July 26, 2009: The Drive, Day Two

Day two.  Still driving.  Fifteen hours of driving yesterday.  No real stops the entire way.  The only stops that we have made are for fuel and for the obvious bathroom stops.  We are making quite good time on this very, very long trip.  We managed to get our trip split into almost exactly two even segments between yesterday and today – not that it matters when we are not taking a break in between the two.

Technically we did not make the decision to skip getting the hotel for the night.  We just kept driving until it was unreasonable to get one.  I was feeling really good while driving and was able to drive for more than another six hours before needing to have Francesca take over again.  So we didn’t want to stop while I was still on my initial burst of driving energy – that would have just been a waste of my driving energy and made us much later than necessary.

The route that we decided to take from St. Louis to Joplin in Missouri took us right through the heart of the Ozark Mountains which was pretty neat although we would have been much more exciting to have seen during the day.  We were definitely surprised to find how heavily populated that stretch of Missouri was, especially considering that we were in the Ozarks which, I always though, were lightly populated.  The population felt very similar to Ohio.  No single large cities but constant, significant population the entire way.  It never felt like we were really out in a rural area.

While we were driving on the outskirts of St. Louis we were very, very surprised when suddenly, without any warning, my bottle of Rockstar energy drink gathered enough pressure to blow its top!  It caught us totally by surprise and could very easily have caused an accident.  The should was loud and made Francesca and I both jump.  There was enough air pressure released that I got a blast of air in the face and suddenly the vehicle smelled like fruit.  It took us a minute to discover what had happened.  We were laughing hysterically once we realized what had happened.

Missouri was very entertaining in general.  As we were driving we saw some green fireworks directly in front of us.  We were not expecting fireworks late at night.  What made this really funny was that when we were driving on our way to Dayton from Columbus Emily had asked what was so special about this route that made it exciting compared to the normal route – apparently she is not as entertained by driving over new territory and seeing new sites and cities as we are – and Francesca had remarked that she couldn’t expect this route to have fireworks or anything.  Emily had replied that, “duh, of course there are no fireworks, it’s still daylight!”  We had laughed then but the last laugh was on us when suddenly there were fireworks.

Missouri was definitely a long haul.  Just as we got to the border we took the final exit off of i44 to make a quick stop into Kansas as we had never been there before.  Kansas goes right into the corner of Missouri and Oklahoma where we were crossing the border so it was less than one mile to get to Kansas.  So officially, one more state off of my list!  We were only there for a second.  Drove in, said “hey, it’s Kansas” and drove right back out again.  Less than five minutes total time spent there.

The most exciting state to see on this trip was Oklahoma.  I have never seen the Great Plains before and Oklahoma is, a little, exotic compared to most of our trip.  I drove the first bit in Oklahoma getting up to just east of Tulsa where Francesca took over as I was starting to have problems keeping my eyes open.  The sun was not up yet and it would be a while before I would get my second wind.

Once the sun came up we were treated to a landscape like nothing either of us had ever seen. Oklahoma really is just flat and the prairie grass is a yellowish green which is quite unusual.  There was a light fog laying over the ground as the sun began to rise.

Once the sun was up I started to feel better.  I got my second wind and, after getting some quick breakfast on the Choctaw Nation, Francesca drove for about fifteen minutes before we decided that she was really tired and that I needed to drive again.  So I drove through the rest of Oklahoma, which was still a long way, and a good ways into Texas getting us through and a ways south of Dallas – another city which I have never seen before.

Francesca took a nap while I drove this stretch.  This is the very first sleep that either of us has had this entire trip. The kids have slept for hours and hours in the back.  They did really well.  We stayed awake all through the night talking like tween girls at a slumber party and singing along with the radio.  Francesca managed to get a good hour and a half sleep at this point which was important so that she would be fresh enough to be able to handle the final bit of the drive.

Once we were into Texas it was time for me to be working so I hooked up my BlackBerry and put my laptop online from the car while Francesca took over driving again now that we were on the home stretch and she knew all of the drive from Dallas to Houston.  I was feeling good enough to drive but we did not really have that option any longer.  Work was not too busy but there was a bit to do and working while driving is rather challenging even there is not very much going on.  It did work, though, and that was quite impressive.  When pressed I definitely am able to work from the car with this setup.

On the outskirts of Houston we had rather a significant scare.  Francesca was driving when a minivan just barely in front of us completely blew its front left tire.  There were four vehicles pretty close together when it happened.  The minivan dived from the right lane to the left lane from the pull of the missing tire.  The cars directly adjacent to the minivan lept from the road and Francesca hit the break attempting to slow the completely loaded truck and heavy trailer as quickly as possible.

The minivan driver, not knowing what to do with a blown front tire, slammed on her breaks in a panic bringing the minivan down onto the bare metal of her remaining rim which provided no traction at all and put the minivan into a flat spin with its rear end going left and around.  She ended up pulling a full three-sixty spin and came dangerously close to rolling over on her side which would most definitely had caused one or more vehicles to plow straight into her.  As it was she luckily landed over on the right side of the road facing the way that she had originally been facing.  I looked at her as we drove by and I could see her screaming and waving her hands frantically but there was no “human” damage and she was only badly shaken.  The vehicle was quite damaged and, for all I know, was totaled.  But the passengers were fine.  Several cars had already pulled over which were able to stop many times faster than us and we had no spare space with all of the kids so we did not stop since they had more people checking on them than they needed.

The rest of the drive went by without incident and we were at the Grices’ house by early afternoon.  Boy were we glad to finally be out of the car.  I really wanted to just collapse and go to bed but I had to work yet so that was not really an option right away.  It was probably two or maybe two thirty when we arrived.

I tried going to bed around three thirty and just watching my BlackBerry.  That did not work very well.  I got paged out every hour.  I had to get up and work at four thirty.  Tried to sleep again but had to get up at five thirty.  Once again at six thirty.  This was making my exhaustion worse.  Francesca managed to get to bed during this stretch and, in addition to the hour and a half that she slept during the drive earlier today, she was not doing too badly.  I finally managed to sleep for an hour and a half from six thirty to eight.  Then Emily woke me up to tell me that dinner was ready.  I was so delirious that I couldn’t even tell her to open the door!  I did not manage to fall back asleep after that, though, unfortunately.  I tried but it didn’t work.

At nine I was paged out again and had to get up.  So since I was up I had a bite to eat – pan fried trout that Bennie had caught in the Gulf yesterday while we were driving.  It was really delicious.  I stayed up for about half an hour before attempting to get back to sleep.

No luck on sleep.  I lay in bed for hours with insomnia.  After having been woken up so many times and having gone for so long without any sleep I just was not able to fall asleep again.  I finally got my laptop hooked up since I had some time to kill and was online from “my” bedroom for a while.  I did not end up managing to fall back asleep until one in the morning!  I am still going to be pretty tired tomorrow and likely quite hungry as well.

Dad had a change of plans for this week.  Originally he was going to be going to Peekskill tomorrow and spending the week.  But since his aunt Esther passed away he is going to Ohio on Monday and coming back Tuesday night.  I am not sure when or if he is planning to go down to Peekskill after that.  Dominica was originally going back home on Sunday afternoon but decided to push that off until Monday morning since she is not meeting dad down there.  So she and her parents went to see Hair of the Dog playing at the Irish festival somewhere near where they live.

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