The Shield, 40 Hours Without Sleep, and a Broken Trunk: A Wrestlemania Road Trip (Part 1)

By Chris and Christina

What you are about to read is the true story of two library bloggers and their daring Wrestlemania 29 adventures.  This harrowing account is presented in a back and forth manner, taking you from the road trip itself to each of the exciting Wrestlemania matches.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Yes, Wrestlmania is this cool.

As we recount this gritty tale we will weave plenty of literary connections into it.  Links for book titles will take you to that book in the library catalog.  Links for other things will take you places where you can learn more about the topic being discussed.  And as always we will have a link at the end that will take you to a list of all the books mentioned in this blog.

Tuesday, Day 1: Usually a road trip starts out in the morning. You wake up early, finish loading the car, grab the coffee or Dew or energy drink, and head off.  This story is different.  This trip begins at night, in the dark.  The goal was to leave from North Carolina Tuesday and to reach New Jersey in time on Wednesday to meet with friends that evening.

The day started with Christina running errands and me visiting the dentist.  We both worked until 8:00 that evening.  Once home we grabbed a bite to eat, finished packing, and loaded up the Jetta.  Such excitement!  Plugged in the iPod, queued up a new playlist, and headed out.

Travel note:  the 6th generation iPod we have was bought last April to use for our wedding and reception.  It held its battery charge for the entire drive up there, and same for the drive back.  Learn more fun things with iPod : the missing manual .

Match 1: Oftentimes, WWE will have “dark matches” before shows, which means they aren’t televised. This being Wrestlemania, they had a “prematch” before the big show started. Unlike dark matches, this one was in fact televised and featured a title change.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Entrance stage at Wrestlemania

Fun fact: If you read the introduction to Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things”, you’ll find a short story hidden in there. How cool is that?

Wednesday, Day 2:  Midnight is when this day starts, driving through the mountains.  Clear skies, clear roads, and good tunes.  I-40 into Asheville, I-26 up through Tennessee, and then I-81 in Virginia.  the bulk of our driving is on this interstate.  We always seem to drive through the scenic areas when it is dark.  Christina handles this stage of the driving.  We stop at most rest areas to stretch and keep awake, stamping about in the cold.

Life as we know it.
Life as we know it.

We stop for a sit down meal at a Denny’s in Wytheville, VA.  Nearing 4:00 am now.  In our younger days staying up like this was much easier.  But we have things to do and people to meet!  Must push on!

Christina is able to keep it up until about dawn, and then I take over the driving.  I discover that 5 Hour Energy does indeed work.  We get through West Virginia and Maryland.  The end seems to be within reach.  Most of Pennsylvania is done, and we move onto I-78.  As we get to the Bethlehem area I suddenly feel a tug on the steering wheel.  Well, the road conditions in PA are not great.  But I notice that the battery light is now on, and that the steering has gotten tight.

I don’t say anything at first.  Once we come up to an exit with gas stations I let Christina know that we might have a wee bit of a problem.  As we go off of the interstate I realize that the power steering is gone.  I’m able to manhandle the car into the no parking zone of the first gas station we come across.

This is not good.  A call to 411 to find a tow truck or similar service is not helpful.  Christina inquires within the gas station and the woman there tells her that there is an auto parts store nearby.  With limited directions I head off on foot.  And what do I find directly next door to the gas station?  A Chevrolet dealership that has a service department.  Huh.  What do you know.  I head into there, and they are glad to be of assistance.  They even send a guy over to drive our poor wounded car to their shop.  Turns out that the power steering belt and arm are gone.  They quote us a reasonable price and get to work.  Takes longer than anticipated since they had to get the parts delivered, but they stick to the quote and soon get us on our way again.  Not as disasterrific as it could have been.

Now the plan had been to get to the hotel, grab a few hours of sleep, and then meet up with Christina’s friend Mary and her boyfriend for dinner and such.  But it is already into the afternoon, and we haven’t even made Jersey yet.  Plans will have to change.  Christina gets a hold of Mary and finds out that she is not in NJ either.  She is in Philadelphia.  In the hospital, to be precise.  They had been in a serious car accident the previous night.  Multiple fractures to both of them.  This is really not good.

Mary (not her real name, by the way) is an aspiring wrestler, training with one of the independent wrestling companies.  She was scheduled to make her in ring debut in July, but now has two broken legs and assorted other injuries.  This is super not good.  Now, let me jump ahead here and assure all of you loyal readers that Mary is going to be okay.  She is done with the surgeries, should be up and walking next month, and doctors are optimistic that she can resume her squared circle dreams.  She hopes to visit us here in Franklin in the coming weeks.

With heavy hearts we drive on, passing into NJ, onto the Garden State Parkway (toll only $1.50), and make it to Clifton and the Howard Johnson we had our reservations at.  Luckily our room is on the first floor.  We unload the car and hit a conveniently close by TGIF’s for dinner and much needed drinks.  Back to the hotel and finally sleep, blessed sleep.

Travel note:  I find out very quickly that people drive differently in NJ than in western NC.  If there is the slightest gap they are going to take it.  But once you realize this and expect to be cut off than it is not so bad and the traffic flows.  It turns out that I am not the only person to notice differences in driving styles: Traffic: why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us)

Match 2:  When you’re a fan of anything, you learn to deal with crazed optimism and cynical defeat. I had high hopes that one of my favorite  – okay, my favorite – wrestling stable known as The Shield would win their match. I’m used to not having things work out the way I want in the wrestling world, but I was hopeful. My hope was not futile, however, as they won! I was the only one who stood up in our section and cheered (The Shield are bad guys and are often booed. But hey, I tend to root for the bad guys.)

Photo by Christina Wilder
The Shield in action

It sort of reminds me of when I first read The Stranger. The main character, Meursault, is by no means a good person, but when we read it, we care for him, as the story is told from his point of view. It forces us to see things from his perspective, and naturally, we try to empathize, even though he’s cruel. The same could be said about Lolita, or A Clockwork Orange.

Thursday, Day 3:  I’ve never slept so well in a hotel room.  I’m guessing that exhaustion has more to do with it than the comfort level of the room.  We were up approximately 40 stress filled hours.

Clearly this is a pre-trip photo, when sleep was plentiful.
Clearly this is a pre-trip photo, when sleep was plentiful.

Any existing plans for the day having been trashed, we set out on a quest for supplies.  Google maps works wonderfully for this.  Simply zoom in on the area and most businesses are listed.  And what do we find within minutes of our hotel?  Anything and everything we need.  Multiple restaurants, a grocery store, Trader Joe’s, Target, Barnes & Noble, a movie theater, multiple drug stores, a post office, a 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts…jackpot.

The rest of the day is spent killing time in the hotel room.  No matter where you go there is still not much on TV.  Luckily there is a lot of Duck Dynasty on, as well as My Cat From Hell and a replay of the Mets losing.  Not ideal vacation time but understandable all things considered.

The plan for that night was for us to meet up with Mary and her guy at the famous Caroline’s on Broadway.  Here is a partial list of the comedians who have performed there:  Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Robin Williams, and on and on.  Joe, a professional wrestler whom Christina had become acquainted with via Twitter, was also supposed to be there.

The plan was that the ladies would hang out with Joe and us guys would busy ourselves talking about guy stuff, like this.  But since Mary wasn’t going to make it, I told Christina that she should go ahead on her own.  It took her way too long to get a cab, but it finally showed up and she headed off to New York City.  I headed to bed.

Travel note:  seriously, how does a NYC cabbie get lost going to Times Square?  Of course, NYC is pretty big:  The world in a city : traveling the globe through the neighborhoods of the new New York.

Match 3:  Two giant guys collide! One of them is Ryback, who is over 6 feet and almost 300 pounds, and the other is Mark Henry, legitimately billed as The World’s Strongest Man.  Some of the weightlifting records that Henry set back in the 90s still stand today.

Speaking of records, most of you probably envision Les Miserables and War and Peace as huge tomes. You’d be correct; both books are over 1400 pages. The record holder for the longest book goes to In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, though – it’s 4211 pages in seven volumes. That’s almost three times the size of War and Peace and Les Miserables.

Friday, Day 4:  My day started with the hotel phone ringing.  It was my wife, who was still in the city and wanted a ride back.  The cab had been very expensive, and especially after emergency car repairs we weren’t exactly flushed with disposable cash.  So I grabbed a stray bottle of 5 Hour Energy and my keys and headed out for my first venture into New York City.  Yes, my first time was driving into the city on a weekday morning!

My route took me through the Lincoln Tunnel, which has a $13 toll.  Luckily I had enough cash on me, because they don’t take debit cards at toll booths.  (There is a business idea for someone.)

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Once you come out of the tunnel there is a large intersection where all traffic laws seem to be suspended.  I made sure to follow one of my personal driving laws (yield for bus) and made it through.  I was amused by the guy in the red car who blasted away on his horn at the taxi and bus in front of him.  He was a prime example of an exercise in futility.  The woman in the car with him did not seem amused.

Once I cleared the Intersection of Doom successfully, and without making a wrong turn, I discovered something very interesting about driving in NYC.  The streets are laid out in grids and and are numbered in a sensible fashion.  Very different than driving in, say, downtown Atlanta.  With good directions I had no problem finding my way.  And thankfully no toll in the tunnel coming back out.

By now I am sure you are all wondering about Christina’s adventures in the city.  Well, by the time she got there Caroline’s was closed.  Luckily Joe was still about and the two of them strolled around.  Some people might ask me, hey, weren’t you worried about your wife walking about NYC after midnight?  And the answer is no, not particularly.  The Times Square area is not notably dangerous, plus she was accompanied by a rather large man.  She was pretty safe.

So they wandered along to a bar which wasn’t letting anyone else in since closing time was coming up.  But the doorman actually recognized Joe and let them in any way for a drink on the house!  Yay!  And as these things tend to go, people were met, conversations engaged, and now as a larger group they closed down the bar and headed out in search of pizza.  Being NYC it is totally normal to expect to find an open pizza place in the middle of the night.  And they did.  And before you know it, it is 7:00 am, Joe is heading back to his hotel, and Christina’s feet are aching and she decides to forego the cab fare.  And I get to be the hero who rides in to her rescue!  Well, okay, she didn’t actually need rescuing, but it was still a mighty feat to drive into the city as I did.

The rest of the day was spent largely waiting to see if we would be able to drive down to Philly to visit Mary in the hospital, but that didn’t work out.  So we went and saw the excellent Evil Dead remake, watched SmackDown, and called it a night.

Travel note:  we had lunch at Anthony’s, a surprisingly large chain of pizza places that was within walking distance of the hotel.  First thing they said was that they only do thin crust pizzas in their coal-fired ovens.  We said excellent!  Also, they had dark beer on tap, which seems a bit of a rarity in NJ, in my limited experience.  Wish I could make pizza like that.

Match 4:  We were excited to see Daniel Bryan and Kane (better known as Team Hell No) in tag team action. We got to see them at a house show back in November, but seeing them defend their titles successfully was pretty awesome.

Team Hell No is fun because it involves a huge scary guy in a mask and a smaller, bearded “goat face” guy going around demanding hugs. It’s all because they were forced to undergo anger management classes and the results were…interesting.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Kane makes his presence felt

If you’re having your own problems with conflict resolution, you can always search “conflict” under Subject in our catalog. My favorite title would be “Since strangling isn’t an option: dealing with difficult people – common problems and uncommon solutions” by Sandra A. Crowe. Or you can be like Kane and go around wearing a mask, demanding that people “hug it out” with you.

Saturday, Day 5:  Another day spent waiting around.  Everyone was very keen on a hospital visit, but things like “minimally invasive back surgery” (I may be mis-remembering the actual procedure) kept getting in the way.  Mary also wanted to let us use her Wrestlemania tickets, since they were presumably better seats than ours.  Believe me, that was not a big concern of ours at the time.  But in the end again no visit.  Bummer.

There was one interesting thing that happened on Saturday, though.  The opening mechanism for the trunk of the car broke.  At least the trunk was empty of anything important at the time.  Turns out this happens with some frequency to this model.  There is more than one video on YouTube about how to fix it.

Travel note:  I find most hotel or motel showers to be subpar.  There always seems to be an issue with them being too small, or not enough hot water, or some oddly configured curtain system that ensures you will flood the bathroom floor.  But the shower in this room was great.  Decent size, great water pressure, and plenty of hotness.  The term “hotness”, in this case, applies equally to the water and my wife.  Of course the toilet was a good six inches higher than they usually are.  Heads in beds : a reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality .

Match 5: Wrestling is an interesting business and often becomes surreal. Case in point: Fandango. His gimmick, or wrestling persona, is one of a ballroom dancer who flips out if you mispronounce his name. In his Wrestlemania debut, he fought and won against Chris Jericho, a wrestling veteran and one of my all time favorites.

Photo by Christina Wilder
Chris Jericho fires the crowd up before battling Fandango. The close up at the top right is one of the 20 giant screens at MetLife Stadium.

Fandango winning in his first match at Wrestlemania is an impressive debut. Some other people who have had impressive debuts: V.C. Andrews with Flowers in the Attic, William Gibson with Neuromancer, and Ian Fleming with Casino Royale, the first book to feature James Bond. If you want to peruse through other literary debuts, Wikipedia has an impressive list, sorted alphabetically by title.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming your way in two weeks!

Use this link to find a complete list of all the titles mentioned in this blog:;page=0;locg=155;depth=0

(Edited 11/3/14 to fix/replace broken links and to correct typos.)

5 thoughts on “The Shield, 40 Hours Without Sleep, and a Broken Trunk: A Wrestlemania Road Trip (Part 1)

  1. I love reading your road trip adventures! We’ve eaten at that Denny’s in Wytheville too… we were staying at a cheap old hotel across the street with our dog, meeting friends who were hiking and camping nearby. Actually, I sent Justin over there to bring breakfast for dinner back to our place, and somehow the order got placed entirely ala carte, so our eggs, hash browns and toast ended up costing $18! Yeah… we let stuff like this happen on vacation 😉
    I just put the neighborhoods of New York book on hold- I can’t wait to read it. And, I’m looking forward to Part 2!


  2. Wow, what a dramatic road trip!

    I’m glad you guys could keep everything in perspective — that’s a good, healthy relationship. Those roadblocks and complications you encountered could have sunk a lesser couple.

    And how cool is it that you know a woman who’s going to be a pro wrestler!


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