Destination: Elkridge

Final update October 28

Miles detoured (from direct route to Maryland): 1130
Spent on gas: $88
Spent on food: $71.45
Spent on coffee: $3.91
New stores visited: 23
Secret stores discovered: 6
OZ drip coffee consumed: 82 + leftover grande mocha latte something (maybe soy) + 3 DoubleShot + triple venti cappuccino

Saturday, October 16

In stark contrast to my reception in Baytown, at the new store in Duncanville the manager seemed like he couldn't have cared less. Though he recognized me from my visit to an earlier store, I had to stand around for five minutes waiting for him to offer me a drink until I gave up and broached the subject, and then I just barely got a sample cup. It seemed like he gave it up just to get me out of the store, and I left hoping I wouldn't run into him at any other new stores.

I went better in Decatur, a store I wouldn't have known about if not for an e-mail from a partner. I was growing more concerned about these unlisted stores, but then again I figured someone would e-mail me eventually about any store I missed, hopefully before the store closed. Anyway, I had debated whether to even spend the gas money visit the store given that I would eventually make a drive from D/FW to Colorado or NM and pass it anyway, and what made up my mind was that I had time to kill before meeting a friend for dinner back in Dallas. Unfortunately, my timing was off and Jimmy was on vacation.

I stopped for a post-dated massage with a regular therapist on the way back to Dallas, and I learned from her that the district manager (she said regional, but I assumed it was district) had prohibited massage therapists from offering chair massage a various stores around the district as they had been doing for years. She explained that she had heard that one of the therapists had also been selling jewelry in this store and a customer had complained. If true, it seemed like an gross overreaction to me and I e-mailed Starbucks and told them so.

Howard never got back to me about dinner, but Scott a former coworker, met me at Cafe Brazil. I wasn't planning on eating that much, but I figured I'd make a breakfast of it too. I kind of expected that Scottie might pick up the check, but I didn't say anything. Instead, I just subtly mentioned several times how money would be tight until I got my paycheck. It worked.

My attempt at a change of pace ended after just twenty minutes when a dour-faced security guard knocked on my window and just pointed for me to leave. So I went back to my usual Dallas camping spot, the 24 Hour Fitness.

October 17

A Narrow Escape

The longer night and a cloudy sky allowed me to sleep longer than I had expected, and I started to wonder if I'd make it to Arkansas in time to meet a fan. I had to stop at a new store in McKinney first, and the shift supervisors reaction seemed a mixture of interest and bemusement.

As I neared Sherman before crossing into Oklahoma, I had my mind set on a breakfast biscuit and some of that Wal-Mart OJ. I didn't see a Burger King near my exit, though, and it was almost 10:30 (when many fast-food restaurants end breakfast). But inside this particular Wal-Mart, in the food section, was a small franchise of The Bad Place. They, too, served breakfast biscuits, and though I was loathe to patronize The Bad Place I had a craving. I was going to give in, but they had stopped serving breakfast already. It must have been the right hand of fate that stepped in to save me from corruption! Well, maybe it was the left hand in disguise--it's hard to tell sometimes.

Meanwhile, it seemed harder and hard to get the LCD on my laptop to work, and I wondered if it was going through it's final death throes. I really need it to last until I could buy even a used one to use while I had this one repaired.

In Oklahoma, I paid close attention to my map to ensure that I stayed on US-75 so I could check that stretch of highway off my list. I was also on the lookout for Bledsoe's Diner in Atoka, where I had grabbed a burger the last time I passed through. Not because I wanted another burger, as it had pretty well sucked, but because I wanted a daylight photo so I could warn my faithful readers away.

Meanwhile, as I was trying to spot the diner, I almost got sideswiped by a pickup loaded with a mattress and some furnitute in the back.

As I passed a town called Coalgate I remembered that I needed to eat my yogurt before I got warm. Out of the blue these killer lyrics entered my mind having to do with yogurt getting hot. I was sure that with a phat beat I could have a hit record on my hands, but the highway turned a lot and I wasn't able to write the lyrics down, and the world lost the next great rap song. And then I remembered... again... that I had forgotten my yogurt... again. I quickly opened it and discovered that someone had replaced the real yogurt with the trick exploding variety.

As I passed through several small towns in Oklahoma, I repeatedly saw signs for "shaved ice". I wondered what it was, exactly, and why it was big in that part of the country.

US-75 continued to be winding and slow, and decided that once I completed that stretch I'd be glad to never had to drive it again.

I went about 30 miles out of my way when I missed the turnoff from SR-3, which was sharing the road with US-75. I wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't pulled up the next town, Ada, on my map and noticed that it was waaaay out of my way. Crap!!! And to make matters worse, as I drove I couldn't see any highway signs, so I had to take it on faith that I had gone the wrong way when I turned around. The delays were piling up.

On the way back to find US-75 again a truck coming my way gave me the longhorn symbol--must have been my Texas plates.

As I drove I looked at my map of stores I needed to visit and thought about my plans for the week, visiting Jodi, playing in the Scrabble tournament on Sunday in Philly, and my budget, and I decided that I had the time to visit some stores in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Chicago before Springfield, though it would cost me quite a bit in gas. But if I took that route, Bentonville, Arkansas, would turn into a 240 mile detour. Besides the hidden Starbucks in Bentonville there was also a fan, Hyundai, who had alerted me to the store, who wanted to meet me. I figured I could afford the detour if she would let me borrow the money until I got paid, but I had to wait until I got to I-40 before I had reception so I could call her.

Trouble in Tulsa!

At the new Starbucks in Tulsa I skirted the edges of thievery when I pilfered a small coupon from the local paper. I rationalized it by concluding that the likelihood of anybody who bought that paper wanting that specific coupon was negligible, and that even if they did and discovered it missing they'd just exchange it and just lose time.

However, bad karma might have come back to bite me right away, or maybe it was just poor judgement, as I proceeded to almost get myself in trouble. After stopping to take a photo of TV Guide headquarters on 71st St. in Tulsa, and was stopped at a light when I spotted the passenger in a sporty silver two-door toss a box out the window, and then some wrappers. I backed up and took a photo of his license plate , intending to post it and encourage people to look up the address (of the driver, I guess) and send a nasty note (hint, hint). I would have ended there. But then I tried, with no success in lining up the frame, to take a photo of the guy himself, which prompted a scowl and the finger from the girl who was driving. It then seemed that they started to chase me, so I grabbed my bat and held it out the window, hoping to scare them off. They appeared to slow down, but then at the light they pulled right up to me and the guy asked what I was taking pictures of, and said "Do you think I'm scare of a bat!?" I was hoping he would be. He also mentioned he had my license plate and something else that I didn't hear. Then I noticed that there was another guy in the back seat. I probably should have rolled up my window, but I told him he threw litter out the window, that he was a litterbug. This seemed to piss him off more than the pictures and he started to get out. I got out of the way and pulled up in front of them, not sure that I could actually take this guy even with a bat, given that I'd never actually hit anyone with a bat, or even actually hit anyone in the few childhood scuffles I'd been in. It just wasn't in my nature. The guy didn't come up to my window, but the car proceeded to follow up when I turned north onto Harvard, so I dialed 911, all the while thinking that the fact I had waved the bat out the window couldn't possibly play in my favor. As I was on the phone with Tulsa PD explaining the situation, the car continued to pursue, and at the next light I saw the guy holding out what appeared to be a camera phone, presumably to photograph my license plate, for what reason I wasn't sure. Tulsa PD wasn't helpful, saying I would to pull over, that they couldn't send a patrol car to intercept. I don't think the guy wanted to help, because once I got on I-44 and told him he immediately put me through to the highway, obviously wanting to get rid of me. Highway patrol was more receptive and stayed on the phone with me while I got off at the 31st St. exit and made sure that the car wasn't still following, and until the next light to make sure I was in the clear.

Once the situation had passed, I immediately began thinking about how I should reevaluate my policy of not buying a gun. If I did, it would be a logistical nightmare because I'd have to research the laws in all the states and communities around the country, as much as I traveled, or risk getting in serious trouble as much as I got pulled over.

I also started running through my mind the different things I'd done wrong, starting with trying to take a picture of the guy himself (unnecessary), waving the bat (possible cause for charges filed against me), letting the car pull next to me (might have had a gun), etc. Hopefully I'd be able to learn how to handle the situation better next time. Yes, ignoring the behaviour would be the safest course of action, but I wanted to learn how to tackle destructive behaviour like littering without getting killed in the process.

I was able to take my mind off the whole incident with my usual massage at Chinamoon where, as I had hoped, I was able to recover the copy of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs I had left the previous time, and also get a bunch of juicy gossip. Like that the girl who had seen me the previous time had gotten pregnant from a client and been fired. That the owner was allegedly a woman-hater who sexually harrassed many of the therapists. Questionable hygeine habits of one fo the other girls. Of course, the girl who was telling me all this was hardly in position to judge, given that she owed her lawyer money for succeeding in getting her acquitted of drug charges (she claimed they weren't hers).

Afterwards, I exhibited further questionable judgement when I neglected to gas up before getting on the freeway. I was almost on empty when I got to the Cherokee Turnpike, so I had to detour from my plan to drive that entire stretch of US-412 and get on Alt-412, also designated as Scenic 412, in hopes of finding gas. I found it, and when I got back to the turnpike I discovered a gas station right there that I could have used. Rats!

Hyundai and I had made plans to meet in Springdale and head to an independent coffee shop in Fayetteville, and I figured we could get food too, so I didn't want to eat lunch. Thankfully, I had a couple of pieces of chocolate and a nutrional bar, named Penza, that I had gotten in a care package during a visit to an earlier store. It wasn't bad, but I'd stick to the cheap Power Bars.

At the toll plaza I frustrated the attendant when I dropped one of the quarters she game me back change... and then did it again! I guess I was in clumsy mode, because as I pulled away I couldn't even manage to get all the chocolate into my mouth without spilling some.

As I sped east, the sock that had mysteriously disappeared earlier in the day appeared again. Weird.

I picked up an NPR station, 91.3 out of Fayetteville. Holy cow! They have NPR in northwest Arkansas!!! Anyway, because of the recent release of Friday Night Lights, a great film in an otherwise lackluster fall movie season, Fresh Air was re-airing an interview with Billy Bob Thornton. The interview included a clip from Sling Blade, which I particularly like because his character mentions biscuits. Granted, it's in the context of "mustard and biscuits", and I don't like mustard. But I looooove biscuits.

I reached Fred's Drugs in Springdale (or some such) just before 7:00 as expected, and Hyundai was nearby and came over to meet me. I followed her to central Fayetteville, and it was kind of like a tour of the central part of the city, all the way down College Avenue and then onto Dickson, where the night life is on Friday and Saturday nights.

We had dinner at Common Grounds, an independent coffee shop that seemed a little too upscale for my tastes and played sucky music. They redeemed themselves, however, when a local performer, a lady singing jazz, took over a corner of the shop. The coffee, however, was nothing special. Despite the coffee, I was tired, and after a few songs we walked up and down Dickson so I could walk off the pizza. There wasn't much to see on a Sunday night, but the Bank of Fayetteville located inside a couple of rail cars was pretty cool.

I offered to leave Hyundai a check for the loan, but she decided to make it a donation so she could get her name up on my donors page. I guess I understand now why alumni pledge millions of dollars to universities to have buildings named after them.

We headed back to Hyundai's mom's house which required traveling a very bumpy dirt road that sloped up at a grade steep enough that I had to keep it in first. There was a lively crowd, human and animal alike--Hyundai's mother and her boyfriend, her grandmother, a limping hound, a German shepherd, a ferret, and a cat. Hyundai was quite the looker, and I was a-hoping, but I had to settle for a guest room. At least we pulled the ferret out of there beforehand, though.

Hyundai had a copy of The Week, where she read about me, and it was interesting to compare what they had cut from the original Washington Post Magazine article.

October 18

Shortly before nine I decided to was time to head on out. I didn't have to worry about waking Hyundai to say goodbye because the two dogs made much bark as soon as they sensed me. Hyundai had spent much of the night trying to quiet them down. I joked that next time I needed to mail an article of clothing so they could get used to my scent. One of the dogs was, after all, a hound.

Before I could head out, Hyundai's grandmother stocked me up with donuts and an orange, and she wanted a photo. First she took one of me outside when Hyundai protested at being included. As we said our goodbyes, her grandmother tried again to get a picture of us both, and Hyundai scared me a little the way she shouted "No!" at her grandmother's entreats. But she finally relented.

I went up to the Kinko's to update my site. Jodi IM'd me saying we needed to talk, and I got a bad, bad feeling. I couldn't call her because I had left my phone back at Hyundai's, and I was in the process of finding out when she would be heading to work. Not 'til 11:15, so I decided to head back and get the phone so I could find out what the heck was going on with Jodi. But I couldn't remember what street I needed to turn on to to find the dirt road to the house, so I had no choice but to wait.

I met Hyundai a little later than expect and apologized for making her late for work. I miscalculated the time to the Starbucks in Bentonville and then got caught in construction traffic.

I remembered another girl who had e-mailed me about that store and was able to get enough Wi-Fi reception from the Panera across the parking lot to e-mail her and let her know I was in town. She wouldn't get off work 'til four, and I figure I'd probably have enough writing to do to hang out 'til then.

While I played some Scrabble I was offered a leftover drink, a grande latte I think. I accepted because of the calories, but I knew that I would suffer for it later because of all the milk.

I decided to kill some time by taking a tour of the Wal-Mart home office , just down the street, but when I arrived I learned that tours were only for associates. There was a visitor center in the town square open to the public, but it happened to be closed on Monday.

So I went over to Panera and continued to write and play Scrabble until 4:00, and then I met April and her mother. April, too, was quite the looker, but I have to assume the guy that showed up later was her boyfriend and not her brother, given how she was patting his knee and pulling him closer. I least I hope so. After some chit-chat I headed back to Panera, where I had some soup so I wouldn't feel like such a mooch for just sitting there with my laptop.

Detouring Towards Disaster (or It All Goes to Hell)

By the time I finished updating my site it was past 6:30, and there was no way I'd be able to visit stores in Emporia, Nebraska, Iowa, and Chicago and still reach Springfield by Tuesday night. I decided to leave that area for later and detour to West Virginia instead, after Springfield. I also wanted to get to Springfield and deal with whatever issues Jodi had alluded to earlier on IM.

I hadn't quite reached I-44 in Missouri when I got a call with a dramatic revelation that I had to think about. I reached I-44 in Joplin and had only a few miles more to think before reaching the point where I would either continue on to Springfield or detour to Nebraska. I still hadn't made up my mind when I reached the exit so I pulled over to the shoulder to think. I started to get worried that a state trooper to pull over to "assist" me (read: waste my time running my license because I'm not white), so I just made a snap decision and headed north on US-71. I was looking out for myself, dead set on rushing to Springfield just to face disappointment and hurt.

About sixty miles from Kansas City I received another call, with another revelation, and that's when things really went to hell. I decided that I was going to have to get to Springfield as fast as possible and deal with the situation, in part because it seemed she might need me to do that even though she wouldn't say it, and in part because I didn't want to be accused of running away from the situation. Unfortunately, this placed me in an awkward position because the weather had turned sour and the road to Springfield from KC was US-24, a two-lane highway that wouldn't be safe to speed on at night in the rain while tired.

I knew sleep wouldn't come easy with my mind on what was happening in Springfield, but I had no choice but to pull in what Missouri called a "roadside park" and sleep until daylight. The weather was cold enough that I needed to cover myself completely, but this was hard because I had left my lighter blanket back in Houston. I had two heavy blankets which kept me warm enough but seemed to suffocate me if I completely covered up--they didn't let air through very well.

October 19

The sky was overcast, and it was still dark shortly after 7:00 AM when I woke up and decided I needed to start driving if I was to reach Springfield before Jodi went into work.

Around 8:30 I got a call from The Buzz in Houston. They had already tried to call around 4 times while I was on roaming, and I finally answered and told a producer that I couldn't do the interview while on roaming. She was supposed to tell the on-air personality, Theresa, who had failed to call me the night before to confirm that I would have coverage. The message didn't get delivered, or was ignored, and Theresa and Ron called me and put me on the air during a brief moment that I had Sprint PCS coverage. I warned them immediately that my signal might fade at any moment, and sure enough, seconds later, it did. I suspected they had thought I had hung up, and I was right. When I reached Springfield, I had a piece of hate mail waiting from a listener who accused me of "dissing" them. I wrote back and explained and told him he needed to calm down. I resisted the urge to write "calm the fuck down". Given the Springfield situation, I just wasn't in the mood to take shit from people.

I booted up my laptop and worked out the distance from the next town I realized I wasn't going to make it anyway, so when I stopped for breakfast, a biscuit from some place called Country Market, I stayed in the parking lot and tried to sleep some more. I'm not sure if I was just half-asleep or not, but I was thinking about whether nicotine gum actually gave the person a high or just staved the withdrawal symptoms, when a hang-up call woke me. I couldn't get back to sleep without a restroom stop, so I went over to the Conoco across the freeway. I guess it was that right (or left) hand of fate working again because I was at the right place and time to help out a group of people in a truck that needed jump-starting. My good deed for the day, though before I agreed I worried a bit that my car wasn't in such great shape and what if the attempt killed my battery. But then I don't know anything about cars.

As I neared Springfield, I felt a growing sense of dread at the situation I'd have to deal with. But I exited the interstate anyway and headed over to Kinko's to check my e-mail. Jodi IM'd me that she was coming over, and I went across the street to drop my car off at Wal-Mart for an oil change. I walked back across the street to the Starbucks and received a pretty warm reception--the manager had heard of me from a visit to his old store in Itasca, and by coincidence there were a couple of managers from Chicagoland in town to support the Springfield market, and one also recognized me.

October 20

Given the uneasiness that permeated the remainder of Monday afternoon, it was no surprise that I woke up alone at the Motel 6 in Springfield. Still, both of us seemed to me making an effort, and we met for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel, a place Jodi seemed just a little too excited about. I guess I can't really talk though, given how excited I get about a variety of places and products around the country.

After breakfast I visited the second Starbucks in the city, and because of my general uneasiness I didn't feel like having to explain myself to the manager so I kept the visit stealthy. After drinking my coffee (that Panera wouldn't have appreciated my bringing in) I headed over to Panera to get online. I didn't used to eat at Panera for the prices, except maybe for a plain bagel, as 300 calories for 80 cents is a good deal, but they were now becoming my backup hang-out in towns where Starbucks didn't have T-Mobile.

I discovered that Panera's T-Mobile used software that blocked adult sites. Bastards! To get back at them, I snuck in my Tradewinds tea.

October 21

It was time once more for Jodi and I to part ways, only this time, like the cloudy skies that had plagued Springfield throughout my two days there, there was a cloud of uncertainty over us, uncertainty about whether we would explore the potential both of us agreed we had.

Panera's Wi-Fi seemed to be down, and rather that backtrack to the Kinko's I decided to stop in Bloomington. Must have been that right hand of fate guiding me once again, because I discovered a Starbucks that I had missed because it was outside my search radius. As I was there, it occurred to me that it wasn't fate guiding me after all, but the Siren showing me the way. As I had my epiphany, the chorus of a Christian song, "Show Me the Way" ran through my mind.

After visiting the new store in Aurora I passed a Speedway and noticed that gas was almost 20 cents cheaper than back where I had stopped in Naperville. What was ironic was that the manager in Bloomington had given me a tall coffee instead of the sample size I asked for, and drinking this meant I had to go really bad by the time I reached Chicagoland, and that's why I didn't wait to reach the mall or scope out the gas prices. So the extra free coffee cost me over a dollar, about the cost of the bottle of Tradewinds tea I bought at the Speedway. Blah!

There were only two new Starbucks around Milwaukee, and I debated whether to detour the 180 miles from Chicago. I don't think I would have gone except that I heard back from Kelly the protester who wanted me to come visit. I figured I'd offset some of the gas expense by doing laundry up there, as the dark revelations that had affected my trip to Springfield had precluded my using the washer at Jodi's.

Since I decided to detour to Wisconsin, it didn't make sense to visit the two remaining new Starbucks in Chicagoland, which were on the south east side. Instead I took advantage of the subdued afternoon light to reshoot a bunch of stores alone a route up to the tollway to Wisconsin, as quickly as possible because the radio, even at 3:00 PM, was reporting delays on the freeways. After driving halfway through Chicagoland with a Tradewinds tea that was getting warm, I settled on something new, a hot dog from Portillo's Hot Dog's, a local chain, and some chili that I had a sudden craving for. As I drove away and burnt my tongue, I had an epiphany. "Chili" and "chilly" are opposities even though they sound the same, and nobody wants chilly chili--how about that!

Meanwhile, I planned ahead for once and put my map of "invites" to use, e-mailing some fans in areas I'd be passing that I'd be coming by.

By the time I finished reshooting and headed out to I-94 along Golf Road, traffic was heavy enough that it took me quite a while. But thankfully the delays on the interstate itself were more towards the city and I made it up to Milwaukee in good time. After visiting the two new stores I headed over to the shelter where Kelly worked and was able to do my laundry (a good thing) and watch the Astros lose the league championship to the Cardinals (a bad thing).

One of the other employees that sat there with us introduced me to a subculture I had no idea existed, that of traveling bicycle circus clowns.

Another thing I learned, after having failed to notice any signs during earlier visits to Milwaukee, was that the city prohibits parking on city streets from 2:00 to 6:00 AM without a permit or permission. Kelly knew this, and we had to call in my license plate and address in order to avoid a ticket. I had encoutered smaller towns with similar prohibitions, but I couldn't remember any other large cities prohibiting parking like that.

October 21

When I woke up at 4:45 I felt groggy and considered going back to sleep, but it's a good thing I left when I did, because, as expect, traffic was already starting to get heavy, especially once I reached Illinois. Further into the city on the Edens there was construction, and I shuddered to think what the delays would be like later in the morning. By the time I reached the exit for the new Starbucks, I started to get dizzy from sleep-deprivation, and I quickly found a quiet street so I could sleep. Well, not exactly. I first had to find a private corner, and when I returned to my car there was some guy yelling up at the apartment complex for Bill. 6:00 in the morning and this guy is waking everybody up! Needless to say I moved my car, around the corner, and slept for an hour. Then I went and found a restroom and slept some more, until nearly 8:00.

I was still in need of sleep, but I had to get up to find a restroom, and after standing in line at the Starbucks I figured I'd just visit the other and then felt well enough to get a move on. I had to find T-Mobile in Calumet City, not too much of a dinner, so I could update my site and make plans for the day, possibly meeting yet another friend, in Indy this time.

I had been hungry when I reached the Starbucks to work on my web site, but I had really wanted to update my site and play some Scrabble too, and 2 1/2 hours later I was famished. I didn't see anything that looked good on the way to the interstate, so I really needed to get to US-30 ASAP. Traffic was nearly stopped westbound, so I was greatly relieved that it was moving eastbound. I really couldn't have dealt with a parking lot.

Yes! The Great American Bagel along US-30 in Merrillville, right next to the Starbucks, was still there! I was desperate to get some food in me so I could take a caffeine pill (otherwise I'd get nauseated) and a pain reliever. Once the pressing issue of food was dealt with, I suddenly remember the bag of damp socks and briefs sitting in the car. I could have spread them out neatly in the back for maximum drying effect... but I just tossed them whereever.

I had to skip the first cheap gas I found because it's pumps didn't accept credit cards. This was important, because I had decided, after learning of an upcoming $42 eBay bill, that if I was going to exceed the limit on my credit card I might as well go all the way. Because pay-at-the-pump card readers only charge $1 initially, I was finally able to put into practice the "pay it forward" technique I had devised years earlier. Basically, as long as I had enough available credit for the number of times I needed to gas up times $1, and as I long as I completed my driving within 2-3 days, with maybe an extra day or two if on the weekend, I could spend as much as I need on gas. I suppose that "pay it forward" was not entirely an appropriate name for the the technique, because, even though I didn't see the movie, I understand it had a positive message, which probably didn't include figuring out how to game the system and exceed pre-approved credit limits.

Right after I took both pills, my fatigue intensified to the point that I needed to change my plans. As I approached US-421, which would take me back to I-65 to Indy, I looked for a place to crash. I pulled into an abandoned parking lot and then noticed the "No Trespassing" sign on the door of the building. I debated whether I could convince any trooper that happened by that the sign didn't cover the parking lot, but I decided I didn't want to go to jail that day, so I drove on. I reached US-421 and had to settle for the Burger King parking lot. But the sun started to peek from behind clouds, finally, and I didn't sleep much before continuing on to Fort Wayne as originally planned.

After the Starbucks I stopped at Kinko's and had a message from Sarah in Indianapolis with a list of possible restaurants where we could meet for dinner. Interestingly enough she had included a strip club, the only one in downtown Indianapolis, situated in a historic building and supposedly offering decent food. It was tempting, but once I saw the Caribbean restaurant in the list my choice was made. Naked women can't compare with ox tails, baby!

I made it to the one new Starbucks in Indianapolis with some daylight left, no thanks to the dumb-ass that dumped his red sports car into a ditch, or something like that, just past the interchange from I-69 to I-265, causing a lot delay of traffic inbound, which I had not been expecting. I said hello to a partner that e-mailed me, doing the requisite PR thing, and then sped off to Island Delight , so darkly lit that I passed it twice before calling for a specific location. It was worth the effort, because despite their not having green plantains, only the ripe ones instead, the ox tails, butter beans, kidney beans, and rice hit the spot.

Sarah had mentioned a new store in a Bank One building downtown, and so I headed their to both try and find it and also check my mail. I didn't find the building, but I did pass a store in a Radisson that I had put in my list of licensed stores. As I passed by, I was overcome by the feeling that there might have been error, and that it might actually be a corporate-owned store. I couldn't resist pulling over and asking. I would include among my greatest fears having a Starbucks that I passed but neglected to visit close down before I realized my error.

Highway Philosophy

SR-46 was dark and winding, so much of my attention was directed at keeping up with the faster car in front of me. However, I still had some spare mental capacity, and I began thinking about how to deal with the issue of offering an addictive substance like alcohol to a stranger who might or might not be an alcoholic. We could take a hard stance and put the burden of refusing the drink squarely on the shoulders of the alcoholic, but that would be denying the fact that humans are weak. In order to compensate for human weakness, it occurred to me that the computer chip that all humans will eventually have embedded within them could contain data about a person's personal weaknesses. Others would be able to query this data in order to avoid awkward and potentially destructive situations like offering a drink to an alcoholic. To counteract malicious use of this ability, all queries would be logged with a reason. One could not, for example, simply query whether someone else had a drug problem out of curiosity.

As I marinated my idea, it occurred to me that the in the case of sex offenders, what might seem like an invasion of privacy could actually be of great benefit to the offenders themselves. Rather than having to register and let everybody know about a person's past acts, the information could be encoded on the aforemention chip, and access to that information could be restricted to those with good reason. For example, a principal hiring a teacher would have good reason to want to know whether the candidate could pose a threat to the students. A childless neighbor, however, does not need to know if the person living next door is a pedophile because no threat is posed.

A couple of days later, it occurred to me that this personal data chip could have more innocuous uses. Querying sexual orientation, for example, out of romantic interest. Instead of having to make advances towards a person and risk being rejected because of incompatible sexual orientations, such awkwardness could easily be avoided with a silent electronic query.

For any of this to work, of course, we would need to live in a world where people are free of prejudice and would never even think of using personal data about another to discriminate.

El Mucho Sucko

Just past I-65 a sign reported that SR-46 was closed in Hartsville and indicated a detour along SR-7. I looked at my map and cursed, because it did not appear that there was any short way to get around the closure. In fact, further inspection made it evident that once I reached US-50 in North Vernon it would be pointless to try to get back to the interstate. I took no comfort from the fact that I'd get to check off another stretch of US-50, because it was one of the highways that cut across the entire country, and I had vague hopes of one day taking a trip along the entire stretch of the highway. Additionally, I prefer to drive US highways during the day when I can see the towns I'm passing through, not in the dead of night when the darkness makes the road more dangerous. There is a Spanish expression to decribe this type of situation, "el mucho sucko".

The detour put me in a foul mood, with brought out my pessimism, and I wondered whether the reason I couldn't reach Jodi was because she was out with her new "boyfriend".

Once I reached Cincinnati I went ahead and stayed on US-50 into downtown so I could check off that stretch of highway. I wandered around taking in the radically different character that is typical of downtown at night, and then I headed up I-75 towards Fairfield. So tired was I that when I caught a partial glimpse of a sign for a car dealer, Dan McCluskey, I read it first as "clueberry". Further up, I saw an exit for "Cinti Gardens". I hadn't realized that "Cinti" was used as an abbreviation for "Cincinnati". I'd seen "Cincy" used before. I was reminded of Pennsylvania, in which "Penna" can be seen as an abbreviation--on the Turnpike for example.

I took the Dixie Highway towards Fairfield and found a suitable parking spot next to an apparently disabled car in front of a carpet store, and I promptly passed out from exhaustion. Next thing I knew it was past 8:00 AM, and light out, so I had to move over to the Burger King lot to find a restroom and continue sleeping.

It was almost 10:00 before I woke again and hurried to get a move on, as I had expected to have left Cincinnati by that time. I took away a biscuit sandwich from the BK and headed up to the only new Starbucks in Cincinnati in a couple of years, kind of inside a Jungle Jim's natural food market. This store had puzzled me for months--it was missing from the Starbucks web site, and I thought it was a licensed store, but a partner from another Cincinnati store insisted it was corporate owned. Before leaving Chicagoland I finally decided I couldn't wait any longer, and I looked up the Jungle Jim's and got the # to the Starbucks because I had to decide by the time I reached Bloomington, IN, whether I would detour through Cincinnati or not.

For some reason I didn't feel like an intro at the JJ Starbucks so I used a coupon for a triple venti latte to wash my biscuit down with. As I headed back to the interstate I discovered they had given me sausage instead of bacon. I didn't really care, but I figured I could get a free juice out of it, so I went back to the BK with a serious look on my face and asked to the speak to the manager. I got my free juice.

Before leaving Cincy I stopped at a previously-visited store to say hi to a partner who had e-mailed me. I worked on my site while waiting for the line to die down, and then the partner, codename Farrell, asked one of the other partners to take a photo of us with his camera phone, and then he told her that I was the guy visiting all the Starbucks. In disbelief, I guess, she asked me "So you're visiting all the Starbucks in the U.S." I replied, "In the world!" She gave me this blank open-mouthed stare. She asked how many. I told her over 4500, and I got another blank open-mouthed stare in return. It was funny. She was cute, though--she can stare at me anytime.

I rolled through Lexington with no delays, though I had to apply stealth at the second new store rather than wait for the line to die down, as I was starting to cut it close on the time remaining to reach Philadelphia and get sufficient sleep before the tournament. But I made good time east on I-64, along a stretch of interstate I had not driven in five years. I was soon in Barboursville to visit the first Starbucks in West Virginia, and not long thereafter in Charleston, where I had a tougher time of it finding the Charleston Town Center, an indoor shopping mall right in the heart of downtown. While these are not exactly rare--I can think ones in Baltimore and Sacramento right of the top of my head--they strike me as out of place.

I dialed up some spaghetti from a place I had passed, Leonoro's. By the time I arrived, I didn't have to wait long. Another gentleman, older, was not so lucky--as paid he stormed out, spouting "If no one's going to wait on me I'll just eat somewhere else." The waitress didn't seem to care. The old guy didn't miss much--the spaghetti, while not the worst I'd ever had, sucked nonetheless. Or maybe I'm giving it an unfair rating because I was pissed that I misread the map and ended up heading the wrong way, south on I-77 instead of north on I-79, some ten miles out of my way before I was able to turn around. I'll blame it on my father, who called with a question about a problem he was having with Windows Media Player.

Light was fading fast, and it was drizzling, but I pushed on as far as I could, with the Red Sox/Cardinals game helping me stay awake. When the Red Sox picked up another two runs in the seventh I pulled into the first rest area in Maryland, actually a visitors center to a historical landmark (I forget now).

October 24

Before I pulled into that rest area the previous night I had the thought that I should fill up the tank in case some of the gas charges posted. Sure enough, when I reached Frederick and went to gas up, I find out Capital One had cut me off. Grrr...

When I bypassed exit 87 off I-70, which would have taken me down to Elkridge, the Starbucks portion of my trip ended, and my second year of east coast Scrabble began!

More Logs