Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: Getting out of Orlando
I started the day by checking my cell phone voice mail and was relieved that Sheri and Pepper had arrived safely in Las Vegas and were already as settled in the new house as they could be with no furniture.
Remember how Pepper had received half a pill of Kitty Valium for the flight? Apparently Pepper had spit out her relaxation pill, since Sheri found it when Pepper was let out of her bag. I guess she didn’t need it. Pepper behaved the entire way and only had a few audible complaints during the five-hour flight. Happy with the knowledge that the girls were safely in place and awaiting us, it was time to get driving.
I had driven before from Central Florida to points in the Northeast, such as Boston, MA and Buffalo, NY. Twelve-hundred miles isn’t too bad of a drive. We were looking at nearly twenty-five hundred from Dad’s house to Las Vegas. In order not to push too hard, Dad and I had planned on 48 hours of driving over four days, meaning 12 hours a day, give or take.
No sense brooding: we got going.
Dad and I decided that each person’s share of driving would be a tank of fuel, which would last around 300 miles. At an estimated average of 60 MPH, that would be five hours per tank. I took the first tank, which would nearly get us out of Florida. It took about 100 miles to get used to the truck and its size. It also took about that long to get the nervousness of the fact that all of my worldly possessions were behind me and one wrong move could end in expensive, painful disaster.
Even with insurance, you never shake that precarious feeling. It’s best to not think about what you’re up to and just get on with doing it. I simply pretended that we had a load of artificial gopher pelts and that was that.
With Dad at the wheel and Florida behind us we made easy time through Alabama and Mississippi. I took the wheel again mid-afternoon and that’s when the rain appeared. I’m not sure if it began in Mississippi or Louisiana, but it started raining. And it wasn’t the nice, gentle rain they use in commercials, but the angry end-of-the-world rain that Noah could probably write about. Having lived in the South for a good sixteen years, the virulence of this rain didn’t surprise me much, and I knew it wouldn’t last too long. At least that was the hope.
The first hundred miles were exciting and long past us. Dad and I were both used to the truck and had more or less settled in for the diesel droning on for another 2,000 miles of driving. Comfort is a dangerous thing, because you get lulled into a false sense of security, as they say. Plus, comfort and security can so easily be taken from you. And sure enough, the rain brought a whole new dimension to the driving, removing any sense of either comfort of security that I had been lulled into. Humans are adaptable, though, and it didn’t take too long to get adjusted to driving in the rain.
And even that got ruined when an asshole in a black Volvo sedan came out of nowhere way too fast and then cut me off, slamming on his brakes. He had to show me that I was in the wrong lane (his lane) or something.
Here I was comfortably into the artificial gopher pelt fantasy and this jerk ruined it. There’s nothing like being in the cab of a large truck and having a car cut you off and slam on his brakes.
In the pouring frickin’ rain.
I did have thoughts of hitting him for half a second, since I knew we were insured to the hilt, but a little filter in my head took over and I thought better of it, mainly because I didn’t want any delays at this point. I didn’t even get the satisfaction of turning my brights on since they were already on thanks to the vacationing non-bright headlights.
I guess the best I could do was send out some really bad Karma to Mr. Black Volvo Driver. I’m sure he got his. Maybe the next Penske truck he cut of in the rain didn’t have such good brakes.
As the hours passed, one of the duties of the guy in the navigator’s seat was to keep track of where we were, but also to estimate where we might end up for the night and find a coupon for appropriate lodging in one of the coupon books we had picked up at the welcome center. For our first night on the road, we had decided to stay in Lafayette, LA.
Our timing was good. We were traveling a few days before Hurricane Katrina was a threat to Florida, much less the Gulf Coast area.
The coupon book had an ad for a Ramada in Lafayette at a mere $48.99 a night. And they had Continental Breakfast and a pool! Those were among the amenities we wanted in addition to being well within budget. We got off at the proper exit and started following the directions to the Ramada. And this is where we goofed.
We should have read the full list of directions first. They were a lot like the kind you hear about in jokes, where they tell you to drive past the barn that used to be painted yellow and take the third left past where the school that burned down used to be. Nothing was in the present tense. Nothing was even remotely correct. Helen Keller could have written better directions. Drunk.
As the futile search for the Ramada progressed, we also noticed that the neighborhood was slowly getting “not so nice”. And there was the fact that the truck was getting a bit thirsty.
Since the truck was thirsty, we decided that finding a place to fuel up took precedence over finding a place to sleep. After all, 25,000 pounds of truck, possessions, car and trailer ain’t gonna get pushed. At least by me.
During our search for fuel, we passed a car vs. motorcycle accident. The emergency personnel were already on-scene and we didn’t see it happen, so there wasn’t much we could do but carefully drive by, gawk, and hope it wasn’t a harbinger of things to come for the trip. A few blocks later, and a few more rungs down the socio-economic ladder, we found a gas station that sold diesel and pulled in.
Ahh, near-civilization. They had plenty of fuel and beef jerky.
Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Search for Rest