Saturday, 13 August 2005

Well, this is Really Big Trip®™© Number 3, so here's the requisite journal. I like this deal we have: my companions do most of the driving (good for me: I hate driving; good for them: I'm not a good driver), & I do the journaling. Cool by me. Back in 2002, Denise & I journeyed East; in 2003, accompanied by David Hale, we made the mother of all road trips West; this year, we're heading North, to Michigan, Canada, and … somewhere else. We haven't decided exactly where yet, which to my mind is a nice, loosey-goosey change of pace. Denise is a drill sargeant when it comes to trips. "You! Traveler! Where are we going tomorrow?! Re-port! What? I—can't—hear—you! Where are we going?! What will we be doing?! Sound off! That is correct! You may now sleep for 2 hours, and then I will be waking your sorry ass up, and you will be in that van by 0700 hours, and we will move along to our next destination, and we will have fun! Is that understood? Isthatunderstood?! That is correct! Lights out! Go to sleep!" OK, OK, I'm exaggerating. Instead of "Traveler", she usually calls me "Dumbass".

Denise has spent the last week at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (no, I did not spell Womyn wrong—that's how it's spelled). This is the 30th year or so for the Festival, & it's for women only. No men allowed, anywhere. For one week, it's women only. Women camping, women playing music, women helping each other … you get the idea. Denise said it's really a beautiful scene. Everyone works cooperatively, and it's so safe that you can leave a cooler sitting by a tree, walk off for a few hours, come back, & your cooler is still there, & everything in it is untouched. If that was the Michigan Myns Music Festival, you'd leave your cooler, come back ten minutes later, & someone would have taken a dump in it. Just 'cause they could.

Last week, Denise took the train to Chicago, where she was met by a friend who drove them on up to Wahalla, Michigan, where the Festival is held. David & I need to somehow drive my van up to her, so our vacation can properly start. It's a 14 hour drive if we do it as a straight shot. No way. Nooooo way. No way are we driving 14 hours straight. Huh-uh. We're breaking that sucker up into a two-day drive.

The plan we devised was that David & I would drive up to Chicago today, spend the night, hang out in Chicago tomorrow, & then drive on up to Hart, Michigan, where Denise's B&B is located. Hang out in Hart for a day or two, maybe longer, & then continue on our trip to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Oh, and here's the other wrinkle: our lil' dog Libby is coming along for the ride. We've talked about taking her on other trips, but this time we're doing it. Libby's in for quite the adventure, as this will be the furthest she's ever travelled. Fortunately, she's great in the car, and generally very well-behaved (except for the explosive diarrhea), so this should go well. We hope.

So David & I planned that we would leave around 2 pm today. Riiiiight. Pure wishful thinking. While researching dog-friendly lodgings last night, I suddenly was struck by a realization: we're bringing a dog into Canada! Maybe there are specific rules & regulations I'd better check out …

Good thing I did. To get across the border, you have to provide proof that the dog has had a rabies shot. Oops. Libby hasn't had her shots in a while. Maybe that explains the frothing, the rage, & the avoidance of water …

So the first thing I did this morning when I awoke was call Affton Veterinary Clinic, owned by Denise's sister's husband Ken, & make an appointment for Libber. Noon. OK. That gave me time to finish getting my reading & research materials together for the trip, so that I could begin writing my 3rd book, Linux Phrasebook, which is due in … October. Just a scant few months away. Translation: I'm writing part of that book while I'm on vacation. Oh well. I spend most of my time in the car riding, not driving, & typing, so now I'll just be typing a book in addition to this journal.

This morning: gather together & organize readings. Arrive at the vet's at noon. Unfortunately, there were two emergencies that barged in (understandably, since they were emergencies), so I ended up sitting in the waiting room with a totally freaked out Libby (she doesn't like the vet's). I had the book I'm reading with me (thank goodness!), Dealers of Lightning, an excellent history of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, the group of brilliant computer scientists in the early 70s that invented all sorts of technologies that Xerox failed to market and that were way ahead of their time, like the Graphical User Interface on computers that we all use today (y'know: windows, icons, menus?), Ethernet networking, WYSIWYG word processing, object-oriented programming, & the laser printer, among (plenty of) others. I sat & read patiently for nearly an hour. It turned out that one of the emergencies developed into a very sick, very old cat that had to be put down, so it took time for the cat's owners to say their good-byes. I totally understood. If I was that cat, I'd want the same respect. By the time I got in to see Ken, it was 1 pm.

Poor Libby. She ended up receiving four shots, including rabies, and she also had a needle inserted into a small cyst on her back so that Ken can test it (although he doesn't think it's anything serious). Ouch! It also turned out that one of her ears had a yeast infection & was filled with brown smelly gunk, so that was cleaned out, & I now have some drops that I need to put in her ears over the next week. She also had two legs amputated, an eye excised, and eight teeth pulled. Typical day for Libster.

Time to pick up David, on my way home from the vet's. After that, stop by my new office to drop a few items off, deposit a check at the bank, grab some food at Bread Co., & then finally back at my house. It was now 2 pm, & there was no flippin' way that we were going to be leaving any time soon. Especially when it started to torrentially rain about 20 minutes later. And then we remembered that we still had to take some of the seats out of the van. And carry things out to the van. Oh yeah, & I had to pack. Uhhhhh … maybe 2:30?

OK! Run around! Pack! Papers & books go into this white box! What are those? Maps? Those go into this bag, with other travel stuff! Dog food, dog cookies, dog bowl, dog blanket, dog toy, dog medicine! Into the dog bag! Where's the dog? There! Into the bag! Whoops! Take dog out of the bag, put flea & tick medicine on dog, & put dog away, ready to go! Grab clothes! Throw 'em into a suitcase! Close the suitcase! No, open the suitcase! Put toiletries in the suitcase! Close the suitcase! No, open the suitcase! We're going to Canada! I need long sleeves, long sleeves, dammit! And pants! Not just shorts! Khakis! Into the suitcase! Close the suitcase! No, open the suitcase! We're going to Canada! I can't just wear sandals! I need shoes too! Grab my fave running shoes! Into the suitcase! Close the suitcase! I can't close the suitcase! Expand the suitcase! Now close the suitcase! Grab the techie goodies I need! Digital camera power cord! Digicam cable! MP3 player power! MP3 player cable! Power strip! Skype headset! Headphones! Voice recorder! Walkie talkies! Cables, batteries, cords, grab grab grab grab! Into the blue plastic techie box! Laptop! Gotta get the laptop! Denise's denim jacket that she requested! Denise's extra clothes! Extra shoes! Her laptop! Her papers! Ha-whoops! Passports! Holy Jeeminy, I almost forgot the passports! Food! Do we want food? Of course we want food! Grab the food! Pillows! Blankets! Run into the bedroom! Into the dining room! Into the kitchen! Into the family room! Into the bathroom! Into the office! Run! Grab! Pack! Pack! Pack!

And it continued to rain outside. No, it was a storm. No, it was a monsoon. Someone across the street at the Catholic Church was building an ark, I swear.

David checked radar on a computer, & it looked like it was going to be raining for a while. Crap. OK, nothing to do but brave the rain, remove the seats we didn't want, load the van, & leave. While it was pouring. Sigh.

So that's what we did. Oh, we got wet. But we had no choice. We packed the van in the rain, piled in, & pulled off. Not ten feet away from my house, the rain stopped. Gah! Of course!

Time: 5 o'clock. Three hours after we were supposed to leave. But then I realized that we needed to go to Petsmart to get Libby a new tag & a travel carrier. Okey dokey, let's go to Petsmart. We're already late, so what's another half hour? In Petsmart, however, everyone thought David & I were a gay couple: two men, travelling together, with a shih-tzu. Perfect.

Dog & new dog stuff back into the van. Now across the parking lot to Target to get a few things. Done. Now into Trader Joe's, to get some food for dinner & the next several days' worth of lunches. Again with the gay couple thing. I need to wear a football shirt, or talk about my shotgun & my huntin' dawg & my six young-uns, or maybe not wear a white & lavender seersucker suit when I'm out with David (no, I wasn't really wearing a seersucker suit! It was a joke!). Back into the van, with one last stop: Dierberg's, to get ice. Thank Deity, we're finally ready to go! And it's only 7 pm!

Not two minutes outside of St. Louis in Illinois, and we're in a massive traffic jam. And it starts to rain again! Wheeee!

We were in the traffic jam for at least 45 minutes. The rain would get bad, then lighten up quite a bit, then come back but not that bad, & then lighten up again, & then come roaring back furiously. Finally we got out of the traffic jam, and we're cruising along at a reasonable clip in the rain—about 55 mph—when all of a sudden the dude in a red SUV right in front of us, who's yakking away on his cell phone like a freakin' idiot, just decides to cross over into the right lane. Except that there's a woman in a blue car in that lane, & as he gets closer & closer to the car, David begins frantically honking on my van's horn to warn Mr. SUV. Hooonnnk! Hoooooonnnkk! Too late. Smack! Red boy pounds blue woman so hard that her car goes hurtling up a conveniently-near exit ramp, while Red boy begins slaloming back and forth right in front of us on the rain-slickened highway, as David slows down & tries to avoid getting our van slammed into by the dumbass in the red SUV. I'm shocked Mr. SUV didn't flip his car over. I mean, he swerved a hard left, and then yanked it over to a hard right, and then over over over over over into a HARD left and he's about to go off the highway but then yank! over to the right again he goes flying and then he manages to straighten up and he finally slows down and pulls over on the side of the road. STILL ON THE PHONE. 50 yards away, up an inclined exit ramp, a woman in a blue car with a new red stripe on the driver's side sits crying or fuming or both. If you're the cop who showed up soon after, it was all the moron^H^H^H^H^Hdude in the red SUV's fault. Y'know, 'CAUSE HE WAS TALKING ON HIS CELL PHONE IN THE RAIN when he slammed into a woman's car that he could have avoided if he'd been, oh, I don't know, NOT TALKING ON HIS PHONE IN THE RAIN.

The rest of the drive wasn't nearly as exciting. We drive in the rain. Oh, & it rained. Constantly. Did I mention that it rained? If I didn't, let me explain to you that it rained. In the rain. While it was raining. Finally, we arrived in Joliet, home of a fine maximum security prison, found a motel room at the 4-star Joliet Inn, & walked in. We had one king size bed, since it was cheaper, & in a few minutes David & I had camped out on a chosen side, Libby was curled up at the foot of the bed, beers were open, Comedy Central was on, & life was good. Ahhhhh.

Wait a sec! What's that loud, annoying, chirping noise? In our room? Chirrup! Chirrup! No, in the end of room near the sink. Chirrup! Chirrup! No, in the bathroom. Chirrup! Chirrup! Oh, that's what it is: a cricket. In the bathroom. Somewhere. Chirrup! Chirrup! We both looked—on the ceiling, in the shower, behind the toilet (lovely, that), behind the door, on the walls—but nothing. Then we noticed: silence. Peace & quiet. Mr. Cricket had decided to go to sleep too. Super! Back to bed.

Chirrup! Chirrup! Mr. Cricket, why must you torment us? Why? Chirrup Chirrup! OK, that tears it. Back into the bathroom look everywhere for the damn cricket where the hell is he where the hell is that damn cricket why the hell can't I see him I'm going to shmoosh him when I find him oh wait he's stopped again. Close the door & walk outside the bathroom. Wait. Wait. Wait. Chirrup! Chirrup! Open the door! Aha! Aha? Nothing. Silence, and nothing. No cricket. Close door, cricket; open door, no cricket. Solution? Close the door, put a towel along the bottom, which doesn't actually muffle a damn thing, ignore the constant Chirrup! Chirrup!, and go to sleep. Meanwhile, it continued to rain outside, through the night.

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