Well before our return from across the pond, Tony was asked if he might spare some time to present his international perspective to folks at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, at a convenient time upon his return to the U.S.

A date was scheduled. I made plans for a Road Trip. We’re a team like that.

Barely two days after Anna Grace landed, she and I and the Foxhound loaded the MomMobile and set forth. Tony would fly to Knoxville later that evening; and, as these things go, Jack joined us two days later for what became a fun family weekend. We split the drive with a night in the rather uninteresting Virginia city of Radford (sorry, Radford), and for the last hour I had the miserable pleasure of tango-ing with trucks driving above tempo and essentially hogging the passing lane on the two-lane stretch. Ugh. This is one facet of life where Europe > America.

My co-pliot’s snaps from the road. The Blue Ridge in the distance; and yep, the Stars and Bars appeared as we edged toward the southwestern portion of the Commonwealth.

 

The Hangry’s on this drive set in a little before noon, but with CTF as a passenger our options were limited to roadside “Fast Food” because Virginia (like much of the U.S.) is dog-unfriendly when it comes to the four-pawed member of the family dining inside restaurants. A Chik-fil-A appeared on the next-up roadside “Food” sign; and, having never been there we decided, Why Not?

And you know what? My Spicy Chicken Sandwich was incredible. A delicious crispy chicken breast piece on a roll with just a couple of pickles. No lettuce spilling out everywhere, and no “special sauce” gooping up my fingers, either.

 

The drive from Radford to Knoxville was scenic, though, as we have never been through this part of America. We ventured off the motorway into Bristol, noted for being the Birthplace of Country Music, but not the reason we detoured. Instead, Bristol, Virginia is twinned with Bristol, Tennessee; the state line runs along the city’s Main Street. Quirky fun.

We reached Knoxville in the middle of the afternoon and, after depositing CTF in the hotel room, set out for a proper lunch. Except, the nearby options were, well, a “Family Friendly Italian Chain with a Large Menu;” a, “Barbecue Chain offering smoked meats in an American-West setting;” and, a, “…family restaurant, where pleasing people with delicious southern food & gracious service defines our country.”

More fried chicken, this time from the family restaurant. Look at that portion! Thank goodness we had the sense to share the dish!

If I might be honest here, the Fried Chicken was good. Was it the Styrian Backhendl that I have come to love? No. But it was tasty; the mashed potatoes, though, not so much. Oddly, we drew a bit of attention while eating; an older couple nearby inquired as to from where we had come, and a wait staffer quizzed Anna Grace about the “AIS Varsity Basketball” sweatshirt she was sporting (to warm her against the arctic blast that is American air-conditioning).

Afternoon plans to explore Knoxville were dampened by thunderstorms; in the evening Tony and I joined a few people from ORNL for dinner. This is my entree, the Ahi Tuna Wonton Stack. Just kidding. This is the appetizer that I ordered as my entree; a fresh and flavorful dish that I could barely finish. America’s portion sizes are out of control.

Our first evening in Knoxville had reached its end.