I inherited two sports teams from my dad – the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tennessee Volunteers. I have seen loads of Cardinals games over the years, but finding my way to Knoxville to see the Vols is a bit more complicated. Four years ago, I saw them beat NC State in Atlanta, but it’s been five years since I went to a home game in Knoxville.
Thankfully, one of my good friends lives in Knoxville, so we coordinated our schedules and found a fall weekend to see Tennessee play! Unfortunately, the only weekend that worked for both of us was the Alabama game. While I knew it would likely be a loss, game day in Knoxville is always an amazing experience. I mean, there are 100,000 people wearing orange!
Several friends spent the weekend in a cabin in the Smokies, which was beautiful! I had a REALLY long drive (roughly eight hours!) on Friday night, but the sunrise and mountain views on Saturday morning made it all worth it.
The Knoxville friends had organized all of the meals for the weekend. I literally didn’t have to do anything all weekend. It was such a treat! We even got to eat breakfast on the porch overlooking the mountains!
A few hours before game time, we went into Knoxville. We walked through campus, World’s Fair Park, and downtown. We had lunch at Tomato Head before heading back to the stadium.
I love all of the pre-game traditions!
We made it until partway through the fourth quarter before giving up and heading back to the cabin.
There were even more friends at the cabin when we arrived. I call them “friends,” even though I met all of them for the first time that weekend. Funny enough, the world is so small that there were some pretty comical mutual friends and stories of connectedness among us. (One of them was an eHarmony match with one of my very dear college friends who lives in a different state! And one of them went to high school with the friend I just visited in Boulder a few weeks ago! How does that even happen?!) I absolutely love evenings that linger around a table telling stories and laughing hysterically, and that’s exactly what the evening was like.
On Sunday morning, we woke up bright and early to go for a bike ride. I warned them that I’ve only ridden a bike 2-3 times in the past decade, but they found a bike and helmet for me to borrow and let me come along. We were at a place called Cade’s Cove – a valley in the midst of the mountains. It was beautiful! The only downside? Learning to share the single lane road with the cars. Lots and lots of cars. When you’re terrified of falling off your bike or being hit by a car, AND when you don’t really understand what gears to use, it makes for a comical day. The loop is about 11 miles, and somehow I made it without injury.
When this Knoxville friend came to visit Switzerland in February, he introduced me to some of his former Knoxville friends who are now living in Switzerland. (Remember how I told you about the smallness of the world?) Anyway…one of them is an artist who was commissioned by the City of Knoxville to paint a mural under an overpass in the city. We went to see it on Sunday afternoon, and I loved it.
Sunday afternoon also included one more fun event – a baby shower for my friend’s Nigerian friends. They are PhD students at Tennessee, and they are fantastic. I think I had heard about nearly half of the guests at the shower, so it was really fun to connect faces with names. The parents-to-be are precious, and they were so excited. I loved being a part of the celebration!
[Aren’t their shirts so fun?!]
This weekend was so refreshing for my soul…spending time with wonderful people, getting a good dose of nature, doing so many fun activities, and laughing a lot.