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14 August 2008, 01:00

Oh my lord. I think it’s over. This giant journey that I’ve been on is… probably… over. So, right now, I’m sitting in North Carolina, in my new house with dogs, waiting on a pizza. This is probably the most COUNTRY I have ever been in. I have discovered I am more of a city girl than I have expected. It’s nice place I’m in though, but I’m getting a little homesick. Having well water scares the hell out of me, and I can’t get broadband, although I’m paying BROADBAND prices for DSL speed which sucks unbelieveably. I was frustrated and wanting to move back, but I’m getting around where I need to and being a little more confident – so the urge to go “home” is lessening.

I picked up and left Saturday afternoon after packing and cleaning, and chucking all the carefully made travel plans I had. About 3 p.m., I had decided to head on out and of course, this is the time when Buddy the dog decided to escape and head into the neighborhood. I had the car packed up, the dogs crammed in there, and was going to go up ONE block and then leave the lost dog because if I was going to hit the road, I needed to do it NOW. Luckily, I found him, got him into the car, and on the nice cool rainy day, me and the zoo headed east.

One thing I learned very quickly is that my dogs have personal space issues. No one wanted to touch anyone else, and with each violation of someone’s personal canine bubble, growling and snarling ensued. The panting of stressed out dogs just fogged up the windows, and the cool, overcast day turned into heavy summer rain. A summer rain that lasted all the way to Paducah, Kentucky.

So, I have a car FULL of crap, and really smelly dogs with issues, tooling along the highway about 70 mph, and every two hours or so, we have to stop so that mommy can stand in the rain, being soaked to the skin in her shorty shorts and bare feet, waiting for doggies to make. I looked like I’d been swimming the English Channel, and I think I had diaper rash from wearing wet undies for 700 miles. And the rain turned my soft red curls that once fell gently upon my shoulders into a giant frizzy Bozo-the-clown afro.

I kept driving, thinking at nightfall I would get a hotel room. But then, for some ungodly reason, I kept going. Okay. I’ll quit when I get to Springfield. When I got to Springfield, I decided to drive to Popular Springs. When I got to Popular Springs, I decided to… well, you know, it went on like this for a while. It was a nice cool night, and no one else was on the road. Kansas and Missouri highways are the best to travel on – they are marked sensibly, and are straight and nice and forgiving to even the worst of drivers. Dogs would sleep for a while and then whine for a while. So, I’m standing at various rest stops, just me, three dogs and a plethora of truckers. It’s raining lightly everywhere, so I’m growing mold in my armpits and I smell like a frog. The dogs, on the other hand, smell like wet, icky dogs.


Around Van Buren, Missouri, I am down to about two gallons of gas and its around 3 in the morning. I figure that I can drop by a convenience store and fill up. If you know anything about Missouri, and I don’t know why anyone would want to learn anything else beyond how to spell it, you would know that Van Buren way is smack dab in the middle of heavily forested Ozark country. Evidence of civilization is sparse. And the bits I found are filled with drunken hillbillies. There will be NO asking directions in Van Buren, I’ve learned. And Jesus Horatio Christ, there is NOTHING open in a big hunk of Missouri on a Saturday night at 3 a.m. I finally found a city big enough to support a Kwik Shop.

I kept driving. I don’t know why. It was cool and I thought it was a good idea. So sue me. Around 5 in the morning, I think I got to Paducah. And I’m pushing through. Nashville was my goal now, and as the sun came up, I reached Nashville, and decided that I would try to get right outside of Knoxville before sacking out at a motel, because at about that time, it would get warm and hot wet dog smell would just make me want to drive into a ravine.

Lebanon, Tennessee is where I ended up around 7 in the morning. I stopped to get gas. This is where Tennessee told me to go fuck myself. This is where I lost whatever marbles I had left. I had pulled over, and shut my driver’s side door. It wouldn’t shut. In a big way, it wouldn’t shut. Some metal latch thing wasn’t twisted around to trap this metal bar. I can’t get the door shut, it’s Sunday, there is NO service station open, I have only eighty bucks left and its getting hot. My deposit wouldn’t clear till 9 on Monday morning, so there wasn’t anymore money. I am stranded in Lebanon. I am stranded and can only find ONE hotel that is pet friendly and have rooms left. The convenience store lady said that there are mechanics to help, but would only be at the service stations Monday morning.

I pretty much look like a homeless, hooker with a Bozo-orange afro, and covered in dog hair when I walked into the Comfort Inn. I asked about the room. It was 93 bucks and wouldn’t be ready for an hour. I pretty much had the look of surrender on my face, and mumbled a little bit about me driving for the last 16 hours and having everything I own in the car trying to move. I told him I’d take the room. I went to dig through the car for 13 bucks while he typed up all my registration information. Dogs sat in the car, barking at guests and giving each other dirty looks as I dragged my ass back into the lobby. The Comfort Inn guy said that, it looked like he had a room ready now, and took 30 dollars off my bill. I smiled and thanked him profusely, and he said back “I wanted to take care of you.” AWWWW. Okay, Tennessee sucks ass except for one Comfort Inn guy in Lebanon. So me and the dogs went and sacked out in the hotel room, and I turned up the air conditioning for my fat, shedding mutts. The dogs would do a game of musical beds, where one would be on my bed, the other would decide to curl up on the other, and then they would switch off. Dogs are weird.

But oddly, even though I had totally blew a circuit in my head and was panicking about my broken car, the dogs being with me did my heart and my soul so much good. I let the dogs relax and nap, and I took a pair of tweezers and a butter knife down to the car to see if I couldn’t fix the door myself. I wasn’t optimistic, but a little air conditioning makes one hopeful – dangerously hopeful. I look at the latch and fiddled with it. I stuck the knife in and pulled and tugged on the big, metal horseshoe thing, and lo and behold. I fixed the goddamned door. That’s when the last of my good sense and two remaining marbles banging in my head disappeared. Happy and now, pretty much, catatonic, I went to bed.

It’s the last leg. The last little bit of my death march to the deep south. At this point, the voices in my head are arguing with each other about just how crazy I was to be driving to Banjo Land. So it’s REALLY hot. But I want to get out of Tennessee. Nothing EVER good has happened to me in Tennessee… except for lunch (I’ve said it before, but it bares repeating.)

It’s hot, I’ve got the windows open, and driving to Asheville. Miracles of miracles, the dogs just sleep almost the whole four hours of the trip. Except for an incident of Buddy running off into the Tennessee hills at a rest stop, it was a good trip. Well. The tail end where I was trying to find where I live was a sojourn into hell, but I finally got there.

The landlords are REALLY sweet, and gave me food and clothing they were sorting through as they were packing. They aren’t done moving out yet, so I’m being a wonderful renter and living with their stuff here. They are so sweet to me and want to be accommodating in every way. I have hillbillies to the right of me, hee haw to the left of me and millionaire Clampetts on the hilltop above me. The house is nice, if not reminiscence of maybe a kit-house. They’ve done a bunch of the improvements themselves. It’s a nice little work-in-progress, where it needs a fence, a shed, new ac/heat, a new granite counter – a ton of little amenities these people want to do. shrug BUT THANK GOD I HAVE A WASHER AND DRYER AGAIN. I have three bedrooms and two baths. Most of this house I won’t use – but it’s still very nice and I think fits me well for this time in my life.

I’ve gotten to know Forest City and can find my way around. I’ve met a BUNCH of nice people. It still feels like I’m in the middle of Hee Haw, but I’m dealing with it, because everybody understands my irrational fear and suspicion of southerners, and don’t rag on me about it. I had one nice girl tell me about North Carolina, which car dealers and vets were good, what restaurants were cool, and to stay away from Sunshine/Golden Valley because that is lynching country. OH GOOD GOD.

There have been ups and downs in the last week, but I have a lovely little home with a good deal of land around it, friendly Hee Haw extras that live around me, and as I get to know my way around, my confidence grows, and I get more comfortable. I’m dealing with a little homesickness and I’m not sure about well water, and the massive amounts of bugs, but we’ll see.

There’s a ton of stuff I’m wary on, but I’m starting feel a bit more at ease.

And one more thing. I had some sweet tea. My first bit of sweet tea. OMFG, is that stuff good or what?