The Personal Adventure of Jane and Max
on their way to Houston's ArtCar Weekend
The chief benefit of driving south from Minnesota in April is that you get to watch Spring happen before your eyes. We left Maple Grove with the much despised snow still decorating the landscape.
Iowa appeared before long and with it the promise that no more reminders of Winter would be seen. The green of Spring is so startling, both the color and the immense quantities that spread like a lush quilt over the landscape. As Janie snoozed I found myself wanting to wake her just to see a perfect patch of green draped on the hills. We drove on into Missouri, unencumbered by the needs and bladders of our children, Maddy and Riley. We were making good time on this adventure for two.
Kansas City went by as a blur, we contemplated stopping for some of their legendary barbeque but not knowing where to go, the lure of the road kept us barreling along. A billboard for the Homestead House in the tiny town of Alison looked promising so we pulled off and crawled through the quiet streets, already drenched in the warmth and color of Spring.
It was a large restaurant that on a Friday might swarm with all-you-can-eat-fish-fry customers but this evening's patrons were the solid regulars. Large men and women in their fifties and sixties working the spoons of salad toppings at the setup in the back of the restaurant. They left some for us.
Our path as plotted showed that Joplin was the next big town and our jumping off point into Oklahoma. I settled down low into the passenger's seat and let Janie take over as the sun and clouds joined forces to give us a spectacular sundown. The clouds seemed a little ominous though and the notion that we were in Tornado alley crossed my mind. Janie and I had not shared our misgivings about this trip, we both had the feeling that someone might get killed before the adventure was over. There was nothing for it but to plunge onward into the night and meet whatever fate was to come.
We didn't have long to wait. I heard the dull wump and felt the momentary shift in our speed as Janie cursed and pulled over as quickly as possible. A deer had leapt in front of the car but from Jane's perspective it simply appeared there out of nowhere. We were alright, that was first, the car suffered some battering and a broken headlight lens but it seemed to be okay too.
I looked back into the darkness and wondered if the deer could have possibly survived. It was not to be, she had joined so many of her kin, laying in the grass of the highway median. We made our apologies to the deer and thanked her for being the one to die and not one of us. There were many miles yet to cover this night but our thoughts stayed with the deer and our encounter with her.
We stopped in Muskogee, Oklahoma for the night and marveled at the distance we had covered our first day. I awoke early and with a mixture of dread and curiousity went out to inspect TW1NK in the daylight. I wanted to clean her up and patch the headlamp with clear packing tape. A thorough cleaning at a local do-it-yourself carwash revealed that many bugs had met the same fate as the deer.
Sure, TW1NK would start to collect more carnage as soon as we were back on the road but I wanted her cleaned up as best I could, after all, she is always on show, even speeding down the highway where tens of thousands of people would see her.
Her grin was now a bit lopsided but she was still a beautiful art car doing her art car job of delighting spectators. The coos of gas station check-out women and fruit stand vendors greeted us as TW1NK, the goodwill ambassador, crouched, temporarily at rest. Texas appeared to be on the verge of Summer, the leaves of the trees, while still bright green, had developed to the point where shade was provided and welcome in the rising temperatures. Books- on-tape is the perfect traveling companion on long drives like this. Stories told take the toil out of driving and the need to have the miles pass away. We spent Tuesday driving with Tuesdays with Maurie and Wednesday in a Year in Provence. The last tape ended as we started into the thick of Houston's rush hour. We were patient and cheerful and happy to be there as only newly arrived tourists can be.
I drove through the areas of town that I knew and looked for familiar streets and landmarks so I could get my bearings. Eventually we gave up looking for a hotel on our own and Janie did the smart thing and picked up the cell phone. Cell phones are great for this sort of thing and for checking up on the kids back home. At breakfast I had listened to a missed call from the night before, a tearful Maddy had called to express how much she missed us already and her fears for us. Evidently she had had the same feeling about this trip as we had. But there we were, alert and alive and ready for ArtCar Weekend.
Party PicturesArtCar CandyParade Pictures