(Three posts at once)
First stop : Jeff's school, where I played two games of Scrabble simultaneously with two trios of children aged between 11 and 13. In front of the children, who were very well behaved, Jeff called me Mr Adrian. They weren't too hot at Scrabble however, and they were easy triumphs. Or so I thought... In one game I was way in the lead, but there wasn't anywhere to put my Q & V at the end. When one of the children used up his last letters the Z, J and other high-scoring letters sat in the other racks, adding up to 38 points. This being America, the player who goes out has this total doubled and added to his score; ie 76 points; ie I didn't win at all.
There were no flat bits today, only ups and downs, and it was cold and windy. Only 24 miles to Knoxville, tonight's stop. As usual I made heavy work of it and 24 turned into 34. Why? Because the Google map directions took me an extremely fiddly route, so I had to keep stopping, remove my gloves, take out folded sheets of paper, unfold them, try to hold them still in the wind, put on my gloves and continue. Over and over again. Then of course Google doesn't take account of missing signs, one way streets, roadworks or new roads. Once you're off the route, you're lost and have to ask the dreaded locals for directions. One old lady in a gas station (“Look at that little jacket on his butt”) told me it was the next right. There was no sign, turned right, half a mile later it turned out to be wrong, came back, continued on the original road, it was the second turning on the right. And why do pick up trucks have such loud engines? And why are there so many churches and different denominations? Why do people have to form splinter groups and cliques? And wind chimes should be banned. And I hate dogs. Yes, I was in a bad mood today. I longed to be back in tranquil Scotland, where I knew most of the roads and even if I didn't, I could read the maps and understand people's directions.
Talking of dogs, tonight's Scrabble club host, Trisha, had three huge ones : a Great Dane, a Rottweiler and a German Shepherd. She also had a Maine Coon cat, several horses, about twenty emus and another twenty peacocks. She liked big animals, and she had a big house with a lot of land around it. Trisha not only loved animals, she worked as a veterinarian and she rode her horses in long distance races across country (when I arrived she was making up equine electrolytes for one such race). She lived with Miles, a photographer for the Knoxville Sentinel, who later showed me his pictures of fires, courtroom scenes and various other subject matter depicting human emotions.
Trisha made me a late lunch of pizza and salad, and took me to one of the Scrabble clubs she goes to, in Sevierville, an hour south east. En route we dropped off my bike for its last service on this trans-American journey. The club was held in a bookstore cafe, which was open till 11 pm. Although quiet, I didn't like to play amidst shoppers, who I imagined viewed us as nerds. There was only eight of us, I played five games and won every one of them! In the opening bout even though my VOM was wiped off the board I cleaned up with DENTURES & TIRADES. I don't know how I won the second game because I couldn't play BRAZIER, which looked so pretty in my rack and could have played SEVENTH – if only I'd seen it. Towards the end of this game, after my opponent put down JILTS on a triple word, I was about 30 points behind. To make matters worse I had all one-pointers, there was no bingo amongst them and no tiles left in the bag. Somehow I made those little ones add up and because I went out when my partner had a few tiles left, I clinched it. In the next game I had ZATI, EXHAILED & INSUREE removed, but got away with the misspelt ERODABLE, the correctly spelt REINSURE and the always pleasurable to play X on a triple letter making two words (OX/XI in this case for 52). In the bingo-rich fourth game, we played two apiece (MELODIES, GARDENER, LENDERS, and I should have challenged OUTBETS). Finally there was one each (INTONER & ORATION). I was well in the lead, but my opponent could have and should have won with two blanks in his rack + EEIRS. There was a D on the board with room to play a bingo beneath it. He had three attempts to play a word beginning DIS and he failed each time. I had dreadful letters, but played them out in ones and twos. He then found out he had missed a lot of simple words, like DISAGREE and countless others.