After two wonderful weeks of visiting my family in Missouri, it was time to say our goodbyes, squeeze our stuff and Francis into our Honda Civic then quickly slam shut the doors, else have everything spring forth onto the garage floor. Captain Chameleon and I travel relatively light. Francis on the other hand, could use a U Haul. His carrier, travel size litter box, scratching post, window perch; overnight bag; basket that holds stuffed animals Momma Kitty, Rosebud, Reindeer, Aardvark, Ghost, and Badger; three fleece blankets; and a cosmetic bag containing hair twisties and trinkets for him to plunder through qualifies him as high maintenance. Adopted at 2 days old without a mother cat and siblings, he has written his own rules and created his own traditions. But that is another story.
Approximately 1200 miles from Springfield, Missouri to Phoenix, Arizona we make it a two day trip, staying a night in Tucumcari, New Mexico. That tradition started 11 years ago when we ran out of energy on our move from Florida to Arizona, by way of Springfield, Missouri. The memory is as vivid as if it happened yesterday. In a U- Haul without AC or acceptable acceleration up the hills, Captain Chameleon reached his dehydration limit at Tucumcari. Hot enough to cause the coke cans to explode; he looked pitiful climbing out of the cab of the truck. Following in my VW Beetle, I and the girls (two Siamese cats) arrived at Tucumcari in far better shape. That is how we came about the tradition of staying in Tucumcari. Over the years, the vigilance for bed bugs, changes in management and cost of overnight accommodations have kept us open to finding the cleanest hotel for the least amount of money. Our list of needs is short: no bedbugs, clean sheets and bathroom, ice machine, and cable TV. Not ever having cable at home, an evening with cable is crazy entertainment. Simple and enduring, the other half of the tradition is a Rum and Coke that Captain Chameleon mixes up in a tiny flimsy plastic hotel cup. Paired with a party napkin brought from home, it’s what we call, “Living the Dream.” Traveling on a slim budget need not be a downer in spirit. Limiting what we spend on lodging makes some hotel stays an adventure. Looking back in time, it is the reason we felt like locals, staying at the Rain Tree Inn instead of the Hilton, on St. Johns, USVI, and why we passed up a $100/night hotel along the Pacific Coast Highway, just south of San Francisco, only to stumble onto a Hostel in a Lighthouse (Point Montara http://www.norcalhostels.org/montara/photos ) overlooking the Pacific-$36/night. Our cheap digs on Cape Cod…another fun story. Silly and simple, our traditions connect us to ‘living the dream’, every single day. Francis’ traditions? Well, he seems to think he needs to stay at a Hilton.
Just a little side note: the U-Haul Captain Chameleon drove from Florida to Arizona without AC, broke down just one mile from our new house. 107 degrees, a long day of driving, and 7 pm at night, we were not amused, especially after waiting 2 hours for a tow truck to cart the U- haul, not to our home, but to the U-Haul Dealer. U-Haul wanted us to off load the broken down truck and reload to a new truck for a 2 mile trip. Captain Chameleon in his usual polite way, helped them see the benefit of excellent customer service. In the end, U-Haul refunded the cost of the entire rental.