The past 10 days have been filled with last minute details, packing, long drawn out goodbyes and tears. Lots and lots of tears.
However, the 4 day road trip started this morning at 9:20 am this morning after a fun filled evening with some dear friends, a sleepless night, and a tearful family "see you later."
I drove the first leg of the trip to Buttonwillow (took me to my junior high days). We stopped at Subway, which we discovered was owned by two guys named Nick and Rainy. Rainy? Really- was it rainy that day? I mean the poor kid. :) I walked into Subway, and I said, "May I please have an six inch Italian Spicy on the Italian Herb." She said, in this order, "What kind of bread? Would you like a six inch? The BLT of the Spicy?" I jumped over the counter and turned her hearing aid up.
We proceeded towards Flagstaff and witnessed a beautiful sunset leaving the brightest fullish moon to shine. The moon was so bright it cast shadows of trees, and we were left squinting debating whether or not we should purchase moonshades. We decided to stop in Needles for dinner, but we soon discovered - Needles = DARKSVILLE. Not a single light was shinning, and we were surrounded by houses and food business. Ok fine. We could see the light of a flickering tea light from the window of one of the houses, but even the street lights were out. Perhaps a blackout? Yet, the light of the 76 station remained shining. Nervous giggles filled our car as we U-turned away from the only living people in this desolate town on their two creepy bicycles that were moving towards us. We quickly got back on to the freeway singing, "bye bye bye darksville."
After sixty more min of driving we crossed the Arizona border and decide to stop at Wendy's in Kingsman. We were greeted by a very enthusastic employee who began explaining to us the bubble fight they were participating in the back, while randomly bursting into song and explaining to us how musical she is. I can't decide if my favorite part of the Wendy's experience was how she rellished in giving us free water, soda and sour cream or was it when she said, "I love living in small town because you know everyone. Do you guys live in Kinsman?" Tough call really. We left Wendy's only to be greeted with our first Squeaks scare.
She has been an angel the entire drive. I mean the entire drive. We get to the car and JS turns to me and says, "Have you seen Squeaks?" I reached around behind me and underneath my bed for she spent the first half of the trip underneath my seat. No Squeaks. She said, "I just saw a cat outside." I immediately leapt out of the car and saw this gray cat with a raccoon esk tail that looked exactly like this:
I yelled, "Sqeaks come here." This cat turns around and darts into the dropped off reviene next to the freeway. JS grabs Squeaks' food and we stand at the edge calling her - Squeaks! Squeaks! Squeaks! However, the freeway is so loud we can't even hear our own voices let alone expect Squeaks to hear us. Even the tapping of her food bowl will not bring her up this hill. JS turns to me and says, "are you sure she isn't in the car?" Sure enough. This cute sweet little cat is peering out the window looking at us saying, "what are you crazy kids doing?"
We continued on the I-40 and got to Flagstaff at 10:30pm. My angel cat continued to behave as she quietly sat in her carrier as we proceeded to sneak her into the hotel.
We kept losing an hour as we continued our drive. So, we woke up at 7:00am, but it felt like 6:00am. We sat down and tried to enjoy our free continental breakfast. Yet, we shared our morning with a gentleman who has a 24 year old daughter who danced professionally for 20 years, but she no longer dances. She no longer dances. She no longer dances. I think he told us she no longer dances. 3 times. No, 12 times. It became a very awkward conversation, and we laughed while backing away - slowly.
We really wanted to get to New Orleans at a reasonable hour for dinner and to go out. So, we decided to push through and drive as far as we possibly could on this day. Then Day 3 would not be as grueling. So we drove through Arizona and New Mexico. We stopped at California Pizza kitchen in an outside mall in Albuquerque. We drove through the very boring scenery that is New Mexico and into Texas. Luckily, the billboards did not disappoint.
My favorites were in New Mexico - a huge billboard for Absence followed by - "wake up lucky." I wished they were next to each other. We had dinner in Texas at Applebees. This is what I learned: they cook everything soaked in butter. They smoke inside. It is stinky.
We got our second wind with our conversation down memory lane and we continued to drive to Witchita, Texas even after losing another hour. 12am we checked and sneaked Squeaks into our hotel. Texas loves Texas. I mean nobody loves Texas loves Texans.
This morning was definitly the toughest. We struggled to wake up, and Squeaks wasn't even awake when the alarm clock went off. I knew it must have been early! Granted, it was 7:30 - but we were 2 hours ahead of what we were used to. Plus, we had been driving for the past two days! We should have known that today was going to be a tough day since it didn't start off the greatest. We wanted to grab breakfast and get in the car and go. We get there - no carry out. Ok, so we'll eat inside. Our choices were extremely limited, but we decided on cereal. Texas doesn't believe in low fat, so, I put whole milk into my cereal. JS goes to put milk in her cereal, but I had taken it all. Of course I gave her some, but there was no milk for tea and coffee. We thought we could hack it, but an hour into the drive the two of us start seeking out a Starbucks as we continue to incessantly yawn. We grabbed our coffee and proceeded to New Orleans. Yup, we were going to get there at 8pm.
Our directions started to become a little confusing as we drove through Texas. We were looking for 557 to get to 20, and we kept seeing signs for 20, but no 557. It just so happened that JS was talking to her mom at the time, so, we asked her to get us to the 20 because we think we veered off. We got to the 20 and continued on. We crossed the line into Louisiana and the landscape instantly changed. Actually, we noticed that about every state line. Every time we crossed one the terrain instantly changed. Louisiana had some gorgeous lush small hills especially compared to the vast planes of Texas and New Mexico.
Now, we were looking for Interstate 10. We saw LA 10 and decided that it MUST be the same thing. We continue down this LA 10, and it really should have caught us a little more off gaurd than it obviously did because we no longer were traveling with trucks. It was a two lane two way road surrounded by houses and people bike riding and essentially living their normals lives in LA. So, we dead-ended into the Mississippi River. No, really. It looked like this:
Notice how it was dusk? That's right. The sun is setting. We have no maps. We can't get my mom on the phone. We can't get the Whipples on the phone. We are lost in the heart of the country in Louisiana. My sister, JJ, got us through the country back to the 190 to the 10. We're both holding our breath as we stressfully pray we are going in the right direction. Please oh please may we not be lost here in the dark without a single public place in sight. Luckily, JJ got us back on the freeway back on track with no time lost. Guess we got lost in the right direction. We got to New Orleans right on time at 8pm.
However, NO is like San Francisco. I really should have gotten us a place to stay ahead of time because it was very difficult to just find parking and find a place. We were in a city and combatting one way streets. Luckily, JS' mom was there to save us. (again) We ended up finding a place through hotels.com, and they assured us that the $56 a night was a steal compared to the normal $120. So, I booked a spot immediately. We pulled up to the hotel only to discover that we must use vallet parking. Sure! Except - we have a cat that I am almost 99% sure is not allowed in this hotel. Again, I'm so lucky to have such an amazing kitty!!! We snuck her in, and no one was the wiser. After about 10 minutes of frustrating phone conversations and checking in arguing, we hit the town of New Orleans. We ended up on the famous Bourbon street, and we were greeted with the very thoughtful and generous cat calling, but the smoking inside still remained a joy kill. Plus we were bombarded with men from the army trying to talk to us about their wives and four children they left at home while showing us pictures of themselves taking shots from a woman's crotch. Those weren't even the worst ones because the other ones probably would have offended us we were told.
Disappointed with the scene, we were still grateful to be walking around, and not sitting in a car. We headed back to the hotel and leisurely woke up the next morning after putting our smoke filled cloths in quarantine. My hair still smells of smoke. The smoking inside made us smell more like smoke than smokers in California.
We checked out and hit the road to Tampa at about 10am full knowing we had a 10 hour day ahead of us, and we were about to lose another hour. We weren't discouraged. We took pictures of the french quarters in the day time, and hit Interstate 10 in no time. We passed through Mississippi, Alabama and got to Florida by 2pm. It was so thrilling to drive through all those states in such a short amount of time, and the sites were breath taking. Mississippi had fantastic trees, Alabama had the confederate flag and Florida just had beautiful beaches through the pan handle. Frankly, I was surprised to see the offensive flag only in Alabama. I thought I would see it throughout Louisiana and Mississippi too.
We decided to stop for lunch at Subway since we really were trying to avoid eating so much fried food, and we found one - in a gas station. So there we are eating our subway sandwiches in a gas station. Comical really. We stopped for dinner around 8pm at Sonny's BBQ. After my mother gave us a little 20 minute detour, we ended up at my parents house in Tampa safe and sound. All is well.
Today I said my last CA goodbye as JS stepped on the plane after spending a week traveling with me across the USA. This heart-wrenching goodbye left me with the feeling of "the calm before the storm" for I feel like I've been on vacation galavanting across the United States and visiting my parents in Florida. Soon I will be in a snowing state with no job, no shows and two friends. Oh, and I'll have a cat. I love her. I have more things to say about my fears and worries about New York and how awesome it has been with my family. However, I will save that for another long post!
I have so many more photos. I'll post them on my photobucket... just give me a few days. There are some posted on facebook already - I'm happy to show you just let me know if you want to see them.