It is 2 a.m. and I am clutching a heaving labradoodle’s mouth shut on the side of a mountain somewhere in Tennessee.
We are halfway to Washington D.C. and my dog picks the most dangerous part of the trip to get car sick.
Ingrid quickly vomits over the dashboard and gear shift, so I put my hazard lights on and pull over. Semi-trucks zoom by as I use leftover Starbucks napkins to clean the car. Ingrid stares at the dark forest behind me, where some serial killer or black bear is surely lurking.
About 30 minutes later, I pull into an isolated gas station to refuel and buy proper cleaning supplies for the vomit. A young clerk with a neck tattoo is pretending to sweep in front of the gas station convenience store while eying a car parked nearby. A couple is sitting in the front of the car, having a full-blown screaming match with the windows down. It’s about 3 a.m.
The woman apparently breaks up with the man and gets out of the car while screaming uncharitable things about the man’s mother. He then peels out of the gas station lot without her.
She sits on the ground in front of the station and lights a cigarette.
Inside the convenience store, the clerk helps me search for wet wipes. Apparently they don’t sell any.
Our search is interrupted by a pair of new customers who enter the store. The man is a tall blonde with a pockmarked face and very few teeth. His clothes are dirty and his shirt is full of holes. The woman is large and squat with wild curly blonde hair. Her clothes are filthy and she isn’t wearing shoes.
She barks at the clerk about cigarette specials.
I quickly pay and exit.
I finish refueling and I am almost done cleaning up the dog vomit when the cops arrive. The clerk pretends to sweep outside of the store again while watching an officer quiz the newly-single woman who was abandoned in front of the gas station. She’s explaining to the cop that she doesn’t have any drugs as I get in my car and continue driving to D.C.
Our trip to Washington D.C. started the previous day in Dallas. We got up early on Saturday morning, crammed our cars, and threw out everything else that wouldnt fit.
Several people from our apartment complex hauled away our discarded belongings almost immediately after we set them by the dumpsters. This made me feel a little less guilty about failing to make donation arrangements.
Arkansas and the dog
The drive out of Texas and through Arkansas was largely uneventful. The highway was lined by trees, so there was little to see with the exception of these men who had a loose dog in the back of their pickup truck while going 80mph on the highway.
I was appalled, but didn’t call the police. I barely knew where I was, and didn’t want to risk a confrontation with the men (or getting shot by the police.)
Pit stop in Memphis
It’s late Saturday afternoon and I am approaching downtown Memphis, TN, when Michael calls.
Michael: “I’m at the visitor’s center. You should meet me here!”
Me: “Where’s that?”
Michael: “There are signs for it. Just turn at the giant pyramid with the ‘Bass Pro Shops’ sign on it.”
Me: “…the what?”
Michael: “You’ll see it. There’s a giant pyramid by downtown that’s a Bass Pro Shop.”
Me: “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
We spent Saturday and Sunday night in Nashville, where we were graciously hosted by Micki — one of my former neighbors from Miami.
I almost made it to Nashville without having to refuel, but had to stop at a gas station in Bucksnort, TN. The gas station had several bored-looking bikers and was infested with bats. It was also surrounded by seedy motels, so Ingrid and I booked it as quickly as possible.
Despite the 10-hour drive, we were up for going out Saturday night so Micki showed us downtown Nashville.
The new high rises and giant club district reminded me a lot of Austin. Apparently Nashville’s specialty is bachelorette parties — there were several party buses full of screaming women. One group really wanted to pour beer into our mouths through Micki’s sun roof, which we quickly closed to avoid the Bud Light shower.
Nashville drag bars
We went to a gay club called “Play” which had a drag show. The place was packed, but the performances were underwhelming compared to Dallas drag.
However, there was one performer called Brooke Lynn Hytes that stole the show, and we would see her again later.
We got up early on Sunday, walked the dogs, and went back to the gay club district for drag brunch at Suzie Wong’s, which is apparently run by a gay celebrity chef. Brooke Lynn Hytes was back and performed every 30 minutes. We heard everything from Cher to Beyonce, and it was amazing.
Afterward, Micki took us on a tour of the city — which is quite beautiful and randomly has a replica of the Parthenon.
The Appalachians with John Grisham
We headed for D.C. shortly after midnight on Monday morning.
My drive was made more entertaining due to an audiobook — I finally signed up for Audible and listened to Gray Mountain by John Grisham during the drive. It’s a legal thriller that takes place in the Appalachians, which was the area that I was driving through.
The mountain highway was dark, foggy, and felt dangerous. Ingrid’s vomiting spell didn’t help.
Daylight eventually came to reveal dramatic views and more sketchy gas stations.
There was a notable difference between Tennessee and Virginia when we crossed the border — the towns grew larger, and there were way more police officers pulling over speeders. Virginia also offered more Starbucks, so we stopped frequently.
Michael and I got to D.C. around noon and unloaded the dogs and cars. Another round of driving then started — this time it was multiple trips to Ikea, Target and other stores to furnish the new apartment.
Although I took a few trips around town this week, there has not been any proper sightseeing yet. It’s miserably muggy and most of my time this week has been dominated by putting together furniture, pre-coursework for Georgetown, and externship interviews (more on that later.)
Michael also took the GMAT on Saturday. NBD.
The apartment (and interviews) are now done however, and we are ready to start exploring our new city.