Day 4 – Hunkered down in Hopkinsville

Day 4 – Hunkered down in Hopkinsville

Bowling Green to Memphis via Hopkinsville

Well, it seemed like a good plan: Get to Hopkinsville (sorry, Eclipseville) early, avoid the traffic and soak up the party atmosphere.

Even without an eclipse, the 21st August is an important date in Hopkinsville, being the anniversary of the Hopkinsville goblin incident when a number of locals were pestered by goblin-like creatures – possibly of extraterrestrial origin, possibly the result of moonshine visions. The incident is celebrated every year with the Little Green Man festival. Having a total eclipse on the 62nd anniversary is surely a sign of imminent return, and we wanted a piece of it.

Unfortunately, as I was wide awake at 4am like an excited kid at Christmas, I was in danger of dozing off and missing the eclipse entirely. I even set an alarm just in case!

The heat doesn’t really help. It’s one of those days where to exist is to sweat – no movement necessary. Rather aptly, the W3W tag for this place is tapes.saxophone.sweat (can’t help thinking that that should be somewhere in Memphis). If only I had checked first. The other thing that may have borne checking was where the viewing site is in relation to the centre of town. Ethan and myself are no strangers to walking, but 3 or 4 miles in this heat is probably not sensible, so probably just going to have to tough it out here and sadly miss all the weirdness.

Ethan has even been (largely) restrained in telling me that I was overly paranoid about traffic, and needn’t have made him wait in the heat for 5 hours, but I expect I will pay sooner or later.

It is all depressingly sensible and civilized at the viewing site. Everyone seems to have come prepared with their gazebos, deck chairs, coolers, barbecues, telescopes etc. We had a beach mat purchased from Walmart this morning, but assumed the moral high ground, having travelled further than everyone else.

Still, you don’t need all of the professional kit. The eclipse itself was awesome. I can see why people chase them all around the world.

Woah!

I was a bit concerned at the sound of gunfire during the eclipse though. Fireworks, fair enough, but shooting at the sun?

Having ventured off the interstates today, we have seen something of small town Kentucky, which all looks very pleasant. Into Tennessee and we found a town which seemed to have more churches than people, I am actually going to check. It also had a place for drive-thru prayer, which I couldn’t quite get my head around. Ethan has done some more routing jiggery pokery today to maximize the number of states visited. Hence we traveled from Hopkinsville to Memphis via Missouri and Arkansas, crossing the mighty Mississippi several times in the process.

It's huge!

I’m sure it was the quickest route… I’m not sure what to think about those two states though. Imagine the excitement of Lincolnshire if it was the size of France. (Seems I didn’t have to wait too long to pay for the early start after all!)

The Memphis apartment seems pretty good and ideally located, even if it was like an episode of the crystal maze to get in via various codes, time trials and battle of wits. Seems unlikely that much exploring will be done tonight after the epic drive,  but lots within easy walking distance to see tomorrow. I feel that driving 1100 miles in 3 days entitles me to a day off.

Day 3 – Hotter than a coonskin jockstrap

Day 3 – Hotter than a coonskin jockstrap

Winchester to Bowling Green via Louisville and Mammoth Caves

Phew! 90-odd degrees and humid… and stays that way well into the evening. Just as well we spent a few hours in the subterranean coolness of Mamouth Caves. Not that we thought we were likely to make it. We turned up with exactly zero minutes (well not exactly, we were in fact late) to spare, despite having an extra hour due to crossing a time zone. I don’t know who thought that having several time zones within a state was a good idea, but we appreciated it today. We are choosing to view it as an exceptional example of planning and maximizing use of time. And Mammoth Caves? It’s a big cave.

To rewind…

The day started with a trip to the very pleasant looking Lousiville to visit the Lousiville Slugger Museum.

En route, we were constantly encouraged to divert to various distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. Tempting but oh, wait minute, it’s Sunday and thinking about alcohol is beyond the pale. Who planned this trip? If it wasn’t for the extreme temporal ninja skills already mentioned, I might have been critical of this. As it turns out, the prohibition does not extend to Liquor Barn. Oh my, that was quite some discovery. I could happily take up residence in their bourbon section (or the wine section, rum section…) so we were well provisioned when we got to Bowling Green.

From Lousiville there was a quick trip across the Ohio river into Indiana (another state, tick) to Clarkesville Seafood. A fantastic throwback to simpler, cholesterol-friendly times. Ethan described it as “greasy, salty perfection” and who am I to argue? He certainly knows his onions when it comes to food research.

Greasy, salty perfection

Sadly, my weak attempts at Monkees based humour went unappreciated. I had suggested that we should head to Clarkesville later in the day by train, but this was met with a look which expressed the concern of having to potentially have an elderly relative locked away for their own safety.

Ah well, onwards to Mammoth caves, or so I thought. Apparently, there were plans to undertake a drive-by photograph of Fort Knox.

Show me the money!

It was this “diversion” that put us into a lively debate around priorities and led to the aforementioned scheduling masterclass, although a certain amount of flexibility with regards to local conventions around vehicular alacrity.

Anyway, we finally made it to Bowling Green, with quite the party atmosphere developing in the hotel amongst the eclipse celebrators. I guess we could stay here and watch the eclipse, but who is willing to put up with a mere 40 seconds of totality when you can get 2 minutes more by queuing in traffic to get into Hopkinsville? Ethan has learned that the twin princes of conspiracy theories Alex Jones and Jesse Ventura will be in Hopkinsville tomorrow (presumably awaiting the return of the goblins), so the die is cast…

I am now inordinately excited about the eclipse, and irritating Ethan severely with my geeky desire to get up at stupid o’clock and head over to Hopkinsville.

Day 2 – Drive until you drop

Day 2 – Drive until you drop

Three States in a Day – Washington to Winchester, KY

Not much sleep last night due to what sounded like a cricket ball rattling around the air-conditioning duct. Still, not a bad thing to be up early as the car hire company was already getting pretty busy before 7am … and of course we do have some distance to cover today.

I am Ethan’s bad books on 2 fronts with the hire car. Firstly, turning down the offer of a free upgrade to a Mustang on the basis that the cases wouldn’t fit (wouldn’t look so cool with the boot wedged open and a stream of stray underwear flying behind the car) and being assigned a car with New York plates, which I’m assured will not go down well in the South. Could be a long day…

Not much to see today as we blasted across Virginia (both the basic and West varieties), beyond some nice scenery and distant mountains which bode well for the return journey via the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline. We have had to amuse ourselves by admiring the custom registration plates passing us by. We have had

Giga TB, Dr Bytes, (presumably IT), Sparx (electrician?),  Go Kart (a small Fiat with an encouragingly amusing bumper sticker stating, “* Actual Size”) and our favourite XStacey I. We wondered whether this was deliberate or just that someone called Stacey was convinced that this was the closet she could get to a custom plate, much to the amusement of the people selling it.

Also encountered a rather strange toll road in West Virginia. We were charged twice along the stange stretch of road, without any opportunity to leave between the two sets of toll booths? Why didn’t they just charge double at the first one I hear you ask. Good question. We could only surmise that it was some sort of job creation scheme. For the record, the toll road was the worst maintained road we have been on.

By mid-afternoon it became apparent that after the earlier hold ups on the I81, reaching the Buffalo Trace distillery was but a pipe dream and pulled over at a Bob Evans restaurant for some refreshment. The manager who came over bore a striking resemblance to the pictures of the founder and I couldn’t help but wonder whether every branch of the franchise had a similar looking, middle aged genial manager called Bob. You don’t mess with a winning brand! You can tell we are back in the States though . What’s not to like about deserts with bacon?

Onwards to Kentucky and a hotel in Winchester. Switched on the TV and seem to have slipped into a time warp…

but at least Ethan can watch the baseball. Go Braves!

We have been researching drinking laws and been bewildered by the wet, dry, and moist (I have no idea) counties – some of the dry counties being the home to famous distilleries. Apparently even in wet counties, selling drink on Sundays is not allowed, nor between 29th December and 2nd Jan. That must have been some New Year’s celebration.

We thought we would go out and source a bottle of the local delicacy, but the local general store did not seem to stock spirits. It did, however, have plenty of stereotypes, so we beat a hasty retreat.

As ever in the US, everyone has been remarkably friendly and 500 miles in the first day means we can take it easy for the next couple. Weather forecast for Monday seems to be improving (fingers crossed) so, all looking good.

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