Updated May 24, 2005. Still incomplete, but log continues here
Made substantial progress on my talk, and was feeling more confident that I could fill two hours, but I was doing other stuff too, and after four hours, by midnight, I still hadn't finished.
Meanwhile, I continued to prepare for my trip to California, and to work on my talk. I was becoming increasingly nervous about whether I'd be able to talk for at least an hour, and whether I'd be able to keep the college students interested.
I rolled into Chicago before 9:00, which meant I'd be able to visit Evanston and then reach Oak Brook before it opened at 10:00, so I decided to use the extra time for breakfast at Toast. The same sassy hostess was working there, four years now, and still looking good for her "enhancements".
From Evanston I stopped to check my mail, and I picked up a local weekly to try and find a massage. I wanted something immediately, and between where I was in Skokie and Oak Brook, which made it tricky. I finally found something nearby in Skokie, but when I arrived the place, Victoria's Massage, was closed. I called to find out what happened, and the phone lady told me she had called me back and left a message to cancel, a message I didn't end up receiving for about an hour.
After missing my exit, I finally got into I-90 heading west, only to come to a near standstill in traffic. It was Sunday, and early still, and I found this frustrating. So I was only too glad to see the exit for Cumberland Ave, which Microsoft Streets & Trips had not been able to plot. Turned out Megi's Spa was only a few blocks to the south, and I was able to get my shower and relax for an hour. The masseuse was Polish, but it didn't hit me immediately that this was likely, given that Chicago has sizeable Polish population, I think.
Oak Brook turned out to be an outdoor mall, and I regretted having dawdled, because I could have gotten a much better photo before the place got crowded.
At Joliet, I noticed the bananas that I hadn't seen at the other stores. They were a test program in Chicago. I had read that they were being ground up for Frappuccino's, but the barista said most customers were buying them to each.
At the Speedway, I was irritated again by their silly policy of announcing to the customers over the loudspeaker when a pump is ready. The sound always comes out blurry and I've seen customers confused. Other gas stations do this too, and I had half a mind to complain, but what good would it do.
Next was Indianapolis, and on the way I called to find out when the two new stores closed. I was surprised to find out that both Greenwood and Martinsville were going 24-hour starting on Monday. I wondered why these two stores, on in the Indy suburbs, and another way out in the boonies, would merit 24-hour status.
Then things got really exciting. I was making good time down I-65 following a car and an SUV doing about 90 when we could. While waiting for a fourth car to pass a semi, a white GMC truck pulled up close behind me, too close for comfort. I turned on my hazard lights and tapped my brakes. The truck backed away, and I thought it was going to be cool, but then he swerved to the right and passed me, cutting me off, before I could close the gap. I waited for the three other cars to pass the truck, and had the GMC also passed we all could have gone about our merry ways. But the truck just sat there, not passing. I didn't know if he was doing it on purpose or just stupid, but I didn't care. I reacted quickly, pulling around him and squeezed between him and the truck and sped off. To discourage the GMC from screwing with me, I floored it to about 100 MPH, passing my two escorts in the process and going off on my own. That's always worked before. But not this time.
I thought I was in the clear, but then I reached a blockage of cars and had to slow down. Next thing I knew, the GMC was speeding towards me. The blockage cleared, I sped away, and I picked up the phone. I dialed 911 and got the sherrif's department. I described the situation, and for the next 9 miles I stayed on the phone with them calling out mile markers and the position of the truck, which was doing everything he could, weaving between cars and even trying to pass a semi on the right shoulder.
Finally, at mile marker 139 we were intercepted by a pair of troopers. They pulled the GMC over, and I had to pull over too and answer questions. My case was helped by a couple of other drivers who pulled over. One lady was really pissed at the GMC because she was almost involved in a four-car wreck when they tried to pass the semi. The other driver was pissed at me because I had passed him on the shoulder. But after talking to me, talking to them, and finally searching my car (consenting seemed like the prudent move given how fast I had been driving), they went with my story. I heard one of the officers say he was going to "pinch these guys", which I assumed to mean "arrest". I didn't stick around to find out. I felt a bit lucky, because technically I had been going 100 MPH, and the deputies knew it, but the one in charge said he was letting me off because he only had one ticket. I'm not sure about that excuse, but I wasn't going to argue. Anytime you get away with driving 100 MPH+ (I had actually hit 110), you should consider yourself lucky.
sr-67 towards martinsville, pull away from light, put down daredevil, pound nt chest for no reason. hard. ow, no shirt, hear slap/thud
lITTLE Stevies' Underground Garage, 9:00, 92.3, diALOH FROM SOPRANOS
didn't want to know if mishakawa open
after 2:00 cleared columbus
2:58 the first wave hit, of sleepiness, micro second , pulse
3:40, 2ND PULSE, slightly stronger
3:45 3rd pulse, very strong, surge adrenalin
FINally hity large anmila
I visited the Sandusky store I had missed two weeks earlier, and then I played Scrabble in Michigan. I finished just before 5:00 and went across the street to the deli for some food, and then to Starbucks to update my store list for Indiana and Illinois. I was also killing time, waiting for Jodi to call to see if we were going to be able to meet. She never called, and so I headed to Grand Haven instead.
The route from Grand Haven down to South Bend was US-31 most of the way, and after reshooting Holland and then missing an exit, I didn't quite reach the South Bend store before the sun set. That was too bad, because it's a really pretty store.
Dude, that was really weird. As I approached the South Bend stores I started thinking about how I'd have to decide whether to head to Chicago or not. It was clear I wasn't going to make it before any the nearest store closed that night, so I called the Oak Brook store and the Evanston store to see when they opened in the morning. Whoever answered at Oak Brook said "congratulations, you have successfully reached the Starbucks at Oak Brook." and then he gave me the opening time when I asked. Okay, he was just having fun, that's fine. But then I called Evanston, and I got another odd phone greeting. Then, after I asked what time they opened, the barista asked if there was something I needed. Unusual question, but I just said I needed to know how early I could show up. He replied that there would be people lined up, so come on over. Very strange. If I were the paranoid type, I'd almost think they had my # programmed into their phone system to read "Winter, that wacky Starbucks guy".
Ah, good old South Bend, IN, where the apparently can't afford street signs with full-sized letters. My eyes hurt from trying to read them.
A decent sandwich from a regional chain, Jimmy John's, but they don't heat them. Had I known I would have passed, but I wanted to get a move on towards Chicago and get as much sleep as possible.
I suffered a couple of delays before getting to my flight. First, the toll booth tricked me again. I had remembered seeing a bill changer at the toll booth on the ramp to SR-417 at John Young. But I had to gas up the rental car before returning it, and the gas stations were the next road over, US-17. The ramp from 17 to the toll road did not have a changer, and I had all of forty-two cents. So I backed up the entrance ramp, went across some dirt onto the exit ramp, and over to a gas station. I call that creative driving, but at the same time I was glad the sherriff's deputy who had passed a few seconds earlier did not see me. He would have called my maneuver something else.
I reached Gate 58 (Terminal B) as the flight was boarding, but since my zone had not yet been called, I opened my laptop. I was surprised to find an unsecured Wi-Fi network, named simply "Internet". I connected, and there was no introductory page to indicate who operated the network. I guess I'll never know, but I'm curious.
Once on the plane I immediately opened my laptop again to see if the signal reached that far, but it did not. There was another signal, however, "SMARTSIGHT". I imagine it was a peer-to-peer signal put out by somebody's laptop and not actually connected to the Internet.
Merely mediocre Colombian food.
I slept 'til 7:47, later than hoped, but I needed the sleep. There was little point in pushing myself to meet and grandmother and cousin at the airport only to be wiped out for the rest of the day.
Jacob's Restaurant and Deli was more of a restaurant than a bagel shop, but the sandwich was still pretty good. What they didn't have, though, was a cooler with juices, so while they made my sandwich I went over to the Publix. I discovered a local brand of juice, not from concentrate, Indian River, that turned out to be pretty darn good!
In the weeks before my trip I'd been trying to call a couple of stores listed on the Starbucks web site to see if they had opened yet. No luck as of Thursday. As I headed out to the interstate with my bagel sandwich, I gave Pine Island & Stirling one more try. A voice! Somebody answered!!! "Are you open for business," I asked. Unfortunately, they weren't--the manager explained they were schedule to open that day, but they still had an issue to deal with. She said it was possible. I hoped it would be in the next few minutes, and I rushed in the hopes of being the first customer.
When I arrived I had to wait five minutes for the manager to get off the phone. She opened the door, and I explained my mission. She explained that the store was waiting on a part, and that it might arrive that day. She said to call after I finished the other two stores I had to visit, which might take an hour, but that the part wouldn't come that soon.
Despite many trips to the Miami area, I noticed for the first time that many roads seemed to have two names. Boynton Beach Avenue was NW 2nd Ave, Stirling Rd was SW 60th St, and Red Road was NW 57th Ave. What... is... up... with... that!!! That plays havoc with navigation, these multi-named streets!
At the Red Road store, the manager was very excited to meet me and insisted on preparing me a French press of the new Colombian blend. Then she dropped a bomb, insisting that a Starbucks had opened in Colombia, in Bogota! What??? Given how dangerous my father's homeland has become, how could a Starbucks open there without making national news? She said she heard it from a friend, and I immediately became suspcious. I would have to make inquiries.
I checked my e-mail to kill time, then went over to Griffin and Weston, and then I called Pine Island & Stirling back to learn that it would be late afternoon at the earliest before it open. Oh, well, I'd have to leave it for next time, maybe as long as a year later. Curse my timing! If I had known, I could have delayed my trip until Sunday.
I headed back to Orlando, and the trip went by quickly because I took the opportunity of a smooth drive to go through my financial log and try to recreate a history of Starbucks trips. I hoped to be able to wow the audience in Santa Barbara with numbers as accurate as I could compile them.
On the way to Melbourne along US-192 I had spotted several Latin American restaurants and made a mental note. On the way back I exited the Turnpike early so I could stop at one of them, Olde Cuban, for some moros and plantains.
In downtown Kissimmee I took US-17 up to my cousins, and on the way I passed The Tupperware World Headquarters. In Kissimmee--whoda thunk it!
After picking up my grandmother at the airport we went back to the house for dinner, after which I said my goodbyes, again, and headed off again, north this time, towards Jacksonville. I detoured in Winter Park to visit what I thought was a new Starbucks. I first spotted a Border and decided to pop in quickly to see if I could find a copy of the next pre-Episode III Star Wars novel to reach on the flight back. Then I missed the Starbucks and went too far up Orlando Ave and had to double back. And after all that wasted time, when I reached the Starbucks I realized it was not new! I had visited it back in 1999, and a problem with my database software caused me to lose track of it.
By the time I got back on I-4 and calculated the total distance to all four new stores in Jacksonville, I realized 30-minutes detour in Winter Park had been foolish. If I managed to keep it above 80 MPH most of the way, I'd reach the first store around 9:0, and then I'd have 60 minutes to reach the next, and then 30 minutes after that to reach the other two that closed later, at 10:30. Doable, but I'd be cutting it close, and if I didn't make it I'd have to stay and sleep in the car instead of the more comfortable air mattress back at my cousins.
"rock me mama like a southbound train" Old Crow Medicine Show
Well, I made it to Orange Park just after 9:00, but I lost a lot of time just at the various traffic lights. After very quickly buying a DoubleShot and almost forgetting to take a photo, I cut through the Books-a-Million to get to my car more quickly, but while there I took a couple of minutes to see if the fifth and final Revenge of the Sith prequel was available. I grabbed a copy and rushed to the checkout line, where the cashier stupidly asked me if I had brought the other book with me, a Star Wars paperback. I was in too much of a hurry to lecture her about how I hate being asked that question, a stupid question because the book showed signs of wear, had a bookmark inserted towards the end, and anyone intending to shoplift a book is not going to do it while paying for a different one. That's just stupid!
I had to wander a bit to find the next Starbucks, in one of those town centers that seem to be in fashion still all around the country, and new enough that the address was not listed on my map. But I made it on time, and by the time I reached Atlantic and Southside I was confident enough that I could reach the final store by 10:30 that I was able to introduce myself and ask for a sample instead of buying another DoubleShot. I was glad I did, because I learned that the Baltimore Sun article had been reprinted in Jacksonville too.
On the way to Beach and San Pablo I had to cut in front of some kids in a sports car to get out of a right-turn-only lane, and they proceeded to screw with me all the way down Beach as I tried to put cars in between us so I could focus on spotting the Starbucks. They finally gave up when I got in a left-turn lane in view of a patrol car stopped at what looked like the scene of a collision or incident involving several vehicles.
At Beach and San Pablo one of the partners had seen that same article in the paper and had me sign a cup. I was glad it was the last store of the night and I was no longer in a hurry.
I didn't even realize how late it was when I returned to the house, but the next morning, as I suffered through fatigure, I was told it was around 3:00 AM. I had considered crashing in my car around Winter Park so I could reshoot several stores, but I decided I wanted to get as much sleep as possible in anticipation of a day at the theme parks--the reshoots would have to wait for another occassion, which was not likely to come soon given how rarely I passed through Orlando.
Friday, May 13
My mother arrived in Orlando on Wednesday to stay with my cousin at his new house for a week. My grandmother and another cousin from Panama would arrive on Saturday, and that made it a good time to fly down and visit some family. I chose to fly because my Civic was getting close to the 200,000 miles that my mechanic had estimated I could get out of that engine, and because 800 miles each way was a little far to drive for just a weekend trip.
As usual, something went wrong right away--I left my phone charger back at the office. Then, while on the shuttle from economy parking (which I had missed the first time around) I realized I had left my nail scissors in my backpack, which meant I'd have to throw them away. I'd done the same thing a little over a year earlier.
Actually, things started to go wrong as early as when I booked the flight. I neglected to give much thought to the fact that the flight was out of Reagan. Even though flight options listed on Travelocity clearly showed Reagan, I made my mental time calculations with BWI in mind, and I thought I could leave work shortly as late as 10:45 or 11:00. It was only a couple of days before the flight when I reviewed my itinerary that I realized I'd be departing from Reagan, and that I'd have to travel towards DC around 9:30 AM, at time at which it is entirely possibly for inbound traffic to be snarled. To make matters worse, Wal-Mart had suddenly decided a week earlier that they wanted to install our product at a pilot site in June, and my manager told them we should sent updated software the very Friday I was leaving. My dev lead did not turn his attention to testing my code until Thursday, and, except for a 2-hour break for Scrabble club, I worked until nearly 11:00 to execute a succesful test.
I was back at work at 7:30 Friday morning, and two hours later there was still a problem. I suspected it had to do with changes my dev lead made, and he gave me the okay to leave, so I hurried off, uncomfortable with leaving while there was still a problem, but preferring that to the alternative, a later flight at a cost of $300.
But for once, something went right, and traffic was smooth to the airport. Furthermore, I was able to use the electronic check-in to bypass the line. The last few times I'd flown with US Airways the kiosk had not worked for me. I arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare. Despite this, about 25 minutes later, when the flight was about to board, I was forced to rush because of a rule, presumably instituted post-September 11, that required passengers to remain in their seats for the first 30 minutes of flights out of Reagan.
There was one more snafu--I presented the wrong boarding pass to the gate attendant, the one for the Charlotte-Orlando leg of my trip. Not noticing, I made my way to the back of the plane and seat 25E to find a lady sitting there. I called over a flight attendant, and he discovered the error. I squeezed my way past other passengers still boarding and made my way to 12B, where I found a pleasant surprise. To my left was none other than the hot blonde whose ass had captured my gaze back at the terminal on the way to the gate. She was just as fine from the front. Unfortunately, she was more interested in the classifieds than in chatting with me. And she wasn't looking for a job either, nor for a used divan.
During the flight from Charlotte I really started feeling the fatigue and tried to close my eyes, in anticipation of having over 200 miles to drive to get down to the Miami area.
I was glad that I hadn't checked bags as I rushed to the shuttle to take me to the main terminal so I could find the Budget counter. Alamo had a counter adjacent to Budget, and I was greatly relieved I hadn't booked with them. The line was ridiculous, at least an hour by my estimation. Some group tour, according to the Budget rep.
Before Miami, my first destination was my cousins' to at least say hello. On the way I had to run a stupid unmanned toll booth because I'd left all my change back in my car. I hoped that they wouldn't bill Budget, who would in turn charge me, and probably extra.
After dinner I excused myself and said I'd try to be back in time to meet my grandmother at the airport, and I rushed off. I decided to avoid having to get change for the toll and just head south a bit to US-192 which led straight into Melbourne. Through Kissimmee I made a mental note of a bunch of Latin American restaurants.
On the way towards West Melbourne I noticed Streets & Trips had not been able to plot the store. As I approached I-95, the crossing of which would put me close to West Melbourne, I debated whether to risk passing up the store and wasting time and sunlight or using up the limited power on my phone to call for directions. Then I noticed the Indiatlantic store was also not plotted, and I hoped I wouldn't have to call too many stores.
From Indiatlantic I decided to take US-1 down to Stuart, about 60 miles. On the way I debated whether to wait until light to take a better photo or keep moving down towards Boynton Beach. Turned out to be a moot point, because when I arrived, I was, like, "Son of a bitch!!!" The store was still under construction. I coulda sworn the manager back at West Melbourne had said the store was open! AARRGHH!!! From Melbourne, I hadn't actually gone out of my way, but it had taken longer to drive US-1 than the interstate, and I was pissed most of all for the lost sleep.
My disappointed combined with fatigue put me in a dejected state, and I had not the energy to seek food any farther than the Steak n Shake. I should have found the energy. My previous recollection of Steak n Shake was that the fries were too thin for my tastes, but that the food didn't outright suck. This time around, the food outright sucked. The chili, that I had gotten a craving for, was so bad it started to make me sick, and I ended up dumping half of the entire meal. Yuch!
I drove as far as West Palm Beach and pulled off the freeway to find a place to sleep until morning. The first residential area I chose looked rather dubious, and I had images of the butt of a nine-millimeter tapping my window. I was exhausted, but I valued my life more--I kept driving. I found a neighborhood that seemed safe enough, where the car was less conspicious. In the wee hours I move again, to a neighborhood just down the street from the new Boynton Beach store. I found a secluded area where the street dead-ended next to an overpass. Dead ends are great for urban campers because they reduce the chances of disturbances, whether just cars and pedestrians passing by, or evildoers.
Had another interview, with The End in Seattle, and this time I set up the laptop at Starbucks and logged on to the site. As soon as I finished the interview, from out in my car where it was quite (and quite warm), I rushed into the Starbucks and started the audio stream. It was delayed 2-3 minutes, maybe more, so I got to listen to their post-interview comments. No mocking this time, except maybe about the "artistic integrity" of my project, which I have to admit is debatable.
A few minutes after the interview I received an e-mail from a listener, the first such radio-related e-mail I'd received in a long time.
Then I received a call from 97.3 KBSG, a sister station, which implied I'd been interesting enough for The End to recommend me.
I almost missed my 8:10 interview because I had left my phone in the bathroom, but I got there on the fourth ring. During the interview I sat at my laptop and gave Howard the link to listen. After I finished the interview, Howard indicated that the feed was delayed, and that they DJs were mocking me. This gave me an idea, to make sure I did my interviews where I had access to streaming audio so I could listen and judge the degree of mockitude so I could decide if I wanted to talk to that station again in the future.
After a late night watching the critically-praised Crash, sleeping late was a necessity. But with an upcoming movie, publicity was also a necessity, so I couldn't turn down a couple of radio interviews, at 7:30 and 8:00 AM, and then another one at 10:15. The on-air personalities at the first two stations used the dreaded "Smith", and I had to correct them. Turns out I was getting all these requests because the Baltimore Sun article had been reprinted in different papers, and so the dreaded "John Smith" fallacy was spreading. Stupid Baltimore Sun!!! I had to e-mail the third station in advance and explicitly state that no name other than "Winter" was to be used.
Back at the office, I received yet two more requests for interviews. The first got my name right--the producer had actually read my site. The second addressed the e-mail to "John", and I was a bit more curt with my reply--"Justin, Please refer to my web site, starbuckseverywhere.net, and play close attention to the part that says my name is Winter." I had a feeling my replies would get more and more curt as I got more and more irritated with media people who couldn't bother to visit my web site before contacting me.
Later, after lunch, I received an e-mail from someone asking if she and her coworkers had seen me at the Dobbin store where I usually take lunch. It seems my level of recognition is rising!
I won the tournament, but the result was still disappointing because I only won 5 of 7 games and played too many weak players--this meant my rating might actually drop, not increase. On top of this, I was a little depressed because Jodi had apparently given up on us, and she had been the most compatible woman I had ever met. And finally, I was exhausted. So I decided to head back to Maryland and put some hours in at work instead of heading hundreds of miles in the opposite direction for more Starbucks and non-stop driving. But first, I crashed in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn, for 11 hours.
At 8:00 I felt I had slept enough and headed down to Canton to reshoot three stores there before heading back to Maryland. I checked my e-mail at the Strip while waiting for a truck to move from the handicapped space. The driver looked like he was going to be hanging out with his dogs for a while, so I left and photographed the other two stores first. At Washington Square Marketplace a customer walking to the store from the parking lot asked what I was taking pictures of. I felt a flash of indignation, the result of too many interrogations by cops and Starbucks partners alike. I could have asked why he asked, but just answering the question got him out of my hair the quickest.
From Canton the quickest way back out to the Turnpike seemed to be US-62, but I decided to take US-30 all the way to Pittsburgh and check that stretch of highway off my list. It was easier said than done--I kept missing the turns needed to stay on the highway. I think my mind just wasn't on the trip, partly thinking of Scrabble, partly thinking of the disintegrating situation with Jodi. It was only a couple of hours later, as I approached Pittsburgh, that I realized I had already driven that stretch of highway, all the way from Mansfield, OH. But it had been at night, so I guess driving it during the day allowed me to see towns like Minerva, Hanovertown, and Lisbon in all their glory.
During the drive I counted up my cash, and the numbers didn't add up, by about $30. I immediately thought back to the Canadian border, when I forgot to take my money out of the car during the inspection. At the US border, the agent had told me to take my wallet (I grabbed my checkbook with my cash), which of course is a good idea. Later, I remembered the $7.20 I had spent on dinner, and the $9 I had spent at the movies before leaving, and I decided the numbers were close enough.
Since I had plenty of time, I had a bunch of store reshoots planned for Pittsburgh. The first was Moon Township. I needed some MDC, and nearby was a K-Mart, the first I'd visited in a long time. The company wasn't doing so well, and perhaps this can be explained by the fact that the music system was playing Eddie Murphy's "Party all the Time". Ah, Eddie, that music genius. Why did his brillian musical career have to end!!!
Next was Sewickley, and imagine my amazement to discover... a large painting of my web site photo on a poster on a door!!!
I was curious as to the hows and whys, but the partner I spoke to only knew that someone else had created the portrait. I hope she reads this an e-mails me an explaning if it's a painting or some other kind of reproduction.
Sinead o Connor "Jump in the River"
Next to the Franklin Park store was a deli, T-Bones, where most of the cashiers were way cute honeys, especially the redhead behind the bakery counter.
Just because I was close to home didn't mean I had to stop exploring. Heavy traffic around Frederick spurred me to exit and see what food downtown had to offer. I found Cacique, a Spanish and Mexican-themed restaurant. It was pricy, but I was curious to try the duck--I'd never had duck before. It was pretty good, tastier than chicken.
I awoke around 4:30 and was disappointed that I didn't see even a hint of sunlight. I tried to go back to sleep, but after 15 minutes I gave up and headed across town to the Kinko's to check my e-mail and confirm the location of the tournament (because I hardly ever remember to copy it down in advance). The Kinko's was near the Miller Road store, and I parked at the end of a dead-end street nearby to try and sleep some more.
I didn't manage much, or any, sleep before noticing that it was light enough for a photo, 6:00 AM. I had a lot to do before reaching Hudson, four Starbucks to photograph and three new stores to visit, so of course something had to go wrong. This time it was my batteries that went dead. In my hurry to leave the office I had forgotten the set of batteries I'd been charging, so I had to pull the set from my Scrabble timer.
Though only 6:00 AM, there was actually a line at the Marathon gas station, and I lost ten precious minutes waiting to buy batteries. I shot Miller Rd, then rushed over to Court St, and after shooting four or five frames the batteries were dead!!! I got fewer than ten photos from those batteries--what a piece of shit they were. Everyready "super heavy duty" my ass!
A couple of more reshoots, then on to a new store in Sterling Heights, and another delay, a section of Van Dyke (SR-53) closed forcing me to detour over to the next street and back.
It still looked entirely possible to scoot into Windsor and back out, and since who knew when I'd be back in Michigan I went for it. Mistake. My Jedi mind powers failed me again, and I was sent in for inspection on the Canada side of the border. Time loss. Then on the way back from the Walker Road store, a closure on the freeback--more time losss. And finally, as I was already cutting it close, the last thing I needed, or expected, an inspection on the US side of the border! I couldn't even remember that last time that had happened, if ever, and it had to happen when time was at its most precious.
The agent that "helped" me was confused. She read the notes written on the form, that I was visiting all the Starbucks and headed to a Scrabble tournament in Ohio and "claimed" to be a programmer, and she couldn't understand why they had sent me in. Well, neither did it. So she looked up my name in the system, and it took forever because, amazingly, the search was only by first and last name, no middle, no DL #, no SS #. What lunacy!
I lost more time getting onto I-75, and just as I had calculated that I might still make it by noon, with 2.25 hours to drive 170 miles, traffic came to a dead stop, two right lanes closed. AARRGHH!!!
Earlier, when I had checked on the location of the tournament, I had the director's phone # right in front of me, and I explicitly thought to myself, nah, I won't need it, I have plenty of time to spare. But of course all my spare time had disappeared, and I'd be lucky to arrive by 12:30, but I needed to guarantee I'd be included in the pairings. I called my father and painstakingly talked him through the steps to find the tournament calendar on the NSA web site and the director's number. It was a little confusing at first, because he had pulled up travel-assoc.com, and it was a real site.
Traffic finally got moving past the construction but slowed twice more for lane closures, though not as bad. As I approached the Ohio line I was praying that there would be no construction there. No such luck, construction on I-280 through downtown mandated an agonizingly low limit of 35 MPH.
But once I got to the Ohio Turnpike, it was go, go, go, close to 100 MPH all the way, with the exception, of course, of when cars slowed for the trooper at mile 86.
I faced another dilemma, regret that I had not taken a couple of minutes to put a little more gas in my car. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it or not. So I had to choose between 2-3 minutes at a service area or the possibility of getting stranded and missing the tournament altogether.
Once again, and for the third or fourth time in recent weeks (a troubling development), I was sick, and I shouldn't have been traveling and pushing myself to exhaustion. But my Scrabble rating had dipped into the 1600s in recent weeks, and my heart burned with the need to get back to 1700.
I changed my mind several times during the course of the week. As late as 10:50 I was leaning towards not going, and I decided to use my lunch to watch the new Ridley Scott film, Kingdom of Heaven. The film was engaging, but an hour in I got restless. I got a pass to return later and headed back to the office. Earlier I had considered that if I was going to drive the 360 miles to Hudson, OH, I might as well try to jet into Michigan and visit several new stores, as far as Flint. It was almost 12:30, and by my calculations I had plenty of time to reach Michigan and pop that coochie.
I left precisely at 12:30, and I had 11.5 hours to drive 580 miles. Completely doable, with time to spare, but not too much time. So I immediately proceeded to lose some of that spare time by zoning out and missing the exit from the Baltimore Beltway to I-70. I drove 6 miles before I noticed, a 12 mile loss in all, and probably 15 minutes. Doesn't seem like a lot, but even if I reached Flint on time, 15 minutes of sleep would be precious over the frenetic weekend I had planned.
73 miles into the drive, a diagonal slash of pain penetrated the cold pills I had taken before the movie. Later, when I stopped at a rest area, I felt weak, and my muscles were distinctly sore. Food might help, I thought, but I wanted to save a few minutes by waiting until Breezewood, where I have to exit the freeway to get on the PA Turnpike.
Mental note, the microwave at Sheetz is behind the counter in the cafe, so if I want to heat leftovers quickly I should stop elsewhere, like BP.
After a year in the Civic without a CD player, and now that I was downloading albums off iTunes, I had decided to forget about a CD player and go straight for an MP3 player. I hadn't found the time to shop for one, and I didn't necessarily want to spend the money, but I discovered an alternative. I bought a small FM transmitter by Belkin that plugged into my laptop. There had been a lot of static while in the city, once I got onto the highway the sound quality was fine, if not great. I finally had the ability to listen to all the music that had been building up for a year, in the manner most convenient for me, in my car.
Of course I enjoyed listening to all my great music, like Mary Chapin Carpenter's Between Here and Gone, but there was a downside, a sense of sadness. Much of my music reminded me of Jodi, and we hadn't been speaking, and so my heart was heavy as the somber notes flowed.
Ah, it pays to have a cheap, inconspicuous car. Just past the toll plaza at the end of the PA Turnpike, right before the Cranberry exit, a trooper hid behind a hill. He let me and several other cars go, but when I bright blue Mustang passed in the left lane, the trooper gave chase. The 'Stang wasn't going that much faster than the other cars, but I imagine troopers love to pull sports cars over.
I detoured to reshoot two stores outside Pittsburgh, Freedom Road and Monaca. Rush hour traffic along a one-lane road, plus a truck stalled on a bridge, conspired to cost me more time than the 15 minutes I had hoped, many 30, but my projections showed I could still reach Flint by 10:00, with an hour to spare.
Then I zoned out again and missed the exit from SR-60 to the turnpike. At the toll plaza I asked the attendant if I had passed it up. He asked where I was going--I said Cleveland just to avoid explanation, and he said I could take I-80. Pshaw, I thought, and decided to cut across to the Ohio Turnpike. Well, turns out that didn't work out so good. There was no direct route from that exit on SR-60 to the turnpike, and I ended up taking several rural roads and detouring about 9 miles in all. Hard to say how much time I lost, but it had to have been at least another fifteen minutes.
Unlike the PA Turnpike, the Ohio Turnpike was straight enough for me to work on my log. Of course, my car did thend to drift from side to side in between words. For maximum safety, I needed a lot of space around my car. Some lady in a jepp was determined to ride close to me, and when she drifted into my blind spot on the left I had to give her a little object lesson by changing lanes, cutting dangerously close to her. She backed off. I doubt she was too happy with my little maneuver, and she was surely telling her paasenger look at that fool not paying attention. It was probably beyond her comprehension that I had done it on purpose to get her to back away.
As I drove I pulled up my photos of stores in the various areas I'd be traveling to to see which ones I needed new photos of. Levis Commons in Perrysburg, OH, was one such, and when I discovered it would only be a short detour I sped up even more, to try and get some of that beautiful setting sunlight on the store. I think I was about 5-10 minutes to late to capture the sunrays on the store, but the detour wasn't waste--the photo I did get was better, and I needed to gas up and grab some vittles anyway. For speed I just grabbed a hot dog and Fritos from the Speedway--only later did I discover I'd grabbed a jalapeno one--ouch!
I reached Flint about 9:50, and it was good that I wasn't cutting it close because I promptly went the wrong way on Miller and had to double back. Immediately upon entering the store I went straight to the restroom, and I could see in the mirror that I visibly shaking, as often happens when I push myself beyond exhaustion. The trembling usually happens when I combine fatigue with caffeine, but I'd only had one cup that day, in the morning before work.
After the Miller Rd store there was another, Court St & Center Rd, and then I found a nearby neighborhood with a space dark and inconspicuous enough for me to relax. I didn't sleep much though. It was about 11:30 when I found my parking space, and when I looked at the time again it was 1:00 AM and I felt like I hadn't slept at all.
Just as I feared, I received a message from the media, this time a radio station in Pittsburgh, addressed to "John". I was so pissed I wanted to take it out on the program manager and write back something like, "Motherfucker, my name ain't John! Read my fucking web site!!!". But I held back and responded with a more polite "My name is not John. Please see my web site, starbuckseverywhere.net"
Still, I felt like slapping somebody.