Despite the boredom, butt aches, and bitchiness resultant of too many hours in a cramped car, I love road trips.
You never know what natural beauty or unnatural manifestations await you down the road.
Although I got off the river a full week ago, we continued on from central-eastern Idaho, up into western Montana, then down to Salt Lake City, Utah, later across—again—the expansive Nevada desert, and finally back home to California, a couple of days ago, hence the recent week-long radio silence.
The secret to surviving thousands of miles of driving sometimes comes down to figuring out how to numb the endless hours behind the wheel of those ultra-long road trips, when self-medicating is ill-advised.
On occasion, I have found myself in a state of near-hypnosis and cannot recall long stretches of highway or entire towns I passed through, which leaves me to wonder, it that a good thing or a bad thing?
I recall many long drives between the southern Sierra town of Springville, California, where I worked and lived back then, and the Bay Area, where I participated in sailboat races on weekends.
I would often make the drive and not be able to recall a damn detail of the entire six hours spent behind the wheel.
On the positive side of the ledger, the trip went seemingly fast and I got to my destination quicker than anticipated.
On the negative side of the equation, since apparently I couldn’t remember those towns I drove through—like Los Banos in the center of the San Joaquin valley—for all I knew I clobbered a gaggle of senior citizens crossing Main Street on their way to Bingo.
Mercifully, I haven’t driven those kinds of distances for a long while, that is until our recent road trip that necessitated multiple legs of nine hours, plus, behind the wheel.
The recent trip took us across hundreds of miles of straight-as-an-arrow, table-flat highways that disappear into the horizon, along seared brown hills baked in the summer desert sun.
Often the only break in this “endless” scene were the occasional green oasis of some old-time family homestead farmhouse, surrounded by aging cottonwood trees, or the random dilapidated boarded up highway store or service station, long since abandoned, such as this one in Orovada, Nevada, just south of the Oregon border—hence the name.
Being bored is not the same as falling asleep, although, clearly they are often—but not necessarily—associated.
When I once dropped off a date in L.A. and was driving back to Pasadena in the wee hours of the evening, it had nothing to do with boredom that caused me to plow into and take down 100 feet of freeway fence with my mother’s 1958 Rambler American.
Reminiscent of the old Bill Cosby routine, I woke up and found myself careening sideways along the freeway center divider. I can tell you from first-hand, painful experience—both physically and financially—that rolling down the window or blasting the radio have little chance from fending off the onset of sleep behind the steering wheel.
Wisdom sometimes comes from adversity.
And sometimes it just shows up right in front of you.
As we settled into the long stretch between Missoula, Montana and Salt Lake City, Utah, we found that in Montana they even have wisdom markets.
Yet, we found other towns in Montana that some might argue market in something less than wisdom.
“You read it right. Customers who buy Dish Network will be rewarded with a firearm.
Qualifying customers have the choice between a Hi Point 380 pistol or a 20-gauge shotgun,”
said Steve Strand, who has owned Hamilton’s Radio Shack for about seven years.
Gee, what could go wrong with that idea?
"There is a risk involved," Strand said.
I can see a lot of shot up televisions with people unhappy with some sports score or a politician that they strongly dislike.
On the other hand, doesn’t Radio Shack sell televisions?
I take it back. This is a brilliant business concept.
But, if you are more Sierra Club than National Rifle Association, they did come up with a less lethal promotion.
“They can also opt for a $50 gift card from Pizza Hut if they prefer.”
Hell, I remember back in the day when all that Radio Shack gave me with my purchase was a little punch card that entitled me to a free battery once a month.
Those 9-volt batteries certainly did not pack the punch of a 20-gauge shotgun…that is unless you licked the terminals to see if there was any juice left.
Maybe that explains my loss of brain cells back in those days.
And my ability to drive for hours and not remember a damn thing.