I've been focusing so much on the reminiscences of my six Al-Can trips--and yes! I still have several more posts already sketched out and I'm not halfway done yet--that it's interesting (to me, at least) to juxtapose those trips with the one I took yesterday.
Yesterday's drive: Midlothian, Virginia, to Lebanon, Tennessee. Why, you ask? For the same reason I've driven the Al-Can usually: I'm moving. In this case, I'm moving to Memphis. The family is staying back in Midlo till the daughter graduates from high school in early June; after all, I can't imagine how badly she might injure me if I yanked her out of high school a month before graduation. So we're doing the two household thing for a few weeks, and then I'll fly back to Midlo, scream embarrassing things about her as she walks across stage, and drive everybody back to Memphis to start our new Tennessee-based lives.
That's the theory, anyway. It all sounds good till I think about how much I'm missing the fam already. But I keep reminding myself that it's just like being out on maneuvers in the Army.
So all that being said, this has been an interesting drive so far in and of itself, and it gets far more interesting when considered alongside all of the Alaska Highway tales I've been telling.
For one thing, the worst construction sites I've faced have been stuff to the tune of "Hey, now, slow down all the way to 55. Now jog a few feet to the right onto this newly-paved area." That's a heckuva lot different approach from "Stop here, wait 15-45 minutes for a pilot vehicle who'll lead you over the rocks at 25 kph."
The fact that I'm traveling alone makes a difference, too. With three or four people, you have three or four differently-timed bladders to account for. With just me, though, it was more controllable, and to a certain extent that ended up being to my own detriment. I mean, I was a good boy and went before I left. Then I only drank a water and a soda on the way, and so I managed to make it all the way from Richmond to the Tennessee line (on Interstate 81) without stopping.
That's five hours.
If you haven't sat in a driver's seat for five hours straight before--well, don't. It makes for some awfully painful creaking and oomphfing once you finally stop. Maybe it's just that I'm a wee bit older, but I'm blaming it on the drive.
Radio stations still suck, by the way, just as much as they did in Canada. My lovely bride sent me along with some specially-burned CDs, and I loved listening to them, but after a couple of times through I wanted something different. I took two spins through the radio dial, and promptly switched back to the CDs. The last trip through Canada we listened to an entire Harry Potter book and an entire Eragon book, mostly because we were lucky to find anything on the radio at all. More stations down here, but same crap.
Weather can still cause issues, of course. On the Al-Can, it takes a lot of weather to slow you down, mostly because you're already going fairly slow. That said, running into a lot of weather on the Al-Can is a fairly normal thing. On this trip I faced a slippery rain all the way from Roanoke to the Virginia border, and again near Knoxville. Scared me so much at times that I reduced speed from 70(ish) to about 67, in fact.
The weather that concerned me the most never happened. I came up to about 70 miles from Lebanon (where I was stopping for the night mostly because the hotel there offered triple points) and started seeing flashes in the night sky. Lightning, it was, and an intense storm, too. I continued, watching carefully and concernedly, but it didn't become anything more than flashes.
Then, at about 20 miles out, I heard the screech screech screech sound that is so familiar as the national weather service warning. What really bothered me about it was that my radio was actually turned off; I was at the time enjoying a quiet drive lost in thoughts of glorious success at my new job. But I looked down and thought to myself, hmm, if they're reaching out through a radio that's turned off, I guess I ought to turn it on. I did, and flipped to an active station, and sure enough I heard the warning: flash floods for this county, and that county, and that other county, none of which held any geographical meaning to me. Finally they mentioned the communities involved: Thistown, Thisothertown, Lebanon, and.....
So I sped up.
My thought process went like this: a) it's not raining here now; b) I'm only 20 miles from Lebanon; c) the more ground I cover while it's not raining, the less driving I have to do in SouthernHellRain.
It turned out, I made it to the hotel without seeing a single drop. I managed to catch the TV's weather station in the hotel and saw that they'd basically pre-warned everybody; there was, in fact, a major front moving through. Luckily, because I'd hurried, I got to sit in my hotel room and listen to the sound of SouthernHellRain outside. And lightning, too--lots of lightning. These southern storms are everything but boring.
Otherwise, yeah, I've already described most of the differences. I remember driving the Alaska Highway and waiting, hoping, praying, for a pullout to rest for a moment. On the American Interstate system we're rather spoiled by frequent (and nice!) rest stops whose signs actually tell you how far it is to the next one. Plus, while there really isn't a Flying J, or a TA, or any of another several brands of travel plazas located at each exit, they do come along frequently.
And so, on that note, have a great day! I get to drive from Lebanon to Memphis today, and all things considered it's a very short trip. I probably won't see a moose or a grizzly bear all day.
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