– by George Dyke
Having made the trek from Toronto to Carlisle PA during the May 17 & 18, 2014 weekend this year to attend the Citroëns@Carlisle gathering, I decided to make a 10 day trip and take in the Smithsonian Air Museum in Washington DC and then head west to Nashville for the Memorial Day weekend where there was a meeting of microcars at the Lane Motor Museum. [My trip to Carlisle is documented here in a separate article as are photos of the Smithsonian Air Museum].
Driving a 2CV, I qualified for the microcar event. And from the Smithsonian Air Museum to Nashville Tennessee, I wanted to travel parts of rural America one would not typically encounter on the Interstates. I’d use expressways to get to the points where I’d want to venture on secondary roads, and once on them I’d do a “Jack Kérouac” type of thing and just take them where they led me.
View a full photo gallery of the Nashville trip here.
My first objective was to get south of Roanoke Virginia, then to head west. I took I81 south to Christianberg where my meal stop that night was at the Due South BBQ, an authentic spot that this night was was also accommodating a family get local together. Trying not to get overstuffed on fats, I ordered the pulled pork salad where, when it arrived, the pork was fairly minimal, but the salad must have had a full pound of grated cheese lobbed on top. Welcome to food southern style. I dug in and ignored the calorie count, a philosophy that most of the patrons there seemed to have adopted.
After dinner I took Route 460 west, crossing some of the Application mountains and the Jefferson National Forest. With darkness approaching I overnighted in Princeton, West Virginia at the Day’s Inn where Route 460 crossed I77.
The following morning I decided to drive deep into the hills of West Virgina. Heading west from Princeton I took road #16 north (just past Bluefield) that narrowed to twists and turns along a mountain ridge, eventually placing me at a town called Bishop. This place looked like it was from a time warp of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. You have to wonder how abject poverty like that can exist in the USA yet somehow the 2CV, developed to for impoverished impoverished French in that era, and certainly a curiosity to everyone there, seemed right in it’s element except that it is unlikely the typical resident of Bishop could fit their body weight in into it.
Leaving Bishop I eventually came upon some rolling hills on route 636 that seemed to have more prosperous places along the roadside. Darting though the backroads for the balance of the day I eventually made my way to Kentucky taking Route 80 west in the late afternoon. The weather was warm and clear, and it was a joy to drive along for a couple of hours as dusk began to set in. I managed to make it London (right at I75) where I stayed at another Days Inn, before dropping south of 80 just west of I75 onto some obscure backroads in Kentucky. No GPS for me.. Every road was an adventure, some ending at lakes or just plain ending. The hills and turns that rivaled some of those sought after routes in Europe. I came upon a Winery called Cedar Creek and dropped in to sample few Kentucky vintages. Truth be told, whiskey would have been a better alternative. Still there was the 2CV at home in a vineyard in Kentucky appearing quite content.
I traveled though the Daniel Boone National Forest, over the Laurel Lake Dam and southeast to where the horse farms yielded to communities more of an Ozark nature. At that point I decided to really go off-road and blasted along on some mountain roads that had me singing the theme to the Beverly Hillbillies. At one point I passed a barn with a giant American flag painted on the side and the words “God Bless America”. It was on a property with a old shack that, taking a close look to see free range chickens strutting around the front, gave the only clue that it might be inhabited. The sun on the barn presented a perfect lighting opportunity to park the 2CV and take a photo. As I stepped across the road, a little old lady, her leg bandaged and in a brace, wheeled herself to the front door of the house. I shouted “I hope you don’t mind but I love the artwork and stopped to take a picture”. In a frail voice she responded, “That’s OK, we get a lot of people stopping to admire it. My son painted the barn when he came back home from serving in the army in Desert Storm.”
For the balance of the afternoon I headed east to Burkeville Kentucky where a B&B sign caught my eye and decided that I could use something a bit more homely than another night in a Day’s Inn. So I stopped for the night at The Old Coe House. I discovered two things that evening; one was that the Mexican restaurant in town, recommended to me by the B&B owner, served the largest burrito north of El Paso. When it arrived at the table it looked like a fire log covered in liquid cheese. Mind you it was mighty tasty, but glancing around the restaurant at a number of 400+ pound patrons in the place, I realized that had better have 911 programmed into the speed dial of my smartphone. After dinner I took a long walk to stretch my legs from a day crammed into the 2CV and to try to put the burrito behind me – literally!
Fresh from a good night’s sleep on shiny gold silk sheets at the B&B, that were more in context with a brothel than a B&B, Thursday morning I headed south on Route 53 into Tennessee. Turning west at Celina onto Route 52 and then south at Moss soon put me onto Brimstone Creek Road, yet another back woods attempt that this time resulted in a road that became a trail through a river valley. Judging by the tire tracks, more appropriately the lack thereof, it became apparent that I might well be the first person to have ventured along it this year. Knowing that sooner or later if I kept heading south I’d see some art of civilization (or the Gulf of Mexico) I stayed the course and eventually crossed a bridge where the road got a bit more robust and in 10 miles or so even became paved. I had emerged from the Ozarks in-tact!
Since I appeared to be not too far away from Nashville and it was just mid-day, I ventured north to Gainsboro and then took 85 west only to snarled in a few dead end dust trails at the banks of the Cumberland River. Undaunted and wanting to see more of the Tennessee countryside, I eventually made my way to Carthage, back onto Route 53 and just south of that crossed under I40 and headed east on Route 141 where I crossed Center Hill Dam. 141 met I40 about 5 miles east and by that time I decided I to head west on I40 to the home of country music.
Arriving at my Nashville hotel I could see some microcar folks had already arrived. They had trailered their cars and were quite astonished to see pull up in a 2CV driven there from Canada by a such an obscure route.
The meet over the next three days was a fun filled affair and I had a fun time toodling around Nashville each night in the 2CV. On Friday a microcar convoy, headed by Jeff Lane in an Amphicar, ventured to nearby Percy Priest Lake. Jeff took everyone for rides into the water to experience the car’s aquatic capability.
Saturday was show day, and I was awarded 1st place in the 500 – 1500 cc category! At the same time, Jeff opened the basement doors to the Lane Motor Museum and invited us to look around a few hundred most unusual cars that were not on public display upstairs. What a treat!
At 3pm we took the microcars on a tour of downtown Nashville. To say it caused a bit of a sensation would an understatement. I left my tool kit at the museum to lighted the car to accommodate 3 passengers for the trip. Wouldn’t you know it, the one mechanical problem that happened on the entire trip occurred then. As a pulled away from a stop light downtown, we heard a click clanging. And as I slopped to see what the problem was the sound stopped. Peeking underneath the car I saw that the exhaust pipe had completely separated just aft of the 2nd stage muffler that sit’s under the driver. It was now being solely supported by rubber strap behind the gas tank and the broken end was touching the ground. Undaunted and need of a fast fix, I reached into a nearby trash can and pulled out an empty Snapple can. I peeled off each end, cut the remaining sheet metal of the cylinder so that had a flat piece of aluminum, held the broken pipe back in place and wrapped the aluminum around the break. I did the trick for the balance of the trip downtown. Across from the Lane Motor Museum there was a NAPA auto parts store where I was able to buy a stronger metal piece to re-wrap around the break and a couple of hose clamps. A quick installation in the parking lot and I was as good as new with arguably a more strengthened exhaust where it is typically vulnerable.
On Sunday morning Jeff organized another road tour, this time through Percy Warner Park. I missed the start of the tour because I got talking to a couple from Kentucky while have a morning coffee at a trendy café downtown. But I remembered that on the tour to the Percy Priest Lake I spotted a few rags on the road along the way. Seems that microcar owners like to toss a few in their engine bays, bungee cording them in there along with their oil cans. Inevitably the harsh ride or a sharp turn dislodges them and a rag trail is left like the breadcrumbs in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. I came upon a few rags as I traveled in their general direction and eventually caught up to them gassing up!
Sunday afternoon was the Microcar gymkhana out back of the museum where we were challenged to navigate an obstacle course that included stopping to remount a 2CV rim and tire on a stand and move a ball and spike from one pylon to another. Lots of laughs for those participating and the spectators. Len Seats won the event driving his Vespa microcar.
Sunday evening Jeff hosted a lovely dinner in the museum among the cars displayed there. It was the perfect ending to the long weekend.
I allowed 2 days for the drive home to Toronto. On Monday I stopped into visit with David Hume in Kentucky. Dave was in the final throws of doing an impressive restoration on a customer’s Citroën SM. He showed me that and we chatted about the latest challenges in our lives over lunch. It wasn’t until 4 pm that I got back on the road and headed east. Since the sun was setting late and I had driven I75 enough times in my life I turned east at Cincinnatti and made a beeline toward Columbus Ohio on I76. I76 has to be the worst maintained interstate in the USA, There where pot holes scattered about, many of which could devour and entire wheel of a 2CV. I skillfully dodged them like dodging traffic cones in a slalom race and eventually made it to Columbus with no damage to the car. From Columbus I decided to head northeast, taking Route 62 all the way to Buffalo. That evening I made it as far as Millersburg, discovering that Route 62 is a treasure to drive. It’s a lovely mix of rolling hills through Amish farm country, the Allegheny National Forest and many charming little towns along the way. Definitely a route you say to yourself “I’ve got to travel again, – and leave a bit more time to explore”.
By 6pm on Tuesday night taking Route 62 had landed me at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo and I crossed over back into Canada. And to my amazement I encountered a bit of rain, the only significant amount since I went through the Buffalo area on the way down.
All in all a spectacular trip. Over 3,500 kms in 10 days driving through some incredibly diverse sections of the USA that really should not be missed!