Two days in Asheville. We left on Tuesday morning then dipped down to Greenville, South Carolina and hooked up once again with our very dear friend Melody Hallman Daniel (she of Forcery and my first school board campaign ad fame). Here she is with Tammy and her service dog Sasha:
And at the McDonald's near my hotel I met the delightful Jeff and Marie from Norway!
Left Greenville on Thursday night. Atlanta just before midnight. We were there until Saturday morning.
So... where is all of this going? It's been five weeks now and I still don't know. What I'm doing now, all I can really put it is that it's something God has laid on my heart since this past winter. Dad's house was sold a few days before we left Reidsville. That was really the only thing keeping me there. I had known it was coming. And it was like God was saying "Chris, what are you still doing here? You're at a better place than you've ever been before with the manic depression. You've come out of your longest and darkest period by far. You have a full life ahead of you... so go and make the most of it!"
And that's what I'm doing now.
Why haven't I been posting hardly at all these last several months? It was a little over a year ago when the absolutely WORST bout of depression I've ever had, hit. And there was scarcely anything that worked. Heck, two different medications I tried during those months almost drove me to suicide. It wasn't until around Christmas and when The Force Awakens was about to come out that things began to improve. What REALLY did the trick was a daytime program I went through during most of January at a behavioral health facility near Greensboro.
Almost immediately after that ended, is when the drive to set out from Reidsville began. Where to, I didn't know. But I saw it so clearly: my Camry packed with the bare essentials. Me behind the wheel and my miniature dachshund Tammy in the passenger seat. Headed out of town, going wherever God may lead us. A classic American story: a boy and his dog, setting out to find their destiny.
On June 12th, that's what I did.
So let's see, where were we? Oh yeah. I didn't know where to go from Atlanta: I-75 north into Tennessee and beyond, or west? For a number of reasons, west "felt right" more. So for the rest of the day that Saturday we went through Alabama...
...and some time later hit Mississippi...
In Tupelo we stopped at the birthplace of Elvis Presley before heading on to Memphis.
The next morning before leaving Memphis, we made a brief "religious pilgrimage" to the gates of Graceland:
Then we were off again. Across the Mississippi River, into Arkansas and north. Several hours later we made it to Missouri. Later that evening we arrived in St. Louis:
The next night I finally got to meet in person a longtime friend from across the Internet: Scott, along with his very lovely bride Claire!
We were in the St. Louis area until Thursday. Then we were off again, vaguely headed to Kansas City. En route we came to Waynesville, along historic Route 66. And for the first time in many years met up again with Matt, a friend from Elon:
That night, headed out again. But instead of all the way to Kansas City we made it to Springfield. I would have loved to have stayed a few days and checked out the town, but a zillion Jehovah's Witnesses were descending on the city for some big meeting and they'd booked ALL the hotel rooms long months before.
So Tammy and I had breakfast and were in the road again. Before heading north I took us about 45 minutes out of the way because I just HAD to see what the big deal about Branson, Missouri was all about. I had honestly underestimated the place. Its reputation is WELL deserved and someday Lord willing I have a family I'd love to take them there. Would have been awesome to see Mel Tillis in concert, but we had to get going...
It was about 5-ish on Friday night that we got to Kansas City. I was eager to see if that town's barbecue was really "all that". The desk clerk suggested a joint nearby, which turned out to be a SERIOUSLY aloud honky-tonk outfit. The ribs I brought back to the hotel room were astonishingly massive. Like the kind that tipped over Fred Flintstone's car in the end credits of every episode.
Kansas City until Monday. I had planned to go to Wichita. Again, no real end destination clearly in mind. Along the way we had to stop for gas.
And that is how I discovered the town of Emporia, Kansas. Among other things, the childhood home of legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith...
We stayed in Emporia for more than a week. Sweet little burg! There were girls playing hopscotch in the park. Real, honest to goodness hopscotch! And families having cookouts with their neighbors. I didn't know such places still existed in America. Emporia is the kind of place every small town in the country should aspire to be.
Sunday night, July 3rd, Tammy and me drove more than an hour to Wichita and found a place called Firebirds. And once again I had barbecue ribs. Made with an exotic sauce derived from coffee. Maybe the most succulent ribs I've ever enjoyed:
On the drive back, I saw something I had never witnessed before and would have been impossible to behold anywhere in North Carolina: from horizon to horizon, all around us, every little town and community and village was setting off their own fireworks shows, celebrating the Fourth a night early. You could see fireworks lighting up the sky for MILES around, across the prairie.
We left Emporia on Tuesday morning. Stopped for an oil change in Wichita. And then, for no real apparent reason other than it seemed the right direction, we were headed to Oklahoma. We made it to Tulsa and spent a few days there.
Tulsa is home to Oral Roberts University and that's where they have a kaiju-sizes pair of praying hands at the entrance. Almost like somebody severed King Kong at the wrists:
Thursday morning is when Pokemon Go went live. I had it on my iPhone (yes folks the impossible has occurred: Chris Knight now has an iPhone, may God have mercy on my soul...) later that afternoon and I caught my first Pokemon at what used to be City of Faith. Many of you might remember that as the place where Oral Roberts said he saw a 900-foot tall Jesus telling him to go on television and declare that if people didn't send in millions of dollars, that God would call Roberts "home". My first Pokemon was a Zubat. Make of that what you will.
We left Tulsa on Saturday morning. But before leaving the area I finally got to meet some of the good people at Team Covenant: that terrific gaming website I've mentioned a number of times in recent years! They have their own retail store now. Great place! I wound up buying the Imperial Veterans expansion pack for the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures game.
On to Claremore, about thirty miles away, and the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. In a garden adjacent to the museum is the final resting place of "Oklahoma's Favorite Son" along with most of his family:
Some hours later we arrived in Oklahoma City. I had directed Siri on my iPhone to get us to downtown. When we got there, just on a lark I asked how far were we from the location of the Murrah Building: the federal building hit by the bombing in 1995. As it turned out, we were less than half a mile away, straight down the street we were already on.
It also turned out that the Murrah Building was never rebuilt. On the site there is now a memorial to those who died:
We got a room. And the following night I had dinner with a longtime reader of this blog: the lovely and exuberant Crystal!
Incidentally, Tammy has been a hit EVERYWHERE we've gone. She has ridden in my lap practically every bit of this thousand-some mile journey. A lot of times with her head out the window. Oh, she certainly loves the attention :-)
'Course, with the Pokemon Go craze currently raging I haven't been able to keep from having fun with it along the way:
And I was able to find one of the precious few Krispy Kreme shops west of the Mississippi:
So here we are: five weeks later. Still in Oklahoma City. At the moment I'm contemplating stuff. Doing a lot of prayer. Asking God to show me... where do we go now? I think we've arrived at a crossroads. I could keep going west. Or southwest toward Texas. Or back through Kansas and points beyond. Maybe even south toward Louisiana.
I don't know yet. But, it doesn't matter. This adventure has been predicated from the start on keeping going until God makes clear that we are wherever He needs me to be. The place where, I really believe there will be a happiness I've never been able to know. Not until now. It's like all this time, God was using circumstance to keep me from doing something this bold. And now He's set me loose into the world. To see if the American Dream is really out there, or something.
They say it's not the destination, but the journey. Already, I'm not the person I was when I left Reidsville. I'm not going to come back there someday the same person who left. That guy is gone now, forever. Even now, the things that have happened along the way... and I've BARELY scratched the surface here... have altered me. Transformed me. Into someone far better than who I had been before.
And I think I'm going to become someone even more. Because this journey is far, far from over.