LA/XC-2 DAYS TWENTY-THREE, TWENTY-FOUR, TWENTY-FIVE, AND TWENTY-SIX: LEAVING AUSTIN; LOUISIANA-MISSISSIPPI-ALABAMA; ATLANTA; DELAWARE
Day Twenty-four mileage: 457
Day Twenty-five mileage: 260
Day Twenty-six mileage: 676
Total LA/XC-2 mileage: 8,060 (FINAL!)
Weather leaving Austin Friday morning: 84 and cloudy
Weather arriving Westport, CT this morning at 2:10 AM: 55 and drizzling
Road Music: “Texas favorites” (cont.); College Game Day (Saturday); NFL Network (Sunday night, Monday); “All Songs” from iPod (cont.); ’50s, ’60′s, and ’70′s Pop Hits on XM radio; Coal Miner’s Daughter (A Tribute to Loretta Lynn) album
Four-day state tally: 13 (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut)
I’m sure it’s pretty obvious by now I’m trying to play up my new-found connection to the (4-0 and getting better all the time!) Atlanta Falcons and distancing myself from my (2-2 and apparently in freefall) Jets. If you watched these two teams play their respective games on Sunday, could you blame me? The Falcons win a gut-wrenching 30-28 back-and-forth nail-biter — first was a picture-perfect long bomb, and then with a clutch last-second field goal. The Jets are thoroughly dismantled and embarrassed, 34-0, at home by the 49ers. Falcons QB Matty Ice looks more and more like a cross between Joe Montana and Peyton Manning every week. Jets QB Mark Sanchez looks dazed and confused. Falcons WR Roddy White comes up huge in the clutch. Jets WR Santonio Holmes scores for the wrong team. Still, with all this, Greg and I are going to Jets vs. Texans — best team in football according to a lot of the experts — next Monday night at the Meadowlands. And somehow I still believe (delusionally, I suppose) the J-E-T-S, without their best player, Darrelle Revis, and by all accounts in total disarray, can find a way to come up with a “W.”
As you saw in Ricky’s somewhat huffy Roof Rack Report (let’s be honest; he and I have been spending an awful lot of time together), I got the chance to hobnob with former president Carter on the Falcons sideline at the Georgia Dome. Although I’m a little ashamed to say my first reaction to having my picture taken with President Carter was: Yes, this is kind of cool —but not if it means missing out on meeting Julio Jones.
This was my second straight Sunday on the Falcons sidelines. As I mentioned in my post last week after the game in San Diego, all this comes via Robby’s roommate’s parents, who have a very strong Falcons connection. In fact, Carol and I plan to be in Atlanta again in December for my third Falcons game of the year. And while I appreciate having met a former president and several Falcons players, I’ve let it be known the Atlanta fan I really want to meet is my country fave, Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Come on guys, you have almost two months . . .
Before leaving the subject of my new team, here’s a shout-out to Rich,
Terrin, Hunt, Adelaide, Connie, Sarah, Bill, Bob and all the other Falcons folks I spent time with on Sunday. Tremendous fans, all. Which is more than I can say for the so-called Falcons fans I saw heading for the exits with the most exciting NFL game of the year still hanging in the balance. What is it with these people??? I’ve said it 100 times before, and I’m sure I’ll say it 100 times again: If all you care about is beating the traffic, why bother coming to the game???
So once I made the decision that a visit to New Orleans was overambitious, I zeroed in on Delhi, Louisiana as my stop-off point between Austin and Atlanta. Though I’d never heard of Delhi, I
had three reasons for picking it: (1) The town was pretty much midway beteen my two destination cities; (2) it had a Best Western, currently #1 in my ever-evolving motel chain rankings; and (3) it was the last town on the map before Mississippi, and damned if I was going to stop in that state, even to let Ricky get out and wiz. Ditto for Alabama. Those two
states give me the willies, and it’s not just the Deliverance thing. Matt had a very disturbing experience in Oxford Mississippi after an Ole Miss game, and I was once set upon and beaten by a gang of red-neck George Wallace supporters at a rally in Philadelphia during the 1968 election campaign. All right, this goes way back to my college days, but it’s not the kind of thing you easily forget — or want to experience again.
Friends told me I should lump Louisiana into that same bag, but somehow I didn’t get that same feeling of unease from the Bayou state at all. The highway sign said “Bienvenue Louisiana,” and my feeling is, how tough and scary can any place be where they speak French? (Likewise, Texas is supposed to be so macho — so what’s with the town names? Patricia? Katy? Gail?) As it turned out, everyone I met in Louisiana couldn’t have made me feel more welcome.
I broke up the last leg by stopping to visit Greg’s girlfriend Kelly’s family in New Castle, Delaware. Got my first chance to meet
mom Lisa, dad “Delaware Joe,” and brother Patrick — and had a delicious Lisa-cooked meal of manicotti, eggplant, meatballs, and sausages. So much for my Beagle Man Cross-Country diet. Quite the treat! My hosts had heard all about Ricky from Greg and Kelly, and were oohing and ahhing over him — until he threw up on the carpet and then pooped in the vestibule. Ah, Ricky, how many times have I told you you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression?
We reached Westport, after 26 days and over 8,000 miles, in the wee hours. Ricky made his delirious, tail-wagging rounds of his house and his yard, then went back to being my shadow, as he had been in every motel room across the country. I think he was constantly worried about being left behind. Our intense bonding ended precisely at 11
this morning, when he saw St. Luz, his favorite person in the world, as well as his good buddy Nena the chihuahua. All of a sudden, I became Beagle Man Who?