The ground was still covered in a dusting of snow, the air cold and crisp, as I ventured out to the car. The contents of my life were packed inside, the only possessions I had deemed worthy enough to accompany me into my future. My mind raced with excitement as I took one last breath of the chilly morning air. The next few days would be just me, my honorary possessions and my car. The open road would be where I would be spending my days. Few things in the world excite the mind like the idea of traveling. Nearly anyone you ask has “traveling more” as a goal for their future. Something about the unfamiliar, the foreign, entices us, calls to us. Maybe it is an evolutionary byproduct of the successful prehuman explores, whose ventures into unknown lands allowed humanity to prosper, or maybe it’s just a reaction to the monotony of modern life. The constant repetitions, the endless sameness that occupies our lives. Either way the result is the same, people love to travel, and I am no exception. My love for travel extends back to my youth, inexplicably.
My family never really traveled, save for a few summer vacations to the standards East coast hot spots. Yet from a young age I always knew I wanted to explore the world. Immediately, upon the acquisition of my independence that comes with being 18 and being sent off to college, I started, venturing off to the old stand-by, Europe. Instantly I was in love, not only with Europe, but with the entire experience of traveling. Meeting new people, seeing new worlds, new lives. Everyday spent traveling garners some memorable experience.
After two years of stagnation it was time to hit the road again. On my previous adventures I had been joined by my friend Shaun Jewell. We spent one summer exploring Europe and another driving through 28 States and 1 Canadian Province. However, on this journey I would be alone, an idea that hadn’t real hit home as I pulled down the drive and off to Nashville, Tennesse.
I will never be able to explain the boringness that is driving through the midwest. The english language simply doesn't contain enough words for describing monotony.
It was midday as I pressed on westward, hitting the small sliver of West Virginia that wedges itself between Pennsylvania and Ohio before I had time to fully wake,. Moments later I was into Ohio, there really seems to be no reason for that small part of West Virginia, but I’m sure it has something to do with access to rivers or something, the borders of the Eastern States always seem illogical until explain by access to water.
A thin layer of snow blanketed the landscape, long shots of grass sticking through like reeds in a still pond. The treelike hugged the highway as the road rolled on. I would be adhering to the interstate highways for the first leg of my journey, an attempt to not only speed through the sameness of the midwest but to also stay ahead of a winter storm that was heading down from Canada.
My first stop was in Columbus, Ohio. A city that I forget is a city. the road turned left and the skyline rose up from the dull landscape, reminding me that Columbus is more than just the city where Ohio State is. Quickly the highway brought me into the city and I pulled off for some gas and lunch. I grabbed some food, laughing to myself that my first meal on this trip was also my last meal on my last trip. I don’t usually eat at fast food places, especially when traveling, because I enjoy experiencing the local flavors, but there are a few exceptions to this rule. Places that I love so dearly but that are not covertly located to me. As I finished eating I realized that my body had already adjusted to traveling, as I was nearly unable to eat my entire meal.
The Ohio valley is flat. That’s really all there is to say on the subject, it’s a seemingness endless flatness that extends in every direction. Farmland stretches in every direction, baren in the crisp January air. The sun was hidden behind some clouds casting the entirety of the landscape in a dreary shade of grey. I’m not sure the science behind this statement, but I believe whole heartedly that the Ohio Valley was so flat I could literally see the curvature of the earth in the horizon. I took it would a grain of salt however, knowing that I wouldn’t be spending nearly as long in the farmlands of the midwest as I would if my route had taken me across my old nemesis Nebraska.
The landscape changed, trees replaced farm equipment and a fresh coating of snow covered the ground, as I crossed into Kentucky. Kentucky looks just like Pennsylvania, the state I grew up in, went to College in and have subsequently spent a majority of my life in, so speeding through it’s tree flanked highways seemed familiar, even though I knew I had never ventured to this state before. At some point I crossed into the central time zone, when exactly that happened is beyond me, because I either didn’t notice or a sign did not exist informing me of this change. Kentucky is one of 13 states that lie in two separate time zones.
The sun began to set as I neared the Tennesse border, the sky dressed in it’s deepest shade of purple. I drove on admiring the sky’s display of color until darkness overtook the landscape. There are few things worse than driving in the dark, the boring tedium of driving is enhanced by the inability to find a visual stimulant other then the hypnotic wavering of tail lights in the distance. However, the night driving was cut to a minimum as the city of Nashville took me in.
|It got more and more purple as the sunset, but taking pictures while driving down a highway isn't exactly safe.|
It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and parking was free in Nashville, saving me an entire two dollars as I found a spot along the Cumberland River. The city was alive as I walked up broadway towards the glowing lights. The city had such energy I was instantly enamoured. I must have passed three dozen people carrying guitars. Country music spilled out of all the bars into the streets. As I walked up broadway a scalper came up to me.
“You looking to go to the Hockey game tonight,” he questioned before I realized he was next to me.
“How much does a ticket go for here,” I asked, knowing that up north a ticket would easily fetch fifty to one hundred dollars.
“I can do $20,” he said, without a hint of sarcasm.
Knowing how the game works I instantly countered, “10 bucks,” I said, knowing that at this juncture the game was already started and that he was probably just trying to unload the rest of his stash.
“Naw man I can’t do that…how bouts $15,” he said, his voice picking up optimism at the thought of a sale.
“The game is half over,” I retorted, half jokingly.
“No man, it’s still the first period,” he said, still trying to milk the extra $5 from me.
“Yeah, ok, but no one else is gonna buy this ticket.” Apparently my haggling muscle was still keen.
He laughed slightly, “Fine 10 bucks,” he said, knowing he had just encountered a worthy adversary.
I paid for the ticket shook his hand and headed into the rink. How did I just manage to get an NHL ticket for $10? To be honest I had little vested interest in a Dallas Stars versus Nashville Predators game, but $10! That’s less then it costs to park at most NHL arenas!
|I have never sat in the nose bleeds. honestly, not that bad.|
The citizenry of Nashville has a strong southern accent, actually half southern, half country accent, either way I stood out as soon as I opened my mouth. The bartender giggled as I managed to slaughter the pronunciation of a local brew. If you were to cast a movie and needed a Nashville bartender this girl would fit the role. Her twangy accent seemed to make her long brown hair bounce with excitement. A small band played in the corner of the bar, covering country songs, that were apparently so popular that even I knew them, allowing me to blend in as I sang along with the lyrics. I order a pulled pork sandwich, which my bubbly bartender brought so quickly I worried she had stolen it off another table. The pork melted in my mouth, I flooded the sandwich with barbecue sauce, not altogether sure if that was acceptable in Tennesse, but only caring enough to make sure no one was watching. I hadn’t eaten in hours, save my free peanuts in Smashville, coupled with the devilishness of some southern barbecue I scarfed down the sandwich in fries in record time. The bartender came back through, jokingly referencing my astonishing quickness.
|Nashville reminded me of Vegas with all it's lighted signs.|
The key to sleeping in parking lots is to find a nice suburban location and tuck yourself away into a back corner, and hope no one bothers you. The drive had wiped me out so within moments of parking I was asleep, undisturbed until morning.
|Me waking up!|
I had planned on spending more time in Nashville, the city had captured my attention and I had wanted to see what else it had to offer, but the weather report looked grim and it was getting far to chilly out to enjoyably explore on foot. The sunlight had woke me at around 6 am and I headed over to a local restaurant that an acquaintance had told me to check out for breakfast. It was The Pancake Pantry, which I came to discover is kind of a local legend in the breakfast category. My waitress informed me that a line out the door is typical and my only saving grace was showing up at half six, before most people even bother to wake up. I ordered a stack of sweet potato pancakes, as suggested by my aforementioned acquaintance, some eggs and ham. The ham slice was easily the size of a dinner plate, the eggs were cooked to perfect, but the real star was the sweet potato pancakes. The waitress suggested I use the cinnamon syrup, and accepting her expertise, I did just that. It’s almost a sin to start a day with such sweet perfection, just knowing that the rest of your day will be downhill. Each hot cake seemed to be better than the last, I wanted to lick the plate clean of the syrup. Such tastes are few and far between in this world, rarely do you have a breakfast that stops you in your tracks, but not one inkling in my mind would be hesitant to say that those sweet potato pancakes were the best breakfast I have ever had. So if you go to Nashville, which you should because it’s wonderful and everyone is extremely friendly, go to Pancake Pantry, eat your heart out and if there is a line, for God’s sake stand in it, it’ll be more than worth it.
|Sweet Potato Pancakes! That's butter, by the way, not ice-cream, I'm not going to lie, it fooled me.|