Day 1 was here, in case you missed it.
Well, we had a good night at the new Holiday Inn Express. And now, it was a brand-new shiny day, and we were on our way to our second night destination. Again, about 500 miles lay between us and the end of the day, so we started fairly early. Because we had stayed on the opposite side of the city, there was no rush hour traffic going our way, and we sailed along the roads in the golden morning light.
This day looked to be the most stressful of the three, simply because we were going to have to go "off the grid" and hit the blue highways (or, in our atlas, the red roads) instead of taking the Interstate highways. We started and finished the day on the Interstate road system, but in between, we were slated to go diagonally across two states using these local highways. Fortunately, I was somewhat familiar with the second state, as we had lived there when I was in college, and I had actually traveled some of the roads, although it had been more than twenty years since I was there last.
I was not prepared for the emotional impact of returning to that state; the last time I had been there, my dad was still alive, and my husband, and my child were both but a dream in the far-off future. My mind kept reeling back through time, dredging up memories that I thought were long gone. Twinks was amazed as I easily slipped right back into the soft southern accent that I had carried when we lived there; I was amused by her reaction to it. I have the rather unfortunate ability (and rather marked tendency toward) adopting the local accent of wherever I happen to be standing at the moment. It comes naturally and all to easily to me. Despite the old stereotype of the slow-drawling southerner, people in this part of Dixieland talk fast, and it can be difficult to understand them until you find the cadence in their words. Twinks was speechless as I ordered lunch; she later confessed that she had only understood "about every third word" of the girl behind the counter.
We continued our journey diagonally across the state, working through big cities, and littler towns. We drove past giant bowling pins, huge peanuts made of Fiberglas, and one rather memorable giant doughnut, with painted on chocolate frosting. The kudzu smothers everything in its relentless path; we watched as the landscape rolled by, and changed from foothills of the Appalachians in the northwest, to the sandy soil thick with scrubby pines down by the Gulf.
We passed (yet another) hideous wreck; Twinks carefully averted her eyes. I gripped the steering wheel harder, and thanked God for keeping us safe.
Finally, we were pulling in to the town where we were slated to spend our second night. Tomorrow morning, we would get up, and drive on to my Mom's new place, but tonight we were still about 500 miles away.
The outside and lobby of this hotel *looked* great. Clean, shining, and no apparent problems, until we actually opened the door to the hotel room. The furnishings were old, and clearly had not been updated since some time in the mid-to-late 80's. The dark wood paneling on the walls was probably once lustrous and fashionable, but now it was shabby, and flecked with white, powdery mildew. The bathroom ceiling was sagging, and the entire room reeked strongly of mold and mildew.
No way we were staying there. I was tired, to be sure, but this was not going to work. I called the front desk, told the desk clerk that we would be checking out, and then called the hotel next door, to see if they had any rooms.
I called another hotel, further down the street - bingo! We have a room, on the first floor, for the same rate we were going to pay for this dump. We go back around to the lobby to turn in our keys and check out. The desk clerk apologizes for the condition of the room, and confesses that if we look "out back" we will see that they are currently building a whole new hotel building that will replace the stinking, moldy old heap they are currently renting out. Great. That does us no good tonight, so we move down the street to the replacement hotel.
This is a "Country Inn & Suites", another fairly newly-built property. The girl behind the desk is friendly, and her little girl seems to have the run of the place. We have never stayed at this brand before, and Twinks is delighted to learn about their lending library. I am delighted to learn there is a Pizza Hut across the street. My mind begins to form mental images of a crispy, green salad, followed by a soft, comfy bed.
We eat at Pizza Hut, and Twinks plans to adjourn to the hotel's pool are thwarted by a huge thunderstorm brewing off to the west. She manages to get in a bit of pool time, but I keep a nervous eye on the spectacular thunderheads that are building. At the first rumble of thunder, I call her out of the pool, and we head back inside.
Once back in our room, Twinks starts the shower, so that she can wash off the chlorine from the pool. Just moments after climbing into the shower, she slips and falls. I run to the bathroom, and help her back up. Now she is scared she is going to fall again, but she needs to finish washing off the soap and shampoo. The bottom of the tub is indeed frighteningly slippery; it seems that the housekeeping staff has not rinsed all of the cleaning chemicals from the bathtub; the soap suds has combined with the residue to create a super-slippery surface. I grab a towel, and throw it into the bottom of the tub for her to stand on, hoping that it will "stick" enough to the slippery surface that she can complete bathing in relative safety. I hold on to her, soaking myself and the floor in the process.
Finally, she is done and safely outside the tub. Aside from her pride, a new fear of hotel bathtubs, and a rapidly-forming bruise or two, she seems to be fine. I mop up the bathroom, change into dry jammies, send The Wrench a love note via the laptop, and call it a day.
Day 3 dawns hot, humid, and bright. I shower *carefully* in the slippery tub from Hell. Twinks is aching and bruised, but chomping at the bit to get going to see Grandma. The breakfast room is bustling with activity. I grab a copy of USA Today in a feeble attempt to keep up with the news. I am a news junkie by nature; when we travel I always feel a bit disconnected from what is going on in the world. Fresh fruit, cold milk and cereal; we zip through a quick, but healthy meal while some inordinately cheerful anchor person talks about the weather on the local morning news show.
Today we will be at Grandma's house at the end of the day, and we are both eager to get going. Had we known how this day would go, we might have been a bit *less* eager to check out, and start driving...
Day 3 is next...