The first bus to Johnson City was at nine, and I arrived there at 11:30. The view along the road confirmed that I am now in the south states. The oh-so-familiar-now US flag is most places accompanied by the flag used by the south states back in that north-south conflict some hundred and thirty years ago which so many places seems to make a fuzz about, by lining up cannons and memorial thingies. And all houses which aren't people's homes are very square in shape, while the homes are either large, richly decorated mansions, or totally worn-down barracks.
In the square-shaped house they called the Greyhound station I found a payphone, and struggled with it a while before I got through to my hostess in Tennessee. A little while later Julia came to take me to lunch, having brought a Ray, just in case I turned out to be a madman. #:D) I was considered acceptable, and they took me to the local bagle-place, where I found the best-tasting water I had had since leaving home. Ahhh...
Afterwards I went with them back to East Tennessee State University, where Julia is dedicating her life to give the students access to computers that do what they're told. I was put in front of something which resembled a computer, and had the word Apple written several places on its surface. After fiddling around with the single button there is to fiddle around with for a while, I had IRC, News and Netscape up and running from my home computer in Norway. Quite amusing. I had a hard time trying to convince the chief administrator of the computer department that this actually could be useful for me, and should be offered to the students of his university as well. Oh well. I guess they can learn UNIX in a few years, when they find they need it.
Having seen this high-tech work environment, I expected Julia's home, where I was to stay, would be at least a standard American modern home. It wasn't. I loved it! After having driven for half an hour, the surroundings were becoming all green hills, with few houses. Leaving the main road we came to a smaller one. Leaving the small road we came to a path through the woods, where the 4wheel-drive really got to show off its possibilities.
In the end we came here. Its the typical "in the middle of nowhere" place. Its the hundred acre wood of Winnie the Pooh. There's supposed to be four other houses around here, but I haven't seen any yet. Haven't seen any of the neighbours either, except a twelve year old boy driving around between the trees, in his Chevrolet. And here I am. And Julia and her two dogs Eddi and Retro, and all the cricketts.
There is a nice breeze giving the air that perfect feeling, and the view is just great. Endless green hills everywhere. Tomorrow we are going hiking, somewhere by the Blue Ridge Parkway. Goody. And tonight... there is chicken with fried, green tomatoes from Julia's garden. Mmmm... Very southern, very new to me, very good. And the meal is accompanied by the sound of a million cricketts. After the last days stays in mainly large cities, this is exactly what I need to get back into my own pace. The only thing that reminds me about New York City here, are the fireflies. And they're better here. #:D)
This morning I for once got up before 8 o'clock, and was taken to 7-11 for a real American hillbilly breakfast. Ye olde lady took my order, and pretty soon some egg and bacon was on its way to my stomach. To drink I had milk, which I drank with a straw for the first time in my life. How convenient it is, straws for everything. You don't have to lift anything at all to drink. All this and Julia's breakfast came to $4.71. In Norway you'd be lucky to find someone willing to give you two cups of coffee for that. I think I like this place. #:D)
What I liked even more than the price of the food, was looking at the locals having THEIR breakfast. It seemed like most of them were very at home here, perhaps not seeing people other than when they have their meals here. Dressed in not exactly the latest fashion clothes, not really caring about if their slurping becomes rather loud, perhaps not seeing too many people except at their meals at this 7-11. Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit now, but these people really looked like the stereotypic image I have of the American hermit. Oh well. We left.
Heading for Ashville, where we bought some pastry for lunch. Julia, who is quite the expert in the field, growing habaneros and jalapennos on her own, helped me find some chili that is hotter than anything I could have found back home.
Having everything we needed, we entered the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is exactly what it sounds like; A (by Norwegian standards) highway going on top of a ridge for several hundred miles, surrounded by great scenic views almost everywhere. I got to see about 150 miles of it, and I really could spend more time hiking in this area someday. It is perfect for it. Actually the highest mountain of the Appalanches is here, Mount Mitchell at 6684 feet, as opposed to what most people believe, Mount Washington further north. The funny thing to me, as a Norwegian, is that there where trees growing on top of it. In Norway we don't have trees growing above 3000 feet at all.
We drove to a place called Graveyard Fields, named after what it looked like after a major fire some 80-90 years ago. From there we walked for a couple of hours, to Upper and Lower Falls, which are waterfalls that probably look more impressive in the spring. Still, very nice. I met a highschool teacher from Sacramento who was kind enough to give me his address, if I ever wanted to help him drag his wife into Yosemite. I might. #:D)
Drove home, walked the dogs/were walked by the dogs, and now it is dinnertime. Today I have learned that poison ivy looks rather friendly, and that one can be very lucky wandering in the woods without protection against it. And there are Venus Flytraps here, as well. Feeding them is fun, they are just SO much faster with their "bites" than their Norwegian colleagues.
This morning I got up really late, and then spent the day walking around in the woods around here, without seeing anything but the woods and most of the neighbours' dogs. It is so quiet, not at all what I expected to find in the US, but then again, I DID have a stereotypic view on the New World, it seems. Fiddlehead Lane is as quiet as any place can be. The perfect place for catching up on my reading about the places I am going to visit later on.
In the afternoon we had a major rain, so the dogs and I went to the house and sat on the porch, listening to the sound of heavy rain falling. Every now and then I made a run to the plum tree, where I could convince myself that fruit actually GROWS on trees. Kinda hard to imagine for a Norwegian. #:D) I soon found out that wet clothes don't dry up particularly well hanging out in the rain, so I had to use the drier for that. Bummer. I really felt like doing it the old way. (D:# At least I did get to handwash them first.
This evening I will be going back to Knoxville, and then take the bus to Atlanta from there. I called Paul in Warner Robins and left a message on his answering machine that I AM alive and heading his direction. Humm... Answering machines are actually what I have been speaking to most of the time while using the phone in the US. It doesn't really make me feel safe that I get my message through, but it probably is entertaining to listen to my feeble attempts on short explanations, so I guess it's okay. I will probably survive doing Atlanta on my own. Should be a piece of cake after having endured Boston and Washington D.C.
In the meantime I am here, far away from most things. This is so far into the wilderness, there are only 3 channels on TV! I got kinda hungry after a while, and not wanting to eat Julia's entire crop of plums, corn, habaneros, tomatoes and all the other things, I tried munching on the last of the chocolate I got from Molly in Massachussettes, and I can safely say that Butterfinger and Peanutbutter Cups are the most disgusting pieces of goodies ever made. And I am quite the experienced chocolate chewer.
Julia came back from work, and after having dried my clothes we drove into Johnson City and had dinner at Dixie BBQ, which supposedly is somewhat typical for this region. I had pulled pork shoulder with a LOT of sauces of differing spicyness. It cost eight dollars, and I was really, really stuffed afterwards. Could be partly because of the amount of water I had to consume to be able to cope with the spiciest sauces.
We went to K-Mart, which basically is your little grocery store at the corner, except it has a hundred different departments in addition to the grocery store, a large McDonald restaurant being one of them. I bought a Timex for $25.67, to be able to tell the time, after my last watch died in a shower. Finding our way out of the store, we quickly stopped by at the university so that I could send some necessary e-mails, and after that we had to go to the bus-station. At 21:35 I left Johnson City and Julia, having had a really good time in Tennessee. Hopefully I will be able to do things in return for her, as she is planning on coming see Norway someday. It was fun to see the manipulated poster of Norway at her office. The mountains were really sized up to look exciting to naive Americans, I guess. #:D) This is a place I want to come back to, to explore more of its nature, even though the locking mechanism of my backpack got damaged on the bus between Johnson City and Knoxville.
At 02:15 the next bus for Atlanta is leaving, and I will be on it. Sleeping, preferrably by the window.
I made it to the Olympic-to-be city of Atlanta really early. I had to get something to eat before it was daylight enough outside for me to feel safe going there. I walked around a bit before I realized I actually was in the middle of downtown (that's what I get for not wanting to look like a sucker from Norway, not looking up to see the tall buildings.)
Walking around in Atlanta was like visiting one, huge building ground. Men at work were everywhere, yelling at me to get the uhmpf out of where I was, unless I wanted a really, really heavy thing dropped onto my head. I chose to move on.
Being rather paranoid, travelling alone all the time, I kept carrying a bag with all my important belongings in it with me. Accidentally, it was a Kodak bag from the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, with the olympic rings on it. So. Let me tell you: Walking past a rather fashionable hotel in Atlanta with some olympic rings on your bag can be rather amusing. People working at the hotel tend to smile rather wide at you, and you can not go close to doors without one of them running to it and opening it for you. Try it!
After having tried this for a while, I decided to go through one of the doors-so-eagerly-opened-for-me, and suddenly I was in the middle of CNN. I even bumped into some Conny Something which people took pictures of, because she was famous, they told me. Being there early, I got the first ticket of the day to see how CNN works. I quickly figured out how it works, so I wasn't that amazed, really. Kinda fun, though. "I've been in that room you can see in the back of the studio from CNN, Atlanta." Oh well. The funniest part was when we came to the end of the tour, and Miss Bigsmile asked if we had any questions. She had just told us that CNN daily broadcasted 8-9 hours from the Simpson case, and I had had a hard time finding news about the war in former Yugoslavia, so I asked if she thought it was a sensible thing to use so much time on something stupid like the Simpson case, while tens of thousands of people died in a war Americans knew zilch about. Whoa! I was the only non-American in the group, and everyone just turned and looked at me as if I was crazy. "Errrrrrrrrrrrr...", she said. And then someone else luckily came up with THE American question "Hommuch does that chick down there earn per year, reading from her papers?", and she was back in business, throwing out answers she knew by heart. Oh well. Such is life.
After this I went to "The Underground", a rather impressive collection of some 120 stores in 6 floors, mainly underground. ("Oh! So that's where they got the name.") The most interesting thing to it was that I stumbled upon the Norwegian national handball team for women. They weren't as tall as athletes should be, and they didn't really impress me as conversational partners either. Oh well. At least I found out they were here for the pre-olympics. I will be heading for the World of Coca Cola now, hopefully the average overweight will be larger there than here, in the midst of Norwegian sportsmanship.
And I DID find the World Of Coca Cola. It was just across Hooters, where you can have your dinner served by your favorite centerfold. #:D) Good for your appetite, that's for sure. Oh well. I spent more than an hour inside the Coca Cola building... Sheesh! And my shoes are sticky to prove it. That place was really, really strange, I think you have to be American to appreciate it. They gave a round of applause after each Coca Cola commercial they showed in the movie theatre. Oh, by the way; Coca Cola commercials was all they showed in that movie theatre. *sigh*
I am not going to drink Coke for a loooong time after having seen what my money goes to, and after having tried a cup of each of more than 50 different Coca Cola softdrinks that flew around in the air in there, from that strange Coca Cola fountain... Next stop is most probably a restroom.
(C) 1995 BC Tørrissen