The Magical Mystery Tour is hoping to take you away.
It was sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight that East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity President/CEO Debbie Crouch and I made our way back to our vehicle after the Paul McCartney concert. We were concurrently exhausted and delirious given the extended adventure which had led us to Louisville in the quest for this Holy Grail.
And we were overjoyed as we kept thinking to ourselves, and occasionally stating aloud to one another in disbelief: “Sir Paul McCartney just signed the piano. We did it!” The thought of how many veterans would be helped as a result of that gesture of kindness was truly heartwarming.
We were also quite hungry, given that we had grabbed a quick bite for breakfast, and due to the Habitat truck’s mechanical problems and related delays, had skipped lunch. Though we managed to grab a small snack from the venue’s concessions in the few minutes we had between the signing and the concert, our stomachs were growling nonetheless. But truth be told, we didn’t care.
We had just enjoyed the second of the two surviving Beatles’ concerts in just 11 days, and our only regret was that the rest of the crew that had come along for this Magical Mystery Tour hadn’t been alongside us for the musical celebration. The concert provided a magnificent ending to the quest for Sir Paul’s sig on The Beatles themed piano Lori Gomez had painted for East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity, with auction proceeds dedicated to the organization’s Veterans Build.
A quick call to Habitat ReStore manager and Road Warrior Eric Jones confirmed that we were on our way back to the car and would join him to plan our next move. Though he had attempted to catch a bit of sleep in the truck while keeping guard of the newly autographed piano, those efforts to rejuvenate had not been successful.
From the very beginning, our plan had been to secure the autograph and begin the journey home, and we would find a few hotel rooms when we began to tire. Then the next morning, we’d be that much closer to home with the precious cargo on board. We had not anticipated the generous gift of concert tickets, which extended our departure by another four hours.
The late night traffic was thick, with many of the concert goers headed toward the interstate, just as we were. Hoping to bypass the traffic, we followed the service road alongside the interstate, planning to work our way to a less crowded ramp so we quickly could begin our journey south.
In a somber moment of déjà vu, we found ourselves in a rather remote and dark part of town, as the interstate that we were following turned but the service road did not, with no entrance ramps in sight.
Of course, since we knew not where we were, neither did the early model GPS. However, we spotted a church, pulled into its parking lot, and programmed its address as our starting point. Before too long, we found our way back to the interstate, and headed homeward at last—but not before it was decided that I was no longer allowed to serve as the trip navigator. Clearly, it’s not my strong suit. I must confess to being spoiled by the convenience of my own car’s built-in nav system, though less proficient with smart phone navigation.
Once we were 30 minutes or so outside of Louisville, following Eric in the truck and keeping in touch via cell phones, we all agreed it was time to pull over and get some sleep. A cluster of hotels at the next interstate exit was a welcome sight, and we eagerly awaited the opportunity to lay our weary heads upon our pillows and drift into dreamland.
The dream turned into a nightmare when we learned that the hotel was sold out, as were the adjacent hotels. But the news got worse.
We were advised that there was a massive Future Farmers of America convention going on, with thousands of kids participating. As such, there were no known hotel vacancies within a two hour radius.
It was another of those “this isn’t happening” moments that by now had become a standard for our adventure.
And so, as Debbie and Eric continued to drive, I began searching for hotel rooms via my iPhone, to no avail.
After driving a bit farther, that search turned up one hotel with two available rooms, in a tiny town somewhat off the beaten path. After a quick phone call to confirm such, we learned that the hotel had just been advised of a cancellation. So we happily claimed those rooms, made the drive and checked in, sometime around 2 a.m.
With the hotel occupied primarily by said FFA students, the front desk clerk apologized in advance for the anticipated revelry that would accompany the en masse awakening of hungry kids. She suggested that we plan to arrive early for the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, noting the kids sported larger-than-life appetites. At this point, it was safe to say that we intended to sleep straight through that morning meal.
Eric quickly bade us goodnight and headed upstairs to his room, and we headed to ours. All that was left for me to do was to quietly finish the story about our quest and email it to Slidell Magazine editor Kendra Maness, who literally had stopped the presses when learning of the pending Paul McCartney autograph, postponing the November issue so that the story could be added.
A few hours later, with the story and layout completed, and plans to provide one final proofing and submit it first thing in the morning, I crawled into bed, welcoming Golden Slumbers and the upcoming journey home.
“Once there was a way to get back homeward.
Once there was a way to get back home.
Sleep, pretty darling do not cry, and I will sing a lullabye.”