So we got back on the road. It was Heather’s turn again, so I pulled the pillow out of the back and managed to fall asleep pretty quickly. I awoke an hour or so later in rush-hour traffic outside Nashville, and was so sick to my stomach I wanted to die. Heather said she felt exactly the same way. We cursed the Waffle House for leading us astray.
It was around 7am, still to early for much of anything to be open, so we decided to find coffee. We were tired and punchy and nauseated. We found our way around the maze of university campuses to Bongo Java, and barely even noticed the Nun Bun as we ordered as much caffeine as possible. We sat out on the deck, squinting at the morning sun. I paged through the paper, providing insightful commentary which Heather skillfully ignored. We debated about whether it was acceptable for stores to not open until 10am in the civilized world. We made fun of the workmen across the street. Finally, we dragged our asses off the deck and back to the car, and drove into downtown Nashville.
We walked up and down Broadway, stopping into the horrible tacky souvenir shop we always stop into when we’re in town, even though half their merchandise is emblazoned with the rebel flag, and it never fails to piss me off. Then we went to see if the Charlie Daniels Museum was open. Unfortunately, it was not. By that time, our real destination, Hatch Show Print, was open, conveniently allowing us to spend our money and move on.
After that, there was more driving, which is all now a blur. We arrived in Lynchburg after a while, because Heather wanted to pick up some souvenirs in the cute little downtown. I wanted to stop in and say hi to Goose. So we ran into the distillery, and asked the woman at the counter (the very same woman who had been sitting there 6 months before, when we expressed our vast enthusiasm for Goose the first time) if he was working that day. She told me, with poorly-concealed pleasure, that he was not.
We drove some more, along these tiny winding roads through idyllic Tennessee backcountry. It was actually really pretty, and just added to my warm feelings towards that state (excepting the depressing shithole that is Chattanooga). We had been hoping to find lunch in Lynchburg, but the three restaurants there proudly featured 100% meat in all their dishes. On the way back to I-24, we went through the town of Cowan. As I drove past the mini-mainstreet, I saw the word ‘gourmet’ on the front of a building, and swung around the block to investigate.
The cafe was called the Goat Track Gourmet, and it was awesome. The woman who owned the place was working behind the counter, and she said they had been open for three months. They had plate lunches, which Heather and I were unaware of until we drove through the south: you pick an entree, then two sides from a wide and exciting array of options. I had spinach bread pudding with smoked gouda grits and sesame green beans. Everything was so good, we thought about maybe staying there forever, because what are the chances we’ll ever get back to Cowan, Tennessee?
We got back to I-24, and headed towards Atlanta. I was starting to fall asleep behind the wheel, resorting to slapping myself on the legs to stay awake. I pulled off at a rest area outside Chattanooga so we could switch. We staggered into the bathroom, and were sitting in stalls next to each other, in silent hysterics. I don’t even know why, other than that we were so exhausted we couldn’t stop laughing. Heather pretended she was crying, just to upset the other people in the bathroom. She was text messaging me from her phone; I had tears running down my face, and hearing her trying to not laugh out loud was just making me laugh even harder. I can’t imagine what the other women in that restroom were thinking.
Heather managed the rest of the drive, which is good, because I wouldn’t have made it. We were both so tired we wanted to vomit. Or maybe that was Waffle House. We got stuck in traffic for an hour outside Atlanta. I probably dozed off, woke up, promised myself not to doze off again, then dozed off twenty times or so. We got to the hotel around 5pm, and as fast as we possibly could, we jumped into bed and passed out.
I woke at 8pm, and got dressed so we could go out for dinner. Room service had nothing to offer me but grilled cheese, and after Waffle House, the thought of it made me want to cry. We did some quick investigation and decided to try and find our way to Buckhead, which I had heard had good restaurants. We found it easily, and decided on the Raja Indian restaurant. It wasn’t the best Indian food, but it was good, and prominently featured naan and paneer. We were happy.