Greetings from Newport, Tennessee

It’s not a bad drive to Newberry, South Carolina from Dayton. A solid eight hours, and some winding stuff north of Asheville– a little hairy at night, in the driving rain– but eminently do-able. Unless the fates are conspiring to keep you from leaving. I was up before 7 a.m. to get a reasonable start, but one thing after another put the departure farther and farther away. When it got to be one p.m., I called my mother and told her we’d be there tomorrow morning, and went looking for lodging somewhere between Knoxville and Asheville.

Even so, it was four p.m. before we got across the Ohio River. There was an accident on the I-75 southbound bridge, and then –probably from rubbernecking, an accident on the northbound side. No one likes being stuck on a crumbling bridge many stories above an enormous river. Traffic had been backed up several miles on I-75, so we had enough warning to depart the interstate, thread our way through downtown Cincinnati and across the Roebling bridge, which is one of my very favorite bridges ever, so that was the silver lining.

I wonder if Newport isn’t a town with too many hotel rooms. Billboards from Knoxville east offered rooms for $29.99, $39.99, $49.99.  I’d booked this one online, for $53. In the old days, people used to make a vacation “going to the mountains.” Probably most motels in these little mountain towns were well-subscribed. But then Gatlinburg was developed and now people press on until they get to their “point of interest.” A change of scenery used to be entertainment enough.

This motel has a bit of a split personality. It’s cinderblock and though there’s a nice pool area, for the most part the exterior has all the charm of a Motel 6. There are clearly construction workers staying here on an extended basis. Their trucks dot the lot, their boots are parked outside their room doors, often next to a little Hibachi or baby Weber grill. But when you open the door, you might be in an upscale Sheraton. It’s all been very tastefully updated (no wonder they leave their boots outside) with new furniture, little nooks with microwave and fridge, all in trendy chocolate and sky blue.

We’re about three hours from Mom’s– and I’m going to try to get a swim in the morning. Among the things I didn’t get to before I left was joining the Y, (which I had hoped to do so I could get privileges at the South Carolina YMCA) and so getting a reasonable amount of exercise over the next five days may be something of a challenge.

Target number still 53. Steps today (so far) 5390. Breakfast: yogurt with granola. Lunch: two hard-boiled eggs, pretzel crackers. Afternoon: packet of trail mix. Dinner: green salad with grilled chicken tenders, two corn muffins. 25 Jelly Beans.

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