Thursday, May 26, 2005

Road trip

I'm currently enjoying a short layover in Portland, Oregon, before I make my major foray southward. Here's a quick review of how things have gone thus far:

Day one
From: Chicago, IL (departed 11:30 am)
To: Minneapolis, MN (arrived 9 pm)
Distance: 400 miles

1- Went to the bathroom and picked up some Red Bull (just over the Illinois-Wisconsin border)
2- Visited with my former penpal in Madison, WI for awhile, walking over to the terrace on the lake and enjoying gorgeous weather (she had beer, I had an iced mocha).
2.5- Less than an hour out of Madison, pulled over by a cop for going 81 in a 65. I was cooperative, apologetic, and--the key--a bit tearful, and he had a change of heart and gave me a warning instead. Score.
3- Another pit stop to get some gas. Seems my truck's gas tank holds quite a bit more than does the one in my Jeep.

Lessons learned:
1. Tears work
2. So does espresso (for staying alert, not for getting out of tickets... well, that's an experiment I have yet to try, anyway)
3. Trucker's arm is tres sexy (but wear sunscreen next time, just for the hell of it)
4. Can drive and look at maps at the same time

Day two
From: Minneapolis, MN (departed 1:30 pm)
To: Dickinson, ND (arrived 11:30 pm)
Distance: 550 miles

1- Suddenly looked down and noticed the fuel indicator pointing at E. Oh shit. Filled up the tank and almost fell over when I saw the price. (eastern Minnesota)
2- Fargo, ND: just thought I'd have a look around. It's a cute town. Favorite part: the six protesters in front of the courthouse protesting the filibuster (realized I haven't really been paying attention to the news recently, as I had no idea what they were referring to)
3- Somewhere west of Fargo, ND: stopped for gas and food. Noticed as I went to remove the gas cap that it wasn't there: I'd left it on the ground at the last gas station (it's not attached to the truck the way it should be, that little rubber string is just hanging there). Had to hunt around for 45 minutes to find a replacement: was forced to make a purchase at Walmart. It doesn't really fit, but at least it stays on.

Lessons learned:
1. Always remember the gas cap (but if you forget and drive 250 miles without it, you'll probably be ok)
2. My truck should have a gas light
3. Somehow taught foot to act as substitute cruise control
4. North Dakota's a lot prettier than I'd expected, all rolling green hills. Also I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets, and there was light in the sky until close to midnight. Sure, complain about the flatness of the landscape, but you don't get sunsets like that in the mountains
5. Forgot to wear sunscreen again

Day three
From: Dickinson, ND (departed 10 am)
To: Missoula, MT (arrived 9 pm)
Distance: 650 miles

1- Painted Valley lookout in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, on the western side of North Dakota. Talk about unexpected after 800 miles of farmland.
2- Billings, MT: it's amazing how much you can see of a town while you're looking around for a Taco Bell.
3- Livingston, MT: cute little town at the northern entrance to Yellowstone. One movie theater that shows one movie at 7 pm every night. Made me wish I had the time to stop there and hang around for the night.

Lessons learned:
1. After driving 650 miles, you need a beer.
2. Or two.
3. I had one of the best burgers I've ever had at a bar in Missoula: my theory is that it's because they'd killed the cow that morning (I passed a few cows during my drive through Montana).

Day four
From: Missoula, MT (departed 9:30 am after a stop at the first Starbucks I'd seen in awhile)
To: Portland, OR (arrived 7:30 pm)
Distance: 550 miles

1- Took a picture of the Welcome to Idaho sign, because I've never seen one so dramatic. Most such signs are on a bit of straight road and look pretty unimpressive, but this one was next to a road that curves away along the side of a mountain, so behind the sign there's a steep drop-off and then trees and mountains on the far side of the canyon. You feel like entering Idaho actually means you'll be in a different place, not just ten feet away from where you are.
2- Wallace, ID: Another cute little mountain town.
3- Spokane, WA: stopped at Gonzaga to buy Brendan and Becky's wedding present (just kidding, Becky), then hunted around for another Taco Bell (bonus #1 of driving alone: there's no one around to get pissed off when I go out of my way to find Taco Bell... two days in a row) and then another Starbucks (I need that caffeine, and soda just isn't a reliable source).
4- Connell, WA: Now that's a one-horse town. The supermarket was slightly larger than a 7-Eleven.

Lessons learned:
1. Idaho is freaking spectacular up there: Coeur d'Alene was so beautiful I don't think I shut my mouth the entire time I was driving around it.
2. And then I entered Washington. The only dull stretch of my entire trip.
3. Thankfully, as soon as I got to Oregon I was driving along the Columbia River, which eventually became gorgeous (there were even waterfalls, and I loves me a good waterfall).
4. Beer is really good after only 550 miles of driving, too.

Tomorrow I head out for San Francisco, which will be another long day, Santa Cruz the day after that (kind of an easy day, that one), and then home to Los Angeles and my new apartment on Sunday. Where I'll have to say goodbye to Patty "The Badass" Penske truck. But not yet.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Everything is falling into place

So, I'm about to take another week and a half hiatus from blogging, as I leave tomorrow for Chicago and my last chance at travel for awhile. It's gonna be awesome. I'm flying to Chicago via Southwest, after which flight I will definitely need a friggin' drink (long Southwest flights make me want to claw my eyes out... I was totally spoiled by all those recent international flights). Thankfully, as soon as I get in, I'm going straight to a bar to meet a few friends. Thursday and Friday will be more of the same, plus breaking into my old apartment to take inventory of what's still in a condition to be worth bringing back to LA and hopefully packing said items. And when I say 'breaking in,' I mean 'walking through the unlocked back door'--it was locked maybe twice the entire time I lived in that apartment and both times I was blamed for the fact that my roommate had to crawl in through the window next to the door. Saturday I pick up the truck I rented from Penske (my ultra-cool yellow 'Ske and me are going to take this country by storm) and load it up with the help of whatever poor soul I conned into agreeing to do this for free. Saturday night, more alcohol-aided meet-and-greet, and then Sunday morning I head out going north. Hopefully I won't be too hung over.

First stop: Madison, Wisconsin, and lunch with the girl who was my pen pal growing up who I haven't seen since the last time I was in Madison, about two years ago. After lunch it's off to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I'm staying with a girl I knew in grad school and her husband: very much looking forward to seeing them as well, as they have the distinction of being two of the most cheerful people I've ever met.

And after I leave St. Paul: I drive for three days straight across Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington to Portland, Oregon. I hear it's beautiful country, and hopefully I'll find a couple of cute podunk towns in which to spend the night (unlikely off an interstate highway... will I get up the courage to leave the certainty of Taco Bell behind? All this and more in my next post!). It's going to be a long three days, though. Then visiting friends and family in Portland for a day or two, then down to San Francisco (another long drive) to visit more friends that I haven't and won't see for awhile, and finally home to Los Angeles a week after I left Chicago. And once I get there, I...

...wait for it... moving into my new apartment! That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I will be living in an apartment reasonably close to civilization, rather than at the end of a mile of winding road. When I give people directions, it will take less than 30 seconds! And I won't be giving up any of the comforts of home: free parking, check. Hot tub, check. Balcony, check. Deck to lie out on, check check (this place has a rooftop deck, so it's possible to get sun for more than an hour and a half each day). Own bathroom, check. Dishwasher, check. Close to a decent route to the valley (so I can commute to work without too much hassle), check. All for a very reasonable rent in West Hollywood, between Sunset and Santa Monica. And I'll have all my things back from Chicago: my clothes, my DVD's (I've really missed my DVD's), my duvet, my couch, my papasan chair. I feel a sigh of contentment coming on just thinking about it.

So where did I find this gem of an apartment? How? Who was I sleeping with? By complete coincidence, I was talking about my new job and the start date (June 1) while I was at work at Starbucks a week ago, and one of the people I was working with asked if I had a place to live, as she was going to have a half-empty apartment on her hand starting June 1. (I wasn't sleeping with her, as it happens.) It started off as a joke, but the more we talked about it, the more we liked the idea of me moving in. I came by and had a look, loved it, did a few financial calculations to determine if I could actually afford it, and we shook on it a couple days later. Bonus: I have all this friggin' furniture and she has none, so as soon as I arrive in LA, I have somewhere to put everything.

So now I have the job, the apartment... all I need is a new car to complete the material trifecta. Y'know, I was approached recently by someone who wanted to buy mine...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Happy (Belated) Cinco de Mayo

I'm not sure I've ever paid any attention to this particular reason to drink, as school generally prevented it, but it didn't this year, by God, and so I had big plans involving lots of margaritas and nachos.

And then there's what I actually did: saw Better Than Ezra perform (that's number four) at the Roxy on Sunset, and as expected, they totally rocked. You know it's been a good concert when you're hoarse and dripping sweat 3 feet from a stage where an audience member is up there with the band banging the shit out of a cowbell (and totally kicking ass, too). And the opening band, Ingram Hill, was damn good as well. And then I went home and watched the O.C. episodes that I'd taped. With a few snacks from Taco Bell. Mmm.

I've had birthdays that weren't half as good.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sunday night TV rocks

Family Guy:
I had to bottle up the laughter so I could hear what came next. I think there were tears.

American Dad:
Also damn funny, but would be better if it wasn't, like, right after Family Guy. Drawing comparisons is inevitable and it was distracting.

Whole27: Seven (Eight?) Months Later

Breakfast this morning was cinnamon rolls. In fairness, I'm sick right now with something resembling that monster flu--hopefully it...