A Vacation Home for Decca?

When worldbuilding the fates and courses of the characters after “Orphans of Opry Tower”, as I’m wont to do, a new possibility struck me, not for Katenka and her family (which is fairly well thought out at this point), but for Decca Roadhouse, proprietress of Old Dominion Dance Studio in Antioch, Tennessee, she of the red ringlets, childless by choice yet the closest thing Sasha, Draža, Tallulah, Fintan, and Fia have to a mother, around 30 years old as of “Orphans of Opry Tower” and enjoying a pleasant marriage to her storm chaser of a husband (father of Fintan and Fia).

It hit me that she has something of a void in her life. Her primary residence is with the rest of her family in Abingdon, Virginia. Yes, that’s 308 miles by car from Antioch, but with the higher-quality roads and cars in this setting that’s about an hour each way; manageable, especially when you have a comfy hot-pink electric convertible like she does. Even so, she sees fit to have a couple of bedroom suites at her place of business, which she uses as her secondary residence. She really likes to drink red wines, and to keep her parties going well past midnight; often come bedtime she’s in no condition to drive for an hour, so she just plunks herself down right there.

What she lacks is a real homey home that’s all to herself. Not that a girl like her particularly needs one at the age of 30, but as she gets older she might find herself drawn to the whole idea. A vacation home just for her that’s within commuting distance of Nashville would seem an ideal addition to her life when she hits middle age.

Where will Decca put her House?

If we want it to be as close or closer than Abingdon, it needs to be within 300 miles. Drawing out a 300-mile circle on Google Earth, the most obvious candidate would be somewhere in the Smokies, but that’s just too obvious. Besides, the Smokies already got a mention in “Orphans of Opry Tower”. We need new material! The Cumberland Plateau? Ditto. It’s just too obvious. And the Lower Midwest, while eminently accessible from Nashville, just isn’t a very Decca sort of place. Neither is Atlanta, the biggest city in that radius.

No, something more creative was called for. I was at first intrigued by the Talladega Forest and Cheaha Mountain, the highest sections of Alabama, sporting some rather nice views, but by this timeline’s standards it seems a bit obvious and touristy of an area. It would be well-known. Then I happened upon some more northerly reaches of Alabama, the Little River Canyon National Preserve (originally known as May’s Gulf); spectacular and pleasant enough, but perhaps again a bit too obvious a destination.

Knowing Decca as a character, she’d want somewhere more obscure, out-of-the-way, and off-the-wall. Then I extended my search westward, and found Dismals Canyon (which I reject just due to the name, but the place itself is pretty and interesting enough I might like to visit sometime if I’m in the region again)…and what’s now known as the Sipsey Wilderness.

And in the Sipsey I think I have the winner. It’s sort of a southward extension of Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau, only without being as well-known or waterfall-studded as the Upper Cumberland; despite that, it’s still dubbed “the Land of a Thousand Waterfalls”, so these most desirable of natural features are still in abundance.

The straight-line distance from Antioch to the Sipsey is around 130 miles; no doubt by road this would be a bit longer, but it’s less than half the straight-line distance to Abingdon (265 miles). In this universe a robust system of high-speed 2+1 roads stud the countryside, so travel times shouldn’t be too much worse for the same distance than on the Long Hunter Freeway!

Decca’s very own Fallingwater

I’m thinking Decca has her vacation house custom-built by an actual architect, with the idea being for her to have a small house not unlike Fallingwater; integrated with nature with the house being right on the waterfall itself. A place for her all to herself to unwind in natural beauty with the spray from a waterfall on her deep in the woods, but still within easy driving distance to Nashville.

It might be worth noting that the Sipsey is somewhat closer to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. From Nashville the closest beach, Destin (there’s a reason Williamson County empty-nesters go there like homing pigeons and buy condos…), is 388 miles away by straight-line distance. From the Sipsey, the nearest beach, also Destin, is 270 miles distant. Taking into account the more meandering course of roads, that might bring the Emerald Coast to about an hour’s driving time for Decca, instead of upwards of an hour and a half.

This Fallingwater-esque house of hers will be substantially smaller than Fallingwater itself; I’m thinking it’ll just have two bedrooms, one for Decca and one for a guest (probably with her husband first in mind, but it could be other friends and family as well). Keep in mind that Decca has pet African greys, and she might keep some of these birds at her vacation house.

And of course Decca will have to have a wine cave included somewhere on the property; nothing else will do for her treasured collection of the finest reds.

Decca’s little Cousin: Georgia

I’m thinking Decca will be inspired by a cousin of hers, who will provide the ultimate impetus for her to get her own vacation home. This cousin, who I’ve tentatively named Georgia, is a lot like Decca, in appearance if nothing else (Georgia’s red hair is a lot like Decca’s, and she even has the same ringlet style!), and she got herself a hole-in-the-wall type vacation home all to herself in the Shenandoah. I’m thinking she even got herself a wine cave, dug into whatever ridge she put the house on overlooking the picturesque valley.

I’m sure Georgia is an enterprising type like Decca, loves to drink wine like Decca, and like Decca might be slightly artsy, though her characterization hasn’t progressed much beyond that (I only thought of her yesterday!). Decca is extroverted and the life of the party, so a cousin who looks almost identical to her but is a wallflower might be interesting. I’m leaning toward the idea of Georgia being much younger than Decca; as of when she gets her house she’ll be in her twenties, whereas Decca will be perhaps 40. This means Georgia as of “Orphans of Opry Tower” is no older than her teens, perhaps more like 10.

Decca and Georgia as the only Youths in the Family?

Another idea I’m really liking is inspired by “After the Thin Man”, a classic movie I recently rewatched. What if Decca and Georgia, like (it seemed) Nora and Selma, are the only two members of their family from the younger generation, with everyone else in that Abingdon house being of an older generation? That might be an interesting dynamic.

It would also put the continuity of the family at some risk, because with Decca opposed to having children, Georgia is all that’s left. But then again, maybe they have several uncles and aunts who were also childless by choice, and nobody in the family really cares about the issue? It remains to be seen anyway what Georgia’s wishes are. Does she want to be attached to a man? Does she want any children? Even if she does, does she want that now, or only well into the future someday?

Why do I have a feeling she’s going to have to get hitched to a man who’s in the wine industry, perhaps even a scientist type who’s breeding new varieties and pioneering the introduction of vineyards to the highest reaches of the Appalachians? I thought she might be the sort of deep introspective high-strung type who’d like to start a family on a homestead, so a project like this might really be what she’s looking for. Maybe Decca introduces her to a potential date she met on one of her own trips? Who knows?

What I do know is that I’m liking my brainstorming for this aspect of Decca’s story so far.

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