Day One – SOUTH CAROLINA
I remember it as if it were two Fridays ago, waking up and rolling off my queen-sized air mattress, ready to begin the journey of a lifetime. Kristina had already been awake for an hour or so because sometime in the last decade we reversed roles because now I am the night owl whereas she is the early bird (I think it had something to do with having kids and her being woken up all the time – just a hunch). By the time I had oozed out of bed like a dying snail, I was already behind schedule. That’s okay. Time is for those who work for the man … and I am currently not of that category.
The first task of our road trip to Alaska was piling everything that hadn’t been sold, stored, sacrificed, or stolen into the back of our SUV. We had recently upgraded to a third-row seat vehicle as the space in a crossover is deceptively small – one machete, a gallon of gasoline, and a bag of lime and there’s no room left for anything else! Somehow, even with that extra space and all the childhood Tetris skills I could muster, we still had too much stuff. This shocked me. We had literally trashed or stored so many things that it would give an inventory controller a migraine. There was nothing left and yet, by some sort of devil magic, there was too much to cram into the car. I ended up running to the post office to ship two more boxes up to our new home in Alaska – a cost that resided north of $100. I propose the Federal government sell one of our national parks to a Chinese resort chain so that my USPS shipping rates can be reduced.
After that short fiasco, I was able to wedge our clothes, camping supplies, and children into the car in such a way that nothing was broken or suffocated. We said goodbye to our apartment one last time, tripped over the broken threshold one last time, and then made our way to our mailbox one last time, as well. To our surprise, the mail lady was there, delivering the mail at a pace that might be akin to an excitable sloth, or a person that simply does not enjoy their job. My wife is a good sport – a kind hearted human being – and she did not want to intrude on the mail woman’s task. We decided to go grab some early lunch and head back to pick up our mail afterward.
Considering we never much intend to live in the Charlotte metropolitan area again, we thought we’d end our stay with a trip to a local favorite – Chick-fil-A. I pulled into the drive-thru and surprisingly was behind only one vehicle. A blue van that must have been owned by a magician and secretly held 50 people. I’m not lying when I tell you this – I have never, I mean NEVER, sat behind another human being so long at a fast-food drive-thru. I don’t know what they ordered, or if there is any chicken left on the planet, but this person took nearly ten minutes to make their order. That’s no lie. You can ask my wife and she will attest to it. When I pulled up to the lady taking orders, I asked her “What were they doing? Trying to buy their own franchise?” I’m just hilarious. She probably thought the same thing but was too hot and tired to care.
We went back to the apartment and the mail lady still was there but had managed to put away our mail so, mark that as our first victory. My wife gave back the keys to the apartment and we were on our way!
Day One – NORTH CAROLINA
The AC in my new car, however, did not work. It worked the day I bought it. It worked the next day, too. It worked for several days. Then it died. I called several dealerships and none of them could get me in, so I bought some Freon and put it in myself. I had AC again! Sweet, glorious, cool air! Then two days later, it died again. I assume either there is a) a leak; or b) the Freon level was so low that what I put in wasn’t enough to do the job. Based on the pressure, I didn’t overcharge it. Enough about that, though. This ain’t a car blog! Point being, as of this writing, there is no AC in my car.
The day we left, it was approaching 96 degrees as we drove through the urban rat race of Charlotte and into the Appalachian hills. With the windows rolled down all the way, we sped down the highway, blasting ourselves with the equivalent of furnace air that smelled like fresh tar.
Now, I remember when I was a kid (that being birth to twenty-one years old), not having AC in our car. Rolling the windows down was truly the only means of staying remotely cooled off. To my wife and kids, however, this was a punishment on par with the Texas death row system. Kristina found that the only way to survive it was to take a nap. My children probably cried – I don’t know. I couldn’t hear anything over the air gusts blasting me in the face … or my radio cranked to the max, which also was indiscernible over the wind. I think I was listening to an 80s Greatest Hits station but it might have been classic rock or Rush Limbaugh for all I know.
We all sweated and suffered through the heat until we finally advanced into the mountains. We’ve visited the Smoky Mountains before so there isn’t too much to elaborate on – check out our blog from last summer when we rented a cabin there.
Day One – TENNESSEE
Tennessee took up a big chunk of driving time but didn’t offer much. This isn’t an indication that the state on the whole is unworthy or that there is nothing to do there. It’s simply that we had a destination in mind and plowed forward. The mountain views of Appalachia, curving roads through spruce valleys, was much like what we had seen while driving through both Kentucky and West Virginia. It is beautiful, indeed, and helps you to forget how truly hideous Knoxville, Tennessee looks from a highway. Seriously. I know that WWE wrestler Kane is the mayor of Knox County now so maybe he can clean up how things look … but it was simply unappealing the entire ride through.
Eventually we had to stop for food and gas and we found a nice little winery that also had a live band playing and somebody selling pork rinds. My wife went into the wine shop and ended up only buying her Achilles heel – car coasters. No lie, the woman can’t help herself. Meanwhile, some guy in a pick-up truck pulled up beside me in the parking lot and had two massive dogs in the bed of his truck. As I ate my sloppy number 2 meal from Wendy’s I simply envisioned one of the two Cujo’s leaping through my window and mauling me to death over my Dave’s Double. All while a local Tennessean sang “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in the distance.
We finished up our time in Tennessee by cruising through Nashville – a much nicer looking city with a friendlier outer belt. Kristina wanted, desperately, to see the Grand Ole Opry but I refused to stop unless Carrie Underwood herself would welcome us. Realistically I wanted to put us ahead of schedule but looking back, we probably could have stopped and checked it out. Chalk up one point for me being the bad guy.
Up next, I make the bold decision to just keep driving until the Sandman knocks me over the head with sleep dust!