The Karaoke Man
I said goodbye to Meriwether Lewis
that morning and continued heading north on the
beautiful Natchez Trace Parkway through Tennessee while watching endless pastoral scenes rush by,
each worthy of a photograph.
into Tennessee's capital, Nashville, that evening, where I stopped at a grocery store
got restocked with supplies. I knew this was the South because of the
endless bags of fried pork rinds, cans of grits, and jars of chitlins on the
shelves. Pork rinds are pretty disgusting, grits are really disgusting,
and as for chitlins... I won't even go there. Of course, I'm sure
Southerners feel the same way about bratwurst, so we're even.
into a campground on a reservoir outside of Nashville that night. The next morning
at the campground, while sitting
at my picnic table in the steamy sunshine, I decided to work on my website, so I turned on my laptop
computer and started typing away. A few minutes later, I noticed a gray-haired,
shirtless guy cautiously approach my campsite. I greeted him as he walked
towards me and he broke
into a sheepish smile. "I was just wondering what you were working
on, with your computer there," he said with a Southern drawl. I told him about my website
and my trip, invited him to sit down at the table, and we talked for the next
half-hour. He told me his name was Walter Shannon and that he was a
retired telephone line worker from Kentucky. Walter was soft-spoken,
polite, and a little shy, and he said that he was visiting relatives here in
Nashville for a few weeks.
As we talked,
Walter told me with an embarrassed
smile about his recent passion: karaoke. "I go to karaoke clubs
about twice a week and I really enjoy getting up and singing." I had
to suppress a smile because Walter was the very first person who had ever confessed to me
a karaoke addict.
we'd talked for a half-hour, Walter said, "Well, I don't want to bother you
anymore so I'll head back to my campsite." "You're no bother at
all," I assured him, "I enjoyed talking to you." I shook his hand, he
walked away, and I started packing up my truck.
A few minutes later,
Walter shyly approached again. "I wanted to give you a present for
your trip," and he handed me one of his karaoke CDs. He'd written on
the cover, "To Del, may you travel safely." I was touched
by this gentle man's kind offering, smiled, and shook his hand. Twenty minutes
later, I headed into Nashville while listening to Walter's version of "Ring
of Fire" cranked up on my truck's stereo.
left: Back on the Natchez Trace Parkway, heading north.
center: One of the many beautiful vistas along the Parkway in central
right: View from a Natchez Trace Parkway bridge, overlooking Highway 96 near Franklin,
left: I said goodbye to the Natchez Trace Parkway here at its
northern terminus near Nashville, Tennessee, after traveling on it for four days
and 500 miles.
center: Getting groceries in Nashville (note the beautiful truck in
the foreground). They didn't have Krispy
Kreme donuts, though, darn it!
right: Walter Shannon, karaoke devotee, with the CD present he gave
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