April 24

As usual, I left later than planned, and after gassing up, and even with a estimated 20-minute time savings on the Sam Houston Tollway (at the cost of a buck), it wasn't until 11:00 AM that I cleared the toll plaza. Two minutes later I was on I-10, 721 miles away from my exit in El Paso. Five minutes later I was at a near stop, due to onlookers (I prefer to call them assholes) gazing at a semi straddling the median. All eastbound lanes were closed, but only one westbound lane was closed. So we could have speeded along, had it not been for the assholes!!! By the time 11:30 came around, I had only covered 32 miles and was 8 miles off my target pace of 80 MPH.

At least the new Lucinda Williams started sounded better the second time around.

The rain slowed me down a bit, but I didn't mind because my car was screaming "WASH ME!", and because the cloud cover kept it from getting too hot. But I cleared the clouds and hit sunlight. I like sunlight, but now that my air-conditioning was completely dead (since September), the car heated up right quick, and even in shorts and nothing else, I had to open my window as long as I could bear the deafening sound of the wind rushing through at such high speeds. I shuddered to think about what it would be like in July. I might have to sit this summer out. I think the air temperature dropped as I cleared the Houston humidity, and I was able to roll my window back up and listen to my music and NPR ('til I lost the Houston signal and then again when I picked up the San Antonio signal).

By 1:00 PM I had recovered 3 miles. But I screwed up and missed the 1604 exit off I-10 and had to take the Connally Loop (I-410) back around to I-10, which involved heavier traffic and a backup at the interchange. By the time I stopped for coffee and gas and got back on I-10, I was 29 miles off the pace. I had to keep my speed down as I headed away from San Antonio while I returned a call about a job.

At mile 476, I rejoiced at seeing the 75 MPH speed limit sign!

At mile 400, I started to worry about my gas. I had only driven 158 miles since gassing up, so I should have had almost 150 miles to go, but the gauge did not indicate that. It's possible that the pump stopped before the tank was full. I hadn't checked. Dumb. Or maybe the aged engine just wasn't getting as many miles, or maybe I was going too fast, or maybe it was the heat. Regardless, I was starting to worry that I might not make it to Fort Stockton, and I started making plans to detour 6 miles out of my way to Iraan. But thankfully, there was a gas station at mile 328. It was 28 cents more expensive than back in San Antonio, but I was so relieved I didn't complain.

Pushing it to 100 MPH for several stretches allowed me to gain ground, and by the time I stopped in Fort Stockton for a chili cheese dog from Diary Queen, I was only 26 miles off the pace. The detour took longer than I had hoped, and I had to drive very carefully so as not to spill the chili all over myself, so when all was said and done, I had lost another 24 miles, which I immediately set about making up. A slight scare when a stopped truck on the other side of the interstate turns out to be hiding a trooper behind it. Typically I don't worry about those, figuring they are busy writing a ticket. But this one crossed over the median and started heading my way, and I said "Oh, shit!" But thankfully, he wasn't after me.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the dose of decadron I had taken to kick in, and relieve me of my congestion.

I spotted a rest area and figured I wasn't going to make up the 40+ miles in the 200 miles remaining to El Paso, so I might as well brush and dump the smelly chili. However, I was still on track to reach the El Paso Starbucks by around 8:00 PM, but not before the sun went down.

But something else struck me. An incredible headache that worsened despite two acetaminophen, and then another two, to the point that I had to pull over, in Van Horn, get some cold water which only made me want to heave, and rest for a while. I thought it might be food poisoning, from the Dairy Queen hot dog back in Fort Stockton, but all I after sticking my finger down my throat was dry heaves. After an hour or so I still hurt, but I felt okay to drive again until the pain was too much to bear and I had to stop at a picnic area, 68 miles from my exit. Once again I tried vomiting, but all I got was some phlegm. By the time the pain had abated (not disappeared, though) to the point I thought I could drive again, it was almost 10:30, the store's closing time.

I sped there anyway, and, as I expected, the team was still closing. One parter looked excited when I slipped her my article under the door, but the shift lead was a stickler for the rules, so I would have to wait 'til morning. I went to Kinko's and then headed back to the Starbucks for a photo. A security guard spotted me and took a position across the private drive, watching me as I took my photos. He didn't leave until I drove off, so rather than finding a dark corner behind the office depot, I found a parking lot of a strip center under construction down the street.

April 25

Even though I had found a pretty good and dark strip mall marking lot to camp out in, I didn't sleep well for my headache, and by the time traffic woke me up shortly before 6:00, I hadn't slept much at all. But I wanted to clear downtown El Paso before traffic got heavy, so I found Rainbow Foods for some fruit and yogurt and then went over to the Starbucks, my first of this trip. The manager had heard of my project and was pretty cool.

I picked a BK breakfast biscuit off the interstate and headed out towards the border (NM, not Mexico). By 6:19 I was on I-10 with only moderate traffic. I was tired, but I wanted to make the bulk of my drive across NM and AZ before it got really hot. A minivan allowed me speeds of 90-100 MPH as far as Deming. I wasn't planning on gassing up 'til Lordsburg, but I figured the van might be gassing up and I that I could get back on the highway first, so I pulled off and gas up. I never saw the van again, though. I was waved through at the inspection station after being asked if I was a citizen and where in Texas I was from.

I called my mother and told her about my headache asked her if the dosage of decadron she had told me to take was correct. She said it was. I asked if I needed to take it with food, and she said I did. I speculated that this was the reason for my killer headache last night.

I was sleepy and though about napping, but I wanted to clear Phoenix while it was till daylight, preferrably before the rush hour, so I pushed on. Also, I had been contacted by a DJ in Phoenix about an interview, and for some reason he wanted to do it while I was in the city. I wouldn't make Phoenix before the morning show ended, but maybe Tucson. At 9:12 I called The Edge in Phoenix and was told Drew was on the air 'til 10:00, and I asked them to pass along that I was approaching Tucson.

A saw a roadrunner, my first, run out into the highway and quickly back to the side of the road as I hurtled towards it.

I kept my phone with me as I found a Kinko's, and then the one new Starbucks (in Oro Valley), but I never heard from Drew. He e-mailed saying maybe next week if I passed through Phoenix again. I wondered why he was so insistent on my being in the city, and the though occurred to me that he might be wanting to pull some prank, like sending people out to block me from visiting a Starbucks or something like that.

After Tucson it was another 90 or so miles up the interstate to two stores in Chandler. The manager at Ray and McClintock told me a couple of DMs would be at a store I had already visited in Mesa, Dobson and 60, and suggested I go say hi. I killed some time getting a burger and at Kinko's and then dropped by the store, and they seemed excited about my project. They asked if there was anything they could do--to bad they were from NYC, where I still need help getting past security at 1345 Avenue of the Americas.

Having eaten a burger, I took my second, smaller, dose of decadron and crossed my fingers that I would not get a headache later in the day.

Then up to Scottsdale for a couple of stores, where I had to ask for a second half coffee at one after spilling it all over my window and my articles.

Meanwhile, I had picked up a free weekly and been calling around to try and schedule a cheap and much-needed massage that wouldn't take me out of my way, always a challenge. This time it worked out, and I was able to relax for an hour, much needed after the long drive from Houston and also because I had pushed myself a bit hard at the gym the day before I left. However, I didn't finish up until 5:30, which would have just allowed me to go back down to Tucson for some Scrabble if traffic had not been so heavy. But it was, so I abandoned my Scrabble plans and just visited the last two stores in the Phoenix area. But I'm glad I hit Peoria when I did instead of the next morning, because the baristas were really excited, and they took several photos, gave me a scone, and even a donation for my travel fund.

But one downside of running behind was that I didn't arrive at the Anthem store until after sunset, and I missed a chance to get a better photo of a really cool store with a unique design. At that store, though, I was recognized by a partner Chris whom I had met at 39th and Pinnacle Peak. He told me I probably wouldn't make Flagstaff before they closed at 9:30, and I took that as a challenge, rushing to the interstate to haul ass northward. I was sure I could make it, but then I got to thinking, and I decided I needed to sleep anyway and might as well wait 'til morning and take a daylight photo. So I slowed down and stopped for some KFC in Camp Verde, where I ate in and studied some Scrabble words. I don't want to go into my tournament in Jonesboro next weekend without studying at all, and I really need to get some games in. Maybe tomorrow in Vegas.

I pushed on to the next rest area and settled in around 9:30 for what I hoped would be a good 6-7 hours of sleep. But I was frustrated after several hours when I headache came out of nowwhere and made the rest of the night difficult. Around 3:30 I couldn't sleep anymore and just drove into Flagsstaff, completing the entire stretch of I-17. It was 4:00 in the morning, and I drove along Route 66, eerie as most city streets are at that time of the morning. I headed to the Starbucks and camped out to await its opening.

April 26

Up at a higher latitute in Flagstaff, it was already light out around 5:15, and I woke up to the sound of the crew arriving at the Starbucks. Not even the Albertson's was open, so I had to go find a corner to relieve myself of all the water I'd been drinking to try and stave off my headache. The pain persisted, but I managed a few more minutes of sleep until almost 6:00, when I decided I might as well try to push on towards Las Vegas. I hung out at the Flagstaff store for a few minutes and then got some fruit and yogurt from the grocery store, and a croissant sandwich from BK, and I headed west on I-40.

It was pretty painful, but I managed to make quite a bit of distance before I had to pull off the road, at a Shell in Seligman, or something like that. I parked in the shade of a truck and tried to sleep in spite of the pain, having to keep moving my car as the sun shifted, and having to keep going into the restroom, and then dealing with hiccups that wouldn't go away. Finally I gave up after a couple of hours and kept driving.

The traffic over Hoover Dam wasn't that bad even though it was later in the day, and just after noon I was in Henderson. I had hoped to get a few games of Scrabble in at a club in Vegas listed as meeting at noon, but they actually met at 10:00 AM and knocked off early because the library was hosting some event, according to the club director I called. So I got the spend the daylight hours visiting 9 new stores, excluding 4th and Lewis which was closed for the weekend.

My headache persisted throughout the day, but what could I do.

I left my articles at Stephanie and Horizon Ridge, and when I returned they were nowhere to be found. But the manager at Sunset and Marks had heard of my project, so I didn't have to look like a nut playing for free coffee. But I did have to go to Kinko's and print up a copy of an article. Then some Wendy's so I could take my allergy medication. Plus I was really hungry, so getting on the interstate by mistake and having to drive several miles before doubling back didn't help.

After Henderson, I headed up to five new stores along US-95. Along the way, I stopped at 24 Hour Fitness for a shave and shower, and decided that a light upper body work might get my blood moving and help metabolize out the caffeine and maybe help with my headache. Well, I didn't really feel my head hurt while lifting, and in fact I pushed myself to add and additional 10 pounds to my bench press, and after the shave and shower I felt pretty good. But not longer after leaving, the headache returned, and I found myself chilling out at the remaining stores, because I was just in too much pain to push myself. I wanted to be able to focus on the cards later on at the Mirage, so I took four more pain killers, above the recommended 8 in a 24 hour period.

By my last store at Desert Inn and Decatur, my headache was almost gone, and I felt confident that the pain at least would not distract me from some serious poker.

April 27

Having played poker for 5 hours, until 2:15 in the AM, for a total of $300 added to my travel budget, I was pretty tired when I woke up behind the Nevada Welcome Center at 7:45 AM. I had parked behind the Welcome Center because it was darker and easier to sleep, even despite the occasional car that would drive out into the dirt lot, discover there was no outlet, and turn around.

Not even five hours of sleep, but I wanted to listen to Morning Edition, so I started my drive down towards SoCal, Apple Valley specifically. I stopped in Baker for some a BK breakfast biscuit, hoping that the food would help stave off the headache that was increasing in intensity. No such luck. It got so bad I had to pull over at some no-name gas station so I could try and get some more sleep, hoping that would cure it. They had run out of gas, so I bought water so I could use the restroom, and parked right up next to a fence for some shade. I constructed a little canopy for myself with the lid from my hatchback to block the sun, and I managed to get enough rest that an hour later my headache was mostly gone.

I drove down to the Apple Valley store, picked up some fruit and yogurt at Ralph's, then took Hwy 18 through the mountain to Big Bear Lake. The weather was great, and I was in no particular hurry, and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive. I didn't even get frustrated when a slower car slowed me down on the curvy two-lane mountain road.

From Big Bear Lake I took 18 to 330 down to the Highlands/San Bernardino border, where I parked and returned the call of an anthropology student at Harvard who wanted my take on Starbucks vs independent coffee shops. Then I touched based with Lidi, a partner from SoCal who I missed meeting last time around, and we made plans for lunch tomorrow.

I finally settled on a route for the rest of the day, and headed down towards Riverside, via Grant Terrance. I experienced momentary confusion at University and Iowa when I got a deja vu feeling. Turns out the new store was the second at that intersection, which is why it looked familiar.

I then took a break for a Fatburger hot dog so I could study for Scrabble some more. But I really need to go to a club meeting somewhere in SoCal in the next couple of days and play some games before the tournament next weekend.

Then Corona and on down I-15 to Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, and Murrietta. The Jefferson and Winchester store in Temecula had closed early, so I visited the Meadows and 79 store and decided to camp out at Kinko's until 5:30 in the morning.

I hoped the smell would be gone so I could sleep. What smell, you ask? The smell of my stupidity. Back in Big Bear Lake I discovered I was running low on motor oil, and added a quart of overpriced desperation Chevron oil. But I forgot to screw the top back on, and so I puzzled over this burning smell for the next few hours until I discovered the problem, and burning motor oil all over my engine. So I got to use the additional quart I picked up at Wal-Mart (at a third the price). But I felt like a total bonehead.

April 28

Okay, this is bogus. I slept from about 10:00 PM to 5:45, nearly 8 hours. Granted, I was in the restroom about every hour, but I was also drinking water the whole time, about 16 oz, so it's not dehydration. So why is my headache starting up again??? Maybe a banana will help.

Well, I closed my eyes for another 30 minutes and it helped my headache. Which was good because at the end of the day, after 16 stores, all that caffeine wouldn't have combined well with a headache.

I started in Temecula at Jefferson and Winchester. From there, I went the wrong way on Winchester, but fortunately realized it and turned around, taking the road to Hwy 74 into Hemet, on the outskirts of what I call the L.A. metroplex. But Hemet really much closer to Palm Springs. The manager of the store said the town was growing, but apparently not fast enough for the Wendy's to serve breakfast.

Then Perris, and then Fontana, and finally I had to eat something and went for a Jack in the Box breakfast biscuit, which was as "good" as BK's. Good being completely relative, of course.

A new store in Rancho Cucamonga right next to Kinko's, where a stray dog had the manager concerned. Then a detour southward and around the Ontario airport which was between me and 24 Hour Fitness, where I felt better after a workout and shower. And waddayaknow, just down the block was the Vineyard and Walnut Starbucks not plotted by my mapping program because the street address is not on the web site. So I got off easy there.

Several more stores in the Chino/Upland/Claremont area, where I spent quite a bit of time chatting with the partners and taking some photos with them. So by the time I headed west to Pasadena to meet Lido, I was already late. I left her a message for some directions to the Gaucho Grille so I could arrive quicker, especially after having missed my exit to the 210 and having to take the 605 up. But I never heard from her, not even when I finally arrived at the restaurant after having driven ALL the way down Colorado, not having known which exit to take.

I killed some time by reshooting a few stores in the Pasadena area, including Fair Oaks and Orange Grove, which had somehow ended up on my list of stores to visit even though I knew for certain I had visited it last time. What did I screw up?

Finally I had to head out and went back east to visit a few stores and grab some BK cuz I was really hungry.

The Peck and I-10 store puzzled me, because it was nowhere to be found, until a local told me it was inside the Longo Toyota lot.

On the way to Pico Rivera I remembered to check my list for a Scrabble club meeting today, and one was listed, at a Coco's in Anaheim Hills, at 6:00. I couldn't even find Anaheim Hills on my map, and there was no way I would make it by 6:00, but a partner at the Starbucks pointed me in the right direction, and then another partner at the Tustin and 91 store completed the directions.

After 12 days with no Scrabble, the longest I had gone since I started playing back in December, I was a bit rusty, so it's good I took a break from Starbucks and got three games in, in preparation for my tournament next weekend. The Coco's juice was overpriced, though, even though the blueberry muffin was good.

Finished third game at 9:30, which gave me time to rush to the Yorba Linda and Valley View store, my last of the day, before it closed at 10:00 PM. There were other stores open later to visit, but I wanted to go to sleep so I could get up early and take advantage of the sunlight. So I just went to Kinko's down in Anaheim and then got on the 5 and raced down the freeway along with the other cars doing 80-90 or better, and pretty soon I was at the rest area for a good 6-7 hours of sleep.

April 29

I started driving from the rest area shortly after 6:00, thinking it was early enough to beat the traffic into downtown San Diego. Boy, was I wrong.

I called up KyXy and recorded a short interview and then visited a new store in Encinitas. When I left the store KyXy was playing my interview, and I got to hear myself on the radio, which I hadn't done yet after some 60+ interviews. It was cool.

Then Solana Beach, and then I decided to screw all that I-5 southbound traffic and I turned back around and headed north to cut across to Hwy 78. It took a while, and I got a bit lost, but I stumbled across a Starbucks I had already visited and got some directions, and this Kinko's.

I then stumbled across a 24 Hour Fitness, where I ran three miles and showered, but forgot to shave. So now my face is itchy.

If anyone should know better, it's me, but I was still fooled by two stores on Melrose and walked into the wrong one (already visited) first before asking to make sure. I then found the correct one.

Famished from my run, I really needed that BK sandwich.

Then the headache began again, and by the time I hit two stores in Escondido I was in a lot of pain. But thankfully, it did not last, and by the time I headed down towards San Diego proper my head felt better.

Another manager, at the Mercy and I-15 store, had seen me on "Unwrapped". Gotta love being on TV!

I was running out of time, but I really wanted to visit the store closed to the Mexican border. But first was one at 805 and Palm Ave. But there are two Palm Avenues. So I was totally confused when I got off the freeway at the first Palm Ave and wandered around lost. I asked some lady, and she explained what was wrong. In return, I gave her a ride to her disabled friends, a few miles away. In exchange, she left my car reeking of alcohol.

At the correct Palm Ave store, they told me the San Ysidro store was closed for remodeling. I was dismayed. But they said staff would be there giving away free drip coffee. So I went anyway. But no one was there but the construction crew. How frustrating!!! At least I got to finish I-5. I think I've driving the entire route now, from Canada to Mexico.

Three stores in close proximity in Chula Vista had my head spinning from the coffee. A manager at one took my photo with a cool digital camera phone.

I then headed downtown and reshoot three stores, scoping out the really cool one at 5th and F, two story, stylized. A millenium store, or so they call it. Then a new one at 1st and Market.

Then back up towards Huntington Beach for Scrabble. Once I cleared Oceanside traffic was smooth all the way, and I thought I would make it in time for the first game, even after losing 10 minutes trying to visit a store in San Clemente that was still under construction. But 5 miles before my exit, traffic slowed to a crawl on the 405. I finally gave up and got off, abandoning that first game. I visited a couple more Starbucks, then made it to the IHOP on Beach and Garfield in time for three games of Scrabble. Got my ass kicked, but I needed the practice.

I had hoped to camp out in the parking lot of the Starbucks at Goldenwest and Yorktown in Huntington Beach. But as I drove around looking for a dark spot I got a bad vibe, and I decided to head up to the 24-hour Kinko's. I pulled out of what I thought was the shopping center, signaling, but I was still pulled over by a cop who claimed I was on a public street and had turned right from the left lane. He was clearly looking for an excuse to pull someone over. I think that was my first time being pulled over in California. He interrogated me pretty well, and wanted to know where I had been sleeping. He didn't give me a ticket, but told me I couldn't sleep in my car in Huntington Beach.

I went to the 24 Hour Fitness instead and asked the attendant if I could stay there as long as I wanted. There were a couple of cops out in the parking lot, so I was worried they would hassle me. But I managed to sleep hassle free, despite, the headache, though not nearly enough.

April 30

4:42 AM and I couldn't sleep anymore. My first store of the day wouldn't open 'til 5:00, so I got a workout in. I hit the Goldenwest store at 5:30 AM, and I figured I had about six hours to visit as many stores as I could. I considered doing a "mad dash with cash" and forgoing the introductions, but if I actually got 15-20 stores, that could be $25-30 that I would need later if I didn't get a job soon.

Almost 7:00 AM now, and 3 new stores and 2 reshoots. Not a bad pace.

Well, I ended up visiting 13, including the one in Palm Desert. Not as many as I could have had I not driven down the PCH to Dana Point and back up, but I was buzzing so hard as I drove out of town that I didn't care.

So that pretty much ends my Starbucks portion of my trip, since Little Rock won't open until June 13th, so I can't visit it this weekend when I play Scrabble in Jonesboro.

Look for a more detailed log to come.