The Drive : Part 1

I apologize in advance, as this is my first full blog entry since we started the drive almost a week ago. There’s a lot to catch up on…

The drive has been great so far. We set out on Tuesday night (August 30) around 8pm. Our original goal was to reach Pittsburgh, but we were a little optimistic… Here comes Part 1 of the story — complete with pictures! (I didn’t take any pictures until day 2, so be patient…)

For the first hour of the drive, Loki was in an awful state. We’d left him in his carrier, where he spends a lot of time regularly, so we hoped that would keep him calm. No such luck. He screamed and cried like we were torturing him. It was this terribly pathetic cry, and he sounded like he was in excruciating pain. He wasn’t, of course, but he was scared, and it was impossible to ignore. We pulled off the freeway somewhere in eastern New Jersey, and we let him out of his carrier, hoping that might help. He kept yelling at us (but not so pathetically), and he crawled around the car, including up on the dash board, and down around the pedals. (The car was stopped, of course.) Seeing that he wasn’t going to sit still, we had to put him back in his carrier, and put the carrier in the back seat, hoping that the loud stereo (VW makes a great stock stereo, the Monsoon) would drown out his cries. I semi-succeeded in ignoring him, but AEJ is a lot more compassionate, and she felt terribly guilty that he was so miserable.
A half-hour later, we pulled off the freeway again to get soda and snacks at a gas station. We left Loki alone in the car (still in his carrier), and stayed in the gas station for a good 10 minutes, hoping he would be so happy when we came back that he’d be a little less freaked-out about the car itself. Somehow, it worked.
We were able to let him out of his carrier, and he spent the rest of the drive that night going back and forth between our laps. He kept meowing at us, but it was more like he was talking (loudly), saying things like, “hey, guys, have you ever been in a car? Huh? Have you? Do you guys like it? I think it’s weird. Hey! Your upholstery is black cloth! I love black cloth. Have you ever seen me shed? Watch! I’ll shed like crazy right now — right on your new black upholstery! Yay!” At least that’s what it seemed like he was saying.

We didn’t make it to Pittsburgh that night. We made it to a small town called Carlisle, PA, just a little past Harrisburg — probably only four hours outside of New York City. It had been an exhausting day, though, with the movers arriving at 8am that day, so we weren’t too disappointed in ourselves for missing our first goal. At least Loki had learned how to ride in a car.

On Wednesday morning, we left Carlisle and headed for Columbus. We’d originally hoped to arrive in time for lunch, but because we were so behind from the night before, we called my sister to cancel lunch, saying we hoped to arrive around 4pm. We did make it to Columbus eventually, enjoyed a few slices of Massey’s Pizza (my all-time favorite pizza, ever since high school) — my sister had picked some up for us, even though we’d missed lunch — and visited with Lisa and the family for a bit. Then it was off to dinner with my friends since elementary school — Scott & Brian. Scott is an electrical engineer, and Brian is an ER doctor. They’re both married now, and both have kids. I’m not usually a fan, but for children, these kids are pretty awesome…

That night, Loki finally got some rest at my sister’s house. We slept in my niece, Kaleigh’s, room. Kaleigh has a thing for unicorns. It turns out that Loki does, too.

The next morning (Thursday), we drove through the rest of Ohio, then Indiana, then Illinois, and into Chicago. We spent a night in Lake Forest, visiting AEJ’s grandmother. The next morning (Friday), we drove south from Chicago, headed (eventually) towards Memphis. Illinois is a long state. It has lots of prairies, and they’re restoring them, according to this sign.

Let me stop for a moment to mention the freeways and the general road conditions. Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio — all fine. Pennsylvania has some toll roads, but it didn’t bother me, because the roads were in good condition. Indiana — fine. Then, Illinois. Fine until we reached the Chicago area. Specifically, Route 294. Traffic — in the middle of the afternoon, on a road that doesn’t even go through the city — was terrible. There was construction, slowing things down even more. The most annoying part, though, was that it was a toll road, but not like the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Route 294 does this ridiculous thing where you stop every 3 miles or so, and throw $.80 into a bin. Why? Why do it this way? Why not take a ticket when you get on the interstate, and pay once when you get off? Don’t make me stop every couple of miles and toss change into a bin — especially when at least one of the times, a quarter or dime is likely to bounce out and roll under your car? And if you’re going to delay me with construction, why not waive the toll — just to be nice? Throw me a bone, Illinois!

Sorry. Back to the drive. So, Illinois was mostly fields. There was also this huge cross.

Sure, it’s a big cross, but just wait until my next entry, when I post photos of the cross we saw in Texas. (It’s the biggest cross in the Western Hemisphere, according to the sign at the Texan cross.)

Illinois was rather pretty…

But there was also a lot of emptiness in southern Illinois. I’m not just saying this. Even the signs indicate it. Let’s see… I could turn left, and see nothing, or…

Really, what was to the left? Perhaps the nexus of the universe? We’ll never know.

Then we got to Missouri. Missouri also had absolutely terrible roads. Bumpy and rough immediately from the state line. There was a sign that read “Highway Improvement, Beginning Summer 2006.” Why tease me?

After a terribly long drive of over 10 hours, we reached AEJ’s mom’s place in Memphis. Loki again made himself at home.

You would not believe the number of bugs who gave their lives between New York and Memphis in an effort to soil our new white car. It became almost impossible to see out the windshield. We took the car (we’ve named her Heidi) to a car wash on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, “no-touch” car washes also are “no clean,” so I spent much of that evening hand washing the front of the car.

AEJ’s mom has a great view from her apartment — especially at night.

While in Memphis, Loki made a new friend. He said his name was E.T. Loki was like, “John, what’s up with E.T.? Is he a dude? Forget it — I’ll check.”

Loki still couldn’t figure out what was up with E.T., so he just went ahead and asked E.T. directly. E.T. said it was a secret, and he had to whisper it to Loki, and Loki only.

After a long night of drinks and discussion, Loki and E.T. had developed a special bond, and would remain friends forever and ever.

On Sunday morning, we left Memphis and headed west on Interstate 40. Immediately on the western side of the M
ississippi river from Memphis is Arkansas. I never knew how pretty Arkansas is. It’s absolutely beautiful. It has lush plants…

… and beautiful vistas…

… and our car, Heidi, looks pretty darned cute there.

Loki loved Arkansas, too. While there, Loki introduced us to the joys of the new KFC Snackers. Mmm…

We stayed in Fort Smith, Arkansas, last night. Today we drove through Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas today, and are staying in Amarillo, Texas, tonight. More on that tomorrow, but until then, here’s a little teaser of what we saw. We stopped in Checotah, Oklahoma. That’s right. The home of Carrie Underwood, winner of American Idol!!!

Lots of photos to come…


Steve says

Hey - glad you enjoyed Arkansas! You should head to the northwest part of the state - then you'll truly be blown away by the mountains and forests.

Good to hear Loki adjusted. I'm going to be doing the same thing here shortly, and was a little worried how Meenah would take it...

Enjoy LA!

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