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It's only 768 miles to Walmart

It's a title best sung to the tune of 24hours to Tulsa. Or just sleep through the entire entry. You know it makes sense.

sunny 34 °C

It was a last minute decision. I had had a few easy days, and on the Wednesday afternoon after faffing for a while, I had decided to do something and promptly gone to sit on the toilet. That, apparently, was enough for me. But a little later, I had swung into action: after a brief comparison of likely costs and then pretty much on a whim doing something that hadn't even occurred to me until 10 minutes prior, I booked a car for a week. Barely 2hours later I had been dropped at Buffalo International Airport to collect it.

My conversation with the rental rep had gone (this is a very condensed version of a 15minute discussion) approximately as follows:

Him: (looking at my Swedish driving licence). So, where are you from? Singapore?
Me: Wales, but my licence is from Sweden
Him: Cool. I love Dr. Who, and it is filmed in Wales.
Me: Yes, I think it is. It's a pretty good show, but I don't watch it much as I don't have a TV
Him: (insert 5minute excited ramble about David Tennant here)
Me: [waits patiently, offering only an occasional grunt to the conversation]
Him: Ok, here you go. I have given you a triple-upgrade for free. I love Dr. Who.
Me: Erm. Ok. Great, Yes. Thanks. You should watch some of the older Doctors.
Him: You mean there has been more than one series? (insert another 5 minute ramble about David Tennant here)
Me: Erm. Yes. Thanks for the upgrade. It's getting late [it was 11pm], and I better be going
Him: Sure. Drive safely. I love Dr. Who. Do you know David Tennant?
Me: (runs for door)

And so it was that I ended up with a larger, comfier but inevitably less fuel efficient Ford Fusion.

The following morning, I headed West. Yes, it is becoming a theme, but there is allot of West out there. I had just a vague idea. A couple of friends to drop in on and surprise visit, a day or two in Chicago, and a short trip to St. Louis for work combined with a leisurely drive back through the countryside. The car would give me options, and a week was a decent amount of time. 6 hours or so in and it started unravelling. My friend in South Bend who had just finished her Thesis at Notre Dame had neglected to tell me that she was instantly flying off to New York City to party/celebrate. Her (drunk and horribly hungover) room-mate told me that I had missed her by about 2hours, but in a tone of voice that simultaneously left me in no doubts of her meaning and scared the living hell out of me, suggested that I stay with her instead so we could 'have some fun for the weekend'.

I wrote a note for my friend and left, rapidly.

2.5 hours and an extensive tour of Gary, Indiana, (a town of 100,000 of no real relevance, except that it is 25miles to Chicago and also the birthplace of Michael Jackson and most of his siblings) later, I finally tracked down their house to discover that my friends there had gone AWOL. A Finnish-Slovakian couple, I had figured that dropping by would be good to say hello and watch the hockey with the following morning (both Finland and Slovakia were playing in World Championship semi-finals), but the neighbours hadn't seen them for a couple of days and had no idea where they were. Neither phone was being answered. I assumed they were probably semi-comatose in some bar still celebrating the Quarter final victories.

So I left a note, and continued on my merry way.

I stopped at a roadside service area for a coffee and to ponder my next move. I logged onto the interweb-thingy, and discovered that there was no longer any point in my going to St. Louis - the guy I needed to see had to go to Anchorage on Monday morning. Ah. Ok. That pretty much decided me, and so I got back in the car and continued heading West.

When I got to the middle of nowhere Illinois, it was already well after 9pm and getting very dark. Despite the village i required not even appearing on my road atlas, I found Dakota reasonably easily. After driving every road in town and not finding a suitable one, I went to a gas station and asked. Six confused people and sets of opposing directions later, one pulled out an iphone and at the third attempt, found the address I wanted about 6miles out of town down a dirt track. He gave me directions, and off I set.

And thus it was that after a day long drive of 768miles, I discovered they were also out and I was stuck in the absolute middle of nowhere.

For the third time that day, I wrote and left a note. I was by now running out of usable paper.

I pondered my options none of which were overly appealing. It was late, and I was in the middle of nowhere. I pondered staying put and just falling asleep in the car, but I was not 100% sure I was at the correct address and didn't fancy waking up to an irate shotgun wielding farmer complaining that I was trespassing. I thought of finding an empty stretch of country road and parking there, or going back into the nearest town – Freeport – and finding a motel. Approximately, that is what I did, except when I arrived in Freeport it was 23:30, the few motels i saw looked uninviting and I decided that perhaps I should save money. And so I found the inevitable 24hour Walmart, with it's large empty car-park, chose a corner where the floodlights did not affect me too much, stretched out on the back seat and fell asleep there.

The following morning, I was eating breakfast when the phone rang, excitedly. My note had miraculously been found. I should go back. And so I did. To Dakota. Not Gary or Notre Damn. I haven't seen Isa & Beerman since Dublin, several years ago and it was great to catch up, notwithstanding the temperatures were already into the 90's at 8am and they have cats. Lots of cats. A friendly animal to which I am sadly allergic. But a happy relaxing day was spent, even more so when you understand that Beerman is chief brewmaster for a Wisconsin brewery. And thus there were tasters to hand.

Posted by Gelli 07:12 Archived in USA Tagged people driving roadtrip

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WE WEREN"T OUT! Well, we were but more like comatose and didn't hear the knocking. It had been a long week. If not for the lost bumblebee in the living room, we may have found your note several days later. We don't usually use that door but the bee needed to be relocated.

Kris woke me up with "We've had a visitor"!!, then showed me the note. Hence the 'excitedly ringing of your phone'.

Sorry about the cats but, as I recall, you were served dinner, breakfast and definitely beer. We aim to serve. Thank you for the visit!!!!

by Isadora

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