Hey guys! This blog is long overdue, so thanks for your patience. First, I would like to point out that we have almost 150 subscribers, and that over 2,000 different people have seen our site! Second, I would like to thank you all for your immense support in making the newly named Merchant Monthly Memories (aka the video) a reality. The 1st episode is in the post-production stages. Stay tuned!
Now, the last post I wrote was in Gatlinburg. A lot has happened since then. To name a few activities, going to Dollywood, completing a 12 mile bike ride, and visiting multiple new restaurants.
Nate was enthralled when told about Dollywood. He was able to ride his first roller coaster, though he got scared on one of them. Poor fellow. I was able to ride some great coasters at Dollywood as well, and, with my mom, I enjoyed some of the ones Nate could not do. I rode my first coaster with loops, which, by the way, had not one loop, nor two, but three loops! I went in with a bang! We also enjoyed the cinnamon bread at the grist mill in Dollywood. Aunt Angela and Aunt Tava: Thanks for the recommendation! It was heavenly. Dollywood was a great experience for all of us, and we would definitely recommend it.
Our bike ride was around Hilton Head Island. Because of a wrong turn, it became 12-13 miles long, instead of the 10 it was supposed to be. Although the ride was long, it was mostly shaded, and there was a nice breeze. We were able to bike to Harbor Town, a quaint place on the water, and back, plus grab a scrumptious dinner at Mellow Mushroom. This revived us enough to slowly but surely pedal the remaining 1/2 mile to the bike shop.
My dad, in his last post, mentioned Grill 73, an American-Russian restaurant with amazing food all around. Another place in Gatlinburg that we liked was called the Magnolia Tree, and they had an amazing Philly Cheese Steak! After moving on to Charlotte, NC, we met my Dad's friends, Mr. and Mrs. Katz, at a farm to table place called Local Dish, which had fried green beans! Whoever heard of that? But they tasted great! We enjoyed seeing the Katzes. They pointed us to a pepper/hot sauce store which is known worldwide. Ninety different countries order sauce from this place!
While on the subject of Charlotte, we enjoyed seeing Sanikakaki (Ash's sister-in-law). She was working in Charlotte at the time and visited us for lunch. We enjoyed the visit!
In Hardeeville, we came across Alljoy Donut Company, which was great. The service there was exceptional, as was the taste of the donuts. Lemon meringue, salted caramel and yum yum (a twisted donut with cinnamon in the middle and chocolate drizzled) were the ones we sampled. The owner, Bill, previously lived in and had restaurants in Bardstown, KY. We had just made plans to be in Kentucky and Bardstown was one area we looked at visiting. So, Bill gave us some good recommendations.
Even though we enjoyed all these unique restaurants, we longed for food from home. We just had to, after 2 weeks, eat Chick-fil-A. Comfort food!!!
Well, you're mostly caught up with us! We're trying to figure out how to get Merchant Monthly Memories videos to all of you. Got any ideas?
Have you done something wonderful or exciting in one of these areas?
We are finalizing fall plans and would love your suggestions. Remember, we're looking for family + budget friendly - feel free to comment below in this post. Thank you!
It's a long title, I know, but seriously, do you think we're that family? Maybe you're waiting for that day in the store to see a magazine titled "The Truth and Inner Lives of the Merchants", or "The Lies the Merchants Told Us". Well, before our story goes viral, let me tell you the truth. We aren't always out and about spending a bunch of Benjamins a day. We have downtime. What do we do you ask? Well, the campgrounds have activities, and normally one or two are utilized every day. These activities can include the playground, pool, possible hiking trail, and general store exploring.
During meal times, it's normally the same as you and your house(or RV)hold. That is cereal, yogurt and granola, or toast for breakfast, ham sandwiches, quesadillas, or egg salad for lunch, and homemade dish for dinner. I have noticed, however, that when we eat out, it's a great experience. Not just the fact that there are sodas when we eat out (that's obvious), but the quality of the local food is amazing. When you think about it, there are probably 2-4 restaurants in your area that you really like. But when you eat out you don't always go to your favorites, since you also want variety. For us, we get both of those. It doesn't take long to see the favorite (and sometimes only) restaurant in town. We don't eat out often, but when we do, we can get variety and quality in the same experience. For example, in Dollywood a few days ago, we ate a cinnamon bread in the Grist Mill. That was really tasty, and we ate something that we haven't eaten before! Or Grill 73, the Russian restaurant my dad was talking about in his last post: quality food, and a new food.
When we're not licking our lips from great food, or utilizing the amenities in the campground, we hang out as a family in the site itself. We have a corn hole which we sometimes play. I set up my Eno hammock at our campsite in Gatlinburg. It's been very relaxing doing some school work in it. In fact, the draft of this blog was written in it! The campgrounds have offered a great variety of walks, and we have had many a good walk in the grounds. We also have a yellow playground ball. Tossing the ball around in a new campground is always fun!
School has started up (and all the parents said "Amen"), and I have enjoyed it for the most part. Physical science, geometry, and blog writing (I know, right?) are some of the subjects on my list. A few hours a day are dedicated to that, so there's less laying around reading or wondering when the next "exciting" thing is going to happen. Not that I did that, of course.
Nate has enjoyed the trip a lot, and in his down time (he has down time?!), he likes to play with his Legos. Recently, he built "The World's Greatest Puppet Show" in which my mom and I were the puppeteers, my dad was the audience, and Nate was the guard. Here is the picture of him in his room.
My dad enjoys playing with me, Nate and my mom. He also does most of the exterior maintenance of the RV.
My mom enjoys hanging out with us, walking around the campground, and reading. She also does the main interior maintenance of the RV.
And, of course, we get to go to the grocery store every week or so. (We don't have a mobile garden yet!) However, in new places, you can see so many cool things even when you're going to a kind of store you always go to. For example, you don't just walk out of a Walmart and see the Smoky Mountains. But we did! That was a great view.
Thank goodness for free time! Now you all know now that the Merchants are enjoying down time as well as go, Go, GO! time, and have a logical excuse, er sorry, explanation for what we are doing.
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Greetings from the land of Rocky Top! We’ve been enjoying our recent days in Lookout Mountain, Nashville and now Cosby (near Gatlinburg), Tennessee. This is a beautiful state, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed our adventure here. The KOA in Cosby has been our favorite campsite so far - nice people, level lot, clean facilities and fantastic scenery. We took a rainy morning hike Friday on a 2 mile trail right next to the campground.
A couple of nights ago, we stumbled upon a real gem of a restaurant in Newport, TN. If you can believe it, we ate Russian food at a place called Grill 73 (I already posted my review on Trip Advisor!). We had a very unique opportunity to meet the owners - Valentina and Alex Ryzkhov. Not only did we have an exceptional meal (simple, but very flavorful Russian food), but we also experienced warm hospitality as if we were dining in the Ryzkhov’s home. Val shared stories of their journey to America several years ago after she and Alex had spent over 30 years as specialty circus performers around the world. Tennessee is home for them now although they appreciated our RV adventure having lived in one themselves for a period during their circus days. I was so impressed with how these people are truly living their American Dream and are making a meaningful impact in their community as naturalized American citizens running an honorable business with lots of raving fans in the region.
We plan to be in the Gatlinburg area for another few days and then we will head towards Fort Mill, SC (suburban Charlotte, NC). After visiting in Charlotte, we plan to be in Hardeeville, South Carolina, also known as the “gateway to Hilton Head Island”.
We’ll be in Atlanta in late August / early September. We will drop off the RV in Knoxville for two weeks, so we can get some warranty and repair work done at our dealer. During part of this time, we will fly to Colorado (more on this detour in later posts) and enjoy some Rocky Mountain scenery and hospitality in this wonderful state. After we retrieve our RV in mid September, we will do our final checks in Atlanta before pushing off for a while. Itinerary is finalizing for the fall - more to come in our September posts.
These shakedown trips are essentially, trips fairly close to home where we can test out our systems, stock up on necessary supplies and home goods, experiment with cooking and sleeping routines, etc.They have been invaluable to us, and I’m grateful that our itinerary was reshaped to help us accommodate more practice runs. That said, even the practice runs have been enjoyable, and we’ve managed to see some of the beautiful Southeast US that we’ve not spent much time in as explorers and tourists.
“Home is where you park it” , “RV there yet?” and “Not all that Wander are Lost” are just a few of the quotes and bumper stickers we continue to see and now understand even better.
And then there’s old school wisdom - thank you, Mr. Clemens!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain”
Will is 15, and enjoys running track, writing,