Not every stretch of highway is an endless parade of merriment. Not every side quest earns us a Trophy or Achievement. Not every minute can be filled with photogenic overstimulation. Sometimes we’re okay with that, because sometimes we need time to relax and breathe on our so-called “vacations”.
Sometimes the clock works against us. Sometimes it’s a choice on our part. One to-do item is sacrificed so another to-do item might see fruition. Failure and compromise play into every road trip.
Sometimes we find little moments between the grand occasions and the oncoming letdowns. And sometimes there are snacks.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…
We knew Day One would be the longest driving day — a nearly eight-hour haul from Indianapolis to Birmingham, not including stops for food, gas, rest, or tourism. We kept a few possible items of interest in mind for that stretch, but we knew we were out of practice when it came to long-distance driving endurance. Sitting in a car for eight hours may sound relaxing to some, but it’s not when you’re the one who’s doing all the driving, and who’s required to keep all senses fully active on full-time monitor duty so the journey doesn’t end in crashing. It’s also not relaxing for the passenger who insists on acting as full-time backup monitor in case the driver needs to be instantly alerted to unseen surprise killer danger from nowhere.
We were fine after our Munfordville experience, through the rest of Kentucky and the comparatively brief, north-to-south entirety of Tennessee. We intentionally deferred our official Tennessee stops to Days Six and Seven, so we’ll come back to those eventually through the power of delayed gratification. As for Day One, mostly we sped on through.
One Tennessee rest stop greeted us with an art installation, Phillip van der Weg’s “Portal Grouping”. Its sign proclaims, “This sculpture…begins your cultural experience in Tennessee.” We didn’t have the heart to tell the sign that on this leg of the trip, Tennessee was just one of Alabama’s opening acts. Tennessee culture would otherwise have to be patient and wait its turn.
Exit the Volunteer State: enter the Cotton State! Or the Yellowhammer State. The Heart of Dixie. Where the skies are so blue. Roll Tide. And so on.
A few miles beyond the unexpected launch vehicle, we detoured a few miles off I-65 into the town of Elkmont, home of Fromagerie Belle Chevre — a goat cheese creamery that offers tours six days a week for limited hours. That was something we’d never done before, to be sure.
Unfortunately, by the time we pulled into town around 4-ish, we were told they were largely in cleanup mode. If we wanted a tour of them labeling, sweeping, mopping, putting stuff away, tallying goat cheese production results, or whatever other housekeeping goes on at creameries before quitting time, we could watch that in action. We politely declined. We kept them in mind in case we had extra time on Day 6 for a second try.
But their little storefront/coffee shop out front is open a little later, and the ladies on duty were graciously welcoming to us intruders.
Belle Chevre’s shop sells a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches, a modest coffee-bar selection, and free samples of flavored goat cheese, giving them a winning advantage over Starbucks. Their varieties of fig, cinnamon, pimento, honey, and coffee-flavored goat cheese all received my seal of approval. I would’ve loved to try a sandwich, but it wasn’t quite suppertime yet. I would’ve loved to take many ounces of goat cheese with us, but I’m not sure it would’ve kept all week long in our cooler. I suppose eating an entire small tub of it in our hotel was an option, now that I think about it.
We settled for buying drinks. Anne found a Coke can that became an instant souvenir once the contents were depleted. My cafe au lait was sufficient but had nothing written on the side of the cup. At the very least someone could’ve offered to write “TRANSPORTER” on it, but nope. Never came up.
Beyond the cheese and the rocket, our hotel in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover was another two hours away. Daylight was still on our side when we arrived, but we were too fatigued to make much of it. We went for a short walk and took a pic of the hotel’s pretty fountain at the exact moment that all the water streams ceased for the boring split-seconds between elegant dancing formations. Sure, I could’ve stood still and given it another five or ten takes, but who cared. Stupid uncooperative fountain.
After we checked in, Anne turned on the room TV, and the very first channel in her path was HBO showing O Brother, Where Art Thou? I suspect that was the TV’s supernatural way of telling us, “Welcome to the South, folks!”
As a cost-cutting measure to allocate funds for later, bigger dinners in other, bigger cities (and also because I refused to drive any more that night), we then walked across the street to the nearest restaurant — Jason’s Deli, which was technically a justifiable choice because there’s no Jason’s Deli within ten miles of our house. By our loose definitions it counted as “different” dining because I was under the impression we had none in Indiana. However, before finishing this paragraph I decided to go fact-check myself, and am annoyed to discover two locations now open in the Indianapolis north-side suburbs, nowhere near where we live or shop. So they’re more or less dead to us.
Tonight’s feature presentation: for me, the Pork Veracruz special, a sandwich topped with chipotle mayo, muenster cheese, Roma tomatoes, green chilies, and onions on telera bread. For her, the Quinoa Shrimp and Mango Salad — tossed with Gulf shrimp, mangoes, avocado, grape tomatoes, and whatever “Pickapeppa Sauce” is. The internet is telling me it’s Jamaican.
Once again, as with Mama Lou’s Bar-B-Que, Anne’s meal was twice as heavy as mine and required some assistance to prevent leftovers. I have to wonder if chefs nationwide are colluding to do this to us on purpose, either to irk me or to impress my sweet little adventurer. Hard to blame them, really.
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]