August 3, 2005 – Wednesday – Day 39


48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 422 – Total Miles: 10,435 – Average: 267.6 (travel days)
11:30am (after Stone Mt. visit) – 8:00 (8.5hrs.)
ATLANTA, GA to ROANOKE, VA
(-staying at an EconoLodge-) GA (42/48)
– INTO THE HOMESTRETCH! – A COUPLE MORE CLOSE CALLS –

And we’re into the homestretch!

With another 400+ mile day today, we’ve brought ourselves within 400 miles of home. It’s very exciting and sad. I guess it would surely be feeling the textbook example of ambivalence.

After a Waffle House visit for breakfast, we went about five miles to see Stone Mountain. Neither of us had been to the place for about 25 years. This is a quite spectacular mountain. It rises to a height of 1,683 feet above sea level (roughly 650-750 feet above the surrounding area, depending on where it is measured), and has carved in it three gigantic Confederate generals – Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson.

As with most things over the last 25 years it’s become hugely commercialized now – even has a ‘village’ around it with all kinds of come ons.

I was sorry we spent the $8 “parking fee” to get in and sorry we walked around the place for so long in the heat of the morning. After pictures we finally left around 11am, just not having more time to spend.

It was a very difficult first hundred miles of the morning on the highway what with more trucks than I can recall from any other day. Also, the wind was buffeting like crazy.

The second hundred miles of the day ended at Spartanburg, SC, and was not so truck-filled or windy. There were a lot of little and giant lakes going from South Carolina to North Carolina.

One of the things we see a lot of these days is kudzu. Kudzu is a hardy vine from eastern Asia. It was brought to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, PA. There’s so much of this fast-growing vine in the Southeast, you might think it was a native plant. Actually, it took a lot of hard work to help kudzu spread so widely. Now that it covers over seven million acres of the deep South, there are a lot of people working hard to get rid of it! (Check out http://www.cptr.ua.edu/kudzu/ if you want to find out more about this amazing hardy plant which can grow a foot a day.) It covers everything including trees and poles and bushes and signs. Karen noted that it makes some things look like giant green dinosaurs standing by the road. It covers everything including trees and poles and bushes and signs. Karen noted that it makes some things look like giant green dinosaurs standing by the road.

We rolled into a Subway around 2:15pm. Both of us were beat up from the heat of the day and the road. I was pretty tired, and after the meal, leaned over onto my mc jacket and helmet next to me and dozed lightly for about 20 minutes.

For much of the south we passed through today, I got kind of down about what the three main enjoyments of the people here seem to be – at least as defined by the biggest and most numerous ads – cheap liquor, even cheaper tobacco products, and even cheaper and bigger fireworks. I never saw such big fireworks stores – they were as huge as giant department stores. I couldn’t believe it!

I’ve often wondered about those big shards of rubber on the highway, and how dangerously they must molt off the tires they’ve been on. I’ve also always wondered what it would be like to be behind one of those big many-wheeler trucks when those tires come apart. Well, I need wonder no longer, because just north of Charlotte, NC, we were rolling along when a smoke smell began to permeate the air. I looked all around. And there just ahead and barreling along in the right hand lane (next to an even bigger rig in the left hand lane) there was smoke coming from one of the rear tires, and the truck began to wobble. It continued on like the driver didn’t realize the problem and I became extremely alert, slowed down, and watched with great anticipation about what might happen next. It kept on like that for a few moments, and the smoke and the wobbling continued both even greater, and then huge black scabs of tire spewed out onto the roadway. I noticed smaller ones that I avoided and then the bigger ones rolled speedily off to the side, and then the trucker, clearly knowing something was amiss, pulled his huge 18-wheeler (minus one!) off the road entirely.

Another rain shower again today. Just as we hit the foothills of the Appalachians also after Charlotte, NC, before we got on I-81. We had some recently familiar spatters. The sky ahead was very bright, but there was that orange lightning bolt through the light blue! And THEN there came the torrent. I was managing fairly nicely until the tanker truck swooshed by us – then everything turned to a misty white and I had to slow to a crawl. Luckily the thundershower only lasted about 5 minutes – but on that mountain curve with the traffic around us, it was a long 5 minutes!

Was in a shower of another kind, too. As a van passed an occupant tossed out some coffee onto the road. It spattered on the windshield making a nice design. I’m guessing the occupants of the van didn’t realize we were there.

Again, we were pretty butt-sore by the end of the 400 miles. And I had a few extra special shooting stabs through my seat and my shoulder. We weren’t a pretty sight either as we dismounted a few times during the day. But I guess if this whole she-bang were an easy thing to do, everyone would be doing it, eh?

The EconoLodge this evening was right next to a Waffle House and beside a Subway. They took our ten stamps that we’d been collecting all around the country and only charged us the tax for the room!

The Subway had a veggie patty (unlike most all the recent ones we’ve been to), and I walked over and brought it back to the room where we celebrated the last night of the current trip on the road with the sandwich and a Stewart’s root beer!

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NOTE:
Hmmm… If I had it to do over again, I would have changed the sentence after my police encounter story yesterday. We both thought it was pretty clear anyway for those who also read the whole paragraph, but I guess not. This is how I would have changed the sentence to read: Well, if you’ve been wondering what I’ve been thinking about for all those sun-baked hours on the road, you have a pretty good indication from the daydream fantasy above what some of it is.



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