Today we did a bit of a driving tour on the way out of Nashville. We went by the Johnny Cash Museum and stopped at a guitar store, Carter’s Vintage Guitars, but in the pandemic they are only taking customers by appointment only. We got a picture of their building with a gigantic Gibson Les Paul painted on the side, and headed out of town for Virginia.
The drive across Tennessee is long…very long, but we did it, we have driven from sea to shining sea! We admitted to each other that today that we are pretty much out of steam, and Gus agreed.
When we cleared Knoxville we left the Central time zone and entered Eastern Daylight Time. This losing an hour nearly every day is killing us! We keep waking up later each day. The seasons appeared to change too! For the first time the temperature required a jacket. Leaves were changing color, and shadows were long.
We made it as far as Roanoke and will have a short 4 hour drive to my house tomorrow where my wife Alice will be waiting with cold beer…and probably a mask!
Capturing the Signs of Progress
We crossed 10 states, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia. Tim will pass through 7 more on his way to Boston. At each border we had the surprisingly stressful process of getting the picture of the sign welcoming you to that state. They don’t tell you when it’s coming, and it’s hard to tell on Google Maps when it’s coming. You can’t always slow down either! Very stressful but we got them all!
Timing and Stats
You can cross the country in 2,600 miles and 40 hours of drive time. We took the road less traveled and did 3,500 miles, and 60 hours of drive time. We visited 4 state capitals, Santa Fe, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, and Nashville. We took over 2,200 photos, and you saw only the best 20 each day (something my family has been begging for over the years!). Our only plan was the general route, and a couple destinations. We decided where we would stay each day as the trip went along. Each morning we would set a broad target, and sometimes we would make it all the way and sometimes not. Thus, we set up hotels once we knew how far we would go. We had precisely one day of rain, and its main effect was to make the drive to Nashville longer, nothing more.
I certainly hope we were safe enough to avoid the virus; I think we were. We ate outdoors wherever possible and always wore our masks, even when it drew ridicule like in Roanoke, VA where we were accused of being democrats! It was rare that we were near other people and never in a crowd. We found mask-wearing to be sporadic across the country. It was definitely more common among older people, and restaurant and hotel staff members. Hand sanitizer was everywhere, and hotels went to great length to ensure the rooms were sanitized.
Having a ridiculously cute and well-behaved dog with you is the key to easy travel. People gave us the best tables, brought water and treats to Gus, and chatted with us where otherwise we would have been two invisible old men. Gus is a really good traveler. In fact, there was only one area that was really challenging for Gus. We stayed in two places with glass elevators that went up 20 stories and Gus freaked the hell out every time. He tried flattening himself into the floor, running out of the elevator, and wrapping Tim up with the leash. We tried picking him up, covering his eyes, but alas, Gus is a ground-floor dog!
Humor and Friendship
We laughed a lot. It ranged from silly lines when we were tired, to funny replies to serious questions and a lot of “so’s your face” rejoinders. We had a lot of serious talks about life after retirement, our families, our jobs, and the state of our country. Tim and I are very compatible–even if he didn’t like my name for his car, “Clint Eastward” (right?). I haven’t had a roommate other than Alice for 35 years but we quickly worked out our routine of my showering while he walked Gus, his showering while I wrote the blog, the packing of the car, etc. We traveled together really well. We were roommates in DC after we graduated from college and it’s been nearly 40 years since we lived together. We didn’t miss a beat.
Final Line of the Day
Tim: Kelly Clarkson is getting divorced from Reba McIntire’s stepson
Tony: Did you read that in the beauty parlor?
Tim: Do I look like I go to the beauty parlor?
The Serious Stuff
I hope I haven’t put people off with the serious aspects of the trip. I tried to keep it balanced, but it is very hard for a socially conscious person to drive across native American lands, sites of civil rights abuses and acts of political oppression, and in one state the need to light the city in purple to honor victims of domestic abuse and not walk away changed. This is absolutely a great country with a lot of opportunity; but, you don’t have to be a college professor to see that not everyone has a seat at the table. To stand in the spot where Martin Luther King was gunned down is a very sobering experience.
I have wanted to drive cross-country for a long time and I wanted to do it in a way that I saw the country, met the people and had a memorable time. Mission accomplished! I am very fortunate for several reasons, loving fun family, close friends, loyal and supportive blog readers, the means and employment to enable a trip like this, and a shit-ton of Marriott points.
Thank you for following along with us, and for your great suggestions and comments. It was an epic adventure! Until the next one…