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Southbound and Down

July 21st, 2013

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Hey there, anyone interested in taking a trip down south with me? If not, stop reading now, because we are headed to the land of “Ya’ll” where you have to shower three times a day due to the heat and no matter what kind of pop you order they give you a Dr. Pepper.

During the first month in June some combination of family members usually loads up “MZS BNZ” and travels to Texas to kidnap the Girlies. We always have good intentions, we bring them back for a week of Bible School (which they love) and a couple of weeks at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Of course every year my sister says they are only staying two weeks and every year they end up in Nebraska for the whole month of June.

So “MZS BNZ” would be my parents van. What can I say, they were over-the-road truckers for 30 years and one of their favorite pastimes was figuring out vanity plates on the road. I can only imagine how many hours they debated what their plate was going to say. The van is a golden Chrysler Town & Country. It was christened “MZS BNZ” because my Dad always says it’s the closest Mom will ever get to owning a Mercedes Benz, thus MZS (my Mom’s name is Em) BNZ (the Benz she supposedly wants). All the “Z’s” make them sound real “gangsta” don’t they?

Well “MZS BNZ” is getting up there in years and has been having some troubles lately so Dad spent two solid days at the Chrysler dealership (which is over an hour’s drive both ways) trying to get her fixed up. It was a no go, they couldn’t figure out the problem and the one fix they wanted to try would have meant ordering a part and there wasn’t time. So we decided to risk it and take it anyway. I (being the worry-wart that I am) didn’t sleep the night before we left because of all the scenarios running through my mind of being stranded on the roadside. (It’s happened before… Ang…Keri… wink, wink). When they picked me up AT 5 A.M. I said, “Well, this is a good sign, it made it two blocks.” And that was the last anyone spoke of the van troubles. It was like an unspoken agreement, “If we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen.” The van was like “he-who-must-not-be-named” in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. And it worked, not a single issue all the way there and back. When will I ever learn it doesn’t pay to worry.

So our first stop of the day (like on every other trip) was in Salina, Kansas at one of my parent’s favorite breakfast joints from their trucking days. The giant cement pig out front is a symbol of how you feel upon leaving.

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As usual we all ordered biscuits and gravy. Which are amazing. (I feel the need to point out that in the above picture my niece Marli is wearing the Forenza t-shirt I bought at The Limited to wear as part of one of my senior picture outfits. I laugh every time I see her wearing it.)

Our next stop was in Goessel, Kansas, the home of Sawyer Mae, oh, and her parents. As we got closer to the farm a scuffle broke out inside “MZS BNZ” that then turned into a war of words. My sister and niece were sitting on top of one another so that they could be the first ones out the door, Mom was telling Dad not to unlock the doors right away so that she could get to Sawyer first, I was just sitting there shaking my head and Dad of course didn’t hear any of it since he’s practically deaf (he had probably turned down his hearing aid hours ago already). In the end it all came down to a foot race.

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And it appears the Old Lady won! Dad had allotted an hour of time for our visit with Sawyer and that’s exactly what we got. Luckily she was up and smiling and happy to see everybody. She did a few tricks for us and then…

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we hit the road, hard. The only things slowing us down were the toll booths in Kansas…

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and the tornado destruction in Oklahoma. Our halfway stop is always at a particular Love’s gas station in Moore, Oklahoma and just two weeks earlier Moore had been hit by a huge tornado. We all wondered if the station would still be standing and what we would see since the tornado had crossed over the interstate. We started seeing a few blown out windows and signs along the way and then BOOM… a mile long stretch of total destruction… and BOOM again and it was “Pleasantville”. Like nothing had ever happened. It was crazy, and the Love’s was still standing.

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Our final stop, before the long haul, was once again at one of my Mom’s favorite places in the world, a casino. Where for a change…

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my buddy Dean-O was actually nice to me and I came out $40 ahead. My punishment for winning was having to drive the next three hours. I’m kidding, I have no problem giving the Old Man a break and driving, but that last six hours of the trip is always unbearable. We make a few stops for “potty-breaks” between OKC and Austin but that’s it. Pedal to the metal.

Some time during those last six hours Kelli started getting texts from a family friend back home who had been in Austin the past few days helping his son move. He and his sister and nephew (who were both along to help with the move) were wondering where Kris lived. She gave him her address and said we would be there in a few hours if they wanted to stop by. And sure enough, when we rolled into Leander around 10:30 p.m., there was their vehicle. Such a small world. We debated if we should call Kris to forwarn her about possible visitors from back home. I mean, how funny would that have been for her to open the door expecting us and get them instead? In the end we called her and by the time we got there they had gotten the whole house tour and were kicked back on the new couch.

The Girlies were of course the most excited to see Marli. They love her so much. And of course the first order of business for them was manicures.

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I mean, we weren’t there for ten minutes and they were already painting fingernails. They had to get Q all prettied up for graduation the next day.

Next up… “Wolverines!”

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