The best ride of my life. Day 17, Leg 11 Vanderbilt, Nashville to Knoxville.

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Chatting with Liliana, the wonderful coordinator of the Spanish Dept. I fell in love with the Vanderbilt PhD program. Then I met a couple of professors and I love the vibe. Lisie  Michel, Walnut Hill ’09 being the wonderful, sweet, great girl that she is treated me to a coffee and a tour of the campus, which is beautiful. It was great catching up with her.

After 36 long, boring hours in Nashville I was happy to get out of town.

Now, the ideal time to go on a road trip, as we learn in the classic, highly informative, almost documentary movie Animal House is when one’s situation is desperate, but one is not ready to give up (“Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” Asks John Belushi). A more politically correct way would be in Van Morrison’s words, during a “period of transition”. So there I am, and I am leaving Nashville, after over two weeks on the road, it hits me, what the Greeks call a catharsis, and I am terribly sad about all the changes in my life. An hour out of town I stop at a truck rest area and call my brother Theo in London, and he expertly and on his easy way calms me down. Some chocolate and water, a full tank of gas and I’m recovered for what is the best ride of my life.

About an hour out of Nashville I go off the highway and into the back roads. These are the ancient, rolling hills of Tennessee. Farms, and forests and crops and ponds and valleys and hills. Sometimes I thought I was in Switzerland, others it was very evident I was in rural Tennessee. There was a disproportionate number of bikers on the road, proving that I was on the right road, I did not want it to end. But then I arrived in Knoxville and I fell on love with it! I can’t wait to visit the school tomorrow!

Day 16 Off. Nashville

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We had thunderstorms all night. I got up early and went down the street to have a coffee with my friend Karen who was dropping off her daughter at Vanderbilt. After (a free) breakfast back at the hotel I went to a fantastic mass at the Nashville cathedral of the Incarnation. It is a great and beautiful church, there was great music from the organ and trumpet and a singer with an angelical voice. Of course the theme today was: “The ways of the Lord are inexcrutable”. The cathedral sits back to back with Vanderbilt so I went for a nice walk around the beautiful campus full of grand old trees while I had a long conversation with my brother Theo in London.

Nashville has a full scale reproduction of the Parthenon, making the city “the Athens of the South”. I went to check it out. Still, I prefer the original.

Making the most of my hotel deal I had a great workout in the gym and a dip in the pool, before doing my homework for my new school BB&N, about “digital natives”. Then it was time for laundry and ironing while watching old movies on TV.

I walked to downtown Nashville: 95% tourist trap, 5% kitschy cool. I did have a decent burger at Mojo’s and an ice cream (chocolate if you don’t know me that well) at Mike’s.  Two miles walk back later I was at the hotel. I’m happy Rocinante got a rest today, I love that bike.

Leg 10 (part II), Day 15. Texarkana to Nashville Tennessee

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The heat was much milder today. I crossed Arkansas without blinking. Actually I did stop to take a photo of the exit for the village where Bill Clinton was born and for lunch in Little Rock. It is very nice, there are streetcars, and it is the place where racial integration in schools started in 1957 . The office of tourism is in an old mansion where I had a good laugh with the girls and I had lunch on the River Walk. I had catfish again in this great place, the Flying Fish! I had a coffee and Tiramisu with a fellow Harley rider talking about Spanish soccer (in Little Rock, Arkansas!!!) and I continued into Memphis.

Crossing the Mississippi, even for the second time, is an awesome experience.

The cradle of American music and the birthplace of Rock and Roll, Memphis is a very spiritual experience (if you are into the blues and rock and roll that is).

It was five pm so I decided to press on to Nashville for a couple of reasons: to have the day off from riding on Sunday, to increase the chances of going to a decent mass. What I did not take into account was that it was Vanderbuilt University moving in week-end, so hotels were booked. I managed a great deal with Larry at the Holiday Inn – big shout out for everybody that has helped me out so much on this trip! The hotel is the nicest I have stayed in so far, and I am excited.