Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Human's and Lil Joe's Southern Adventure

(Be sure to click on pics to enlarge, and click again for even bigger)
As maybe the readers of the last noticed, I did not know that my Brother Chip, and his 9 year old son Eric were involved in an accident 'til a week after it happened. His wife did not contact us. Over the years we have made every attempt to welcome her into our side.

I found out because Chip called my wife's work. She works for a branch of the Feds and they wouldn't even confirm that she worked there. Which is good, but, just another price to pay for the fearful world we live in. They called to let us know that he was trying to contact her, for reasons unknown. I called the # he had given them and learned about the accident. He said he had suffered multiple compound fractures and that Eric was okay. He told me that, although he had not seen it, the article was on the 'net(links below). As reported by the article, the "9 year old" was critical or as the other put it "serious". So was Chip not facing reality, and Eric had died or even worse? Maybe they had not told Chip? Me being me, I conjure the worst of the worst.
Which made the trip even more Urgent and Dreadful.

The night before the trip I couldn't help but take out the photo's I have of Eric. Some taken not long ago, some when he was just a wee Lil feller. Good thing we got a large supply of tissues from Big Box Mart the week before.

I won't drag it out, ERIC IS OKAY! He and his Lil brother went to the Grannies for the Holidays, but I did get to talk to him on the phone. Poor Lil Guy. I could tell he was still pretty shaken up by it all. Sooo, GOOD to hear his voice.

I had to take Lil Joe with me because Mommy had to work, so last Saturday we set out at 9am bound for Chattanooga. As everyone with wee ones knows, road trips such as these take at least twice as long to accomplish. As a matter of SOP we stop every couple of hours to snack, eat a full meal and run and play. I know a lot of parents do this. Many at McDonald's. We prefer Cracker barrel. The shop is fun for him to wander around and I buy him a toy truck that he picks out himself. Plus the food is real good. In the 4 days of the trip, we ate at Cracker Barrel 5 times. He now equates a restaurant with toy trucks and cars. Today, for a change of pace, we ate at the Bob Evans in Winchester Virginia. He just kept begging and looking for the toy trucks and cars.

Instead of playing at the McDonald's, I prefer to stop at State or Local Parks.
If you are ever on I81 in Virginia, you will want to stop at Clayton Lake State Park(exit 101).
Camping Year round, fishing, hiking and playgrounds. A walk in the wood, tossing pebbles in the lake, playing peekaboo behind the trees and a good chase ("I'm gonna come a get you") ending with a ticklefest, just don't compare with McDonald's.

Clayton Lake

The Gazebo at Clayton Lake

Bambi and Friends at Clayton Lake

Although most of the Rest Stops in Virginia are being renovated(portapotties only) I do reccomend the 2nd one heading South on I81 after you enter from West Virginia.
It has a terraced trail with pikanic tables and a decent view.(this was before the Clayton Lake stop.)

At the Virginia Rest Stop

Our 1st night's Hotel was the Sleep Inn near Kingsport just after one enters Tennesee. A decent Hotel with a nice staff. It also has a Cracker Barrel across the street! My only complaint was that the covers smelled of cigarette smoke. Me thinks someone was smoking under the covers like a wayward teen. That and as I would later find out the next night, to my and Lil Joe's greater disappointment, we left Le Aire behind. He's Lil Joe's 1st Bear Friend. He wears a Rabbit suit. His Aunt T gave it to him. "Le Aire" was one of the 1st sounds he made when he was just a Baby. Can you say Bad Daddy?

My Lil Drooler, ready for Night Night.

We had great fun in the room. 'til Night Night. Oh yeah. He wassa missing Mommy Bigtime. I had spoken to her on the sly a bit b4 beddie time. As he would not calm down, I called her and had her say the usual Sweet things she says at Night Night. That worked. 'Til about 5 minutes after we had hungup! When he finally accepted the inevitable, he just drove his face into my chest and with a huge sigh fell fast asleep. An hour later, he awoke screaming for "MOMMY". I quickly reassured him. "It's okay, It's okay". He was dreaming of her, I think. He then insisted on laying on my head. Well so in addition to Chief Bottle Washer, a Jungle Gym and all my other Titles, I guess I'm a bed. Or at least my head is. The ultimate Bed Head. Hey, at least I found a use for it besides balance.

Making good time the next day, we were set to arrive at the Hospital at 2pm. Then we hit traffic. I decided to bail and try an alternative route. I could see by the map that I could take Rte. 11 and hook back to The Freeway. After turning onto Little Debbie Parkway we turned right onto, Guess what? No come on guess! No, that's not it, we ended up on Apison Pike. That's the same road the 19 yo girl hit my brother's Tacoma head on on! I said to myself, "self, watch oncoming traffic!" About a minute after that I heard one of the sounds from the back seat that I fear. That cough. You may know the one. I look back and sure enough, up comes the Cracker Barrel Lunch of Mac and Cheese, bread and lemonade. All over. And boy was he upset. Just a started screaming and kicking. I turned onto a dirt shoulder that was not that safe to stay on. But, as I did not know when I would get another chance to turnoff, I did. Quickly stripping him and cleaning him and the car seat, while trying to keep down my own lunch was quite a feat.I'm one who if I smell it, well ya know. I then knocked over the tube of wipes and they rolled under the car! I couldn't reach it, so with crying baby I went for a stick in the woods. Got it and with one swipe knocked it back. Picked it up and then Lil Joe let out another scream and kick and with flailing arms
knocked the tube out of my grasp. Yep, right under the car again!

A bit later we enter Chattanooga. Instead of my planned entrance I came in on an area that I did not map out. Let's just say that it was a very rough looking neighborhood and I stood out like a White Sore Thumb. The only ones who eyed us though were the Cops. They followed us. Ran the plate and then left our tail.

After finally finding the Hospital, I got Lil Joe, a change of clothes for him, the "To Go Bag" (diaper bag) and my computer that I had saved the accident articles on. I did not know if Chip would want to see them but I thought I'd leave that up to him.
I just knew the 1st woman who saw me with Lil Joe who was now just in a diaper would say something. I was greeted by the gray haired Lady receptionist, "Must be warmer then it looks out there to be dressed like that". Me, "Either that or he just threw up all over himself". Ever notice how receptionists like to wield their power? So I added, "I got a change of clothes here, so the faster we can get up to my brother's room, who is here because he was critically injured in an auto accident and who we came to see after driving for 2 days from Pennsylvania the better." From Nurse Cratchet to a Sweet Grandma type in seconds. "You poor Dears". God Bless You" "What's your Brother's name?" All said in a sweet Tennessee voice. Oh Yeahhhhh. I'm thinking of keeping a little mock arm cast I can put on Lil Joe, so I can get the big pity when we need it too.

Got up there and man did it take a lot to hold back the tears. For both of us. If Lil Joe had not been with me, we would have had to call housekeeping for a mop. It sure was good to see him. Alive. Even if banged and stapled up. I could see that it really rose his spirits. I got him to give a thumbs up! He enjoyed seeing Lil Joe so much too. We stayed a bit over an hour and then checked into the Sleep Inn just across the Tennessee River.

Chip Looking Chipper

The Cracker Barrel was another exit down. But, the Holiday traffic was atrocious and wanting something a bit different we went to the Hardee's right next to the Hotel. Big mistake. The next day, well let's just say I'm surprised the Chattanooga Water Treatment Facility could keep up. The Hardee's in Our Town is really good. Oh well, Cramp and Learn. The best part was this Hotel has an indoor swimming pool! Boy oh Boy did Lil Joe and I have fun! He's getting to be a good kicker too! By the end of next summer, he should be doing the 1k meter in good time.

Up early the next day (Monday), so we could get as much time with Chip in as possible. We arrived shortly before his physical therapy started (8am). We went down with him. It was in this huge room with various apparatus. After meeting Bill who was my Brother's Therapist, Lil Joe Spied the huge exercise balls. He just started yelling "Ball! Ball!" "I said, "Joe, those are for the people who need it". Just loud enough for everybody in the room to hear, of course. I looked up at what I took to be the guy in charge of the room and he said, "Oh he can play". He came over and gave Lil Joe the Orange Ball. Gleeful is an understatement. Not only did we have a Ball, but the other patients, who were looking pretty sad when I 1st saw them, were all smiles within seconds of watching his antics. Most of the patients were old. I think I could rent him out to cheer Hospital Patients up. We stayed for about an hour and way too soon, we had to start back home. Lil Joe did not like that a bit. He wanted to keep playing. Why he wanted to do that, instead of getting strapped into the car again for another long ride I'll never know.

This time we stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Salem Virginia. Which I highly recommend. A really nice big room. 5 miles off I81 in a nice Professional area, across from a Hospital Center. As I was pretty tuckered out, I decided on Pizza and bbq wings to be delivered. I know he'll eat pizza. Anytime.

Now every few hours through the trip he would yell for his Mommy. Well when the pizza guy knocked on the door, he just started screaming and jumping up and down "Mommy! Mommy!" He was disappointed, but hunger and Pizza! overcame a big fit.

Pizza Lover

Now, let me tell you a little secret. When you stay at a Hotel, make it a point to get friendly with the maid. Not only do we tip, we stop and talk to them. No one wants to be ignored. We always, if we can, tip in person and don't just leave it in the room. Well, remember I wrote we had lost Le Aire? On the way back we stopped at the Hotel we had left him at. And yes indeed, Le Aire the Rabbit Bear was waiting in the Lost and Found for us. Now I can't say for sure, but maybe because of the following we got him back.

As we were going to the breakfast room for the free eats , we ran across the maid stocking her cart. She asked us what room we were in. I told her, but added, "We ain't left just yet, we are gonna eat and then pack and leave." She said, "Oh I'm not working just yet, I just wanted to know". I said, "It sure looks like your working, then quickly added, "I know what you mean". After packing and getting a coffee to go, I sought her out and gave her a 5 dollar tip. She sure was surprised and thankful. So, although I can't be sure that's why we got Le Aire back, I still think Niceness Counts.

I knew Lil Joe would want to see his Mommy when we got home, but she worked till 7. If I had driven straight home, we would have had to wait about 5 hours before she got home. So we decide to take a bit of a detour and visit Harper's Ferry West Virginia. A beautiful spot that everyone should experience. I hoped that a train would come by when we were there, but Lil Joe and I were disappointed. Still he got a kick out of crossing the foot bridge over the Potomac and walking along the C&O Canal.

On the foot Bridge at Harper's Ferry over the Potomac River

A safe and rewarding trip. It was good to see my Brother, Lil Joe is #1 in the Road Trip Category, and he brought smiles where ever he was seen.

Including this scene that was played out in a very Crowded Cracker Barrel while we were waiting for our name to be called.

A woman, oh about mid twenties or so comes in. Well, before she came in, her tits did. She was 40 Double D at the very least. Now Lil Joe always smiles and tries to get the prettiest girl to pay attention to him. And well, to put it mildly, her 2 friends were not her only assets. After giving her name to the name taker type person, she turns and sees him. They lock eyes. She just about 2 feet away. Lil Joe points right at her tits and says, "Nice Chest". I about pooped my own pants! I surely thought she'd be upset and chastise me, to be joined along with the other people standing around. To my surprise and relief she responded with a sweet, "Thank You" and went to look around the shop. Now why can't I say things like that and get away with it? Is it because I'm not as cute as this?

PS - Thank you everybody who expressed their Cares and for your Prayers. It does mean
a lot to me.

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