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We were on our way out of Oklahoma City but we had one major thing topping our to-do list first. The van needed an oil change. We were supposed to have had one before we left Las Vegas but all of the last minute stuff took a lot longer than a minute so we never got the chance. Then, we were going to get one in Albuquerque. Well, we were looking for fast and cheap and the fast ones weren’t cheap and the cheap ones were packed full with a two hour wait. Valvoline was dead but they wanted $55 for an oil change. My inner cheapskate would just not allow me to spend that much. We decided that we would try Oklahoma City since everything seemed to be cheaper in the south. (Nice job on those gas prices guys. Wow!) That left us driving and Googling all around Oklahoma City on Tuesday morning. We finally found…Valvoline. We pulled in and saw a big sign that read, “$10.00 off with 7-11 receipt.” Across the street was a 7-11.

Mike rolled down the window when the middle aged gentleman came toward us and asked, “So. What’s with the 7-11 receipt?” The gentleman replied in a lovely southern drawl, “You go on over to the 7-11 and bring back a receipt and we give you $10 off of the oil change.” Shocker. Now that we knew the sign meant EXACTLY what it said, Mike arranged the oil change deal with Ivan, our new Valvoline Auto Specialist and trotted over to 7-11 for water and road snacks.

A full service Valvoline oil change is no freaking joke, guys. Ivan turned on headlights, checked brake lights, checked turn signals, checked every fluid level imaginable, inspected the wiper blades, tested the belts, the gadgets, the whoosey-whats-its and all of the whirly gigs. He washed our windows inside and out, washed off the head and tail lights, all the while chatting with me about where we were going and where we came from. He warned me about the dangers of Detroit, all of which he knew from a documentary that he watched a few years back. I explained that we were originally from the Detroit area and were going back and he said, “Oh, well then you know more ‘n me ’bout it up there!” After Ivan gave us the results of the van’s full body check-up and we paid him, Mike and I drove away feeling warm and cozy. It was truly the best oil change I’ve ever even heard of, much less received. Plus, Ivan was the nicest man ever. We left Oklahoma City on a much better note than we entered it.

So, not much really happened on our way to St. Louis. We drove and chatted, the kids slept a lot which was amazing. I had brought a bunch of yarn and crochet hooks and had full intentions of getting something made. I complain about the fact that I have no free time and can’t crochet when I am constantly being mauled by my monsters babies. This trip was an amazing opportunity (pretty much forcing me to actually sit, while my children were restrained and unable to damage anything or themselves,) to start and finish a big crochet project. I never opened the yarn bag. I just didn’t feel like it. I played on my phone and helped navigate. I took care of the kids when they got bored or tired. I enjoyed the scenery.

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We watched the landscape turn greener and greener the closer we got to Michigan. We stopped in Tulsa. We stopped in Dotyville. We stopped at the Missouri welcome center. We wondered if we would make it to St. Louis and Gateway Arch before dark.

As it turns out, Gateway Arch is very visible from the highway and it was dark when we got to St. Louis, so we decided not to stop anywhere. I snapped as many photos as I could and we drove on through.

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There was the most amazing moon that night, huge and orange hanging low in the sky; but of course you can never get decent photos of the moon with a cell phone. We finally crossed the Illinois border and started looking for our exit. Our hotel was in O’Fallon. When we pulled up in front of the Quality Inn, I was slightly concerned. The building looked a lot older than the previous two we had stayed in and it was set way back from the road, making it look really secluded. I walked inside the lobby and waited for someone to check me in. The desk was straight out of the 1980’s, wood paneled walls and a silver bell on the shabby counter. There were obviously still smoking rooms because the lobby smelled like cigarettes. Weird. After seeing no one for a few minutes, I decided to ring the bell. Ding, Ding!

And around the corner came *Marge. Short, plump and angry looking; Marge had frizzy hair and a furrowed brow. “How can I help you?” She asked, obviously less than amused by my presence. I gave her our information and she found the reservation. “Ok. It will be $10 for the pet fee.” I pulled out my debit card as I had at every other hotel along the way and held it out to her. Marge looked at it and then looked me right in the eye, “You can only pay the pet fee in cash.” Initially, I started to put the debit card back. I was a little confused and tired and did that weird pat down of my own pockets wondering if I even had $10 cash on me. I didn’t. Then it hit me.

“I paid the pet fee with my card at two other Quality Inn Hotels in the last two days. I don’t have cash.” I gave her the look. Steady, stern and maybe a little crazy-eyed. I knew what she was doing. No one was around to keep Marge honest and no one was recording how many pets entered this building. Marge was going to pocket my $10! She went from looking annoyed to uncomfortable.

“Oh…well…uh… I can see if I can get the computer to take it… uh… ok let me look here…” Marge began tapping at her keyboard and twenty seconds later accepted my debit card and gave me a receipt; all the while telling me how she’d never entered a credit card payment in for a pet fee before. What? Why? Are pet fees entered on a separate cash only computer, Marge? I think not. I thanked her and went out to get the kids and pets and husband. (Otherwise known and Him and Them.)

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Our night was uneventful. We got pizza, slept well and left in the morning excited to reach our new home. We saw the world’s largest wind chime, golf tee, knitting needles and crochet hook, all in the tiny town of Casey, Illinois.

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We cruised through Indiana, a corner of Ohio, and made it to the Michigan border just before nightfall.

Our house wasn’t ready and our belongings hadn’t arrived yet either, so we stayed with Mike’s Aunt and Uncle for a couple of nights. When we finally unloaded the truck and got the keys to our new home, the real work began. It hasn’t stopped. We have been “Michiganders” for three months and we still aren’t unpacked. We have nothing hanging on our walls. There are little odds and ends that I haven’t been able to locate, so I’ve just given up hope and bought new. It has been an adventure. But, we are here. We made it safely. The journey went well, we are employed, we are all healthy and happy. What more can I ask? For a little sleep, I guess… I can always use more sleep.

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