It’s not summer in Tennessee until these 11 things happen


1. Circus tents start popping up in the Walmart/K-Mart/Mall parking lot.

Those are filled with some of the most questionable fireworks money can buy. The good shops won’t have a name. It’ll just be some dude wearing an American flag shirt and his two kids running the place. You’ll come in just to check it out, and by the time he’s done talking to you in that thick, backwoods drawl, you’ll walk out carrying an armload of Black Cat Bazookas, Chinese Roman Candles, and Air Travel bottle rockets. A few weeks later, when you’ve finally blown through them all with your cousins in the back field, you’ll go back to get “just a few more” and find that the little tent is gone, and no one will even remember it being there.

2. You torture yourself with the taste of bug spray and the sickeningly sweet scent of citronella, and you swat yourself silly, and it won’t really matter.

It might be mesmerizing to sip sweet tea in the late, summer afternoon and watch the mosquitoes move in black, wavering sheets across the fields, but when fish fries with the family turn into chemical warfare, the novelty wears off. You’ll soon become sickened by the constant chemical smell of OFF!! and Repel, and you’ll spend most of your time lighting and putting out all those citronella candles that dot decks, line tables, and perch on porch railings. You’ll still go back inside with red, raised bumps spattered across your body and wonder why you ever went outside to begin with.

3. But it’ll all be worth it, because festival season officially starts.

The fact that your body is covered in little red bumps won’t matter when you’re sitting on the Farm at Bonaroo and listening to Ellie Goulding, Sam Hunt, and M83. When the Circle K starts selling Riverbend admission pins, you know that the next three months are going to be jammed packed with long nights filled with music, beer, and great entertainment.

4. You don’t need a flashlight at night.

The lightning bugs and stars will be more than enough light for you. Going fishing but don’t have bait? That’s ok, willowflies cover every motionless surface. Just grab one and pop it on a hook. Summertime in Tennessee means that swarms of insects like jarflies, mosquitoes, and ladybugs make their yearly return to chirp, bite, and drive you crazy.

5. You wake up to “Jack Frost’s last breath.”

But every Tennessean knows that the last cold snap of the year is the transition point between spring and summer, and you can finally ditch the layers for a t-shirt.

6. Every person is talking about their local river/lake.

With nearly 60,000 river miles and 560,000 acres of lakes spread across the state, it’s easy to see why many Tennesseans flock to their local swimming hole in search of relief from the oppressing heat and 90% humidity.

7. You start feeling like you’re trapped under Satan’s armpit.

For a land locked state, we have some ridiculous humidity throughout the summer. Nothing signals the start of summer in Tennessee like 98-degree weather with 94% humidity. That’s why you’ll notice that almost all of our porches are equipped with fans, coolers, and more fans.

8. Live music mixes with the sounds of jarflies, bullfrogs, and whipporwills.

We don’t let a little thing like the heat stop us from having a good time. The hotter the weather gets, the more stuff moves outside. Walk down any main street in Tennessee, like Riverfront Parkway or Market Street in Chattanooga, and you’ll be greeted with more music, beer, and heat than you’ll be able to handle.

9. You can’t go 10 miles down Highway 52 or 11 without seeing a yard sale.

Need some new dishes? How about a pair of gently used water skis or an antique civil war bayonet? You can find nearly anything you’ll ever (or never) need at one of the thousands of yards that happen during the summer. Yard saling has become such a big event that entire weekends have been devoted it.

10. Farmers park their trucks on the side of the road and hold up cardboard signs that read “Tomatoes, Peaches, Watermelon.”

They’ll stack Mayfield’s dairy crates full of produce on a table for you to browse, and if you’re nice, they’ll throw in a couple extra pieces.

11. Some dude sets up a smoker at the far end of a parking lot.

He’ll probably serve you on a paper Dixie plate that he’s covered with aluminum foil, you can probably still see last year’s grease caked to the outside of the smoker, and you’ll question where he got the meat from. But once you take that first bite, you can bet that it’s going to be some of the best damn barbecue you’ve ever eaten.


Interesting Facts

  • In 1878, a yellow fever epidemic swept through Memphis, claiming the lives of around 5,000 people. Although many neighboring towns and cities throughout the South established quarantines to prevent the disease from spreading, a majority of residents fled Memphis after news of the outbreak was first reported. The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville began as a live music show called the “WSM Barn Dance” by announcer George Hay in 1925. One of the state’s most popular tourist attractions, it is also the longest-running radio show in U.S. history. Twenty-four-year-old John Scopes was arrested and put on trial in 1925 for violating Tennessee state law by teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as part of his public high school curriculum. The “monkey trial,” as it became known, garnered national attention and publicized scientific evidence for evolution, but resulted in a guilty verdict for Scopes, who was fined $100. It was not until 1968 that the Supreme Court asserted that any law banning the teaching of evolution in public schools was unconstitutional. In 1947, the Tennessee legislature adopted the tulip poplar as the state tree in recognition of its widespread use by 18th and 19th century pioneers in the construction of their homes and farms.
  • Future President Andrew Jackson founded the city of Memphis on May 22, 1819, along with John Overton and James Winchester. They named it after the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis—meaning “place of good abode”—which was located at the head of the Nile River Delta.
  • William Strickland, the engineer and architect of the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, died in 1854 during the building’s construction. At his request, he was entombed within the structure’s walls.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, attracting more than 9.4 million people in 2010. Known as the “Salamander Capital of the World,” the park hosts the most diverse population of salamanders in the world: 30 different species.
  • Memphis, Tennessee, is home to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s former estate. It is one of the most visited private residences in America–second only to the White House.

Polo’s journey to Asia

Little is known about Marco’s early years except that he probably grew up in Venice. He was age 15 or 16 when his father and uncle returned to meet him and learned that the pope, Clement IV, had recently died. Niccolò and Maffeo remained in Venice anticipating the election of a new pope, but in 1271, after two years of waiting, they departed with Marco for the Mongol court. In Acre (now in Israel) the papal legate, Teobaldo of Piacenza, gave them letters for the Mongol emperor. The Polos had been on the road for only a few days when they heard that their friend Teobaldo had been elected pope as Gregory X. Returning to Acre, they were given proper credentials, and two friars were assigned to accompany them, though they abandoned the Polos shortly after the expedition resumed.

From Acre the travelers proceeded to Ayas (“Laiazzo” in Marco’s writings, now Yumurtalik, on the Gulf of İskenderun, also called the Gulf of Alexandretta, in southeastern Turkey). During the early part of 1272, they probably passed through Erzurum, in what is now eastern Turkey, and Tabrīz, in what is now northern Iran, later crossing inhospitable deserts infested with brigands before reaching Hormuz on the Persian Gulf. There the Polos decided not to risk a sea passage to India and beyond but to proceed overland to the Mongol capital.

They next traveled through deserts of “surpassing aridity” toward the Khorasan region in what is now eastern Iran. Turning gradually to the northeast, they reached more hospitable lands, Badakhshān (“Balascian”), in Afghanistan, in particular, pleased the travelers. Marco suggests that they remained there for a year, detained, perhaps, by illness (possibly malaria) that was cured by the benign climate of the district. It is also believed that Marco visited territories to the south (other parts of Afghanistan, Kafiristan in the Hindu Kush, Chitral in what is now Pakistan, and perhaps Kashmir) during this period. It is, however, difficult to establish which districts he traversed and which he may have described from information gathered en route.

Leaving Badakhshān, the Polos proceeded toward the Pamirs, but the route they followed to cross these Central Asian highlands remains uncertain. Descending on the northeastern side of the chain, they reached Kashi (“Cascar”) in what is now the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, China. By this point the Polos were on the main Silk Road, and they probably followed along the oases to the south and east of the Takla Makan Desert—Yarkant (“Yarcan”), Hotan (“Cotan”), Che’erchen (“Ciarcian”), and Lop Nur (Lop Lake). These stepping-stones led to Shazhou (“Saciu”) on the borders of China, a place now called Dunhuang.

Before reaching Shazhou, the Polos had traveled primarily among Muslim peoples, though they also encountered Nestorian Christians, Buddhists, Manichaeans, and Zoroastrians. In the vast province of Gansu (called “Tangut” by Marco), an entirely different civilization—mainly Buddhist in religion but partly Chinese in culture—prevailed. The travelers probably stopped in Suzhou (“Sukchu”, now Jiuquan) and Ganzhou (“Campiciu”, now Zhangye) before entering the Ningxia area. It is not clear whether they reached the Mongol summer capital of Shangdu (“Ciandu”) directly or after a detour, in any event, sometime in 1275 (1274, according to the research of Japanese scholar Matsuo Otagi) the Polos were again at the Mongol court, presenting the sacred oil from Jerusalem and the papal letters to their patron, Kublai Khan.


Gulliver's Travels

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Gulliver’s Travels, original title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, four-part satirical work by Anglo-Irish author Jonathan Swift, published anonymously in 1726 as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. A keystone of English literature, it was one of the books that gave birth to the novel form, though it did not yet have the rules of the genre as an organizing tool. A parody of the then popular travel narrative, Gulliver’s Travels combines adventure with savage satire, mocking English customs and the politics of the day.


9 Things to Pack for a Summer Road Trip

In addition to clothes, shoes, toiletries and lots of snacks, pack any or all of these indispensable things into your suitcase:

Cargo Tote ($49) – An all-purpose tote bag is a must. This water-resistant nylon, cargo tote is great for the beach, grocery store, or a weekend escape. It is spill-proof and roomy enough to pack with everything you might need for a full day of adventures. Go on and stuff to the max because the lightweight fabric doesn’t add any bulk to what you are hauling around. There are plenty of pockets for keys, water bottles, sunglasses, and more ensuring nothing gets lost at the bottom of the bag.

Wrap Cover-Up ($49) – RipSkirt cover-ups come in three different lengths and so many cute colors and patterns. They’re the perfect summer vacation skirt whether you are spending the day at the beach or the pool. Made from fabric that is super lightweight and dries quickly if soaked, they are not clingy and flattering on all body types. The quick wrap velcro closures make them easy to adjust. With an cash/card flat pocket, you can just throw it on over your bathing suit and go from your sun lounger right out to lunch. Take it on a cruise, to a resort, or wear it year-round over yoga pants.

Portable WiFi device. I love my Skyroam Solis Lite. It is perfect for a road trip, a day at the beach, or even when I am working in my backyard. It is so light and portable. I just stick in my bag or back pocket and I am connected all day. I use the pay-per-day data option so that I am only paying when I need to use it. The Solis connects up to 10 devices. This makes everyone I am traveling with happy because they can get online too.

Water Bottle – I know you are thinking — who needs one more water bottle?! But I promise you this 18 oz Yeti bottle will be the last one you buy. It is double-wall, vacuum insulated to keep your water, or beverage of choice, cold until the very last sip. Plus it is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

Hands-Free Door Opener – Who wants to touch anything these days? The less contact you have with surfaces the better. To keep it to a minimum, I’d carry this no-touch door opener tool with you for contactless entry into any building. Keep those hands clean at rest stops, hotels, stores, and anywhere else you might need to pull open a door. They are also good for elevator buttons and ATM machines.

Hand Sanitizer – While you are at it, clip a reusable hand sanitizer bottle to your keychain. You can never be sure where you will be able to wash your hands when you are on the road. This ensures the ability to disinfect your hands with antibacterial gel whenever you feel the need to.

Extra Sunglasses – You probably have your favorite pair. The kind you splurged on because they make you look good and you wear them all the time. However, I always travel with an extra, cheaper pair of sunglasses just in case I lose them which has been known to happen once or twice.

Chargers – Sure I have a drawer full of portable chargers, but my go-to is this high speed, compact charger. It comes with built-in lightning and micro USB cables. Although it only weighs 5 oz, sometimes it is more than I want to carry around. Therefore, I also pack an ultra-slim power bank as well. It slides right into your wallet or back pocket.

Extra Long Power Cord – Let’s face it, power outlets are not always strategically placed for charging your phone. Short cords don’t cut it for back seat passengers. My packing list always a high-quality, nylon braided 10 ft long cord. It is extremely flexible and more durable than the plastic coated ones.

What’s on your summer road trip packing list? I’d love to know what else I need.


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