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Jun 19, 2012
05:17 PM

Road Trip Makes Journey to 30 a Little Sweeter

A 30th birthday can be a rough road. But for this woman, it turned into an arbitrary – and totally awesome – adventure to Tennessee with a friend.

Road Trip Makes Journey to 30 a Little Sweeter

For some reason, the year I turned 30 was extremely hard for me. I was in denial that I was that old (how foolish was I to think 30 as being old) and was not ready to move even closer to middle age – and the additional responsibilities that were waiting for me. I was so depressed over turning 30, that I even did not want my family to acknowledge my birthday that year.

So, on a spur of the moment, I called my best friend Jim, and asked him if he would go on a road trip with me to help me forgot about my pending old age. We called in sick to work, packed our bags and got in the car and just drove. Our only plan was to head south and out of the state of Michigan. We drove about 10 hours that day and ended up in Tennessee. We decided that this would be where our adventure would begin. We drove through the windy mountain roads, enjoying the warm summer breeze on our skin and laughing at road signs. ("Horses, just a head!" Why would someone keep just a horse's head and post a sign about it?)

We happened to notice a sign to visit The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, Tenn. The Lost Sea is listed by the Guinness World Records book as America's largest underground lake, and the Lost Sea is part of an extensive and historic cave system called Craighead Caverns. We spent the afternoon there touring the underground caverns and then boarded a glass-bottom boat to cruise on The Lost Sea. What a wonder it was to be in the space that was used by Cherokee Indians, is home to giant Pleistocene jaguar tracks that have been found deep inside the cave, and has been used since the early 1820s.

The next day, we started our journey back to Michigan. We were in no hurry and we stayed off the highway as often as possible. We happened to find Skyline Drive, which runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park. The park offers over 75 overlooks and is home to many wildflowers, deer, bears and wild turkeys.

We were on part of the road, which ran parallel to a stream, when we saw the waterfall. We pulled over and looked at each other. We were going in! We quickly changed in the car – well, as fast as an almost-30-year-old can change into a bathing suit in the front seat of a Saturn. We cautiously made our way in the green-blue water and just let the cooling waters swirl around our arms and legs. Mind you, we were not the only ones who had pulled over and had the same idea to enjoy a lazy dip in the stream. It was then we noticed there were people sitting above us in a small pool, just underneath the first waterfall before the water spilled over the edge into the river where we were standing.

Jim dared me to climb the slippery slope upwards and experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What could I do, but accept the dare? I was nervous. I dislike heights and unknown footpaths, but I was determined. I slowly, but surely, made my way up the path and was rewarded with a sight I will never forget. The sunlight glinting off the water, the shimmer of water as it swirled around the rocks – and just how small the people below us looked. With the help of my friend, I had made it to the top.

As I lowered myself into the pooling water underneath the waterfall, I realized that if I could do this, I could do anything. Even turn 30.

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