Why am I going to Fayetteville, Arkansas? To be perfectly honest; procrastination. I have a friend there, who has offered me a couch and a shower; which I am delighted to take him up on. He is a lovely fellow, who used to live in San Francisco, but, as I’ve said–our beautiful City by the Bay, gets harder each day. After Fayetteville, I am on my own until Sacramento. I don’t know exactly what that means. Will I be camping? Parking in truck stops or Wal-Mart lots? Staying in cheap motels? Stopping at Flying J for a shower? Probably a combination of all those things, and as we get nearer and nearer to California, the price of everything begins to skyrocket; not inch forward–but skyrocket; and I will be playing it by ear–one moment at a time. I am nervous; with the not knowing; but, isn’t everything hard until you know how to do it?
Yesterday I had downloaded the Geico App…and it has a lot of cool features, including finding ‘cheap gas’. I plugged in my details and discovered the cheapest gas located just down the road at Tiger Mart in Memphis. I checked the oil, but couldn’t get the radiator cap off; so, I decided to go feed Bubba and I would find a man along the way to help me remove the cap.
At Tiger Mart, I filled Bubba up–this time only $35.00 thankfully, which started my day off well. There was an older Black man standing in the front, so I asked him if he could help me check the water. Southern drawl spilling from a dazzling smile of cotton-white teeth rimmed in gold; “Why yes ma’am,” he said and ambled over. I introduced myself and told him about preparing for the cross country drive in Bubba; and he, like most people, was adequately impressed and simultaneously skeptical. “I’m Brother Wayne,” he said, extending a fleshy hand, “and we’re going to bless you and Bubba.” I looked around the barren parking lot and saw that we were the only people in it. Then he let out a whistle that pierced the air. Within seconds, he was joined by others, who laid hands on Bubba and blessed him.
Soon I was on the I40 West towards Arkansas, for a mere 319 miles. I crossed the mighty Mississippi River and it was epic. I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, crossing the Mississippi is on it.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have electricity. Each month, my grandmother would go to Betty’s Book Barn, a large dilapidated building containing every sort of book imaginable. She would bring a cardboard box filled with them; some were yellowed with age, some had torn covers, some had no covers. I read a lot; from Wuthering Heights to Machiavelli; Edgar Alan Poe to Carlos Costaneda. One of my favorites was Huck Finn; a story that was not meant to be a ‘serious’ book about race — (at least, not the one we think it is) or a light-hearted book about ‘innocent’ childhood. Huck Finn is about freedom; a concept which I dreamed about daily. And much of that freedom and discussion thereof would take place on the mighty Mississippi. Side Note: When Mark Twain–(Samuel Clemens), wrote Huck Finn, he had three daughters; and he took copious notes about their behavior and how they interacted in the world, with each other and others. Much of the behavior of Huck Finn, is informed by—surprise/surprise—girls; making it not the ‘boy’ story that we might think. All this is to say, that Huck Finn spoke to me in a visceral manner; and being in the presence of this amazing river; was nothing short of cathartic. I crossed the river twice, finally finding a place to stop and talk to him.
The going is slow; I don’t push the odometer over 50, in an attempt to extract every last bit of juice from the gas and I stop at almost every rest stop and make regular gas stops.
At Little Rock, I stopped for gas again—and it was another (almost) painless experience. As someone who has only driven twice a year, for the past twenty years; I haven’t paid attention to the cost of fuel—but, I am paying attention now. Whew! When I get back to the West coast, I will be converting Bubba to natural gas, STAT.
My last gas stop was, near Fort Smith. I turned on the Geico App, clicked the cheapest gas, and was on my way—far, far away, as it turned out. The 10-minute drive took me over the Arkansas River, TWICE, through rolling hills of green to the town of Ozark–population 3869. Eventually, I arrived at two lone pumps, weeds growing around them–but cheap gas. I pulled up, got out and began to record my mileage information, when I heard a slow buzzing, like a distant lawnmower. I looked up and saw, what I can only describe as a flying housecat headed in my direction. It was moving slowly and steadily. I reached onto the floorboard and picked up a garden stake that I had (permanently) borrowed from my Memphis friend and batted that thing down like I was Babe Ruth, with an accompanying Yee-Haw to match. It thudded to the ground and when I looked up, I saw an audience of open-jawed spectators, which caused me to momentarily wonder if it actually was someone’s housecat. Side Note: It was just a beast of a bug.
Next stop, Fayetteville via route 49, driving over bridges suspended above the treetops; looking down, my stomach would leap to my throat. I love places like this, that give me perspective and remind me how small me and my problems are. I find myself in silent wonder at the beauty of what I am immersed in.