Maiden Voyage: Last Leg

Friday, October 10, 2014

Heading into Nashville
Thursday night was our first thunderstorm in the Defiant. I would like to say that it passed unnoticed but that would be a lie. The thunder seemed to shake the whole camper and the lightning lit up the sky like it was mid-day. Though the storm did not last long it was enough to jolt us from our sleep and keep us awake for more hours then I would have liked. The good news was there were no leaks.  

We got up much later than we had wanted and I wasted no time getting everything ready for the road. I had hoped that we would have made it to the Parthenon by the time we were just getting out of bed.

It was a lot easier getting out of Smyrna then it was getting in it was but we were still not going as fast as I would have liked. As much as I did not want to my hunger demanded that we stop.  When we stopped for breakfast I finely decided to fix my mirrors. I know that is something I should have done a lot earlier but better late then never. Anyway, I wanted to make sure that I was ready for driving through the middle of Nashville.

The idea of driving our RV through city streets put my stomach in knots. Back country roads I had down pat. Interstates, no sweat; I can even handle outer city beltways. Skinny city streets though… that made me nervous.

It was not as bad as I thought though. The streets were wide, the traffic slow and the other drivers courteous.  It was a good thing too as there was a lot to see in Nashville. I may not like city living but I like city touring and this place was full of eye candy that kept our head on a swivel. Even our cats seemed focused on the views of the city.     

The visitor center we stopped at had quite the selection of pamphlets on things to do in Nashville and I could see that this city lived up to the hype. It was mid-day on a Friday and the place was hopping. The sound of music and the smell of food filled the air. As exciting as it seemed though I had my eye on one destination only: The Parthenon. When we finally made it there it was worth all the trouble.

I plan to write all about the Parthenon later so until then I will just continue on with our journey. Our GPS did not take us out of Nashville the same way it took us in so we got a chance to see even more of the city. The area we drove through seemed like a trendy arts district and we imagined we could spend a lot of time and money there. 

Before long we were out of the city and back on the interstate headed for Coffeyville. It did not take long before we were out of Tennessee and into Kentucky. We stopped at the visitor center as we like to do and the people there were very friendly and helpful. While we were looking at the map comparing it to what our GPS was saying one of the attendants asked us where we were headed.

We told her we were headed to Coffeyville Kansas and she said that a trucker had just come through heading the same direction. We showed her our route and she said she knew a way that would cut quite a few miles off of our trip. So we took her directions said thank you and hit the road.

Now the road she said we should take was supposed to be highway and I guess it was but it was the thinnest most middle-of-nowhere highway I had ever been on. The whole time we were on that road I felt like I had one tire on both lines. If that was not bad enough the wind was blowing really hard and it moved The Defiant around like it was a toy. To the right it was often a ditch and to the left it was oncoming traffic. This was a very busy road for the middle-of-no-where.

I know I was driving under the speed limit and I was passed on more than one occasion. That was fine with me as this so far had been the most unnerving leg of our journey. It felt like this twisty, hilly, windy highway would go on forever. The whole time we had no cell service so I could not tell how much farther we had to go.

To make things worse we were running low on gas and not a station in sight. It would have been really bad to have run out of gas out here with no room to pull off the road and no service to call for help. After what felt like a 1000 miles we finally came up on a little gas station and I was quick to pull in. 

This place was country, more so then even the most out of the way spot in NC. Even the gas pumps were antique. When I walked inside the whole place seemed to stop and all eyes were on me. The gas station was also a little diner and the place was filled with men in overalls and flies. A thick cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air but it still could not block out the smell of whatever that road kill stew was they were serving.

The cashier had an accent so thick I could barely understand what she said when she asked me what I needed. Apparently she had the same problem understanding me, as she only put $15 on the pump when I had asked for $50. I was willing to let it go though and just take the gas I had paid for as I felt so unnerved by my surroundings. We drove through a small town that looked like it had been passed over by the flow of time. The road became wider and the wind died down and I thought the worst was over... I was wrong.
Missouri State Line sign
Up ahead was bridge that looked as old as the town we just drove through. It was a little less narrow then the road we had just driven, but not wide enough to make me feel comfortable. It was also tall and very long. Not that I have a fear of heights or anything but this bridge did not look friendly. As soon as we got off of that one there was another even taller than the last.

Looking back I know that there was no reason to be worried. That bridge had been there for a long time and it was not likely to fall down while I was on it, but fear is not a rational thing. Still, I will likely find another way when we head back east. The sun was setting and it was right in my eyes as we came to a Flying J with a Huddle House so we decided to stop.

We both went with a big breakfast meal and we had a chance to watch The Middle as we ate. A friendly trucker at the next table told us about the road ahead and warned of some weather coming our way. It was getting late and I was tired but it was a long way to the nearest campsite and I did not really want to sleep at the Flying J.

We were just in Missouri and the only campground that would answer the phone was in Springfield. It would be a long ride till we got there. Our GPS gave us an ETA of 11 PM. We were both already sleepy but if we wanted to make it to Coffeyville in time for the Dalton Defenders Day we would have to press on.

The road we took shared the highway number as the road we just got off of in Kentucky but that is the only thing they had in common. This road was wider, flatter, and the best part empty. This turned out to be the most boring leg of our trip. It was dark the entire time, too dark to see anything but the road.

The only thing I can tell you about the eastern part of Missouri is the gas stations all seemed modern and clean. The first one we stopped at was nothing like any gas station we had seen before. When you first walk in the counter was full of liquor bottles. Off to the left of the counter was a room with a row of electric gambling machines. If I did not know I was in Missouri I would have thought I was in Las Vegas.

There is not much to talk about on this part of the trip. It was dark and cold and I drank a lot of coffee. It felt like this long empty stretch would go on forever then finally, an hour later then our GPS predicted, we made it to Springfield.

I did not expect much from this city I had assumed it would be a little spot on the map but I was wrong. The city was lit up and made the night feel like day. The streets were lined with stores of all types and restaurants to fit any taste. It seemed like large glowing billboards stood on every corner. Had I not been so sleepy I might have appreciated it more. As it was though the only thing I wanted to see was the KOA.

Our GPS took us down a bunch of back roads after we drove through the heart of the city. When we finally made it to the KOA and found an empty spot we crawled into bed and I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. It did not feel like I had slept 5 minutes before we got a knock at the door. It was almost checkout time and we had to get out of the spot. It was not a bad thing though I was in a rush to get to Coffeyville before the show started.

I do not know why the GPS took us through the city and on all of those back roads when the KOA was right off the high way. We pulled into the first truck stop we came across for breakfast and again we sat next to a friendly trucker who was happy to tell us about the road ahead and shared a few stories about his life on the road.

Kansas state line sign.
We did not have far to go and there was not much left of Missouri but what we had seen of it was beautiful. Still my eyes were focused more on what was in front of me rather then what was around me and as beautiful as Missouri might be I only had eyes for Kansas.
The flat landscape of Kansas is drastically different than anything Kayla had ever seen, she also saw her first mirage
(look closely at the road in the distance in this photo).
It did not take long before we crossed the border in to Kansas, our new home for the next 3 months. There was not much between the border and Coffeyville but what we saw of Kansas was welcoming. It did not take long before we saw the sign for Coffeyville. We pulled off the highway and drove into town. We were eager to explore our new home.
We arrived in Coffeyville on its busiest day of the year, Dalton Defenders Day.


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