700 miles, 36 hours. The week started off with a bang. The universe conspired to put me on the road Monday. I headed south toward Atlanta with a mixture of excitement and dread. The former at the prospect of being on the road for hours at a time, since I can then listen to NPR without interruption. As usual, they did not disappoint. The latter because I wasn’t quite clear what i was headed into, all i knew was that I had to check on elderly parents and make some determinations regarding their care. That doesn’t bode well for them, does it? Can you imagine leaving your life in my hands? Shudder.
So anyway, the road from here to West Georgia offers few choices. The fastest way is to take I-24 to I-75 and go right thru Atlanta. I decided to go at 9:40 a.m., and by 10:00 a.m. I was filling up with gas. ($3.69 a gallon, ouch) leaving at that time meant trying to get through metro Atlanta during rush-hour. I’d sooner endure a root canal during a history lesson given by Michelle Bachmann than drive on I-75 or 285 between the hours of 3:30-6:30 p.m. That meant a trip through the North Georgia mountains. I’m a bit of a planner, so finding myself in this position was unsettling. I enjoy taking the back-roads when traveling, the interstates are now merely there to allow big trucks, filled with Chinese crap, a chance to move from town to town in formation. Plus, I can’t stand the blandness of it all. I’m sorry, but pick any exit ramp off of any American highway, running through any state, and there will be a Waffle House there, waiting to take your order. Beyond predictable.
I vaguely knew of a route that wound its way through the mountains and eventually ended up on hwy 27 in West Georgia. Its a lovely drive, through quaint North Georgia towns and speed traps. There are vegetable stands, yard sales, and churches everywhere. I have taken that route BACK to Nashville once before. I decided to let my navigation feature on my Android phone show me the way. I put in the address of a location I knew I passed on my way back through those mountains long ago. I hit “enter’ and waited. A woman’s voice asked me to turn left, then proceed 800 ft before turning left onto I-24. (I as at a gas station where I stopped to pee) I obliged her. She then proceeded to instruct me to stay on 24 another 70 miles, until I merged with I-75. I gently reminded her that I knew that route all too well, and that I was hoping she might see her way to finding a route through the lovely hills of the Old South. She recalculated. “head South, for 70 miles until merging with I-75″.
As I entered the Chattanooga city limits, just past Nickajack Lake, I saw a road sign that said Hwy27/Fort Oglethorpe. Bingo! I shot the trucker next to me the bird and exited off the expressway. I turned right. I stopped at a red light. There was a Waffle House to my left. I drove a block, and then I stopped at another light. I was fairly engrossed in a story on the radio about a remarkable woman who heads up water management in Las Vegas and didn’t really notice that in the span of about 10 minutes, I had stopped at roughly 2000 red lights. Then disaster struck. NPR started to crackle a bit, then, after a minute or so, go away completely. Picture this. I’m in North Georgia, about to embark on a 150 mile trek through Klan country, and NPR is gone. Like any seasoned soldier, I remembered my training. First rule: Don’t panic. Worst case, you find a brick and mortar store that sells CDs, and pick up something to see you through. I hit the “search” button. It was something by Travis Twitt or Rowdy Burns or some such, definitely country. I expected that. I hit it again. I watched in horror as the digits flew by…92.3, 94.7,101.2. until, finally, it settled back on the same exact song. Now I know what it must have felt like to be a newly minted Second Lieutenant, dropped, along with Bravo Company into a hot MeKong Delta LZ and pinned down by enemy fire from all directions. It was exactly like that. Only not really. Still, I did not panic. I hit it again. The numbers flew by again, but, at that moment, the clouds parted, and a ray of sunshine called 106.9 Hippie Rock blasted from my speakers. “I Drink Alone”. George Thoroughly Good, which, btw, has the stupidest lyrics in the world (I drink alone, with nobody else, cause you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself. Yikes) but has catchy hooks and George’s trademark nasty guitar licks. If you are ever in the mood to have a guitar make brutal love to you, (and who isn’t?) listen to “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer.” I smiled, and floored it. Six cylinders and a cloud of red Georgia clay.
That radio station saw me through. It played classic rock, but i have to admit that knowing The Cars “Shake It Up” is considered a classic gave me pause.
I got there, handled my business, and returned the next day. Because i stopped to see an old friend at his newest and bestest restaurant, I came back through Atlanta. I gave in and had my hash browns scattered well, chunked. My waitress was a recovering meth addict from Gadsden, Alabama. Sigh.
I’m home now, and I ain’t leaving again until June.