To say that the place was a surprise is an understatement. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was fell significantly short of what it proved to be. For one thing, it was located in the middle of nowhere. Had it not been for the colleague from Oklahoma who was accompanying me, I’d still be as lost as a goose.
There is no doubt about it, the guy is really smart and he very capably entered the address in the map feature on his phone. The directions were both audible and visible. Being hearing impaired was to my disadvantage. The volume wasn’t loud enough for me to clearly hear. Consequently, he ensured that I didn’t make a wrong turn.
We had only traveled a little over two hours since we left the Atlanta airport, but we could have been anywhere. Regardless of the highway we were on, and we had made several turns, the terrain looked the same. The roads were primarily two lanes of a divided highway headed each direction. Pine trees made a picturesque border to the asphalt roadways.
As we left the state of Georgia and moved into Alabama, there wasn’t a noticeable difference. I told my colleague that my grandfather often told the story about being stopped by a highway patrolman in Alabama. He was exceeding the speed limit and since he was from out-of-town, the patrolman instructed him to follow him to the courthouse so he could pay his fine. When the judge verbalized the amount, my granddad replied: “You might as well double it. I’ll be driving back through in a couple of days.”
The colleague had just told me the story of his accompanying a mutual friend to speak to a church somewhere in Oklahoma about the children’s home where they both worked. The two of them were lost in conversation and both oblivious to the fact that the friend was driving 80 mph. Wherever they were; they were obviously on the road less traveled. The only other vehicle in sight was a pickup headed their direction. As it turned out, the pickup was a highway patrolman.
Taking a pro-active approach, once stopped, the mutual friend immediately got out of his vehicle and walked back toward the highway patrolman. That is not an acceptable protocol for Texas, but like I’ve told my brother many times, Oklahoma is on a different time zone. The fifty-year differential is probably the explanation. Trust me, I should know. I’ve seen flashing red lights behind me more times that I’d like to count. In case you are wondering, the first time was fifty-five years ago.
I don’t know if the guy played the “I’m a preacher card” or his “child care administrator’s card”, but he was only issued a warning ticket. I’d never be bold enough to try either. When I was a state employee, I handed a highway patrolman my state employee identification card once instead of my driver’s license thinking that would get me off the hook. It didn’t. He was quick to point out the error of my ways. He was also quick to write me a ticket. I guess the brotherhood of “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” is apparently limited to law enforcement personnel in Texas.
I have a friend in Irving who is a policeman. He is a part of the 100 mph club and when stopped, he never gets a ticket. I rode with him from Austin to Dallas once and I was terrified. He weaved in and out of traffic like there was no tomorrow. Frankly, I feared there wouldn’t be.
Before we got to where we were going on Tuesday, we too were on a road less traveled. It was no longer a four lane divided highway. We were down to one lane each direction. Had it not been for the GSP and the colleague providing directions, I’d have driven past the next turn. As we turned off the roadway onto a very narrow road, I had the thought, “I can’t believe we’re doing this”.
The administrator of the children’s home we were going to visit reportedly had said there was overnight housing available on their campus and he could accommodate us. Okay, so I’m spoiled. Priceline has made it possible to negotiate staying in four star hotels for so long that the thought of staying overnight on a children’s home campus was something other than desirable. I couldn’t believe we were doing this.
The narrow road dead-ended at the children’s home campus. Turning right after driving through the gate, we were greeted by the sight of a large conference center and picturesque two-story hotel flanking each side of the conference center. Wow! The place was unbelievable. So was the small lake just beyond the hotel. The lake was a very picturesque setting for a children’s home. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to live in an environment like that?
The next day, we got the full story. The facility had initially been crafted as a commercial enterprise offering a retreat center setting and golf for the well to do. It also featured a structure that capitalized on a view of the lake and was a configuration of a restaurant with three different bars. As it turned out, the conference room we met in on Wednesday morning had previously been a bar. Wouldn’t you know it, when offered coffee, I was the only member who opted for a cup. When I learned that we were sitting in what previously had been a bar, I said: “Wouldn’t you know it. I’ve only been here fifteen minutes and I’m already having a drink.” If anyone laughed, it was only to be polite. You never know, anything for a laugh generally works for me. For others, well maybe not so much.
Later yesterday, we headed toward another children’s home location. It is located in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Georgia. Our travel took us only on back-roads through very small places on the edge of nowhere. The scenery was incredible. Did I mention that yesterday was a very enjoyable day at work? I should get out more often. I am looking very forward to the day. In case you’re wondering, the commute through Georgia and Alabama is far more picturesque than the travel I generally make between Austin and Houston.
All My Best!