Friday 12th September. Nashville, Tennessee USA
Well James the Englishman didn't show up back at the Flying Saucer, but his mate Steve did, and I was relieved when he assured me that I could crash in their hotel room. By the time I bumped into him, it was after 10:00p.m. and I was starting to get concerned about where I was going to sleep. Memphis didn't seem like the sort of place I'd want to sleep outside, and Elvis wasn't returning my phone calls!
Steve and I kicked ass at pool. We owned the table for an hour or more, destroying all takers. I was surprised to meet a couple of Aussie guys who live and work in Memphis. They were more excited than I was to hear another Australian accent; in the twelve months they've been here, they'd only met one other Aussie. I guess it was almost two when Steve said he was ready to call it a night. I was tired and really in need of some sleep, but I must say I was sorry to walk out of the Flying Saucer. I've never seen as many stunning women in one place at the same time as in that bar!
Steve and James were sharing a small hotel room with James' Mum, and from all accounts she was a crotchety old gal. She wouldn't appreciate the presence of a strange man in her room. I was to make sure not to wake her. Digging the sleeping mat out of my pack would have been too noisy, so I spread out a sarong and slept on the hard floor. It was far from an ideal night's sleep, but I was safe and dry. The boys woke me at about seven thirty. I wanted to make an early start. James is a publican in Northumberland, and gave me his address for when I make it to the UK. Just as I was thanking them in a hushed whisper, a voice from the corner of the room grumbled "You don't need to whisper. I'm not asleep!" I waved behind me as I ran for the door.
If you're in Northumberland, head down to the Blyth and Tyne, at 381 Regent Street in Blyth for a couple of jars. I have it on good authority that they serve the best pint of Guinness in England. Say G'day to James and Steve for me!
By the time I found a cafe that was open, and pried my eyelids open with the help of some strong coffee, it was after nine o'clock. I'd better get going if I was going to reach Nashville at a decent hour. I've been growing increasingly less confident of hitchhiking as a reliable mode of transport the further east I travel. Looking at the map of Memphis, I figured it'd be best to catch a local city bus to the interstate on the east side of town. That was when the day started to fall apart. Several sets of wrong directions, including two separate bus drivers who assured me that I could catch the number 40 bus from the downtown bus stop *when it turns out that the 40 can only be causght from the terminal* saw me reach the interstate two and a half hours later. After a very inadequate amount of sleep, I was not my normal patient self and if you listened carefully you might even have heard a little swearing under my breath.
Over the next three hours, approximately a thousand cars drove past me on that busy on-ramp. Not one single vehicle showed any indication of slowing down for me. In fact only a couple of drivers showed any recognition that they knew what I was doing there. Most looked mystified, terrified, stupified or all of the above. I was devastated. Less than a month left in the States, and I'm gonna spend the bulk of that time standing by an on-ramp. Greyhound bus fare from Memphis to Nashville was thirty something dollars, and if I couldn't get around by hitching that seemed the only option. Finally, a big new four wheel drive pulled over for me. "If he says he's only going ten miles, I'm going to cry!"
"How far are you going?" I asked.
"Yes!" His name was Ben, and he'd been working at a hospital just around the corner from my on-ramp. He's a self-employed consultant, currently spending his weeks in Memphis but lives in a small town the other side of Nashville. Naturally, he was keen to make it home to his family. We made good time, and he let me use his cell phone along the way to alert my host in Nashville of my arrival. My host Tim, met me at a gas station off the interstate. His wife Donna had dinner ready. "Let's go!"
When we pulled into the drive, I was greeted by three year old Alina. "Stephen, are you going to play with me?" she pleaded.
"Of course" I said, "Why else do you think I came here?"
She showed me all her toys, and seemed satisfied with that, while Tim and I relaxed in the lounge with a glass of wine. I'd been looking forward to meeting Tim and Donna for a long time. You see Tim is the author of one of the books on my favourite books page. It's called "World's Cheapest Destinations" and it's slogan is 'You can travel internationally, and travel well, for less than you spend each month to put a roof over your head.' The book is the result of three and a half years of travel through Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, surviving on a shoestring and searching out ways to make their dollars go further. Sounds like my kind of book! Meanwhile, remember that any purchases made from Amazon by using the links on this website- such as the textlink above, or the image links on my favourite books page- earn me a commission. Just thought you might've forgotten!
Donna cooked a delicious spicy vegetable pasta that almost made me sweat, and the three of us swapped travel stories into the night. It was also interesting to get some tips from a published travel writer. Who knows? One day.....