I hate driving! I was that annoying kid that got thirty minutes out of town and said how much further till we get there? “18 hours, Erin.” Five minutes later. “Are we closer?” I remember driving to Dayton with my mom to pick up tennis rackets at some factory and Dayton was 45 minutes to an hour from Cincy and to me it seemed like we were traveling as far as Alaska.
When I was a kid. My Mom, Dad and I drove to Palm Beach, Florida. A friend of theirs made me a bag of things to do in the car on the way down there. There were a list of games, so to speak and once I hit the mark, I would get to open a present. So, I had to count 10 yellow Volkswagen beetle cars. Open a package. 18- 18-wheelers, open a package. I think by the time I hit Tennessee I had opened most of the packages and they all consisted of candy and I had the worst bellyache.
I do drive. I have driven far and long. I have driven with folks and by myself. I still hate it. But I do it.
So, my mom drove from Florida up to Cincy via Savannah, so I decided to drive back to Florida with her and fly back to Cincy.
It was the roadtrip from hell!
We started at Sidewinders for Mexican Lattes. We went to get on the highway to head South. One small problem. That particular exit was closed. It was gone. It was torn apart. Non-existent. I had to either back track or back road it for an alternate entrance. Finally, we are on 75S. My mom immediately started looking for a Starbucks. She is a little bit (a lot) addicted to coffee.
I jokingly said to my mom. We can make up games for the road. I said, “We can look at license plates and see if there is a song that connects to that state?” I began the game. Ohio, I broke into Neil Young’s OH-HI-O. I saw Illinois and started singing Chicago, Chicago, that toddlin’ town. What the heck is toddlin’? I know, I know, I went to Harvard. But what does that mean? I saw Kentucky and started singing MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME. I saw Mississippi and my mom sang the song that teaches kids to spell Mississippi. It was going to be a long drive. I was already half asleep and slap happy.
I decided to break out the cold bag I packed for the trip in hopes that would satisfy my hunger so I didn’t have to eat fast food.
The drive was going relatively well. Smoothly. I pulled out my beloved Concord grapes. I pulled out hunks of Gouda and Colby cheese. I ate those wonderful, sweet and delicious baby yellow tomatoes. I even cracked open my mom’s container of pretzels stuffed with peanut butter or as we like to call it, peany boo!
It was not satisfying our hunger. I was going to have to breakdown and eat in a chain and a fast food restaurant my TWO least favorites at once. Agony!
My mom let me pick a fast food restaurant that I could tolerate so I turned to an old childhood favorite. Kentucky Fried Chicken.
We went inside and we simply wanted two chicken breasts and nothing else. It sounds so simple and yet it was so complex. The nice gal said, “You get two sides and a biscuit with that!” I told her I just wanted the fried chicken. “But you get a biscuit and two sides? It is a great deal.” I said, “Okay, great. Thanks so much! Can I get it without the extras?” “No, you can get a cup of chicken tenders or wings with potato wedges?” I repeated myself. “I just want the chicken.” She replied, “Then get the one with the two sides.” At this point, my mom is thinking of lunging across the counter and grabbing her collar and saying, “WE JUST WANT THE DAMN CHICKEN!” I said, “Can we get the tenders alone.” “Yes,” she said. “Can we get it extra crispy?” “No,” she said. “Can we order chicken a la carte,” I asked. “Ala what? We aren’t muslims here ma’am, we are Southerners! Even though I am so happy the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last night.” “Ok,” I said, forgetting I was wearing my 2004 Red Sox World Series shirt. “We want whatever we can get without sides.” “You can get the tenders.” “Great!” I said. My mom interjects, “Will two be enough for us?” The lady looks at my mom and says, “Not unless you are the size of a Red Robin bird. Ya’ll are gonna want more!” We ordered six. My mom thought it was way too much, but of course her dog was going to get a piece. “Do you want sauces with it?” “No,” I said. “Yes,” said my mom. “What do you want?” “Surprise me, “ said my mom. I glared at her. I asked the options. “BBQ or Honey Mustard?” “She will want Honey Mustard.” We left. That took a lot of time for something called fast food! Nothing like a game of who is on first to move the trip along!
And let me tell ya, that chicken was nowhere as good as I remember! I doubt I will go back! My mom kept saying to me, “Give me more sauce. It is too dry!”
We finished as much of that as we were going to finish and then I dug out the raspberries. Yum.
Before we knew it, we were in Atlanta.
We went to visit my dear, dear, old friend Temple. She has such a thick and wonderful Southern accent and I used to notice it, but really don’t anymore. We walked down the street with her to see her husband at a street Halloween party and see her children. Then walked back to her home. Temple had pulled out a crate for my four-legged sister, Dulce. We plopped her in there. And Temple thought after a long drive we may like to go to the local restaurant nearby called CANOE, and walk. We were thrilled. Every time, I had been in Atlanta in the last few years, that cute little eatery had been under water. We walked to the restaurant. We could hear Dulce whimpering and whining as we walked away from the house. Heart wrenching. We asked if we needed to change clothes. She said no. I wished I had! Not that anybody was there on Halloween.
The place was lovely and despite the good menu my mom and I were both intrigued by the duck n beef burger. It was served with truffled fries. Remember the truffle fries, for later in the story, because I think, they became my downfall.
The burger had wilted spinach on top, pickled cabbage (which I wouldn’t have thought I would have liked) and a fried egg. It was really messy but it didn’t matter because it was really good. The fries were good. I couldn’t stop eating them, but I finally did. I only ate half of them, which was still a lot. I think they were swimming in truffle oil. Gosh, they were good when I devoured them, but later I would vow to never eat them again.
We said our farewells. It had been so wonderful to see Temple and her family and I was thrilled she made the time to go out for dinner with us. I just love her. She and I have been good friends for over 20 years.
Mom and I started to drive South to our hotel. My mom had discovered that LaQuinta was dog friendly and apparently everyone else had discovered that too! I couldn’t believe all the dogs. All these nice cars that would probably stay at nicer hotels but for the dog(s) they would stay here.
We both got onto our respective Queen size beds and Dulce discovered she could jump from one to another. She went back in forth like a child with a newly unwrapped Christmas present. She was in heaven. Then she laid down and took up most of the bed and of course my mom let her!!! (Note: picture below)
My mom wanted something sweet to eat so I went to the only thing around, which was a BP gas station with a mini market attached to it. I called her from the BP Station. They have Little Debbie donuts, they have Nutty Bars, they don’t have a single piece of dark chocolate, not even a Hershey’s Special dark. They have ice cream sandwiches, ice cream drumsticks. Of course she wanted the powdered white donuts an absolute favorite of hers, but I needed to wean myself off the donuts. So, we decided on a Mrs. Fields semi sweet chocolate cookie. I had two bites. She had three and said it was too sweet. She was finished. We unpacked the cold stuff into the refrigerator and we went to bed.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible leg cramp. I made a mental note to eat a banana in the morning. My leg hurt. I thought to myself that I had not had one of those in a long time. I rolled over and went back to sleep!
The next morning Dulce jumped from my bed to mom’s bed trying to wake up two non- early risers. My mom announced she was taking her out. I said, “No, I will do it.” I slid into my six year old ECCO sandals that I wear virtually every warm day and I couldn’t walk in them. I was in excruciating pain in the bottom of my feet. I always joke the thinniest part of my body is the bottom of my feet!
I stepped into my mom’s Birkenstock’s and I was sore but I managed to get Dolce out into the pouring rain. She peed and turned. I didn’t want to do it TWICE so I dragged her a bit further hopping that she would do something else. Nope.
I went back in and we tried to go back to sleep. Too many dogs, too little time, too many distractions. She was not going to let that happen. She wanted to wake up.
We ate a very mediocre breakfast and then I knelt down to get the food from the fridge back into the cold bag. I felt this horrible pinching pain in my calf near the knee. Just below it. I stood up completely convinced that the fabric had bunched there and pinched me. But I wasn’t my blue jeans pinching me. I was in a loose fitting fabric. So, I bent down again and felt the pinch again. I stood up walked to the bed to see if some creature had crawled up my pant leg and took a bite out of me. I just couldn’t figure it out.
I sat down and lifted my paint leg and there was a HUGE (to me) knot in my leg that had immediately turned black and blue. My mom called my stepdad for advice since he is a dentist that thinks he is a doctor. She always reminds me he started in med school, but it does not ease my fears, but I was all for the advice. After she called him, I called my friend Eddie from high school who is a doc out in Phoenix and he said it sounded like a hematoma or more likely that I had a HECK of a cramp the night before and tore a muscle. I was terrified of a blood clot. I had recently learned that folks who get blood clots can die and since the night before I had eaten those truffle oil French fries that were so greasy, I was and still am 100% convinced that the grease went down my throat and got stuck in a clump in that spot on my leg. Isn’t that what a clot is? I am joking about the definition of a clot, but not about thinking that this happened because of the French fries. I barely eat French fries and I have had SO many lately and those were SO incredibly greasy. So, I believed that I gave myself this horrible welt that was filled with grease. My friend Eddie told me if I could flex my foot that it was not a blood clot. I could. Yeah. I had serious amounts of relief.
He suggested I put heat on it so we first looked up a Walgreens on my mom’s phone, because yes, she is more hip than me. Then we looked up Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. Whoever was closer that is where we were going! She wanted donuts. I am sure that shocks you! Actually, it should if you saw how thin my mom is!
The rain that had subsided escalated to new levels. My poor mom was white knuckling it. She went into Walgreens for the Thermacare heat patch and a big bottle of water for me. I called a friend in Cincy who is a doctor. I wanted a second opinion. How does someone as athletic as me, who runs every other day bend down to pick something up end up with a torn muscle and unable to walk that easily?
My friend wasn’t there and then he and I continued to play phone tag. I was South of Atlanta and the reception was not good. Finally, we connected and he suggested the same thing and the same advice. I was in good shape despite my inability to move and my terrible pains.
I was trying to think of alternatives to the French fry theory because my mom was not buying it. I must have come up with 550 ideas of what happened. My mom suggested I not tell the doc when I get in her office all of them, except the French fry theory, because it will make her laugh.
My mom drove and we finally pulled off at an exit for Dunkin Donuts and because the thick of the bad storm was upon us. We went inside and I ordered a coffee and they added the sugar and cream. The gal asked my mom if she wanted either and she said, “Sugar. Do you have the raw sugar?” “What lady? We have sugar? We have Sweet and Low?” Here we go again. It was like KFC all over again. My mom said, “Don’t you have a packet so I can add my own?” “Oh yes, behind you on top of the trash can.” How appeasing. Then the ordering of donuts. If at Dunkin, I always get chocolate glazed. And then I ordered a cake donut with icing. If I was going to die from my clot, I might as well go in style. My mom wanted a cake donut, but only if it was cinnamon not pumpkin, she wanted a powdered donut. They had none. The lady suggested a munchkin. My mom didn’t know if she would be too full for a munchkin? (Note: There are two bites in a munchkin.) My mom asked the price. The gal said 25 cents. My mom said one. The gal said you can’t eat just one. You need at least two. My mom and her went back and forth. “No, I only NEED one.” “ But you can’t just eat one.” Finally, the lady threw two in the bag and said, “One is on me. You CANNOT just eat one.” Oh, she did not know my mom. (She ate one that day and the second one TWO days later!!!)
We sat in the rain eating donuts and my mom detested the coffee, which I usually like but not that day. She kept telling me how awful it was. It was! I know we are coffee snobs. But suck it up, Hon!
We drove a bit more and then my mom realized we were still ten hours from home. She became almost despondent. “We won’t be there till after dark. I hate driving in the dark. Why are we so far from home? It feels like we are losing time instead of gaining it.”
Finally, after the Aleve kicked in and the pain subsided a little we switched and then the heavy foot here decided to make up some time. We had a James Patterson book on her Nano. The dog was completely racked out in the back seat. We went until the bottom of my foot ached in a way I can’t explain to you.
I panicked and looked at my mom. I pulled off at an exit. I was hungry. I was tired. I hurt like hell. I felt like I was walking with a hard object in my shoe. Every step I took, it ached. I looked at my mom again. Her eyes said it all. No, you are not going to die. No, it is not going to fall off. No, it is not French fry fat.
I decided that it was the fat. I had too many French fries, hamburgers and now I had eaten 1.5 donuts for breakfast. I couldn’t eat the whole second donut because I thought of the grease again. I had to start healthy. If at first you don’t succeed. Try, try again.
This time, we stopped at a Publix. My mom went to the sandwich department and got a ham and swiss in a wrap with mayo, lettuce and tomato. It was perfect. She asked why no turkey? I said turkey makes you sleepy. I don’t want to be sleepy. She looked at me. “Air, that is an old wives’ tale. That is not true!” “Oh yes, it is mom. Everyone gets tired after Thanksgiving dinner!” She laughed. “That is because of all the food they eat. NOT the turkey!”
We drove and drove. We hit Fruitville exit at Sarasota and we waved to Carolyn and Roy. We kept on driving. We hit Fresh Market at 8:30. We got some food. I now could not put much weight on that foot. We hit the Causeway. My friend Jules, her tradition is to pop open a cold brew and drink it as she goes across the bridge. It has been her tradition forever!!! Mine is to open all the windows and hang my head out like a dog and sniff the sea water. So, that is exactly what Dulce and I did!
We went home and sat on the couch eating our dinner and watching television and so incredibly thankful that we were home.
Next morning, I woke up to Dulce pouncing on me. I could barely walk. I walked out of my bedroom into the kitchen and out the windows the sun was shining and reflecting off the pool and the lake beyond. I was on Sanibel. I was home.
Enjoy! Eat, travel, laugh…often….