Cross Country 2004

our progress [IN YELLOW] across the country

Friday, June 11, 2004

time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
6:16pm N/A Chicago Midway Airport Sigur Ros Agaetis Byrjun I'm on my way back to Boston. again. This time, Andy (Leiserson, my tEp little brother and electronics/ computer extraordinaire) and I, are driving to the Bay Area. He's moving out there, to Santa Clara, to work at NVidia. I'm getting away from Stanford for a bit and trying to stretch out the time I have before I start work at Function Engineering ( I tend to do this thing where I try to see what my limit is by taking on way too much and then working really hard. Not always the best plan, I must admit. But now, I feel like I need to get away and a road trip is a pretty good way to do that--and Andy didn't have anyone to drive out here with so I'm being a big hero in that manner.
8pm N/A over New York somewhere Sufjan Stevens Greetings from Michigan [I had to get on a plane there]. I had other things to say up there; that is to say, the previous entry isn't finished, but I forgot what was going to finish it. Oh yeah...
The plan: leave sunday morning, drive to Pittsburgh, see my parents and some friends. Then, Texas to see Bork. After that? I don't know. We both start work on the 28th of June. Between Sunday and the 28th? I don't know.
Things I like about America that I want to do:
  • diners
  • bowling alleys
  • drive-ins
  • one screen movie theaters
  • putt putt (often refered to as 'mini-golf' by those not in the know)

  • Sunday, June 13

    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    8:50am 314 Winchester, MA radio we're leaving (this entry was faked at 9:07am)
    9:08am 319 Arlington, MA my new found oldies collection the clock is set. a quick stop at CVS has resulted in Kool-Aid Man Bobblehead appropriately attached to the dash (yay for double-side mounting tape)
    Woo! ROAD TRIP
    10:39am 429 just passing through Hartford still oldies signs: (one of those programmable road signs, back in MA) "Test"
    (a billboard in Hartford) Do it in Hartford! Find out what @
    2:56pm 653 near Bloomsburg, PA on I-80 John Vanderslice Cellar Door we just stopped for gas and food. 37.4mpg gas mileage so far. Subway was the food. it was fine.
    in the bathroom at this gas/ food stop was a weird thing. it was a coin operated cologne dispenser with nozzles on the face of it. I guess you put your coins in, pick your cologne, put your face near the nozzle on the face of this machine and it sprays out the cologne. who would use such a thing? a trucker that wants to make himself feel special??

    monday, the 14th

    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    1:28am 950-some casa de Bischoff, Pittsburgh, PA weezer I drove the last bit to Pittsburgh. There was crap construction stop-and-go on I-79 near the I-80 interchange. it was dumb.
    we got in for a slightly delayed dinner. Jon Werberg and his girlfriend Helene (sp?) came for dinner and Mike Glasser joined us later. Good times. Apparently Hampshire College is a total freak fest (Helene went there and enthralled us with stories). Mike and Jon look good, but each seem to have his worries. I was about to go to bed when I realized Christine Waller was around too, so she came over for a bit and showed me her pictures from Peru and we talked about the future and boys and girls (and sometimes both boys/ girls and the future at the same time).
    I called some people today and it looks like we'll be staying with JeffMillerGuitarGiant in Nashville tomorrow night and having dinner with eldale. Andy also has relatives in Nashville. I don't know if we/ he'll see them.
    So Nashville tomorrow night, then Graceland on tuesday, ending the day maybe in Mississippi. From there we go to Houston (to see Bork) via Jackson and Baton Rouge. From there we'll probably make our way to Bisbee, Arizona to see Rowena and then maybe LA to hit up Jason for a night of sleep (thoughts on this, Jason??) and then to the beautiful Bay Area. So much for plans though...
    on a closing note: DO YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS A PLACE IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE YOU CAN GO TO A DRIVE-IN-LIKE MOVIE AND SLEEP IN A MOTEL ROOM AT THE SAME TIME??? Best Western Movie Manor in Monte Vista, CO. I was in that town not a year ago and I didn't go to it. if only I had known!
    oh yeah, and I graduated today (well sunday). congrats me.
    1:49pm 1192 southern Ohio on I-71 weezer, again we left at about 9:30 this morning and got gas at one of those 20 pump gas stations of the future (which have touch-screen sandwhich ordering as well!). we made some progress while I slept and andy drove. at a rest stop we saw two Deloreans! Check out this sweet picture below (if it's not there yet, it will be soon). Apparently there's a convention/ show in Pigeon Point (?) where about 125 of them from 6 countries are going to be. It's all rather exciting.

    4:12pm CDT 1418 Kentucky, I-65 at exit 48 101 FM, the best of Kentuckiana andy Adrian declares that he uses emacs without Meta or Esc! Also, this morning we stopped to take my (Andy's) picture by a sign for route 22 (and 40) in Ohio.
    4:34pm 1445 Kentucky, just past National Corvette Museum same goofy radio station as before andy another funny light up sign:
    also, a few miles later we saw some doofus make a u-turn across the median of the interstate. he must have misunderstood the prominent "No U-Turn" sign.

    it's tuesday.

    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    9:29am 1530-ish? Antioch near Nashville, at Jeff's place none we're at Jeff's place, showering and stuff. I think we're going to Shoney's or iHop for breakfast.
    We got into Nashville a little bit earlier than we expected, mostly because Nashville is in the Central Daylight Time zone (who knew?). While Elizabeth (Dale) was doing other stuff we wandered around downtown Nashville and went into crappy souvenier shops with leather cowboy hats and shirts entitled things like "20 things not to say during sex". High quality stuff. Then Andy ran off to have dinner with his cousins and I had dinner with Libbs and her roommate at this place in the Vanderbilt area of things. Good times. Jeff ran later than I expected, so meanwhile I talked to Andy and Libby while they dozed off. (She still turns into a pumpkin at midnight, or more like 11:30 these days). Jeff ended up getting into the area around 12:45am, after which we came to his place, andy fell asleep rather quickly and jeff and I talked for a bit.
    capitalization is both a pain and out of style. look at me!
    2:06pm 1728 on I-40, a bit yet from Memphis oldies! it's raining like crazy and we're going pretty slow. we don't know what it is for sure. no sign of construction and we're too far from Memphis for it to be city traffic. a first and just now a second ambulance passed us, so we're guessing it's probably an accident.
    okay. we're going again. it was actually two accidents about a quarter mile apart. hope everyone is alright
    5:45pm 1768 Memphis, TN and Horn Lake, MS Elvis andy some thoughts on the recent happenings:
    • Just before Graceland, we saw a Days Inn advertising 24 hour Elvis movies and a "guitar-shaped swimming pool".
    • For the student discounted price of $16.20, we got to take an audio tour of Graceland. The house itself isn't very big, and they don't allow you upstairs, but there are a bunch more attractions on the grounds, including the office where they sorted fan mail and the racquetball court. Everything looks like it is straight out of the 70s. There is some neat stuff, like a desk RCA gave Elvis with built in radio, cassette, and 8-track player.
    • While we were on the Graceland tour, it rained heavily. After waiting for the rain to stop, we found an enormous puddle in the parking lot and were afraid we'd have to wade to the car. We were going to eat in Memphis but the traffic lights had all gone out so we took the first chance out of the traffic, the I-55 onramp.
    • We saw several signs for a place called "South Southaven".
    • Just over the border into Mississippi, we ate lunch/dinner at a Pizza Hut. The food was disgusting but we were hungry and the alternatives were even worse. Just before we left, one of the round speakers fell out of the ceiling. When she saw it, the waitress said "Oh my goodness! Oh no!".
    • One of the waitresses was a Southern punk rock girl. She got the job of putting the speaker back in the ceiling, but then declared that she didn't think it would stay because the nail came out with it.
    11:21pm 2093 Hammond, LA the sounds of Dave Letterman so we're stopped for the night, drinking a couple beers, figuring out our route for tomorrow, and watching some TV. we're in the slightly-seedy but cheap Motel Cedars (the cockroach in the shower and disconected smoke alarm have been noted). Our revised schedule includes going to New Orleans for a couple hours tomorrow and then heading to Houston by evening to see Bork. It seems reasonably doable. A new thing that I want to do (see list above, entry #2) is get some Dr. Pepper from the main factory (where they use sugar instead of corn syrup). Also, maybe go to some pawn shops.
    I must say, though, Mississippi has some of the most consistant interstate-side scenery of all the states thusfar. Oh and parts of I-55 included severe rain which slowed us down for portions of the drive. the repetative scenery let my mind wander a bit. mostly about the future and the recent past.
    Pizza hut wasn't disgusting; it was just um not the most appetizing ever.

    I guess it's wednesday

    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    12:41pm 2168 New Orleans, about to get on 10W (to Houston) Rainer Maria Look now look again New Orleans! Oh benny, it's all quite exciting: we parked on Esplanade St. and wandered around the French Quarter. We were worried we'd get a parking ticket (the street signs were confusing) but we didn't. We crossed the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge, which I think is something like 30 miles long. Andy was quite blown away by it. To his benefit, it does seem for quite a while like you're on a bridge across the ocean because all you can see on all sides is bridge and water. Maybe I'll post a picture below from Andy's digital camera if we can dig out the card reader from the trunk. and now we're off to Houston, maybe stopping in Baton Rouge for a couple minutes. I'm worried we'll get to Houston pretty late if we don't make pretty good time.
    Some highlights of New Orleans:
  • a muffelleta at the Central Grocery Co. cool place. good sandwhich, cool store
  • street performers: the "bird man", a robot guy and a guy/ girl slide guitar/ washboard combo
  • discovering the crap beer/ crap mixed drinks/ crap souvenier stores

  • 1:55pm 2250 just past Baton Rouge on the I-10 Unwed Sailor Faithful Anchor Baton Rouge: I didn't see a single red stick!
    4:10pm 2379 just past Lake Charles, LA Beatles Revolver store name in Lake Charles: Casino Pawn (so you can pawn all your stuff and blow the money down the street)
    according to a billboard, the name of an establishment in the area: Wagin' Cajun Casino.


    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    12:40pm 2540 leaving Houston, TX 93.7 FM andy We got a late start today because we spent some time with Bork. I was going to talk about how Adrian is softcore here, but I've decided against it, since nobody would appreciate it except Jesse.
    11:44pm 2806 something like that Alex's place in Dallas Conan sounds alright, so I haven't updated in a while. I drove all day today (well all of what we drove today--andy drove all of yesterday) so I couldn't write. quick recap of today's events and then more detail about a couple of things.
    We started the day with Bork in Houston. We hung out for a while.
    We headed to Waco to the Dr. Pepper Museum. I am now the proud owner of 23 cans (gave one to alex) and 12 bottles of the original Dr. Pepper, made with Cane Sugar (instead of corn syrup), a shirt and a patch.
    We're in Dallas now, at my brother Alex's ( place and we watched the movie Saved! after eating some Mexican food.
    [warning: this section contains overly personal thoughts on money and religion, skip for the skiddish--okay it's too long to put here, I'm putting it here if you want to read it.]

    it's friday already

    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    10am 2806 my brother's place in Dallas still Polyphonic Spree Beginning Stages of... a quick update on our plan:
    drive to near Carlsbad Caverns today; go in the morning; drive for a bit tomorrow; get to Bisbee and visit Ro on sunday; go to LA or near on monday; drive to the Bay Area on Tuesday.
    11:12am 2837 I-30, past Arlington oldies radio I think people just don't know how to use those programmable road signs: "This sign is being tested. Texas Department of Transportation."
    5:10pm [see next entry] 3225 180/ 62 past Hobbs, NM oldies mp3s (I swear we listened to other stuff recently as well) So we've been driving for a while, since about 10am. For a long time we were on the 180 (before it joined with the 62) between Lamesca and Seminole (which is the #1 oil, #1 cotton, and #1 peanut producer of the county? Texas? the US? I didn't catch that part) with reddish brown dirt stretching for miles on both sides and a oil well every once in a while. It's the sort of nothingness that reminds me of Kansas except the fields were brown instead of green and the occasionally town had a McDonalds, a gas station and a payday loan service, instead of a Walmart, a Perkins and a payday loan service.
    We passed through the town of Hobbs, in NM, which was pretty exciting. It had a bowling alley, but no drive-in movie theater. Carlsbad apparently has a drive-in, so we're probably going to stop there for the night. We're passing through the distinctive smell of natural gas (or rather one of the mercaptane additives that makes it smell); we figure there are natural gas refineries around here.
    8:37pm MDT 3290-some Carlsbad, NM none we're in the mountain time zone and I'd like to relate to you, Loyal Reader, how I know this. We knew Carlsbad had a drive-in and found out that the main showing is at 8:30 with the place opening at 8., so we had a quick dinner after arriving in town at about "6:30" and checking into the economy inn (cheaper and cleaner than the motel cedars of hammond, la) and went over to the theater, getting there at about "8:05" after driving around for a bit. There wasn't anyone at the ticket booth thing, so we went in and parked. I went up to the guy that appeared to be preparing the place and said "hey, there wasn't anyone at the booth." he said "that's because it's five past seven." I stared at him. "it's mountain time." andy laughed in the car. "oh. uh, sorry." "we get that all the time." "I guess I'll see you in about an hour then." andy laughed some more.
    So let this be a lesson to you: New Mexico is in the mountain time zone, no matter how close to Texas it is.
    we've also discovered that of my list of Americana, we can do almost all of them here. we're going to the drive-in in a couple of minutes, the economy inn is right next to cal's cactus lanes bowling alley, there's a diner near the drive-in and there's a putt-putt/ go cart place a few minutes farther down the main road. we might have breakfast at the diner and see about bowling or putt-putt in the morning before the caverns. it's still about 550 miles to bisbee, so it'd be hard to make that in one day, especially if we're stopping at the caverns, so we can take extra time at places like the diner and the bowling alley.


    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    10:14am 3318 (over the 3000 mile mark of our trip) right near the Carlsbad Caverns, NM oldies radio billboard: " Velvet Garter Saloon and Restaurant... Steaks Salads Garters"
    3:07pm 3464 on 180/62 just past Hueco, TX Archers of Loaf All the Nation's Airports we just passed a how shaped like flying saucer and made out of concrete. the windows are little black domes shaped like those security camera bubbles in department stores and casinos.
    Carlsbad Caverns: impressive. definately worth the trip if you're in the area. The walk down is a bit rough on the knees and the ankles.

    it is the seventh day. and on the seventh day we drove.

    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    1:46 am 3770-ish Ro's house, in Bisbee, AZ Joseph Arthur "In the Sun" so we're in bisbee and it's been quite a night. we decided somewhere around Las Crucez (sp?) that we could make it to bisbee by 8:30 or so...and later we realized that it was going to be earlier, because arizona doesn't do the daylight savings time thing, so in the summer they're sort of on pacific time. We called Rowena a few times but to no avail: no response. we decided to come to bisbee anyhow and try our luck. when we had arrived, still no sign of Ro and time was passing (like it always does). just as we were considered how much a hotel was worth in terms of not having to sleep in the car, Ro called and we met up and went on a slightly precarious ride to her place. Settled, we had a beer and headed back to main street and beer gulch to have some dinner and for Ro to waitress at a local bar. As it turns out we ate and hung out with her at her bar, which she didn't end up working at for the night.
    breakfast at a diner in the morning. we might try to push on to Jason in LA by night or we might give LA a skip and pull up short for the night. it's a long drive...
    12:38pm 3798 on Arizona 80, near Tombstone Leonard Cohen "Hallelujah" we're on the road again. this morning we went to this awesome diner (check that off the list) in Bisbee called Dot's Diner. it's a stainless, probably prefab building of about 10'x18' with nine stool seats. no booths, just the stools and the counter with classic diner stylings. I had some really good blueberry walnut pancakes (the "Blue Wally" pancakes) and had some of Rowena's cornflake-encrusted french toast in a berry compote, which was excellent. it was located right next to the Shady Glen RV park/ hotel. This place is incredible. (I've definately seen something about it on TV before.) it has all these old restored RVs, a boat, and a restored bus, each outfitted with beds and things and people book a room for a night or two, like a hotel. it's really cool. we finished up our morning with a quick hike to the top of one of the hills on the edge of old Bisbee. Bisbee's a quirky town, it seems. it's in a valley and a lot of the houses are built into the hills in a way that reminds me of the south side of Pittsburgh. lots of stairs and strange, steep streets connecting everything.
    when I have cell phone coverage again, I'm going to call Jason and see what he thinks about getting in late to LA.
    6:09pm 4159 past Blythe, CA on the I-10 Mantissa a Working Model Our mascot and dashboard companion, the Kool-Aid Man Bobblehead Doll, is not looking well. He formerly stood proud and did a job with the spring in his step. After thousands of miles of happily bobbling along, his shoulders are slumped and the spring is just not there anymore, like an old man jaded by the ways of the world. I've tried to give him a pep talk, tell him that things are looking good, that we're in California, the New West, that we're nearing the end of our Journey, that he's been bobbling so well thus far and that he can do it just for a little more. Then I got a more stern. Straighten up, Soldier! This is no time to give up! To no avail.
    What can I do now? Should I threaten removing him from his honorable dash post? Try to appeal to his heart? Wretch his head and try to straighten out his spring? I'm at my wits end.
    6:22pm 4179 somewhere on the I-10 Mantissa still so we're in California. I've talked to Jason and it looks as though we're staying with him tonight in Pasedena.
    a few things I forgot/didn't to note earlier (in almost chronological order):
  • in western New Mexico we saw tumbleweed blow across the I-10. it was exciting.
  • we saw another programmable sign that was "testing." I guess that people just don't know how to use these things.
  • in El Paso, we drove around for almost an hour looking for food. our two criteria were: no mexican (we'd had it the previous two days) and no fast food. we failed. we ate at a Whataburger (or as I call it Weezerburger, because their symbol is similar to the Weezer W symbol), which has been officially declared a Texas Treasure by the state senate. it was no In N Out
  • andy has been trying to work out his housing for when he gets to California and has been leaving a string of rental applications (well one) across the country. in Carlsbad, he had Polish Matt fax the application to the Mail Service Center Friday night, but come Saturday morning, we could neither find it, nor confirm their existance/ openness by phone. I bet come tomorrow morning they will be wondering why a rental application for a house in Palo Alto, CA is sitting on their fax machine.
  • I saw some of those cartoon cactii by the side of the road earlier, the ones that look like a guy with his arms pointed up. the cartoons led me to believe they would be wearing a sombrero and could talk. don't be fooled; this is not ths case.
  • we've seen billboards for "Microsurgical Vasectomy Reversal" listing the same phone number in Houston all the way from Louisiana to California on the I-10. must be targeted at truckers.
  • monday, again

    time odometer reading location (geographical) music comment
    10:55am 4369 on the I-210, leaving Pasadena Creedance on the radio we've started on our last day of our trip. it'll be nice to be home. nine days on the road is about enough.
    we crashed at Jason's place at Caltech last night. we're now heading out of town, trying to get away from the LA sprawl as quickly as possible and somewhere around San Luis Obispo, cut over to the coast and do the scenic drive till about Santa Cruz and then it's just a little bit to Menlo Park from there. I can't see the sky because it's overcast/ all the smog; I hope it clears up by the middle of the drive.
    10pm 4803 Palo Alto High, Menlo Park, CA Her Space Holdiday Young Machines we're back. we got back at about 8:45.
    we spent a good portion of the day tracing up the 1 along the coast. Some beautiful vistas and slow corners winding up the coast of the Golden State.
    we had dinner at a good, but overpriced seafood place in Monterey, which must have been two miles from where we parked our car (my fault).
    but now we're back. I got some mail (e- and snail-) and need to catch up on some things.

    final stats

    mileage: 4488 miles. days and hours on the road: 8 days, 12 hours. average miles/ day: 528. average miles/ gallon: 34.2. money spent on gasoline: $241.33. cheapest gas observed: $1.659/ gal (western LA, middle TX). cheapest gas purchased: $1.739/ gal (Houston). most expensive gas observed: $2.559/ gal (cambria, CA). most expensive gas purchased: $2.2189/ gal (frazier park, CA). number of mistakes in mapquest found: 1 (road number incorrect outside of Waco, TX). number of tolls paid: 2 (Mass Pike and Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge). number of meals after the fact declared "disgusting": 2 (Pizza Hut in Lake Horn , MS and Whataburger in El Paso, TX). number of programmable signs displaying a test message: 5. largest number of miles from houston a microsurgical vasectomy reversal billboard (for a place in houston) was observed: 1360 (near Blythe, CA). total money spent on lodging: $78. nights of accomadation mooched off of friends/ family: 6 (my parents, Jeff, Bork, Alex, Rowena, Jason). combine money spent at the dr pepper museum: $64. states visited: 14 (MA, CT, NY, PA, WV, OH, KY, TN, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ, CA). cost of speeding tickets and other traffic violations: $0. things lost: 2, towel (hanging on Ro's bannister), book (left in Motel Cedars).