September 12, 2021 – Off to a ‘ruff’ start (part two).

Welcome back, my friends! Before I resume discussing the ‘ruff’ start to our trip, I have to let you know that we finally arrived at our destination. As soon as we pulled up in front of my father-in-law’s house, he met us at the curb and didn’t waste a moment seeking out his son. After he had greeted him and given him a long, warm embrace, he walked over to me. I was standing in the grass (just a few feet away) with our dog, hanging on to her leash. I expected a hug as well. Instead, without speaking a word, he took the handle to the leash out of my hand and walked the dog over to the back yard. I was a little stunned and hurt because I wasn’t prepared to play second fiddle to my dog; however, he eventually returned and gave me a heartfelt hug. It’s been a strange day filled with a range of emotions, from profound sadness to extreme joy, to everything in between. Everyone was really close to my mother-in-law except for me, so I don’t feel any sadness as a result of her loss. However, I do feel bad for everyone who is struggling emotionally, especially my father-in-law. He’s having a difficult time holding it together. Today, he shared that he wished he’d never placed his wife in the memory care facility. I tried to remind him that he really didn’t have any other options and had gone above and beyond what anyone else would have, caring for her for years until it became impossible.

Anyhow, with that little update out of the way, I suppose I’ll finish up my story (which I started on the 10th). I think when I left off, I was trying to resolve the issue with the prepaid hotel reservation and had become exceedingly agitated after 3 separate calls with 3 different Priceline customer service representatives ended abruptly after the cell signal was lost. After driving nearly 10 hours, we found ourselves out in the middle of nowhere, ‘in a boat without a paddle’, so to speak. It was pitch dark and we were exhausted, and it seemed like all of the effort I had made to ensure the hotel portion of the trip went smooth was for naught. When I had made the 3rd call to Priceline, we were parked out in front of a truck stop, where we had pulled in in order to fuel up. While I was engaged in conversation with the 3rd Priceline representative, my husband parked his truck (and trailer) and then proceeded to walk over towards my vehicle, observing the area around the truck stop as he approached. “Did you notice the Red Lion hotel next door?” he asked. I had, actually. “Why don’t you call them and see if they have any rooms available and whether they’re ‘pet friendly’?” I suggested. He promptly did, and soon learned that the hotel was able to accommodate our needs.

“Great! Do you want to head over?” I inquired. “Sure!” he replied excitedly. With that, he walked over to his truck, climbed aboard, and drove literally a matter of a few hundred feet, to the edge of the truck stop parking lot where the hotel was located. I followed. The excitement dwindled a bit when we both got a better look at the establishment. ‘Bleak’, ‘tired’, ‘questionable’, and ‘seedy’ are the adjectives I would use to describe the hotel. There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot, an unusual string of brightly flashing (colored) lights lit up the entryway, and the building was in dire need of sprucing up. It looked more like a ‘pay by the hour’ hotel rather than a ‘pay by the day’ hotel. My husband had parked the truck and trailer next to the hotel and I was a fair distance away in one of the hotel’s designated parking spaces. As I sat in the driver’s seat, I heard the crackle of the walkie-talkie followed by a familiar voice, “What do you think?” my husband asked. He was checking in to see where I was at with things, and I could tell he was having second thoughts. “Give me a minute,” I responded, “I’m going to look on Priceline for reviews and to see if they can offer a better rate than the manager quoted you.”

Wow! What did we do before ‘reviews’? I suppose we went in blindly to situations and if they were bad, hoped never to make the same mistake twice. Fortunately, I was able to determine (based on the reviews) that staying at the Red Lion was not in our best interests. The reviews were terrible, and after noticing the 20+ semis (tractor trailers) parked in a row at the truck stop (mere steps from the hotel), I’d be willing to make a solid bet that a great deal more than sleeping was going on in those rooms! I was pretty certain that for many of the occupants in the hotel, there was an exchange of money for ‘services rendered’. The vice squad would have made a killing in that place. Ok, maybe the word ‘killing’ wasn’t the best word to choose, but there definitely would have been a record number of arrests of johns and prostitutes. I’m sure if anyone ever walked into one of those rooms and used a black light to observe the condition of the linens and mattress, they would have developed some sort of post traumatic stress disorder and required a great deal of therapy. Fortunately, we didn’t wind up staying there. I got back on the Priceline website (via my cell phone) and found another hotel within a few miles that was much nicer, welcomed travelers with pets, and only cost about $20 more.

“Do you want to grab some dinner before we head over?” I asked my husband before we started on our way. We hadn’t had anything to eat since 12:30 in the afternoon, and it had been nearly 9 hours. He didn’t. He was tired and his only goal was to get to the hotel and get settled in, dinner could wait. I understood, his nerves were shot after driving the truck and pulling a trailer for the past 10 hours, and all he wanted to do was park it and get some rest (before we started the process all over the following morning). We didn’t waste any more time discussing it, I entered the address into Google Maps and pulled ahead of him, and we proceeded towards the hotel (on the other end of town). When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, I was grateful we had made the decision to stay there. The building looked fresh and modern, and not only was the parking lot well lit, it was filled with cars (a good sign). Upon checking in, we headed to the room (dog in tow). It wasn’t deluxe but it was decent. We were both so tired by then that the few things we noticed (i.e.; dog pee smell in the bathroom), we overlooked. I was incredibly grateful that at least we had a clean, safe room to spend the night in. Regardless, I still had food on the brain.

When I mentioned dinner and how hungry I was for the umpteenth time, my husband said, “Let’s just keep this easy. Why don’t we just pick up some burgers and bring them back to our room? I noticed a Burger King on the corner.” Ugh. I used to love Burger King but I just don’t dig it any longer. The quality of the burgers has really gone downhill. Still, it was late, we were hungry, and there weren’t a lot of options to choose from. Because it was well past ten in the evening and we were in an unfamiliar place, my husband insisted on going with me (even though the passenger seat was piled high with ‘stuff’). I told him that there simply wasn’t enough room in the car and that I could just go alone, but he was determined. After relocating the items on the front seat to the back seat and moving the seat as far back as it would go, he climbed in. No problem, right? Ummm…actually, yes, there was a problem. Remember when I mentioned in part one that the water from the 1/2 gallon Coleman jug had spilled all over the passenger seat? Yep, I had long forgotten about it, so when my husband parked his derriere on the seat beside me, he got one hell of a shock! Yep, that water soaked his backside through and through!!

He wasn’t happy about the situation but I thought it was funny. He had brought it on himself. I had warned him earlier about the seat (even though I’d forgotten in the meantime), but because he insisted on coming with me, he ended up with soggy drawers. We still had to pick up the burgers, so we went ahead and made a quick trip to the Burger King on the corner. When we pulled into the drive-thru, there was an advertisement for 2 complete meals for $10, which we readily agreed to. Our order was prepared in less than 3 minutes. When it was ready, the lady at the drive-thru window handed us a couple of bags of food, at which time we returned to the hotel. I was so hungry by the time we got back to the room, that I could hardly wait to unwrap the burger and take a great big bite. There was nowhere to sit in the room apart from atop the bed, so right after I began to unwrap it, I decided to climb up onto the bed and get myself properly situated. As it turns out, that was a bad idea. As I clung to the partially wrapped burger in my left hand, I tried to use my right hand and arm to steady myself.

I cannot explain why, but for some stupid reason, while in the process of hoisting myself onto the bed, I lowered my left arm. Because I had already begun to unwrap the burger, when I lowered my arm, gravity (I’m blaming gravity because I can) helped the burger escape its packaging, and as it plummeted toward the ‘pet friendly’ carpet below (the upper bun separating from the meat as it descended), ketchup smeared in a long streak down the side of the sheet. I watched in horror as the now open-faced burger made contact with the ground, meat side down. Ordinarily, the 5-second rule would apply, but not in this case! “I’m not eating it!” I said in disgust as I scooped it up off the carpet, barely reaching it before the dog got her mitts on it. I couldn’t believe what had just happened! It was like a cruel joke. “I’ll just eat my fries. It’ll be fine,” I told my husband, resigned to the fact that a full stomach was not in the cards that day. “No,” he insisted, “I’m giving you half of my burger!” I didn’t expect him to because I’m the dumb-dumb who dropped my food, and even though I repeatedly told him ‘NO’, he wouldn’t hear of it.

I was thankful, of course. I knew a small serving of french fries wasn’t going to cut the mustard. After scarfing down half a burger and a paltry portion of fries, I got busy on relaying to you ‘part one’ of the ‘ruff’ start post. I didn’t want to write at all that day, but I did it because I made a promise. After completing eight paragraphs, I decided to publish it ‘as is’. My eyes had grown tired and could hardly focus due to all the hours spent concentrating on the road. I tried to adequately proofread/edit it, I truly did, but I suspect a few errors got past me (as they likely will today). So anyway, there you have it, the latter half of the first leg of our journey. Was it perfect? Not even close! Could it have gone a lot better? Absolutely! Fortunately, the last two days of our trip were a huge improvement over the first. There were still ‘hiccups’, but they were nothing like those we experienced the first day. I’m just so grateful we made it safely here. I don’t know where we’re going to live or what we’re going to do, but the first step is out of the way, the ‘getting here’ part. Anyway, I’d better go. I am literally nodding off while typing. My body is trying to tell me to wrap this up and get some sleep, and I’m going to listen to it. Have a lovely day…and I hope you stop by again soon!!

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