March 30-31: After all the rain and gloom of the ride, we end up in a dirty, dumpy hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee. An overflowing garbage can greets us at the outside door, along with cigarette butts that haven’t been swept in weeks. Inside the room, the wallpaper is peeling, the cleaners haven’t touched the corners in years. The bed is horrible. Ripped spread, pilly sheets, lumpy pillows, uncomfortable mattress. I check for bed bugs, but luckily find none. To say we are disgruntled would be a huge understatement. If we had the energy, we’d get back on the road and forget our sixty bucks. Instead, I write a scathing review on Trip Advisor. (Don’t ever stay at the Red Roof Inn, Central Knoxville!)
We stuff the sides of the bed, as usual, so Miss Monk won’t go under, but she finds a way and disappears half the night. We eat cold, soggy take out in the room because there are no restaurants nearby. I don’t even take a shower. I’d rather be un-bathed than get underneath the rusted-out faucets.
When morning comes, we are happy to see a sun-filled day. We don’t even want the free breakfast this place offers, so we pack up hurriedly. Monkey, of course, feels our anxiety and slips out of my grasp to vanish under the bed. No amount of coaching will bring her out. And we desperately want to get out of here!
So we push and pull the lumpy mound of mattress onto the floor. Next we move the two box springs—and when I say springs, I mean they should be called sprungs—apart. There’s Monkey, huddled in a corner. Not to mention what looks like a rotted dog bone, a pile of dirty cloth and a bunch of strewn papers. How all that got under there is not something we bother contemplating at the time, though it would make a good mystery.
Finally in the car, we are greeted by cheerful sunny scenery, some of it bucolic. Now we are deep in the hills of Tennessee, followed quickly by Kentucky, enjoying the vistas with its greens tinted by sunlight. We see no wildlife in Elk Valley and the fog advisory doesn’t apply this morning. From the summits, we can see a ring of mountains etched on the blue sky. Jellico, Pine mountain ranges, the Daniel Boone National Forest.
The surrounding rock is stunning, geometric lines of colour. I know they’ve been gouged by machinery to create roads, but out of this destruction a lasting beauty has been created. Dave Hunter (author of Along Interstate 75) tells us to watch for Exit 15, near Williamsburg in Kentucky, and we do. It truly is astounding. The ramp has been cut into the mountainside, creating two enormous mounds of rock, and the road now traverses a tunnel of granite and greenery.
Soon the hills give way to fairly flat ground, lots of rivers, rich soil. We are back in horse country, admiring the muscled stature of the beautiful animals. Next comes Ohio. Where we saw only snow sculptures at the end of January, we’re happy to see the light brown of fields drinking in the sun, getting ready for blooming and planting.
We stop in Findlay, Ohio, at our favorite hotel chain: the Drury Inn and Suites, of course! As if to compensate for last night, this time we get a bigger-than-average room, complete with a separate room for TV, lounge chairs and flat screen ready. Even Monkey likes it. She has a lot more room to run around in.
“Kick back” time is from 5:30 to 7:00. Hot dinner, 3 alcohol drinks each (well, 2 for Vince, 4 for me) and we’re set for the night.
By morning, we’re rested, have had our hot breakfast, and we’re ready to make the last part of our journey toward home. Miss Monk is not impressed, however, although she was easy to capture this time. At this writing, she is complaining loudly, despite the sunshine and some great music as background. Where are those earplugs Frances and Marty gave us?
We talk about all the things we loved about our stay in Florida - besides our guests, this time. Being able to walk outside first thing in the morning to sit in the sun or slide into the warm pool was a joy for us and Miss Monk. Dining out. The Air Boat rides. Visiting Cugina and John's Pass and the dolphins. Cocoa Beach and the dolphins and the shark. Winter Garden, Celebration, Downtown Disney. Did I mention swimming in our warm pool?
We slip over the border into Canada without any problem and immediately feel at home. It's sunny and warm (relatively) and lots of the snow has disappeared. Spring does feel as though it has arrived...we hope. Home-word Bound!