Friday, July 8, 2011

I-40 East and West

I've just returned from half of my quest to drive the entire length of I-40 in North Carolina between a Thursday and a Saturday.  I didn't set out to do this during my summer vacation, but it seems that will be the end result.  I-40 is the third longest major east-west interstate highway in the United States, running from Barstow, CA to Wilmington, NC.  The distance is  2,555 miles or 4,112 kilometers.

According to Wikipedia, the distance sign has been stolen several times out in California.  (If there is one in North Carolina, I can just about guarantee that it has been replaced more than once, too.)  In NC, I-40 is 423.55 m /686.4 km long.  We traveled from Durham, NC to Knoxville, TN, all on I-40, for a distance of 332 m / 544 km.  I only took photos of the mountains...  I am very partial to them, having been born there.  And they are just plain old beautiful.
To east Tennessee--
Into Tennessee--
A Tennessee rest stop (ours in NC aren't so quaint... no photos)--
(This photo is so clear because we were stopped in road construction traffic, but we never did see the actual work going on... just stopped or slow traffic for 30 minutes.  Go figure.)
Our destination was the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.  Where high school grad son will move in five short weeks.  Freshman orientation was our goal.  His sole purpose for going was to schedule his classes and get his ID (known as a VolCard).  We did see the outside of his dorm (located just next door to the library, as luck would have it, where I just know he will spend all of his time when not in class), and what I will wager is the largest structure in the state of Tennessee, Neyland Stadium, home of the Tennessee Volunteer football team.  (The Tennessee Titans' stadium in Nashville only seats about 69,000.)

The Ex-Ex and I even managed to sneak a peak at the field.  It is a real grass, not fake grass, field.  Impressive to me.
Peyton Manning played there.  I have always liked him.  I hope he is a good boy.  And that he makes his mama proud.  I can imagine that his dad, Archie, is very proud of his football-throwing son.
Everything is orange on that campus.  (Will I learn to love orange?  I will do my best.)
And their theme song is Rocky Top.  Having grown up in a household of country and bluegrass music fans, I've known the words to that tune all my life.  I just had no idea that it would become the theme song for my youngest child's institute of higher learning.  Of course, he rolls his eyes at it now, but I can bet that, come the first home football game, he will learn the words and be tapping his toes.  Nitty Gritty Dirt Band did a great version back in the day, but the song was written in 1967 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and first recorded by The Osborne Brothers that same year.  It is one of the eight official state songs for the state of Tennessee.  Lyrics about pretty girls sweet as soda pop, how the corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top (dirt's too rocky by far), and that's why all the folks on Rocky Top get their corn from a jar.  This would be corn liquor (lickker is the pronunciation and possibly the local spelling) also known as moonshine.  Something the young man best steer clear of.  ("If it's illegal, don't do it." -- Dr. Stoner)  I have never tasted it.  I think I heard too many horror stories of folks dying right on the spot from a bad batch.  But I am 100% sure that some my kinfolk up in the Appalachians imbibed from time to time.  Some of them still might.  Not a topic of conversation at the latest family reunion, believe it or not.
Neyland Stadium holds about 102,000 screaming fans on fall Saturdays.  I hope to be one of them at least once or twice while he earns his degree.  Hint, hint...

We had dinner at Market Square in downtown Knoxville.  Lots of little restaurants and shops.  Live music during the summer --we heard jazz while eating burritos.
High school grad son signed up for courses, had his photo snapped and put on his ID card, we met the Bursar (the person who handles all the money for the university), who is quite possibly the nicest person I've ever met, a couple of deans, some other parents, then headed back down I-40.
(Trying to snap photos out the window while traveling 70 miles an hours is not easy.  But I tried anyway.  Not to worry, I was in the passenger seat.)
Part of this highway has been cut through the mountains, therefore the tunnels, part of it was just placed on the side of the mountain, and lots of blasting away of mountains was done to cut through them for sections.  There are notorious rock slides and signs warning of falling rocks.  None to report on this trip, thank goodness.
Little homes way up in the hills, amidst the clouds rolling in--
North Carolina has an interstate wild flower program.  I love it and contribute a bit to it every year.   Lilies are blooming right now.
(Lilies at 70 mph...)
Tomorrow will bring the rest of I-40 in North Carolina, the stretch from Durham to Wilmington, about 134 m / 216 km, as we head to the beach.  (I am not sure the math works out on this one, but I am not going to worry about that.  I am not a math teacher, after all.

Oh!  The first photo is of high school grad's foot.  His long legs needed stretching and his feet needed massaging.  That's what mamas are for when on a long car trip, n'est-ce pas?  Once they get their driver's license, you don't get much car time, so this was a treat for the Ex-Ex and me.  For him?  He slept a lot (or at least pretended to!).

Bon appétit, UT-Knoxville class of 2015!

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