Monday, March 12, 2018

The Last Road Trip of Mom's Car Part III: The Final Chapter?

Day 9
Engine Mileage: 222065
Trip Mileage: 2410.3
Gallatin, Tennessee to Raleigh, North Carolina

This ended up being the second longest day of driving, but thankfully, also our last. We left the cold and frozen Tennessee early. The Hotards tried to feed us breakfast and pack us full of beverages. We should have said yes. But, after many polite refusals, they finally relented and reluctantly sent us on our way.
By now we had finished both seasons of Revisionist History podcast, and we moved on to Ridiculous History. Are you sensing a theme? We moved between quite and the podcast. We stopped a lot to stretch our legs.
Dad drove us over The Great Smokey Mountains, and I took a lot of pictures.
Of course I missed the trail head sign for the Appalachian Trail. We came around a bend, and again totally missed getting a picture of the North Carolina sign. I did get some of Maggie Valley, which is where an Aunt of mine lived for about 7 years.
I sent her this picture when we passed and told her where we were. A lengthy text conversation ensued about this and that, as one does with this said Aunt.
Texted the Flying Squirrel Nephew, that we had finally crossed the last state line. Also texted Big Sis, that we were not going to get to the airport in time to pick her up. She was flying in for the weekend! Once into North Carolina, we noticed lots of road work, traffic, and accidents. North Carolina drivers are horrendous! Big Sis landed at 4:30, and Uber-ed to the hotel from the airport. Dad and I finally got to the hotel at 6:45. We were beat, and not looking forward to even more driving to pick up Flying Squirrel Nephew. We met up with Big Sis, who had already checked us in, in her (and I) room. She informed us that Flying Squirrel Nephew could not wait any longer and had hitched a ride with a friend who was coming up to Raleigh to take his girlfriend on a date. A great sigh of relief was heard across the entire state. We had just decided to go eat at the restaurant in the hotel when Flying Squirrel Nephew texted that he had arrived, not 10 minutes later.
We all ate downstairs in the hotel restaurant. I ate some leafy greens to try and get my system back on track (I don't think it worked, but I tried). Everyone was tired, and so we all crashed for the night.

Engine Mileage: 222571
Final Trip Mileage: 2916.9
We all slept in. I wandered downstairs to get coffee. We gathered in Big Sis and I's room and putz a bit and googled where to get the oil changed in the Infinity. Flying Squirrel Nephew just HAD to drive us to get the oil changed. He had pinched a nerve in his neck and couldn't really rotate his head, so it was a bit scary for the rest of us.
Dad asked the guys at the oil place about where to get chains for the car and they just laughed. They said that it hardly ever snows there and when it does, even just a tiny bit, the Governor declares a State of Emergency and the entire state shuts down. Flying Squirrel Nephew confirmed this, and the shop guys all nodded their heads in agreement. So after all the fussing about chains the entire length of the country, the Infinity never did get any. We then went to CVS for Doans and Lidocane patches for Flying Squirrel Nephew. The Girl Scouts were stationed outside the CVS, and Flying Squirrel Nephew told them we'd hit them up on our way out. We certainly did. He bought 10 boxes, 5 each of thin mints and peanut butter patties. I bought one box of Peanut butter patties, because I didn't want to share. And Sis bought a box each of thin mints and peanut butter patties. I think we made their day. Certainly worth standing out there in the cold, freezing their little butts off. On the way out at a stop light, I saw this at the Marathon Gas Station. "Fried Gizzards/Lizards".
Yup. Then we went to lunch, but not at the Marathon Gas Station. We went to a place called Two Guys Grille, that had a Hawaii surf theme and fish tacos. Okay.
Their dipping sauce for the sweet potato fries was very sweet and cinnamon heavy. Big Sis loved it, I ate mine plain. I hit up their bathroom, and then we were off to Flying Squirrels favorite place ever, Wish Upon a Quilt. He stayed in the car. Lame.
Big Sis got her License Plate and Row by Row. Back in the Infinity, Dad and I in the back (we were done with driving), decided to check out Historic Yates Mill Historic Park. No entrance fees. Score!
Big Sis and I took butt loads of pictures, marveled at the construction, and read all the plaques and signage.

They still had their display up for Groundhog Day, and they were pretty snarky about it. Flying Squirrel Nephew looked cold and bored and so we asked the park docent where she thought we should go next. We decided on Mordecai Historic Park. Again, free admission.
We got there and forced Flying Squirrel Nephew to take his picture with the Infinity.
Walked over to the gift shop/museum/information center for them to tell us they were closing. Boo.
We walked around the museum section for about 5 minutes and then we were asked to leave. So we were able to walk around all the buildings and such, but couldn't go inside any of them. Oh Well.
This is Andrew Johnson's house, not it's original location however

Mordecai Plantation
But by now Flying Squirrel Nephew was over getting educated. And so we left and did exciting things like run some errands for him at Best Buy and Target. So exciting. Had dinner at Brixx Pizza. He was feeling pretty good and drove us back to the hotel, and we played cards in the boys room.

Day 11
We all slept in again. It rained for most of the day. We found a Massage Envy for Flying Squirrel Nephew, who's appointment was at 1pm. So we went across the parking lot for lunch at Bob Evan's (we all had breakfast), apparently the place to be. It was quite tasty. I wanted to keep eating, but my stomach couldn't hold anymore. Those biscuits were super yummy. While Flying Squirrel Nephew was getting elbowed in the back, we went to another Target (to find him a space heater) and filled up the Infinity...  for the last time (sniff sniff). Flying Squirrel Nephew came out of Massage Envy with the largest grin on his face. He said it hurt like hell, but that he felt great! We then went to Apex North Carolina to visit with friends of Big Sis whom she hadn't seen in 20 years! They told us we had to eat at Smithfields Chicken N' Bar-B-Q, and so after our visit we went off to find one. Good fried chicken. Hush puppies aren't worth writing home about though. After dinner, we came back to the hotel (double checked that we got everything out of the car that was ours) and played cards and watched the super bowl... commercials.
The game ended up being pretty good, so we often got distracted by football during our card game. Too soon it was time for Flying Squirrel Nephew to head back to base. We walked him down to the lobby and gave him hugs to last till the next time we get to see him. And told him to text his mommy when he gets back to base. It was hard to say goodbye, but surprisingly it was hard to say goodbye to the Infinity too. Dad, Big Sis, and I asked for a late check-out, and walked back up to our rooms and Big Sis and I watched the Puppy Bowl. It was silly. And cheesy. So much so, that we had to turn it off.

Day 12
We slept in once again. And today, we fly home. But first, lunch... at the hotel restaurant. We then took the airport shuttle to the airport. It's tiny. The airport, not the shuttle. There was no line at security. I got stopped of course. Got a pat down because I have  patch on my pants that covers a hole. And I forgot to take my ipad out of the bag. But whatever. We have time to kill, because our plane doesn't leave till 5pm. So we walk the terminal a few times, and then sit down in the food court and eat onion rings and play cards.

We fly 800 miles to Chicago (Midway), and circle for 20 minutes while they plow the runways. It's snowing. We land just fine, and pull up to the gate.

Once inside we look at the departures and see that we are delayed 2 hours plus our initial 1 hour layover. Ugh... And so we walk the terminals and the food court. Big Sis and I decide on the Irish pub and Dad gets a sub sandwich. We eat in the pub, and then walk some more. I texted Artist Nephew, who had been taking care of the cats, that he needed to let them inside, one last time. We need chocolate, so into the sweets shop and out with candy and chocolate. We sit in the food court and play more cards. Because we have hours to kill.
We walk back down the terminal to our gate and settle in, to hear we've been moved to a gate on the other side of the terminal. Yay. We walk back down to the other side. Our plane finally arrives and we get to board. We watch our luggage get loaded. It has snow it.
So I think, wouldn't it be funny (not really) if the ginormous bath bomb I got from the Hotards gets so wet that it explodes? It didn't, by the way. We then sat there for another 15 minutes while we got de-iced. That was a new one.

We were finally in the air by 11pm. And so the last 2,166 miles back to San Jose was underway. That last flight was the longest four and a half hours of my life. The only saving grace was that the plane was only half full so everyone got to spread out and got extra snacks from the flight crew. I started to go a bit stir crazy, and made what I thought was a hilarious video.

But my god, my legs hurt. We landed around 1:30am. We were the last flight in. Interesting to see an empty airport. They were waxing the floors. Big Sis' Big Man came and picked us up. We got home around 2:30am. Artist Nephew left the cats in the house, and they promptly ignored me. I unpacked. Bath bomb mostly intact. I had asked Artist Nephew to wash my sheets, since he had been sleeping in my bed, and I put them in the dryer. I showered because I felt gross. I made my bed. The cats finally came out of their hiding places. I noticed that Quirk's eye was swollen. So Dad pinned him down, and I tried to put goop in his eye. He didn't like it, of course.  I crawled into bed at 4am. Trip over.

end note: A week later Dad got a call from Flying Squirrel Nephew. He asked, "what does the maintenance required light mean"? He figured out that a sensor went bad, and needed to be replaced. So, luckily it wasn't anything major. And then just a few days ago, this happened.
A private didn't know how to back out of a parking spot and ripped the Infinitiy's back bumper off. How he didn't realize he hit the car next to him is beyond me. I guess he just committed and went for it. So is this the end of its life? We don't think so. Flying Squirrel Nephew for the time being, drives it with the bumper in the back seats. The insurance will pay to get it fixed (or salvaged), and a new bumper will get put on. The infinity will live on to drive Flying Squirrel Nephew to where he needs to go for a little bit longer.

Other end note: Quirk ended up having an abscess on his head that had drained into his eye. So he got a reverse mohawk haircut, his abscess flushed, and two shots. He didn't like me that day. But he's better now, and his fur has grown back.

And so I will leave and finally end this story with this: Mom certainly knew how to pick a good road trip car. Her last pick, this Infinity, was probably her best. It was hard to say goodbye. It was worth spending the money and time driving it across the country, one last time. We rest assured that it is with family, being used, and cared for. That bumper will get fixed! And leave you with a place my mom had a great adventure with the Infinity. Out on the prairie with the greasewood and rabbits. The birth place and homestead where my Grandma lived in a tiny speck of a town called Bill, Wyoming.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Last Road Trip of Mom's... Car Part II: My Butt Hurts

Sorry I've left you all stranded in New Mexico for so long. Who knew Albuquerque would be so enthralling. I apologize to anyone who lives/has lived/or actually likes Albuquerque. We arrived in the dark, and my room overlooked a truck lot and a freeway. And the drive out in the morning did not improve my impression. But on with the show. Get your compression socks on, because we are in for the long hauls!

Day 6
Engine Mileage: 220809
Trip Mileage: 1154.1
Albuquerque, New Mexico to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
We decided to leave Albuquerque early (7am). It was going to be a long drive. I estimated a bit over 8 hours. And so we continued heading east on I-40. Not much to see. A bit overcast, a bit cold, and a bit windy. I had given up on trying to play any music on the ipod nano through the cassette tape player adapter thingy. Can't enjoy tunes when all you hear is static. I'm bummed because I spent time compiling playlists and moving songs on or off the ipod, and deciding what I could subject my father too without assaulting his ears. So I plugged in my other ipod nano (I just have way too much stuff to fit on just one) and we listened to podcasts. We started with season 1 of Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell.
We stopped somewhere at a truck stop just shy of the Texas border and refueled and emptied bladders and switched off. We get to the Texas state line and these buttheads were parked in front of the sign.
We actually saw it coming this time and we're completely prepared and they ruined it. Assholes. Oh well, it's just Texas. Not much to see in the pan handle. I had been through here long ago when my mother drove what became my very first car (a maroon Mazda 323, 4-door, stick shift, no cruise control or power steering car) my brother aged 15 and myself aged 11 out to Altus Arkansas where my grandfather lived on some 50+ acres. That was a great car, but not a great road trip car. Mom's right foot got so swollen from all that driving. No one knew about compression socks back then, and I think she demanded that her next car would have cruise control. And just like before, I was bored with Texas.
Anyway, I drove and drove and drove. There really is nothing out there. We stopped for lunch in some tiny place where the Taco Bell was attached to the gas station, and practically blew over. I was afraid the doors on the Infinity would blow off if I wasn't careful. And it was a cold wind, to boot. We coastal valley Californian's don't do cold. While eating taco's we begin to receive texts from the Okla-Arkies (our hosts, for the night) about our dinner options. If any of you know us at all (and they do), we loath having to make decisions, especially about dinner. It can take us hours sometimes to decide on what or where to eat. Jokes ensue back and forth, and I finally pick one of the three choices I was given. And all of Texas rejoiced. Back on the road, and I'm ready to cross the next state line. And just like that, I miss it. Of coarse Oklahoma has to be different and not have a sign like every other state in the union. I again failed. This is what it looks like however:
I get the lady in my phone to tell us how to get to Okla-Arkie's house. And she got us there, no problem. We arrive a bit before 7pm. Just about 10 hours of sitting in the Infinity. My butt hurt. We chat a bit with Okla and Arkie. And they take us out to dinner at a place called Ann's Chicken Fry House, known for their chicken fried steak.
Okla, Arkie, and dad all order the steak, and me thinking that it would be too much order a club sandwich. My meal ended up being the biggest. Go figure. Ann's is a cool place. Decked out in 50's attire where you're allowed to write on the walls. And so, we found a spot and left our mark.

Once back at the house, it was time to play cards. Ms. Okla lost. Big time. She went to bed a woman scorned but determined to avenge herself the next day. I went to bed in a forest... of Christmas trees! Instead of schlepping the trees into the attic every year, Okla and Archie decided it'd be easier to just store them in the second guest room. Seems legit to me. All they have to do next holiday season is bring them out, do a bit of fluffing, add ornaments, and wham-bam-thank you-mame, it's done. No more jamming them through a tiny attic hole or going up and down a ladder. Much easier. And I didn't mind sleeping amongst the trees at all.

Day 7
A bit of who Okla and Arkie are. We first met them in the late 90's when they came to be pastors at the church my family went to in San Jose. They have a daughter my age. Finally someone my age to play with. Too bad we were both in college, her in Oklahoma, and me in California. They were missionaries in Brazil before, and before that, pastors in Oklahoma. Okla is of course from Oklahoma and became fast friends with my mom. Arkie is, as figured by now, from Arkansas. He and dad also became good friends and confidants. Epic card games would happen at each others houses. They vacationed together. Spent many wedding anniversaries together (only a week or so apart). Through thick and thin, while they were pastors in San Jose, our two families were there for each other. Often showing up unannounced at the door, and just in time for whatever was needed. A hug, a cry, comfort, support, or companionship, or just a game of cards. It was difficult saying goodbye when they left and moved back to Oklahoma to become a District Superintendent in the church. My mom even drove their car out to them when they moved. Who wouldn't want to drive a convertible across four states! When mom passed away, they both came out and spoke/helped lead her memorial service. The loss of them moving away deeply affected my parents, and of course the loss of my mom was devastating to Okla and Arkie. But life continues on, and so do friendships.

Okla made us breakfast. Delish, and I got my coffee! We chatted around the breakfast table and then it was a game of cards. They then took us out and about town to fancy places like Auto Zone and O'Reilly's to try and find chains for the Infinity. No luck. It doesn't snow enough in Oklahoma City for them to stock chains. Even in the winter. We then went to Best Buy to try and find cassette tape deck cleaners. No one stocks them anymore. Not even sure you can find them on the internet anymore either. We were hoping to clean the heads so the music could flow. Oh well. I gave them directions to a quilt shop and made them experience what visiting quilt shops are like.
I asked the old ladies for what my sister wants, and dad explained and took Okla and Arkie through the shop showing them the machines, rooms for different things, and such. It's kind of entertaining watching my dad explain quilting and sewing to people. I got my sister a license plate and row by row from the shop and Okla and Arkie got educated. It was then way past time for lunch. They took us to one of their favorite places that has, according to them, the best whiskey cake. So of course we had desert. We then went back home and of course played cards again.
Okla never did win a game, but she didn't loose quite so bad. They showed us a game they play with their Oklahoma card friends. I can't remember the name now, Wisconsin something. I'm sure they will remind me. It was fun. And the day was gone, just like that. It was late, and dad and I had the longest stretch of road to do the next day. Unfortunately for me, I did not sleep well or much that night. The trip was catching up to me. (read into that how ever you like)

Day 8
Engine Mileage: 221336
Trip Mileage: 1681.7
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Gallatin, Tennessee
I put on my compression socks. Okla and Arkie said goodbye to us and the Infinity, and we were on the road by 7:15.
Dad started out driving. He ended up doing most of the driving this day because I felt like crap. We watched the sun rise over Oklahoma.
Crossed into Arkansas. Look, I got that one!
The sky was becoming more overcast the farther east we go. We passed the exit to my Grandpa's old place. His ashes are partly scattered there. (his other half are scattered in Alaska)We stopped in Arkansas for lunch. We were going to hit up the Wendy's that was advertised at the highway exit, but it wasn't there. We drove down the road and kept going. There was a sign that said Wendy's was this way, and so we turned... and kept driving. There was another sign saying it was another 2.5 miles, and we both went, nope. Turned around and just went to the McDonald's. This McDonald's was fancy. They had these order machines and attendants that would help you order on their fancy machines. Most people didn't know how to use them. I decided this was probably a pilot store location for this fancy self ordering thing. They would then bring you your meal.  I didn't eat much, again I felt crappy. We were now onto Season 2 of Revisionist History podcast. Crossed the Mississippi River,
and almost missed the Tennessee sign.
Okay, kinda did miss it. Once passed the Mississippi River, it was the farthest east I have ever been via an automobile. We didn't take the time to mark the milestone. There was a lot of driving still to do. I noticed a lot of nests in trees. It is nesting season! Thought I saw two baby bird heads sticking out of one, can't be sure though, we were going pretty fast.
A few hours out of Nashville, I start communicating with the Hotard's. They decide it would be good to meet us in Hendersonville for dinner, and then we could follow them to their house. Once into Tennessee, it started to rain. A lot. We pull into the Chili's parking lot in Hendersonville around 7:30pm. Dad had never met the Hotard's. So I made the introductions, and we ate. I was hungry by then. It was still cold and rainy. We follow the Hotard's to Gallatin, which is a little country suburb of a suburb of Nashville. Dad and I stand around, not wanting to sit anymore today. And the Hotard's and their broad of animals (Tux and Bella, the dogs, and Thor the cat who thinks he's a dog) try to get us comfortable. There was no amount of anything offered that would unstiffen our legs, or ease the tired. Their Alexa got a few spankings. Dad was worried about the weather. It was going to freeze that night. And we didn't have chains for the tires. I downloaded a weather/road conditions app onto my fancy phone. That seemed to ease his worry a bit. Dad was a walking zombie, and got shown his room for the night and was soon out like a light, not to stir until morning. It was the longest day ever. 12 hours. The hotard's and I stayed up late talking. Basically until we started falling asleep sitting up. I went to my room and laid down on the most softest cloud of a bed ever and had the best sleep of the trip so far.

A note about who the Hotard's are and why it is acceptable for me to call them this: I met them online in a fan message board for a little TV show that no one has heard of in 2007. There are four of us that make up the Hotards. (pronounced Hoe-tards) These two crazy ladies currently in Gallatin Tennessee, a crazy Jewish New Yorker, and myself. We met online, and became fast friends and met in person for the first time when myself and the really crazy half of the Tennessee duo flew to New York for the very first New York ComicCon where the actors from the little show we were crazy about were going to be. It was a crazy 48 hours of my life. We found each other in the Newark airport and we just knew. Ever since the first in person meeting, we try and get together somewhere every few years. We've been to New Orleans, back to New York for crazy Jewish New Yorker's marriage to a CATHOLIC, Nashville, to me in California, they went to Rome without me, Chicago (twice), and we're currently planning our next trip. We call ourselves Hotards because when we went to New Orleans, there's a bus line called Hotards (pronounced hot-ards), and every time we'd see a Hotard bus, we'd scream HOTARDS (hoe-tards). This is the nice picture I took with a Hotard bus in New Orleans in 2009. I won't subject you nice people to the other one.
And well, the name seemed to fit our crazy friendship. Each one of us is extremely different, and yet we fit together like puzzle pieces. If asked, or not, any one of us would hop on a plane in an instant for each other.

Ok, that was more than a little note. On to day 9! But later. This is taking me forever to write. Sorry this will be in three parts instead of two. But we made it to Tennessee! Almost there!