On the Road

I’m in New York. Apparently I live here now.

I already have a number of things to say about this ridiculous place, but there’ll* be plenty of time for that.

For now, let’s back up to Sunday, 9/6—my last day in LA.

Andrew “The Body” Finn, Winston and I made our final preparations at the apartment and prepared for our voyage—a 3,500 mile drive to Boston. Though only Winston and I were moving, I had successfully coaxed Andrew into coming along by promising him that we could spend a lot of time in Texas (he refers to Friday Night Lights as “My stories”).

As I packed up the car, things got tight. I took stuff out and put it back in. I got creative with the positions of everything. I used every conceivable cubic centimeter of space. And I couldn’t quite do it. Something had to give.

So I tried another idea—I moved the passenger seat forward about a foot. And everything fit!

But it was too good to be true—upon seeing his diminished legroom, Andrew threw a small tantrum. “If Winston’s big dumb cage wasn’t so big and dumb, I wouldn’t have to move my seat forward.” He had a point. Winston’s cage is about 3 feet by 3 feet. It was taking up a huge amount of space. Winston’s head emerged from his shell—he didn’t like where this was going.

I looked at Andrew, then at Winston, then back to Andrew.

Indeed, the cage would have to be left behind—I did, after all, have a small, travel cage that I use when Winston and I go on outings together.

It was going to be a long week for Winston.

Finally, we were ready. We pulled out of the driveway, got on the 10 highway, and I waved goodbye to LA.

Here is what proceeded:

Day 1: LA to Tempe, Arizona

- About four minutes into the drive, Winston started having a panic attack. He was not happy about his living quarters for the week. Not liking to see him so unhappy, I took an old towel out of the trunk, placed it on the passenger seat floor, and told Andrew that since he had deprived Winston of his normal home, this was only fair. The Body consented.

- The drive from LA through Arizona is intensely beautiful. Right out of an old Western movie with the weird landscape and mesas and cacti and all that. Very few people around these parts.

- Eastern California is the first of several places along this drive that creep me out a little bit.

- Especially creepy was the massive windmill farm somewhere around Palm Springs, CA. Thousands of windmills covering the land, creeping everyone out.

- We hit Tempe at night, got a hotel, and went to a strip of bars in the city center. Surprisingly lame scene.

- At one point we were talking to some people and I referred to Tempe as "Temp-ay" instead of "Temp-ee" and was publicly ridiculed.

Day 2: Tempe, AZ to Van Horn, TX

- Andrew had a negative experience in Albuquerque once and now he hates the entire state of New Mexico. And we were both pretty psyched about Texas, so we decided to make it a 10-hour driving day.

- It was around this time that things began to turn sour between Andrew and Winston. They got in a fight when Andrew was trying to nap and Winston kept walking into his feet and waking him up. I had to loudly intervene and threaten to turn the car right around and head back to LA if the fighting continued. They both sat there quietly, sulking.

- It was also around this time that we began to see the deer roadside warnings. Most people think little of deer signs. Not me and Andrew. When driving Andrew’s car to LA two years earlier, we had swerved off the highway going full speed late at night in Montana to avoid hitting an incredibly dumb deer standing in the middle of the road. No one was hurt, but we both wish the deer had been. I’m a bit baffled about how they know the exact span of highway the deer will decide to show up on. One deer warning sign said “Next 2¼ miles.” Really? Not 2 miles? Not 2½ miles?

- Late at night, we hit El Paso, Texas, and eventually called it a night in a small town called Van Horn, Texas.

Day 3: Van Horn, TX to Austin, TX

- When we woke up, we were on a different planet, called Texas. It felt like we were in another state that decided to go out on Halloween as “Texas.” Every billboard had the word Texas in it somewhere, every home had the Texas flag blowing in their front yard and Texas-shaped plaques on the front door, and a typical radio commercial would go something like this:

Do you eat ribs for breakfast? Do you call your wife’s car “Not my truck”? Do you breath football – like, literally heat up a football so hot that it melts and eventually boils and then vaporizes into a gas which you then inhale? If so, you’re a Texan. Not someone who moved to Texas—a REAL Texan. And a real Texan deserves a real truck. Come to your local Chevy dealer and get the best end-of-summer deals on a brand new truck. A truck only worthy…of a Texan.

I had to keep reminding myself that we weren’t in a tourist thing – that this was just a normal thing on the radio. It was fun to imagine being in Boston and replacing the word “Texan” with “Massachusettsan.” It would be completely absurd.

(Then again, every other commercial in Boston is like, “Are you fat and loud? Do you have two sons named Papelbon and Manny and a daughter named Youk? Did you skip half of your daughter’s wedding to catch the end of regular season game #93? Then that makes you a Red Sox fan. Not one of those pussy out-of-town college kids—but a real, lifelong, fat, loud Red Sox fan. So call the only windshield-replacement company worthy of a real Red Sox fan—1-800-54-GIANT!” That’s not normal either.)

- While Texas cities are cool, the most interesting thing to do in Texas is to stop in the small towns. We had lunch in a town called Fort Stockton, and suddenly, we were on the set of Varsity Blues. We went to a diner full of photos of the local high school football team and “Home of the Panthers” in huge print on the front. There was also a pawn shop advertising an assortment of guns in the inventory. Andrew and I walked in, felt like huge daisies among all the gruff men in there, and left.

- As we made our way through Texas towns, I had the urge to pull over and ask someone (in an old Jewish person accent), “Excuse me, but where can I find the Jewish Community Centah?” but I resisted.

- Finally, we hit Austin. We had friends of a friend there, so we went out with them. Austin is cool, and a really weird place to be after 600 miles of pure Texas—suddenly there were Starbucks and Whole Foods and people with tight jeans. If normal Texas mated with West Hollywood, you’d get Austin. For all those people who have been only to Austin in Texas—hate to break it to you, but you haven’t really been to Texas.

Day 4: Austin, TX to Waco, TX

- We wanted to hang out in Austin a little more, and I had my fantasy football draft that night**, so we spent most of the day in Austin. It was here that we had our first Barbecue of the trip. That was at least 2/3 of what we were on this particular route for, so it was highly anticipated. We went to a place called Lambert’s, where I ordered 850 ribs and left feeling like I had been impregnated by a manatee.

- At night, we headed North on a short trip to Waco. The whole David Koresh debacle really sucks for Waco. Like, it's a normal city, and the whole Koresh thing happened outside of the city somewhere, and now Waco and everyone who lives there is permanently associated with weird shit.

- As we hit Waco, I pulled the old Tim stop-sign classic (not stopping) and got pulled over. Getting pulled over is a really unique and bad feeling. There are some rules about getting pulled over: First, when the lights go on and you hear the siren and look in your rear-view mirror, you have to swear. It’s a rule. Then, when the officer comes up to the window, you say all of these respectful words, like, “Officer,” and “Sir,” and “You’re right.” I got my most humble persona on and got all respectful and only got a warning.

Day 5: Waco, TX to Normal, OK

- We zipped through Dallas, but not before stuffing our faces at a BBQ place called Peggy Sue BBQ. 850 ribs. Homemade spicy BBQ sauce. Onion rings. Peach cobbler (I didn’t even want the cobbler but just wanted to keep ruining my body while I was in the zone). Our combined IQ after the meal was 106.

- Continued along into Oklahoma. Over 1,000 total miles of driving in Texas. Before exiting Texas, Andrew was pulled over for having out-of-state plates (he was actually pulled over for going 30mph in a 20mph school zone, but he was going the speed of traffic so the plates were the only explanation). When the (female) officer came up to the car, Andrew said something along the lines of, “Ma’am madam madamoiselle m’lady my pretty Ms. Madam” and only got a warning.

- Our original plan was to go to Oklahoma City (also permanently associated with an incident, but at least this one makes everyone sympathetic, not creeped out), but we had been advised by our friends in Austin that the only fun to be had was in nearby Norman, Oklahoma—the home of Oklahoma University. Why not?

- We went to some big sports bar, where someone immediately told us that we were obviously from the East Coast. Fail.

- What might have been a really fun night was ruined by my head making the bizarre life decision of having an allergy attack in the bar. Nothing could possibly be less cool than the guy having an allergy attack. It’s not like I have allergy attacks regularly. I have no idea what the hell was going on. But I alternated between sneezing and making that face where you have to sneeze but can’t. Finally Andrew snapped and was like, “Well get the hell away from me – you’re ruining this for both of us.” So I went and sat by myself and tried to make it go away. When it wouldn’t, I left the bar and stumbled over to a corner gas station and bought Sudafed, nasal spray and Visine. Least cool person ever. Things actually started to look up after that. Until I decided to use the Visine a half hour later and accidentally put nasal spray in my eye, setting me back two hours. I’d prefer to forget this entire night.

Day 6: Norman, OK to Lawrence, KS

- My hideous performance aside, Norman seemed like the way to go for young people and nightlife in a farming state, so we decided to go for it again in Lawrence, KS, the site of Kansas University. But not before stopping in Oklahoma City for a massive BBQ meal at a place called Iron Starr. The funny thing is that gorging ourselves on pounds of red meat was the healthy part of our days. We’d eat junk food in the car and fast food at night. Then usually alcohol would make its way into the picture. All with a dash of “no exercise.” It’s not really our fault—you try eating well on a drive across the US. Not really possible. The only person who maintained a decent diet was Winston, who continued with his tried and true “Lettuce with a side of lettuce.”

- Speaking of Winston, he and Andrew reached their breaking point on this day. Winston bumped his thimble head into Andrew’s foot one too many times, and Andrew freaked out and threatened to throw him out the window. I started yelling, “Andrew! Co-exist! You have to co-exist with Winston!” He exploded back, “I’M co-existing!! I’m co-existing! This asshole isn’t coexisting!” After some more yelling, all three of us rode in silence for awhile.

- This day was 9/11. It would suck to have your birthday on 9/11.

- The last time I had seen a non-American car was about six states ago.

- We hit Lawrence that night and headed out to what was apparently a college bar. After you’re out of college for awhile, you forget what unbelievable douchebags frat guys are. Andrew and I felt like we were in a douchebag museum. We just marveled at them in their natural habitat. Then it hit us that we were old and we left.

Day 7: Lawrence, KS to St. Louis, MO

- The Body flew back to LA from Kansas City, as was the plan, leaving me and Winston to make the rest of the journey on our own.

- To keep with the trip’s themes, I started the day by both gorging myself at a place called Rosedale BBQ, and getting pulled over – this time, for driving with iPhone headphones in (really?). Yet again, no ticket. But like, what the hell? I’m a terrible driver—granted—but in five years and 40,000 miles in LA, I was pulled over twice. How are we pulled over three times in a week of driving? Mid-country cops must have much less on their plate, I guess.

- The plan was to make it all the way to Indianapolis on this day, but my dumb Honda (the same I car I drove when I was 16—I know, get in line, ladies) couldn’t quite do it. I started hearing a loud buzzing, so I stopped at a Firestone, and the guy was like, “Yeah…yeah your wheel is gonna fall off before you hit Boston.” Apparently I had a wheel bearing issue, whatever the hell that means. Of course, it was too late in the day for them to fix it there (that would have been too easy), so he made an appointment for me for the next morning in St. Louis, a mere three hours further. He told me they opened at 8am and that I should get there at 7:45 to ensure they could do it that day.

Day 8: St. Louis, MO to Buffalo, NY

- After waking up at 10:30am every other day on the drive, waking up at 7:15am was particularly unpleasant. I got there at 7:45 on the dot. And the place opened at nine. I cursed a lot and kicked the wall and planted on the grass and waited for an hour.

- At 9:00, the guy showed up and did an inspection of my car. The obvious elephant in the room when he got in the car was that there happened to be a tortoise in the passenger seat. He saw it. I knew he saw it. And he knew that I knew that he saw it. But no one said anything.

- Five hours (and more money than I’d care to discuss) later, he finished and I took off for Buffalo. For those of you not familiar with US geography, St. Louis to Buffalo is a beast of a one-day drive—especially starting at 2pm:


Six states in total. Some thoughts:

- At one point I saw a “Low Flying Planes” sign. Huh? So what are they warning me about? Do these planes get that low that I have to watch out for them??

- Every 100 miles or so, I’d notice a “Runaway Truck Ramp.” First of all, how often do trucks “run away”?? And why? And when a guy is in a truck and he’s like, “Oh hell, the asshole brakes aren’t working,” how incredibly happy is he when he happens to come upon a runaway truck ramp? And how upset is he if he accidentally misses it??

- When I entered Indiana, it said, Welcome to Indiana, birthplace of Lincoln. Wait, what? I used to think Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. Wasn’t that the story? But then Obama, during his campaign, was all like, “I am Lincoln. Lincoln is me. We are both from Illinois. Illinois is the land of Lincoln. Lincoln is the Obama of land.” So I was already confused. And now Indiana is trying to get in on this? Come on.

- I called my sister Lindsay during the drive and was telling her that I had eaten nothing but BBQ, fast food, and gas station junk food for the last week, and she yelled at me. She made me get off the highway and go to Subway and get a vegetable sub. Then she told me that when she did a 14-hour drive earlier this year by herself, she would put the car on cruise control when the highway was empty, sit Indian Style, and eat dinner with a fork and knife. While driving. I’ve never heard anything like it.

- I made a lot of phone calls during this drive. It’s funny, cause when you’re the one on a long drive you’re like, “So, how about the Red Sox?! They’re looking good, huh? Let’s talk about potential playoff batting orders.” And the person you’re talking to is like, “Yeah, I’m gonna…I’m gonna go.” And then you’re like, “Let's play 20 Questions!” and they’re like, “Yeah, no…I’m gonna go back to what I was doing.” And then sometimes there’s the really awkward situation when you’re the one on the long solo drive and you get sick of talking to the other person and you want to get off the phone. You can’t make an excuse—they know you don’t have anything you could possibly have to do. You’re just like, “Um, I’m gonna………….go.”

- By the time I hit Pennsylvania, it was pitch black, I was delirious from 12 hours of driving, and maybe it was the weird state I was in, but the Erie, PA area really gave me the willies. I would have bet hundreds of dollars that there were both werewolves and ghosts in the area. Plus, it was really foggy, and I kept seeing the dreaded deer signs on the side of the road. Really scary times. I was pretty resigned to getting murdered in my hotel room that night.

Day 9: Buffalo, NY to Boston

- This day was uneventful (not a whole lot happening in upstate New York as far as I can tell) until I hit Western Massachusetts (also a creepy place, for the record) and decided to stop and watch the Patriots game with my friend Morgan, who lives there. He told me his address and for some reason, my iPhone decided to ignore his house number and just put the pin down in the middle of his road somewhere. This would not have been a big deal had I not been in rural-ass Western Massachusetts—following the road to the pin, the road became a dirt road, which became a small dirt path, which became a hiking path. I suddenly found myself somewhere I should have been on a mountain bike, not in a shitty, old, Honda. Bad times. I made it eventually, but this was not what I needed after 3,800 miles of driving over the past nine days. Of course, on the way out, the correct route turned out to be an easy drive along paved roads. Idiot.

- That night at about 1am, I hit Newton, MA (where I’m leaving my car). Done.

- Nothing will make you appreciate airplanes more than driving a long, long distance. This felt like an epic journey—but normally, it all happens while you sit there for a few hours and watch TV.

Some pictures:

This is the one of the cartograms I posted in a previous post. It shows each county in the country and the spectrum of voting in each during the Obama-McCain election. It was cool to look at as we drove.


My two driving mates.


Winston's pad for the week.


Windmills give me the willies.


It wouldn't be a Texas home without a Texas star on the side.


Or a Texas-shaped plaque on the front.


Or a Texas flag in the yard.


Not in LA anymore.


Not in New York either.


One of many.


Another. So so good.


Winston tried to make a run for it. It was unsuccessful.


Another unsuccessful attempt.


Glaring at me.


A needledick raking the lawn of a frat he was rushing at Kansas U.


Health food.


It wouldn't be a cross-country drive without car problems.


Such a scary part of the country.


Driving somewhere this car was never ever meant to drive.


*“There’ll” is a weird word. If you stopped someone on the street and said, “How do you spell there’ll,” they’d have no idea what you were talking about. And when someone who doesn’t speak English sees “there’ll” in writing, they’re definitely like, “English is kind of icky.” Like when I see a word like “auchenbachenzimschaunberg” in German or “blieuaeiux” in French.

**Ladainian, Ryan Grant, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, McNabb, Carson Palmer, Steve Smith (Car), Santonio Holmes, Mario Manningham, Justin Gage, Lance Moore, Steve Breaston, Owen Daniels, Kaeding, Cowboys. 2-0.

11 comments:

Emperor Paolo said...

Hahahahaha

My good friend is in Harvard right now. Another friend is in BU.

Anonymous said...

Me want ribs ...

Anonymous said...

Really fantastic. I really need to take a cross-country drive soon.

Anonymous said...

"It felt like we were in another state that decided to go out on Halloween as “Texas.”"

"ma'am m'lady ms. madam"

nasal spray in the eye.

douchebag museum.

L. O. L.

Anonymous said...

So you come to Texas - drive across the whole state and don't stop in Dallas to see your cousin! Shame on you Tim!

Jodie said...

-pokes your shiny new Followers box-

Tim does it ever strike you what a wonderful stalking device Twitter can be? xD

Sorry, random comment. Please send Winston our best though for making it through the few probably most laborious hours of his life.

Anonymous said...

timmy!
missed you last weekend in s.d....i'm still recovering.

see you soon in nyc hopefully

glops

Anonymous said...

Yeah great story , takes me
back.

Route 66 ..

Anonymous said...

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Sara L. said...

Next time you drive cross country, I want to be invited.

Anonymous said...

Do all Americans have awesome adventurous lives or is it just you?