US Road Trip Travelog: 22nd February 2005

Great news in the morning when Roger at Coleman Taylor calls at 9:30 to say my car is ready. I'm fairly sure it was ready yesterday and he went out cruising in it last night, but who cares. A $20 cab ride there - I'm not going near Nashville buses again - and I'm reunited (and it feels so good) with my car. The bill is a stonking $3200, including Tennessee's 20% or so tax, but the good news is a 12,000 mile or 12 month warranty which will be honoured anywhere in the US. The other good news is that I can get back to the Comfort Inn in time to load the car up and check out a day early rather than having to stay another night.

The original plan was to head back to Memphis and rejoin Highway 61 but, like many of my plans, it was a rubbish one:

But the basic truth is that being English and being on holiday I want to go to the seaside. Being a small relatively narrow island there are very few places in England that are far from the coast, and it's the traditional place for holidays if you're not going abroad. If you're English then you'll probably understand and if you're not then it's just same crazy Brit thing.

So the new plan - subject to alteration at any time - is to head SE from Nashville down through Georgia and out to the coast. Then to follow the coast down before heading west through north Florida and on to New Orleans. Think it'll work out like that? Think pigs can fly?

The first step is to find Highway 41A out of Nashville, as I'm going to try to stay off the Interstate. The first ten miles or so is all developed but after that it opens out into farming country. Quite prosperous farming country, by the look of it. And I can't tell you how good it feels to be back in my car and on the road again - I may have been a bit hard on Nashville as I was feeling a touch trapped there, and this is the perfect cure. And the temperature rises out of the 50's and higher into the 60's the further south I go.

Down through Shelbyville. Tullahoma and on to Winchester. South of Winchester the scenery changes and the road is snaking up the side of a mountain. Great driving country, and the Riviera is purring like a cat with a bowl of warm milk. This is no sportscar but it has got enormous power (now being transmitted to the back wheels) and, as long as you remember to steer a bit early into the corners, it's great fun. After some miles along the top - this is the end bit of the Great Smoky Mountains - the descent begins. Even after the recent brake rebuild, the Riviera is still a big heavy car with only drum brakes all round and they will fade if you're too harsh so we take it easy on the way down.

Resting after the drive down the mountain
No, I didn't stop to offer a prayer up for reliability - I thought I'd let the brakes cool down a bit and take the opportunity to pour some water on the windscreen and let the wipers do their stuff.

Then the scenery changes once again. Having descended to the bottom of the valley, there's a lake and then a crossing of the Tennessee River. When I had a look on the map I had no idea how beautiful this part of the world be. Being completely disorganised I have no guidebooks telling me what to expect next, and there may be many things I'm missing on the way, but I'm beginning to like the surprise of it all. I was considering stopping at the AAA offices along the way to collect maps, guides etc. but I don't think I'll bother.

By the side of the Tennessee River
By the side of the Tennessee River, or some sort of lake or inlet off the side of it anyway. To the left is the road leading up to a green structure which is the, very impressive, bridge over the river itself.

From here Highway 41 follows the river most of the way to Chattanooga. I must admit that when I planned to stay overnight in Chattanooga I was expecting a small mainly wood-built town with a cute little railway. Er, no. It's actually a very likeable big city, one that has obviously been established for a while and that seems to be able to comfortably straddle the country / urban divide.

US Road Trip Travelog: 23rd February 2005 >