I guess as evidenced by the title, the cat’s out of the bag about my buddy Jack. It’s our first actual road trip together (in the same vehicle as opposed to carvan-ing) for me, Jack, and Gatsby. As dictated by Mother Nature, we were delayed in departing a day because it was, as my cousin Stevie put it, "Actively shitting on us without anyone out clearing the roads." So we set off on Thursday morning at o’dark thirty. The first three hours were slow going (surprising, right?) because it was dark, so I couldn’t really see, and the roads were wet and slick, so I extra couldn’t really see, and we were on Hwy 2, so had oncoming traffic with their lights on, so I really extra couldn’t really see. Basically, it was my trifecta of driving blind. Plus, deer. So even though we were in the Subaru instead of Hecate, we were still traveling about 15 miles under the speed limit. For extra funsies, Gatsby started hot boxing us about 30 seconds into the trip, and didn’t stop for the entire 9.5 hours.
Although I was more optimistic about traversing the Mackinac Bridge in the car than the van, I didn’t realize that not only do they not salt the bridge, it didn’t seem like there’d been a lot of plowing of it either, so it was still slow going. If I’d been in the van for this winter version, I would have needed to change into spare pants after the crossing. If I’d made it across. That being said, it was quite fine being in the car, and I actually really liked crossing it at night because not only do they have pretty colored lights on the bridge, it also helped to flatten the field of vision so I couldn’t see how high up we were, which was freaking awesome. The roads started clearing up just south of Gaylord, and although the GPS took us on a very random sightseeing tour of a trailer park near Grayling, we made it to Indy in reasonable time.
We spent 5 nights in Indy, and largely did nothing but eat good food, drink good drinks, and hang out with the family. My cousin Stevie, and his wife Tricia joined us for the weekend, which I was delighted about. I always am delighted to have cousin time, but I was certain that he and Jack were going to get along famously, and they did. I suppose a similar sense of humor and a common target to pick on (that’d be me) are excellent ways to bond. From guitar singalongs to football bets, a good time was had by all, but I think the general consensus of funniness was playing Cards Against Humanity with the six of us. Have you ever heard your 74-year-old retired Bishop Aunt utter the words, “A gossamer stream of jizz that catches the light as it arcs through the morning air,” or your Uncle say, “My neck, my back, my pussy and my crack?” No? I hadn’t either until that Saturday night. It was worth the 42 year wait.
From Indy, we traveled down to Nashville, to which neither of us had been before. There was some snowy nonsense I remember hearing about either a few weeks ago or a few days ago, and the remnants were all over the place on I-65 southbound…..we passed probably a dozen and a half cars in various states of wreckage at random places on the roadside, still hanging out with orange tags on them, presumably waiting to be towed however long after the snowy shitshow. It was creepy, and I hope never to be in such a scenario.
Nashville was a delight. The first evening we settled into our accommodations on the east side and ordered takeout, did laundry, and the most important key to making the next day the best it possibly could be – get Gatsby comfortable in his new surroundings. Surprisingly, particularly based on both the doggie foot traffic in front of the house and the single paned windows which I was nearly certain he was going to charge right through, we were entirely successful!
I took him for a nice walk the following morning (east Nashville has some really beautiful houses and architecture), and we did a test run over breakfast. I have a couple (now, since I forgot the OG at home so had a new one delivered to Indy while we were there) of Wyze cams, aka Gatsby spy cams, so hooked it up so I could helicopter mom the shit out of him while we went to the nearby Snooze restaurant (yummy + breakfast margaritas!) for brekkie. He was an angel. As far as I can tell. Without turning on the sound. But action-based, he largely napped for the duration.
After a quick post-breakfast nap (since we both got up pretty early, especially for being on vacation), we headed to downtown Nashville, with our sights set on Broadway. I would venture to say that neither of us were prepared, especially coming from small town Michigan, for the sticker shock that accompanies Broadway in Nashville. I’m old enough to not remember exact prices I’ve o̶v̶e̶r̶paid for drinks at places I’ve traveled with exorbinent (BTW, I didn’t get the word exorbanant properly any of the times I tried, and was really confused/delighted when autocorrect tried to keep changing it to excrement, because as I’ve JUST NOW discovered, the word isn’t exorbinant, it’s exorbitant, and now I have to question my entire vocabulary/life. Fucking hell.) charges, like Vegas, NYC, Honolulu, Boston, etc., I just know I wasn’t adequately prepared to pay $32 for 2 adult beverages. Not schmancy beverages, mind you, simple things like a teensy vodka soda and a 7&7. At any rate, we started at Legends Corner and worked our way toward the river. Other than the Lucky Bastard Saloon, we enjoyed good live music and drinks (the entertainment while we happened to be in residence at Lucky Bastard was reminiscent of bad karaoke (good karaoke is bad enough), and the bartender was about as perky as Eeyore, just not as cute). Favorites (we based that on hanging at a place for more than one overpriced bevvie) were Tin Roof and another bar a couple blocks over from Broadway on Printers Alley called Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. The alligator bites at Bourbon Street were either the most delicious thing ever or we may have been well enough into our cups at that point to at least think they were, that we anted up for a second round. Also, I’ve been dying for alligator bites ever since we went to Lagniappe in Marquette back in late October and they weren’t in season yet. It was a win in many ways. Pro tips: Have a frozen pizza available when you get back to your housing situation, and try not to confuse Thai Lemongrass Ginger Soup for any variety of tea.
The next day we set off for the last stopover on our journey, to spend time with the Knoxville branch of my family. My Aunt Lorrie and Uncle Mark are out there, as are my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew. Along with family time, I took Jack to some of my old favorites in Knoxville – the Knoxville Art Museum, Mast General Store, lunch at The Tomato Head, and we found a fun new place down in Market Square – Alice in Appalachia, which ticked many of my boxes, including my love of things whimsical, pretty colors, and yummy original cocktails + extra points for cocktails with glitter in them.
The journey back north, which we decided to make into two nights with easier drive days (because, you know, neither of us are 25 anymore), paralleled arguably the most famous line in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (which ironically was on the tele later that evening) when the old geezer near the end says, “He chose poorly.” At least the first night. Not in any major way, just in a bunch of little ones that made you say, “Oh, I see. This is how my day is going to go.”
The day of departure from Knoxville, the 5-hour drive took at least 17 hours (metaphorically speaking). Also, the hotel that we were staying at, a Red Roof Inn (affordable choices are limited with a giant schmoopy dog, so while quality varies wildly, RRI, Quality Inns, and La Quintas are generally dependable staples; I just can’t in all honesty recommend the one in Middletown/Franklin, OH), was, ummmm, underwhelming. Generally, sometime during a trip, we like to get a room that has a nice, jetted tub for a solid bubble bath. The previous instance of this (the jetted tub, not the underwhelming accommodations) was coming back from Vermont when we overnighted in St. Ignace. That tub was amazing, but also not unlike a slow cooker. The water seemed of decent temperature coming out of the faucet, but upon initial entry, we lasted about 40 seconds before vacating the vat looking like lobsters, and even after watching AN ENTIRE MOVIE, went back in to try again, basically only to be sous vide.
At any rate, we were excited for the bathtub mulligan, but like most sequels (unlike Indiana Jones, other than the one with the swinging monkeys (but do we even count Temple of Doom and Last Crusade as sequels, or are they a trilogy? I think of them as a trilogy, and the monkey swinging one that sucked was the sequel.)), it wasn’t quite up to snuff. The bathtub at this RRI was……gross. Now me being me, I travel with my cleaning spray and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and would never get into a tub before I’d personally cleaned it, but I expect a generally reasonable situation as the baseline, prior to the Kiki-Clean. This place did not have that. There was grime and grub, and something resembling tubed mascara dregs all over the place, not to mention moldy/mildewy yuck along the edges. I was not about to waste my cleaning spray or elbow grease, so we took a pass on the bubble bath that night.
The other snafu was that on our way into the accommodations, we’d noticed a nearby Golden Corral, which we had randomly been talking about all week long, so it was an obvious dinner choice. The problem arose when driving over to the restaurant and not finding it, even though both signs announcing its presence were lit up. After circling around for something resembling a half dozen times, we decided that apparently O’Charley’s had taken over the building and somebody with only half a brain thought it would be a good use of resources to keep the Golden Corral sign lit up. So we went to Olive Garden instead, where the waitress managed to forget the salad portion of our salad & breadsticks.
Some random other shit that neither Jack nor myself can even remember at this point, but I think pertained to dog shit, cigarette butts, and bad neighbors rounded out the evening of, “Yeah, that tracks with how the day’s going.” That being said, it wasn’t a bad day at all. We watched Last Crusade, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and had a great time.
The second day’s drive was a 5.5-hour drive that was actually 5.5 hours, and a very pleasant stay in a Super 8 that was both clean and uneventful. The final drive day was quick and uneventful, with Jack as the driver for the 3.5-hour duration, which, if anyone knows me, knows what kind of a big deal it is that I can relax and enjoy the ride while somebody else is in charge. In case anyone was wondering, the bridge while he was at the helm was clear and dry. Now we’re back home and making plans for the next adventure up. I’ll let you know when it happens.
In case you needed them, some enjoyable Nashville quotes of ours that I was in my mind enough to make note of when they happened:
“There’s no hollering and swallowing here!”
@ Lucky Bastard Saloon
“It really depends on what kind of relationship you and your liver have. Do you want to be friends today or do you want to go fuck yourself?”
@ Tin Roof
“I really like a divey-er bar.”
@ Ole Red