visiting Remily in Knox Vegas
In April, Ian's brother, Ren, and Ren's fiancée, Emily, moved to Knoxville (affectionately referred to as Knox Vegas by our dear friend Grant, who grew up there), for an amazing job opportunity. And in November, we visited them!
We caught an early morning flight to Nashville where we spent the day working in coffee shops and hanging out with our friend Drew, who left Boston to grow his second startup company. No big deal. The three of us enjoyed lunch at the new (super hipster) BarTaco before we got a tour of his company's space in Weld.
We arrived in Knoxville after dark, with just enough time for hugs and an introduction to Charlie and Violet, Ren and Emily's adorable dogs, before we crashed on the air mattress.
The next day, Ren and Emily had their usual work days, so we took off for a fun date downtown. We stopped for beverages at Old City Java, because Ian. We then headed to the Museum of East Tennessee History. It was fascinating to learn about the history of a new-to-us part of the country, with all it's charms and challenges. From the first Native American inhabitants, to slavery and the Civil War, to the present day, the museum covers it all with an impressive depth and complexity. Fun fact: Mountain Dew originated in Tennessee. "It'll tickle yore innards!"
Our brains full of history, we wandered around downtown for a bit, flipping through letterpress creations at Pioneer House and taking in the view from the Sunsphere, before meeting up with Ren and Emily for dinner at The Stock and Barrel. It's one of their favorites, and we totally understand why! (Their recommendation: get the duck confit fries with your burger.) After dinner, we headed back to their apartment for some Cards Against Humanity. What happens in Knox Vegas stays in Knox Vegas.
Saturday, we got a tour of Ren's office, then headed to Magpies for a tour of Emily's (which came with sample cupcakes — sorry, Ren, Emily's office takes the cake). Grabbing Chick-fil-a for lunch, we headed out to Gatlinburg and took our third tour of the day at Sugarlands Distilling Co. We learned about the process (similar to other grain spirits, minus the aging) and the history.
Turning grain into moonshine made the farmer's harvest an easy-to-transport product that would make them more money. And moonshine itself doesn't make people blind or cause death. Methanol, a byproduct of the process, is distilled out in the heads and the tails of a batch. As long as you only drink the hearts, you don't have to worry... unless you drink too much. (We were warned about an illegal moonshiner in the area who was not so scrupulous and people wound up in the hospital. The lesson? Make sure you can trust your source.) When Ian asked our tour guide how long he'd been moonshining, he answered "over 30 years... legally, 8.5 months."
After watching the tour, we headed to the sample table, where we got to try all their flavors, while Tadpole told us about hillbilly dentistry: if you drink cinnamon moonshine and smoke a pack of menthols, and you'll never have to brush your teeth. Em and I's favorite was their Appalachian Apple Pie. After a swig, every breath in tastes like caramel, and every breath out tastes like apple.
On Sunday, we went to church and met some of the wonderful people in Ren and Emily's community. And there was no other choice for Sunday dinner but Chandler's. Because what's Sunday in the South without fried chicken, cornbread, and mac and cheese?
We walked it off at a cool new park we discovered: High Ground Park, which was the site of a Civil War fort and is part of the future Battlefield Loop. I felt like I was in District 12. And then went to see Spectre (Daniel Craig, how I'll miss you), because James Bond is really part of the family.
Remily, thanks for hosting us. We had so much fun, and can't wait to see you four again!
See the rest of our trip photos on Flickr.