Tuesday was Willie Nelson’s 80th birthday. I think it was most appropriate that I woke up in Nashville, and started my day at the Loveless Cafe.
The waitress brought me three biscuits, right off the bat, with three kinds of preserves. Peach, and two other kinds that were Not Peach, and who cares, because after you’ve had the peach preserves, you don’t need to bother remembering anything else. She brought me another one, while I was still on biscuit number two, just because it was hot. As I was leaving, she asked if she could wrap up my last piece of ham for the dawg. “I’ll bring you another biscuit,” she told me. “You can make a sandwich for lunch.” I opened the box later and found three. So I had seven biscuits from Loveless. Seven. Not all at once. But still.
Dawg and I drove all day, all the way across Tennessee and part of Kentucky, trying to come up with our favorite Willie songs. I landed somewhere between “Angel Flyin’ Too Close to the Ground” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” Even if he didn’t write it, it’ll always be his voice hear singing it. But it was “I’ve Got to Get Drunk and I Sure Do Dread It” that I had stuck in my head all day. We stopped at gas stations where they sell moonshine and enjoyed the deep bluish-green Kentucky grass. We had to buy a lottery ticket, in hopes of paying off the speeding ticket we got close to the Illinois state line for doing 87 in a 70. I should have felt bad about it, really, but my first thought was that I deserved it, because I spent most of yesterday doing 95 in order to get to Nashville, but 95 in the luxurious land yacht my mother insisted I take feels like 50 in my car. Better than 50 in my car, it feels like I’m piloting an airliner. My second thought was, Ha! Because nobody at Merlefest would check my bags on the way in. They all said, “No, you’re fine, head on in, hon,” and I was just the slightest bit offended that nobody seemed to think I could cause any trouble. “It’s your dimples,” said the girls. I made a scrunch face. “I could cause trouble if I wanted to,” I mumbled. Nobody believed me. So now I’m in trouble. But just a little bit.
My lottery ticket was not a winner.
We drove and drove and drove, through Illinois farm country, and we stopped every time Dawg or I had a whim, and then I realized we didn’t have much of a plan for nightfall. I had a vague notion of camping. I called ahead and made a reservation at the closest campground to St. Louis. The sun was getting low in the sky, blinding, kind of, as we cruised through St. Louis. I had already been 87 mph reckless, so what the hell. I took a landmark car picture.
We made it to the campground and set up with a fair amount of golden light left. We even had time for a hasty grocery run just before the sun set. On the way back, we stopped for a photo opportunity:
We made it to the Mother Road by nightfall.