Having read my father’s revisionist history of the offset of our trip around the country, I feel the need to set things straight. So, here’s what really happened, the real Shreveport.
The summer after I graduated college, my father and I decided to take a road trip. We spent months planning every detail – well, I planned details, dad said things like “let’s stop in San Diego” and “I like burgers.” I love the man, but his helpfulness knows a few bounds. Once the routes were set, the restaurants were chosen, and all 16 hotels were book, we had a precise timeline with only a day’s wiggle room. (My best friend was getting married and I had maid of honor duties less than 48 hours after our planned return home). The real Shreveport.
We spent the week leading up to the trip packing bags, buying an obscene amount of car snacks and candies, and packing the car. Finally, the day before our trip arrived. I was positively buzzing, though tired from having packed and repacked our car like a Tetris board. This was to make sure my dad’s many and oddly-shaped belongings could all make the trip. I was helping my mom make dinner, chatting about the next day’s plans when my dad got home. The real Shreveport.
He had had a dentist appointment or something and was whining (sorry, I was 22) about his jaw hurting a bit. My mom and I generally ignored him, but he kept on and eventually uttered the unthinkable. He said, “ya know, if this gets worse we may not be able to go on the trip.” The trip tomorrow. The trip that was keeping me going despite my fear of the unknown after school and months of failures in the form of rejected applications. The real Shreveport.
I would like to say that I handled it with grace and understanding, that I told him it would be okay and that we could stay home if needed, that I loved him either way. I believe what came out when I opened my mouth was closer to, “I’m leaving tomorrow. Let me know if you want me to bring your bags inside before I go.” Again, not my finest moment. The real Shreveport.
My father, overprotective man that he is and has been for my whole life, was not entirely, completely thrilled with this idea. I believe he probably grunt-yelled a bit that I couldn’t go without him. Then without directly saying so he conceded that he was going on the trip in the morning. The real Shreveport.
Morning came and, while he continued to complain about his tooth, we were off. The complaining did not stop. In fact, he continued mentioning for the 8-hour drive that it still hurt and if it kept hurting we might have to turn back in the morning. Again, I was not super gracious – particularly since at this point he could not turn around without taking me with him. The real Shreveport.
At dinner, I worked my hardest to convince him that we were already far enough in that turning around would be wasted effort. He kept asking me to shine my phone light in his mouth and take pictures so he could see if his tooth was turning colors or falling out. The other patrons in the small Italian restaurant did not seem to appreciate the show, but I finally convinced him that his tooth looked normal and somehow that was enough to guarantee passage on to Shreveport, Louisiana the next morning. The real Shreveport.
Unfortunately, our next drive was no better than the first. Dad drove some while I complained about his choice in music. Then I drove and dad rotated between napping and panic googling (always the best path forward) what his tooth pain meant. By the time we reached Shreveport, he was convinced that he needed a root canal. Fortunately for me (sorry, dad!), by that point, we’d driven nearly 16 hours and turning around really wasn’t an option. So, he set off to find a dentist in Louisiana, and I hauled all of his crap into the hotel. The real Shreveport.
We had planned to spend two nights in Shreveport, giving us one full day to explore. After many phone calls to my mother, local dentists, and our dentist back home, my dad managed to schedule an appointment with an endodontist in Shreveport for the next afternoon. Apparently, he did actually need a root canal. So, that meant we needed to stay an extra day because he was unwilling to bump around in the car with me half-drugged 18 hours after mouth surgery. Probably fair, but I will remind you that we only had one day wiggle room so this officially pushed us up against the wire to get home. There was no more room for delays. The real Shreveport.
So that we – read “I”, dad was miserable the whole day regardless – could explore and enjoy Shreveport in the hours before my dad’s surgery. My mom took a day off of work to reschedule every single one of our remaining 15 reservations, including extending our stay in Shreveport. Shout out to the real MVP. The real Shreveport.
For me, the most memorable part of Shreveport was the beignets. My parents had once lived in New Orleans and constantly bragged about the delicious fried dough. So, in planning every detail of the trip, I had scoped out a small, local café that was supposed to have great ones. My dad sort of wanted to mope in the hotel until his appointment. But I was, again, going out with or without him and overbearing – I mean overprotective – man that he is, he absolutely could not let his young daughter drive around parts unknown by herself. That would be unthinkable and unacceptable. Please remember this as it is important later on. The real Shreveport.
So, we went off in search of the beignets: dad, repeating on loop that we couldn’t go too far lest we miss his appointment; me, wondering how we would miss an appointment in 6 hours by driving 12 minutes to a café. We found the address that was supposed to be the café, but it looked like a half abandoned mechanic shop. Dad, pragmatist that he is, recommended we scrap our plans and go wait patiently at the hotel for our remaining 5.75 hours. I got out of the car instead. The real Shreveport.
It turns out, the mechanic shop had been converted into a lovely café – with some of the best beignets I (and he!) have ever had. The garage door served to connect indoor and outdoor dining when it was busy. The locations was clearly meant for locals, so they didn’t bother with signs to encourage outsiders (still found it, still loved it, still a happy camper – dad less so but that’s dad). The real Shreveport.
After breakfast, dad gingerly demanded we go wait at the hotel until endodontist time. Since the hotel was located in a shopping strip along the river, I spent the time walking, wandering, enjoying the views, and exploring the shops. My dad, overprotective bear that he is, insisted on following me and sitting outside each store grimacing and groaning instead of waiting in the hotel. This is not where his overprotectiveness comes back into play, mind you, so keep holding on for that. The real Shreveport.
Eventually, it was time – or only an hour out and a full 7-minute drive – for his appointment. I drove, then waited as he talked to the doc and went back for his root canal. For dad, this was the most memorable part of Shreveport, and I can’t say I blame him. For three hours, I listened to the drill buzz through his tooth and gums. Mind you, Mr. Overprotective (still not yet!) was bound and determined that I was not to leave the office for even a few minutes without him, even though the doctor guaranteed it would be at least two hours. The real Shreveport.
Eventually, he was done and, groggy and still drooling on himself, stumbled out so we could leave. I drove us back to the hotel, helped him settled in, got him ice, and asked what else he needed. He said he desperately needed pain killers and asked me to run to CVS to pick them up. Now, here is where 22 years of overprotective, overbearing, controlling fathering flew out the window. When I asked if he wanted to come with me to this unknown location in an unknown town at night after a day of stalking me around a high-end shopping district in broad daylight, the man said “you can handle it” and dropped his keys in my general direction. So, as the sun began to set, I headed off to procure a hefty dose of Tylenol for my slightly delirious father. The real Shreveport.
I have been a lot of places in my life – visited 32 states, seen a handful of countries, and lived in NYC – and I will acknowledge that Shreveport, Louisiana was by no means the worst. However, the GPS did take me across the river and into a visibly less desirable part of town. This was specifically detectable by the man who peed on my tire when I stopped at a light and the bewildered looks I received alone in CVS. The real Shreveport.
Obviously, I survived and I am happy to report that there were no incidents (besides the sterile and nasty tire wash). But, I took it as a clear sign that I was capable and mature enough to go off on my own, with his blessing, no matter what state we happened to be in. I can almost guarantee that this will come back in later blogs, where I’m sure my dad again has a wildly inaccurate recollection of events. Stay tuned, and if you’re interested in the fictional recount of a trip around the country (even more fictional than my dad’s blog) check out MURDER BY ROAD TRIP, the new book we somehow managed to write together, available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2HauHCg, B&N at https://bit.ly/3ePJlLv and Indie Books at https://bit.ly/2I95at8. The real Shreveport.