As I have made abundantly clear over the last week to most of those who know me, I have been road tripping across the United States. And when I say across the United States, I literally mean across the United States. Like, from San Francisco to Fort Kent, Maine.
I’m not going to take you through my road trip chronologically this time, because I didn’t have a whole lot of time to stop and go on moderately epic adventures, like I did last time. So I’m going to share with you a few highlights, observations, and lessons.
1. First of all, unlike last time, I had a companion. His name is Frank. He’s a flamingo.
He’s not very good for talking with, but he is good for talking at. He doesn’t ask tough questions. He doesn’t eat PB+J. But he does engender amused looks from passersby. And he wears a seatbelt, of course.
Frank traveled just about everywhere I did this winter, except for Germany, making him fairly well-traveled for an inanimate object. Had I had the presence of mind to bring him with me to Germany, I totally would have, but instead, he spent a very lonely, hungry, and damp two weeks inside my car in Seattle. Fortunately, like lobsters, inflatable flamingos don’t have the ability to suffer, so he didn’t treat me any differently when I got back.
2. Radio programs, podcasts, and audiobooks are crucial when you’re spending 50+ hours in the car. Needless to say, I think I know wayyyyyy more about health care reform than most other cross country ski journalists, having listened to many hours of debate and discussion on NPR. Also, did you know that Andre Agassi didn’t wear any underwear when he won the French Open in 1999? (That’s thanks to his autobiography, which, by the way, is really good.) And finally, if you don’t listen to “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” you should start. Now.
3. Food is extremely important. One thing that I have learned over the course of driving many miles this winter is that you can’t have really good food on a road trip. Instead, you have to have merely decent food, because if you have really yummy food, you just end up eating it all at once. And when I say you, I guess I mean me. And Topher. But in any case, things like potato chips are no good—instead, it’s stuff like pretzels, dried fruit, and, above all, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I have learned to make on the fly. Sandwich-making while driving is an obscure and often-maligned art, but I have become a master at it. Actually, that’s also not true—I still end up with peanut butter all over my pants every time I try it. But it does spice things up, and most importantly, keep me awake.
4. Lawrence, Kansas is a surprisingly rad place to hang out.
5. I have the best friends on the face of the planet, who don’t seem to mind in the slightest when I show up at eight o’clock in the evening, expecting to be fed and given a warm place to sleep, and then disappear early in the morning. I have been thinking about this quite a bit, and asking myself how I would behave if someone showed up at my house in the same fashion, with these same expectations, a filthy car, unshowered, unshaven, and bragging how they’ve been in Alaska, Europe, and the Olympics this winter. Pretty sure that if I had been at home, or even at work at a sweet job, I would probably send someone like that back out on the street. Potentially with a kick in the ass. So I feel pretty lucky.
6. I played Boggle at my friend’s house in California. I honed my Boggle skill over an intensive two-year period at Bowdoin College, and it had been a little while since I’d played. I definitely still have it, and I totally kicked everyone’s a–. I am hereby issuing a challenge to any reader of this blog who thinks they can take me at Boggle during the biathlon championships and/or the SuperTour Finals, or even any other time, any place. Yes, I am the Petter Northug of Boggle, because I am talking smack. And just like Petter Northug, I will back it up. The only thing that falls as fast as the ink from my pen in a game of Boggle will be your spirits.
If you made it this far, I have one more piece of wisdom to offer you, and this actually might be the only useful one from this entire diatribe:
Dysarts is a rad truck stop just south of Bangor. They have very delicious homemade bread, pie, and other heinously delicious stuff. If you are hoping for exceptionally high performance in the actual races, you probably should bring a coach in with you to prevent yourself from eating too much.
Finally, as annoying as Quebec drivers are, the name of this town redeemed the whole province for me, irrevocably: