Distance Traveled: 497 Miles; Current Location: Loudon, TN

A while back, after traveling through Texas, I mentioned that I don’t have a navigation system in my car.  I was doing well with my system, looking up directions online before leaving for the next destination, and after 4,000 miles, I had run into very few issues with this way of doing things.  Today, however, I changed things up.  I brought a navigation system with me into the car, and just as I had suspected it would, the navigator lead me completely astray.  It told me that my directions were wrong.  It told me to turn right when I knew that I should turn left.  It’s constant voice told me where I wanted to go and the places that I wanted to avoid, even when it’s advice didn’t prove to be accurate at all.  Finally, with thirty miles to go, I had had enough.  I looked at the navigational device and said (in my always perfectly pleasant tone of voice), “please be quiet, mom.”

Luckily, for the most part though, things continue to carry on quite smoothly, and the time in the car does seem to go by faster when someone is along for the ride.  I was happy to have my mom with me on this leg of the trip especially because along our drive from Sandusky to Knoxville, I had planned to stop off to experience the thing that I was most looking forward to on the entire journey (hopefully that doesn’t mean that it’s all downhill from here).  I had planned to stop off in Cincinnati to see the house that I lived in from age five to age seven.  I had never been back to Cincinnati since we moved to Georgia in 1993, and I have long been curious to find out exactly how my recollections would stack up to reality.

In preparation to see the house and our old neighborhood, I would often snap back to an argument that I vividly recall having with my mother when I was about seven years old.  In it, I was insisting that the tennis courts that I had played on as a toddler had a taller net than the tennis courts that I was currently taking lessons on.  “Yes huh, mom!  The net went over my head!”  With more patience than I would have had, she tried to explain to me that I had grown.  I refused to believe her.  In the back of my mind, leading up to today’s voyage to Cincinnati, I wondered if in seeing the street corner where I sometimes sat and ate my dinner so that I didn’t miss the ice cream man, or in looking at the elementary school that I attended, or in driving by our old Kroger, that I would notice a bunch of very short nets.  I wondered exactly how eye opening it would be to see the land that I lived in as a child through an adult’s eyes.

Turns out, not very.  Not very eye opening at all.  On this trip, I have experienced time travel by going to the Wal-Mart museum, and I’ve experience time change by driving through each time zone in the country, but it wasn’t until today that I experienced a total time freeze.  It wasn’t until today, when I went to Cincinnati, that I realized the meaning behind the phrase, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  My house, my neighborhood, my street corner bus stop where I would sit and wait for the ice cream man, none of it could have looked anymore similar to the way that I had remembered it.  Everything was exactly the same.   Sure, there were a couple new houses here and there, but there were no tiny backyard fences, there was no magical rainbow with a pot of gold there to greet me, there were no short nets.  It was exactly as I had remembered.

Immediately after getting to the old country, I was glad that I had visited it.  I now realize that I can stop wondering what our old neighborhood looks like because I lived there for a year and a half, so I already know what it looks like, and besides, what’s the difference anyway?  I also now know that I never have to go back there again. I can focus completely on starting my current life so that I have some other place to visit twenty years down the road, and I can tell my kids, “you know, there used to be a very tall net here.”  Visiting Cincinnati again was one of my main goals for this trip, and I’m happy that I accomplished it.  Although it seems like a great city and I lived there once,  it also became clear to me today that just like the other places that I’ve been so far on this adventure, Cincinnati isn’t my city.

My experience with the Ghost of Cathi Past leads me into the next milestone of today’s trip, the brush with the Ghost of Cathi Future.  Today, we entered Tennessee.  My trip across America will continue on after this point by going to Georgia and up the East Coast to Massachusetts, but I thought that I should come to Tennessee on a scouting mission ahead of time rather than simply showing up in July with all my stuff and a really confused look on my face.  I’m 100% certain that this feeling was consciously created in my head, but as soon as I saw the sign that says, “Tennessee welcomes you,” it felt like I was being welcomed home.  Well, maybe not “home” per se, but at least to a place that I knew could one day become my home.

And that’s what I’m going with from here on out.  Throughout my trip, at various stops along the way, I have been asked where I’m coming from or have had to sign into a place, listing a hometown along with my name.  Although I have sometimes responded, “none,” it will be nice to have a simple answer to this expectedly simple question.  Though I am wholeheartedly from Marietta, Georgia, it hasn’t seemed appropriate to tell people that that’s where I’m coming from since I haven’t lived there in seven years.  Likewise, telling people that I’m coming from Los Angeles implies that I plan to return to it before hell freezes over.  So, from now on, I’m going with Tennessee.  As of today, I come from Tennessee.  After all, the rest of the drive will take place after my jaunt here, so this is technically where I am “coming from” anyway.

Tomorrow, we are off to experience Dollywood in Pigeon Forge!  While in my heart, Dolly Parton will never be The Judds, I still think she’s pretty fantastic, so I can’t wait to see what her kingdom has to offer.  Afterwards, we’ll be driving to Nashville for my first look in several years at the place where I’ll be living (ha!)…. hopefully I will feel more of an attachment to it there than I have thus far along my journey… if not, I’ll learn to love it I’m sure.

I hope everyone has a great week!  My trip officially has less than two weeks to go!