I spent most of last week in Tennessee, the state with too many double letters and the title of a great film score by Hans Zimmer (which I am listening to while writing this), with about 30 guys in a large house we rented for the purpose.

On Tuesday, I woke up bright and early for a 9 AM flight from LGA to TYS. The security line appeared daunting, but I managed to clear with enough time to duck into the lounge for a mimosa before joining two friends at the gate.

While we were waiting on the tarmac, a girl across the aisle from me burst into tears. Thankfully, a flight attendant was right behind us and offered her some tissues and comforting words. Otherwise, the flight was largely uneventful. Sitting in the last row meant enduring a constant drone from the Bombardier CR9’s engines, but I was too tired to care. I stayed awake long enough to get a ginger ale and water from the beverage cart before falling asleep for the remainder of the flight.

McGhee Tyson Airport (IATA: TYS) is named after Charles McGhee Tyson, the son of a prominent Knoxville family who died during a WWI aerial mission. It doubles as a military air base for the Tennessee Air National Guard. It is also one of the smallest airports I’ve ever been to. You could probably run from one end to the other in under a minute.

We waited for a fourth to arrive before picking up our rental car and driving to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. There, we indulged in traditional soul food. When in Tennessee…

Fried chicken, mac and cheese, baked beans, and slaw (not pictured: fried okra and dill).

After dinner, we walked around Knoxville for awhile before driving to our final destination – Gatlinburg.

Every year in August, a group of friends and I get together for a few days of sun, beer, and good times. This year, Gatlinburg was chosen for its central location and abundance of large rental houses. Previously, the group met in Winter Park, Colorado and Charleston, South Carolina.

The group is all male, so I guess you could call it a fraternity. The men come from different ages, races, sizes, socioeconomic situations, etc. Shared is a desire for male camaraderie that is increasingly rare in the modern world.

Some of the guys raced go karts, played laser tag, and hit the gym. Myself, I mostly hung out around the house, leaving only for a quick hike on Saturday. I was content to lounge around and catch up with people while drinking the local brew.

When Sunday rolled around, the general consensus was that the trip had gone by too quickly. Talk of extending the length to a full week ensued. I hope we do, as this annual trip is one of the highlights of my year.