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Our Davy Crockett Adventure: Day 1

August 18, 2014

Day 1: “Baby won’t you carry me back to Tennessee.” – From New York City to Johnson City, TN

We began planning this family adventure, as we did our last one, on a “snow day.” Schools were closed and all was quiet, which allowed August, Noelle and I to spend some time in front of the fireplace with some of the books from our “to read” pile. Mine was a used copy Bob Thompson’s Born on a Mountaintop: One the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier. Thompson, a feature writer for the Washington Post, had travelled alone or with his family to every site in our country associated with Davy Crockett. The fly leaf contained a map of his travels: from Limestone, TN to San Antonio, TX, as well as tracing Davy’s political career in Washington D.C. and his election tour of the Northeast.

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I had come across this book shortly after returning from our Lewis and Clark Expedition last summer and was intrigued. In a very short time I realized that Davy Crockett offered not only a realizable road-trip, one sure to pique my son’s sense of adventure, but also a complicated trip into our national history. Crockett’s story encompassed not only the romantic frontiersman who could “grin down a bear,” but a complex and tragic period in our national story. It embodied the rise of popular democracy, but also the forced removal of Native Americans and the expansion of slavery. Largely a tour of the State of Tennessee, our travels would take us through several National Parks, the hometowns of several U.S. Presidents, Revolutionary and Civil War sites, as well as tracing Indian Wars, the Trail of Tears, and the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina.Unlike our previous trip which we undertook in an RV, this would be a simple camping trip with tent and sleeping bags and food cooked over the open fire. The first eight days would be just August and myself, as father and son, and the next five with Noelle for the full family.

Much of Day 1 was spent packing, printing itineraries and reservations, and listening to bluegrass. A good friend had lent us a camp stove, and a trip to REI fixed us up with basic cookware, utensils and multi-purpose, durable plastic ware. Two duffels, two backpacks, and two loaded ‘camelbacks’ later, we were set. Late afternoon found us (Jeff, Noelle and eight year old August) strolling through SoHo for a provisioning trip to Economy Candy, the enormous candy shop which supplies us with candy brands from yesteryear, and to Katz’ Delicatessen, which furnished us with enormous pastrami sandwiches. We even bought one of their famous salamis to eat later in the week.

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At 7:30, August and I boarded a bus to Tennessee. It was an eleven hour trip, but only cost $80! I think this was my first significant bus trip, and something I wanted to be sure August knew how to do. We had used a website called GoToBus.com, which seems to gather all sorts of bus trips to and from NYC. The savings over airfare was at least $230 each, and since the bus was overnight we planned to sleep anyway. For his part, August was asleep shortly after we emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel. The driver and agents spoke Chinese with only limited English, but I have grown used to traveling in countries in which my own language skills are severely limited, and quickly found other regular travelers who could help us through the ropes. We did manage to wake up (somehow) as we crossed each state line, and so could greet New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee as we entered them. We also knew when we were entering the Shenandoah Valley because we made a reststop in Winchester, VA, and when we were shadowing the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Our bus arrived in Johnson City, Tennessee at 6:30 AM. We were dropped off at a McDonalds on Bobby Hicks Highway. Our bags had barely hit the ground when the bus was off again. August and I gathered our packs and bags, and headed inside for breakfast.Day 2 began when we were able to use a stationery urinal, wash our hands and faces, and order Egg McMuffins.

Recommended Reading: Bob Thompson, Born on a Mountaintop: One the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier (Crown, 2012). See our TRIP INDEX for more of our Davy Crockett Adventure.

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