The Road Trip Day Two January 27, 2013
Sunrise over the Anaconda roller coaster. On the TV in our hotel room, the weatherman reports of more black ice on the roads of Virginia. We are eager to keep heading south. Mary Jane makes coffee in the room after we decide to hold off on breakfast and put the icy roads behind us.
It’s MJ’s turn to drive. The dashboard reports we have 170 miles to empty. I decide we should fill up after we cross the North Carolina border. She agrees. I have no idea why I made this ruling except for the fact another border crossing is my first goal of the day.
Mary Jane tells me her daughter Ashlee is obsessed with Edie Sedgwick. She has been posting Facebook photos of herself dressed like Edie and she very much resembles her. I Google Edie and read the Wikipedia entry out loud. We become engrossed in the story of “the poor little rich girl” and learn that Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians song, Little Miss S, is about Edie Sedgwick.
“Hey, you have an Edie Brickell tape in your box there,” Mary Jane exclaims.
“Oh my God, that’s right. What if it has the song on it? That would be amazing.”
Sure enough the song is there. I pop it in the tape player and as we listen it takes on a whole new meaning now that we know the story. I text Ashlee and tell her all about this amazing coincidence. I bequeath her the tape and promise to send it to her when I get to Florida.
Passing through Smithfield, NC, we notice a sign for the Ava Gardner museum. I look her up on Wikipedia, while exclaiming, “I love this IPhone. How did I ever live without it?”
We love Ava’s story and her three marriages; to Mickey Rooney (“He may have enjoyed the sex but goodness knows I didn’t”), to Artie Shaw (“It’s impossible-it’s like being with a woman. He’s so gentle”). I stop reading to discuss a guy we both once knew who had this same problem.
Ava’s final marriage was to Frank Sinatra, whom she referred to as the love of her life. We conclude Sinatra must have been very good in bed. We also learned that she once swam naked in Ernest Hemingway’s pool, after which Hemingway told his staff, “The water is not to be emptied.” We love this information.
Suddenly Mary Jane shouts, “Holy shit. We’re on empty!” The miles to empty is flashing a blinking dotted line.
“Calm down,” I say. “When that line appears you still have 35 miles to go.”
“What?” Mary Jane exclaims. “What makes you think it just came on?”
“That’s probably why you noticed it, because it started flashing.”
My attempt at reassurance seems to work. She calms down a bit and we make it the two miles to the nearest exit. At the gas station at the end of the ramp plastic grocery bags cover the handles at the pumps. A crooked sign hangs on the door. CLOSED. A man and his young son are sitting in the front seat of a beat-up old truck. We pull up next to him and ask if there is another gas station further down the road.
“No. Not here. Ya gotta git back on the 95 and drive six miles. I’m out of gas, too.”
As we drive away, Mary Jane shouts, “What the fuck?” We are in total panic mode now. The gas needle is below empty and I realize we probably won’t make it six more miles.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I have Triple A.” This time I reassure no one. We are in the middle of nowhere North Carolina so we proceed to blame each other.
“You were driving Mary Jane, it’s your responsibility to keep an eye on the gas.”
“But you were the one who said let’s wait until North Carolina to fill up. What was with that? Did you think it would be cheaper? Plus I hate this miles to empty thing. Why don’t you have a regular old gas needle?”
“I do. It’s right there.” I point to it. “I’m sitting over here. You’re the driver, you’re supposed to be watching it.”
We laugh and shout at the same time, realizing we are ridiculous and were both distracted by the two Edies and Ava.
Two miles further down the road, we see another exit for Wade where there are several gas stations. We both shout, “We’re going to make it!” as Mary Jane coasts to the exit. Then she drifts into the breakdown lane and I yell, “Why are you stopping here? Keep going, it’s downhill all the way. We can coast if we run out of gas.”
She yells back at me. “The car is bucking. If I run out of gas, I have to be in the breakdown lane.”
We roll into the first gas station at the corner as the engine light comes on and the car dies, right in front of the pump. Deciding we are the luckiest women in the world, we head into the station to buy lottery tickets and tell our story to the beautiful young Indian girl who sells us the tickets. We promise her that if we win we will send her some of our winnings.
“If you win, you have to come back to North Carolina to cash in the ticket. It’s a state law.”
“Who cares, ” we tell her. “We’ll fly back if we win.”
The rest of the day is uneventful. All we ate for breakfast were the salted nuts and chocolate covered berries we had in the car so we stop at South of the Border for lunch. Mary Jane has a very messy burger which oozes ketchup onto her new scarf.
“Who the hell puts this much ketchup and mustard on a burger?” she wants to know. I eat a barely tolerable taco and despite washing my hands, I smell tacos for the remaining miles to Savannah.
The only excitement comes as we approach the large, steep bridge that leads to Savannah. Deathly afraid of bridges, Mary Jane panics, as she always does. Years ago we traveled this same route to Florida and crossed a bridge that rose up in a steep arc, not once but twice. I was driving. Mary Jane was having a panic attack which was contagious so I too began to experience anxiety.
This time she shouts, “That might be the bridge.”
“Pull over, I’ll drive.” I take over the wheel. MJ puts her head between her legs and doesn’t look up again until we are safely across The Bridge.
Relieved to finally check into our hotel, we quickly shower and head out into the dark night streets of Savannah. A full moon lights our way to River Street where we order martinis and enough fried seafood to feed a family of six.
We offer our leftovers to a homeless man who gladly takes them then tries to sell us roses made from palm fronds. We only have a dollar in cash but we offer it to him along with the fish, scallop, and shrimp dinner.
“I usually get five for these,” he says.