We decided to take a sort of hybrid scenic and interstate route as we were going to travel through the Appalachians and the Smokey Mountains or maybe they are somehow similar. They certainly looked the same. Mile after mile of hills covered in dense forest. With this amount of wood there was a pleasing smell. Occasionally the woods would give way to pasture with cattle and a less than pleasing smell. Bearing in mind the huge quantities of meat there is on offer. It is surprising that there are not more ranches. Having said that when I travelled west to East on American Adventure 1 I think it was Kentucky which apart from the horses was more or less entirely made entirely of dung. With an aroma to match. If you ever have a spare few minutes the first two Blogs are up on the website.
All this talking of meat and we were getting pretty hungry and there was one American experience I had not savoured thus far. The drive in!
“Sonic” styles itself as “America’s Drive in”.
So having passed a hundred branches at least since leaving Seattle we turned in to one.
Parked in one of the marked bays
Checked out the menu and we settled on our choice.
I pressed the intercom button and ordered.
“One cheeseburger combo with a peach flavoured ice tea.”
“One “Ched ‘R’ Peppers Supersonic cheeseburger combo with an unsweetened ice tea”
There was a pause and I entered my credit card in the card reader next to the driver’s door
“Authorised” flashed the readout.
The kitchen to car intercom crackled into life and a disembodied voice repeated our order:
“One chdreeicombteaice peachcombo meals drinkoffertots tfries combocombo unsweetened”
“Er yes…I think”
Five minutes later a woman appeared and handed us the first disappointment.
A brown paper bag with stuff in it. Where was the tray they attached to the car door like they did in “Happy Days”?
We rummaged in the bag and there appeared to be two burgers, one fries on “tots” and two drinks.
The iced tea was iced tea. Good
The Peach flavoured iced tea was just so sweet just holding the cup in your hand made your teeth hurt.
The burgers…..were colder than the drinks.
As only an Englishman can. I leapt from the car with the bag and marched determinedly up to the door marked: “Employees only”. Opened it and thrusting the bag into the hand of a startled employee. Said: “Um excuse me these appear to be a little on the chilly side. Do you think they could be warmed through a tad?” With hindsight there were about six staff in there I couldn’t see their hands. They were probably all on the trigger.“
Another five minutes passed and the waitress appeared holding another bag.
“So sorry about that. Enjoy.” She said flashing a gold toothed smile.
We tucked in. Yes our two Ched ‘R’ Peppers Supersonic cheeseburgers were piping hot. If not exactly what the Dark Lady had ordered. Her ordinary cheeseburger was no where to be found.
We decided that life was too short and we would chalk that one up to experience.
She daintily removed the deep fried green peppers and ploughed on.
She also noted that they didn’t provide any paper napkins but had given us 12 sachets of tomato ketchup.
However she did have wet wipes so was able to remove much of the evidence from my new beard which I am breaking in.
Think I am stained you should see what happened later.
So off into the woods we turned and travelled some miles along the back roads which according to the Sat Nav would take us to our destination.
About 20 miles later we came upon a sign which said simply:
By this time it was late afternoon and we needed to find bar and lodging. (Board and lodging?) No let’s go with the first one.
We had a choice to continue up a mountain pass with the sign
“No lodging gas or restaurants”
So we did the sensible thing and turned back until we found Maryville.
There is something about Mary…ville. Or the bit we found.
The first motel we tried a small Indian man shuffled to the counter past a bust of the Buddha and offered us a room for a very reasonable rate however he was very sorry but there was no internet. We wanted to make a Skype call as well as do a bit of blogging and Tweeting not to mention Audio booing! So we crossed the street to the other motel.
I opened the office door and lying in a “Lay Zee boy” reclining chair watching the TV was a heavily tattooed very heavy looking and very heavy man. He was also covered from head to foot in stains.
Mostly food. Some were oil. Wouldn’t swear to it but I think some were blood.
He barked staring up at me.
I was able to see right down his throat. I think there was a whole other world in there complete with countries, populations and its own climate.
Striking my most macho pose and barking with the full force of my new beard
He understood me immediately.
He could probably see that I had some burger stains on my shirt and my rough tough new beard could be hiding a similar population to that living down his throat so it was probably best not to mess with me/us“ .
“Broke. Theygoddit ad Hardees cross the street”
We had had one burger that day we didn’t fancy another.
I leapt on this as the excuse we needed and we headed off down the highway.
Another few miles and travellers Nirvana. A Holiday Inn Express and a bar and grill labelled “Texas Roadhouse. We had arrived in Alcoa
In we went to see a sign saying “No Alcohol without picture ID”
“The busboy couldn’t have been more than 12. Well he didn’t have a beard like mine.
“Er excuse me you don’t expect me to show you a picture ID. I am 54 years of age for goodness sake. Do I look under 21?”
“No ID no drinks”
The beard was losing its macho magic.
We trudged back to the hotel grabbed our passports and legged it to the bar.
The barman wandered over and beamed “Hi I’m Rick what do you youngsters want to drink. I need to see your ID”.
A bucket of beer for me and a glass of white wine for the Dark Lady.
“I’ve not been asked for my ID since I was 18” tinkled the DL.
“County law ma’am. Everyone has to show picture ID before we can serve them alcohol.
We looked at our bar stool neighbours. We were probably the youngest there.
No word of a lie. At one point a man tottered in who had a long grey beard and looked 80 if he was a day. If he was younger than me. Then maybe my beard may be attached to my face for slightly less time that we both think.
We were still full of “Ched ‘R Peppers Supersonic cheeseburger combo’s”. So didn’t fancy eating anything much. However sensing this Rick pushed two small buckets in our direction.
One contained monkey nuts. The other monkey nut detritus. As the evening wore on I think on several occasions I shelled the nuts and threw them and the shells into the detritus bucket without actually eating them.
We had a great evening and declined Ricks offer to move on to another bar and grill after his closed. Strikes me this is not a good business decision.
“I will shut my bar/restaurant and ten so I can go to a rival bar/restaurant up the street.”
Still would you split hairs with a big friendly funny man who had made you very welcome and given your free nuts? I thought not.
All that excitement and I was asleep by the time my beard hit the pillow.