The Best Laid Plans … (Part 1)

Four years ago, I uprooted everything I knew and moved to Houston, Texas.  A job opportunity opened up that I couldn’t really turn down, so I packed up my rabbit, my computer and some (not so) necessities and drove down with another co-worker who was also transferring.

The morning we were to leave, I discovered that the ignition switch in my steering column broke, which no longer afforded me the ability to remove my key.  I also was told that there wasn’t any extra room in the rented trailer (that I was to be towing,) so I had to leave a few boxes of belongings at home.

Three days, 1700 miles and one car accident later, we made it to the two bedroom apartment we were also sharing with co-worker’s girlfriend and their two dogs.  The drive was long and tedious, and I was also pulling a trailer full of furniture, that in retrospect, probably accelerated the decline of my 2005 Ford Escape.

Memphis, Tennessee is probably my first clear memory of the trip.  We’d pulled off to refuel and stock on snacks and drinks, in probably one of the more sketchy areas, after dealing with an almost insurmountable amount of weird highways that were impeded by construction.  At that point, I was too tired to really care about the creep factor of where we pulled over and just wanted to stretch my legs.

The gas station itself was unremarkable; just a little gas station on a corner, surrounded by a bunch of small houses that could’ve done well with some much-needed TLC.  I presume we’d pulled off in the Southern outskirts of the metropolitan area, as it was more suburban.  I remember the unnerving stares we recieved while filling our gas tanks and the attendant looked bored and didn’t seem too thrilled to have his conversation with a local interrupted by some random travelers buying Red Bull’s and snacks.

As we ventured further south, the people did get friendlier, which was a somewhat foreign concept for me.  Having grown up my entire life in New England, “Southern Hospitality” was something we’d only read about in school.  I honestly thought that friendliness had been exaggerated and played up for the sake of an interesting read, but no.  And I’m not talking about a simple holding a of a door or a cordial greeting at a cash register – I wound up having a full conversation with a nice gentleman who held a rest stop door for me, and he’d proceeded to ask questions about where I was coming from and going to, and gave me suggestions of places to see once I reached Houston.  He wished me a happy travels and even let me go ahead of him in line at the check out.  I believe this was in Arkansas.

The last leg of the journey started in Texarkana, on the border of Texas and Arkansas.  We’d spent the night at a hotel so we could get a fresh start in the morning and get to the apartment complex before they closed at 5.  Texarkana, the little I saw of it, seemed like a nice place.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if we were in Texarkana, Arkansas or Texarkana, Texas, because by then, the trip was starting to take its toll.  The drive, I think, took longer than expected, because my car wasn’t really all that fond of towing a heavy trailer, evident by the subtle groans and its resistance to driving up even the slightest of inclines, slowing my ascent to an almost dangerous crawl.  Stops were also more frequent because of the nature of SUV’s and my car was pre-fuel efficiency.  Things were smoother as we ventured south, simply because of the flat land, but the trailer itself would soon prove to be problematic.

About three hours from Houston, upon crossing an overpass, I hit a weird bit of asphalt and jackknifed with the trailer, spinning my car 180 degrees across the two-lane highway.  Thankfully, we were the only ones for a mile or so in either direction, so there were no injuries.  I don’t really remember much, aside from seeing my co-worker’s car about 50 yards ahead, and then suddenly, my rabbit’s carrier was in my lap, there were bunny kibbles everywhere and there was an oncoming semi.  So that’s nice.

The interesting thing that I noticed about interstate highways down south is that there are houses dotted along them, with driveways leading right onto the interstate.  Fortunately, when I’d spun around, I landed in front of a house, whose residents witnessed the whole thing and called the state troopers for me.  Apparently, that happens more often than not off that particular overpass, and I was lucky that the weight of the trailer had prevented me from spinning off into the ditch next to the highway.  The trailer had actually come off the hitch and was only being held on by the cables that connected the electricals.

There were also a few good samaritans that pulled over and despite not speaking English, they did their best to try to help get the trailer out of the road, for which I’m thankful.

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I was basically told to go sit in the ditch while everyone else tried to re-attach the trailer.  So enjoy this photo, taken from a ditch.

Eventually, I was able to sort of assess the damage and pick up a few pieces that were ripped off the trailer hitch.  I no longer had directionals or an interior light, but still had tail and headlights.  The trailer, however, had no electricals at all.  Awesome.

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The other one was mangled, but surprisingly, still attached.  This one just ripped right off.  It remained as a “trophy” in my cupholder for two years until I sold the car.  Now it’s in some box somewhere, I think.  Or I threw it out.

The state trooper was super nice and since a report was made of the accident, if I were to be pulled over for not having tail lights or not signaling a merge in the remaining three hours of my trip, there was documentation that would explain why.  Thankfully, I wasn’t, but I did vow never to tow anything ever again, (not like I could because my trailer hitch was basically destroyed.)

We eventually made it to the apartment complex with minutes to spare.  Once we got our keys and signed the lease, we unpacked the non-furniture stuff and dumped them in the living room before heading off to Walmart.  My number one priority was to get an air mattress, (as I wasn’t able to bring a bed with me,) and there were other various necessities we all needed.

Luckily, we still had a day to spare before co-worker and I started work, but we were now “home” and our Texas adventure was beginning.

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