Monday, April 27
We departed at around 10:17 from North Beach, after 72 hours of more or less non-stop packing, sorting, cleaning, storing, pitching. After 50 collective years in DC. The last morning, we finished up by packing the TV (had to watch Mad Men and the taped Americans finale), the bed, and a few random things we had forgotten to pack-hair dryer, scale, a book shelf. We couldn’t believe it, when all was done, it was just beginning. The cats had been in their happy new homes for weeks. Ben had just gassed up the truck and hitched up the trailer. We could really go. We were ready almost (only?) a year and half after Ben bought the Airstream and we first thought, maybe some day….
The weather was beautiful which made the departure all the more special. It’s been a long, cold winter. Up Rt. 260 and down Rt. 4, my commute to DC one last time. We took the Beltway and from the bridge into Virginia could see the landmarks: National Cathedral, Washington Monument, the Capitol, Jefferson Memorial. We’ll miss you! Beltway traffic – not so much. Once we got on 66, and headed west, the landscape changes to mountains, the Shenandoahs, and we felt we had finally hit the road. The drive was stunning-spring finally arrived. Grass SO green, cows, sheep, babies, horses, feeding. Beautiful. We made a call to Rev. Jack Mathsion, the 90-year-old Presbyterian minister who married us 11 1/2 years ago and now lives in Harrisonbug, VA. We’ve stayed in touch, even spent holidays together. He is the best-so full of life, politically active and interested. He met us at the new McDonald’s-as predicted, in a coat and tie. He looked like he just stepped out of a haberdashery. He told us he had recently been at this McDonald’s as a solo protester advocating for a minimum wage increase. The sign he carried attracted the attention of the manager, an assistant manager, a local police officer (who asked him to relocate to public space) and an angry 60ish man with whom he had this exchange, which Jack retold to us many times with glee over the course of our hour together:
Man: “You dirty old man, you can kiss my butt!”
Jack: “OK, bend over and I’ll do it.”
Man: “I’ll bet you will!”
He and Ben toured the Airstream with care. Maybe he was thinking back on his time as a navigator in a B-24 Liberator during WWII. Machine age and all.
The Virginia scenery continued to delight – we had our first experiences gassing up outside Roanoke, and parking with the big boys.
We stayed the night just over the border in Tennessee, in Kingsport. In the towns we’ve been passing through, we Google “[town name] history” and if you do it for Kingsport you’ll find the tragic tale of Mary, the Asian elephant, a circus animal who acted too much like an elephant and met a horrible fate. If you are even a smidgen of an animal lover, you should not look up this story. Suffice to say, our country has come a long way in terms of animal rights.
Day 2 we drove through the entire state of Tennessee and a bit further into Arkansas. Did you know the Tennessee state flag has three stars and they represent the state’s three geographic regions? We saw them all – mountainous east, middle plateau, and the lowlands in the west. As we drove, we looked up little bits of history going past different towns – the early settlers, Indian Removal trails, the Civil War, the railroads. We stopped in Crossvile at Stroud’s BBQ. Meal, complete with BBQ nachos and banana pudding tided us over.
We ended the day in Forrest City, AR (named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, hmm, who helped found the town after the war when he won a contract to finish the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad). We dined on excellent Cajun food and southern hospitality at Arkansas Best Seafood Garden which we had to walk to across highway lanes and beneath an underpass. The restaurant was started just under two years by Ms. D, who returned home to open it after 25 years teaching middle school in Louisiana. She makes her own spice blend and sauces and great apple pie. No picture-we ate too fast. On to Dallas.