Notes From a Hired Pen

On the Road with Jen: Westward ho!

Hello from a hotel room near the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma. In the last week, I knocked out three states: Indiana, Alabama and Mississippi. After I write this and take a shower, I’m pointing my Jeep, which for this trip I have dubbed “The Beast from the East,” west.

I won’t go through all states as quickly as I did the first three, but I wanted to get out of the heat and humidity before both go full blast. I have eczema that’s triggered by such conditions (and I have a few bumps on my arm already but also the medicine to treat them), so the desert will be a boon for me.

It’s hard to say how it’s going because it’s only been a week, but I don’t want to turn the car around and drive back to New Jersey. I did have my first bad tent night: I paid for $10 for one of four tent spots in a mostly RV park at a fishing lake. I didn’t realize the lake was open 24 hours, nor that some people would bring their toddlers to said lake at midnight and fish until 3am. Lesson learned (and sleep, so far, returned).

In Kentucky, I toured Mammoth Cave. In Tennesse, I went to an event at Parnassus Books and then ran at Percy Warner Park – I meant to hike a shorter trail but decided to run the longer one because I gotta get back into this running thing sometime, so why not now? In Huntsville, Alabama, I ran on the Aldridge Creek Greenway, saw a delightful mural the locals call “Eggbeater Jesus,” went to an artists’ collective, taught my friend the proper pronunciation of pizzelle, and of course saw rockets (though I had no idea the space race had such a big foothold there). In Mississippi, I had biscuits and gravy (meh? Maybe you need the eggs to complete the meal, and I’m allergic to those, which yes means I’m that person at the restaurant) then walked around the grounds of the William Faulkner home. I wanted to stay (maybe even until they opened!) but I had a long drive to get where I am now. The Best from the East is handling that spectacularly.

I do feel a bit like a stranger in a strange land – my license plate and anytime I open my mouth give me away. But I’m doing OK – and there’s still a whole lot more to see.

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