Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Views from the Road

I was taking a much needed Pocky break, when I came across some old blogs in the dusty corner of my hard drive.  Join me as we travel back to 2005, when gas was $2.25 a gallon, Green Day's "American Idiot" ruled the airwaves, and I watch my last movie in the theater (King Kong - seriously, I haven't been to the movie theater in ages)....

Over a period of eight days, I traveled to Washington State twice, drove almost five hundred miles on a business trip (to our field office in Medford, Oregon), visited an active volcano and snapped a handful of photos at Stonehenge.

Not bad for a week's work.

Of course there are endless observations and insightful moments unveiled over long stretches of highway and deep thoughts that were born, processed, and carefully filed away as the road sped by.

But, just for a change, let's get all mundane instead. Let's take a look at random moments in the life of some guy named Jeffrey and shine a little too much light into the scary depths of what makes him tick...

When you've been driving for almost four hours and it's 103 degrees outside, there is little better than a thick peppermint milkshake purchased at a total dive of a roadside diner. It doesn't matter that said diner is composed of several travel trailers welded together. It doesn't matter that the health inspector probably isn't even aware that the location exists. And it doesn't matter that the milkshake, ordered in the health conscious "small" variety, still costs four bucks. All that matters is the initial orgasmic burst when that cold sweet pepperminty goodness hints your taste buds and you get hit over the head with a nostalgic burst of childhood joy like someone filled a baseball bat with happiness and took a swing at your noggin'. Oh yeah, baby!

There comes a moment when you realize that no matter how well you dress, no matter how much you bench press, that no matter how "washboard" your midsection becomes, you're still a nerd. Okay, it was two moments. The first was when I debated for way too long over whether or not I should purchase a really cool biography on Nikola Tesla, mostly because it had a really in-depth description of the concept of the resonance of radio waves. The second was when, still holding the book on Tesla, I exclaimed out loud, "Oh my goodness! I've got to see if they have the Michio Kaku book!" and ran off in search of the quantum physics section of the bookstore, much to the chagrin of my fellow browsers who were standing within earshot of my sudden revelation.

No matter how bad a movie is, no matter how horrific the costumes, plot and dialogue, when you look over and you see your four-year-old son smiling so broadly at the screen that neither his eyes nor his mouth could open any wider, the price of admission is worth every penny.

Hearing your daughter giggle during the same movie every time something romantic happens on screen will immediately transport you into the future. A future where she's a gorgeous teenager and you're trying not to be obvious as you wait to scope out her date who she is obviously giddy about seeing. What's worse, is you'll simultaneously be taken back to a time when you were a teenage boy and hoping to appear all innocent and respectful to the girl's father when neither characteristic was the foremost thing on your mind. When your daughter is only six, that unexpected time travel is very unsettling.

You'd be amazed how many childhood tunes and American folk songs you can channel when driving with two young kids. For hours. In Eastern Oregon. Unable to pick up a single radio station. I honestly didn't realize that I knew multiple verses to "O Susanna" or that there were words to the song that the General Lee used for a horn on the Dukes of Hazard. "O, I wish I was in the land of cotton, Old times there are not forgotten, Look away! Look away! Look away! Dixie Land..."

NASA could solve all of their problems with the space shuttle's insulation if they'd simply visit a single misadventure in my kitchen. I discovered that substituting the wrong cheeses in a simple homemade macaroni and cheese recipe will unlock the alchemical properties of dairy products. Mozzarella, a seemingly innocent food that is most frequently eaten by my children in the form of "string cheese," takes on the consistency of a tennis shoe's sole when mixed with milk and other cheeses over heat. If allowed to dry in the same pot that was used to melt it, the cheese suddenly is viable in an entire range of applications. Holding the shuttle's insulation on during liftoff would be one obvious use. Creating slightly edible hazardous weather survival gear would be another. Completely destroying an SOS green scrub pad while attempting to remove the transformed cheese from the original pot, even after a night of soaking in soapy water, would be an obvious third option.

No matter how magnificent the scale of a life-sized replica of Stonehenge may be, no matter how majestic the commanding view of the Columbia Gorge is from said monument, the children will most remember you stopping the car on the way home and leading them out into an abandoned meadow to catch grasshoppers.

Never eat pizza at a place called, "Spooky's." There's a reason it's called that. I believe it was named for the sounds your stomach makes once you're back on the road.

Riding for almost five hundred miles with an ex-long haul trucker in your passenger's seat will teach you that there is a hidden life to the highway. You'll discover that danger lurks around every corner, that those straps holding that load of pipes onto the trailer are only wiggling because the load is unstable and that, in hot weather, the lug nuts on trucks can shoot off with enough velocity that they can pass right through your car. The metal parts of your car. You'll also learn that a certain percentage of truckers drive naked, that all sorts of things happen way up in that cab where you can't see them, and that if you wait three days to fill up your truck, the five dollar shower at the truck stop is free of charge.

If the woman ringing up your geeky books talks endlessly about the Tesla documentary she saw on PBS, but immediately shuts up when your female friend that had accompanied you to the bookstore walks up to you, that means she was flirting. Even I figured out that one.

The best business sign seen during the series of road trips? "J. Arlie Bryant, Inc. - Portable Crushing." I'm not sure what it is, but someone is obviously living out their childhood dream.

If you're driving through the countryside and the radio commercial starts with, "For your next party or slaughtering event," turn around. You've already gone too far.

Don't try talking with a southern accent, no matter how "small town" the place is you're driving through. It's really, really hard to stop once you start. Doubly so if you were already tired when you began.

The best moment of the week came while driving back from Stonehenge in the middle of the night. We were in the Columbia Gorge and one of the few towns in the area (I believe it was The Dalles) had just pulled into sight. There it was, a thousand tiny lights twinkling in the darkness. From the backseat of the car, Gavin's voice whispered in awe, "Moira, isn't the city beautiful?" To which she replied in an equally hushed voice, "Don't touch me."

1 comment:

  1. I love this Post it reminds me of a time capsule. I love going back and looking at things that I have written in the past. Sometimes you fine great moments in time like your post.