Chesapeake to Las Vegas - Days 1-4
While Nine of Cups is traveling with Thomas Duncan to the Pacific, Cups’ old crew is now the Blue Crew and we’re traveling cross-country, too. Though we love road trips, this is a destination trip to our house and family in Las Vegas rather than a sightseeing trip, so we’re moving more quickly than usual. For us, that means about 400 miles a day … give or take (mostly take).
We left Nine of Cups and her new owner, late last Monday and only made it about 20 miles to Suffolk, VA before we decided we preferred an easy night, an early dinner and some rest. We were up early the next morning though, heading across Virginia and into North Carolina. It rained cats and dogs for the first hours, but cleared and warmed up by mid-morning. Just outside Greensboro, North Carolina, Blue’s ‘low tire pressure’ light came on. We got off the highway to check it out. Blue had just had an oil change in Boston and all tire pressures had been checked. David surmised that the air added in the below-freezing temps was now too much for the 70F temps here in North Carolina. That is, until he saw the nail sticking out of the rear passenger side tire. Bah!!! Luckily, it was a slow leak and we were close to a Discount Tire. The folks there were outstanding. They fit us in within an hour, repaired the tire promptly and wished us well on our trip … no charge!! Oh, my! We’ll be Discount Tire customers in the future!
We made it to Asheville, NC by the end of the day without further mishap. I sang Carolina songs for a few miles … ‘Carolina in the Morning’, ‘In my mind, I’m going to Carolina’ … until David suggested we turn on the radio. The geography changed as we entered the Smoky Mountains.
We understood why they’re called the Smokies … a pale, grey-blue haze envelops them. We saw the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway and crossed the Appalachian Trail. The Biltmore Estate was close by, but we were on a mission to get west. So much to see and do in this area; we’ll be back. I put it on the ‘list’. We’re picnic folks. For dinner, we stopped at a WalMart for salad supplies and ate in the room and sipped 3-Buck Chuck.
Up early again, our day’s destination was Jackson, Tennessee, another 422 miles away. Tennessee is a wide state and US40 was busy with 18-wheeler traffic. We’d traveled this road before, three or four times. The miles sped by punctuated by interesting road signs … ‘Remove sunglasses in tunnel’ and huge billboards with invitations to local fare … BBQ, catfish and moonshine tastings. I hummed ‘The Beautiful Tennessee Waltz’. We stopped at the state Welcome Center and I picked up a state map and interesting brochures just to see what we were missing.
We gained an hour as we entered the Central Time Zone and arrived in Jackson a little too early to check into our hotel, but early enough to do something interesting. I’d read about the Casey Jones Museum and we headed there. Well, actually it was the Casey Jones Village … ‘The best whistle stop between Memphis & Nashville’ ... very commercial and very touristy. We were not deterred. We paid our $5.50 senior admissions and immersed ourselves in the Casey Jones legend and train trivia for an hour or so.
There’s some debate as to whether Casey Jones was really a hero. As an engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad, he was asked to do a double shift one day and the train was running 1-1/2 hours late. He made up time by speeding. When he came around a bend, another train was stalled on the tracks. He did his best to stop the train, but it smashed into the disabled cars. He was killed, but all of his passengers were saved. On the one hand, he was tired from a double shift and he was definitely speeding. On the other hand, he told his fireman to jump off, but he stayed aboard and saved all his passengers. From this incident, a legend was born. We wondered whether schools still teach kids about American legends and myths … Casey Jones, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue ox, Pecos Pete. Another in-room salad night and some sleep and we were ready to begin Day 4.
To David’s delight (or was that displeasure?) I couldn’t keep myself from singing railroad songs … Casey Jones, The Wabash Canonball, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. He suggested listening to NPR or perhaps some music. We crossed the might Mississippi and entered Arkansas. I couldn’t think of single song about Arkansas, so I played some CDs.
A stop at the Welcome Center clearly demonstrated all that we were about to miss … Toad Suck, Judge Roy Bean’s Old Time Photos, the Arkansas Country Doctor Museum, the Daisy Airgun Museum and Fort Smith. So much to see, so little time. We crashed (figuratively only) for the night in Van Buren, Arkansas, just outside of Fort Smith poised to cross into Oklahoma first thing in the morning. Oklahoma’s got lots of good songs to sing.