On The Road (Day Five)
Follow the rest of Noah and Grace's travels here.
We woke to the smell of crusting Goetta and Corn Meal Mush, two signature breakfast delicacies of Cincinnati. Corn Meal Mush is exactly what it sounds like; the Bourgeoisie refer to it as “polenta.” Goetta is a little more complicated: a seasoned, spiced mix of oats and pork, cut into round slices and placed in a pan until brown and delicious. While the mush is common throughout the Midwest, goetta is practically impossible to find not just outside Ohio, but outside the city limits. Hildy barked a goodbye to her Aunt Zelda. We barked a goodbye to Dad, who was hopping a plane to Texas the next day, where the whole family’d meet up. Even without a flight to catch, we were off before eight. Both Dad and us would be there in two days.
Crossing the river to Kentucky is a culture shock, more prominent than crossing the Mason-Dixon. It’s a side-of-the-tracks-type-deal. Kentucky’s a beautiful place with gorgeous sights. When you jump the border and the first thing you see is an elderly man on a Harley, going 80, smoking a cigarette and not wearing a helmet, you know you’re not in Ohio anymore. This was our cue to listen to some Sondheim and sample the day’s jerky, an onion-garlic mix, and a local Kentucky soda-pop, Ale 8. It took all our willpower, all our mettle, not to detour along the Bourbon Trail, passing the Woodford Reserve, Makers Mark and other distilleries. It wasn’t that it was before nine in the morning, we just had a big driving day ahead of us.
Coffee, tea or jerky?
Being hotter than a pepper sprout, we stopped in Jackson around one in the afternoon. We wanted to visit The Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, it was closed for lunch until 1:15. We hung around their bandstand and peered into the storefront like a Wim Wenders movie until the middle of the hour. We decided that the dukes and countesses had to be bid adieu so we could make it to the home of The King himself, Graceland.
We missed the line-dancing class.
We rode into Memphis around five. We had a quick gander at Elvis’ planes and hit the gift shop hard, coming away with keychains and glassware, recipe-notes-cum-postcards and some commemorative guitar picks. We took care of business in a flash. It being the end of the day, we eschewed the proper tour and settled for some photo-ops. We scrawled our names on the bridge over-not-so-troubled-water that leads to the house. We were starved. Of course, Hildy had a hankering for a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, but we couldn’t find one handy, so it was back to the highway.
Next time, we fly.
Rock n’ roll 4ever. Also the last time we let Noah draw a heart.
Stupid European Tourists
We crossed the Arkansas border with rumbling bellies. Grace went to work trying to find non-corporate road-food, something that would warrant a definite article, grammatically. In other words, not “a” Subway. The Internet dinged near a sleepy town called Forest City. The “City” part must be aspirational since it was barely big enough for the two’a us, let alone a single horse. A small hut stood on a side-street, bellowing enough smoke to power an '80s music video. “Mike’s” had a hand-painted sign out front promising ribs. Of all the pig joints in all the world, we roll into Mike’s. The smell was inarguable. If pigs could fly, they would’ve gotten the fuck out of there. We ordered a half-rack and a barbecued pork sandwich to go, eating it in the car, sweating from the spicy sauce and the persisting afternoon sun. Halfway through, Noah strolled back into the shop, where the teenaged daughter of the cook asked if something was wrong with the food. When she realized what we wanted was “seconds already,” she fixed us up a plate with a little bit’a everything on it, including a smoked (not grilled, not barbecued) chicken that had a major problem. It fell right off the bone. The man in the kitchen told Noah to tell “all them California girls how good our meat is.”
They have the exact same reaction/expression to ordering barbecue.
Do you think it’s a coincidence that the amazing barbecue is across the street from a Masonic Temple? Do we know too much?
We’ll always have Forest City.
The original plan for the day was to make it to Little Rock for dinner and an evening’s stay. With no real sights on the agenda and still feeling froggy, we decided that staying the night was lamer than potentially driving all evening to San Antonio. We were already nine hours into our day, so what was another twelve? This was nothing that a Tina Fey audiobook and Screeching Weasel couldn’t get us through. We stopped for gas, Grace took off her pants for comfort’s sake, and we settled in for the long drive. All the Dallas construction traffic we were warned about wasn’t bad at all at 3:00 am. There’s not much traffic in general at 3:00 am. Grace was anchored to the driver’s seat because the wet East Texas air made her hands stick to the wheel. Noah played disc-jockey and fed her leftover barbecue. Hildy took on the responsibility of sleeping for all of us. In just the time it takes to watch a season of Buffy, we were in San Antonio.
We are here with Grace’s family for a few days, reconnecting with their Texas roots, strolling the River Walk and desperately trying to not pee on The Alamo. It starts off the twilight of our trip, which will mostly be spent in the Lone Star State, playing with pals and family here, in Houston and Austin. As per usual, we’ll check back in after a few days in Spurs Country when we’re back On The Road.