Wild & Wonderful

That about sums up West Virginia.

While we were in Cracker Barrel, Alice and I felt the need to get an “Ebenezer” – a memento of the Lord’s provision as He saw us through our crazy adventure. This is what we found:

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ " (1 Samuel 7:12)

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12)

This magnet now graces my refrigerator.  It’s a great reminder of the Lord’s provision.  His Hands were all over our adventure: from the preemptive tire changes to Alice’s new hand-me-down iPhone from her Father-in-Law (without it we wouldn’t have had GPS or a way to alert the authorities of our situation), the calmness we exuded to get us through that situation, not to mention no serious damage to the car (as far as I know….).

Despite my near-death experience, I am looking forward to returning to West Virginia.  I kinda sorta fell in love with the beauty of that state.  I think I could move there, living in the mountains.  Alice and I hope to return in the Autumn with our husbands and see all the leaves change color.

And, of course, stay on the paved roads.

We’re already looking ahead to 2024; we’ve decided not to try and top 2014.  But this is probably a good thing: our adventures are so epic, we need a decade in between them.

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The Ugly

The road started to get pretty treacherous.  As we were deciding whether to turn back or not, we stumbled upon a Nissan Maxima stopped in the road (we, by the way, are traveling in a GM sedan with a manual transmission).  There were 5 guys – all of middle eastern decent, mid to late 20’s – who spoke heavily accented English.  They approached our car with the bewildered traveler look and a map.  “Do you know anything about this road?”  “Nope, this is our 1st time to the park.”  We were a bit nervous, just because of the numbers game: 5 guys vs. 2 girls with no martial arts experience wasn’t a good combination.  We had mace, but these guys seemed like they were on the up and up.  “The park ranger told us to take this road, we’re going to the falls,” said one.  So were we! We decided to carry on.

The dirt road got worse.  There were puddles that could have swallowed our whole car.  The guys kept getting out of the vehicle to see how deep the puddles were and if we could navigate them.  They were kind enough to wave us through — being on the mountain, there were numerous rocks (read: boulders).  I bottomed out a few times – I was driving – and every time we thought the worst was over, the next obstacle was even more dangerous.  After about an hour – it was nearing 6pm at this point – we were chasing daylight – we decided to call the park service.  Alice not only had a working cellphone, but had the foresight to take a picture of the park emergency numbers on the map by the trail.  We told the park service where we were: McKendree Road.  Or at least that’s where the GPS told us we were.  It was the road I was intending to find, but it was so bad, I wasn’t sure if I was on the right road or not.  “You shouldn’t be out there in those vehicles,” said Ranger Obvious.  “My suggestion is to turn around.”

Turn around?!  We barely made it through some of the puddles ponds and rocks; there was no way we could do that again.  Also, this road was not conducive to turning around.  Not only was it narrow, but most of the time there was a rock wall on our left, and a 30+ foot drop on our right.  The fishtailing we were doing was dangerous in itself: one false move and we were going down the ravine.

We stopped to rest from the driving conditions; I killed the engine and opened the hood to let it cool off.  There was a real fear of spending the night on the mountain.  Luckily, we had food, water, and blankets; but still, that was not in the game plan.  We got back in the cars and kept moving.

This is a shot from Alice's iPhone on McKendree Road during one of the less intense parts.  One of the guys is sticking out of the sunroof to navigate the obstacles.

This is a shot from Alice’s iPhone on McKendree Road during one of the less intense parts. One of the guys is sticking out of the sunroof to navigate the obstacles.

As you can see from the picture, we were basically on an old mining road.  The stress was starting to get to both of us, but we kept it together, as we joked about our college days and tried to cope as well as we could.  Meanwhile, the Ranger Obvious called back to check on us.  We were still in the thick of it.  “It will get real, real steep and the road will get worse as you keep going before you hit the main road,” he said.  Get worse?!  How could it get worse?!  But oh, it did. Bigger puddles lakes and larger boulders; it got steep.  Like really steep.  While the road got scarier, it was also comforting to know that as the road got steeper, pavement was ahead; civilization was close by.  Alice spotted a stoplight from our perch and it was such a relief.  I had never been so excited to see a stoplight in my life.

We basically went 15 miles on this road in 2 hours.

Right at the end, a pickup truck appeared from behind us.  We thought it may be the park service, but it was unmarked.  We shifted over as far as we could and this guy, who could only be described as an “Old Bubba from the backhills of West Virginia” who was missing most of his teeth and smoking a cigarette.

“What der hell are y’all doing on this road?” He declared.
“We took a wrong turn.”
“When didja get on dis road?” he asked.
“Back in Thurmond.”
“THURMOND?  Y’ALL WENT THROUGH THAT SH!T IN THOSE CARS?”
“Yes, sir, we did.”

We still can’t tell if he was impressed or thought we were clinically insane.  Perhaps it was a little of both.

As we made it back to the paved road, the boys’ car popped their front tire.  We were able to get to a pull off just off the road.  I wanted to make sure they had everything they needed to change the tire; afterall, they were kind enough to help us through that mess and it didn’t feel right to leave them.  Luckily, they had everything they needed (I was ready to give them my spare).  After letting the engine/nerves cool down, we called the park service to let them know we made it out alive and said our good-byes to what we called “Our angels in the Maxima” – this made them smile.  We then hightailed it to the interstate.

We stopped at the nearest Cracker Barrel for a meal fit for a king.  After fighting for our lives, a good hearty meal was in order.  One of the greeters saw us and asked how our day was going.  We gave her a quick rundown of our adventure.  She was a native lady and her eyes went wide when we said we were on McKendree Road in cars.  We were lucky to be alive.

We made it back to the hotel in Charleston and I have never been so thankful for a hot shower, a warm bed, and glass of wine.

The Bad

On our way back to the main road, we stopped for ice cream in the sleepy little town of Fayetteville, West Virginia.  On the way back to the car, we noticed the front driver’s side tire was low.  Like, really low.  We programmed our GPS and found a gas station – it turns out I had a nail in my tire.  Not good.  Luckily, there was a Wal-Mart just a few stoplights ahead.  We pulled into the service center and the country dude said they’d have it patched within the hour.  Perfect!

Alice and I grabbed sweet tea and sauntered through a clothing store until I got the call: “Uh, Mrs General?  That nail hit sidewall of the tire.  Can’t patch that.”  Crap.  So I bough a new tire.  Yee haw.  15 minutes later they call back and say that my other front tire is looking pretty bad and may blow.  Replaced that one too.  I had a 7 hour trip home, I didn’t want to take the chance of having a problem.

Just like an incredibly slow NASCAR race, I took 2 tires and got back on the road.

Now to get to Sandstone Falls, one could take the interstates (looooong)….or the backroads through the park (shortcut!).  There was one road marked quite clearly on the map we got at the visitor’s center; as someone who grew up in rural Illinois, backroads do not deter me.

The road went from blacktop, to gravel, to pitch, to dirt.  All while going up a mountain.

IMG_2308

Look out ahead!

Just like these people about to hit the rapids, our rapid decline was just starting….

 

The Good

10 years ago, Alice and I went on a whirlwind tour of southern England.  It solidified our friendship and despite the physical distance between us, we’ve kept in touch quite well through the years.  Since Europe, we always said we’d do a reunion tour in 2014, something just as epic and fun.  2014 became a running line with us: “Ohhh, maybe we can do that in 2014!”  “X more years til 2014!”

Well, 2014 is here.  While we didn’t have the money to hop across the pond or go international, we decided to meet halfway in between our home cities.  Our plan was to meet in Charleston, West Virginia and hike New River Gorge (it’s that place with the big arched bridge that’s famous).  We’re both outdoorsy people with a flair for adventure.  It was perfect!

Now, I’ve only driven through West Virginia.  We figured it would boring, but downtown Charleston was quite fun.  We spent the day wandering around; it was a beautiful, scenic, and well kept city.  We had an amazing (and affordable!) dinner here and then got dessert here, which just made the night.  We had a bit of map adventure trying to reach these places, but as it always is with Alice and I, the journey is more important than the destination.  We also stayed at a semi-posh hotel right in the heart of the city with a beautiful view of the river.

The next day, we headed to the gorge to hike the mountains.

The New River Gorge Bridge (its on the back of the West Virginia quarter)

The New River Gorge Bridge (its on the back of the West Virginia quarter)

A secret waterfall off the beaten path

A secret waterfall off the beaten path

We hiked up the mountain, down the mountain, and around the mountains.  It was so gorgeous, a vastly different environment from my sea level home.  Off one of the trails we found this waterfall – if you look closely you’ll see a woman in a pink top – that’s me! – I decided to be crazy and climb up this waterfall.  It felt so good to be on the rocks again!

We had a picnic lunch of Kind Bars, Cliff Bars, and water here, with the river far down below us:

"The Lord provided this rock," said Alice of our lunch spot.

“The Lord provided this rock,” said Alice of our lunch spot.

Overall, it was such a wonderful experience to share with a dear friend.  We decided after this hike, we’d go see Sandstone Falls on the other side of the park.

And that’s when the real adventure began.

Tripping into Fall via The Blue Ridge Parkway

brpblog

This is how western North Carolina does fall!

Not long ago, Miranda and I headed “out west” to see the fall foliage in the mountains.  We had an amazing time which included  Miranda’s 1st visit to an apple orchard, my first time on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and eating our way through Kings Mountain, Hendersonville, Brevard, and Asheville.  I could write out all our adventures, but the pictures sum everything up better than I could do with words.

Other random things from the road….

Finally, to recap our Ireland/Germany adventures….

Despite the fact there are 3 college degrees between us, we couldn’t figure out how to make an out-of-country call (Germany to Ireland).  Someone got cold feet about renting a car, so we skipped out on our car rental after 3 failed phone attempts and took a bus to the west coast of Ireland.  Bus trip was a fantastic idea, by the way.

Our travels in Ireland led us to Bunratty Castle, just outside Limerick.  Amazing!

In the castle there was an old relic from the Celts found on the property when they were restoring the castle.  It’s a fertility symbol of sorts and the guide said if you touch it, you have twins within the year.  So, we, um, touched it.  A part of me freaked: is this idolatry?  I fully believe the Lord will do with us as He will, and I only want what He wants for our lives – He supersedes it all.  I’ve decided this I’m filing this under making wishes with birthday candles or at 11:11.  Come what may, the Lord has it all in his hands.

The overhead PA system in German train stations is just pointless.  No one can understand what they’re saying.  The could be piping in Hitler speeches for anyone knows.  It’s garbled German.

My favorite part of the trip?  Leaving our hostel at 0600 after a couple hours nap, running across Dublin in the cold pouring rain (no umbrella) to catch a bus to the coast.  I love having a rough idea of a plan and just going with it.  I think it’s because my job is so technical and regulated – I like the spontaneity.

We met a few random people we exchanged numbers with, but no strong friendships were made this time.

Interesting Berlin facts: The only Nazi building still remaining is now the German tax office. Most. Hated. Building. In. Germany.  There is graffiti everywhere — except on the Holocaust memorial.  Why?  Because it’s painted with an anti-graffiti paint.  Who made the paint?  The same company that also made the gas for the chambers in concentration camps.  Oops.  I guess it all comes full circle, huh?  Lady Victoria, the chick in the chariot on top of the Brandenburg Gate, is glaring at something.  That something is the French Embassy.  And they say Germans have no sense of humor.

Ireland was founded by the Vikings.  This explains much.

I still hate Guinness.  I love strawberry-lime cider.

Nothing related to the Islamic uprising happened or even hinted of happening.  No one was upset we were American – quite the opposite – they spoke English to help me out.  I also realized that Germany is currently holding up the EU with their wallet.  No one wants to tick off the Germans.  If my mom’s family is any indicator of the culture, they don’t forgive and forget easily when they’ve been wronged; unlike America.  You never want to upset the country that’s bank rolling your country in these economic times.

The weirdest part: My passport was not stamped back into the USA.  We thought this was strange.  The General was especially upset, as he wants as many stamps as possible before his passport expires in a few years.  We went through a 2nd “American” screening at the airport in Dublin on our way home.  How was it different?  We took off our shoes in the security check.  Ha!  We filled out our I-94 forms in Ireland and turned them over to an American customs agent there.  When we landed on American soil, we were allowed to leave without further screening.  Odd, indeed.

I cannot wait to go back.

Onto the next: Portugal/Spain in 2016.  Unless we have those twins.

Speaking German in Germany….or not.

After spending the last year or so trying to learn German, I suddenly felt like this trip to Germany was my final exam.  I was sweating as we approached the immigration officer  in Customs after we stepped off the plane into Germany — I practiced it in my head 100 times: “Wir werden 5 tage lange bleiben.” – we will stay 5 days.  The guy looked at us and stamped our passports in silence.  Well, okay then.

After we got to our hostel, most of everything was in English.  The staff spoke fluent English.  They spoke better English than some people who live in North Carolina (correct use of the verb tense!).  Every restaurant we went to had menus in English!  I was disappointed.  Granted, as a guest in a foreign country, it was so kind to be spoken to in my native tongue.  But still, I was determined to speak to these people in their native tongue, so I did.  Stupid Germans and their hospitality: I’d ask something in German and receive a reply in English.  Seriously?  Can you smell the Yank on me?  The answer was yes.  They did humor me a bit: I asked where to buy stamps and later figured out I had asked where I could sell stamps.  Oops.  I also ordered a glass of water and the waiter brought me white wine.  Oops again.  He was not as amused.

Eventually I gave up and started saying please and thank you in German.  I have a long way to go to master this language.  And it inspired me to take a German I at the community college next semester – it can only help.  I need to practice talking with people – I think that’s where my biggest mistake was.  Computers and people are very different when learning a language.  Rosetta Stone was a great resource, but not everyone speaks with the clarity and e-nun-see-a-tion of someone who made callbacks for the recording session.  All the language learning websites I read said just to go out and start speaking in the country – which I did – but I hate failing.  I also need to be prodded to learn the grammar behind everything.  I’m much more of a “oh, it’ll come with time” kind of person.  German for me is going to be a lifelong project.

Prostituierte

Like ordering a beer in America, as I stated before, prostitution is legal in Germany.  And so, when walking along the main party street in Berlin (Oranienburger Straße ) one found many, many ladies of the night.

It is so very different from America prostitutes.  First, they were beautiful women, very thin – I’d say size 0 to 2 tops – but they looked to be a healthy weight.  They all had long hair – I wondered if it was real or fake.  Their make up was obvious, but very flattering at the same time.  Since it is so cold there, they had these little baby doll like jackets on, which showed off their cleavage and thick nylons on their legs with either little booty shorts or a leotard type bottom.  They all showed off their legs, which were perfect – very obvious they worked out.  Their shoes are what gave them away: incredibly high heels – the typical “hooker heels” as seen in America – clear plastic.  They’re really expensive.

And every 20 feet or so, one was standing there.  They did not approach you.  They did not make eye contact with you.  They just merely stood, checking their iPhones or staring off into the distance.  It was like they were there without really being there.  It was odd, to say the least.  And such a waste of beauty.

iPhones

Everyone in Europe has an iPhone.

I think that if you claim EU citizenship, it comes with a passport and an iPhone.  I don’t think I saw an Android platform or a flip phone in the entire time I was there.  It made me sad to go back to my 1st generation smartphone, and the fact that we’re downgrading our services to the point of where I will only be able to check my email.  I’m going backwards, technologically speaking.  And I’m not quite sure how I feel about it.  As a Mac person, I have been considering the iPhone for quite some time…..but really, do I need it?

Maybe I should move to Europe.

The people

One thing I noticed straighaway in Germay and Ireland — well, every time I’ve gone overseas too — is the people.  A typical German’s diet is very meat-centered (hence my childhood).  There is meat with everything.  And it’s not the lean stuff either – this is full fat real deal meat.  I don’t know how a vegetarian would survive, as most of the entrees are pork and beef.  With that being said, everyone there is thin – most young people look like they stepped out of a catelog. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a fair amount of people with an extra 20+ pounds, but no one is morbidly obese.  Of course once in a blue moon you’d find someone who is, as expected (The General and I wondered: Is that a foreigner?).  But it was a rare sight, so different from America.

I couldn’t figure out how there was all this fatty food and all these normal sized people.  It really hit home when I walked through Wal-Mart yesterday: everyone was obese.  I think it really comes down to Europe is not as dependent on the automobile as we are here, and they actually use portion control there — here it’s more of an afterthought if thought of at all.  We did find one place that had the fattest people: the airport gate in Ireland with people returning the USA.  They were all Americans.  Now I’m not one to point out someone’s weight, but it was so obvious, it was almost comical.  And I’m not saying this to say we’re better or to put people down – it is just merely an observation.  And yes, I do believe some people have an honest-to-good medical condition that causes them to be overly heavy.  But unless there is some American gene that causes this, I’m going to say it’s a lifestyle.

Again, cultural difference.

Eire/Schland aka Ireland/Germany

Now that my body is operating fully on Eastern Standard Time, here are the updates from my trip!  Because 2 weeks is a long time, it’s going to take me awhile to digest everything.  I would have blogged from the road, but internets were hard to come by.  We traveled sans phones because our phones were too old to be used overseas.  So we kicked it old school with maps and false starts: but it went well.  I am even more in love with my husband after this journey — which is good — considering we were together the entire time we were there.  We work really well together and this trip proved no different.

Because this is so expansive, I am going to break it up into small posts as I recall stuff so no one is completely bored with my drivel.

I will say this:  I miss Europe.  It’s been like 72 hours since I left and I’m already pining for when I can go again, which won’t be for quite some time.  I love the culture, the people, the food, the traditions — it’s so different from the USA.  I know this is a broad assumption on my part, but I feel that they have a better handle on things over there.  I know it isn’t so, but to me it is.

So here’s the journey….

Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 4

I had booked my flight from San Antonio to Atlanta to Wilmington early Monday morning so I could be home in time to work.  My plan would have been flawless if it weren’t for the snow that shut down Atlanta and Wilmington.  Luckily, I had found out early Sunday about my flight cancellation so I was able to call Orbitz and Delta to get things straightened out.  The funniest part was I had changed the trip name on my Orbitz account to “Messin’ with Texas Tour” and when I spoke with the heavily-accented Orbitz operator, who obviously was not a native English speaker, who asked, “Is this regarding your “Messin’ with Texas Tour?”  I could barely respond “Yes” to keep from laughing so hard.

After a lot of silence on the other end, the kind gentleman at Delta and I figured out a plan.  I would fly from San Antonio to JFK in New York City to Richmond, Virginia.  Crazy?  I’ll explain.

I have a college friend who I haven’t seen in ages who lives in Richmond, a decent 5 hour haul from Wilmington.  I figured since Wilmington was probably going to be shut down for 2 days for the blizzard (< 10″), I’d just rent a car and drive down the next day from Richmond.  I was all about the adventure.

I hugged Miranda good-bye, got out of San Antonio on time and landed at JFK, an airport I had never been to before.  I got twisted up in my itty bitty terminal and ended up walking out of the secure area in search of my non-existent gate.  Bugger.  I’d have to go through security again.  While I’ve traveled many cities in Europe, I’ve never been to New York, and as soon as the wanderlust started, I realized it was January, I was in New York, and my “coat” was a knit zip-up sweater.  Brrrr.  So I went through security AGAIN and figured out that gate 23 split into several different avenues (hence why there was no terminal H).

I stumbled upon a French bistro for lunch and had a crepe with Nutella.  I am currently battling an addiction to Nutella (especially after I came home and found a recipe for crepes), and oh my goodness it was heaven.  I got on the plane, tried to sleep, but the lady next to me was too close for me to slump in my seat and it made for a very uncomfortable nap.

I landed in Richmond and was picked up by my friend J.  We went back to her house and played a board game, ate a lovely dinner prepared by her boyfriend with steak and potatoes, and played some Kinect for the 1st time (that game is awesome!).

The next morning J made breakfast with real bacon and sausage and drove me to the airport.  I rented a Toyota Yaris (not a fun car to drive) and it ended up costing more than I thought it would, but it was so worth it.  I plugged in my iPod and headed for the sunnier skies of Wilmington.

The roads weren’t too bad – just wet – and as a former Illinoisan, I am quite comfortable in snow.  Unfortunately the car rental companies do not have any manual transmissions, so I was forced to take an automatic, something I don’t like to drive in bad weather conditions.  Well, it was one of those maze-like gear shifters and I noticed how hard the engine was running.  I didn’t have a tachometer or any other informative gauges, so I figured it was just the way the car sounded, having never driven one before.  I was about an hour down I-95 when I realized I was in 3rd gear.  Oops.  Shoved her into “drive” and all of a sudden it was a lot quieter and ran better.  I’m such an idiot!

I made it into Wilmington early afternoon, sort of sad that my adventure had come to an end.  I grabbed sushi at Nikki’s and all was right in my world.

I’m ready for my next adventure!

Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 3

Miranda’s family is fortunate enough to have a ranch in Texas that was passed down through her family.  We took this opportunity to head down to the ranch and experience the real Texas landscape and to see what she grew up in.  The ranch is in a remote part of the world, very few human footprints can be seen for miles.  It was such a beautiful sight.  We hiked around, I was in awe of the plant life – a lot of things I had never seen before; large cacti, nifty live oaks (which aren’t like what we have here in Wilmington), brush, buffalo grass – just to name a few.

The weirdest thing was the cactus in a tree — apparently birds can take the needles and deposit them on the tree branch and if conditions are right, voila! a cactus will take root in a tree.  Amazing.

Another great thing about the ranch is the free-range cows.  The cows were awesome, I think I bonded with them.  They are such gentle creatures and I think it helped that I had pellets to feed them.  Despite my love for the bovine, I still love steak.

I got to experience new things: riding a 4 wheeler, climbing a windmill and seeing a wild armadillo.  I am not very good at riding a 4 wheeler – I can drive a manual no problem, but shifting gears smoothly evaded me. Both Miranda and I feared for our lives and all I could think of was how far away we were from a trauma center.  There were several windmills on the ranch to pump water for the cows.  Miranda climbed so high!  I, a well established rock climber, only got about 10 feet off the ground cuz my vertigo kicked in and I wasn’t tied in, nor did I trust the windmill.  It was my only let down of the trip.  On our way out we saw the armadillo – we chased this little guy, but he got away.  Fast little suckers!  I didn’t see a roadrunner, but I think I will save that for my next trip.

After a long day at the ranch, we headed back to her house and cleaned up for a night downtown on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.  As it turns out, the river walk was closed!  They were doing the yearly drain of the river to clean it and all the stores and restaurants were closed.  We were so bummed!  So we stopped at the Marriott and asked the front desk for their recommendation of a good Mexican restaurant.  They suggested Rosario’s and so Adelle lead the way.  The atmosphere was great, the food was wonderful, and the margarita I ordered had a lot of tequila in it.  I had my 1st chalupa and it was amazing!  I would totally go back!  It was a nice way to end my visit to Miranda’s corner of the world.

But my adventure wasn’t over yet.

It had only begun.

Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 2

Day 2 started out early – we were on the road before the sun came up.

After Alabama, we hit Mississippi ::yawn::, and then Louisiana.  It was here that Miranda learned of one of my notorious roadtrip impulses: wanderlust.

I was all about stopping somewhere for breakfast and we were nearing Lake Pontchartrain when it hit me: let’s have breakfast at Cafe Du Monde – in the French Quarter in New Orleans. I had been there once in 2001 on a mission trip and the thought of a French breakfast was slightly overpowering.  Without much thought – or consulting Adelle – I took the next exit, I-55 south – and headed towards The Big Easy.  It was then we realized that it would take the better part of an hour to get there (delaying us about 3 hours total), we had a dog, and a SUV full of Miranda’s possessions.  So we decided that maybe this would be something for our next roadtrip and made a “legal u-turn” after Adelle nearly stroked out with our change of plans.

And so we continued on to the great state of Texas.  After only being to Texarcana, which is not technically Texas, I got schooled in all things Texas.

  • The state flag flies at the same height as the American flag.  Crazy Texans.  They will be their own country someday.
  • Texas has these “feeder roads” the parallel the interstate – much like a service road – and you can easily move from feeder road to interestate with out exits (but they have those too.)  I wonder why no other state has this.
  • ZZ Top is from Houston, which I’m told is not a fun city.
  • It’s quite an agricultural state, which I didn’t expect.  They refer to things such as farm roads.

Our 1st stop was for lunch – Miranda and I split a Whataburger, a hamberger chain that has the most yummy burgers ever.  Unfortunately, the closest one to me is in Georgia.  Their chocolate shakes were pretty good too.  Our next stop was at D&D, a cowboy store.  It had everything from cowboy knick-knacks to saddles for your horse.  I even tried on a cowboy hat – I was way too Yankee for that store, but it was interesting to see all the clothing.  Just when I thought I had seen everything Texas, we stopped at Buc-ee’s, a traditional Texas truck stop with a novelty shop with all sorts of Texas goods.  I got the General a stand for pop cans so he could shoot them with the pellet gun.  Hee hee.

My brain was about to explode with all the new stuff I learned about the Lone Star state as we pulled into Miranda’s homestead.  Her family was so sweet and her house was so warm and homey.  Once we’re done decorating our place, I hope our house has the same appeal.  We dined on this amazing pot roast her mom made and then made our way for a quick tour of downtown San Antonio.  After that, it was time for bed.  I did too much Texas in 1 day, I was beat!

Messin’ with Texas Tour: Day 1

We started our 1,400 mile roadtrip from Wilmington, North Carolina to San Antonio, Texas started early at 0330.  Miranda, who is moving back to Texas til May, showed up at my house well before sunrise…..she had no sleep; I was running on 2 hours of slumber due to work.   There was no coffee involved: oh yeah, we’re that hardcore.  Also along for the ride was Miranda’s 2 year old Havanese and Adelle Magellan, a GPS system who reminded us to do legal u-turns (she’s named after a combination of our middle names since this was her inaugural trip) – our adventures had just begun.  And so, with an Xterra packed to the gills, we hit the road.

We drove to the Cocaine Corridor (aka I-95) and watched the sun come up over the South Carolinian horizon heading for Columbia.  We then headed east towards Atlanta with a stop for gas at a crazy hickish gas station.  We then hit Alabama and got lost at the exit with the Kia Motors factory – Adelle swore there was a gas station there – there was not – just a lot of cars (oh the puns!).  Luckily, the next exit had  gas station.

We kept our selves amused by talking about random stuff, my first generation iPod via a radio transmitter, eating peanut butter M&M’s, granola bars, and drinking water.  How we stayed awake is beyond me. Isabelle, the Havanese, was good in the car; a lot of nervous panting, but she kept me warm by sitting on my lap.

12 hours later we arrived at our 1st stop – Mobile, Alabama.  We got a dog-friendly hotel just outside the downtown area – it was cheap, but it was nice.  We set up shop, got ourselves cleaned up, and headed downtown in search of food (we really didn’t stop for breakfast….or lunch).  Because Mobile is a port city, I expected it to be like Wilmington – a cute downtown with some nightlife.   We weren’t in the right mode for bar hopping, obviously, but we figured there would be something interesting to see or do.   There was not.

Even though it was only 5pm, but they had already rolled up the sidewalks for the night — on a Friday night, no less.  It was strangely quiet among the french-inspired buildings of long ago.  A very quant and nice downtown, but pretty dull people wise.  We walked along Dauphin Street for awhile, and finally settled on dining at Buck’s Pizza.  We both had strombolli’s since it had been forever since we had one – Miranda got one with mostly meat, I went with all veggies — so good — especially after not eating a full meal in almost 24 hours!

Because of our crazy hours, we were in bed by 8pm so we’d be up and ready to go by 0530.  Yikes, another early morning for this night owl!

All went well until about 0100 and we heard gun shots – from a handgun, in our little corner of the commercial district of the city.  Of course, Isabelle took this opportunity to want to go outside, so I followed Miranda and Isabelle outside, still dazed from sleep — no one was going out there alone after gunshots!

We fell back asleep until I heard Miranda rumaging around — my alarm clock that has been to more European cities than most Americans — didn’t go off.  It was, as the Germans say, kaput.  Ran into the shower, grabbed a granola bar and headed out the door.  It was my turn to drive.

Isabelle ready for the road, a view of I-20 somewhere in Georgia, an the Kia Motors factory in Alabama

Driving down the beautiful view of Government Street in Mobile, view of lifeless Dauphin Street