My copilot (and our two furry passengers) arrived at 9:15am, Monday morning. We’re headed south: two chicks, blasting B’s personal mix of gangster rap and dorky podcasts. Stopped in Cottage Grove for an emergency quesadilla. Wispy clouds streaked the pink and purple sky at sunset. With the dark silhouette of mountains looming, at some point we’re four thousand feet high.
Visible effects of drought, everywhere. California stank: a potpourri of garbage, sewage, manure and industrial grit. Scattered palm trees and smog. In bold letters over the highway, a sign: “JESUS SAYS YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.”
Nearly wrecked when I glanced at the driver-side door, mere inches from my shoulder. A white spider! Talk about a wake-up call. At 8:30pm, arrived in Sacramento. Got a cheap room, let the cats out of their bags. All too soon it was morning.
8am-ish, Tuesday: Snagged a bite in the lobby. Taught B about my delicious (and nutritious!) secret of oatmeal with peanut butter. Got back on the highway.
“Suck it Sacramento!”
Several hours later, reached Bakersfield. Meanwhile, rocked out to a combination of NIN and Taylor Swift. Got through a solid chunk of Serial. Made an obligatory stop at an In-N-Out (one of many dietary insults on this trip) before turning east. A mountain range materialized out of the flat, dirty haze. Crossed into Arizona.
Some VIPs crept up behind us, probably going ninety. It was a series of four shiny black vehicles: two SUVs, a large truck and a luxury sedan. They were traveling in formation, a tight chain with the sedan in the middle. Wondering if it was some politician..? Or the mafia. Or both! We got out of the way.
At dusk, entered some foggy hills. Took all my concentration to stay between the lines, which vanished completely, just a few feet ahead of our car. Suddenly, a fuzzy white blob appeared. When it raised it’s head, two bright yellow orbs reflected in the night. A coyote! It dashed off the highway in time to save itself, nearly giving us a heart attack.
Later, there was a car weaving erratically in and out of traffic, with emergency blinkers on. As it passed, the man driving gave us a salute. He looked like a muscle-head marine on a serious meth trip.
“That guy’s gonna wreck.”
Hung back, affording him plenty of space. After about thirty minutes, there, in the distance ahead was that familiar pair of flashing lights, careening dangerously to the left, into the median between us and on coming traffic. When we passed a few seconds later, barely made out a hulk-like figure, stumbling away from his vehicle in a cloud of dust.
Planned to stay the night in Lake Havasu, but on arrival realized our motel had a No Pets policy. Instead got a room in the small town of Kingman, Arizona.
8am-ish, Wednesday: Ate at Denny’s. The lady behind us ordered a Bud Lite with breakfast. Probably worked graveyard at one of the factories.
Crossed the high desert of Mojave, skirted the southern edge of Grand Canyon National Park. Knocked out a set of pushups at a trading post in New Mexico, where they had cowboy boots for nine hundred bucks. Saw another coyote, dead. Pulled over at the gate of Petrified Forest National Park (with no trees in sight) for more push ups.
3:30pm, made it to Albuquerque. Sunny, blue, and super windy! Plenty of time for a nap and showers before dinner, “New Mexican food” with B’s brother and two small kids.
3:30am, Thursday. Couldn’t sleep. Whoever had the room above us was pounding. Banging. Moving furniture? Doing construction?! Whatever it was, they were doing it the whole flippin’ night! Ended up a mixed blessing, because it’s the last day of driving, our longest haul yet. So we got on our way. But not without tapping on the neighbors’ door (grumpy and covered with face cream at 3am) to ask, would they PLEASE take a fucking break from making all this noise?!
As light was barely starting to creep across the sky, noticed a low, dark cloud hanging ominously in the distance. An hour later it consumed us. Made our way across the mountain range, thick with fog. In a milky tunnel of darkness, barely missed a deer. By the time we emerged on the other side, the sun was high overhead.
Eventually hit Texas. Right on cue, a tumbleweed danced across the freeway. It was so remote, we didn’t have cell service. Vast nothingness. Late afternoon, made it to Austin. Had dinner at a trendy restaurant, Contigo. Then went to a dive called Barfly, for drinks and a couple rounds of pool, before back to our motel for bed.
Days Five thru Seven: the Week End(s)
Friday, our main project was getting keys to B’s apartment and unloading her car. Learned the bulk of her furniture wouldn’t be there for another five days. Decided to keep the motel room, at least until I depart.
Met my friend, Aiji at a WeHack event downtown. Had a fancy steak dinner at Perry’s, then caught some live music with Aiji and his friends at a place called Spider House.
Saturday, Aiji invited us to crash another event. This time, at the Omni. Also that night at the Omni? The Bachelors’ of Austin Debutante Ball. You know what that means. We had to investigate! I’ve never seen so many dolled up rich kids: boys in tuxes, each with a colored satin sash, and girls in ridiculous ball gowns. Didn’t take long to get kicked out.
Next, a house party. There was a pizza oven in the backyard and in the kitchen, several blobs of dough and an array of toppings. One guy brought some Texan wild boar sausage that he’d hunted and prepared himself. Feeling inspired, made my first pizza! Atop the standard layers of red sauce and mozzarella, my pie had wild boar sausage, mushrooms, purple onion and feta. SO GOOD.
6am, Sunday. Finally homeward bound. Tonight, Aiji’s taking B to “Chicken Shit Bingo.” (Way to keep it weird, Austin!) Almost sad to miss it… but not quite.