A Swede celebrating 4th of July in the US, or how to feel like a complete alien.

So. 4th of July. America’s Independence day. USA’s 239th birthday. Such a young little baby.


I must admit, it was very weird being a Swede in America during this holiday. It was very patriotic and a lot of “this is the greatest country in the world!” and if you’re not actually a citizen of that country it’s maybe not as engaging. But I’m not going to complain, I still had a lot of fun! 

  
The celebrations began at noon in Nashville, with music and activities, I mostly just walked around enjoying the atmosphere. It started raining shortly thereafter though, so I walked over to a restaurant I had seen previously. I had some glorious crab, and when I was finishing up I realized that the rain had really intensified outside, the streets were flooding so I decided to stay put for a while. I was joined by a couple from California, and one from Ohio and we sat at the bar talking for almost two hours about traveling and hiking. They had a lot of recommendations for where I should go, especially in Utah, Colorado and Arizona. Can’t wait! But it was weird as well, because as we were talking I told the couple from the Ohio that I think they’d enjoy hiking in the Swiss alps, that it’s really beautiful there. The man just looked at me and said “I live in the greatest country in the world, why would I want to go anywhere else? And I’ve heard most Europeans are very rude.”

You should have seen my face. I think I actually had my mouth just hanging open.

Wow, there is ignorant and there is rude, but this was both at the same time. Oh well. It was fun up until then. But it wasn’t over, because while we were waiting out the rain the bartender had given me another beer without me asking for it, and as I was waiting to pay he told me it was on the house. I have never been given a free beer at a bar before, so I though that was nice of him. Then he looked at me and said “I want you to be careful tonight sweetie, you’re a pretty young woman and I wouldn’t want anything bad happening to you. And sometimes bartenders work together with people to prep drinks, so be careful.”

No. You don’t give a woman a free beer and then tell her that. It’s extremely creepy and even though I guess he meant well, I didn’t even know what to say. Also the entire concept of commenting on my looks is not something I approve of, there really is no need. It doesn’t matter what one looks like, all women should be safe no matter what. Needless to say, I walked out of there and didn’t have another single drop of alcohol that day.

End of feminist rant. 

I also had to wear a bib.

  
 This is the park overlooking where the fireworks set off, 7 hours before starting time.

The real celebrations began at 18:30 that night, which is also when it began raining really hard again. I hid in my rain jacket and enjoyed the tunes of someone called Martina McBride before the largest firework show in the U.S. began. I think it kept going for almost 20 minutes, so it was very cool.  

  

Apparently she’s pretty famous? I’ve never heard of her before unfortunately.  

This Sunday has been a very lazy day for me. I’ve basically just been laying in bed watching tv and planning my next moves. Trust me when I say that I spend a lot of time on tripadvisor, google maps and other sites. Tomorrow I’m heading to Savannah, Georgia, because I saw it on the map and did some research and read that it’s gorgeous. On Thursday I’m getting on a bus to St Augustine, Florida, where I’ll spend a few days on the beach and take some surf lessons! I’m really looking forward to that, I just hope my hand is up for it. After that I’m probably going to the Kennedy space center before heading west again.

Like I’ve said before, this trip really didn’t turn in to what I expected, but I can’t really complain. I’m enjoying life, both the good and the bad! A friend posted a quote the other day that said “the greatest source of happiness is the ability to feel grateful at all times”, and that’s something I’m really working on. There’s is no reason to be upset about what has happened to me, when there is so much to be thankful for at the moment. Yes, life is good. 

Welcome to Music City, aka Nashville, Tennessee.

So I want to start this post by saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has been so supportive of my decision. Like I’ve said, it was extremely hard for me and it still is, but it makes it easier to hear everyone supporting my decision.

But it is was it is, so before leaving St Louis I came in contact with a place called Old Mountains Gear Exchange that offered to sell me things for me, which I gladly accepted. I drove there on Wednesday morning and dropped off all my things and though it was very hard, it also felt nice to not have to worry about that anymore.
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I didn’t leave St Louis until noon though, and knew I had a 5 hour drive to Nashville. I also knew that the car rental closed at 17, but not much I could do about it. I took my time and enjoyed my drive, and with the traffic going into Nashville I didn’t get here until 17:30 anyway. I dropped my things off at the hotel and could return the car anyway luckily, just had to drop off the key. Then I walked across the street and had the best dinner yet in this country, at a place called The Farm House. They only serve locally produced food, and I had a vegetarian dish that was just amazing. Since I booked my hotel two days before arriving here, I didn’t have many options, but I’m staying two blocks away from Broadway which is where the entire 4th of July celebration will take place so that’s great. Even if I have to pay a little more, I value my safety more than the cheapest price, I want to stay in good areas and not too far from where I’m planning on spending most of my time. So after dinner I went for a walk, and had a beer and listened to some country music. Then I walked the three minutes back to the hotel, I love it.
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Ambushed by Swift during my drive. 
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Doesn’t the building on the right look like batman? 

On Thursday I went to a mall nearby, to look at backpacks and go see a movie. It was supposed to rain all day, so I figured why not. I found a backpack that fits, it feels weird being able to carry all of my things on my back, I’ve certainly downsized quite a bit. I then saw the new Disney Pixar movie Inside Out, which was good. I ended up sitting next to some kids who we’re on a field trip from a salvation army band camp, and once again I was just blown away by how friendly everyone is. These two kids, a boy and a girl just started talking to me and telling me everything about camp life and what they were doing and it was a lot of fun. We don’t really have the camp culture in Sweden, so all I know is from movies. And they were just so outgoing and fun, Americans really are very different from the Swedes, in a good way. And I know I’m in the south again because everyone is calling me ma’am (which makes me feel OLD! But then it’s usually accompanied by “can I see ID please?” so then I feel offended that they think I look under 21.), or sweetie, honey, sweetheart or anything that they can think of like that. We don’t have a culture of using names like that in Sweden so it’s very weird to me, but I actually called someone “sir” the other day so I guess I’m adapting…

After the movie it still hadn’t started raining, and I had another fun event planned. Before coming here I had booked a bicycle tour, but not just any tour, it was a pedal tavern tour. We were 12 people on a bar basically, that we had to pedal around midtown Nashville, while also visiting real bars in what’s commonly known as a pub crawl. It was so much fun! And once again I’m glad I’m traveling solo, because when we got off and went into the pubs, the others mostly kept to the groups they came with. I walked around talking to everyone, and had such a great time, and actually got to know most of them. They were all so nice, and I really wish I could tell you their names but I had some beer and then some more beer and then something called Dixie lemonade and then I forgot what everyone was called, so…
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It started pouring down while we were in one of the pubs, but when we had to leave it stopped. We were in luck! Oh well, humans are known for being kind of waterproof, we would have been fine either way.

And then it was seven at night and I walked home and went to bed because I’m secretly an old lady who doesn’t like being out after dark. Also because I’m a solo female and like to be safe. But mostly because I’m really not a party person, and enjoy going to bed at no later than nine.

But the tour was a lot of fun, I highly recommend it! Though I wish we had cycled more…

I woke up this morning, once again expecting a 100% rainy day, but apparently the weather reports in the area can’t be trusted. I’ll bet it will rain all of independence day just because of that (they say it will). I decided to go for a little walk around town. Well, that “little” walk turned into 4 hours, but it was great. I love walking just as much as cycling. Even though I had left my sunglasses at home because of the rain that mostly didn’t happen. But I saw some great buildings at least.
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Why. So. Serious?

So I walked around a while, and all of a sudden stumbled upon a full scale replica of the Greek building Parthenon. It was built in 1897 and contains some sort of a museum. I didn’t go in though, I just took some pictures and climbed a tree in the park because why use benches when there are trees? (I’m secretly an old lady but also a small kid.)
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After that I strolled through the Vanderbilt University campus, then Music Row where all the record labels are located and that’s when the rain finally appeared! First time I could use the rain jacket I’ve been dragging around for a month now.
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RAIN! And a huge kale and mango smoothie, so good. I was going for a small, but they gave me a large because they had some sort of Friday special, it was crazy big. 
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It’s a microphone! And you can park and lock your bike to it! I love it. 

They started the celebrations tonight already, so I walked down to Broadway and had dinner at the most touristy of touristy places: Hard rock café. It was good though, and I had a great view of the stage, so why not?
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And they have a bridge for pedestrians! I know, right, I was surprised too! But I’m guessing it’s because the sports field is on the other side of the river. There was some game happening, the US national team was playing some other national team. I’m not sure what sport, but I’m sure it was important. (Update: I googled! It was football, or “soccer”, USA vs Guatemala.) (update 2: and I just realized that I saw some people take photos with some guys earlier today, and thought “I bet they’re sports stars” so now I googled the US national team and one of the guys I saw is called Gyasi Zardes and plays for LA Galaxy, that’s pretty cool. I only remembered him because he had crazy hair.)
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And tomorrow is 4th of July! I’m both very excited and terrified, and I’m feeling very Swedish. But I think it will be a lot of fun. There’s concerts and they claim that they will have the largest fireworks in the US tomorrow, how does one measure that though? But I’m looking forward to it a lot anyway! I don’t own anything red, white and blue, but I hope they won’t kick me out.

Regarding the hand, it’s not getting better. Every morning I wake up thinking “finally, it feels so much better!” and then I start using it and by the end of the night even the simplest thing like typing on the keyboard hurts. Well, maybe I should round this off now then… but yeah. I might have to get it looked at again if it’s not better soon.

And I have more exciting news about where I’m headed next, but that will have to wait, because pain. Happy Independence Day everybody! 

I climbed a mountain to see the world. 

And there they were. The mountains. I was so happy that I stopped cycling around 20 km before they began the day before, because I’ve realized that it’s about that distance it takes for me to warm up my legs in the mornings. I cycled until the incline began and then took a small energy break. The climb wasn’t very steep at first, so I was feeling extremely confident. That would change.    

      

After a while the mountain got a whole lot steeper. Just as I was feeling confident that I would be able to cycle the entire way up, I came around a bend in the road and at that moment it got so much worse. I tried cycling but had to stop and start pushing instead. And then I pushed. And pushed. And pushed. At every bend I just hoped that it would flatten out a bit, but it never did. I pushed for more than two hours with no relief. 

 

At one point a car stopped next to me, and I was so sure that they would offer me a lift. But he just wanted to warn me about snakes by the side of the road. Well, thanks for that. I just stared at him… 

After a few hours I made it up to a rest stop and could finally sit down. I had seriously never been so sweaty in my life, I was completely soaked. A family was there too, and they got really excited to see me. We took pictures and then they offered me water and chips. I could seriously have cried. So I sat down and watched the beautiful view and had  some chips, it was perfect. 

  
    

But I wasn’t done. There was more climbing to be done. I’m so glad I’m wearing Keen sandals and not ordinary cycling shoes, I would never have been able to walk up that mountain pushing my bike otherwise. It was also really nice weather, just 20 c so that helped a lot. I did have an energy shot that helped too. 

 

After 6 hours and about 65 km I was finally in Banner Elk where I had planned to stop for the day. I immediately decided to take a rest day there tomorrow, that hike up the mountain was so hard on my body and I was so exhausted. 

  

Interesting fact: fart means speed in Swedish. So there’s that…

My rest day in Banner Elk was amazing, it’s such a beautiful little village high up in the mountains. I took a walk, I had to walk beside the road as usual but I don’t mind. If I didn’t walk there I’d never make it anywhere if I don’t want to cycle.    

         

This morning I was ready to hit the road again, this time I’d finally make it to Tennessee and down from the mountain. Yes, of course there were some hills as well, but for almost 65 km it was mostly downhill riding. Amazing! I love going down much more than I do up, that’s for sure. And google maps lead me to some beautiful cycle paths, I was a bit resistant about going off the main road but it was so worth it!

  
       

I cycled 112 km today in 6 hours, which I feel pretty good about. The heat wasn’t too bad, 31 c at most and I was truly enjoying myself today. And yes, then I got myself a hotel room, took a swim in the pool and now I’m just enjoying my first afternoon in Tennessee. I’m only 280 km from Berea, Kentucky now where I’ll join the Transamerica Trail. It will be weird to actually meet other cyclists… 

See you soon!