The Road To Grayson

I’m finally headed for Kentucky today. Even though when I wrote about it two weeks ago and said that I’d be going in two weeks, I think I confused a few folks.

At the Post Office: “I thought you were gone out of town this week?”

“No. That’s coming up.”

At the grocery store: “What are you doing here? I heard you went to Kentucky.”

“Not yet. Still here.”

At the Whistling Pig: “Hey. Didn’t expect to see you. How was Kentucky?”

“Haven’t gone yet. But I’m wishing I had.”

My first stop was to see Laura, Eric and the kids on Saturday. Spending the night in Holly Springs didn’t give me much jump on Kentucky but, hey, it’s my grandkids. And it gave me a chance to watch my DAWGS whoop up on Tennessee. And I have to confess, I may have howled and woofed as I went by Knoxville.

When I planned this trip, the time change was not on my mind. Being with the G-kids and being out of my routine and sleeping in a strange bed, I totally forgot about it. When I rolled over and checked my wristwatch by the little glow-in-the-dark button, it said 6:00. So, I got up.

My cell phone, mind you, no doubt had the correct time. But I didn’t consult it. My watch, on the other hand, is a Timex with a numbered face. I have the hour and minute hands and a sweeping second-hand on my watch. There is nothing about my watch that communicates with the satellites that circle the earth.

The coffee pot was supposed to start making gurgling noises by 6AM, but it was silent. I couldn’t find even one light switch in their kitchen. I’m checking every wall by feel. Finally, I get a light on where I can see. The coffee pot has more buttons than a fighter jet.

I grabbed my book and read until 7AM, which was really 6AM, and the coffee pot came to life.

Hugs all around once everybody was up and I got on the road.

Driving through Cherokee County, I got a good feel for how the rural countryside is being swallowed by urban sprawl. I’m driving along Hwy 20 just west of Canton. On one side of the road there are large subdivisions with names like Laurel Woods and Plantation Trace. On the other side of the road sits New Hope Baptist Church which looks like it’s been there since Teddy was President.

Further down sits a massive Race Trac store with a Dollar General next door. Right next to them, a 200 acre pasture with 40 Black Angus and hay barns packed to the gills. An old farmhouse on the hill. Tractors parked under the sheds out back.

Things just seem a little out of place.

I used to travel this road a good bit back in the 80s. It was all a two-lane highway. Now, most of it is four-lane interrupted by traffic lights at little country crossroads. A spanking-brand-new modern medical center on one corner. Two old houses from the 40s with tin roofs and big front porches on the other.

The old saying is true. Nothing will be the same if I pass this way again.

I’ve accepted the fact that today will be an interstate day. Not my preference, but I’ve got a lot of ground to cover before I get to Grayson. Highway 20 hooks me up to I-75, hey to Dale and Amy, and I am northward bound.

If things had worked out differently, I would be in Ireland right now with Beth and my sister and brother-in-law. I’d be touring Dublin and gawking at the Cliffs of Moor instead of looking at a sea of carpet mills beyond the interstate fence. I was sure I wouldn’t regret backing out of that trip after Beth passed away last year, and I don’t regret the backing out part. But I’d be a lifeless dead soul if I didn’t feel some regret that we couldn’t take that trip together.

The approach to Knoxville hasn’t changed much in the last 44 years. We traveled a good bit this way when we moved to Blountville, Tennessee right after we got married. I-40 splits off to Nashville and I-75 bends on toward the Volunteer campus of UT, who, by the way, lost to my DAWGS yesterday. Just saying.

I pass the Paper Mill Road exit. The lanes and exists are really looking different and confusing. My sister used to live somewhere up here off Paper Mill Road. Seems like it was the start of her 30-year long career with IBM. I can’t remember the year or if it overlapped our time in Blountville. I just remember we got off here, turned right and made our way over there somewhere to her apartment.

Finally, I’m pointed north toward the Kentucky line. Getting up and over the Cumberland Plateau is never easy on this road. It’s a long pull in a moving van loaded down with all your worldly possessions. Trust me. Been there and wouldn’t want to do it again.

The higher up in elevation I go, the more the rain gets serious. Thick, soupy clouds. Headlights. Rooster-tails off any tire that moves. A three-car-pile-up that holds traffic to a crawl for an hour.

We finally pull off across the state line to take a break. About four hours of ride-time is all Max and I can take. He’s peeped out the window a few times. But Cedar trees and guardrails don’t seem to interest him. We need a stretch.

It’s close to suppertime in Ireland. While Max and I are chowing down on your basic American cuisine, two cheeseburgers and fries, I’m scrolling FB. Paul and Marian are hanging out at the Park House Hotel. They are enjoying a starter of Chicken Liver Pate´, and she was having the Orange and Honey Glazed Breast of Duckling with pine nut and herb stuffing. He was having the Grilled Fillet of Monk Fish, overlayed with a smoked salmon and chervil cream sauce. Oh, and potatoes.

I wadded up my BK bag, tossed it on the floorboard and got back on the interstate.

All in all, it has been an uneventful day. I did manage to get off the interstate just south of Lexington for about an hour. I headed east along US 60. I appreciate the small towns and wish I had time to stop and explore. I’ll do some of that on the return trip back home.

My cottage in Grayson is ready for me and Max. He seems lost. I let him run free off the leash. I’m like a nervous parent watching his child at the park. He makes a perimeter sweep and sniffs everything in sight. He stops to make eye contact with me. I think it’s funny that he’s checking on me.

My host seems to have the flu, so I’ll know tomorrow if this is going to be a visit or just a passing hello. I mean, we are friends. I did come a long way. But I am not hugging the flu bug.

More to come.