Exhausted in Little Rock

Sometimes you just can’t get a good night’s rest.

May 20-21st, I stayed at a Comfort Suites in Alexandria, Louisiana. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous: new, clean, flat TV, wifi, wood furniture, a fridge. I watched David Letterman’s final show, and then hit the sack.

What should have been an awesome night of sleep, turned into a nightmare. Throughout the whole night: thunderstorms. Local news warned of flooding. I pointed my flashlight at the parking lot — it seemed to be flooding. Then the hotel power went out. Noise and worry reduced 8 potential hours of sleep, to 2 or 3.

Before noon, I hit the road and started heading for Texas. The weather was lousy and when I got closer and closer to Texas the weather got worse and worse. I’m not saying that I saw a funnel cloud — but I saw clouds that looked like two elephants wrestling with their trunks.

I stopped by a Starbucks to regroup. I walked in and headed for the bathroom. The cashier screamed at me “SIR, YOU CAN’T USE THE BATHROOM UNLESS YOU’RE A PAYING CUSTOMER”! What was I supposed to do? Order a grande mocha latte and balance it on my head while I peed? Howard Schultz, get your staff in line. After grabbing the smallest black coffee, I checked the weather. Texas was about to have some of the worst weather in their history — I made the call to head east, away from Texas. Of course my GPS had other ideas, and routed me through Texas before sending me north-east towards Little Rock, AR. Modern conveniences — Starbucks, GPS — they all give me shpilkes.

Welcome to Arkansas

A stop for energy drinks & peanut patties was enough to keep me sentient & focused, but I needed to get off the road and get some rest.

Around 3pm I arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas. Tired & annoyed, I found the closest motel, booked a room and after spraying myself with Deep Woods Off (just in case because bed bugs), and slept for 18 hours. 18 HOURS! Compared to the hotel I stayed at the night before, this place was sort of a dump. The staff were great, but my room looked like it hadn’t been updated since 1978. It was definitely crusty.

My nap was punctuated by noises from tow trucks and hotel patrons, and the periodic fear that my car was being stolen, but I finally got all the sleep I needed.

The guy in the room next to me looked like character actor Dennis Burkley, which was cool.

And they had a lobby waffle machine! Four stars.

Random Notes and Observations from the Road

This article isn’t about anything specific, just some random notes and observations…

Wawa Trucks

The best convenience store is the one that is open when you need it. That said my favorites are: United Dairy Farmers, Quick Check, Circle K, 7-11 and Wawa.

Delaware might be the most boring state to drive though. Fortunately, it is small.

If you like history and/or war, I recommend Dan Carlin’s Harcore History podcast for long road trips. Particularly when you are stuck for 6 hours in Virginia traffic.

Everyone has unique tastes in music, so I hesitate to recommend any one band. That said, if you like metal or hard rock, Powerman 5000, Hatebreed, Ministry, System of a Down, Clutch, and Pantera make good “I have to drive for 15 hours straight through the night” music.

On that topic, most people’s preference for music seems to be based on 1) the culmination of their own unique life experiences, 2) advice from their family, friends and peers, and 3) the urge to fit in with a group. People don’t choose the circumstances they are born into, so I don’t judge people on their taste in music. I might ask you to lower the volume though. Or turn it up!

North Carolina has the prettiest highways on the east coast. Every mile or so of the road seems to feature a new type of flowering plant. They also have a lot of fireworks supermarkets & adult book stores.

South Carolina’s highways are rough. Georgia’s roads are a mixed bag of bad and good. Mississippi’s roads are bizarre and lumpy (especially around Jackson). Louisiana’s roads seem to be made out of moon craters — did I miss the event when 5 Million meteorites struck the Louisiana road system?

Don’t risk a lukewarm shrimp po’boy.

Generally speaking people in the south are a lot more friendly and polite than people in the north. Arkansas seems to have a lot of nice, friendly people.

I personally think Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy drink are the best beverages of their kind. I always take some with me on a long trip. I also bring plenty of water.

Stay hydrated. Protein will dehydrate you. Caffeine will make you have to take many pee brakes. Sugar will give you a quick boost, but then drag you down physically and emotionally. Don’t eat anything risky, i.e., something that would send you scrambling for a toilet, e.g., cheese, milk products, fish, uncooked meat, etc.

Read a book on 72 hour survival like Cody Lundin’s 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive. The tips inside such a book could help keep you alive if you get stranded.

I live in New Jersey, where you’re not allowed to pump your own gas. When I travel, each gas pump & nozzle presents a new challenge. Some work as easy as a dream. Some are embarrassing nightmares — hopefully I give the locals a good laugh while I try to operate these infernal contraptions.

Jungle Jim’s: the Greatest Supermarket in America

Jungle Jim’s (4450 Eastgate South Drive, Cincinnati, OH) is the greatest supermarket in America.

Jungle Jim in Wizard Mode.

Imagine waking up one day and thinking: “you know what, I’m not satisfied with the boring local supermarket.” “I want a market that has the most diverse selection of foods & beverages imaginable, including exotic foods from faraway lands, and I want the experience to be fun for the entire family.” I imagine that is what Jungle Jim thought when he got the idea for the Jungle Jim’s supermarkets in Fairfield and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Now imagine a food store as huge as a Walmart, featuring every type of food you can imagine (and some you cannot), decorated with gorillas, rhinos, real airplanes, 50′ dragons and 1960’s cultural icons. Imagine a Whole Foods + a Wegmans + a Trader Joe’s + a liquor store + a cigar store + Disney Land, and that is Jungle Jim’s.

Don’t believe me? Check these stats:

  • Five isles of hot sauce, with a real fire engine parked amongst it to get your attention.
  • Two or three long isles of soda pop (they call it pop in Ohio).
  • A candy section as big as a house.
  • Isles and isles of craft, international, and big-brand beers, and wines.
  • Five or six isles of International foods.
  • Need candy shaped like a toilet from Japan? They got it.
  • Need Jelly Babies from England? They got it.
  • Need Licorice Cats from Holland because that is the old thing that cures your gout? They got it.
  • Need some “century eggs” or bird nest soup from China? They got it.
  • Need some lollipops with crickets or ants inside them? They got those.
  • Need a hookah pipe? They got those too.

Whenever I’m in the Cincinnati area I fill my entire car trunk with unusual foods, snacks and pop from Jungle Jim’s. It makes the 10 hour trip all the more worth while.

Foodie Entrance:
Foodie Entrance. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Restrooms:
Jungle Johns. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Why, yes, they do have 5 isles of hot sauce:
Hot sauce. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

A random display devoted to 1960’s musicians? Sure, why not:
1970s themed trailer. Jungle Jim's, Ohio

Coke R2-D2:
Coke R2D2 in Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati OH

New Orleans in 3 Hours

Is is possible to experience a city in only three hours? No.

However… if three hours are all you have, you can still have a great time. This article will show you how to have the maximum amount of fun in a limited period of time, using New Orleans as an example.

#1: park your vehicle, because you’re going to walk the town. Choose your parking space carefully. I chose to park near the place I wanted to visit the most (Red Truck Gallery). The streets are narrow in New Orleans, so fold in your driver-side mirror, so a truck doesn’t knock it off your car.

#2: if you’re going to drink, do that first, so you’re sober by the end of your improvised tour of the city. I recommend Muriel’s (801 Chatres Street). This bar/bistro serves amazing fancy drinks (or regular drinks, if you’re not into fancy drinks). It is also an opportunity to use a clean bathroom (so rare when you’re on a multi-city road trip).

Fish Mouth Down Spout in New Orleans

#3: Observe everything. As you walk around the town, notice everything quirky, unusual and unique about the city. Record it all in your memory, and put photos of it on Instagram, Flickr & Facebook (if you use those sites). In New Orleans, be on the lookout for: drain pipes that look like fish, koi fish painted on the sidewalk, fleur-de-lis symbols, ornate drains along the foundations of buildings, the occasional Mardi-Gras bead embedded in a sidewalk crack, random things like wreaths made of snow cones, and of course the amazing New Orleans architecture. Remember: you might never get another chance to return, so soak it all in, so you have no regrets later on.

A snow cone wreath? Why not. #nola Koi on the side walk. #graffiti #nola

#4: Pick a primary destination, and spend an hour there. You might chose to check out some jazz music, or maybe your thing is to feast on gumbo and muffuletta, or maybe you just want to chill in a park and watch some street performers. Again, notice every detail — every sight, smell and sound. Soak it all in, and participate if you can. Tip performers.

My primary destination was the Red Truck Gallery (938 Royal St). The art they feature really resonates with me. I’ve met them at art fairs like Scope in NYC, but to visit their gallery in person, was really something special. I made sure that I connected with the people working in the gallery, I took a free card advertising their latest show, and I soaked every detail in. I got to meet artist Bryan Cunningham, and bought one of his paintings.

A wall of art by Bryan Cunningham in the Red Truck Gallery: Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans

Generally speaking, if you like one destination in a neighborhood, you’ll enjoy others near by. Royal Street in New Orleans has many unique galleries and shops, and I made sure I visited as many as I could.

Art by Jill Ricci at Orange Gallery (819 Royal St.): Jill Ricci art at Orange in New Orleans

Art by Chris Roberts-Antieau at Antieau Gallery (927 Royal St.): Antieau Gallery in New Orleans

#5: Connect with people. Smile. Make sure you talk to people. Try to get an interesting story or two from them. Even if you’re in a city for only three hours, don’t be a ghost.

#6: Eat Something! Eat something unique to the city. My “food” of choice was pralines. America’s greatest art forms include music and food — New Orleans has both, so make sure you experience them.

#7: Visit the touristy side of town, and load up on souvenirs. In New Orleans you specifically want to get boxes of pralines, beads (and get the fancy ones), and hot sauce, in addition to the standard t-shirts, magnets, stickers and shot glasses. Get plenty of stuff with the color scheme purple, green & gold; stuff with the fleur-de-lis on them, plenty of alligator heads and jesters.

#8: Have some fun people watching. Checkout the performers, musicians, shopkeepers & barkers. Check out the tourists. Check out the locals. Check out the locals checking out the tourists. Don’t be surprised when a women on stilts, wearing a purple, green & gold bikini, hands you a flyer for an exotic revue or for a nearby poorboy shop.

Once you’ve achieved all these steps, you are free to go. Unless you are not sober — if so, hang out until you are.

Remember: you only live once, so experience all you can without harming others, and without regrets.

Elvis Presley’s Jets

Back in 1995 I visited Graceland (35.048798, -90.026006) and took the tour of the mansion. I saw the Jungle Room (I remember lots of green shag), the TV room (decorated in the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers), and the billiards room (with pleated fabric on the walls and ceiling). While the mansion was much smaller than I expected, it was clearly the castle of a king who knew what he liked, and had it custom-made. At the time I was unable to see Elvis’ jets.

Flash forward to 2015, and I’m back at Graceland specifically to see the Elvis’ private air force. Rumor had it that his jets were sold to a collector, and this was my last chance to see them.

I had a minor incident with the parking lot toll troll. Here’s a tip for the folks who run Graceland: put up a big, easy to read sign that says “Parking $10”, so “foreigners” like myself understand that there is a fee to park. Yeah, the troll called me a “foreigner”. It doesn’t bother me. I look like Lucious Malfoy, so I understand her confusion.

Having paid my dues to the toll troll, I made haste for the jets. The folks who run Graceland are shrewd business people — to get to the jets, you have to get a ticket and then navigate a gauntlet of souvenir gift shops. Make no mistake: the souvenirs are Graceland are some of the finest quality souvenirs you will ever buy. There are no snow globes that leak; no pint glasses with logos that wash off after the third wash; no chintzy t-shirts with neck holes that are too small or that shrink or fade after the first wash. Graceland = quality. I got an awesome gold on black TCB Quickly t-shirt & a bumper sticker for my vehicle.

Bumper Sticker

On to the Jets…

There are two jets at Graceland. One large, and one small. The large one is called the Lisa Marie, and the small one… might also be called the Lisa Marie (I’ll get back to you on that).

The Lisa Marie:

Elvis' Lisa Marie Jet #3

Elvis' Lisa Marie Jet #4

As you can see from the photos, it’s a nice, looking jet. Nice red, white and blue color scheme. Maybe a little schmutz on the undercarriage. It doesn’t have the “wingtip device” featured on modern planes, but otherwise it looks like a standard passenger jet.

The Lisa Marie has everything Elvis could need: a bar, a conference room with a surfboard table, and a bed for sleeping or “hunching”. Everything inside is either green or brown or somewhere in between — the same color scheme as the Jungle Room in the mansion. My mother had green appliances in the 1970s, so I think it was a 70s thing.

Bed, covered with a plastic slip cover:

The Bed on Elvis's Jet

Conference room with surfboard table:

Inside Elvis' Jet

The smaller jet

The smaller jet was much less auspicious, and more practical. It was clear that this vehicle was for short trips — maybe to hop across town to get a peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwich.

Elvis' Small Jet #2

I’m glad I got to see Elvis’ jets before they were hidden forever in a collector’s warehouse, or ground up for scrap metal. Elvis was a King, and in most ways he exemplified the good (jets & mansion) and bad (burning out your body from having to work so hard) of the American dream.

South of the Border, the Quintessential Roadside Attraction

South of the Border is an amazing guitar solo in the otherwise medicore song that is Interstate 95.

Another View of the South of the Border Sign

Growing up, South of the Border was legendary. It was a mystical placed filled with fireworks, primary-colored souvenirs, and frozen desserts. Any kid lucky enough to have a family that made the road trip from New Jersey to Florida returned from summer vacations with magical tales of the place — and paper sacks overflowing with firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles. And of course their family car (typically a station wagon) was tattooed with the iconic South of the Border bumper sticker.

South of the Border Gorilla

At the decrepit age of 46 I finally made it to the Mecca of roadside attractions. I arrived at about an hour before sunset, providing the perfect light to make all the yellows yellower, and all the reds redder, including the sombrero and slacks of the gigantic South of the Border mascot dude. 85% of everything at S.O.B. is colored a slightly-orange yellow (like Velveeta cheese) and tomato red.

The grounds were populated by several gorillas and flamingos. I am not sure of their significance other than family photo opportunities. Maybe a hug for a road-weary and lonely traveler.

South of the Border is roughly the size of a college campus, filled with multiple gift shops, a fireworks store, places to eat and get ice cream, and a hotel/motel. Each gift shop has its own personality. One has a nautical/ocean/tiki/flamingo theme; another is upscale and hoity-toity featuring gifts costing hundreds of dollars; and yet another is a supermarket-sized building dedicated to Mexico-themed souvenirs. The nautical-themed shop resonated with me, since I live at the beach, and the staff were helpful and humorous. I loaded up on magnets, ash trays (I don’t smoke), shot glasses (I rarely drink), coffee mugs, and of course bumper stickers (which cost a dime or a quarter, and the proceeds go to charity).

SOB

I purchased a lot magnets: sobmagnets

Since this was day one of a 9-day road trip, I did not purchase a sack of fireworks, but I did festoon my vehicle with the classic South of the Border bumper sticker.

Finally visiting S.O.B. filled one of the many holes in my swiss-cheese soul. The mystery was no longer a mystery. I got to do what all the lucky kids got to do 40 years ago.

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Post Script. If I was still in college I would probably write a paper about how S.O.B. engages in cultural appropriation, or stereo-types Mexican culture. 25 years later, I’m just happy the place still exists.

I-95 is Atrocious

I-95 is atrocious — from the border of Delaware and New Jersey to about Richmond, Virginia it is possibility the worst road to travel in the U.S. due to traffic/congestion. What should take 4 hours, will often take twice that or longer. The traffic is due to the overpopulated Washington D.C. megalopolis and Virginia beach vacationers.

I-95 is filled with locals. You would think that they would learn to avoid this road, however they’re using it too, to get to the mall or to church or wherever. This amazes me. Personally, if I did not have to be on I-95, I would avoid it like toxic waste.

MD-295 is a little better. Yes, it is also a virtual parking lot, but there are more curves and trees, and you’ll get to see Washington D.C.

This photo of the Washington Monument isn’t good at all, but this is exactly how it looks from the highway: Washington Monument

Winding curves, hills, roadkill, odd/amusing garbage on the side of the road, and landmarks can make a congested road more bearable. Exits, merges and construction provide momentary distraction, but ultimately only compound the agony.

When I have to endure something miserable for a long period of time, like 4 hours of dental surgery or 9 hours on I-95, I apply a technique I call “going dead inside”. Just relax and put yourself in the mindset that you are already dead, and none of the miserable stuff matters. Works like a charm.

Last, I’ll mention what I like to call the Disneyland of Bladder Relief, which is the Maryland House Rest Area. Virtually everyone who travels between Virginia and New Jersey stops at the Maryland House, and without a doubt, it smells like it. Most people use the bathrooms at New York Penn Station or Grand Central Station, as examples of bathrooms that receive a mind-numbing amount of patrons (with poor aim), BUT they can’t hold a urinal cake, er…, candle to the Maryland House. It’s there for a reason, and it does its job well enough.

Maryland House

Alabama, the jewel of North America

This year I drove through Alabama, from east to west, only stoping at a welcome center. The welcome center was nice, and the folks running the center were absolutely wonderful and enthusiastic about their state, as they should be.

Alabama

While Alabama might seem flat, and boring to drive through, know that Alabama holds the richest diversity of wildlife in all of North America. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama has 85 species of reptiles, 70 amphibians, 433 birds, 62 mammals, 450 species of fish, and of course plenty of insects and other invertebrates. It is, as an friend says “the Amazon of North America”, and like the Amazon in South America, it is just as in danger of over-exploitation for resources.

Next time I’m in the state, I’ll spend more time outside of my car.

Outdoor Alabama website.

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Post script:

The road can be lonely and monotonous. It is a real joy to step out of your car, and see a smiling human face. The experience of going from the road to foot can be like walking out of a dark tunnel into shining light; like leaving a cave and walking into the midst of a tribal celebration; like walking out of a dark theater, into a bright & busy shopping mall (that last example sucks).

Upon entering the Alabama welcome center I was greeted by the cheerful voice of one of its employees. She looked like a young Sally Field, and was dressed in a ranger uniform (the welcome centers are parks, after all). My mind can’t handle going from darkness, to amazing beauty so quickly. Combined with the guilt of knowing I would not stay long in Alabama, I ducked behind the shelves of pamphlets, found a few, and politely thanked her and exited.

Raleigh, North Carolina

Crepe Myrtles

It is impossible to write about Raleigh, North Carolina without mentioning the Crepe Myrtles.

Crepe Myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) are flowering trees imported from Asia. They seem to average about 10 feet in height, come in pink, red, purple & white, and are literally everywhere in the Raleigh area.

C to the R to the E to the P to the E

The sheer number of crepe myrtles is shocking. Now you’re thinking that I’m being hyperbolic, but I’m not. If you live in the area, you’re probably numb to it: “the sky is blue, the grass is green, and everything along the sides is pink.” But for an outsider driving into North Carolina, the experience is sort of like the “star gate” scene in 2001, a Space Odyssey, but instead of stream of colored lights, it is a stream of flowering trees.

If that reference is to obscure, just imagine driving through a pink tunnel made of flowers.

Gardiner, NC, Suburb of Raleigh

I stayed at a Best Western in Garner, NC. The hotel was fine: pool, “lobby breakfast”, quiet, comfortable rooms, and plenty of parking. Garner, NC, the city, is essentially a highway encrusted with strip malls and big box stores, surrounded by a web of winding, hilly forrest roads. That is my perception of it. I visited the local Walmart to check out the locals. While the Walmart did not have the bins of fireworks that I was hoping for, they did have isles of snack cakes, beer (which let to this), and the hair brush & computer mouse I needed.

An UTZ truck in the parking lot of the Walmart: UTZ truck

Raleigh Museum of Natural Sciences

The primary place I visited while in Raleigh was the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science. As museums of Natural Science/History go, I would put it somewhere between the American Museum of Natural History and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science; all are good, but the North Carolina one falls in the middle.

The first thing you notice when approaching the museum is the massive planet Earth/globe. It is massive enough to be mentioned in Roadside America:

North Carolina Museum of Natural Science Globe

Inside the Museum you’ll find four floors of Natural Science exhibits, most if not all, focused on North Carolina fauna, flora and geology. The massive whale skeletons, and arthropod zoo, were most impressive.

Blue Whale Skeleton at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh NC

Whale Skeleton in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

The arthropod zoo in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Arthropod Zoo Bees

Other than that I also was impressed by:

  • The hummingbird exhibit
  • The live snake and amphibian exhibits
  • The massive sea shore and forrest replica/reproductions
  • Graphics that explained the different areas & layers of North Carolina geology
  • The large assortment of taxidermied animals
  • The gift shop was solid. I bought a squid replica, and admired an electric fan shaped like a fox.

Fox squirrels are massive — almost size of a house cat — I did not know that.

Fox Squirrel in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Rambling Around Town

When visiting a city, I like to walk around the town without a plan or compass, with the goal of stumbling upon some interesting sights and experiences. I like to visit the stores & restaurants locals frequent; sit on park benches and observe the local vibe like a local would; try to see the city through a local’s eyes.

During my three hour ramble around Raleigh, I discovered a giant acorn, a sand castle 200 miles away from the ocean, and world-famous Clyde Cooper’s BBQ. Clyde Cooper’s BBQ had pork skins, which I get for my sister’s chihuahua from time to time. The chihuahua is passionate about eating parts of other animals.

Giant Acorn in Raleigh NC

Sand Castle in Raleigh NC

Clyder Coopers in Raleigh NC

Worth Mentioning

It is worth mentioning that I visited Raleigh right after all Confederate flags and memorabilia were removed from State/Government buildings, including museums. Had I visited weeks earlier, I may have had a different experience.

Augusta, Georgia: golfers, cookies & grits

Augusta, Georgia is for golfers…

If you stay at a hotel in Augusta, Georgia, you will get to sleep around 1am, and then you will wake up around 5am. Why? Golfers. Southern golfers party hard into the night, and then wake up before the crack of dawn.

I should have known. If you see a truck like this in the parking lot of your hotel, you can rest assured that you won’t get any rest…
Champagne Statement Monster Truck

This past summer I stayed at the Augusta Double Tree, which is a truly magnificent hotel. Sure, the view from the window of my room faced a hallway, but I kept the curtains shut, so no one saw me sleeping.

Typically people stay at Double Tree hotels for two reasons: Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005) & warm, complimentary, chocolate chip cookies.

  • Mitch Hedberg was a very funny comedian who had many jokes that referenced Double Tree hotels.
  • Double Tree hotels provide their guests with warm, complimentary, chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and they are delicious — they take the cookie out of the tiny cookie oven behind the desk, and it’s like Christmas and your Birthday and a hug, all in one. Their bus shuttles are even decorated with cookies — they are very important to their brand image.

Check out this “Sweet Ride” advertising their delicious, piping hot, complimentary cookies:
Augusta Doubletree Sweet Ride

I couldn’t bear eating dinner from the hotel vending machine, so I cruised the surrounding area for a restaurant. My two choices were a Twin Peaks, which is a strip bar/bar/restaurant…

Twin Peaks of Augusta

… or a Waffle House.

Augusta Waffle House

The first time I encountered a Waffle House was on a road trip to New Orleans back in 1995. So mysterious! A restaurant, open 24 hours a day, catering to road-weary travelers, and serving only waffles. Of course, I quickly learned that Waffle Houses are essentially diners serving a variety of foods, and at the time I was let down. Like finding out that Santa is just your parents, or that school lasts 13 long years.

Now, in 2015, there was no mystery. It was late. I knew I was hungry, and I wanted to eat. I did not want to eat at a strip bar.

Approaching the W’House, a teen called me out: “where you from, New Jersey?” “Yes”, I replied, without pride or fear. She followed me inside — my waitress. My waitress — lets call her Miss Amazing Eye Makeup — was an amazing human being, with amazing iridescent blue, green, sliver & black eye makeup. To say her eyes looked like some rare species of Costa Rican butterfly would not be an exaggeration! Miss Amazing Eye Makeup sat at my table (or did I sit at her table) and proceeded to grill me about fast food restaurants in New Jersey. We came to a conclusion that Georgia and New Jersey shared about 75% of the same eateries (the English language needs more words for “restaurant”). The whole time I felt like she was a cat, and I was a mouse — her eyes could control me — her stare, like a puppeteer’s strings — I didn’t want a large portion of grits at 10pm, but she willed me to order it. And of course she got a 50% tip.

I woke the next day, at 5am. Thank you, golfers. Once the golfers discharged from the hotel (with the reticence & grace of a herd of angry cattle being washed through a gorge by floodwater), I was able to sleep again for a few hours. The hotel breakfast was expectedly bland, and a little pricey (should have gone back to the Waffle House), but satisfying. They should just serve a bottomless platter of their chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

Thank you Double Tree, Waffle House, and Miss Amazing Eye Makeup for a memorable 12 hour stay in Augusta.