Leaving Texarkana in heavy rain, we passed Clinton’s birthplace of Hope on a good highway with a wide median and sloped shoulders. The car interior was soaked from leakage beside the straps of our ski rack. The temperature fell to 34° at high elevation and slush slowed our speed to 60 mph. I wrote, “Pickup truck off the road righted by emergency crew. Another car and pickup off road on the other side. Forty mph, puddle splash, no visibility, terrible potholes, can’t see to pass or when we’re passed. Worse than we ever get in Canada. Road not recently plowed or ever salted. Trucks exiting for inspection helps.”
- We pass a lot of vehicles, then are plummeted with slush by a passing truck. Tom has to memorize the road ahead in case he loses visibility. A car is off on the left. We straddle lanes because of hard slush ruts. Heavy traffic both ways. Can’t switch lanes without almost losing control. We’re probably the only car with snow tires. Two cars off on left; two off on right. Managed to switch from left to middle lane. Car off on right. Going 16 mph, road very slushy. Rain splotches haven’t let up at all. Car off on left.
- Exited I–30 at 1 p.m. In Little Rock. Whew! Tom not sleepy because he had to concentrate so hard on the driving. Four inches of snow on roofs of local cars. Clinton Library and Museum, in fact the whole town, closed. Kids tobogganing beside the Arkansas R., which is full of open water. We had a nice lunch of panini at the Community Bakery and Deli.
- Back on I–40 at 3 p.m. in heavy rain and traffic. Tom sets wipers on fast when passing trucks so he can see. Car in ditch on right, still 34°. Car off on left. Up to 52 mph. No slush on road, then it started building up again. Trees, flat fields – the sort of landscape we’re used to near home, with far-apart farm homes. Scattered towns. All signing and hwy barriers look like ours.
- The camera’s drying out (I dropped it in a puddle when getting out of the car). Fog. Big transport off in median. Passed a plow. Slush and ice on bridges. Temperature 36°, heavy traffic. Tom keeps two wheels on the pavement (not the slush). Car off on the left has been pulled out by now. 70 mph, than slowed to 45 mph. Lots of tracks in snowy median. Double lane line-up, mostly trucks, from more than 50 miles west of Memphis. Three cars off on left. Trees by roadside flooded. Slush makes big racket hitting underside of our car. Car off on left. Foggy again.
- Farm homes are mostly bungalows and many are prefabs. It has poured without let-up all day since we got up. Maybe we are traveling with the storm system from the west (El Nino). Up to 66 mph. Arrived at Memphis at 6:30 p.m. It’s beautiful!
- At the downtown Comfort Inn we got a room on the 11thfloor with a view of the bridge over the Mississippi. It is an architectural marvel, with three high, graceful arches all lit up at night and a ‘Welcome’ sign on it. We were enchanted to look down on the marina basin, the boats going under the bridge and the street car lines going parallel to the shore, complete with swing barricades.
We walked out in slush (not raining now) to eat at Blues City Café on Beale St. Their special platter, which they let us share, was a fabulous rack of pork ribs, deep-fried catfish, red potatoes, beans and coleslaw. Got ride back on trolley with talkative driver and one other friendly passenger who was flying to Chicago the next day, whee an even worse storm was predicted.
Tues., Feb. 9: Memphis, Nashville, & Knoxville, TN
- Big churches, court buildings in downtown Memphis. We left town on a clear I–40, seeing many tracks on the median. Tom says tow-truckers in this area must make a fortune. Usual rural winter landscape and mixed forest but many trees are down, perhaps from an ice storm. Few cars, lots of trucks, some SUVs. One pickup off road on right. We’re wearing ski jackets and boots again. Crawled along for an hour before getting to Nashville – another car off the road.
- In Nashville downtown parking arrangements were inhospitable but we got to the tourist center and walked over to see the Ryman Auditorium (called the Carnegie Hall of the south because Caruso once sang there). We ate dinner at Jack’s Bar B Q (pork shoulder on a bun, corn, cinnamon apples) on the Main Street, which has guitar sculptures, wall frescoes and blaring country music. We admired the Andrew Jackson memorabilia, guns and movie star pix.
We drove over to Centennial Park and photographed the full-scale replica of the Parthenon and young Canada geese in the river.
- The city has 800 churches, publishes more bibles than any other place and is known as the ‘Buckle of the Bible Belt’. Still, we didn’t see any religious slogans posted, as in Texas.
- En route to Knoxville I drove through a snow squall and high wind over a mountain range but our mileage picked up when the wind was in our back. We saw rolling hills, green and forested. Tom was at the wheel when we drove over the Appalachians at night with a 4-degree downhill grade and big trucks at our side. The lights of the city of Harriman shone far below us on the right. It was 30° at the high elevation and 36° at the low. We changed from central to eastern time. Incidentally, Fort Knox (where the U.S. gold supply is stocked) is near here.
- The beautiful swimming pool at our hotel was too cold to use. We had an exceptionally fine dinner at Puleo’s Grille (crab cake, steak and a side dish of mushrooms in burgundy sauce.)
What’s in a name? Why is the building in this picture called Transylvania University?
Wed., Feb. 10: Knoxville, TN to Lexington, KY to Cincinnati and Oxford, OH
- We left Knoxville in a strong northwest headwind, with gusts up to 50 mph in high mountain elevations. We passed a big white cross on a hill, just like one we had seen yesterday. A tree had fallen partly onto the road. We passed the road to Dogpatch Center.
- Half way to Lexington at 70 mph on a good road we met big gusts and snow flurries. Tracks across the median did not inspire confidence, nor did a pickup truck in the ditch on the right. We lost a hub cap in a pothole as we drove by straight-cut majestic roadside rock cliffs on both sides, like steppes. A hawk or eagle flew overhead. We were disappointed to see no horses, only fences. They say in Lexington the horses are treated better than the people so maybe they were all indoors.
- We passed by the opera, old Victorian mansions and office buildings. We stopped at the University of Kentucky student hangout, Tolly-Ho, for lunch and bought some postcards in the campus bookstore. Finally we saw some horses grazing outside Lexington. I drove on at 60 mph in a 70 mph zone because of the high winds. Somewhere along the way we lost another one of the hub caps we had bought at El Centro and were very proud of.
- Cincinnati is beautiful but we just drove through to get to longtime friends Orie and Bernie’s house in Oxford around 6 p.m. They had had lots of snow. She served us a wonderful home-cooked dinner,we stayed the night and had breakfast with them.
Thurs., Feb. 11: Oxford and Columbus, OH to Pittsburgh, PA
- In Columbus we got to the Museum of Modern Art’s tuck shop just before it closed at 3 p.m. and were happy to eat a sandwich of ham, salami and Swiss cheese on rye and drink orange juice. No time to look at pictures, and the admission would have been costly. We had a date to help get ready for a Valentine’s party.
- We arrived at our son’s house in Pittsburgh around 8 p.m. after having had supper at a very modern McDonalds in Washington, PA and a scenic drive over rolling hills. They had had a tremendous amount of snow but were happy to see us, and vice versa.
Fri., Feb. 12: Pittsburgh, PA
- We went out to buy last-minute items for the party and pigged out on a chocolate strawberry filled with liqueur. Then we went out again, to stay out of the way of the cleaning woman, and had coffee and sweets at Starbucks while reading the New York Times. When my daughter-in-law came home early from work to start cooking I helped her. Tom spent hours shoveling the driveway and doing chores while our son was at work.
- We took our grandsons out for lunch at McDonald’s. About 50 people, adults and children, came to the party (pictured below with our grandsons on the right.) It was a huge success.
Sun., Feb. 14, Day 29 Pittsburgh, PA to Ottawa, ON
- We were sad to find that Plainville Restaurant in Cicero had closed permanently. Instead, we ate at Denny’s. The weather was good and we reached Ottawa just before midnight.
- So little snow had fallen, we didn’t even have to clear the driveway. The plants survived our absence and we are very happy that this major dream trip turned out so well. We did everything we wanted to do on schedule, had wonderful visits with our friends and relatives and have lots of stories and pictures to share with our friends. Driving under winter conditions focuses the mind so I think that was good mental exercise for us indeed. It is nice to be able to see everyone at home.
- 100,290 miles on the chronometer! We had traveled exactly 10,000 miles in 29 days.
Happy Reading & Traveling from Cozy Book Basics and Bliss on Wheels!
We are octogenarian writers who like to travel by car and share our adventures. We hope you enjoyed our notes and pictures of this cross-continent road trip as much as we enjoyed it on wheels six years ago.