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!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Last Road Trip of My Mom's... Car Part I: Let us Pray

It all began long ago on a dark and stormy night in March. No it didn't. I decided to buy a new car. An all electric car. It only took three months to actually get said car, and a whopping six days of ownership to wreck it. But that's not the point of this story. I talked with Artist Nephew about my old car. I asked if he wanted it. He had been driving my mom's old car, an Infinity, ever since she had her first surgery on the tumor in her arm. After she passed, my dad transferred ownership of the Infinity to Artist Nephew. So he's had this car for over three years now. But it is old (2001), is a land yacht by millennial standards, even Gen-X standards for what it's worth (or a Grandma car), and takes premium gas. So it's expensive. My old car, on the other hand, is still old (2004), is an economy, compact, stripped down, nothing fancy, cheap gas, and most importantly stick shift, Saturn Ion. Which means, it is cheaper to maintain and fun to drive. Artist Nephew weighed the pro's and con's of both vehicles, and chose to accept my gift. Now Artist Nephew does not need two cars AND two motorcycles. So, what to do with the Infinity? Flying Squirrel Nephew piped up and asked if he could have it. Flying Squirrel Nephew is in the Army. He jumps out of planes and hopes his shoot opens. He's also stationed in North Carolina. We're all in California! And so the planning began. Mostly during Christmas when Flying Squirrel Nephew got leave to come home for the holidays. Our options were to sell the Infinity, and give money to Flying Squirrel Nephew to buy a cheap car in North Carolina or drive the Infinity out to him and fly home. But would it make it out there? Can we get it there... in winter? Do we want to spend more money than the car is worth to get it up to shape and out there to him? The answer: hell yeah. Let's do this!

But first a little background on the Infinity:
Back when it was time for mom and dad to get a new car (almost two decades ago), the only requirement from my mother was that it needed to be comfortable and a good road trip car. Color? Didn’t care. Make and model? Didn’t care. New or used? Didn’t care. Now to be a good road trip car, it needed comfy seats, cruise control, and a good stereo system. And so, the 2001 Infinity was purchased. Mom took that car on countless trips. It went to Wyoming and back who knows how many times. Arkansas and back at least twice. Up and down the west coast, and even to the east coast and back once. She loved that car. She made many a road trip CD. After she had her elbow replacement surgery from the tumor, she was looking forward to being able to drive again. She never did get enough use out of that arm, and so was never able to drive again. She hated that. She loved to drive, and drive, and drive. That was a freedom painfully lost. And so the Infinity sat in the driveway. As her cancer worsened, getting in and out of the car became more and more difficult. And so it sat even more in the driveway. Trips to the hospital and doctors were done in the truck. So that the car would get used, she asked her grandson (Artist Nephew) if he wanted to drive it. He gladly took it on. He called it his grandma car, when his friends would make fun of it. He was proud of it. It’s a great car! Now that Artist Nephew has my old Saturn Ion, it was time to take the last road trip of moms Infinity. The last great road trip car.

Let us begin.

Day 1:
Engine Mileage: 219655
Trip Mileage: 0.0

Dad did his normal routine of checking everything twice. Clean this, check that, fix this, did I pack that routine. Steering wheel cover, and seat covers were installed (because the car is old and the leather interior is decomposing), all while I gave my kitty's a last scratch behind the ears and snuggles, and washed my sheets for Artist Nephew who will be taking care of said kitty's while dad and I are away.
We finally start down the road at 11:30, after I figure out how to take a selfie.
I need more practice obviously. Dad starts us off down the road. We don't get very far before we need to pull off to check one more thing.
Then it's, "where are my sunglasses"? I plug my ipod nano into the cassette tape adapter player and begin the road trip with Jack Johnson... a very static-y Jack Johnson. We continue down the road. Highway 152, over Pacheco Pass and past San Luis Reservoir, and onto I-5.
We trade off after a glamorous lunch at MacDonald's. Continue on over the Grapevine to the 210 Freeway to the slow crawl of traffic. Once past San Bernardino, on to surface streets around and about and up the mountain to Oak Glen steeped in fog. We make it to our first layover stop of the trip. As I put the Infinity into park, it revs its engine. Hmmm. Dad is concerned. I turn it off and turn it back on, just like you do with computers. It seemed to work. It idled at a normal RPM. Phew.

Day 2: At Shiny Happy People's
You may remember Shiny Happy People (SHP) from the previous road trip blog in Tallulah Mae, the RV. We've known and been great friends with SHP since before I was born. They are the type of friends that you may not see for years, yet when you do actually get to see each other again, it's like no time has passed. And if something bad happens, they are the first to respond and be there for you. The day mom passed away, they got in their car and drove up to see her and be with us. They were with us when she took her last breathe. But on to this visit. Dad and I slept in (8:30am) which is really late for SHP. They normally get up at 5am. Yeah, they're insane. I get a cup of coffee. Ahh. Dad and I bring in the gifts Artist Nephew made. They had commissioned Artist Nephew while on the maiden voyage of Tallulah Mae, for six more mugs. He had made and given them two mugs while on that road trip. Artist Nephew got to work and made six new mugs. He didn't like how they turned out (typical artist) and made six more. These he liked. He had also made a vase, a beautiful vase, and wanted to give it to them as a gift.

Well they were a HUGE hit. Lady SHP was almost moved to tears. We then show them the two bags full of oranges Sis picked from her tree for them. That didn't warrant a picture. They then take us to Riley's Farm for breakfast.

We forget that it's a Friday and the place is loaded with school buses and elementary school kids getting educated about colonial America. Our waiter is dressed in colonial garb, and we watch the school kids learn how to march and shoot rifles (long sticks) from the window.
We chat, and chat, and chat. After the third refill of coffee, we decide it's probably time to leave. We head off down the mountain to Kaiser where gentleman SHP needs to get a shot and pick up his prescription. While the men wait at Kaiser, lady SHP and I head over to Toys R' Us to try and find Rook cards.
We were unsuccessful, but did find her favorite store, Tuesday Mornings, and walked the isles, and picked up a few things.
We decided we'd better go pick up the guys, and so went back to Kaiser. Found them sitting in the waiting room, still waiting to get his shot. Apparently they close that station for lunch. So we sat. Didn't take long once they were open again, so back up the mountain we went.
We ate snacks and played cards (plain ole playing cards since our hunt for Rook cards was unsuccessful). Soon it was time for dinner. We went to the local Mexican restaurant, and on the way watched the sun set.
It wasn't bad, but I get better Chili Relleno's back home at our favorite place. Of course our stay wasn't long enough. SHP's place is like staying at a retreat. Relaxing, comfortable, and never long enough.

Day 3:
Engine Mileage: 220051
Trip Mileage:  396.9
SHP make us breakfast. And we chat for as long as possible. We decide we have to leave by 11:30am. We have SHP take a picture with the Infinity. We have to document with whom and where it went on it's last road trip.

The lady in my phone navigates us to the I-10, and away we go to Phoenix, Arizona. I forget to get a picture of the Arizona State line. So here's the picture I took of it from Tallulah Mae last year.
Just imagine it being 20 degrees cooler. We stopped at a Love's Travel Center for lunch (they had a Subway Sandwich inside). We are such gastric adventurers. Dad took over driving, and away we continued.
We had traveled this route before with Tallulah Mae. And just like before, we missed the on-ramp to the 202. The lady in my phone told us the wrong lane. No matter, just like before, we turn around and get it right the second time. Arrive in Queen Creek at Big Bro's gate at 6:00pm. I text him for the code to get into his "community". We wait, and wait. Someone finally pulls up behind us and uses their fancy gate clicker, and we drive on in. We pull up to the house just in time for my brother to finally text me the gate code. The Lover of Derivatives Nephew and Sis'n'law were the only ones home. Big Bro was out shopping, and Big Red Nephew was at the mall with friends ( he got his license recently and just like every other 16 year old on the planet just has to drive somewhere because he can). Apparently Big Bro thought that when I told him we'd be there by 6pm, figured I didn't calculate for the time change. Silly Big Bro, such a doofus. I spent 9 years in college, I think I can calculate arrival times in the correct time zones (also, the lady in my phone told me). Anyway, Lover of Derivatives Nephew made us all dinner. Yeah for 20 year old males knowing how to cook a meal! After dinner he showed us how to play his favorite game, The Sheriff of Nottingham. We chatted some more, watched some mind numbing tv, then went to bed.

Day 4: At Big Bro's
We lounged about.
Dad fussed about the car, so Big Bro and dad drove it around a bit and went and got transmission fluid and filled it up. It was having some high idle issues. I went with them to Home Depot for grass seed and fertilizer. Big Bro fertilized his backyard and spread seed around in his dead spots. I watched from the comfort of their lounge chairs on their patio. We went for a walk around the neighborhood (the loop he takes the dogs on).
Dad's not doing Tai Chi, he's just talking with his hands. We sat around some more. Big Bro called in to work and got someone to cover his shift (he works nights), so we got to spend more time with him. Aww. We all went to dinner at a place called Oregano’s. Came back and hung out around the fire pit in the backyard.
Then we played cards. Big Bro won. Bastard. But maybe justice was served, since I sat on my ass and watched him tend his yard earlier.
We completely forgot to get a picture of them with the Infinity. Sis'n'law was already in bed asleep because she was sick (always sick when you work with preschool kids) and had to get up early and go to work the next day. It was dark, so excuse their rabid racoon eyes.
We said our goodbyes to Big Red Nephew that night too because he had to go to school early the next morning. Big Bro and I ate our dinner leftovers and chatted and watched more mind numbing tv.

Day 5:
Engine Mileage: 220411
Trip Mileage: 756.9
Dad and I get up, Big Bro and Lover of Derivatives Nephew get up long enough to feed the animals and see us off. They both probably went back to bed after safely seeing us depart at 10:30am. The lady in my phone told us how to get to I-40 from Queen Creek, Arizona. She got a bit upset when we turned right into a gas station instead of left where she wanted us to go. She got persistent about following her route. She can get quite the attitude.
We tootled along northeast up to I-40. We climbed and climbed up into pine forests and snow!
Our first glimpse that it's actually winter. We drove through Navajo land. Got depressed.
Since I was driving, dad was in charge of using my phone to take the picture of the New Mexico state sign as we crossed the border. He fretted about it, but he did get a picture taken of the sign. Five, in fact. Two of which were actually decent, so go dad!
We stopped in Gallup for lunch and gas. Maybe this was the day we ate Subway... I can't remember. We switched, and dad drove us the rest of the way to Albuquerque. We crossed the continental divide along the way.
Sure didn't feel like we were that high. I turned the lady in my phone back on, and she got us to the hotel for the night. Sis had made the hotel reservation, and she got us two rooms. I was expecting to share with dad. He said, when he travels with sis that they get separate rooms, so okay. That was an unexpected pleasant surprise. Go sis! We settled a bit in our rooms then headed out for dinner. We live it up a little and eat at Applebee's (yeah 2 for $20 dinners). Our waitress thought we were nuts to drive all the way to North Carolina. She said, she'd pray for us. She must have, because we did make it obviously. I was able to connect to the hotel wifi with my phone, but not my laptop. 😞 Dad didn’t have any problems. Why me? So I used the wifi in my phone to get on the internet with my laptop and quickly downloaded the phone photo’s I sent myself and the portion of the blog I had already written so I could work on it offline. I didn't figure out the airdrop function till much later. I guess me and technology still have some issues we have to work out. I slept good. Dad did not.
The end.
Just kidding. Who plans a trip to Albuquerque? We aren't even half way through the country yet.

Part II coming to you soon... I hope.