For these last few months work has taken away from my usual, month-on-month-off, schedule on the Skandi Seven and, instead, I have been working at various locations and ships around the southern US and Gulf of Mexico.
I’ve had a factory visit to an FMC facility in Houston, TX; maintenance on a carousel system at Core Base in Mobile, AL; a short trip on one of our pipe-lay vessels, Seven Borealis, in the Gulf of Mexico; a trans-spooling job on the HLV Stellaprima at Aker’s yard in Mobile; and a couple of trips on the Skandi Neptune, another of our cable lay vessels operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
At the end of my last trip on the Neptune I got off the vessel at Core Base in Mobile and, instead of getting flights home to Michigan, opted for a hire car instead. The ulterior motive behind this was that Melisa had arranged for us to get a new livestock guardian dog and, now that we were getting into the summer months, she couldn’t be air-freighted up to Michigan.
The new dog wasn’t named, so we had chosen the name Ceiba (pronounced Say-Ba) for her, and she was located in Oklahoma, not exactly a straight shot on the road from Alabama to Michigan.
I left the ship on Wednesday and wasn’t due to pick up Ceiba until Friday morning, so the first part of the journey was quite leisurely. I took a route that wasn’t a direct run as I wanted to avoid Texas and have as short a time in Oklahoma as possible due to the severe thunderstorms and flooding that was happening in those states at the time. From Mobile, out of Alabama, through Mississippi and up into Arkansas.
I had hoped to get as far as Little Rock, AR on the first day, but after a delay in the morning with picking up the car I was starting to get tired sooner than I expected, so I made it as far as a little town called Pine Bluffs which looked like a reasonable place to stop for the night. As I checked into the hotel I was greeted by one of the strongest London accents I’d heard for a long time. The hotel owner had emigrated from the UK 30 years previously, but still had his London accent even after all that time. Of course, when he heard me, he wanted to know what part of Scotland I was from!
Thursday, the second day of the road trip was a leisurely day too as I only had about 300 miles to go to get near to where Ceiba was. Through Arkansas, past Little Rock on I-40, over the Mississippi river and into Oklahoma and on to Shawnee where I knew there were a number of motels where I could find a room for the night. Shawnee was only 30 minutes drive from where Ceiba was, so I knew that I would be able to make good progress on Friday after picking her up.
Friday morning saw a quick visit with Ceiba’s owners who’d just come back with her from her vet checks ready for the trip to Michigan. On the road by 10:30am, heading back out of Oklamoma the way I’d come the previous day. Again, I was avoiding the shortest route, as that would have taken me up through St. Louis, MO. I wanted to avoid St. Louis as I’d driven through there twice before and hadn’t enjoyed the traffic congestion there much. I headed back east, out of Oklahoma, through Arkansas headed towards Memphis. Just before Memphis, I turned north and headed up out of Arkansas and into Missouri on I-55. I branched of I-55, as that would also have taken me through St. Louis, onto I-57 which took me out of Missouri and into Illinois. Pressing on north on I-57, I drove until late in the evening then looked for a rest stop where I could get some sleep. Having Ceiba with me meant that I wouldn’t be able to stay at a hotel or motel. Even if I could have found a ‘pet friendly’ one, I really didn’t know how Ceiba would react to that as she has only ever been an ‘outside’ dog. I did find a rest stop where I was able to get some sleep until the small ours of Saturday morning, so I was able to hit the road again, if not refreshed at least not totally exhausted.
Saturdays drive saw me continue up I-57 until I met I-80 and then head east until I got into Indiana. In Indiana I branched off I-80 onto I-94, continuing eastward and angling north into Michigan. I still had 150 miles to go, but at least I was now in my eighth, and last, state. Past Breton Harbor I joined I-196, then at Saugatuck I left I-196 for US 31, ‘our’ road, and only one and a half hours from home. I arrived home at 10:30am, almost exactly 24 hours after picking Ceiba up in Oklahoma which I felt, for almost 1200 miles, wasn’t too shabby.
The total miles for the trip was a little under 2000 and time from start to finish 70 hours, though I probably could have done it in 48, there was no need to push it. Once home, Ceiba was introduced to Willow, Larick and the goats. She gets on well with Willow but already she seems to have a special soft spot for old man Larick.