Tuesday, April 30, 2013



Nashville, TN to Little Rock, AR via Google Maps

Dear Reader,

It’s about 349 miles from Nashville, TN to Little Rock, Arkansas and slightly less than 2/3 of it is through Tennessee - so whoo hoo!  More white-knuckle interstate time dodging all the big riggers with a collective case of White Line Fever.

Before we leave Tennessee, something wonky starts up with The Navigator’s new iPad.  It won’t hold a charge.  So she gets on the phone with the Apple boys and sees if they can suggest a fix.  No, they tell her, and furthermore she only has 20 days of phone support left out of 90 original days.  Wait?  What?!

Little Rock, AR pinched off the net.

Remember skinny Jim from the Winchester, VA Best Buy who absolutely guaranteed us that the “Open Box” unit was equivalent in ALL ways to the ”Brand New” unopened box unit?  Well, apparently he was wrong.  

So I say to The Navigator, “Find the next closest Best Buy.  Call them.  Ask if they have a brand new iPad with the exact specs you want.”  She does.

“Tell them to put it on hold for you.”  She does, and they tell her it will be waiting at Customer Service.

Perfect.  Because now they can’t yank my chain and tell me they don’t have one when I make them take this one back and give me the Brand New one at the “Open Box” price.

What’s the rules boys and girls?  Anticipate everything.  And never pay retail.

Back through Memphis, TN.  AGAIN! ARGH!

So, we get there, to the Best Buy, and sure enough the Manager tells me, “I can’t sell you the Brand New one for the Open Box price.”  

I respond, “Your associate in Winchester misrepresented this one to us, so, yes, you will give me the Brand New one at the Open Box price.”  She says again that she cannot.  So I do this...

...  I back away from the counter, and there is now a Tennessee State Trooper standing behind me - big young guy with all sorts of weaponry on his bat-belt - I crack my neck, re-approach the counter and say, “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.  You can either make good on your company’s misrepresentation, or I can throw a force 12 sh*t fit and you will, eventually, once every single customer in here has fled the store because they do not want to get screwed like you are trying to screw me, in the end, exchange the Open Box unit for a Brand New unit at exactly the same price.  Is that clear?  If not let me know and I will restate it in a different manner so that you do understand it?” 

Leaving Tennessee over the bridge.

Arkansas state line - right down the middle of the river.

I check back with the State Trooper, and say, “We good, Officer?”  He nods, “Hell yeah.”

The manager says, “I can’t make that direct exchange, but I can give you the case you purchased for free.”  A quick mental calculation provides that that number is actually $20 more than the price differential between the Open Box unit and the Brand New unit.  So I say, “That would be just fine.  And thank you for the wonderful customer service.”

You all know Best Buy is dying right?  It’s all over the news.  This is why.  But we walked out with a Brand New iPad and life is good.

I'm pretty sure this is Nashville.

We get through Tennessee without, luckily, becoming the victims of vehicular homicide,  and, weirdly, as soon as we cross the bridge into Arkansas...

... nothing.  I’d like to give you make take on Arkansas drivers.  But I can’t.  There weren’t any.  Comparatively I mean the interstate was pretty empty, the passing country quite beautiful and the miles fast and easy.  Relief.

Arkansas highway.  What?  No mile long convoy of whacked out big rigs?!

Empty.  Just the way I like it.

Arkansas.  A car.  That is all.

More blissful empty interstate in Arkansas.

We stop at a few rest stops, which compared to other states are all but abandoned.  But they have huge grassy areas for The Captain and so we run him at a couple.  And he likes it fine.  

The Captain and DME - a little tennis ball time just to stay sharp.

The Captain.  A tennis ball.  A match made in K-9 heaven.

The Navigator contacts Mission Control and they book us at a Holiday Inn in Little Rock.  Sounds fine.  When I was a kid and my mom drove us (Me, Mom my little brother) cross country in a 1962 Plymouth Valiant, Holliday Inn’s and Howard Johnson’s were the bivouacs of choice.  HJ’s always had good ice cream in the those days.  Holiday Inn’s were a step up.

So it sounded fine.

And we get there.

Nice new sign.

Same old building.   Same as it ever was.

The hallways were ok, until a kid on a big wheel and two 6 year-old dead girls appeared at the end, and started repeating "Redrum, Redrum..."

And The Holiday Inn sign is new.  But the place itself, alas, is not.  Not old, not new, somewhere in that “it always was this way,” “it is this way” and “it always will be this way” state of perpetual stucco time warp.  But clean enough it seems.

BTW, I’ve never been to Little Rock, Arkansas before.  First time.

As I've said before, when you travel with a K-9 and stay in pet friendly establishments, you meet a lot of other people that travel with their dogs.  And The Captain makes pooch-friends wherever he goes.  But when we first saw this little dude, I said to The Navigator, "Aw, Stacey, look at that, that nice older couple was so unsure of getting a new dog they bought a Build-A-Bear and put it on a leash just to try it out first."

Cuteness factor off-the-charts.

We were convinced this was a stuffed animal, like a Furbee

I know.  I know.  You still don't believe it's real, do you?  So after I checked it for any signs of a zipper, velcro or stuffing, and found that it was indeed an actual living breathing animal, I shot a little video just to prove it:

We stash the gear in the room, walk The Captain, and head down the street to a Kroger’s for some veggies and then perhaps to try and find a liquor store for the end of day beer.  There’s one across the street from the grocery store - and it’s a drive through, and as I’m walking into the place, the liquor store guy at the drive-up window is helping a guy who’s pulled up in an Escalade, and this is what I hear, “Yeah, give me the fifth of Stoli and a couple of cups of ice.”  Cups of ice, right.  

It becomes quickly clear what those many electronic freeway signs we’ve passed in Arkansas meant, almost every single one of them sporting this warning, “ZERO TOLERANCE FOR UNDERAGE DRINKING AND DRIVING!”  Think about that for a second.  Because, what I’m just witnessing means that so long as you’re of drinking age (which I assume in Arkansas is 13) then it’s perfectly legal to slug down a Red Solo Cup of Stoli AND drive around till it’s time for a refill.

I go inside to see if they have a choice IPA for our end of day beer, find nothing but Bud, Coors and PBR in the cooler and turn to exit.  And there’s a bunch of guys looking at me. 

Sidebar:  DME’s normal driving attire consists of New Balance running shoes (some people have Nike feet, I have New Balance feet), short top New Balance running socks, pair of comfy work-out shorts for the long hours in the saddle, t-shirt, New Balance Wind Breaker and an Adams Golf baseball cap (some people are Calloway, or PING or Taylor Made people, I am an Adams golf club guy).

Let’s just say I did not fit in.  So I leave.  Everything’s cool.  Like I said, never been to  Little Rock, AR before.  First time.

In the Truckster I ask The Navigator to find us a liquor store that will have, perhaps, a nice craft beer.  She consults the new iPad and finds what is called “The Best Liquor Store In Town.”  Don’t believe me?   Here’s the screen shot:

Big D’s.  Best Liquor Store In Town.  So says the reviews on YELP.  Okay, so we drive over there, down a couple of fairly ill-lighted streets and find the place on a big corner lot.  Big place. Must have a good selection AND it must be good because there are about 30 cars parked out front and it’s about 10:30 PM.  Clearly Big D’s will have a tasty locally brewed IPA for mine and Navigator Stacey’s end of day beer.  I find a place to park about 60 feet front the front door.  Get out.  Leave The Navigator in the running Truckster with The Captain in his Command Center and head inside.

I take one step through the front door, and find that the place is indeed popular and right this moment very busy.  And as I walk through the door the place comes to a screeching halt, and every eye in the place turns my way and stares at me like I just sprouted a pair of mule ears like Pinnochio.

So I do the only thing I can think of, because everyone is staring, no one is moving, and there isn’t a human being in the place that shows any signs of stopping the staring until something happens.  So I raise my hand in as friendly a manner as I can, and then at the top of my lungs, “Hi!  How ya’ll doing?  I’m not from around here.  Do you carry any locally brewed craft beers?  I’m looking for a nice I.P.A.”

Ringing silence.  And then the guy behind the counter finally breaks the stunned ranks and says, “I.P.A?  What the hell is that?”

“Ok.  Nice talking to you.  Thanks very much.” I say, and I leave.

And that should’ve been the end of DME’s wrong turn, but it wasn’t, because as I head back toward the Truckster I see a guy standing really close to it without any good reason to be doing so and my bullshit meter goes off.  Not good.  I pick up the pace an find, seconds later that I have been followed out of Big D’s fine establishment.  Again for no good reason (there’s a reason alright, but it ain’t a good one).

Big D's the morning after the night before when The Captain went ballistic.  We were parked on the right, near the last yellow parking pole.

Just as I get to the rear of the Truckster, and the guy who has been standing there takes a step toward me, and the guys behind me close the gap on my personal DMZ to an uncomfortably short distance, I say to the guy in front of me, “Hey.  Hang on a second.”  

And the guy is a little shocked and actually stops.  Perfect.  I turn to the guys behind me and say, “One second.”  They find this so strange they actually slow down, and then I go a little Arthur Fonzarelli on the Tour Truckster hatchback.  

One quick rap on the hatch lock and the door opens upward like a shark’s mouth, and then I “say the word” - the one that tells The Captain to Get Up!  Get Big!  And get in this Guy’s Face!  NOW!

DEFCON 2.  The Captain appears from the darkness of his Command Center, stepping forward, meaty paws on the bumper standing right under the service light on the inside of the hatch door making him look even more the badass, hackles way up, BARKING like a thunder wolf, and there really is only one way to describe him:

Holy “Shart.”

The Captain, keeping the beach tennis ball clear since 2012.

And that, I presume is what the three fine gentlemen were doing when they vanished. 

And that was it.  I closed the hatch.  Got in the Truckster and we drove quietly back to the Holiday Inn.  I told the guy at the desk what happened.  His exact words were, “YOU went into Big D’s dressed like that?!  And you got out?!”

“Uh, yeah.”

His partner behind the front desk said, “They must have thought you were a cop.”

I answered, “I’m sure they thought someone was a cop, but it wasn’t me.”

The Navigator and I reflected on The Captain’s performance.  Magnificent was the only word that did it justice.  G’boy Maverick.

Character.  Courage.  Loyalty.  Fearless.  Captain Maverick.

We had our end of the day beer in the little hotel lounge, I signed a bunch of Sandlot Tour mini’s for people that asked and we turned in.

They had Guinness.  Which was just fine.

Best beer ads ever.

Just because it's hysterical. You're welcome. ;)

Fun day.

Next up, Springdale, Arkansas and Arvest Stadium.

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