My mom has decided to return to live in Michigan long term; I won’t say permanently because I suspect she will be back in Texas at some point. Rocky and I are driving her back now that the weather is warm. She is excited to once again have a car after living in Grand Rapids a year and a half there with only a bus pass. She has agreed to store the car for the winter months.
Hoping to beat the commuter traffic, we left Houston at 6:30 am and headed through East Texas to Texarkana. Rocky was thrilled to find a Pizza Hut that was still dine-in. We made that food stop and a few gas/restroom stops before making it to Marion, Arkansas which is basically East Memphis. Our Comfort Inn room was really nice, the two queen (rather than double) beds being the key. Dinner was at the “world famous” Shake Shack (aka Big John’s Shake Shack). The eatery is indeed a shack, but the decor is fun with lots of Elvis (we are very close to Graceland), John Wayne, and Lucille Ball memorabilia on the wall and book shelves. The food was extremely disappointing, but the owner friendly. He was from the area, but his wife was from San Antonio and he yearned to return to Texas. Not sure they need a franchise location of this place.
We slept in the next morning and left after the traffic at 9am, although I am not sure how much traffic there was in the area to begin with (remember I live in Houston, the 4th largest city in the US). Even though we left later in the morning, it was 50 degrees-no more spring/summer Texas weather. Our lunch stop was at a Cracker Barrel. Now I know people swear by these places and Boris just loves them, but I actually couldn’t find anything on the menu I thought was worth the calories. Having to wind through a ridiculous gift shop didn’t make it better. Today was mom’s pick; she wasn’t happy at all about yesterday’s Pizza Hut that Rocky chose. I am picking tomorrow; we are getting a burger. It was kinda cool that the stop was in Marion, Illinois given the city we started at in the morning.
Rocky has been driving today. It was really windy and he was working hard to keep the car steady; nice to have another driver. The deal is the driver picks the music and I suspect he drove just so he didn’t have another day of listening to my selections. After leaving Texas, our whole trip is interstate and today we were mostly going through the flat plains of Illinois. We did a late stop at Micky D’s for a $1 drink and 49 cent cone, got gas, and switched drivers so I would be behind the wheel to find the hotel.
Actually, our Comfort Inn in Kankakee, Illinois couldn’t have been easier to find. I do miss the navigation system in my car and Rocky couldn’t find his portable one to bring along, so we are going old school with maps or following our cell phones, completely discharging our batteries. (Luckily, we both brought car chargers.) This was another nice room and even cheaper (although just as nice) as the Comfort Inn in Marion. Once again we got a strange look from the receptionist as we rolled the luggage cart through.
We wanted mom to have as much room as possible to pack things in the car, so we limited our suitcases and just took small bags to carry in overnight. Mom likes to take things in small, lighter bags. Each night, Rocky and I each took in a single bag, mom took in 7. Don’t ask me why, but she just loves to sort and resort her things. On top on these 9 bags on the cart, were a sampling of the vegetables that Boris is now growing. I was trying to keep them at a constant temperature, so I took them into the room each night. People wondered what the heck we were doing. Boris has decided to become a weekend farmer, but that is a whole other post.
We got free drink tickets to the Italian restaurant nearby, so Rocky and I went there for dinner, enjoying a glass of wine and some decent Italian food. I am pretty picky about my carbonara, but Tucci’s did a good job of it. Mom decided she wasn’t hungry and wanted to stay in an sort her bags (yes the same ones as yesterday) and clean the vegetables. Seriously, I am not kidding about this.
We let the commuter traffic finish before we left and slept in again. I learned how to make waffles using a flip iron at the hotel’s complimentary self-serve breakfast. If I actually liked waffles, I might have to buy one of these. More gasoline and we were on the road before 9. I couldn’t believe how light the traffic was; we could have definitely left earlier. There have been tons of trucks the whole way, but decent roadways. However, looping around the southern side of Lake Michigan the expressways were in pretty bad shape and I pointed out to Rocky the damage the snow does on these highways. We thought we had a 3.5 hour drive, but did it in under 3. Nobody was ready for us, so we stopped outside Grand Rapids in Jenison and I got a burger at Culver’s. I actually think of this custard and burger joint as a northern thing, but there is one in The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston.
We had no idea that in leaving Houston when we did that we would miss the historic flooding. Our home got 9 inches of rain in two hours, stranding cars throughout the neighborhood. Our neighborhood fared better than many. Today Houston was declared a federal disaster area. Our hearts go out to our friends and neighbors dealing with the aftermath.–Natasha