Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Catching up to the present (almost)

Beware, this is an especially long entry. I’ve gotten a little behind on the blogging...we arrived in Cary, North Carolina, on Monday, 10/10. But before I tell you about that, let me catch you up quickly on the remainder of our cross country journey.

Friday 10/7 we drove from Oklahoma City, OK to Little Rock, AR. These are the highlights that stick out in my mind as I scan through the photos I took...on our way out of Oklahoma City, we were treated to a nice view of the city skyline:

Later, we passed by Checotah, OK, which is the hometown of Carrie Underwood, winner of this year’s American Idol. Oklahoma has these handy blue signs on the highway telling you all the reasons you should take time to exit and visit the towns you’re driving past. The points of interest are in a bulleted list, with the bullets being in the shape of little Oklahomas. I can’t tell you the names of the towns, but I can tell you that we drove by the hometown of Miss America 1981, the hometown of Garth Brooks, and the hometown of Troy Aiken. So I figured Checotah would have a sign mentioning Carrie. She wasn’t on the blue sign, but she had her very own green sign, plus a big billboard with her photo on it.

Oklahoma is really big on Indian stuff, being that the Cherokee are from there (well, not originally, of course, but I digress). You know how I’m collecting photos of license plates, right? Well I saw this one and I broke formation to speed up and catch a pic. It’s kind of blurry but it’s a Cherokee Nation plate!!

The only other thing I remember about driving through Oklahoma, besides how pretty it was (it made an impression because I’d expected it to be brown and boring), was stopping at a gas station that also had a restaurant called the Pig Out Palace, and there was a pickup truck in the parking lot that had goats in the back.

I tried to take pictures of all the “Welcome To” signs, but I missed Oklahoma. I did get Arkansas though:

We arrived in Little Rock (or rather, North Little Rock—the 40 does not run through Little Rock proper) in the late afternoon, around 4:00 I’d say. I checked into a Super 8 right off the freeway. Okay room, nothing to write home about. I watched a little of the local news...there was not only an air show that weekend, but also the state fair. AND it was Friday night so there was high school football, which is a very big deal around here. So much going on, oh the entertainment choices!! I took a nap and then went to see my parents at their campground, which was even farther away from Little Rock. We went looking for a place to have dinner, but there really was nothing we could see from the freeway except a Cracker Barrel. This is a restaurant that they don’t have in CA, or at least I’ve never seen one there. But they are ALL along the 40. They offer comfort food and a quaint country gift shop. We decided to eat there. The portions were very large and the food was quite tasty. Hard to make bad comfort food. I had the chicken and dumplings...I can’t recall what everyone else had, but I do remember that the menu had a ton of choices and it’s always hard for me to make a decision. We had a really nice waitress, Sarah, who answered all my questions with neverending patience. The gift shop did not have anything I was interested in buying, but browsing after dinner was fun.

Next we decided to visit the Clinton Library. We drove into the city and found it without trouble. The design is quite unique, and I once again found myself trying to take pictures at night without a tripod. They came out okay I guess.

The next morning, I got up at my normal time of 6:30 and was ready to go by 8:30. Yes, it took me that long to get ready because loading the car was a process that involved several trips, what with the cat carrier, the litterbox, and all my luggage. Anyway, my parents had to have someone come out to fix the wiring on the fifth wheel because my dad had been driving this whole time without brake lights, and we finally had gone to a Walmart to get replacement parts but when he tried to fix it, suddenly everything stopped working. So they had to wait around for the RV guy to come. So I went back to the Clinton Library to take pictures in the daylight,

and then I headed east on my own. Turns out the whole trailer had to be rewired and my parents did not leave Little Rock until 12:45, so I’m glad I did not wait around for them.

My first stop was Memphis. I was excited to cross the Mississippi River, because I had never seen it in person before. I was set on going to Graceland (Elvis’ home) or at least driving by it. So I did not cross the river on the 40, but rather the 55. There was some traffic (due to, I discovered later, a crew painting over graffiti on a freeway underpass), so I had lots of time to take pictures, but they didn’t really come out very well due to the bridge blocking the view of the water. Hmph.

Graceland, it turns out, is behind all these trees, and the only way to see even the outside is if you pay the 20 bucks for a tour. I did not want to pay, because I don’t care that much about Elvis, I just thought it would be cool to say I’d been to Graceland. Plus, I didn’t want to leave Comet in the car for that long. So I skipped it. Hmph again. But I did get this shot. I think you can see the columns of the front through the trees a little bit.

I got back on the 55 and exited Riverside Drive so I could get some good views of the river. Very nice.

Passed by Beale, which I know of from Marc Cohn’s song “Walking in Memphis.” Also passed by Union Avenue, also from that song. I wanted to go on the I-40 bridge that spans the river so I drove west back into Arkansas

Got off at the next exit and bought some lunch at Wendy’s, then drove east over the bridge again, back into Tennessee. Memphis has a very pretty skyline. I wanted to visit Mud River Island, which supposedly has a 5-block replica of the river that actually has millions of gallons of water flowing through it, but I couldn’t find it and I wanted to get going.

I headed towards Nashville and it was a very pretty drive. Tennessee is just as green as North Carolina.

Lots of trees and hills to make it interesting, plus lots of rivers. I was impressed.

Saw lots of cotton growing in the fields—mundane sight for native Southerners, but novel for me.

There seemed to be lots of shopping along the way, too. Lots of outlets and such. I did not stop except at the Casey Jones Village exit where there was a cute old fashioned general store.

They had a cotton gin (or a replica?) in the foyer.

Once in Nashville, I checked into the Comfort Inn off highway 65. They claimed to have internet, but it didn’t work, of course. I knew that my parents were going to be staying off Briley Parkway at exit 12, and I saw that there was a huge mall called Opry Mills off exit 11, so I headed there for some shopping while I waited for them to arrive.

I got a call while I was in Casual Corner Annex (one of my favorite stores that they only have a few of in the country!). My dad told me that he and my mom had gotten separated pretty early on in the day. This would not be a problem if my mom had a cell phone, but she does not. My parents had been communicating via walkie talkies this whole time. I was hoping my mom would be able to find her way to the campground but it was not meant to be. I got a call later and my dad reported that she was at exit 219...Briley Parkway was exit 215. She was close, but there was no way to call her back and tell her that. My dad had told her to turn around and try to find it again. I told my dad, if she calls again, tell her to stay put and I will go find her and take her to the campground.

An hour or so later my dad called to report that she was at a Shell station off exit 196. He had arrived at the campground but had not yet detached the truck, so he couldn’t go get her. I quickly paid for my postcards and magnet at the gift shop I was browsing, and headed for the car—which was at the opposite end of the mall, of course, and this was one ginormous mall. I finally got there and headed west.

I would like to say a word about Nashville freeways. That word would be fustercluck. I managed to get out of there on the first try, which was truly miraculous. If you think L.A. freeways are confusing, try Nashville. Absolutely ridiculous. And then once you get outside the city, it’s pitch black. But I made it. My mom was waiting at the gas station, dogs in the backseat. She laughed as I pulled up. I escorted her back to the campground, using a different route this time, one that circumvented all the craziness of downtown. Thank goodness for the AAA TripTik, that saved me on many an occasion.

When we finally got there and settled in a bit, it was really late. For dinner we ended up at a restaurant called Bob Evans, which was basically a Cracker Barrel look alike. I went for the lighter side with a salad. Quite tasty. We went back to the campground, planned the next day and then I went back to my hotel to crash.

The next morning—Sunday, 10/9—we started on time, leaving the campground around 9:15. We drove all together to Asheville. We had planned stops in Cookeville and Knoxville, but ended up passing by both because it was rainy and we didn’t need gas and the dogs were sleeping. The drive to Asheville was very pretty (I feel like I’m saying that a lot, but it’s true! This stretch was especially beautiful due to the mountainous nature of it.)

Crossing the North Carolina border was a momentous was exciting to think that we were crossing into our new home state.

We stopped at the North Carolina welcome center to celebrate our entry and stretch our legs. We asked a nice couple to take our picture but apparently they had never seen a digital camera before as it seemed very foreign to them. But we got a photo even though it’s not perfect:

The mountains around Asheville are beautiful, but it was kind of disappointing that the fall foliage was not on display yet. (Later that evening we saw a commercial for an upcoming news story about why it’s still not happening even this late in the year.) But what was fun was when we arrived at the campground in Asheville, Matthew, Amy, and all the kids were there to greet us. I’d been conspiring with Matthew for days to set this surprise up and we pulled it off flawlessly.

My dad got to meet baby Cassidy for the first time. She has grown so much since I saw her at the end of June. She’s a big chubby baby now, adorable to no end.

I was reminded of how cute Prestin and Layne are, as well.

There was a Days Inn right around the corner from the campground, so I checked in there. The first room they assigned me was disgusting. It smelled very strongly of bug spray, the carpet felt damp, and the phone didn’t work. The second room they gave me was much better. I went back to the campground and we hung out at the trailer for a while. For dinner, I wanted to go into downtown Asheville, but we ended up at the Cracker Barrel outside Asheville, since Matthew had never been, and it’s a good place to go with kids. It was fun to be out with the whole family. We went back to the trailer and sat around. I watched Desperate Housewives at 9:00. I left around 11, totally tired, and Matthew and the kids left shortly thereafter. They had a three hour drive ahead of them.

The next morning, Monday, October 10, I was able to access the wireless internet at the hotel so I posted, and then we drove into Cary. It was rainy the whole way. The worst was at the highest elevations leaving Asheville—there was terrible fog, so thick you could barely see. We drove into Cary around 3 pm, and we headed for the Marriott Towne Suites, which is to be my parents’ home until they buy a house. Their unit is very cute. It’s basically a furnished studio apartment, complete with pots, pans, fridge, stove, utensils, etc. Plus, free wired internet access. And only $59 a night. But their pet policy requires a one-time $75 fee, too steep for me, since I plan to be in a hotel only a few nights. So I headed for the Red Roof Inn on the other side of Cary, for only $45 a night, pets free of charge. It’s actually a pretty nice hotel. The room is very clean, and I got a business king which means a nice big bed and a big desk. They do not have any sort of high speed internet (wireless or wired), but I’m going to try using dial up AOL.

It’s late and I have an early start tomorrow. But tomorrow I will write about my first day of apartment searching in Cary. Oh, the drama.

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