Go figure. There I was in Baton Rouge, La.,
on business. I can’t think of many other reasons to visit. OK, nice town,
bulging like a whale after the hurricanes, but not on my tourism radar.
It was late on a Tuesday afternoon. I was headed home, just waiting to
board, when the inevitable announcement came. “We are in a hold position.
There is tornadic activity (tell me that doesn’t sound scary) around Dallas,
so we cannot take off.”
We’ve all been through that, right? You guessed it. The flight was cancelled
two hours later. In fact, all flights to Dallas were cancelled. By all three
or so airlines that serve this Bayou city. I quickly made a reservation on
the first flight out in the morning. There was nothing to do but find the
last motel room in town and hope the Cajun chicken at Billy Bob’s BBQ
wouldn’t be tornadic.
Back to the airport in the morning. All flights cancelled for the day. Who’s
angry? Just all those other people, not me. I quickly called and was told
there were no flights with seats out of Baton Rouge until Friday. My
prodigious tummy could not stand that much Cajun cookin’.
OK, I thought to myself, its adventure time. I raced back to the Hertz
counter and reclaimed my car (by the skin of my teeth, judging by the line
behind me and the empty parking lot).
I drove home to Tucson. Straight through. Hey, when you get mad at the
airlines and the tornado gods, you have to look them in the eye and say “get
out of my damn way.”
I hooked up my trusty Magellan GPS (I call her Aunt Roady) and she glibly
sent me out on I-10 (that should take me all the way into Arizona). I hadn’t
come close to New Orleans when everything stopped cold turkey. I-10 closed.
No reason given. The cop just pushed every one of thousands of us off the
ramp onto an unrecognizable, non descript bayou highway.
Aunt Roady went nuts. “Make a legal U-turn when possible and return to
I-10,” she wailed. I yelled back, “Listen, Lady, I-10 is closed, take me
Stubborn lady. “Make a legal U-turn when possible and return to I-10.” We
went back and forth like this for a while, but I finally gave up and just
followed the cars for miles. I figured I’d eventually find another way to
I-10 or I’d be eaten by an alligator and it wouldn’t matter.
Eventually, she changed her tune. She told me to just drive for 128 miles
and then turn right.
It turns out she was so mad at me for disobeying her U-turn orders, the
right turn took me to Dallas. It was now about 11 p.m. No point stopping at
DFW Airport since that was where all the “tornadic activity was” though I
did not see any tornadics.
I stopped for dinner about midnight at an IHOP (it was that or Mickey D’s).
I was the only one there and four waitpersons brought me my pancakes. They
Aunt Roady then sent me down a forlorn road that would eventually take me to
El Paso. But that was after driving all night, I figured.
Have you ever been deep in the heart of Texas at 3 am? Don’t put it high on
your priority list. I stopped for gas at a convenience store of sorts. A
group of black-leather jacketed bikers gave me the evil eye, even though I
barely glanced at their “Old Ladies.” Those ladies were bigger than me, too.
I pumped gas fast. There was a flock of black bugs, each at least 3 inches
wide with weird feelers that hopped across my feet. It’s hard to pump gas
and hop to kick off these super-sized Texas night bugs. I was beginning to
feel like I was starring in an old Alfred Hitchcock movie. I raced inside to
pay the tab (the pump didn’t want an Arizona credit card) and use the rest
room. No one has ever peed faster. World record.
I hightailed it back to my car just as Bubba and Mrs. Bubba pulled in. They
got out of their oversized white pick-up and the totally full gun rack in
the back window was illuminated. Bubba’s arms were bigger than century-old
tree trunks. Mrs. Bubba’s arms were the half-century size. They wore tank
tops and camouflage fatigues.
I had to walk in front of their car. They’d been hunting, I guess. A huge
varmint (unidentifiable species) was strapped to the grill. He was still
Bubba nodded. “Have a good night,” he said. These Texans are indeed
friendly. I swatted the monster bugs off the window, jumped into the car,
and sped away. The motorcycle crew just watched me go. Luckily, I was of
little interest to them.
I finally caved in to needing some shuteye. I stopped at a rest area that
was filled with 20 or more trucks. I have no idea where I was. There was one
small space between two of the monster trucks. I pulled in, made sure my
doors were locked tight, and snoozed, dreaming about Bubba’s twitching
El Paso eventually showed up by mid-morning and I crossed the bottom of New
Mexico, into Arizona, and home after about 22 hours of driving, minus a
“Did you have a nice drive?” asked Peggi. I thought about feeding her to the