Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Best and Worst of 3200 Solo Miles

Fury Fans,

Since returning to Los Angeles, I have been facing the obvious question "How was that drive?" When asked, my brain automatically goes into "It was great, except this that or the other thing" mode. I don't like this mode, and I don't do it consciously. It just seems to be the natural pattern that a question like that induces. I really do want to describe the trip as best I can, but fear I'm just not eloquent enough to do it justice. I'll try though.

I left Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel at around 6:30AM Monday morning. I left NY feeling uneasy. Not because of the drive ahead, it just didn't feel completely real that I was leaving. While I was in NY, beyond getting word that I'd landed my next job, Los Angeles was in the back of my mind. After spending nearly a month in NYC, with a little time upstate mixed in I was having a lot of trouble accepting that it was time to go back. Oddly, it's not that I didn't want to return, and get back to work, I certainly DO want to do both of those things. I just didn't feel ready, and that the NY portion of my 'Winter Jobless Break' felt incomplete. Regardless, I had to leave(though I later come to find, didn't really need to after all) so I started the drive.

From NY to parts of southwestern PA I was able to listen to 'Boomer and Carton' on WFAN. This helped my transition greatly, as I was able to stay distracted by Carton's annoying and almost meatheadish style of broadcast journalism juxtaposed to Boomer Esiason's straight laced and professional demeanor. When I need to be distracted, NY sports talk does the trick every time. This leg of the trip was mostly familiar territory for me as I had done many NY to PA trips with the family as a kid. I passed 'Roadside America' and almost stopped in for old time's sake, but my mission wasn't to lolly gag across America, oh no, it was to get the f home.

Day 1 came and went without incident. My goal was to reach Nashville, TN, but I fell about 100 miles short due to rain and fog. This was most upsetting to the ol'Jamser. When Tart and I had done our initial drive to California in 2002, Tennessee was one of the favorite states to drive through. The terrain changes in TN, from the Appalachian mountains ending near Nashville into the more flat plains near Memphis. This change is impressive and beautiful, if I may be so cheesy. Once you pass through Memphis, and over the Mississippi river into Arkansas, you better enjoy the flat lands!

Day 2 was plagued by rain and fog, all through Tennessee and into Arkansas. My desire to enjoy the scenery of TN had been ignored by Mother Nature. Due to the conditions, I made the commitment to just drive as far and fast as possible to get away from that weather pattern. According to The Weather Channel, after that storm, I would have clear skies all the way to Los Angeles, and they were right. This was the toughest stretch of the trip, so thankfully that was out of the way on Day 2. I felt the strain of this leg of the trip in the morning, especially after the night I would have.

I wanted to make it to Oklahoma City on Day 2, but after the rain and two days of driving for 10+ hours, I started getting heavy eyed in a rural section of Oklahoma, 130 miles outside of OKC. I found I had to stop about 50 miles from the next area that had the potential for civilization. I saw a sign for a 'Budget Inn' and pulled off. It looked decent enough from the outside, but it had a noticeable lack of cars in the parking lot, and the 'office' where you book a room was the same desk where you pay for gas and buy hot dogs. I got my key, some pepperoni pizza Combos, a water, and go to the door for room 128.

I realized this may be a bad idea when I got to the door. It looked flimsy, loose, and as if it had been broken into previously. I step inside the room, and it's shaped like a barn. High ceilings that meet at an angle, and I realize it's cold, and musty. To my left is a mostly wide open space, with a small table and two chairs with fabric cushions. I note the stains immediately on the chairs and say to myself 'remember to not sit on those.' I go to the bed and it looks fine, when it's made. I move the pillows and notice the fitted sheet isn't really fitted. Just a regular sheet tucked in. I pull it back underneath where the pillows were, and see a large, brownish/reddish stain in the mattress. I look at the comforter which I had pulled back with the sheet and see cigarette burns, and various off color stains here and there. I wonder, "C'mon...really? This is a little cliche, no?" Sadly, it was real. Thoughts of the 'Dusty Star' from our BVR trip to Yosemite come to mind, and I start to think "Maybe I can make it another 50 miles tonight." I enter the bathroom and the tub is filthy. "I guess no shower tomorrow."

I turn on the heater, which thankfully worked. I am exhausted, and the money had already been spent on this room and I'm certain they won't be giving me a refund if I bail out. I remake the bed, put my hoodie on, put my hood up, and attempt to sleep, fully dressed on top of the covers. I feel gross instantly. I look at the door a lot as there are various noises inside the room from the creaking, old walls and plumbing that startle me awake. I also hear trucks pull in and out of the parking lot through the night, every time wondering when that axe is going to come chopping through the door. It was at this point that many of you almost got a phone call, but it was late and I was trying desperately to fall asleep. I manage to get 3-4 hours of on and off napping before the sun comes up, and I get out of there as fast as possible. I did take a shower since I felt disgusting, but did so with a towel covering the bottom of the tub.

As I hand in my key, and leave for the morning I grab a cup of coffee from the gas station/convenient store/motel office. About 10 miles down the road I take a sip and something small, soft, and gooey is detected on my tongue that had just exited my coffee cup. I roll down the window, take whatever it is out of my mouth, don't look at it, toss it out the window, and curse the shit out that hellhole, bullshit fucking motel. I don't know what it was, and don't ever want to know.

After Day and Night 2, the trip took a dramatic upswing. The sun was shining, the skies were clear, and there's nothing like cruising through the middle states at 85-90MPH with the radio on and barely anyone else on the road. Additionally, music played a huge part of the final two days of this trip. On the way East with Wakal, we took note of some of the songs we heard on the radio across the country, and found America loves the following: Rihanna, Kid Rock, Lil' Wayne, Beyonce, and Estelle featuring Kanye West. There were others mixed in, but those were the heavy hitters. Alot of these artists have since become guilty pleasures for me. I love me some Rihanna, 'Single Ladies', and Kanye's new singles are superb in my book. Before I left, I made a mix CD of some of these songs so I could satiate my inevitable cravings. This proved a good idea. As I drove through Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico on Day 3 I had different songs on repeat, whatever I was feeling at the time, and they became the soundtrack to my daydreams and thoughts as I zoned out and drove I40 like the dickens. If people were to ask me 'How did you do it?' I'd have to say 'daydreaming', 'Rihanna', or 'Daydreaming about Rihanna.'

Mind you, it's not so much the cheesy, pop-love lyrics that many of these songs employ but instead the music that struck me as a I drove. I'm amazed at how so much can be done with so little on 'Single Ladies' with what I affectionately refer to as 'beeps and boops.' I certainly can't engineer a tune like that, but kind of wish I could.

With the daydreaming and thinking came different ups and downs, but I got through just fine. There were calls and texts with Train, Wakal, Kusens, Dr., the Family and others that helped break up the pattern. I thank you all very much.

When I hit Albuquerque, NM I splurged on a Holiday Inn Express after the 'Great Budget Inn Debacle of '09.' This was an excellent idea as well. I rolled in, eyes bloodshot, legs literally shaky as I walked, and noticed an Applebees across the street. Yes, I was actually excited to see an Applebees considering the amount of 'Subway' I had been eating across the country. After checking in, and almost crying when I saw how nice and comfortable the room was, I walked over to the 'Bees and had myself a steak, potatoes, and 2 tall Sam Adams as I watched the Heat-Nuggets game on TV. Dwayne Wade hit a ridiculous fall way, turn around 23-foot jumper. Thank you, Bill Walton.

I treated myself nicely in ABQ knowing full well that Day 4 needed to not end up being a Night 4. I had to get back to LA by Thursday night as I knew it would take at least 3 days to recover from this trip, and work starts on Monday. After the 2 beers, I fell asleep almost instantly when I got back to the room.

The next morning, I set off deliberately later than normal to avoid Los Angeles rush hour traffic. I left at 10AM, and my Trip Meter was at exactly 1000 miles(this was actually the 2300 mile point, but I had accidentally reset the mileage for this trip while trying to reset my oil change light...poop). The final leg was more of the same good driving from Day 3. The land you cover between Texas, New Mexico and Arizona is incredible between the mountains, colors, and even the livestock. I tried to take good pictures of Texas(seen on my Facebook profile) but the phone on my camera can't do it justice. Next time, I need to take a real camera and the trip will include many stops to take as many pictures as the heart desires. I can't emphasize enough that if you have a chance to do a cross country trip in your life, just take it. I find the opportunity doesn't present itself often.

Day 4 was great up until about 170 miles outside of Los Angeles. This was when I started to feel impatient for the first time on the trip. Anxiety and fatigue were settling in, and I needed food but didn't want to stop anymore. I just wanted to be home. I need to thank again Train, Kusens, and Drunk Wakal for their time on the phone on Day 4. It got me through a potentially horrendous mood. Finally, I hit the 10Freeway and 40 miles down the road started seeing familiar sites, and signs telling me '30 minutes to downtown.' The heart and spirit were lifted mightily at that point. I finished the day of driving at 830 miles and was greeted by a smiling Scotty Fallis, and congratulatory texts.

I felt damn good.


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