5/28/2014 a Kentucky rest stop
Shoutout to rest stops that have indoor seating areas with access to power outlets! I’m just going to chill here for a bit, instead of cooping up in my car for hours till I get tired. Due to the fragmented nature of my travel, I’m not doing really any of those lengths of drives where you are on the road for 10 hours and then pass out the instant you stop. I generally stretch my legs every 2 hours and get to where I want to be in a reasonable amount of time. I didn’t feel like finding a camp site tonight, but I know there are grounds around. Generally rest stops aren’t near enough to camp sites, so it ends up being one or the other. The benefit of taking the road more travelled: more amenities. The weather has been awful ever since I left New Orleans. I’ve been driving through thunderstorms for two days! Though today was significantly better than yesterday. But the horrible weather made it so that I really had no desire to stick around in Mississippi or Tennessee. Why set up camp in the rain, and be kept awake by the rain, only to have everything be soggy and not fun at all? Granted both states were beautiful, but damn it’s no fun going through storms. I kept my speed low and I didn’t hydroplane, and I kept more than enough safe distance. I did see two cars off the road, but considering I was getting passed I can only assume they were not being smart drivers. I did get a few nice breaks in the weather and got some eyefuls of marshy vistas and lush foliage. I diverted to Natchez to see some antebellum houses, though that was when the weather started getting really bad so my tour was curbed. BUT I met two really nice people: Fred and his daughter Myrtle, at the Natchez Visitors Center. Fred was a ranger and tour guide and just general local history buff. And we talked for a while about travel and the town. Now that I’ve crossed the Mississippi River, the towns are going to get a lot more historically established. So that’ll be cool to learn more about.
I did do a quick tour of the William Johnson House and got my National Park stamps. I can’t help but think of Mom in some of these gift shops, because I know she’d buy several books at each one. There was a country veterinary anecdote book at Big Bend National Park that I know she would have bought.
The weather thankfully picked up as it got later in the day. Seeing the lighter patches in the clouds in the distance is such a welcome site. I pulled into a Mississippi rest stop and cuddled up for the night. The storms came and went, but the lightning stayed more than 5 Mississippis in the distance.
I got outta the rest stop at just before 8, and rolled into Memphis at 11. I parked and strolled around. It’s a nice town, Memphis. But not exactly an early afternoon city. I checked out Beale Street after I ruled out Graceland due to $10 for parking and $30+ bucks for a ticket. Sorry Elvis, I’m not that big of a fan. I got a couple pennies crushed, and checked out the Gibsons for sale in the Gibson shop. There were factory tours, but I wasn’t planning on sticking around so I didn’t go on one. If Dad were with me, we’d go together for sure. He’d probably make mischief. Can’t take him to Red Lobster without him sticking his hand in the tank!
I tried on some hats to further confirm that I don’t really look good in hats, then I set off.
The road from Memphis to Nashville is SO BORING OH MY GOD. It’s beautiful for about 30 minutes, but then it becomes the same kind of beautiful for 3 more hours. Nice lush plump trees and a road gently curving around and up and down. But just on and on. And since I took the Interstate, I didn’t get to go through any cute little towns. Or any hollow shells of towns. Basically anything of interest. I went through a storm, and pulled into a rest stop to wait a bit for it to pass. Nashville had heinous traffic, and at that point in the day with all the driving I just couldn’t be bothered to navigate it just to walk around downtown for an hour or two, so I grabbed a smoothie and Jamba Juice, sat for a bit, then hit the road. It was a nightmare to get out, just so much poorly orchestrated traffic, but eventually I did and I was into Kentucky in no time at all! 15 states down. I’ll be in Kentucky for a while because: 1) there is a National Park here 2) there is a State Park named Big Bone Lick and 3) my friend Dee lives here and I can crash at their place in Lexington, though they don’t have time off work till Saturday so I’ll do the park thing first, then show up at their place all smelly like.
But yeah, this rest stop is nice. Has a place to sit and wall outlets. I’m charging my camera batteries. There isn’t wifi though, and no cell reception. Oh well, can’t have it all.
Last night, in the stormy nightmare of Mississippi, I was thinking about how big events in my life are only big upon later reflection and contextualization. There are a few “dang this is big” events that I know are big as they are happening, but largely it’s the things that I don’t think much about that come to have meaning later. Such as Carmen telling me about this band she is forming while at Grandma Marilyn’s memorial service. Anyway. Trying to get some shut eye in a car that is being pounded by a thunderstorm is something that could be described at length in sort of that on the road journey type romanticism, but in the moment I was just like, uhg, sleep please. So I don’t really feel like I’m being affected by this journey, but I think once I am done and go on to the next chapter, I’ll see the changes. Myrtle told me that she thought I was brave and that she wouldn’t be able to do it. And Shayla, one of the girls from New Jersey, said she was too high maintenance to sleep in her car like I was. I don’t really consider myself brave, I just think of myself as someone who does stuff that needs to get done. And things need to get done for various reasons. For mental health, for peace of home, for adventure, for whatever.
I remember also when I came back from Japan, I was all about being someone that had been to Japan. Then years later I would mention it, in college say, and people would go, “you’ve been to Japan?” So I wonder how long will I be “hey, I drove across America to all these state” person.
5/29/2014 7:30 am a Subway in Munfordville, Kentucky
One of the rest stop workers, who were always present and I wonder if they have people there on 24/7 shifts, advised me to take a coupon book. I opted to use the buy one get one free Subway sandwich coupon, as that would give me something to eat later in the day. I had a pretty good night sleep, in rest stop sleeping terms. I adjusted the way I sleep back to reclining in my chair. No rain, no storm. It looks like it’ll be a beautiful day. I’m going to try and find a beverage with some pep in it in Munfordville and then continue on to Mammoth Caves Nationa Park! There is a lot to do in Kentucky, and it isn’t a gigantic state. I keep forgetting that the states in my Atlas are not to the same scale, so getting a hang of the different distances within each place is something I need to readjust. I need to factor in a bourbon distillery visit into my planning, but that is just a matter of figuring out which one intersects best with my driving.
All that rain has really cleaned my car.
11:39 pm Dee’s apartment
Wow! Kentucky is not a big state and is pretty easy to pop around. From Subway I went to Mammoth Caves National Park. A free to visit, pay to go on a tour national park. I went for the 9 pm tour, and there were oodles of people. The cave systems were not the beautiful caves of Carlsbad, but more the worn out and mined caves of… well caves. Still, it was fun to walk through the systems. And there were a few tight squeezes. Two hours in total, though I spent about as long in Carlsbad and saw so much more that made me go ooooohh, and I wasn’t even timed on a tour for that. Anyway, it was nice but I’m in no hurry to go back. I drove on to Bardstown and at the Heaven Hill distillery I realized I was in another time zone! One that Mammoth Cave does not pay attention to. So I’ve lost an hour. I went on a mini little tour thingy, which was a video, a little talk, and a little tasting. So I got to taste a smidge of fancy Evan Williams and I got a bourbon chocolate. I’m a fan of bourbon so it’s nice to be in a place where there are oodles of distilleries. It’s even called the “Kentucky Bourbon Trail”. It’s my Napa Valley! I drove on to the Maker’s Mark distillery, which was way out on winding road that several times made me think I’d gone a wrong way. Also the backroads of Kentucky lack pull outs and shoulders and just generally places to stop and check maps (my phone was refusing to find a signal). But I made it there in time to take the freebie mini tour, and we were allowed to stick our fingers in the yeast vats and try the stuff. It wasn’t alcoholic or tasting really like whiskey, it was more just textured yeasty…stuff. Still, the room smelt good as a whole.
I had a helluva time getting back to 61. So many backroads that are ambiguously named and directioned. Did I mention the lack of pull outs and shoulders? But I did get back to 61, and then towards Louisville, which I skipped to head north to Big Bone Lick State Park. Ha, such a funny name! And only an hour and a half from where I finally picked up GPS (in Elizabethtown I believe). But the camp site was $23 a night!! Way too expensive for a tent camper. So I was about to find another rest stop (which were nearby unlike in other states) but then I found out my friend Dee isn’t working tomorrow and I could stay at their apartment in Lexington tonight! YAY! And it was only an hour drive down, so extra booyah. So I headed on down and got their at around 10.
It’s so awesome to have a friend to stay with, and to meet someone in person who has been a pen pal type friend for years! And to have conversation flow perfectly with no awkward like “hey nice to see you in person” type conversation. We traded stickers! And they have tomorrow off from work, so we’ll go do something fun. There is a distillery in Lexington.
Oh! The street signs in Lexington, well some of them, are illuminated! The ones on main streets. It’s so legible. Santa Cruz could learn a thing or two.