If you've grown tired of all the traditional I See Something... roadtrip games, here's a new one to test drive: count the number of Wal Marts you pass for the duration of your trip and expect passengers (including driver) to need all twenty toes and fingers!
This little adventure came at a time when none of us could really afford to do anything; but perhaps that was part of the appeal? Everyone always seems so amazed when I talk about my travels and how inexpensive it can be for having the time of your life. Drawing up a rather extensive list of what to bring, the goal was to spend less than $50 among us for everything else not including splitting cost for gas. I'd still like to believe this was feasible...that is if we'd been able to avoid stopping at Wal-Mart.
We arrived to showers in Galveston after a two-inch downpour the day before, and predictions for more the entire weekend. Finding the campsites near swamp-like conditions, needing tarps specialized the generic list of ice, lighter fluid, and eggs that could have been purchased anywhere. It's actually rather funny (but potentially scary) to think how we've been brainwashed like Pavlov's dog when that unexplainable, gotta go to Wal Mart enigma creeps in.
Located on Galveston's Seawall Ave., it seemed odd having palm trees in the almost well-known parking lot...invaded by swooping seagulls. So what more could you expect from a beachfront Wal-Mart? Entire lines of products we'd never see at our land-locked local outlet. Sleep deprived and slap-happy from the road, we each grabbed a cart and forgot about any budget planning. One can always justify spending at Wal-Mart!
Among my "can't live without " finds, a new 33"-boogie board carefully selected from rows and rows of beach-related accessories that had me worse than a kid in the candy store! Of course also came the need for actual surfing shorts and shirt to match. Air mattresses to sleep on were $1.50, and a huge tarp only $3.88.
Thankfully, I displayed self-discipline in housewares where lighthouses and palm trees had replaced the midwest emblems of rustic cabins and hunting lodges. However, I shouldn't have volunteered to pick-up lighter fluid cause it took me to the Garden Center. Mini-tropical plants unlike we get here? Absolutely had to have three.
Cans of Jumex fruit nectar were 12-cents cheaper, and at 50-cents a pound, there was a major haul on papayas. But here's a Big Tip for all you Texas travelers: Only liquor stores can sell liquor. Places like Wal-Mart - beer, wines, foo-foo stuff and more bottles of Boones Farm or Mad Dogg 20/20 than I'd seen in eons! (Seen; not drank!)
Hints of ritual awareness quickly fleeted when finding all these unmanned check-out lines with automated service. That's right, place everything on the belt, scan your crap, and then place it in a bag before swiping your credit card or feeding cash into the machine. Theft is further prevented by balancing scales - something off the belt has to go into a bag or expect major problems.
Dispersing to different lanes, the smug computerized voice trumpeting our error messages rather paled to our frustrated cursings. At home, we may be just across the border from Bentonville, Arkansas with store #13, but this was certainly one feature Wal-Mart can keep in these other territories. Then again, automated machines can't file lawsuits!
We'd yet to unload anything out of the SUV and began shifting around to figure out where everything was going to fit. Turns out, I was the lucky one only spending $49.73. Guilt for blowing our budget plan lasted through about the time it took exiting the parking lot, but we agreed avoiding Wal Mart was the only way to keep from over-spending for the remainder of this trip and any future ones. If only things were that easy...
Is It Funny Yet?
Pulling over in McAlester, Oklahoma for the first fuel stop on our way down, Donna shrieked at the gas pump. Deciding not to haul her gazillion keys to Texas, she'd lightened her keychain before leaving...which included leaving behind key to the gas cap! There was that initial panic of "we're screwed" while also determining there wasn't enough gas to drive the 3+-hours back home for retrieving key.
Breaking the cap appeared to be our only option, but attempts were trivial. About that time, a god-awful pick-up came jostling up to the pump behind us and out stepped this big ol' goat-roper looking like an extra from the movie Deliverance. This wasn't the time to be proud or shy and Donna marched right over and asked for help.
This guy began digging through his toolbox and appeared with a large pick-like screwdriver, hammer, and over-industrious effort. Donna squeezed my hand while turning to look the other way, and with a final whack, the lid flew off rolling across the parking lot. Our thanks seemed not to suffice with his levels of flirtation to the ladies. We fueled up and got the hell out of there; thankful we'd survived our first road-trip crisis...
OK, Is It Funny Yet?
We were headed home when stopping to get gas just outside of Corsicana, Texas about an hour south of Dallas. Running near empty myself and with a good 6-hours still to go, the fueling and bathroom breaks were quick in preparing to get back on the road. Pulling out of the lot, something rolled across the top of the car causing a rather puzzled look. Immediately it registered the gas cap hadn't been put back on.
Pulling off in the nearest drive, the roadside search was on trapsing through calf-high weeds, standing water, and about any other debris you'd expect to find...but no gas cap no matter how earnestly we paced. Donna walked back up to the gas station to see if perhaps they had an extra cap someone else had left behind. They didn't but a trucker assured the safety valve should make traveling ok. Hhm, exactly what I'd been ignored about.
We wrote this off as our second mishap for the weekend - both involving the gas cap, and prepared to get back on the interstate. Then Donna said she didn't want me tossing anymore butts out the window since the capless tank was on the drivers side. Excuse me!?! There was no way making this all-night drive without it and I immediately took the next Corsicana exit in search of Wal-Mart!
Pulling off at the first station to ask directions, the attendant gave a rather detailed and extensive route which involved taking the business route into town and turning left on 7th Ave. under the viaduct By now, pissiness involving the whole draining weekend and ordeal had surfaced including getting caught waiting for a train to pass that must have stretched all the way back to Dallas. Once on 7th Ave., we drove and drove; so long and so far towards the unexplainable "magnetic spend" force, it prompted a second set of directions to insure we were still on the right path.
A good 15-minutes later, finally the sign off in the distance; just our luck we'd be stuck in the only town in Texas which didn't have their Wal-Mart right on the interstate!
Donna went in to check gas caps while I walked over to a bench in the garden center and tried to cool off while watching the sunset..what was supposed to be seen with the Dallas skyline. She eventually returned with $17+-worth of two gas caps...neither of which fit though the clerk had told her these things run standard. Jamming one into the funnel best we could, what's done was done! She said she didn't care, I growled maybe we'd get lucky and I'd blow our asses back to Missouri. The long-ride back through town was quiet.
By the time we'd made the hour drive to Dallas, all was well; Donna more ready to laugh about the entire ridiculous situation than was I. At one point on down the road, I heard a minor shift among our stuff piled in back...or so I thought.
We'd driven a couple of more hours before stopping for gas in Savanna, Oklahoma. The girls went in while fueling up. Unjamming the ill-fit gas cap, I habitually reached to place it on the roof...when looking up to see "the lost one" wedged against the luggage rack. Now, it was strangely funny and unbelievable.
Before leaving, we made sure we still had the bag, labels and receipts for the other two unusable gas caps; they'd be returned to Wal-Mart the following morning when dropping off the film, buying milk, picking up a pack of floppy discs...you get the ever-spending, never-ending picture.