En Route to Eunice, LA

So I woke up around 7 AM, unable to attempt any more car-sleeping. WAY over-rated. I’ve done some car-sleeping during my Worcester State days when I was in Worcester from 8 AM to midnight, but that was in a cooler climate with the whole backseat available to me. The humid Mississippi evening and the front seat of my car offers little comfort. My legs are still sore from attempting to stretch out.

Needless to say, Panda found it hilarious.

And I apologized to her for all the times I’ve left her in the car during this trip.

My next stop was Waffle House, where I had a delicious, and gigantic breakfast, at 7 in the morning. I felt like a specimen, however, since I think all the locals were watching me. This conspiracy was verified when I went to leave, and a couple of the older men yelled out goodbye to me. Haha.

Magellan informed me that there was a petting zoo / safari extravaganza place nearby in Folsom, Louisiana, which thrilled me to no end, and by 9 o’clock I was waiting in line to get on the wagons and feed the animals, hahaha. I promise, my dorkiness has no limits.

Regardless, it was amazing and I had so much fun. I sort of attached myself to some older couple and their great-grandkids, hahahhah, cuz I’m cool like that, but they were good about it. The man even gave me a dollar so I could buy a water bottle, since it was ridiculously hot there, even so early in the morning. But the little 2-year-old boy, Jeremy, was amazingly adorable, and I enjoyed watching him squeal with delight every time a camel or deer or giraffe took some of his feed (not that I didn’t squeal or anything…) Okay, I might have squealed when the camel stuck his head right in the wagon and stole my feed cup! Hahaha (and yes, Joshua, I lied to you – I thought it was the giraffe but the proof is in the pictures). But then one of the french-speaking guys there jumped up and became my instant hero and retrieved my feed cup from the bugger’s mouth! 🙂

After that, I continued over to Eunice, LA, where I am now, with Cori and Clay. They have been extremely kind and welcoming, even though I’ve been totally lame and basically slept for the past day or so… in a vain attempt to recover my from my ridiculous driving and walmart-sleeping antics!

walmart parking lots and late-night transcendentalism

Left Murfreesboro yesterday – it was really hard to say goodbye to Kelly, Tim, and Amelia. Living with them felt really natural and wonderful – I felt like part of the family. Amazing how someone I could have easily never met in person could become someone I feel I have known my entire life. 🙂

Headed over to Birmingham, where I went to Vulcan Park, a large statue from the World’s Fair that now overlooks the entire city – it was a beautiful view. The woman selling tickets down by the bottom randomly asked me questions about me and my trip, and was really encouraging. She was a young black woman, but she was like “oh, honey, when I was 23… uh huh, I should have done what you are doin’ but I was too scared. You go, girl. Go with God.” It was really encouraging.

Afterwards, I headed over to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which were simply beautiful. I’ve been to gardens now in Raleigh, Asheville, and a couple other places, but I think Birmingham might win for the most peaceful and beautiful setting. I had a wonderful time (per usual) walking around and taking pictures of the flowers. I found it slightly humorous, however, that part of the Gardens were entitled “Alabama Woodlands.” I don’t know why that was so funny, but it was.

As I was leaving, I spotted this elderly couple (and I mean elderly – mid-80’s) walking hand in hand through the rose garden. Well, obviously my heart stopped and went “awww!” I was able to snap a picture of them, but then we ended up near each other, so I said hello and before I knew it the woman was talking away. She must have been starving for some human contact, because she enjoyed talking to me so much, even without her hearing aids in, haha. Her name was Lenore, but everyone calls her “No No” which was kind of cute, even though a more positive spin would be “Yes Yes” but I suppose that really doesn’t make any sense. Hm. So we walked around parts of the gardens, Lenore, her husband, Bill, and I, and then met up with one of the groundskeepers who they know from their visits there, who then escorted Lenore and the rest of us back to the car. Lenore was talking about Father’s Day and her family and how she came from a small town in Mississippi called Picayune (I tried not to laugh at the implications of the word and the way she called it a “small town” – mostly because my humor is becoming very skewed, haha).

Afterwards, I had given up on my couchsurfing woman (who ended up having to rush to the hospital because her mother had a stroke) and then called up another couchsurfing guy named Marcos. He said I was welcome to spend the evening, so I drove to his house, but he was not there yet. As I was sitting in the car talking to Kara I realized, however, that I really wasn’t ready yet to settle down for the night. There was still about 8 hours or so to drive until I reached Eunice, and I wanted to get some of those hours down that night. So I called up Marcos, said I was hittin’ the road, and proceeded to drive into the early hours of the morning.

It was ridiculous and it was silly and it was tiring and it was wonderful. I really do enjoy those times by myself (and Panda, naturally) where it’s just me and the road and the endless expanse ahead of me. 🙂 It’s very freeing, and thought-provoking, and peaceful.

The most intense part happened around 1 AM, when I decided to start playing an audiobook which Scott had given me back in Knoxville. It was Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and… well, let’s just say life suddenly became surreal and my mind was blown out of my head for the next hour and a half. I felt as though I was driving through alien territory, in the dark of the night, on highways by myself, listening to this strangely-accented man talk about deep existential philosophies that have lain latent in my heart for years and were suddenly being thrown back at me, blowing me away.

Way intense. Way.

When I couldn’t take any more of that, well, I shut it off, and then realized it was almost 2:30 in the morning and I had no real plan on where I was going to sleep. I had considered the idea of sleeping at some random Walmart parking lot, since it was legal and most of them down here are open 24 hours. Then I look at the road sign, and I see that not only am I in Mississippi, but I’m… in Picayune, Mississippi.

Yes, sirree bob.

And right off the highway in Picayune, Mississippi is a Walmart. Where I proceeded to bunk down and sleep haphazardly for about three hours. Haha.

Just ridiculous.

And let me just tell you – the birds in the Walmart parking lot have a completely skewed perception of the world and need medical attention. Because I think they believe that it is constantly dawn, due to the parking lot lights that are always on. And, well, they just chirp away all night.