In 1995, my husband and I decided that we no longer wanted to live in Southern California. There were many factors that contributed to our dissatisfaction with life in Orange County. The first was crime. We had been broken into twice and it’s such a vulnerable feeling knowing that there is little you can do to protect yourself. The second issue was commuter traffic. It is hard to describe just how congested Southern California is. You have to experience the 9 lanes of dead stopped traffic to fully appreciate the gridlock. And thirdly, we knew on a teacher’s salary that we would never be able to afford to buy a house in the inflated real estate market at the time.
For two years, we made plans to make a big move. But to where? Most of my family was in Southern California. I did have extended family in Cincinnati. My husband, however, was from Louisiana. We thought that perhaps we could move somewhere in between the two.
To begin our big adventure, we took a map of the United States, closed our eyes and pointed to a spot on the map. It landed near Denver, Colorado. Beautiful! I’d been to Denver and knew what a lovely area of the country Denver was located in.
We knew we wanted to be on the outskirts of a large city that had a professional baseball team as well as an amusement park. The Arts are really important to us as well. So, Denver seemed like a pretty good destination. I started to do research on the surrounding cities near Denver. I decided to focus on Colorado Springs. I had visited there once and thought that it was as good as anywhere to begin our search.
I made files, spreadsheets, and did research on housing costs, real estate options, schooling, taxes, and just about anything I could get my hands on as it related to being a new resident in Colorado Springs. Things looked promising, until I started to read about living at a higher elevation. There is nothing innately difficult with being so high in the sky, but for some reason that just did not sit well with me. I did not want to have to follow special baking instructions for higher elevations. So, I axed the option of moving to Colorado.
With that I started my search all over. We got the map back out and did a helicopter with a finger over the map and dropped it down again, and it landed a bit further east this time. The goal destination now was near Nashville, Tennessee. I looked to my husband for a reaction. Neither one of us had ever been to Tennessee so we had no idea what to expect. We did decide that we wanted to check it out.
So, once again, I got busy with researching the area. Housing costs and schools seemed to be the biggest factors as we ruled out one city or another. I chose to check out Hendersonville, Tennessee. It was a city just northeast of downtown Nashville on a beautiful lake.
My husband and two kids (at the time) went to Louisiana every summer to visit the grandparents. We talked about it and decided that they would make the trek up Interstate 55 to Tennessee and cut over on Interstate 40 to Nashville to check it out. This was in the summer of 1996.
They drove up from Nashville to Hendersonville and experienced rush-hour traffic similar to what we were already dealing with on a daily basis in California. My husband adamantly communicated that there was no way that he would move there, and that I should strike that city from our list of possibilities. I was disappointed but Hendersonville was off the list.
I was pretty discouraged. I really thought that I had found the perfect location for us to move to. That afternoon, after looking around Nashville, my family decided to get a hotel before driving back down to the grandparents. They stopped at exit #65 on Interstate 65 where there were many hotel and restaurant options. Once they were situated in a hotel, they began to explore the city looking for a restaurant.
As they arrived in historic downtown Franklin, they stumbled upon the annual Franklin Jazz Festival. What you need to know here is that my husband is a guitarist. So, of course, they stopped and took in the sights and sounds on that beautiful summer evening. He saw Michael McDonald and Larry Carlton headlining the event. My husband had found heaven on earth.
My husband called the next morning to report that we were moving to Franklin, Tennessee. I started to argue with him. I had already done the research and while the schools are very good – some of the best in the country – the cost of living was just way too high. For me it was out of the question. For him, there was no other choice. Guess what? He won!
He drove back to his parents, finished his vacation, and then brought the kids back to California where we started solidifying our plans to move to Franklin, Tennessee the following summer.
During this year of planning, one song that I listened to a great deal was “The Great Adventure” by Steven Curtis Chapman. I played it all the time as I planned out the LeJeune Family’s Great Adventure. It became quite a symbolic song for our life changing move to Tennessee.
There are varied, valid reasons for moving your family 2,000 miles across the U.S.: a new job, going to college, an elderly parent, to be closer to grandkids, etc. Music festivals really don’t rank up there high on the list of reasons to change your address.
So, after having lived in Southern California for most of my life and 14 years for my husband, with little fanfare – just my mom and dad there to see us off - we left California on July 17, 1997 and drove across country to the beautiful, rolling hills of Tennessee - all because my husband loved the Franklin Jazz Festival.
Addendum: Our very first Sunday in Franklin, Tennessee, my husband and I visited a fairly large church located in downtown Franklin. A colleague of mine back in California had recommended it. We enjoyed the worship service and looked through the bulletin to find a Sunday School class to visit. The process was pretty random, but we selected one that met in an old house next door. We went it, met the teacher, found seats just as class began. Much to our shock and surprise, Steven Curtis and Marybeth Chapman were members of the class. When the teacher asked for my husband and I to introduce ourselves, we did. We mentioned that we had just moved to Tennessee from California the week before. The teacher asked what brought us to Franklin. I looked right at Steven, laughed, and told them that it was our own family’s “Great Adventure.” He smiled at us and said, “Good for you two!” I’ll never forget the amazing start to our Great Tennessee Adventure.
(c) 2016 Sustained Momentum Entertainment, LLC and Diane Carter LeJeune. Previously published: September 11, 2014 "Tribal Tales."