After some serious scrambling to arrange schedules and to pack our bags with warm clothes (since it's cold in Arkansas still - at least to us it is), 3:00 PM on Friday, March 27, rolled around and we rolled out of the driveway, embarking on a four-generation, girls-only road trip. My mom, my grandma, my daughter and me. We were heading toward Hot Springs, Arkansas to visit my grandma's dear friend. Reservations had been made for us at the Opalicka, Alabama Hampton Inn for our first night on the road. We knew we'd have to push a little bit - that we'd be arriving a little bit late at night, but it would put us really close to the home of my mom's childhood friend, and we planned to stop there for brunch.
Once we hit I-75, though, our troubles began.
We spent the next four hours trying to get to Gainesville, an easy two-hour-drive if you're speedy. What we can only suppose was a series of accidents and car troubles, coupled with a little bit of rain began the series of fumbles and mishaps that should only be expected when my mom and I are on an adventure. Instead of being frustrated, we decided to have a steak dinner in Gainesville.
Girls like to travel in style.
We left the restaurant feeling a little bit better and vowing to keep going - to try and make it to our hotel room, even though it would be really late. And it rained. And it poured. We listened to "Ella, Enchanted" and were entertained.
We exited from 75 in southern Georgia and were a little disappointed to find that our route took us through lots of little towns, and the speed limits ranged from a mere 35 to a disappointing 55. I took the wheel around 9:30, when we made a final pit stop to get some gas and pull out Emma's pillow.
And we thougt we had about two hours to go.
We knew we were looking for I-85. It had been just forever. We came upon 185 and thought it had maybe been a MapQuest type-o. So, we exited. And it was really the wrong exit. Under serious construction, the lanes were full of cones and lights and other such things that cause confusion in the dark if you don't know where you are. I turned us around and went back to our original, rural highway, 208, and we landed on it in an entirely different place than we had exited. But we were on the right road, according to all the signage.
More time passed.
We pulled into a gas station to learn our exact whereabouts.
"How much further to 85?" my mom asked the gruffly, night-gas-station guy.
"It's just that way."
"How far, though?"
"Where you headin'?"
"Opalicka." (we made sure to pronounce it "Opalacka." That's how you're supposed to say it.)
"You're goin' the right way. Just stay on this road. It's about 35 more miles to Opalicka."
(increasingly gruffly) "Just down that road."
So we kept going down the same road.
Probably 30 miles later, having seen no signage, we stopped again.
We got the same story. It's just down that road.
"Just down the road" means something entirely unique in southern Alabama.
We finally came upon 85. We got on around exit 57. We were looking for 77. By this time, it is very late. Nearly 1:00 AM. My mom, my grandma and I have laughed ourselves to tears at all of our turnarounds and unhapy surprises so far. Emma is sleeping. And we count down the exits.
Happening upon exit 77 and have a little trouble figuring out how to get into the parking lot, we are feeling really good about the fluffy pillows that are waiting for us (Hamptons just have the best pillows). And of course, the lobby is closed. They know we're arriving late, though, so my mom calls the front desk.
The man says he is at the front desk and doesn't see her.
My mom says, "I'm looking at the front desk and I don't see you."
Hampton Man says, "I'm coming out the door right now."
"No, you're not."
"Yes. I'm outside now. Where are you?"
"I don't see you at all."
You see, MapQuest took us to the wrong Hampton Inn. I don't know if it was user error or what. I didn't print the maps.
We finally pulled into the right place around 2:00 AM. We sank gratefully into our beds, so tired, but still looking forward to the fun ahead of us.