Canada or Bust!
CHAPTER 1: IN WHICH WE ENCOUNTER A SUPERHERO
Day 1: Atlanta, GA to Marion, IL. August in Georgia is hot—brutally, miserably hot—and this summer has seemed more broiling than usual. But we’re not complaining. The weather gave us just the nudge we needed to finally embark on a trip that has been on our “To Do” list for quite a long time—driving across western Canada. This excursion has found a tentative spot on our calendar for each of the last several years, but circumstances have conspired to push it to the back burner over and over again. This time, there’s no stopping us (we hope). We have four and a half weeks (before a commitment draws us back home) and plan to explore Canada’s Prairie Provinces—Manitoba, Saskatchewan (but will we learn to spell it?), and Alberta.
We had hoped to visit Kathy and Rachel and Steven in Franklin on our way through Tennessee, but today was Rachel’s move-in day as she prepares for her sophomore year at UT, so she and Kathy were off to Knoxville. Being the busy guy he always is, Steven had a jam-packed agenda for the day (and evening) closer to home. So we stayed on I-24 as it sliced diagonally across the state from southeast to northwest.
Hugging the Kentucky border, Clarksville was founded in 1785 by settlers led along Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road to this spot on the Cumberland River by a land speculator. A significant number of the town's early residents were soldiers mustered out of George Washington's disbanded Continental Army at the end of the American Revolution. Lacking sufficient funds to pay the veterans, the fledgling government offered land grants instead as repayment for service to the new country, thus beginning this town's long history of military interdependence.
|Montgomery County Courthouse, restored after severe damage in 1999|
After finding this second box, we entered Kentucky on US-41, shortly returning to I-24. As we try to move northward efficiently, we have returned to the world of interstate highways. We pressed on through Kentucky, stopping at its northern border in the town of Paducah (pop. 25,018) around 4:30 pm. Though dedicated quilters would shudder to hear it, we stopped at the National Quilt Museum only to search for a letterbox nearby but did not enter this hallowed hall of patchwork art.
|On the Trail of Discovery memorial|
In our search for another letterbox at Paducah's Oak Grove Cemetery, we found a big surprise. When we reached into the center of a multi-trunk evergreen where a Colorado letterboxer had hidden her box, we pulled out a container that looked awfully familiar. It should have, since it was a box we had secreted in a similar cedar tree on the opposite side of the cemetery in 2012. Apparently, a novice finder from Texas had mixed up the boxes when she found both last February and switched their locations.
On top of being in the wrong place, our box had also lost its stamp. It seems that some poor fellow, looking for love in all the wrong places (a cemetery??), had confiscated our stamp when he chanced upon the letterbox last August. We inferred this from the fact that a finder in July had commented upon the stamp, whereas a September finder reported the stamp missing.
In the interim, some kind boxer had subsequently added a store-bought stamp (unrelated to the theme of the box, but who's counting). We were debating whether to retire the box when it made the decision for us. As we were returning it to the tree described in our clue, the box discovered a crevice in the trunk and took a dive into it, falling down into an irretrievable position. At that point, all we could think was R.I.P.
|Superman, proud native son of Metropolis, IL|
|Like the cheese, Lois stands alone.|
Shadows were long by the time we left the Supe's old stomping ground a bit after 6 p.m., continuing west another 40 miles on I-24. We had traversed the entire length of this 316-mile freeway—from Chattanooga to I-57, ten miles south of Marion, IL (pop. 17,193), which conveniently was our destination for the evening. Dating from an 1839 founding, Marion has evolved from a coal mining economy to a retail center. In 1982, it was slammed by an F-4 tornado—one of the largest in Illinois history—killing ten people.
Like other tornado-ravaged towns in the Midwest, the city has risen like a phoenix from this disaster. Across the street from our hotel, we saw the sleek modern stadium of the Southern Illinois Miners, the local
Tomorrow we'll continue our journey northward toward Canada and—we hope—cooler weather.
- Miles traveled: 500
- Letterboxes: found 4, retired 1
- Traffic cones in construction zone: 1,547
- Superman fans in Metropolis: 113
- Lois Lane fans: 2
- River crossings: 18