Friday, June 25, 2010

End of the road

Oh! We finally made it home! It was a great trip, and we made a lot of memories. And we're all tired. Samuel is ready to go back on the road today. Sidney is glad to be back home. She misses her friends. Fortunately, they both have a new home to come back to. Very exciting.

We've unpacked, we ate a vegetable dinner from the garden on actual plates (SO GOOD!), and we're enjoying sitting still for a few moments. I'll try to spend the next few days editing all of hundreds of photos that were taken, and I'll try to publish them in some shape or form for sharing.

Day-14 Itinerary

Friday, June 25

Estimated 5 hours (327 miles)

Crossville, TN (elevation 1,895) Roanoke, VA (elevation 935)

Roanoke, VA weather:


Isolated Thunderstorms

30% chance of precipitation

Little Rock to Crossville

Today, we broke our trip to into several short segments punctuated by periods of gorging on country cookin'.

Our first stop was Neelys Bar-B-Cue in Memphis. The Neely family apparently has a show on the Food Network. Everyone was excited to eat there. Mom ordered the dry pork ribs, Drew ordered the pulled pork, Dick ordered beef ribs, Sidney ordered the barbecue spaghetti, and Samuel and I both ordered the sliced beef brisket. With the exception of the pork ribs, all of the the meats were drowned in cloyingly sweet, smokey, tomatoey sauce. The flavor of my baked beans and Sidney's "spaghetti" were indistinguishable from the barbecued meats. Mom's pork ribs were the best in my opinion because they were not coated in thick sauce. You could really taste the porky, smokey meat which completely fell off the bone. Samuel said his brisket sandwich was the best barbecue he'd ever had.

After lunch we found our way to Graceland, home of Elvis. We didn't have time for a tour the house, but we pulled Monty up to the front gate, placed our hands on the stone wall surrounding the property, shouted, "praise Elvis, Lord" and drove off.

A few hours later we arrived in Nashville. We stopped by our old house on River Ridge Court. Mom hadn't seen it in 20+ years. The house still looked basically the same except for the trees which had grown to create a lot of shade where once there was none. Oh, and the the house is for sale. We didn't take down the number. I wonder how much it is listed for.

A short drive from the old house, just past Harper Valley Elementary School (where the infamous PTA meets), is one of Nashville's older institutions—The Loveless Motel and Cafe, locally famous for their house-cured hams, jams, biscuits, and fried chicken. It's the kind of place that has lots of autographed glossies of famous actors, songwriters, and performers hanging on the walls in the front lobby. Once located on the farthest outskirts of town, it is now crowded by McMansions and strip malls. Highway 100 is now a few lanes wider and the motel has been converted into a bike shop and a "sweet shop" and a jam- and jelly-making kitchen with a retail shop, but the restaurant is still just about the same as I remember and the food was really good! I had fried okra, greens, squash casserole, and cucumbers and onions.

After dinner we drove into the city on Highway 100. We went past my old high school, saw some flood damage to the walls around Belle Meade, went through the West End past Vanderbilt University and into downtown. Lower Broadway has really boomed since I was there last. The adult theaters have been replaced with bright neon signs attracting tourist into bars and restaurants, high rise glass buildings, a new convention center and hotel, bling, bling, bling. All of this made Sidney ecstatic, and she can't wait to go back.

From Nashville it was a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Crossville which is just a little more than halfway to Knoxville. This will make tomorrow's drive, the last leg our our trip, relatively short. We have to turn in Monty before 5:00.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day-13 Itinerary

Thursday, June 24

Estimated 7.5 hours (461 miles)

Little Rock, AK (elevation 482) Crossville, TN (elevation 1895)

Crossville, TN weather:


Isolated Thunderstorms

30% chance of precipitation

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Amarillo to Little Rock

All I can say is that I miss the West already. I think we all do. The further we drive east the hotter and more humid it becomes. I'm just not cracked up for this!

It was a long day of driving today, but not our longest so far. Fortunately, the last two legs of our trip will be progressively shorter—but unfortunately hotter and more humid.

I had the first shift of driving today. Somewhere in Texas between Amarillo and Ft. Smith, while all of my passengers were taking their morning naps, I saw the "world's largest" crucifix not farther than 100 yards from the eastbound land of I-40. It must have been close to 200 feet tall. Very ominous and kind of creepy. It looked to be part of a partially built octagonal Christian church of some micro-denomination of which I can neither recall nor have ever heard of. Seems they spent all their money on the giant cross and ran out of money for the actual church. Makes you wonder.

Further east we saw a very large wind farm—each turbine about the size of the giant cross. There must have been at least 100 of the them and they stretched on for 10 miles or so. It was nice to see these among all of the oil wells that we saw. They look a lot nicer too.

I'd have to say that besides the giant cross and the the wind farm and learning that Oklahoma has mountains (!), today's highlight was our brief stop at the National Memorial at Oklahoma City. It was very moving to be there (and hot). I really loved the design of the memorial.

Tonight, Sidney and Samuel went swimming in the luke-warm water of our campground's pool. The rest of us drank whatever alcohol we had left, grilled hamburgers, and I made another mess of cowboy beans. The air is filled with the sound of cars on the nearby freeway and the roar of chirping insects in the surrounding trees.

Tomorrow we reach for Crossville, Tennessee. Our current plan is to stop in Memphis for a quick look around and lunch at Neely's Bar-B-Cue. In Nashville, we'd like to go by our old house in River Ridge that we haven't seen since 1987. Hopefully, it is still there after the recent flooding. We'd also like to show the kids around Music Row, the Ryman Auditorium, Ernest Tubb Record Shop, and maybe the Loveless Cafe. We'll see how much we can accomplish given the time we have left.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day-12 Itinerary

Wednesday, June 23

Estimated 9.5 hours (596 miles)

Amarillo, TX (elevation 3,736) Little rock, AK (elevation 482)

Little Rock, AK weather:

97/77 (high/low)


0% chance of precipitation

Sante Fe and Amarillo

Today, Drew drove from Albuquerque to Amarillo. We were interested in seeing Santa Fe, so we made the relatively short drive north. We were hoping to go to the Farmers Market because we just read in Saveur that it was rated one the 30 Best Farmers Markets in the World. Unfortunately, we missed the morning market by 30 minutes and we didn't have time to wait for the afternoon market that started at 3:00. Sad face.

At least the drive through the center of town gave us a general feel for what it looks like. All of the buildings are built of adobe in the Pueblo style except for a few of the oldest and earliest structures. None of the low one- and two-story structures were much taller than the surrounding trees. Rustic wooden ceiling beams that protruded from tan, chocolate, salmon, ochre, cream, and white stucco were occasionally hung with bunches of dried red chili peppers. Low walls extended outward from the exterior structural walls to surround gardens of juniper, yucca, blooming cacti, agave, sage brush, and feathery bunch grasses. We got close to the Governors Palace, saw the cathedral and Downtown Plaza, and drove along shady Alameda. It was difficult to maneuver our big rig through the narrow, curvy streets, and we found nowhere to park it, so we had to say goodbye to one of the cutest cities we've seen on our trip so far. I think we all would like to visit again someday.

Not much more to photograph or write about until we arrived in Amarillo where we were treated with a specular lightning storm at around sunset.