Monday, July 29, 2013

Observations ascertained from driving 2,100 miles in three days through the great American southwest

• Driving 2,100 miles in three days is an absolutely insane idea.

• I'm increasingly awesome at packing a car. I'm increasingly wanting to never pack a car again.

• By the time I got to Tyler, Texas, one of my rear bumper-skirt brackets had broken and was hanging toward the ground. I had come to terms with the potential severe damage that could cause to my (or someone else's) car before it occurred to me in Amarillo to Macgyver it with some plastic zip-ties. As far as I'm concerned, it's fixed forever.

• In Tyler, my mom and I ate at Bodacious Bar B Que, a joint I remembered fondly from going there once in 1995. Surprisingly, they didn't remember me. That hurt.

• The speed limit for most of the trip was 75. That's beautiful, as long as the wind isn't blowing. Everything has a catch.

• At our first hotel, the toilet flooded on the first flush. I called for maintenance, only to be told that there was no maintenance working that night. I asked for a plunger and the desk clerk said they didn't have a plunger. She offered us a new room. I accepted but informed her that the toilet was still surging and was likely to flood the room. After several seconds of thought, this clicked with her. "OH!" She rushed to find a plunger. When she returned a few minutes later, plunger in hand, she asked me why I was there. I pointed to the plunger. "OH!"

• On the highway in New Mexico, we passed a police officer with his gun drawn. The motorist he pulled over was dropping a handgun, presumably by request.

• My mom must have asked me 45 times how to spell Albuquerque. I happily obliged every time, because I know how to spell Albuquerque and I want everyone to know it. Thanks, Weird Al and Roxanne! Albuquerque!

• I learned the hard way (and almost the hardest way possible) that the 2 and L gears on my automatic transmission are for braking the engine down steep slopes instead of the opposite of that. By all scientific accounts, I should be stranded in New Mexico right now. (On the bright side, my car is officially through puberty now.)

• At some point, there was a freshly dead deer on the road. Mom wanted me to immortalize that.

• Arizona's definition of "rough road" is just adorable.

• My goal of reaching Flagstaff by the end of the second day of driving was nearly as dead as I was — that is, until we saw the motel options available to us where we stopped. The mental caffeine of fear that resulted was more than enough to propel us to the promised land.

• "It's not as if it's going to rain or something." Yes, Clark, it did. In fact, it's stormed both times I've been to Arizona, 14 years apart. After the downpour knocked out the hotel's wi-fi and I blamed myself for bringing the weather, the clerk thanked me because "we needed the rain." You're welcome, I guess?

• Mom and I stopped at the Hoover Dam, on occasion of my first-ever trip into Nevada. Because I had so much stuff packed in my car, buried under a Saints blanket, I was subject to a search by several security agents. As they approached, Mom began jokingly calling me Clark. (Griswold references haven't stopped yet on this trip, and every one of them is appropriate.) After I explained to them that I was moving to Reno and a closed box contained my modem and a Wii, they let me go. I parked in the wrong parking lot and realized afterward that it was in California. That meant a lot to me.

• Mom took a lot of dam pictures of me. She declined my offer to take any dam pictures of her.

• We crossed paths with a girl who collapsed from what I thought was heatstroke. As it turns out, she had injured her leg and was otherwise OK. "That's a relief," I said to Mom. Really, Ian?

• Despite its breathtaking mountain view, the stretch of highway between Las Vegas and Reno is a hellpit of despair and nothingness that makes you appreciate speed traps, the majesty of freak flash floods and the sensation of not-wind, just because they break up the monotony.

• During this stretch, my sister called and asked how the trip was going. "DON'T EVER DRIVE HERE!" I yelled toward the phone. "Fly in! FLY!!"

• At one stop, a woman who'd driven down from Reno strongly suggested I not continue my travels, because a hailstorm and a bad accident virtually guaranteed I'd get stuck in the void. Bummed out by this advice, I decided to ignore it. Aside from some initial concern and a police officer who waved me through some mud, I encountered absolutely no obstacles (and saw no wreck) and made it all the way to Reno. I learned something from this: never trust the locals. Sound advice.

• When your town's store's name is "The General Store," you're probably safe from encroaching Walmarts.

• I made only two wrong turns on the entire trip — until I got to Reno, when I promptly made 75. Our first peek at the bright casino lights of downtown Reno was when I was trying to find my way back to the highway, by which time Mom and I were both cranky as hell.

• Both Reno's and Lafayette's public-radio stations are on the same frequency — 88.7 FM. That's one fewer preset I have to redo.

• Everything in the mountains is beautiful. Everything. I'm excited to be here.

• We will never take a toilet for granted again.

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