When I last left off, we had struggled free of the Art Car Ball and made it back to the hotel around 11pm last night. During art car events I make every effort to get all my photos posted the same day I take them. Last night I was so tired that to heck with the photos, I could have fallen into bed and gone right to sleep. But the photos would not be ignored, if for no other reason than I had filled up both my photo cards and needed to clear them out to take more photos this morning at the Main Street Drag.
By the time I got the big card emptied and all those photos posted, it was 1 am. So you can imagine that I wasn't exactly fresh and alert when we headed out at 7:45. In fact, I felt pretty much miserable. Things quickly got worse when we followed our directions that I had printed in advance, and arrived at their conclusion, with our destination (the Houston Zoo) nowhere in sight. We pulled out the map and discovered that the directions had led us to North MacGregor St., but we needed to be at South MacGregor St.
One of these days I will get to the Main Street Drag on time, but not this time. A breakneck trip followed, trying to follow the very confusing map, both of us fearing that we weren't going to get there in time and would be left behind. We ended up arriving after all the drivers were supposed to have checked in and be in their cars, but luckily we were on Route 4 and they leave in order. So we had just enough time to grab a couple of bagels from the remnants of the breakfast.
Our route had 2 other people we knew: Chris of the Heaven and Hell car, and the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir guys. They asked Georg if we had our wireless network running, which made me sad because we didn't, but on the other hand pleased that they remembered that about us. They've added new music and choreography to the choir, making it fun to watch even if you've seen it at previous events like we have.
Our first stop, Grady Middle School, was really nice. They had lots of kids who were really enthusiastic about the cars, and had been given an assignment to ask us questions from questionnaires. Which meant that the kids actually engaged us in conversation which always makes it more fun. Best of all, the school had benches in the shade so we could get out of the sun for a few minutes. Georg and I thought that no one would even notice our car with the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir on our route. But we got our share of attention from the kids once we turned the bubble machine on. I saw several kids trying to catch the bubbles in their mouths! What's up with that?
The second stop was where things started to go wrong. First of all, we got lost on the way. At the first stop I saw the group leader and one of the police escort debating where we were supposed to go next, and not seeming to come to a definitive agreement. But I was still surprised when we suddenly did a u-turn and doubled back, then met up with another cop in a car who was clearly giving directions to our motorcycle cops. Our group leader said later that the printed route she had been given in advance was wrong. After the struggles we've had to follow directions, I have no trouble believing that.
A few minutes after we doubled back, Chris (Heaven and Hell Car) pulled out of the route and waved us to continue on without him. We don't know what happened to him; maybe he decided that the Main Street Drag wasn't his thing after all. Or maybe he had enjoyed the party last night a little too much and just wasn't up for it. Just after that, the whole group came to a stop, and the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir guys pushed their car out of the line-up! I had noticed a loud knocking noise coming from their vicinity as we drove, and when they opened the hood white smoke came billowing out. Not a good sign at all. I hope they got it repaired today so they won't miss the parade tomorrow. Georg and I joked that our route was cursed, but in a way it wasn't a joke.
Just after we left Sashimi Tabernacle Choir and started moving again, I looked in my rearview and saw a new art car following us! We found out later that they had accidently joined the wrong route, but had the cell number of our group leader, so were able to join up with us in progress. But at the time it was very disorienting. It was like, "okay we're lost, now where's Chris going? Oh no, Sashimi broke down! Hey, who are those people?" all in the space of ten minutes. Very strange.
As I mentioned I had felt fairly miserable when I got up this morning. I chalked it up to lack of sleep and figured I'd feel better when I got going. But while all this chaos was happening in our group, I was feeling more and more sick. For awhile now I've noticed that if I don't eat breakfast first thing in the morning, my stomach hurts. Up high, right below my ribcage, I get an empty painful feeling. Usually if this happens, it goes away shortly after I eat. But I've been trying not to go too long between meals, and always eat at least something first thing in the morning.
I guess it was the combination of skipping dinner so that my stomach was really empty, and the lack of sleep, and being too rushed and wound up to eat before we left the hotel room, and the stress on the drive over, and then standing in the sun at the schools. But even though I ate a bagel around 8:45, the pain in my stomach not only didn't go away, but got worse as if I hadn't eaten. By the time we got to our second stop, St. Theresa's Catholic School, I was having a hard time functioning. It wasn't so bad while we were driving, because that gave me something else to focus on. But when we got to the school there was nothing to do but stand there in the glaring sun and feel the pain in my stomach. To get out of the sun I sat on the curb in the shade of a monster SUV. Unfortunately that meant my head was practically inside the wheel well, and the smell of the tire made me feel like I was going to throw up.
I've been joking that I must have an ulcer, but this morning made me think that maybe I really do. I'm going to make a doctor's appointment as soon as I get back. Anyway, in the meantime I was not enjoying the Main Street Drag at all. Georg and I agreed that at the next stop we would leave the group and ask for help finding our way back to our hotel.
The third stop was the Lighthouse Center for the Blind. Which turned out to be on the same street as our hotel, about a mile down the road. Which made our decision to leave the group much easier: no need to ask for directions. Another bonus, our car ended up in almost full shade when we pulled into the lot. Being out of the sun made the standing around a lot easier.
Plus the people at Lighthouse Center were much more interested in talking about the cars than kids typically are. So I had many interesting conversations, explaining the car to people, which gave me something else to think about. One guy was giving a Spanish lesson to the girls who walked around with him. He kept touching the fish on my car and saying Pescado! over and over. Another guy liked the car so much he climbed right in! He didn't seem to be hurting anything, just playing with the steering wheel, so I didn't try to stop him. The staff made him get out when they saw him though. I teased him a little, telling him that he couldn't have my car because I needed it to get home.
I was worried a bit about the bubbles. It's such a visual thing that I didn't think it would offer much enjoyment to blind people. Instead I thought it might be a nuisance to them, being pelted with sticky stuff. But to my surprise they seemed to like the bubbles. The staff would tell them when the bubbles were blowing in their direction, and they would hold out their hands to feel them. It helped that the bubble machine was nearly empty, so it wasn't the massive flood of bubbles we get when we first start it up. Even I don't like standing in that.
I was really sad that Sashimi Tabernacle Choir didn't make it to the Lighthouse Center. I think the folks there would have really liked it, with all the music and movement. Still, they seemed to dig UMJ because it has so many different textures and things to touch. It was really fun to walk around the car with someone, describing the elements to them as they ran their hands along it.
One thing that surprised me was that several of the people used idioms that relate to sight. For instance someone might call to a friend, "come here, look at this!" I've been following a discussion in Suzette Haden Elgin's journal about "sight-dominance" in language, and the importance of adapting one's speech for people who aren't sight-dominant. (For example, not saying "See here" when you mean "Pay attention.") So I was surprised to hear a blind person invite another blind person to look at something.
As Georg and I had agreed, we dropped out of the group after the Lighthouse Center and went back to our hotel. Which absolutely was the right thing to do. We missed the last two stops and the free lunch, but we were able to get out of the sun, rest and eat right away, which made a world of difference for my stomach.
One last thing: I have to give credit to the police escort for our group. The route this time seemed like it was much more challenging for them -- driving on freeways and busy main roads -- but there were no problems with traffic interference for the 2+ hours we were with the group. I had planned to thank them at the final stop, but of course I didn't make it to the final stop. So, to the 2 motorcycle cops who escorted Group 4, you'll probably never read this, but thank you for doing such a great job of keeping us all together and keeping random traffic out of our caravan.
The rest of the day was devoted to non-art car stuff, so I will write it up in another post.