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August 07, 2003

road trip

I think I posted about this...but it's worth telling again. This story keeps me going when things start to go the "wrong" way.

Leaving Arcata was extremely tough. Not by any means because it was hard to leave the place emotionally, it was friggin near impossible to physically leave the place intact. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. My day pack, fully loaded, was stolen along with my vintage and precious camera; I went through three buyers on my car, each of which had some complication or other and I finally had to leave it at a friends house, hoping he'll send me money someday; My ride fell through to the airport in Portland 3 days before I was to leave; My apt. was a shithole and we lost the deposit ($750.00!!); etc etc etc...But threre was something that kept me going. It's a pretty simple story, but I'll not forget soon.
About three or four years ago I was living in Los Angeles and I got offered a role in a realy fun play back in Minnesota. It would pay pretty well, and I would get the chance to finish my degree. However, My last day of work in L.A. was three days before my first day of work in MN. And I needed my car there. Sooooooooo, it was road trip time. I loaded up my Honda with cd's, a monster thermos of coffee, and a big bag of herbal reinforcement. I had about 65 hours to get to MN, so it was going to be straight through. Holy lord.
The first 12 hours were pretty mellow. I stopped in the middle of the Mojave and toasted Jim Morrison with a heavy bowl (after which I was forced to wait about an hour before I could drive again). I stopped in Albequerque for about a half hour before I was kicked out of a little parking lot by the gas station guy. I have to say it felt good to be speeding away from some redneck yelling something about damn hippies etc. Felt like I was a kind of rebel or something. Back to the Kerouac days when the beat kids would drive that route and get harassed in the same manner.
The next 20 hours were pretty hairy, I was getting tired and my eyes weren't cooperating as they should have been. Aaaannnnd it was night again, aaaannnnd right about then a couple lights came on in my car, aaaannnnd my cd player broke. I was almost out of gas, in all respects, and I was pulling into the armpit of America: Oklahoma City. If I can go the rest of my life without ever being there again, I will be all right.
I wasn't at the gas station 2 minutes before I was harrassed by a couple of redneck assholes, minutes later I was approached by a couple teenagers who wanted me to buy them beer, and minutes after that a couple of cops harrassed me some more for talking to the kids who wanted me to buy them beer. That's my ten minutes in Oklahoma City. I had been thinking about staying, but with that welcome, and the over abundance of bass booming suburban white kids (nothing scares me more than a stupid kid with nothing but time and angst on his hands, coupled with an affinity for bad rap music and something to prove), I was on my way again. It has been 34 hours since I left LA.
Now, here I was, back on the road, just out of the armpit and almost to the nipple, no cd player etc etc etc...So I decided to turn on NPR to relax a little and maybe get stimulated enough to keep going.
The moment I turned on the radio I crested a decent sized hill, and in the distance was a huge, and I mean huge thunderstorm. Lightning everywhere, and the blakcest of black skies. And to my absolute delight...the announcer on NPR said, in a soothing quasi-british dialect "For the next hour and a half, we will be exploring the fiery sounds of Rokmannanov's thrid piano concerto..."
I'm not sure how many of you are famliar with it, but you can go and rent the movie "Shine" with Geoffry Rush to get an idea. It's a wonderful piece, complex and exhilirating.
So I sat there for about an hour, watching this monster storm and listening to a monster composer. That experience alone made the whole trip, the 46 hours that I drove to MN, the month I spent there, and the 32 hour drive back to LA (took a different route that time!).
Just another reminder that no matter what, just keep going and it'll all turn to the positive and beautiful. Though please, I do not recommend driving long trips like that, and I just learned that a lot of states make it illegal now to drive more than 12 hours straight. And, disclaimer aside, rock on!

Posted by Colin on August 7, 2003 08:35 AM
Category: past travel stuff

Thanks for retelling the story. My family and I are in one of those crappy times right now, and I frequently call upon my first road trip from PA to Cali in 1998--changed my life-for emotional sustenance. I was 41 and just up and quit a bank job I hated.

Your story about the music reminds me of a driving job I had 2 years ago. I drove dry-cleaned goods in a van from just north of Pittsburgh, PA to Norwalk, Ohio--a 250 mile work day (best kind I can think of). Most of my driving was in the winter--really bad weather up around the Great Lakes. My driving was also mostly at night. During these snowstorms, the three lanes of traffic on I 80 would be reduced to one lane travelling at thirty-five miles an hour. With fingers tightly gripping the steering wheel, I would listen to intense classical music like the Carmina Burana (something I never do) and just enjoy the high drama of the moment. It brought character into what most would consider a tense, pain-in-the-ass situation.
Once again--thanks for the story.

Posted by: Patti Stone on August 19, 2003 10:12 AM

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