Sweaty Hoppin' & Calf Poppin' Down the Dark Hollow

Day 21; Shenandoah National Park & Washington DC; 23rd July
Survived the skunk!

Today we were heading off to Shenandoah National Park.
Now 21 days into the tour and today was the first time I got a double seat to myself!
No offence to Emily, she was a great bus companion, but once you have a double seat I understand why everyone was so unwilling to share again!
I took full advantage of this space and spread right out! 
Slept like a baby in all the positions.

We had a lunch stop once we got into the park, which consisted of a cold bolognese sandwich because we'd used up all the lunch meats. 
It was actually real good. 

The hike we were going to do at Shenandoah was the 
"Dark Hollow Falls Trail"
Sounds mystical yet dangerous and as if something bad was going to happen there. 
We were told to be careful of our footing because its very rocky & lots of steps downhill.

Last step down and *snap* go over on my ankle. 
I'm quite experienced with twists and sprained ankles so could immediately tell that it wasn't a serious injury. 
I couldn't walk on it though so it was a hop over to the river to soak my ankle to hopefully stop any swelling.
It was freezing!
Em & Adrian stayed behind to wait with me while everyone else carried on the hike. 
My foot looked kinda blue so I thought I should probs take it out the river before my whole foot snaps off. 

I was actually surprised & proud I'd not injured myself before now. 
I'm quite the cluts so getting hurt on holidays is the norm.
The amount of injuries on school trips and sports tours is unreal!

As I mentioned we hiked downhill. 
So I had to hop uphill. 
It was eventful! 

I was sweating all over Emily to my right and Adrian was pulling me up the steps on my left.
It was a hot and slow process. 
At one point I thought "F it" so started hopping on leg up each step at impressive speed.
My right calf was aflame and had doubled in size! 
I was dripping with sweat.
It got us up quite quickly but boy was I knackered.
The rest of the group had caught up with us so I let him go ahead as I carried on hopping up. 
So many steps
"Think these are the last ones"
Round the corner, more steps

We waited in a car park while Adrian went to find Kayla with the bus.
Sarah kindly let me borrow a crutch of hers and it was bizarre!
Ive never used that kind of crutch so it hurt more using that than just hopping. 

On the road again, and good job I had my own seat eh, needed the space to spread out my leg and keep it raised.

We were on route to DC baby! 
When we booked Washington DC wasn't one of the places that screamed out to me and was never really fussed about visiting. 
Since doing more research I got more and more interested so at this point I was really looking forward to arriving / cursing my ankle because I knew there would be a lot of walking involved in DC! 

We arrived to our camp site and tents were up! 
We had a night tour of DC planned so needed a quick dinner so had a pizza party :) 
Ready for the tour we hopped (literally) on Griffin and had another grand old sing along on route to the capital! 

DC is gorgeous!
It is one of my favourite cities from the trip.
At night everything is lit up beautifully.
We parked up and I attempted to crutch my way with everyone.
Our first stop was at the Washington Monument.
It was so pretty all lit up and is so central that you can look in all directions and see all the other main memorials and monuments. 
We had an hour to explore & had to meet up at Lincoln's Memorial later on. 

The Washington Monument

A group of us headed in the direction of The White House.
There's The White House, and then there's a building to the left of it that's not The White House.
I thought we were outside the other building.
Everyone else stopped and started taking pictures, and me thinking im being super clever pipes up
"Do they think they're taking pictures of The White House?" 
".... they are"

Didn't see Obama so we left. 
We walked (crutched / limped / bitched about the crutch) towards the WWII Memorial Pool,
All the memorials are so beautiful and don't take away from what they represent. 
I don't know whether its just me but I always think of Americans doing everything OTT and assumed any memorials would be the same which may distract from what they stand for but they were spot on.

WWII Memorial with Lincoln Memorial in the background
I gave up on my crutch here and Colin looked after it for me while I just hopped and limped on.
I couldn't last more than an afternoon on them they hurt so much. No idea how Sarah coped for so long using them!! 
We walked down the Reflecting Pool and ended up at the Lincoln Memorial.
Why so many stairs eh guys??!! 
Hopping up to the top, I got a look at Abe.
He's a lot bigger than I thought he'd be! 
From there we got an incredible view back of the reflecting pool, Washington Monument and the Capitol building in the background.

Abe the Babe

The Reflecting Pool & Washington Monument
We met up with everyone and continued onto more memorials.
First the Korean Memorial;
At night this is so eerie! 
I was just waiting for one of the statues to jump at me.
Next we crossed over to the Martin Luther King Memorial.
It looked really new and had loads of his famous quotes along a wall behind the massive statue of him.
From here you could see the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin.

MLK Memorial 
Tidal Basin & Jefferson Memorial
We headed back to the bus and by now my ankle was hurting loads so was dreading the thought of walking on it all day tomorrow on our free day to explore DC because there was so much I wanted to see! 

Back to camp and it was early nights all round ready for our big day of sight seeing. 
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How NOT To Put Out A Fire

Day 20; Nashville & Appalachian Mountains 

Matt ready in his cowboy getup. 
Yesterday Adrian had mentioned an optional activity for people to do today; shooting!
With this in mind I made sure I looked the part!

But first we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds and had the most unusual thing to eat.
A McGriddle. It had syrup inside the bread! INSIDE?!
Food shop done and we were on route to Kingston for those who wanted to try out shooting some guns.
We went to Frontier Firearms Shooting Range.
Em, Matt, Sarah, Colin & Me Lady Jane all wanted a go. 
I was in my hat and the boys in their boots.
We unfortunately had the slowest man serving us and it had been 45 minutes and we still weren't inside the range! 
Finally it was time to pick the guns and ammo, Me, Em, Sarah & Matt picked the same gun and Colin  went for a massive beast!
They had specific names but it was just: black gun, bigger black gun to me. 
50 bullets each we kitted up with our goggles and headphones and went into the range.
It was crazy! I can understand how people can get into shooting and want to own a gun, the adrenaline was pumping everywhere! 
Em went first on our lane and then Lady Jane. 
We actually were really good and all out shots were within the middle and smallest target zone ....
until Matt came and had a go on our lane.
Holes everywhere in our paper! 

We ran waaaaaaaay over time because of how slow our guy was so the rest of the group had come back and were just sat outside in the bus waiting for us. Oops
We took loads of pics and the occasional slow-mo video of the gunshots and it was time to leave.
As we paid up we played with the 2 cats they have there; Koko & PurrBaby
No srsly those are their actual names. 
Purrbaby was my fave.

Purrbaby <3
We even made it onto their website. LOL

Into Virginia and to our campsite.
It was getting dark so we had to set up camp quickly and it was my groups turn to cook dinner; 
"Spaghetti bolognese"
Someone mentioned they'd seen a skunk so we were on high alert! 
Michaela got a fantastic picture of it glaring right at her! 

Here's a great lesson now for you kids:

How NOT to put out a cooker fire. 

So group 2 is making dinner, we need water for the pan. 
I volunteer to trek down to the toilets to fill up the pan. 
Pan was too big. 
So flooded the bathroom. 
Back up the hill. 
Asked to clean out bigger pan.
Flooded bathroom again.
So tried to clean it in the shower.
Shower drenched me.
Back up the hill.
Suddenly the hob and gas pipe sets on fire and we kinda all just stood there like :/ Ummm.
Kayla's shouting instructions to get water.
So I'm back running down that bloody hill to the bathroom again filling up the pan in the shower.

Meanwhile back at camp, Kayla's throwing all sorts on the fire to put it out;
Ice - didn't work
Milk, OJ - didn't work.
Everyone else was still just stood there watching, because we're so good in emergencies.
Jana finds some water and saves the day.

Im still in the shower at this point filling up the pan hoping there'll be a camp to return to. 
Couple days pass and the pan is just about full so I run back up the hill ready to be welcomed by applause as I extinguish the fire. 
Its out. 

Glad we can all laugh about it now :) 

The water for the pasta refused to boil so we did what we could but basically had a massive lump of soggy gloopy pasta each with some tasty bolognese. 
Eating dinner, Jana whacked out the 60s playlist and it was good times from then on! 

We settled around the fire, still on lookout for the skunk. 
Maho takes charge and is straight out with the crackers, chocolate & marshmallows to make smores. 
I tried something abit new tonight, used a Reece's PB cup in mine, but forgot to break the cracker in half so had one massive smore.
Colin was tucking into his PB cup and realised he'd left the wrapper on.

I visited the bathroom one final time for a shower, even though I was already soaked and then headed to the tent to get changed.
Im in the tent getting dressed when I hear Ellie outside.

"There's the skunk, its circling someone's tent over there - who's tent is that??"
"Which tent?? Is it near me?"
"Oh, yeah its circling the one you're in"

Death by skunk it is then. I awaited my fate.
Any minute now it would spray and i'd be doomed. 
But thank the lord it never came! 
My torch scared it away and I was safe.

I tried to sleep, but skunks faded in and out of my dreams.
I just hoped I'd survive the night.
Surprised I didn't wake Emily up saying there's skunks in the tent tbh! 
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The Birth of Lady Jane

Day 19; Memphis & Nashville; 21st July

Zero sleep
Extremely tired
Unbearably hot
Its safe to say I wasn't a fan of Memphis!

Somehow managed to wake up without any new mosquito bites so I guess thats something. 
The majority of the group were going across the road to do a tour of Graceland (Elvis' home) but a few of us had no interest so wanted to get a taxi in the centre of Memphis to have a wonder round.
Me, Ellie, Em & Maho all set off.
Everything was closed.
Great start. 
It was 9am and already boiling.
So we walked around aimlessly in search of anything that was open.
No luck.
We took a walk down to the river and were tempted to cross the bridge and into Arkansas to tick off another state off the list. 
"What did you guys get up to today?"
"Oh ya know, we popped over to Arkansas"
We didn't though. Didn't want to make everyone too jealous. 
We strolled back into town and by now the Rock & Soul museum had just opened to we paid our $12 and took a tour. 
The first part was to watch a short film, in the dark.
I barely stayed awake! 
The museum itself was ok, enjoyed it more than Sun Studios, but again its not really my thing so its not something I'm going to rave about. 

Taxi back to the campsite and our taxi driver claimed to have a PhD in BBQ. 
He talked on and on and on about BBQ ribs and my mouth was literally watering by time we got to camp! 
We were a bit early to meet everyone so we walked to the gates of Graceland for a few pictures and met up with the rest of the group before departing towards Nashville. 

Our campsite was called Jellystone Park and was Yogi Bear theme. 
Set up camp and then headed to the pool to cool off. 
We didn't have much free time as we were headed out for dinner tonight on the main strip in Nashville. 
It was at Jack's Bar-B-Que and it was amazing!
I had the pork shoulder, ribs, mac & cheese & potato salad.

After dinner people headed off to do their own thing and explore the shops and bars; but I was on a mission: I wanted needed a cowboy hat. 
The ultimate souv! 
Colin & Matt were also on a mission: to find their dream cowboy boots. 

I thought shopping with girls was bad, but shopping with boys is worse!
We found a cowboy boot shop, and it felt like we were in there for hours!!!!!
They just couldn't decide which ones, what colour, which size. 
Me, Em & Maho got bored so wondered off to find me a hat. 
Found one.
I tried it on and the man working on the door said to me
"Don't waste your money, you've got too much hair for a hat and you'll lose it"
Excuse me?
I am quite aware I have frizzy Hagrid hair right now mate but you should be encouraging people to buy your hats!
I ignored his comment and purchased the hat. 
As soon as I stepped out, I put her on my head and I become a new person.
Lady Jane is what they called me.
Lady Jane is everything you'd want from a cowgirl;
she was bold, confident, adventurous and cheeky southern belle.

We went back to the boot shop hoping they'd bought some but still nothing! 
Eventually they picked some so Colin, Matt & Kayla all bought their boots and we were off to Riplys to meet up with the others and show off our purchases. 
A few cocktails later and we were having a blast listening to the live bands playing all the country music you could wish for. 

Emily & Lady Jane ;)
Adrian had big plans for us; to try moonshine. 
What is moonshine you ask?
Good question - wtf is this disgusting drink we all tried?
According to wiki: 'moonshine is a high-proof distilled spirit that are generally produced illicitly'
I had the sweet tea flavour and it was rank. 

Headed off to find the bus, we were a little early so we found a bar, and a boy named PJ so we renamed him Peanut Butter Jelly. 
Emily was straight onto the dance floor having a hoedown throw down with some stranger.
Loving her life she was. 
Lady Jane stepped up and had a go too and it was great fun! 

Emily, Lady Jane & Colin
The moonshine shot!
Photo Credit: Colin Wiseman
Photo Credit: Maho Hayashi
Cheeeeers! *Note, no one is holding eye contact! Shocking*
Photo Credit: Maho or Colin - can't remember sorry ha!
Emily's Hoedown #hoe
On the bus & back to camp it was time for bed. 
I think, there's 3 lines of writing in my journal saying what we did next but I can't read what they say so I'm assuming I wrote them whilst drunk that evening. 
Probably saying I'd not worn underwear again or something?
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Memphis Go Home, You're Too Hot

Day 18; Memphis; 20th July

Sun Studios
Waking up was painful; an early start so we could get on the road and cross into and through Mississippi and into Tennessee by the evening.
Manic pack by dumping the entire contents on the bed into my bag and we were good to go; well, apart from having to leave half of my beads behind :( 

*There's a line in my diary here that says 'need to start wearing underwear'. So I can only assume I didn't wear underwear on this particular day? Glad I documented only the important bits on the trip*

As we're packing up the bus we have our final farewells with Joe before he embarks on his solo travelling to the East coast. Hope he isn't too scarred with what happened last night! 

Getting on the bus today I had a new bus buddy - Hello Matt :) 
Matt, however looked a bit different this morning.
I couldn't quite put my finger on it ....

Matts shaved head.
Photo Credit: Alan Ly
Alan proceeds to tell us how Matt had tried (& failed) to shave his own head last night. 

Into Mississippi and we're off to Walmart (yeeeeey) for our daily food shop. 
A little complication over getting alcohol for Matt because he left his I.D on the bus;
It would seem that if you're buying drink for someone, don't let them stand next to you at the checkout because chances are that its probably 100% likely that they'll also get asked to show I.D which they don't have on them. 

A lunch stop was to follow with the usual sandwich making and our first try of a Twinkie. 
I still don't know what to make of this creation. 
It wasn't horrible, it just wasn't nice either ha. 

A key fact about Emily here; she's never watched any Lord of the Rings or Hobbit films. 
Oh the horror and shame of calling her a friend. 
Colin luckily brought his tablet on the trip and had all the films so we could fix this. 
Forcing her through what probably seemed like 12 days of just the first film I could tell she was hooked ;) 

Many hours later and we crossed the border into Tennessee and headed to our first destination;
Memphis is home to rock & roll so it was only fitting that we visited the famous Sun Studios where the likes to Elvis recorded songs back in the day. 
Now I'm not really a rock & roll / blues / soul / Elvis fan so this wasn't exactly an exciting activity for me and tbh I found it quite boring. 

Arrived at camp which was just across the road from Graceland, Elvis' home 
Yeeeey, more Elvis :/
& we set up camp, whilst sweating buckets. 
It was bloody hot in Memphis.
Hot & humid. 
Unbearably hot and humid!!
& what do we have for dinner ..... curry! HOT curry!

Our evening plans were to head into Beale St.
We parked up and walked over to the Lorraine Motel; the place where Martin Luther King was shot. 
Great way to set the tone for the evening I know ;) 
Now we're all outside the motel Adrian starts telling us about MLK and that we're outside the room that he was shot and its all very serious. 
& then we're like :/ 
Oh wait, isn't it that room over there?
You know, the one with the memorial flowers & plaque outside?

So for future reference for anyone planning to visit the Lorraine Motel (now the Civil Rights Museum), it is room 306. But I'm sure you'll figure it out when you see the room with the big wreath outside it. 
Civil Rights Museum
Room 306 ;) 
Onto Beale St and in comparison to New Orleans' Bourbon St it just wasn't that great. Maybe it had something to do with the fact it was a Monday, but still Memphis just wasn't cutting out to be that fun.
We had an hour to wonder down the street so we did a lap and me & Em fell into a bar and had some drinks - Coke if I'm correct? Cray! 

Beale St
Buzzing off the coca cola 
Back to Griffin and back to camp it was early nights all round. 
Pffft, or so we thought.
Into the tent and I get my first glimpse of what mosquitos look like. 
They were everywhere. 
We spent a good hour swatting & squishing the bugs before we were happy to try and sleep.
But sleep we did not.
It was too hot and humid so zero sleep it was. 
Our tent was basically a puddle of sweat by the morning. 
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Gators, Gumbo, Hand Grenades & Hurricanes

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