My friend Susan got me started on Stephanie Plum a few years ago when she handed me One for the Money and commanded: "read it!" The 1st time Stephanie brought her new Bounty Hunter gun home for dinner and Grandma Mazur got ahold of it and blew the chicken right off the table I laughed out loud and I was hooked!
A few months ago Susan posted a blog about Janet's Finger-Lickin' Fifteen tour, they were only making 5 stops! What? A hugely popular author only making 5 stops? The closest one to us was in Cherry Hill, NJ so Susan was proposing a road trip. Since the date of the signing was the 1st week of Summer Vacation I quickly agreed and plans were in the works! Within a few days, Russell and Amy had decided to make the trip up to meet Leah and go to the signing with us! Let's get the party started!
We quickly decided that we needed costumes - Susan had a "Cutie-licous" onesie for Leah so it was quickly determined that she'd be Lula. Russell decided to go for Ranger, Susan decided on Connie, and Amy was going as Stephanie's Mom. I was undecided on a costume, and was thinking I'd just go as myself, but as I thought about it and realized I'd be the only one in our group not in costume, I decided to dress as Stephanie.
My plan was to wear "whatever clothes I caught as I rolled out of bed", and then fill my purse with "Bounty Hunter Gear" - a purple and clear water gun that looked more like something Marty Martian would use, 4 pairs of plastic handcuffs, and a can of Lysol that I'd covered with a print out that read "Pepper Spray" - it looked like generic food, which was appropriate because Stephanie can hardly pay her rent much less buy brand name pepper spray!
Yesterday was the big day! We met at the the commuter lot in Lake Ridge at 9 to load up and roll out. Leah, who has hated the car since birth actually slept the whole way there! We stopped once to feed/change her and she was good to go!
When we arrived in NJ I began consulting my Google Maps - or attempting to. It was hard to read while driving and I'd left it in a mode that it was hard for Russell or Susan to help with. We managed to miss an exit and so I got off the freeway at the next opportunity. We were squarely in the middle of the 'hood. It was NOT a good neighborhood. Regardless I had to pull over for a minute or two to check the map and get Russell so he could help me navigate. As I rolled to a stop I said "check your doors, make sure they are locked" and which point Susan informed us that "Locks don't stop bullets". Ok, duly noted. We hurried and figured out a plan and got moving.
As is typical in Urban areas we drove a few blocks and the neighborhood changed, for the better, a few more blocks and it was nicer still! In just a few miles we were squarely in the middle of what looked to a ritzy suburb! We quickly found the large shopping center that the Barnes and Noble was in and proceeded to drive around, and around, unable to find the Barnes and Noble. This search was complicated by the large Diet Mt. Dew I'd drunk that was now demanding to be "drained out". We finally found the Barnes and Noble and bolted to the restroom!
The next task was to purchase our books and get our wristbands with our numbers for the book signing. We were number 446-450. Not bad, considering that by the time the signing started they were over 800! It was about 12:30 and we had at least 6 hours to kill before the signing.
At one time there had been talk of going into Philadelphia for lunch and sightseeing, but our little incident in the 'hood as well as Leah's growing restlessness with the car, made me not want to attempt that. We decided that we'd head over to the Cheeburger Cheeburger we'd seen! I was very excited as my parents talk about Cheeburger Cheeburger all the time and I'd never been. The burgers were great, the fries and onion rings even better! Susan and I tag teamed Leah so she could eat and both of us could eat with 2 hands! After lunch we transformed Leah into Lula!
By now it was 3:00, we still had time to kill so we ventured over to the "Christmas Tree Shop" - which has NOTHING to do with Christmas, it's like a Big Lots/Dollar General store, but classier. A great way to kill an hour! We all found stuff we "couldn't live without". Next Susan, Leah and I headed over to Wegmans (that's right, found a Wegmans!), it was not nearly as nice as our Wegmans, definitely older and more dated. But the food was the same! Susan and I got snacks in the bakery and drinks, changed Leah and once again tag teamed the feeding so we both could enjoy! By now it was time to head over to Barnes and Noble!
We met back up with Amy and Russell and headed in! Leah, all decked out as Lula, was the center of attention! They had decorated the whole store with balloons and while Susan was chatting with someone to get one for Leah, she was told that because of Leah we could go to the front of the line - apparently they were allowing folks with "special needs" to cut! We were told to tell them that "Alex said" we could go first. Turns out the "Alex" in question was none other than Janet's daughter! WOW!
After brief wait we were in line for the big moment! Alex came by with I <3>
Janet signed my book and we posed for a picture. I told her that we'd driven up from Washington DC and she was amazed. I told her that we love her and Stephanie Plum! She was swooning over Leah, tried to get Susan to leave her with her! :-) We got a group shot and then it was time to head out!
We piled back into the car, books, babies, balloons and all! The balloons were quickly taking over the already crowded backseat so Amy and Susan used their "I <3>
We stopped at the Delaware Service Plaza to get Russell some Roy Rogers and the rest of us had some high-quality deep-fried food, got Leah fed and settled and headed down the road. We weren't on the road 5 mins when Leah began screaming like a banshee. When I say screaming, I mean SCREAMING. Holy smokes. She had had it with the car and she was letting us know.
We pulled over at Chesapeake House so Susan could walk her and try and settle her. The rest of us took this opportunity to go to the bathroom and satisfy any other needs knowing that once Leah settled we weren't stopping again.
Susan mentioned that at home she has a sound machine with a "heartbeat" setting that always seems to soothe Leah and asked if I had something like that on my iPhone. A quick search of the app store produced "Baby Soothe" - it was 99 cents and had a "heartbeat" setting. I quickly downloaded it, I'd thought we could stick my phone in the car seat with Leah so she could hear it. Well, for some reason you couldn't hear it through the speaker, so I decided to plug the phone into the car speakers. Instantly the car was filled with the "bump-bump-bump" sound a steady heartbeat. Susan quickly noted that it was like being stalked by the tell-tale-heart. We all busted out laughing. It occurred to me this must be what the womb sounds like and I quickly dubbed the car the "Womb-Mobile" or the "womb on wheels". By this point we were laughing so hard we were crying and Leah was strangely quiet! We buckled her into her car seat and headed down the road. She was amazingly calm the rest of the way. We didn't dare turn off the heartbeat.
Driving down the road, stuck in a womb-mobile, leads to much slap-happy-ness and many puns...first it was "name that tune" - how many "heart" songs can we come up with....Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone now" was stuck in my head...particularly the line "The beating of our hearts was the only sound" Yep, more hysterical laughter. After a few miles of silence, well other than the relentless bump-bump-bump-bump....Russell says "It's like Celine Dion always said.....My heart will go on....and on....and on....." Oh, we were laughing so hard we were crying.
By the time we reached the Wilson Bridge we'd run out of songs and resorted to other heart related puns....Susan informed us that this trip had not been "in vein"! Russell made sure to mention that she hadn't "missed a beat" - a pun that went over Susan and Amy's head for a second as I was literally laughing my butt off. We were stuck in some stopped traffic on the VA side of the Wilson Bridge - Russell suggested that we had a "blocked artery", I added that it's good thing Dr's can now "do bypass without stopping the beating heart". Luckily for us we were just waiting to merge so it was more a "clogged artery" and we were quickly on our way.
We arrived back at the commuter lot about 11:30 and finally "flat-lined" the beating heart.
It was a wonderful day with great friends! :-)