. . . and road-blocked by a small (ha! ha!) pile of rocks, 50 FEET HIGH and 100s of FEET LONG!
[Today, Sunday, April 25, this major blockage of East-West traffic and commerce has reopened a limited stretch since we returned home. Although is was an aggravation to us and our plans, I can only imagine the aggravation to truckers, who may still have to detour this important pass through the Smoky Mountains.]
Maybe I should have selected the title: Two Elderly Persons and a GPS Navigation Unit named Jezebel Should Never Be Together on an Interstate Highway in the Same SUV!!!
Thus I set the tenor of this post.
The wind blew and battered against the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV. It seemingly was capriciously from every direction but mostly NORTH. Staying in a lane on an 8-lane divided Interstate at 60-75 m.p.h. required the driver grip the steering wheel unmercifully, continuously. Hands cramped and ached. My left shoulder already ripped with burning nerve pain from an arthritic neck became stinging, flaming ball of fire. Nerves were taunt.
This story is the beginning of our trek to North Carolina.
After leaving Luckie at her un-favorite boarding kennel, her veterinarian's clinic Friday afternoon, we left Saturday morning about 7 a.m. (CDT) on a near 1000 mi. journey to NC, hoping to arrive in time for a Sunday 3 p.m. funeral service. The weather was sunny, but breezy and cool.
We and husband's (H) sister knew the likelihood of our making the funeral was marginal to none.
We stopped at an independently-owned busy restaurant, Kopper Kettle, on outskirts of Hardy, AR for breakfast. In the interest of saving time we chose a small buffet. The scrambled egg medley wasn't tasty; among the ingredients was chopped ham which had a peculiar taste; but bacon, sausage, biscuits, and small fruit strudel were satisfactory.
H resumed driving as the wind slowly crept up the m.p.h. scale.
Our approach to Memphis was about noon. As we crossed the Memphis, Mississippi bridge, I grabbed a through-the-front-windshield snapshot of the Pyramid Arena, the sixth largest pyramid in the world, and whose structure is reminiscent of the city's Egyptian namesake known for its ancient pyramids, not to be confused with the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Outside Memphis at a convenience store we refueled, grabbed unhealthy snacks, including an amaretto latte. We switched drivers--my turn to wrestle with the North Wind. The North Wind is such a relentless, pugnacious, tenacious, bone-chilling wrestler pummeling all in its path. For 3 hours we wrestled to a draw. [Read opening paragraph again, as it described my driving stint.]
At Cookeville TN we stopped at Golden Corral to eat. It was one of the newer Golden Corral locations and was a pleasant respite from the grueling day of driving. Food was hot and selections of every category, awesome.
After refueling our human engines we then refueled our vehicle nearby for the next day's conclusion. H again took the reins to wrestle with the North Wind, which he, too, fought to a draw.
While he drove eastward, I began to search for lodging. Our personal favorite motel, La Quinta Inns and Suites is less prevalent in Tennessee, but there was one in outer west Knoxville. A cell-phone inquiry was fruitless; no accessible, non-smoking ground level rooms available.
A couple of exits further into Knoxville, we saw an EconoLodge logo among six lodging logos on an I-40 blue information sign. Our luck with the same chain in Springfield MO was not memorable but that location was exiting the chain for a lesser known chain. EconoLodge built a new facility in Springfield, but we stayed at an older one losing its accreditation.
Since we already had a reservation with EconoLodge in Aberdeen at my sister-in-law's (SIL) recommendation, we decided to inquire at the Knoxville location.
Near 5:30 p.m. (CDT) I rolled out of the SUV, looking like a disheveled, hitchhiking female hobo, down on my luck; I entered the lobby to the registration desk.
"Do you have a ground floor, accessible, non-smoking room available," I asked, expecting an immediate 'NO' due to the late hour of the day; we had already lost the hour driving east crossing the CDT/EDT time line.
"Yes," the cheerful lady said.
Somewhat stunned, I repeated the requirements to be sure she understood, and she repeated affirmatively each time. I'm sure a smile of relief came over me. "I'll take it," I quickly replied.
As we quickly shuffled and completed the paperwork, IDs, etc. Ms. Cheerful asked, "Why did you choose to stay with us this evening?"
"Desperation," I quipped, and quickly added we had a reservation at EconoLodge in Aberdeen the next day.
The room was comfortable and nice. The accessibility amenities in the bathroom included a heavy-duty handicap seat for the tub and hand shower head. We both showered and flopped in bed--no problem sleeping.
The front desk promptly delivered a wake-up call at 6 a.m. Sunday, but it wasn't necessary. Shortly before 6 a.m. a very loud clap of thunder and heavy rain downpour served as an alarm.
We quickly turn to the Weather Channel for the area's 'on the 8's' forecast. Overnight a major storm moved into TN from the west with heavy rain, possible hail and tornadoes accompanied by intensified wind with gusts up to 40 m.p.h. It was already raining, steadily.
The day began with added downers. We knew we had a huge obstacle already in place - an unmovable pile of rocks, a mountain. We battled wind the first day; today more of the same, only stronger, with major weather warnings.
Oct. 26, 2009 a rockslide at I-40 2.6 mile marker shut down ALL I-40 traffic. A similar event occurred in 1997, closing the same section of road July through September, 1997. I-40 is a the major truck and tourist route over the Appalachian range.
The NC Dept. of Transportation recommends two alternate routes for the current situation. One route extends driving time roughly 50 minutes and the other route extends driving time 30 minutes.
We had reached Knoxville Saturday evening before dark and had a decent chance of making the funeral Sunday. The storms Sunday morning put a damper on the idea but still a maybe. As the day progressed the maybe, became a NOT as you will see.
Ambushed and waylaid by a pile of rocks, i.e. the Great 2009 Rockslide between Knoxville and Ashville closing a major section I-40 crossing the Appalachians (Smoky Mountains) and the ongoing wind and rain pretty much negated any hope of making the 3 p.m. funeral.
We chose the shorter, second suggested option for a detour through the mountains on a 2-lane winding route with 2 passing zones and several climbing lanes. It was uneventful with only light wind and rain. The scenery was beautiful even in the mist.
The landscape reminded of trip back in time where mountaineers lived off the land while wealthy built mansions on mountaintops with tremendous panoramic views.
The mountaineers lived by wit. Rusting appliances and vehicles lined gullies, lanes and rested in meadows and fields. A manual wringer washer in good shape rested along side some rusty machinery. The washer would have been a good souvenir for a yard planter.
While taking in the panorama I was reminded of my childhood obsession with my parent'sVIEWMASTER and all the cardboard mounted circles with photos to view in 'stereoscope.' I loved those ViewMasters, forerunners of positive film, or slides with projectors, and ultimately now, PowerPoint presentations.
But when we finally got to Ashville things began to fall apart. H insisted Route 74 was the route he was going to take and 'he was the driver.'
Jezebel indicated route 74 and Interstate 40 were one, and the same, which H did not seem to realize. Complicating matters was signage that pointed to Route 74A (alternate).
Since H was adamant about Route 74 and talked as if he researched it, I told him to make a choice and fly with it. My mistake! because I knew alternate routes were most often undesirable for making time.
And Jezebel kept whining. H in so many words said "to H*** with Jezebel. (Well, to you poets out there, it rhymed!) I turned down Jezebel’s volume–her voice is nagging–no doubt H related her nagging to mine.
He wanted to go one way and Jezebel, the GPS, directed another. He was driving and insisted he knew the best way; he chose 74A.
We ended up on another mountain parkway, the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was far worse, driving and making time, than the first mountain detour from Newport, TN to north of Ashville NC. It was beautiful but far more hairpin curves where you meet yourself. Jezebel and I were tired of the mountains.
We ate at a mountain roadside cafe and it WAS roadside. Houses and businesses in the mountains are built with less than 10 feet from the pavement. We wanted breakfast even if it was 11 a.m. A minor seating misjudgment placed us in a section which only served dinner and the choice was hamburgers only. Guess what, we ate hamburgers whether we wanted them or NOT!
We finally returned to Jezebel's way of thinking at Charlotte but it was already 2 p.m. We still had a 2 hour drive.
Somewhere near Monroe H became aggravated with a little black car weaving in and out of traffic in heavy rain. I did not see the driver and only know he directed his attributions at the car [as it turned a corner out of the traffic], blaspheming its size, ethnicity, questionable parentage, birthright and gender with three words. So as not to offend anyone with his political incorrectness, I refused to write the diatribe. I just find it perversely amusing a car could have all these attributes.
We finally arrived in Aberdeen about 5:30 p.m. amid alternating periods of light and torrential rain. We checked into a very nice room, with all my requirements.
EconoLodge apparently bought these units from Holiday Inn Express which built a new unit in same area. My only complaint is the smoking rooms' smoke escapes into the hallways gagging me as we had to transverse them to our room. Some of the smoke seeped into our room, too. NOT PLEASANT.
At least we arrived safely despite the weather and our misjudgments and ignoring Jezebel.
Sunday evening we ate at Bojangles. H fell in love the "SPORKS" - a combo fork and spoon. He stole 6 and made me get another handful so he can take them to Life Group potlucks at church. I hope we don't have to do penitence.
Next time we make this trip, I think I'll hire a helicopter and have it drop us off in a basket; or maybe fly and ship luggage UPS-FedEx-USPS who need the business.
Do you remember VIEWMASTER?
The ViewMaster device was considered an adult 'toy' but later child's play. My parents had their own, and eventually I was given one of my own. Were they adult or children's toys?
NOTE TO MY FOLLOWERS/READERS OF THIS BLOG:
Well, gentle readers, I’ve had this post written for a week and have a surplus of photos which I cannot get to stay in the post or move. This problem reared its head when I unfortunately decided to become an Amazon Associates. When I posted there gadget and a search bar appeared next to my composing window, everything went crazy. It changed my entire blog to the newer composing version. And if that was not bad enough photos don’t seem to work the same. I used to be able to go to html and cut the terminology for the photo out and paste it so enlargements, etc. were easy for readers. The thing drag a bit and then freeze. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but resorted to moving into my word processor for this to clean up this enough to post. I stripped it of all links and photos.
WordPerfect will write in HTML but it converts JPGs to its one format. I decided to forget the photos, before this post gets so old it grows mold.
I probably am going to have to spend some time with the new composition tool anyway, as I think BLOGGER will soon discontinue maintaining two versions.