March 10 Entry: The Tale of a Dragon Drive & Tennessee Mexican Food

Today was the day we got the car key! Walter and the kids went to breakfast while I had breakfast here. Then at last I saw the car coming to get me! Nonie was at breakfast and had given Walter the key. When I got to the shop I gave Nonie a hug because I was glad to see her and because I was so glad to have transportation again.

After devotions I came back to the cabin to move the laundry from washer to dryer and then took off on my big adventure. I was very determined to make it to Tennessee to see my parents, but I’ll be honest with you: I do not enjoy the kind of driving I had to do today.

It took me some 40 minutes to get down the mountain and all the way to town, most of it on one-lane dirt roads with the mountain on one side and a huge drop-off on the other. This is stressful for me. I know men enjoy that kind of driving, but I do not.

Once I got to town there was no relief, because I just had to turn onto Highway 129–otherwise known as “The Tail of the Dragon.” This stretch of convoluted highway is a magnet for motorcyclists and sports car drivers from all over the country. The top speed limit is 30 miles an hour–but for much of the way 30 miles per hour is too fast! This kind of driving freaks me out because there are just way too many opportunities to make a lethal mistake. You have to concentrate on driving every single second or you could die.

I turned off Nigel (my phone GPS) while I was on The Tail of the Dragon, because it’s not as if I could turn off anywhere. Then I turned it back on and followed it on rather remote farm roads. I was doubtful that I would reach my destination, but in the end I arrived at Lenoir City, Tennessee, which is where I had arranged to meet my parents.

I got there first, so it was my job to find a place to eat. There didn’t seem to be much except for fast food joints, and that’s not the best for a gluten-free diabetic. So I stopped in a parking lot and did a search on my phone, and found that there was a Mexican restaurant in town. Eventually, I found it and called my dad once I had parked. It was actually a restaurant on one side and a Mexican grocery store on the other side–not exactly what I would have expected to find in a small town in Tennessee. I was very skeptical. When you live in Texas for over 30 years, you have standards when it comes to Mexican food.

My dad had a hard time finding the place, so I ended up standing out on the sidewalk to act as a signpost. The restaurant was very plain and modest in appearance. It was called La Lupita. Please remember that name if you are ever in Lenoir City. The food was divine. The chips we were served as appetizers came with three different kinds of salsa plus big bowls of chopped onions and cilantro. I had a platter that included beans, rice, steak, ribs, shrimp, cactus, cheese, avocado, onions, and a great big roasted jalapeño pepper. (It came with several tortillas which I brought home for the kids.) Even though I couldn’t eat the rice and beans, there was more than enough food and it was the best meal I’ve had all week.

We sat and visited until my mom was done talking and ready to leave. I knew I needed to leave pretty soon anyway because I wanted to get back up to the mission before dark. My original plan had been to stop somewhere with free wifi and send a few emails on the way home, but since we ate later than I expected there just was not time.

I was kind of dreading tackling The Tale of the Dragon again, so I put on some inspiring music. It was a lot more pleasant to do the drive listening to Epicon by Globus. It brought back memories of another epic mountain drive (up Pike’s Peak) back in 2008. I drove past thousands of straight, bare tree trunks with the afternoon sun glinting on them and making them look rather other-worldly. I drove past streams and rivers and deep gorges and shaggy mountains. I encountered a lemon-yellow Ferrari, many other sports cars, and quite a few motorcyclists. There was no place to stop and take pictures so I tried to just absorb the breathtaking sights into my memory.

I was a little bit worried about finding my way back to the mission. Since my husband is the one who always drives up there, I haven’t exactly memorized the route and the landmarks. However, I made the right choices and heaved a huge sigh of relief when I saw the familiar gray stone of Little Snowbird Baptist Church. From there I knew the way!

I made it up before dark and there was a huge farewell supper in the shop. While we were waiting for everyone to get there, I was watching our neighbor Ray work on a girl’s foot. One of the girls injured her foot quite badly playing basketball last night. It was swollen, black and blue. It looked pretty scary, to be honest. Ray went over it with a succession of chilled metal spoons and much of the swelling and discoloration went away as if by magic. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Ray was a strength trainer for nine different NFL teams until a few years ago. No wonder he knows so much about injuries and how to treat them!

All the staff families were there to eat supper with the college group and say their goodbyes. There are so many fine people up here. We get one more day to hang out with them before we leave.


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