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Accompanying her was a menagerie of animals: Australian puppy, Conrad; four chickens (Waffles, Butter, Cordon Bleu and Beyonce); and one rescued kitty

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin'

Oh, we gonna do what they say can't be done

We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there

I'm east bound, just watch ol' Bandit run

— "East Bound and Down" by Jerry Reed

The above lyrics about Interstate 20 capture a recent journey by my daughter, Kimberly, as she drove solo to South Carolina from Sacramento in 4 1/2 days.

Her aging Honda CRV, 250,000 miles weary, required the mostly level terrain of Route 20 through southwest and Sun Belt states. I begged to tag along, mostly for her safety but also to view novel terrain. Alas, because of the COVID virus, my request was denied. Kim did agree to nightly motel lodging as well as calling once the door was locked, thereby easing maternal anxiety. Not only was there the rapidly spreading virus to worry about but also massive, sometimes violent demonstrations occurring as her journey began.

In truth, Kim was not entirely alone. Accompanying her was a menagerie of animals: Australian puppy, Conrad; four chickens (Waffles, Butter, Cordon Bleu and Beyonce); and one rescued kitty. Yes, that SUV looked like the Beverly Hills' Hillbillies returning to their roost! Conrad was in a kennel behind the driver's seat. Beside him was a lined box with Beyonce. Each footwell held an additional boxed chicken.

Day one, Kim got a late start. Loading her collapsible mattress into the roof carrier proved quite daunting. Hours were spent climbing on top of the car, pushing it into the carrier. Neighbors gathered to watch as she lay on the carrier top to zip it closed. All thoughts of dismantling the carrier each night disappeared. A padlock was purchased; fingers, crossed.

A call came from Bakersfield late that night. Kim and pets were safely tucked into a Motel 6 after meeting many homeless people on a late-night, Conrad walk. I readied myself for an anxious week.

Day two found Kim and menagerie on Route 20, traveling through Arizona desert and into New Mexico to Albuquerque. Day three again found me constantly checking my phone as the heavily loaded car traveled onward, through northern Texas, and into Oklahoma. Very few towns appeared on the map. Would the car break down? Was there desert cell service?

Night three was spent in Oklahoma. Those late-night arrivals were arduous. The Honda had to be completely emptied. The kitty was placed in the bathroom with door tightly closed against energetic, curious Conrad. The x-pen would be erected for the chickens, lined with pads, shavings and chicken feed. Kim and Conrad would then run around the parking lot until his elimination needs were met, returning to collapse into bed.

Day four found the group traveling through the flowered hills of Oklahoma. Here, at a rest stop, a frightening encounter occurred. The area was empty except for two driverless semi-trucks. Snapping a photo of Conrad, Kim was surprised when a man suddenly appeared, a one-arm amputee, holding a beer, with a four-tooth smile and a catheter bag attached to his leg. He asked if she was alone. Kim picked up Conrad and raced to her car.

The last morning held chaos and comedy as the group prepared to leave the "Horror Movie" motel which had specified "one pet." The menagerie was travel weary. Previously quiet throughout the journey, all were suddenly vociferous. Loud meowing and chicken chatter commenced as the pajama-clad motel manager strolled nearby. Kim quickly loaded the noisy kitty into her car. Returning to the smoke-stench room, she found that Conrad had upended the chicken boxes, wildly scattering chicken feed. With no vacuum, Kim left quickly, knowing that this time a pet deposit was warranted.

About 9 a.m. she pulled into a gas station where a group of elderly men were sitting on a bench, drinking beer. As Kim walked around her car, opening each door to replace the spilled chicken feed, one man approached, "Everything OK here, ma'am?" he asked. "Yes," she replied, "just feeding my chickens." Shaking his head, he shuffled back to his cronies where muffled whispering began. In a small town in Alabama, perhaps they still talk of the chicken girl while nursing their morning beer.

Later that day, Kim arrived in South Carolina where she and her roommate now house three dogs, three cats and four chickens.

Someday there will be a COVID vaccine. Someday I will visit SC. Maybe I, too, will drive Route 20.

Josie Seymour is a Jottings columnist.


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