Map of Second LegDateline:Chattanooga, TN

Today I overdid it. My daily plan was for five hundred miles a day. At an average speed of 60 MPH, that works out to be about eight-and-a-half hours of driving a day. Today I felt like I really wanted to get to Chattanooga, which is a 620 mile drive. By the time I got to Athens, TN I thought I’d stop for the night there, which is about 80 miles short of my initial goal. But it turns out that the Tennessee Valley Authority is having some kind of nuclear reactor conference and all the hotels are booked with people whose job it is to tell us everything is safe. So I had the choice of some places with truly frightening reviews on Expedia (one reviewer found a half-meter long snake in her room!) or driving another 80 miles to Chattanooga for a great deal on a room in a new Days Inn. I chose the latter.

But while 500 miles, maybe 550 is reasonable, 600+ is not. Another hundred miles in the context of my trip seems minuscule, irrelevant even. After all, from Boston to Mérida is about 4,000 miles, a figure which grows more daunting every day.  But it was pounded home to me today that another hundred miles could be as much as another two hours of driving, depending on traffic. And of course, if you don’t start at dawn (which I don’t) it also means you’ll be driving in the dark, which is that much more demanding. So I need to recommit to 500 miles. Or less.

As for today’s drive, it was quite pleasant, with a few surprises. Surprise number one? There’s more snow in Virginia than there is in Massachusetts. Now, this has not been scientifically verified, but I drove half way through MA, and yes, there was snow left, and yes, there were frozen ponds. But Virginia? It seemed like the entire western part of the state was blanketed with snow. And the highway, while dry, still was heavy with residual salt.

More Snow in VA than in MA

More Snow in VA than in MA. Who would have guessed?

Surprise number two? I was tempted to use my air-conditioner briefly. OK, the car had been parked in  the sun for a bit. But still, where I was must have been in the upper 50’s, though with a brisk breeze. The air conditioner was serviced in mid-October, but as you might imagine, there was little chance to see if it still worked this coldest-winter-in-recorded-history. Since I’m going to places that will DEFINITELY be hot, I was very happy that the a/c blasted air that did a good job of mimicking what is still blowing around outside my house back in Boston.

Third, I narrowly missed going to Scotland. (How did I get that far off track?!?) And the weather was quite appropriate, cold and drizzly.

How did I get this far off track?!?

How did I get this far off track?!? I don’t remember crossing much water…

Four? You really do still see big American tanks on the road these days, despite the cost of fuel.

"Oversize" seems to be stating the obvious.

“Oversize Load” seems to be stating the obvious. Tailgaters will be vaporized.

Finally, given the above, and the fact that I’m exhausted, LOL… I’ll simply close with the best photo of the bunch. (Which is not saying much, as they’re all still cell phone shots.) As I entered Tennessee, the clouds parted and the angels began to sing. Whether that was joy at my arrival in Tennessee or joy at my departure from Virginia, I’ll leave up to my readers to decide.

Entry into Tennessee. Leaving God's country, and reentering right away.

Entry into Tennessee. Leaving God’s country, and reentering right away.

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