Day Five

Day Five

Day Five: Sunday, May 12th 2019 

 

Amarillo, TX to Gallup, NM: 424 miles. 

 

Time out: checked out of The Big Texan around 5:30 AM CST 

Time in: checked into El Rancho around 6:00 PM MST 

 

I forgot all about the Cadillac Ranch, and I forgot all about the time change. Had I remembered the later, I might have remembered the former. But now I just have to come back… 

 

Still dark when I blasted out of Amarillo. I saw the sun rise behind me over the Panhandle. And even though it was closed, I hit Mission I: The Midpoint Café in Adrian. No ugly crust pie for me today, but I got something I could never buy: I stood at the geographic center point of Route 66 in the still Texas dawn, nobody around for miles. The tangibility of this journey, the tangibility of the America I know and the America I don’t know really hit me here. And the sense of accomplishment really hit home as well. I had made 1,139 miles by myself: a self-contained unit basically dead-reckoning my way across the country. I could make the next 1,139 miles… 

 

I thought of myself at 26, crippled with depression, the demon screams howling (WHAT IF I FAIL?!?), wondering how people got insurance and afforded furniture. I thought of myself at 29, hearing my band on the radio. I thought of myself at 43 earning my BA after twenty years. And I thought of myself at 46: a homeowner of 14 years with a lakefront Maine camp, a permanent job and two paid-off cars, standing at the center line of Route 66. I thought of the Bob Mould line in the Sugar song “Hoover Dam”. 

 

Standin’ on the edge of the Hoover Dam 

I’m on the center line, right between two states of mine 

 

And then I thought I might start crying and/or shivering, so I got back into Rose and cranked the heat... 

 

Back on the road, headed for Mission II: Tucumcari. I crossed the border into New Mexico, the rising sun glinting off of 18-wheelers, causing them to seemingly burst into flames on the open highway. The feel of the Southwest getting stronger every mile. Eventually on the left I saw Tucumcari Mountain come into view, and with that I had put myself in another image that had long been in my head. The mountain guided me into town, and suddenly I was on the strip… 

 

Well, let me say up front that there ain’t much to Tucumcari, New Mexico on a Sunday morning. But I could feel what it once was, and what it could be again.  

 

Tucumcari Tonight! That’s the song and the slogan of Hotel Row. The Blue Swallow, Motel Safari, The Pony Soldier, The Palomino, The Apache, The Aztec... they’re all still there in one form or another. Nothing is left of The Pony Solder but the sign, but that’s enough. The Safari has been restored, as has The Blue Swallow, and both are magnificent.  TeePee (or is it TePee?) Curios is still going strong. Standing on the strip of a chill Sunday morning, it’s hard to envision what Old Tucumcari was like, but step back and let the frame develop a bit, and it’s all there. It wasn’t quite what I had imagined: I saw a lot more dust in my mental image, and naturally a whole lot more people. But it appears that Tucumcari is holding her own, rolling with the changes and not close to dead, unlike far too many towns that have been decimated by Wal*Mart and Chili’s and the other detritus of our American nodes.  

 

On to Albuquerque! First, fuel and caffeine (same thing, really) at the Pilot station in Santa Rosa. As I was heading back to Rose, I made a new friend: a precious gray kitten! It wandered over and reared back for scritches, which I was only too happy to provide. I was worried about the poor thing, so I tried to grab it to bring inside and see if anyone was taking care of it, but no soap. I went back in and asked, and the clerk said it was fine, well fed and looked after. I came back out for a few more scritches and said goodbye, sad to not have my new friend along for the rest of the way. 

 

Next up: an ADD stop at Clines Corner. This 24/7 travel center has been open in its namesake town since 1934. Still going! In addition to the requisite Subway, the gift shop had tons of homemade fudge, chili sauce and other wares. Refreshing to see such unique fare: localism ain’t dead yet. 

 

Here I saw a guy that I saw at the Pilot station in Santa Rosa, a mere hour earlier, and it really hit me how connected we all are on our journeys. We all have different destinations and goals and plans, but we’re all on the journey to somewhere together. Our paths cross and diverge, but we’re all together in our America: we share the roads and we share the land (cue up The Guess Who!). I didn’t see the guy again, and I’ll never know his story. But it was nice to recognize a fellow traveler along the way, and I had plenty of contemplation fuel for the hump to Albuquerque. 

 

Albuquerque: I said I was meeting a friend, but I was actually meeting my wife Andrea’s friend Alex, although we had been connected via the almighty Facebook for a while. They met via Sherlock fandom and attended several Sherlock-cons together. But now I was meeting her for lunch in person. No pressure! Because I so royally screwed up the timing, I arrived in Albuquerque somewhere around 10:00 AM (and yes, I missed The Musical Road of Tijeras in the process: oh well), thus Alex was not quite ready yet. She guided me to the Owl Café, and I spend a good 45 minutes people-watching the Mother’s Day crowd waiting. Great: one of my favorite activities. 

 

Alex is living with cancer, and my heart has gone out to her from a distance, but now we were going to hang in person and in real-time. I knew she had a good gallows humor similar to mine, so I wasn’t too worried about saying anything untoward, but still… She arrived, we met, hugged profusely, and settled in for grub, and I instantly felt at home with a kindred spirit. Got my first taste of New Mexico green chili sauce with beans, and I was loving it. I ordered a small cup of the tortilla soup with green sauce (I had had a fine-but-whatever breakfast of French toast and sausage at Annie’s in Santa Rosa, thus wasn’t desperately hungry), and the conversation began in earnest. And it didn’t stop for the next three-plus hours.  

 

Alex suggested I leave Rose at The Owl, and she drove me around Albuquerque. We passed by the University of New Mexico campus, and I recognized it from a shoot-out on an episode of COPS. Alex was not surprised in the least. She gave me a spin, then we headed for the Sandia Peak Tramway. When we got there, the tram was shut down due to a lightning threat, but after a few minutes the all-clear was given, and we queued up for the ride. 

 

The Tramway is an absolutely amazing experience: a 2.7 mile ride up the Sandia mountain chain, rising to 10,378’ atop Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest. The view of Albuquerque et al is stunning, and I will remember this jaunt evermore, especially since I wasn’t planning for it. Life falls out of the sky... 

 

One of the guiding tenants of my life is to laugh at what scares me. This gives me power over the fear and allows me to be human while I deal. I have utilized this defense against my depression/anxiety for years. I was so grateful that Alex gets that, and there were many moments of gallows humor along the way (“Oh, just because you have CANCER you think you can…” “Why are we slacking? You got CANCER or something?!?”). I don’t for a second mean to suggest that this approach will work for everyone, but it worked for us, and I am grateful for that. We threw out Simpson’s references and sang choruses from Depeche Mode, “My Little Buttercup” from The Three Amigos and “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers and there was a shit-ton of (my term, but feel free to use it) hyperventilaughing along the way.  

 

I met a friend I care for deeply, and we connected in real-time. There are few greater gifts than that. 

 

On to Gallup! Alex described Amarillo and Gallup as the two most boring towns in the world, and I can see where she was coming from. But I was anticipating down-time at both spots, so whatever. I bailed on Albuquerque, listening to the NBA playoffs, and balled the jack on I-40. The feel of the West grew stronger and stronger: the Sandia chain, Mt. Taylor and the Chuska Range on the right, the Zuni Mountains on the left, mesas and steppes along the highway like I’ve never seen before. This was not my day-to-day world, at all, and I welcomed the change. Fresh view, fresh perspective, a new slant. Two plus hours later I was in Gallup. 

 

I couldn’t wait to get to the El Rancho Hotel. It was built in 1937 by the brother of D.W. Griffith (who is always referred to as “the brother of D.W. Griffith”, never by name: perhaps nobody wants to draw any more attention to the Klan-loving racist who shit out The Birth of a Nation then necessary, and I certainly applaud that choice) as a production base for all the Westerns being filmed in the area. Employees were trained by the famed Fred Harvey company, and the hotel boomed until... wait for it... I-40 opened and syphoned traffic away from Route 66, and the hotel fell into disrepair. Armand Ortega, patriarch of Ortega National Parks LLC, the family operation that runs concessions and spearheads preservation efforts at myriad national parks, bought the property and restored it to its former glory. Guests throughout the hotel’s storied history include Lauren Bacal, Spencer Tracy, Jackie Cooper, John Wayne and Claude Akins. 

 

I must say up front that I am a fan of Claude Akins.  

 

When I was a kid one of my favorite shows was The Misadventures of Sherriff Lobo. When we visited Orlando I always wanted to eat at Perkin’s Restaurant because I was sure that Deputy Perkins (Miles Watson) ran the joint and he and Lobo would be there. I love Lobo and Claude Akins and his long career in Hollywood with the likes of Dino, The Duke and Sinatra and Donna Reed (From Here to Eternity, fachrissakes!).  

 

When I checked into El Rancho Hotel and got to floor three, I noticed that in addition to a plaque with the room number, there was a plaque with who stayed in said room. And I almost thought I got the room Claude Akins stayed in and my heart sank. Why? Because all I could think of was The Simpson’s episode where The Krusty the Clown show is cancelled.  

 

Man 1: Krusty, we're from the network. Uh, we have some bad news: I'm 
afraid your show's been canceled. 
Krusty: Oh, I thought this would happen. I just hope you replace me 
with something as educational and uplifting as I tried to be. 
Man 2: Actually, it's a hemorrhoid infomercial starring Claude Akins

Krusty: Can I play hemorrhoid sufferer number one? Ooh! Oh, that 
hurts! Ow! Oh, is there no relief? 
Man 1: I don't think so. [they start to walk off] 
Krusty: How about one of the "after" guys? Aah. Ohh, that's better. I 
can ride a bike again! 
Man 1: Sorry. 

 

So, when I saw Claude Akins on my door, I thought to myself (insert Luke Skywalker voiceover here) NOOOOOOOOO!!!! 

 

As it turns out, I was on the wrong side of the hall, and I got the Rita Hayworth room. So much for Lobo and his apocryphal ‘roids! 

 

I spend a few minutes rewinding Pal Joey in my mind, then headed downstairs for the restaurant. It was loaded with obvious Route 66 warriors, and I loved being in their company, even without interaction (not really feasible, me being solo at a four-top, not that I was really seeking it out by this point). I ordered The Duke’s Favorite margarita and the Armand Ortega (sliced sirloin on flour tortilla with chili pequin or green chili… I went “Christmas” and ordered the red and green chili). Steak two nights in a row. Only on vacation. I have never been able to roll a burrito, but delicious is delicious regardless of form, and I was loving my New Mexican Christmas bastardizations.  

 

From there I strolled into the 49’er lounge, and had a few while watching John Lester pitch at Wrigley. It was a far cry from Errol Flynn’s days, but it was still great to be there. Things happened here. Spanish language pop on the juke, no interaction, but still, memorable. Not often one can say they’ve been in the same room as Bogart. 

 

I left and spent a few minutes walking around the lobby, snapping pics of signed 8x10s from Bogie, Ava, William Bendix, Lee Marvin, Jimmy Stewart, et al, and called it a night. Back to the room where Rita Hayworth once slept. I felt quite pleasant with that ghost in my room. And presumable, no spectral hemorrhoids.  

Battles

Battles 

I am battling my demons. Hello Depression and Anxiety, my old friends. 

I have lived with Depression and Anxiety/OCD my whole life. I’m drastically better than in my 20s, when the demons had such a stranglehold on me that I could hardly get out of bed and the thought of being around people was too much agony to bear.  

I’ve spent years on the couch, indulged in my share of recreational self-medication and kept several major pharmaceutical corporations in business. I’ve conquered all this and come to a place of stability and some serenity. 

I live with (I always say “live with” rather than “struggle with” or “suffer from”: gives me a bit more control over my own narrative) Depression, Anxiety, mild OCD and HSP (Highly Sensitive Person trait). In my twenties, before I was diagnosed, these forces had an utter stranglehold over me. My depression kept me incapacitated for long stretches at a time. My anxiety and HSP made me a captive to my own brain. 

HSP means I think deeply and I feel deeply. For most people, seeing a story of a two-car fatal between two strangers might make them sad for a few minutes, then they move on. For me, I think about the people involved and the people left behind. Somebody lost a mother/daughter/wife//father/son/husband. What are they going through? Was the accident quick and painless or did the victims suffer? I think deeply on these things. I can’t do violent movies, because I feel the pain and terror of someone being slashed or shot in a convenience store. I kinda don’t like that feeling. 

HSP means I’m hyper-aware of my senses and get overwhelmed easily in crowded rooms, social situations, etc. If you see me making frequent trips to the loo or somewhere else private, I’m just finding my air pockets: getting a few minutes alone to regroup and re-center. It means I intuit and tap into the mood of others. If I’m in a room with ten people and one is going through something rough, I instantly tap into that vibe and want to help.  

Worst of all, HSP means I overthink everything. 

I have the greatest friends and family in the world and all I ever want is to take care of them all and save the world, no matter that I can’t. I reach out to friends even if I don’t have to, and then I worry that I’ve reached out too much. I crack a joke and then worry that it was taken the wrong way. I take a comment at face value and spiral into a worry cycle, fearing that everyone sees me in the negative light I suddenly see myself.  

I commit the most minor social faux pas, and I am instantly convinced that this is a fatal error, that the person I transgressed against will never forgive me and I will never recover. I hang myself on the cross, and the pain and shame becomes an all-consuming fog, shrouding my every waking moment. Meanwhile the other person has forgotten my minor fuck-up by lunch, but weeks/months later I still kick myself for ruining everything. Honestly, I don’t know how I was functional for large stretches of my 20s. Often I wasn’t. 

I overthink, and I overshare. I overshare and I over apologize. People have moved away from me because of my HSP, and that is an incredibly painful cross to bear. All I ever want to do is to care for people and bring people together: knowing that I have made people uncomfortable, that I have made people think I’m a neurotic freak who they don’t want to be around, is a horrible truth. I get it, and I accept it. I can’t undo it, but I can recognize it and try like fucking hell to not do this to others. And I’m getting better at it. With practice, after hard lessons learned. 

The thing about depression is that when you’re in the worst of it, you don’t see how bad it is. You sense it, but until you can pull out of it, you’re too deep into it to see how overblown it is: how all the things you panic about and overshare and over-apologize for aren’t worth oversharing and over-apologizing for. Now that I’m pulling back from this depression, I see how bad it got, and how much I overcompensated. This is a horrible realization, and all I can do is battle the shame and try to be gentle with myself (this is the Buddhist concept of Matri: unconditional friendliness toward ourselves. I’m working on it.).  

I’m drastically better at pulling myself back from these spirals, but in the aftermath of the hole I fell in over these last few years, the damage done, the black depression that has followed, it’s been bad again. And that’s not living. 

I wear my sometimes-suspect mental wiring on my sleeve as a badge of honor. I have lived with some shit that many people could never handle. And I’ve battled and (mostly) won. It comes from being honest with myself and getting to work on what I want to change about myself. It comes from having a fierce self-preservation streak and the gifted ability to step back and say, “no, this is fucked up: we’re not doing this anymore.” And, it comes from having such a great support system in place.  

I’ve struggled and I’ve survived. Cue up Lou Gehrig: “Today, I consider myself, the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” 

Day Four

Day Four

Day Four: Saturday, May 11th 2019 

 

Tulsa, OK to Amarillo, TX: 365 miles. 

 

Time out: checked out of the Hotel Campbell around 6:30 AM CST 

Time in: checked into The Big Texan around 3:00 PM CST 

 

Gray and rain heading out of Tulsa, befitting my mood about leaving this fine town. But Texas was calling: never been, always wanted to. I also knew that at some point along the way today I would be leaving the East behind, spiritually and physically, and setting into the West. My mind buzzed wondering where that change would occur. Got a delightful French press from 918 Coffee, got back on I-44, now the Turner Turnpike, and headed for OK City. 

 

Mission I: Pop’s Soda Ranch in Arcadia. I think it was somewhere around Bristow or Depew that I pulled back onto the Mother Road, and I could feel things changing juuust a bit. Lush, verdant farmland in the rain, but not the New England sugar maples I’m used to: elms and black walnut instead. Just enough of a shift to be tangible. I cruised past the famous Arcadia Round Barn and pulled into Pop’s past that magnificent 66’ neon soda bottle sign.  

 

My God, what a caffeinated wonderland. Over 700 varieties from around the world, all beautifully lined up in marching formation against the angled glass windows and the rain. Space-age fuel. I got an orange Nehi (do they even make Nehi anymore?!?) and a tee, and yes, I even got gas and could have gotten breakfast. 

 

I had thought of taking a little time for Oklahoma City, at least the monument at the Federal Building, where Timothy McVeigh committed his hideous act of cold-blooded murder, but decided it would be too heavy emotionally. Plus, rain. I saw some of the OK City skyline through the lowering fog and murk, listening to Cards great Ozzie Smith guesting on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! on NPR, got a water and “christened” the facilities at a 7-11, and kept on.  

 

Where would the West begin? El Reno, Oklahoma, as it turns out. I pulled off into a Love’s, got a Dr. Pepper with a shot of cherry, and took a few minutes by a buffalo statue with painted head-dress to soak it in. Much more prairie land than trees here, the land feeling much more open and spread out, half the stations in Spanish all of a sudden. It wasn’t a topographical light switch going off, but it was definitely a topographical dimmer switch. And with that I was on the other side… 

 

Mission II: The National Route 66 Museum in Elk City. Which, as it turns out, was the “wrong” museum! I was thinking of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, but Andrea sent me a link to the National, and I ended up there instead. Hey, just another reason to go back to Oklahoma! And the National museum was fine: felt like the kind of museum you love going to on school field trips as a kid. Tons of classic rides (the ’48 Indian Chief was especially choice), and a fun film (fun save for the Kung-Fu Theater-style synch-lag between film and dialog, that is). A pleasant diversion, and a lovely good-bye to a new favorite state. 

 

I honestly felt very proud to be in Oklahoma. Such a proud state of such proud people. Cherokee Nation. Cheyenne and Arapaho, Caddo and Apache. The Trail of Tears. I hope my respect showed and I hope I represented the Sooner State well. 

 

I was absolutely giddy about crossing the border into Texas. I found Moe Bandy’s “I Cheated Me Right Out of You” on the dial as I crossed over for the first time: perfect. Texas is many things, but Texas is more proper with a little honky-tonk on the juke. And there I was on the Panhandle: endless scrub grass and, pleasantly enough, windmills. YES! Clean energy! Glad to see the fossil oligarchs haven’t taken everything quite yet. 

 

Mission III: The U-Drop Inn in Shamrock. Naturally it was CLOSED when I got there (of course, right?), but I made it. Snapped a few pics, sucked in the surprisingly cool air of the Lone Star State and jammed back onto I-40. 

 

Because of the weather and fear of fatigue, and because I was meeting a friend in Albuquerque, I was back-and-forth on Palo Duro. I figured I’d just get to Amarillo and wing it from there. And if I made it, great, and if not, I wasn’t going to kick myself. First time, a taste of what I don’t know, blah blah blah. Checked into The Big Texan in the early afternoon, and I realized that my laundry situation was a bit dire… and that I didn’t pack enough boxers. Back out to find a store, and here I made the brilliant decision to get a burrito at Taco Villa. Yeah, I went to Taco Villa mere hours before gorging at The Big Texan Steakhouse. Not quite like going to McDonald’s before eating at Momofuku, but almost. Plus, I got hot sauce all over my white tee. Brilliant! Got a pack of boxers, back to the hotel and got a Tide Pod (which I did not eat, for the record) in the lobby, headed for the Big Texan coin-op, then I retired to my room. 

 

I was very much in Texas in the room: pine paneling, the Lone Star and steer horns everywhere… yeah, I was digging it. The shape-of-Texas swimming pool was covered over, but I wasn’t going in anyway. And the smell of the steakhouse in the parking lot… drooool. Okay, nothing wrong with a little down-time in the room: that’s part of being on vacation also. 

 

45-minute wait for a table for one, and then I was seated in a booth that would’ve held eight comfortably. This is why I’m not in restaurant management. The kid at the host stand was great: totally earnest and honest. Cowboy hat, Bolo tie, check shirt… looked like he could’ve played for the Houston Toros against the California Bears in the Astrodome in The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. I walked around the gift shop (of course!) while waiting, and almost got turfed in the nuts by kids running amok between the rhinestone skirt racks. Thanks, Junior: you almost got a 16 Oz. stein dropped on your head.  

 

Scene of the Wait I: a bleach-blond mid ‘80s real-estate photo type lady with a Corona in one hand and a Bud Light in the other frantically waiving her party down (with her Corona hand). “They cain’t seat us unless our full party’s here!”  

Scene of the Wait II: a scrawny Baahstin kid in a backwards Bruins hat and a full-sweat walked past shaking his head. Mid ‘80s real-estate photo type lady: “Did y’all finish?” Baahstin: “Naah, that was wicked tough!” Another 72 Oz. Steak Challenge Fail. 

 

I went with the 16 Oz. bone-in (“The Duke’s Cut”), beefsteak tomato and red onions and Texas rice on the side: it was absolutely delicious, and I had leftovers for breakfast. During dinner an old cowpoke with a git-tar and one with a fiddle walked around singing bluegrass, which was adorable and perfect. And I was once again one of the only souls in the joint not wearing a cowboy hat. 2,062 miles from home, totally out of my element and loving life. 

 

That’s it for Amarillo. I’m sure it’s a great town, and I’ll get back to it, as I will for sure get back to the rest of Texas. But it was a great taste, and I can now never again say that I’ve never been to Texas. And I’m very happy with that. 

Day Seven

Day Seven

Day Seven: Tuesday, May 15th 2019 

 

Kingman, AZ to Santa Monica, CA: 335 miles. 

 

Time out: checked out of El Trovatore around 7:00 AM MST 

Time in: checked into the Super 8 LAX around 3:30 PM PST 

 

Last day of bust-ass driving. The last stretch. Next stop: Santa Monica, the End of the Trail. I left El Trovatore, hit up Beale Street Brews Coffee Shop, thinking I was in Memphis, and headed for Mission I: Oatman, AZ.  

 

Little did I know that I would be embarking on the most harrowing drive of my life: Sitgreaves Pass.  

 

This pass through a gap in the Black Mountains on the original 66 sits at 3,586’ above sea level, and it is a motherfucker. Especially when you have no idea that it’s coming! I noticed that the speed limit dropped significantly. And then I noticed how close I had come to flying off the side of the goddamn mountain, and by then I was on a gnarly hairpin. And then another, and another and... I slowed down to nothing and, for one of the few times in my life, considered praying. And I noticed occasional mailboxes – people fucking LIVE on this stretch of paved madness! Just...just.... After a seeming eternity, probably about fifteen minutes, I was on the strip in Oatman, waiting for a group of “feral” burros to arrive, and wondering whether it would be better to die in a fiery mountainside car wreck or to be nibbled alive by a jackass. 

 

The front desk clerk at El Trovatore told me that the burros arrive like clockwork around 8:00 AM and leave around 4:30. Got to Oatman around 7:45 and parked, shaking just a bit. Oatman, AZ looks like an abandoned spaghetti Western set. There was one guy mucking out the dirt road and piling the bounty into the back of a Silverado. Well, that’s encouraging! I sat composing myself and counting superfluous apostrophes, wondering how I had found myself at Big Thunder Mountain.  

 

8:00 AM... no burros. 8:10 AM... no burros. 8:15 AM... no burros. The little bastards are late!!  

 

At 8:20 I was just about to bail when I heard an ungodly braying and, a few minutes later, saw a mangy looking gray ass strolling slowing into to town in my rear-view. Okay, then! I won’t hold their disregard for punctuality against them. I drove a little closer and got out, and the one burro, gray/brown and trailing flies, wandered past to get some breakfast. After a few minutes he wandered back over to the general store, stood on the porch for a few minutes, then came over to Rose. I gave a few tentative scritches, and then the son of a bitch tried to get into the car. Hells no! I was NOT about to be carjacked by a burro. I had to give it a little swipe on the face, and eventually he backed off, I counted my blessings (this morning was all about The Lord), jumped in and slammed the door. Good show, Oatman: thanks for the memories.  

 

On to Californ-I-a! 

Aftermath

Aftermath

I can’t believe it’s over.

After four plus months of living with the dream, the dream has become reality. Past tense. Eight states. Over 2,500 miles. Six driving days. And I did it.

The frame is developing slowly. But I can honestly say this was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Can’t wait to do it all over again…

End Game

End Game

God Damn.

It all ends tomorrow.

After so many months of (over)thinking and planning and plotting and dreaming, tomorrow I will hit the Santa Monica Pier. End of the Line. 2,278 miles since last Thursday. By myself. 336 miles tomorrow and it’s all done.

God Damn.

This trip has been the Odyssey of a Lifetime. I can’t even begin to opine on it, but I will and it will all be in the book. All I can say now is that I’m grateful for you all being along.

I’ll have more to say after it all ends tomorrow…

Fourteen Hours

Fourteen Hours

There is nothing else to say. I am home from work, 90% packed and leaving for Chicago and Route 66 at 6:00 AM. The Trip of a Lifetime, and the Memoir of my lifetime, wait for me in the morning…

To Eat

To Eat

Another book excerpt! This is my To Eat chapter, in which I look for great grub along the Mother Road…

To Eat

I come into this trip with only one hard and fast rule: NO chains. But, of course, there are some gray areas in this rule (such is life). For example, Portillo’s Chicago: a chain, yes, but not a chain readily available to me in Maine. Therefore, NO chains…that I can easily access at home. Who says I’m not flexible? Basically, it’s go local and no golden arches.

In my every-day life I try to be more veg than not. For myriad reasons, namely environmental, health and especially humanitarian. I’m not gonna preach: we all need to make our own choices, and who gives a shit what I think anyway. But over the last few years I’ve felt more and more strongly about animal rights. I mean, who am I, especially after crying my way through Babe, to say that I can take a sweet little piggy, have him butchered and cooked for my benefit and turn him into nothing more than a delicious memory and a big deuce presented to my sewer system? Who am I to sign a death warrant to another beautiful living creature? Animals are sentient beings, just like me: they feel fear and pain just like I do, and they deserve the best quality of life possible, just like I do.

But godDAMN: St. Louis Ribs and Texas Steaks and Albuquerque Mexican fare…

I was raised on meat, and I’m not a vegetarian. What can I do?

Like everything in my life, I try to split the difference. I do the best I can to make the best decisions I can. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it could be. That’s what I try for, at least.

At home, I do my best to be meat-benevolent. I personally think that factory farming is barbaric, so I do my best to source my meat carefully, find humane vendors, and avoid the big processing firms. On the road… well, I do my best and try to atone when I get back home.

I mean, godDAMN: St. Louis Ribs and Texas Steaks and Albuquerque Mexican fare…

I’m going to be eating a shit-ton of meat on this trip. And I’m fine with that.

Thus, I want the best of the best local. Thus, my dining list, in the same format as my to-do list.

Illinois

Must

Portillo’s – Chicago

Lou Mitchell’s – Chicago

Ariston Café - Litchfield

Maybe

The Berghoff – Chicago

Lou Malnati’s – Chicago

Portillo’s: Damn, I love me a Chicago Hot Dog. There used to be a Chicago Dogs by my former office, but I got fired and then it closed. So, any opportunity I can get for a dog dragged through the garden, I’m all in. In fact, I would posit that the Chicago Hot Dog may just be the epitome of American foodstuff perfection. It was born of the Depression, when a man having only a nickel for food for an entire day could fill up on a Vienna Beef dog with all his requisite veggies: pickle, tomatoes, sport peppers, onions, neon relish, mustard and celery salt all on a steamed poppy-seed bun. Everything you need in one fell swoop. Deliciousness and historical import.

GOD BLESS YOU, DEPRESSION-ERA HOBOS!!

Lou Malnati’s: Another chain not readily accessible to me, so all bets are off. There’s an Uno’s about an hour away from my house, but Lou Malnati’s is the real deal: Chi deep-dish in Chi. I think there may be a place for this experience. They do have individual sizes…

Hold the goddamn phone: there’s a Giordano’s stand at Wrigley. Sorry, Lou Malnati’s!

The Berghoff: I was recently at a gate at O’Hare across from that branch of the Chicago institution, and I was salivating at the smell wafting across the terminal. Alsatian classics served in the same building since 1898 = one amazing-sounding Chicago experience. Definitely probably.

Lou Mitchell’s: The traditional starting meal for a Route 66 trip, so they say, and who am I to argue tradition? We’ll just have to see about this “World’s Finest Coffee” claim, now won’t we?

Downstate

Downstate Illinois is tough, because there are some serious Route 66 icons that I will likely be bypassing… this time around. Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket in Willowbrook and the Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield (where the Crusty Cur, a.k.a. the Cozy Dog, a.k.a. the Corn Dog was born) are legendary: magnificent American neon beacons to artery-clogging nostalgic greatness. But I’ll be blasting through in the morning hours, and I can’t hit ‘em all.

I definitely need to set aside half an hour for the Ariston Café in Litchfield, though. Years ago, I got a Route 66 Then and Now coffee table book, and something about the photos of the Ariston got me. It just looked like a nice homey joint: great art deco exterior, classic Budweiser neon sign… I imagine wrought-iron and Astroturf, rickety chairs and huge homemade pies. My research since tells me that the Ariston is well renowned for its Baklava. I’m game.

Missouri

Must

Pappy’s Smokehouse – St. Louis

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard – St. Louis

Maybe

Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ – Devil’s Elbow

St. Louis

St. Louis Ribs. Period. I’ve heard good things about Pappy’s Smokehouse on Olive, and it’s not too far off from Busch.  A pre-game sup and walk it off on the way to the stadium.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard: Custard is addictive, and Ted Drewes is world-renowned. I may have to settle for one at Busch, though, as I’ll probably be heading by the original too early in the morning on my way to Tulsa. Sacrifices must be made.

Downstate

Elbow Inn Bar & BBQ. Another joint that got me from that Route 66 Then and Now coffee table book. An old shack next to a classic truss bridge, legendary ‘cue… perfect. It’s the old Munger Moss Café, which dates to 1929. I’m not about to argue with ninety years of deliciousness. My stomach certainly will argue but fuck it: I’m packing Imodium.

Kansas

Must

None

Not enough of Kansas to even think about. On to Oklahoma!

Oklahoma

Must

Wylan’s Ku-Ku Burger – Miami

Ike’s Chili - Tulsa

POPS Soda Ranch - Arcadia

Wylan’s Ku-Ku Burger. Have I mentioned that I’m a sucker for cheesy Americana and great signs? I have? Oh. Well, that crazy classic neon sign with the chefs-hat wearing cuckoo bird sucked me in immediately! And the burgers look like sloppy American perfection, like a Heartland Shake Shack. And tots! Yes!! And it’s three plus hours on from the Elbow Inn. Might be getting a bit hungry again by then…

Ike’s Chili. The same top-secret family recipe since 1908. A small Chili Mac (chili with mac & cheese) for $4.79. Oh yes, we’ll be having a bit of that. I love love LOVE places like this, joints that are institutions beloved by locals for generations. For one night, I want that experience. Get me a bib and get out of my way.

POPS Soda Ranch. I’m not much of a soda drinker, actually, save for the semi-occasional mini (8 Oz. can) ginger ale. If I have two Dr. Peppers in a month, it’s a binge month. I just don’t like the heaviness in my stomach and the feel of battery acid lingering on my teeth. BUT I do love me a unique soda experience (again, nothing I can readily access at home), and POPS has over 700 (sic) varieties, AND one of the greatest signs I’ve ever seen: a 66’ (clever!) neon soda bottle with straw glowing across the plains like the Beacon of Carbonated Freedom. Raise the Bunting!

Texas

Must

The Big Texan Steak Ranch - Amarillo

The Big Texan Steak Ranch. My God…there is no way that I’m doing the 72 Oz. Steak Challenge. Just… nope. One hour to down a 72 Oz. steak, shrimp cocktail, salad with roll and butter and a baked potato. I know everything is bigger in Texas, but…. nope.

Naturally, Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel show Man vs. Food, completed the challenge in 29 minutes. I always had a problem with that show. In an age of such desperate food insecurity for so many Americans, and such draconian cuts in aid to the needy, it seemed distasteful at best to me to glorify such gluttony.

But me ordering up a 12 Oz. max steak for myself is benevolent gluttony, right?

Yes! And damnit, I love American kitsch. That glorious cowboy sign, the giant cow out front, steer heads and lanterns and wagon wheels…oh my! Yeah, I’ll be stopping in and settin’ for a spell. And there’s a hotel on the premises with a Texas-shaped pool. Yeehaw!

New Mexico

Must

None

I don’t really have any specific dining musts in New Mexico, other than authentic Southwestern fare. I plan on keeping an open mind and looking out for mom and pop dives, preferably in strip-malls. I have found across the country that the best food is usually found in a mom and pop dive in a strip-mall. Small hole-in-the-wall family-run joints. That’s where you find family tradition, recipes crafted from motor memory. I want chili sauce and fry-bread. I’ll be looking for big lines, not websites. And the chips (and salsa) will fall where they may. I have no doubt I’ll end up ahead in the game.

Arizona

Must

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In – Seligman

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In. My only must in Arizona. I’ve read about the menu (“Dead Chicken”) and the “pranks” that may greet visitors, and that’s enough for me. Delgadillo’s, you’re on my list.

California

Must

A Dodger Dog

Maybe

In ‘n Out Burger

Dodger Dogs. That’s it. I have dreamed my whole life as a baseball fan of a Dodger Dog at Dodger Stadium. That’s a big check off the old bucket list right there. I’ve heard that they’re not even all that great, but I don’t care. I’ve dreamed of having a Dodger Dog at Dodger Stadium ever since I was collecting Ron Cey and Steve Garvey baseball cards when I was eight. Time to make good on that dream.

No In ‘n Out Burger anywhere close to me, but not a huge priority. If I get my Animal Style on, great: if not, next time. Because there will be a next time.


Next Week

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Next Week

I’ve been saying it since yesterday, since so many businesses count Sunday as the start of the work week, but now I can say it without moving the goalposts around: I am driving Route 66 next week.

Next. Fucking. Week. I am driving Route 66.

83 days ago I booked my flights and hotels and rental. Now there are only seven days to go.

There really isn’t much else to say, and I’m not sure I could even if there were. I just love saying that I am driving Route 66 next week.

Next. Fucking. Week. I am driving Route 66.

Goddamn…

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St. Louis

St. Louis

Another book excerpt! From my To Do chapter.

I’ve seen the Mississippi, but from Minneapolis, not the spiritual epicenter of St. Louis. I’ve read the Diaries of Lewis & Clark and inhaled Ken Burns “Lewis and Clark” and “Thomas Jefferson”, but I’ve never seen where the Corps of Discovery launched their unimaginable journey (okay, it was St. Charles, not St. Louis, but close enough). Westward Expansion, Manifest Destiny, the Cradle of the New America, for the good and the bad. I’ve never touched the silvery skin of Eero Saarinen’s magnificent Gateway Arch, nor taken the tram to the top. Never stood on the steps of the Old Courthouse, where America’s Great Shame, slavery, stained the air. Never had St. Louis ribs in St. Louis.

That changes on this trip.

And I’m finally seeing a game at Busch Stadium.

The St. Louis Cardinals have always held a place in my heart, for good and for bad. By birth I’m a Boston Red Sox lifer, a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation, and the Cards crushed my ancestors in the 1946 and 1967 World Series (we exacted revenge, FINALLY, in 2004, and again in 2013). My dad grew up with Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers, who seemingly never had a chance against Stan The Man Musial and the Redbirds. On clear Maine nights I would tweak the dial and the antenna and get Jack Buck calling the Cards on KMOX St. Louis, and his magnificent voice – like a sack full of gravel – and signature calls (“Go crazy, folks!”) are deep DNA for me.

More broadly, as a lover of history, the Cardinals are a fascinating case study of race relations in America. In 1947, St. Louis was, like many towns across America, confronting issues of race, and the Cardinals were all white. In 1967, St. Louis was, like many towns across America, still confronting issues of race. But, a mere two decades later, the Cardinals were a fiercely integrated team.

1947: only eight teams in the National League, only eight teams in the American League. No teams further west or south than St. Louis. The American League St. Louis Browns were a hapless joke, totally off the radar (they would move to Baltimore in 1952, reborn as the Orioles). The National League St. Louis Cardinals were the original America’s Team. KMOX’s 50,000-watt signal was the most powerful in the country, thus large swaths of America were able to hear Harry Caray, long before he became Mr. Cub on WGN TV Chicago, calling the play-by-play.

The 1947 Cardinals have been broad-brushed as a team of racists. Many of these stories – like that of the team organizing a boycott against Jackie Robinson – have unfortunately been distorted and/or overblown. History is complicated. But there were incidents. Outfielder Enos Slaughter famously spiked Robinson that season, as did catcher Joe Garagiola, who spent his years as a beloved morning fixture on “The Today Show” playing down and changing the storyline of the incident. It was a toxic atmosphere, and the Cardinals were in the middle of it.

But by 1967 the team looked very different. Tim McCarver caught the great pitcher Bob Gibson. Roger Maris shared the outfield with Curt Flood and Orlando “Cha Cha” Cepeda. The Cardinals integrated in 1954, seven years after Brooklyn and five years before the Red Sox. The ’67 Cards were a beloved integrated team, and I can only imagine how far-fetched that might have seemed only twenty years earlier.

That to me is a goddamn great American story.

Downstate

The Ozarks. The Gasconade and the Big Piney. Devil’s Elbow and Hooker Cut. Rolla and Cuba, Joplin and Eureka. Not much really calling me about the rest of Missouri to be honest, but those names brew up a big cup of Americana in my mind. I can’t imagine the beauty of the Ozarks: the vast verdant farmland, the gentle flow of the Gasconade, Osage and Big Piney rivers. I’ve read of Hooker Cut, the massive trench blasted out to widen the 1940s alignment of Rt. 66. I’ve seen before and after photos of the Devil’s Elbow Bridge, and I want to walk it. And maybe a little more BBQ at the adjacent Elbow Inn…

Downstate Missouri looks to be just a pleasant long drive through the Heartland with minimal distractions, and I’m cool with that.


To Stay

To Stay

Another book excerpt! Here’s Chapter 48: To Stay. (My thoughts on lodging)

I’ll be booking rooms for the sake of practicality and expedience in Chicago, St. Louis and LA, but otherwise I plan on winging it. I am but a humble traveler: I’m a Motel 6 guy, and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself in a “suite.” I don’t need a “suite!” Luxury to me is a scalding shower with good water pressure, a decent – not obscene, but decent – thread count and walls thick enough that I can’t hear the couple screwing next door. I’ve never raided a mini-bar, and I don’t need a robe and slippers. I don’t travel to stay at hotels (“Honey, let’s go to the Marriot this year!”): I stay at hotels to travel. I have no doubt I’ll be able to find plenty of budget chains along the way, and I don’t need anything else.


Update: April 22nd, 2019, 7:19 AM: Haay, I lied again! I’ve booked rooms at all stops. I was going to wing it, but there is something to be said about having everything confirmed, especially on a trip where I’m going to be doing a lot of it on the fly. There’s also something to be said for booking at places close to other stuff you want to do. Hence, along with The Inn of Chicago, City Place St. Louis, The Big Texan Steak Ranch Amarillo and the Super 8 LAX, I’ve booked the Hotel Savoy in Tulsa, the El Rancho in Gallup and El Trovatore in Kingman.


The Savoy is perfect: a few blocks from Ike’s Chili, a few blocks from Centennial Park and downtown. It looks like a nice, homey, well-kept place, exposed brick and well-appointed. My research tells me that it’s close to the Tulsa Art Deco Museum: awesome! I love art deco! I hope I have enough time to take in this amazing free museum (and if not I’ll be back). The hotel also has bike rentals. Well, after gorging on chili, what could possibly be better than a bike ride? (Yeah, more Imodium. Well, that too.)


And there’s something to be said for staying at places where stuff happened. El Rancho: oh, the awesome. I’m not a huge connoisseur of Westerns, but I love Hollywood and Americana. Bogart, Bacall and the Duke stayed here. Errol Flynn rode his horse up to the 49er Bar here. A who’s-who of signed 8x10s in the magnificent southwestern lobby. Spectral ghosts, lingering in the night. History, the stuff of legends. The menu looks amazing. And the original staff was trained by the Fred Harvey company, famed for the legendary Harvey House restaurants and hotels that popped up next to depots along the old Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad, thus setting the literal and figurative road map for what would become Route 66. Hells yeah! ‘murica!


El Trovatore: see above. Marilyn and James Dean stayed here. One of the last pre-WWII motor courts left standing along the way. Magnificent neon in the heart of the desert. It looks like it’s seen better days, but again, I don’t travel to stay at hotels. But I do travel to have memorable American experiences, and El Trovatore looks to be exactly that.


Naturally I’m staying away from social media regarding all my hotel choices. Yelp, Tripadvisor, et al, are pretty worthless to me. Most of the negative reviews come from obviously Very Important People who are outraged at not having satin sheets and breakfast in bed with a hand job at a $50 a night Motel 6. “This place is a sty! There was only ONE hand towel that probably came from Kohl’s!” Well, life is full of disappointments, Chatsworth: shut your entitled yap try the Omni next time. I pay some attention to legit criticisms (“Man, they really worked to crop the blood stains out of those room pics!” “I woke up in the middle of the night to a caravan of rats crawling over the bed, and the front desk clerk just shrugged!”), but again, my baseline is pretty low. And you can’t buy maybe staying in the same room where Marilyn slept. (Well, you can for $76 a night at El Trovatore, but…)


So, hotels are set. Now, I go back to waiting...


Hit & Miss

Hit & Miss

More thoughts on what I’ll be hitting and missing on the road. This is Chapter 46 of the book: Criteria.

Criteria

Theoretically, this should be an easy trip to plan. Why? Because I am not an obsessive or a classicist. Unlike Clark Griswold, I’m fine if I don’t drive 1,000 miles out of the way to see the House of Mud. I am NOT about to bust my ass detouring forty miles to see a two-by-five-foot slab of original Route 66 concrete accessible only by walking twenty yards over barbed-wire fences into a cow pasture. I am NOT about to hit every single lovingly-restored gas station on the route. I am NOT about to gorge at every fried chicken and corn dog shack, nor visit the site where Mickey Mantle had his first lay, nor where Will Rogers once took a dump, nor where whatever bit of arcane Americana happened. Hell, I’m not even going to be driving on Route 66 or what’s left of it for most of the trip. I want experience, not cult-like authenticity. 

I’m a practical sentimentalist. I don’t give in to nostalgie de la boue (French for “longing for the dirt”), a sentiment that permeates far too many of our longings. For example, my fatherland New York City. Yes, I long for the New York that was affordable and reeked of excitement and danger before the Great Giuliani Sanitizing Project: a New York that I never lived through but knew well as a visitor and always wanted to experience first-hand. But I do not long for the muggings, the reek of bankruptcy and arson and piss-and-shit-befouled subways and the crunch of crack vails under feet that made that affordability, excitement and danger possible. I loved the old Boston Garden, home of the Bruins since 1928 and the Celtics since 1946. It was cramped and cozy and wonderful, and stuff happened there: Bobby Orr and Larry Bird and more of my heroes owned the joint. But really, who wants to spend three hours sitting in what was essentially a wood-slat kindergarten desk chair watching a game from directly behind a support pole and taking a leak in a horse trough (literally)? Nostalgia only gets ya so far…

Route 66 is, in large measures, gone. The superhighway has won out fair and square, and you can’t go back. I don’t long for the days when it took three hours on 66 to go 100 miles, where it now takes half that time on the highway. I want to travel as much of the original 66 as is practical, but if I’m on more of I55 than 66 in Illinois, more of I40 than 66 in Texas, so be it.

Because Route 66 is so much more than the actual road. It’s about the experience. And the experience is what I’m going after.

Basically, I want to see the country and have an authentic American adventure. I want to drive, I want to eat (copiously and often) local, see local, talk with locals. Get a feel for how the other guy lives. See what else is out there and see how I can incorporate these new findings into my every-day life. That’s what most everybody who has ever started out on the Mother Road has been seeking, and whether it’s on the original macadam or the mega-artery that replaced it, it’s all the same result – and pretty much the same exact scenery - in the end.

So, I want an authentic, if not strictly historically accurate, experience in which I subsume myself in local life. I’m not creating any Spotify playlists for the drive. I may do so after the fact (but more than likely I will write and record the soundtrack myself). I want local radio and television. I am an NPR junkie, and I love hearing Morning Edition and All Things Considered framed by newsbreaks from a Foreign American market. I love seeing Foreign American weather maps on the local 6:00 news. I want to hear how I’m going to Hell on Jesus radio throughout Oklahoma. I want college radio throughout: that’s where you always find the best stuff; kids playing what they like with no corporate playlists. I want Western Swing and Tejano across the Panhandle and southwestern folk in Albuquerque. 

I don’t care if I get that on 66 or 40. So long as I get it.

Roadmaps

Roadmaps

Saturday morning, working on the trip itinerary, hacking the bone to get to the important stuff…and counting all that I will have to save for next time (because there will be a next time). Three weeks from today I will be headed for Amarillo, first time in Texas. I am thrilled at the thought. And yeah, overwhelmed.

I have bit off a LOT more than I can chew on this trip. Eight states, 2,278 miles, in six days. It’s crazy. And foolhardy. I am going to miss so much on the way. But I’m fine with that. Because again, I will be doing it all again. I have made a science of short trips: the kind where I get an overview of a place, see the most important stuff and catalogue what to come back for. This trip will be a glimpse of an America I’ve never seen and have always wanted to. A taste. And like all tastes of the good stuff, you want more. But you need the first taste first…

I have roadmaps for the trip and am creating roadmaps for my priorities. And that’s the best I can do. I was gifted with seven working days off one month into my new job, and that’s more than I could’ve hoped for. Time to maximize what I have.

Good thing for roadmaps…

Chicago Calling

Chicago Calling

22 days from right now I will be making my way back to 1060 W. Addison, Chicago, IL. Some of you know this address as the home of one Elwood Blues, but the rest of us know it as Wrigley Field. And the last time I was there, the world was very different.

Cubs fans know the lineage all-too-well: 1908 - 2016 was one hell of a wait. Before the amazing 2016 World Series, the last Cubs team to win it all played while the Ottoman Empire was still a thing. Last time I was at Wrigley was 2006, another nowhere year, but finally stepping into the Friendly Confines of Wrigley was pure magic: a life-long dream come true., and I still get goosebumps thinking of it

Already got my ticket for Wednesday, May 8th vs. Miami (a dick team nobody cares about, despite two World Series wins, but Miami was the team I last saw at Wrigley, so why break precedent?). Get me a Chicago dog and a slice of deep dish and get me to the upper deck. I can’t wait.

That’s the highlight of Day One. I’ll be landing at O’Hare around 11:30 AM, taking the Blue Line into town, checking in, then killing time until game time. Maybe a cigar at Ditka’s. Might go back and pay another call on Nighthawks and American Gothic at the Art Institute. Maybe just stroll the Mag Mile and gawk at the glorious Chicago architecture. Nice to have options…including no options.

It’ll be an early one, though. Got to get an early start for St. Louis the next day.

I love Chicago dearly, and I can’t wait to return. The stuff that dreams are made of…Day One of the trip that dreams are made of…

28 Days

28 Days

28 days from right now I will be trying to get some sleep before my 6:00 AM flight to Kennedy and O’Hare. Good luck with that. The enormity of this venture is hitting me hardcore right now. 28 days from right now I will be on the verge of embarking on an eight day odyssey that will see me driving eight states and 2,278 miles solo and completing my memoir in the aftermath. Route 66, the Road of American Dreams.

I’ve never done anything of this magnitude. I can’t believe I’m doing this.

But I am. In 28 days…

Six Weeks

Six weeks from right now I will be back in Chicago, heading back for Wrigley Field. The beginning of the Trip of a Lifetime. I’m shocked at how quickly it’s approaching…and right now utterly overwhelmed at the magnitude of this trip. Six days, eight states, 2,278 miles. Jesus. THEN turning the trip into a book. This is more than I’ve ever taking on in my life.

And I can’t wait…

Boarding Passes

I see now that I count the time with boarding passes.

As I was headed for the day job this morning I opened the front pocket of my backpack and found a boarding pass: Seattle to Chicago. SEA (Sea-Tac) to ORD (O’Hare). I am constantly finding old boarding passes in my books. Time-stamps along the way. Memories of trips taken, inspirations for return journeys and trips yet to come. I cherish these moments and, as I am about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, I am inspired to collect more boarding passes… more snapshots and stories collected along the way. I pick up my next collection of memories on May 8th: the first boarding passes collected for my impending memoir.

They make great bookmarks, in more ways than one…

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02/12/19

IMG_1346 (1).JPG

6-10”-or-so of snow heading in overnight. The sky today foretold it: a slate gray leaden sky outside the mill. I love my office on days like this. The mill - even with our mouse infestation (sic) - seems like the coziest spot on earth, and even corporate labor is even more pleasant (well, my job is great anyway, but): an extra coffee, a nice cuppa…all better knowing that the weather is going to turn. My department has already closed down for tomorrow, so I’ve got a gift day to work on the book and the soundtrack. Win. 32,999 words and 100 pages in the can already. This is the memoir/midlife crisis section. 85 days from now, the trip section will start to write itself. Can. Not. Wait.

Just need to shovel out my goddamn driveway first…

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02/11/19

Home from the day job and cranking up the laptop. 86 days until I jet off to Chicago to start the Trip of a Lifetime. It’s a gift to think of these things on this frigid Maine winter evening: 22 miserable windy degrees right now with 8-10” of snow on the way tomorrow night. Right now I’m dreaming of the heat of Amarillo, the blast furnace of Palo Duro and the Mojave, and ultimately the dreamland of the upper deck at Dodger Stadium. Got my tickets for ballgames at Wrigley, Busch Stadium St. Louis and LA yesterday, and they are touchstones collected along the way. Tangible proof that this thing is happening. Psyched. The soundtrack album is at least half-way conceptualized: won’t be able to write a lot of it until I study the film from the drives and see what inspiration hits, but I have a sonic road map in place, ready to execute. The joy of having a fully functional audio and film-editing studio in my house. I shit-sure didn’t have any of this four years ago, before I was FIRED from twelve years of corporate servitude. My new life, my new path, is calling. Time to pick up the charges…

Blog 101

Blog 101

Hey, all! Blog Entry #1 on the newly relaunched brianwestbye.com is live! And here it is. It’s Sunday, 02/10/2019, and I’ve relaunched this site because I’m writin’ me a book! Tentative title is Double Six Dreams: A Man, A Midlife Crisis And A Quest To (Re)Discover American And Myself. On May 8th I will be off on an eight-day adventure of a lifetime: driving Route 66 (or what’s left of it) from Chicago to LA and using the trip to tell myself about myself. Part road trip travelogue, part midlife crisis memoir, Part On The Road, part City Slickers…hopefully all Westbye. I can. Not. Wait. I’ve been dreaming of this trip all my life, and it’s finally happening. I’ll be posting on the regular as the book and the trip take shape. Great to start it all again here…