20020810 @ 11 am
This is going to be a record of the Great 2002 Adventure Vacation of Denise and Scott. Hopefully. To really do this right, I'm going to need to find an Internet connection regularly (I've got a wireless card … maybe I'll find Internet connections in places I wasn't expecting … hmmmm), and the program I use to maintain my blog—Userland's Radio—is going to have to run without crashing on my home computer. Since I know this last hope to be an impossibility—Radio *will* crash, probably once every two days or so—I've asked Lee, the fellow housesitting for us, to regularly restart Radio. Call me paranoid, call me prepared: I'll take both.
Now that geekish matters are out of the way, let's proceed to the trip itself.
Denise and I left St. Louis, Missouri, last night finally at 9:30 pm and headed east on I-70. It took us a week to get ready for the trip, and then we ended up running around like crazy on the last day we were in town taking care of all sorts of things.
In particular, my driver's license. St. Louis has a number of nasty little speedtraps. For those of you reading this who are not in St. Louis, let me explain. St. Louis is really two things: the city of St. Louis, and the county. Together, they form metropolitan St. Louis. The county, though, is really a crazy quilt of municipalities … over 100, in fact. That's right. 100 little feifdoms. Some of them—Clayon, Ladue, Richmond Heights, for instance—are quite well off and have a thriving business presence. Others—Vinita Park, Calverton Park, Black Jack (Recognize any of these? Didn't think so.)—are teeny little pimples that consist of a few people, some ramshackle excuse for a municipal building that probably should be condemned, and several cop cars, the better to pull you over and charge you speeding fines so the city can continue to function.
Of these sorry excuses for towns, one of the worst is Bel-Ridge. Fortunately for Bel-Ridge, a major St. Louis highway runs through it for a mile or so, if that much: I-170. Basically, Bel-Ridge makes its money by pulling people over for speeding, or anything else really, and then collecting fines. Delightful. Even better, if you don't pay your ticket—and remember, this is a *speeding* ticket we're talking about—they notify the state of Missouri that you are in grievous violation of traffic regulations, and they have the state yank your driver's license privileges!
So, I spent several days trudging up to Bel-Ridge last week. You have to see their "Municipal Complex" to believe it. Two crappy little buildings that look more like they should contain Payday Loan services instead of a city government. Offices that reek—*reek*—of air freshener, to the point where it grows hard to breathe. Miles and miles of paperwork to fill out. Signs that inform you that you must pay bonds in exact cash, and change will not be made (another way they make money). Cops that make Cletus on "The Dukes of Hazzard" look sophisticated.
Seriously. This is truly what happened to me. A fat cop, let's call him FA for short, fills out my paperwork. The brainiac who pulled me over a couple of months earlier, let's call him DA for short, happens to be there as well (he doesn't recognize me, and I certainly don't want to call myself out to him). FA gets done, and the following exchange occurs:
FA: Hey, DA, go make 2 copies of this [points to small paper] and one copy of this [points to 8 1/2 x 11 paper].
DA [furrowing his neanderthal brow]: Uh, OK.
Minutes pass. Finally, DA shambles back in and hands the papers and copies to FA.
FA: Hey DA, I said *2* copies of *this* [pointing to small paper] and *one* copy of *this* [pointing to larger paper]. You gave me *1* copy of this [small] and *2* copies of this [large]. Can you go get me another copy?
DA [starting to get really confused]: Uh, OK. [Grabs all papers, originals and copies]
FA: Whoa there! You can leave the one's that are OK. I just need you to take the one I need another copy of.
DA [with beads of sweat starting to pop on his forehead, due to the extreme mental effort he's having to exert]: Uh, OK. [Incredibly, picks up the *larger* papaer]
FA: No, take *this* [hands DA small paper] and bring me back a copy! I've already got what I need of *this* [points to large paper]!
DA [almost hyperventilating with confusion]: Uh, OK.
Another eternity passes by. Fingers are drummed on the counter. A distant wind whistles across the plains. Tumbleweeks blow by. Crickets chirp forlornly. Finally, DA returns form his mission.
With *two* copies of the small paper! We've now got *three* copies of the small paper, when we only needed two, and *two* copies of the larger paper, when we only needed one.
DA smiles. He's happy. He did his job. Public safety and order is preserved.
That's Bel-Ridge for you.
So now I'm a legal drver again.
Denise and I ate at Del Taco in St. Louis before leaving. We don't normally eat there, but it was late, it was by the gas station, and we were in a hurry. I had two veggie burritos and she had a cheeseburger. Mmmmm.
We drove east. Along the way, we listened to KWMU, St. Louis' NPR affiliate, until it faded. At that point, I began scanning the dial looking for talk radio. Nothing except a sports show. Poo. Eventually I found a classical station. Normally, I don't listen to classical music as I drive. It's very relaxing, and you don't want that when you're driving late at night. But I remarked to Denise, "Hey, isn't this Handel? Sure sounds like Handel. Let's listen to this and see if it's Handel."
"Sure. That sounds OK to me," said Denise. "It does sound like Handel."
Minutes pass as we listen to Handel. The music sounds like it's coming to a climax, but no, I was wrong. Faked us out. It continues.
"Damn," I said. "I figured that was the end. Pretty soon we're hear an announcer come on and say (here I adopt a quiet, calm, mellow voice): 'And that was Handel's "Symphony in A flat". You're listing to KPJU.'" Nice and mellow.
"You know," said Denise, "I wonder why they never try to spice it up by talking like DJs from other stations. 'Hey there, boys and girls, you're listening to KPJU, 96 on your radio dial. And that was Handel—*Handel*—HANDEL!'"
She's right … that *would* liven up the classical music stations!
He finally did come on, by the way. He was mellow. Unfortunately, it wasn't Handel. It was Telleman. Damn! Sure sounded like Handel.
After a little more than two hours, were tired. Rather, I was tired, since I was doing the driving. We stopped at a KOA campground in Casey, Illinois, and set up our tent. We fell asleep quickly.
Unfortunately, I woke up over and over through the night. The ground was hard, natch, and my pillow was too thin. Consequently, my neck was cricked all night. On top of that, I found out that I had a head cold, so I couldn't really breathe either. Also, some spammer has been sending text-messaging spam to Denise's cell phone, may he rot in hell. This idiot seems to think that people will respond favorably to being awoken by their phone at 3:30 am. First chance we get, we're calling Verizon and raising hell about the text-messaging spam. This is ridiculous.
We finally crawled out of the tent at 8:30, showered, put away the tent, and left at 9:30.
Breakfast at McDonald's, some cold medicine at a Citgo gas station, and now we're winging our way down the highway, listening to "Saturday Night Fish Fry", an excellent compilation of New Orleans music, our next destination Pittsburgh. Over and out.
20020810 @ 12:57 pm
We're well past Indianapolis, driving through the heart of Indiana.
We've listened to Buddy Holly's Greatest Hits, and now we're almost done with Robbie Fulks' "13 Hillbilly Giants". I picked that one, of course, but Denise seems to be enjoying it. She keeps turning to me and saying, "Are they mocking country music, or is this serious?!" Hey, if you have to ask …
We just saw a sign advertising "Tom Raper—Realtor—Mobile Homes".
Great last name, we decided. Then we thought of some others.
"Hey, great to meet you. I'm Bob Sodomite. Welcome to my health club!"
"Steve Serialkiller. I'm here to check your gas meter."
"Hi, I'm John Paul Asswhupping, and I'd like to talk to you about insurance."
Oh, the hillbilly music is done. Man, that was the most drinking, death, & cheating in 30 minutes that I've experienced since my last Unix User's Group meeting. Just kidding. No one cheats on their spouse at a Unix meeting.
Now we're listening to the Meters' "Resurrection". Damn, they are *funky*!
Over and out.
20020810 @ 2:05 pm
We had lunch at Subway in Richmond, Indiana, home of Indiana University East and "A Great All-American City", according to what's written on the water tower. I guess by "great" they mean "small and out of the way" and by "All-American" they mean "full of strip malls and crap".
Subway was Subway. It's a pain in the ass looking for fast food when you're a vegetarian. Subway comes through again.
Now we're back on the road, heading for Columbus, Ohio, about 100 miles away.
Over and out.
20020810 @ 2:11 pm
We're in Ohio. The huge arch over the highway promises 'Ohio: So much to discover!'
Let's see what we discover as we wend our way across Ohio.
Ohio's funny … I confuse it with Iowa all the time. I have trouble remembering if it's Ohio or Iowa that's to the left of Missouri.
Oooh … one thing I've already discovered about Ohio: it's full of farms.
I'm sure that's not exactly a discovery for everyone reading this. It's probably the same sort of quote-discovery-unquote that Balboa made when he discovered the Pacific. "I've discovered the Pacific Ocean!" he exclaimed. While the Indians are shrugging their shoulders and saying, "For this we marched all this way with the crazy white man? This is no big deal!" (This works best if you read the Indians' dialog in a Yiddish accent. Yes, I've learned my history from Mel Brooks.)
20020810 @ 3:34 pm
We're driving through downtown Columbus. We both like the skyline a lot. It looks like a city that would be fun to explore. Who'da thunk it?
Did I mention that I have a head cold that started to develop yesterday? My sinuses are absolutely stuffed, my head aches, and I've got that nasty sick taste in the back of my throat. Denise is making me drink juice and gobble DayQuil pills. I feel woozy. Blech.
We're stopping in Columbus to use the bathroom and get more gas.
20020810 @ 5:08
This note is actually just a few minutes after the last one.
Guess what we forgot? We jumped ahead an hour. Our clocks say 4, but it's really 5. Gosh darn time zones.
A quote from Denise: "As we get closer to West Virginia, it's going to get hillier and mountainer!"
20020810 @ 5:52 pm
I just got done with my first tech support call of our trip.
Larry, Denise's father, called me because his task bar (the bar at the bottom of the screen on a Windows computer that contains the Start menu, open programs, the clock, and more) disappeared. I thought he just reduced its height to almost nil, so I told him to mouse down to the bottom of the screen, look for a double-sided arrow, and then click and drag the height back to normal. This did not work.
So I had him do what you always do with Windows: reboot.
That kinda helped: the taskbar was now on the right side of the screen. So I walked him through grabbing the taskbar and dragging it back down to the bottom of the screen. This took 5 minutes of me coaching him: "OK, now grab it. Is it an arrow? No, not a double-sided arrow. Just a regular arrow. Now drag it. It didn't work? Well, then you didn't really grab it right. Try it again. Just a regular arrow. Drag it down. A 45-degree angle is fine. Not straight down. What? Drag it again."
Finally we were successful. Yay!
I don't blame Larry for this at all. The way the Windows taskbar is designed is brain-dead. The Linux taskbar (called The Panel) allows you to move the Panel to the top or to either side, but you have to actually change a setting to do so, not just accidentally drag it. Allowing the user to just drag and move the taskbar is just plain dumb.
And if *you* need tech support, you can call 314- … yeah right. Like I'm goign to give *you* our cell phone number!
And Joy … if you're reading this … don't holler at Larry. We didn't mind the call. It's nice to hear his voice!
20020810 @ 7:22 pm
We're in West Virginia.
We're in the Wheeling Tunnel. Oooh, it's dark. Now we're out of the Tunnel.
Man, it is hilly here. It's definitely gotten more "mountainer" here, as Denise would say.
There's all these little bitty houses built way up on the sides of very tall hills. Wow. Two thoughts: it's be fun to sled, but hell to mow.
20020810 @ 7:34 pm
… and we're out of West Virginia. Our stay was not long, but my goodness it was enjoyable!
We're in Pennsylvania, approaching Pittsburgh. Tito Puente's 'Greatest Hits' are entertaining us, the successor to Bruce Springsteen's 'The Wild, The Inncocent, and the E-Street Shuffle'.
The way Denise explained it to me, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are like Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri: the former is on the western side, and the latter is on the eastern side. And it takes about 5 hours to drive across PA or MO.
We're going to be staying with my very good friend David Bearce, his wife Dana, and their two little girls, Caroline and Eveline. I've known David since 5th grade in Marshall, Missouri, and we've always stayed in touch, even after he left Marshall after our sophomore year of high school to move to North Carolina. David is brilliant, ambitious, and successful, and he always had a particular talent: he could convince me to do really stupid things and then make sure that he didn't get into any trouble even as I got severely punished by whatever school authority I had angered. And even if he didn't actually *convince* me to something stupid, he sure wouldn't work to "stop* me either!
He's stayed with us in St. Louis, and this will be the first time I've stayed with him since he and Dana were married back in 1992. In addition, this will be the first time I've met his kids. This should be fun!
They're cooking us dinner. Mmmm. Dinner.
I gotta say, after last night, I'm looking forward to bed. I think I'm going to sleep like a rock … no, a *dead* rock. Even so, tired as I feel right now, I'm going to wake up when we get to David's house. Friends have a wonderful way of energizing you.