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An Incredible Journey to the South - A Home away from Home

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Traveling and Traversing

For most of the driving, I was rather calm externally, but worry and euphoria alike were vehemently colliding inside me as I routinely gazed out the passenger window—as I do during a car ride of any length and duration. As promised to Aaron, I took pictures of anything remotely scenic as we began to pass through the smoggy city of Detroit, where roads and bridges and highways were tortuously interwoven almost. This was our GPS’s first major trial, as we’d have certainly gotten lost in the Motor City if it weren’t for whom my came to name, “Lola.”
After about a good hour of cruising through highways and expressways, Ohio welcomed us; the transition was quite smooth… literally; the coarse and bumpy roads instantly became flatter and more refined. Having gone through Ohio a few times before to vacation at Cedar Point in Sandusky, I knew there was only one thing the people of Ohio must have considered to be an attraction and scenery to travelers: corn, acres of corn. There was little to document or take pictures of to share with Aaron as it was a good two to three hours until we were approaching Cincinnati, meaning we’d hit the bottom of Ohio, and were ready to cross over into Kentucky; this time things became rocky almost instantly, as stone walls and mountains suddenly circumscribed us. A third of our trip was about over.
Waffle House was a restaurant that was not commonplace—perhaps nonexistent—in Michigan, and as Molly and Jake and I had planned, we said we’d eat there, once I had arrived; with every exit sign I had seen that showed what restaurants were off those exits, there must have been a Waffle House on each of those signs we passed as we wound through Kentucky.
I’d tried to snap some shots of the stalactites that had formed off the edges of the rock walls, but texting other friends as I kept them up to date on my trip had swiftly drained my battery to critical status where the camera function was disabled. I grimaced a bit to myself as I was unable to update him with photos any longer; Andrew didn’t directly ask for pictures as we were driving, but I still stayed in touch with him, trying to discuss what we’d do first once I’d gotten there. While that didn’t get very far, it would have been for naught anyway, as a few things did not go quite according to plan.
My phone died and I was left with little to do other than to muse among myself. Of course, we had to make stops for gas and let the dog out for an amiable stroll and bathroom break; each time we’d stopped (for food, too), it felt there was too little going on, and my conscience was the most vulnerable to stealthy and insidious attacks.
The whole time, my mom procrastinated reserving the room we had our eyes on at the hotel in Huntsville—I’d brought my laptop with me, but neither of us thought about utilizing the free wifi at places like McDonald’s to make our reservation while we were out. And after nearly three more hours, we meandered our way into Tennessee.
Things were becoming rocky now in a metaphorical sense, as fatigue began affecting my mom and her mood; she’d already told me I wasn’t allowed to fall asleep at all on the way there, but her ways became somewhat arbitrary as she began to take her lack of sleep out on me. Both of us were growing tired of the mild monotonous driving handed to us. Just when it paradoxically seemed all was well and at the same time cacophonous, we’d realized there was one thing about our trip we hadn’t experienced yet that we were about to: traffic jams; ahead of us we saw a foreboding trail of brake lights as we both looked to each other which mutually said, “We’re not going to get there by the time they’re out of school.”
We crept along the expressway as the lights were alternating between off and on. Our slow-motion progress had gotten the dog restless—the squeaky whining of his that we’d always loathed ensued, only piling on to our woeful travel.
Forty-five minutes of slinking at six miles per hour instead of sixty miles per hour, and we were finally free; turned out that it was everybody’s inability to merge into another lane at the proper time caused traffic to essentially come to a hellish halt. At this point, we were only half way through Tennessee, too. Everyone was getting out of school at this point … and there was another two hours to go, according to our GPS. Again, another thing was soon not going to go as planned: neither of us had factored in the part where we had to venture into the Central time zone; but it turns out that “Lola” had.
It was starting to get dark [again], as we crossed over into the Central time zone at last. We thought we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel as we also thought we were nearing the bottom of Tennessee. But sadly our relief turned to dismay—when the clock in the car auto-adjusted the time, and it was getting close to our projected time of arrival, we hadn’t seen Alabama welcome us yet. I tried to placate my mom’s spiked rage when we finally realized that Lola factored in the time zone shift, whereas we did not, but to no avail, it was counterproductive, in fact.
It must have been almost six P.M. by now, and my phone had no way of charging in the car; everyone must have been wondering where I was and what happened; I imagined all the missed calls and texts I must have gotten and would receive, knowing there was at least a good hour ahead of us, now.
My mom’s lethargy was certainly getting to her – I say certainly because she was both verbally and nonverbally reminding me whenever the opportunity arose. It was just past 6:30 until we finally crossed over into Alabama—our trip was nearly over, already having taken two hours longer than anticipated. The miles we had to go until our next set of instructions never seemed to end, the same with the number of steps left until we reached our destination.
Alabama was not what I had expected, most of what we were able to see, due to the lack of lights, was back country and vacant, worn-looking land, adorned with raggedy, ran-down shops and gas stations whose names we’d never heard of. Finally, we saw a sign that read Huntsville, Alabama, yet that did not deter the impatience that was encumbering my mom. Now, surely I had grown quite impatient, too, but I was more concerned with the fact that the last time I’d talked to everyone, I said I was going to be there by five at the latest – it was nearly seven; we still hadn’t reserved our room, either.
The flag marking our endpoint was finally visible on the GPS screen. I clamored in jubilance, while my mom sighed deeply in relief. We kept a sharp eye out for the hotel, and at long last we found the towering sign that read, “Microtel.”
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