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by Anastasia Powers
The day began at eight in the morning. I laid the rubber to the asphalt as I shed the comforts and familiarities of South Carolina for a long road trip to Alaska. My first planned stop was in Atlanta, Georgia.
I found it slightly ominous that my first planned stop was at a place of death. Thankfully it did not cast a dark shadow on the trip. I stopped at the Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service. My sister was a student there. She gave me the grand tour of the school, including the embalming room where a body's most intimate secrets are laid out for all to see. After that, she treated me to lunch at Chik-Fil-A. In case you're wondering, the embalming room did nothing to ruin my appetite, as I am the type of person who would order pizza to eat while watching an autopsy. There's nothing like cutting up a dead person to put me in the mood for food. Perhaps a little liver with some Chianti? If you recognize the liver-chianti quote, good for you. If you just can't figure it out, go rent Silence of the Lambs.
The Gupton-Jones School of Funeral Service is a strange yet interesting school. The catalog lists classes that range from the standard English, mathematics, and science, to other not-so-normal ones. The specialty classes include embalming, restorative art, funeral service management, and the history of funeral services. The school was founded in 1920 in Nashville, Tennessee under the name of the Gupton-Jones School of Embalming, in order to teach the art and science of funeral directing and embalming. One of my sister's more interesting projects was to sculpt a head out of clay and make it presentable including the make-up and hairstyle. It was practice for making a corpse look presentable for a viewing.
My sister Honey Powers chose a premier school. Gupton-Jones is known throughout the world as one of the most prestigious establishments to teach the art of preserving and honoring the dead. She will graduate soon and be known as Honey, the Cheery Embalmer. Who wouldn't like to be buried by a girl named Honey?
After lunch my sister left me with a pleasant surprise. She had cleaned out her pantry the night before and prepared me a gift. It was a bag full of goodies: candy, snacks, plastic silverware, even a chemical glow-light. The gift was so thoughtful and unexpected that I almost cried when I opened it. I was touched by it. Even though the items didn't cost her much, she proved that inexpensive gifts could be the best ones.
Before leaving Atlanta, I bought gasoline for 89 cents a gallon. It would be a long time before I saw prices that low again. I stared longingly at the sign as I filled up the tank.
That night I stayed at a truck stop in Kentucky. I admit I was very nervous at the time, so I lowered the curtains in the car and closed myself in. Before the trip, my mom made curtains for me, and I fastened them inside the back of the vehicle. They worked quite well, but they turned the vehicle into a sauna by trapping in the heat and cutting off all ventilation.
After the curtains fell, I rolled out my sleeping bag, but sleep was a long time coming. I woke up each time I heard a voice or a semi-truck rolled by. I kept my loaded flare gun close by in case I needed to ward off any angry truckers or psychopaths traveling the highways and byways. I have seen Deliverance, and I did not want to squeal like a pig. I carried the flare gun because a real handgun would have presented a minor complication crossing into and out of Canada. Actually it would have been a major offense rather than a complication. The flare gun is enough to hopefully scare someone off, and if questioned about it, I could tell any authority figures that it was a simple signaling device, which it was if I chose to use it in that manner. My personal line of thought was that a 12-gauge flare could do a significant amount of damage to someone's face if used at close range during a carjacking or pig-squealing session.
I would always advise travelers to make preparations for personal security, for protection against man and beast. Find some means of protection and train with it prior to a trip, before you need it in a pinch. Then, when the time is right, you're good to go.