Everything Everywhere

Today is Evan’s 31’s birthday. We are both a little under the weather but in good spirits. He’s replacing a part on the van while I take care of some work business. Today’s our third day on the road and we are in Jackson, TN (yes, that Jackson).

We had a late start on our adventure because life is a comedy of errors. Our tenants put an offer on a house and it was accepted, my scooter broke down right as I was trying to sell it, the battery on the van died, and it turns out we still owned a lot of stuff. But it was great to spend the Thanksgiving packing during a beautiful 60 degree day, and we got to see a lot of family to whom we hadn’t had the change to say goodbye. It was a nice end-cap to our time in Pittsburgh. Since then, it’s been raining nonstop, as our late start coincided with a large winter storm that is covering the entire length of our path to Austin, TX. Good thing we’re not on bikes!

Yesterday, we went to Nashville, TN and grabbed coffee at Barista Parlor. It was uncomfortably expensive but perfect. Evan got a shot of Espresso in grapefruit tonic water with ice and a lemon zest. I ordered a cortado, not realizing the endless expanse of wacky drinks at my disposal, since I had stayed outside with Major Tom. But still: perfect. We met a couple who gave us tips on where to eat (I tried my first ever [and possibly last] deep friend grilled cheese sandwich with fried okra at Pepper Chicken and it was delicious but about as intense and intimidating as one can estimate). The man, from Chicago, told us to stay at El Cosmico when we head to Marfa, TX, and I was happy to already meet kindred spirits with helping hands on the road.

We were still too full to eat, but we pulled into Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen to check out their souvenirs and get some information on Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch Campground. The souvenirs were impressive (though some were a little curious, like a confederate flag dream catcher and a Mammy statue), but the campgrounds were closed for the night.

The consolation prize was that just up the hill, sharing the same parking lot, was a free karaoke night at Mother Road Music Hall. We had been talking about how there ought to be a registry of national karaoke nights around the country, and when we walked up this gravel to this little ranch building, we were the only folks in there who weren’t manning the counter or DJ box. The woman at the counter and her DJ son were originally from Pheonix, AZ, and interested in our adventure. The son said he missed the food of Phoenix but it was a worthy trade for the friendliness and laid back atmosphere of the South.

It was a free karaoke, taking only donation and selling soda to help raise money. We bought a soda and donated a dollar, and they tried to give us a dollar back because we would need the money on the road. Evan sang “She Still Thinks I Care” by George Jones and I sang “Brand New Key” by Melanie. Shortly before we hit the stage, a family walked in who proceeded to sit silently with their heads down as if in prayer for the duration of Evan’s rendition. As things were setting up, we volleyed a few jokes with an older man who had been sitting quietly in a corner, whom I’d first thought was asleep or a mannequin. After Evan’s song, he said, “I hadn’t heard that in years, that you for choosing it to sing.”

As we left, a woman got up to sing whom had signed up for about an album’s worth of songs (“I’ll set up the first three for you, Maryellen, and we’ll see if anyone else shows up who wants to sing and let them have a chance first, otherwise you can keep going”).

With all the rain, the camper is a welcome respite from the storm. We hung a few pictures and made the bed with our old comforter and blankets, and even Major Tom is settling into life in our land skiff with the help of creature comforts and some peanut butter. Hopefully the storm will move quickly so we won’t be too waterlogged during out time in Austin. It’s already scheduled to pass a day sooner than anticipated, but in the meantime we have a roof over our heads and plenty of books to read.

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