What kind of road trip would it be if you don’t see the red and blue flashing lights of a police cruiser closing in on your vehicle at 11PM while driving through a dense fog somewhere in the middle of the Texas panhandle? Not my kind of road trip!
“DON, WAKE UP! I’M GETTING PULLED OVER!” I shout over Jeff Buckley’s rising falsetto.
White-knuckled, I veer onto the shoulder as my mind races with possible offenses. The last posted speed limit said 70 - 65 at night. I’m going no more than 69 mph. Could I really be getting pulled over for going four miles over the limit?? Is it illegal to drive with your rearview mirror completely blocked? Trucks don’t use rearview mirrors. Gahh! Calm down. Just see what he wants.
The officer approaches on the passenger side and shines a long flashlight through the opened window.
“License and registration,” he says in a no-nonsense kind of way.
I remove my California driver’s license from my purse and hyperextend my body over the passenger seat to fish my registration out of the glove compartment. With the glovebox open it’s clear that we’re not packing any guns or drugs – but just about everything else. Behind us is a wall of stuff – everything I own that hasn’t been sold, donated or left at the dumpster has been strategically wedged into the trunk and back seat. Using every last inch of space, my backpack is shoved on the floor between Don’s legs and his backpack is on his lap.
“I pulled you over because you have a taillight out,” the officer says.
“Oh no!” I exclaim, aghast. “I just took the car in for service last week. I even had a bulb replaced. What a bummer.”
“I’m gonna let you go with a warning,” he says firmly. “You’ll need to get this taken care of first thing in the morning.”
“Oh, thank you! Yes, we will. First thing. Thank you, officer,” I reply.
The officer hands me back my license and registration and returns to his vehicle. I take a moment to compose myself, heart still racing. Yes, I did actually just say, “What a bummer” to a police officer. WTF. I am not a rule breaker. I’m not accustomed to run-ins with the law.
To take my mind off of the incident, Donovan and I invent car games that occupy the next two hours. We take turns naming the 50 states, mammals, fish, birds, and match actors with their films. As we approach Oklahoma City, our destination for the night, we encounter another snafu. We’d programmed Brenda, the female voice emanating from my GPS – which is British, of course – to take us to 100 Main Street, Oklahoma City.
This is Brenda. Or, this is what I imagine Brenda would look like, if, you know, she were real. (In fact, this is a sketch by a British artist, Hannah Barnes, called Portrait of a Woman with Rosy Cheeks.)
Following Brenda’s instructions, we exit the I-40 and end up on a toll road which, as it turns out, will lead us 24 miles out of our way - to Main Street - which was just a place marker we’d punched in because you can’t just type in a city – you need an actual address. Quickly realizing how far off course we were being led, we exit the toll road, get back on I-40 and search for the next sign that boasts Lodgings.
Brenda is no help locating the nearest Super 8. She’s recalculating at every turn like a dizzy broken record. “Recalculating. Recalculating.” I no sooner pull into the parking lot of a Waffle House to enter our new destination when I see the red and blue flashing lights behind me, again. Geezus! It’s now 1AM. We’ve been on the road for 10 hours. I am tired, frustrated and beyond frazzled. Luckily officer #2 is nice and also lets me off with a warning after running my license to see if I have any priors.
In two hours I was pulled over in two different states. Helluva night.
The next morning we manage to find a NAPA Auto Parts store (no thanks to Brenda) where I buy a taillight and Donovan installs it in the parking lot. Good thing he’s handy. (above: his rendition of the broken taillight and “wall of crap.”)
Then we continue on through Oklahoma…
Dine at Big Whiskey’s on President Clinton Ave in Little Rock, Arkansas…
…before stopping at the most run-down Super 8 of the trip in Memphis, TN. The door lock was jammed so the only thing keeping it “secure” was the latch. The window was also busted, remaining slightly ajar, allowing the cold wind to whistle in.
Donovan managed to rig a towel into the crevasse so we wouldn’t freeze to death in our sleep. Good times.
More stories and photos from the road to come…