Thursday, June 26, 2008
KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE – June 25 -- After I got out of the shower room inside the YMCA, Brian told me what the group of little boys said as they ran out of the lockerroom. ‘Did you see that guy in there, HE WAS NAKED!’ I was amused to say the least. Brian and I camped outside the Y the previous night. We had to make a pit stop at the P. Buckley Moss Museum. The impression I got from Brian was that there are more paintings by this woman in his house back home than of the Triplett family. Later, at a gas station, we grabbed a couple of Snickers bars. I noticed a car filling up with gas that had a license plate that read ‘JEFF&ME’. It shouldn’t have stuck with me, but it did.
Brian’s hydration pack ran out of water right in front of a fire station. We started chatting with the volunteers inside about our route. Cindy offered to take us down the road to an overlook staring right into the Appalachians. Cindy was married to Jeff and owned the car I had noticed a couple hours earlier at the gas station.
Silvia and Uwe warmed up to us quickly. Uwe primarily spoke German, which prompted Silvia to be his personal translator. They were in the states, driving from New York to Tennessee. While getting to know each other at the overlook, a camper pulled up and two older people from California asked us to take their picture with the mountain behind them. They were talking to Silvia and found out she was from Germany. When the couple saw Brian and I get into the car they said, ‘You two have fun in our country.’ It felt sort of cool to be considered German. With the help of Uwe and Silvia, we made 350-plus miles of progress through Virginia and into Tennessee.
While staying the night at a Howard Johnson hotel, Uwe opened the door to the assigned room and witnessed a group of ‘large adults’ passing around a joint in their room. Silvia said they could have gotten high just standing outside the room. They will never again stay at a Howard Johnson Silvia told us.
Shortly after crossing the Tennessee border, Uwe stopped at a Subway. Silvia used the ladies room. She came out with a big smile and we knew she just encountered a strange situation by her demeanor. Two women were in their underwear, using the Subway bathroom as a locker room - shampooing their hair even. She asked if this was normal. Our response was no, although it may be a good idea for Brian and I in the future.
My lasting impression of the German couple will be our conversation about visiting each other in the future. Silvia explained that we would have a place to stay in Germany for as long as they live there. I was starting to tell them the same. Silvia stopped me. ‘We’ve met Americans in the past who have told us what you are going to and have not been honest with their offer.’ I paused as I thought about the implications of what I was about to say. It was a genuine conversation with people who have become real friends over a few hours. I finished voicing my offer. I hope that they get a chance to test my word. And I hope I’m not still living at my parent’s house.