On March 25, our 365th day of nomadic travels, I turned the mothership’s Ford V-10 over. It rumbles to life! Its deep-throated purr sounds more than capable of completing our 2300 mile trip to Maryland and Greenbrier State Park. Our 2014 adventure awaits and our anticipation is high! I hear the theme of “Rawhide” in my head, “Head ‘em up, move ‘em out! Rollin’, Rollin!”
Our first stop was in Albuquerque. We are quickly reminded by the frosty 25 degree morning temperature that we are not in Arizona any more. We rush to fire up the RV’s heater and plan our next dash.
I keep an eye to the sky as we are planning our traverse across the Great Plains. All the states we are moving through are famous for spring time severe weather, even snow. We quickly agree that any mention of a cold front approaching our planned route would freeze us into immobility!
New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma yield to the constant turning of our 20 inch wheels. They are a blur of grays and browns. Dominating the adjacent landscapes were the leafless hardwood forests bands. They stretch their silhouettes out and up to a contrasting gray sky. As we travel into Arkansas, we notice with increasing frequency blossoming Bradford Pear trees along Interstate 40. They are stunningly pearl white and are in sharp contrast to the prevailing gray. They almost look divine against that deep gray sky.
The pear family is unique in its efforts for pollination. These are stunningly beautiful trees and their clustered white blossoms hint at the possession of having a most attractive scent, but they contain a super surprise. They emit the odor of rotting flesh! They count on attracting flies to cross-pollinate. That blend of beauty and repugnance is cool!
Suddenly, a large, slow moving cold front pins us near Memphis. We agree to stop at a heavily-wooded RV park nestled next to the Mississippi River. We spend the next two days allowing the front to continue on its easterly passage while exploring the rich musical history of this Tennessee city. It was cool to see where Elvis first started at Sun Records. Wow!! The Birth of Rock & Roll! I feel its chronological age! I also feel like a proud parent for I remember sweetly the beat and the words of that early sound!
I had forgotten that Memphis was also the end of the one of the most powerful movements I ever watched in my life. Martin Luther King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel downtown Memphis! After that, the peaceful civil rights rallies yielded to the rage of the black nation in the form of street riots, the Black Panther Party and the influential urges of Malcolm X!
The Lorraine Motel is now a shrine to his passage. We waked the peaceful grounds and listened to audio bits of his inspiring speeches. In my head I hear the lyrics “The Good, it seems they just die young! I just looked around and he was gone! Abraham, Martin & John.”
After Memphis, we dash up through the Volunteer state and landed in Pigeon Forge near The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most visited national park in the nation and we want to know why. I had seen its famous haze that surrounded these lower Appalachian Mountains but never had the opportunity to explore them.
It is a serene place. It is so hard to comprehend its solitude being surrounded by gateway communities of Pigeon Forge, Dolly Wood & Sevierville. Driving their highways, you are reminded of all the ways people can dream up to separate someone’s cash from them! I was acquainted with all the tourist traps in my home town of Jackson, Wyoming, but that was romper room compared to the trappings around The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Once in the park, Jude and I sought the less traveled trails. Once, we even walked through the hardwood forest without the luxury of a trail. Almost immediately we discovered a small herd of Whitetail deer. They were virtually immune to our presence. Even when one stamped his foot in an alarm, they moved ever so slowly away from us completely void of fear or panic.
On the third day of exploration, a sudden drop of temperature allowed snow to blanket the park’s upper mountains. All of a sudden we are reminded again that we are no longer in Arizona. With the upper passes closed in the park, we wait until more benign temperatures arrive and head north!
We drive across Virginia and our route is like the Appalachian Trail! We go up, down, up, down up, down and do it all before lunch, but soon we are in Maryland. Our excitement peaks as we move towards the open gates of Greenbrier State Park! Our exploration of Washington, DC, the bosom of the Civil War, and the Chesapeake Bay begins!