Thursday, 15 October 2009

A Westward Expansion

Friends asked me to please blog my drive from St. Louis to my new (temporary) home in Huntington Beach, CA, so forgive me for interrupting my usual commentary with this ridiculousness. I didn't want to start a new blog for this foolishness.

Day 1 (StL through Amarillo, TX)

The trip began innocently enough. The weather was 45 degrees F and cloudy as I and the loaded-down Jag embarked on our journey. Fully vetted, the Jag roared down the road as I sniffled, partly because of the cold that had attacked my sinuses over recent days, and partly because of the way my dog looked at me as I backed out of the doorway that day. "I'm crying over a dog," I chided myself, knowing how ridiculous this would sound relaying it to others. Then again, those who have seen this dog know how she has that way of looking, all adoring and innocent and trusting...ugh, it is TOO much!
MO started to mist a bit, about an hour out. By then, all signs of moisture on the inside of the vehicle had left. I was hard tacked on the open road. My wanderlust had kicked in, and I could not WAIT to get to another state!
The further West in Missouri one goes, the weirder it gets. Yes, it's on the Bible Belt, so there are a lot of Jesus billboards. One sign implored people to attend the "church of your choice" this Sunday. Who is paying for that one?
Of course, next to the church and Jesus signs, there are signs for guns and ammo warehouses. Guns, guns, guns! As far as the eye can see! Down the way from the firearms, pro-life and Jesus billboards are the ever-present "Adult Video" supercenters. Oh, Missouri, you are a conundrum!
Suddenly the rain came down in big splats, which the weighted-down vehicle handled well, until we hit mildly flooded roads outside of Springfield. Orange road sign flashed: "Road closed ahead. All traffic must exit at 64." Greeaaattt. Then, I hit what we French like to call, the "bouchon."
We crawled down the road so slowly that I was sure that the dead possum I'd seen a while back could have moved faster. Even off the highway on the exit ramp and down the main road, the pace was excruciating. The diverted highway traffic snaked through Springfield, and finally I found myself back on the highway, slightly annoyed, but no worse for the wear.
By the time that I FINALLY got out of Missouri and into Oklahoma, I was more than ready. OK isn't much better than MO, I must say. It is just as flat and there are just as many non-noteworthy cow fields there as in my home state. However, the slight change in the look of the fields, accented by red brush plants, gave the scenery a more Southwesterly feel.
Like a starving artist, I ate up the scenery, trying to figure out what I'd do with it later in sitting down and writing. Wide open plains, cattle, brush...aaaand that was it, pretty much. Not much fodder for amazing writing. Wait, they wrote an award-winning musical production about this state! However, the wavin' wheat was gone, and the winds were muggy and still on account of the rain. I guessed that I belonged to the land, so long as it would let me go after I crossed state lines.
"Don't stay too long in Texas," my friend, Robb, had said, semi-jokingly. I ended up staying the night in Amarillo, mostly because I feared that I would die if I went any further that night.
I had already decided to bypass staying in Oklahoma City because, after taking a "Stacker" pill, after feeling drowsy that afternoon (I hadn't had a full night's sleep at all Friday through Tuesday), I was still bright-eyed and full steam. However, as night's pitch black drapery fell across the landscape, the misty rain that had been drizzling all damn day created patches of pea soupey fog in the middle of Nowheresville, TX.
Images of Ed Gein and his family flashing through my head as my eyes tried to make heads or tails of the blackness, I sought the comfort of the lights of a well-lit cattle semi. I hugged the guy's tail all 200 miles to Amarillo. Trucks make great lighthouses in the fog, rain, snow and mist--especially the ones with the lights that go all the way up the sides.
About 30 miles outside of Amarillo, we encountered a flipped truck, flames shooting from its underside. The smoke added to the fog that blanketed the highway. You could smell the thing burning for miles. The driver might have been pulled from the wreck, but he was clearly injured. Ten miles or so up the road, I saw the ambulance screaming down the highway on the other side. It must be awful to be in a wreck out in the middle of nowhere, where the nearest hospital is miles and miles away. Terrible. I hoped that the guy was okay.
Once in Amarillo, I found the closest, decent-looking inn in town. My father had insisted that I try to find a hotel in favor of a motel, which I guess that this place was. Baymont Inn. It wasn't too shabby looking, inside or out.
By the time I pulled up, I had been holding my bladder for way too long. I ran inside.
"Can I help you?" The girl at the front desk looked up to ask.
"Yes-I need to book a room for the night, but first, do you have a restroom I could use?" I shot her a plaintive look as I said this.
She pointed me to the public pee spot. I looked in the mirror after I relieved myself and saw that both of my eyes were black underneath. "Ugh. I look like death. This woman probably thinks I'm some sort of drug addict," I thought as I examined my pale, makeup-less face and washed my hands.
I came back and booked the room, trying to throw out light-hearted, jovial comments, which this humorless woman was not quite receiving. She gave me my room keys and pointed me to the parking area.
I parked and lugged a few things to the outer door, which, she said, would open with my key. It did not. I looped around to the front desk again and she told me that the door was not always mechanically reliable, and to come through the inside. Yippeedee. I went through the inside corridor, found my room, and tried my key. No dice. I tried again. Red light. The third time, the door flashed green and the lock popped open. Ahh, finally! Respite! Sanctuary! Re...what was this? A neat little row of suitcases propped on the couch? A laptop on the desk? Someone's been sleeping in my bed! My heart pounded for fear that the occupant was still somehow occupying the room, perhaps hiding in a closet or something. I backed out slowly and headed back to the front desk.
"Was there someone in that room?" The woman at the front desk drawled.
"Yeeesss..." How did she know?
"I was afraid of that. I switched someone to that room just a little bit ago, but I assigned him the wrong room in the computer." She explained. "It's a good thing that he wasn't in there. I would have been in big trouble!"
She drawled her statement with such a lack of intensity, I worried if she really understood the gravity of her mistake. She should thank her lucky stars that she had goofed on good-natured (albeit drained) me. And that the guy hadn't been in there. Naked. *shudder to think*
Finally, I found my bed and a good night's rest. A hot scrambled egg and biscuit breakfast had me up and ready to scramble for the Texas border. Not before stopping at a fill station and discovering that, in Texas, both pickup trucks and mullets will never go out of style.

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