We finally emerged from Murderville and found an old auto repair shop where a nice man directed us to a park by Valdosta State University. Crisis averted…or so we thought. Well, we found the nice playground/picnic area quickly but we couldn’t figure out where in the world we were supposed to park. There was no parking lot or driveway, just the main street and side streets that weren’t very close. We ended up driving 2 circles around the park (including a quick pit stop in the deadend parking lot of the neighboring women’s club) before we realized that you just park on the road in front of the abandoned frat house. How silly of us.
Exhausted as we were from our fun trek around town, we managed to gather all the picnic stuff and all the kids and make it to the picnic tables. We set up and everyone ate and talked and laughed. It was shady so the extremely hot weather was much cooler than we thought (and by cooler, I mean 103 degrees versus 115, but there was a breeze so we did just fine). We made friends with a squirrel that could not be scared off and had a nice lunch. After the boys hid in the bushes to take a little potty break (boys are so lucky), the kids took off toward the playground. It had started to get overcast so we figured that would keep it cool, but all it did was bring on the gnats. ICK. The kids were still able to play for a while before we decided to call it a day and let the bugs go eat some other unsuspecting visitors. Surprisingly, we only counted a few bites total!
Knowing it would be a long drive home, we decided we would both stop at one more store to make sure everyone got cooled off and went to the bathroom. Once again, mom decided to utilize the GPS and tried to get us back to the original exit we stopped at. As we began driving, we quickly realized that we weren’t going the right way toward our exit (SHOCKING, but par for the course at this point). We did eventually come across another exit so we just did what everyone else does and stopped at the gas station/restaurant/dairy queen/visitor’s center/rest stop and got ice cream. After getting nice and sticky from our yummy, cool treats, we tried to clean up as best we could and then we hugged our goodbyes and headed our separate ways; mom to the southeast and me to the southwest.
My final miscalculation of the day happened as I realized that I didn’t know the number of the highway I was supposed to be taking back. Remember that I came a different way than I usually do? Well, getting there had been straightforward enough, but being the city girl that I am, I forgot how all roads in the South have no less than 3 names, one of which will be a number of some sort. I knew the “name” of the highway, but not the number and it would have been too easy to print both on the sign where I was supposed to turn, so of course I missed it. It’s really not that big of a deal because I knew if I just kept driving I would eventually get to the interstate but since I didn’t even have cell reception at this point (MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, GA), I pulled over at the only gas station I saw for miles.
There were literally 2 old men sitting on the porch of the store playing checkers (sometimes the movies do give accurate descriptions of the rural South) and they could tell before I even got the window rolled down that I was lost. One of the old men came right over to explain to this stupid city girl how to get back to 90 – also known as Mahan Dr. and Tennessee St. once you get back to Tallahassee – remember every highway has at least 3 names! He actually gave me the directions twice because I had already forgotten what he said by the time he explained to me where I messed up and then finished his first set of directions. I’m sure I was the subject of their laughter for at least an hour. However, I was confidant that I knew where I was even if I couldn’t name the exact town, so I returned to the open road with the sounds of “Mommy, where are we?!” and “are we there yet?!” coming from the back of the van.
It took us a little longer to get back than expected, but fortunately for me, the kids handled it well and no one had to stop for a potty break! It wasn’t quite what we had planned for the day but it’s always an adventure when you travel through the South. Plus, we now have more memories than we would have had if everything turned out exactly right! And, just in case you were wondering, mom ended up passing the outlets at exit 3 on her way home. Turns out she missed them on the way up because of all the semis. Go figure.