Nashville, TN

Well, I’m in Nashville.  More specifically, I’m just off the Briley Parkway.  Okay, I’m actually on Music Valley Drive.  Alright, alright, yes, I’m at Opryland.  I know that seems like an odd place for one with my musical tastes to be hanging out.  But when you imagine the type of folks who would probably enjoy Opryland, then imagine the type of folks who would likely vacation in a motor home… well, you can do the math.  You can’t swing a dead cat on this road without hitting two RV parks and a wax museum (Disclaimer: no dead cats were harmed in the preparation of this tour update).

Actually, there was an ad in the campbook I have for an RV sales and service joint right next door to this campground.  The RV has been making this squealing sound when it starts up and when the big engine cooling fans kick in while running, kinda like there’s a belt loose or something.  Seeing as how I’ve been driving through the mountains of Georgia and Tennessee, you can understand my desire to keep any squealing to an absolute minimum.  So I was hoping these jokers could take a look at it, and I chose the closest campground.  Well, it turns out there are some subtleties to the phrase “RV service” of which I was not previously aware.  Silly me, I assumed it meant that they might service my RV, and I had to be educated by a man wearing what appeared to be his Sunday-go-to-Meeting overalls that the “RV” in “RV service” refers only to the house-type part that you can walk around in.  Further, this housy part is attached to something called a chassis, which, as far as I can ascertain, is basically a long El Camino.  After being properly advised of the terminology, I began a series of phone calls, each a unique adventure, yet each invariably ending with the phrase “Naw, we don’t do no chassis work.”  By the end of the last call, I realized that these were all simply salesmen of 3/4 sized furniture with drawers that spring open automatically when the RV hits 45 miles per hour (the furniture’s drawers, not the salesmen’s.  Brrr, now _there’s_ a grisly bit of imagery).

There are apparently twelve people in the continental US who do chassis work on RVs.  All of them are booked through the turn of the century, thanks for asking, so if you’re planning to have an RV breakdown early next millenium, you should call now.  I expect RV chassis mechanic to be the hot job market over the next several years.

I finally got a number for someone that someone’s friend once “took a motor home ta,” and they said they could try to look at it first thing in the morning.  A Chevy dealership, I guess it’s more like an El Camino than I knew.

So now I get to get up at 6:00 in the morning to get to the Chevy dealership when they open up at 7:00.  And I just crossed into the Central Time Zone, so I’m to be up at 5, my time, tomorrow morning (stop laughing, Lon).

All of which actually has nothing to do with what I wanted to talk about today, which is the homogenization of America.  First, there’s that street in your town that, not long ago, was pretty much empty.  Now, however, there’s four lanes of traffic and a turn lane.  Looking down the road you see Circuit City, Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, Sports Authority, KFC, and a gas station where you can buy hot dogs that have been spinning since the Eisenhower administration, single roses in plastic, and digital watches for $1.99.  Coming back up the other side is Office Depot, Pizza Hut, Nationsbank, McDonald’s, and the locally named version of the Mexican restaurant where the #4 is a taco, an enchilada, and a tostada.

How do I know about that street?  The same street is everywhere I’ve gone.  Back home, we called ours Laurens Road (or Woodruff Road, if you’re newer to the area, but they’re the same road.  And don’t give me any crap about them intersecting…).

More subtle than that are the restaurants.  Max and Erma’s, Bennigan’s, O’Charley’s, Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, they’re all the same damn place.  Rio Bravo, Don Pablo’s, Chi-Chi’s, El Torito, the same story Mexi-fied.

As I was driving around Nashville tonight looking for the Chevy dealership (no way I’m waiting till morning and trying to find it in the dark), I thought about having dinner in some place like a Two Guys or a Taco Casa: a place that might not look like much, but had great food at good prices.  Just try to find those places, I dare you.  There’s no way to tell if the not-looking-like-much is the sign of unpretentious quality, or of a quick dose of E. coli, at least until the doctor’s tests come back.

So I ate at El Rio Pablo’s, or some such.  They charged me for chips and salsa.  Didn’t tell me they were going to:  I sat down, she said “Care for chips and salsa?” and, like a dork, I said okay.  $1.99 showed up on the ticket.  I tipped 15% (which, for me, is actually a fairly low tip already.  Work in restaurants a few years and your attitudes towards these things change quickly), but I used what the meal would have cost without that 2 bucks for my tip computation.

I’ll bet that showed her.

LATER THAT NIGHT (A special bonus update section)

Okay, I did, in fact, write all this on the 28th.  However, no one’s going to see it for several days after that.  Had a small problem, you see…

Ever hear of FTP?  It stands for file transfer protocol, and it’s a way of moving files from one computer to another over the Internet.  More specifically, it’s the way I move my web pages from my laptop to the server in Atlanta where www.jjewell.com is actually located.  I create the page on my laptop, connect to the ‘net, and FTP the new pages to the server so you can see them with your browser.  I use a program called CuteFTP 2.0, largely because I used to use CuteFTP 1.0 before I upgraded to WIN95.  New operating system, new version of the program.  One of the reasons I liked CuteFTP in the first place is that it was shareware.  Now, I never bothered to actually pay for it, and CuteFTP 1.0 kept popping up a little box that said “please register,” but let you go on and use the program anyway.  Well, CuteFTP 2.0 seems to have fixed that little bug.  I really did intend to register before I left, but it was one of those things that “I can do later” and now here I am, not registered, and the damn thing made good on it’s threat to not work no more.

It’s not a huge deal, I can register via the web and get my registration via email in 24 to 48 hours (according to the web site).  The bad news is that the connection I had tonight (I went to the camp office to connect somewhere between “I’ll bet that showed her” and “LATER THAT NIGHT”) was so bad I couldn’t get the registration page to load properly, so it’ll be 24 to 48 hours from the next good connection I get (which could be a day or two, easy), and then it depends on how soon after they send it that I get my mail (Again, a day or two is not out of the question).  So, worst case, it might be a week before you see new web pages.

Unless the thing is stupid enough to just let me roll back the date…

Kennesaw, GA – late night

Last update from Georgia.  I realize that not much has gone on, particularly not much that was worthy of three updates in a day, but I’m still figuring out how this whole process is going to work.  I was hoping to have phone hookups to the RV, but apparently those are pretty rare, but available if you look hard enough.  At least this place had a modem jack in the office:  I had to download mail and upload the web pages while standing there at the check-in counter.

The good news is that I’ve worked out a system for minimizing the amount of time actually on the modem while still getting mail answered and the web updated in a relatively timely manner.  I’m writing this around midnight the 27th, and will post it the morning of the 28th before I hit the road for Nashville.  Not too bad.  Now the question becomes what will my access look like from the Volunteer State.  Stay tuned…

What I learned in Kennesaw, GA:

1.  Cell phone salespersons do not always tell you what you need to know back when you bought the damn thing.  But other cell phone salespersons will go well out of their way to help you, including making long-distance phone calls for you, even when they know they’re not going to make a dime off of you.  Good luck determining the difference at first glance.

2.  The OK Cafe is every bit as fantastic as I remember it being.  After stuffing myself with country fried steak, macaroni and cheese (six different cheeses.  The words “that’s just too much cheese” have never left my mouth, but the temptation was there), and whole kernel corn (many of the kernels were still in rows from where they were freshly sliced from the cob), I decided to have a little dessert.  It would have been more fair if they had actually written “Piece of Chocolate Cake as big as your Head” on the menu, so a person would know what he was in for (can anyone rewrite that sentence for me so that it doesn’t end in a preposition?).  There’s a French phrase for being stuffed that translates to: “My back teeth are bathing in it.”  That’s just precisely how I feel right now…

3.  I need to buy an umbrella.

4.  A change of scenery can be good creatively.  I’ve had a song sitting around that had refused to let me write any more lyrics for it.  I liked the music a lot, but after about a verse, the words ran dry.  I’ve been back to it off and on over the past year or so, but it stubbornly remained unusably abbreviated (why is abbreviated such a long word?).  Well, sitting here tonight I wrote that son-of-a-bitch the last verse it so richly deserved.  I almost broke out the four-track to get it on tape right away, but then I realized what time it was, how early I’m hoping to get going tomorrow and everything I need to do to prepare for that, and just how well packed the four-track and its associated cables are, and I decided that perhaps Nashville or Memphis would be a more appropriate place to record music (I understand they do a little of that in both places…).

That’s all for tonight.  Please drop me an email if you’re actually reading these, I’d love to hear from you, whoever you are.

Kennesaw, GA – afternoon

Well, the rain and Bell Atlantic conspired to keep me from getting back on schedule.  If you ever try to take a cell phone out of town, interrogate your service provider, using all means of torture available to you, to make them ‘fess up to any secret codes or IDs or PINs you’re going to need.  You have to have a PIN to use the phone in the Atlanta area.  How do you get a PIN?  Call your service provider.  How do you call your service provider?  With a PIN.  Arrgh.  Luckily, a helpful woman at Bell South Mobile (absolutely no relation to Bell Atantic Mobile, of course, even though they use the same logo and advertising materials, which is what attracted my attention to stop in there in the first place.  But I digress…) made the long distance call on her dime and was able to get me what I needed.

But that took a lot longer than I had budgetted for, and the rain got harder and I decided I didn’t want to hook up the Tracker in that mess.  Besides, I’ve got a computer hookup here, which I’m learning might not be as ubiquitous as I had thought.  Even farther out beside that, I think I’m going to treat myself to dinner at the OK Cafe (I’ll be thinking about you, Zywick).

I expect to be in Nashville tomorrow night, and Memphis the night after that, although I might spend some extra time in Nashville and get back to the schedule somewhere around Denver.  I also expect to do a third update later tonight.

Kennesaw, GA – morning

Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t get out of Greenville on the 25th.  Picky, picky, picky.  It’s now the 27th, and, as per the schedule, I woke up in Atlanta, or at least the greater metropolitan area thereof.  More precisely, I’m in a KOA Kampground (isn’t that cute with the “K” in “Kampground?”  I think they should be Kwality KOA Kampgrounds, just so they could advertise as KK… never mind) in Kennesaw, GA, a bit up I-75, for to give me a headstart on Nashville when I leave later today.  It’s rainy, which makes me kind of cranky, and, frankly, quite wet.  But I found a natural food store, and I think I’m going to be able to clear up my phone problems today (if any of you were expecting a phone call on the 26th and didn’t get one, blame the Altanta-area cell phone companies nazi-esque policies concerning roaming in their area, or as they like to call it, their “turf”).  Well, great, it’s raining harder now, and it’s time for me to hook up the jeep and get moving.  Glad I brought my raincoat.

Greenville, SC

Okay, I’m still at home, but the RV is in the yard and I’m getting packed.  There are several goals I have for this trip.  I want to learn how to use my camera, so I bought a bunch of film and I’m going to a lot of Natural Wonder type sites.  I want to build my collections of comic books, computers, and guitars, so I will be visiting those kinds of stores all along the way, as well as attending the largest conventions this year for comics and Atari computers (yes, some of us still own and run Atari computers).  I want to record and edit some of my songs so that I will have a usable demo tape when I get back.  And on a somewhat grander scale, I want to have some time to myself to figure out who and what I want to be after this is over with (the trip, I mean).

At the moment, I’m planning to leave either this weekend or early next week.  This has moved from my original plan of leaving yesterday or today.  The main reason for this is I’ve been having trouble getting locations in mind for the trip west, and I keep finding things I want to do as I return east.  Given that some days out west are in fact nailed down, I’m shortening the west bound trip in anticipation of lengthening the eastbound.  Right now, this is what things look like:

July 25, 26 Atlanta, GA

July 27 Nashville TN

July 28, 29 Memphis TN

July 30, 31 St. Louis, MO

August 1 Lost in the prarie (okay, _you_ find something fun in Kansas…)

August 2-4 Denver, CO

August 5 Somewhere in or around Cortez, CO

August 6, 7 Grand Canyon Village, AZ

August 8 Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ

August 9-17 San Diego, CA

August 18, 19 Los Angeles/San Bernardino CA

August 20-23 Las Vegas, NV

August 24 Somewhere in or around Tonopah, NV

August 25 Reno, NV

August 26, 27 Klamath Falls, OR

August 28 Newport, OR

August 29-September 1 Portland, OR

After this, things get sketchy again.  The general direction will be east, but the specifics will depend on a lot of variables I cannot foresee at the moment (like wether I find that ’63 Gibson reverse-body Firebird, or that pre-CBS Fender Jaguar, or that Comic Cavalcade #1, or that… well, you get the idea).  I’ll post more details as things get more clear.

NAT Home

Here’s the plan:  the plant where I worked (okay, “worked” is perhaps a stretch here.  Let’s say the plant that paid me for my continued attendance and leave it at that) is shutting down, and they started offering severance packages.  I got the hell out of Dodge.  One of the upsides of working for a big company is that they really take care of you when they put you out of work, so I was faced with a big chunk of time where I really didn’t have to do anything if I didn’t want to.  Rather than bank the proceeds and find another job right away (which was my mother’s brilliant plan.  Honestly, sometimes I wonder if I’m really related to her…), I decided to borrow the RV belonging to my sister Susie and brother-in-law Bill.  Heeding the ancient call of “Go West” (my SC home kinda dictated that “going East” would result in an odyssey less epic than the one I have in mind), I signed over a portion of my stash to AAA, who must have wiped out an acre or two of old growth forest to print all the maps they gave me.

There are a few stops that are set in stone (San Diego, August 10-18, for ComicCon International; Las Vegas, August 21-23, for World of Atari ’98), and the rest I’m making up as I go.  I’m taking my laptop and a list of local access numbers with me, so I hope to update the Tour pages as I go.  This also means that, theoretically at least, I can get email, so feel free to drop me an electronic line if you know of something I absolutely must see, hear, or drink on my trip (yes, I’m going to Newport.  Yes, I’m parking the RV at the Rogue brewery and filling the fresh water tank with Shakespeare Stout), particularly if you’re interested in meeting up with me for the festivities.

The tentative schedule looks like this, with notes on where I _actually_ was compared to the plan: (NOTE: as of 08/02/98, this has all gone to hell.  See update for 08/02/98 for more information).

July 25, 26 Atlanta, GA

July 25: Greenville, July 26: Atlanta

July 27 Nashville TN

July 27: Atlanta

July 28, 29 Memphis TN

July 28: Nashville, July  29: Memphis

July 30, 31 St. Louis, MO

July 30: Memphis, July 31: St. Louis

August 1 Lost in the prarie (okay, _you_ find something fun in Kansas…)

August 1: Salina, KS

August 2-4 Denver, CO

August 2: Salina, KS

August 5 Somewhere in or around Cortez, CO

August 6, 7 Grand Canyon Village, AZ

August 8 Lake Mead National Recreation Area, AZ

August 9-17 San Diego, CA

August 18, 19 Los Angeles/San Bernardino CA

August 20-23 Las Vegas, NV

August 24 Somewhere in or around Tonopah, NV

August 25 Reno, NV

August 26, 27 Klamath Falls, OR

August 28 Newport, OR

August 29-September 1 Portland, OR

Hopefully, below this blurb is an ever-growing list of dated articles created as the trip unfolds.  Have fun, I’m going to.

07/23/98