Thursday, 20 September 2012

Day 19: Wentzville, MO - Cookeville, TN

I actually managed to get going on time and in budget this morning, only to run slap into the St. Louis rush hour, which wasn't rushing anywhere on account of everyone slowing down to have a good look at The La attending to a rather bent Mustang on the shoulder.  Once over the Fairly Mighty Missouri it was right onto I-270 and then south on I-55, which was happily well-nigh empty.

Missouri has a sort of dangly appendage thing which pokes into the northern edge of Arkansas.  The last town signposted before the state line is called Holland.  This is highly appropriate as the last fifty miles have resembled Flevoland, only with cotton fields.  Holland is a fairly normal place name for this part of the world; today I've encountered Bucksnort TN, Luxora AR and my favourite, Braggadocio MO.

And so to Arkansas:

Arkansas.  They'd just cut the grass so it smelled nice too.
One thing which has long puzzled me is why this place is pronounced "Ar-kan-saw" while Kansas is pronounced "Kan-sas".  So we sent our best investigative reporter to find out.

BIR: Hi! I'm Alabaster Codify.  Today on "Stuff We've Just Made Up" we investigate the Arkansas/Kansas pronunciation paradox.  First we asked the local Indians.  The told us:
  1. Not to call them "Indians", and
  2. to sod off
BIR: and now, back to the studio.

So he didn't know either.  I have long thought Arkansas to be full of hillbillies, but you can't have hillbillies without hills.  And north-east Arkansas is exactly the same as south-east Missouri.  Flat.

After seventy-odd miles of Arkansas, I-55 gets bored and turns left to head into Tennessee, but one can also bail just before this happens and get onto I-40 instead.  One way or another one crosses the Mighty Mississippi and fetches up in Memphis.  I felt not the slightest temptation to visit Graceland, by the way.

A Bizarre Artefact, Memphis, Tennessee.  Yesterday.
Once out of Memphis, I-40 becomes a pleasingly three-dimensional with the appearance of passing through almost permanent woodland.  The trees are actually just a thin screen intended to prevent the motor-ist from seeing anything which might alarm her or him.  Some cows, perhaps, or blokes dressed in white, playing cricket ["Are you sure about this?" - Ed.]

The 40 would be dead nice were it not for the fact that it contains more trucks than any other road I've ever been on.  And with the terrain getting more scenic, many of the trucks turn out to be of the dragonfly variety; they drag up the hills and fly down the other side.  I have no idea what they're carrying or where they're going, but they were still present in large numbers east of Nashville, so it wasn't there.  One of them blew a tyre just as I was drawing alongside; it sounded alarmingly like a rifle shot...

I hit Nashville smack in the middle of the afternoon rush hour, which was every bit as vile as the St. Louis version, not helped by a Buick which had turned at right-angles to reality and hit the roadside barrier head-on, thereby blocking two lanes.  Once things were moving again I decided to stop at Cookeville, since Knoxville is another hundred miles and somewhere around here is the transition between the Central and Eastern time zones, which means losing another hour.  Fortunately it's the other side of Cookeville so it's only 21:30 here...

New states visited: Arkansas, Tennessee.

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