A Tale of Four Cities, Three Friends, Two Tires, and A Dog

With apologies to Charles Dickens for downright thievery, and ultimately, the mutilation of his beautiful prose, I can sum up my adventure of a road trip in July, thusly:

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
but it didn’t stop just then.
Then, it was the best of times,
and the worst of times,
and the best of times, again.

or

Kristi And Sooze’s Road Trip/Descent Into the Bowels of Hell

or

My, That’s a Lot of Adventure to Pack Into One Mini Cooper.

Thelma and Louise
aka Kristi and Sooze
and the Mini Cooper

Here they are the happy, unsuspecting little innocents, starting out on their big road trip, all excited to be taking Kristi’s husband’s Mini Cooper on their pilgrimage. What fun, what fun, what fun!!! Look at them! They have NO IDEA what lies in wait ahead of them: isn’t their optimism cute?

As we say here in the south about all feeble-minded idiots:
  “Well, bless their hearts!”

To begin at the beginning: Kristi and I met in California at a Mom’s Weekend Out kind of event for homeschool moms who participated on an internet homeschooling curriculum forum. We liked each other immediately, and shortly after that meetup on the west coast, Kristi and her family decided to move from California to Tennessee. Our families became real life friends, and we have enjoyed each other’s company ever since.

So, when Cheri, another Mom that we met on that California weekend many years ago, who lives on the West Coast, mentioned she and her family would be taking an East Coast vacation, and said that she’d be stopping in Atlanta for a few days, Kristi and I decided it would be great fun to take a little road trip to Atlanta to meet up with Cheri.

So, that’s how our little adventure began: Kristi and Sooze, on their way to visit Cheri in Atlanta.

About one hour into the trip, things were going along swimmingly, and my phone rang. It was my husband. “I’ve got some bad news for you. Your wallet fell out of your purse, and you left it on the floor of my car when I dropped you off at Kristi’s house.”

Oh, crud.

Kristi felt like she could keep me fed till the trip was over, but, honestly, that kind of made a little chink in the joy of my journey. It’s hard to feel independent and free when you have to bum money off a friend and her debit card. And harder still to check into a hotel room that you’ve reserved with Priceline which requires a photo ID, when you have none.

But that was OK. We would not be dismayed. My husband would fax the hotel a copy of my driver’s license, and all would be well.

Onward to Atlanta, like Sherman. Sort of.

We arrived at the place where Cheri was staying, and got to meet Cheri’s family. Awesome! We stole Cheri away from her family, and checked into our hotel, and went out for dinner. We talked and laughed and shared our hearts, and ate great food. Such a sweet time!  So lovely a time were we having, in fact, that I forgot to take any pictures till we were about to leave the restaurant. We had stopped off in the bathroom before we left, and there we asked a  woman to take our picture with my ipad. So, it’s not the best quality of picture, but you’ll get the idea. We were three friends, really, really happy to see each other, having had a lovely, lovely evening together.

It was the best of times.

Yes, this was taken in a bathroom.
Don’t YOU take pictures in a bathroom???


We took Cheri back to be with her family, and we went to the hotel I had Pricelined. Nice hotel, good deal. I’d go back to the Hilton Garden Suites Perimeter again! Kristi and I stayed up into the wee hours, talking, and made plans to go shopping in the morning at the Perimeter Mall that was just minutes away from our hotel, before we headed back to Nashville the next day. Atlanta is a big city, and it has some great shopping. And since we were there, and I had a 25th wedding anniversary coming up, and a girlfriend in tow, it seemed like it would be a GREAT opportunity to do a little shopping! We turned out the lights, and I slept the sleep of the dead. I love black out curtains. Between black out curtains and a white noise machine and half a sleeping pill, I truly slept deeply and well, for almost the first time in a couple of months. Because, it had been a couple of months since Deacon D. Dawg had his medical crisis, and went on steroids, and began waking me in the middle of the night, every night, to be let out.

So when I called my husband in the morning, to tell him about the wonderful evening I’d had and the great night of sleep I had finally gotten, he told me that the night before, while I was enjoying my wonderful evening with my friends, Deakie had gone into his last medical crisis, and that he’d had to have Deakie put to sleep that morning, and that he was outside, on the overlook,  digging Deakie’s grave.

I crumbled.

It was the worst of times.

I’ve already told you that story, so I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say that I was devastated that I’d left my sweet husband to face the crisis alone, and that I had actually forgotten to say goodbye to Deakie, in my mad rush to get out the door to Kristi’s house. The “Miracle Dog” of our little berg had made it through so much. He was going downhill, yes, but he’d been going downhill for two and a half months. It hadn’t crossed my mind that my one night away might be his last night alive. But, as it turned out, it was.

I cried a while, but on some levels, I confess that I was relieved. So I wavered between guilt, and relief, and I guess I still kind of do. But I wasn’t hearing this news all alone, and I wasn’t with my husband, and I didn’t feel like I could give in fully to my grief. So…onward. We had to move forward.

Onward, in our original plan, was our trip to Perimeter Mall. To a store where they had the cutest dress ever, and a sales clerk in full possession of the “fluff and puff gene”. This girl, Sylvia, was a hot little chiquita who knew how to accessorize: you could see it in the way she dressed herself. You could see it in the clothes she brought me to try on. Have you ever walked into a fine restaurant, and just put yourself and your taste buds into the hands of a waiter who knew how to feed you, who knew what to order for you? Or asked the right wine connoisseur, like Denny Jiosa, to pick out the right wine to go with your meal? Sylvia brought me a dress that was perfect for my body type, and then the shoes, the jewelry, and even the jacket to go with it. I felt like a strawberry blonde Marilyn Monroe in that get-up. Kristi gave me every ounce of enthusiastic affirmation I needed: this outfit was a winner!

It was the best of times.

But then, I had to take the wind out of Sylvia’s sails. I had no credit card. I had no money. You should have SEEN how her countenance fell. It made ME feel awful. Because she and I BOTH knew she had more than done her job. She had dressed me to the nines. And now, the final ka-CHING was eluding her grasp. But Sylvia was ever resourceful. She wrote down the total cost on a business card, and told me to call her the next day, and shipping would be free, and she’d give me a discount as well.

So, Kristi and I hit the road, and waved a fond farewell to Hotlanta, which appeared to be melting into a puddle in the Mini-Cooper’s rear view mirror. Dang it was hot! We drove a couple of hours, to a little town in nowhere, Georgia, that shall remain nameless. Kristi started noticing the road noise was getting louder. The Mini Cooper was equipped with tires called run-flats. I refer to Wikipedia, here,  because, “Law,  Miss Scawh-lett, I don’t know nuffin’ ’bout changin’ no tie-ahs”, : run-flats are designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured, and to enable the vehicle to continue to be driven at reduced speeds and for limited distances. So we pulled off to see if perhaps any of her tires were low.

One was. A nice gentleman offered to help us put air in the tire that was low on air. But as it turned out, there was no air machine at that station. “If you’ll drive underneath the interstate bridge to the other side of the highway, there’s a service station there that should have an air machine”, he said. He followed us there, put some air in the suspiciously low tire, and then, as we walked around the car to inspect the other tires, to see if they might need air, we heard a “BOOM!”coming from the tire he had just inflated. Down the road of the small town we limped, at 5 mph, the nice gentleman still following us, to what he told us would be a tire store about a mile down the road. And we saw a sign with pictures of tires on it…although the sign was in Spanish….

We pulled over. The owner of the store spoke only Spanish. We spoke no Spanish. Boo! Guy who followed us spoke fluent Spanish. Yay!!! He meant for us to drive further up the road to a store that looked less like a chop shop! Boo! But this guy who owned the store where we’d stopped, apparently had the right size tire! Yay! (Mini-Cooper sized tires are a rare commodity in Small Town, Georgia.) So, the tire guy goes immediately to work on our car, and in 20 minutes, we are on our way, rejoicing, that this could have gone SO. MUCH. WORSE!

Twenty minutes later, it does. Road noise gets loud, again. This time, the loud road noise is accompanied by the pungent, acrid smell of burning rubber…No. Please, dear Lord, no. We pull off at the first gas station at the end of the exit ramp in Ringgold, GA.

Ringgold, Georgia, is somewhat infamous in the state of Tennessee. It’s very near the state line that divides Georgia from Tennessee. It’s near Chattanooga. It’s where underage girls from Tennessee can cross the state line and get married legally, without worrying about being underage. Don’t ask me how I know this, but it is possible I may have an acquaintance who had occasion to take advantage of this little legal loophole. I digress.

Tire #2. In shreds.

Our tire is in shreds. Same tire: the brand NEW tire, the one acquired at the tire store that kinda looked like a chop shop. The guy we run into at THIS gas station is not so accommodating nor helpful as the previous guy. He mentions that there’s a tire store 5 miles up the road. He doesn’t offer to help in any way. He mentions that there is a gas station on the other side of the interstate that might be more likely to help us than this sorry excuse for a gas station where we pulled off. So we CRAWL our way underneath the interstate bridge and pull into the Kangaroo station in Ringgold, GA.

We began calling Mini Cooper Roadside Assistance in the meantime for help with this Mini Cooper tire situation. They offer to tow us either to Atlanta (three hours in the wrong direction: I don’t think so.) or to Knoxville (three hours north in the wrong direction: again, I don’t think so.) but since there’s no Mini Cooper dealership in Chattanooga (10 minutes away) they won’t tow us there, and somehow, Nashville, which is only an hour and a half away, which has a Mini Cooper dealership, and which is where we want to go, is out of their towing range. SERIOUSLY!

So we call Kristi’s husband, who has to leave work, go home, change clothes, go pick up a wheel, and drive all the way to Ringgold GA, where he plans to spend the night sleeping in his Mini-Cooper (if you can imagine!!!)  at the Kangaroo Station, in order to get it fixed in the morning.

Meanwhile, we spend the next 4 hours stranded in air conditioned comfort at the truck stop, becoming the new BFF’s of several truckers. We walked, with semis whizzing by us, and probably looking a lot like women of easy virtue looking for a ride, to four separate locations at that exit: the Chevron, the Waffle House, the Travel Center, and the Kangaroo, and it is with great disappointment, but with some authority, that I can report to you that not a single truckstop in Ringgold, Georgia has wi-fi. So much for me whiling away the time talking with my Facebook friends. Nor does the Kangaroo TV room have access to local TV stations, so NBC was unviewable, and thus, the Opening Ceremonies to the Olympics, that Kristi had SO longed to see, were not on the menu for our viewing pleasure.

It was the worst of times.

However, the Kangaroo Mart IS the best of the lot, if you’re going to HAVE to spend a good portion of your day at what we like to call the Truck Spa in Ringgold, GA. It comes complete with wine or beer that can be purchased (we didn’t), all the chocolate, junk food, and fountain drinks your belly could hold, a glass display case of Krispy Kreme donuts, an in-store Subway Sandwich Shop, showers, a TV room with very deep, comfortable fake leather sofas, and poker machines if you’re feeling lucky, which, for some reason…we weren’t. Go figure.

Yup. You can get clean, get drunk, and wipe out your savings, if you’ve a mind to, at the Kangaroo.

But you can’t get towed to Nashville if you’re driving a Mini Cooper.

Four hours and several episodes of Seinfeld later (our trucker BFF’s were nice enough to let us avoid the porn on the TV menu, and even gave us control of the TV remote, bless them), The Cavalry, in the form of Kristi’s sweet husband, showed up to rescue us. We drove the Suburban back to Nashville-ish.

It was the best of times, again.

 Well…for us, anyway. I think spending a sweltering, mosquito-laden summer night trying to sleep in a Mini-Cooper at a truck stop beside the interstate constitutes the worst of times for her husband, The Cavalry.

That’s a lot of adventure to pack into one little Mini Cooper, wouldn’t you agree?

I hope to never have a day quite that full of drama again, for a long, long time.

Ever had one of those days?


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