I do not enjoy driving. I especially do not enjoy driving in Maryville traffic, and if you think for one minute I’m going to brave Knoxville traffic, you need to have your head examined. It’s not happening.
So, when I discovered a couple of weeks ago that East Tennessee Historical Society’s Awards of Excellence Program was going to be held May 14 at The Foundry in downtown Knoxville, and that my presence was requested, I immediately began thinking of who I could ask to be my “date” and do the driving. My daughter, Emily, stepped up and agreed to do it.
For those of you who know both Emily and me, you know we are wired a lot alike. We look alike, we sound alike, we say the same things in the same way at the same time quite often. It freaks me out a little, and although my son-in-law hasn’t come out and said so, I think it might freak him out a little bit, too. But that’s beside the point, which is that I was hoping beyond all hope that Emily has diverged from my part of her genetic makeup and takes driving in stride. She has, for the most part, but she also has inherited her dad’s propensity for getting lost.
What I’m saying is, put the two of us together, and we may get there and we may not. On time? Well, that’s always iffy. We do our best, though.
I attempted to print out directions and a map found on The Foundry’s website. My printer was uncooperative. I tried it three times before Emily got to the house to pick me up. Nothing. I was pondering what to do when an impatient honking in the driveway alerted me that she was here. I was apprehensive, but figured, OK, she’s been to The Foundry before for her junior class prom in high school. Surely she knows in general how to get there. It’s only been 20 years.
Emily did have the foresight to print out directions from my house to The Foundry. They were totally different than what I had found on the website. Since I couldn’t quote those from memory, and she was adamant about following the ones she found, anyway, we headed down the road to the big city with high hopes of getting to our destination right on time. Really, now, how hard could it be to find our way to World’s Fair Park, with that giant Sunsphere looming above the park like a golden beacon? Yeah, right.
First of all, we missed a turn that came up sooner than we expected. We wandered around, always with the Sunsphere above us, mocking us. For one thing, Knoxville’s signage is almost nonexistent. And when we did see something, Emily would undoubtedly be in the left lane and need the right lane, or in the right lane and need the left lane. Keep in mind, this is around 5 p.m. when everybody and his brother is trying to get home from work. I’m sure the ones around us were cussing. I’m sure Emily wanted to but she didn’t. I admire her resolve. Mine was not quite as firm.
After what seemed to be the 50th circuit around that area with no luck, I told her if we didn’t find the place within the next five minutes, we were hitting Cumberland and going back to the house. Those must have been the magic words, because we saw the road we were looking for soon after and ended up at The Foundry. It was such a lovely sight to finally see.
The Foundry was beautiful, the meal was delicious, and it was so nice to see so many friends recognized for their contributions to history and preservation. I don’t have the complete list of honorees from Blount County, but a few from Maryville were representatives of the Off the Map App Team, a collaborative effort to develop a digital walking tour of Maryville; my buddy Tim Walker for his research and book on World War I veterans with Blount County ties; and my dear friend Gail Palmer with her recent book, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Cemeteries in the Smoky Mountains, Volume I — Tennessee.” I was honored to receive a History in the Media Award, a total surprise because I didn’t realize I had been nominated.
Emily and I had a great time, even in the midst of our great adventure. Getting home was much easier. We went toward the University of Tennessee. Even I can get home from there.
Thus ends the great adventure of two country girls in the big city. I do not plan on having another one any time soon.