I spent the first 2 days of vacation here in Missouri, then I headed South on I-55 kicking off what would become a 3000 mile solo road trip. I made my first pit-stop in Jackson, Mississippi to give the wife what she wanted and make the divorce official. Don't even ask...it was a little rocky. Next I headed for New Orleans, Louisiana to visit an old friend and his main squeeze. NOLA as its sometimes referred to is my new favorite city, I have a long history of wanting to go there, but just never found time to get there. About as Southern as it gets, not as poor or "hicky" as Mississippi** The people in Louisiana and New Orleans especially, are some of the finest I've ever met. Considering that I've lived on the West Coast and in the Mid-West and road tripped over a good portion of the country...I think its fair to say that New Orleans kicked the crap out of all of them. The food is delicious, the people fun and friendly, the woman beautiful and southern, the music upbeat and the city cleaner than I ever would have thought. I spent longer in Nawlins' than I expected to...I dropped a grand at a strip club, did 9 hours of tattoo work, and got my pool game back up to where it should be playing with John and Megan. Visited the famous Bourbon street once and fell in love with the Garden District. I learned the difference between the west bank and the east bank and even saw some of the remaining damage from Katrina and the levee breaking. I ate boiled shrimp by the pound and chowed down some red beans and rice and crawfish 'etouff'ee I learned all about the "who dat nation" and just had an overall blast....New Orleans I tip my hat to you for showing me such a great time, allowing me to be a tourist, yet never treating me like one. In fact, that tip of the hat goes out to ALL of Louisiana...you guys are cool in my book.
Then it was back in the truck and I-10 to Ocala, Florida where my mother lives. I made a little deviation in route and sat my happy ass on the beautiful white sands of Pensacola beach. For some reason, this was the hardest part of my trip...maybe because the wife and I always used to visit Florida, maybe because for a long time we both had dreams of moving down there, maybe just because I was going to be reporting to my mother that I had actually failed at marriage and was now "Divorced". Maybe because in New Orleans I'd had John and Megan and lots of beer and a new city to explore...I knew in Florida I was going to have peace and quiet and prayer...I knew I was going to have to learn to live with myself again...even in failure. As it turned out though, their was nothing to fear in Florida. Mom and Floyd greeted me with open arms...they knew I was a little bit broken, and a lot bit fragile and seemed to know just how to handle it. I guess 60+ years of ups and downs, failures and successes, mixed in with the loss and pain that old age can bring makes a little old divorce just seem silly. They were great. I ended up staying in Florida a little longer than I intended to as well, I was starting to feel like myself again, I was starting to build myself back up...I ignored the majority of my now ex-wife's "how are you calls" I guess I was starting to get my balls back. When I said goodbye to Florida it was as a stronger man. Convinced that my mother was in good hands, I left without any fear of her well being while I was gone.
Getting back on the road, I couldn't pass up another couple nights in New Orleans so I headed back the long way. Leaving New Orleans , I headed back up I-55. I made sure I got gas, before and after and just cruised through Jackson with my foot on the floor, windows down, music cranked up and a finger out the window. I was making great time as I went through Memphis and into the boonies known as Arkansas. I made it up the hills and pulled into Rolla in time to see Dylan before bed and grab a beer from the cooler and plop down on the porch...back at my house, with my kid and my dogs at my feet.
I was home a week, relaxing, sleeping in, staying up until all hours of the night playing video golf on the Wii, or catching up with some old movies or TV shows I don't get in Saudi.
I took off Friday and visited my lovely former step daughter in the St. Louis Missouri area, we had a nice lunch. I learned a lot about the past 5 years or so, some I probably needed to hear, some I didn't and some that I just plain didn't want to hear.
I pulled into Champaign, Illinois early evening and was greeted with open arms and cold beer by some Marine Corps brothers. I was attending the blessed union of Zach and Maya. We spent the evening catching up, drinking really good Dogfish Head 90 min IPA's, and getting as much work done as we could for the wedding. Sometime around 8 someone happened to mention that the smooth hoppy goodness I was drinking was also a fairly high alcohol content beer (9.0 ABV)...sometime around 9:30...I found the couch.
The wedding day went off with no major issues and the ceremony itself was beautiful. I truly believe this is a marriage between two people who know what they're doing. I think and hope that they'll live and die together, always by each others sides. The wedding was not large, only the closest family and friends were invited...It was perfect that way. Sometimes, friends and family feel like their giving someone away at a wedding, there was none of that here though, it was more like a bonding, a true union. Maya and her family seem to have just inherited a clan of crazy Marines, Infantry or Recon all...God help the person who decides to mess around with them.
Back in Rolla for the final week, a little of the blues started to kick in. When I had left 9 months ago, this was a house of love, albeit getting ready to be sold, but a house of love all the same...I hated to say it, but for the most part it just felt empty. I knew that if I wanted to, I could reclaim it when I got back, that there would be fond memories there again, Christmases, Birthdays, Holidays and joy, fun, laughter, love and passion. That last week though, sitting on my back deck at dusk, watching my dogs act as dumb as ever, cold beer in the cooler, aromatic smoke pouring out of the grill, listening to music...alone. I couldn't help but focus on all that I've lost, and even in my own country, in my own house, in the city I once served, I couldn't help but feel a little tinge of loneliness.
As the final day approaches, and the last night draws to a close...I have a million different feelings about this. I guess we'll see what happens when I get to the airport.
|Road Trip 2012|
**I may currently be biased on Mississippi though...