I really didn’t think we could do it. I didn’t think we could drive 1100 miles to southern Mississippi, pick up a puppy, turn around the next day and drive straight back to Minnesota. During a tornado outbreak.
We started out last Sunday with the agreement that we would switch drivers with every new tank of gas, and that the non-driver would manage navigation and social media. I pulled the first driver shift (morning person, you know) while my husband did not manage navigation or social media. No. He just plugged the address of the kennel in Tylertown, Mississippi into the car’s GPS, opened up the Sunday New York Times and away we went. The trouble is, the GPS in his car is more stubborn than smart. It wanted us to take all freeways all the way east to Chicago and then connect with I-55 south. I argued with Betty (short for Queen Elizabeth. Voice guidance in this car has a British accent) and I argued with Lit (short for Litton, my husband, American, and the alleged first shift navigator.)
“We do not need to go as far east as Chicago in order to get to 55,” I say. “We can cut across Iowa. They have highways there.”
“Follow Betty’s directions,” he says from behind The Week in Review.
I follow Betty’s very precise but very stupid directions. She sounds like such a snob and clearly does not know her way around the Midwest. Four hours later we have a driver change. After a few miles, the new captain orders a course correction! He overrides Betty who tries valiantly to get us back on the freeway to Chicago. I imagine her stiff upper lip quivering. I sit smugly in the passenger seat, checking Instagram and gloating over my superior navigation skills.
Queen Anne 1 – Betty 0.
The weather was very unsettled. We drove in thunderstorms nearly all the way south, but we missed the tornadoes and a flash flood (I credit a much needed bathroom break with some of our good luck.) We stayed Sunday night in St. Louis at a beautiful old hotel across the street from a park. Didn’t see it much of it. In late, out early, on the road again.
Here’s a list of other things we didn’t see:
The World’s Largest Frying Pan (Iowa)
Pink Elephant Antiques, featuring a giant pink fiberglass elephant out front, next to a giant fiberglass man, possibly a cowboy, I don’t know, we were going 80 miles an hour and I could not take a photo but I can tell you that the cowboy man was as big as the elephant (Illinois, prior to the dethroning of Betty.)
Meramec Cavern, a Jesse James hide-out (Missouri)
Graceland and all things Elvis (Tennessee)
The Tomato Museum (Mississippi)
“I don’t think we missed anything in Arkansas,” said Lit when I polled him for this list.
On the way back north, with two puppies in a crate in the back, we committed to driving straight through to home, with fuel and puppy stops only. Betty calculated the route and predicted a 20-hour drive. I consulted my map and said 18 hours if we cut across Iowa and skip Illinois. Two extra hours sounded like two million extra hours. I won. We cut through Iowa. Actually, we hurtled through Iowa like space junk getting flung out of orbit. Iowa is lovely during the day but at night when it’s rainy it resembles Space Mountain more than America’s heartland. No offense to Iowa. We landed in our driveway in 17 hours and 47 minutes.
Queen Anne 2 – Betty 0. That’s a shut-out, folks.
The reason for it all was Gator, our chubby little chocolate Lab puppy dog who smells so sweet and has big floppy ears and sharp little muske teeth and an ear-splitting howl. Lots of people have asked us why we went all the way to Mississippi to get this dog. Couldn’t we find a nice dog in Minnesota? They think (they hope) we must have a logical explanation. We do. There was logic but there also was something illogic. We had to say yes to adventure, because once Lit settled on getting a puppy from this litter, we had to figure out how to get him home. We had to get Gator. And we did.