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(east/west, day three: Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas)

Bluegrass country morning, wake up and smell the horses

I fire up the beast and start rolling down the line

I pull over to restrap my dolly and plot the day’s courses

Slide on south through Upton and slip into Central Time

Terbacky-chawin’ cowboy says I’ll burn out my transmission

And I’m wondering if I should ditch the van somewhere near Bowling Green

But I decide to take it with me regardless of condition

After two hours killed, unplanned and unforeseen

Hear me now, in the here and now:

Though I can’t say exactly when

I’ll make good on the things I say

When I pass this way again.

I blow right by the Nashville skyline and pick up the Music Highway

From Music City southwest down the length of Tennessee

All the rest stops are named for legends, I catch glimpses sideways

But I have to stop at the one that’s named for Booker T

Country crossfades to soul as I get closer to Memphis

I seek the mystical capital of the Delta blues

But fate and the Great Creator clearly didn’t intend this

And so around Sam Cooper’s loop I maintain my cruise

Hear me now as I make a vow:

Though it seems beyond my ken

I’ll show my face in this hallowed place

When I pass this way again.

And the same five songs have been oozing out of the radio

Something like a soundtrack for the duration of the ride

All the music that once grounded me is now adrift and weightless

And I don’t know what I’ll be playing on the other side

With camera in hand I cross the mighty Mississippi

Now I’m in it for good, for real, and I can’t withdraw

I’m halfway across the land, it’s just a little bit trippy

I ponder this while fueling up in West Memphis, Arkansas

There’s nowhere to put my beast so I have to keep rolling

Soon darkness falls deep and I’m holding my breath—

How many more miles will slip by while the odometer keeps scrolling?

But I exhale in relief as I stop in a place called Heth

Hear me now: I will take a bow

Among accomplished men

I’ll discharge my debts to my old regrets

When I pass this way again

Hear me now: Though I don’t know how

I’ll pass this way again

I’ll sing my blues ‘cuz I’ll have paid my dues

So let me say, amen.

©2023 The Hesh Inc.

Hernando de Soto Bridge, Memphis TN to West Memphis AR, 6-19-03. Original photo by The Hesh Inc.
Crossing the Mighty Mississippi, June 19, 2003.

The third day on the road saw me waking up in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, somewhere south of Louisville. I got rolling fairly early but I had to pull over at a rest area because one of the straps securing my van to the tow dolly had become loose as I had made the steep decline into Pittsburgh two nights previous, and now it had come off the tire altogether. So I lost an extra two hours as I waited for the service tech from U-Haul to fix it and send me on my way. An hour or so later I was in Nashville, and I considered whether to visit friends I had there, but it would have meant maneuvering my rig through city streets and finding a place to park, so I pressed on. I soon saw that the stretch of I-40 from Nashville to Memphis was called the Music Highway, with the rest areas named after famous music artists who originated from the surrounding environs—country music closer to Nashville, R&B/soul as I neared Memphis. When I saw the one named for Tina Turner, Isaac Hayes, and Booker T & the MGs, I knew I had to pull over and visit. But soon I was on my way again, making my way around the big loop through Memphis—again considering whether to get off the highway and pay tribute to the city where so much of my favorite music originated and drew inspiration from, and deciding against it for the same reason I kept going through Nashville—and crossing the Mississippi as the sun angled west. It was one of my big regrets that I didn't stop in Memphis, and to a lesser degree, Nashville; these are places of pilgrimage that every practitioner of American music must make at least once in their lifetime. And so I made my informal vow to return one day and spend some serious, quality time visiting the places that made the music happen ... hence the title and chorus of this song. Once over the river (and halfway across the country), I fueled up and ventured further west in search of a place to stop for the night. A deep darkness fell very quickly over Arkansas once the sun went down and the search grew more and more desperate as the miles kept rolling by ... but finally I found a motel just off the interstate in a small dot on the map whose name was just one letter off from my own. And there I could finally call the day done.

And the same five songs have been oozing out of the radio
Something like a soundtrack for the duration of the ride


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