|The Big Blue Burrito|
But: while this 1,345 mile round trip from River City to Norfolk (pronounced nor'fuk. And yes, I still count it as the most unfriendly town in the country.) was not my first trek out Interstate 64 and up and down Sandstone Mountain, West Virginia, it was the first major flight of The Big Blue Burrito. For an old truck, she did amazingly well, even on the westbound return over Sandstone Mountain. The westbound incline up the mountain is so steep I can only conclude that the Army Corp of Engineers intended to make driving through By Gawd West Virginia as unpleasant and automobile murdering as possible.
I've been criss-crossing West Virginia via Sandstone Mountain and I-64 off and on for as long as The Kid has lived in Norfolk -- since about 2001. She was in 1st grade when her mother dragged her there after an unsuccessful attempt to make it as a Navy wife in the backwater of LaCombe, Louisiana when Sgt. Tailhook was stationed out of the Naval Station at Norfolk. In the previous year, the Kid attended Kindergarten in 4 different schools that I can remember -- one, being in Jefferson Parish (LaCombe) where she had lice more than she had recess and where they taught an entire section on shoe tying. (I taught her in a short afternoon. The Kid has always been ahead of the curve.)
The reason I have, over the years, traveled the I-64 east-west corridor is that when her mother decided to haul her up to the North Atlantic coast, I decided not to follow. I moved from Lexington, Kentucky to New Orleans in order to stay close to The Kid. I did not and do not regret that decision. I have, over the years, deliberated and rejected the notion of moving there myself. Some ignorant folk might interpret this as a lack of interest in my daughter. And while there are moments of her life I have missed -- which is one of a short list of regrets -- I have always fought to stay in her life in spite of the geography. In spite of being derided, derailed, talked down, and insulted. In spite of my own feelings of inadequacy as a parent. In spite of one attempt on the part of her mother to try and talk me into signing my parental rights away to Sgt. Tailhook. (I told her mother in no uncertain terms that The Kid's last name is Parsons and would be until she changed it herself... and even then, I assured her mother, I would always be The Kid's Dad.)
And here I am, back on the edge of the dirty, sacred river, getting ready to teach, getting back to all the little projects and obligations I have here. The Big Blue Burrito made it back over the mountains, with a stop off at Willow Creek to visit old friends and another in Losantiville to visit my Dear Sweet Ma and to pick up a new to us bed and frame. Here I am, looking home improvements, looking at starting up the garden, and yes, looking at a jaunt west into some square states in The Big Empty.
Life is good here and I am living it.