I'd estimated on Mapquest that the drive from Nacogdoches, TX to Childersburg, AL was about nine hours, so I was up and out the door of the Lansdale's home just before 7am. They were still asleep. Of course, then I was horrified to discover that I'd left my phone and glasses sitting on a table in the guest room, so I had to knock on the door and wake Karen up and I felt like a total doofus. But she is so sweet and gracious and she made sure to say that she was up anyway and to come back anytime and even bring my husband! I would LOVE to bring my husband!!!
So I hit the road. It was a looooooong drive through East Texas and then Mississippi and Louisiana (where gas was under $2/gallon!!!) and then to Alabama and I stopped a couple of times for car naps. I brought a blanket and pillows with me just for this purpose and when I am tired I can fall asleep in my car faster than I do in my own bed! The traffic was worse than I had anticipated and I didn't have time to check into the hotel before I had to get to the show. Jim Dennis had told me Christmas in the Pines was a huge display set up in park in Alabama and I had pictured something like Larry and Rachel Charpiat's Pilot Mt. Christmas, which I performed at several times before they retired from decorating.
Anyhow, I arrived and found the park and Jim's HUGE display which also featured a live Santa stationed at a covered bridge. For a second I thought I was back in New Hampshire! The park already has a performance area with bleachers and Jim helped me get set up, and the show went off without a hitch. The only problem was that there was not much of a crowd. However, some of the vendors who were there (the display is so big that Jim has invited vendors to set up and sell crafts and food) listened to the show and participated, and a few people dropped in. Jim said he had been disappointed with the attendance this year but it's the first year he's had the display at the park and it is quite a ways off the beaten path so I'm hoping for him that word will get around and it will do better next year. But I had fun anyway! There were two teenage boys who were especially fun and dancing and hey, as long as I have one or two people who are having fun then I'm okay with that!! After the concert one of the vendors who sells homemade soap and stuff sent me down a little goodie bag. People have been so nice to me on this tour!
After the concert Jim took me and a lovely little family who was visiting on a hayride through the displays. It was beautiful! He had somehow rigged those projection lights in the trees and they looked like millions of green fireflies ...or, as I told the little girl...Christmas fairies. It was just gorgeous and unlike anything I'd seen before.
Unfortunately, after I left the park is when things went awry. I drove over to the hotel, which was about 15 minutes away from the display. I didn't check in right away, though, because I was hungry and indecisive about what to eat. There were a few fast food places with greasy fried stuff and I didn't want that, so I went over across the way to a Subway and got a sandwich to eat in my room. BUT when I got back to the hotel I discovered that I didn't have a room! The clerk had no record of a reservation for me, let alone a paid one! I tried to contact Jim but he wasn't answering his phone or text. I waited about ten minutes and I felt like a complete moron standing there in the lobby, so I decided on the spur of the moment to start the ride on to Florida at that point. I knew I had a ten hour drive the next day and I was going to be racing against time going into another time zone, so I decided to get a couple of hours in and then get a hotel along the route. Little did I know that I was going into the TWILIGHT ZONE.
About a half hour down the road I heard from Jim and he was very apologetic. His fiancee had made the reservation but she didn't make it at the hotel he thought she was going to make it at, and wires got crossed and that's how I ended up at the wrong place. But it was too late to turn back, I was almost out of Alabama by then. Jim felt really bad and promised it wouldn't happen again as I was scheduled to go back there on the following Tuesday again (which is tonight...but that show got cancelled because of rain). Well, I drove and drove and drove and checked out my atlas and discovered that there is basically nothing but peanut farms in northeast Georgia! I finally reached a little town with an Econo-Lodge that got decent reviews online so I stopped there. I paid $55 for the room- you get what you pay for...and by this time I'd crossed into the next time zone so it was one am. I went into the room and the toilet was NASTY. SO NASTY that I actually gagged. I went back to the office and I should have asked for my money back but I just didn't have the energy to get back into the car and drive on, so I told him about the situation and he moved me to a different room. The next room at least was cleaner, but I was worried about skittering little creatures coming out to play in the night, so I kept shutting the light off and then turning it back on to see if I'd spy any. I didn't, luckily, and I finally fell asleep but it was a fitful sleep! It was after two when I last looked at the clock, and I was rudely awakened at 7 by the yokels in the room next to me laughing and having a great time. URGH! So I didn't shower or anything, I just got up and left and was happy to see MOTEL HELL in my rearview mirror! (Motel Hell was an 80s horror movie about a farmer who makes the most delicious sausage in the land......).
And that was my visit to Alabama! It was a whirlwind and I was happy to do it. I wish Jim the best of luck with his endeavor and hope that Christmas in the Pines becomes just as much of a local treasure as Pilot Mt. Christmas was for years and years!