Thursday, September 1, 2011

Country Roads: A Tale of Going Bonkers

On my flight to Texas, I found myself seated in between two very large dudes who needed both armrests for their big beefy arms.  For two hours I sat drawn into myself, mourning my lack of elbow room, listening to music (too cramped to even open a book) and trying not to accidentally touch either of them.  I arrived in Dallas/ Ft. Worth defeated and exhausted with a cramp in my neck.

The next morning my sister and I made goody bags for my nephew's birthday party.  We shoved candy, noisemakers and yellow Spongebob armbands into Spongebob bags.  Then we went and got a cake.  We crammed the whole entire family into a truck and headed to a place called Going Bonkers.  I nominate this place for most aptly named joint of all time in the history of the world.  

First, there's the noise.  Picture a Vegas casino, all the pinging and ringing and beeping.  Now add a layer of screaming children.  Mix in parents hollering to get the screaming children's attention and add a dash of bad music.  That's what Going Bonkers sounds like.  After waiting at the front desk for five minutes, I developed a headache and wondered how they ever kept an employee for longer than an hour.  It's basically just a gigantic maze of playgrounds and arcades, perfect for my nephews.  They quickly disappeared into the labyrinth of monkey bars or whatever.  They had a great time.  I had two ibuprofen.

Two and a half hours later, my mother, my sister and I were in a Kia speeding away from Dallas, headed for the Texas panhandle.  For seven and a half hours we drove mainly on the tiny highways suggested by the GPS on our iPhones. (My sister and I have complete confidence in our iPhones.)  She asked my mom for the address of our Aunt and Uncle's farm so we could plug it into the navigation.   My mother said there was no address, as far as she knew, but she'd be able to find it, as she'd been making that drive for thirty years or so.

We drove.  We saw crops, horses, cows and beat up old trucks.  We felt we were going forward but sliding back in time.  It was neat to look out and see fields forever, no buildings, no freeways, just land.  We were all tired and loopy by the time we stopped for a late dinner and some gas at a town with a population of 6,510.  (Most of the towns we were driving through had less than 1,000 people residing in them.) We opted for the steakhouse over the Dairy Queen.  I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and it came out with ham on it.  When I requested it (again) without the meat, the waitress looked at me like I was a space alien.

I wasn't mad.  I felt like a space alien that had invaded a sleepy little town and demanded something insane. I saw myself through the eyes of the hard boiled waitress or the guy in the overalls and trucker hat eating across from us.  A grilled cheese at a steakhouse! What a dick!

By the time we left the steakhouse, it was dark outside.  My Aunt had warned us to look out for deer on the two-lane highways but we couldn't see anything, just our own headlights and the lightning bugs committing suicide against our windshield.  We figured if a deer decided to cross in front of us, we were screwed.  Hours passed like this.  We listened to music; my mother told us about the tiny towns she'd lived in as a preacher's daughter who moved around a lot.  We laughed.  We got quiet.  (The visit was not a happy one, as my grandmother was very ill.)  We rolled into the town closest to my Aunt and Uncle's farm around midnight.

My sister was driving.  She looked at my mother in the rear view mirror.  "Mom, you're up.  How do we get to Aunt Brenda's?"

"Well, let me just see.  It's so dark."

"Right.  Well, we're in town now," my sister said with the slightest edge in her voice.  (Did I mention she was on Day 4 of quitting smoking and was placing all her hopes in a tiny nicotine patch on her left arm? Okay, yeah.  That was happening too.  At midnight.  After driving for almost 8 hours.)

"Okay, go toward the grain elevator."

At this point I started laughing really hard.  "What's a grain elevator even look like?!" I demanded.

"I think it's that big hulking thing over there," my mother said, pointing.

We drove toward the big hulking thing.  "Now what?" said my sis.

"Um.  Find the main road?" my mother squeaked.

"The main road."

"Yes, the main road."

"What is the main road?"

I piped in, "Maybe it's the paved one?"

Then we all started laughing way too hard.

We got on the "main road" and started driving deeper into the country.  It was still dark, we were still loopy tired and our grandmother was still sick.

"Okay, mom, when do we turn?"

And, my mother, with confidence in her voice, says, "Turn left when you see three trees."

"Wait a minute," I said.  "The way to the farm is to drive toward the grain elevator, find a paved road, then turn left when you see three trees?!"

"Yes," my mom said.

I'd never felt further from Los Angeles in my life.

We drove up and down the highway, looking for trees.  We couldn't see any.  We became hysterical.  We were crying laughing because all we could see were shrubs.  There weren't any trees as far as we could tell, even with the Kia's brights on. We didn't have an address so our iPhones were useless.  We couldn't stop laughing and making fun of my mom.  This is when my sister hit something, a square silver something in the middle of the road.

We all three screamed but I'll admit that my scream was the longest and most obnoxious.  Now, I don't know if I was the most tired because I'd flown in the night before or if I was the most uncomfortable with the situation because I'm such a city mouse these days, but after the scream left my mouth, I uttered the following sentence:  "Pistol, you just hit a robot!"  Then we laughed so hard that my sister had to pull over on the side of the road until she could drive again.

Look, I know.  I know!  But, that's how it went down.

Finally, my mother texted my Aunt and found out that they lived off of Country Road 11.  We plugged it into our trusty iPhone and let the blue dot show us the way to the road that we didn't see before and the trees that we didn't see either.  The blue dot carried us to Country Road 11 like a little beacon of awesomeness.  We turned off onto the dirt road and saw headlights ahead coming at us really fast.

"What is that?"  I said.

"That's Aunt Brenda!" my sister said.

And it was.  There sat my Aunt on her four wheeler, barefoot, pink and white flowered nightgown blowing in the wind.  "Y'all lost?"

We applauded.  She was a badass.  A country angel of night come to show us the way.

We followed the four wheeler to the farm.  We told her she was the biggest badass we'd ever seen when she rolled up.  We told her we'd hit a robot.

She told us we'd better get some sleep.

The End.

*My Meemaw passed away soon after this trip and I'll always be grateful I got to see her one last night, even if a robot died for it to happen.

**photo by jdpage.