(written by J)
As we traveled by car over 3500 miles on this awesome vacation, I took some mental notes of things that I found amusing, interesting, sometimes even bizarre. Let me share a snippet of some of my observations.
Driving down from Mechanicsville to Alabama
At the Love's Travel Plaza in Fair Play, South Carolina (just a few miles from the Georgia border), I saw a VCU T-shirt inside for sale. Yet another perk of going to the 2011 Final Four.
The front desk clerk at the hotel we stayed at was Stehanie (according to her nametag). She was a real peach (note the sarcasm) who told us at 5PM Central time that our room was not ready yet.
For the short time we were in Biloxi at the beach, we walked down this pier to take a good luck at the Gulf of Mexico. While walking, we noticed a man just sitting on a bench on the pier. No big deal, right? Well, on the pier at this gentleman's feet was a pool of blood. I guess he gutted a fish because he didn't look like he was in pain. It was just very strange.
New Orleans is a fascinating city. In a 10 minute walk from our hotel to get dinner on Sunday night, H and I saw both a child relieving himself on the side of a building and a potential fight between a group of youths and a young professional. Also, Louisiana uses the word casino very loosely. On the drive from New Orleans to Houston, pretty much every exit claimed to have a casino. We stopped for gas and low and behold, the gas station had a "casino" which was a door that probably lead to 2 electronic slot machines. Restaurants had casinos and also shacks on the side of the road were casinos allegedly.
H mentioned in the Texas post that we got barbeque for dinner in Houston. What she didn't mention was how we found out about the barbeque place. H asked the front desk clerk if there was a good barbeque place nearby. He said that the place he liked wasn't very close. But 3 Texas businessmen who were relaxing in the lounge overheard the inquiry and they were very helpful. One of them said "It's right past the MacDonald's." Not to be confused with McDonald's. That was humorous enough but when you add the fact that all of them also sounded just like the Houston Astros executives that George Costanza worked with in that one Seinfeld episode, it was downright hilarious. You know the one where the Astros execs say "How you doing, you son-of-a-(you know the rest)." Speaking of the Astros, we enjoyed an evening at Minute Maid Park watching the Astros/Nationals game with roughly 1000 other people. I really enjoyed 2 things at the game. First, the Astros celebrate their home runs with a very loud gun blast (it startled us all at first) and a cowboy featured on the wraparound little scoreboard blasting off his six-shooters. Second during the 7th inning stretch after Take Me Out to the Ballgame, they played Deep in the Heart of Texas and what crowd was there enthusiastically sang and clapped along. We spent the most time in Texas so there were more fun observations. Just outside of San Antonio, we went to this really cool Old West ranch about which H blogged previously. At the ranch, there was this wagon that H wanted the kids to sit on for a picture (it is actually pictured on the Texas portion of the blog). I put B on the wagon and then A on the wagon. They were sitting happily as I put Z on the wagon. He asked me if the wagon was going to fall and I told him no. As soon as he sat down, the entire wagon tilted downward sending the kids to the ground. Fortunately, all of the kids were fine and will have a story to tell their kids someday. Finally, A got to see Elmo in Sea World San Antonio later that day. We had to wait in line and go in this room where Elmo was waiting with an employee ready to take a picture. We don't pay for pictures like that and H was setting up to take a picture of A and Elmo. The Sea World employee shot that down quickly. "No pictures in here." H tried one more time and got an even more terse "No pictures in here." No money, no Elmo picture. Who does Elmo think he is charging children to take pictures with them? Abby, Cookie Monster, and Zoe happily stood with A while H took their pictures for free.
Arkansas takes their road construction very seriously. We went to eat dinner one night and I noticed an electronic message board on the interstate saying "Road construction ahead. Expect massive delays. Consider an alternate route." That sounded very ominous to me especially considering that we had both the Clinton Library in Little Rock in the morning and Graceland in Memphis (2 1/2 hours away) in the afternoon scheduled for the next day. It turns out that 1 of the 2 lanes on I-40 was closed for 12 miles. No big deal and it didn't delay us any.
B really enjoyed making bird calls the last few days of the trip. She decided to make some bird calls as we were walking from our hotel to dinner in downtown Memphis. It startled one gentleman who yelled out, "Who's making those bird noises?" Also, our hotel was apparently the official Northern European hotel of Elvis Week. Breakfast Saturday morning was fascinating as we were the only English speaking people eating it seemed. I believe I heard Swedish, Norwegian, and German as we chowed down. Finally once we left Memphis, we had to stop for a bathroom break at a McDonald's (not a MacDonald's) in Jackson, Tennessee. As we were walking in, a slovenly gentleman was walking out. As our paths crossed, he burped really loudly. It was so unexpected that we all burst out laughing.