So far my son James and I had driven about 1300 miles, from Chicago to Reston, Virginia, where we stayed for a few days to visit my Mom, and then on to Knoxville, Tennessee. Actually, I drove all of it, because he was only four years old.
We knew by now that we were on the final leg of the trip, which was originally intended to clear my head of work-related insanity and take a trip to see my Mom. And just for grins, I brought my first-born son along, figuring it would be kind of fun for the two of us. What I did not know was that it would become — for both of us — a favorite memory from his childhood years.
Before we arrived in Knoxville proper, I took a little detour through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just to see it and say I’d been there, mainly, but also in hopes that fall colors would be at their peak. Driving through the park was nice but not stunning – you just don’t see the type of colors in the South that you do up North, I think. Far more conifers, far fewer deciduous trees.
So we eventually made it to Knoxville, found a room, and made our plan for the evening. There was a World Series game that night, and it was our last night on this now-epic road trip, so it seemed like we should have a little party. So we found a store and bought some pop, pretzels, chips, and beer (for me, not for James), and took it all back to the room, and hunkered down for the night.
The game itself doesn’t stick out in my mind very clearly – the Braves played the Blue Jays, somebody won, yay – but what does stick out in my mind is the fact that it was just me and my boy, enjoying ourselves and watching the World Series in Knoxville, TN, without a care in the world.
The next morning we got up early, and went to a Waffle House where I had probably the worst french toast in the history of french toast, and we saw the entertaining parade of characters that inhabit a Waffle House in Knoxville, TN at 7:15 on a weekday morning. To this day, I cannot see or hear “Waffle House” without instantly flashing back to harsh lighting, crappy food, so-so coffee, and people with urgent dental needs.
But over the intervening years, this trip has stood out in both of our minds in a lot of ways: laughing about Butt Hollow Road for a solid hour or more, having our little World Series party in a motel room, bringing his bike in the truck bed so he could ride it at his Grandma’s house. Just being a team of two, without a care in the world, for a few days, free to do whatever we wanted, and go wherever we wanted. We made time stand still for a while by driving together across the country, building memories along the way. Just me and my boy, along with “Butt Hollow Road” with lots of laughing, and many hours alone together in my red Ford truck, and if only for a few days, we made time stand still, and allowed serendipity to take over our lives.
I highly, highly recommend it.
(See the entire series here: The Road Trip.)