Four days on the road
Day 1: Monday, June 26
The sun has riz the sun has set...
Daughter Kaitlin arrived mid-morning from North Carolina to help finish loading the Honda CRV, Ronda, and share driving duties as we left Austin for the four-day road trip to Glastonbury. I picked her up at the airport, we ate a last meal at Maudie's, got home, stuffed what was coming into the car and off we went.
Accompanying us for the journey, Alaska (dog) and a Cookie Monster hand puppet to relieve spells of boredom.
Alaska calls "shotgun"; Cookie assumes his seat in the navigator's bunker
We hit the road at 2:30 in the afternoon with the goal of crossing into Arkansas for our first overnight stay. We planned on stopping about every two hours to swap seats and give all three of us a chance to relieve ourselves as needed. First stop, some barren highway rest stop between Jarrell and Belton. Windswept, dry, hot, but clean facilities. Gotta give Texas points for clean rest stop restrooms.
Rest room stop #1
It's truly miles and miles of Texas with nowt much to look at. Alaska's default position was to sleep most of the trip.
Alaska assumes the (default) position
A couple more stops, including a picnic dinner and then Texarkana. Our initial goal was to get the hell out of Texas for our first overnight stay. Well, Central Texas is an accurate description of just how buried in the middle of the state Austin is, and we just couldn't do it. So we pitched camp inside a rather pleasant Fairfield in.
At this point, it's important to point out that while Kait and I drove, my sister, mom and Michelle were coordinating our overnight stays, a helpful distant assist from "Mission Control." All we travelers had to do was find the (dog-friendly) hotel they picked, pull into the parking lot, check in, and head up to our room. It was always up. This meant using the elevator, which was a new experience for our canine companion.
Alaska was fascinated by the elevator at first, though as these overnight stays progressed, she started to dislike the weird small room. The sliding door that sealed her (and us) into the small space promised something only she could explain, and disappointed when it reopened somewhere else, not a park. Plus the weird small room emitted beeps at regular intervals at the floor vibrated. I think these vertical mini-journeys started messing with her mind. By the night of our last stay, she was elevator-averse. Cookie Monster spent nights in the car, and never opined one way or the other about his situation.
More fascinating than the elevator, however, was the porcelain self-filling water bowl in the bathroom. It was as if Alaska had never encountered a toilet before; I mean, we had them in our old house... For whatever reason, on this night, at this hotel, the glowing white ever-filled font was too great a temptation, and our pup slaked her thirst. A lot.
Alaska samples the eau de toilet...
Day 2: Tuesday, June 27
Life is cheap for a purple car in Tennessee, but way too expensive in Louisville
"A decent breakfast" - though in this photo, it's almost impossible to discern just what wound up on my plate.
We woke, cleaned up, ate a decent breakfast, then encountered rain as we crossed into Arkansas. A lot of rain. Enough to slow us down for an hour. Sometime, finally, in the late morning it cleared out, and we meandered up IH-30 toward Memphis.
Rainclouds dissipate over Arkansas
A key discovery we made after a gas station stop: no matter how you feel about the coffee at a Starbucks, their bottled mocha frappuccinos are amazing. Kait and I limited ourselves to one a day, knowing the potential addictive power of the bottled bliss. I suppose our reaction to these caffeinated sweet-bombs wasn't that much different from Alaska's fondness for that hotel toilet...
Cookie Monster stares at Frap bottle
The Mississippi is big and wide, and the Memphis skyline feels as if it is pushing toward the big river because that's where the money is to be made. I'd been through Memphis once or twice, but hadn't recalled how much development fronted the river, including the aberration of a grotesque, shiny pyramid ("Egyptian Revival" architecture). Once an events center, now it's a giant shop for galoshes and guns, with shooting ranges inside, from standard pistols to archery. Welcome to Tennessee.
Egyptian Revivalist eyesore on the Mississippi
Traffic was diabolical as we headed through Memphis, even though it wasn't rush hour. At one point, some souped-up purple muscle car, weaving erratically and fast through slow-moving traffic nearly clipped us, then a semi, then swerved to avoid a nearby car, and zoomed away. Good riddance. Outside of Memphis, the drive was more pleasant, that is, less peopled with maniacs. Arriving mid-afternoon in Nashville, Kait and I opted to get off the highway and eat a decent lunch in the trendy 12South neighborhood. We hunted a good barbecue joint, sans galoshes or bows and arrows, Edley's, where they even brought a water bowl for Alaska. We stuffed ourselves and got back onto the road, aiming for our next overnight stay in Louisville.
Would you buy brisket from this man? Maybe not, but his grandson cooks up some good BBQ
If traffic in Memphis was slow, it was practically at a standstill for the first hour or so as we tried to get out of Nashville. Everybody was heading north. As we drifted along, a familiar sight appeared, weaving in and out of the slow-moving traffic: the same daft purple muscle car, which swerved and cheated death over and over as it picked its way between cars. We lost sight of it when it veered off onto an east-bound road we were not taking. Ours was the road more traveled, and it was a forever-feeling stint before we hit the outer suburbs and could drive at a reasonable pace. Finally we hit the rolling hills of Kentucky.
A farm in Kentucky, one of many...
Our target for night two was Louisville, but as we ambled up IH-65, Mission Control was reporting that the cheapest hotel room they could get at such short notice was $800. What to do? We were approaching Elizabethtown, where we'd have to make the decision to push on toward Louisville and take our chance$ or turn east onto the Blue Ridge Parkway toward an alternative overnight stay in Lexington. About five miles before our exit, we discovered why the hotels were so expensive. Taylor Swift was performing that night in Louisville and local businesses were hiking their prices accordingly. The Femme Fatale of Kapital had struck again. She's a one-woman economic engine (c.f. Sweden or Travis Kelce's jersey sales for more on the Taylor Swift market effect).
But the ride, though longer than we'd planned that day, was pretty. The Parkway lolls along the Kentucky countryside. Not a bad sidestep, plus it moved us farther east; extra time spent on this leg meant less time on the next, right?
The sun sets on the Blue Ridge Parkway
To be continued...
Girls ready to hit the road!