From Birmingham, Alabama, I drove up to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I stopped briefly to have a look around. It was a much larger city than I thought it would be, and far more pleasant. The most important thing – the indicator of health – was that there were real, live pedestrians. A fair amount of effort had been put into creating the “Tennessee Riverpark,” including walking paths along the river which connected the main shopping area, the aquarium, the art museum, and the fancier residential district of town. The results were not spectacular: there was a lot of modernist-architecture blight, which probably won a lot of awards, and there weren’t real focal points for people to gather. But on a Monday evening, there were pedestrians visible in the city. And the kind of thought you always have in an American city – “This could be really nice, if they just had a walkway along the river, with a pedestrian link to Main Street, and then extended it up the hill to the Art Museum” etc. – that had all been done in Chattanooga.
I really liked the people in Tennessee too. Since I was stopping, often at the side of the road, every twenty miles to check my oil level, I was to all appearances a man in distress. Twice people pulled over to the side of the road to help – the only state this occurred in. There was a general pleasantness around. Of course, it was a gorgeous day in May.
I pulled in to the Cherokee National Forest that evening and camped near the town of Reliance. It was raining and I had no tent, but I slept on top of a picnic table underneath a picnic shelter. As I turned in to sleep, the hillside next to me was alive with fireflies in seemingly infinite number. I was mesmerized by them, until a rainstorm extinguished their lights and I slept.