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#10 - Unexpected challenges

On our last day in Nashville, Tennessee, we decided once again after a long time to walk alone through the city for a few hours, just like we did once before in Sydney, among other places. At this point, I'd like to refer you to our fifth blog post, in which I go into more detail about my first big walk alone during the world trip. Back to Nashville: We split up in the centre of town in the afternoon and I (Alex) got the idea to visit the famous Belmont University. So I quickly looked it up on Google Maps (2.2 km away, that's doable after all) and set off. I have to say that I have always been quite a good "runner" despite my disability. If there's one thing I'm good at in terms of mobility considering my disability, it's covering long distances at my own pace. For me, however, long distances mean 2 kilometres and upwards. For this reason, I made sure that there was a bus back to our agreed meeting point. Because walking almost 5 km in quite a short time is too much for me. So I assumed it would be a nice long walk and wanted to join a few students.

The way there went smoothly. After a stop at a fast food restaurant, where I just ask for water (in the USA, you can get free tab water everywhere), I arrive at Belmont University. I know it's summer break, but I assumed there would be a few people on campus, as was the case in New York. Here we had also visited two different universities during our stay, which were both very well attended. But the campus and all the buildings are completely deserted, although they are open to the public.

An exemplary mown lawn forms the centre of the Belmont University campus.

So, curious as I am, I just went into the buildings, which are, by the way, very beautiful and majestic. It's a strange feeling to walk around a university completely alone, to walk past lecture halls and to be able to look through doors into offices.

A blurred picture of a very distinguished entrance area in one of the university buildings.

The Janet Ayers Academic Center of the Belmont University.

Well, I think to myself, then you can leave again. So I set off for the bus stop I had picked out earlier. On the way there, I see the sky darkening over the city and I can already hear the rolling thunder in the distance. Fortunately, I decided to take the bus back. Especially because this time our meeting point is almost 4 kilometres away.

I wait and wait and wait.... but unfortunately no bus comes. So I look at my mobile phone again and see that for some reason the next bus is not due to leave for another two hours. Great... So I have to come up with plan B: Uber.

This cheap alternative to taxis has been spreading worldwide for a few years. You can conveniently order and pay via your own app. I have already had the experience in Asia and South America that the taxi or Uber drivers help me get in. Especially in Asia, this was a cheap and easy-to-use means of transport for me, especially when I was travelling alone.

So I try to order an Uber via the app. Unfortunately, in the last step, the app unexpectedly asks me to verify an official document. Of course, as befits this afternoon, I don't have one with me... For once, Lovis had my ID with him that day, because he had put it back in his pocket earlier at the weekend for the sake of convenience, after we had to show our IDs to get into a bar.

So no Uber and no bus... I check Google Maps again, unfortunately it still says these 4 kilometres on foot. What else can I do? Unlike in Asia or South America, a taxi is far too expensive for our limited budget. So I guess I'll have to walk. I know from home that it takes me about half an hour to walk 1.7 kilometres. Accordingly, it should take me a little more than an hour to cover this distance. I start walking, even though the clouds over the city centre are getting darker and darker and I can already see a few flashes of lightning.

Dark thunderclouds over the city centre. Unfortunately, I was not able to photograph any lightning and the thunderstorm cell was also much larger.

Fortunately for me, or at least that's how I judge the situation at that moment, the thunderstorm will only pass me by, as it will just cross me from behind on the left. So I run behind the thunderstorm, so to speak.

So I set off and call Lovis to tell him that it may take a while before I reach the meeting point.

The first part of the route is quite uneventful. It feels somehow strange to walk through these almost deserted streets. I am still walking in a kind of suburb where no tourists go. Still, I wonder why it's so empty. Then I remember that many Americans are on holiday and the approaching thunderstorm is not exactly attracting walkers. As I pass a group of young men standing by their cars, I briefly consider asking them if they can drive me into the city centre. However, I change my mind when I see one of them staggering and he also seems to be in an argument.

So it goes on for me. As I'm thinking about what I'm going to order for dinner, since the meeting place of Lovis and me is a well-known diner that supposedly sells the best chicken wings in Nashville, I suddenly notice how the wind shifts. Whereas before I had a tailwind that luckily pushed the thunderstorm ahead of me, now it suddenly comes from the front. Oh dear, I think to myself and start running as fast as I can... Because at that moment I'm not yet surrounded by all the skyscrapers in the city centre, which is still ahead of me, but running along next to a fairly wide street with normal apartment buildings under a power line. I ignore the emerging side stitch, I don't want Lovis to have to tell people later that I was fried in Nashville.

The wind picks up. I get the first drops, but luckily the rain doesn't get any heavier. But the lightning is getting closer and by now I am directly under a very dark cloud. Thanks to my continuous sprinting, there is now only one bridge between me and the protective skyscrapers. But this is a tough one, as I have to walk directly under power lines and there are no buildings to the left or right. So for about 150m I have almost no protection from the lightning that keeps flashing through the sky around me. My heart is pounding not only from the exhausting run so far. I think I have rarely run as fast in my life as I did over this rather long bridge. Below me, cars roar across the highway, in the distance I hear the loud horn of a train and between the roll of thunder and the lightning, there is hardly any time left. As I race across the bridge, I also see lightning flashing through the sky, but it only seems to run horizontally through the clouds. On the last few metres I am almost afraid of losing my balance, as I feel the power slowly leaving my legs. But finally there they are, the protective skyscrapers of downtown Nashville. Now I have to take a deep breath, I'm completely out of breath. On top of that, the rain is coming down harder, so I take shelter for the time being. What a run up to here.

A little later the thunderstorm has passed and I run on through the centre of Nashville, exhausted. Of course, it's fitting that this afternoon I also have to take a very long diversions, as a huge construction site prevents me from finding my way directly to Lovis. I walk street after street just to be able to turn right, but I am denied by this gigantic construction site.

The huge construction site in the middle of Nashville.

After what feels like an eternity, I leave the construction site behind me and head straight for the meeting point. In the end, it took me well over an hour just to get back, even though I had run as fast as I could in between. A block before the actual finish I spot Lovis. A few more metres and I fall into his arms, completely exhausted.

What started out as a harmless afternoon has once again turned into eventful hours. As is almost always the case when I part from Lovis for a few hours. So I have the feeling that whenever I'm on my own, crazy things happen to me. But such hours show again what it means for me to be on my own. If something unexpected happens, I'm faced with a big challenge pretty quickly. I have to make an effort that is not a big effort for physically healthy people. In such situations, I also often have fewer possible solutions. If I were physically healthy, I could have simply grabbed an e-scooter. But then in such situations I either have to get creative (ask for a ride, although this time I decided against it for safety reasons) or just spoon up the soup in the unpleasant way.

But I only emerge from such situations more confident and strengthened!

And I'm sure it wasn't the last time I was out on my own. So you can look forward to more stories!

P.S.: I apologise for the quality of the photos. These are screenshots from videos I made, as it's easier for me to make videos. I also had to adjust the cropping as I can only film upright.


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