Tandem, An American Love Story

In Lynchburg, Tennessee, we were surprised to see the famous Jack Daniel’s distillery. I haven’t consumed any since college, but I’ve always admired their wonderful magazine advertisements. We checked on the tour, but at two or three hours, decided to pass on it.

We rode into town to get us some dinner (noon-meal, remember) and encountered a high-school band and color guard readying for a parade. We gave them our best wave and thanked them for the special welcome; just for us?

A little further along, people were sitting in lawns, gathering for a parade and they cheered and clapped for us. Now, we are accustomed to being noticed as we show Zippy the country, but it’s not everyday they have a parade for us.

They didn’t. We had arrived as they were preparing for the Homecoming parade.

As we finished our dinner at the Black Kettle, we could hear the big bass drum, crashing symbols and brass blats of the trombones, in the distance. We wandered out on the courthouse square, along with every other soul in town, to watch the parade.

Tractors pulled farm wagons, sweet-young-things sat on hay bales and shook pom-poms; convertibles overflowed with football heroes and the lovely homecoming queen smiled and waved; brass blared, clarinets squeaked, and snare drums rolled; majorettes pranced, knees high, their tassels swung to a fight song.

A crisp autumn day, red and yellow dying leaves danced in the breezy wood smoke scented air; the blare and color and youthful joy of a parade affirmed life in the face of coming winter.

Ah, memories.

It is October 21st, and we are at David Crockett State Park. That is David, not Davey! The state of Tennessee does not appreciate liberties with a folk-hero’s name.

This is another excellent park. This state does parks well. We walked to an all-you-can-eat buffet at a lodge on a wooded ridge-top tonight. Sunset shimmered golden across meadows to glowing fence-row oaks. Came home by starlight with night insects and an owl speaking to us from the deep in the woods. Deer pawed the ground and snorted at our approach.

We are so lucky. It is our limitations that lead to the most memorable experiences. Had we been driving a car, we would have driven to the restaurant and missed the starlight walk home. Artists often place limits on themselves in the form of media constraints or other difficulties, because overcoming those difficulties leads greater awareness and creativity. So it can be in life. Zippy as our choice of home and transportation for this year is such a purposeful limitation.

The next morning, we went back to the David Crockett State Park lodge for breakfast. Another all-you-can-eat deal. Lots of good southern food. One specialty was chawclate (chocolate) gravy over beeskits (biscuits). It sounded gross, but wasn’t half bad. The waitress told us she has hers first thing, and so did Claire, but I saved mine for dessert. A woman at the next table allowed as how, “I raised up my three younguns on it and they all done good.” Can’t beat that for an endorsement.

And there was bacon, ham, sausage, and apple fritters, grits, eggs and white gravy. Yum.

Our waitress was a really cute southern girl of maybe 18, with the thickest accent we’ve heard. Found out she lived in Seattle until she was 12. Go figure.

We are camped at Laurel Hill Lake near the Natchez Trace. Today we had 56 miles of headwind. But. along the way, we were rewarded with a great little country store where a lovely woman in gingham was making fresh fried pies. We each had a hot peach one. Oh my.

We had a nice visit with her and another local woman who told me that Pulaski, back up the road, was the founding place of the Ku Klux Klan. She actually whispered it to me, just in case a white-sheet was within earshot.

The land is flattening out and weight is not such an issue, so I bought a pound of sorghum (thick cane syrup) for my tent breakfasts.

Sorghum means autumn to me; we grew cane and made sorghum when I was a child. Sweet sorghum memories come with each taste.

This morning an older woman called us to her car to ask questions. I soon realized that she thought Zippy was a motorcycle. She was wondering where the engine was. When she learned we had no motor, but had pedaled nearly 6,000 miles, she threw her hands over he face and lost her breath. She was more than adequately impressed. We are still amazed that people are amazed at what we are doing. It seems so normal to us. Certainly makes for some entertaining moments though.

People in this country go all out when it comes to Halloween decorations. Some of them are very elaborate and it seems as if some communities must have competitions, like northerners have Christmas light competitions. Some are very creative, like huge spiders and bats made out of trash bags, pumpkins painted on round bales of hay, and trees decorated with lots of plastic ghosts.

There is a woman camping here with us, in a canvas tent with her dog. She has a small utility trailer with all her camping stuff covered in clear plastic, and an aging Plymouth. She is staying here until they cut the water off at the end of the month (camping is free) before she heads to Arizona for the winter. She says she is on a Social Security disability pension. She talks about her children and grandchildren, but is homeless, it seems by choice. Likes her independence, she says.

We’ve begun to notice more good-old-boys. Bubba. He usually drives a pickup with a bumper sticker saying something like “I Smoke, and I Vote” or “I (heart) My Hound Dog”, gun rack and Confederate flag, his stereo playing “I’m a Pickup Man.” They are masculine to the extreme, or at least think they are. But like all good things in life, being a Bubba has been co-opted by commerce. I saw a soda in the Winn Dixie named Diet Bubba. No real Bubba would drink diet — would he?

They are harvesting the soy beans here. Another crop brought full circle since we started across the great plains. Early on in Nebraska, the corn was too short to use as a proper toilet stop and the beans were hardly out of the ground. Both are now in the barn or silo or elevator. Full circle. Tomorrow we head south for sure, passing through a corner of Alabama and into Mississippi.


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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