Wednesday, December 14, 2011

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, ‘I feel a bit lightheaded. Maybe you should drive.’”*

Road Trip Part I         
A Joshua tree, though not a fair likeness because this picture makes them look tall and most of them are really short.
            Mike and I were nowhere near the edge of the desert because we were in the desert because the desert pretty much starts four minutes away from East Los Angeles. We were still feeling pretty friendly towards one another because we always get along for the first 24 to 36 hours we spend together and then the casual nit-pickery begins.
            He’ll say something like, “Maybe we should plug in my iPhone and listen to some tunes.”
            As though the rocking-ass tunes I’m playing from my iPod aren’t really doing it for him.
            Then I’ll say something like, “Maybe we can revert the temperature from 64 degrees to a more temperate 78 degrees.”
            As though I would rather live ON THE FACE OF THE SUN than in the freezer he’s turned my car into.
            But really, it was fun. Mike had his laptop and his iPhone (and thus, thank the lord, a map of where we were going, which I hadn’t bothered to calculate) and a bunch of tunes.
             I had a cooler packed with healthy snacks that would prevent us from falling prey to fast food temptation along the road, a suitcase full of wardrobe changes, a couple of bags full of board games, my laptop, some movies, a basketball, a tent, a hat rack, a magic lantern, and a house plant. Just in case.
            We were heading to The Grand Canyon and then to Las Vegas.
            Mike has been my friend since we were both five-years-old. He is probably the closest thing I have to a brother. That means this: I compare myself to him, he makes more money than I do, he’s smarter than I am, he tells me how to do stuff, he tells me when I’m “wrong,” we fight sometimes, and, maybe most importantly, I love him a whole lot, even when he’s being a butthead.
            That said, we were only 40 minutes into the desert when he started to piss me off. (Mike if you read this, I wasn’t really pissed off: I was irritated. Totally different!)
            I could tell the feeling was mutual.
            We were both sipping our $5 coffee drinks and agreeing—for the most part—on what to listen to, but we were both irritable and somewhat sleep-deprived and it made for a bit of hyper-sensitivity in the car.
            My theory is this: road trips are actually kind of boring.
            Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’d like to point out the fact that I used to be something of a road trip aficionado. 
            I love to travel and I love maps (though, as it turns out, I’m hopelessly inept at reading maps. Short segue: I used to score abominably in the map skills portions of the ITBS standardized test they made us take each year. The fact that we took that test at all was bizarre because the “I” in “ITBS” stands for Iowa and we lived in Nebraska. Okay, two segues! But the mere sight of a map just enthralls me! I’m sure that’s somehow indicative of a psychological disorder.).
            But back in my road trip days I used to smoke like Humphrey Bogart (i.e. profusely), stop at a whim to sample the various chicken fried steaks of the great U.S. of A., and be perfectly willing to veer 200 miles off course to see an unknown “marvel” of the United States. (I’ve been to Carhenge three times, for instance.)
Carhenge. Alliance, NE.
            But now that my time is money and most of my trips involve getting to the destination rather than enjoying the journey, I’m kind of over the whole “road trip” thing. Also, I’m not a pothead or an acid freak, so what’s fun about driving in the desert for eight hours? “Look! Another Joshua tree!” It’s just miles and miles of desert. And it’s mostly a truly hideous sight, reminiscent of that movie Mac and Me (you know, the E.T. rip off about the aliens who drink Coke in Palm Desert by the windmills? My sister and I used to love that creepy movie). 
So creepy. Or good? I don't remember.

            And yet I’ve always romanticized road trips, likening them to the times when Jack Kerouac wrote that boring book about his road trips or when I actually liked Tom Robbins’ novels or when Laura Ingalls Wilder kept having to get back in the covered wagon and go farther into the unknown with all her pathetic crap in one tiny, little trunk.
            I have four times her luggage and none of her patience.
            So, in order to prevent you all from having to read the poetry journal I wrote under the rainbow skies that are America, I will fast forward to our actual arrival at Grand Canyon National Park.
            We were really eager, toward the end of our eight-plus hour journey, to just get to the damn park. We were bored with each other and bored with the scenery and bored with driving. And, despite all our better-laid plans, we’d eaten lunch at In-n-Out! So we also felt like a pair of fat assholes who’d lied to ourselves about how this whole trip was going to go down.
             At Grand Canyon’s south rim, there’s a stretch of highway where there are only two lanes and one is prevented from exceeding the 60-mile-per-hour speed limit. And after exceeding speeds of 75-miles-per hour to get there, it’s torturous.
            But we arrived and filed into one of the multiple lines for entry into the park.
            Dusk was setting and I was dying to see the Canyon before the sun went down. But, just like my mother before me, I have a habit of picking whichever lane wants to move the slowest.
            There must’ve been an RV-load of morons in front of us because every line filed through in no time but ours and the sun waits for no man. So we finally made it through the line and were tempted to bee-line it through the three or so miles of forest at the entrance of the park, but since, apparently, there are deer and such all around the woods, we kept it real and hit the park just as the sun was setting.
            And it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Grand Canyon. More on that later.
            But this has gotten a bit long, so I’ll regale you with the rest at a later date.
Find Road Trip Part II here.
*Quote from Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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