Two final observations/stories from the road trip:
1. Super 8 hotel/motels:
Are every bit as perfectly average as you could hope for in a road trip. The rooms were clean, the showers didn’t leak in 2/3 of the rooms we had and we felt safe at least 1/3 of the time. We stayed in three, count em’ THREE Super 8’s on this road trip: Bozeman, MT, Billings, MT and of course, Kimball, SD.
Why ‘of course?’
How about the little note card tent at the front desk, giving instructions for contacting the desk once you made it to your room. It was more or less taped to the cash register, right next to the telephone:
“To talk to desk, press ‘8’ and say ‘hello’”
That’s no joke. Our running theory: because the lobby was essentially a smog of marijuana fumes, the manager of that particular establishment was running a fairly profitable drug trade out of the motel to enhance an income that had to have been a bit weak given that fact that he worked in Kimball, SD…so he had to set up his distribution lines, obviously. Thus the very specific instructions for calling the desk.
Kimball. Some vitals:
Claim to fame: In the 1880s, it was nothing more than ‘Stake 48’ on the St. Paul Railroad line connecting Mitchell, SD to the rest of the world. It was organized as a village in 1883.
Named after: J.W. Kimball, a surveyor.
Per capita income: roughly $15,000 (thus the drug smell. literally)
So it comes as no surprise that on the way into Kimball at roughly 1 a.m. we drove past someone (admittedly we were going roughly 90 mph…might have been a bit blurry) on the shoulder of I-90 that looked mostly like this:
Fine place, Kimball is.
2. I’m going to make a map. But it might take a while.
Admission Number Fourteen:
It might take a really long time, because as mentioned it this post’s title, it’s election day tomorrow, and that will make life very hectic for the week…as it does for most in my profession. But it’ll be worth it.
And that’s it; the road trip. Some other small details might come out when I build the Google map, but that’s the road trip. Type “road trip” into the search box and you’ll get everything I’ve put together for this. Word.
You might recall some reference to the note left for a waitress AND the outright, all-encompassing capture of a waitress spilling food on film. These awesome occurrences happened to the same waitress. The waitress you will see shortly after we finish talking about the bison/buffalo controversy for the billionth time. I try not to fail in delivering such packages of pure joy. Do enjoy.
Note: Our calm demeanor when she does drop the food.
Admission Number Thirteen:
I’m really, really proud of our reaction to her miniature catastrophe. I verified her well-being, Josh kept the camera on point. Well done team.
Well, it comes to my attention that I’ve written many words about this road trip. Shared many pictures. But I’ve mostly failed to share a picture or any real words about Old Faithful.
There is nothing to say about Old Faithful.
OK, that’s not entirely true. There is a lot to say. But most of it you’ve already read about by the time you were five. The area itself is a bit over-processed. Lots of benches and concrete walkways, buildings and too many people. That’s fine. People should come by the thousands to see something like this. It’s a geological phenomenon of unreal proportions.
But honestly, given the occurrences on the rest of the trip, 5,000 gallons of boiling water rocketing 140 feet in the air like clockwork every 65 minutes was, well, just another epic happening as we tore across half the country.
In chronological order, a sampling of music that graced our ears on our magnificent journey East:
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” Nirvana
Necessary when driving in/around Seattle.
“Priase You” Fatboy Slim:
“Chunk Up The Deuce” Paul Wall
“Rave On” M. Ward (A great story/conversation here; but it’s one you won’t hear. I’m sorry.)
An observation/experience (of sorts) I can relate to this song. This is an “everything’s OK song.” They’re not uncommon: for whatever reason, they’re songs with a melody, a feeling that gently gathers all the ire and discontent laying around and hides it, if only for a few moments. Not incidentally, it usually has nothing to do with the lyrics. For me, it will always be associated with a specific conversation about times Before, about growing to see things in life few recognize, let along understand—about the stinging nostalgia of visceral emotions few know exist, let alone feel.
Intense? Sure. But that’s how you do eastern Washington in the dark.
The sheer amount of stuff we saw on this trip locks my brain up to the point I don’t even know how to begin evaluating it. I think my mind is still uploading things we saw on the first day. So the take-away point here is my mind works much like the software you use to upload photos into Facebook.
Admission Number Ten:
The above link to what I may or may not look like when my brain locks up was obtained by Googling “mind melting,” because initially that’s the phrase I wanted to use.
But this particular picture ignited some memories that I had forgotten neglected to store properly. Namely, how amazingly awesome the visitor’s center at Old Faithful was. This picture wasn’t shot particularly well, because there were too many people milling about and I lacked a tripod to expose it properly. That doesn’t prevent you from seeing the sheer size of this building though, and the slightly fish-eye lens helps your eye see more than it should.
Bottom line: this place is a pyromaniacs dream. I imagine it took an entire army of smurfs and their accompanying forest to build, which is impressive in itself, really.
We could only spend so much time in here, because:
You really don’t want to be the person who misses the most consistent natural occurrence on the face of the planet because you spent an hour fawning over (admittedly adorable) wolf puppy postcards in the gift shop.
Road trips require both strict adherence to a plan and the ability to completely abandon said plan at a moments notice. That’s code for we had someplace to be.
Fact: no matter our location or condition during this adventure or what shenanigans we were getting into, nothing was going to go wrong. For those of you out there who believe this is just tempting fate, another nugget: we uttered the phrase (with a certain amount of purpose): “Seriously, nothing could possibly go wrong on this trip.” Out loud. Without knocking on wood. Without sacrificing animals to heathen gods. And certainly without consulting our horoscopes.
And so a large chunk of the West/Upper Midwest is still trying to recover from the sheer and total road trip domination that was the two of us in a large, semi-safe vehicle moving at high speeds.
All this being said, the identification of a few small errors in judgment or lapses in situational awareness has occurred:
Mistake Number One:
Failure to properly account for shift in time zones when crossing the Idaho to Montana border. Complete, total and irrevocably absolute failure.
You’ll note (despite the streaky, dirty windshield and slow shutter speed) that at this moment, we entered Montana. You will also note—or have to take my word on it—that there is NO SIGNAGE proclaiming the change from Pacific time to Mountain time.
I’ve been inundated with a thousand a question from hundreds of my fans a curious person or two: “How do you remember all your stories?”
Easy. I don’t. They go in the leather-clad cotton pages of this marvelous contraption:
What it’s not:
in possession of a name
What it might be:
a chronicle of reminiscence; perhaps a ledger
a captain’s log
an archive of fluke brain occurrences (strikes of rare inspiration)
Writing names, places, details, quotes, sights, sounds, tastes, brain activity and happenings in this allows the telling of stories such as:
A Waitress in Mammoth: How We Made Her Entire Year
We stopped in Mammoth, Wyoming on our way out of Yellowstone to get some food. Naturally, we figured who wouldn’t want to stop at the Mammoth Inn?
Answer: Those who fall off the cliffs during the perilous drive into Mammoth (imagine that road in pitch dark, no warnings for turns in a vehicle that weighs as much as a T-Rex). We had a few close calls, but we ended up making it to the fine municipality of Mammoth. (Mammoth Count: Four.)
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Wyoming, eat buffalo. DAMN.
I mean bison.
See, you get a judgmental look from the waitress when using the word buffalo. It’s much like speaking Chinese to a Korean person, or French to a German, or calling a water fountain a bubbler (I’m looking at you, Wisconsin). There are things you don’t do in Wyoming, and among them is calling their bison buffalo.
So, as penance:
Buffalo and bison share the Bovidae family, but they do not belong to the same genus or species.
Buffalo have larger horns, a shiny coat, are found in Africa and Asia and have been domesticated for over 5,000 years. They are an economic necessity in many countries of the Pacific rim.
Bison have a fur coat, are found in the American West and Midwest and were nearly hunted to extinction. The opposite of domesticated, the bison’s history with man has been violent and dangerous.
So when we ordered our buffalo sliders and buffalo meatballs in Mammoth, the waitress may or may not have given us a bit of a hard time about it. We apologized. We I felt like an ignoramus (Josh still calls them buffalo). Then we found out she was from Michigan.
WHAT?! Critique the car industry, not bison/buffalo identification controversy! She was here for a summer job, and it seems like she took her job as a part-time Wyomingite pretty seriously. That’s OK. I would too.
“Yeah. So, what is the difference between the two?” she says, still pretending she had the upper-hand in this conversation. We did some research and informed her of the differences, and we all made a pact never to call buffalo bison or bison buffalo in Mammoth ever again. Mammoth Count: Six.)
Then she spilled a plate of noodles everywhere. Can’t make this up. She was awfully invested in this conversation about Mammoth bison, and I guess she just lost focus for a moment. (Did I mention we have this on video? Oh, we have this on video. I’ll share soon).
We had a few more conversations with her, all of which involved:
But we left her, and Mammoth, a parting gift:
That is why you keep a captain’s log. (Mammoth Count: Eight, but 11 if you count the fact I used the word Mammoth inside the parenthesis.)
My part of the road trip is over. I couldn’t find a way to see the rest of I-90 out without interfering with the job hunt. It’s troubling, but I’ll see that road out eventually. Josh is now barreling towards Chicago and hopefully planning to avoid Gary, Indiana (more on that in a moment).
This by no means equates an end to road trip-esque stories, pictures or video. I’ve only shared a mere sliver of the mass of multimedia we gathered on this trip. Over the next few weeks or so, I’ll be writing about encounters with boiling water, creepy flannel-clad hitchhikers and the absolute bliss that is the Super-8 Hotel and Lodging franchise. As we I speak, a Google map is under meticulous construction, detailing points of interest and other pieces of information that nobody could possibly have even passing interest in. And that makes it even better.
Before Josh hopped on I-94 to Chicago, he managed to have a genuine Minnesota encounter. At a gas station, of course:
Stranger #1: (motioning to his license plate) “Oh…yeah…you from Washington then?”
Stranger #1: (curious, but not in a threatening manner) “Where you headed?”
Josh: “New York, I got a—”
Stranger #1: “I LOVE NEW YORK.” (5 minute conversation about how cool New York is.)
Josh: “So yeah, I’m heading down through Chicago and across Indiana, hopefully I’ll be there by Tuesday or so.”
Stranger #1: (very serious) “Whatever you do, don’t stop in Gary, Indiana.”
Josh: (confused) “Why, is there—”
Stranger #2: (biker clad in leather, walks over) “I couldn’t help but hear your conversation. Seriously. Don’t stop in in Gary, Indiana. Just fill up outside of Chicago and drive right on through.”
Stranger #1: (nodding vehemently)
Josh: “OK, well I’ll definitely keep that in mind. Thank you.”
Stranger #1: “You do that. Have a safe trip.”
Stranger #2: (nodding vehemently)
One has to wonder what happens in Gary, Indiana. Or not.
(Pause the writing) Begin the road trip (But don’t really pause the writing)
Admittedly, when I think cross-country road trip, I think:
I’m talking about the car; get your mind out of the gutter. But no worries, because there is great appeal in a road trip going something like this:
The question needs asking: “Why on earth do you need four sets of headlights, sir?” But I don’t dare trifle with anyone who drives a car laden in impenetrable (probably) wooden armor. It is also important to note the colored stripe on the tires matches the color of the vehicle. Pure class.
Admission Number One:
Yes, I typed “road trip” into Google Images for the aforementioned pictures.
Nuts and bolts: Flying to Seattle, getting in a friend’s car and driving East. East is capitalized in this particular phrasing because I want to create an aura of majesty and great unknown. Hopefully an aura of majesty and great unknown that we will unabashedly conquer.
Admission Number Two:
This trip is only possible because fate (lower-case ‘f’ because I’m not entirely sure it even remotely exists, and capitalization would insinuate importance) made it all but impossible not to with $140 airfare.
I toyed with the idea of starting a blog just for the road trip, but after a few ramblings about current events and the news, this feels like home. So I’ll still touch on newsy things that pique my interest and share words I think are cool. A mass of pictures and video from an epic road trip will accompany it, that’s all. Pretty neat, I’d say.
Admission Number Three:
I enjoy making these admissions into nothingness, so that will continue from time to time as well.