Sunday, June 19
Mile 620. Off to Nashville, my home town. We say our goodbyes to Alison and get off by nine, rolling into Nashville just before six. (Time change to Central time.)The views are stunning as we climb up the Smokies with green everywhere under a Carolina blue sky with white cloud puffs and then descend to Knoxville and drive through the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee.
Our first stop is Cookeville, Tennessee, where my college roommate, Sam and his wife, Diane, live. Sam and I were close friends in high school as well and we have always been almost like brothers. A retired pathologist, he has escaped a close call with lymphoma, now thankfully in remission. Sam and Diane travel almost as much as we do and show no signs of slowing down. We tour the town of 30,000—which has a major university and like Asheville is a “micropolis” and seems to be holding its own– and enjoy a Father’s Day lunch on the patio of a New Orleans themed restaurant in the small downtown area. Sam and Diane are liberal Democrats and very involved in their Presbyterian church. Most of their trips overseas have been either bike rides with fellow pathologists at international meetings or helping out in small villages in Lesotho and other struggling developing nations. All of their friends in Cookeville are Republicans and some support Trump enthusiastically, a situation they seem to accept stoically.
At four we head out for Nashville. My first cousin, Curt and his wife, Val, have invited us to their home for an extended family dinner with his two brothers, Buck and his girl friend, Dorothy, other brother, Hal, daughter, Ashley, and her wife, Rachael (whose wedding I officiated last year), my brother Tom’s widow, Kathy, Val’s stepfather, John, and my uncle George. George is in his late eighties and starting to show his age. He now lives in an assisted living community and has had several serious health scares, doesn’t say much anymore and uses a walker. Curt is a scratch golfer and for Father’s Day picked up his dad up and took him with him for a round of golf. George, of course, did not leave the golf cart, and both reported having a good time. The dinners at Curt and Val’s are always fun with great Southern-cooked food, plenty to drink and always stories to tell.
My cousins and uncle are also Republicans and I could not resist asking the question as to whether they will vote for Trump. I was surprised to see each one shaking their head and emphatically saying never. But they can’t support Hillary either. My guess is this year they will just not vote. So far these are some ominous signs for Trump’s chances. But our journey has just begun…