[15 states, 15 days, 15 beds]

trip out
east coast
trip back

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day one ... seattle, wa ... my futon
host: me

The last night in Seattle was spent sharing the bike shed room with my sister. She had flown in the night before and I had friends pick her up at the airport because I had to go there the next day to get the rental truck. We squished two futons into the small room and I remembered that my sister -- much as I love her -- snores.

There wasn't much to pack. I spent a lot of my time choosing tapes. We got to the rental car place and were upsold to an insane behemouth of a pickup truck. When we were driving back to my place to load up the truck, I noticed it only had a CD player. Dealing with this was to take up a lot of our road energies. The truck wound up containing all of my dictionaries and encyclopediae, a few tables, some tools, two huge speakers, my stereo system and a lot of misc stuff for the kitchen.

Also on board was the Gear Bag. This contained all the niceties of home to try to make the trip a pleasant one: GPS, laptop, digital camera and charger, lighter-to-outlet converter, Visor, extra disks, misc cords and backup cords, cel phone charger [Kate's], pager [Kate's], and a lot of useless tapes.

I'm not sure when exactly we saw the live bait machine. I am sure glad I don't have the job of cleaning that out.

day two ... missoula, mt ... hotel room bed
host: uptown motel

I knew friends of friends that I could have crashed with in Missoula, but travelling with others sometimes means we have to adjust our standards. When travelling with Kate, all the adjustments were in an upwards direction, which was no hardship for me. The general rule of thumb was that we could stay with anyone I'd met face to face before.

The Uptown Motel had two beds with Magic Fingers one of which sent out sparks when my sister tried to put a quarter in. We asked the lady at the desk where a good place to get a burger was at 10 pm and she looked us up and down and said "well... if you like to people watch..." and sent us to the 24 hour bar and pool joint where I got a chicken fried steak that couldn't be beat and we realized that the lady at the hotel had been trying to gauge if she'd be insulting us by sending us there. In the morning I went out to get some coffee and asked for a double espresso. The girl at the counter asked if all I wanted was two shots of espresso in a cup, no milk or foam or anything. I said yes. She gave it to me and looked at the price list, doubled the price for an "extra shot" and charged me fifty cents. I tipped well.

day three ... glendive, mt ... b&b bed
host: charley montana b&b

Seeing the signs at the truck stops saying PREM DSL and realizing that they were referring to diesel fuel gave me a big wake-up call to what the world outside of Seattle [or any major metro area] is like.

We stayed at this really nice B&B that a friend of mine in Seattle had told me about. Right off of I-94, it's an old railroad magnate's mansion which the current owners bought from the last member of the family who still lived there. There was lots of polished wood, many clawfoot bathtubs and -- my favorite part -- a small library in every room. We got in late and the folks there made us dinner in addition to the massive breakfast they served up. They gave us the grand tour of the place "...and this is the room that used to have the five-horse carousel" and told us all sorts of stories. We were the only guests. I had never stayed in a B&B before and it will probably be a long time before I stay in another one [they are pricey and I am sort of against spending money on places to sleep when there are so many free places to sleep in the world]

I think by this point we had gone to Target and purchased a small tape deck. When we plugged it in, it hummed, loudly.

day four ... saint cloud, minnesota ... couch in rec room
host: diana inch -- friend from library school

Diana moved to Saint Cloud MN a few years back and since then, I have been to visit her more than her dad has. She lives right off the highway [there's a theme here] and always has some sort of space to crash in. She's moving to OR sometime next week, the midwestern experience was not for her.

The midwestern experience suits me fine, but I mostly have to deal with rest stops -- which are beautiful in North Dakota by the way, they are all different -- gas stations and GPS navigation. The GPS can tell you how many miles it is to the next city and tell you what time you will arrive there, based on your rate of speed and the time. It does not, however, know what time it is, which is surprising considering that it knows where it is within 100 feet. I generally spend a lot of time in the midwest not knowing what time it is.

Kate is the uber-navigator, referencing all our AAA guidebooks and free literature and telling me stories about the towns we are travelling through. She also calls in to work every day, a practice I try to wean her from, but every day she calls and there is a new disaster brewing so I guess I can see why she might find it important. I've never been on the road with someone with a cel phone before.

At some point we stopped at the world's largest sandhill crane, made entirely of metal. This country is one giant farm, populated with giant fiberglass and metal animals along otherwise unpopulated stretches of highways.

day five ... chicago, il ... living room couch
host: ari frede -- friend from college

Ari's house was the last house I was in before my accident driving x-country last year [if you have no idea what I am talking about , you can mail me for details, but it's old news] and we got in fairly well considering I only had his street address, a mapblast map and no directions. Ari said that if we got in early enough he would get us in on some banjo lessons where he works, but we got in on the late side and just settled for Thai food. Ari lives in Chicago and I've seen him more than I've seen some of my friends who live in Seattle. He is a great host, and I strummed his banjo [just the right instrument for OCD freaks such as myself] and updated him on the last eight months. He lent us a tent which I never wound up using but was a nice back up plan in case of trouble.

We went to Target [pronounced tar-zhay'] and returned the tape deck, got a new one from Wal-Mart [yes, I am going to hell] and some batteries -- the weird power adaptor causes the whine, nothing I can do, bad ground perhaps. Took a few pictures of the Amish cart tied up in a slot in the parking lot and headed out. The tape deck worked, the batteries weren't crazy spendy, it bounced a bit on the dash board. When Kate tried to adjust it, it stopped working. Nothing we could do would resuscitate it. After two trips to Target ["you bought this in Montana two days ago..?" they asked in Indiana] and one to Wal-Mart, we were hellbent on music that was not some godforsaken *PR station or one of the last minute CDs I had grabbed.

day six ... olean, ny ... motel room bed
host: desoto motel

Why Olean? Well, we were driving through Ohio into PA and stopped at a rest stop. There were all of those hotel coupons everyplace with hotel rooms [free continental breakfast!] pretty cheaply. We weren't too tired yet and we were heading for another border so we figured we'd stock up on coupons in NY. Well, once we got to the border there we were in barren wilderness with no rest stop, much less coupons. Then the highway detoured and we drove around a lake for about 15 miles wondering if we had inadvertently stumbled onto the set of some slasher film. The next four towns were ski resorts. Then Olean arrived like a beacon in the darkness right about when I was going to try to make a convincing plea for sleeping in the truck. We pulled into the Desoto motel, got a corporate discount on a room there [way to go sis!] and slept the sleep of the very very tired, after getting a steak dinner at midnight.

Driving through New York on I-86 is like sleeping at a Motel Seven. It has many of the features of what it is trying to approximate and yet something is a little off. While we were driving -- trying to avoid the permanently-under-constructioness of I-80 -- we were shepherded to a complete stop not once but twice in order to fill out some idiotic travel survey. Both times, all traffic on the interstate was brought to a complete halt by what seemed to be teenaged girls in hardhats [I cannot make this up, this is not my kink fantasy] handing out surveys. The first time it was surreal, the second time [within the span of about ten miles] I was completely insanely furious like only someone driving an oversized ridiculous SUV can be. I knew, however, that I was almost "home."

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