Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blogapalooza: What a Strange Trip It's Been

Update:  Results of the drawing will be posted Friday morning. Stay tuned!
It was a dark and stormy night.  The moon was full.  The clouds were white wisps against the inky black sky.  Black cats were on the prowl.  And Blogapalooza was in full swing!

Welcome to Blogapalooza!  

We have more than thirty blogs participating in Blogapalooza today!  Thank you!  Check out the list on the right (Blogs-a-Palooza-ing) and visit them all.  Everyone has a story to tell -- and a picture of a pumpkin, to boot.  

Additionally, everyone who makes a comment here today is entered into a drawing for one of three fabulous Goodie Bags !  So, pull up a chair and get ready to read some strange and scary travel stories.  

First up: my own story...
Herpetology on the Road

As a college student I sang in the St. Olaf Choir .  We traveled the country every year on tour – a 2-3 week jaunt of daily bus rides, nightly concerts,  and lots of Jello and lasagna in church basements. When the applause died away and the bus was packed, there were two places we might be shuttled:  to hotels or to host homes.  Hotels were great.  We never stayed in palatial places, but they were always clean, and it meant we could truly let our hair down. 

Host homes left more room for... adventure.  Generally, we stayed with kind and generous people from local Lutheran churches – people who greeted us with home cooked meals, clean sheets, and sometimes even gifts when we arrived at their homes. But every once in awhile, things went a little awry…

In a town that shall remain nameless I had an experience that ranked high on the slithery scale.  Once our concert was over, we all gathered in the performance hall where we’d sung to get our host home assignments. Finally it came down to six girls, and we were all to go together!  We always liked going to homes in larger groups – the more the merrier!

We grabbed our baggage and headed out with a middle-aged guy and his mousey wife.  We loaded our luggage into the back of a pickup truck and then squeezed into a minivan. They drove out into the suburbs where we unloaded our bags in front of a modest home.  As the guy opened the door we were greeted by a grating, high-pitched din – constant and piercing.  Our hosts didn’t seem to even notice the noise.

“Two of you can sleep in there,” the guy said pointing toward a closed door.  “That there’s a hider bed.  Two of you can sleep on it.  And you two can sleep on the floor.” 

We all looked at each other.  “Angela, let’s go to this room,” my roommate said, and she headed toward the door.  I grabbed my suitcase and followed.  She opened the door.  There inside the room sat a boy – 10 or 11 years old – in his underwear.

“Oh, sorry!” We lept back. 

“Don’t worry.  My boy’s not shy,” his father said.  He’ll take the top bunk.  You two can share the bottom.”

We just looked at each other.  Finally, one of the other girls screwed up her courage and asked,  “Um, what is that sound?”

“Oh, that?  That’s the crickets,” the guy said. 

I have heard crickets.  This was some cricket.  We just looked at him.

“Here, I’ll show you,” he said and walked to the door opposite his son’s bedroom.  He opened the door and the volume level increased.  “Come on in!”  Nervously, we edged closer.  He stood in a good-sized bedroom.  But there were no beds.  The room was lined with utility shelving.   And filling the shelving… floor to ceiling… all the way around the room… were shoe-box sized plastic storage containers.  Hundreds of them.  Against one wall there was an enormous aquarium filled completely with crickets. The noise was deafening.  And the smell was worse. 

The guy picked up one of the plastic containers off the shelf.  “We breed ‘em,” he said and opened the container.  Inside a rattlesnake shook its rattles.

Six girls screamed.  The guy laughed hysterically.  And I started to do the math:  this room was filled with hundreds of snakes – most of them poisonous. 

“The rats are in Junior’s room,” the guy said.  “Otherwise the snakes are hungry all the time.”

I was in a home with thousands of crickets, hundreds of poisonous snakes, rats, and a guy who thought it was ok for me to sleep in the same room as his pre-teen son. 

“You know, we are really tired, and we have an early day,” I said.  “We should just get to bed.”

The guy looked disappointed.  “Well, ok,” he said, “but are you sure you don’t want to see more snakes?”

“No, sir,” I said, mustering as much of my Texas-girl firmness as I could.  “We really need to get to bed.”

We all scooted back out to the living room where our suitcases waited.  No one had the courage to ask what we all wanted to know:  do they ever get out?

“Well, who’s going to sleep in Junior’s room?”  the guy asked.

“We will just decide that after we are ready for bed.  We will be really quiet when we go in,” I said.

There was no way in hell any of us were sleeping in that child’s room, but I did not want to make a scene. 

The “hider bed” was pulled out and good nights were said.  There we were – six exhausted college girls – and not one of us wanted to go to sleep.  We put on as many layers as possible, and we whispered over the crickets’ chirping, each of us sure we could hear rats scurrying around the house.  All night phantom snakes slithered against my legs.

Fortunately, we had an early morning departure, so we packed up our things at dawn and were completely ready to go when the family emerged in the morning.  We hadn’t slept much – six of us huddled in and around the bed.  In proper form, we left a thank you note on the table as we loaded our luggage in the car. 

Driving away from the house I was suddenly aware of how quiet it was  – we’d left the chirping crickets behind at last.  

I am looking forward to reading all of your strange and scary stories today! Thanks for coming to Blogapalooza -- don't forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a Goodie Bag .  Winners will be announced on Friday, October 31.  Good luck!

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