Monday, April 23, 2007

Day Two: Du Bois, Pennsylvania to Mendota, Illinois - 588 miles

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 (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.


Quinn said...

So do I get to be the first a make a lame, yet obligatory, "Don't ask, don't tell" joke?


Glad that the cats are handling it well. Indy always growled at the rumble strip on the side of the road.

Anonymous said...

Remember, this is your father who stood in line at the Post Office for you.


Silus Grok said...

Be nice... worrying is the Official Passtime™ of Fogeys.

: )

And for your route: it's a shame you seem to be doing the 90 through Spokane, and not the 80 to Salt Lake and then the 84 to Portland... I'd have jumped at the chance to treat you to lunch.

kr said...

Now, _I_ remember the story of you and your father driving through California ... 'wonder what he'd say to that! Ironic that you tweak people about ignoring the speed limit ... maybe that was why the lady at the motel desk asked AARP, you're approaching fogeyhood without knowing it ;).

My husband got a "Have fun! Join AARP!" mailing when he turned--I kid you not--30. I laughed and laughed ... and I still wonder who set him up for that ;).

Matthew said...

Thanks for the updates, glad it is going so well.

Jade said...

Oh Silus, where are you from? I-90, not the 90 (I thought they only called freeways "the" in southern California. *shudder*)

Andy, when you pass through Billings, wave hi to my cousins... they'll probably be at my aunt's trailer in the park down by the river, you know... the one with the Elvis statue on top of the fridge and the velvet paintings on the wall.

You think I'm kidding, don't you? :)

When are you planning to turn south, anyway? If you come all the way out to Seattle to meet up with I-5 you can stop by my place, I'm just off I-90 a couple miles.

Andy said...

Silus: Well, I still might go that way. I am monitoring the weather, and if there's any snow in Montana, I'll stick to I-80. However, I've been across southern Wyoming and southern Idaho a couple of times, and it's really boring. I'd much rather see Montana, so that's what prompted taking this route. But thank you for the kind invitation!

KR: I think that drive was Boise - Portland on the ill-fated Christmas trip to Denver where the car died in Boise and we spent the holiday in the airport Motel 6. I was 16 and mad and wanted to go home.

As for the speeding in Illinois, let me just say at one point I was doing 75 in a 55 because that was the only way to keep up with the traffic flow and I had people tailgating me.

Jade: now, I'm turning south at Spokane. That last day, I think I'm going to want to go as directly as possible. I have to unload the van at the other end, get up early the next morning and return it.

In general: look, *I* know my father was just expressing his concern. And I don't question or deny his generosity of spirit; he's someone who always goes the extra mile and then some, even for total strangers. It's hard to explain. Do I feel bad? Yes. But this is *my* trip. I'm doing it for spiritual and emotional reasons more than for the simple point of getting myself across the country somehow. I have worked out all the logistics I need to know, and it's all going according to plan. (And if it doesn't, so what?) This trip is not about getting to Portland in the fastest, most direct way. This is about exploiting a rare opportunity. In fact, I intend *not* to do that stretch in a mere eight hours. I'm here to enjoy myself, and it made me angry that he totally doesn't get that. Right now is not a good time in my life for people to be raining on my parade, yo.

Gino said...

personally, i think you overplan.

just drive, and do what you will, when you will.

my last road trip i didnt have a clue. i was just going north, and back.
ended up in eugene, from anahiem, on day one, for the night.

keep cruising, and enjoy the show.

Jarred said...

The picture of Rocky in the window is priceless.

And I probably would've snapped at your father too.

The Law Fairy said...

I understand, Andy. Your dad sounds a little bit like my mom the first time I did a cross-country road trip on my own. She was constantly CONSTANTLY bugging me about every little thing, and it just got so damn ANNOYING. I'm an ADULT, Mom. I have a DEGREE. I pay my own BILLS. I think I can handle a few miles of paved road.

So, I totally understand the snapping. Even though I totally love my mom, she's awesome.

And if you wanted to do it, 600 miles is absolutely drivable in 8 hours. But, considering how much you're driving this week, breaks to explore and stretch your legs are eminently sensible as well as enjoyable :)

Jade said...

Boo! :( Well, if you change your mind and keep driving west, I'm here. Did you watch Twin Peaks? My inlaws live right down the street from the cafe with the damn fine cup of coffee and cherry pie, we could go there for lunch! Well... another trip maybe.

I forgot to mention, when driving through Montana watch out for deer. Seriously, it's like they aim for them in that state... last year I drove through with my folks and my Older Sis and I played "Roadkill Bingo" (I got 6 deer, two raccoons, a skunk and something with feathers)

If the weather is good, Montana is a pretty drive, particularly as you pass the north side of Yellowstone. Coeur D'Alene, Idaho is Beautiful.

Jeff said...

I'm loving your road-trip blog posts. It makes me nostalgic for a road trip I once took and it gives me a burning desire to get on the road again. The freedom to do nothing - just sit in the car and listen to the radio or some music, and let your mind wander where it wants...

And the photos of the cats in the crate are soooo cute. And I'm not even a cat person.

Andy said...

Gino: I agree. I worry too much. And so I dismiss anyone who worries even more than I do as insane. : )

kr said...

Jade--that Elvis thing explains perhaps why you were so determinedly counter cultural in high school ;)

Andy--I'd swear it was one of your California college trips; the Boise one you were SO irritated about Boise that that's pretty much all we heard about ;).