Today I joined the army. But more about that later.
We had a pretty good night's sleep, and were on the road shortly after 8:00 this morning. I snapped this picture of Rocky in the motel window as I was packing; it reminds me of the portrait of my mother on her wedding day.
As regular readers of my blog know, I like to take lots of pictures when I go on vacation. But I realized I'm not stopping anywhere other than rest stops, where it's better to take a whiz than a photo. I was driving by some pretty sights and thought, it's too bad I can't pull over! So I took out the camera and started snapping shots indiscriminately. This is somewhere in Ohio.
The cats were so good today! Real troopers. This was the longest leg of my planned route; they were in their cage for nearly twelve hours today. I didn't bother with any sedatives. Both of them went right to sleep and stayed that way pretty much the whole time. Rocky meowed once somewhere around Elkhart, but that was it. Most amazingly, we had no "accidents." Since we got through today, I have much more confidence about the rest of the trip.
The FM transmitter I bought for the iPod is busted; it's permanently stuck on 102.3 FM, which was fine for most of Pennsylvania, but across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, that frequency is variously taken by evangelical and Spanish radio stations. I know there's a Border's in Beaverton; I wonder if they'll make an exchange a week after a purchase in a store on the other side of the country?
People in Indiana cannot drive. People in Illinois think speed limits are for sissies. Some guy at a gas station in Ohio said something indecipherable to me about something and I just said, "Ain't that the truth?" and he nodded and said, "Fuckin' A, man." Right on. Here's a photo I snapped somewhere southwest of Chicago.
I had thought I might go as far as Rockford, Illinois today, but after 12 hours I was concerned for the poor cats' bladders and pulled over here in Mendota to see if we could find a room. Mendota consists of two motels, a gas station and a McDonald's. Seriously.
Hence, dinner consisted of an amuse bouche of pommes frites, with fillet de poisson and a side of nuggettes de poulet.
When I inquired if there was a room available tonight, the lady at the front desk asked me if I had any club memberships that would entitle me to any kind of discount. AAA? No. Army? No. (I did cut my hair pretty short for this trip, but...) AARP? No. AARP?!?!?!?! I'm not even 33 yet. How bad do I look? : (
"Well, you look like a nice guy," she said in her gravelly, hard-bitten midwest voice. "I want to give you a discount, let's see what we got here, why don't we say you're in the military. What branch you want, army, navy, marines?" "Oh," I said, "let's just say the army."
So yeah, I'm pretty sure I just committed a felony in order to get a $10 discount on a budget hotel room and a story out of it.
Then I yelled at my dad on the phone. He called to see where I was and if everything was all right. Then he said, "You know, I was looking at the itinerary you gave me, and you're going to have to drive nearly 75 miles an hour in order to get from Mitchell, South Dakota to Billings in eight hours."
Okay. Let me preface by saying my father is not known for his optimism or his sense of fun, adventure and spontaneity. I think he had a bet with himself going that I wouldn't make it to Illinois like I said I would. He's also getting old and is fixating on silly things. My "eight hours" estimate came from the website freetrip.com (which I highly recommend), which says that according to the route I'm following, I'll get to Mitchell after about 22 hours of driving and to Billings at about 30 hours of driving. It's about 600 miles between the two cities. Let's leave aside that I've been going about 75 mph all day long, and a lot of people pass me (especially in Illinois). Let's leave aside that in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, 75 is actually the speed limit.
Earlier he emailed me a list of emergency rations for the trip, including extra water, blankets, food, etc., as if I'm taking a pack horse, two saddle bags and no map to Oregon, not traveling the interstate system. I emailed back, "You left out beads and pelts for the natives."
So tonight I said, "And so what if I don't get to Billings in eight hours?" "Well..." he hemmed, because naturally he hadn't even proposed that question to himself. "I said it takes eight hours of driving, not that I'm going to do it in eight hours. I am on vacation, and I'm going to take as long as I damn well please, and if for some reason I am not in Portland by Friday, I'll pay for an extra day for the van, what's it to you?"
He didn't expect such a snarl out of me, and that was pretty much the end of our conversation. He said to call on Friday when I arrive.
Now I remember why I moved to New York when I was 19. (Half-kidding.)
Rocky is sitting in the window sill and growling at semi-trucks as they go down the road. Your guess is as good as mine. Other than that, he's perfectly fine. Starbuck seems to think the trip is fun. I'd have to agree.