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Plucky 2006

About The Trip

Day 1
New Orleans to Natchitoches

Day 2
Natchitoches to Hot Springs

Day 3
Hot Springs to Branson

Day 4
Branson to Little Rock

Day 5
Little Rock to Memphis

Day 6
Memphis to Tupelo

Day 7
Tupelo to Birmingham

Day 8
Birmingham to Montgomery

Day 9
Montgomery to New Orleans

    February 18, 2007

    Hello Plucky Survivors Fans and friends. If you are wondering what's been up with us since the road trip, you can always stay tuned with Mary by reading the Merry Maladies on, which are updated often, or at least more often than this page these days.

    But two pieces of big news!!

    First, if you read Plucky Survivors See America you may be wondering, whatever happened to that book Mary left for Harper Lee during our stop in Monroeville, Alabama. Well, find out by reading the Merry Maladies entitled Postscript and Serendipity. You wont want to miss it.

    Second, for all those who have been asking, the answer is "YES!"... we are in the early planning stages of a sequel to our great road trip, this one tentatively titled: Plucky Survivors See America 2: The Plucky Nor'Easter, where we will blow through a couple thousand miles in New England in ten days of lobster rolls, moon pies, maple syrup, and Lenny the Chocolate Moose. Join us this fall, won't you?

    September 16, 2006

    A week later and we're still basking in our post Plucky Survivors glow. We saw a lot and wrote about a lot of it but a few things slipped through the proverbial cracks, so some updates and a couple of additional stories for the road...

    After thinking it over, we realize there are very few places on this trip that we wouldn't want to visit again. We would love to have more time in Hot Springs, Little Rock, the Clinton Library, the Rosa Parks Library, Memphis, Oxford, and of course, with Miss Mary's Pies and Carl's BBQ across the road.

    Regrets, we have a few, and high on that list is that we drove the Pig Trail Scenic Byway and we DIDN'T GET A PHOTO TO PROVE IT. There must also be a reason no photo was taken of Mary in Monroeville, and Rick screaming when he realized he was forty, but we can't think of one.

    We had only a couple anxiety driving moments, the first when a car two vehicles in front of us, leaving Eureka Springs on a narrow mountain road, struck a deer, which did a somersault into the ditch. None of us could stop (too much traffic behind us, not enough passing room) but Mary saw the deer immediately leap to its feet and bound away. We later saw the car in quesion, and while it had a softball size dent in the right front fender, it clearly struck the deer a glancing (if still forceful) blow. We hope that since the car was going rather slowly (moments before we had been snarking at it to go faster; they were right, we were wrong), and since the deer was moving on all four legs, and fast, that it was only banged up and bruised, and not suffering from internal injuries. That's what we are assuming; please don't disabuse us of this optimistic notion.

    Our second near-miss came when a drifting truck choose to move into our personal automotive space outside of Birmingham; luckily, Rick's driving skills got us away in time.

    In case you were worried about her, we actually sent Plucky Passenger Jessica home via Greyhound. Here is her own delightful and touching write-up:

      After two dubious looking guys eyed me and smugly said "How you doin'?" I honed in on the first female companion I saw. There she was, a determined, interesting face, an aged African-American grandma from NYC with a 6 year old little rascal wallowing about on and around her. I struck up a conversation(on the advice of the Plucky Survivors...Choose the way that will give you the best story to tell in the end) and found out that the kid had an 8 year old brother running around there someplace and that the boys' father(her son) had passed away 2 years prior and their mother was in Puerto Rico, possibly with another younger child, their half-brother they'd never met. The kid seemed like a typical 6 year old, wiggly, antsy and a wee bit mischievous, while the older 8 year old brother seemed detached and too serious for his age, almost. Well, I didn't give up talking to them. I followed them about, carrying their bags and directing the boys to do as their grandma was saying ("Come stand over here," etc.). I began focusing on talking to them and not so much her. She was single, elderly, and taking care of those 2 beautiful children, even sharing a bedroom with one of them. She seemed devoid of hope for herself, having desire only enough to get by, to exist only just barely. She told me she was born in B'ham, went to NY as a teenager looking for summer work to pay her way through school and then went again later for work and one year led to another and another passed by and she's been there ever since, working for minimum wage. And yet, there was part of her that garnered hope for me. She told me I should go back to NY and look for somebody better ( Having told her about my whole romance issue). She told me where to look--- the financial district, coffee shops,...she passes by the windows of Starbuck's and looks in from time to time, spying all sorts of possible attractive mates for a young woman like myself. "They wear suits and read newspapers," she said. I ended up sitting with the older kid, Jonathan. I coerced him into some conversation about his 8 year old likes and dislikes. Aside from his being able to quote all the shows on Cartoon Network, the fact that he watches Fear Factor and listens to 50 cent and Usher tells me that he is probably missing out on some of the naivete of childhood. So, in the spirit of child-like fun, I asked him to play me in a friendly game of Cow. It didn't take long to get him smiling and laughing at my miserable imitations of various cartoon characters, and his confidence began to come out. He showed me an incredible drawing he did of a comic book character and some of his science homework about the solar system. We practiced Spanish and I taught him how to say "hello" in a few languages. By the end of it all, he became a silly, bubbly little boy, just as it should be. And about that game of Cow, you ask? I didn't quite have the heart to tell him all the rules about cemeteries and the like. He beat me 12-0. Grinning heartily, he told me, "I'm James Bond. I got game." And I couldn't help but think.......GAME ON!
    We love our Plucky Passengers.

    Speaking of Cow, we totally forgot our final score! We realized that on the last day, since we were driving along the coast, we would see plenty of cemeteries and no cows after a point. (In fact, if we entered New Orleans the usual way to Mary's house, there would be cemeteries on both sides of the street, minutes from getting home. That's no fun, and hardly a way to finish cow.) So we decided that the Louisiana border would be the final Cow finish line. It was looking bad for Rick--nothing at all on his side except highway, and cows galore for Mary. But reversals of fortune are always possible, and so it was, in the end....Rick 20, Mary 0. Which makes the final tally look like this:

      Rick - 4 matches
      Mary - 3 matches
      and 2 matches as a tie
    Rick will stop beating his chest in King Kong like triumph at some point. But probably not soon.

    Finally, the Merry Maladies section of this website will continue to be updated so be sure to check back occasionally for more news from Cancer Chick. As far as Plucky Survivors Part II? Well, it may very well happen and if it does you'll be the first to know.

    Thanks again for reading!!

    September 10, 2006

    We got some sleep and now the final day of Plucky Surivors is posted!

    Before you read, we want to thank a few people who made Plucky Surivors so successful:

  • Our friends (we consider them family now) at the various hotels and B&Bs that provided us with accommodations along the way. Those who have read our stuff in other outlets know that if we don't like something we say it, but we couldn't find a serious negative about any of these wonderful places along the route. View each day's report to see the hotel and click through to their website and most of all, consider staying there on your own visit (Plucky or otherwise).
  • The folks at for featuring us on their website.
  • Chuck at Looka! for his continued support of our trip.
  • Steve, Nettie, and Diana for pre, post, and during encouragement and tactical support.
  • And most of all you, dear reader, for coming along on our journey with us. We felt like you were in the car!

    Read the full report here!

    September 9, 2006

    We're back in New Orleans after a day of stalking Harper Lee, touring the gulf coast, and driving... a lot. We're also exhausted and so today's journal will be posted sometime tomorrow before we get on the plane back to Los Angeles.

    September 8, 2006

    Our second to last day! How did that happen? And what happened on it? Well... an enormous exposed butt; how to play Cow with three people in the car (hint: it involves horses); Homeland Security (seriously); and two more magnificent museums about the Civil Rights struggle that move us to tears.

    Read the full report here!

    September 7, 2006

    We're getting close to the finish line but not before more donuts, more barbeque, another truly stunning hotel, a trip to outer space, an epic rainstorm and more wrong turns (but totally not our fault), and a visit to a quiet Alabama attraction that may very well end up being our favorite of the entire trip.

    It's all in Day 7 - Read it Now!

    September 6, 2006

    All but one of the things on this list happened today: We had two lunches within the space of 30 minutes; we had two desserts at more or less the same time; we tried to sell our souls to the devil for a donut; we invented a new game called Cemetery; and Mary wound up passed out drunk on Faulkner's grave.

    Read today's report to find out which of the above is true! Warning: there's a picture of Mary on Faulkner's grave next to a bottle of Jack Daniels so choose carefully.

    September 5, 2006

    From Little Rock to Memphis: pies, barbeque, Elvis, Soul, and a startling score in Day 5 of Cow.

    Read the report with pictures!

    September 4, 2006

    We get up early, bright-eyed and bushy tailed armed with maps and a fine-honed sense of direction that lead us exactly to the place we're going in record time.

    Either that or we drive around in a big circle for 90 minutes and wind up, more or less, where we started.

    Read the report with pictures!

    September 3, 2006

    In which our Plucky Survivors break the Internet in an entire town, travel 260-some-odd miles of windy Ozark road, experience unexpected ups and downs in today’s game of Cow, confront creationism head-on, go to great (somewhat illegal lengths) to visit to Dinosaur World, are somewhat nauseated by Branson, are unexpectedly amused at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, and, oh yeah, Rick is 40, finally, and he did it in front of a giant ball of twine.

    Read the FULL report with a few pictures! The link works now, really!

    September 2, 2006

    Day Two is under our belt and we got the lowdown on the last minutes of Bonnie and Clyde, a tour of the current state of small-town America, more good road food, and a particularly brutal second match of Cow.

    Read the full report with pictures!

    September 1, 2006

    Day One of Plucky Surivors See America brought us Britney Spears, barbecue, burgers, and the disturbing realization that Rick didn't spend enough time looking at the legend of the maps when he planned the route.

    Read the full report with pictures!

    August 31, 2006

    Three good signs for Plucky Survivors:

    1) Because we’re going to spend many hours in the car driving through the Deep South we of course decided to learn Italian via 10 audio CDs. It made sense at the time and even if it isn’t precisely useful where we’re going (or anywhere outside of Italy, we suppose) we looked forward to finding out how to say “Does that come with gravy?” in a romance language. And so as we sat in LAX, we overheard a woman behind us say to her husband “Can I look at the New Orleans book?” Mary turns around, nearly discretely, and sure enough, it’s Frommer’s Portable New Orleans: A Full Post-Katrina Update. Always modest, she promptly claims authorship. And where are these fine people from? Italy.

    2) Mary reads an article in an old New Yorker (she’s catching up) and it mentions Yetis. How often do you read about Yetis two days in a row?

    3) The distinctly un-literary beach read book Rick read on the plane had gratuitous slams against Britney Spears. And what’s our first stop?

    Searching for signs that weren’t there? Silencio! Wait… is that Italian? Or is that Spanish? We haven’t listened to the CDs yet. We’ll get back to you.

    The flight was smooth as was baggage claim although it’s probably a good thing that Mary didn’t discover until later that the unlocked lock on her checked bag had been cut off and the bag unceremoniously searched by people looking for, oh, we don’t know, a bottle of Fanta we suppose.

    Traveling in plushy style in a full-size rented Buick (The Plucky-Mobile) we arrived at Mary’s New Orleans house to a boisterous welcome from house mates Nettie and Diana.

    A typically fabulous New Orleans meal followed at Ralph’s on the Park, where we were joined by Ti Martin who reported, amidst much raucous alcohol fueled conversation by everyone at the table, that we are mere weeks away from the re-opening of Commander’s Palace and even though that has nothing to do with this trip, we’re still taking it as a sign because it’s food.

    Finally a visit with Poppy Brite (author extraordinaire) and then back to the house for some last minute packing hysteria in our penultimate hours.

    See you from Natchitoches tomorrow night! Plucky Survivors Starts…. Right now.

    August 30, 2006

    People aren't believing Rick about the "Big Book o' Fun." There will be proof. There will be pictures, oh yes. But you'll have to tune in to the actual road trip reports for evidence of its existence. Sort of like a yeti.

    Anyway, tomorrow is the big day as we fly to New Orleans and eat entirely too much food before heading out on Friday for the real beginning of Plucky Survivors See America. Neither one of us has really processed the fact that a) we're doing this and b) it's tomorrow but we're now starting to grasp just how real it is. Sort of like the Big Book o' Fun. And yetis.

    Meanwhile, Mary recently noticed that, since she hadn't done much (or any) of the planning (for a travel writer, that's a vacation!), she wasn't actually sure where all we were going. She thought she might try to find out and then thought "Eh. Why bother. Rick knows." But she did glance at Rick's proposed budget and observed "$20 a day per person for food? Are you nuts? Have you met us?" Stay tuned to see how closely we end up adhering to that financial plan, or if we blow it the first day on extra Natchitoches meat pies.

    We'll have one more update from New Orelans about flying and car rental and eating tomorrow night and then the real fun begins on Friday.

    No seriously, are we there yet?

    August 29, 2006

    We're at less than 48 hours before we fly off to New Orleans to begin Plucky Survivors See America and we have to admit that mixed in with our excitement is a great deal of hysteria. And not good, "Oh my God it's The Beatles" hysteria. We're talking full-blown, panic-attack style hysteria because we both have so much to do before we leave and not enough hours to actually accomplish them even if we completely eliminate sleep.

    Neither one of us has even thought about packing yet and Rick is convinced that at some point tomorrow night he's going to be standing in front of his very full suitcase weeping because there isn't enough room to pack the shirt he got while delivering pizzas for Domino's in 1985. "You never know!" will be the echoing refrain.

    Mary, on the other hand, is considering postponing her packing meltdown because she just doesn't have time to pack and may just bring clothes from the New Orleans house. But we're both convinced that will also end in tears, so expect a shopping trip somewhere in our futures.

    Meanwhile, Rick has finished "The Plucky Survivors See America Big Book o' Fun," a full notebook of maps, itineraries, alternate itineraries, restaurants, alternate restaurants, restaurants near where we're going to be but will have to go out of our way to get to, confirmation e-mails for hotels and rental cars and the like, alphabetized lists of the music on the 39 CDs he created, car games, information for a scavenger hunt, and more because apparently someone gave him OCD for his birthday.

    Are we there yet?

    August 28, 2006

    The update for the day is fairly simple:

    We intend to try to recreate this when we visit Dinosaur World in Arkansas.

    3 DAYS!!!!

    August 27, 2006

    We don't want Ernesto to hit Florida. We want it to fall apart and go spinning out over the Atlantic. But we must say that this graphic from the Weather Channel is much more comforting than the one we posted yesterday, not only for our trip but for New Orleans.

    Much could change between now and then and we refuse to openly taunt the weather gods but it's looking good for the region and for Plucky Surivors See America. To say that we are cautiously relieved is an understatement, I suppose.

    Not much to report on preparation except that we're putting together one hell of a road trip sound track. Among the titles of our "mix tapes":

  • Tenuous at Best: A Plucky Survivors Soundtrack
  • Disco That Doesn't Suck
  • Guilty Pleasures
  • Songs That Will Make Us Wish We Had Rented a Convertible
  • Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Angst?
  • Chicks Who Could Kick Your Ass
  • Eletrifying 80s (multiple volumes)
  • Delicious Disco (ditto)
  • That's So Gay
  • Before Disco Came Along and Ruined Everything
  • I Dare You Not to Dance
  • Battle of the Sexes (songs with Man, Woman, Boy, or Girl in the title)
  • "Love" Songs (songs with "love" in the title)

    You'd think that this means we actually have time to do things like this. No, it just means we aren't doing something else important. Like packing.

    To be continued...

    August 26, 2006

    Take a look at this:

    We swear this isn't all about us because the thought of yet another hurricane hitting anywhere, much less the Gulf Coast region or worse New Orleans, is too much to even think about. But the fact that, according to the weather service, it is headed pretty much where we're heading exactly when we're heading there makes us wonder exactly how many puppies we kicked in former lives. We formally apologize to the people of the Gulf Coast because if Ernesto does hit it's all our fault.

    But a silly little thing like a possible hurricane will not stop Plucky Survivors See America, oh no. We're still convinced that Ernesto and Mother Nature will come to their respective senses and send the storm out to spin harmlessly in the Atlantic ocean somewhere but if it doesn't, we have back-up plans already under consideration (flying into a different airport, etc.).

    Meanwhile, the pre-trip preparation continues with maps being printed, computers being formatted, travel size toiletries being purchased, and Krispy Kreme donuts being consumed. And before you ask, yes, that last one does have to do with the trip. It's called training. We're not shy about sugar, salt, pork-fat, and red meat in our daily lives but even we need to get our bodies in shape to deal with the the sheer quantity of said items we'll be consuming on the trip. We don't want to get the carbohydrate bends.

    So we're at 5 days and counting until the plane ride and another day until the road trip officially starts... weather permitting, of course.

    August 25, 2006

    Oops, missed a day already. That doesn't bode well. But did we mention how busy we are and how much we really need this vacation? Yeah, thought so.

    Okay, so it's less than a week until we'll be winging our way from our home in Los Angeles to New Orleans and every day we question each other, "Why aren't we leaving right now?" And there is no acceptable answer other than understanding that the anticipation of the copious amounts of wonderfully southern food we intend to eat builds with each day and will make it all that much more sweeter when we actually get to taste it. Find a metaphor there if you wish.

    Meanwhile, we are nervously eyeing the Weather Channel about this little thing thousands of miles out in the Atlantic called Ernesto, which if you believe weather experts, could be hitting the US gulf coast somewhere around next Thursday as a hurricane of some category or another. Of course the primary reason we are watching nervously is because we can't bear the thought of another hurricane hitting an region that has barely started to recover from Katrina much less actually recovering from it, but we'd be lying if we said we were not being totally selfish and thinking of how it could totally ruin Plucky Survivors See America.

    Although we have already decided that, God forbid, something awful happens our road trip becomes a boat trip through whatever flooded area needs our help and we retitle it "Plucky Survivors Save America (or at least a little part of it)."

    But we're staying positive and are convinced that Ernesto will veer off, fall apart, or otherwise not be an issue primarily because it knows better than to mess with us right now. It's been a long year.

    More updates coming.

    August 23, 2006

    Seven days until Plucky Survivors See America begins! To be perfectly frank, we both need a break - Mary from her work and her school and that whole cancer hoohah and Rick from his work and his other work and then there's always his work.

    Our mantra: "The first cheeseburger will taste like freedom."

    This section of the website has been redone to include the latest information on our route and has been prepped to accommodate our daily reports. Use the links on the left to navigate through the journey for a preview.

    Mini updates every day until the trip begins on September 1, 2006!

    August 22, 2006

    Welcome to the Plucky Survivors See America section of! Mary and her good friend Rick, both esteemed travel writers, will be embarking on a 2,300 mile journey through the south central portion of the United States in September and this is where you'll be able to read all about it.

    Every day during the trip, Mary and Rick will be posting daily updates, photos, and even reviews of the things they see and do - everything from the Britney Spears Museum to Graceland and a few more serious things along the way.

    To find out more about the trip, use the navigation on the right. You'll find information, planned routes, photographs, and much more.

    This is the Daily Updates page, the one you should bookmark and check every day to monitor our progress.

    Plucky Survivors See America will begin on September 1st, 2006.

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