with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

On the Road Again – Somewhere in Mississippi

Just spelling em-eye-es-es-eye-es-es-eye-pee-pee-eye reminds me of school and learning to spell. We took a break at an outlet mall along highway 55 to stretch our legs and check out some books and kitchen supplies (didn’t get anything, though) and found that we had entered another world. The people dress different, their hair is very strange and different, and the language, well, I think its English but the accent and word choices are definitely foreign. We have crossed into another world.

Yep, we’re in the south. Brent tells me that I have to get used to it. I tell him that I have spent too much time getting used to all things southern Americana in my life and I’m tired of it. We’ll see who survives this – them or me. We saw one woman who looked like she had curlers in her hair. Upon closer inspection, it was her hair shaped like curlers and not curlers. VERY strange. The amount of time spent on hair here, on white and black folk, is amazing, and yet almost none goes into what they wear. Nails and hair and bad clothes. Amazing.

We spent last night, our first night on the road, in our own bed and bathroom and home. We got as far as Alma, Arkansas, just inside the Arkansas border past Fort Smith. We stayed at a KOA there and hooked up to electricity. It was freezing cold with frost on the ground already at seven in the evening, and we wanted to run the little electric heaters and save propane, since we’re not sure how long the propane is going to last since we don’t know how long we’ll be traveling. We had a little dinner and then I turned on my laptop and caught an episode of Star Trek Enterprise then we fell asleep within minutes of crawling under the covers.

I kept waking up in the night, from the sound of the jingle bell on Kohav’s collar, from the chilly cold, and from everything else that has been happening. Even completely exhausted, the brain wouldn’t shut down.

On the road to Mobile, somewhere in Arkansas, photo by Lorelle VanFossenDriving along the highway, feeling the tug of the trailer behind us, memories came flying back. But not concrete memories of specific moments and events, just familiarity. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, those kind of familiar moments. We’ve spent what feels like months behind the wheel of this truck, bouncing along the highways and byways of North America. The familiarity is comfortable and at the same time, foreign. We are different now, aged in amazing ways, since the last time we bounced across an American highway. Physically, we are older, Brent’s butt is thicker and mine is smaller, but mentally, a lot has changed. And yet, we are in the same vehicle and the same “home” we left five years ago. It is a very strange feeling and it will take me time to really get a grasp on it.

As always when we start a long trip, it took a long time for my shoulders to drop down from somewhere up around my ears. We stopped to check the truck and trailer brakes to see if they were hot and found one of them slightly overheated. Brent adjusted the trailer brakes in the truck’s controls, and they cooled down, but we stopped every 30 minutes to make sure they were not hot. I kept watching the new tires of the truck and trailer though the side view mirror to make sure they were maintaining their correct air pressure and not going flat. They are new tires, but we worry all the same.

Crossing the Mississippi RiverThere are a lot of familiar but still renewed things to remember and think about while pulling a trailer. Some of it we find ourselves doing by rote, unconscious at first that we remembered and then kinda tickled that it came back to us so easy. Other things are starting to click in, but we’re not sure. For instance, I vaguely remember that Brent wired the electricity for the trailer so that the truck engine would recharge the trailer batteries as we drove. I asked Brent and he says he can’t remember. A few hours later, he admitted that he thinks that is so, but he honestly can’t remember how he did it. It will come back to him, but we are learning to live with the memories and the gaps in the memory as we put this all together in our heads.

Brent’s brother-in-law, Terry, called to wish us luck and check how far we’d gotten. I told him that we were just across the Arkansas border and he was impressed. So we were when we realized that we’d left at 3PM and it was six and we’d gotten this far with no crises. He asked how we were doing, and honestly, Brent and I were in a fog. I couldn’t honestly answer that. Total fog. Just numb with stress and the mental over-work.

We followed the signs for the KOA from the highway. Brent wanted electricity and some of the comforts of water and sewer just to make sure we were going to be okay the first night. The rest of the trip will probably be truck stops and Walmart since we’re moving long hours and don’t want to mess with finding campgrounds and paying the high fees for a few hours of sleep and then leaving. The KOA was way up a hill and as we yanked the trailer up the slope, I asked Brent if he could see the gas gauge moving down. He nodded, teeth tight with the familiarity of the money this thing sucks out of our pockets.

Highway signs pointing to Memphis or Jackson, photo by Lorelle VanFossenThe next morning, we pulled out in the frosty cold chill, and headed down the highway, 40, towards Little Rock. Midway, Brent reassessed our route with was to head south from Little Rock, and changed it to continue on 40 to Memphis, and then turn south on 55 to cut south and diagonally towards Mobile, Alabama. It keeps us on major highways more than scenic byways, which should shorten our trip.

Terry had lent us his CDS of the book-on-tape of the Da Vinci Code and Brent had made Mp3 copies of it. We listed to it as we drove, something we’ve loved to do for years, and it took our minds off the major truck butt boredom we were experiencing. I pulled out a crochet project I started almost 6 years ago for my best friend, Susan, hoping to finish it before we arrive and in time to mail for a Christmas present. Susan and I do this all the time, start major craft projects for each other and then never get them done in time, but I think this might be the world’s record for such gifts. It’s been in storage in the trailer for five years.

About 11:30 I spotted a sign along the road for a pizza place to eat, so I suggested that we get pizza for lunch. Unfortunately, for the next two hours, there were no more pizza signs, so we ended up at a Love’s truck stop which had both an A&W and Subway to choose from. Brent loves Subway, but this time we both went A&W for something different. It was okay, but it wasn’t Braums.

We ate in the trailer since the eating area smelled like cigarettes, though we didn’t see ashtrays or smokers. Maybe left over from ages of smoking in there. Then back on the road.

Construction on the highway in Arkansas, a never ending challenge for full-time on the highway.A few minutes on the road, a big truck passed us carrying a huge old tractor all rusted out, wheels missing. It looked like it was at least 75 years old. As it moved in front of his, a rock came flying off of it and smashed into the windshield. Our first ding. It’s a good one, real visible, but in the center of the window. Shit. We’ve only had this windshield for two weeks. I want a computer generated shield to protect from that kind of crap.

A huge white church alongside the highway just inside the Mississippi borderJust after crossing the Mississippi line, I knew I’d crossed another line. The religious line. Right alongside the highway was a HUGE overbuilt white steepled church that screamed Baptists, Revival, Holy Rollers, and religious truck stop. We’re in the land of not only bible beaters but bible thumpers. Oh, god save us now.

We drove on until we found the outlet malls in Mississippi, walked them to stretch our legs, then pulled over to a nearby Walmart. We went inside to get Brent more Walmart chocolate chip cookies, which he adores, and other sundry items, and finally found a sort level spot in the parking lot to park for the night. The entire parking lot is raked about 5-10 degrees towards the store. I thought that was weird since that would drive all the water towards the store and not away from it. Very strange.

There is a hospital across the street from the parking lot and I’m typing this listening to the many sirens coming in and out of it. That will be a familiar noise to life in Tel Aviv, so I don’t expect it to keep me awake. I’m so tired, I hopefully will sleep through the night.

Kohav is doing very well, loving the traveling and riding in the car with us. She is cuddly and sweet, a little playful but very happy. She will either sleep between us in her fuzzy bed or in her cat carrier bag used on the airplanes sitting in the back seat. If she wakes up there, she will cry out because she can’t see us over the back seat, so I’ll lean back a little and she will stretch up and pet my hand and then go back to sleep, totally happy she isn’t abandoned. She really has always traveled well, and becomes the most loving kitty when traveling compared to the teenager antics she has been going through at home.

Well, it is slowly getting late and it’s time to crawl into the bed. Brent slipped in an hour ago but I wanted to write this down before I forgot. By tomorrow, we should be old veterans at this traveling business, and it looks like we actually might arrive tomorrow in Mobile. We’re not sure, but keeping to the main highway really speeds up the trip time. We are just under 400 miles away, maybe less. We’ll see how far we get, and what we find when we get there.

WalMart, Batesville, Mississippi – I think

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