In honor of my dad’s birthday being today and in lieu of a gift (kidding) I’m going to share one of my favorite memories I have with him. In January of 2010 a few days after the new year began my dad came down from Memphis and picked me up in Little Rock to take me to college. It’s a pretty typical occurrence for a parent to drive their kid to college, especially their freshman year but our trip was far from typical. I was leaving the town I had grown up in and was going north, 900 miles away to St. Cloud, Minnesota. He picked me up and after we packed up my belongings we got on the road about nine to begin the long thirteen and a half hour drive to St. Cloud State. The traffic was somewhat heavy as we began our journey but before long we were out on the open road going to a place neither of us had ever been.
With Matt Hires blasting on the stereo we made our way north through Arkansas and into Missouri where we stopped in a small town for a childhood favorite of mine, KFC. Taking a break from the road we munched on chicken and reminisced about some of the good times we’d had together over the years and then we were once again on our way. As we pulled into a gas station in Kansas City I saw snow on the ground, a staple of my next few months living up North, something I was very excited about. We made our way further North and as we drove through Iowa with nothing but corn surrounding us on the dark interstate we started talking about finding a place to stay for the night, but the miles kept falling behind us and no adequate lodging was around and so as we neared the Minnesota state line we thought we might as well just stop once we got to the Twin Cities. The bright lights of Minneapolis rejuvenated our spirits and we decided we might as well keep going all the way to St. Cloud and that is what we did.
The GPS system that had been guiding us to our destination had been alerting us with an obnoxiously loud horn every time we passed an exit with a grocery store the whole trip. It had been really annoying and we had no idea how to make it stop but as we drove along the dark Minnesota highway the horn suddenly became hilarious and was a source of much laughter each time it sounded. We got to the hotel in St. Cloud well after midnight with the temperature near zero and got a good night’s sleep before getting up the next morning to go register for classes at the university. How many people can remember exactly where they were when Matt Holliday signed his seven year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals? I do. I was having breakfast with my dad in the hotel lobby when the news broke on ESPN as below zero temperatures scrolled across the bottom of the television screen. After registering for classes and becoming increasingly more adequate at walking across the frozen earth we got back in the car to head to Minneapolis where we would spend the next couple of nights with my Uncle’s family waiting for the official day that I could move into my dorm room.
Somewhere along the snowy interstate between St. Cloud and Minneapolis one of our tires popped and we found ourselves on the side of the road as it began to get dark outside and big trucks barreling past us just a couple of feet from the car. The decision was made to take advantage of my dad’s triple A membership and have them perform the dangerous task of changing the tire on the side of the highway. By the time they arrived and put on the spare tire it was completely dark and before long we were ready to get back on the road. As we pulled onto the interstate, not even ten seconds past before we heard the spare tire pop and we pulled off the road once again, this time followed by the tow truck who had seen the whole incident. The nice man let us ride in his truck as he towed our car down the road to the nearest tire shop. While we waited for all four tires to be replaced my dad and I walked next door to a foreign place, Space Alien Pizza to get some dinner. It was a pretty cool place that was completely space themed and one of those ridiculously cheesy menus where every item had something about aliens or space in the name. Dinner was great and by the time we were done the car was ready and in under an hour we had arrived at our destination in Minneapolis. All in all it was a bizarre trip full of unexpected surprises but it is a memory I will have and cherish for a long time. Thank you dad for playing such a major role and sharing in the experience with me. Happy Birthday.