Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Talk Thursday: On the Road

Longest road trip: In 2004, Joan and I piled 2 cats, a box containing a crock pot and various kitchen supplies, some suitcases, a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff, and ourselves (did I mention 2 cats?) into a 1998 Corolla and drove from San Diego to Dallas. It took us four days, including an overnight at my parents' place in Phoenix, and was not what you'd call fun. The cats were relatively well-behaved most of the way, though they seemed to want to sleep on the floor a lot (read, under the accelerator pedal), and for some reason Caesar wanted to stand on his back feet, rest his front paws on the windows and howl at every eighteen-wheeler that went by. But really, they were pretty well-behaved until we got to Abilene. I'm not sure what happened in Abilene but they both just freaked right the hell out. We had to stuff them back into their cat carriers. Caesar promptly flipped his off the seat and began rolling around on the car floor; I had to pull over, put him back on the seat and strap him down with a seat belt. I then drove 90 mph all the way to Dallas, somehow managing to avoid state troopers entirely. Thank God once we got them into the house, they calmed down. We lay on the floor on an air mattress most of the afternoon, panting for breath and wondering how long it would take our furniture and stuff to show up. (Answer: Four more days.)

Latest road trip: Last weekend, we drove to Glen Rose, Texas to take a tour of a wildlife rescue facility called Fossil Rim Wildlife Park. In this zoo, you're the one in the cage; they stick you into
a vehicle (an old school bus, in our case) and all the animals come out to see you. They gave us kibble to feed to the critters, prompting this giraffe to not only go after Joan for more kibble, but to try to steal her hat. And yes, it was hotter
'n' lots of things that are too darned hot, and we needed to have taken along much more water, and it was dusty and uncomfortable and so on, but still, a giraffe tried to steal Joan's hat. How cool is that?

Most surprising road trip: On another of those let's-get-the-hell-out-of-Dallas whimsies, we drove to yet another animal sanctuary, this one near Conroe (which is almost to Houston, in case you don't speak Texas geography.) This was to visit a wolf sanctuary, and we followed quite a few twisty turny roads to get there on the way down. On the way back, we came out of Conroe onto the I-45 and just turned north to get back to Dallas. Passing near Huntsville, we got the surprise of our lives: There, on the freeway, in front of God and everybody, was a giant statue of Sam Houston. I mean this thing was huge, monumentally tacky, and stuck out there in the middle of Nowhere, Texas, for No Apparent Reason. I mean, I guess you're supposed to pull over and take pictures of it or something? I dunno. But I was really surprised. Well, maybe appalled comes a little closer.

Scariest road trip: When I was a kid, we lived in Utah and my entire family -- well, two uncles and many cousins -- would fly in from North Dakota to go skiing at Snowbird every year for a week. It was awesome because we got to miss school, and because we got to see the sun; in Salt Lake City, the fog rolls in about mid-November and stays there until April, so if you want to see the sun, you have to go skiing. No kidding. Anyway, my parents had this old Ford Econoline van, which we'd cram with something like 15 people, plus all the ski equipment and luggage, and we'd drive this thing up this narrow, twisty, snowy, icy road to Snowbird, that frequently got wiped out by avalanches, hoping to God we wouldn't careen off a cliff and die horrible deaths. My dad would pile all the luggage in the back of the van and position random kids against the pile, including on top, so that all the weight would be in the back. Then he'd get us all to sing at the top of our lungs -- usually old camp fire songs, but once in a while something religious--so that we'd forget how frick'n scared we were. And there we'd go, this band of terrified, singing Icelanders, up the road to Snowbird. And somehow, every year, we made it in one piece. The gods have a soft spot for fools. And the nineteenth round of "Green Grow the Rushes."

Weirdest road trip: I rode in the back of a Brat truck from downtown El Salvador to uptown Chalchuapa, if Chalchuapa can be said to have an uptown. Chalchuapa is a town in the El Salvador Highlands (yes, there are highlands) where they've just in the last 20 years or so discovered the ruins of a Mayan city. They're slowly excavating some temples out of the jungle, and the tourists are starting to come to check them out, though because the location is so remote it's slow going. Still, I rode in this Brat in both sunlight and rain (it rains a lot in El Salvador), up these twisty turny mountain roads to Chalchuapa, and got to see this Mayan temple up close and personal. A nine-year-old kid walked me through it, and he was pretty knowledgeable, telling me all about the ball game that the condemned used to play for the entertainment of the locals before their still-beating hearts were ripped out of their bodies. (He then demanded a tip. I paid him and bought him a Coke.) We had dinner at a place called the Manhattan Bar and Grill, where the local specialty was pollo asado with shark fin soup. I kid you not. And on the loudspeakers in this fine establishment of the local haute cuisine played a fine rendition of Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again."

Next road trip: Well, it won't be a road trip because I'll be flying, but I'm going back to Utah to see the folks. And if we go to Snowbird, which we might very well do, the road will be dry and safe without a trace of ice. Which sort of negates the whole purpose, but it's still awfully pretty up there.

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