She came bounding out the door marked “Employees Only,” singing a country music song to everyone and to no one in particular. She was wearing her Wal-Mart vest and, obviously in jovial spirits, decided to share her enthusiasm with everyone in her path. The only problem? My Dad was in her path. She walked right toward him and for a moment looked as if she might snare him in a two-step. Undaunted, Dad regarded her over his reading glasses and asked, “When did you get out?” The question was greeted with laughter as she continued waltzing and singing toward her cash register at the front of the store. Just another day on the road for the Carter boys.
Midway through our 4th week on the road together, we've been through every time zone in the country, traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles, through Ohio, down to North Carolina, back up through West Virginia and into Ohio again. By the time our journey ends, I calculate that we will have driven over 8,000 miles. That the stories from this adventure will be told for years to come is a given. That some of them will passeth all understanding is guaranteed. Herewith, a few random observations and experiences:
- Leaving Los Angeles, Dad began counting businesses that were either for sale or simply abandoned. By the time we reached Charleston, West Virginia, he had counted over 1,000. It was singularly depressing.
- The profession most advertised on billboards? Lawyers. Also depressing.
- The strangest juxtaposition observed: A Chinese restaurant in West Virginia which featured a gorgeous oriental mosaic upon which was mounted a stuffed buck and an advertisement for a local taxidermy service.
- If the restrooms in a major hardware store need attention, it's possible to get the necessary materials from the cleaning supply aisle and tidy the place up yourself. Just leave the supplies in the maintenance closet when you're done, and thanks for shopping.
- Judging from this water tower and the abandoned factory, it looks like Lucky Strikes came from Louisville, KY.
- Looking across the border from El Paso into Juarez is like looking at a war zone.
- One good freeze puts the city of El Paso's water system out of commission.
- The only thing worse than truck stop restrooms are truck stop port-o-potties.
- When two people who dream vividly sleep in the same truck, it is bound to get interesting. Dad dreamed that he was being stalked by a sniper. Seeing the red dot from the laser on his chest, he called to me for help. But what could I do? I was busy being chased down by Julie Andrews and Lee Marvin in a church someplace for making a racket with saw blades that I had fashioned into musical instruments. In his sleep Dad called out to me, which totally blew my cover from Miss Andrews and Mr. Marvin, so I woke up too. After a bottle of water and some time spent trading stories, we went back to sleep where Dad swears we both were in an Army tank under assault from the Russians. And you thought trucking was boring.
- People really have no idea the jeopardy they put themselves and their families in when they cut off an 80,000 pound vehicle at highway speed.
- When someone helps you prime the pump top of a coffee container, they may not quite understand the humor if you express your gratitude by offering them a sip from your cup as payment.
- The American Southwest has an almost prehistoric beauty that is impossible to adequately capture in a photograph, but we still try.
- If you see a waitress rifling through all her pockets trying to find an ink pen, it may be socially indelicate to respond by saying, “Itches, doesn't it.”
- The Denver Broncos' stadium looks like a Styrofoam bowl whose edges melted in the microwave.
- Some people find an unshaven appearance and a Cajun accent unsettling.
- The number of laughs and adventures that can be compressed into a four-week period is staggering. It seems impossible that we have traveled so far and seen so much in such a short time, and haven't been arrested. But we're not home yet...