MAY 17, 1996: FRIDAY


Scheduled trip: Tupelo, MS - Oklahoma City, OK
Actual trip: Tupelo, MS - Henryetta, OK (480 miles)

It wasn't a breakdown!
We rose as early as we could, knowing all too well that we had to travel in the vicinity of 500 miles that day. However, the morning was to be dedicated to Elvis Presley. As any self-respecting Elvis fan knows Tupelo is the birthplace of the King. Neither of us was fan of the guy but when has a little sightseeing hurt anyone?

It was a nice morning. The sun was shining from a clear blue sky. The work of the previous night was inspected. It seemed as though the rear of the car had been raised enough to avoid contact with the right tire. Niels discovered a large crack in the front window of the Camaro. Obviously this had happened during our nightly overhaul of the car. A jack must have been placed at a sensitive spot, buckling the car and thus cracking the window. It was too bad but didn't have any influence on the performance of the car.

As we loaded our luggage a friendly black man approached Dave and Niels, asking for a ride to the nearest bus depot. He asked us where we came from and we told him we were from North Carolina. He knew the Burlington area well, he said. After a brief conversation he changed his mind. Suddenly he didn't need a lift at all. The guy's behavior was somewhat peculiar.

First stop of the day was the Elvis Presley Museum located in a Tupelo residential area. The admission fee was outrageous taken into consideration that the museum only had one room filled with various Elvis memorabilia. On the other hand the true Elvis fan must have felt something like religious awe when confronted by all the authentic stuff the room contained. Imagine seeing Elvis's first guitar, toothbrush, or whatever so close you could touch it, if it hadn't been because of an inch of bulletproof glass.

Some bucks were spent in the gift (a.k.a. poison) shop. Quick hellos and messages were scribbled down on postcards and mailed back to NC or Europe.

Heading through the light traffic of downtown Tupelo we stopped at a red light. Suddenly strange noises emerged from the engine of the Chevy and we pulled over and popped the hood. The engine coolant was boiling hard, so hard in fact that the lid of the tank shot a few feet in the air and landed under the car. This time Manuel and Marco went to look for help while the Camaro cooled down. This wasn't exactly what we needed. Car trouble had already cost us enough time.

The Mustang returned and fresh water was added to the coolant of the overheated engine. We had a lengthy argument about this incident should be classified as a breakdown. Niels argued that the car could move by its own power, hence this wasn't a breakdown. This sentiment met massive opposition though.

Marco lead the way as the crippled Camaro made its way to the nearest mechanic. At a gas station a rather apathetic looking mechanic turned us down; he didn't have the necessary equipment to repair the car. However, he gave us directions to "Tupelo's best mechanic." The directions turned out to be bogus so Dave and Niels agreed to stay behind until the repair shop was found. Some time went by and finally we arrived at this alleged "mother of all mechanics."

Wonderboy turned out to be a sympathetic, talkative old-timer. He threw down whatever he was working on and looked the car over. Faulty wiring had caused the overheating; the fan simply didn't get enough juice to function properly. The mechanic removed the melted wire while we bought sodas in a vending machine across the street. The old guy had noticed the "California or Bust"-sign in the rear window of the Chevy and we had a pleasant talk about the Golden State. He'd been there in the 1940s, in San Francisco it turned out. He gave us the advice never to call it "Frisco" if a native of the city heard it. Apparently it seems to be some sort of derogatory word... Within an hour we were back on the road. The operation had come to a measly 20 bucks. If only we would be spared any further car misfortunes it would be okay!

We joined I-40 again at Memphis, Tennessee, crossed the mighty Mississippi River, and entered Arkansas, "Home of President Clinton." Still, we were behind schedule so we blasted through the state, only making the occasional pit stop. During the evening we found a motel just off I-40 at Henryetta, Oklahoma (hometown of quarterback Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys) and we decided to call it quits for the day despite not reaching the designated goal: Oklahoma City.

<<May 16, 1996<<


Day 00: Prelude
Day 01: Leaving NC
Day 02: Tupelo, MS
Day 03: Henryetta, OH
Day 04: Roswell, NM
Day 05: Flagstaff, AZ
Day 06: Las Vegas, NV
Day 07: Victorville, CA
Day 08: Long Beach, CA
Day 09: Los Angeles, CA
Day 10: Thousand Oakes, CA
Day 11: Malibu, CA
Day 12: Lompoc, CA
Day 13: Lompoc, CA
Day 14: Palo Alto, CA
Day 15: Palo Alto, CA
Day 16: Fallon, NV
Day 17: Escalante, UT
Day 18: Grand Junction, CO
Day 19: Lafayette, CO
Day 20: Colby, KS
Day 21: St. Louis, MO
Day 22: Knoxville, TN
Day 23: Burlington, NC
Epilogue: Author's notes




(4) images are available

Sound: Marco's view on Arkansas

Video: Tupelo (2:08)
Video: Arkansas (1:48)
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