I recently took a cross-country trip across half of America to see my son graduate from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio.

My trip began on June 25 and ended upon my return to Fayetteville on July 1 and included some interesting “episodes” and conclusions that I want to share with you. Now keep in mind, this is not meant to offend the masses, but I find it to be a bit comical, albeit after the fact.

My trip started uneventfully, as I traveled through South Carolina, headed to Georgia and eventually Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and finally, the great state of Texas. At least that’s what Texans call it. After retiring from Fort Hood in 2007, I have some other choice adjectives for it, but I will keep that to myself.

Once I hit the South Carolina state line, I realized one thing — North Carolinians are paying entirely too much for gas!

Gas prices in the Palmetto State are at least 45 cents less than what we pay here in the Tar Heel state. I was told that this is primarily due to some kind of fuel importation tax. Which brought up the question: Don’t South Carolinians also import their gas? I mean, I haven’t seen or heard of any refineries located near Hilton Head or Charleston, S.C. And since we are paying more to have our fuel imported, perhaps we should look for a better and less expensive importer. I will definitely remember that when the next election comes around

As I traveled through Georgia, and more specifically, Atlanta, I was reminded of how much I miss that city.

The route that I pre-planned for my journey included interstates 20, 85, 65 and finally 10. The reason I planned it that way was to allow for stops at Forts Gordon, Benning, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Fort Polk, La. and finally on to Lackland.

Those were my planned fuel stops and it worked like clockwork, except for that fact that Fort Polk was about 64 miles off the interstate. But it was no problem, as I used it as a resting point for my first day of traveling.

I got a good night’s sleep at Fort Polk and continued my journey the next day.

After making the trip to and from Texas, here are my conclusions.

1) There is no such thing as customer service in the town of Breaux Bridge, La. I stopped in Breaux Bridge, which is located a few minutes from Lafayette, La. to grab a bite at Burger King. I don’t normally do the fast food thing, but when you’re traveling, there aren’t many options. Also, I just purchased a new vehicle and in order to keep the newness (and the interior intact), I decided that I would not eat in the car. Ever.

Here’s the thing. When I arrived at Burger King there were a total of six customers — two had already orders and a little old lady and her husband were in line. I waited patiently as she asked the cashier to explain the ingredients in a Whopper, then the chicken sandwich, then the bacon double cheeseburger, then the … well, you get the idea. Finally, she ordered and was done. I had already been off the road for 15 minutes and was ready to go, when it was finally my turn to order. As I prepared to speak, the cashier walked away from the cash register. I left.

As I walked outside, I saw a Popeye’s restaurant across the street. I avoided getting hit by two cars as a driver towing a boat obstructed my view as he tried to enter the parking lot through the exit only side.

I got to Popeye’s and waited 20 minutes after placing my order. Just as my patience was beginning to grow thin, the cashier came from behind the counter and asked me, “Sir, excuse me, but what did you order again?” I cancelled my order, got my refund and left. It wasn’t until about four hours later that I was able to eat and that was after arriving in Mobile, Ala.

Let’s talk about Mobile for a minute.

My conclusion about Alabama is that most of the state’s intelligent people live in cities that are located north of Montgomery. No offense to you Mobilians, but somebody took a wrong turn somewhere!

I arrived in Mobile and decided to spend the night. I used the car’s navigation system to search for hotels and found a few. As I also used my cell phone to read the reviews of those chosen, there appeared to be none suitable.

I finally chose the Red Roof Inn, as a “cheap sleep” option, but I took one step into the room, switched on the light and returned to the front counter for a refund.

The hostess on duty was gracious in her efforts. She agreed to transfer me to another room, explaining that there was a “little, old lady, about 79 years old or so, who cleans those rooms. She just doesn’t know how to make beds, but she does change the sheets,” she said.

I thanked her, then told her that I would opt, instead, to go to another hotel. She refunded my money and I left. But … as I was walking to my car, which was parked in reserved parking for guests who are checking in, I noticed a little Toyota or Isuzu truck trying to pull into the no parking zone near my car. Believe me, I’m not one to talk about people’s vehicles, but this truck was in terrible shape. It apparently had transmission problems, as the driver (an older gentleman, appearing to be at least 90 years old), who worked as the hotel’s security guard had trouble finding the right gear to get up the hill and into the parking space.

I watched and then had one thought: he’s going to ding my door when he gets out! I quickly jumped in my car and backed up as a measure of protection, but then noticed that the man was having problems with his parking brake. His truck was rolling backward and into my car. I gunned the accelerator and watched in my rear view mirror as the truck passed through the spot my car had been in. I quickly made a U-turn and exited the parking lot, looking for another place to spend the night.

I stopped at the Comfort Inn next door, but the host acted as if he did not want to honor the military discount, so I left.

I drove for another hour or so, fighting sleepiness until I arrived in the little town of Uriah. I decided to pay the cost for a nice room at the Hampton Inn, until I was told it would be $142 per night. No deal. The front of the Toyota now looks (and will soon feel) like the best bed in town.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:15 a.m., drove through Montgomery, Ala. and fought rush hour traffic in Atlanta, before continuing my journey to North Carolina.

I know it may not sound as such, but I really enjoyed my trip “out west.” The biggest joy of my entire trip came as I watched my son graduate from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base on June 28. I got a thrill seeing how disciplined he is and how serious he is about doing the right thing without being instructed to do so. I was equally impressed at seeing him participate in the Airmen’s run, which is their final run of basic training.

As he ran by, his other Family members and I cheered and yelled and held banners (Okay, when you become an older father, you get kind of corny), but to our surprise, he ran by us, made eye contact and acted as if we were not there, all while singing cadence.

I was like, “Oh my God, my son drank the Kool-Aid!” He’s brain-washed. Later, at the awards ceremony, he acknowledged that he saw us, but said he couldn’t react. Of course I understood. I was equally happy seeing my daughter, who also attended the graduation. She hung with me throughout the entire weekend and life was good in San Antonio!

Believe it or not, it was a very pleasant trip. I enjoyed every aspect of it.  But it also made me realize one other important thing, as cliché (ish) as it may sound. “I like calling North Carolina home.”