In a shamrock-filled souvenir shop in Dublin, we met a young guy who, after hearing our accents, asked if we were from the States. We smiled and said yes; his face lit up, and he pulled out his wallet to show us some American money he’d just gotten in exchange for Euros. “I’m going to Las Vegas next week!” he beamed. “I can’t wait!” We told him the best American delicacies to search for: Reese’s peanut butter cups, Dr. Pepper, and anything deep-fried. When he voiced his excitement for the “huge plates of food and the whole free refill thing,” we all reminisced about the good old days in America. He said goodbye with a “top o’ the mornin’ to ya” and a big teethy grin. I remember leaving the shop, loving Ireland, but also missing my homeland.
Those “good old days” are here again, and with an excitement about our country like our Irish friend’s, we set off on our road trip, taking it one mile at a time. With our bags packed in the trunk and an ice chest cooling some drinks in the back seat, we took off to see some parts of the States we were itching to experience. Sun dripped through the windows as music pumped through the speakers, and atlases and maps were spread all over the car. Sofie (our GPS) gave us her wise advice on which roads to take, and we followed those roads for hours, singing along with the radio, reading books, taking magazine quizzes, and playing a few bonding games to help pass time.
It’s still hard for me to comprehend how ONE country can be almost larger than an entire continent, but as we drove along those highways feeling the rhythm of the roads in different states, I felt the size of our nation with every passing hour. Our first stop was Memphis, Tennessee, where we didn’t actually intend to stop, but the smell of rotten eggs emitting from somewhere in the car caused us pull over and try to figure out the problem. We got a pretty good sense of what the city was like when a kind stranger tried to help us figure out what was wrong, then kindly offered us some drugs. We ended up needing a new car battery, so a few (drug-free) hours and a new battery later and we were on our way to Nashville.
Nashville, (the city created for Amanda, apparently), was filled with friendly people, fried catfish, thick hick accents, and of course, country music. It kind of felt like Texas, but there was a different soul to it. The city streets felt more like upscale country—stylish cowboy boots, rowdy bars, bright lights, etc., while Texas is more rugged and down home country with lots of land, lakes, cows, and lemonade. We went to the Grand Ole Opry, where we saw Jimmy Wayne and The Rascal Flatts perform. I have to admit—I’m not a big country music fan. But something about sitting in that giant wooden auditorium surrounded by fans stompin’ their feet and clappin’ their hands sucked me into the atmosphere and made me feel right at home. We ate dinner at the Wild Horse Saloon downtown, where they offer the “best fried pickles in Nashville” and also free line-dancing lessons. In the spirit of Tennessee, Amanda, Rachel, and Kaila hit the dance floor and tried their best to learn the steps of two different line dances while I snapped pictures and took videos (since I’m already a line-dancing expert). Ok, so I’m not, but someone had to document this momentous event, and I was glad to have an excuse not to publicly do the one thing I am a complete failure at… dancing! We didn’t spend much more time in Nashville—we saw the Country Music Hall of Fame and a few other things, then we hit the road again and headed to Washington D.C.
Don’t worry, pictures will come soon!