My Eleven Days of Hell - Chapter 2

Aug 19, 2005 at 5:16 PM
OK. So, we were finally out of Florida, and we made it to Mississippi, Alabama and then Louisiana. We picked up the usual crap along the way - little torpedo keychains with "USS Alabama" on them, an Aunt Jemima iron figurine, some corny little toys for the kids, fridge magnets that crack in a few weeks, postcards that say "typical southern family" with seventeen barefoot kids on them, etc.

We were now four days into our trip - having originally planned for a six day trip - and decided to start thinking like tourists, visiting the fun spots, enjoying ourself, etc... It was a little hard to feel like a tourist when we were jammed up into the cabin of the truck like sardines. I'm driving, the twins are sitting in the middle (thank goodness they're so skinny, or they'd never have fit into the one seat belt together), and Amber is jammed up against the passenger door. It felt like the girls were all elbows. Something was always rolling under the accelerator pedal. It was less than comfortable. Never the less, we were gonna try to make the trip something worthwhile.

We noticed that the truck's overdrive switch was not responsive - it was gonna drive in overdrive the entire trip, like it or not. But, I was not gonna wait at another U-Haul station for two days waiting for a different vehicle. I would rather have eaten rusty nails.

So, thinking the worst was behind us, and with our suntans hitting the height of excrutiating pain, we thought we'd stop in New Orleans (if you're local it's said "Niohluns" through a barely open mouth) and check out the french quarter. I figured the fact that I spoke french would grease the wheel a bit, make it easier to get around.

We drove into town as it was getting dark, and we drove around downtown for about 30 minutes looking for signs that pointed us toward the french quarter. We'd follow one, and then suddenly hit another sign saying the french quarter was the other way. So, we'd follow that sign, etc... eventually ending up right where we'd started.

By the way, Niohluns is the picture of quaint old town - if by old quaint town you mean thug-filled, hooker-laden, drifter-ridden, gun-toting criminal, rotting old corpses of houses all over the place, street-corner drug deals in full view of sideways-looking cops, quaint old town.

So, risking our lives, we stopped to ask a local (walking home from work alone - that daring soul) where the french quarter is. She pointed down a road and said to follow it and that it would take us straight there, just a few block away. Did we have to turn? No, she said, straight that way a few blocks. We said thanks. Amber took over driving at that point.

We followed the stranger's directions and ended up in the single worst neighbourhood I have ever been in (and I was born in the not-so-fancy part of LA). The roads were worse than any I've ever been on (two foot deep potholes, no where to turn around, no lights, no signals) and if we had stopped the car, we'd have been mugged. We were going slowly in the U-Haul because of the potholes, and so we'd developed an odd caravan of straggling thugs, waiting for us to stop. When they got too close, my dog barked up a storm. What they were waiting for, I did not want to know. Hopefully, my big dog Tuck's bark looked menacing. Secretly, I knew that if one of those people had actually gotten close, Tuck wouldn't have done much other than keep barking. I managed to get my own gun out from it's locked box in the glove box somewhat discreetly. I placed it carefully in my lap, safety off, hand on it.

We eventually did the tiny street U-turn (two right turns in a row), and promptly hit the only street light. While waiting for the light to turn green again, my window was quickly being approached by a very angry looking street thug with his gun out, the closest of the lot.

I though about my gun and was suddenly terrified to use it, despite all my training. I was locked in an internal agrument about having to grow that much backbone so fast. Amber didn't care what I was doing -- she just floored it through the red light. Thank God. I had never had to use the thing outside of a range, and I didn't want to hurt someone. The other guy wasn't in my shoes, he sure looked like he'd used his an awful lot.

Then we noticed there was a cop car behind us. Apparently, this one didn't care about street robbery being avoided as much as running red lights. He flashed his lights briefly, and then turned them off and went down a side road. Maybe to avoid being robbed by our mutual friend?

We never did find the french quarter - and that asshole who gave us the directions is probably still laughing. Unless walking home from work in Niohluns

Heading back to the highway, we took some pretty pictures of really creepy cemetaries while our nerves cooled. At least we'd have SOMETHING for our trip, we thought.

We took off down the highway, and discovered that Louisiana's DOT has probably never repaved the original highways. For hours, the only thing going through our minds was thuck-thuck-thuck-thuck-thuck-thuck-thuck-thuck-thuck-THUUUUNG
and swerving to avoid the ocassional roadkill or lane-wide pothole.

We promised ourselves we'd never go back to Niohluns again, and we'd talk to the Louisiana DOT asking why the highway was in such darn bad shape. I knew someone at the LADOT from my old job, and I was thinking it was time to give her a call ("Hey Ehllai, long time no hear. How's work going? Uh-huh, yep. Hey, by the way, your roads suck. What gives?").

Around this time, the stress and the sunburn was starting to get to me. Oh, and did I mention that I got bit by a brown recluse when I was in Florida? I probably forgot that part. I was not feeling good, to put it mildly. Eating had become an adventure in stomache-land, and I didn't have time to think about it, least of all try to keep food down. I was dropping weight like crazy - which is OK if you want to, and scary if you don't. I fall into the latter category. I had made everyone promise that if I started dying, they'd find a hospital for me. In the meantime, the only noticeable symptom was that my leg was swollen and a funny color - oh, and my hair was falling out. My long, brownish red mantle was falling out in pieces. When I looked in the rear-view mirror, I noticed that where the hair was falling out, I was also sunburned. How odd, I thought, to have a sunburn under my hair. How much sun HAD I gotten, anyway? Would it do any permanent damage?

Back on the road, we started heading for Texas. I was still shaking from the almost-carjacking, and my skin itched everywhere the sun had been. I guess I'll talk about Fort Sh-thole, Texas tomorrow.

Don't know why I'm still posting this story, but it feels great to be rending open this wound - spilling the whole horrible trip all out into the wide open void of the web . Truth is better than fiction, I guess.

1 Responses to My Eleven Days of Hell - Chapter 2

  1. Amber Says:

    DITTO. Couldn't have said it better myself. This is me, laughing hysterically and not-so-hysterically.....all the way to the Riverwalk. (Oh yes! Did you think this wasn't to-be-continued? You just wait 'til we get to FORT WORTH!!)