The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The First Big Step (And the Roadtrip!)

As most of you know I left my job the middle of last November, after eleven and a half years, to concentrate on dismantling my life in Tucson in preparation for the big move to Scotland (with a six month stay in Pittsburgh first). I finally left town on the 16th of February. It was a long and busy three months. During that time I sold most of everything I owned, gave a lot of stuff away and shipped to Pittsburgh what I wanted to keep. I did minor repairs around the house, painted most of the inside and generally spiffied it up so it would be ready to go on the market once I left.

When I was finally ready to leave Shauna flew down from Seattle and drove from Tucson to Dallas with me. It was nice to have one of my kids along for the first couple of days. Along the way we drove through the Guadalupe Mountains in New Mexico. It was nighttime and absolutely desolate so it was kind of creepy but in a really cool kind of way. I have to admit that I was very glad I wasn't traveling alone. That would have been really creepy. But I would love to travel that same road during the daytime. The Desert Southwest in all of its magnificent glory. We spent Sat. night in Carlsbad, New Mexico and the next morning headed for the Carlsbad Caverns. Wow! I've seen caves before but this cave system was massive! and beautiful. We started with one of the structured tours of a minor tunnel that lasted about an hour and a half, then took the elevator back up to the top so we could walk down the 75 story deep Natural Entrance. It took almost an hour of downhill switchbacks to get all the way down. We were so enchanted that it was hard to believe that this was only the entrance to the caves! Once we finally reached the main caverns the show really began. If ever the word gynormous ever applied to anything this was it. The huge rooms just seemed to go on and on, each one more incredible than the last. I'll try to get the pictures posted soon. It was midafternoon by the time we left. We drove about 5hrs and spent Sun. night in Abilene, Tx.

Shauna flew back to Seattle from Dallas on Monday the 18th and I left Dallas on Tuesday headed for Memphis. After checking out of my hotel Wed. morning my first stop was Graceland. You know, I kind of expected Graceland Mansion to be, well, more mansion sized. The front facade definitely imitates an old southern mansion but the house itself is not very big. The inside looked pretty much like most houses. Average sized rooms and furnishings. The kitchen looked like most average American kitchens of the period. The only room in the house that was out of the ordinary was what Elvis called the Jungle Room. It would be what we would call a family room but it was decorated in a jungle theme and one interior wall was made of stone with a continuous waterfall cascading gently down over the stones into a pool. One of the outbuildings houses all of Elvis' gold records, awards, costumes and other memorabilia. That was pretty cool to explore. And, of course, last but not least was the grave site of The King himself. It was actually very tasteful. From Graceland I went to the National Civil Rights Museum which is located at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I thought I might spend about an hour but ended up spending more like 3 hours. It's really an amazing and exhaustively thorough museum of the struggle for civil rights throughout American history, not just since the 1960's. A part of the exhibition, but not the focus, is the room where Dr. King stayed during that fateful visit and the balcony where his life was ended. I left feeling very somber and quite humbled by the experience.

Next stop....Nashville, home of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the famous RCA Studio B and the historic Ryman Auditorium. Once again, I underestimated the time it would take to see everything but I was determined to take my time and leave satisfied. I started with the museum and saw everything from the earliest photos to Minnie Pearl's hat, Bill Monroe's mandolin, Chet Atkin's guitar, Garth Brooks' cowboy shirt and everything in between. The last stop in the museum was the room where all of the Hall of Fame plaques are displayed. If you are a country music fan this is pretty cool. If you're not, well, you probably wouldn't be there in the first place! RCA Studio B is actually a fairly small building with a huge history. Artists like Eddie Arnold, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley along with many others recorded there. It was amazing to be standing in the very rooms where some of the biggest hits of the 60's and 70's were laid down. My last stop through country music history was The Ryman Auditorium, the original site of The Grand Ole Opry. It's a beautiful old building, built in the late 19th century, and is just what the name auditorium. I walked up onto the stage and just stood there for a minute trying to imagine all those old radio shows and all the huge names who performed on that stage over the 30 year period when the Ryman was home to the Opry. Once again, if you're a real fan of country music.............

I left Nashville around 4pm on Thursday and within a couple of hours the weather really started to get nasty. I began to hit occasional patches of ice and the overhead highway signs started flashing "Use Caution. Icy Conditions". When I made the decision to get off the road and find a hotel I was on The Bluegrass Parkway in Kentucky, a beautiful scenic drive but no hotels or services for miles and miles! It was about an hour of wheel gripping driving before I finally saw a sign for a Best Western. Even then I had to drive another 3 or 4 miles off the highway to get to it. At this point I didn't even know where I was! I didn't want to look too stupid by asking at the front desk so once I got settled in I found the name of the town and looked it up on Google Maps. When I checked the news and weather I realised that I was in the middle of a huge ice storm traveling through the area! The roads were much better Friday morning. I left Lawrenceburg, KY at about 9:30am and settled in for the last leg of the trip. Seven hours to Pittsburgh. The weather was yucky most of the way but not dangerous. I finally arrived at Sherry's (my sister-in-law) house around 4:30 that afternoon (safe and sound, for all of you who were worried about me driving cross country by myself). I had put Lucy, my 17 year old cat, on the plane to Pittsburgh the day before I left Tucson. I knew neither one of us would enjoy the trip if she went with me in the car. So she was already here and feeling quite at home by the time I arrived last Friday.

OK, so this has been a really long post. Like I said, when I get into the swing of things I'll add some pictures to the blog. But for now, I'm here!

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