Sasquatch, Middle Tennessee Time, and (Y)East: Adventures through the Great American Southern States

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January 20, 2013 by theloneblonde

Don’t get me wrong, I love the South; between the mix of sweet tea, a proper southern gentleman, and the proximity to Disneyworld and the capitol of Latin America (Miami) I just get this sense of belonging (hence the reason I went to university in North Florida which is the best of both worlds).

Though there is a downside, which even after a few days makes me long for the comforts of the North. Between the unintelligible accents, the strange traditions, and the worst bathrooms I may have ever used it’s worth the classic road trip but I don’t think I would ever want to be an actual local.

We had it all planned out, or so we thought… our GPS, which I termed “Marla” (affectionately called this after Marla from Fight Club) thought we were on a totally different trip desiring a bit more of the scenic route of our great nation. The plan was to go from Milwaukee -> Clermont, KY -> Tullahoma, TN -> Lynchburg, TN-> Tallahassee, FL-> Orlando/Clermont, FL and then I would travel on to Detroit and finally Windsor, Canada. Sounds logical right… alright maybe not. It was a great start, even though we were three hours past our original 4am start time, we still made it through Chicago somehow avoiding rush hour and buzzing past the city! Though then you hit Indiana, a desolate nowhere filled with fields and fields of wind powered pinwheels dotting the horizons for enough miles to make your head spin… Our idea to get a post card from every state was thwarted early on, due to the fact NO ONE makes postcards of Indiana that anyone would want to actually possess. So after being half bored to death driving into one of the many “bible belts” of our trip we deemed a pit stop we were not worthy of…

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We saw a guy taking a picture like this when we got here, after we picked ourselves up off the ground from laughing too hard we clearly had to take a picture just like it.

With some advice from my friend’s former co-worker the Jim Beam Factory was a great place to take a break, and bottle some Bourbon because why not!? So we learned all about the liquid gold that is true Tennessee Bourbon and even got to taste a little of it.

Here’s a fun fact! The largest consumers of true Tennessee Bourbon are not Americans… Australians in fact are the largest importer and consumer. Jim Beam actually produces exclusive lines for Australians because they apparently have more of a palate for bourbon. Lame.

From the process of fermentation of mash, to the beer, to the high and low wine, the oak barrel aging, and the bottling, I don’t think I will be opening up my own personal line of bourbon anytime soon.

So after that little pit stop we keep on trekking with the idea the next day for compression purposes we were going to check out the Jack Daniels factory in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Our full proof plan dictated us staying the night in Tullahoma, TN which is the largest commercial type town to Lynchburg.

So pretty much after Nashville somewhere around there you just head a little bit southwest instead of directly southeast. Right outside of Nashville, making a pit stop for gas and snacks, where we only paid 2.94 per gallon, we made the mistake of asking for the time. Apparently the state of Tennessee thinks they have their own time zone called “middle Tennessee.” Which as the bold Wisconsinite I happen to be, I informed them this was not a time zone, questioning if we were in the Eastern or Central time zones, as we had been whizzing in and out of them all day long. Their response “you are in middle Tennessee, and you are clearly not from around here.” Whatever, they probably thought Wisconsin was in Canada.

According to the map, it was going to be easy! Just switch highways and you would be there… but all right switch highways in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. There we were in the middle of the night driving through backwoods Tennessee, questioning if this was really a good idea. No Street lights, no guardrails, and no gas stations to ask for directions just the glow of the porch lights and the outlines of gun tooting southerners in their rocking chairs sipping sweet tea in the cold January twilight. Yep, we are screwed.

So what’s the first thing you do when you head well pretty much anywhere south of Wisconsin, head to Waffle House? Yes, This was the first order of business.  Looking like every other waffle house off the highway, as soon as we sat down we realized something was wrong. Other then the tables not having been washed since Obama took office, and everyone knowing each other, we realized everyone was sick. The entire town seemed to have come down with some type of cold affecting their entire bodies. They were hard to understand, kept sneezing, and coughing the entire nine yards of what could be disease X. Tullahoma, TN this is where an entire disease could spread and an entire town could die out and no one would ever know, patient x could kill everyone off and a pandemic could rage and no one would ever know with the exception of the government whom would secretly just take the town off the map. Next stop, Wal-Mart to load up on vitamin C pills to pop the rest of the trip.

The mysteries of Tennessee just kept piling on… from the locals all being sick to the next morning being awoken by locals yelling in the parking lot and walking around in the freezing weather in just their underwear. My quote exactly that morning was “get in the car… DON’T TALK TO LOCALs… GET IN THE CAR… we are getting out of here…” So we threw everything into the already packed backseat and got out as quick as we could.

Continuing what we could have called #BoozeCruzeUSA (except there was no real drinking, just admiring and appreciation of Booze Culture), the Jack Daniels Distillery. On my one trip to Florida for the one year I actually attended Florida State in Tallahassee, I begged my parents to stop there on the way down. It was a serious regret because this place is not only quirky but just downright odd yet a good odd. So let’s start off with this Lynchburg, Tn, is the home of Jack Daniels, all of Jack Daniels. Every bottle of Jack Daniels. Every drop of Jack Daniels. Every kind of Jack Daniels. It ALL comes from Lynchburg. Every bottle, which is exported to over 170 countries (that means that only 12 countries don’t see any of Mr. Jack’s beautiful creation), comes from Lynchburg. It all starts here.

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Here’s a Fun Fact: There are only 300 employees of Jack Daniels, many whom have family relations with the company. That is 300 employees for a company that exports to 170 countries, and distils, bottles, manufactures, and markets potentially the most well known booze in the WORLD. What. Wow. What. I am still baffled. Wow. Seriously Wow.

Here is an even funner fact: This all happens in a DRY county. What does this mean, that means that even though JD is being distilled, it is also not legally allowed to be sold in stores to locals (I mean there are a few expensive ways around it for the tourist). And YES dry counties still exist; much of Tennessee is actually a dry area. Lynchburg specifically has been dry since prohibition. Prohibition came back and they were just like, meh, whatever. I am serious. It’s a time warp.

So with only 300 employees of a massive company, clearly our tour guide also had another job. Our tour guide, this large southern man who I could only understand about 1/3 of what he was saying, was also one of the Jack Daniels Historians whom even travelled to England (one of the number one consumers of JD) to set up Jack Daniels Christmas Decorations, and he said something about the royal family… but really I am not sure. Though I was not as lost as the Australian couple in our little tour group, whom had NO IDEA what was happening and I am sure were questioning where in the world they were let alone what in the world is this guy saying! They were lost in the first sentence where he was trying to explain that the secret to Jack Daniels was the recipe and the East… or the Yeast but who needs a Y.

Another Fun Fact: For the 6 million people on the island of the UK, 1 in 60 on a daily basis drink at least 1 shot of Jack Daniels. And to imagine that it is all produced in Lynchburg like a gagillion miles away. I am still baffled. I found this out after explaining to the tour guide that I was not a fan of the UK marketing last year around Christmas. It claimed that the entire town of Lynchberg came together to drink Jack Daniels on Christmas Eve clearly this is false. I think he told me his cousin came up with the idea, but really I have no idea.

After this, it is TIME. Time for FLORIDA. We are ready to get to the state of eternal sunshine, and orange groves, and beaches!!! So we have it all mapped out, we are going to go through Atlanta, and head south, it should take us 7 hours. Marla had other plans. Ten hours later, we are still not there, on some pitch black road surrounded by construction cones, we have gone over 150 miles, and we can count the number of cars we have seen on the road on our fingers and maybe a few toes (less then 60), the last thing we saw was a commune, we have to pee. Yet there is no stopping. I mean there is nowhere to stop, we were coming in and our of cell phone reception and clearly Marla is not a very big help. We cannot even find ourselves on a real map. The only thing that could survive in such harsh realities is bigfoot or a sasquatch. Which Alex (the driver of the day…) thought clearly was lurking the shadows of the dark Georgian or possibly Alabama-ian wilderness, because we really had NO IDEA where we were. I mean being out there in the wilderness; it now makes sense how when Russia attacked Georgia (the Georgia of the former USSR) how people in the US state of Georgia thought Russian forces really could have been attacking. You would never know!

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We thought it was a great idea to wear our CheeseHead (Proudly) and stare out the window… it was a great car game! You should have seen the amazing looks we got from People, who think Cheeseheads are that only of myth. Though at this point in time the only thing out the window was a potential Sasquatch rather then people in Atlanta Rush Hour Traffic…

Finally after going squatchin’ (which is what the sasquatch experts call it…) we made it to North Florida. Which happens to be where I went to university, the very fine city of Tallahassee. Always fun to go visit your university, hit up the bookstore, see some friends and get the hell out, that city is a trap (though I love it). Shout Out to Sally who is awesome and hosted us in her house!

WE finally made it to Orlando moved Alex into her apartment, and I am very happy to report that she hopefully will be working at Disney Shortly! Though she had and awesome hook-up and got us into the Disney Parks, though now I may need to wait a few years before heading back to Disney. It may have something to do with the fact they just don’t appreciate my sense of humour. One final stop at the beach for a beautiful Florida sunset, we knew we had finally made it! Which sadly was just in time to head home, or in my case… head to Canada!

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 Making Stupid Face’s At Disney World. This is funny when you are 13, also in my opinion hysterical at 23, but everyone else does not feel the same way I do.

Squatchin in the Sun

Making Squatch Poses in the Sun on the Beach in January. Winning.

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