Big Wheeler’s Day Off
Friday Night 4/28/2000
Actually, I would like to start with the evening of Day 7 (Friday evening)
I drove from Memphis to Nashville on I-40, and to Murfreesboro on I-24. I picked
up Highway 70 in Murfreesboro and drove east. I was eager to see Don after his
week on the road. I hoped he would not be too sunburned.
I arrived in a little town named Woodbury (about 260 miles from Memphis). It was
about 20 miles from McMinnville where I was to meet Don. The country was just
how Don described it – picturesque with hills. It reminded me of pictures that
I have seen of Europe. The quaint farmhouses on the hillsides glowed orange as
the sun yawned and sinked in the west. The houses were scattered apart by
emerald acres which looked freshly cut. I could tell that these people take
great pride and worked very hard on their farms.
Nearly every barn was the same shade of brick red – I wondered if their county
had an ordinance because it was consistent and very beautiful. Amidst all this
country splender, the cattle quietly chewed their cud in peaceful bliss.
I called Don’s cell phone and he told me he was at the Holiday Inn Express in
McMinnville. I hurriedly jumped back into the car and my anticipation grew with
every passing mile. I noticed countless nurseries along the highway, and I
learned that this area is the nursery capital of the world.
Finally, I arrived in McMinnville. As I drove furthern into town, I passed
several mansions along Highway 70. The town is small, but their economy must be
booming with all of those nurseries.
I drove through the downtown area. It was a Friday evening, but it was still.
I drove about another mile, and then I could see the Holiday Inn sign. I
drove up to room 118 (a down and out room). I hesitated in the car. What if I
was at the ‘wrong’ Holiday Inn? (As if this town had 2?) I wanted to make
sure I had the right room. My headlights and engine alerted the person in the
room of my presence.
I saw the door slowly creak open. There was this “old man” all bent over,
peering at me like a deranged derelict in a scruffy shirt and baggy shorts.
If he had been a stranger, I would have backed off or thrown him some money
or food. Then I thought – Poor baby – One week on the road and it has
gotten to this?
Of course, it was all an act. He chuckled at how startled I looked and then I
laughed. He was overjoyed that the calvary had arrived! He was relieved to have
real clothes again. As I mentioned earlier, there are only a few articles of
clothing that fit in his fanny pack. His existence lately has been similar to
that of a survivalist. I handed him his electric razor, but he refused. He wants
his beard to grow another week. (Thats fine with me – I think its sexy!)
When he dressed in the clothes I brought him, he looked rugged (and VERY NICE I
might add) in a red and blue plaided shirt and jeans. His deranged beggar look
was gone. Now he was a rugged mountain man ready to split rails and build us
that cabin I’ve always wanted.
We drove to a little restaurant which shall remain nameless. The interior was
painted a light mauve and it was decorated with pictures of Elvis, Jerry Lee
Lewis, and The Guardian Angel. And, of course, Elvis and country music played
on the juke box. Don and I enjoyed the music as well as the local flavor of
Unfortunately, the service was bad. The waitress was nice (it was her first day
on the job – she wore a bare midreff outfit which I could tell was ‘disturbing’
to Don) but the cook was Tilla the Hun! She was ready to go to war because I
requested salads that was to come with our meal. We could hear shrieking from
the kitchen, “What does she want salads for!”… I learned later that I had
interrupted a game she was playing in the back room. So much for Southern
We quickly finished our meal and drove back to the Holiday Inn…
HARD CUT TO A BLAZING FIRE PLACE AND FADE : )
Saturday Morning - 4/29/2000
Don wanted me to see some of the country he had already ridden through. We
retraced his route. He took me to an area called Leapford (?) Mill. It was a
forested area down in a valley. We saw a trout hatchery, a couple of craft
shops, and a B&B that was on stilts from a mountain and hidden among the trees.
It looked like a tree house. Don said he thought this place would make a nice
weekend getaway (I hope-- I hope!!)
We drove another mile or so and then stopped for a few minutes by a small
waterfall beside the road. I wanted to climb up the bank on one side, but Don
was concerned that it might be too steep for me to climb. I sighed and said, “OK
– I won’t.” I did get a shot of “mountain man” while we were there.
Then we drove on though more picturesque countryside and quaint towns until we
arrived at Lawrenceburg. Don asked me, “How would you like to ride on a wagon
through Amish country?”
“YESSSS!” I said with a childlike zest.
We drove up to a craft shop and I could see one Amish man sitting at the corner
of the parking lot of the craft shop establishment. He was selling baskets. He
had a beard which is the Amish way of showing his marital status (married).
We climbed onto the wagon and met a young lad named “Joey” who was going to
drive our covered wagon. These wagons can seat up to 30 people. This ride only
had Joey, Don, two other women and myself. The spotted horses (I can’t remember
the name of the breed) were pulling our wagon. One was an older one named
“Spotty” and the other one’s name was “M&M” – a younger more ‘spirited’ horse.
Occasionally, it seemed like the two horses “whispered” as they leaned their
heads into each other.
Joey is only 14 years old. He was a good communicator for a boy his age and knew
a lot of the ‘inside’ about Amish culture.
He asked us to not take pictures. The Amish believe that if your picture is
taken you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven because of a verse in the Bible
that states you should never “reflect your soul.” (I’m not sure where that
We were shown the point where electrical lines end. Then we crossed a portal
into 1920. Most of the homes the same basic plain floor plan – and most of them
were two stories. All of them had a porch which stretched across most of the
front of the houses.
A couple of the homes allowed tourists to come purchase items from them. As we
walked up the drive of one house, two little Amish boys peered at us from
underneath their wide brimmed hats. They smiled and then proceeded to munch on
their apples. They were used to the tourists. Apparently, it was break time for
We were told that this woman has 17 children! Then we rode to another house and
I bought Apple Butter. Other items that were sold was fresh roasted peanuts and
One heavy set Amish woman looked very curiously at me. I’m not sure if it was
because of my knit sweater or perhaps my jeans were too tight? Don thought it
was because of my cane (I am arthritic).
While driving on one road, we could see an Amish boy, who was probably only 7 or
8 years old, driving a team of mules while riding a a plough. It was amazing to
see how that little guy had so much control over those mules.
We drove back to the 21st century and thanked Joey for his tour. We wanted to
take a picture of us with the horses. The one Amish man who was selling baskets
promptly moved away from his corner to make sure he did not get caught in the
shot. He turned his back to us while Joey took a picture of Don, me, “Spotty”
and “M & M”.
After that, we drove further on the back roads and Don stopped the car. He said,
“This is where I was when I called you and told you about watching a hawk
circling over a dark green valley.”
Don started to drive off and I said, “No Don! Wait!..Seriously.”
Don stopped the car. I was stunned and then I teared up. Don asked me what
I told him that there has always been a “valley” that I dreamed about in my mind
and – HERE IT WAS!
It amazed me because when Don first found it while he out unicycling, he had the
need to call me on his cell phone and tell me about it. Then, when I was with
him, he had to drive me to see it. Unwittingly, Don had found my “dream valley.”
I hope you guys don’t think I’m crazy here. It just seemed uncanny.
We drove back through winding country roads. We did get caught in a traffic jam
in Murfreesboro. Don was eager to get back into the country and I thought I
heard a muffled growl coming from his direction. Don hates the concrete jungle
when he is on vacation.
We finally arrived back in McMinnville and had supper at a barbecue place called
“Charley’s”. The food and atmosphere was good (and so was the service).
We drove back to the hotel…
(More time passes) : )
That’s all for today…
No mileage for today, so that leaves the total count at:
342 miles from Ronald McDonald House of Memphis!