1 Celeb, 1 Legend, KY breakdown and 36 hours in the 80’s
9/25/18 – 10/1/18
I’m sitting in Fort Smith, Arkansas at a coffee shop as I write this and find it fitting this is viewed as the gateway to the West by some. From here I will be heading south with a detour to Tom, Oklahoma because I can and why not then to New Orleans and on to Texas. There will also be other stops along the way to be revealed later.
My second week on the road was continued adjustments to the Van Life lifestyle working in to the routine of no routine.
On the 25th I departed Indiana Dunes State Park and headed south for Kentucky and Mammoth Cave National Park arriving in Cave City Kentucky that evening and spending the night in a truck parking lot after a dinner of tacos. This area of Kentucky is well known for their Mexican food…not. The next morning heading into the hills of the national park I lost the power assist for my brakes and had to return sloooowly to Cave City. If you have never driven a 4 ton vehicle with manual brakes in the hills/mountains you don’t know what you are missing out on, the next level pucker factor. Stopping on the downhill involved downshifting to gain engine breaking assist, standing on the break pedal and pulling the parking break along with some verbal WTF commands. I limped into town and phoned a local repair facility, I explained to Johnnie the problem and he assured me they could “get a look at it” right away if I could limp it over to them a few miles away which is what I did. I pulled up the steep hill to the garage/shop and walked up to the first guy I seen and asked if he was Johnnie with a reply of “I’m not big enough to be Johnnie”. Helpful I have a size to simply location. The shop was small with 3 mechanics including Johnnie, The Kid with a build of a scarecrow and Johnnies wife, Johnnie was quickly located and size was confirmed, I decided the kid was there to get into the places Johnnie couldn’t. I introduced myself and Johnnie said they were waiting on a lug nut to wrap one up and get me in, I asked if he was referring to an employee running late and the joke went sailed right past him, hold the metaphors. I need to work on my northern to southern humor translations, speaking slower may be required. Johnnie also informed me lunch was at 11:00 and I may have to wait until after lunch to get the van looked at….Johnnie was BIG and I’m sure never missed lunch.
The problem was quickly identified and a new $15 fitting on the brake vacuum assist would be needed but wasn’t available locally and would be overnighted. I spent the night at a campground near by and had a dinner at a restaurant, bar and entertainment establishment within walking distance. They served everything fried and sorry sire we do not have salads, beer was cold and the local musicians were excellent if you like southern rock/country which I do.
The following day be 1:00 pm I’m told be Johnnies wife the part never shipped. Apparently in this part of Kentucky when ordering a delivery overnight you have to specify what night. Repeat the previous groundhog day…
Part arrives the following day and I’m on the road by noonish and heading into Mammoth Caves National Park.
The Park ☹…….
I arrived at the NP visitors center around 1:00 pm to be somewhat surprised it was full of visitors. It was a Friday and the previous 3 days had been rainy and this is the pickup drop off point for the cave tours so I shouldn’t have been surprised but it is the “off season” or so I thought. I located a ranger and trail map and told the ranger I was just there for the one day and what was the best hike he had, what was the must do. He offered a 1 mile out and back to a “sink hole” as the must see. I asked are there any hikes to waterfalls? NO any hikes to overlooks? NO “we are flat here this isn’t the Smokie Mountains” sarcasm from a federal employee, unexpected. He insists the sink hole is the must see. I know there is a mountain bike trail in the middle of the park from previous research and I want to get a hike and a ride in as I been “broke down in Cave City Kentucky for 3 days yawl” say it again with a southern drawl……
After checking the map I head for the trail head for the Cedar Sinkhole Trail on the East side of the park. And follow the hilly, windy, steep, up and down roads in the “flat park” . The hiking trail was gravel paved and about the width of a Whole Foods isle, 2 shopping cards wide, it narrowed to one cart wide for the second half still gravel. The final decent into the hole was a set of aluminum stairs 200 plus steps down, yes I counted I was bored. The sink hole was a spring coming out the side of a rock face into a mudhole AKA sinkhole, a mud stream about 100 yards long disappearing into the ground for 50 yards and remerging into another muddy hole and then trickling off into a crack in the rock. Sadly I believe this was as good as it got here. Race to the truck and head to the bike trail which required a ferry ride on a small paddle wheel ferry big enough for 3 vehicles of normal size, this turned out to be the coolest thing in the park. The trail ride and in its defense I could only squeeze the first loop in was uneventful, flatter than it should have been however “its flat here its not the smokies yawl”. Finished the ride in the dark and caught the last ferry out of town, Nashville here I come.
36 Hour’s in the 80’s, 1 celeb-
A little known fact I lived in the Nashville, Tn area for almost 3 years in the mid 80’s and hadn’t been back sense then. I had heard about how much growth it has had but had no idea, very little looked the same and getting a place to park downtown with the van wasn’t happening. I went downtown both Saturday evening and a festival was going on and then again Sunday and the Titans were playing. I did find a nice CrossFit gym I hit up twice, CrossFit 615 and a killer taco joint Mas Tacos is a must do, the owner also worked out at 615. I finally found familiar ground in a bar called the Nashville Palace which is near the Opryland Hotel. This place was there in the 80’s and is the place to go for the celebrity’s to be seen and starving artists to be discovered. I seen Randy Travis play there a few years before he hit it big. There so happened to be a benefit for a song writer in the back bar so some really good talent was there. Somehow I ended up at the bar drinking with this nice lady who claimed comedian as her profession. I told her she wasn’t funny I needed proof so she googled herself and sure enough she was the real deal. Grand Old Opry regular, 2 documentary’s with one currently on Netflix and she laughed at all my jokes. She also pointed out some other celebs some I knew and some I didn’t, Mel Tillis’s son, Elvis....not the real one and more I didn’t know. Great entertainment as well, check it out when you’re in Nashville.
The next day I got out of town and headed for Cookeville Tennessee. This destination had one purpose and that was to workout at CrossFit Mayhem the fittest CrossFit gym on the plant which is owned by the fittest man in history Rich Froning. Rich is to CrossFit what Arnold is to body building, Ali to Boxing, Gretzky to hockey and Ruth to baseball. A legends legend. I attended the 8:15 am class and this gym was enormous, 10 times as big as any CrossFit gym I had every seen. The coach made a comment to one of the regulars who’s kid was running around “you better watch it the boss is coming this morning, Rich is” I thought wow he will be working out after us and I may get a chance to meet him. We have some regulars, some drop ins like me, a reporter from Outside magazine I find out afterwards who is there to do a story on Rich and some very fit athletes male and female from Rich’s team. The coach is going over what he had scribbled on the white board and over my shoulder I hear “I can see you have not worked on your spelling” I turn around and its Rich right behind me, he says hi and we shake hands. All of us end up working out together the regulars, the drop ins, the fit people and the legend in a partner workout of the day WOD. It was a cross fitters dream realized. Afterwards I chatted with him and found out he was originally from the Port Huron, Michigan area close to home, I told him my travel plans and he was intrigued. I discovered I can do power cleans as fast as Rich Frowning if does 135 and I do 95…badass I know.
The WOD was for those curious 5k bike we split ours in 500 meters, 100 power cleans we split ours into 5’s and 50 over the bar synchronized burpees, 25 minute time cap. My partner was another drop in named Hunter from Florida, he did 135 cleans and blew himself up, we finished with 2 minutes to spare. It was a great morning and I headed to the Smoky Mountains right after a shower.