five weeks ago when I planned a little road trip for us to visit family. Family, some of whom I should add, I haven’t seen in person for over two years. Us vaccinated folk were supposed to be able to live and act normally again, right?

As usual, I must have misread the fine print.

Cut me some slack here, dear readers. Back in June when we heard about Delta, the only thing entering my head was the Mississippi Delta. Or maybe Tanya Tucker singing “Delta Dawn.” Or was it the Helen Reddy rendition? No, only Tanya’s version is worth listening to; I could never get past Helen’s Australian accent myself.

Sorry, where was I?

Remember how excited we all were about a July 4th independence from masks and social distancing? Some of us (read: me) began resting on a some actual laurels by eating meals out. In restaurants. Seated. A handful of times even! Heady times, I tell ya.

So with full permission from health officials, I planned a big road trip up to Michigan to see family.

Gorgeous isn’t wild about road trips, and therefore I had to make sure not to plan for too long in the car each day. We drove no more than 350-400 miles at a time. I also surprised her on the way with magazines I hid in side compartments, under seats, in flaps, anywhere that I could easily reach for one and hand it to her the moment I detected restlessness or crankiness.

She loves magazines. It’s normally an anxiety for me when we’re in the grocery line and she’s eying that $12.95 special issue of Bon Appetite. But for a road trip I spare no expense; I bought issue after issue in the same manner that we all bought toilet paper back last spring. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll explain this to our accountant next April, what with the extra IRA distribution I incurred to pay for all of them.

That’s one small step for trip harmony, one giant leap for marital happiness.

I also bought an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Not for the car, thankfully, but for the hotel room. One of us was concerned about missing daily episodes to two soaps that are part of a daily addiction viewing routine. I had read ahead of time how tricky it can be to bypass hotel TV circuitry in order to watch one’s own streaming subscription, but Doctors Google and YouTube showed me the way. Take that, Hilton.

To make the trip interesting I took two slightly different northern and southern routes, with stops in Columbia, SC; Charleston, WV; Lexington, KY; and Asheville, NC. I pride myself on finding the right hotels, both from a comfort standpoint and also price. Sometimes, though, you can’t always be completely sure of the nearby surroundings, even with the aid of apps such as Street View.

Gorgeous did look at me suspiciously as she glanced across the street in one the hotel parking lots after we arrived…

Our Michigan destination was in Ann Arbor, where my oldest sister lives. We stayed for four nights.

Another sister, the second oldest, flew in from California and was purposely made unaware of our arrival the following day. Somehow we were able to pull off the surprise. A third sister was unable to join us, so hopefully we’ll see her on a next visit. We also got to meet Sister #1’s “gentleman friend,” whom we had never met. They’ve been dating for nearly two years now. Talk about sneaky.

Returning to Ann Arbor was a joy for both of us. Gorgeous lived in the area for nearly 30 years, half of that time on a farm in a nearby community where she raised goats, cows, and chickens. I attended college down the road in the city of Ypsilanti, a place we students at the time sarcastically nicknamed “Gateway to Ann Arbor” for the fact that anything worth doing was always just up the road in that other beautiful, magical city.

Ann Arbor’s famous (and wonderful) art fair had just been the week before, but that was probably for the best because we felt as if we had the entire place to ourselves. Gorgeous was in seventh heaven revisiting her favorite of all Ann Arbor shops, Crazy Wisdom. We enjoyed walking around the University of Michigan campus again after having a wonderful Indian meal early one evening…

After a nice visit of catching up, it was time to hit the road back south to go home. Magazines were again expertly hidden. Kentucky’s Appalachian mountains, followed by Tennessee’s Great Smokies, gave us endless “Oohs and Ahhs” as we drove through beautiful scenery. The pandemic felt far, far away thankfully.

The last stop had been designed to be the most touristy: Asheville. I had to get early approval from Gorgeous during the planning stages because it meant seven + hours of driving day back home to St. Augustine on the last day. A colleague at my part-time job recommended a visit to the famed Biltmore Estate (Hi, A), but I had to give up on that since we would be arriving in Asheville during the mid-afternoon. I want to devote more time to see Biltmore. So we now have a perfect reason to return on a later trip for a few nights and be able to include it.

What I can say is that we absolutely loved Asheville! Its downtown is chock full of quirky and eccentric boutiques and shops. Also, the food offerings are overwhelming with all kinds of cuisine from nouvelle Italian, Tex-Mex, Spanish, to down-home southern style. We chose the latter courtesy of the outstanding Tupelo Honey Cafe. In addition to the fried green tomatoes shown at the top of the post, we also had classic mac & cheese and a slow-cooked cast iron pork shoulder topped with a spicy bourbon glaze, which was out of this world. There may also have been a mimosa and a Bloody Mary on the table. I really can’t remember.

So our first venture away from home in well over a year was a success. Since returning back to the humble abode, however, we are aware keenly aware from news reports that this pandemic is going absolutely no where. New CDC guidelines are again recommending masks be worn in areas of substantial or high transmission, which not-so coincidentally is precisely where we live, and also the areas we drove through or visited on this trip. For now we’ll just click our heels and repeat that there’s no place like home.

Until next time…

50 thoughts on “Family Reunions & Fried Green Tomatoes: A Post-Vaccine Road Trip

  1. Your timing was perfect. If you went now, you’d be looking over your shoulder for big round viruses with tufts hanging off of them. Great pictures! We have our family reunion in two weeks and I’m keeping my fingers crosses. So far no delta here but that can change in an New York second.

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  2. What a wonderful trip! Since I am vaccinated, I am somewhat more relaxed about traveling and being in groups. However, my radar is up for concerns. I am glad you had such a fun trip. Those magazines were a nice touch, but I noticed many of them are about good food. Perhaps there is more than one method to your madness. Stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Betty, I’m so sorry it took me so long to respond to you lovely comment. You were the first, and unfortunately I never made my way back to you!

      Indeed, I definitely drew on Gorgeous’ love of cooking and baking with those magazine purchases. Can’t fault a fellow for trying! 🙂

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      1. I never worry about how long someone takes to respond. I get behind too – in reading and responding – because, well, I am living life in the real world! This is a good thing. Good luck with your plan to get Gorgeous to make good food for you!

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  3. I’m so glad you got your trip in without running smack dab into the evil Delta. It looks like you had a great time! I love Asheville (and its liberal vibe) and also had a wonderful meal at the Tupelo Honey Cafe. I look forward to getting back there one of these days. Smart man hiding all those magazines. Road trips can be boring so distractions are key!

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    1. It wasn’t until I wrote this post that I learned the restaurant has several locations. Usually I like to avoid those in favor of the mom-and-pop variety, but I’m still happy we went there. I can say I went there before they got too big, I guess. 🙂

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  4. I have never tried fried, green tomatoes, Marty, although after your photo it is on my list. Very witty about “Delta” yet scary. It is good how Gorgeous does not get car sick reading these treasured magazines. We have a friend who continually tells us to buy the Fire TV stick. After reading this, we may consider, although, no TV in the forest. Leaky eyes on the surprise. 💕

    Oohs, Ahhs, Hustler, great food, magazines, marital happiness…………a wonderful trip! Thank you for sharing and all of the fun photos!

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    1. Ironically, Erica, she does get car sick if she tries to text or even read an email on her phone while in the car. Or help me with directions by reading a map! But magazines? Apparently not a problem. 🤷‍♂️

      The Fire Stick was a shot in the dark, honestly. I had read it’s a total crapshoot each time whether it’ll work in a hotel room. But we lucked out, though each TV does work differently. So one must have patience. Let me know if you ever have any questions!

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  5. Aren’t you glad you got that great trip in while you were still living in blissful ignorance of our new friend, Delta?! Marty, you do a marvelous job of describing a trip. And re getting back out in the world of living, it’s not just restaurants. Don’t forget the gym!

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  6. Deb van de Water

    What a delightful trip! Thank you for taking me along. I also enjoyed the magazines…hehehe! Seriously though…I look forward to the day I can safely travel through the US again. Asheville has certainly been on my list of places to see and now even more so, thanks to you Marty and Gorgeous! And fried green tomatoes? On my list to experience since I read the book, many years ago.

    Deb

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  7. I’ve never eaten a Fried Green Tomato, nor have I ever had an official Family Reunion (although I do reunite with small sections of family as frequently as possible). I would definitely like to change my status on both of the above.
    Sisters #1 and #2 are beautiful (and I am sure that Sister #3 is as well).
    I haven’t thought of Ypsilanti for ages. We truly did grow up not too far apart!

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    1. It appears we were pretty close based on what you mentioned about all of that previously, Donna. This one wasn’t “official” I guess because we have a handful of cousins that I couldn’t see on this trip, but Sis 1 and 2 both did go see. So that’s another reason to come back as soon as the covid numbers can plummet again hopefully.

      You definitely should try a fried green tomato for sure (whenever the opportunity presents itself at least). They are delicious!

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  8. Loved this Marty, seeing your photos of places I’ll never see, I can’t believe you love Corrie! So do we, where are you in the plot? 😂😂😂 I have always love fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe, but they’re not a delicacy in our neck of the woods. The look delicious ❤️❤️❤️

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    1. They were indeed scrumptious, Moise. A true southern delicacy here. I’m glad you can get there over there too. Yep, my lovely wife has us watching Corrie. Along with her other soap (“Young and the Restless”), which I don’t officially watch, ahem, we can usually cover seven days with a soap to watch if we delay on Corrie a bit. We watched last night as Billy dumped Todd! lol

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  9. What a fun trip. Your photos show a world that in some ways seems like time has forgotten. I’m glad you had a good time because you covered a lot of ground.

    I’m not familiar with an Amazon Fire TV Stick and am intrigued. As for fried green tomatoes, those I know about and haven’t eaten in years. Makes me a bit nostalgic for the south and the cuisine there.

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    1. The Fire Stick was a bit of an extravagant purchase, Ally. We don’t need at it home, so this was really just for watching on the road. However, cord cutters are able to make use of it to not only watch streaming shows but also regular TV too somehow. So for some, using it is a way to save money.

      I’m glad we were able to make this trip too because honestly, it’s probably the only one we’ll take now till next year. I just want to say close to him with my mask at the ready.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. debscarey

    Gosh Marty, that is quite the trip – 350-400 miles in a session is a long way for us Brits. That said, your road network is so much better than ours, but still – kudos to you. But you know you’ve earned major kudos for those magazines 🙂 Just this weekend, Himself & I strayed into a major store which we haven’t visited since all this stuff started, and I made a beeline for the magazines. I came away with a rather expensive copy of World of Interiors, as well as a Living Etc for my dose of modern architecture & decor (sigh, I’m in heaven).

    So sorry to hear that Delta is running riot in Florida. It’s making hay over here in the UK too, where a friend described us as being the petri dish for the world following last month’s lifting of all restrictions. We’re waiting to see the result of that change before doing anything more than we have been doing for a while. My grandchildren (and their parents) return from a month in Spain later this week, so the urge will rise up very soon for lots of hugs. Keeping everything crossed for us all.

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    1. ‘Tis true, Deb, 400 miles really is quite a lot when you think about it. But yeah, I think the norm is more like 500 here. I can still hear an old roommate of mine from DC on trips saying, “Gotta make more miles, man!” 🙂

      Until I married Gorgeous, I thought people only browsed through magazines in grocery stores. She shocked me when I saw her buying them! lol

      I’ve read about UK residents heading to Spain, and today I’m reading about U.S. residents now heading to the UK. Scary thoughts to me, if I’m honest. I hope your family are all well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. debscarey

        I’ll be honest Marty, I’ve struggled with that too. My daughter’s family all got COVID just before Christmas last year – probably via my granddaughter who attends pre-school. They thought it was an everyday virus until my daughter exhibited the tell-tale symptom of no sense of smell & taste. They are all young & healthy, so their choices will naturally be different than those that Himself & I make, but yeah – scary. Take care.

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  11. ASHEVILLE! Now you’re talking. That’s my hometown. Of course, the stores that were uptown (it was uptown to us because….well, we had to walk up there) were Woolworths, Ivey’s, Bon Marche, J J Newberry’s, The Plaza theater and The Imperial. (They showed nasty movies at the Imperial.)
    The Biltmore House? I went before they cordoned off all the rooms to keep unsavory people from absconding with say…one of Napoleon’s chess pieces. I saw it and touched it…wasn’t all that impressed. What I wanted to see was the dungeon. I managed to sneak off by myself and made my way down there. I remember seeing the chains with the cuffs hanging from the walls. I didn’t see any skeletons or anything. Wah.
    The Last of the Mohicans was filmed in and around Asheville. So were a lot of other movies. If you ever go back, check out the Grove Park Inn, and also Highland Hospital. That’s where Zelda Fitzgerald died in a fire. It’s not there anymore…because…well, it burned up. There’s another place in its place. Also, Thomas Wolfe’s (no relation) house is right in the middle of uptown. It’s a tad bit hard to find. It’s a little tiny house, right in the middle of several tall buildings.
    Asheville has changed so much…but I can still find my way around.
    One other thing. The train wreck from “The Fugitive” was filmed along the French Broad River, right down the street from my mama and daddys’ house (which I later bought from my sister).
    Glad you had a good time.
    I’m thinking about having a family reunion of my own. It will be a family of one. Bwahahahaha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laurel, what an amazing font of information you are. Thank you! Laughing hard at “uptown” because you had to walk up to get there. 🙂 We had an “uptown” growing up in our little Michigan town too. I never understood why we called it that b/c it was all flat walk back/forth. No hills! lol

      I’ve copied and pasted your response as a guide for when we return someday. I’ll want to see the Grove Park Inn. I guess I’ll skip the Highland Hospital since, well, it burned down. 🙂

      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s also the castle just up from Beaucatcher mountain, where if you say “Helen come forth” three times, she’ll come get ya. LOL You can actually look it up on Google. (I don’t think it burned down or anything.)

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    1. It really was, Tracey. We lucked out with fantastic temps and sunny skies. In the old days the fair was one in which you could find parking within a block away and walk to everything. Now I’m told it’s a major traffic and parking headache. But those are views from locals, so they don’t count. 🙂

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  12. Your road trip sounds amazing but as you said perhaps the last for a while with Delta rearing it’s ugly head. Pretty cool places you went to. I have heard of fried green tomatoes but never tried one. I am still “reeling” from the broiled tomatoes the Brits serve for breakfast!

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    1. I’ve had both! Eons ago I stayed in a B&B in the West Country of Devon and experienced the broiled tomatoes for the first time. The first day it was “Oh, how interesting” but by the third day it was “Can I just have a banana, please?” 😉 Many thanks for reading and your comment.

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  13. What a fantastic trip – and good timing. There is no place like home, but sometimes we need to get away to appreciate that homage. Wonderful family reunion (thanks for the photos – what a great looking family). I’ve been wanting to visit Ashville for several years. Now I’m SURE we should go for that long (long) road trip from Boston. No magazines for me – I get motion sick. But I’ve discovered the joys of ear buds and listening to a good book while my guy drives and listens to the ’60s station. 🙂 Glad you’re back home, safe, and masked once again. (Soooo sad.)

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  14. I just visited Asheville for the first time, thanks to my son who moved there recently. Loved it! And we also ate at Tupelo Honey – twice. Great both times.
    As my wife and I are retired, we’ll be going back soon I’m sure.

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    1. Right with you there, Bob. We really only scraped the surface there, and in fact just today I was pricing air to see what it might cost to fly there for a quick return visit. The Biltmore is calling us for sure. Many thanks for visiting and your kind comments.

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      1. You’re still beating us! Your double dose is higher than our rate.
        In Melbourne first dose we are at 76.2% a bit higher than yours but our second dose is lower at 46.2%.

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