Monday, August 4, 2008

Monahans, TX ..... to ..... Greenville, SC (and the longest blog post ever)

Trip to South Carolina: Day One 7/31/2008 4:21PM

It was 10:30am by the time we left Monahans. Mom had mystery shops scheduled in Sonora, Ozona, and Mccamey, TX, short stops to help pay for gas on the way to Bastrop. Bastrop would be our stopping-off point on the way to Greenville. A very out-of-the way stopping point, but one we chose because my dad was planning on meeting me - closer to his home in Rockport (south Texas, on the gulf). Unfortunately, after Mom had committed to doing multiple mystery shops for various companies and was thus obligated to go the out-of-the-way south route, Dad called and cancelled. Such is life.

We had to go through Midland on the way to Mccamey to pick up new cell phones from the FedEx office there. We were making great time - got to Midland in 45 minutes, and found the FedEx office without a problem. Mom ran in and picked up our new (pink!) cell phones. When she came out carrying the box, I saw her wince. And it wasn’t an arthritis-induced wince, either - it was the kind of wince that says: “Oh, Chico, you could’ve made it past Midland!” (Chico is the name of my car.)

It wasn’t anything too horrendous. A blowout - the tire was completely gone, but it could’ve been the engine or something worse. Because Mom doesn’t change tires, she went inside to ask to borrow a telephone to call her insurance company for the roadside service. The woman behind the desk said, “Why don’t you just change it? You have a spare, don’t you? We don’t mind if you use the parking lot.” After Mom had explained that the car was new (to us) and she didn’t know how to drop the spare - or anything else that changing a tire entails, for that matter - a kind FedEx employee with a mustache came out of the office to change it for us real quick.
Right. He got a dinky little jack from his car - it looked like about the right size to jack up a scooter, not our loaded-sown SUV - and tried (unsuccessfully) for several minutes to get it to work. After about fifteen minutes, one of the ladies from the office came out.

Lady: Do you want me to go get Jack’s jack?
Mustache: Jack isn’t here, is he?
Lady: No, Jack isn’t here, but his jack is.
Mustache: There must be something wrong with this jack ‘cause it ain’t working.
Lady: I’ll go get Jack’s jack. I’ll be right back.

In the meantime I’m holding Whiskers, my poor pooch, who is getting quite overheated by this time. No shade in the parking lot - just the noonday West Texas sun beating down on us. Mom is standing on the side watching the guy try to get the toy jack to work. Then the lady comes back from the warehouse part of the building, dragging a floor jack behind her. The sound reminded me of someone dragging a pallet jack full of phone books across the pavement - a sound that had grown very familiar to me.
By this time, Whiskers wasn’t just panting, he was gasping and radiating heat more profusely than a space heater in the dead of winter. Another lady came out and joined us. Mustache stuck the floor jack under the back of Chico and started pumping the handle like his life depended on it. Nothing happened. “Twist the handle,” Lady #2 told him. So he twisted it a little, and resumed the pumping. Nothing. “Twist the handle the other way,” he was told. So he twisted it the other way, started the tireless pumping again, and lo and behold, the jack - and then Chico - actually started to move. So he got it all jacked up - now we were all dripping sweat, and Lady #2 was saying she had to go to lunch. So, once again, it was just Mom, the dog and myself, standing on the sidelines watching Mustache eye Chico’s ample load and the very flat tire. Lady #1 was still watching - helpful, but slightly impatient. Mustache got down on the hot pavement, and muttered something indistinguishable under his breath.
Lady #1: You jacked it up on the spare, didn’t you?
Mustache: -mutters under breath-
Lady #1: Better move it to the side, under the axle, so we can actually drop the tire.
Okay. So Mustache sighs deeply, drops the jack, drags it around to the side of Chico - there’s that metallic grating sound again - and starts the endless pumping. Up, down. Up, down. Up, grunt, down. Okay. So he finally gets it sufficiently high off the ground, and climbs under the car again to drop the spare. We’ve been here about 35 minutes now. Lady #1 says, “Do you want me to hold that so it doesn’t fall on you when you unscrew that thing? ‘Cause when it drops, it’s going to DROP.” She had nothing to fear, though. There was nothing to unscrew. Baffled, Mom and Mustache and Lady #2 turn to the handy dandy vehicle owner’s manual, to the ever-helpful chapter, “Changing a tire.” “To drop the spare, remove the spare accessory bar, which is stowed under the rear seat, and proceed to…” Didja notice the emphasis on “under the rear seat?” Ha. Ha. So we caravan inside the small FedEx office - a huge relief especially for Whiskers, who was on the verge of getting sick from the extreme heat. Mustache may have needed a couple of women to tell him how to operate a floor jack, but he sure took good care of my pooch. After bringing Mom and I each a glass of ice water, and chairs to sit in, he called Whiskers behind the counter, where he gave him a big Milkbone. Whiskers ran happily back to the front of the store, all hint of heatsickness gone, and under one of the chairs to munch on his treat. Mustache then brought Whiskers his own glass of cool water, which he gulped up, and then a second Milkbone a few minutes later.
Mom got on the phone with Progressive to talk about some roadside assistance - we sure needed it - while Whiskers and I sat in the chairs. I whipped out my Groovy sock in progress - I always keep knitting stashed somewhere on my person - and Whiskers munched on his second bone. I listened in on Mom’s conversation. “Yes, I just activated the policy this morning, it’s a new vehicle and we’re starting out on a road trip. No, the vehicle was not disabled when I activated the roadside service. People actually do that?… yes… well, it’s sort of urgent, we’re parked in the middle of a business parking lot… we have brown hair. Yes. UmmmHmmmmm….Please tell the tow truck driver that we need the tool to lower the spare tire, because we don’t have ours. --silence-- Forty-five minutes to an hour. Okay.” Click.
So I sit there. Knit. Pick up Whiskers when a customer comes in to mail something. Knit. Get a drink of water. Knit. Give Whiskers another drink. Knit. Fifteen minutes later, the tow truck pulled up - ahead of schedule. He goes, looks at Chico, and says, “Do you have that long bar that you use to drop the spare tire?” Of course, he didn’t have one. So he loaded up Chico on the truck bed, and Whiskers, Mom and I climbed into the cab next to the driver - I can’t count how many times I’ve been in a similar situation over the past several years - and we rode. While the Mom and the driver discussed how crazy and inconsiderate people are on the road these days, the driver swerved in and out of traffic and narrowly missed a pickup on a close left-hand turn. “Yeah, people just don’t get that it’s not worth risking a life…” VFROOM! “To potentially save thirty seconds of their time. “They just don’t realize how dangerous it can be….” BEEEEEP!!! “To cut people off and act like they own the road…” Whiskers dug his toenails into my thighs, I tried to cling to my dpns without dropping any stitches or stabbing somebody in the very close quarters, and we finally got to the tire store. Mom bought not one, not two, but four new tires. We really did need them, especially for such a long trip - and we were on our way. After we stopped and got gas and lunch. It was now 2pm, a problem because some of Mom‘s shops had a deadline of 6pm, and we were on the road. I finally got to inspect my new (pink!) phone and explore its features. Whiskers wouldn‘t get in the cubbyhole I made for him in the back, so he rode with his toenails on the inside of my elbow all the way to Bastrop, 350 miles down the road. The scenery was gorgeous. I loved seeing the flat desert turn into desert plateaus and the mesquite trees turning into live oak, grass growing instead of bare sand, and brilliant blue skies speckled by fluffy white clouds. Vineyards and B&Bs and old German restaurants and gorgeous rolling hills, all characteristics of the area around Austin, TX, enthralled me after two years of nothing but desert landscapes. When we drove into Austin just after dark, the buildings and traffic and clover-leaf highways were a sight for sore eyes. I love the city. Looking at the skyline at night speaks hope and wonder and mystery and ambition to my wildest dreams. It reminds me of how great God is and how wondrous His plans for my life, not limited by anything on this earth.
So we’re in Bastrop for an undefined amount of time. There are two dogs at Mom’s friend’s house: a big border collie - a regular Lassie (who happens to be named Bobby) and a small, fat Chihuahua named Price. Whiskers won’t quit bugging Bobby and Price snarls every time Whiskers gets to close to him or otherwise encroaches on his “territory.” Whiskers gets shut out in the backyard when I’m not looking, and by the time I’ve retrieved him, he’s overheated and covered in stickers. So, as long as we’re here, I’ll pretty much just be watching Whiskers and the other dogs, and trying to knit a stitch or two in the meantime. And trying to find something to eat. I don’t know what these people eat, but I simply can’t subside for long on Heinz ketchup and Sprite. WITHOUT RAVELRY.
Price is laying on the back of the couch right now, staring at me. I can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking. I probably don’t want to know.
All in all, so far I’m having a blast, though it may not sound like it. I love being away from Monahans and out on the road, even if it entails feisty Mexican pooches and Ravelry withdrawal symptoms.

Trip to Greenville, Day Two.
August 1, 2008 12:38pm

I woke up early on our first day in Bastrop. R’s grandkids, twins who just celebrated their 2nd birthday, were up and getting ready for “school.” Whiskers was thankfully calmer than the night before, with Price sequestered in R’s son’s room. Bobby and Whiskers were getting along okay - I guess they came to some kind of resolution in the overnight hours. Now the attached kitchen was bustling and the noises of eager, hungry toddlers filled the house. Soon they were off to school and I was feeling very undressed in my PJ’s, so I headed off to the bathroom to brush my teeth and change. The day went on. I was given two pieces of wheat toast with a generous slathering of Jif. When 12:30 rolled around, Mom volunteered me to drive R’s mother to Wal-Mart to pick up a cake mix for the twins’ party and commissioned me to raid the store’s deli and bring home enough fried chicken and potato wedges to feed four normal people plus one teenage guy.
The day went on. Mom had a couple of shops to do in Bastrop that afternoon, after which she borrowed said teenage guy’s computer to enter her reports online. The guy (J) was remarkably magnanimous and even taught me (sort of) how to use his PS3 - he even refrained from laughing too loudly when I made a total idiot of myself and drove the car I was racing the wrong way down the Bayside Speedway. At least it was a cool car. It was after one in the morning when Mom finished her reports and my sad lesson in the art of video gaming came to an end. The air mattress once again came out, and a much subdued - almost TOO subdued - Whiskers paced around the living room until after I fell asleep. I worried a little that he had hurt his hip - he has arthritic haunches - or had another mini-seizure like he sometimes does.

Trip to Greenville, Days Four and Five
August 4, 2008

Day Three in Bastrop passed much like the day before it. The highlight was when Price came trotting in from the twins’ room wearing a pair of very soiled baby underwear, his head through one of the leg holes. “Those are the dirty underwear from a few weeks ago that I couldn’t find! I thought I threw them away accidentally!” Well, Price looked pretty happy with himself. But before we could snap a candid of a Chihuahua in boxers, one of the twins pulled them off. R took them carefully between her thumb and index finger and deposited them… somewhere.

On day four we left Bastrop at about 10:30. I drank in the scenery as we wound around the little roads of south Texas on our way to I-20. I had forgotten how picturesque it is down there - the word idyllic comes to mind. Live oak and evergreens, rolling hills, the occasional pasture with three cows and a pond. Like something off a postcard. I snapped a few shots through Chico’s window, but they all turned out pretty inferior. We stopped around 7pm in Pearl, Mississippi. I tried (unsuccessfully) for about an hour to get the wireless internet to work, then gave up and went to bed. I slept like a rock - the best I’ve slept in ages, it seems, or else I was more tired than I thought. Mom got up early, did a load of laundry and got us some breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s while I slept. Then we hit the road again, around 9:30. Once again, the drive was great, despite the increased traffic and all the billboards on I-20, and we arrived in Anderson, SC before dark. Anderson, about 30 miles southwest of Greenville, was our intended destination for now - the plan was to deliver phone books for a couple of weeks, just as I had done for several years of my life, as long as the job lasted - probably until about the 15th - to help pay for college, which starts the first of September.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Atlanta, my absolute favorite city ever, is only about an hours' drive from Greenville. YAY! I love Atlanta! When we drove into Anderson, I knew it was going to be harder than I had anticipated. Well, first of all, was the totally weird sense of déjà vu, like I had been there before. Mom said she had it to. EVERYTHING looked familiar, from the highway to the downtown to the individual houses lining the roads. Creepily familiar. But the problem was, the delivery didn’t look so hot. Spread-out houses around a lake community - an old lake community. No big apartment complexes or subdivisions. Just a cute little town, probably a great place to live but a very difficult place to deliver books and make any money. As Mom hadn’t ever met the manager who was running the job, I resolved to sit back and relax and wait to see what would happen. We found a hotel - not quite as comfy as the one the night before - ordered Chinese, watched Cold Case, and crashed.

Now, here I am, holed up in a hotel (thank goodness, the wireless internet FINALLY works!!!). The Anderson job was canceled, so all plans are way up in the air tomorrow... I'm trusting God that all those pieces will land in the correct places. Really bad pics of the trip up here will follow soon, whenever I dig the camera out of the mess in Chico.

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