It seemed like a great idea when we began planning our trip of the USA (starting in Santa Barbara, California, travelling via Hawaii to Vegas, through the South and up the East Coast) that we should try to travel some of our 8,500 mile journey by road.
As a group of three 21 year old girls with just one able driver, we chose the distance between our two closest destinations, namely the supposedly 7.5 hour journey between Austin, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana. It was with high hopes that we piled ourselves and our luggage into our rented five seater Toyota, excited to explore the deep South from behind the safety of our car windows and to arrive in New Orleans by dinner time.
On the road, it became glaringly obvious that our refusal of the hire company’s sat-nav was a fatal flaw in our beloved plan. Just half an hour into our journey we found ourselves victims of our iPhones’ navigational systems, accidentally exiting the freeway onto a farm on the outskirts of Austin.
We drove in circles along the dirt tracks, frustrated cries and nervous apologies emanating from the front seats until we at last passed a local jogger and wound down the windows to ask directions. In more relatable terms, this is the equivalent of asking a man on the street in Norwich for directions to Edinburgh, so we were surprised and thankful when he provided us with helpful guidance.
However, despite being back on track the journey was far from uneventful. The Texas freeways were unforgiving, with sweeping flyovers and exits from the central lanes as well as those on the outsides. The cars, driven by angry Texans with extreme road rage, were enormous. 4x4s and pickup trucks made our Toyota look like a Chihuahua next to a pack of Great Danes, instigating a fear that was only increased by the placement of Confederate flags stickers on the rear windscreens of several of these cars. The reassurance signposted on the car doors of one particular pick-up truck that it was ‘driving with Jesus’ did little to calm our nerves. This message wasn’t the only reminder of our location within America’s bible belt; there were constant indications of the need to be saved from sin and Satan. Christianity conversion advertisements, seemingly promoting phone numbers for God himself, alternated with billboards for Chucky Cheese and any number of the deep fried, death-inducing fast food restaurants that littered the side of the road.
Nevertheless, there were stretches of vast emptiness, areas where not even confederate flag yielding vehicles could disrupt the green leafiness of the Southern landscape in the summer.
It was in one of these areas when a toilet break became necessary and we scanned the verge for signs of a gas station, a McDonalds or anywhere that would allow us to empty our bladders. The location that eventually appeared was perhaps not the conventional destination for a quick road-side pee. Desperate times called for desperate measures, however, so we decided to take our chances. Lion’s Den was a 24-hour sex shop on the side of the Interstate 10 in Egan, Louisiana and it was with a few nervous giggles that we pushed open the door to the emporium of all things erotic.
Butt plugs, dildos, whips and chains decorated the walls and we browsed in shock and intrigue before approaching the subject we were there for: the toilet. Surprised to be greeted by three young British girls (something told me we were not the shops’ target audience), the shop owner, a 70 year old blonde Southern lady, thankfully lifted the ban against shoppers using the restroom (there were hints that they were regularly used for something other than peeing). On our return from the bathroom, she called us over, prepared with three vibrators that she wanted to impress us with. Turning on the toys, she grabbed our hands and placed them on the vibrating phallic forms. There are few things more awkward in life than receiving advice on self-pleasuring from someone old enough to be your grandma.
We muttered uncomfortable words of appreciation, and it was with furtive words of thanks and stifled laughs that we declined her invitations to purchase the goods. Airport security was suspicious of vibrating objects, we explained, in order to solidify our rejection.
It was 11 hours after we left Austin that we finally arrived in New Orleans. Our unconventional journey through the deep-south had taken a little longer than the 7.5 hours we had expected and although we didn’t arrive by dinner time, my knowledge of women’s self-pleasure equipment increased vastly. Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say.