Thursday, April 29, 2010

Our California Adventure, Part 2

So we took a few more pictures at the Arizona Welcome Center before departing towards Flagstaff. The temperature finally started to climb and after a few hours we were in the 70's.  Going from 20ish degrees to 70 in a matter of hours is completely awesome.  Once we reached Flagstaff, it was like we were going through a portal into a different world.  We were traveling upward, feeling more and more like we were in a spaceship (I call Ben's Jetta, the 'spaceship'), and the canyons were so deep and vast I was getting lost just letting my eyes wander in them.  It was all great and thrilling and what not--but that air pressure! Oh my God, that AIR PRESSURE! It got so bad at one point, I couldn't hear Ben talking to me, and Primus that was blasting out of the radio, sounded like a distant voice in the cactus speckled horizen somewhere.  It was truly frightening.  I questioned whether or not I'd ever be able to hear again. Ben yelled, 'Brittney, you'll be fine!! Just wait until you fly somewhere!" Not very reassuring, but I'd take it...and that's when I saw it--so quick I could barely tell, but I saw it--My first palm tree.  Granite, I have seen palm trees, my Uncle used to have one sitting out by his pond when I was kid that would fizzle and die in about a month, but nothing compared to seeing them in their own palm-appropriate climaxed homes.

After about a half hour of pressurized agony, my ears popped, and sounds of life flooded back into them. We were on a 5 lane highway at this point, out of the mountains, and we decided to stop and get beer and leave a pee.  Arizona is gorgeous. We were blessed to have great weather that weekend too so the sun was shining, it was now 78 degrees, and the first gas station we stopped at was surrounded in enourmous green palms.  The gas station was another story.  I went to pee and the lock was broken, and apparenly a starving artists had used poo to create artwork on the walls. Nonetheless, they had toilet paper and a pot to pee in so I did my best to not touch any surfaces, and bolted out to the beer cooler with the quickest of speed. Arizona has 30 packs of Bud Light cans...which we excitedly took two of.  Illinois has 30 packs of Busch Light/Natural Ice/ & Icehouse--The "dirty thirties" of Busch Light used to excite me very much, I mean, who can beat buying 30 beers for $12.00? The Natural Ice and Icehouse however, no thanks. A few of those and you'll be eating floor pronto.

So we hopped back on the expressway once again for about another hour when low and behold, the most amazing sight we'd ever seen--the archway for the California border.  We were stopped by border patrol who proceeded to ask us if we had any fruit, which we replied, 'no'. Then he mad a remark about Bud Light and told us we should be drinking Miller, to which we replied, 'gross' and carried on.

We were pumped.  I think we both smiled from ear to ear for the hour drive to Indio.  When we finally got there it was the best thing I've ever seen.

The festival itself was very unorganized.  We had to drive to 4 or 5 different gates and none of the employees seemed to have a clue what was going on or that they were on the job. One of them was smoking a cigarette and playing hackie sack. We asked him if he knew were 3 day pass camping parking was and without missing a kick he said, "Dude, I have no idea!' and laughed. This little escapade had seriously ruined our excitement. Ben sarcastically thanked him, and we turned around again.  Eventually we found a group of campers who had gone through the same ordeal, and directed us in the right path.  We finally got to our campsite, and shut the car off for the next 3 days.  Ben and I cracked our first Bud Lights, and washed down the memories of having been stuck in a car for the past 31 hours. The tent went up, we changed clothes, and hiked it to the concert grounds.

Once inside, we were pretty impressed. I was starving to death as we'd only eaten snacks and junk the whole way there, so I enjoyed a brat while Ben enjoyed the 31 different beer options.  He finally settled with a 'Magic Hat', I had a Pabst Blue Ribbon (this was the closest to a watered down domestic they had...I can't do the hoppy black beers, it's like drinking liquid black thank you).

The concert was good, but honestly, at that point, all I could think about was crawling into the tent, into our nice warm thermal sleeping bags (and air mattress, we like to camp classy) and get a good full nights sleep. Once we got back to the campsite, I drank one more beer, Ben cooked up a steak and then we were in bed. Ben passed out in about 10 seconds, and I was just about to doze off when a group nearby, who were quietly listening too some Bob Marley, suddenly decided it would be a good idea to blast Tupac at maximum volume.  The car was right next to our tent, and I swear I almost started crying. I mean seriously? You're at a hippie music festival blasting Tupac at one in the morning? So in a fit of rage, I marched out there and nicely asked them if they could turn it down, as we had just driven from Chicago and just wanted to sleep, they reluctantly agreed.  I must've sounded like such a buzzkill, but I didn't care, I wasn't going stay up for the sake of a bunch of drunk frat hippies to blast Tupac and pretend to be ghetto.

The next morning we woke up and immediately lit up the grill to cook some breakfast.  All we had was meat, so we ate porkchops.  Ben washed it down with a Bloody Mary and I was just trying to drink as much water as possible.  I've learned from my previous 3 music festivals that waking up, rolling out of your tent and cracking a beer at 8 a.m. is not such a good idea.  The last time I tried that in Rothbury music fest in Michigan, I wound up drinking 6 beers in an hour and half, on an empty stomach and 1 hour of sleep and ended up puking in my tent for 6 hours. Not fun.  We had left home at 1 am that morning and arrived at our destination about 4 hours later, once we got to the campsite, got the tent up and started our celebration, it was about 7 am. I missed the whole first day, and Ben came to get me around 6 p.m. with a bottle of Pepto and a beer. What can I say, we were at a music festival, and I'm a trooper.  We watched one more show that night, then went back to our tent, nibbled a few blocks of cheese with some diet coke and went to bed. But anyway, that's a whole other story, back to California...

We were just sitting there, eating our porkchops like cavemen (we were lacking utensils), when a stranger came pummeling into our campsite like a train wreck.  He'd managed to find a small rug, and collapsed onto it like a failed jenga game.  He used one of our folding chairs as a foot rest, and proceeded to smoke a bowl without any thought as to where he was. 

Ben and I looked at him curiously.  I had to get up and walk away because of my uncontrollable laughter, not to mention his barn door was open and I was getting an unintended peep show.  Finally after a minute of silence Ben finally asks, "Hey guy--Do you want a bloody mary?"  As if he came out of a trance he looked up and said, "Oh thanks" He 'repositioned' himself, took a few more drags, and eventually wandered off.  But that wasn't the last we saw of him, he came back a little while later, wearing clothes this time, and we soon figured out that he was indeed our neighbor. 

We made friends with our neighbors after a little while, I wish very much that I could remember their names, but I can't.  There were two couples, the stoned man in the picture and his girlfriend, and another couple. The other guy was constantly dressed like a sailor, and had a big firey red beard, and his strange, yet intriguing girlfriend. She was weird, but I couldn't help liking her. Come to think of it, the sailor's name was Matt. I remember that because we were playing frisbee with them and I just remember I kept seeing his name MATTHEW written across it, but I can't remember anyone else.  Matt and his girlfriend actually lived in the mountains of Sacramento, in a tent ironically. So this experience was nothing new for them.  They were born to live as tree huggers apparently, but we liked them.  We stuck by them as much as possible during our stay.

That day, Ben and I went to the fair grounds early to check out some stores and sculptures and what not. Music festivals are always riddled with overpriced shops and sculptures. Phish was playing a day show this day too (Halloween).  I actually had money for this fest though, so I splurged on myself a little. I can't go to California with no money and buy nothing! So I'd taken out a small loan before we went. It was intended to pay on bills, but it ended up working out in my favor, so I had about $300 extra to spend on myself. So I bought a purse, some chap stick and a Phish hoodie, which I've been wearing almost every day since then (seriously, I don't go anywhere without it).

We attended the 2nd concert again that night, which again, was amazing.  By this time though our feet were so sore and throbbing, all I wanted to was sit.  We headed back to our campsite and turned in for the night.

The next morning was the last day of our California trip.  We got another night of good sleep and hung out with our neighbors all day.  Sadly, we also packed up our stuff and got the car all ready to go.  We were leaving that night after the concert.

Once again the show was amazing, Phish came out to play the encore, and we decided to leave to beat the crowd. You'd be surprised how many people leave minutes after a festival.  We said our good-byes to our temporary and only best friends from California that we would never see or hear from again. Since Pat and his girlfriend were living outside, they had no phones.  We waved our last good-byes and they faded into the dark swarm of people enjoying 'Esther', the encore. We exited the fair grounds, passed all the shops, gave it one last look over, and...

We were back.  Back in the spaceship to start on a trip back home to Peotone.  We hopped back onto the expressway, and I fell asleep.

3 hours later, in Arizona somewhere around Flagstaff we stopped at a rest stop and slept a few more hours.  About 5:30 am, I made Ben get in the passenger seat and fell back asleep and I drove until about mid-New Mexico, where we switched and I took a nap again.  I just wanted to point out that I drove through the Flagstaff mountains all by myself, thank you very much.  Ben woke up sometime later and yelled, "Oh my God! You drove through Flagstaff by yourself!"....Yeah, I don't even like driving on the expressway, let alone a winding mountain side at 8000 sea level.  So I was pretty dang proud of myself.  I'll tell you what though, those Arizonians are not phased by those mountains at all, they fly through there like they are part of the Indy 500, and I was fluxuating between 70-80...that is butt clenching speed for a scaredy-cat like me.  That's probably the hardest I've focused in my life.

I woke up sometime later in New Mexico.  New Mexico takes about 7 hours to drive through from what I remember, but we were in the dreaded Panhandle again before we knew it.  Our stop in Texas wasn't as nearly as bad the second time. We stopped a Famous Daves and enjoyed some Texan food, then we were back on the road.  I drove for about 7 more hours, while Ben slept a little more.  By this time, we were in the middle of Oklahoma. Remember in Part 1 of my story, I said that Oklahoma was crap? Well, here's why.
We eventually switched once Ben woke up, and I had stupidly pouded a half a bottle of water.  I'd practically been dehydrating myself the whole trip to avoid having to stop every hour, and although I was doing a great job, I was also depriving myself.  So we had to stop, so I could do what I'm best at, and pee.  We pulled up to a gas station that had been being advertised for a few miles, but when we reached it, it was nothing but a desolate, empty box.  So we had to drive 6 or 7 more miles to a rest area.  First,
we discovered something very dissapointing about Oklahoma just then, besides the fact that it has the most depressingly dark and scary highways in the United States, almost every exit requires a toll. Cash only. We had barely enough change to get to the stop, and had to get 10 bucks in quarters just to be safe. Second, Ben got pulled over by a very bitchy dyke cop...there was road construction on both sides, so Ben pulled onto the left shoulder.  The cop flew out of her car, and before Ben even got the window rolled down, she was screaming, "FIRST OF ALL, YOU NEVER PULL OVER ON TO THE LEFT LANE, YOU COULD GET US BOTH KILLED, SECOND OF ALL, YOU WERE GOING TOO SLOW IN THE PASSING LANE. IF YOU FEEL THE NEED TO GO SLOW, GET OVER!" And that was it, she stormed off, jumped back in her cruiser, and took off about 300 mph down the street. No warning, nothing.  Ben was going 65 in a 60.  Please explain to me how that is too slow when we are going over the speed limit?  This, just giving me another reason to loathe cops and their retard decisions. Just because you're a cop, doesn't give you authority to be a jag off at any given moment.  Get off your power trip lady, go to a gay bar or something and get some phone numbers for crying out loud. Third, there were signs all over the roads warning of deer.  I was trying my very hardest to fall asleep, but I was so sleep deprived, that my body was what I called 'airplane mode'.  It didn't want to sleep but didn't want to be awake either, I was just sort of a zombie, waiting for a deer to come sprinting out of the woods at any given second--when suddenly, Ben jerked the car violently and yelled 'HOLY SHIT!'...I looked up just in time to see a buck, sprawled across both lanes. Antlers sticking up in the air like trees.  We had just enough time and room to squeeze around it, going 75 mph, and I'm pretty sure we both peed a little. Shortly after, we came to another dreaded toll. Ben put the appropriate amount of money in, and the gate wouldn't open.  Ben called the number on the box to report it, and we took off.  At that point, I declared defeat against the dreaded state of Oklahoma.  There was just too many close calls, dykes and dear carcasses for our liking, and we were so tired we were both seeing trails and what not.  We pulled into the next rest stop, and much to our delight, the sign read 'Missouri Welcome Center'.  I was so happy to see that sign, I'm pretty sure I deliriously laughed to myself on my way into the bathroom.  Being on the road that long with no sleep, no lights and such will drive a person loony.  I'm pretty sure I was laughing with joy though.

The next morning, about 5:30, I made Ben move again, I was done sleeping, I wanted to get home.  I gunned it to the nearest town, grabbed a pop and a granola bar, and got us to St. Louis in about 4 hours.  We stopped at a Panera bread, got some good food, and crossed the border into Illinois 15 minutes later.  4 more hours later, we were home.  I'd never been so frickin' happy to see that stupid little town, and flat lands and cold weather.  I'm pretty sure the extreme air pressure did something to my ears too because everything sounded 20 times louder.  We got up into our stupid little apartment, and collapsed onto our stupid uncomfortable furniture.

I had never slept in a more comfortable bed that night. We'd drove across the Western part of the country, seen mountains, drove through mountains, made new friends and been places and seen things together for the first time.  It was truly an experience to remember.  After all said and done though, there's still no place like home.


mark0510 said...


Found this site via WVSR. This made a great read, cheers for sharing it.

I would love to travel west accross the States, but being British I instinctively drive on the left and this tends to terrify those driving towards me. My wife's screaming dents my confidence a little too!

Brittney:) said...

Haha that's funny...I can imagine that would be scary! and thanks!