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Hurricane Dennis and Taco Bell

Timothy Keene updates us from Shreveport, Louisiana.

It wasn’t what he said that sent me over the edge, but rather the situation I found myself in when he said it.

“What?”

“I found us a place to stay but it’s about an hour away and when we get there the guy won’t be home, but we have to eat his food or we’ll be looked as disrespectful. Oh, and in the morning we have to feed the kangaroo.”

This is not something you want to hear while waiting in line for a burrito at Taco Bell just after midnight in Shreveport, Louisiana, especially considering the previous couple of days. The three of us had started in Chicago and had been on the road for about eight days. I had been gone for a month at this point. I had left Portland in mid-June with no other goal then to tour the country and never stay in a hotel. This had taken me from Portland to Billings, to Salt Lake, Vegas, LA, and eventually to Chicago where I met up with the rest of “Team Awesome.” This was a name given to us by God for being so, well, awesome.

After Chicago we ended up in Toronto where we stayed in an abandoned Mormon Missionary’s apartment that was still covered in phone numbers of possible converts. The next day we dressed up in Spiderman and squirrel costumes and entertained the tourists at Niagara Falls. That night we slept in a 17-acre mansion in Boston, owned by the same gentleman who co-owned “The National Enquirer.” From there we headed to New York and more specifically, the South Bronx. Our contact lived in illegal apartments down a couple of alleys next to a bridge. We spent the evening on a rooftop in Brooklyn watching fireworks with the employees of the legendary rock club CBGB. This would prove to be one of the last employee parties they ever had, as they closed a few months later. Eventually we found ourselves barreling through the Florida panhandle trying to outrace a hurricane.

We had heard the warnings that Hurricane Dennis would be making landfall on Sunday around noon, so we figured as long as we were out of it’s path by Saturday night then all would be well. This was a slight miscalculation that was realized immediately upon leaving Orlando. It turns out that hurricanes are really big, who knew? And being that they are really big, the outer bands of rain and wind can hit twenty-four hours before the actual hurricane part of the hurricane. So for sixteen hours we (and by we, I mean me because I figured if it was my idea to drive through a hurricane, I should probably be the one to do it) drove through blinding rain while listening to the news of tornadoes touching down behind us and flooding beginning in front of us.

I don’t know the reason we went to Shreveport. Maybe because by the time we were out of danger from the storm we were learning that there were no hotel rooms left in the state of Louisiana. Shreveport seemed to be the best bet considering the casinos. Yes, evidently Shreveport was a bit of a gambling town and where do evacuees go when they’re forced out of their homes by wind, flooding, and torrential rains? You guessed it, the craps table. The cheapest hotel room available was over $300 for the night.

Thus how we ended up at Taco Bell. Because, after all, we knew Taco Bell. Every other part of the trip had messed with our brains. Mormons, mansions, and hurricanes were not exactly part of our mindset. Taco Bell, however, had grilled stuffed burritos that we were very familiar with. So there I am, standing in line trying to decide between a Chalupa and a Cheesy Gordita Crunch and he has the nerve to say that.

“We have to feed the kangaroo?”

“Yeah.”

“Mike, what the hell is wrong with you? Don’t come in here talking nonsense about kangaroos after the day I’ve had. Now go outside and find out what the hell is going on then come back in here. I’m going to get a taco. Please don’t bother me until I’ve had a taco.”

It turns out Mike’s Uncle had contacted a friend in Tyler, TX that owned a petting zoo and upon finding out our situation, had put in a call for us. So twenty minutes and two tacos later we were off to The Funny Farm Petting Zoo, “Where Our Babies are Your Babies” (actual name, actual slogan). It turns out it wasn’t just the kangaroo we had to feed but the camel as well. So I dressed up as a squirrel and it tried to eat my head. Then I picked up the kangaroo by its tail and it tried to attack me. Then a bunch of other stuff happened. Then a month later I came home to a five-foot wide moldy bread dough ring in my kitchen.

Lesson: Don’t leave your house…ever!

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