Our North Carolina Trip was awesome! We were blessed with a 2-bedroom suite at the hotel so Matt could host a couple of receptions there in the little living room. This space allowed the kids and me to crash and relax without being crowded into a single hotel room. Having their own beds made a huge difference in the quality of sleep the kids got, too. While Matt was very happily working at the conference, the kids and I made the 30-mile trek to Beverly's house, sometimes twice a day. She was delighted to meet and spend time with them.
She and I had a great time visiting too, of course. On Sunday after the conference finished, Matt joined us at Bev's house and our two families spent the afternoon and evening together. Bev's youngest son Christian just turned 7, so he and Snapper loved playing together. Both of them were very sad when it was time for us to leave.
On Monday morning we checked out of our hotel, and then went to meet with the man (Bill) who gave us our new van. He and Matt got all the paperwork done and went to the DMV to transfer the title and get current tags on the van. That completed, we went to Bill's house to pick up the van. It is a 1996 Ford Windstar. It has high miles, but Bill is a Ford mechanic, and put in a new transmission, new air filter, fresh fluids, and new tires for us. He went through it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it was sound. It is bright teal (such a mid-90's color) on the outside, and light gray upholstery on the inside. It is in beautiful condition, and has obviously been well taken care of. It drives like a dream, and we are SO thankful to God for providing us this vehicle!
On Monday afternoon we drove back to Concord to go to the Hendrick Motorsports headquarters. As you know, I am a huge NASCAR fan. The driver I closely follow is Jimmie Johnson, who is on the Hendrick Motorsports racing team. We got to visit the Hendrick Museum and shop, where I purchased a Jimmie Johnson license plate for the front of my new van, and a lug nut off of Jimmie's car, which is now safely on my keychain. We also got to see the shop where they work on the 48 and 24 cars (Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, for those of you who care!). It was such a thrill! Hee hee! I'm a nerd and I own it...
After our little museum stop, we hit the road for real. Matt and Pepper, accompanied by "Shrek," took the rental car. Snapper and I, accompanied by "Annie," followed in the new van. We drove as far as our tired bodies could handle that night, ending up at a Hamton Inn about 40 miles west of Knoxville, TN. We walked in, put the kids in their jammies, and dropped them into bed. I kid you not, Pepper was asleep within 10 seconds, and Snapper within 2 minutes. It was too cute not to photograph.
On Tuesday morning, we all slept in until 8:30, then had breakfast at the hotel, and hit the road again. We stopped in Nashville and met a friend for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Oh yum! What a great way to celebrate Fat Tuesday! It was great to spend some time with Jen and catch up with her. After lunch, we drove on to Memphis. We stopped at the Children's Place in Memphis and bought Snapper's Easter dress. So cute! Pictures will come at Easter. The last leg of our journey was from Memphis to our home, about a 2-hour drive.
And now I mount my soap box. I think Tennessee must be a very safe state because they have state troopers everywhere, and the speed limits actually mean something. I must have seen a state trooper every 10-15 miles all the way through Tennessee. Not Arkansas. I didn't see one the whole way from Memphis, through Little Rock, and on to our house. Not one. And guess what? The truckers know this and take advantage of it. One trucker tried to run me off the road. I really think it was intentional, because he saw me getting onto the freeway, there was no one in the left lane, yet he didn't move over, and sped up as I was merging into the right lane from the on ramp. I ended up in the dirt on the very narrow shoulder, and saw my life pass in front of my eyes as he came barreling by me. It was really scary! I got back on the road and headed forward. As soon as I caught up to that truck, he pulled into the left lane before I could pass him. I followed him for about 3 miles (no, he wasn't trying to pass another truck). When he wouldn't get into the right lane, I got over and tried to pass him on the right. As soon as I got into the right lane and started to pass, he put on his turn signal and started to change lanes into me, almost running me off the road again. Once again I backed off, and he completed the lane change. I moved back into the left lane to pass him, and he sped up to 80 mph (the truck speed limit was 55). I wasn't about to do 90 to pass him, so I backed off again. Once again he changed into the left lane and slowed down. This time I didn't use my signal. I backed off, got a running start, and jumped into the right lane and sped past him before he could run over me. He changed lanes again right as I got by him. It was several miles before I was able to outrun him. He stayed on my tail as I cruised between 75 and 80 mph, changing lanes behind me every time I changed lanes. I kept praying for a state trooper to come rescue me, but alas, my hopes were in vain. I was so relieved when he finally backed off. For the next 100 miles I encountered several other trucks that were driving recklessly and endangering other vehicles on the road. I felt like I had dragons breathing fire behind me the whole way. I have never been so glad to see the lights of out town. We pulled into the driveway rattled and cranky, but very glad to be home. I'm so glad I'll be home for a good while now! Life can go back to normal.