The trip down to Arkansas was a lot of fun, so far as 10 hour car rides go. I drove from Minneapolis to about 80 miles north of Kansas City. Then Gray took over and got us all the way to Bella Vista, Arkansas. Never was I more happy to see my home state than I was at 5:00 on Wednesday morning, eyeballs a'burnin, ass muscles screaming. As predicted, we were sick to death of every CD in the car by that point. We bought this little Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? electronic game. On the way down, we WERE! On the way back? Not so much. Apparently the magnetic pull of the north pole had some kind of wacky effect on the trivia portion of our brains, and brought our little IQ fest to a grinding halt.
We played the game, drank some coffee, stopped to piss all of said coffee. Every time I tried to smoke a cigarette (those smokers out there know that smoking and road trips are life BFF's forever) I got a raging case of the hiccups. Gray thought this was hilarious, and would get to chuckling, then snickering, then full on laughing his ass off. I would tell him to, "Shu-uht up. You're no-hot making it any be-hetter!" I've never had this particular problem with smoking before. The green, might puke feeling? Yes. The "ran out just as you get a good buzz with no one sober enough to go buy more" problem? Yes, totally. But never the hiccups. I tried smoking five times on the drive down, and each time, during my FIRST drag of each cigarette, the evil hiccups arrived and ruined my smokey pleasure. I would have to put out the whole thing and wait for them to go away, then try again. Eventually I just gave up.
Round about 4:00 am, we made it to Joplin, MO, which is known for absolutely nothing and of which, I have no doubt, you have never heard. However, Joplin is the place where you must pay close attention to the road signs, as you will be required to take an exit to stay on Hwy 71, which you would want to do if you were, in fact, headed to Arkansas. We were looking for the exit, our heavy eyelids duck taped open, when I heard Gray chortle. There's really no better term for what he did. He chortled, and I can say it's the first time in my life I've had occasion to use that particular verb.
"What's so funny?" I asked. He pointed on his left to a big, dark building on a frontage road. It was an ordinary building, save for the giant, red, glowing letters which read, "FAG".
Wait...what? Yes, it most definitely said "FAG". Huh.
We got the giggles. BAD. BAD BAD. I was nearly crying from laughing so hard, and immediately began texting my Jill (also on a road trip, somewhere in Wyoming at the time) to tell her all about FAG.
"Can you imagine going to work there every day? 'Honey, I'm off to FAG. See you for dinner.'"
We wondered what they did there, at FAG (turns out they manufacture bearings, not fags). Had they never noticed that their sign is...um...slightly fucking funny? We're in the middle of the bible belt folks, perhaps FAG isn't the best thing to plaster up on your building in GIANT RED LETTERS?
It wasn't until we passed another sign which read, "Thank you for travelling on the Will Rogers Memorial Turnpike" that I thought to myself that this didn't look familiar. Then we passed another sign which read, "Welcome to Oklahoma". Whoops! I think we may have gone ahead and passed out exit.
So the turnpike was a bitch. There were no exits, nowhere to turn around. We were literally going to Tulsa at that point, at 4:30 in the morning, and we were trying to wrap our minds around a whole new set of hillbilly problems we might encounter, like buffalo stampedes and...I don't know, what the hell is in Oklahoma? The Uni bomber?
26 miles later, we reached an exit. We explained to the toll worker what happened, but still he had no qualms about charging us for getting off the turnpike, making a u-turn, and getting right back on the turnpike (not before paying a second toll). I guess a 52 mile detour wasn't the end of the world, but still. We were not campy happers.
Eventually we found our way, but the FAGs were just the start of our Arkansan Adventures. More to come...including haunted beer and yet another Walmart gaff.