Tandem, An American Love Story

Tennessee state parks continue to amaze us. Tim’s Ford State Park, wins the award for the best showers of the trip. Nothing else even comes close. Each large shower area has built in toilet and sink. The shower is molded plastic with seats and shelves for soap etc., but the rest of the shower area is wood like you would find in a fine sauna. And of course the best part (for us) is not having to scrub it, ever.

We keep getting faster. We’re being sucked down the Mississippi drainage ahead of cold weather. We’ve been wearing some of our winter clothes for awhile each morning, but the sun soon warms us. That and the exercise. It must have reached 80 degrees today and will drop to the upper 40’s tonight. Nice weather. We want to keep ahead of the cold, but not so far ahead of it that we get bugs and humidity again. Delicate balance.

We should be feeling the Deep South soon. This morning we walked into a restaurant for breakfast and were met with silent stares. Creepy. We ate breakfast, lingered over coffee and maps.

On the way out, our waitress, now sitting smoking with the table of Bubbas, asked me a question about our trip.

Soon they were all chiming in with questions and expressing amazement and jealousy. What we had taken for reserve or hostility was just shyness. Once they got the courage to approach strangers, they were open to us and our experience. It’s been that way here in Tennessee. Slow to warm, but open and warm after a respectful amount of time. Wish the days weren’t getting so short. We need to take more time to linger here in the South. We’ll just have to take shorter days. Or come back.

Encountered another “Private Bathroom” today in a convenience store. When I asked I was told I was welcome to use it. I am still amazed.

We heard another racial story from a couple from Arkansas who invited us to share their dinner tonight here in the campground. They needed a mechanic in Louisiana and inquired at a gas station. They were told there wasn’t any near, unless they want the “old Nigger down the road” to work on their RV. They were told he probably wasn’t any good and wouldn’t want to do a “lick a work nohow”.

They found the “old Nigger” mechanic, he fixed their vehicle expertly, and told them stories of an accomplished and varied life. He was of no worth to the white man simply because he was lumped with all Black people.

How many opportunities to know good people are missed by us all when the single parts of a person, skin color, political persuasion, career or religious choice, sexual preference etcetera, are the only things we allow ourselves to see. Some of those things are part of a valid value judgment, but too often they are allowed to act as an opaque curtain hiding a real person worthy of knowing.

We met a man wearing a work uniform who was interested in our trip. He was mid 30’s but his eyes looked a lot older, dark and deep. He looked unhealthy, tired, overworked. He was looking for verification that he too could do something like we were doing.

We did all we could to encourage him and I hope we succeeded. His father has worked at the same job for his entire work life and is too burned out to do anything with his impending retirement. The younger man does not want that to happen to him. He has started an ice-making machine business to that end. He also had a best friend die of cancer recently.

When he left us, he said, “I knew you guys were doing something big when I saw you.”

Not big, but good.

Next morning, a gray sunrise, and then heard the first thunder. It began to rain hard. Above me, on a crescent of blue tent fabric, brown and yellow leaves fluttered and stuck, translucent. Some were carried away in mini rivulets of bright water. All of this to the patter and splat of rain, thunder and wind. A work of mixed media, in-progress.

It was cold outside. The first cold front of the season here, and very chilly. We stayed in the sleeping bag until late morning. Something about rain on a tent makes for wonderful snuggling; we never tire of it, snuggle and talk, snuggle and nap.

Last night, we had another visit by a young skunk. This one got his head caught in an empty Famous Amos cookie bag (we ate the whole bag for dessert). He backed around and around in tight circles trying to get out. We hated to laugh at him, but couldn’t restrain ourselves. He looked quite disgusted when he finally got free; Claire never leaves any crumbs.

We saw prickly pear cactus along the road today. We have seen it in Virginia, West Virginia and now Tennessee. They always grows on barren shale banks that don’t hold water. I loved seeing it bloom, when I lived in Dorcas, West Virginia. It has such a large beautiful yellow flower. The local name for it there is cows ear.


Tandem, An American Love Story — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the memories, and the update on your own adventures. That last few days back to Sequim was bitter-sweet after more than a year on the road. We’ve never been the same; a good thing.

  2. What a marvelous and beautifully descriptive article about a simply amazing woman – Karen Landis. I’ve had had the serendipitous experience to create and nurture a friendship with Karen after I underwent a hip replacement and three hip fractures and realized I needed to request the local “Meals on Wheels” service. And of course, if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Karen serves the Chino Valley community two days a week by delivering meals to people in my circumstance.
    I loved Karen the first moment I met her. And when we started chatting I knew I had met a soul mate. I’ve been looking all my life for a role model, a hero, an amazing example of humankind. I don’t know if she realizes what an outstanding example she is of a strong, independent, intelligent, talented woman. Sometimes as women, we have a dentency to undervalue ourselves. But Karen, I want you to know you are the real deal. You are just so beautiful in your authenticity. And I a so appreciative of the value you have added to our environment by caring for the land and the animals under your watchful care. Your abilities and strength simply boggle my mind. And thank you for your loving service to me these past four months. You rock girl!

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