None of us were too thrilled when our wake-up call came at 7:00 AM, Emma included. But we drew our rumpled bodies out of bed and eased ourselves into fresh clothes. Turning on the news to check the weather, we learned the surrounding area was rife with severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings.
Excellent. An excellent start to the day.
We went downstairs for coffee and a little bite to eat and began the next phase of our trip. Just a couple of hours away, my mom's childhood friend, also named Kathy, lived with her family on beautiful acreage and was waiting for us with hot brunch. It took a little longer than we expected - the rain slowed us down a bit - but beautiful hills and forests began to unfold in front of us and that certainly heartened these four girls. The sun started to peek out here and there. It highlighted the dogwoods along the roadside. They floated like lacy jellyfish in a pine-tree ocean, suspended below the canopy and never skimming the brush below.
We pulled up to Kathy's house. It's really amazing. We had to cross a wooden, covered bridge to get to it.
I snuck a few photos of the house, I hope she doesn't mind. I was really captivated by it.
Especially by this studio.
Can you believe all the windows? I could just curl up and live the rest of my days in a room like that.
It was wonderful to see my mom and her friend chatting over favorite memories, catching up, and tearing up a bit as we prayed a blessing over our food, thanking the Lord for many years and good friends. Kathy knows how my mom loves mashed potatoes. My mom remembers trying to get her to dance.
They used to play games across the aisles in church. They have the same sorts of children - an oldest girl and two younger boys. After a while, time told us to get back in car and keep going. We were invited to stop overnight on our way back and I think we'll accept.
Back in the car, we continued listening to our story, my mom drove and I knitted. I cast on my mom's shawl (I'll try to remember to put a progress meter over on the side bar for that one too. It really keeps me accountable!).
The hills and curves of the road were soothing and the story was good. We decided to lunch in style too. We stopped at Red Lobster in Tupelo. Not without some difficulty. I don't know if we were just that obvious or if it's just a popular pit stop, but the hostess asked us where we were coming from. I told her we were from Florida. She gave me a funny look.
"What are you doin' in Miss-ippi?"
"Just passing through!" I said.
My mom was happy to continue driving as long as I continued to knit.
Lunch set us back, time-wise, a bit. But long lunches and whenever-you-want-to potty breaks are luxuries we intend to take advantage of as long as we are traveling without any men.
The afternoon passed uneventfully. Except for one stop. We pulled off the road a total of four times, looking for clean bathrooms, before we finally just stopped at the Arkansas Welcome Center. The bathrooms were open, but nothing else about it was welcoming. The minute we opened the car doors, we were blasted with frigid winds. The welcome center was closed and there were burglar bars over the drink machines. We got back in the car, knowing that we'd need to take yet another exit to find drinks. We saw a sign for a Burger King and decided that none of us wanted to get out of the car anyway, so we'd just drive through for a soda.
We hollered our order over the wind, only to be told that their drink machine was out of order.
Can't four girls catch a break?
Once we crossed into Arkansas, though, the territory became familiar to my mom and my grandma. Bolstered by the familiarity and the end of the drive being near, we found some music on the radio and sang and danced as the sun went down. The roads snaked and curved, rose and fell. And I told Emma to make sure she watched out the window so she didn't get car-sick. She was fine, she said. Just a little sleepy.
We finally arrived at Knollwood Lodge around 9:30. Mom and I went back out on a grocery run. And then we crashed.