Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll changes up Thomas Wolfe mostly by adding humor in “You Can’t GET Home Again! Or, Thoughts From the Frozen Tundra.” She writes:

Thomas Wolfe was quite certain that “You Can’t Go Home Again.” By which, I took it to mean that we have distorted impressions of people and places seen through the prism of childhood that do not hold up under the harsh light of adulthood. As grownups, we “put away childish things” and move on (unless we are deranged by the 2016 election), and things look different. Plus many things ARE different. Our hometowns themselves change. Dramatically. For example, the old “record store” where we teens hung out, requesting cuts from new albums to be played, is now a tattoo parlor. My father’s drugstore is an antique shop.

And yet, we are all destined, yea, obligated, to go home many times in our adult lives. My siblings and I have been blessed to have our parents live well into old age. Mama passed nearly two years ago, but Daddy defies all our expectations and soldiers on. So once again it was my turn to go back home for an extended visit.

I took off at dawn on a splendid 96 degree Monday in April, looking forward to a relaxing trip through the Heartland. New Mexico seems strangely obsessed with convincing drivers that “Dust storms may exist” and posting the guidelines for handling those dust storms with haunting regularity. You would think these rules would be self-evident, but self-evidence seems to be in short supply these days and lawyers roam the land seeking compensation for “victims” who are too stupid to live.

Want me to tell you the guidelines which probably can’t be seen in an actual dust storm? Sure, you do. First, do NOT park in the middle of the road or, as they put it, “Do not block the travel lane.” Then, “pull over and turn off car.” “Do not unbuckle the seat belt” and, finally, “Stay there until it is clear.”

Whew! Thank you, New Mexico taxpayers, for all that signage! In the event of a dust storm (which, I now understand, may exist), my plan was to stop short on the dotted white line, leave the engine running, unbuckle my seat belt and open a beer, but you set me straight!

I hit El Paso just past 1:00 p.m. and sailed right on through in record time. One of the reasons that travelers can make such good time in the Southwest is because of our common-sense speed limit of 80 mph. Which, of course, really means 90. Later on, in more populated parts of Texas, the speed limit is lowered to 75 mph, but the drivers continue to go 80-90. It’s as if there were a vote and the consensus was “Uh, no. We like that OTHER speed limit better and we intend to go that speed. More or less.”

After around 500 miles, I stopped for the night in Van Horn, Texas. I was trying to leave enough time for a good walk, maybe a swim in the hotel pool. And I did leave that time, I just didn’t walk or swim, which seemed more trouble somehow than eating and surfing the ‘Net. As Miss Scarlett noted, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Texas, as you may have heard, is large. So the next day was spent crossing Texas right up to suburban Fort Worth. Again, I had tried to leave room for exercise, and this time I did walk briskly across the street from my hotel to the Chick-Fil-A. And back. Just knowing that New York Mayor de Blasio had tried unsuccessfully to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening a franchise in Manhattan made that awesome chicken sandwich taste even better.

Wednesday found me in the beautiful Worthington Marriott Renaissance in downtown Fort Worth where I used some of the jillion Marriott points I have accumulated by travel and flagrant credit card abuse. My dear friends, Heather and Bill, joined me for a delightful afternoon and evening. I have achieved Platinum status, which gets you a whole lot of perks, trust me, and all you have to do to get this “free” breakfast buffet is spend 75 nights in a Marriott in one year. Anyone can do it! I think the only level higher is Uranium, except that Hillary sold it all to the Russians somehow without anyone noticing.

And now our travel story gets considerably more harrowing. While strolling about in downtown Fort Worth, which is clean and safe even at night, I was receiving many frantic texts from relatives in Minnesota – plus the Paranoid Texan back home who tirelessly monitors the weather – warning me that a Snow-mageddon style winter storm was headed to Minnesota.

My original plan had been to take a leisurely pace, seeing sights, visiting friends, and, as I may have mentioned, carrying on with my rigorous workout schedule. I was going to arrive in the Twin Cities Saturday, April 14th, with a family dinner set for that evening and a family brunch the next day, leaving for Daddy’s Assisted Living place in Alexandria after brunch.

I was invited to stay in Brooklyn Park with my nephew and his lovely wife and have some quality time with Super Baby, their 16-month old son. As the Yiddish expression goes, “Man plans; God laughs.” After all the warnings, I was determined to pick up the pace, and arrive ahead of the storm. Which I accomplished by driving exactly 1,000 miles in one of the longest days of my life. In 16 short hours of driving, stopping only for more coffee, gas, and Loves Travel Center’s clean restrooms, the temperatures went from 86 in Texas, 84 in Oklahoma, 82 in Kansas, 78 in Missouri, to 68 in Iowa and then plunged to 38 as I crossed into Mordor. A freezing rain had just started up 100 miles from the Twin Cities, complete with a stiff wind. If New Orleans’ nickname is The Big Easy, Minnesota should be called The Big Difficulty.

Let me just cut to the chase here. After laying a nice base of ice, the next day the rain turned to snow. And the day after that it continued. Brooklyn Park got sixteen inches of snow. The restaurant where we had scheduled the family get-together was closed at 6:00 p.m., and the staff sent home. Thank God, at least it was a Thai restaurant, so we didn’t culturally appropriate. The brunch didn’t happen. Even the Minnesota Macho drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles stayed put. I spent not one, not two, but three nights with my gracious nephew and family and not even once did I hear them whisper, “Good Lord, what if she’s here till Father’s Day!? She keeps muttering that now she doesn’t need to feel guilty that she can’t get out and walk!”

I didn’t get out until Monday, the 16th of flippin’ April. But Daddy was very happy to see me. I will be here for twelve days. I heard on the news tonight that another storm system was headed toward Iowa, but it should run its course before I leave. Are there winter storms in May? Anybody along the 35W South corridor or I-10W who would like a houseguest until, say, Mother’s Day?

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