stories from a road warrior

3,500 miles. 7 days. 10 tanks of gas. Five old friends and three new ones. Some highway. Some weather. Some music.

There, I’ve told you about the road trip.

Oh you wanted more? Well then.

Like I said, I left Annapolis with a half filled Jeep on January 28th.  I drove up to Philadelphia that first night. Not a long trip, only two hours, but an important one. There was someone I needed to say good bye to before this wild journey.

The next morning I headed up to Nazareth, PA. Again, a short two hour drive for the day. But stopping meant spending time with my best friend and her son, my god son, Liam.  Here he is being a super hero.

Despite jokes about my poor sense of direction, on the 31st I continued heading north up to Hamlin, NY to pick up my traveling buddy, Mindy.  We spent one day helping her pack and praying we could fit everything we needed into or onto Alice the Jeep.  After many games of Tetris we were amazingly able to fit everything inside the car.  A couple of folding chairs had to be abandoned, and I’ve never seen a car riding lower on her rear shocks, but we did it!

It started snowing that night and we hoped it wouldn’t delay our departure in the morning.  But luckily February 1st dawned and both the sky and the roads were blessedly clear.  Now the real hour devouring driving  could begin.  That first day we drove from Hamlin, NY to Lexington, KY- a 7.5 hour drive through New York and Ohio.

In Lexington we had plans to stay with a friendly couch surfer named Travis.  We all got along great, and spent laughter filled evening swapping travel stories, discussing the renaissance and the air force, and even meandering into a conversation on religion for a spell.  Travis and his pilot friend took us out to show us the town and a few of their favorite bars.  We were his first couch surfers, so I hope we left a lasting positive impression! I think we did.

Despite the fun we had with our new friends, Mindy and I knew it was travelling time. So after breakfast the next morning we hit the road again.  That day’s goal was Memphis, TN new home of my childhood friend and her fiancée.  Living  apart, we don’t get the chance to see each other very often, so whenever my path can feasibly cross hers, I make an effort to do so . And this time was no different. We arrived in the afternoon, timing it so she got home from class around the same time we arrived.  Big hugs all around, followed by some extremely important wedding dress shopping and an amazing Memphis BBQ dinner.  I’d show you all the dress she picked, if I didn’t think I’d really get killed for posting it this time! You’ll just have to wait and tune back in after the big day.

Let me tell you- there is nothing to make you simultaneously feel all grown up and precisely like a child than putting on wedding dresses and strutting around the shop to test for wear and maneuverability. I don’t know how many times we played out that exact scenario with the discarded bridesmaids dresses of our parents and some flowers we guiltily picked from the neighbors garden.  I mean there still wasn’t a groom around, dress shopping being strictly off limits.  We’ve come a long way from the days of fighting over Barbies every afternoon, and slumber parties every other night- despite the fact that we only lived two doors down from each other.  I’m glad we’ve made it this far together.  But enough of this practice toast writing.

We had plans to stay in Memphis for a few days, but sadly my friend’s hectic pre-med schedule wouldn’t allow it. So the next morning back into the car we went, without any more solid  evening plans.  All we knew was that we had another 1500 miles and 3 days to accomplish it.  We debated taking a leisurely drive along I-40, but opted for a petal to the metal race west instead.

That day we took turns driving and made it 16 miles before stopping at a motel for the night.  Along the way, somewhere in the middle of Texas, we crossed paths with a violent thunder storm.  Though we passed through the rain quickly enough, it had a long train of grumbling storm clouds behind it.  The lightning show was so stunning that we had to pull over to enjoy it.  Tucked under an overpass (just in case there was a tornado hiding in those clouds) we blasted some techno house music and rocked out with the clouds to the best light show I’ve ever seen.  Ever.  I tried to record some of it, which you can check out here, but the quality just doesn’t do justice to the epicness of our sights. And it can’t trap the electric scent in the air, or the charged energy we could just feel.   Eventually the storm had moved off one way and we continued our journey the other way.

The next morning found us in the home stretch.  We would be in Apache Junction by 7:00 pm that night.  Unfortunately the Renaissance Festival office was only open until 4:00 pm.  So a few extremely polite phone calls later and our names were put on a gate list, so that we could get on site that night and check-in in the morning.

Now perhaps this deserves some explaining.  All festivals are different. Like all big things, they have varying levels of security, bureaucracy, etc.  The Arizona Renaissance Festival is a large and sprawling site with a campground and trailer rows behind it.  All workers get ID cards from the office upon arrival, and there is a gate house to pass through each time entering the grounds.  Since we were arriving after the office closed, the gate guard had to be warned that we would be arriving and we were good peeps.

Some traveling Rennies camp, some stay in trailers, and some stay in little apartments above the booths.  Mindy would be camping. I would be staying above the booth.  For that first night, because we arrived after dark, we both planned on crashing in the booth.  So our awesome planning strategy of packing Mindy’s stuff in last so it would be first out…well in “The Art of War” didn’t Sun Tzu  warn that no plans ever last past the first engagement?

Anyway, we didn’t care. We had arrived. Poor Alice carried us across the country on smooshed shocks.  In the morning we would better check out the place and get settled in, but for the night we were content with unpacking the blankets and tucking in with some pitas and a movie.

The End.

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