These are some notes about our experiences driving from Norfolk to Albuquerque January 2016 that are too long for an email or Facebook post. I have uploaded pictures to the Photos link (upper right corner of this page).
We left Norfolk at 1130 after meeting the man who will be trucking our Toyota to Albuquerque. We were a bit concerned about the dire predictions of snow and ice on Interstae 40 in NC, TN, and AR so we decided to drive as far as Newport, TN, the first night. We experienced very light snow that was not sticking to the ground near Winston-Salem, NC, but not much elsewhere.
The drive through the Smoky Mountains in the dark, between NC and TN, was a bit nerve wracking for both of us, but for different reasons. Ralph was going crazy watching Pamela go 45mph behind trucks when the passing lane was open. Pamela was driving this way because she was worried about getting pinned against the jersey barriers by a truck that had lost control going around a corner. Ralph realized that his attempts to diffuse the tension were futile after Pamela refused through clenched teeth his second offer to switch drivers.
We left the hotel in Newport, TN, at 0820. There was snow on the ground still, but it was slushy and not icy.
Pamela noticed that we were passing so many Waffle House restaurants that it would make the trip through Tennessee on Interstate 40 more interesting to count them. We called this activity "Waffle Spotting." Because I am a social scientist and former nuclear operator, I had to come up with rules for what constituted valid data for the count, to which Pamela *reluctantly* agreed. I can tell when she reluctantly agrees with me because of the absence of any trace of enthusiasm in her reply and she gets a pained expression on her face reminiscent of when a person cracks a tooth from eating popcorn. The rules we jointly developed were:
• Someone had to see an actual Waffle House sign. A logo on a freeway exit sign was not sufficient. Freeway signs were often an important aid to know where to look when the Waffle House was obscured by freeway berms or trees, which happened a lot east of Oklahoma.
• It was not necessary to sight the actual building. The sign above or near the building was sufficient.
• Only one person had to spot the Waffle House or sign. This meant the driver could claim credit for a sighting even when the passenger was asleep. Pamela noted the reverse could also be true, but the trip might end prematurely if the passenger were counting Waffle Spottings while the driver was sleeping. The single person spotting rule relieved the driver of the need to "confirm" a spotting. Normally, peer backup is necessary to ensure authenticity of social science data, however safety considerations were a factor. First, allowing solo spotting reduced the risk of driver whiplash from rapid head twisting while having to keep both hands on the wheel. Second, it likely reduced the risk of collision from unplanned lane swerving near exits with vehicles merging and changing lanes.
• Finally, the driver was not allowed to update the data record sheet. Pamela took a dim view of me taking a pen and paper out of my pocket while driving. In fact, this got me relieved prematurely from one of my turns driving. I don't think this was justified, but that's just me.
Very early in the waffle spotting process, well before number 22, we noted several ndicators of a potential Waffle Spotting: the presence of a Cracker Barrel restaurant, a Family Dollar store, and just about any exit from I-40 in the state of Tennessee. We noted a shocking gap, possibly a business opportunity, in Waffle Houses on I-40 between Nashville and Memphis. After Pamela ate some onions that did not agree with her (she claims she will be tasting them for A WEEK), I got told in very clear language to stop pointing out Waffle Houses. The last one we counted, in Morrilton, Arkansas, was number 28 and where we met and visited with one of best friends in the whole world, Kelly Franz. We have to see her more.
I received some negative feedback on my role as driving attendant for Pamala. One of my chief duties while she is driving is to keep her provided with snacks, mints, and drinks between the rest area bathroom breaks that are necessitated by the aforementioned comestibles. The below average rating I received today was from hitting the driver in the side of the head while swinging the large food bag from the front to the back seat. I will have to work on my skills to get my average back up.
We noticed that Tennessee seems to have a lot of blue exit signs that have the word "Attraction" on them that are devoid of an attraction logo. We wondered if there was once an attraction at the exit that has gone out of business or perhaps this was the state's way of indicating they would *like* to have an attraction there.
Tennessee has a town named "Bucksnot." I'll bet there is an interesting story behind that name. The demonym for the townspeople is "bucksnorters."
Right after we crossed the border into Arkansas, we noticed the shell of a large sign that looked like it had been completely blown out. It was placed right in front of what looked like the foundation of a former building. Pam said, “I think that was a Super 8 Motel.” It certainly *looked* like the outline of a Super 8 sign. Perhaps the area had been visited by a tornado because there were several other “frame only” signs that we could see from the Interstate.
We made it as far as Van Buren, AR and appeared to be safely out of the storm’s path since the forecast for the next day was cold, but no freezing rain/snow.
We slowed our pace considerably now that the storm called Jonah is no longer a concern. We feel sorry for all our friends in northern Virginia. We also feel good about that weather being in our rear view mirror. We left the hotel around 1000 and stopped for lunch in Oklahoma City.
Before leaving the state of Oklahoma, we stopped at a very small town near the border (exit 7) called Erick to visit their 100th Meridian Museum. It was right across the street from the Roger Miller Museum. The 100th Meridian Museum provides some history of the 100th Meridian, Route 66, and the bank that used to be housed in the same building. Our guides, Curtis and Joyce, were fountains of information about the history of the area.
We stopped for the night in Shamrock, TX, because Erick did not have a hotel. I was amused by the sign on the salad bar in the restaurant where we had dinner that read, “Use tongs, not your fingers.” Apparently, instructions are needed in Texas for salad bars. The T-Bone steak I ordered was delicious, but HUGE.