Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Road to Kentucky Part II

Five weeks after leaving Chicago, the “H” appeared to me like a beacon of hope in an uncertain land. The Hilton Gardens Inn, Bowling Green. I had arrived. As exciting as the adventure had been, it was nice to finally arrive at my destination and I looked forward to settling in with a nice meal and a whisky sour, which for some reason I had a taste for (perhaps it was the many signs for distilleries that I saw on the way). Parking the car I ventured into the lobby of the hotel where a pleasant woman behind a pleasant desk pleasantly told me that she couldn’t find a reservation for me. Just my luck, I left the confirmation e-mail in the car, so venturing back out to get it I ventured back into the hotel and was told, pleasantly, that I’d actually ventured into the Bowling Green Holiday Inn which, interestingly enough is right across the street from my destination du jour, The Hilton Gardens Inn. So exited was I by the beaconistic H on the sign, that I didn’t actually read the name of the hotel beneath it. “Don’t worry, it happens all the time.”

Bundling my luggage back into the car, I pulled out of the Holiday inn lot and pulled into the Hilton lot and found a similarly pleasant lady behind a similarly pleasant desk who thankfully had a reservation for me. It’s been about two decades since I’ve stayed in a hotel. Friends and I used to stay over regularly at hotels when attending Beatlefest (which is what it used to be called) or one of the many science fiction conventions we used to attend. I suspect that, living with our parents during the 80s, the main reason my friends and I stayed over at these conventions, was because we were living with our parents at the time. Given a choice between spending Thanksgiving watching mom and dad fight between courses of Cold Duck or hanging out with geeks at a convention, the con won hands down every time.

I forgot how much I love the hotel experience. The crisp sheets, the 50 towels in the bathroom, the joy of room service. I went for a walk around the area, went to the bar and ordered my whisky sour, went back to the room and ordered room service which was brought to the room by the bartender (not a huge surprise since the restaurant area and bar was about the size of a small bedroom and wasn’t exactly packed at that moment.

I’m guessing Bowling Green is a great little burg to visit with a vibrant historical district and quaint areas of interest. I’m guessing this because my schedule didn’t permit much of a gander round town. I got there around 5:30 p.m. Friday and wasn’t much in the mood for more driving, so I hung out at the hotel, which was fine, me loving the hotel experience as I do. The next day, I was expected to get to the bookfest about 8:30 a.m. for check in so of course I got there at 10. This wasn’t necessarily my fault. While I’m guessing Bowling Green is vibrant historical and quaint areas of interest, the area I was staying looked more like a farm town. I was given directions to the convention center and left early Saturday morning, but I didn’t count on the fact that the town had decided to double name their streets. Driving north, a right turn might take you down Love Ave., while a left turn on the other side would take you down Dilly Drive. So if you’re supposed to go left on Dilly Drive and you’re looking out for it on your right, you ain’t gonna see it. You will see Love Ave. which mirrors Dilly Drive and if you only realized that, you might realize that was the intersection to make the left turn on.

Long story short (and short drive long) a 10 minute drive took me 90 minutes before I located the convention center. Once inside and registered, it was a fun afternoon. I sold and signed some Vampires’ Most Wanted and even sold some Chicago’s Most Wanted. It was nice to see the latter still had some steam to it. There were some big names there like Carl Hiaasen and Heather Graham but they were kept in their own enclosure up front for fear they’d get lose and tear up the place. They can get very excitable in a crowd. Yeah, that’s right, you know who you are Hiaasen.

Sitting next to me was an author named Amy Clark who wrote the book Success in Hill Country based on the oral histories of eleven natives of the Appalachain Mountains who went onto success. You always worry who you’ll be squished next to at these sorts of events, but Amy was a pleasant neighbour and we actually had a lot of fun. Plus, she has a doctorate, so she’s a scholar with credentials as opposed to me who’s a scholar because “I said so, so shut up!”

Another person I met was positioned two doors down the row and roamed by the name of Bertena Varney. She wrote the book Lure of the Vampire: A Pop Culture Reference Book of Lists, Websites and "Very Telling Personal Essays" and I wish I would have met before Vampires’ Most Wanted was published since I think her book would have been very helpful in researching mine. An interesting book to check out. As experiences go, it was most definitely an enjoyable one that I wouldn’t hesitate to do again (now that I know the way) once my vampire series is printed. All that was left was the long drive home Sunday. I had a chance to arrange my schedule, I would have stayed over a day or so for some sightseeing, but that wasn’t to be. I considered stopping at the local mall:
But then I thought better of it. It was a long drive home and I wanted to make it before sundown (cause that’s when the zombies come out. It’s a proven fact). A thousand Enrights cried for every distillery marker I passed by on 65 North. Every DNA strand in my body cried for me to stop and take a tour, but I couldn’t. Though, as I drove, I swore with each marker I passed that somehow, I would find my way back down to Kentucky and inhale the angel’s portion (and drink like a fish) from the distilleries I was unable to visit that Sunday.
As always happens, the ride home seemed to go quicker than the ride down. I left the sweet mountains of Kentucky for the flatland and billboards of Indiana (though I was looking forward to seeing the windmills again. I love those things). There is something surreal about driving across two or three states. At some point I stopped at a yogurt store for a comfort break and a cup of frozen yogurt (in that order) and had to ask the sales clerk if I was in Kentucky or Indiana. From his response it seemed as though I was at the tail of Indiana. I still had a drive ahead of me but I was filled with courage having made the first part of the trek with nary an incident. I entered Indiana wondering if I was going to stop at Illinois or if I’d just keep on driving wherever the road took me. I chose for my ride back home the printed directions from Mapquest. I was still bitter about the little joke Rand McNally (you know, the map people) played on me. And actually, as I neared the Indiana and Illinois border I found the directions a little simpler. So bite me Rand McNally. I crossed through post-war Berlin and made it into Chicago $5 lighter.

I was of course disappointed that I had forgotten to accidentally take the 73 Exit that would take me to the Lion’s Den Adult Super Store in Indiana, then I remembered the many resources available to me on the Internet and felt better. Besides, all I could concentrate on when I hit the Dan Ryan expressway was my supreme frustration at having to go down to 55 mph after driving several hours at 70. Add to this the fact that apparently everyone had chosen that moment to go back home and we were lucky to make it up to 25 most of the time, and I was fairly crawling out of my skin. So yes, after weeks of worry and uncertaintity, I made to and back from Kentucky in one piece. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. I'll just have to remember that St. Louis/Louisville splits.

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