Saturday, March 23, 2013

One Lost Wagon Wheel

Some posts you have to write, not because of any moral issue or spiritual truth or heartfelt confession, but because something really, really bugs you and you've got to get it off your chest.

Old Crow Medicine Show has a song named "Wagon Wheel." (Darius Rucker just released his own cover of it, which was a really bad idea, but I digress.) It is everything bluegrass and folk and homespun that I love, plus it includes references to places I know. It is a regional song and that warms my heart. But there is something about this song that drives me positively mad. It is geographically inaccurate.

Now I am not the nitpicky type of person. I am more of a big picture, wing-it, seat-of-my-pants soul. This causes my husband to tremble when I pick up a paint brush or offer to finish sheetrock. When it comes to sewing, I give zig-zag a whole new meaning. And you should see my desk!

But there is one place where I am a real stickler, and that is with the facts. I see factual errors everywhere. I would probably see more factual errors if I knew more facts. Geographical facts are my big pet peeve. Enter "Wagon Wheel."

OK, you've got this fellow up in New England and he is wanting to see his honey who is down in Raleigh so he sets out to hitchhike down there. According to my Google Maps, a trip from Boston, for example, to Raleigh is 704 miles and should take 12 hours and 22 minutes, but seeing how this dude is thumbing it down the road, I think 17 hours is pretty good time. 

We know that he is on foot a bit because he tells us that he is "walking to the south out of Roanoke." Best I can figure he has to be talking about Roanoke Rapids, NC. He already said he "made it down the coast in 17 hours" and Roanoke, VA is clear on the western side of the state and nowhere near the coast. So let's assume that he just left the Rapids part of the town name off for syntax purposes. It makes perfect sense that that is where he is, given that Roanoke Rapids is just 90 miles northeast of Raleigh. He's GONNA see his baby tonight.

But here is the problem. He meets this trucker. He has a "nice long toke." Perhaps it scrambled his brains. Or maybe the people writing the song just didn't know what they were talking about. "But he's a headed west from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City, Tennessee." 

Now anybody who knows anything about the region knows that the Cumberland Gap and Roanoke Rapids, NC are miles and miles away. A full 400+ miles, in fact. There is no way, unless the trucker himself had had a nice long toke, that anybody should be in eastern North Carolina, thinking they were at the Cumberland Gap.

To make matters worse, he says he was headed WEST from the Cumberland Gap to Johnson City. You don't get to Johnson City by heading west, you get to Middlesboro, KY (which has a Taco Bell, by the way). You have to go EAST from the Cumberland Gap and continue through beautiful and historically Melungeon-filled country for a good 100+ miles to get to Johnson City.

Sheesh people! There are these things called maps. Pick one up before you write a hit song. If you don't, you are going to have one lost wagon wheel.


  1. I like your style. I get distracted in similar ways in life. Keep getting it off your chest. I'll be somewhere south of Roanoke Rapids to read about it!

  2. Ha! This is totally me! I'm not from North Carolina, but if I hear geographical inaccuracies about an area that I know, you bet I will say something to someone. I think I have an issue with telling people they are wrong.

  3. Bugs us east Tennessee natives every single time the song