It began as most days do. The dogs look at me and question with their body language, “For real this time? You’re not hitting snooze again, are you?” From that point forward, it was the start of an adventure, defined by the unknown resulting experiences to follow.
We didn’t have to wait long, as our last day at the place formerly known as The Pittman Family Farm in Auburn, Alabama (renamed Murphy’s Farm when we arrived) was a drag. All that stuff had to get in the car. And two dogs. Oh, and me. Chester, our cat, agreed to stay behind and watch our remaining belongings while he considers a foster/permanent home under the direction of the wonderful Blessing family. If ever a name matched the people, my landlords and friends Dan and Marjean Blessing (and their wonderful kids), not only stepped up to make my sudden return to California doable, but kept me from starting out like a train wreck. They really helped sort out storage and redistribution of goods, etc. Most importantly, they were just kind and patient and treated us like family and I will be forever grateful.
Back to day one. I hoped to be in the car by 9 a.m. The dogs watched. It was not geometrically possible to stuff all of that stuff into a 2001 Saturn, but I came close. I then tied down the soft carrier with four ratchet ties, and after failing briefly at the mechanics of said securing devices (ratchets are hell on ADDers!), was proud of myself.
By then, it was 3 or 4 pm. I was so caught up in the emotion of my bittersweet time on The Plains that I failed to do what my dad would do – and what any good journalist should do; I didn’t che k the radar/weather.
Slow-forward to seven or eight or nine hours down the road to our first destination (KOA Hot Springs, Arkansas), and the lightning ahead in Memphis, Tennessee was blasting the sky like glimpses of the midday sun. Spectacular. So I finally checked the Weather Channel app, and sure enough, a nasty (red on the radar) mid-summer thunderstorm was right in front of us. No problem. Good tires, secured belongings, patient driver.
Wrong. Flash flooding. And a completely man-made example of failed engineering that led to the doing of all of us side the vehicle. Pride goeth before the flood.
You see, those ratchet ties are cloth, and there aren’t any “rails” on the roof of the Saturn. Thus, I had to wrap them under and across the roof and shut the doors on them. Well it turns out that those little pieces of cloth are excellent conducters of liquid flow. It was as if four hoses stated pouring rain into the car. Billy in the backseat along with the groceries and other stuff on the right hand side. Murphy and the driver were suddenly spewed by the self made storm drains. When we finally found a safe truck stop, the damage was done.
The storm moved on, we gassed up and dried off and continued on down the road to the boyhood home of Bill Clinton and the site of the first National Park, established in 1832. That will be the story for day two. Day one ended some time after 3 a.m. when we rolled into our cute little cabin at KOA Hot Springs. Clean, dry and cooled with AC. The journey for two dogs and a man began with an exhausting ride covering four states en route to California.