Who: Lori and Jen P.

What: 12-state road trip over 8 days

Where: Dallas, TX, Oklahoma City, OK, Topeka, KS, Omaha, NE, Des Moines, IA, Minneapolis, MN, Madison, WI, Atlanta, IL, Cape Girardeau, MO, Memphis, TN, Little Rock, AR, Shreveport, LA

When: July 23-30, 2015

Why: Insanity
Sites Visited:

DCC: Making the Team
The Bachelor
The Mighty Ducks
The Mary Tyler Moore Show 
My Crazy Obsession
Gone Girl
19 Kids and Counting

Ever since I started working in television and given an 8-week hiatus every summer, I have put out the following message on Facebook:

Attention all Facebook friends! At the end of June I will be starting an 8-week hiatus from work that will leave me with ample amounts of time to accompany you on vacations/road trips or to swim in your pool while you're stuck at work. With that in mind, if you've ever had a strong desire to travel the country in a Winnebago ala Road Rules or are sitting at home thinking, "Gee, I would really like to see a far-away city with my good friend, Lori Mooney, you just call out my name and we can discuss allllll the details."

Usually, the responses I get are "Sounds great!" or "Cool! I'll let you know!" And then I go on trips with the same people I always go on trips with and all is well. But this year, I got a message from Jen P., my friend from high school who I've always kept in touch with but hardly ever see, telling me she had free time coming up and wanted to do something. She told me she had 8 days.


The only people I know with that kind of free time are teachers, which none of my friends are, and my co-workers who I see enough 10 months out of the year (smooches, guys!). I'd been dying to find someone with extensive free time they wanted to use doing something ridiculous. Because all 8 days of free time screamed out to me, was ROAD TRIP! And was ALL ABOUT a road trip.

In addition to obsessing over TV houses, I also have an overwhelming need to visit all 48 of the contiguous United States. Before Jen contacted me, I had only been to 25. In 8 days I could up that by 11.

I mapped out for us a detailed route that involved approximately 6 hours of driving a day and going in a circle from Texas all the way up to Minnesota and then going back down through different states and ending up back in Texas. I forwarded the very-thoroughly researched plan, appealing only to absolute lunatics, for Jen to peruse, and the crazy bitch said yes.

I WAS GOING ON A ROAD TRIP! Like Oprah and Gayle we would hit the open road and sing songs and watch movies and see the cornfields of the heartland of America. And TV houses.

I spent a month creating an hour-by-hour itinerary of every state we would go to, complete with photos of every location and alternate options for every town, and of course, the addresses of every place ever featured in an entertainment capacity throughout the entire mid states. It was a work of genius, this itinerary, and if I never did anything else for the rest of my life, that would be fine because when I clearly died from exhaustion in the middle of Arkansas, someone could rip this itinerary from my cold decrepit hands, and follow in my footsteps of crazy.

Jen and I flew out to Dallas at 7 in the morning and we hit the ground running from the minute we stepped out of the airport.

One AT&T Way, Arlington, TX

We were 10 minutes late for our reservations because I'm an ass and let the GPS take me to an AT&T store instead of the AT&T stadium, but no worries. We made it just in time to into the locker rooms!

One AT&T Way, Arlington, TX

In this very room, the cheerleaders, at the end of each season, after being told they've made the team, run around and squeal and cry at the sight of their pictures on the wall and the stuff in their lockers and it's a huge celebratory time of accomplishment and hard work. On this day, I did nothing to earn my time in this room besides paying the $17.50 it cost for the tour, but I was okay with that. Go, Cowboys!

Sadly, the rest of the tour was mostly about, shockingly enough, football, but gosh darn it, if that stadium wasn't the cleanest, fanciest stadium out of the 3 I've been to in my lifetime. 

They have a fancy press room!

And fancy cars in the lobby!

And a jumbo-tron that's supposed to be the biggest in the country, but in person didn't really look that big!

The tour was about 2 hours and if there was anything off-limits, they did a really good job of hiding it. I left there felling like I could go back there as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and wouldn't see anything different. 

One AT&T Way, Arlington, TX

After that, it was time for the assassination portion of the day, visiting the Grassy Knoll next to the X that marked the spot where JFK was shot. I'm sure if I ever get my ADD enough in check to watch the Oliver Stone movie on the subject, I'd realize I was in some of the same places Kevin Costner and Ed Asner were in at several points during my trip but alas, I didn't. So let's just say I was and call it a day.

(Dallas Southfork Ranch film location)

Before the tour officially began, we got to go through a mini museum full of family trees and TV articles and every prop you could ever need to see. Then we were put on a shuttle and taken through the ranch to the famous mansion where we were greeted at the door by a lovely lady. The lady brought us into a room and told us the history of the property and how it was used in the show, and then - as my mouth dropped wide open and stayed there for longer than I anticipated -- she told us we were on our own and could go check out any room we wanted and walk wherever we wanted throughout the whole property. If we wanted to get back on the shuttle at some point and go back to the museum - cool. If we wanted to spend the next three hours in the house playing hide and seek or running around the ranch playing freeze tag - cool. WE WERE ON OUR OWN. For reals.

Game ON.

Hello, room where JR got shot for the second time!

                            3700 Hogge Drive, Parker, TX
                              (Dallas Southfork Ranch film location)

Hello, patio where the Ewings at breakfast in the morning!

                             3700 Hogge Drive, Parker, TX

Hello, pool where some 80s character committed suicide! Or something like that!

                             3700 Hogge Drive, Parker, TX
                                         (Dallas Southfork Ranchl film location)

Then came the real test of Jen's photography skills as we got to the front of the house and I needed a photo just like the one taken here with Larry Hagman:

                                                  3700 Hogge Drive, Parker, TX
                                                                           (Dallas Southfork Ranch film location)

Passing this test would prove Jen's worthiness for all future TV and movie adventures and establish her as a best friend for life.

(Dallas Southfork Ranch film location)

She failed miserably.

Jen is good at many, many things. She has had much success in many, many things that she's done. Making sure subjects are looking at the camera before snapping a photo - not one of them. That was alright though. We'd been let on the loose on private property! We had all day!

(Dallas Southfork Ranch film location)

And we needed it.

After about 70 photos, Jen completed her mission, and we hung out on the ranch visiting fake grave sites and real houses and fake apartments, bought a few souvenirs at the ridiculously big gift shop, and off we went to the great state of Oklahoma!

Unfortunately, despite a musical/movie being named after it, the state offered no waving wheat and wind sweeping down the plain. So after a visit to the beautiful Oklahoma City Memorial and a store with a shelf of way too many cowboy boots, we peaced out of there to make lazy circles in the sky somewhere else. 

We couldn't in Topeka, KS where the only fun thing to do was visit the Brown vs. Board of Education site.

Or Omaha, NE where got a flat tire and had to wait in front of a statue of Chef Boyardee for roadside assistance

For the first couple of years at my job, despite the constant chatter about the program surrounding my desk every single Tuesday after every single episode, I held strong to my convictions and I did not watch it or care. Then a new season started with a dumb-as-dirt farmer from Iowa and I somehow found myself switching the channel to ABC when I knew it was on, and watching my brain cells slowly diminish. After a few weeks, I was fully invested in this ridiculous man's made-for-TV relationships and his quest for life-fulfillment from women he'd just met 6 weeks ago. 

So when I added Des Moines, IA to my route, I knew that this was going to be stop #1.

(The Bachelor film location)

Located on the side of the RoCA restaurant, this mural was painted in an hour as Farmer Bachelor took his future fiance/permanent ex on a date in the big city. Everyone at work was going to be so excited about this! The Bachelor! Farmer Chris! I was in Iowa!

(The Bachelor film location)

Three out of seven didn't even recognize it. The other 4 asked why I didn't just go to his deserted hometown an hour away. Sometimes you just can't win.

Unfortunately, the rinks had no notable characteristics worthy of a photograph so I opted instead to try for something a bit more recognizable. The only thing remotely close to that, was this:

(The Mighty Ducks film location)

A setting from Jingle All the Way and part of all three Mighty Ducks incarnations, Emilio Estevez tried to mack it hardcore to Joshua Jackson's mom in the first one, and I was all about standing in front of it and eating inside it...

(The Mighty Ducks film location)

...Until I actually ate inside it. In the movies, Mickey's Diner is quite a kitschy place where locals can grab a malted and talk about their day. In real life, the locals are all tourists looking for Arnold Schwarzenegger - a group of which stormed off because the man behind the counter was so comically rude to them -- and the malted must be consumed at one's own risk because the amount of cracked eggs and spilled milk all over the kitchen left me praying I wouldn't catch salmonella just by sitting in front of it. But for a half hour, I sat in the same airspace as Gordon Bombay 20 years after the fact.

(The Mighty Ducks film location)
And that was enough. 

(The Mary Tyler Moore Show house location)

(My Crazy Obsession film location)

It had been featured on TLC's My Crazy Obsession.

When I was reading about it and typing up the address and adding it to my itinerary, I saw nothing about the 2013 episode it was included on, and I had absolutely no idea. But as an avid viewer and arguable ideal candidate for an episode, I recognized the inside right away and I knew it was destiny that we came together.

                                                           7477 Hubbard Ave, Middleton, WI
                                                                                           (My Crazy Obsession film location)

I'm not proud of the amount of times I had Jen retake this photo to get it from the right angle. I am however proud that I got it. 

Hello, Drury Lodge where Ben Affleck held a press conference to find his missing wife!

(Gone Girl film location)

Hello, empty hallway immediately to the left of the reception desk at the front of the hotel, just doors down from our room! Getting to find indoor locations of films all on my own always gets me pathetically amped. Ben Affleck stood here!

(Gone Girl film location)

Ben Affleck also stood here!:

And here!:

(Gone Girl film location)

Also, here!:

(Gone Girl film location)

And this was his fictional bar!:

(Gone Girl film location)

My mini  tour took less than an hour, and after I'd sufficiently freaked out over a movie I'd only just seen a year ago, the two of us were Gone Girls ourselves. Because It was Memphis time.

If there was anything legitimate filmed in Memphis, I couldn't find it, but Oprah did go to Graceland to interview Lisa Marie on one of her episodes, so I think that should count for something. 

After paying respects to Elvis, we went to the incredible National Rights Museum attached to the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad where we got to learn a whole lot about slave ships and runs for freedom. Don't worry, Memphis. Whities not alrighty. Message received. 

After Michelle gave birth to severely premature #19 and the baby needed serious medical care, the family moved to this house in Little Rock to be closer to the hospital. Years later, son #1's minor bout with molestation and adultery would take this show and its numerous reruns off of television and streaming programs, thus preventing me from confirming the location, but I assure you it's the house. I think....

Last, and yes, least -- Shreveport, LA where the most exciting thing to happen was someone pulling the fire alarm at 3 in the morning, forcing an entire group of exhausted guests out onto the lawn to wait for the fire department. 

On day 8, worn and weary - but still alive! -- we arrived back at the Dallas airport ready to get back home and high-five ourselves for completing our mission and driving 2,942 miles without incident. We did it! We were victorious!

Then our flight home was canceled.

Then Delta didn't have any alternate flights until the next morning.

Then Delta didn't have any available flights going anywhere near the northeast area.

Then no other airlines had any available flights to NYC.

Then American Airlines sold us two tickets to Philadelphia leaving in 45 minutes at a completely different gate.

Then we were almost denied access to the plane for not arriving at the gate on time.

Then I almost started crying and the airline took pity on me.

Then we landed in Philadelphia at 11pm and rented another car and drove another two hours to New York.

Then I arrived home at 2am,  threw my luggage on the floor and collapsed into a ball of exhaustion while my cat licked my face and asked to be fed.

Somehow while creating my extensive itinerary, I'd managed to leave off "8-hours of pure panic and stress." 

Oh well. Next time.

Thanks for the mem'ries, middle America!