How This Leg Is Different

Man, I did not mean to make such a bad joke. I was thinking about this first leg of driving to get to the Airstream factory in Ohio, but seeing as how my actual leg has a tendon in it now that it didn’t start out with, that’s different, too. Some people (aka Tracy) are grossed out by the details of my new zombie ACL, though, so I’ll stick with describing this leg of our trip.

I’ve mentioned how much in a hurry we are, but it’s worth repeating because it changes all our travel habits. Our rule of thumb is no more than four hours/day, but that’s far from the goal for these five days from the southern tip of Texas up through Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana to Ohio. (From now on in my posts, I’ll include a map for Cara.)

The Drive

Because this is all about need, we’re driving the interstates, which Tracy hates as much as I hate our hitch. It’s not just boring, but challenging with the trailer.

Last night, in Little Rock, all the north-bound lanes were constricted into two narrow lanes side by side, with concrete barriers to one side of us and tractor trailers passing us on the other, steel plates surprising us under the tires. The bikes bounced on the rack in front of the truck and construction lights blared down at us. My god we were glad to get through that.

The Nights

Our nights are in fast-forward mode, too. Our first night was actually in a campground, our standby for Houston doctors visits, named Cagle. We pulled in right as the sun was setting over the reservoir, and Tracy was racing the sunlight to dump the load of melted ice cubes he’d filled the black tank with along the way.

See, our waste tank indicator has been wonky for the past year. We’ve tried various biotic concoctions to clean the tank so the measuring mechanism can get a better read, but nothing has worked—until this ice cube idea. You throw them in right before driving down a windy road, and they crash against the tank sides and dislodge whatever’s been stuck there for ages (don’t think hard on this).

In any case, at Cagle we’re racing against time to set up the trailer so Tracy can dump the tank (our only sewer connection for the next week) and so I can apply Ice, Compression, and Elevation to my knee that’s swollen from the day on the road. And that’s when the kindly camp host drives up in his golf cart (of course) to see what we might need. Firewood? Fishing license? Conversation? Dude, we need you to leave us alone so we can get our shit done.

Other nights we spend wherever we can find that’s easy and free. The parking lots of casinos and, unfortunately, that chain restaurant called Cracker Barrel. We’ve tried twice now to do the right thing by spending money at Cracker Barrel when we park there for the night, but I swear you couldn’t gather up so much bland, pale food in one place if that were your goal. Seriously, bread, potatoes, biscuits, gravy, chicken: it’s all white and served with margarine. And that’s advertised! The attraction is that the locations are often right off the interstate, which is handy, but far from quiet. So, we end up paying for heartburn and a lost night of sleep. It’s hard to plan travel like this.

Oh yeah! The stop in Houston and the stay at Cagle was all to see the orthopedic surgeon. For five minutes. Again, dude. If you knew how much trouble we’d gone to for those five minutes, you would have given me some kind of handwritten knee manual bound in gold. I did get a nod and compliment that I “heal quickly” and an admonishment to continue to protect the new zombie tendon. Plus, a less monstrous brace than the one I came out of surgery with, which is all good news.

The Entertainment

During the drive, Tracy’s been pushing through the miles and Banjo’s been sleeping in the truck behind me, standing up to look around every now and then. I’ve been doing modified leg exercises in my seat and getting a fresh ice compress every time we stop (unrelated to the black tank), since having my foot down on the floorboard all day ain’t so great for swelling.

You know Tracy and my music game for travel days, right? We work through the alphabet, one letter per day, and for that letter one artist (or band). We’ve gone through the alphabet so many times now that we’ve started bending rules so that solo artists and their bands are acceptable on the same drive, and we’re combining smaller artists for weird letters.

It’s gotten to be a bit of work to come up with music that fits each drive, so for this trip we’ve resorted to a book on tape, which is some derivative fantasy stuff that we’ll punctuate with Mystery Science Theater-type comments.

”My favorite word so far is ‘habiliment’.”

“Why don’t they just throw the ring into Mount Doom already?”

(We are not listening to Lord of the Rings, sadly.)

As we drive and drive and drive north, seeing for the first time this year forests of barren hardwood trunks and branches, fields of brown, dead-looking grasses, I think back to our final evening in Brownsville when we returned the bewitching golf cart and gave away our lawn chairs, all in the warm sunshine. So far, we’ve encountered no snow, no sleet, no ice, for which we are both grateful.