Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 01:27:32 -0500
From: dannyman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: DaZeD! Notification <email@example.com>
Subject: [dazed] the time is now
well, in the morning i'll wake up, finish packing, clean the floor, and head
out in the beetle to california.
it still seems unreal, but i reckon it'll pass. this is the wackiest thing
i've done with my life since joining the army, and i agree with grandma when
she said this struck her as a much much much better thing that joining the
on friday i returned to chicago and closed my bank accounts ... well, actually
i left about $500 in checking and i've got to balance to make sure nothing
will bounce, but i've a happy bankroll to bring me out here, then a few
thousand dollars with which to pay rent and cover tuition on upon arrival.
then i went by enteract, going out to lunch with vernell and sharon, and
buying pizza in the evening for those employees present.
saturday, i got the two kegs for our party, then went with the family to the
humanities convocation. afterwards it was barbequeing, drinking and hot tub
madness. beth dropped by later in the evening and there was some nice
today? pretty lazy, we woke up late and had breakfast at aunt sonya's. beth
again dropped by and we had a little walk and a talk together. the day was
cleaning and packing and watching tv. we also helped chad grade cs225 exams.
tomorrow? wake up, finish packing, drop off my cap and gown, await the ups
shipment, do additional tuning to the car, pack up the car and hit the road.
i start one week from today - next monday that is. i'm betting lucy will make
it out there without any major troubles. the odometer oughtta flip right
around CA. I'll snap a picture, i promise. one friend observed before i
could think of it the symbolism of making a "new start".
perhaps i'll find some flowers for my hair as i drive through san francisco.
well, consider this a preview of a forthcoming journal entry, and a thanks to
those of you on this list who have played key roles in making my future seem
all the more reasonable. i love you all.
see you on the other side.
.. terminating transmission from urbana ..
dannyman - http://www.dannyland.org/~dannyman/
http://www.dannyland.org/cgi-bin/majordomo for assistance.
Wednesday, 12 May
Wednesday before last I finished my last final, for Geology 118, at about 9AM. I walked out of Greg Hall and toward the crowd and just kept thinking to myself, “Done, Done! DONE! DONE!!”
It’s one thing to be done with a final. It is another to be done with all your finals, and thus with your semester. It is another thing to be done with your last semester, about to graduate. It’s another thing to be done with the last formal education you have any immediate plans for for the rest of your life.
Saturday, 15 May
After relaxing and packing and otherwise casually enjoying myself and trying to tune the car, and visiting Chicago one last time, I woke up Saturday and remember driving over to Piccadilly and fitting two kegs of beer into the back of the Volkswagen – one Honey Brown and one Ice House. Throw in another 100 lbs of ice and you have yourself a party, if you count the propane fillup, and all the food and other stuff gathered by Scott and Chad, and the legwork done on getting the hot tub working, on the part of Scott and Oleg.
Before taking off for Piccadilly, Dad and Gwen arrived. After getting the kegs set up and Mom, Grandma, Uncle John and Jessy arrived from Chicago, we headed over to Foellinger for Humanities Convocation II. A relatively small ceremony by U of I standards, but still probably lasting at least an hour, each of us from several majors, most notably English and Rhetoric, taking our turns to strut across the stage. Everyone was in a good humor.
Upon returning home, some friends of Chad had already arrived and the grilling was beginning. Scott started out strong on the grill, making much food as he had prepared to do. As the night wore on Tunji, Goth Dan, Brijeet, Jay, Tim Skirvin and all the Allenites, ‘toly and Morris and Anne Nowinski and Rene and others showed up. Vern rode the nookie van down from Chicago and Mark Meyer and his girlfriend showed up. What started as a nice cookout got better as the hot tub opened up, and the less inhibited folks, almost exclusively my friends, tried it out. The sun went down, Beth came by, beer in a hot tub … ahhh …
Sunday, 16 May
… and we woke up the next morning … Adam had slept on our couch, and I believe he and Scott were hung over, the hot tub having a dehydrating affect which improves the punch of alcohol. About one in the afternoon we finally got up and going with Chad and Christina over to I think the place is Merry Anne’s. Good breakfast food. In the afternoon Beth came by and we took a walk together and bid some goodbyes. The day was good and slow and lazy, and included the Simpsons going to Japan, which I found hysterical and over the top. Plus a rerun of a good, classic X-Files.
Monday, 17 May
My bike rack and other car parts arrived via UPS in a pretty timely fashion. The last bits were packed in boxes, the rear seat folded down, computers in the way back, under boxes and boxes and blankets. Bike rack and two bikes, one being Erik Gilling’s, on the back. Passenger’s seat held junk food, monitor on the front seat floor, covered by a blanket. Dad and Gwen arrived from Chicago and thus did we hit the road, eventually finding our way up to 80 West and driving on through Iowa until the wee hours when I started feeling punchy and we pulled over in a small town in Nebraska. I slept across the front seat, wrapped in a sleeping bag, legs resting out the driver’s window. Dunno if Dad got a picture of that or not.
Tuesday, 18 May
So in the wee hours did Gwen wake Dad who woke me. She hadn’t heard from Desi and wanted to get back by CO as soon as possible. It was like 0430h or somesuch, and we pulled away from the small town in the early morning dewy air. As we sped towards the highway I saw a deer kick up, its white tail flying along. A little ways down the road we had breakfast, and kept driving through the day, stopping mostly at truck stops like Sapp Bros. Gwen was shopping for an Angel to replace the loaner that was riding on my dashboard. Figured anything that helps me West, including heavenly intervention, can’t hurt.
Later down the road I checked on the monitor, and found that it and several other items had suffered heat damage. You know how Beetles don’t have heat? Mine does! Entire canisters of deodorant had vaporized, my electric shaver had melted, blowing out some battery acid for good measure. The plastic on the front of the monitor adopted a cool Salvadore Dali affect, as Dad described it … hrmmm, well, we cleared off the passenger seat floor, moving the monitor to a position under the bonnet, and the junk food rested on a clothing box which held my cup holder well. On the road again …
Come the afternoon, we stopped at a town that claims to be Buffalo Bill Cody’s home town. I remembered the gift shop from a previous trip out West. The racism tends to bother me, but then I’ve been going to University of Illinois, where the appropriation of Native American culture is a recurring topic of controversy. Not much farther down the road it was time to part company. Dad and Gwen rode their interstate into Colorado and I continued down 80.
Later that evening, I stopped in Chappell, Nebraska. After getting gas, Lucy stalled down the street, and wouldn’t start again. I walked over to a Bar and Grill that was decorated with cattle brands and had a generous taco / tortilla combo plate and a Coke. Back to Lucy, the rest did her no good. It was too late for a mechanic, and I took the sleeping bag and tent over to a nearby campground, which was unmanned.
Later in the night I shifted in my sleep, and found the sleeping bag zipper was broken, splitting down the seams. It started getting colder, and colder, I became uncomfortable. I took a walk back to town, stopped in a bar and inquired about a nearby hotel. Got directions, down the street about five blocks, never found it. Ended up sleeping in the car, this time curled up with the windows shut.
Wednesday, 19 May
I awoke the next morning, and there were two mechanic’s shops within a block and a half. Neither were yet open. I retrieved my tent, and they were still closed. I hunkered down with Lucy as I had the evening before, and for lack of inspiration of what I could do, did a valve job. It was, after all, morning. Well wouldn’t ya know it but she started? Back on down the road!
I puttered along, Lucy less than entirely happy and me suspecting I might have bunged something with the valves. Got out of Nebraska and stopped for gas in Wyoming, with my eye out for a mechanic. No mechanic where I stopped, so I figured I’d stop further down the road. Lucy stopped a few hundred feet from the gas station, and called a tow truck.
Got towed to one place that wouldn’t handle Volkswagens, and then we ended up, with no additional mileage, at Collins Automotive, a shop that specializes in older vehicles. We were greeted by a surly old guy with s short white beard, who said I couldn’t work on the vehicle on his property, if only because they believed that at their shop, it was their quality work. He said also that they normally did appointment work, and could maybe get to me tomorrow. I rode on up to the Holiday Inn on my bike and splurged the $75 to stay there that night. My idea was that he was the prototypical grumpy old sysadmin type of personality, and that by acting meek and staying out of his way, his curiosity would take over, and he’d get to my car a lot earlier than he’d let on.
Like I said, I splurged on the Holiday Inn. Unfortunately their pool was closed, but I got a nice thorough shower and cable TV. Between being alone on the road, the car insisting on failing ever since parting from Dad, the frustration of the night before, the crappy progress that day, and the crochety old coot of a mechanic, and the clean, air-conditioned quiet of the Cheyenne hotel room, and the lack of anything to read, I suddenly felt horribly lonely. I came near tears, read a few passages from the Bible – bless them Gideons, and then screwed myself down, my macho side reminding me that there had been those heading West before me that faced far worse obstacles, and that there was really nothing preventing me from getting to CA on time, whether my Wagen died or not. Nothing to be too upset over really.
So I watched the latter part of that movie where Richard Gere is framed for murder in China, grateful that the very ending was not the cliche I feared it would be. Some more TV, and dozed off to sleep, snug as a bug, as it were.
Thursday, 20 May
I knew those guys would tackle the car, so I headed downstairs, ate a liesurely, if expensive breakfast, and headed back to the mechanics.
Car was good. The bill was impressively modest. Timing had been way off.
Took off down the road, Lucy purring away. Slowed down for the construction that is ever-present throughout Nebraska and Wyoming, then sped up again, speed climbing and … dead.
Walked a few hundred feet back to the construction site, found a manager with a cell phone, called the shop, got some advice, walked back.
Advice no help. Walked back to the construction. The guy with the phone was gone, but another guy in a little car with a cracked windshield gave me a ride back to the repair shop. I offered him a few bucks, as he said he’d been inquiring about a badly-needed job with the road crew, he declined. The grumpy old man of the day before was far more hospitable this time, and when his coworker, Bill, another old guy with a short-cropped white beard and kindly demeanor, who reminded me an awful lot of Uncle Bill McConeghey, returned from lunch he drove out to Lucy in his pickup truck. I’d only made it a few miles down 80. He couldn’t get her started either, and so I rode in Lucy behind a tow strap back to the shop. Not an easy thing, but by riding the brakes I got the hang of it.
Where yesterday I’d gotten a single grouchy old man, today I got a pit crew swarming around Lucy. The two older guys and another in his forties named Bob, they puzzled over why she didn’t start – she had gas and spark. A little exploratory surgery, and the coil was found questionable, and the points and condenser were bad. A coil from an old BMW parts car, and other quick replacements later, tightening down the distributor, and Lucy was happy. After extensive test-driving, I managed to finally get her to start dying again. A little adjust to the carb idle on Bill’s part and she was golden. More test driving and we took off down the road.
And things were good.
And I drove.
And I drove.
Near midnite, I was nearing Utah. Not long later I suddenly lost power, as if I had lost a cylinder. DAMMIT! I got into a truck stop and decided to nap until the morning when I’d do a valve adjustment.
Friday, 21 May
Well, I couldn’t sleep. Part of it was the generator in the truck I had parked next to to avoid the flashing lights of the truck stop, and part of it was restlessness from a sound sleep from the lazy night before. Around 0200h I got out, set up the flashlight, and did a valve adjustment. She was a little warm and the valves were mostly pretty happy. Well, putting things back together the flashlight suddenly went out. Weird. Walked to the store and the bulb looked okay, bought some batteries. No go. Returned and picked out a nice-looking maglite. The lady at he counter suggested that the Coleman four-pack of flashlights was a better deal. Okay. I hadn’t been doing so hot lately so I got the four flashlights, hoping they might start breeding, maybe.
Had enough light to get the bikes back on and secured to the rack with bungee cords. And I was off.
Still, she wasn’t the happiest bug in the world, and it wasn’t the valves, and it couldn’t be the timing, I didn’t think. Could it be the altitude?
While I had time to think, slowing to 45 and shifting in to third up them mountains, crossing the Utah border, I thought about heat, and altitude, and thin air, and burning fuel, and warming up and eventually hypothesised that between the thinner air and the cold night air and the middle-grade fuel I had been treating her too, she just wasn’t firing on her cylinders with the power she wanted. Next fill up it was cheap gas, 85 octane if I remember correctly. She started perking up.
Drove through Salt Lake city about 0400h, getting a little lost because of their shutting down I-80 and having a poorly-marked detour route. The sun was coming up as I crossed the salt flats. I pulled in to one of the few fueling stations along the way, a makeshift truck stop which had a gas station, a small store, and a restaurant around back built from two trailer homes. I wanted to keep going, but my body didn’t. Two hours of sleep at the gas station, sitting upright in the driver’s seat, head leaning on a pillow.
Saturday, 22 May
Around 0800h and 0900h I had some eggs over easy and toast and orange juice and coffee in the restaurant. My bill came to less than five dollars. I think I left six or seven, because it was more pleasant than the overpriced meal I’d had in Cheyenne two mornings ago, and I hadn’t eaten breakfast the day before, just a cup of coffee at the truck stop.
On the road again. Wondering if that white stuff on the ground was snow or white sand or salt. Farther west, there was water, but it was still, probably because of its brackishness and probably because the desert is not a very windy place. It shined like a mirror, and was a very nice picture, reflecting the sand and the sky. Surreal. I wanted to stop and explore, but I wanted even more to finish my journey.
Stopping for gas, I encountered a large group of folks my own age travelling in a caravan of vehicles. As I added another quart and hypothesised that maybe they were a church group, one of the ladies asked had I come all the way from Illinois, and that she had a squareback that she didn’t trust very far at all.
I had indeed, I told her, breaking down only a few times, and that it was kinda boring without a radio.
That’s right, no radio. I tried to score one off of Andrew Ho, who it turns out is also coming out this way in the future, but I couldn’t get in touch with him fast enough before leaving town. Besides, the early Wagons had no radios. Heh …
I asked what her group was, and it was from some college tracking some bird … If memory serves the college was Carleton and the bird was the Peregrine Falcon, but I could just be making this up.
And on we drove, leaving Utah, spending much time in Nevada. Boring armpit of a state.
Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning they yearn for the cup
They deftly maneuver, and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns
Their prowess is potent, and secretly stern
As they speed through the finish, the flags go down
The fans get up and they go out of town
The arena is empty, except for one man
Still striving and driving as fast as he can
The sun has gone down and the moon has come up
And long ago somebody left with the cup
But he’s striving and driving and hugging the turns
And thinking of someone for whom he still burns
HE’S GOING THE DISTANCE!
HE’S GOING FOR SPEED!
She’s all alone, in a time of need
Because he’s racing and chasing and plotting a course
He’s striving and driving and riding on his horse
He’s going the distance
He’s going for speed
He’s going the distance …
That song was on auto-play in my head for a long time. Cake, The Distance. Good song. Ask me for the mp3 some time.
At first I was afraid I was petrified
Kept thinkin’ I could never live without you by my side
But then I spent so many nights just thinkin’ how you done me wrong
And I grew strong
And I learned how to get along …
Ahhh, yes Gloria Gaynor did it well, but then again it’s Cake’s performance that just sort of haunts me.
You know, Nevada is like four hundred or so miles across. I crossed it in one blur, noting the gas getting progressively more expensive as I approached California.
Slowly did I approach Reno. And drove through Reno, and crossed the border, and was asked if I had any fresh fruit or vegetables on me. Nope, just junk food, and you know it was downhill straight through the Sierra Nevadas, or whatever the heck they are. I got 30 MPG. It seemed fitting that my mileage should increase nearly 50% upon crossing the California border.
Around Davis the odometer flipped. I managed to pull over and get pictures with the digits halfway across the line.
And as it was getting on in the evening, and it was on the way, I got off I-80 at San Pablo and tried in vain to find MikeyA’s place, maybe a suprise and a meal.
You know … there be hills in San Pablo. The biggest difference, I thought to myself, was that California has hills. And since they mark not only with traffic signs but with copious pavement markings, driving takes on a three-dimensional aspect. Nothing like pulling away from a stop sign in second gear. There were a few awful scraping sounds as Lucy’s loaded rear end found pavement to scratch against.
Anyway, I found a pay phone and Dana gave me instructions on how to find the liqour store Mikey was workin’ at that night. Found the place no problem and gave Mike a good suprise. He and Dana proved again to be gracious hosts and I communed with their couch another night.
. . .