SVV here, taking the reins. One day back in February, Kristin began hinting to me that I shouldn’t plan anything around the 4th of July. Now, I’m not much for planning anyway so it was a tad bit superfluous of her, but I knew something was percolating big time in her head by a mischievous smirk and the ferocious attempt she was mentally making to not tell me immediately.
Kristin gets excited and on her best day is absolutely terrible at keeping secrets from me and probably anyone else with a sense of perception—a blog, a computer, social media, hangouts on the regular with new people and being a writer probably has something to do with the fact that at her most excited state of being she’ll tell you the answer to a question you didn’t know you had.
I typically need to make a conscious effort to go dumb if I want to be surprised.
Commence disinterested man-mode. Hey, it’s what made her pursue me in the first place so it just works for us, okay? Save your judgment for that dude in chem class.
My birthday has always had a tinge of self-congratulatory exultation about it—good on ya, you’re still alive!—and more than a hint of fireworks directly wired into the event so I’ve tapped into the disinterested man-mode in the summer a lot over the years. I’m competing for attention with the birth of a country by radicals wearing talcum-powdered wigs and bitchin’ buckle-toed shoes, patriotism and $2.99 explosions, for Chrissakes.
So disinterested I shall be. It’s always surprising to be surprised by your birthday and seeing those red, white and blue tents pop up across rural America has turned into somewhat of a watershed moment for me. A Reagan “here we go again” sort of feel. I love the fact that something is blowing up when I was born 42 years ago but don’t necessarily see the point of being in rapture about it. It’s a date. I’m alive. There isn’t much else to say about it, really. Right?
Then, this girl. She entered my life with a mind so full of quantum calendars and exact moments etched into her brain that I can’t get away from it.
“Hey babe, what happened on Sept. 21, 2013?”
“Oh, that was the debut of the inaugural Music City Food & Wine, formerly known as Music City Eats,” she’d say. “Also, the day Megan Williams got married.”
You get the picture. For her, dates are something to celebrate, are permanently etched into her elephant-like mind.
So I put the blinders firmly on and pretended that it wasn’t happening. What, July is coming? Who cares. I’ll be one day older? Blah. Make me a sandwich.
We had a running deflection joke about my birthday trip being to Pigeon Forge for the dueling pianists, spaghetti buffet and goats on the roof because Kristin knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that while I’m a country boy at heart, when it comes down to it I’ll rather chug a glass milkshake than go to a place that sees 10 million tourists a year.
So I woke up at 4am on a Wednesday to a freshly packed suitcase—lest I figure out where we were going by the contents—and gathered my essentials for the drive to Nashville airport. A surrealist orange sky peaked from behind treetops as I blurry drove to the interstate, a giddy wife next to me. She had a few hints to throw my way and vague clues to test my ability, cute Photoshopped images of me on a bucking bronco, riding a super-sized swing and making chocolate.
I still had no idea. Maybe I’m not as perceptive as I think I am.
In any case, Kristin Luna doesn’t mess around when planning a vacation so I wasn’t worried and benignly drove into the sunrise with a powerful feeling of serenity.
Then we arrived at the airport. As I pulled my wallet out to prepare for the violation of everyday airport security, a quick shade of panic hit me. The little insert that actually holds my drivers license was missing, slipped out onto the floor of our other car. Sixty miles away. Right before we were boarding a flight to who knows where…
I was half-asleep and had this magnificent glow of expectation about me—having allowed it to enter my consciousness at this point—so I just rolled with the moment, played it super cool and pinched tight. The thing is, and it hadn’t happened to me in about 20 years, but you can fly around this country WITHOUT AN ID. They label you a temporary terrorist and make you receive the full Monty TSA treatment but it’s doable. Knowing this could save your ass from missing a flight, which it would have done with us, so tuck that away in your mental Pinterest board.
I’m not willing to try it again as a social experiment but the security lines at BNA were ridiculously long this morning. While Kristin breezed through like a Virgin American flight attendant with her pre-Check clearance, I was looking at about 45 minutes of awkward eye contact in a snake line if I, you know, actually had my identification.
Glad I wore pants that made my ass look good.
If you’re wondering about the full TSA process itself, let me break it down for you in one word here: touched. Also, worth it. It saved me about an hour in the security line and more importantly didn’t shatter six months of careful planning by my favorite person on earth.
Whew! So by default of the screening process I knew we were traveling to Austin, Texas. The rest of the details were vaguely defined other than a need to take a cab upon arriving at a Sears parking lot to pick up a car and then lunch. (I know, right?! It’s like we’re in the CIA)
Our cabbie was a talkative gent and we love to quiz the locals about things so on his recommendation our first stop on the drive was at a gas station BBQ joint named Rudy’s.
Texas, you got it going on.
Easy sampler plates, family style seating, condiment bar containing five-gallon sauce dispensers and the all-critical WiFi connection made Rudy’s the absolute best option anywhere!
Rolling ourselves out of there we fell into the car for the final push to Travaasa, a ridiculously classy affair perched up high in the craggy limestone mountains surrounding Austin proper. Fingers of lakes, Italianate construction of massive villas in the hillsides indicated that were in the right place and that Kristin, as usual it must be said, made a solid choice for our vacation destination.
I could regale you with intricate explanations on the super-fun activities we tried but I might leave that up to her in the next blog post. (Hint: Travaasa is an “active” resort.)
We toured the farm and spoke with the farmers while pulling Indigo Apple cherry tomatoes off and popping them in our mouths as we strolled the extensive, clearly organic operation. We hassled chickens and smelled flowers and herbs. Everything I saw ended up on my plate that evening—OK, except for the lizard—and it was all delicious!
Kristin Luna, what can I possibly choose as a destination birthday for you in the future? Black pearl diving in the Cooks? Patagonia with an Antarctic crossing?