Yes, folks, we made it to Tennessee.
It has not been an easy journey. We left early on a Tuesday, May 20th, me driving my little Mazda with Otto riding shotgun and howard piloting a 24' Budget box truck behind which we towed the '68 Dodge pickup. Oh, yeah, and we put the '83 BMW R80ST in the bed of the pickup just for good measure. The three cats got to ride in the cab with Howard, all in their respective carriers. Well...not exactly, Max (the Fat Bastard) got a special double-wide cage made for him at First Monday beforehand. Not sure that we looked quite redneck enough, Goodman (our 100+ lb lab) got to ride in the cab of the '68. Turns out, he's a pretty good driver. We're trying to talk him into getting his CDL so he can earn his keep around here.
We had figured on stopping overnight for a motel stay, but once we got rolling we were reluctant to stop. Honestly, we were mostly reluctant to de-cage and then re-cage the cats, as we had suffered some battle scars during the first go-round in Canton with that particular procedure. After seeing how well the animals settled down, we decided to just push on through, with several stops for doggie breaks along the way. It seemed to work out just fine. Dogs seemed happy to romp in a rest area about every 150 miles or so and Howard and I just got to-go food and ate it standing up. The worst part of the whole trip was a certain truck stop in Lousianna. Yuck! Matter of fact, the entire state of Lousianna has some work to do. Every time my GPS said there'd be a rest stop, lo and behold! It would be boarded up. Three in a row went by like that and I thought I'd never be so glad to see Mississippi. Now that's sayin' something!
We eventually arrived in Erwin, Tennessee around 4am, after only one brief storm squall in Alabama. It wasn't a bad trip, all in all.
But the fun part was coming up. See, we rented our house sight-unseen from our realtor. So a big task...here in the mountains of East TN at 4 in the freakin' morning...was to simply find the darn place. I scouted ahead and found Howard a place to hunker down with the big truck while I went to find our new home.
It was harder than it seemed. Now, you would think with a GPS and all, that it'd be a piece of cake. Not so! Friends, our home is in a "holler"--which is the Appalachian pronunciation of "hollow", meaning cove or valley. After about 6 or so passes up and down the various offshooting roads, I found it and located the key our realtor had left on the meter box for us. Not wanting to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood by bringing up a big, loud diesel moving truck up the tiny holler road at 4:30 am, I made a couple of trips in the Mazda to deposit the animals and get them settled in the new place. Exhausted, Howard and I got our first sit-down meal at a Huddle House while first light made it over the mountains. Finally, we got to survey the place in the emerging daylight.
All was not what we had expected. The house itself was as promised: new hardwood floors, new paint, new appliances and just as neat as a pin. The shop complex was something completely different. In true rural style, it seemed that the original building had been built upon in new wings as each stage gathered too much crap to be of use anymore. I've rarely seen the like of junk, trash, dead appliances and sawdust. The latter dropped Howard's jaw due to the fire hazard. Part of one bay was sagging from a broken beam. Another bay in teh back was chock-full of old wood scrap and sawdust. It was quickly decided that part would have to come down. We had far more work ahead of us than just the usual moving-in duties.
And work we have done! But we were not alone. Our 3rd day there, Howard and I were trying desparately, with lively lad (some call it a slingblade) and push mower, to clear an area of weeds just enough to give space for some sorting of scrap. We weren't at it long when a neighbor showed up with a bush hog on his tractor. No words were exchanged, he just started mowing and we started shifting things around so he could mow under and around, including two trees that had blown down. Thank goodness we had that old '68 and a sturdy piece of chain! After about 2 hours of nonstop work, our neighbor shut off the tractor and introduced himself. Mr. Stanley doesn't talk much, but his actions spoke loud and clear. He's a good neighbor and we are grateful for him.
We kept a bonfire going for days and days. Every day, it would burn down to coals, then we'd pile more wood scrap and whatnot on it and it would flare up again.
That day and the following were spent sorting out items. At the end, we had 31 tires (24 of which were still mounted on wheels). Well, what do you do with old tires? I'll leave that to your imagination, as I don't want to incriminate anyone. Let's just say that we've located our local scrapyard and I've learned the ins and outs of selling recovered steel. The '68 Dodge has made many trips to the local trash transfer station, too, where Howard has pulled a few fast ones. I never knew you could disguise construction trash, say, an old sink and Chevy body parts, in a black trashbag and throw them into regular trash. But, apparently, if you don't struggle too much and just toss it like it doesn't weigh anything, nobody pays attention. (Reminds me of that strongman on the old Mission Impossible series...the one who doesn't look that big, but can do enormous feats of strength seemingly without effort. Howard has this talent. I never knew!) It probably helped that I chatted up the transfer station attendant and kept him diverted while Howard disposed of the offending materials.
Things are still coming along. I've unpacked the kitchen, but that's about it. Howard and I have been focusing on outdoor clean up, at a furious pace, to do as much as we can before he has to leave for a month. I can unpack boxes and sort indoor things after he goes. He will be heading back to Texas, astride the R80ST, in the morning. Lucky for me, we hauled three other bikes in the truck...including my F650 FUNduro and K1200R (zoom!). I plan on hitting some of the local twisty roads soon.
The upshot is that so far we love it here. While we've been working like stevedores, we've still managed to have some fun. We can walk the dogs to the river in an absolutely picturesque setting of a river bottom produce farm. They love the walk and the water. I like seeing the whitewater rafters going down the river, too, and the mountains high overhead.
Howard is learning about Appalachian culture and our neighbors seem happy to have us here. The older lady next door almost came to tears when she saw the clean up we were doing to this place. "Lord, honey, " she said, "after this many years, I figured it'd just always be junked up and overgrown. I'd never've imagined somebody could turn it around like this in just a few days. If you'uns need ANYTHING, you just let me know." And she backed it up by making us homemade strawberry shortcake.
Yeah, we're tired, but I think everything's going to be just fine.