Thursday – Day #2
Take a bow Virginia, you are beautiful!
I shared breakfast this morning with what has to be without doubt, the noisiest, yet most charming children I have ever shared a wedding banquet breakfast room with. Their shrill screaming managed to thankfully drown out the Fox News bulletins on the oversized flat screen I knew would normally put me into an existential tail spin. I also got to watch the tallest man I have ever seen microwaving the smallest breakfast sausage sandwich ever produced by mankind/hotel supplier. I’m not kidding, I’m six one and the guy had to be at least seven feet tall and shoving things the size of dollar coins into a 1980’s microwave. It was all a little bit ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ for me so I packed up and hit the road.
As I ventured further south, both religion and confederate flags began making a regular appearance. The roads were mostly two lane and pretty empty. To either side the scenery grew bigger, deeper and greener. At one point I was so overcome at how beautiful it was that I pulled off the highway to get gas even though I had a quarter tank left. I wanted to take a break, slow down a little and let it sink in. People who refer to Ireland as the Emerald Isle have obviously never been to Virginia. It’s stunning. The small town I pulled into seemed to consist almost entirely of churches both big and small. Okay, maybe an exaggeration but I counted at least six. It’s 90 plus degrees so I’m limited to my time outside the car. Not that I can’t handle the heat, it’s that the temperature rises inside the car without the air conditioning. I worry about the guitars so much that it’s like being on vacation with your kids. They’ve come everywhere with me so far.
I split today’s driving into two sections of just under four hours. The first leg was Hagerstown to Roanoke. Roanoke was beautiful and seemed strangely deserted. Even though it’s a large city, people still smiled and a few even said “hello” when I passed. Maybe it was carrying the two guitars and the confused look on my face as I tried to find my bearings. The owner of a restaurant talked me inside and I had lunch on my own. Where was everybody? My phone was dead and with no newspaper I ate alone with my thoughts. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that. With my mind cleared and well rested, I decided to drive up to the Roanoke Star and take a look out over the city. It was nice to sit and be around some chatty families with their kids after being in the car alone for so long.
I don’t know if it’s because I want to torture myself or what, but I’ve been listening to the local right-wing chat shows and christian radio stations. I can’t remember the last time I was inside a church but I’m more of a christian than the “cured gays” and preachers mouthing off. Hallelujah! (I had to google how to spell that). Jesus has a plan folks, it’s all in the latest book/DVD I’m selling. Pretty standard crazy really. The regular stations would give New York a run for its money, lots of choice and the accent definitely helps listening to the DJs. They know their music down south. I’ve hardly touched iTunes so far.
The second leg…
The drive from Roanoke to Knoxville has been the most beautiful one so far. Incredibly tall trees line the highway and are covered in a bright green Ivy that make it look like giant mannequins hiding under a thick green blanket. Impressive and majestic during the day but creepy at night I’m sure. I managed to avoid night driving, so thankfully I didn’t have to experience an empty highway lined with those things.
Knoxville is purdy, reeeal purdy! I found a deal at the local Hilton which was walking distance from downtown. I got myself a Cajun pasta of alligator, chicken and shrimp and then a beer at a local bar and watched a country band close out their set. I walked around, spoke to random folk which my wife tells me I do too often but managed to get some tips on how to better utilize my road trip. Asheville was a town mentioned, maybe I’ll hit it on the way back. If I do I may end up passing through DC and Philly which will be interesting, or a nightmare in traffic.
Knoxville is beautiful at night and the view from my room makes me wish I had more time to spend here. Tomorrow I get up early for the 3 1/2 hour trip to Nashville. The adventure continues.