Monday, September 19, 2005

Day 2: More of the Same

Sitting on your bum bum all day driving makes one a lot more tired than one would imagine. So, last night I slept HARD after those 683 miles. I intended to sleep in, but I popped awake at about 5:30 in the morning. So, lacking anything better to do, I loaded all the bags back on the roof, tied them down well, and was on the road by 6:30.

I'm a few minutes outside of Mt. Vernon, IL when the sun begins to rise. It is a giant, gauzy red sunrise which tints the brown cornfields. I watch the sun reflect off the tailgate of the truck in front of me. Pretty.

It isn't long until we hit the first of what is to prove a maddening day of road construction. If I haven't said this already, let me say it now: The whole damn interstate system is under construction. I must get stuck in a dozen construction zones today.

Construction is a pain because it slows me down. The road narrows to one lane and the speed limit often drops to 45 or so. And there are all these big signs saying "Minimum fine in construction zone: $395."

Let me tell you, the threat of an almost $400 fine for speeding slows me right down. I crawl through these zones. But invariably there is some jerk on my tail wanting to take his chances at 75mph.

I manage to time it perfectly so that I hit St. Louis at rush hour. I crawl through the city. My engine is starting to smoke again from the oil leak. Great. I'm this little gray cloud creeping through St. Louis.

With traffic and construction, I make just 80 miles in the first two hours.

Eventually, I am through the city and I-70 opens up a bit. Missouri looks just like Illinois and Indiana -- nothing but brown cornfields. Well, that and porno.

Missouri, as viewed from I-70, is nothing but adult video and fireworks "superstores". There is one of each at every exit. I don't know if this says more about Missouri or the truckers the stores are primarily aimed at (I know this because they all advertise "truck parking" and one even calls itself "Adult Video Superstore Truck Stop").

Not much in the way of radio out here in middle of nowheresville. I get middle of the road country and public radio. I like public radio, but all that is on this week is the Roberts confirmation hearing. I am a lawyer and this stuff bores me.

Kansas doesn't seem very inviting. It is the only state I go through without a "Welcome to . . . " sign. The road through Kanasas is also impossibly straight. I think that Kansas wants you to get the hell out of its state fast. I note that every damn farm in Kansas has a billboard pointed at the interstate with an anti-abortion slogan on it. Hope those truckers picked up condoms at the Missouri adult superstores.

As the afternoon drones on and on and on, I'm still listening to public radio. Every 10 minutes they give you the weather for the entire state, broken down by region. This is funny because the weather is the same everywhere in the state, but the announcer still thinks he has to break it down every 10 damn minutes like this: "In north-east Kansas tonight it will be in the low 40s with a 30 percent chance of rain. Tomorrow highs in the 70s with a 20 percent chance of showers. In south-east Kansas tonight it will be in the low 40s with a 30 percent chance of rain. Tomorrow highs in the 70s with a 20 percent chance of showers. In southwest Kansas . . . " I memorize it and start reciting the weather every 10 minutes along with him.

Round about 6:30 I park the Outback in front of another Motel 6, this one in Colby in northwest Kansas. The car quickly becomes engulfed in a thick cloud of oil smoke. I ignore it as best I can, check into my room, and down three cans of Miller beer back to back to back before sleep finds me.

688 miles made good. Another record.