Monday, September 17, 2012

Closing the Loop


When we woke up this morning, we took our coffee out onto the back porch of the cabin.  I noticed yesterday when we checked in that Sara had walked around back before we went in.  “Just checking.”  If there had not been a suitable porch, she was prepared to go back to the front desk at the Lodge and request another cabin.

We took our time packing, and didn’t actually get away until about 11 am.  We drove along the crest of Lookout Mountain to the town of Mentone.  At the local gas station the cashier used an old credit card machine, the one where they lay the card on it, lay a three part, carbon paper invoice on it, then slide the bar back and forth to imprint the card information on the invoice.  I hadn’t seen one of those in years!

Mentone Springs Hotel sits right on the edge of Lookout Mountain and has since 1898.  IMG_0009Alice’s Restaurant is there and the whole place looks like it must have looked a hundred years ago.  When we brought out the debit card to pay, out came the mechanical card machine.  Only then did the hostess explain that their long distance lines, internet and cell phone service was down.  At least they had a contingency plan!

Starting down the mountain, there was a sign for a Truck escape ramprunaway truck ramp ahead.  These are gravel traps designed to slow and stop a truck that has lost his brakes.  I hadn’t seen any trucks on Lookout Mountain Parkway, but then I realized that I was driving a truck! 

This corner of Alabama is very familiar to us, having traveled here many times before.  It was a challenge to find new roads to wander, and new routes to travel.  Crossing Tennesee againCrossing the Tennessee River at Stevenson, we reluctantly turned south toward home.  Before we got to Scottsboro, we saw a couple of Model As at a gas station and another coming north on the other side of the divided highway.  It occurred to me that these were the only other Model A Fords we had seen in two weeks of travel.  In years past, it was not at all unusual to see Model Ts and Model As under sheds, carports, in barns or fields.  No longer.  The ones we saw were under power and seemed to be fully restored.  What I saw most were Ford 8N and Jubilee tractors!

Traveling through Guntersville, we decided to go south on Highway 79, a much more scenic route than the used car lots and payday loan places along the main highway across Sand Mountain.  We turned back east on 278 then south on Highway 11 toward Springville.  We closed our loop at Whitney Junction, crossing Highway 231 a quarter mile or so from where we had our first meal on the road nearly two weeks ago.  From Springville we took 174 to Highway 411 and home. 

It was bittersweet arriving home.  We love our place and I hope I never get so complacent that I forget how beautiful it is, and all of the details God worked out for us to be able to live here. 

Some stats:  we were gone 14 days, traveled 1742 miles, averaging 124.4 miles per day.  Our shortest day was 60 miles from Neal, Al. to Joe Wheeler State Park, and our longest was 247 miles from Pensacola to Dothan.  I didn’t keep track of the amount of gas we used, but I did add two quarts of oil.  I don’t think the car was burning any oil, but it did have the normal rear main bearing leak.  Other than the adjusting of the main bearings, the car never missed a beat.  I guess it is ok to tell now, but the rather crude repairs to the rear main bearing consisted of using JB Quick to glue in the broken pieces of babbit that had separated themselves from the cap, including a good sized chunk of thrust surface.  Crude, yes, but it was the only option we had, and it held. 

It did not rain a drop on us while we were on the road, and only once did it even rain at night while we were safe and dry in the hotel.  But ten minutes after we arrived home and the A was backed in the garage we heard thunder, and it began to rain.

We took Nick out for Bar-B-Q and went to visit kids and grandkids.  It felt very funny to drive a modern car again.  I kept trying to mash a non-existent clutch pedal.  It felt good to sleep in our own bed again.

As I sit on our deck, writing this post, there is a touch of fall in the air and some of the leaves are starting to fall from the poplar trees.  This was absolutely the best time of year to make this trip – not too hot or too cold.  We could not think of any way it could have been better – not an exotic or far off destination – not a motorcycle, sports car or modern convertible.  Everything, all of the details, came together!


Final day’s mileage: 182 and enough memories to last a lifetime – or at least till our 50th anniversary!


  1. Great posts!!! Thoroughly enjoyed reading them and experiencing a few of them with you. (Couldn't help noticing that you are still traveling with a few "dead bugs"!)
    Happy Anniversary! Love you both!

  2. This story was as close to the best-seller classic "Blue Highways" that I have read in a long time. -- Mikeg.

  3. Thank you for documenting your trip for us. It was fun to travel along with you and see our great state!

  4. Glad to have you both back home. We enjoyed the trip! :)