Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mt. Orab, Ohio to Dickson, Tennessee

The Cincinnati skyline

No breakfast - just a cup of hotel coffee brewed in the bathroom. I was looking forward to the day. Clear, crisp weather, and new territory ahead. I have never been to Cincinnati and it was one of those cities I wanted to see.

It was less than twenty miles to the suburbs. I stayed on route 32 as it penetrated right into the city center, becoming a boulevard. Stumbled through, finding my way to the the Ohio River waterfront. Being Saturday, it was fairly quiet downtown, and easy to maneuver without fear of being run over by impatient commuters.

I crossed the river to the Newport neighborhood, so I could take some pictures of downtown Cincinnati from across the river. Riverboat Row and Taylor Park are popular promenades along the riverbank. I wandered this area on foot, taking a few pictures before climbing back on the bike.

The Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati from Covington, Kentucky

Still looking for some breakfast, I exited I-71 at La Grange, Kentucky. The Cracker Barrel at the interchange was too crowded, so I followed signs to "historical downtown La Grange". I was surprised to see a railroad track down the middle of Main Street. (And this is just your average two-lane street.)

Entering La Grange, Kentucky's historical downtown business district, riding was made difficult due to the railroad track running down the street. I couldn't believe my eyes when a few minutes later, a long train rolled through at a fairly good clip. 26 to 30 trains pass through town daily.

There are two Ford plants in Louisville and these trains carry parts in and finished vehicles out. In safety-obsessed America, I can't believe that these trains roll along within a few feet of traffic, in front of all the boutiques, knick-knack shops and restaurants. You can back out of your parking space and into the path of a locomotive.

These "autoracks" are loaded with new Fords. Louisville, Kentucky has two major Ford Plants, and further south in Bowling Green is a GM plant. These trains carry parts to the plants, and finished vehicles from the plants.

I stopped in at the only coffee shop downtown, and while sipping a coffee briefly tried soaking up the atmosphere of this curious place.

Continuing my journey, I picked up I-65 in Louisville, turning south toward Nashville. Traveling perfect six-lane interstates across Kentucky makes me wonder how California, America's wealthiest state, cannot afford more than four lanes on it's primary north-south commercial corridor, I-5 (which is perpetually clogged with truck traffic.)

The interstates lull us to sleep, channel and numb us. Make us complacent. They can be so comfortable. "Everything is fine with the world."

I paused at a beautiful rest stop. Wonderful weather - breezy, clear and sunny. A far cry from the last time I passed this way a little over thirteen months ago.

I thought I was going to die that day, struck down by lightning, as Hurricane Katrina, still off the Louisiana coast, was creating havoc in advance of its landfall. At the time, I had no idea what kind of landscape I was passing through.

A gleaming new Kentucky rest stop. Gorgeous weather today as I crossed Kentucky and into Tennessee. Quite a contrast from my last visit, when Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans, sending torrential rains ahead of it. Flags across Kentucky are flying at half-staff today, in recognition of another Kentuckian lost in Iraq.

ALL the "Cracker Barrels" were jammed today (and, believe me, I saw lots of them!) (I learned later that they were having “porch sales” this weekend.)

Crossed into the Central Time Zone somewhere between here and there. Skirted around Nashville for the second time. One of these days I'll actually visit the city! At the Dickson exit west of Nashville, I found a "Hampton Inn" with a neighboring "Cracker Barrel". They obviously had me in mind when they designed this interchange. It was reasonably early, so, without hesitation, I checked in.

But this "Hampton Inn" (not "Inn & Suites") leaves a lot to be desired. $81 + tax. It is well-worn. (Looks like they took over an older hotel and "brought it up to their standards".) And no cookies! I was given a room on an upper floor, but found the air so smoky (on this "non-smoking" floor), I requested I be moved to the ground floor. Following this, one of the customers was "busted" for smoking ("I told you you're not allowed to smoke on that floor.") He became belligerent, and the police were called.

“Okay, this is the last hotel!” I want to get back to camping!

Unpacked, then went for dinner. The restaurant clientèle struck me as being mostly locals, country folk. And I didn't witness the obesity seen in so many other restaurants. I felt very comfortable. "I’m back out among the retirees."

Since I seem obsessed with the chain, I looked up Cracker Barrel on the business sites and learned they fall under "CBOCS Properties", a division of the "CBRL Group, Inc." I had been thinking maybe I should invest. But they are going through some restructuring and plan to sell off their steakhouse division. Perhaps a bit too tumultuous.


Scott Lanter said...

You missed a few golden opportunities by sticking to the boring 4-lane routes. Had you traveled south out of Mt. Orab, on US 68, you would have been able to get a home-cooked breakfast at two of our local restaurants. You would have also seen the boyhood home of President Ulysses S. Grant, the burial site of Aunt Jemima, and the real Uncle Tom's Cabin...all within minutes of Mt. Orab. Come back for another visit sometime! We've got a lot to offer here.

timtraveler said...

Fair enough, Scott. I'll put Mt. Orab back on my list of places to visit! As I mentioned, it was freezing that night when I went looking, so I wasn't too interested in sightseeing. Consequently, my report on Mt. Orab was severely truncated!