Laugh Tracks in the Dust
Folks, the last two weeks have been pretty eventful for ol’ Nevah and me. We took an extended 12-day family and friends vacation that got us 100 miles from the Atlantic Ocean — 2,700 miles round trip.
The prime purpose of our trip wuz to witness the college graduation of one of our grand daughters from Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn., with added bonuses of stopping for visits with friends and other family members along the way.
So, this column is a travelogue of our trip, so you can quit reading now if you’re not interested. We left on Wednesday morning about 7:30 and headed for Springfield, Missouri, via Iola and Ft. Scott, Kansas, Nevada, El Dorado Springs, and Collins, Missouri. While in Springfield, we had lunch with an old compatriot from my college days at Bea Wilder U. — ol’ Calmen Clected and his lovely wife, Mary Ann.
From there we took off east on Dead Armadillo Highway 60 to Poplar Bluff and we overnighted at Sikeston in the Missouri Bootheel. I don’t know what it is about Hwy 60, but in the spring it’s always lined with the carcasses of inattentive armadillos. I’ll mention that the Bootheel was sopping wet with very little farming done.
The next day we headed to Paducah, Kentucky. To get there we crossed the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers just south of Cairo, Illinois. Both of those bridges are what I call “white-knucklers.” From there it was a jaunt across the Land Between the Lakes on down to “Music Capital,” Nashville, Tennessee. While there we parked downtown and had lunch at country music star and patriot John Rich’s new Redneck Riviera bar and grill. The decor wuz fine with one wall decorated with law enforcement agency uniform patches. The food wuz fine, the R&R whiskey plenty watered down, and there were two wannabe country music stars providing noon meal background music.
We arrived in Cookeville about the time all the family and friends of our graduating, recently-married grand-daughter arrived at the AirBnB our daughter and son-in-law had rented for the occasion. We spent the evening eating BBQ, playing card games, and just strengthening ties between two families.
Graduation was early Friday morning. It wuz plenty chilly and dewy, but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the graduates and visitors. We proudly watched our granddaughter accept her diploma in elementary education and were equally proud to find out she’s landed her first teaching job for the fall term at a nearby small town.
From Cookeville, we headed over the “divide” and into the eastern time zone and ended up at our daughter’s family home in Pigeon Forge. The crowd wuz atrocious in that tourist trap, so we pretty much stayed close to home and caught up on family news and celebrated Mother’s Day. We left Pigeon Forge on Monday morning headed east across the Smoky Mountains to Asheville, Tenn. That’s a bit of hair-raising interstate to cross.
Our destination wuz Zebulon, N.C., which is a few miles east of Raleigh, and also the new home for another grand-daughter, her hubby, and two of our great grandkids. It wuz about a 6-hour trip. We rested up after arrival, but the next day had a great outing to pick ripe strawberries in the morning and make strawberry jam and frozen strawberries in the afternoon.
The great-granddaughter is almost two and our great grandson is 9-months old — perfect ages to play with and interact with. That wuz pretty much our activities while we were there. Some reader may get a kick out of our housewarming gift for the family — a barrel composter — but appropriate for their plans to have a garden soon.
We left Zebulon Thursday morning headed northwest to Banner Elk, N.C., where we have college friends from our time at Bea Wilder U. II in the 1960s — Bill D. and Dee Ziner. They owned and operated a veterinary clinic for decades, but then moved back to the Smokies and switched careers to planning and installing high-end kitchen cabinets and counters. Quite a switch, but it works for them and their love of mountain life — skiing, biking, etc.
From Banner Elk we headed northwest into the western tip of Virginia, on into the rough coal country in southeast Kentucky, through the infamous coal towns of Harlan and Hyden and on west to Somerset. We traveled on good roads and roads so narrow down the bottom of creek hollows that the front porches of houses almost touched our SUV. From Somerset west to Bowling Green is a marvelous freeway, through beautiful scenery with scarcely any traffic to distract this old highway gawker. Since we gained a hour of time, we kept traveling to Mayfield, Kentucky, where we overnighted.
Next day, back across the “bridges of Cairo” to Poplar Bluff and overnighted at Bolivar, Missouri. Sunday morning we stopped for breakfast at the Country Corner Cafe in Stockton. I’d highly recommend it for a tasty and bountiful breakfast.
We arrived safely home Sunday afternoon and all seemed well. But, that wuz just wishful thinking. Monday morning I came down with a serious case of Montezuma’s Revenge and, naturally, two days later Nevah catches it from me. We’re better now and we’re thankful it wuzn’t Covid.
Generally speaking, the country from here east is well-watered. The soft winter wheat crop looks good, but every acre has been sprayed for some kind of rust, bunt, virus, etc. The corn planting is late. No soybeans seen yet. Pastures are lush and washy.
Wise words for the week: When you cheat death for 2,700 miles be thankful. Have a good ‘un.
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