it’s not that bad, pt. 1

This song really is unrelated. I just happened to hear it a few minutes ago.
I didn’t grasp why everyone ahead of me slammed on their brakes until it was too late.

Thank you, Sgt. Wooten. I was absolutely going well over the speed limit on Monday when you pulled me over on Interstate 64. Everyone else with Indiana plates was doing it, so I figured, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  I guess that only counts when you have Indiana plates.

When I pulled over, my first thought was, “Well, he’s got me dead to rights. It kinda sucks because I’m certain a lot of people were going faster than me.”

That was true. Those faster people weren’t stupid enough to continue driving slowly so he could catch up. But I’m 35 years old. Fifteen years ago, I probably would have punched it, and I would you be telling you the funny story of how the home stretch of my trip went disastrously wrong.

Thursday, Nov. 7

It was sleeting in Kansas when Brandon and I left. I was told that it wasn’t likely to stick to the roads, but it was a little disconcerting. Either way, Kansas is good at clearing roads, Bill said, so there shouldn’t be a problem by the time I arrived on Friday. Bill called me at 9 a.m., 8 a.m. his time, to tell me this news. My alarm had just gone off. I was set to leave at 10. This definitely was going to be a TauDelt adventure.

Bill, my best friend and best man, currently is stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. He plans on leaving the Army soon, which is why he bought a house. His current plan is to finish his masters and become a history teacher. He and his wife — Karen, a friend from college who also is a great friend — decided they were fine with settling in Kansas because they were surprised that they were OK with living in Manhattan, Kansas.

My reasons to visit Bill and Karen a week ago are varied: I’d been meaning to visit Bill since he finished basic training. I wanted someone to go with me so it could become a grand adventure. I wanted to take a road trip with fraternity brothers like in the old days. Due to where they lived, I could fulfill a childhood dream of driving the entire length of Interstate 64.

Everything finally came together.

The plan was simple, and it managed to stay simple. Brandon and I were going to power through Thursday morning and arrive in St. Louis in time for another brother, Pete, to get home from work. On Friday, we would go the rest of the way to Kansas and see Mandy, my friend since Hampton City Schools, on our way to Bill and Karen’s house. On Saturday, we would spend all day out with Bill. On Sunday, we would start the first leg of our trip. Monday would be the remainder of the drive home. On Tuesday, I would sleep.

Pete partially threw a kink on those plans. We expected to stay at his place Thursday night. I only wanted to buy a hotel room for the ride back because, again, I wanted to have the whole crashing on couches or whatever experience. At the same time, I also did not want to be stuck in horrible conditions, so I figured we’d have to get rooms both coming and going to Kansas. Pete on Wednesday night said we couldn’t stay at his place. Old Pete wouldn’t have given us that much notice. It wasn’t too bad — I would have liked to have locked in a lower hotel price — but we were at the Hotel Avyan, which wasn’t that far from his place.

In West Virginia, we stopped at a Wendy’s. The cashier called me Eleot. That’s a new one. Also, that sandwich wasn’t as awesome as the name states.

The drive there was pretty uneventful. The weather was great, and when we stopped for gas in Louisville, we also found this curious fellow.

Stop giggling at the name of the tutoring place next door.

“Is that? …” Brandon said.

“That’s a Kroger-brand liquor store,” I said.

I had seen a Kroger that sold hard liquor the first time I was in Indiana. This was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on a standalone Kroger liquor store.

Since we were in Kentucky, we had to get bourbon. I decided that that I was going to get something that I’d never had before. One charming little bottle caught my eye because it made a bold statement. I like bourbon, so I decided that I would be the judge of that statement.

It was called Old Bardstown. It said it was ruled the finest bourbon in Kentucky. I took a photo of it, and I could have sworn I downloaded it with the other photos from the trip, but I did not. I could just hop on the app and do it from there, but I’m testing out the new CMS for this entry, and I don’t know if I can do that without undoing everything I’ve done thus far.

Anyway, it was very smooth and delicious. As far as I can tell, it isn’t sold in Virginia. Bill said he really likes Four Roses, and that’s sold in Virginia, so I’ll settle for that for now.

But enough about the bourbon.

After we were settled in St. Louis, where it was sleeting, we met up with Pete and his girlfriend. We barhopped, but I only remember one of them because I had a tab at two, Mission Taco and The Beale on Broadway. The night was a bit of a blur. Because it was a good night.

Friday

Technically, we did not check out on time. I set an alarm before we went out, and that two hours wasn’t enough. As I was having an extremely tough go a things, I told Brandon to go downstairs and check out for me. He got down there right before the buzzer. I crept out about a half an hour later. I’ll say I was about at 70 percent at that point. It didn’t help that we were up for a very long time, too.

We then met up with Pete to get lunch. We headed to Southern, which touted Nashville hot chicken. It wasn’t melt-your-face-off hot like Prince’s, but no one can compare to Prince’s. 

Spicy foods are my hangover cure. This wasn’t spicy enough, so I passed out in the backseat while Brandon drove across most of Missouri. 

I woke up about when we needed to stop for gas. While Brandon pumped, ran over to Sonic. What I should have done is gotten this vaguely racist pizza.

You eyes deceive you not.

Really? Really? Trap Haus Pizza?

If you can’t read it, the slogan is, “It tastes so good, you’re trapped for life!” It’s probably good, but it’s also attached to a gas station. But that’s probably what makes it good.

I was back at 100 percent, so I got back in the driver’s seat.

As we neared Kansas, I found that Mandy’s husband had been transferred from Leavenworth, so I was meeting her in Manhattan. We got coffee at Bluestem Bistro in Aggieville. We didn’t have an awful lot to catch up on because there are times when we talk as much as we did in person. But I haven’t seen her in about seven years.

When I wrecked Nicole back in January, I lost my dad’s commemorative plate for when he was stationed outside of Savannah, Georgia. My mom found it a while back and gave it to me. I had all intentions of putting it on my desk at work but I kept forgetting. In the wreck, I was in a spot I couldn’t readily see when I was cleaning the car out and I didn’t realize it was there until I turned over the keys.

I recently posted on Facebook about how I wish I had it still, and people suggested that I contact the 260th Quartermaster Battalion and tell my story. I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, but Mandy’s husband, Mike, saw it.

While we were in Bluestem, Mandy told me that Mike obtained a challenge coin for me. I quickly looked at it and pocketed it because I knew if I acknowledged its existence any longer, I’d make like a Carrie Underwood song and not cry pretty. 

That night, after we got to Bill and Karen’s and drank in the basement, I went the room I claimed and held that coin for a long time. It’s now in my wallet. After I measure its diameter, I might buy a holder so I can wear it as a necklace.

That singular event was worth the entire trip.

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