Sunday, August 03, 2008

Fear And Loathing Across The USA

The acid has definitely kicked in.

I was doing ninety outside of Yuma when the acid kicked in [pictured above]. I told Anne to grab the wheel as I swatted at buzzards that had started circling the cat cage. When I looked back over at Anne, she had morphed, transformed into Kallie the Kat, in the fur [pictured below].

Who let Kallie drive?

Kallie grabbed the wheel as I fiddled with the radio dial. We were in the desert, just inside California. It was the last day of our trip, but just the beginning of mine. As the car careened along the smooth asphalt at ninety miles an hour, practically steering itself at this point, I thought back over our voyage [first day, pictured below].

The first day of the trip.

From Durham, North Carolina, we had headed down I-85 South towards Atlanta. "What are we doing?" I thought as we reached Charlotte, "This is going to take forever!" We were only three hours into our trip and already I was exhausted. Anne took over in South Carolina [pictured below] and took us through Atlanta, one of the hairiest parts of our voyage.

Somewhere near Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The traffic around Atlanta is awful and Anne had never driven there before, but she figured it would be good practice for when we got to Los Angeles. After we got to Alabama, I took over driving again. Kallie had taken some tranquilizers in the back seat and had finally stopped whining [pictured below].

Kallie says, "Are we there yet?"

It would be about six more hours before we would get to Jackson, Mississippi and our first night's rest, so I figured it was about time I started drinking. There's nothing like the combination of Gusano Rojo and Yellowjackets to keep you awake, alert and relaxed on a long drive. Anne protested, but it's my car, so what's she going to do? I was happy to pull into the La Quinta in Jackson around 7:30, and Anne had spied a little Thai place called, appropriately, the Thai House, on the way in. I was a little reluctant to eat Thai food in Mississippi, but after reading positive reviews online, we decided to give it a try, and it was delicious. I had the Tom Kha Gai soup and Pad Prik and Anne had Larb. All three dishes were worth the trip. Then back to the hotel to pass out and be woken up every few hours by Kallie in nocturnal hunt mode [below].

Kallie likes the hotel in Jackson, Mississippi.

The second day took us to Austin to visit Mike Lucas and Sunny Love [below].

Mike and Sunny in Austin

I drove the rest of the way through Mississippi, Anne took over in Louisiana and I drove through Texas. Texas is a lot hillier than I had remembered on my last cross country trip. We took the back roads off of I-20 down to Austin. Highway 79 or some such nonsense. There were some real shit-holes [below] on the way. Austin is great, though. We arrived just in time to snack a little before Mike cooked some mean Parmesan and Panko breaded chicken. Yep, Mike is eating meat again. Mike has been a vegetarian the entire time I have known him, but now he is back on the meat with a vengeance. We stayed at Mike's girlfriend Brandy's place in Austin.

A flea market somewhere in rural Texas

The next day, after a hearty burrito breakfast, we ventured out into the Austin heat. 110 degrees in the shade! It was too hot to stay dry, so we liquored up and headed for the local swimmin' hole, Barton Springs. On the way, we just had to stop for delicious Vietnamese sandwiches at Lulu B's, a sandwich truck that is a favorite of locals [below].

Lulu B's Vietnamese food wagon.

I thought about getting Kallie stuffed at Martinez Brothers Taxidermy Studio [below], but that would have to wait. The swimming hole was the perfect thing. A natural spring that has been walled off with concrete and charges three dollars admission. It was deliciously cool water, around sixty-five degrees, with disgusting algae floating over the surface. That didn't stop us from jumping (or slowly scootching) right into the water. After about an hour, we were cooled off and ready to head back to Mike's place to pick up some DV tapes of some old crumps for me to put on my computer. That, and a ton of Reggae music.

Martinez Brothers Taxidermy Studio in Austin.

On the way back to Brandy's house, we stopped at the farmer's market [below] for some veggies for that night. Now, when I say Mike is back on meat with a vengeance, I mean it. That night, we had bison burgers and two kinds of sausage with our veggies. We hung out for a little after dinner, but we were exhausted and it was a long drive to El Paso the next day. Kallie enjoyed her short time at Brandy's, getting to play with three dogs and another cat. The dogs: Sunny, Bowie and Tootie took an instant liking to Kallie and chased her whenever they had the chance. The cat was a little more standoffish.

The Austin farmer's market.

We left Austin around ten the next morning after a breakfast of homemade blueberry pancakes and bacon (a la Mike). Peter Garrett was right when he sung, "the Western desert lives and breathes." Sure he was talking about Australia, but it still applies. And it was breathing pretty hard when we arrived that night in El Paso [below (not really, but it is Texas)]. El Paso, right on the Mexican border, across the river from Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. You could see the shacks on the hill within walking distance from I-10. "How were they ever going to build a fence here?" I thought. "Great place to get Mexican food, though, right?"

A Texas oil field.

So we looked for a place close to the La Quinta and found Dominguez Fine Mexican Food. It got a good review on Yelp, but was probably the worst Mexican either of us had ever eaten. They brought out two salsas, a chunky salsa (named after the Chunky River in Chunky, Mississippi) and a puréed salsa. The chunky salsa was just chopped up jalapenos with a single slice of tomato and onion in lime juice. The puréed salsa was just jalapenos tossed in a blender. My mouth is still on fire from that. And that wasn't the worst of it. Anne ordered a dish that included a tamale topped with ketchup.

We figured the only way to make up for it was to trash our hotel room before heading to Orange Julius for breakfast the next morning. My father's father's name was Julius, and going to Orange Julius has always reminded me of him. There are no Orange Juliuses close to where we live in North Carolina, and hadn't been since I was a teenager and my grandfather died. I always kind of connected the two in my mind. Anyway, this would be a special treat and it did not disappoint. It was still just as delicious as I had remembered.


Now, only two days left on our trip. We packed up the cat and the car and hit the highway heading West [above]. Next stop, Phoenix, Arizona, seven hours away. This would be an easy day, or so I thought. Luckily, we did not run out of gas or overheat in the pit of hell that is the Sonoran Desert. We did get to see beautiful Mesas and huge Saguaro cacti, though [below]. And we barely bickered the whole ride, with only Kallie providing the "are we there yet, are we there yet?" whine.

The California desert, can you see the Saguaros?

Phoenix, Arizona might as well be located on the sun. It is definitely the hottest place we stopped on our trip. It was over a hundred degrees in the middle of the night. And I don't care what people say about dry heat. The disgustingly hot, dry wind that blew through the city made me sweat just as bad as any humid summer day in North Carolina. Luckily, we found a delicious Chinese restaurant called China Chili in Phoenix for dinner. The dumplings there are to die for! Anne and I could have eaten those all night. Then back to bed with a more behaved Kallie this night. The next day would be our shortest of driving, so I figured the acid wouldn't hurt anything. Boy was I wrong. At least it kept the California desert from getting boring. On the way, we stopped at the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum and Tank Graveyard and had milkshakes [pictures coming soon]. That was really the only way to beat the heat. It was only another few hours to Los Angeles, but at that point, who knew if we would make it. Anne's credit card was declined, and we nearly ran out of gas, but luckily her bank had just thought it was stolen and after a half hour on the phone with them, we were back in business, fueled up and ready to hit the road again.

Los Angeles is huge, dirty, beautiful, Mexican, hot, cool, everything you might think it is. I had to break into Seth's friends Mesha and Jordan's house to retrieve his keys, but we got out of there before the cops showed up. Seth's place is in Echo Park, right across the street from the park. It might as well be called Little Mexico, but it is not that little, so it should probably just go by Mexico. On Seth's recommendation, we headed to Mae Ploy for Thai food last night. It was delicious! Just like in Thailand.

Afterward, we headed back to Seth's to crash. We were exhausted from the trip. Seth's apartment has no air conditioning, it is on the third floor and has Western facing windows, so it was hot. We had all the windows open and all the fans going as we settled down to sleep. The screen in the window behind Seth's bed is not all the way attached, so there is a slight gap between it and the sill. I thought I would fix it in the morning when we got up, but Kallie had different ideas.

Kallie loves sleeping in window sills, but this one was not the best place for her to sleep. At around one in the morning, she knocked the screen out of the window and nearly fell out with it. I had to get dressed and go down to the street below to retrieve the screen, then had to hang nearly all the way out of the window on the third floor to reattach it. We decided that we would leave that window closed from now on and Kallie has taken to hiding behind the futon in fear, so as not to almost fall out of any other windows. We went grocery shopping today, trying to get a little better lay of the land. It will take a little adjusting, but I think we will make it here. We just need to find an apartment with air conditioning that is closer to the ground. Oh yeah, if you want to see more pictures from the trip, check out my flickr set here.


scottggrossman said...

Great stuff. Were you guys in a rush to get to L.A.?

Good luck out there you two!

Gigi Lee said...

Damn! Mike's beard got huge! Thanks for keeping us updated about your goings-on and SO glad that you and Anne made it safely to LA and are getting settled in. Keep us updated about your job and apartment searches!