The Inspection Tour

Updated July 13, 2005. Still incomplete, but log continues here

Time on the road: 10 days, 6 hours
Miles driven: 6260 (excludes 160 non-Starbucks miles)
Spent on gas: $370
Spent on coffee: $48.61
New stores visited: 64
Coffee consumed: (x - 20) * 4 + 48 = 196 oz coffee + 8 oz French Press + 18 DoubleShot
Encounters with police: 3

July 1

I left Elkridge at 12:35 PM. My first destination was Warrenton, VA, to meet Peter Holden, the man who has visited over 12,000 McDonald's. I was hoping to make the trip in 75 minutes at best, 90 at worst. Peter was thinking more like 1 and 3/4 hours. I was anxious to prove him wrong.

The concern was, of course, the holiday getaway traffic. AAA was predicting, in sharp contrast to high gas prices, 40 million cars on the highways over the long weekend.

I hadn't driven but 15 miles down I-95 before I ran into the first delay, but it was mercifully brief. A few miles before the I-66 interchange on the Beltway I saw the second delay. Another slight delay just before the interchange, and then it was a near stop once on I-66.

By the time the delay cleared I was 9 miles off my desired pace. My speed picked up, and I hoped to recover the lost time, but I only managed to recover all of one minute before traffic came to a standstill again. By the time I reached US-15, where Peter had told me to call him for further directions, it was already 2:16. Rats!

I met Peter a little after 2:30 at an ice cream stand called Carousel Frozen Treats. We chatted until he got called away to a meeting, and it looked promising that he might participate in the movie.

I left Warrenton at 3:04, with 240 miles to Raleigh. In Culpeper I pulled off the highway to see if some place Country Cookin was any good. The place wasn't what I hoped, and was much farther off the highway than I had expected, so to avoid further delays I just hit the Safeway. The pickins' at the deli were slim--I settled for hot wings and macaroni and cheese--can't even remember the last time I had something like that. As I walked over to the produce I department I thought to myself--this it where it starts, the little delays that add up and end up costing me the opportunity to visit an entire city at the end of my trip.

Farther down US-15 I passed through Gordonsville and spotted the 007 Cafe. Need to check the place out one of these days.

7:55 when I hit the new Starbucks in Raleigh, and as soon as I got out of the car the heat and humidity wrapped themselves around me. I shuddered to think of what it would be like in Houston. I was in a hurry to reach Statesville by 11:00, so I just grabbed a DoubleShot and picked up a sandwich from the Yuck-fil-a a few across the parking lot. I had to drive a couple of exits down the interstate, however, to get some gas and a canned soda, and in those 5 minutes the sandwich had lost most of any good taste it ever had. Hungry as I was, I just couldn't finish it.

It was 8:14 when I got back on the interstate with 141 miles to go. I made really good time and wasn't worried about making it until a really hard rain started to fall, hard enough to force me to slow down to 35-40 MPH, turn on my hazard lights, and turn off the radio. The music combined with the hard rain on my windshield to disorient me. It was really hard to see. The car ahead of me was smart--slow and hazard lights, but the vehicles behind me, including a semi, were traveling way too fast as they flew past me. Thankfully, the rain lightened up after just a few miles and they didn't cause no wreck.

I hung out at the Statesville store until it closed working on my log while my electronics charged. Before I left, I chatted with a Brit (now living the states) who had walked in an proclaimed that he had been looking for the Starbucks. He had been triving, family in tow, from Mansfield, OH, and still had 260 miles to go to Myrtle Beach. It was understandable why he needed that venti drink!

I hadn't studied my map too closely, so I was surprised that I reached Huntersville in less than an hour, and that the Birkdale Commons store was still open. I stayed 'til midnight working on my site, and then headed towards the new Charlotte store. I exited I-77 at WT Harris to cut across to where the Starbucks was, and looked for a suitable campground as I drove.

Around 12:30 I found a cul de sac at the end of Cleve Brown Rd that seemed suitable. The street was public, and there were no signs prohibiting parking, but I still worried that cops would hassle me. Turned out cops wasn't what I needed to worry about, but rather myself. Specifically, my throat. I had not been coughing all day, but for some reason as soon as I lay down in the back I started into paroxysms of coughing that made it impossible to sleep. The planes taking off from the nearby airport didn't help.

July 2

Nearly two hours later I had still not fallen asleep. I took a fake benadryl to see if it would make me drowsy. No help. I struggled to think of a reason for all the coughing. My pillow? No, I had slept with it the night before. The feathers in the blanket I'd bought months earlier, that had started coming out of a tear? Fumes? I was truly puzzled. After about an hour, I still had not fallen asleep, and I decided some cough syrup might help. At that hour (or maybe in that part of town) the only store open was a gas station convenience store.

On the way I spotted what seemed to be a new supermarket chain, a sub-brand of Food Lion, called Bloom. Very interesting name for a supermarket.

The generic Nyquill I bought had an awful aftertaste, but I think it worked. My coughing subsided, but I still did not sleep much. I might have drifted off, but shortly before 5:00 I heard one or more vehicles. I thought it was some Starbucks partners arriving, but it was actually an employee of a lighting company (the strip center was still under construction).

I moved to the adjoining neighborhood, also under construction, and parked next to an unfinished house. There I finally slept, for about an hour. Around 6:00 I went into the Starbucks and bought a DoubleShot. I was half asleep, so it took me a while to realize I hadn't tied my shorts tight enough and they were starting to slip. That could have been embarrassing.

I moved my car down at the end of the lot and slept some more, grateful for the clouds in the sky to help keep the sun off me. Around 7:45 I went back to the Starbuck and bought some juice and a scone, hoping the food would help me sleep for another hour. I might have drifted off, but I didn'd fall asleep again, and after about 30 minutes I went ahead and got up and started the drive down to South Carolina.

Somehow I missed the exit from I-85 to I-77, but it turned out okay, because I got to drive a relatively new stretch of interstate I-485. It looked like they aimed to eventually complete the entire loop around Charlotte.

At the Fort Mill store a partner recognized me from my visit to Whitehall--she was more excited to see me than the manager. A few miles down the freeway, in Rock Hill, I was surprised when a barista told me he had heard about me at church, in a sermon, about dedication. That's a new one!

From Rock Hill I took state highways across to I-85. When I got reception again I called Snelling to see if by chance they had moved the opening date up from Sunday to that Saturday. On the contrary, they had pushed it back to Wednesday. Oh, well.

Whoa! Sub-$2 gas in Blacksburg, SC!

Throat still sore.

I didn't really pass through Atlanta. I exited I-85 at SR-140 and curved around to SR-92 and the new Starbucks in Roswell. I continued on towards I-75, looking for a Jason's Deli. I didn't spot one, so I turned into the driveway of a Bojangle's and became excited when I spotted JDs Kitchen. But it wasn't a restaurant--it was a kitchen appliance store. Oh, well, greasy chicken it had to be.

For once I think Streets & Trips might have been right. It suggested I take I-575 south to I-75, a longer route. I ignored that advice and stayed on 92, where I saw heavy traffic all the way to the interstate. I got off I-75 at the Rome exit and headed west to Huntsville, AL. I was a little irked that the second store would not open for a couple of weeks, but the detour was only about 15 miles so I figured it was worth the trip.

The lack of sleep finally caught up with me, and I had to fight drowsiness most of way to Huntsville. Timetable or not, I would have pulled over to nap except that the sun was still high in the sky and it was just too hot!

US-72 took me into Hunstville, and I found it curious that it was designated by a special US highway shield.

I shook off my drowsiness when I small black car passed me doing over 90 MPH and I followed. In Huntsville I bought a DoubleShot just because I needed the kick.

A few minutes out of town on US-231 north I passed Katz Gentlemen's Club. It was pretty much a dive, as I expected, with no girls even approaching a 10 ( or 9, or 8, or 7 even), and one that looked much too masculine for comfort. But I was surprised to find the girls topless and not shy about shifting their bikini bottoms around. And that, though technically against the rules, with no bouncer at that hour, the girls were doing real (if not quality) lap dances. I had expected strict Bible Belt rules like in Arkansas. But I think the most surprising thing was one dancer's honesty when she told me the $30 dances in the "VIP" area (a pair of booths with a curtain of beads depicting a smiley face) were the same as the $10 dances back against the wall. Most dancers tend to encourage the more expensive options anyway they can. Anyway, I got out of there pretty quick and resumed the road to Tennessee.

I passed the second store named "This, That, and the Other" in as many days.

Wasted time trying reshoot the Murfreesboro store. If I had paid attention to my original photo, I would have seen the parking spaces in front and remembered that the only reason there were no cars parked in front was because it was past closing. So of course on a Saturday night the lot was packed with cars.

There were four new stores relatively close to Nashville. After Smyrna, it got dark, and for some reason my cough got worse. Strange.

My plan for most of the day had been to try and reach Houston by Sunday, then leave very early on Monday to vist the South Texas stores and make it to Dallas for my car/dentist appointments. But once I calculated the distance from the new store outside Memphis to Houston (stopping at several stores on the way) I realized I wouldn't make it before the comic book store closed at 5:00 PM, because I couldn't visit the Memphis store 'til morning. And that I'd be exhausted regardless. So I decided to leave South Texas for another time. This allowed me to camp out at the Wal-Mart Supercenter next to the Hopkinsville store so I could take a better photo in the morning.

When I layed down I started coughing again, but exhausted won out, and I (aided by fake Nyquill), slept.

In the wee hours I went into the Wal-Mart to use the restroom and buy a banana. On the way back out to the car an older lady from one of the RVs asked/commented "sleeping in the car." I replied that it was free, and Wal-Mart allowed it. She thought it was wonderful, the greatest thing since sliced bread (she didn't actually say that last part).

July 3

The sun woke me at 7:43, after more than 8 hours I felt much better. Since I was in the area, I went ahead and passed by Clarksville again for a better photo. Had to wait a few minutes for a partner to finish sweeping the patio. Meanwhile, some guy sitting outside kept looking at me. From the distance I couldn't see the expression on his face, but I was suspicious that he was suspicous of me. Even while I sat the light waiting to leave, he kept turning around and looking back at me. Maybe he had something to hide?

Meanwhile, police cars kept passing in front of the store and cost me the chance at a photo free of cars because I had to take the time to park in a parking lot instead of just stopping the car on the side of the road and shooting quickly.

I took SR-48 south to I-40. A horse and buggy, Mennonites perhaps? And later, vultures on the road.

At I-40 I noticed the Eye 40 Motel--need to stay there sometime.

Damn, still no T-Mobile at any of the Memphis-area stores.

A new intersate, a new interstate!!! US-78 is going to be turned into I-22!!!

Keith Whitley died?

I survived the 300 miles of superheated air and made good time to Texarkana. The whole way I calculated and recalculated times and distances, trying to figure out which stores I'd be able to hit between Texarkana and Houston, and then on Monday. I kept waffling between thinking I had time to make it to South Texas or not.

From Bossier CIty I took I-20 to US-79 to US-59 to Lufkin. Along US-79 in Texas I noticed, for the first time, new, larger, signs advising of upcoming intersections.

Whoa! Just barely missed that turtle. It's going to die for sure, but I didn't want to be the one to kill it.

Night fell, and I started coughing again.

I'm glad I took a moment to look for other possible routes from Lufkin to Huntsville than what Streets & Trips had plotted. SR-94 was shorter, involved fewer turns, and turned out to be pretty fast. It was a good thing too, because I arrived at the Starbucks just a couple of minutes before closing!

I can never remember if the rest area is north or south of Huntsville. After I had driven 5-10 miles without seeing it, it was evident it was north. Tired though I was, I was anxious to hit one of the Houston strip clubs which are so much better than those found out east. But my favorite was a good 40 or so miles from the Woodlands, where there was a new Starbucks, and besides the fact that it would have been almost 1:00 when I arrived, I didn't want to have to backtrack that distance. So I settled on one not too far south of the new Starbucks, one that had received some good reviews on the Web, and it was good enough that I stayed 'til closing.

Back up north, I didn't see any residential areas on the west side of I-45, the Woodlands side, so I crossed over to the other side and went into a neighborhood. The streets didn't have sidewalks, and I didn't want to park on someone's grass (might be illegal), so I drive around looking for something suitable. Next thing I knew, a car caught up to me and the flashing lights appeared.

I was sure he had stopped me just to see what I was doing in the area, racial profiling, so I insisted he tell me why he had stopped. He said I'd been going 28 MPH. The speed limit was 20, but I didn't think I'd been going 28. Still, arguing would have been useless. I should have guessed at that point he was already going to ticket me and refused to answer any questions, but I played along hopefully. He ticketed me, after making me wait a long time.

I got the hell out of Oak Ridge North and went back over to The Woodlands and found the Town Center and the Starbucks. There was still construction and enough cars scattered around the various parking areas that I didn't think I'd be bothered by police (although maybe by the skateboard kids). I wished I'd have gone straight there first and avoided the cop hassle.

July 4

The heat and humidity plus the coughing, cleaning, trash, mowing, and other random noises all combined to make it very hard for me to sleep. When the faintest hint of sunlight awoke me, I decided to grab a banana from the HEB. I pass the Starbucks and saw a barista setting up chairs, so I asked when they would open--7:00, not 7:30, good.

I tried to sleep some more, but I gave up at 7:54 and just went over to the Starbucks. I discovered it was a good thing I had spent the night in the parking lot, because all the entrances to the Woodlands Town Center were being blocked off, for a July 4 parade. From the Woodlands it took me almost two hours to finish up at the new Friendswood store, and as I drove out on FM 518 towards the Beltway I noticed heavier-than-expected traffic and people in lawn chairs and realized that I had once more gotten lucky and beaten a parade.

I finally looked at the speeding ticket and noticed something odd--it specified the posted speed was 20 MPH, and that my speed was also 20 MPH! I wondered if the cop had made a mistake, or if he was trying to atone for having pulled me over without a reason. Either way, I'd have to try and get it dismissed.

I made it to my parents' house, put clothes in the laundry, went through some mail, chatted with my mother, and promptly went to bed. But despite my exhaustion, I lay there for nearly 3 hours without ever falling into a deep sleep. Finally I decided to get up and finish what I had to do, knowing full well the lack of good sleep might have ramifications later. I vacuumed the car, separated out comic books for Michael, found some comics for my cousin Raul, swapped out my t-shirts, and finally had a good home-cooked lunch. Well, part of it, at least--all the caffeine in my system supressed my appetite, and I couldn't finish a full plate. I saved the shower for the very end, because it was so hot outside that I'd have gotten all sweaty if I vacuumed first. Didn't matter--I knew that within minutes of leaving I was going to be dripping.

I met Michael, chatted for a while, then visited Hillcroft & 59, then picked up my comic books, then took advantage of the cheaper massages in Houston (perhaps because there are more options than in Maryland), and finally headed over to the club.

Having a little extra money in the bank, and my check from UCSB in hand, I was prepared to spend quite liberally (for me) at my favorite strip club. As luck would have it, the one time I have money to spare they decided to open late, for the holiday. There was no cover at 6:40, but hardly any girls either. Had there been a choice, I would have been more selective, but instead I let the one girl on the floor sucker me for three lame dances before I cut her off. Not seeing girls arriving, I called up a nearby club, Caligula XXI, and asked what time they had opened (11:00) and if they had girls (yes, she said). Only took me a few minutes to get there, and I quickly realized I should have asked more specific questions, like how many girls they had, and whether they were good looking. After a few minutes, I got out of there. At least I only spent $3. I went back to Treasures, with only 30 minutes to spare before I needed to leave for Austin. Around 7:45 a dancer appeared. She wasn't very good looking, but she was Swiss, and I was out of time. She was more fun than the rip-off girl, but my time was up.

As is often the case with me, I changed my plans at the last minute and decided to hit College Station after all. US-290 was much faster than I remembered it, 90-100 MPH! I loved the speed, but trying to follow a group of cars made it hard to take advantage of the smooth road and catch up on my writing. SR-6 was almost as fast, and I made great time into College Station.

As the sun went down, once more my throat started to hurt.

Along the way, I started to think that I might be able to reach the new Austin store by 11:00, but by the time I gassed up and got clear of the College Station traffic onto the highway, I knew I wasn't going to make it. It was okay, because I had decided that it was worth spending the night in the area to visit those I-35 stores even if it meant I couldn't take my car into the shop until after the dentist. The trick would be making it to Richardson for my appointment in the heavy I-35 morning traffic.

Shortly before 9:00 I finished the last of the water my venti cup, meaning that I had gone through the entire 24 ounces in less than five hours. Part of the reason was a medium headache. I was guessing it was part dehydration, part withdrawal from having only had 8 oz of coffee all day 'til I downed a DoubleShot at 4:00. Anyway, I pretty quickly started going through the first of three 16 oz bottles of water I had. My mother had thought to pack them along with the chilled container holding the leftovers, and I was grateful, because the cooler water sure hit the spot!

At least I got to see the occasional burst of fireworks as I drove.

I hadn't eaten much all day, just an apple, a banana, and half a plate of food at the house. I was famished. I didn't feel like stopping to heat up the container, so I did something very unusual for me--cold left overs. Not great, but food is food, cold or not.

In Bastrop I called an older friend from Houston, Juliet, to see if she was finished with her party and wanted me to come say hello. She and her friends were going to take a dip in the pool, and they'd surely be there still when I arrived. I didn't really want to meet her friends, so I begged off and said I'd have to drop by another time.

As I left Bastrop I changed plans again on the spur of the moment. As if the drive from Austin to Richardson wasn't going to be cutting it close, I decided to add another 30 miles to my morning trip and detour to San Marcos to get that store out of the way. I turned around on SR-71 and got back on SR-21. As luck would have it, there was a picnic area just a mile from the junction, and 40 miles from the San Marcos store, an easy drive in the morning.

Just as I was about to make my pre-sleep kiwi, two cars pulled into the picnic area and parked side-by-side. I arranged the back of my car while waiting for them to leave. They didn't, but the did turn off their lights, and it was dark enough that I couldn't be seen from behind my car. I got in the back, worried about my cough, but it wasn't too bad. The heat was a different matter. I dripped sweat. Finally I started to drift off when I heard a knocking on the window. A state trooper, supposedly asking if I was okay, and then where I was headed. I think I made him a little suspicious when I said I was going to Bastrop. I meant San Marcos. I was still half asleep. So I had to go into my whole Starbucks spiel before he left me alone. I noticed one of the other two cars from earlier was still in the lot, and I wondered if he had also interrogated them. I didn't ask.

July 5

The Day of Good Timing

I slept soundly, and was in the middle of a dream when my alarm yanked me awake at 5:15. I had to wait 7 minutes for my window to clear up before I got on the highway. Still, I made it to the San Marcos store right at 5:58, and they were already serving customers. At 6:04 I left, and a few minutes later was on the freeway, with 32 miles to the Oltorf St. exit in Austin. Despite the early hour, traffic on I-35 was moderate and had already reached the level at which left-lane blockers manifested. Still, I reached my exit in less than 30 minutes, and by 6:42 I had left that store. But in those 10 minutes, traffic on I-35 had slowed to a crawl. I hoped it would clear on the other side of downtown. It did.

The radio reported possible highs near 101!!! AAHHHHH!!!

I was trying to decide whether I'd have time for a 36-mile detour to Killeen when another factor came into play. At mile 263 came to a halt because of a lane closure. And I thought I'd be fine when I clear Austin. Hah! It took about 15 minutes to go one mile, but then I saw a sign for the next exit, 2 miles away, that read Killeen. I quickly looked at my map and saw that, indeed, a highway designated SR-195 went to Killeen. It wasn't a straight shot, but anything was better than crawling. Mercifully, there was an exit where I was, 264. I had no idea how long it might take to drive the 2 miles to exit 266, so I just got off and used surface streets to get to 195.

Once I reached 195, I saw I-35 moving again but didn't trust it. Good choice. I made great time I Killeen along SR-195. The entire way looked like it was going to be expanded to a major freeway in time. There were a few construction trucks far off the existing roadway, but they didn't slow me, or the maroon car that blew past me, at all.

After the new Waco store, I hauled serious ass. I had plenty of time to make my 11:00 dentist appointment with no traffic, but I expected that somewhere along I-35 I'd get hit. Sure enough, as I approached Dallas, I lost a lot of time in construction traffic and ended up reaching Richardson at 11:02.

On the way to the Murphy store I passed a quick lube place that did a state inspection. When an employee said the wait would be about an hour, I began to get concerned that I might not have time to have it done after I got my car back from the shop if I didn't find a place that could take it immediately. But I really wanted the inspection done before taking it to the shop, in case I needed something fixed to pass. But then I got lucky, and when I exited the freeway to get to the shop, there was a place along the feeder that took me immediately.

April met me at the Hondew shop and we went down to Gloria's for lunch. Then we hung out at the Starbucks next door, and Howard saw me online and I told him to come on over. April left, and Howard drove me back up to Hondew when they called. It was 4:30, and I set off for Terrell in a rush to try and beat the traffic.

Holy crap that was close!!! Not close in the sense that I was almost involved in the wreck, but rather in the sense that had I been 30-60 seconds later I would not have gotten by before many or all lanes of I-635 were shut down due to a collision that, from what I could tell when I squeezed by, involved at least 3-4 cars. Maybe a half mile ahead was a police car with flashing lights. I was going to pull over and alert them, but a heavyset guy in a red pickup truck pulled over first.

Boy, I had assumed that at least one of the two new stores on Bardin in Arlington had to be open, but it's a good thing I called anyway, because both of them were 1 to 2 weeks away from opening. Saved myself a lot of wasted time there.

My good timing continued. Despite missing the spur to US-80 and losing some time getting back on I-30, and even after a stop at EatZi's in Oak Lawn, I arrived in Bedford just in time to get some beautiful sunset light on the store. The new Starbucks just happened to be in the same shopping center as the Jason's Deli where I sometimes got dinner on Scrabble club nights. I got a craving, and ordered a meal to go. Then I rushed off to nearby North Richland Hills in the hopes of getting a shot before the sun dipped below the horizon or some building or freeway overpass. Just in time!

I could have rushed to Benbrook to get a photo with more light, but I didn't want to juggle my beans and rice and messy hot pastrami sandwich in the car, so I hung out at the store to eat. Plus, I needed to juice up. Besides my laptop and phone, my trip would be long enough that I needed to keep my camera batteries charged. Unlike my 750 which took AAs that charged in 30 minutes in my rapid charger, the 2500 took a special battery that took 2 hours to charge. And finally, now that I was using the Belkin Tunecast to listen to my iTunes music, I needed to keep those AA batteries charged.

As I ate the sandwich, I remembered that I had bought some expensive yogurt at the EatZi's in Oak Lawn before getting on the freeway. I was stuffed from the sandwich, and I hadn't even finished. I didn't know what I'd do with the yogurt.

Oh... my... god... some girl just walked out of the Starbucks with a guy and responded to him that she didn't know the song that was playing, "When Doves Cry". How young do you have to be not to know that song??? Made me feel old.

Aw, man, I totally forgot about the chips with my sandwich. Oh, well, I couldn't even finish the sandwich. My as well save the chips, except I don't like chips by themselves. I offered them to the kids outside, and then to the staff, and then to some customers that came in. No one wanted the chips. I guess they'd been taught not to take chips from strangers.

I had also forgotten about my expensive yogurt. I'd spotted some brand I'd never seen before at EatZi's made with some Swiss milk. It cost $1.99, and for that price I hated to waste it. But I was stuffed. I mentioned this to the barista, and she offered to put it in the fridge. It didn't cool it very much by the time I left, but it was better than nothing.

While I sat and typed a wave of fatigue came over me, and my headache didn't seem to get any better. I changed plans and decided there was no good reason to go out to Benbrook that night. Might as well catch up on sleep and hit it in the morning. Conveniently enough, there was Wal-Mart Supercenter across the street, and the far corner of the parking lot was dark enough. It was also far enough away from grass and trees that I risked opening the windows slightly to let the good breeze through the car. My worry about cracking the windows at night is mosquitos.

Around 1:45 I thought I heard a car park near me. When I looked up, I saw it was actually a truck and a car, at the very last spaces in the corner, for maximum privacy, and then a male and female proceeded to stand close between the vehicles and make out.

Bart and Lisa Simpson AAH!!! I forgot to fax my timesheet. No timesheet, no money money money. Had to find one of the few Kinko's open at that hour.

July 6

I stayed the rest of the night out in the parking lot of a Best Buy in the same shopping center at the Kinko's. In the morning I went across the freeway to the Starbucks on Bryant Irvin to see if I could get a better photo, but the light wasn't what I thought it would be, and there were too many cars in the lot on a weekday.

My power converter started giving the overload whine. It went away when I got on the freeway to the Benbrook store, but it was just a few miles away, and as soon as I slowed down and parked it started to whine again. I decided to catch up on my log and look at my map while in store to charge up the computer for the 120 miles to Brownwood.

I usually leave my laptop on the table while I go to the bathroom, code of honor and all that, but I didn't like the look of the punk kid sitting on the couch. He was wearing a shirt with what looked to be spider-webs, but despite my love for Spider-Man I didn't trust the kid.

I moved my car to the Waffle House lot so I could take a photo. As I drove off, I saw a pair of old geezers staring at me--what, hadn't they seen nobody take a picture before? From a quick glance through the window that Waffle House seemed to be a geezer hang out. Maybe that's just in the morning. Maybe at night it turns into a goth club.

From Benbrook I took US-377 south, a route I'd driven before, at least as far as Stephenville. I passed the Granbury store and took another photo. I passed through a town named Comanche, and the smell was so awful I'd just as soon never pass through again. I reached Brownwood soon enough, and there I learned that a store would be going up in Stephenville, thus providing plenty of pit stops along 377.

I sampled French press of a new blend at the store, Great Rift something, from Africa. It was pretty good. I asked what Brownwood was known for, and the baristas struggled to come up with anything. Finally they said there was an annual reunion of some sort, for people who like the feel of a small town.

I didn't pass any restaurants in Brownwood that grabbed my eye, so once I got on the road to San Angelo I started eating my apple. Passing through Santa Anna I spotted a sign that read "home cooking". The restaurant was called the Line Shack, and I pulled a u-turn and parked in front.

Of course all the customers were white--that was to be expected in a rural Southern town. They were also all older, except for one kid maybe in his 20s, and they were all male. I guess the women were all at home. Of course I got looks, some straight out stares, some more subtle. Once I ordered my meal and they realized I wasn't there to rob the place or blow it up, the looks stopped.

I ordered the lunch, pork loin, creamed (mashed) potatoes, baked beans, and fried okra. And tea. When the waitress, who was the only other young person, and mighty cute, went to take up my order, one of the departing old men, presumably a regular, looked like he leaned over for a kiss. Heck, I thought, if that's part of the service, this place is getting a much better rating!

The place had character. One one wall were painted cattle brands. On the other wall were drawings and paintings and other souvenirs, and the top of the wall was covered with what I learned were flour sacks. The waitress explained they were antiques, that the owner ran an antique shop.

I couldn't remember if I'd had fried okra before, so I tasted it first. Seemed a little familiar, but I still couldn't remember. The rest of the meal was decent enough, though the beans tested little strong.

Next stop was San Angelo, a town that always reminded me of my freshman roommate at UT. Boyd Fenton was his name, and he was from San Angelo, though he had gone to school at the elite Phillips Exeter Academy. US-67 moved pretty quickly past Santa Anna, and when a van blew past me doing about 90 and I followed, I made great time. At least until we hit a 5-mile stretch cut down to one lane for both directions and requiring a flagger, about a 15-minute delay in all. I didn't mind, because I had lots of new comics to read.

The next big town was Ballinger, and the van pulled off there. But about 25 miles from San Angelo he caught up with me again--he must have been hauling ass!

Yay!!! T-Mobile in San Angelo!!!

Despite downing my last deferred DoubleShot, I had to fight off some serious drowsiness past Big Spring, with 90 miles to Lubbock still. I made it, but I reconsidered my plan to try and make it all the way to at least one store in Albuquerque by 10:00 PM. I figured I was going to have to stop at a rest area, so I might as well get some food. And guess what they had a few doors down from the Starbucks--DoubleDave's!!! YAY!!! I hadn't hadded DoubleDave's in over a year I think, and those peproni rolls sure hit the spot.

Gas wasn't any cheaper in NM like I had hoped. But there was one bit of good news when I cross the border and got out of the car--it was much cooler. Sleep was likely to come much easier.

Once it got dark I started getting really drowsy and was struggling on the two-lane US-84. I pushed on past Melrose and counted the miles down to Fort Sumner. I drove around looking for a place to sleep, but found nothing suitable, so I rolled down the window for air and psyched myself for the 40 miles to the interstate. I felt a little better and didn't have to fight the fatigue too much. There was a TA Travel Center conveniently located at the interstate, and I immediately pulled in for sleep.

I had thoughts of sleeping a few hours and then driving into Albuquerque to beat the rush, but every time I woke up I decided I needed more sleep. Plus, my throat had been hurting worse and worse.

During the night a strong wind kicked in and rocked my car. I rather enjoyed the feeling and the noise. I was glad that I had decided not to push on to Albuquerque, because the wind plus my fatigue would have made it hard to keep the car on the freeway.

July 7

At 5:20 I woke up and calculated that I could probably drive the 120 miles in 90 minutes and possibly beat the rush hour into the city. But I decided that more sleep might help my immune system heal my throat. I hoped for two more hours, so that I could hit Albuquerque after the rush, but just after 6:00 the caffeine kicked in and I was done sleeping.

Funny, the guy in the van next to me woke up just seconds after I did. Oh, okay--it was the van next to it starting up that woke him.

As I exited the travel center and got onto I-40 NPR reported a major terrorist attack in London. I wondered if the attack would have any impact on overseas travel later in the year.

Traffic came to a crawl just before the Eubank exit, so I altered my route and hit Eubank and Candelaria first. I finally remembered to wash out the tupperware container in which my mother had packed the leftovers. After several days, it had picked up quite a bit of fuzzy growth--kind of like a science experiment.

Outside, a couple kissed in front of the store. I thought about yelling to get a room, but I decided it was probably not as funny in real life as on TV.

The manager at Eubank gave me directions to avoid traffic to the Gibson store. Westbound on Loma I passed a cute girl who was glancing backward a couple of times, so I offered her a ride. Turned out she was going to the McDonald's on Central, to catch a bus to take her to the Village Inn where she worked. After I dropped her off I wondered why she hadn't just asked me to take her straight to the Village Inn.

The McDonald's just happened to be a block down from the Frontier Restaurant, where I was going to have breakfast anyway--fresh squeezed orange juice and pancakes! And cute college girls all over, many in skimpy summer wear!! Anyway, the pancakes were great, but as usual I couldn't finish off four of them.

Farther down Central at a Circle K, I paid cash for $5 gas, and the pump surprised, and annoyed the fuck out of me, but hitting its pre-limit slowdown a full 75 cents early, meaning I had to wait and watch the price readout crawl all the way to $5. I fucking hate that!

On the way to the Paseo del Norte & San Pedro store I passed near TD's North, a club reported as having $10 lap dances. Unfortunately, just as I started asking a very good-looking dancer at the bar about the dances, the cocktail waitress decided to enforce a two-drink minimum. I wasn't even going to be there that long, and I hate paying for drinks I don't want, so I left.

As I approached the Bernalillo store I experienced a sharp flash of pain in my forehead, only on the left side. Troublesome.

The Bernalillo store store happened to be at the start of US-550, which was the route to Durango. The town didn't extend too far west along the highway, so I had to decide quickly on food. I settled on some place called Blake's Lotaburger. The inside was free of decoration, almost sterile, like a hospital. My burger order took what seemed like unsually long to fill, and it ended up not being very good.

License plate: AAHNUTZ. Vanity? Stupidity?

After eight years of driving, I finally heard Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again", on 105.1 The Range.

Holy shit! I'd just crossed into Colorado, some town called Bondad I think, when one of these here horsies almost put itself right in my path. I swerved and got around it, and then it stopped right in the middle of the highway. The other two horses joined him. I turned around to take the photo and a truck driver pulled over to go notify the owners.

Durango is a very pretty town worth a repeat visit with more time. But to get a good shot, I'll have to show up early in the morning, assuming parking in front of the store is disallowed overnight. I saw several restaurants that looked interesting, but I wanted to get on the road, so I went for the rare (for me) cup of ice cream, from Cold Stone. I tried to eat it as quickly as possible because of the heat, but I wasn't fast enough and ended up getting it all over my hands, my shorts, the steering wheel, etc. It was a sticky mess, and I hate sticky.

The drive to Montrose was extremely slow, through several mountain passes. I couldn't predict when I would arrive at Montrose, and Rifle beyond that, but I still though I'd be in Denver by midnight and started thinking seriously about a midnight screening of The Fantastic Four. I had tried to check Fandango in Durango (heh), but I couldn't get free Wi-Fi.

I might have seen a woodchuck. I was furry and seemed to kind of shuffle or waddle along. Maybe it was a duck-billed platypus. I couldn't see the face. I'm sure it wasn't a beaver.

In between Durango and Montrose was Ouray, a very pretty little town that I expect will have a Starbucks at some point. Past Ouray were more mountain passes, but finally the terrain flattened out. And just as soon as it did, a goddamned oversized truck brought traffic to a crawl. It took me forever to pass about 10 cars before getting to and passing the truck. AARRGHH!

After driving all that distance to reach the Montrose rose only to have a truck pull in right after me and ruin my shot, I took the unusual step of asking the driver to move so I could get my photo and continue on to rifle.

I realized I drove all of US-550 in one shot.

As I left Montrose I worked out the distance to Vail (via Rifle) and realized that I had three hours to cover 200 miles. On the interstate I could do that easy, but on US-50 I might not, so I still couldn't predict when I'd hit Denver. Still, when I stopped for gas I called my father and asked him to look up a midnight showing of Fantastic Four in Denver. He called back after a while with the code for the the UA Denver Pavilion. Once out of town it started to move really fast. I struggled to keep up with a truck and work out the distances and call the theater to ensure they weren't full, and then Fandango to buy my ticket. Boy, was I loving technology!

The task of the tickets was completed, but another, harder, task remained, to drive 300 miles in 5 hours and stop at two Starbucks, and for gas and food.

I-70 exit 47, some place called Gay Johnson's.

Momentary panic when I thought a trooper was creeping up on me, but relief when I discovered it was a black Volvo doing 90+ MPH, helping me make good time, but only for a short distance, to Rifle.

KUM N GO magazine 2 more expensive

15 min, gas, sbux, soda, magazine, BK

70 min to drive 85 miles to vail

gas was stupid, famished

had to sprint, coughing spasms

made it to theater with 7 minutes to spare, good b/c toilet

it rocked--falling asleep was out of the question. I hoped it would make a lot of money so there would be a sequel

I went over to Welton Street to investigate a Starbucks listed as Grant Hyatt Denver. After some scanning, I finally spotted a coming soon sign, and it looked like it might be outside the hotel, and thus a corporate store.

The Hyatt was next to a Kinko's and I checked my e-mail. As I crouched next to the window, I felt like I was going to have a serious toilet issue. I cursed myself, because earlier when I had been in the elevator, I had felt the pressure in my gut. But I had dismissed it, for two reasons: A) I had spent considerable time on the toilet before and after the movie. B) I just hadn't eaten that much all day. I finished up my e-mail quickly and headed over to Colfax, where there was a Shell station. It must have been west of downtown, because I didn't see it. Thankfully, there was Tom's Diner, a 24-hour restaurant where I had eaten one Christmas Eve. I have to say that on that Thursday summer night the clientelle was quite a bit younger and more attractive than the people that were hanging out there on Christmas.

I had to order something to use the restroom, so I went for a bagel. It wasn't very good. I wondered whether I should even eat it, because I didn't want to have another toilet issue during the night.

I went out to my car, and on the other side of the fence was this young kid, goth-looking, who asked me if it was real busy in there. I could have gone elsewhere to write, because I didn't really want him to ask me for money or food, but I was curious what he wanted. I kept glancing up to see if he was staring at me. I couldn't decide. Over on the sidewalk, a couple of sketchy-looking dudes passed by. The kid appeared to have a mobile phone, so I don't figure he was homeless.

I should have been beyond exhausted, but for some reason I felt alert. No, that's not entirely true. Somewhere beneath the surface I could feel that I was ready to pass out, but I wanted to first get some impressions down.

I finally moved from Tom's parking lot over to a parking space on the street. After a while, a guy and a woman with an accent got into an argument. I heard something about a hamburger. After continued heated discussion, the guy grabbed the burger and tossed it into the street and said "There, eat it now."

around corner, police station, brush teeth, didn't want to spit in front of cops

It was around 4:00, maybe later, when I finally settled into a parking space not to far from the new Starbucks on Colfax. It was between two construction zones, and my thinking was that there would be fewer apartment/house residents passing my my car in the morning.

July 8

The space where I parked was convenient for making kiwi, occluded by a construction fence, but my choice turned out to work against me in the morning. Because the lot under construction was flat, and because of the sun's morning angle, light started shining into my car around 6:30. I tried to block it with a shirt and other stuff, but I still couldn't sleep. At 7:07 I gave up and decided to set off to rephotograph the old Colfax store and visit the new one. As soon as I started driving I could tell I was far from 100%. It was hard to think.

As I drove I noticed that the streets I was passing still had shade, and I decided it would be smart to try for more sleep. I found a spot in front of an abandoned apartment complex that looked like it would be shaded for at least an hour. But, curse the bones, I stilll couldn't fall asleep!!! My day was going to be fucked, and I doubted I'd make it to Nebraska without sleep. And given how hot it might be later in the day, I doubted I'd sleep until nightfall.

At the new Colfax store, a barista told me that the REI Denver is not a licensed store. What the...??? I'd already been back and forth with that issue twice, and I was sure somone from Starbucks corporate had told me that the store is licensed. It's such a big deal because I was approaching 5000 stores, and I wanted to know exactly which one was the 5000th.

Hmmm... that was interesting. Or maybe not. I dropped by a store I had visited a year earlier, because it had T-Mobile, to check my mail. I noticed the partner on drive-thru looking over my way. After I got off the phone (trying to deal with my fake ticket), I asked for the manager, just to say hi, since she had been pretty nice to me when I originally visited. She was just inside the door of the back room when the barista helping me opened the door and said that I was looking for her. From the look on her face, it seemed she remembered me, and then she said "I can't talk to him." The other partner said she was counting money. Maybe that's the explanation, but I was left with a bad vibe. Maybe extreme fatigue enhances my natural paranoia?

I usually go through massage ads while driving, but I did it at the Starbucks instead because my power converter was acting up and kept giving me the overload beeps if the car wasn't moving quickly. I was guessing it was the heat, but what do I know. Could have been the converter was wearing out, or even a problem with the car battery.

At the new store on Colorado I finally remembered to ask about the summer t-shirt, but unfortunately my timing was off--the store had donated the remaining two leftover shirts to some charity.

After some calls I finally found a masseuse that sounded decent. The massage I scheduled was excellent, but it screwed up my schedule. First, the masseuse was late, and then she went over the hour I scheduled by at least 20 minutes. Ordinarily I think this was a great bargain, but I was worried about the rush hour south to Castle Rock. Sure enough I-25 soon became slammed. Twice I decided to abort, but when I reached the exit traffic started moving again and I stayed on only to have it slow down just past the bend The third time I figured out that somebody in traffic control was screwing with me and I took the University exit to make my way to Florida & Kipling--Castle Rock could wait until a future trip to Denver, when I would probably travel that part of I-25 anyway--taking US-550 had been a rare exception.

At 4:30, I finally passed a bagel shop (excluding Einstein Bros.) and had my bagel sandwich. Probably the latest I'd had a bagel sandwich that I could remember. It seemed not as good as Bruegger's I've had in the past. But they did have Naked Juice O-J, which I love, and it hit the spot in the heat that had not yet let up.

On the way to the Edgewater store, on Sheridan just north of the freeway, I passed a young redhead and got this vibe that she wasn't just walking to the neighborhood up the street, but rather had a long way to go. Despite the OJ I still had a mighty thirst, a craving for something other than water, so I turned around and pulled into a liquor store. I hadn't had a Squirt in a while, so I gave it a try--boy, did it hit the spot. It would be hours before I realized how appropriate my choice of beverage would turn out to be.

I continued up Sheridan to find that the redhead had passed up nearly all the streets into the neighborhood and was still walking at a fast clip, so I offered her a ride. She was looking for Pierce and 19th. Though 20 year-old red-head car thief

construction on I-25 north to Fort Collins has made a real difference--this road is sweet!!! By which I mean fast, and smooth.

met john forman

SR-14, 91 miles to Sterling, most exhausting drive in memory

Oh hell yeah, Wal-Mart, never been so happy to see one before


July 9

I woke up feeling groggy and looked at the time on my clock-. 3:40--cool, I thought, I can sleep another hour. But then I realized the time difference (that my phone had not picked up yet). It was really 4:40, and I needed to leave no later than 5:00 to arrive in Kearny by 8:00. I could feel strong sleep inertia, so I went into the Wal-Mart for some food and to let my head clear.

Somehow I ended up going to wrong way, west, on US-6, and I drove

good time to Kearny, 9:40, newspaper still meet

three cameras on me, freaky

There was no reporter from the Kearny Hub. The photographer started asking questions, and before I answered I specified a condition, that the article refer to me only as Winter. I hoped she would honor that agreement.



Tex's Cafe

The Great Platte River Road Monument Arch

Spaghetti Works, gbarlioc bread instead of sourdoug

Jordan Creek Town Center was an ordinary mall store, but the combination of the escalator, a railing, and the trim on the adjacent store's facade could have made for an interesting photo. But the barista on bar must have spotted me when I took my second tests shot, because she

comedians at the Kum & Go

"Hawk" tags

IA City

"Hip-hop hurray, ho, ay, ho, ay, ho, ay, ho."

approach quad-cities realize shoul dhave stopped rest area and take photo morning daylight, stop pilot travel center, world's targest truck stop, TA, only 2 hour parking

July 10

When I made my fourth or fifth trip to the restroom just before 6:00 AM, a dark-skinned man with a raspy voice asked me if I was a driver, and before I could respond, if I was tired. I said I was waking up, kept, walking, and wondered what he had wanted. I assumed he was looking for a tired truck driver who needed someone to take the wheel for a while.

I felt all right to drive, but I decided to try and get as much sleep as possible while I could. It also occurred to me that if I drove all the way to Elkridge without stopping, I might break my record of # miles driven in a day.

At 7:07, the moon of love had twice guilded the page of sin. It was time to drive. I had felt dehydrated much of the night, and I had been drinking lots of water to stave off the headache, but I needed coffee before I started to jones, and I wanted to save my DoubleShots for later.

5270 miles start

pumped 15.19, bill have pumped q15.81, not rounded

exited too soon, us-280, not quite zawake

take locust through town, daventort, not much actitivy sunday morning

Bruegger's in Iowa doesn't toast the bagels, toasters out on floor

jodi no call

despite almost 8 hours lunch make really drowsy, pass up rest area with tree shade immediately regret it, exit champgain find a tree behind mobil, sleep, wake up phone says 1:50 still time to sleep, but really 2:50, so good i turned car on

Oh... my... god! The NPR announcer actually said "Dennis' menacing winds...", in reference to the hurricane.

Yes!!! Fantastic Four made 56 million!!! Fuck the critics! Roger Ebert especially--he can just kiss my ass.

$5 sbux card

soul food restaurants closed

Dolly Madison Bakery, Columbus, IN

Behind the Starbucks was another strip center housing a Mexican restaurant, Don Victor's, where the salsa (cough, cough) was really hot. My to-go order of fajitas was taking extra long, so the waiter offered me the chips while I waited, but no soda. My face started to sweat and my mouth to burn, but yet I kept eating them!

From Columbus I took a state highway out to I-74 towards Cincinnati. I called the Centerville store to find out what time they closed and learned the store is open 24 hours. Well, there was no need to push myself then, since I wasn't going to make it before nightfall anyway. The rest area on I-74 in Indiana was closed, and there was no welcome center on the Ohio side. I spotted what appeared to be a neighborhood under construction, so I took the first exit into a city called Harrison. The construction was actually part of an apartment complex, and on private property, so I crossed over the freeway and parked in the lot of some big department store called Bigg's (after checking it for no-parking signs, and finding no overnight parking signs at the Home Depot across the street).

July 11

Sometime after midnight I awoke and continued the drive to Centerville. Once I got on the highway I started to feel some sleep intertia, and I was having trouble even following the two trucks ahead of me, so I pulled out my surefire option, the porn that had somehow found its way onto my laptop. I think someone at Dell must have loaded it on there for me.

Actually driving through heavily copped Centerville and the surrounding municipalities gave me no clue whatsoever as to why Starbucks had decided to make that store 24 hours. The "highway" on which the store was located had a 25 MPH limit through town--it couldn't be a major thoroughfare. The store was devoid of customers when I arrived--one of the baristas said it was due to its being Sunday night. A couple of girls walked in and I asked if there was a university nearby--nope. So why 24 hours???

I pushed myself to the east side of Columbus to avoid inbound rush hour traffic in the morning. I stopped at the Meijer on Brice Road where I had discovered the gallon jugs of Tradewinds and bought two, all they had out. I moved my car next to some tall bushes that would block the morning sun.

I didn't actually add the numbers, but by 9:30 it seemed that I should have slept enough. Maybe not enough to compensate for a week of deprivation though, because I was still groggy. But it was time to get on the road, with a yucky biscuit sandwich from Speedway to ease my hunger. I had hoped Meijer would offer a good breakfast, but I saw nothing that looked appealing.

Like the court clerk had suggested on Friday, I called the Oak Ridge North judge. She returned my called and explained that they had no choice but to dismiss the ticket!

My dev lead had sent an e-mail indicating he'd be on vacation for three days, and I was going to be way late anyway, so I didn't see the point in pushing myself to arrive in the afternoon. I went ahead and took the detour to visit the Morgantown store. It was only two miles farther to take I-68 instead of the PA Turnpike, and I avoided the toll. Shortly after getting on I-68 I started to feel drowsy again. The rest area along I-68 didn't have any parking spaces in the shade, and there was a creepy guy that kept eying me, so I kept driving. The rest area on I-70, past Hancock, did have some spaces in the shade of the trees. I had to eat something to tide me over until dinner, so I went for something unusual, the rest area vending machine. The only good thing I can say about the cherry-cheese danish is that it was edible.

I made one more stop before ending my trip, at that pricy Spanish restaurant in Frederick, Cacique, to satisfy my craving for duck.

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