Tennessee is longer than you think it is. I’d make a corollary for Hofstadter’s law to say this:
Corollary for Hofstadter’s law: Tennessee takes longer to drive than you think it does, even when taking into account the Corollary for Hofstadter’s law.
To be fair, Tennessee was only a little more than half of the distance I needed to cover.
There was rain and construction most the way on I-40 west. Fortunately fog and pink redbuds made the drive scenic even when I was halted to a stop.
Long after the sun had set and I continued on, not even close to being through Tennessee, Nashville appeared as ghostly lights through the rain. My legs were starting to get antsy and I was happy to stop driving, even in this ghost city.
Sidebar: I have a trick for finding the most interesting spots of any city: search for vegan restaurants nearby. You usually find two categories of vegan restaurants:
Asian restaurants serving mostly vegetables and vegan beef and chicken (sometimes vegan eggs, too; My good friend T had some and didn’t think they were like eggs at all), and
Very hip, ethical vegetarian/vegan places in very hip parts of town.
I’d only driven past Nashville in the past to head west (or east) to (or from) Dallas, TX. I wanted to dip into the city a little bit and get a feel for what it might be like. I tried the vegan restaurant trick by using Yelp near Nashville. I found a place called The Wild Cow. Seemed like a pleasant residential area around that restaurant. I feel like I hit the jackpot every time I see tattoos and blue hair. And not only that, the food and scene were both delectable.
I stayed the night in Memphis after getting very, very tired of driving through the car wash that was weather over Tennessee.
Little Rock was a beacon of hope while driving the next day. I only had a little longer to go before finally making it to Texas. The sky was clearing up. I filled up on gas there and marked another merit badge in the dirt coat my car was wearing.
I traveled along I-30 long enough and sure enough eventually made it to Texas. I put on some Throwing Muses albums, looked out at the silver sky, and felt tingling elation. After two years away, I was back to see my old stomping grounds and friends and coworkers.
Up next: an entry on the fun in Dallas, TX and surrounding area.
There’s something about mountains that really magnetizes me to them. When I was little, I had these dreams that mountains magically appeared in my backyard. Having grown up in the Midwest, the greatest changes in elevation I was used to were tires popping into potholes. Mountains beckoned me last summer as I drove east from Seattle through the Cascades, and then again into the Rockies of Montana and Alberta. I knew I wanted to see the Appalachians this time around.
Heading south from Cincinnati, the other side of the Ohio River is Kentucky, a land of good basketball teams and fried chicken. I didn’t spend much time there, as my next planned stop on the tour poster was Kingsport, TN, and I intended to get there quickly so I could spend more time with my kin there. But there are a couple notables from Kentucky.
I took the route south through Lexington, KY. I got into some rolling hills and forest in southwest Kentucky, part of Daniel Boone National Forest.
There’s a fascinating part of this trail that goes through three states in a very short distance, called the Cumberland Gap. You’ll be in Kentucky, then Tennessee, then Virginia, all in a matter of minutes.
The sunset beauty around the Cumberland Gap behind me, US-58 through Virginia felt like a roller coaster in the dark, a Space Mountain. Along US-58, I experienced my first DUI checkpoint, two flashing blue cop cars on each side of the highway. “Uh, Officer,” I said, “What is this?” He flashed a light in my eyes, looked at my clearly-not-Virginia license, and let me through. Apparently I was not drunk.
US-23 south spiraled through some more mountainsides, passing by Food Lion, Food City, and Food Country stores, and then I was in Kingsport, TN. A few wrong turns through town and I finally made it to my kin’s renovated farmhouse on a hill. I was welcomed with sushi and a local IPA. Feeling full in all regards, I fell into pillowy bed and collected four times as many sleeping hours as I had the previous two nights.
I started my day nice and slowly in the fairly luxurious “spare” bedroom. The room had a couch where I typed up the previous entry, a coffee nook with several K-cup flavors, a bathroom with all the amenities. I doubt I’ll stay in any room that nice for the remainder of the trip.
My kin and I went on a hike after breakfast around Bays Mountain. I love hiking through the woods. Plenty of fine vistas around the Kingsport Reservoir, which was historically the fresh water supply for Kingsport, TN.
I drove south to Asheville after a warm goodbye to my kin. It feels good to know I have such a comforting place to stay in Appalachia.
After I parked near my friend W’s house in Asheville, I ate dinner at Plant on Asheville’s north side. Some of the most delicious food I’ve had, let alone vegan food.
I walked south through Asheville’s downtown to the River Arts District (RAD). I immediately felt at home seeing a high relative density of plaid shirts worn. Asheville is a very pretty city. So many colors!
I decided to get a beer at Wedge Brewing, a beer garden and brewery in the RAD I heard good things about. I thoroughly enjoyed their IPA and their peaty Scotch ale. Both cooled me down from how sweaty I’d been walking that way.
Eventually my friend W made it to Wedge and we caught up. It was nice to sit outside with beer and chat, something I haven’t been able to do in the Midwest since last September. We headed to Wicked Weed Brewing afterward and enjoyed some sour beers produced by their offshoot Funkatorium.
I had fragmented sleep on W’s futon because a cat named Hazel wanted to rub her head on my hands and face at all hours of the night. She was darn cute, so I let it happen. I’ve met three cats along this road trip so far, and I hope to meet more.
As I write this, I’m sitting at Izzy’s Coffee Den in downtown Asheville, NC. I’m planning out how I want to get to my next “planned” stop, Dallas, TX. Something like 14 hours of driving that I hope to split across a couple days. I hope there will be music blue, green kudzu, and barbecue along the way.