When I was young I always thought the phrase “dog days of summer” had something to do with dogs lounging around on porches with their tongues lolling out. Then I found out that the ancient Romans coined the phrase because it was the time of year when Sirius, the “dog star” (a part of the constellation Canis Major) rose and set with the sun. Even though Sirius’ place in the sky has moved, the term has stuck and now everyone uses it to describe those lazy, hot days of late summer. What have I been doing during my Dog Days of Summer? Traveling and reading, mostly, with a few other lazy and not-so-lazy things thrown in for good measure.

sunflowers, dog days of summer, gardens
Returned to find our sunflowers had blossomed

ROAD TRIP TO TENNESSEE

There’s something about the open road that is like a siren’s song (with an HEA ending). Maybe it’s that the United States is so big or maybe it’s because we are raised on the idea that cars = freedom. Or maybe it’s just that road trips are a part of our culture. Who knows. Probably everyone has their own reason for hitting the open road every once in a while. Me? I don’t think I’d like to travel exclusively by automobile, but I love our annual summer trip into Tennessee.

Blue Ridge Mountains, road trip
SEE WHY THEY CALL THEM THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS?

Charlottesville, Virginia

We’ve made the trip from Baltimore to Knoxville in one day, but usually we like to break the trip into two days so that we can stop at interesting places along the way. We got a late start this year and so only made it to Charlottesville, Virginia before calling it a night. We had dinner at the Downtown Grille (loved their Thai Marinated Tuna Tartare, the Steak au Poivre, and the Seafood Linguine, which sounds boring but tasted amazing — and, no, I didn’t order all that food just for me! 😀 ). I think the place is best known for its wine selection, but we behaved ourselves since we were looking at 6 more hours in our car the next day. I tried not to be too disappointed that they wouldn’t make the bananas foster table-side. (Isn’t most of the fun of that dish watching the flames as it’s being made? Does anyone even serve it like that anymore? And, if not, do we blame the lawyers or common sense?)

Downtown Grille, Charlottesville, road trip
Downtown Grille in Charlottesville, VA
(on the right)

The next morning we hit Bizou for brunch. Sat outside and had the Bizou Florentine (poached eggs are something I would never attempt at home. Someone once told me that they always decide what to order by choosing what they can’t make at home. Sounds like excellent advice, although it still leaves most of the menu for me to choose from, regardless of the restaurant). The waitress told us that “bizou” means “little kiss” in French. I haven’t been able to confirm, but I can say I’d happily eat there again.

Bizou, Charlottesville, road trip
Inside Bizou — Vintage Movie Posters
(check out ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN!)

Of course, I had to stop at the bookstore: Blue Whale Books. It’s a used and rare bookstore that also sells prints and old maps. Instead of a cat, they have a dog — Gizmeau (cute, huh?) I peered through the glass at a book signed by Teddy Roosevelt in 1909 and then wandered over to the SF/F section. Too soon my kids were yanking on my arm, leading me away to Alakazam, a toy store that sells swords, shields, fairy wings and skirts… and zombie finger puppets.

rare and used bookstore, Charlottesville, Blue Whale Books
BLUE WHALE BOOKS
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
zombie finger puppet, Alakazam
Come on… you know you want one! 😀

Bubble blowing contest

Six hours on the road gives you lots of time to do things you don’t normally do… Like having a “Who Can Blow the Biggest Bubble” Contest, play car bingo, and argue about what the song of the summer should be (because NONE of us thought it should be “Blurred Lines”).

Time in the car is good for clearing your head… and then filling it with the things that are important. Road trips can turn any day into New Year’s Eve. It’s a celebration and a time to think about priorities and resolutions.

Knoxville, Tennessee

My dad and step-mom live in Knoxville so we go to visit them. But we still managed to eat at a few local restaurants while we were there (Calhoun’s on the River, The Tomato Head (LOVED their pizza!), and Rita’s — even though we have a Rita’s not 20 minutes from where we live at home.

Calhoun's on the River, Knoxville
Calhoun’s on the River
Instead of boats, this dock had geese! These guys were adorable and followed us all around the dock begging for food.
Knoxville Market Square Rita's
You know the thing I love most about this Rita’s
(besides the kid size wild black cherry gelato)?
It used to be a shoe store. (Check out the front sidewalk).
Anyone who reads my books or knows me well, knows I’m fascinated by how people’s use for a place changes over time.

Paddleboarding

I said I wanted to try something new this summer and I did — Paddleboarding! Seems like everywhere you look, someone was paddleboarding this summer. A spur-of-the-moment stop at the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center after lunch one day introduced me to a group (River Sports Outfitters) that rents paddleboards for use in and around Knoxville. We took six of them out for two hours on the Tennessee River. Yes, I fell. Twice. Once, all the way in the water. Clearly, racing is a bit beyond my abilities right now. But what an experience! It’s always fun to try something new.

Tennessee River, paddleboarding, Outdoor Knoxville, River Sports OutfittersTennessee River, paddleboarding, Outdoor Knoxville, River Sports OutfittersTennessee River, paddleboarding, Outdoor Knoxville, River Sports Outfitters

So, how about you? How’s your summer going? Have you taken any road trips? Tried something new? Eaten out? Dropped by a toy or book store? Have your end-of-summer flowers bloomed? I hope so!

If you’re interested in any of my other “Tennessee” posts, here are the links: