Happy New Year 2006! We flew into Dallas first class (what happen to the champagne and moist warm towels?) and caught a cab to Big D’s Truck Center in pursuit of our latest project. As we pulled onto the lot there was no trouble identifying our baby, as she stood unashamedly and actually quite proud between the Box truck and new Dodge Ram. I was star struck and speechless (or shocked, it’s hard to tell) at the sight of our very own self propelled Air Stream. After signing-off on the two and a half page repair invoice and getting acquainted with both Jessie, the mechanic, and the actual coach itself we set out to make Hot Springs by dark… The Air Stream was actually pretty easy to drive, once the wheels rounded out again. The lack of proper seat belts was liberating (well, sort of) and the view through the front windshield was fantastic! Texas was very warm compared to the chilly wet days we left behind in Virginia- so the forced air vents were especially welcomed. We stopped at Wal Mart in Texarkansas to pick up a dryer vent hose to direct cool air towards Wade’s foot and keep it from bursting into flame (heat from the engine cover) other than that, everything was quite comfortable! Walking around the coach while rolling down the highway is a remarkable experience- but did make for a bad case of sea legs when we stopped for gas.
We rolled into Howard Johnson’s at Hot Springs about 8:30 p.m. and sat back with a couple of beers to gaze in disbelief that the silver palace on wheels was actually ours now. The next morning after a polite “whatcha wont to eat” from the chef and breakfast of eggs-bacon-toast we quickly toured bath house row, got back on the interstate and left Hot Springs for Graceland.
Graceland, Memphis, TN… poor boys and pilgrims. If you’re an Elvis fan- there’s probably more Elvis at Graceland now, than there every was when he was alive. We entered the gate, paid the guard $10 and did as instructed: “park anywhere you like” which ended up being about 25 ft from the megacomplex- how wonderful. The Airstream could have been mistaken for part of the exhibit! We bought the tour book and read about Elvis’ mansion over lunch- what a time capsule. We walked the strip, saw Elvis’ cars, a short movie of his many movies, his planes, clothes, shoes, and sunglasses. With little debate it was time to start the next leg of the journey.
Syd in Parking Lot
On our way to Alan Jackson's House
Nashville! Wade called his Herren cousins, Charlie, Delyn, Walter and Kim and we were in for the best time of our trip! ALL of the Herren cousins were in town (except Sue, Helen & Ron, John & Angie). How fun almost 30 cousins and what an incredible surprise! Charlie & Delyn were very generous hosts with a delicious dinner and a very comfortable night in their guest room. We had a tour of their recent renovation work (Charlie is very talented) and the next morning coffee at Pucketts in Franklin (so charming!) and Nashville. In Franklin, Chris & Jean, Lynn, BeBe and Roy joined us for breakfast- we were able to see Chris’s new office and marketing business (impressive!) and walked the street of this Mayberry-like town. Charlie and Delyn shared stories of Michael MacDonald, Sawyer Brown (they’re friends) and Winona Judd (Delyn chatted with her in Target a few weeks ago- can you imagine??!!!) and many more- like these stars are NORMAL everyday people- I was completely astounded and it was such a treat! We “dropped” by Alan Jackson’s house, saw Ronnie Dunn’s barn (Charlie’s sons went to school next door!) and then went into the city to tour Music Row and downtown Nashville and met up with Sissy, Kim, John and Walter! THANK YOU GUYS!! Wade and I bought posters at Hatch show prints and Birthday gifts for my sister, nephew and sister-in-law. Then it was time to say good-bye. We left for Knoxville about 3:30 – and sorry our visit couldn’t be longer. Can’t wait to see everyone on the Lake this Summer.
With the best part of our trip behind us but still more to go we found Knoxville late that night and it was much better than Hot Springs. We stayed at the Comfort Inn and dined at the Waffle House (this is definitely the good life!) Walking back to our room the gleaming Airstream just outside our door- bonding had definitely occurred- warts and all- we just loved her and spent another night discussing plans for the restoration.
I’d like to say the trip home was uneventful after Knoxville- and it was... for most of the day. About 2 hours from home, at Harrisburg, an idiot driver cut over into my lane while trying to make an exit- he slowed down sharply as the exit lane was stacked up with cars. I hit the brakes very hard and narrowly missed his rear bumper. I felt something in the Air Stream burp and commented to Wade, “maybe we should pull into a rest area to check the brakes”. “Just hit them a couple of times” he said, “and see if you’ve got pedal”. I did, it did, so we kept making time- both of us very anxious to get home.
30 minutes out we decided to stop off at Sheetz for beverages so hit the exit ramp. To reduce speed from a comfortable 70 mph -naturally I hit the brakes. The system failed me, the pedal went to the floor… Nothing. Hit it again... nothing, no slow down whatsoever. “We’ve got no brakes... we’ve got no brakes. We’ve got no brakes. Am I saying this out loud? WADE...WE”VE GOT NO BRAKES!!!!!” Wade, skeptical at first, realized as my screams reached full pitch that I was not kidding. Jumping over the center console next to me he starts slamming the transmission down from 3rd to 2nd then 1st gear as we both starred at the red flashing light and intersection fast approaching. There were two options- a 90 degree turn or straight through the red light crossing two lanes of traffic. Our hands yanked hard on the wheel to make a sharp right hander. The barreling tin can on wheels listed like a boat, made it threw the light and didn’t rolll- it was harrowing- and we still weren’t slowing down. Keeping the wheel cranked right, we made it through yet another right and finally, finally slowed, then rolled, and came to a nice soft rest at the side of Rt. 55. Sandra Bullock and Kneanu Reeves couldn’t have done a better job with all the special effects Hollywood had to offer. Completely unreal and thank God we didn’t hit anyone, get hit ourselves or roll over.
We were very close to my brother’s house, he responded quickly after hearing the story and brought us a car to make our final 30 minutes of the trip. Tearfully we left the AirStream to sit patiently for rescue the next day. A total of 1361 miles, (20 more would have made it to our driveway) from Texas to Virginia and tons of fun- I can’t wait to do it again! All aboard!