Leave Thursday at 6am and drive to Tulsa.
Pick up Sam's brother and drive to Mansfield on Saturday.
Know better than to make such an efficient plan.
"Friday (not Thursday)"
The trip started out simple enough with no extreme tale of mishap or woe, just three children parading as adults behind the wheel of a stick shift car who's endurance across the states, especially at the hands of two first-time manual drivers should be properly acknowledged. Leaving the city in humor of our attempt at punctuality we resigned to the fate of watching the sun set at rapid speed behind us, little knowing this would be our perpetual departure time as the week would follow.
...And so our adventure began.
It did not take long for eternity to set its ambiance on the open desert road and the feeling of meeting with no mere human being was potent amongst us travelers as the conversations often turned to God and history. It was the "world between worlds" on four wheels and we, especially Jamie, drunk in the Sonoran desert scenery. For her it would soon be a homesick memory.
Already the need for a promise of future meetings instigated talk of our next reunion and my dream of a dinosaur museum visit. As scientific curiosity, unplanned fate and the good nature of the soon to be newly weds would have it, along the highway was such a museum and I awoke out of backseat slumber to hear them whisper with glee over their discovery of a museum located right off the freeway.
Unfortunately New Mexico does not hold many understanding museum employees. Though 15 minutes till closing us overexcited travelers were denied entry, leaving us confused and frustrated. It seemed the town's created appearance of patience for an abandoned atomic bomb testing caused an odd sense of "unreasonable" in the poor civilian museum workers that didn't know the kind rules of society and "15 minutes till closing" as a relative term. Despite Sam's brilliant ideas we decided that robbing the gift shop would not help to show them it would only be reasonable for them to let us in and he was resigned to simply wishing them a "No thank you," and we were back on the road.
As the hours drug on the humor became more potent and left us with aching stomachs and heads by the end of the first 8 hours of travel. Albuquerque was the night's shelter but a sure scene of unrest for Jamie as she endured about an hour's worth of torture of a cactus quill that she acquired in her foot from, you guessed it, running through the desert in flip flops... again. Sam had brilliantly whittled a spear from a zipper and after drawing blood, successfully pulled a quarter of an inch of cactus from her poorly abused toe. Arizona's last gift to one of its favorite residents. With a fight averted and a foot relieved, God gave us rest for the next day that we failed to plan for.
The next morning I did everyone a favor by supplying drama in the loss of my ipod. Digging through each piece of luggage atleast 15 times and battling with "Locate my ipod" the only logical explanation was to blame it on theft from one of the Mexican workers in the hotel parking lot (where I last saw it). Sam grilled each of them to no avail and we left, me with a heavy heart and the couple with sympathetic worries. Since Sam was a mastermind, however, we put our trust in his promises of winning substantial amounts of money in a casino that would be sufficient enough to buy everyone new ipods.
Ah, so thanks to my little diversion we once again, drove into darkness, around 3pm. This was unfortunate for all as Nathaniel, our waiting party in Tulsa, was strung on added hours of estimation for arrival and our expected 8 hr trek morphed into a weary 10. All the enthusiasm from the previous day had dissipated as the hopes of a promised apartment seemed to run farther and farther away with each driven mile.
The jokes were ridiculous, laughter was way too generous and each of us felt the reality of being between Arizona and Ohio surreal. It was both misery and joy; Joy for me as I drove stick shift for the second time in my life.... misery for Jamie as she was forced to bring it to an abrupt end for her need to puke (we blame the 5 hr energy drink). Joy for Sam and Jamie as they were reunited with their brother; probable misery for Nathaniel who, despite having had about a week's worth of all-nighters, had to wait about 6 hrs past ETA for our arrival.
Yet hope remained while our company was true and we took shelter in the free arrangement of an empty apartment that we could overtake in the absence of a very sweet girl that half of us had never met.
Odd thing about staying in a place that isn't yours without the host, it leaves you feeling like a post-apocalyptic character, rummaging through what was abandoned.
In truth, our characters probably would have preferred the reality of a zombie infestation in comparison to the beast that awaited us there.
Gargantuan, fat, dander filled cat single handedly claimed rest from us all that night. I'm sure Jamie felt heroic as she neared death with cat allergies that claimed her exhausted self and despite her exclamation of being "fine" it was obvious it was going to be a long night. Laughing at Sam's high rise fort of kitchen table chairs for a bed was a mistake. I can now say that he was the smart one. Jamie, allergy stricken with a system full of Benadryl, tried not to die on the love-seat couch, Nathaniel on the floor at apathetic random and I... well I locked myself in the bedroom with the cat that I had foolishly and stupidly thought a good idea to make friends with. Perhaps you think that a cat is no threat to someone who is craving a bed and if the only one in the place is offered to you you might not think twice about what accompanies it. This is false hope of rest. You forget, dear reader, that a cat, especially one as large as a big cannon ball (I do not exaggerate), owns everything it sees... and it can see in the dark.
As soon as the light was out this cat played a genius game of breaking me down slowly. There is just no way to control, train or bribe a cat. No way to ignore it when it attacks you, especially when it's your head and especially when itself weighs a ton. No way to breathe deep in sleep when it visits its full litter box way too frequently and timed to not convince you it's deliberately diabolical. And there is no way that natural hunger would drive it to bring an individual piece of dried food all the way across the room to the bed to chew so obnoxiously in such timed increments. It kept to this cyclical schedule for about an hour and I weighed my option of killing it over locking it in the closet; figuring the closet to be the more merciful. But cats have the most annoying moan and I unfortunately granted it freedom whilst trying to be rational with the now more probable and zealous option of killing it or at least tossing it over the balcony.
My rationale proved idiotic as the battle went on for hours and I, in tears, observed the sun's rays become visible through the bedroom shade. Ten hours of uncomfortable driving only to be denied simple rest by this little domestic jerk that should never have been domesticated in the first place brought me to defeat and I surrendered the room along with all my will to prove dominance. Of course, since this cat is the devil, it escaped just as I was leaving and I had a severely difficult time in catching its fat self in the dark and in silence as it dodged and taunted me with loudly obnoxious cries amongst, around and between my sleeping companions. With the room still successfully asleep and the cat back in the bedroom, I took refuge under the kitchen table, ignoring the potent smell of old cat pee somewhere nearby and the familiar cry for freedom behind the closed bedroom door, and grabbed whatever few hours of fading dark that remained as the hour of 5:30 dawned on my new least favorite city in the world.
Needless to say, for the next day's stay in Tulsa a hotel was planned for the second night. Jamie had at last come clean about her inability to stand that which was sending her into anaphylactic shock.
The cat had fully won and we replaced the appearance of our gracious absent host's abode, and bid its dander filled aroma a definite farewell.
With no driving for that day and Nate at work we three ate at a glorious southern cajun (which had heated bathrooms) with leisure and laughed about the previous night as Jamie's sinuses and allergies cleared immediately in the open crisp air of Tulsa (which was looking less dismal in that restaurant). Then, at a clean hotel, and with the boys off for brother time, the scene was set for Jamie and Jesus to be the sole witnesses for my joyous reunion and discovery... of my ipod. (Oops?)
Yes, it seemed as if the iCloud tracking would, in fact have shown that its location would have been making its way east across the states, hitchhiking in the bottom of my backpack. Apparently it was as much attached to me as I am to it. After my exclamations of true love and a happiness that will never be topped, all seemed right with the world as us two childhood friends reveled in the perfect setting of doing nothing; which is what we liked doing best.
So with Sam back, Nathaniel gone (again) and inadvertently prank calling a pizza place...
then inadvertently visiting that exact pizza place we called and inadvertently staying an hour past closing, we got ready for the next adventure. For though my ipod was "back in possession" Sam stayed true to his word and we went to a local casino where we stayed just long enough for the brothers to lose about $20, Jamie to get caught in the web of (not addiction to gambling) but the ADD black of hole of shining twinkling lights on the Wizard of Oz machine and for me to discover with unexpected joy that casinos provide free coffee.
It wouldn't be right to include Nathaniel as an official fellow passenger without sharing blame with him over our late time departure. So we will. His class caused the car load to depart after 3pm with the sun setting behind en route to Cincinnati. And I don't think anyone was truly doing their math when estimating arrival time because if you stop and think - what will be the time of arrival if we leave point A at 3pm and drives through six states for an estimated total of 13+ hours to point B? - You will find that we were made to be liars since we told our new expecting party (brother Andrew) that we would be staying "the night" at his place.
The two brothers were gracious enough to attempt supplying the beginning of this long journey with a fictitious tale of the identity, nationality and personality swapping brothers named Denny and Luther. These two characters had a habit of encountering very strange things on very pointless adventures that were intermitted with sleeping and waking into the REAL "And so their adventure began" story that Jamie and I were continuously awaiting. This repetition of pointless strange dreams lost our enthusiasm quite quickly until our traveling reality started to mirror their mindless tale of fiction.
We could not tell you all the eerie horrors that the night put us through with the prophecy of those ridiculous characters, yet we braved it with bewilderment, fatigue, and near insanity.
Darkness had set when we stumbled upon the employees of an empty Hardees that denied with vacant weak smiles the existence of a shrieking murder meat grinder that screamed from the back of the supposed kitchen...
"What's that noise?"
"That metal shrieking."
"What do you mean? What noise?"
"I guess I'll have a blood burger?"
... After eating rapidly in defense mode we escaped its horrors and drove on, into the six state 13 hour fog. Literal fog. That was the only scenery. For 13 hours.
Awakening to a scene of black night shrouded in this foreign fog is an unsettling thing when we discovered that for the first time, thanks to an abrupt light notification, the car was on empty. Poseyville was "luckily" a near enough exit to hopefully find a gas station. An old town, quiet as death, no sign of life except for the one 4 pump gas station lit up in the night haze. Relief! Now if only to fill up and get our rear in gear. But the pump wasn't pumping and there was no one inside. Entrusted to Nathaniel's GPS we drove further along the lightless street in search of fuel and in growing uneasiness watched the vague outline of each old house materialize through the night into a vision of either sudden abandonment or dark hidden secrets. Porch fan's going off at random in the middle of a November night, no cars or people to be seen, weary lighted candles left in every window of silence ...
"Where to now, Nathaniel."
"It says we're here."
"The gas station is here?"
"To our right."
"You mean that old abandoned house?"
Discovered was a single pump in the decrepit backyard of this haunted house and I don't need to tell you that after one look at that backyard we abandoned the gas and high tailed it out of there. Ironically, once out of Poseyville's borders the fuel light turned off and up went the gauge.
So we found gas in the furthest town from Poseyville that was obnoxiously lit (we chose this for safe measure) and were motivated from the gained distance between us and Poseyville's siren beckoning call. It seemed with our paranoid senses heightened after Poseyville and Hardees every stop we made there after had a character or place that carried the title of "creepiest thing I have ever seen." And the hours drug on.... and our exhausted minds with them.
On we drove, always with the sight of fog lit green by some unrecognized distant town to welcome our crammed, restless and delirious selves out of sleep to either more tales of Denny and Luther, Nathaniel's impersonations of a broken record or the joke that HE thought was funny of perpetually having 3 more hours to drive. Then, for the first time since Friday, we saw light on our journey. The sun's rising presence over Cincinnati very well could have been the most beautiful thing we had ever seen and I could not help but liken our arrival to Andrew's to a scene from Tolkien. Like the hobbits traveling through the Old Forest we had finally found rest at the house of Tom Bombadil (at 6:30 in the morning).
We slept from 7am to 2pm and getting up was near impossible if it weren't for the people that made being awake so entertaining. With no need to hurry off anywhere we went out to spend a good few hours at a greek hole in the wall restaurant and I, personally, took joy in watching the family that my friend was marrying into. Leaving her was going to be hard, being so far away from her, making our habitual spur of the moment get togethers impossible was unfathomable. But I could happily do it with knowing that I was leaving her with them. If they made her laugh then I had no worry of her changing. Incidentally they made me laugh too and despite the previous night's survival, the end of the week was not becoming a welcoming sight.
Anyways. After eating good food and visiting a local mansion the four of us left Andrew under the familiar cover of night to conclude the official last leg of our poorly miscalculated journey in just a few measly hours and at last ARRIVED in Mansfield.
About 4 days later than planned but we did, in fact, arrive. With the trip's odd adventures and horrors still close in our memory we stayed up till a ridiculous hour recounting everything, plunking around on instruments, finishing the tale of Denny & Luther and having melt downs ;) .
Is this a long story? Yes it is. But so was the drive. And I promised a report should anything interesting happen which is usually the case in any adventure which involves my pal Jamie.
"Wednesday - Friday"
So here we are caught up. My gorgeous and wonderful Leimgruber cousins picked me up and I spent Thanksgiving with them in their Cleveland house, a home away from home, which was quite the thing to come to after the drive we had. Just to be with them, even if time did not allow for substantial "catching up" was enough (there never is enough time). If Cincinnati was Tom Bombadil's then the Leimgrubers' was Rivendell. Of course, just like the fellowship, I could not stay forever. And back Mary drove me to the Stahlke's on Friday for my flight home.
I hate goodbyes. Who doesn't, really. It always sucks whether it's family, new friends or an old one.
We tried to both change the flight and then "miss it" by making several unnecessary stops along the way.
I made it on time though, unfortunately.
This song was the one song that never got old during the 5 day drive from Phoenix to Mansfield. It soundtracked our sudden break from the city on the freeway to the open desert, and it soundtracked my solo ride through the clouds back home 7 days later.
Thank you, Coldplay, for once again giving life a tangible re-livable memory. It was a good one.
Can't wait till Jamie and Sam come in February, and I can't wait till March when our other fellow Stahlke sojourners get to travel west and hopefully liken it to some place grand. I dare them to drive the distance.
A little post trip production from Andrew -