I’m still almost too tired to write about it! What a LONG drive.

James and Rupert picked me up in front of Gammage Auditorium after my final Phantom show in Tempe, AZ at 9:25 p.m., Sunday November 22, 2009.

 

It’s always exciting when James picks me up, Airstream in tow, bound for our next destination. We usually drive for a few hours before resting; it feels good to get some distance between the past and the future.

Through the desert darkness we drove up through Flagstaff and then stopped at a KOA campground (kampground with a “k”, actually — how kute!) for the night.

 

We woke up on a cool, bright morning on Monday the 23rd and continued our journey.

At the Arizona-New Mexico border, there were several places with Native American themes selling various schlocky items:

 

We entered New Mexico at about 1 p.m.

 

The countryside there is starkly, dramatically beautiful.

 

All went smoothly until we were stuck in a 3-hour traffic jam just outside of Albuquerque in mid-afternoon.

 

A semi-truck had run into a highway paint truck. The semi caught on fire and the paint truck overturned, spilling gallons of paint on the roadway. It took several hours to clean it all up.

 

The mail must get through! But it was certainly late that day.

 

We were amused by the sight of a pickup truck towing a real MONSTER truck, along with various motorcycles and even patio furniture!

 

The long delay put a kink into our travel schedule. We decided to pull over into a rest stop just over the Oklahoma border (at about 2 a.m. Tuesday) instead of staying at our usual RV park in Oklahoma City, a few hours further east.

We woke up a few hours later and continued our journey. We arrived in Oklahoma City just before noon, and stopped by our favorite Airstream mechanic’s shop on the western edge of town.

 

We bought a new water pump which James will install. The old one died after more than thirty years of service. I’d say we got our money’s worth!

We drove all day through the endless state of Oklahoma and arrived at the Arkansas border by late afternoon.

 

You can see part of our cat Rupert lounging on the dashboard in the foreground. He’s turned into quite the traveler! Here are a couple more shots of Rupert:

 

The first shot was at the beginning of our trip. Now look at how tired he is in the next shot, taken three days later:

 

I’ll let Rupert tell his own story in his blog; he should be posting by tomorrow: http://rupertkitty.blogspot.com/

There was a lot of traffic on I-40 as we crossed the state in the gathering darkness. We entered Tennessee at about 8 p.m.

 

We stopped at an Olive Garden restaurant east of Memphis for dinner.

The waiter was 6′ 5″, had a beard and ponytail, was overly jovial with a booming voice. “My name is Steven!” he announced to us several times in stentorian tones.

It was his first night on the job, and was waaay off the charts on the Perky Scale.

James asked if he sang and he said Yes. I imagine he plays the gittar too!

I wish that these people would be more sensitive to their customers; had he paid close attention to my adverse reactions to his forced joviality, he would have toned down his presentation a bit. But NO, he ploughed through the evening in his high-amperage fashion, totally insensitive to us weary travelers who just wanted a little peace and quiet with our dinner.

I suppose that the Corporate Headquarters of Olive Garden insist upon this kind of overly-enthusiastic, in-your-face waiter style. I remember a similar perky waiter the last time we ate at one of their restaurants, several years ago.

I took over the wheel after we got gas a few miles later, and drove for about 250 miles before pulling over into a rest area at Crossville, between Nashville and Knoxville. Lots of VILLES in Tennessee!

James drove for the next couple of hours. The sun came up as we crossed the Virginia border. We were both so tired by then that we decided to pull over into a Cracker Barrel parking lot to catch a few z’s.

We set the alarm for two hours and actually felt a bit refreshed when we hit the road again, at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

We wended our way through the Appalachians of southwest Virginia and were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the Piedmont countryside spreading out far below us, towards the North Carolina border.

 

This still shot from the video footage I took of our trip (posted soon!) doesn’t do the view justice. It was truly stunning.

Traffic was extremely heavy on I-77 northbound. We were glad that we were heading south in the opposite direction, with relatively light traffic until we reached the cluster of larger cities in North Carolina.

Everyone must have been going to their various Thanksgiving celebrations. Apparently there have been 36 million people on the roads this weekend.

We went through Andy Griffith country in North Carolina, and I took a picture of Pilot Mountain:

 

Yes, we were definitely in Andy Griffith country!

Traffic was heavy through the maze of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, then on to Durham.

We found the RV park in the middle of the woods surrounding Duke University. We pulled up to the manager’s office but couldn’t find anyone around. A little Asian girl on a tiny bike came riding up and said “He’s not here” but assured us he would be soon. Just as James called him on the cell, the front door opened and it was the manager’s wife, on a walkie-talkie with her husband.

She wore a very colorful black silk blouse with big purple polka-dots.  We could barely understand her English but her beautiful smile was welcoming. She laughed when she couldn’t seem to communicate effectively with her husband on the walkie-talkie to answer her question which lot they were going to assign us.

She opened the door to a tiny general store. I was amazed at the messy clutter of the place — there were stacks of boxes of random spare parts on the floor, almost bare shelves with a lone tube of toothpaste here and a stick of deodorant there; yellowed large potted plants in front of very dusty, empty freezer cases.

We wrote her a check for our month-long stay, and she indicated on a map how to get to our lot.

We got back in the truck and drove down narrow streets with rusty mobile homes and old fifth-wheel trailers and motor homes which have seen better days. Everything was surrounded by tall pine trees.

I would call this a “down-home” trailer park; the neighborhood seems safe and quiet enough, but it’s definitely not upper class. We prefer this kind of basic place, actually. Not much snob appeal here. (We live in a shack in The Woods after all!)

Just before James pulled into the lot, the manager husband drove up to welcome us. His English was also very hard to understand, although it appeared that he understood the language well.

He seemed amazed that I was a musician with the Phantom of the Opera company playing at the brand-new Performing Arts Center in downtown Durham. He commended me on “having a job” and joked that my check probably wouldn’t bounce, hinting that this was rather uncommon with tenants at his RV park.

This is our next door neighbor’s car:

 

It is definitely a culture-shock to be in this part of the country!

This is our current spot:

 

I will (hopefully) post again soon to bring you completely up-to-date. But my mind refuses to work any more this afternoon; I am still fried from the very long drive. Now I need to warm up before tonight’s show (our first show was at the end of a lengthy workday on Thanksgiving).

I hope that you all had a nice Turkey Day!