On The Road in the United States
Postcards from Yosemite National Park - No writing for a change, just postcards.
Part I - Proof that God has a sense of humor - Im in Day Five of a 3 to 4 week cross country trip thats taking me from Virginia to California. Just me in a rental car with a trunk full of my belongings. Oh yeah, and fourteen AAA maps, a jar of hot peppers stuffed with proscuitto someone gave me as a last minute going away present, and a collection of Graceland souvenirs that includes an Elvis Presley fly swatter, a "Taking Care of Business" shot glass and a Christmas Ornament that ought to play "Blue Christmas" but doesnt.
Part II - Signs of the times - There was the sign for the "Skinquarter Taxidermist" in Virginia, the "Just Nails Hair Salon" in San Antonio (proving that the age of specialization has given way to the age of non sequiturs), and the signs erected for the Kodak Moment Challenged at Cumberland Falls which pointed towards the gloriously thundering waterfall while declaring: "Photo Opportunity".
Part III - A Shoppers Guide to Souvenirs - The problem with souvenirs is that you cant pick up what you really want, like stalagmites from Carlsbad Caverns, shards of 2,000 year-old pottery laying along the path in the pueblo, or that hitchhiker on the side of the road that you hope will fulfill that fantasy youve had since the day you got your learners permit. But thats not to say there arent some incredible finds out there.
Part IV - Beer, Beads and Border Guards - Theres a lot to see in this country. Trust me. In 3-1/2 weeks Ive put 4,378 miles on a rental car which looks startlingly like something my father would drive, except of course he wouldnt put a plastic Jesus on the dashboard or wear out the scan button on the radio. And he would have returned it on time.
Part V - The Best and Worst of America - I heard a Tejano version of "The Banana-Boat Song" (better known as "Day-O") which would have made Harry Belafonte smile, ate the Worlds Best Hot Dog in Somerset, Kentucky (which it wasnt), and am proud to say that I drove 2,500 miles before I leaned out the window and mooed at a cow for the first time.
Part VI - Seeing the World Through a Viewfinder - For some reason people with video cameras seem to think every moment is worth documenting. Either that or they own stock in Maxell. They follow the family as they walk down the sidewalk towards the Alamo. They hang out the window as they drive along miles and miles of barren desert. And they slowly pan along tourist information signs so theyll be able to read it when they watch it at home because they were too busy taping to read it in person.
Part VII - A trip to the Funny Farm - The Funny Farm is part second-hand store, part art installation, and part acid flashback. Theres art there, like the statue of a three-legged bowler whose heads are the images of the owners in their younger days, the tire totem pole, and the electric kaleidoscope which continuously shows the Wizard of Oz in cascading psychedelic images. Really.
Fear of Loafing Outside of Las Vegas - Certainly Nevada has a lot going for it, like the slot machines which are in every convenience store, gas station, beauty parlor, and mortuary. (Remember the state motto: "You can never be too poor or too dead to play the slots.") And of course there are the euphemistically named rancheslike the Mustang Ranch, the Bunny Ranch, and the Well Do Anything For Money Ranchwhich offer up sex like another order of chicken fried steak in gravy, the state dish. But thats pretty much it.
Scenes From The Desert - You learn a lot about how things get named in the desert. The Mormon settlers thought the big yuccas looked like Joshua raising his arms to the sky so they called them Joshua trees. Motel 6 got its name because the room next to you always has six kids who scream for six hours and wake up at 6 am. But the town of 29 Palms is an exceptionI don't think there are a dozen palm trees here.
Slugging it Out in Oregon - The contestants for this years Slug Queen included Slugareina (who did a slimy variation of the Macarena), Birtha (the token pregnant contestant), Princess Paulina (a guy in a wheelchair), Visca and Gastropia Nudibranchia (Siamese slugs attached at the dress), and Slugmistress Bagonda, a 64" guy in drag who won the crown this year after having failed in two previous attempts.
This is Your Pilot Speaking - Traveling is a funny thing. Especially if you find humor in waking up at 4:15 in the morning so you can catch a 6:00 flight, known in the trade as the red-eye because your pilot got as little sleep as you did. It's easy to tell which one on the plane is the pilot. He was the only guy left in the bar last night after you went home at closing time.
Carless in Detroit - Im in Detroitthe Motor freakin Cityand I cant get a rental car. This is like being in Los Angeles and not being able to see a movie, discovering that every restaurant in New Orleans is out of gumbo, or having a waiter in Paris not look at you as if you have the lowest IQ ever recorded while pretending not to understand what it is you just ordered. It just isnt right. And its all because the North American International Auto Show is in town.
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