Carpetbagging part 1.5

We return to our hero left dangling from the cliff...

I ended up going back to Bowling Green, state road 231. After chatting with some nice folks about the unexpected stop, we consulted a Kentucky map and discovered that 231 led to 31-E, which would take us south to Gallitin, TN and onward into Nashville itself. I had been tired, and thinking of sleeping at a highway rest stop, but the obstruction had got my blood up: I bought a 24-oz. coffee and determined to sleep in Nashville that night.

I was worried about the stupid transmission gagging with a thousand stop lights, but 231/31 had barely any. I wished I had a camera when I blew by the "Welcome to Tennessee" sign, but needs must; maybe if this works I'll go back and take a picture at night and just tell everyone it was from the first time.

I hit a gas station, where I discovered that the unusual conspiracy to hide and restrict all state maps of Tennessee was in full working order in... Tennessee. Had I been more thoughtful, or awake, I would have realized that metric buttloads of filthy tourists had in fact snagged them all. I ended up in Gallatin and pulled into a Shell station to for a restroom break, carefully stepping around the two inch long beetle with massive pincers. No need to unsettle the natives.

A man was there in a Waffle House uniform looking for a ride to Hendersonville. I excused myself, saying that I had no idea where I was. Again, no maps. I went to the bathroom and discovered no soap and an electric hand dryer. Maybe everyone is still worked up about TVA, but every bathroom has electric dryers. Also, that bathroom still has no soap (see later).

After the cashier assured me that 31 did indeed lead right into Nashville, "um, I think," I stepped back outside and talked a bit more with the guy, who assured me, far more effectively than the attendant, that 31E led straight to downtown Nashville. (We will come back to the terrible cruelty of the phrase "straight to" when applied to anything in Metro Nashville later.) Turns out he is, or claims to be, Johnny Cash's nephew. Hell if I know he is. But, I thought I could take him in a fight so I did offer him that ride.

He didn't know what kind of beetle that was, either.

Aside from a tense moment when he cracked open an unusual can of soda (I was worried it might be open alcohol, in which case I would have no choice but to eject him from the car without slowing) he was pretty polite. And his apartment building was in fact right on 31E, so I dropped him off and continued into town. I wondered if every other person I would meet here would in fact be a near relative of a famous country music star. (If they are, they're pretty quiet about it.)

31E, AKA Gallatin Pike and several other aliases, is like South Westnedge in Portage, only about 60 miles long; or so it seems. As I drove, I eyed the massive parking lots of the WalMarts and other megastores, grading them as to safety and quiet if I ended up sleeping in one that night, as, barring a chance meeting with an old friend, I figured I would. Eventually, tall buildings loomed across bridges. I was there.

It being perhaps 1 AM, I decided I would be better off driving around like a rubbernecking tourist before every tourist yahoo and his uncle were out there with me, let alone the natives, who would undoubtedly place me in the yahoo category. I followed 31E all around downtown, around the state capitol, until I came to Fessiers and Murfreesboro Pike. (You have to add the word "pike" to your list of synonyms for "road" here, by the way.) A family pulled into the gas station where I perused the book map of Metro Nashville I had bought in Gallatin and asked how to get on I-65 north (they were bound for Columbus).

And there I discovered that NO ONE in this town is from here, apparently. I always thought that was California, and I am still a bit bitter about the confusion. NO ONE knows where anything is. No one knows where to find a 24-hour cafe. No, you have to do a bit of searching to find an actual native. Perhaps they've all fled. People in Kalamazoo are better about directions but, as I soon found out, that is because K'zooers have about one millionth as much to commit to memory.

Nashville, indeed, does have a living, full-size replica of the Parthenon of Athens in it. I wandered around it a bit before the fatigue forced me to find shelter. It is pretty cool: it even has the classical paint job the Athenians would have given it. I will have to go to it in the day sometime to see the 60' statue of Athena Parthenos inside. (Well, it should be inside. If it is accurate.)

I located a nearby WalMart market. "That looks like a good place to sleep." I cracked the windows, locked the doors and was out like a light.

(One thing about Indiana: every time the macadam or concrete under your wheels changes, your tires sound different; also, the car may bounce or pull slightly to one side. Having that happen with a car with two worn tires and a wonky tranney, I found, just eats up the miles you might have spent in boredom.)

Well, I want to hit the 'net job sites and craigslist.com. Also, I wish to hit tracfone.com and update my number. (I wish I had not left the paper with all my account information locked in my car, but there you go.)

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