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Our Last Week in South Carolina

Getting sick

Though it was difficult living in such a bitty space with its attendant challenges of noise, low light and wildlife, it paled in comparison to that last week when both Pat and Chelsea got sick with fevers and upper respiratory infections. They both awakened sick on that Monday morning after we posted our books and had our mini-celebration.

They were feeling very, very unwell. That left me to hold down the fort on anything and everything and I wasn’t feeling like the brightest light that had ever shone. None of us had much fun, particularly Pat and Chelsea.

There’s not much to say about it all, except that it was pretty miserable. Chelsea and I shared a small bed, so she coughed in my face all night for a full week (not deliberately, I hasten to assure you), and we had Pat coughing and choking and periodically gagging upstairs (he was much sicker than Chelsea). We all got very little sleep for six days.

Perhaps the low point was on Thursday night, the day after the Fourth of July. We’d had a big rainstorm that was dropping a phenomenal amount of rain. I lay in bed listening to Chelsea coughing next to me, with Pat upstairs coughing. I couldn’t help but think, “I’ve sure had a lot more fun than I’m having this week”!

I heaved a deep sigh and tried to think upbeat thoughts. It was hard. Very hard.

Gradually falling asleep in between bouts of Chelsea’s coughing, I could hear a slow distinct plink, plink, plink, coming from the windowsill above my head. I did rouse myself enough to check for leaks, but came up dry.

Then somewhere in the wee hours of the night I was awakened by a plop of water on my face. The leak had found me. I staggered out of bed in the dark, found a pot in the kitchen, and threw a washrag in the bottom so the drops wouldn’t bounce out. I settled the pot on my pillow, scrunched down further in my bed, and fell asleep to the symphony of coughing.

The next morning Chelsea warned me to be cautious when I used the bathroom. She’d discovered that we had leak on the toilet paper. There’s really nothing quite like using damp toilet paper. We made it through the rest of the week by keeping a Wal-Mart bag over our toilet paper.

Finishing up the week

River view

On the upside, we remained amazed and delighted at how beautiful Pat’s property is. We never, ever tired of the river view, and sitting on the Adirondack chairs watching the waterfalls will always remain one of our best memories.

Though staying inside was a bit disheartening, the cool air was a real blessing as the heat gradually rose to uncomfortable levels.

Pat was unfailingly kind and generous and good-natured, making sure we had enough to eat and ensuring we could use the car for infrequent trips for groceries. Chelsea and I easily agreed that Pat had our unqualified Hero of the Month for stepping into the breach and providing us with housing, fun, and help.

Meanwhile, as the other two coughed themselves raw, I had to pay attention to the sorting, downsizing, and packing. We had the goal of fitting everything into our panniers and portage bags for our upcoming travel. That meant lots of decision-making, which Chelsea did feel well enough to help with. She curled up on the bed while I spread goodies around to sort. We were organized and ruthless.

By the time I finished packing that last Saturday night before leaving, we’d accomplished our goal. Pat inherited a few nice things, some things got tossed, and we had three small boxes Pat had offered to send home for us after we left. Only the box of paperwork for my book writing would follow us to Gueydan.

During that last week I was also faithfully scanning, many times a day, Craigslist rideshare ads in Greenville South Carolina, Atlanta Georgia, and points further on, to see if I could figure out a ride to Gueydan. That meant lots of time online figuring out possible routes and writing responses to ads that looked promising. I did write and post our own ad in the Atlanta Craigslist detailing what we wanted for our rideshare.

By Thursday I’d rounded up a ride to Shreveport, Louisiana, and had Kenneth Benoit lined up to meet us in Shreveport the next morning.

But even the Craigslist rideshare didn’t look like it would be easy during this week from hell.

After an initial yes, we discovered our rideshare didn’t seem happy about the amount of gear we had. After going back and forth a bit, we discovered that she was a professional driver (which explained the higher than usual cost), and that she had other passengers and deliveries to make.

At that point none of us wanted this to drag out any longer, so I wrote a detailed email of explanation and told our potential rideshare that “we hoped we could work this out”.

To our total delight, she agreed, and we settled on a meeting at a specific Wal-Mart in Marietta, Georgia, at eleven Sunday morning.

But our travails weren’t quite over yet. The night before we left I discovered that my pen drive (memory stick), with ten years of work on it, had gone missing. There was no backup, as I was in the midst of a fundamental reorganization.

We tore Pat’s place apart. We looked in every bag we had, twice. We looked on the pathways from his house to our cellar apartment. We scoured our two rooms. We checked the trash. We checked everything again. We did not find the pen drive.

Sunday morning we were up early ready to go. We’d packed the car and put the bike rack and bikes on the car the night before. All that remained was to put in our overnight bag and collect Pat from upstairs, after fitting in one last search of the premises for the missing pen drive.

Pat had had a very rough night. We knew, because we heard him until almost one in the morning. He didn’t sound like a happy camper. To his everlasting credit, he rose from his sickbed to take us to Atlanta (Marietta). He didn’t, however, want to drive. Making himself a little nest in the back seat, he curled up immediately, and by the time we’d reached the main highway he was asleep.

You’d think by now that we were home free. You’d be wrong.

The hundred-forty mile drive to Marietta went smoothly. Chelsea and I chatted quietly while Pat slept. Chelsea had her trusty navigation system open so we knew just what turns to make. We were not only on time, we were on schedule to arrive a bit early. We’d be able to take a quick bathroom break, get a sandwich for the long drive to Shreveport, and still be ready well before our rideshare was due.

Having worked with me for many years, and being detail oriented anyway, Chelsea had typed in the exact address, Wal-Mart at Cobb Parkway South. Pat had awakened by this time and wanted to know the address. He typed it into his navigation system and came up with very different directions. Since Pat was the local guy we collectively deferred to his system.

It was a very bad choice.

An hour and a quarter later, anxious, tired, increasingly frustrated, and now forty-five minutes late instead of thirty minutes early, we found the right Wal-Mart. Pat, when typing the address in, had neglected to put in the South part of Cobb Parkway South.

We’d spent the entire hour and a quarter circling up and back on Cobb Parkway in ever-widening circles, looking for a phantom Wal-Mart, asking directions, and checking our navigation systems.

I’d had Chelsea send our rideshare an urgent email, since we didn’t have her phone number, praying that she had a smartphone and that she’d see the email. We pulled into the Wal-Mart lot, cruised it several times, and ran for the store in hundred-plus degree heat.

We didn’t make it into the store before the phone rang with good news and bad news. The good news was that Sherry, our rideshare, had gotten our email. The bad news was that she had already left for Shreveport.

I wasn’t willing to let a little thing like that derail us at the eleventh hour.

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