When I left you last, intrepid readers, the Beard and I were in Filthydelphia, waiting for the Fed Ex man to bring the key to our imminent escape to Tennessee. Though I had long stopped believing in any sort of happy ending, our white-trucked knight finally rang the doorbell and pressed a new copy of my credit card into my hand. We were euphoric.
Back at the airport car rental office, I gritted my teeth as I realized that I was going to have to deal with the same woman who had refused to help me in any way, shape, or form in the name of company policy. But as the luck of the line would have it, another representative took my information, and it was a matter of minutes before we were on south 95.
Freedom. Finally. And yet how depressing it is, the way that in America owning or having access to a destructively made, destructively fueled chunk of metal can be associated with freedom instead of repulsion. But there you have it. Sunglasses on and music turned up we drove right into every six-laned rush hour traffic jam from Philly to D.C. The Beard gaped–how could six lanes of highway be completely full?–and I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to the tune of Bonnie Prince Billy singing what would become our trip’s cliched theme song (Ramblin’ Fever, apparently written by Merle Haggard and much improved upon by the Bonnie Prince).
And how appropriate, for it was to Nashville–mecca of country music both cheesey and wonderful–toward which we were headed. Between us and cowboy-booted glory, however, were 800 miles of highway. But we had a tent and an enormous duck-print sleeping bag, and around midnight we crept our way down a winding dirt road in Middle Creek, Virginia (which Google is currently telling me does not exist where we found it that night) to a camp site.
Like a lot of other camp sites with signs out on the highway, Middle Creek Campground wasn’t a campsite persay, but an RV site, a place designed, not for people with tents, but for people with large, wheeled vehicles and electric hook ups and water tanks. A sign at the entrance instructed us to check in at the general store to settle up. A sign on the closed general store told us to knock at the house across the stream if the store was closed.
A barking dog answered our knock, but no one emerged to take our 10 dollars and assign us a spot. So, back across the stream, we set up our tent and slipped away before dawn the next morning, congratulating ourselves on not having spent ten dollars that could be better used for cans of beans, bags of tortillas, and hot sauce.
And for those of you who like schmaltzy country music, the offending tune as sung by Merle Haggard: