After 6,611 miles, and 121 hours of driving through 19 states in 18 days… and dealing with a broken computer, culling and editing 2,400 photos,and switching jobs, here are our stories… finally!
We left Ft. Myers on May 6th to head to St. Pete. Loading the car called for some next level Tetris abilities, but was accomplished, as long as you didn’t need anything that wasn’t right on top. Seriously, unless you knew exactly where something was, you had to let it go because ripping the car apart wasn’t an option. We smashed as much as we could into the hatchback trunk (albeit the privacy screen popped off its hinges and just sat there atop all of our stuff), and shoved whatever else we could around the dog hammock in the back seat. A note about the dog hammock – it was a lovely idea, and was great for around the block trips, but for a 2 – 3 hour drive, our pup was not happy. She couldn’t get comfortable and wedged herself in between the door and the passenger seat – not an easy feat for a 98lbs lummox. We will not be using the hammock on the way back.
We stopped in St. Pete for two nights to see family and relax a little bit before we set out. On May 8th, we started our official mad dash to the North. A quick stop at my dad’s farm in Bushnell, Florida for lunch on the Withlacoochee River and to drop off our dog, Bindi, and we were on the road.
Our drive through the rest of Florida, the whole of Georgia, and into Tennessee was pretty uneventful, other than the hilarious billboards, my particular favorite: “Strippers! Need we say more! As featured on Jerry Springer!” We stayed in Chattanooga, TN our first night, and while the hotel was horrid (do not stay in the Red Roof Inn there), the city was beautiful. We ate dinner at the Terminal Restaurant, across the street from Chattanooga Choo Choo – the old rail station that’s now a hotel. We walked around the street after dinner, and came upon a sign that read, “Trail of Tears – Original Route – Next 3 miles.” It was a surreal and humbling experience to realize we had been walking in the steps of so many people who had died on a forced march by the US government to relocate the Cherokee people away from their ancestral homes. The middle of Main Street was part of the American Genocide against its Native peoples…
We woke up the next day and went to Signal Mountain, named so for its use as a signal point to relay messages in the Civil War. It was our first mountain on the trip, and I will admit I got a little teary eyed. We hadn’t seen mountains since we lived in Australia over four years ago.
We headed north through Tennessee and Kentucky, winding our way through the Appalachian Mountains. In looking at Google Maps on our phone, we found a road that went through the Land Between the Lakes – a gorgeous drive and nice reprieve from highway driving. Land Between the Lakes is the largest inland peninsula in the US. Surrounded by forests, and with Kentucky Lake to the west and Lake Barkley to the east, the recreational area was peaceful and filled with glorious hills that made driving seem less tedious. The area was also interspersed with Civil War graveyards, but we didn’t stop at any, instead choosing to have a late lunch overlooking Kentucky Lake before heading further north.
We popped out into Illinois, which has so far been the crappiest drive we found – tons of roadwork, cops, and not very much to look at. We did find some interesting gas stations with questionable residents, and a tiny church in the parking lot. We arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, crossing the Mississippi River with the St. Louis Arch on our side.
Overall, the first part of our 6,000+ mile road trip wasn’t bad. We forgot our iPod, that had tons of music and podcasts to keep up entertained, but we found that our random conversations, daydreaming out the window, making fun of the radio stations (if I hear Men at Work’s “Down Under” one more time, I’ll shoot myself, ironic for being an Aussie), were quite sufficient to keep us from wanting to kill each other.