Category Archives: Travel

Football on the west coast

I’m headed to Portland, Oregon, and it’s Saturday and I’m going to wake up on the West Coast of the U.S. on a Sunday during football season, which means I can watch the 1 p.m. games (East Coast time) at 10 a.m. I remember years ago my friend who lives in L.A. telling me about how you can watch the first football game of the day on TV while you’re eating breakfast and still have the whole afternoon available to you. I’m going to experience that tomorrow. (Publishing this from Denver airport during long layover.)

Off the road again

Home again. Lost a couple of days there, what with driving ten hours a day and all and getting to some place and then getting some dinner and well, then it was time to get some shut eye. But got home Saturday afternoon after a drive that included all of the New Jersey Turnpike, a drive I used to make regularly in my art-delivery days, taking artworks back and forth between Washington, D.C. and New York City. Turnpike looked better than ever, but one thing: no self service gas at the rest areas. No. Full serve. So we sat in our car for twenty–20!–minutes waiting for the attendant to get to us. Talk about ridiculous. One guy in an SUV behind us finally had enough and jumped out of his car and pumped his own gas. Man, did the attendant get pissy about that! And I’m thinking, ‘I should have done that,’ but then I’m more worried about how bad the gas attendant will feel if I pump my own gas. If I do that, his job has no meaning. Though his job has no meaning anyway. If Full Serve is the only option, then it better be better than Self Serve. And this wasn’t. Does Tony Soprano have anything to do with this Full-Serve-only situation?

(Okay, I know I’ve been obsessed about gasoline. That happens when you drive 500+ miles a day for four days straight.)

That day we left Little Rock, Arkansas, we stopped in Tennessee for lunch. Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, home of Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen. The decision went like this. It was time for lunch, I saw a Food sign listing the usual suspects (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, etc.) and then “Loretta Lynn’s Kitchen.” Is Loretta Lynn a good cook? I don’t know, but I suspect her lunch will be more interesting than McDonald’s, so I drive past the golden arches and left up the hill to Loretta’s. Buffet lunch: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, collard greens, salad, jello, biscuits. I think there’s enough bad stuff on the deep fried chicken to jack up my cholesterol about 48 points, but the collard greens will save me. I don’t know why, but I’m under the impression that those dark leafy vegetables will save me from cancer and other forms of early and unnatural death. Though the stuff has been boiled to within an inch of its life. Still, ‘collard greens.’ Gotta be good for you. It’s like greens that have been reined in, brought under control, and given life-saving qualities.

Here are pictures of me and my dad at Loretta’s. Taken with his cell phone.

I don’t know what’s going on with our mouths. Must have something to do with the collard greens.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Austin, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas: 504 miles. A good day’s drive. And now at a Comfort Inn (whose logo looks a lot like the AT&T logo, which Burnie Burns, at a talk at SXSW suggested looked like Darth Vader’s Death Star.) See the picture on my plastic keycard:

We’re five blocks from President Clinton’s library, which is not known as his library, but as a Presidential Center. We may make a drive by in the morning. Driving in my dad’s car which he recently bought used and all morning I was looking through the owner’s manual trying to find out how big the gasoline tank is. That information is not available in the manual. Which bothers me a lot. I just want to know how many gallons it is. Now, on the one hand it doesn’t matter the actual number, since we always know the relative amount of the fuel in the tank: it’s half-way down; there’s only a quarter of a tank left, we better stop. Still, I want to know the absoute number, and why isn’t that number in the manual? So, at this point the only I’m going to be able to determine the number of gallons in the tank is to run that baby dry. And that’s not too convenient. Running out of gas on the shoulder of our American interstate system. Still you don’t know how big the tank is until you fill it up with fuel. Oh hell, who’s going to do that?

And to add to our driving enjoyment I’ve spent the evening at Comfort Inn (free WiFi!) downloading Willie Nelson music from iTunes and burning it to a disc so we can listen to it tomorrow. Road trips are not anything like they used to be. Life is so modern.

On the road again

Okay, my time at SXSW in Austin is over and my dad has driven up from Rockport, Texas, and today we begin the journey back to Fall River, Massachusetts…by car. Long haul. About three and a half days on the road. On the one hand it’s a lot of time to spend with someone in a car, on the other hand there’s something kind of meditative about getting behind the wheel and driving, staring down the road, watching America pass by.

No, you go first

Had a pleasant experience while driving today. On a busy street I let a car come in from a sidestreet. Just being a good boy scout. Then I turned into a gas station to fill up. As I’m standing there holding the handle on the gas pump, a guy walked by and said, “Thanks for letting me in.” I stared at him blankly, having already forgotten about letting the guy in to traffic. It turns out we both turned into the same gas station and he remembered my car. Now that’s something that doesn’t happen often, getting thanked by someone you’ve let cut in front of you on the road. Sometimes you get the wave in the rearview mirror from the other driver, but that doesn’t even happen very much. I usually say “you’re welcome very much” in a sarcastic tone to the person who doesn’t acknowledge that I’ve done them a kindness. On the other hand, you shouldn’t expect a thank you for a kindness, I suppose. But of course we do want to be thanked. Just human nature.

Then I said, “Well, I don’t understand why that doesn’t happen more often. Are people in such a rush that they can’t spare five seconds to let someone else in?”

“Yes, it’s a strange thing.”

But then I thought to myself: what if I had been in more of a rush, what if I had had an argument with someone before getting in the car, what if some other driver had just pissed me off? It would have all been different. I might not have let this guy in. And then I wouldn’t have gotten the “thank you” from him. That piece of positive reinforcement. Now, I generally try to let cars in when I can, but you can bet I’m going to try harder now that I’ve actually been thanked by someone for doing it.