On June 23, Ann and I left the Chicago area and headed south, returning earlier today. I’m calling the trip GTT 2016, as in Gone to Texas, but also Gone to Tennessee, another destination. Our route took us south to through Indiana and Kentucky and then to Nasvhille; west through West Tennessee and Arkansas and on to Dallas; and south again to Austin and San Antonio. The return was via Dallas and through Oklahoma and Missouri. All together, from backing out of my driveway to coming back to it, I put exactly 3,005 miles on my car, mostly on Interstates and US routes, but also a fair amount on the streets of Nashville, Austin and San Antonio.
None of the routes or places were new to me, except maybe Texarkana, where I’d never stopped before, and it’s been a long time since I’d traveled US 281 north of Johnson City, Texas, or on US 67 on to Dallas. But no matter how familiar the place or the route, you can always find new things.
In central Kentucky, near Elizabethtown, we visited Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, which features a granite and marble monumental building with a not-really-Lincoln’s log cabin inside. Near Mammoth Cave NP, we walked through Diamond Caverns, an unrelated show cave.
By the time we got to Nashville, the heat was on — in the 90s at least every day, which made stomping around outside less pleasant, especially for Ann, but I did manage to take her to the Nashville Parthenon, which she didn’t remember seeing in 2008. The more important thing we did in Nashville was spend time with old friends Stephanie and Wendall, and pay a visit to Mike Johnson’s widow, Betra.
In Memphis, we saw the Peabody Hotel ducks and the National Civil Rights Museum. In Texarkana, we drove down State Line Road and stopped at the only post office in the nation in two states. In Little Rock, I visited Mt. Holly Cemetery in the morning just before the heat of the day and then the Clinton Library (in full, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park) and, just before we left town, the Arkansas State Capitol.
Dallas was mostly given over to visiting my brother Jay and working. Jay joined us for our few days in Austin, including the Fourth of July, and for a few more days in San Antonio. In Austin on July 2, Ann went to RTX 2016 at the Austin Convention Center, a sizable event held by the media company called Rooster Teeth; I was her chaperon. We visited my old friend Tom Jones the next day, and on Independence Day, saw both the Baylor Street Art Wall and municipal fireworks over Lady Bird Lake. San Antonio was mostly about visiting my mother and brother Jim, and (for me) holing up in a cool place with Wifi and doing more work.
Naturally, the trip involved long stretches of driving. I want to do that while I still want to do that. Because of my obstinance in not getting Sirius or the like, terrestrial radio helps fill the yawning spaces between destinations. The trip was bookended by two news events whose coverage was limitless, even when there was no new information beyond speculation: Brexit near the beginning, and the murder of Dallas policemen toward the end. I also listened to more religious radio more than usual, mostly only minutes at a time, except for the erudite Alistair Begg, whom I will listen to until his show’s over or the signal fades.
The selection of music was mostly what you’d expect, drawn from the rigid genres created by the radio business, though there were a few oddities, such as the Mesquite Independent School District radio station (KEOM) in metro Dallas that played teacher and student shows, besides a selection of completely conventional ’70s music. On I-40 between Nashville and Memphis — the Music Highway, according to official signs along the way — I picked up an oldies station whose playlist was a little older and odder than usual. I heard it play “Waterloo” (Stonewall Jackson), “Ahab the Arab,” “and “Running Bear and Little White Dove,” the last two I haven’t heard in years.
We stayed in a nondescript chain motel in Elizabethtown; in Stephanie and Wendall’s fine guest rooms in Nashville; in another, less nondescript motel in Little Rock; with Jay in Dallas; in the Austin Motel on South Congress in Austin, an updated version of a tourist court that’s been there since 1938; and in an updated former company hotel (vintage 1914) in San Antonio, the Havana Hotel, since there were too many of us to be comfortable at my mother’s house.
During the return home, we stayed at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, Mo., last night, because of course we did.
It’s the same as it was in 2009 and two years ago. Except (maybe) a couple of signs like this were added to the grounds.
Motel co-owner Ramona Lehman was selling Gasconade River Bridge postcards, sales of which help support the restoration of the bridge, a structure about 15 miles east of Munger Moss on the former US 66. I bought one. I didn’t stop to look at the bridge — this time — but it’s visible from I-44 if you know when to look, and I did.