The last stops of my trip were through mostly familiar territory. In Memphis, I visited with Jay and Anna Phillips before getting back onto I-40 West. Actually, before hopping on the highway, I couldn’t resist stopping at a Backyard Burgers for a Blackened Chicken Sandwich. While eating it, the coleslaw dressing ran onto my fingers—it was delicious, even though the price seemed higher than I remembered.
By the time I exited the interstate for Columbia where my friend Dana lives, it was getting late and the sun had already set. I drove to within 20 miles of her city when I came upon wooden barriers blocking the road and sign telling me the road was closed. This happened two more times before I reached Dana’s (a result of the recent flooding, I think). Finally, I arrived, glad to not just be somewhere, although that would be a relief, but especially at Dana’s. I hadn’t seen her in nine months. She’s got a great apartment, and I should have paid her rent for having my own nice bedroom and bathroom—but she wouldn’t have had any of that.
On Sat., we watched the U.S. vs. England soccer match at Kick’s Sports Bar, Music Hall & BBQ. At the busiest, there were maybe 5 customers, including us. Maybe lots of others were watching soccer at another sports bar that featured catfish instead of BBQ, but it’s probably just a reflection of the smaller fan base of soccer compared to the Big Three of American sports. Later in the day, with too much to possibly try to fit into the 32,000 people populated city of Columbia, Dana drove me to nearby Pulaski, which is smaller and more manageable. The court square there is still in working order, and at Reeve’s Drug Store, we had “nickel Cokes” and a homemade fried peach pie. Later, we saw Columbia’s court square, too, and dined at an exemplary restaurant called Market Square where Lynne and the Quintessentials were playing live music.
On Sunday, I went to Dana’s church. The children’s wing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen at a church before. Not to say something negative about churches that are different, but it’s apparent, simply from a visual perception, that this congregation has a vested interest in children’s ministry. The main hall of classrooms is designed to appear like a pier at a seaside amusement park. Lucky for me, this was Beach Club Sunday, meaning a special program was taking place with skits and singing.
In the afternoon, I tried to decide whether to visit Rippavilla, an antebellum home just north of Columbia, or go to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg. It worked better with the planning to head to Lynchburg. The Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg is on the National Register of Historic Places (being the first registered distillery in the U.S.), and an ironic fact is that it operates in a dry county (no liquor sales permitted, which also means no samples on the tour, other than lemonade). The tour guide was a great grand nephew of Jasper (Jack) Daniel, and his regular job during the school year is as a 4th grade teacher. The tour was informative and interesting—and free! While the famed Tennessee whiskey cannot be purchased there or in town, the court square has plenty of other JD-labeled merchandise for sale—as well as 75 cent Cokes (it ain’t Pulaski).
Back in Columbia that night, I had a heavenly meal at Dana’s, which we teamed up to cook together, thus enjoying a reminiscence of our Tuesday night dinner club in Michigan. The next morning, we stopped by Rippavilla and looked around the outside of it before eating at Cracker Barrel, where some grits helped fill me for the next leg of travel. I said bye to Dana and set off for Murfreesboro and then Cookeville to see my Uncle Dale and Aunt Debbie. Near Cookeville’s courtsquare, we had some good BBQ from Moogie’s and later relaxed to a free Flag-day orchestra concert in Dogwood Park. The next day, we ate lunch at Spankie’s and then walked around Tenn Tech. Come to find out, this school began with a donation of the property of a former college run by a local church of Christ. Also, unbeknownst to me, there is still a church of Christ Bible college in Cookeville called Tennessee Bible College, which consists of mostly online learning.
By the next morning, I was on my to my brother’s family in Powell, just north of Knoxville. When I pulled into the driveway, my five-year-old niece was shooting baskets. I didn’t remember her being able to shoot so well. Close by, her bike was tipped over. The training wheels had been removed. A part of her childhood, a part I remembered, was gone. She didn’t seem to mind. But I felt time in a way I’d never experienced it before. Now, funnily, my nephew Josiah, who’s a little over a year younger than Mackenzie, had removed his own training wheels from his bike, but he’s not really ready to balance on his own yet. That’s o.k., though. No need to speed up time.
On Thursday, I went with David, April, and the kids to Dollywood’s Splash Country, a waterpark about 30 minutes south of Knoxville. I can’t remember the last time I went to a waterpark, and I definitely can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a waterpark in only going to kid-friendly slides and pools.
The next day, I loaded the Equinox for the final time of the trip, including April’s inclusion of snacks for the road, which she’s always good to give me. Before long, I was on I-75, which could have taken me all the way back to Detroit, but I tried going around Cincinatti and Dayton to avoid traffic. I had finally run out of books on CD, so I relied on the radio and music CDs for the remainder of the drive. However, I was careful not to listen to radio at first because I didn’t want to hear the score of the US vs. Alergia World Cup match before I could watch a recording of it or see the replay later on ESPN Classics. The time for the replay was supposed to be when I was in Troy, Ohio. I walked into a burrito place, and—what are the chances—a flatscreen was showing a replay of the England game. I thought I might’ve been in luck. I was ready to belatedly support the USA, wearing my USA World Soccer shirt, which a guy behind the counter saw and asked if I’d seen the US comeback. What are the chances of him mentioning this to me?—probably higher with me sporting the soccer shirt. I told him I had not, but now knowing what happened, I asked him to tell me about it. I didn’t wait around to see if my anticipated match would be broadcast. My friend Patrick had recorded it for me, so I could watch it another day. To do so, I just needed to get back to Michigan.