I miss the open road more than I expected to. Granted, my move to a more happening part of town has helped me feel more like a part of something bigger, but that sense of newness and arrival has been woefully lacking as of late. When I found out my friend’s band was playing in a town two hours away this past weekend, my first reaction was, “Meh, I don’t want to drive to Fayetteville.” It’s harder than you might think to shake off those old rooted thoughts. Of course, once I really thought about it, I was tremendously excited to get out of town.
My father sold me his pickup truck in May but borrowed it last week to move some boxes, so I have his car at the moment: a 2005 Ford Mustang. We would be riding in style. Saturday afternoon, Indi and I got ready and caravaned out of town with some of our other friends. The drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Fayetteville, Arkansas isn’t a lot to write home about (ha). It’s all highway with a lot of flat ranch/farm land. Part of the highway is a toll road, which I had forgotten about, and I didn’t have proper change. I started to freak out.
Indi calmed me down and assured me there would be some kind of attendant or a bill changer or something. See, I like to be totally prepared. I don’t require crazy “just-in-case” preparations like blankets, road flares, food rations, etc. but I do like to think ahead a little bit. Proper change for tolls is a big one. When we got to the toll plaza near the end of the turnpike, sure enough, there was a nice lady there that took my cash and made the proper change. No harm done; I had gotten myself worked up over nothing.
Just as I calmed down and settled in for the last leg of our journey across the state line, I got a phone call from the other car in our caravan to pull off at the next gas station. We stopped, conversed, and discovered the band’s van had broken down some miles back. Arrangements were made with friends in Fayetteville to drive out to the highway, help cart the band gear into town, and deal with the van itself tomorrow. While that happened, the four of us (Me, Indi, Paul, and Malinda) had dinner at Cracker Barrel and drove on into Fayetteville.
I’d never visited Fayetteville before. It is the stereotypical college town, complete with fancy fraternity houses, well manicured parks and lawns, and a thriving bar scene. Brad’s band, Baron von Swagger, was playing at a place called Rogue. We parked and I explored the town while everyone else got situated for the concert. It felt a lot like the party strips I’d seen and experience elsewhere, but was completely populated by young and mostly attractive people. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was started to get out of touch. I felt like it was obvious that I was an older person. I shook it off and continued looking around.
As night fell, the band got ready and played their show. It was a good concert, especially considering the stresses of the road breakdown and them being a member down. It was well received by the crowd and everyone had a really good time. It’s amazing to see my friend, normally very amiable like myself, get on stage and transform into a bona fide showman. He has a level of energy on that platform that I cannot truly relate to. And when the show is over, he goes right back into his normal self. It was hot, and humid, but a good performance. We stuck around until about 12:30 and headed back to Tulsa.
Now, one thing my Dad’s car has that my truck doesn’t is a Garmin GPS device. I love technology so I plugged in our destination and set to driving. What I didn’t realize is that it took me on some alternate route that, while not extending our trip, took us down a creepy stretch of old Highway 16 that took us through the Ozark National Forest. When you are expecting four-lane flat highway and get a two-lane snaky road through deep forest under the cover of night with NO other traffic in either direction, things get real. Indi was trying to doze in the passenger seat and had to sit up for a little bit to make sure I wasn’t going to get us killed via axe-wielding maniac. When we finally emerged at the OK/AR state border, she went back to sleep and I settled into auto-pilot mode.
Until we got back to the toll plaza. I didn’t have proper change (again) but I wasn’t worried. It worked out last time, so why bother? No booth attendant. The bill changer was out of order. I only had $1.00 in change, lacking the additional $1.50 required to pass. I tossed what I had into the collection bin and drove on, stressing like I tend to do. See? This is why I like to be adequately prepared for these kind of things!