Road Trip: Dayton Ohio to Sweetwater Tennessee on Memorial Day weekend, 1996

I consider this road trip to be THE start of my lifelong love affair with travel. I had just bought my brand new 1996 Talon Tsi, and all I wanted to do was drive! I immediately thought about a doing a road trip, but I didn’t really want to put the miles/wear and tear on the new car. Hmm. It was the Saturday morning of a three day weekend (Memorial Day), my roommate went home, I had nothing to do – and I still had memories of how a college friend was telling me about his road trips through North Carolina during his internship one year prior. I got the map out, and immediately started thinking about driving to the Atlantic Ocean and back. Nah, too far to do in one weekend. Yeah, I could probably do it, but it would mean driving ALL weekend. I eventually decided on getting a rental car and just driving south. No plans.

So, it was off to Dayton International Airport to pick up the hot-pink Chevy Cavalier, and I was gone. It was exciting. I had never done anything like this before. No plans, no need to worry about miles put on the car…it was great! I headed straight south down I-75, and it ended up being a great day for a drive. Bright, sunny, and light traffic. Radio stations became scarce as I drove through Kentucky, and by the time I reached Tennessee there was nothing but country. This was the first time that I had been through this part of the country in the daytime, and it was quite beautiful. Rain started to fall in the upper portions of the Smokey Mountains, and it was clear again by the time I got to the bottom.

By now I had been on the road for nearly six hours, and I was getting tired. I wanted to reach Atlanta, but the thought of another three hours ahead of me didn’t sound very exciting. Time to find a hotel.

Welcome to Sweetwater, Tennessee

The Sweetwater exit of of I-75 was just a small grouping of motels, fast food restaurants, and thrift stores. Two miles either east or west was pure country. I grabbed a quick bite at a local Subway, checked into a hotel, and then went for a little drive around the local countryside. I basically felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. It was gorgeous though, especially with the setting sun and the storm clouds in the distance. Tired from driving, I went back to my hotel to watch MTV’s ‘Road Rules’ and was in bed by 10:30pm.

Up the next morning by 8, and I was quickly on I-75 north headed for Dayton. It was somewhat of a boring drive back home, and the six hours went by pretty fast. Traffic was a little thick just south of Cincinnati, and it felt fantastic to arrive back home. I felt so lazy and sloppy that I went to play basketball (or any other form of exercise) as soon as I got back.

Two tanks of gas, a car that wasn’t mine, and a whole lotta drivin’. My first road trip. Soon I would learn the excitement of at least having a specific destination in mind when setting off on something like this!