Friday, May 9, 2014

The Last Day: Heading Home

Wait... what about Saint Louis?


We got about an hour north of Nashville and neither one of us felt much like going all the way to St. Louis anymore.  We stopped in a tiny town where we enjoyed Tennessee BBQ while we looked over our maps, and came to the mutual decision to start the drive home.  The weather in St. Louis didn't look too promising, and we were both wiped out already from driving a zillion miles and being tourists...and we were sunburned and exhausted from walking all over Nashville.

Once the decision was made we were both feeling good about heading home.  We drove out of Tennessee, through Kentucky and then stopped in Metropolis, IL to see Superman, and then got back on the road again.  There wasn't a real target destination in mind, we just drove until we were both too tired to go on.  Around 11:00 we rolled into Champaign/Urbana and called it a night.  Two cans of Monster and singing along loudly to fun classic country songs can only get one so far.

After sleeping in until a lovely, lazy 8:30, we had some breakfast and did our laundry.  The hotel boasted an outdoor pool, and it was warm enough outside to enjoy it, and checkout wasn't until noon... however, the pool wasn't yet open for the season.  We gathered all our stuff and hit the road again for the last leg of the trip.

One of the last things we did was eat at Steak n Shake.  About two hours into the drive, we stopped at our last chance Steak n Shake, the farthest one North.  We took our time, read the local paper and did the crossword, before getting back into the car.

We heard the last of the CB chatter on 39 North going into Madison, and were sad when the CB went quiet.  Tony and I both agreed that listening to the drivers was a great deal of fun, especially when they said something that helped us identify which truck they  might be in or when something was said about road conditions coming up.

There aren't a lot of songs about Wisconsin, but we did listen to Jump Around and On Wisconsin, as well as the Hamm's commercial song and a couple of polkas.

We pulled into the driveway around 6:00.  The dogs were overjoyed to see us, and demanded attention.

Today we unpacked the car, unpacked our souvenirs, put everything away and I took the car to PDQ to wash away the fantastic collection of southern bugs decorating the grill.  I'm glad we have a day of rest before going to the bar tonight, where I will enjoy a brandy old fashioned sweet made the right way.  :)

Tony in Metropolis, IL

Laurie in Metropolis, IL

Two of the best late night, long stretch of interstate drivin' songs EVER.

Glamorous passenger

Last chance for Steak n Shake!

When you say Wisconsin...

Nashville, Crashville, Johnny Cashville

On to Nashville!  We opted to take the Hop On, Hop Off Trolley.  It runs the same route around Nashville all day long and you can hop on and hop off as you please.  Our first trolley was an open-air trolley, and with temperatures in the 80s and not a cloud in the sky, it was a wonderful feeling to have the wind and the sun as we zoomed around town.

Our trolley driver shared with us a wealth of knowledge and facts about his city and the attractions there.  Davy Crockett was upset with the politics, so he volunteered for the Army, which is why Tennessee is the Volunteer State.

The first site we saw was the Parthenon.  It was built to commemorate Nashville's centennial in 1897.  Nashville was called "The Athens of the South" and they build a full scale replica of the Parthenon.  Inside is a 40 foot tall statue of Athena and Nike.  The lower floors of the Parthenon were busy with kids on school tours.  One of the museum workers said that the third floor, where Athena is, was currently empty as school groups had left but the next group hadn't yet gone in.  The hall was enormous, with great tall doors and Athena herself.  I stood there in awe for several minutes before I could move.

Our next stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame, where we searched out the stars for Jimi Hendrix and Roy Orbison.  The city has an amazing rose garden, and we were lucky to be there as the roses were in bloom.  On a hot day with a light breeze, the smell of roses was everywhere.

Next we went to Hatch Show Print, a printing company that makes posters the old fashioned way, using blocks for letters and images.  We went on the tour, and at the end we each got to print our own souvenir poster.

After Hatch we walked around in the Country Music Hall of Fame, were we saw costumes of great country stars.  I was delighted to see Marty Robbins sequined jacket, vest and boots, a black jacket from Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson's running shoes and bandanna.

We stopped in a boot store but didn't find anything we wanted to buy.  Next we visited a record store but struck out there too.  During our walk around we did get to hear live music from all the bars.  Most places have doors where there windows are, so they can open up like bi-fold closet doors or roll up like a garage door.  People can enjoy the weather AND passersby can enjoy the music.

The last stop of the day was a the Johnny Cash Museum.  This museum is authorized by the estate of Johnny Cash and has a great deal of personal artifacts and outfits on display.  We enjoyed seeing handwritten notes, songs, letters and doodles from the Man in Black.  I was delighted that there was a recording of Johnny Cash singing "City of New Orleans."  We also spotted Elvis at the Johnny Cash Museum.  He was part of some kind of a commercial or news video shoot, so we kept our distance.  I tried to sneak a picture of him but the lighting worked against us.

After walking around all day in Nashville, enjoying tours from the trolley drivers, listening to music and seeing all the sights, it was time to say goodbye and point the car North.
The Batman Building in Nashville

A boot store with a fun neon cowboy, next to the Johnny Cash Museum.

The Johnny Cash Museum, where we spotted Elvis

The Capital Building

On the Trolley

The Parthenon

Athena and Nike

Athena with Nike in her hand

Laurie at the Parthenon

Keep your toys off the Parthenon!  Hoodlums!

Downtown Nashville

Johnny Cash mural.  Our trolley driver pointed it out, or we wouldn't have ever seen it!

Roses in bloom in Nashville

At Hatch Show Print:  "Preservation Through Production" is the motto.  
They print the real old fashioned way.

Tony printing his very own souvenir poster

Laurie's completed souvenir poster

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Day Two: Crossing state lines a BUNCH

This morning I woke up suddenly at 7:21.  I was a little sad that I missed seeing the sunrise over the mountains... however, it was soon forgotten when I opened the curtain of my hotel room.  We did a good portion of the mountain drive in the dark last night, so we didn't really have any idea of what the landscape was like.  When I opened the curtain, it was to a lush green mountains as far as I could see.  I stared out the window for a few minutes, just amazed that yesterday I was in rainy, gray Green Bay.

Tony and I met up for breakfast and solved a Sudoku puzzle over biscuits and gravy, and looked at maps to plot the day.  My goal was to see the Cumberland Gap and drive through the Cumberland Gap tunnel.  In order to get to the Cumberland Gap National Park, we took the tunnel, which starts in Kentucky and ends in Tennessee.  Then, a few minutes later we crossed into Virginia to the park entrance... except the park entrance we were at was for camping and not where the access to view the Gap actually is.  So we got back in the car, drove three minutes back to Tennessee, crossed through the tunnel again and came out in Kentucky, and found the right park location.

The ranger at the visitor center was a hoot.  She asked where y'all from, and when she learned we were from Wisconsin she was excited to tell me that a co-worker of hers was currently in Wisconsin in a town with a funny name but she couldn't remember where.  Immediately we suggested Oconomowoc, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Lac du Flambeau, Weyawega...and she suddenly said KENOSHA!  She was delighted that we drove through there just yesterday.

There were lots of things for us to see in the Visitor Center and I'm glad we gave ourselves a lot of time to spend there.  We drove to the Pinnacle  which is the overlook that looks over the Cumberland Gap and the three states.  The drive is an adventure.  There are sheer dropoffs, hairpin turns and steep hills as you go up the mountain.  .  Parking for the Pinnacle is in Kentucky, and then you walk out to the overlook which is technically in Virginia.  Then you walk from Virginia back to Kentucky to the parking lot.  All in all we figure we crossed state lines six times today.  There's a point in the park where you can stand on a marker where Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee meet.  However, you have to hike out there for half a mile.  I was all for the hike until I was warned about snakes.  Snakes?  I'm out.

The Overlook is awesome.  Literally, it left me in awe.  I'll let the photos do the talking.

We wrapped up our visit looking for just the right souvenir in the gift shop, and I was glad to find a small, handy little trinket that'll be on my desk at work on Monday, and will remind me of Cumberland Gap.

We said goodbye to the Cumberland Gap and made our way to the next stop:  Nashville!  It was a long day of driving again, with heavy traffic but not so many trucks today.  (I forgot to mention yesterday that we saw about a dozen SNBC trucks!)   My ears popped a lot through the twists and turns and hills and it made me miss the long boring stretches of highways back home.

We stopped for a stretch and when we were driving back out toward the interstate we heard a huge kaTHUNK and I felt it in the steering wheel and immediately pulled over, fully expecting a flat tire.  All four were fine though, and there was no damage to the car.  Best I could figure is an invisible pothole.

The rest of the drive went smoothly and we arrived in Nashville safe and sound.  Our hotel gives each guest a card good for three drinks from the bar and has a light dinner buffet, so we were happy to get here and not have to go anywhere else for dinner.  We've plotted our Nashville points of interest for tomorrow, and are ready for another day of adventure.

Our temporary trunk accessory

View from the hotel in Kentucky

Approaching the Cumberland Gap tunnel

Epic Road Trip: Day One

Yesterday Tony and I left Green Bay at 7:39am and arrived in Middlesboro, Kentucky at 10:30pm.  Really, it's 9:30pm on our time...I forgot that we crossed into Eastern time.  

I drove the first half of the trip.  Chicago into Indiana there was heavy traffic with lots of big trucks.  LOTS of trucks.  Wayne lent me a CB and we listened to the drivers talking.  At one point we chimed in and got yelled at for not being invited to the talking party, so we went back into lurk mode.  It was fun trying to determine who was in what truck and where they were.  We figured there was a group three or four in our lane and close by, we heard them point out some things that we had just seen.  

Seeing the progress of Spring as we made our way south was breathtaking.  There wasn't much change from Green Bay to Indianapolis, but as we kept on, we saw that the grass was lush and green, leaves were on trees, and flowers are in bloom.

We stopped for dinner in northern Kentucky, the first stop since Indianapolis. It was a lovely surprise to get out of the car to 84 degrees, a light breeze, and sun.

After we ate, we sat on the porch in rocking chairs and played checkers with a giant board and giant checkers, and then we took a walk.  Neither one of us wanted to get back in the car,but we had three hours to go.

The sun went down and we weren't able to see the mountains and cliffs as we got to our destination.  On the way here, we did see a big fire on one of the hills along the interstate. 

We arrived at our lovely hotel, which is set into a hill.  There's a WalMart within walking distance, so we trekked down the hill and went shopping for a couple of things we forgot.  When we checked out, the cashier said "Good night, and be careful."  Be careful?  Did she know we walked? Are there werewolves?  We walked back up to the hotel quickly and I kept looking behind me the whole way.  I'm glad to report nothing scary happened.

After a great night of sleep, we are now packing up to head to the Cumberland Gap National Park.  To get there, we drive under a mountain!

Indiana at 70mph

Welcome to Kentucky. We are officially out of the Midwest!

Louisville, Kentucky:  Jon's birthplace!

Shelbeyville, Kentucky for dinner. Green grass, leaves on trees, and 84 degrees.