Greetings from metro Waynesville, Missouri!
We were officially here to visit my son Patrick, who was graduating from his chemical school training at Ft. Leonard Wood. After 10 weeks of working around various nerve agents, he’s fully prepared to handle whatever the Army throws at him. Fortunately, he now has a third hand protruding from his head to handle things. The Army said it will go away in a few weeks. Until then, he’s learning to juggle.
We took this trip by car to see a bit of America — and America we have seen! Detective Sandy and I always give our trips a name to remember them by. For example:
And so on.
We left metropolitan Ball Ground in the late morning hours, intending to drive just past Memphis or whenever the little energy drink wore off. My job is to drive. Sandy’s job is to remain sharp by sleeping as much as possible until we find something interesting enough to wake her up — like thrift shops or Jimmy Buffett.
This trip became the Great Mid-America Redneck Tour ‘10. It was named early, just about 20 miles east of Tupelo, Mississippi. It is there you will find a Wal-Mart. Without telling you why, when passing through and you have an hour to spare, try this great bit of people watching:
Stop in the Wal-Mart and walk the aisles. Count the time it takes to spot the first Elvis impersonator. It won’t take long. For us, it was less than five minutes. Although I’m quite sure he wasn’t an official impersonator, he was right on with the jet black pompadour, Elvis, circa 1971. Later, Late ’70s Elvis was spotted walking in and, later still, a mid-’60s Elvis browsed the women’s intimate section.
Leaving Tupelo takes about 25 seconds, more if you stop at the home in which Elvis was born. We moved toward Memphis, but kept driving because of the abundance of crack houses on U.S. Highway 78. For sport, we counted them but lost track at the red lights while counting gun shots instead.
We moved on.
Cue finger-wave: ‘I did not have sex with that woman … ‘
Little Rock was the stopover spot for the night. It’s true, everyone talks like Bill Clinton! We were up and going early the next morning because I couldn’t think of any Bill Clinton jokes that haven’t already been worn thin.
We moved northwest through Tulsa and landed in the northeast Oklahoma town of Bartlesville, where I revisited where I lived as a kid. The house was smaller than I remember. And the yard was too small for the football games I remember playing with the neighbors. I called my parents to make sure this was the house we lived in. They laughed at me and pointed out the restraining order was still in effect.
Driving back east, we spent the night in Joplin, Missouri, where nothing in particular happened. We drove to Springfield and toured Missouri State University, where — again — nothing in particular happened. We had a nice lunch at a street-side café where we noticed that everyone but us was heavily tattooed. That — having no particular meaning, and it being very hot outside — convinced us to drive on to St. Joseph, home of Ft. Leonard Wood, which is where we were for the weekend.
Since our son could not see us that evening, we found a cinema and took in a movie, which took a second seat to the surrounding scenery. If you like people watching, then this was jackpot night.
I guess we’re so used to suburban movie mega-complexes that we assume they’re all alike. They’re not. This one was small, and everyone in St. Joseph and Waynesville flocks to the movies on Friday nights. Everyone was heavily tattooed here, too, and the mullet percentage was about 45 percent.
It’s about the same for the men, too.
Today we continue the Great Mid-America Redneck Tour ‘10, passing through St. Louis and Nashville on the way back to Ball Ground. Among the highlights we’re looking forward to include the world’s largest rocking chair, several thrift stores, hours of Radio Margaritaville to help Detective Sandy sleep, and comparing the pompadours of Nashville to those of Tupelo.