It was hot and humid in Greenville, and we were anxious to get somewhere cooler. After a brief moment of panic, first last night, then today, we found that our array of toys and travel goodies actually did fit into the car. So, at 7:25 AM, we said goodby to the cats, loaded up with coffee, and hit the road with the top down. Driving north on 25, Laura felt like we were finally on our way once we passed the gates of Furman. In one day, we would be where they don’t serve grits.
One thing we quickly discovered was that one becomes intimate with the sounds of the highway in an open-top car. We were a bit worried as we approached Asheville on concrete highways. The roar was deafening. As soon as we hit better pavement, things got quieter. Our tires were happier on asphalt. "Carbon on carbon seems to be better than carbon on silica," as the chemist on board observed. One also becomes famliar with smells of the road — exhaust, the smoker in the next lane, the river water, and lovely agricultural odors.
The air that was just humidity in Greenville became fog as we hit the mountains. Things were going fine until just past Canton, west of Asheville. Traffic came to a dead stop in both lanes in I-40. After about 10 minutes a patrol car came flashing past in the emergency lane. We knew we were going to be there for awhile. It was interesting observing now people reacted to the unplanned stop. One idiot tried to take his truck up the emergency lane, realized his error, then pulled in behind us. Many got out and tried to walk forward to see what was happening. One family even skated by. We noticed that traffic had also stopped in the eastbound lane. After about an hour, traffic slowly started moving again. So much for getting on the road early.
This is my favorite part of I-40, as it dips down into the gorge that runs next to the Pigeon River. Soon the twistng interstate straightened out, and the Smokey Mountain Thrust Sheet gave way to rolling Karst topography. I noticed distinct changes in the road cuts, and I wanted to stop and put some drops of vinegar on the rocks to see if they would react. OK, I’m a GeoGeek.
The miles rolled by on I-40 from Asheville to Nashville, then we headed north on I-24. After a quick lunch, we decided to continue with the top up for awhile, since we were getting fried. We crossed into the rolling hills of Kentucky, then on into Southern Illinois. The flat fields of corn made me think of the Cary Grant trying to avoid an attack in "North by Northwest."
In East St. Louis we got dinner at TGI Fridays. It was even louder than the highway. To top it off, their cooling system began dropping condensation onto my plate. I hope this isn’t the best meal of our trip.
We rolled into St. Louis about 7:00 central and immediately headed to the Gateway Arch park. This is an incredible structure, and as tired as we were, I’m glad we stopped. We took the tramway to the top of the arch, and enjoyed the view for awhile. We spend some time in the Westward Expansion museum, then headed to our hotel.
States covered: South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri. Laura tried to take pictures of the "Welcome to _____" signs as we passed, but wasn’t successful. This picture shows her making her attemps.
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