The Great Trek: The Last Day

Idaho: Where the elevation exceeds the population. -unknown

After a night of “moseying” I got up early and did the same thing I did the previous few mornings and made my way back to I-90. Even though Billings was pretty I was ready to get to Coeur d’ Alene. I guess it really started to hit me somewhere between Boseman and Bute that I had only seen a few pictures of the city that would soon be my home. There was this choking sensation in my throat like a sickly kid in school ingesting¬† peanuts. The enormity of this spontaneous move started to sink in because in 7 hours I would be in a city were I knew no one, had no place to live and school and work didn’t begin for another week. But, that’s how I do things. I do them as risky as possible.

Well, after an hour of making whimpering and wheezing sounds I calmed down and tried to take in some of the great state of Montana which, not surprisingly, was unbelievable. Then came the rain. But not before I stopped for gas and saw Burger Time! I have heard of these but never have I laid eyes on one. And now I have. Sorry about the bug guts.

I didn’t take too many more photos because the last leg of the journey really became hairy between the rain, mountain passes, construction and the 75 mph speed limit that didn’t let up at all. I was trying not to ‘fuck the dog’ with only a few short hours left in the trip. Can you imagine driving 2300 miles and wrecking with only 10 miles to go while trying to take a picture of trees? Almost happened.

Well, I battled the harsh weather over the mountain range and at the peak of the mountains I crossed over to the last state of the leg, Idaho. I was in the upper part of the great mistake, er, state and the next stop was the city of Coeur d’ Alene. Like a bomber pilot on his/her last mission, all I wanted to do was park and say that I made it with no incidences. And in 45 minutes I was able to do just that.

After a few moments of breathtaking beauty, as seen above, I took the City Center exit and made my way towards the visitors center so I could get a list of hotels and possibly a tip on where to get a couple of beers. That’s always of importance to me. I’m Just being honest. So I pulled in to the parking lot, stretched and walked up to the steps of the visitor center.

I don’t know why, but I was a little disappointed I didn’t have a welcoming committee awaiting my arrival. I imagined the mayor, Miss Idaho, a rodeo clown and a member of the local Native American tribe, all standing there with a basket of coffees, fruit and a ‘Welcome To Idaho’ t-shirt. Nope, it was just me and a dirty car.

So, the lady at the help desk did just that; she helped me. I found a Comfort Inn to shower and unpack a little and then I walked around the city center keeping an eye out for any welcoming places to drink a couple of cold ones. It was pretty chilly out too. Forgot to mention that I was wearing a sweater.

Foof! I look spent and I think that is with good reason. I found this really cosmopolitan bar called “The Beacon” that was full people in their late 20’s early 30’s. I didn’t stick out too much but I felt alone. Jim Morrison really hit it on the head when he sang “..people are strange, when you’re a stranger. Face’s look ugly, when you’re alone..” I suppose the bartender felt a little bad for me because my tab was cut in half and she gave me free shots. Who said pathetic looks don’t go far? Anyway, I made my way back to the room, grateful that the trip across the country was over, turned on the TV and drifted off to the theme song from Cheers. I want to go where everybody knows my name…

So, that wraps up the trip but I have been here for a few days and there is so much more to tell. I’ll keep these posts rolling. But for now I will leave you with a little known fact about Idaho. Above every urinal there is a head butt dent. I never knew that! And….now you know.

The Great Trek: Day 3

This is crazy! This is crazy! This is crazy! – Clark Griswald

It’s funny when you drive across country where your mind tends to go. I think I changed my voting preference at least 10 times based on whatever XM radio talk show I was listening to. I managed to sing “Stairway To Heaven” in Pig-Latin and made up my own sociology project by looking at passing drivers and pointing straight at them. Only one pointed back. What else am I suppose to do when driving across North Dakota? This is all I saw for 6 hours:

The good thing is that the speed limit increased to 75 mph so I pushed it to 85. And so did everyone else. With a cross wind of at least 35 mph I had my left foot depressed on the floorboard as if I was applying left rudder. You can’t take the pilot out of the plane, I suppose. That was enough to make me pay attention so I didn’t fall asleep and hear the familiar “bump bump bump rrrrrrrrrrr” sound as I drive off the highway.

And through the plains came the mountains. This is on the west side on North Dakota and I became a little more perked up as it was clear I had arrived at the beginning of the scenic route. It’s amazing how these hills and mountains just start. That sounds dumb because, well, how else should they? I guess after 2 and a half days of driving I can be impressed by anything. Especially the fifty foot cow you see above.

These are the Bad Lands and Holy Schmit they were awesome. As a city boy I am in awe how anyone could have lived here. The theme song to Dances With Wolves was constantly in my head as I walked around the park, looking at the wild horses way up on the top of these peaks and wondered, “aren’t they hot?”. It was a really inspiring break from the road. Right up until I saw this:

Back in the car!

Well, I drove straight on to Billings, Montana were I found a cozy spot at a Holiday Inn Express. And I needed a beer, stat. So I moseyed (I can do that since I was in Montana) over to the bar next door. And no shit, that’s were there were real cowboys. There is nothing better than sitting in between a bunch of the toughest dudes in America in designer shoes, Banana Republic jeans, The Clash t-shirt and order a Michalob Ultra. Especially when the Loretta Lynne looking bartender said “we got Bub and Budlight, sweet thing”. I got a Bud. Maybe I overplayed my hand on that one.

This story had a happy ending, though. The beers were only $2.25. Then I moseyed on back to my room.

The Great Trek: Part 2

Adventure is worthwhile in itself. – Amelia Earhart

I got up relatively early on day 2 because for one, I passed out before 10pm and two, I gained an hour since I was now in central time. And by early I mean 5am. So, I showered, brewed coffee, watched the news, raided the breakfast bar downstairs and climbed into the Element cockpit, refreshed with a renewed sense of adventure. So adventurous was I that I decided to go off the recommended AAA road map and take route 65 straight north to Heaven, er, Iowa. (That was a Field Of Dreams joke) I am glad I did it, too.

I saw lots of what you see above. I guess that is harvested wheat? Whatever it is, it is as far as the eye can see. To me, it looks like God spilled his bag of Combos. You see that too? Hrm, I guess I might be alone on that.

Actually everything was very pretty for the first hour. Then it became pretty boring. I can sum up route 65 into 12 words: Cow Cow Cow Corn Corn Corn Cow Cow Cow Corn Corn Corn. That is pretty much it. I am glad I didn’t talk my friend into coming who likes to break out with an ‘I Spy’ game every ten minutes. It would have gone something like this:

Friend: Wanna play ‘I Spy’?

Me: Um…sure?

Friend: Ok, I’ll go first. I spy something red.

Me: Is it a barn?

Friend: Uh…yeah. Ok, let me try again. I spy something brown.

Me: A cow?

Friend: Fuck you, asshole.

I am positive that is how it would have gone. He is very touchy about losing that game for some reason. Maybe it’s because no one else gave a shit and he always won by default?

So, about hour 2 into the the drive I passed by a bunch of bikers. Normally I wouldn’t have thought anything about it because, lets face it, Harley Davidson really took the balls away from the average biker when accountants and stockbrokers started sporting leather and Softtail bikes. But these dudes were in formation, ZZ Top beards and giving the Heil Hitler salute to me. Maybe I scare easily but that freaked me out. I hate Nazis. It’s ok to hate Nazis, right? I know it’s not right to hate but Nazis are the exception, I thought.

I told myself I wouldn’t touch on this but I have to. So, after I escaped the 4th Reich I needed gas, so I stopped at the Kum and Go and used the Jerk and Spurt to fill up my car. It’s a good thing I already had a drink and I didn’t need a 32oz Suck and Slurp. Oh my goodness. I sent Mandy this picture because I couldn’t keep it to myself. Are these through out the Midwest and if so, do people think that’s funny?

So at this point of the trip my excitement level began to climb steadily because I was soon to rendezvous with a fellow blogger in Minnesota. I apologize for the smeared windshield. That is all bug guts. I think by the end of this trip I was responsible for the deaths of over 10 million bugs. There are bugs all over the US flying their flags at half mast right now.

So, who did I meet? Kristaine! The mastermind behind the very famous The Pilver.

This was such a treat! Generally people who meet from online groups or blogs can be a bit of a let down but not Kristaine! She was every bit as funny, smart and entertaining as she is on The Pilver and X-E. I have to say that it was a great couple of hours and I look forward to meeting more of my blog buddies. So, if I show up at your house don’t worry, I’ll come with food and beer. Thanks KB!

Well, after Kristaine and I parted ways continued on to my resting spot in Fargo, North Dakota. Yes, I had to go there. And I bought a t shirt too!

Tomorrow I will post day 3 and 4. I bet you are excited to read about my drive through North Dakota, aren’t ‘cha? I know you are.

The Great Trek: Day 1

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by. – Robert Frost

So last Monday I backed out of the driveway for the last time, put the car in drive and left the neighborhood for the great trek to the Northwest. I passed my favorite coffee shop, my cleaners, the gym and my running track, waving goodbye to each one. There wasn’t even a bit of sadness but rather excitement and tinge of nervousness because well, this is crazy. I left with what I could pack in a 2008 Element, a four day trip ahead, no familiar faces and no home to go to when I get there. I feel like I threw a parachute out of the plane and then jumped. But through adversity comes greatness. Or at least good blog material. I’ll break it down by days.

Day 1!!!!!

So I started off driving straight up I-75 towards Nashville, TN. I would elaborate on the details to be honest, I can’t remember very much about it. And even if I did, you would be so bored I bet it would force you to turn off the computer, tie the chord around your neck and throw it out the window. So for your safety and my reputation as a mediocre blogger, I’ll save you the story. But I did stop by Adams Tennessee to see the infamous Bell Witch site. I’m weird like that.

Yeah, I had to stop there after learning about this odd piece of American history on the History Channel. You have to go to these places with an open mind because nine out of ten times they are a disappointment. This didn’t. I have to say, right when I got off the highway I was spooked out and the many old farm houses and overgrown trees didn’t help. I can’t say that I believe in the ghost stories but when I got out of the car to take a few pictures, I swear I heard whispering all over the place. That was enough to make me get back to 75, most Ricky-Tick. I didn’t even take a photo, that’s how fast my visit was. If anyone is curious, the Bell Witch is in Adams Tennessee, and there is no lodging for at least 20 miles. The site is really tricky to find but when you do, I swear that the experience will hang with you for at least a day. Kind of like watching the movie Seven.

The next stop was my old stomping ground at Ft. Campbell, home of the 101st Air Assault. I have great memories of my brief time here and it just so happened that I needed a haircut. So, I stopped in for the famous $7 “suck-cut”. I’m serious, it’s a haircut that sucks as it cuts because the sheers are connected to a vacuum hose. Well, it’s the best haircut a guy can get for $7. On to St. Louis!

I guess this can be symbolic. It is the “Gateway to the West”, as Dad said when I text him this picture. He has been just beside himself that he couldn’t go on this trip with me but I made sure to keep him informed where I was as he followed at home with his atlas. It would have been great if he came.

I remember I took this picture at hour 8 of the trip because ‘All Things Considered‘ came on NPR. I have to listen to that show on every road trip. It’s tradition, really. If you haven’t heard of it I highly recommend you check it out because that program highlights so many aspects of the world and American culture. Just because my ass is atrophying after one million miles in a car doesn’t mean that my mind has to.

So I finally came to rest in Columbia, Missouri at a Hampton Inn, right across from U of M. At the end of day one I saw GA, TN, KY, IL and now MO. Though I went through many states nothing really note-worthy¬† happened. My battery was so low I skipped dinner and fell asleep, face down, shoes on, TV blaring Family Guy and computer left on X-Entertainment. Only three more days to go…

Well, that was day one. Later today I’ll post day two and it is full of great stuff including a meeting of a fellow blogger, cows and corn, getting a Heil Hitler salute from a bunch of Nazi bikers, and much much more. I bet you are excited. Huh? Huh? uhhh.

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