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That was that, then. A final kiss goodbye from Jason before Julia and I hop on the road in the pre-dawn hours. I think Julia felt left out that I got a goodbye kiss and all she got was a pat on the head.

OK, that didn't happen. Not like that, anyway.

We rounded the corner at the end of our alley. With a few more turns onto a handful of sketchy roads and in less than 20 miles, we'd ride I-40 for 1670 miles or so. No exaggeration. It's almost a straight shot from Alabama to California. A long...straight...shot.

Aside from getting the car fixed and shipping my stuff, there were the animals to tend to. Sure, things were all wrapped up and nicely resolved between the city of Birmingham and me...but that just meant we were on the precipice of three days' non-stop driving with a cat (who hates the car) and a dog (who can't sit still for a full 2 minutes). I had various forms of Rescue Remedy and Benadryl to help ease the pain. Mine and Julia's, not Honey and Newt's.

The cat was finally forced into his harness and carrier so he could be taken down to the car with protests echoing up and down the halls. Rescue Remedy didn't phase him, as I had feared. Luckily, Honey just thought we were going for a ride...until she saw everything in the car. She wasn't sure if she should be scared that it was all familiar stuff...or calmed by it. The children's benadryl kicked in and she napped for a little bit once we started moving. I was just hoping and praying that we wouldn't have to listen to these cries from a scared feline for the next 36 hours. We'd tackle the unfamiliar hotel rooms and the walks back and forth when we were face-to-face with them. Everything I read said to keep the cats as enclosed as possible, that they felt more secure in confined spaces. They were partially right, I'd say. More on that, shortly.

We hadn't been on the road for 30 minutes when the sun came up and the drive was pretty, for the most part. I always feel that the unpopulated pieces of road are the best. The hardest part about trying to enjoy something like that as the sun is coming up when you're with a cat...is the yowling...with increasing frequency. We're doing our best to tune it out since it's not constant, but it's not easy. He suddenly starts thrashing, as he's done before. On previous trips to the vet, I'd stick my finger into the cage to scratch him for a second as reassurance, but this time I feared I wouldn't be the one doing the scratching.

Then silence.

Then the smell. Oh, God, the smell. We rolled down the windows and choked in whatever breathable air our lungs could get to. All I could think that was I hoped I made it out of this alive so I could tweet "the cat shat himself". Thankfully there was a gas station/convenience store combo just ahead. Julia cleaned the cat with some water and toilet paper. For the most part, he'd avoided his little present...but not entirely. I grabbed some Clorox wipes and cleaned out the crate. We took turns going inside to wash up and grab molten-lava-temperatured coffee drinks. Eventually we got him back into the car, but not the crate. We couldn't move him from the floorboard of the passenger seat, so there he stayed. When we got back on the road, he climbed into the back after a few minutes and smashed his head into the smallest space between the suitcases and the dogfood. Confined spaces, indeed...but of his choosing, apparently.

For the most part, he stayed in the smallest spaces he could squeeze into without moving for hours and hours. A couple of times we forced him to go outside on a leash (which he didn't seem to mind), but he wanted back in the car after he realized what was happening. Every so often he'd move into the front seat for a few minutes, but quickly retreated to one of his caves as we carried on. Sometime during that first day when he was up front, he peed on the emergency break. I didn't find it until the next morning before I repacked the car, and I'm surprised we didn't smell it sooner, but luckily it was all just pooled in the faux leather sleeve on the lever. A few more Clorox wipes (for which I was patting myself on the back) and we were right as rain. I couldn't find any evidence of another potty break, but every so often I get a whiff of cat pee while I'm driving. That might just be the smell of Long Beach, though...who can say. Skunkiness and cat pee seem to be popular smells around here.

Birmingham, Alabama, through Tupelo, Mississippi, on to Memphis, Tennessee, past Little Rock, Arkansas and straight through to Oklahoma City. Apparently I made plans to stay on the "wrong" side of town, but it was the side closest to Bri, so...no loss. Honey got restless a few times. Halfway through the second day I realized that it was just the sun bothering her so I blocked the window with a body pillow and she curled right up, rather than trying to get into the front seat.

We pulled into the hotel just before rush hour was set to hit. From the outside, it wasn't anything different than I was expecting. Standard Motel 6. They have a pets-stay-free policy, so I just planned to seek those out along the way. I got our keycards and drove around, parking in front of an open-shirted, mulleted, Mexican Captain Lou Albano. We went up the stairs and struggled to get our door open to no avail. The lock blinked green with the key cards, but the door wasn't budging. I trudged back up front and the mousey white guy working the front desk huffed a little as he walked back with me to show me the "proper" way to open the door. Apparently in Oklahoma City, it's customary to forcefully lift the handle while shouldering the door as close to the frame as you can. It opened in a pinch.

That poor door frame.

Two beds, a "desk", a TV, alarm clocks, and a bathroom. Nothing to write home about. But that shower? Holycrap that shower. It looked more like an early version of the sonic showers from Star Trek, a tiny capsule in the corner of the room with a floor-to-ceiling curtain that swings around behind the shower head. That thing got hot in an instand and BLASTED every hint of grime off of me. The temperature control and water pressure were exactly what I required after trekking a quarter of the way across the United States on almost zero sleep. So much so that I wanted to go back to the front desk and ask them to tack another $50 onto my bill for the night.

Bri called a couple of hours later because she didn't want to knock on the wrong door. When I peeked outside, I saw her timidly standing about 10 yards away staring at our door. She's about 30 times taller than I'd imagined in my head. I knew she was tall, but for some reason she was still dwarfed in my head. We'd talked more than a handful of times via Skype while playing video games. Phil's known her for years, so it wasn't anything awkward or weird, as meeting "complete strangers" can be. But I guess meeting Phil for the first time wasn't anything strange, either. In any case. I was exhausted and, close to the end of dinner, it was mentioned that I looked it. I would have wanted to stay longer or to actually "do" something other than just eat, but I had a mission to complete and that required a little bit of rest. Mayhaps one day we'll make our way back to Oklahoma City to spend a day or two instead of just a few hours. Nevermind, Phil would never allow that.

Back to the hotel, goodbyes to Bri, cat's under the bed and Honey's standing vigil at he window and barking at approaching rapists and murderers. Julia had been sitting on one bed earlier and a roach crawled out from under the mattress, directly between her legs. Now was the time to ask if she wanted the roach bed or the other one. She chose the other one and I didn't care one bit. She pulled back the covers and moved the pillow, where a cricket had been perched and now sprung away to be seen no more. At least we both had bugs in our bed, but no bedbugs. I had faith that if there was any danger, the cat would sense it and attack at some point in the night...or he might just stay under the bed until we'd died from poisonous bug attack and then he'd eat our faces off when he got hungry. In any case, that was one of the hardest and best sleeps I"d ever had in the scar part of a city with creepy-crawly critters all around.

I almost took another shower just for the fun of it.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 13th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
yay! i loved this post. especially the bri part of course.
what's up with this >> "Nevermind, Phil would never allow that."
you should totes visit bri again! properly next time!
Apr. 11th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
You know how Phyllis is. Big city or nothing at all. He's like "Okla-what?".
Mar. 14th, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
God I miss you.
Apr. 11th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Indeed you cross my mind on several occasions. ;-)

At some point, this shall be remedied.
Apr. 9th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
...south or north?

If north, maybe this autumn I can buy you a drink.
Apr. 11th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
Re: California...
Naturally I'm in Southern California, but I'm pretty convinced I'm designed for the Northern half.
Apr. 11th, 2011 08:25 pm (UTC)
Lets me off buying you that drink, then.

Or: Do you need additional incentives to head north?
Apr. 16th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
Re: **phew!**
Oh, you and your "additional incentives". I can read through your $10 words. ;-)

Keep me posted on when you're in the area. We have several tentative trips planned various places and can always shift them around to accommodate good conversation and good drink.
Apr. 16th, 2011 09:14 am (UTC)
I hate being transparent
Dammit. You slyboots, you.

(Slyboots: See also "cleverclogs".)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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