Monday, May 10, 2010
Arkansas ate my soul... and other tales Part 2
This is the tiny happy meal toy pony that my friend Chris (nickname Pony) gave me on my last night of working with him. I decided to make it my trip mascot by duct taping it to the dashboard. Yes, I have pink duct tape, don't you?
When we left off in the last post (Go read that first. Or not, it is kind of boring and wordy!), I was FINALLY getting in the car around noon to leave Florida and head towards Missouri. About time!!
Just getting out of Orlando felt like such an accomplishment! I remember at one point feeling so exhausted from the morning, but looking at the side of the road to notice a sign for a winery I like that's just outside of town. All of that crazyness and I'm barely out of the metro area!!
Driving through Florida actually went surprisingly quickly. I was really glad, because after the crazy morning, I was worried I'd be totally spent by the time I hit Georgia and just have to curl up in a hotel to recharge. Instead, I got that great road trip energy of go-go-go! and I was in Georgia before I knew it. I made it into Georgia a little before 3:30, which means it took me less than 3 hours to get through Florida. I think that is good time? I may have been speeding just a little bit??
I stopped for a gas refill once I hit Georgia, because it is one of the states I have never been to, and I was all excited to dance on new state soil! YAY, something to mark off my life lists! In fact, I'd be crossing off several states this trip!
I celebrated driving through Georgia by listening to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", after my first audiobook (one of the Lemony Snicket books- I wanted audiobooks that didn't require toooo much thought) ran out. Then I sang a horrible country song rendition when I drove over the Chattahoochie river. Yee haw?
Georgia flew by, too (at about 90mph!), and I made it to Alabama around 5. WOOT!
Day One progress
I ended up spending the night in Jasper, Alabama, entirely because my cat is named Jasper.
My hotel wasn't great, but it was pretty okay. Had a fridge and microwave, and was RIGHT next to a Taco Bell- SCORE!
If you read the first half of this saga, you may be wondering how the whole "I have panic attacks driving" thing went. Surprisingly, not bad! I can't say I was ever totally relaxed, but the only time it got bad was just before I stopped for the night. About 20 miles outside of Jasper, I got the whole "CAN NOT BREATHE!" thing, which was very, very not fun. I was so thankful that it came at the very end of the day, though!
And if you are wondering, yes, I brought the kitties into the hotel room for the night. They had a blast exploring, and finally being out of the car! I love that after over 5 years of working at hotels, I am now the one sneaking in pets! (Um, unless you happen to work at the particular hotel I stayed at, in which case I did no such thing!!)
Weather was a bit of a concern this morning! When I talked to my mom before bed the night before, I learned about the crazy-crazy storms that were in the exact area of the country I was headed for. After some fancy-schmancy weather.com detective work, I figured out that if I could make it to Memphis before noon, I should miss most of the worst weather. It was kind of sprinkly when I went down to the lobby for the continental breakfast (two mini blueberry muffins and a bit of apple juice, yum!), so I threw the stuff in the car as quickly as possible! I asked the front desk lady how far it was to Memphis, and was happy when she said about an hour and a half, which was great since I would be on the road by 9am-ish.
Got in the car, and back on the highway, and then heard Cricket (my cat) unhappily clawing at the carrier door. And then heard her get out. CRAP!! I pulled over to the side of the road, stuck her back in, re-zipped the carrier, and got back on the road. Glad she didn't figure that out yesterday!!
About five miles down the road... Ziiiiiip! Now both kitties were crawling around the back seat, trying to lounge in the back window. SO not gonna happen! I pulled off at the next exit, climbed back there to stick them back in the carrier, and then pulled out some duct tape!! The carrier has two zippers, so I duct taped them together, making it impossible to open. HAH! Take that, small cat! Thankfully, this worked perfectly, and there were no more kitty escapings!
About an hour after getting on the road, I was in:
However, a little while later, THIS was my view:
It stormed like WHOA. I had to pull over at one point because I could NOT see the lines on the road. Growing up in Missouri, and since I used to be a courrier, I have more than my fair share of driving in storms. As long as I can see the lines on the road, I'm ok, even if I have to go really slow. I did text Katie at one point to ask her to check the weather for me, because I noticed that so many other cars were pulled over while I was still plugging along, and I was worried there was a local tornado warning or something I was missing. Katie played weathergirl for the next half an hour or so, and then I was thankfully out of the storm!
I have no photos of Tennessee because I was only in the state for 24 minutes. Awesome! In fact, TN is the only state I didn't stop in. I made a point of stopping in GA, AL, and MS since I'd never been to those states and wanted to actually set foot in them, but since I've been to TN plenty of times, I felt ok about zipping on through.
Can I tell you about the disturbing lack of Starbucks on this trip?? I am a coffee drinkin' kind of girl! Every time I passed an exit, I would pay attention to the signs, watching for yummy coffee goodness, and never find any. A couple of times when I stopped for gas, I asked if there was a Sbux nearby, only to have them mention a town about 30 miles away. YOU POOR PEOPLE! (Although I now live almost 30 miles from the closest one. Sadness.)
This is where things kinda started sucking.
Well, that's not true. The first hour or so of Arkansas was fine. I got there at 12:30, really happy to be almost home! My house is right near the MO/Ark border, so Arkansas means almost home! One last state!
The problem here was with the roads, and the choosing thereof. My original Mapquest directions had me going down to Little Rock, and then up from there, which looked like the blue route below. But after some map lookin' at, I decided to try going the pink way (artistically added to the picture in Paint by me, thank you) way instead:
Hint: That was reeeally dumb.
Apparently the reason that Mapquest sends you down to Little Rock and then up is that you get to zip along on the interstate. The fairly large looking highway from my map turned out to be this:
It went SO SLOWLY! I kept track of where I was on the map, and it seemed like I was making zero progress.
I tried to quit feeling bitchy and enjoy the change in scenery. We do not have giant rocks in FL, for example:
Eventually, I stopped for gas and coffee, because I was soooo worn out! According to my map, Harrison was about an inch (40 miles) away, so I was guessing I could get there in about half an hour, if things went ok.
I made the mistake of asking the gas station guys how far Harrison was, and one told me TWO AND A HALF HOURS.
I kind of laughed at his funny, funny joke, until the guy in line remarked that he thought you could maybe make it in two hours.
They were serious. I almost cried.
I drove along, trying to decide which of two ways to take the rest of the way home. I wanted home NOW. I finally stopped in Mountain Home, at a Wal-Mart and collect called my mom. Did I mention that my cell phone had not worked for the past 3 hours at this point? It was fine for about the first half hour to an hour of Arkansas, and then nada.
So nearly crying, I called up my mom and of course, she didn't answer, because the number on the caller ID probably said "Hell, Middle of nowhere." After three tries, she picked up. I asked her to please, please mapquest from Wal-Mart in Mountain Home Arkansas to home, so I would know the fastest route. My mom is not the fastest Internetter, so I said I would call her back in about five minutes. I wandered around for a few minutes, enjoying being out of the car, and borrowed a pen and paper from the bank there, and then called back. She told me that her computer had frozen, but she called my aunt who lived nearby, and she was personally coming over to give me directions. But by "nearby", she meant she lived over 20 miles away. ARRGH!
All I wanted in the whole world was to get home, and now I was stuck sitting around waiting. And it was about to rain. I sat in my car and grumbled. (And drank coffee. I was literally falling asleep at this point. I would have napped, but I needed to keep an eye out for my aunt).
After nearly an HOUR, I went back in to call my mom again, and she said that my aunt had been eating dinner when she called, so it might be more like 45 min till she got there. ARRGH! I never would have agreed to wait that long, I would have just picked a way and went. At least I'd be almost an hour farther down the road by now!
Finally, she showed up, and told me that the way I had been planning to go was indeed right. To try to shorten this really long story, I was home in an hour and a half. We brought the cats into the house and hid them away in an extra bedroom, so that the other cats that live here wouldn't freak out, and then I fell asleep for about five hours. WHEE!
This ended up much less interesting than I had hoped, but now that I have been home for a week, I feel like I need to just post it already so I can move on. Back to actual interesting posts soon, I hope!