As Fastly As I Wanna Be (or Death to Smoochy)

Updated January 10, 2007, 21:15 GMT-5. Trip end January 10, 9:15 (arrive Princeton). Next log.

Time traveling: 18 days, 18 hours
Miles driven: 4900 - 115 (Civic) + (45 + 4750 - 25) (Accent)
New North American stores: 229
Stores rephotographed: 64
Recognition ratio: 60/211
Visual recognition: 3
Coffee consumed: (X - 21) * 4 = 832 oz + 8 oz French press + 18 DoubleShot + 1 Iced Coffee
Spent on coffee: $42.88
Spent on gas: $689.75
Spent on tolls/ parking: $48.50
Motor oil: 8 quarts (for the Civic)
Medication: 18 fake Excedrin, 6 fake Benadryl

January 10, 2007

When I reached the Delaware service plaza at 1:45, I quickly downed a DoubleShot figuring that I could fall asleep before it kicked in. That part of it worked, but then around 6:00 or 6:30 I made the mistake of drinking another DoubleShot, to make sure I didn't sleep past 8:00. That was a mistake, and I was not able to fall back asleep. At 7:30 I finally gave up, knowing full well that I wasn't going to last too long at work before crashing.

In the restroom, I tried to freshen up since I was heading straight into work, and this little kid kept staring at me as I lifted up my shirts and washed under my arms. I can just imagine him recounting to his mommy the tale of the strange unkempt old man doing something funny with a rag.

January 9, 2007

At 5:18 I thought I felt alert enough to drive, but I figured that I would just tire out earlier in the day, so there was no point in setting out while still dark. Woke up again at 5:38, but came to the same conclusion. Had many dreams in that time span. In one, the temperature was 118 degrees. In another, I was speaking to Bryant Simon, the Starbucks-author at Temple University. In another, I was either talking on the phone or e-mail Max, my contact at Siemens, about setting up my computer. They all seemed extremely vivid.

6:37, and I decided it was enough and started driving. Regretted it almost immediately as the sleep intertia stuck to me like molasses. I pulled into the parking lot of the Dollar General, saw a sign that said "POLICE HAVE JURISDICTION", and immediately pulled out and kept driving. No parking spaces seemed suitably-hassle free, so I got on the interstate and hoped that the next exit would offer some refuge. I could feel the sleep inertia trying to pull my eyes closed, and every mile was a struggle. Not the next one, but the one after that, or maybe the one after that, in either Graniteville or Aiken, had an Exxon. There was enough gas station traffic at that early hour that I did not think I would be noticed at that last parking space on the side of the building. Plus, I had purchased an orange juice to give me a reason to be there.

7:34, and I finally felt okay to drive. Hungry too, so I had to take away a waffle from the Waffle House across from the Exxon. Not sure what the waitress's problem was, but when in the rural South, my skin color was always a possibility. Or it may have been the pajamas, unshaven face, messy hair, and generally unkempt appearance. When she handed me my bag I held the tray out to her and said "I don't need the butter," and she just ignored me. Maybe it's just that the concept of avoiding waste is beyond the mind of a Waffle House waitress.

The chicken that never was.

When I pulled off the interstate at the Hanes Mall exit and got to the light, I opened the car door and dumped up my grande cup full of kiwi juice. When the light changed and I started

Elizabeth's Pizza, nicht so gut, bitter sauce

explosion + liquifecation

persist headache

Rut-roh, possible snow.

30.1 MPG

strange fatigue, Richmond, diZy

2nd time suck on jeans


January 8, 2007

6:36, tried more gave up

After six days alternating, socks finally done for.

Orlando rush hour

The Landing Strip gas station near the airport--$3.59 per gallon??? No way!!!

Attracting flies?

Early, 9:30, but heavy security outside the Mall at Millenia. I asked one, who was out in the middle of the parking like he was looking out for somthing or someone. I asked him where the Cheesecake Factory was (the closest entrance to the Starbucks), and rather than answering he asked if I worked there. Odd. Okay, maybe not odd, because the restaurant probably wasn't open yet. But when I got over to that side and parked, a different security guard asked if I was looking for the Starbucks--he had been alerted by the first. That was definitely odd. Paranoid, you think? Maybe, but at the Starbucks even a couple of customers noticed the heavy security presence.

Pass-thru after only three stores!

Super humid dripping sweat.

crazy traaffic alll time

Curses, Howell Branch couldn't get certificate, passed right by it

lips tingling

I finally headed out of the Orlando metroplex and realize, to my great relief, that I was out of the Smoochy Zone!!!

The reporter in Augusta was willing to meet me still , and the Augusta Mall store closed at 9:00, and that meant I did not have time to visit Augusta Mall time pressure, must choose confusion, mgr laugh, unhelpful trying to help I wasn't going to ask again, so I had to wait for another customer to finish and buy a DoubleShot anyway. Then I had to take the sample to my car and put it in a short cup until I could dump it out

Finally got out of Florida, 5:15, disappointed to have had to skip so many stores after spending about 3 days, 6 hours. Only 61 of 86.

stupid ambulance, lst to much time thrugh Statebro

longestr light ever

6 minutes 2 spare


Whoop! There it is!!! After 17 days of travel, I finally saw gas under $2.00, $1.99 at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in North Augusta!

January 7, 2007

7:07, final day before the long drive to Jersey, and I needed to push as hard as I could. So it was particularly irritating that I couldd not immediately see the first store of the morning, and that the two baristas who gave me directions seemed irritated to have to be talking to me. Once inside the store, I sensed a slight hint of disdain in the manager/supervisor's voice. Finally, as I was about to move my car and take the photo, a couple of EMFFs (Early-Morning Foto-Fuckers) pulled in front! EMF may have been removed from the official Scrabble word list, but it lives to ruin my Starbucks photos all over the world.

On the other hand, I found this very amusing... the story of how the film Zyzyx Road has the lowest box-office gross ever. This story is relevant to me for two reasons. First, I hope to high heaven that Starbucking makes way more than $30. Second, I actually know where Zzyzyx Road is, as I have passed it many times on the drive between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Next up was something slightly worse than a simple irritation, instead a serious ass-fucking. When I had called Southgate Plaza the night before, I had specifically asked when the store opened on Sunday morning, and I had been told 8:00 AM. I found it curious that a mall store opened at 8:00 on Sunday, but that is not unheard of if the store had a door to the outside, and I was too busy finding out when the other stores closed and opened to pursue the matter. Well, when I called around 8:15 Sunday morning to find out what entrance was closest, no one answered, and I became suspicious that I had been given incorrect information. And when I arrived at the store--sure enough, it was closed!!! Motherfucker! And to mke matters worse, the store did not even have the usual sign in the window listing the store hours!!! AARRGHH!!! So not only was I going to have to skip that store, but the 30 minutes or more i had lost were going to cost me one or two stores later in the day. I was livid at the idiot who had mislead me--how hard is it to know when your own store opens in the morning??? It's not badbad enough that Starbucks has got to be buying up compting shops in addition to building a gazillion new locations, but they gotta make it a logistical maze to visit them???

At least there was one upside to the detour, stumbling across the Hob Nob for a half-way decent breakfast. While waiting for my breakfast, and trying to write in my log, I was accosted by an older man who apparently took the "hob nob" part seriously and started asking for advice on how to get Wi-Fi working on his laptop.

Around mile marker 177, I-75, around North Port, po-po was going nuts! I passed no fewer than four vehicles pulled over, and one additional cop car hidden behind some bushes. And a couple of miles south, on the northbound side four state troopers had cars pulled over, two other units were rolling, and an unmarket was sitting on the in the median. Sweet jesus!

Hell yeah! Record high winter temperatures reported for the northeast. That's fuckin' awesome! When I first worked in NJ, the winter was unusually cold. This ould be a refreshing break.

Whew! Two locations at the Edison Mall, and one was thankfully open at 10:00, with the other open at 10:30. After gassing up, I didn't have to waste any time waiting. Hold the phones! I take it back. I was giving incorrect information by the barista at the store that faces the outside. The inside store doesn't open 'til 11:00, but the manager/supervisor was kind enough to offer me a canned iced coffee. This made the two Jamaicans sitting on a bench jealous, because they too were waiting for the Starbuck. One of them recommended that I try something called Blue Mountain Coffee if I am ever in Jamaica.

Hah! That's pretty funny. A DJ on a rock station (in the Fort Meyers area) reported that he had never seen so many cops with radar in his life, along that same North Port stretch of I-75 I had seeen earlier. You know what that means, right? That means the DJ is actually local, as opposed to being in some ClearChannel central office sommewhere.


That goddamned unintelligently-designed trachea thing again, but with the precious coffee this time. Took quite a bit of effort to avoid coughing and to force-swallow the coffee.

None of the partners at either of the two existing Pompano Beach stores able to tell me if the new store at Coral Square open yet.

As I approached Miami, I had a sudden urge to kick off some Vanilla Ice. Thankfully, I do not have any Vanilla Ice on my laptop.

First Miami-area store, and yet another disdainful manager who wouldn't fill my sample cup enough. She didn't even want to give me ice for my water. It's a good thing I had a much larger budget to work with, but it was still irritating to pay about $1.52 for essentially one-fourth of an ounce of coffee. But I just kept in mind the important principle that you can't please everybody.

Holding out on food for a stop at Versailles, so the coffee was hitting me hard--had to take a couple of fake Excedrin to keep the headache from getting too strong.

29. MPG

Food satisfction sound.

Good thing I had the lid on the short cup, because as I crossed the bridge to Miami Beach, I tipped the cup over and spilled some on the seat. I had to quickly pull over to the shoulder and start licking and sucking on the seat upholstery. I remembered that I had left extra coffee in the sample cup in case any spilled when I walked back to the car, so I felt that between that and what I sucked up, I had consumed enough to satisfy the requirements of the prophecy. Lips and tongue still felt funny for about 15 minnutes tho.

Downtown traffic was fucked, and getting to the Hear Music store on Miami Beach probably cost me several other stores in exchange. I supposed I should have expected it, that on a Sunday afternoon on Miami Beach the Hear Music store would be too busy for me to get any cooperation, just frustrated impatient stares. Had to buy a DoubleShot so I could sprint back to the car, pausing only for quick gazes at the scantily clad women to be found everywhere. Damn! Ain't no winter here, baby!

blaze 2 Lake Worrth ears stop up, weave traffic, doubleshot tingly, dizzy, sticky

Super wired sound.

Bastards, they close at six.

reporter, interesting questions

January 6, 2007

Wakeup sound.

7:58, later than I had hoped, and traffic in Gainesville seemed to get rolling early--just three new stores and three new reshoots, but it was almost 11:00 AM before I started down towards Ocala.

The cold may have killed the ants in most other parts of the country, but with temperaturs reported as high as 82, the pesky little critters are alive and thriving in Florida!

I had not expected the Accent's lack of air-conditioning to be a factor until the summer, but I was actually sweating when I rolled up my windows so I could use the phone to call new store listings.

Had an unexpected detour as I was leaving Ocala, but it worked out, because I discovered some Colombian food at Las Palmas.

Schluh sound.

Ya La La sound

At my second Tampa store I ran into one of those baristas who gave me a suspicious look when she handed me the sample cup, and then an evil look when I asked her to nearly fill it, and then still did not fill it enough. As usual, I just bought a short and watched the other barista give me a confused look when I asked him to dump out nearly the entire cup. Meanwhile, the original barista continued to look at me suspiciously.

A few stores later, in St. Petersburg, my experience was even worse, when an old lady stole my parking spot then refused to apologize, trying to explain herself away, then finally saying she flat out didn't care why I wanted that particular spot. Then the supervisor was too busy and ignored me, and I was running out of sunlight, so I just bought a short. I asked the other barista to put it in my sample cup, but she wouldn't fill it, insisting on putting the rest in another cup, then insisting on putting a lid on it, all the while ignoring the evident signs that I was in a hurry. If my gaze could kill, the bitch would surely have been struck dead by that final look I gave her as I walked away.

A 2000 Civic DX hatchback!!! What??? But that's what it looked like, and that's what the kid said it was,

My easiest store of the day was Countryside Mall, where the barista had been reading my blog and was expecting me to come in--he had the sample all ready for me as I walked in, on the phone with a reporter from the Jupiter area scheduling an interview for Sunday.

Oh, shit. A segment on This American Life about a snowman who can bench-press 400 pounds is so funny that I started cracking up. I mean, like slapping the dashboard. I had to be careful that I didn't spew my coffee, because there would be no way to recover it then. More troublesome was the spasm of back pain below my left shoulder as I laughed.

Stupid mall stores. Shorter Sunday hours meant I'd have to skip lots of stores. Had to change my plans for Saturday night even, because only one store down towards Sarasota/Bradenton was open 'til 11:00. I headed instead towards Lakeland, where I could visit one store that closed at 10:30 (a mall store, even!) and another at 11:00.

"Badcock & More"--I kid you not!!! Somebody actually gave that name to a business (furniture store)!!!

Salem's Gyros & Subs at Florida & Memorial--evidently the place to be in Lakeland on a Saturday night... if you're twelve!!!

January 5, 2007

I got up right around when I needed to, at 6:55, but because of the rain it took almost 15 minutes for my windshield to defrost enough for me to leave. The radio reported more rain, and I decided that I wasn't going to have a prayer of rushing through the Florida stores on Friday and Saturday, so I e-mailed Siemens to report that my arrival would be delayed to Tuesday.

The manager/supervisor at Foley recommended taking the toll bridge to the Orange Beach store, but had I known it was going to cost $2 each way, I would have taken my chances with the other road--it couldn't have been that much slower.

On the way out to the state line I had to nervously follow a sheriff's deputy going slow, sometimes slower than the limit, because the suburban ahead of the cop was going slow. I grumbled at the stupid cop, and also at the fact that the Roadkill Cafe (along US-98) was closed. Who can pass up a place with a name like that?

19.8 MPG???

Death to Smoochy

I arrived at the Cordova Mall just after 9:30, right on time, and I had my first Florida coffee in a year. With at least 84 more to go, and my stomach still giving me trouble for the last couple of days, I shuddered at the though of how bad I'd be feeling. I also dreaded the prospect of having to duck security at countless malls, which is where most, if not all, of the Barnies conversions are located.

G. Gordon Liddy still has a radio show??? Okay, that's not so bad. But the degree of ignorance exhibited by some of the callers... that's the government's worst crime againsst humanity, to allow people to grow up so ignorant.

Extremely attractive girl with pale skin, headphones, jet-black hair, and a hot pink jacket walking eastbound on US-98. Iwas almost certain she would decline my offer of a ride, but I had to try, on principle alone.

Famished, Kracker Jax Buffet, chicken much too dry.

How bizzare! The Starbucks in Santa Rosa Beach has a different Wi-Fi, provided by Sandestin, which spells the name "Starbuck's". And the reason is... it wasn't the real Starbucks. It is fake, fake, fake!!! The real Starbucks was at Watercolor, a new development down the road, not yet on my map. Whew!

In Rosemary Beach I met my youngest fan yet, maybe 10 or so. The store manager/supervisor asked me if I would get a photo with her for the bulletin board. Afterwards, I encouraged her to buy Starbucking and tell all her friends--you know how impressionable kids are. Regardless, kid was cute--I hope she remembers me in a few years when she's legal (in Kazakhstan).

Random waffle urge.

Frustration in Tallahassee as Blairstone Rd. was not on my map, and I drove quite a ways out of my way trying to make sense of the directions I was given. The fundemental problem is that the store is along the east/southeast portion of Capital Circle, but the directions the males were giving me directed me towards the west. It was a fourth partner, a female, who finally followed along with me as I described the roads I would hit if I drove along Capital Circle. As I drove along a route I'd already driven, I was livid. I wanted to scream at them about how they should know compass directions. I hated everybody that doesn't know compass directions. I hated everybody who can't direct a customer to his store. When I finally reached this mysterious Blair Stone, I just went in and ordered a short coffee. I didn't want to talk to them. I didn't want to look at them. I just wanted to get in and out before I started harshly lecturing them.

34.5 MPG

Because of the delay, it looked likely that I wasn't going to reach Newberry by 10:00, and that I would have to spend the night in fucking Gainesville. I left the Blair Witch store at about 7:45, and I had to reach the Governors Square store and enter and exit the mall by 8:00, and then sustain 75 MPH all the way to reach Newberry in time. I doubted it was going to happen, so when I spotted the sign for Latin Cuisine along Apalachee Parkway, I said fuck it and went into get me some good grub. Peruvian, and with tostones! I was craving that shit.

Death ray sound.

Seemingly out of nowhere, I began to feel a pain below my left shoulder, towards the back. I had to wonder if it had to do with the inclination of the seat back on which I was sleeping.

WTF??? All Things Considered as late as 9:00 PM???

Rest area about 30-40 miles from my Gainesville exit--I could have visited two stores but was better off waiting 'til morning since I'd have to rephoto them anyway. I did not take a fake Benadryl this time, and around 3:00 I started having trouble falling back and asleep and got back on the road for the short drive down to Gainesville. In my driving around, I encountered a lady who needed a ride from the city center out to far Archer Road (over 5 miles to walk), not far from a Starbucks I needed to reshoot in the morning. Her story was that she was from Chicago, spending the winter in the area with family, and down on her luck. It was well worth the time I spent driving her out there, but in the process I finally finished ripping the crotch of my jeans that I had started at the auto dealership when I leapt up to a platform. Didn't matter--they way I had left Houston with them, I wasn't going to be able to use them at work, not without risking a sexual harrasment suit.

Once more, the effect of falling back asleep in the wee hours was a series of vivid and strange dreams.

January 4, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm

7:09, more than 8 hours of sleep, time to roll. Rain had started over night, which caused me to grumble--why couldn't it have just passed through and moved on.

The Noble juice I bought had a difference, a tag claiming the bottle was 100% corn. I had to wonder if that meant I could eat it.

Great. I was still an hour from Denham Springs and the radio was predicting heavier rain.

9:22 sound

Wanted some local cajun place where I could get read beans and rice, but the rain made it hard to see, and I had to focus on the driving over spotting restaurants. When I finally reached the interstate towards Thibodeaux, I had to grab something before the 60-mile drive, and so Jason's Deli was it. Guess it could have been worse, like Yuck-fil-a.

Called Hyundai in Baton Rouge, but the mechanics were out to lunch. Tried again in Thibodaux, and this guy was pretty helpful. He took the hanging mud flap off, and he readjusted the weather strip so it fit neatly like it should.

Mandatory Cafe du Monde beignets. Not time to sit, had to eat them in the car, with predictable results.

36.2 MPG

Finally encountered my first Barnies conversion, at the mall in Mobile. It was inline, which surprised me--I thought they were all kiosks.

Heading into town on Airport I passed Janino's where they gave me a huge fucking order of spaghetti, I mean like small third-world country feeding huge. The pasta was thin, angel-hair like the way I like it, but it just wasn't that tasty. But still... huge!!!

Early closures of the Foley and Orange Beach stores created scheduling difficulty. Either I skipped them or waited. So once again I took a fake Benadryl to help fall asleep quickly. I had expected to stay at the Wal-Mart in Daphne, but the manager there mentioned a Wal-Mart in Foley, and I figured I might as well make that drive first. It was only 40 miles, but the Benadryl kicked in halfway, and it was a struggle to make it. The strong wind blowing my light car didn't help.

27.1 MPG

My most noxious night of the trip. Positively putrid. Don't know what it was--the beignets? Spaghetti? Either way, I was tempted to crack the window, but it's a good thing I didn't, because the sky broke open sometime during the night.

January 3, 2007

7:23, around 11 hours of sleep, probably thanks to the fake Bendaryl, and it was time to kick it into high gear again. I until Sunday evening to finish up the 85+ new stores in Florida. By Sunday morning I had to have left Jacksonville for New Jersey.

As much as I was complaining about the Accent, it was a relief not to have to go back to the auto department of the Wal-Mart to buy motor oil like I had been regularly doing for a year.

Holy cow! Jose Pedilla finally started using the proper Spanish pronounciation of his name. Maybe the guy's not crazy after. I still the guy deserves punishment for adopting the horrible, horrible anglicized pronounciation. Seriously though, the Pedilla case is very relevant to me because it makes it plainly clear that when I finally do decide to

Occasionally I discover a better route than what Streets & Trips suggests, and I gloat and cackle.

I stopped at the Walnut store again like I had promised so they could take a that photo, but since the manager

Busy busy busy booming NW Arkansas. Traffic on Walnut out to I-540 was backed up for blocks. To make matters worse, they had the bridge over the freeway at Pleasant Grove Road blocked off by a truck, forcing me to detour five miles to reshoot that store. Plus, the breakfast bagel from ABC sucked, so I was already irritated.

Along the highway I saw a road crew which I assumed were convincts, because they wearing actual striped uniforms.

Oh, my, god... this is unbelievable. First the door frame molding, and now some kind of mud flap by the right front tire came loose! After only 1000 miles! Fuck you, Hyundai!!! With very little time left before I have to start my job, I do not need this shit.


Finally reached 1200 miles and ratcheded up the speed towards Little Rock. Whine at 80 MPH seemed less.

Arkansas has a wine capitol???

93 MPH, but not yet willing to test how it handles even a gradual curve at that speed.

And yet again, I-40!

Passed a comic book store on JFK called Collector's Edition, I think, and found a copy of Batman Confidential #1.

Dammit! Wi-Fi connection at the Markham store was on the fritz, and I really needed to look up the nearest Hyundai dealership before I got too far away from the city.

Received an e-mail from someone at Starbucks corporate


call Hyundai in Bryant, busy, won't order parts without looking

Looked like I had the time to spare, so I stopped at Allen's Burger Drive thru. The waitress said the wait for a burger would be 10 minutes, longer than I had hoped for, but I was able to save some time by running down to the E-Z Mart for gas and a Coke. The pumps there were, as they are in many small rural towns, old-style with the dial read out instead of a digital display.

On top of the burger delay, I lost more time when I became confused by the presence of what appeared to be a freeway to my left. My map showed only US-71, so I feared that I had somehow gotten off 71. After a couple of wrong turns I managed to get myself onto the mystery freeway and learned it was a state highway, 549. Two miles later, the freeway ended and put me back on US-71. So I had blown some five minutes or more, gotten nothing out of it, and I started to worry that I wouldn't make the mall in time.

Left the Shreveport store at 7:32, leaving me 88 minutes to reach the Monroe store, with a stop in Ruston. Doable, but tough.

Called Pecanland and asked for the supervisor, whose accent was rather thick, to find out how to get to the mall, and how to find the Starbucks. His directions did not seem very helpful. I cursed myself for all the wasted time here and there. Buying the comic book, working on my log, this, that, and the other. On top of my time pressure, I also had a pressure in my gut from the DoubleShot I had downed, but I could not take the time to stop.

Somewhere along (I foreget exactly), I had a scare when the red pickup I was following suddenly braked. I did too, just as I spotted the trooper. He pulled out onto the highway behind us and slowly caught up. Meanwhile, I fiddled with my voice recorder trying to figure out if I could surreptitiously turn it on and position it to catch the trooper's voice. When his car pulled behind me, I went ahead and pulled over, hoping to earn myself some points and avoid a ticket. But he wasn't after me--he was actually stopping to assist a semi with its hazard lights on up ahead. Whew!

I started moving again, and I had to gun it, well over 90 MPH, to catch up to the truck I'd been following.

I lucked out, and the Ruston store was on the same side of the interstate that I was head. I screeched into the parking lot, raced into the store, bolting over chairs and tables, scaring the heck out of the barista, but I managed to get out of their in jiffy. I literally burned rubber backing out of the parking space (I saw smoke), and I was back on the freeway having lost just two minutes!

I called Pecanland again to find out if they observed the 10-minute rule. The supervisor said that they were supposed to close with the mall, but that he tried to keep the doors open 5 extra minutes. I explained my purpose, and emphatically suggested that those 5 extra minutes would be very valuable to me.

I hit the ramp at 9:00 or 8:59, depending on which clock you trust, rush to the closed parking space, and bolted into the mall, immediately asking people where the Starbucks was. I kept getting pointed over there, over there, over there, and finally I ended up having run all the way across the mall only to discover that the Starbucks had a door to the outside, and I could have parked there if I had been given correct directions. Grrr...

Another reason to gripe at the Accent. Unlike the Civic, in which I could set the camera on the dashboard, when I did so in the Accent, it promptly slid off onto my computer. Grrr...

Citgo restroom nasty, but I had no choice. I was about to get on a state highway down to the Baton Rouge area, and I had no idea what I would encounter. Bathroom needs satisfied, I still dreaded having to drive through rural Louisiana at night. First because of the animals (a risk on any smaller highway), but also the animals who wear guns and badges. I kept my fingers crossed that I would encounter a Wal-Mart Supercenter, where I would be safe from the crooked arm of the law.

US-425??? Not on my map.

As I expected, I encountered a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but too soon, in Winnsboro, at 10:15. Too early to sleep with all the coffee I'd had, but I didn't want to risk not being able to find one for the next 150 miles. So I took another fake Benadryl and hoped it would kick in soon.

more wacky dreams, Sherrie, Scrabble, Erica, race change, mailbox, Dachsunds

single blanket

January 2, 2007

Ten minutes in my final attempt at sleep, around 6:45, I finally gave up and pulled my car in front the store to block the parking space while I changed. When I looked east, I saw just a hint of light through clouds. I went into the store for some juice and a scone, and I did not at all mind hanging out a bit longer waiting for the sky to lighten for one very specific reason. An unusually-named barista who I considered one of the most beautiful I had ever seen. She had a special kind of beauty. Not the cover-girl heavily made-up glamourous beauty of the barista from Boise, but a more down-to-earth beauty. I could picture myself waking up to that face every morning and being perfectly content. She had short hair and a bit of a raspy voice too, and she gave me just the slightest hint of a reminder of an old girlfriend, but a more perfect version. I had never managed a relationship with a woman that beautiful, and with the glamorous beautiful types like Boise I would not ever try. But this barista from Norman--I liked to imagine I might have a chance.

Made me a little sad, really, as I sat there, to think that I would leave and never see her again. Made me a little sadder, even because of the deep-down realization that the ideal relationship was likely to elude me forever given the path my life was going to take.

I resisted my nearly-overwhelming desire to tell the barista just how beautiful she is (thanks to the self-control that's come with advanced years), and I took my photo and left.

Oh, cool! Morning Edition is doing a political tour of US-50, one of the few coast-tocoast highways in the U.S. I want to drive the entire highway one day.

Once again, I-40!

$2.03 near Grand & May--would I see $2.00, or $1.99, I wondered.

The caffeine from the 13 DFW stores must not have metabolized yet, because after only 3 OKC-area stores I had already entered pass-thru mode, plus it was explosion time.

There we go, 11:36, less than three days owning it, and my first coffee spill in the new car. Just a few drops, thankfully, of which I was able to recover enough to ensure fulfillment of the prophecy.

Grrr... another sucky thing about the Civic is that the manual recommended limiting speeds to 55 for the first 1200 miles. That seems like a lot. Could be wrong, but I seemed to remember its only being 500 miles for my Integra. By the time I hit the Oklahoma Turnpike, with its 75 MPH limit, I still had 300 miles to go on that 1200, and it was really irritation to have to keep my speed down.

Coney I-Lander

More spillage, more recovery

Mandatory Chinamoob, as always difficult to schedule, Playboy-calibre breasts, I think I got off easy, tip-wise

On the way to the Owasso store I stopped at a generic Italian restaurnat named Il Vecchio, where I was given the most thickest strands of spaghetti that I had ever seen.

Finally picked up that voice recorder I'd been thinking about, for to be adding sound to my blog. Now sounds like these will not be lost.


Finally headed towards Arkansas shortly after 5:00, and I hadn't even cleared the rush hour traffic when I started to crash... hard. Intense dizziness and trouble seeing.

40 miles from Rogers I experience the first involuntary eye closure in a while. As always, a jolt of adrenalin jerked me back into a state of alertness. Bur only just briefly.

Arkansas welcome center so tempting, but only 35-38 miles to go. And being off the turnpike, there would be plenty of opportunities to pull over if I felt my system going into a serious shutdown, so I pressed on.

Well, that was a first. Unbelievable, the zipper grip from my coat got caught in the tiny slit in the lid of the tall cup where I had been saving my coffee from the NW Arkansas stores. When I got out of the car to take the photo of the Promenade store, I lifted the cup out of the holder. Amazingly, it did not fall, and only a few drops spilled here and there, which I was able to recover with my finger and by sucking on my coat.

Almost needless to say, in Northwest Arkansas it is not difficult to find a nearby Wal-Mart.

January 1, 2007

The new ride/motel.

Close to 10:00 AM when I finally finished loading up the car and left the house. After a slight detour to reshoot some Houston stores from the previous day, and then to go duck hunting by the Buffalo Bayou, I started for Dallas.

Around 80 MPH the Accent engine becomes noticeably louder.

A bit later, got it up to 95. Louder, but not exponentially so.

I take back. The level of engine noise beyond 85 MPH is pretty fucking annoying.

Saw, for the first time ever, a state trooper using a rest area as a radar trap. I had always slowed down when passing rest areas, just for that reason, but I had never actually seen it done.

The Dallas Do-Wop

Finally hit my first new DFW store shortly past 2:00. Some stores would be closing an hour early, and I had a total of 200 miles to drive. With congestion reported along I-30 thru Fort Worth, I was going to be hard-pressed to reach all 17 stores before they closed. Clearing out Oklahoma City by closing would be out of the question.


Next to the next store was yummy Potbelly, saving me time on finding lunch. For the heck of it I asked the manager if Potbelly franchised or owned its stores, and he replied that Potbelly does not franchise. Interesting.

Crap. Forgot that I had screwed up my database and marked some stores as opened that had not actually opened. Cooper & Park Row was one such, and I didn't realize it until I was already on my way. Fortunately, I did not actually lose any miles, because there was another new store on Park Row. I just exited the freeway too early and lost some minutes.


As I left the actually-open Park Row store, the scruffy-looking young man whom I had asked about the cheapest gas commented that Arlington was the largest city in the state, or perhaps the nation, without public transportation--not even buses! But there are plenty of car dealerships around, the young man claimed. I decided not to show him and his friend my new car.

Lost more time because I had failed to do my due diligence on the drive up to DFW and confirm the plotted location of each store. I wasn't even sure if needed to take I-30 to get there, so I had to pull into a gas station and call for directions. Precious minutes... gone forever!

Ooh, cute pony-tailed redhead driving a black Civic SI west on SR-303. She finally turned at I-820.

At 289 miles after I filled up, the low fuel indicator light up. Wal-Mart Supercenter next to the White Settlement store, but... motherfuckers!!! The pumps were closed!!! Why would they close automated pumps???


I was able to put 11.2 gallons in, at 287 miles. That would only be 25.6 MPH, depending on just how full I filled the tank in Houston. Not great, and nowhere near the 37 listed on the spec sheet.


Crap. Doing my due diligence for the Little Elm store bit me in ass when I failed to see the new Colleyville store and drove some 3-5 miles past it before I realized my error. That's why I should make those calls before I reach the city! Of course, I would have missed Collin Creek Mall regardless because it would have been too much of a detour to head up there before the stores in the south.


Very odd. Sharp pulsing pain in the center of my inner right thigh. Was that the same place where I'd whanged myself the previous night?


Aw, nertz!!! North Park Mall II closed at 6:00! I coulda hit that store first without adding significant miles to my trip. Boy, did I screw up this DFW run.


Boy. how clueless can a person be? The guy seems me standing in the driveway taking a photo, then running across the lot to take a photo from the other angle, and yet he still parks in front when there are, like, five other spaces a hundred feet away.


The NPR coming from my radio suddenly increased in volume when I reached the toll plaza. I had actually turned the volume down, so I was puzzled for a seconds until I realized that the attendant had a radio in the booth tuned to the same station. I had never encountered this before--only music. I guess not all toll plaza attendants are content with being ignorant. NPR at toll plaza

Race for mandatory DoubleDave's, which I had not had since I left Texas in June, and would not have for the several months I was away. Last chance! Made it with just minutes to spare, to pick up some yummy yummy peproni rolls.

Don't know if it was the coffee or the Potbelly or the granola bar, but I had to deal with a new symptom all afternoon and evening, an incessant stream of gas gurgling up and windpoint and burping out. Maybe indigestion, but I liked to consider myself too young for that.




Oh... my... god!!! Thirteen stores in DFW, where I originated my project and had an article in D Magazine, and the baristas a none of the stores recogized me. Given that the DVD release was imminent, that was a bad sign, publicity-wise.

Oh... my... god!!! Just two days owning the Accent, and already a problem! The rubber seal molded around the door handle came loose! AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!

It was before 10:00 PM when I passed up the first rest area in Oklahoma, and I felt fine. But maybe 10-20 miles later I started to feel fatigued, and, even worse, dizzy. I had not yet felt the dizziness that trip, and I wondered what was the cause. Thankfully, the next rest area was not that far away, just 55 miles, but it was a bit of a struggle.

First night sleeping in the Accent, and it took some getting used to. The back seats did not recline as flat

Shortly after 2:00 I had trouble falling back asleep, and at 2:53 I gave up and continued onto the downtown Norman store to await its morning opening. Had no idea if it would be as early as 5:00, but definitely no later than 6:00. I found the store around 4:00, did some stuff online, and then decided that the back corner of the lot would be okay. Even though I expected a cop to pass by occasionally, since it was so close to opening I figured I'd be okay.

It took me a while to fall asleep. I think I dozed off a couple of times between 4:30 and 5:20, and I dreamt of being out in the car outside the store, a false awakening. When I felt the bright lights of the drive-thru I went ahead into the store and into the bathroom. When I exited and went up to the counter, the supervisor told me they weren't open yet. I said okay, and went back out to try for more sleep.

The dreams became more vivid. I think I had about 5 different ones in an hours' time. The final one, the one that woke me, involved a concern about my engine. Suddenly I heard a loud clang and bang, like maybe an engine seizing up and/or throwing a rod. I woke up with a start. Of course the engine wasn't on, and I hadn't heard a thing, but my mind just kept racing even while I was asleep.

I went back into the store to give my spiel, and I was pretty dead on my feet. But while in the bathroom my mind cleared up, and I felt good to drive. But the sky looked nowhere near being light, so I tried for more sleep.

December 31, 2006

Despite having gotten home and to bed at nearly 3:00 AM after Blazing Saddles (which I didn't' find that good), the caffeine in my system got me up at 8:45. I figured I'd be feeling it later in the day, and I was right.

1:09 PM, my first beverage spill in my new car. It was just water this time, but I knew the coffee would come soon enough.

Finally found my cord to connect my laptop to the auxiliary jack, and I test out my stereo. Actually, I wasn't really testing out the MP3 player, since it was iTunes on my laptop doing the actually processing. Because of the analog cable, I could hear a slight hiss when I turned up the volume. What I really needed was an in-dash MP3 player with a hard drive big enough to allow me to load all my songs, but I had no idea how much that might cost.

The cup holders were behind the shifter instead of below the air-conditioning controls like in the Civic, and I found this placement immediately awkward. With the venti cup of water that I needed for long trips, I found myself brushing my arm against the straw.

Okay, where is the trip meter???

I had hoped to play a couple of games at the Houston club, to help avoid getting too rusty before that first East Coast tournament I would attend. But club was kwancelled, replaced instead with an informal 6-game tournament. I did not have time for six games, so I just visited with my homeys for a while, then went to meet Michael at Fannin & Preston, then two more stores to finish up Houston.

Since I had decided to stay the night in Houston, I had time to actually be choosy at Treasures during my mandatory stop. There were fewer dancers working than I expected, but, like Indiana Jones, I chose wisely, and a good time was had by all, by which I mean me.

Saga of the magic Civic finally came to an end, 258,000 for $600. I already missed the car.

December 30, 2006

Couldn't sleep much past 5:15 and I soon gave up and went into the Wal-Mart, where in addition to groceries I picked up the latest Michael Crichton novel, Next. Then headed over to the Villa Maria store, where I killed time while waiting for 7:00.

I had recently read, either in The End of Faith or The God Delusion a clever counterargument to the intelligent design hypothesis, that humans quite simply are not very intelligently designed. The design of the trachea leads to many choking deaths every year, and I'm glad that I escaped that fate. Just spit up a lot of water is all.

A rare treat on 89.1, Mary Chapin Carpenter's "The Simple Life"--she hardly gets airplay anymore, and it's usually the older, better-known songs that are played.

While online I noticed the classic Blazing Saddles playing at midnight at the River Oaks. Even though I couldn't sleep, I still felt fatigued, and I doubted I'd be able to stay up 'til 2:00 AM. By coincidence, I would hear later on NPR that the film had just been added to the National Film Registry. I had to go see it!

As 7:00 AM approached, it was clear that the sun was not going to be up, and I wondered what the heck was up? How far east and south did I need to go to light at 7:00. Earlier in the week I remembered seeing light at 6:30 in an earlier time zone. And it was raining too--no point in waiting for light just to shoot under and overcast rainy sky, so I went ahead over to the University store. Though just a few miles away, by the time I approached the sky was lightening. I didn't see the store at first and passed it up, and by the time I found it and got my coffee and left, the sky was lighter still, prompting me to return to Villa Maria. Since my route out to the freeway took me just a mile from the University store, I couldn't resist trying for another photo. But just as I arrived, some lady in a huge-ass suburban driving the wrong way down the one-way streets pulled in front of the store. Worse, she was with her elderly mother, and you know old people never get in and out of a place quickly.

As I neared the Woodlands, that last hour and a half of sleep that I had not been able to get started to catch up with me in the form of an intense headache.

Tire had seemed okay in Bryan, but as I neared The Woodlands it started to feel off. Stopped at two ghetto stations in Pinehurt, where the air was a whopping 75 cents! Finally, at the Valero, it was free with gas purchase. I just don't understand the lack of business sense of these independent shop owners, to pass up what could be 10, 20, 30 bucks worth of gas

Route from Tomball Parkway to the new The Woodlands store took me through some pretty rural neighborhoods, the kind where the roosters roam free out in the yard. Probably neighborhoods where I don't want to be waving my copy of The God Delusion around.

Waited around at The Woodlands store for some guy who wanted to see the Civic and said he would arrive in 20 minutes. Dude took much longer than 20 minutes to get there, and my clock was ticking ticking ticking. Grrr...

When he finally arrived he only offered $400. I thanked him for coming by and immediately rushed over to the Jamba Juice in the town center to meet a different person, and he offered the $500 I had posted. And after visiting a store on the north side, I drove 30 miles clear across town to the new Pasadena store, where I met another young man, and he offered $600. The next day, the second guy would up his offer to $650, but then he never called back about picking up the car.

From Pasadena I rushed over to Best Hyundai and bought the Accent, and then I left it at the dealership so I could go home, eat, and return with my father. He drove the Civic to the house, and I headed over to Thunder Auto Sound to have an MP3 player stereo installed. I learned, to my disappointment, that the bare bones Accent did not even come with speaker, and that upped my expense to nearly $400. Still, better than having paid $1400 for an stero/air-conditioning package I didn't want. I was fine with the price, but what irked me was that they said 2 hours, and I ended up waiting nearly four hours!!! I didn't figure Patrick's party would get moving right at 7:00, but I had hoped to be able to sleep and hour or two before going. Didn't happen. I headed straight to the party, downed a DoubleShot, and somehow found the energy to stay alert 'til 11:30 and head to the movie. More amazingly, I stayed away for most of it, only falling asleep a couple of times, and then only for a few seconds.

Noticed a couple of things about the Accent right away. First the seat belt chime, which is annoying as hell, and the worst fucking idea ever. Whoever thought that up needs a toilet plunger up his ass. Second, the car just didn't handle as well as the Civic, but I kind of expected that.

December 29, 2006

When I finally decided to get up, I was surprised to see that it was already 7:45! I had expected the sky much lighter by then. I guess Midland is farther west than I had thought. Plus, the overcast sky didn't help. Checked my mail and learned Patrick's party was not Friday night, but Saturday. That was good.

Spotted a Chick-fil-a, became nostalgic, and had my first chicken biscuit in a long, long, time, like maybe a year.

I had escaped the snow, but another hazard manifested itself, in the form of flooded streets in Odessa. I became worried about whether I would be blocked by flooding on US-385 to I-10. But, as I hoped, the highway was elevated enough and sloped, and I presume this prevented flooding. Still lost some time, though, because I had forgotten to check the tire in the morning. I didn't feel it until I started out of town and increased my speed. I stopped, and sure enough it was low. I had to drive up a ways before I could turn around and return to the ghetto gas station at the intersection of I-20 and US-385. I say ghetto not in the sense of the neighborhood, but because the station charges for air (for tires). Any station cheap enough that it charges for air is ghetto, no matter where it is. And the air pressure was crappy, too.

Oh boy, an 75 MPH on US-385, but the rain prevented me from taking full advantage.

I-10 for the 3rd time, at the US-190 junction in Iraan. A few more hours and I would finally be out of the West. Nothing wrong with the West, mind you, but the distances between Starbucks markets are so much greater, it makes for tedious driving sometimes.

HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! Just west of the Crockett County line, the speed limit went up to 80 MPH!!! That sign was the most beautiful sign I'd ever seen in my life. I had no idea such a limit existed anwhere in the U.S. I was almost ecstatic. Only almost, because of the goddamn rain! I couldn't floor it. Yes, I had instantly developed raging hard-on to push the Civic to the limit, but my sense of self-preservation trumped my lust for speed. I had no idea what hydroplaning at 100 MPH would be like, and I was sure I didn't want to find out.

The rain finally let up farther east, but I still had to wait until 70 miles to Boerne before a car passed me doing about 100 MPH that I could follow. Sadly, the 80 MPH limit ended around mile marker 502.

Meanwhile, my phone work to get the Accent I wanted (well, I didn't want an Accent really, but what ya gonna do), plus I fielded phone calls from respondants to my ad about selling the Civic. At $500, I got a ton of responses.

After waffling back and forth, I finally decided to head to the more central store first, on Quincy. I wanted to rush off and try to beat the rush hour (fat chance), but the manager insisted I stay for a photo with the staff. What are ya gonna do?

Wanted another photo of San Pedro & Rector but the exit to I-410 off US-281 was fucked with traffic. Seems like 410 is always fucked! I had to leave it for another day so I could blitz through the next two as fas as traffic would permit. Unfortunately, another factor entered the equation, bad directions given to me earlier that morning to the Legacy store. Because of the heavy traffic up around 281/1604, I lost some 30 minutes I'd say.

Another effect of the bad directions was that the first eatery I spotted was Yuck-fil-a. Had I turned east on 1604 I would have seen Firehouse Subs. For a franchise outfit, they make a pretty good sub, better than Subway (yuck), Blimpie (yuck), or Quizno's (blah), and I was glad to see one in Texas.

Goddamn it! These fucking hallucinations are going to get me killed! Jerked the wheel to the left to avoid some nonexistent object that I thought materialized in front of my car!

Yeah, finally hit the KGSR zone!!!

I encountered the first serious downpour of my trip on the way up to Austin, serious enough to slow down to 40 MPH and turn on my flashers hazard lights.

Whoa there, sonny! Keep those eyes open! Slept plenty last night--no reason for fatigue, now!

At Texas' only drive-thru/walk-up store, the manager ran out to catch me before I left so he could shake my hand. That's the kinda of reception I'm talking about.

Darn it--keep forgetting to check out The Decembrists--only caught the last 30 seconds of a song on KGSR.

Shell on US-79 in Round Rock offered free air with gas fill-up--see, that's what I'm talking about--not ghetto!

Race to mandatory Freebirds, arriving with just five minutes to spare after first rushing into the Bryan store and then keeping my speed to 40 MPH on Texas Avenue as I called in my order. Afterwards I went to the find the Wal-Mart Supercenter that the Freebird cashier had told me about, conveniently located not too far from that Bryan store I needed to photograph in the morning.

December 28, 2006

How Will I Ever Get to Heaven Now

Woke up again at 3:53--still no snow. I tried to get back to sleep, and might have dozed off, but by 4:25 I was wide awake, so I just added some oil and headed up to the Loveland store that opened at 4:30.

The radio reported the coming store over and over. The latest was 8-10 inches by Friday morning, but the course still indeterminate. I knew I'd leave the Denver area on time, but since I would be heading southeast via US-287, I still worried that the storm would catch up to me.

Heading back down through Longmont on Main St. I passed a place called Swanky Frank's 50s Diner, saw an open sign, and quickly made a u-turn. Biscuits and eggs okay, home fries cut too small for my taste.

By 7:00 AM, with two stores to go, already feeling extremely tired. I wanted desperately to finish and get out, and I hoped I wouldn't be slow down by the rush hour traffic--the radio reported, and I quote, "wrecks all over the place." That's not good news. I had 535 miles to drive from the Thornton store to Lubbock, and I didn't think I was going to make it. Oops, make that 518--S&T picked a long route along I-25. Fuck that. I need to head east, east, east, not due south where the storm could catch me more easily.

97.3 KBCO playing Shawn Colvin, and a good mix of music in general.

Outside the new Westminster store I spotted this cute little wabbit. I like wabbits. I found it interesting that my camera's flash did not seem to scare it.

For some reason I was seeing ice all over the place that morning. I found it odd that I hadn't seen much as the night before. Maybe it had melted and refrozen over night? Regardless, I was slipping all over the place and got stuck tractionless twice.

When I gave my spiel to the barista at the other Westminster store I had my left hand behind my back, at and odd angle. I have no explanation for this, other than the fact that I was only barely functional. My neurons were probably firing at random, making me do and say strange things.

The radio reported predictions of 8 to 18 inches of snow in the area, and more if the storm stalled. Cruel as it was, I fervently hoped that the storm would stall, to give me more time to clear the zone. I did not expect to be able to make it all the way to Texas without stopping to rest, and I worried about the storm catching up to me.

Final store of the area, and I ran into the first person who had read about me in Maxim.

Crap. Tire low on air. No gas stations before the toll road, so I had to stick it out until Limon.

Just what exactly is this "front range" that I keep hearing about?

Took longer than I'd hoped, because of the distances primarily, but I finally started the drive away from the Denver metro at 8:00 AM.

27 of those miles were along C-470 (I still wonder why it's not part of the Interstate Highway System), and despite the rush hour those were some fast, fast miles, like 80-90 MPH most of the way from Thornton to I-70. But expensive--$6 across three toll plazas.

As I exit onto I-70, a song called "Six Days on the Road" played--how appropriate, except substitute coffee for the "white pills", and Starbucks for "my baby". In fact, I see a parody song for the Starbucking soundtrack.

490 to Lubbock--still a lot, but better than 518.

72 miles later, at 9:40, I reached the exit to US-287, leaving only 421 miles to go, and I was still functional and had gotten a second wind. If I could drive 120 more miles I would reach my comfort distance of 300 miles.

Bitter cold in Limon as I gassed up, checked the oil, and filled the tire--really wishing I had gloves.

At Kit Carson the highway turned from southeast to south. It was 10:30--still 90 minutes before the storm was to come in, and I hoped I could get far enough south to avoid it.

Meanwhile, the white suburban that I had been following at 80-90 MPH decided to speed through town. I tried to keep up without going too fast. We cleared town without incident, and then he hit the accelerator. I was about to follow when I spotted a suspicious looking car in the rearview, the profile of which resembled that of a cop car. I didn't want to risk it, so I pulled over to the shoulder until the car got close enough for me to see it wasn't a cop. Then I had to first pass him, pass several other cars, pass a truck, and finally gun it, getting the Civic all the way up to 115 MPH, on a slight downgrade, to catch up to the suburban.

Needless to say, the adrenaline rush of following the suburban kept me completely awake. I hit Lamar with no problem, only 298 miles to go, and 11:22--I felt confident I would beat the storm.

Bathroom at the Valero was occupied, so I moved on and resorted to the cup, but that created a problem. I still had a good 8-16 ounces of coffee in a cup in one cup holder and a full venti cup of water in another. I could jam the kiwi cup between the passenger seat and the door, but then a hard brake could dump kiwi juice all over the floor. Since I was about to sell the car, I guess that didn't really matter, but I'm not that much of a bastard. I just chugged the coffee instead.

Despite my fatigue, I had a pretty good feeling as I neared Texas. Part of the reason was that I was doing pretty good on my blitz tour, 71 stores in 6 days, even discounting Chrismas Day. This was important because, at the onset of my trip, there were almost 700 new stores for me to visit, the highest number in a long time. I really needed to hit that 200-store mark or better for the two weeks to avoid letting it get out of hand. I really needed a monthlong road trip, but it wasn't clear when that would happen. First two months of work, then movie promotion, then 2-4 weeks overseas (hopefully).

Leaving the mountains and the snow (at least until I approached New Jersey) was also a great relief. Finally, I just felt good to be nearing Texas again--as much as I like to travel, I always like to touch ground in Texas for a little bit after being away.

Coming out of Springfield, just what I didn't need, another crazy trucker.

Holy cow! After just six days driving I was getting some serious calluses on my hands. That had never happened before.

Finally hit Oklahoma, and the presence of less snow was a sight for sore eyes. I stopped worrying about the weather, and my attention turned instead towards reaching the Plainview and Lubbock stores while there was still light. As such, having to wait for the bathroom at the Loaf 'n Jug was particularly irritating, but I had no choice. My coffee-induced business couldn't be resolved by a cup this time.

Back in Texas!

Uh-oh. Sneezes. Did I push myself too hard and get sick?

In Amarillo I crossed I-40 for the third time, and it wouldn't be the last (unless I skirted it through Wilmington, NC).

Okay, I don't understand this--why is the address of the Plainview store is 1301 I-27 North, yet the store is on the southbound side of the interstate??? I'm so confused!!!

Darn it! Probably just 20 minutes too late for a decent photo of the new Lubbock! My disappointment was all but forgotten, however, when, just as I was leaving, I met a very attractive barista who said she had an article about me and seemed genuinely pleased to have met me. After the long day I'd had, I needed that warm smile. Well, I actually needed more than that, but you take what you can get.

I started hurting not too far south of Lubbock, and thus began a mighty struggle to stay awake (and alive). I might even have lost it for a few seconds--I was daydreaming about something and suddenly realized I couldn't remember that last stretch of road. Scary. I was fervently hoping for some car to overtake me so I could follow, but none did 'til I was almost in Lamesa.

I was also crazy hungry, so as soon as I spotted the Turning Point Cafe I pulled in. After ordering a roast beef sandwich and chili I went into the bathroom, where I saw an odd sign: "PLEASE PLACE TOILET TISSUE IN THE TRASH". As I suspected, the reason was to avoid clogging the toilet. Bad toilet, I would say. I guess that's what the basket of flower petals is for, to help mask the smell. I was reminded of a conversation with a high school classmate, Jacqueline something-or-another. She was on my bus route, and for whatever reason it came up that in her house they put toilet tissue in the trash. I told her it was supposed to go in the toilet, and she said it would clog it. Well, in our house, and everywhere else I'd ever seen since, toilet tissue goes in the toilet, but I've always wondered if there is this freaky subculture of people who put toilet tissue in the trash (nasty).

Oh, one more unusual thing--the manager/owner was smoking at the counter. I guess I got too used to being in California, that it seems so odd.

Sometimes I amaze myself with my brilliance, but sometimes its my lack of imagination that comes as a shock. I had heard a piece of Bruce Springsteen's "Lucky Town" during the trailer for an upcoming movie, "Lucky You". I decided I wanted to hear the whole song and made a mental note to either download it on iTunes, or download the entire album (which I used to have, back when it was originally released). I never occurred to me to check to see if it had been included in the Essential Bruce Springsteen album I had downloaded. While waiting for my food, I happened to notice it, right there on my laptop all the time--d'oh!

I guess having to focus on my food plus following a truck held give me the zecond wind that I needed to make it to Midland.

Cha-ching!!! Wal-Mart Supercenter across from the new Midland store. No sense in pushing myself anymore since I was out of the snow zone.

December 27, 2006

Around 6:30 I heard a car parking somewhere nearby, and I figured the town would start to get busy soon so I got a move-on.

50 miles from Albuquerque, craaaaazy trucker!

I grabbed my duffel bag from the bag so I could finally sort out the bad socks for disposal, and all of a sudden I smelled a truly foul odor. Like some animal died. I hoped it was just a coincidence, that the smell was coming from outside. I mean, I knew my car had to smell funky from my living in it, but it couldn't be as bad as rotting carcass smell.

Signs reading "DWI SUPER BLITZ"--since when did the NM DOT get cute with its verbiage?

Checked the weather immediately upon reaching the first new Albuquerque store, and the front page of showed a large storm system. The article said it would be affecting the area west of the Continental Divide on Wednesday and then move slowly over the Rockies. That meant I had a chance, but I needed to move very very fast.

Also checked on that Accent SE, but Albuquerque has only two dealerships, and the one I called had zero SEs. I later called up to Colorado, and the dealer reported that the type of SE I wanted wasn't even in production, not 'til 2007. I had my doubts about that, in part because the dude kept getting the car designations wrong, at least according to what I had read on the web site.

Despite my rush, a stop at the Frontier Restaurant for pancakes, to-go, was mandatory, as was a stop at the Wal-Mart for motor oil especially.

Next store took way too long. Went into brush teeth and wash fork, but no soap, so I had to wait for the women's. When I finished, the line at the register had grown to the point of reaching the door. I had to wait for the second barista to finish putting the coffee on to ask if I could take a DoubleShot and leave the money. I was out of ones, so I had to leave a five (that takes care of my tipping for all of 2007). The intersection was busy, so I had to wait to rush across the street to get the shot I wanted. Then I shot from the side, and, as I had suspected, the security guard spotted me. He walked towards me, but I was already in my car and pulling out by the time he got close. As I pulled onto Indian School I spotted a second guard looking over towards me.

10:00 by the time I got on the freeway heading out of time, 30 minute later than I had hoped. I was able to make up some of that time on the way to Pueblo, though, by pacing cars often doing 85-90 MPH. Had to slow down through the mountains, of course, but at least there was no ice despite what the sign had warned about.

$2.15 in Pueblo, cheapest yet.

Outside the new Puebloe store was a short-haired blonde on break from her job at Walgreens. She was attractive in a shy, somewhat plain, sort of way, and I had 15 minutes to wait for my order from the Pizza Hut across the street, so I attempted to make flirt.

Since I figured I'd still have to wait for the pizza, when I spotted Maxim at the Loaf 'n Jug I figured I'd show it to the cashier--I think she got a kick out of meeting someone in a magazine.

Man, sometimes I even amaze myself. I managed to rearrange the blanket that was blocking my view and add oil to my engine, all during a traffic light. I'm goooood! Of course, this would only be possible on a busy street like Academy during rush hour. And boy, was it busy. I saw my chances of finishing Denver that night dimming. Heavy traffic northbound out of C-Springs and towards Denver didn't help.

Didn't reach the first Denver -area store until 5:00. But staying overnight was not an option. The radio was predicting not just snow, but another blizzard predicted for Denver.

3190 trip meter.

AARRGHH!!! Snow in shoes!!! Cold, cold, cold!

Whew! Made the Denver Newspaper Agency (called DNA by the barista) just in time (7:00).

Next were the two kiosks, formerly Peaberry, in the Cherry Creek Mall. Jeez, if mall locations weren't bad enough already, I had two to deal with. This posed a potential problem, because if I had encounter with a security guard while shooting one kiosk, I might be prevented from getting the coffee at the other. I could avoid this by getting both coffees first and then taking the photos, but I didn't want to waste the time. While I pondered on this, I also wondered what it might sound like if a group of cats meowed the tune to Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night".

92.1, really good Spanish language music. Not the same-sounding Mexican stuff I usually hear while scanning the dial.

When did Jimmy John's get to Denver?

Wow, for once that emergency alert system that we hear periodically tested on the radio was not a test, but an actual warning of winter weather. The report stated that the snow would start in the Denver area around noon. That meant I could stay and visit the remaining stores emergency wRNING system on radio actually used, 12 PM, can I trust? another problem, with all coffee would be hard 2 sleep

Jesus Christ, how can people not know compass directions???

The previous wee's blizzard might have ended, but there was still plenty of frozen snow and ice on the ground. Slipped exiting my car and scrape my hand, and then nearly slipped walking twice. And nearly skidded through a light.

A fox running across Airport Blvd? If it was, that was the second fox I'd seen that trip. I like foxes. Foxes are cute.

I was torn between trusting the weather and staying to visit the few stores I would miss that night, or getting the heck out. Either way, it was in my best interest to keep rushing, rushing, rushing until 11:00. I couldn't even stop to scratch my nuts. Had to wait 'til I got on the freeway and do it one-handed. Not nearly as satisfying as a good two-handed scratch, but what ya gonna do?

So close, and there had to be a delay westbound on I-70!!! 9:00 PM at night even! I guessed the reason was that the roadway was wet because of the melting snow, plus drivers are idiots.

Made it to Boulder well before 11:00, but I wasn't able to reach Loveland, so I had to camp out in Longmont. Still, 16 stores in 6 hours was a heck of a run! 138 miles.


December 26, 2006

At 5:30 AM the sky was dark, and I felt I needed to continue sleeping, so I abandoned my plan to try and beat the rush our to the other three new stores. Close to 8:00 when I finally drove across the parking lot to the store. Spent close to two hours, I think, working on my site, but mostly charging my camera batteries. The light never went to green, though, and I hoped that the charger was working properly. Two hours should be enough if the battery is completely drained, and I didn't think mine was.

Finally called to find out about Arrowhead--it hadn't closed!!! It was next to the theatre! I could have got a better shot!!!

At the next store the manager was very enthusiastic about my project, and I finally scored a holdiay shirt. I was grateful, but when I went to the bathroom I still became a little miffed at him for not having told me that I had clotted blood all over my face from a horrible shaving job. Why don't people tell you these things???

From Fountain Hills I misread my map and headed west of Shea when I had meant to take Highway 87 through the Salt River Indian Reservation. That was okay, because Shea moves pretty darn quickly through the undeveloped land out towards the freeway. It was 11:30, and I was completely framished, and I pulled into the 92nd & Shea shopping center. I was about to go into some New York style pizza place when I spotted a moderately attractive (in a plain sort of way) young woman sitting on the sidewalk. Just as an excuse to talk to her, I asked if the pizza was any good, and I mentioned I was really looking for a bagel shop. She pointed to a place called Chompie's around the corner, which I had disregarded because the sign read "bakery", not "bagels". But sure enough, they had fresh bagels, as well as a large seating area--unusual. So you see--shameless flirtation isn't always a waste of time.

Since I was not getting out of Phoenix before the rush hour, I figured I might as well try to schedule a massage. I was able to reach, or get called by, by several therapists along my route, but all were either unavailable 'til later in the day or they lacked a shower facility (an absolute must). Running out of time, in part because I wanted to meet a 1900+-rated Scrabble player for a couple of games down in Tucson, I settled on Ultimate Relaxation, presumably affiliated with the II location I'd visited in August. The girl was Thai, which is unusual, and had some technique, but the long, long shower was definitely the highlight.

My 2005 Streets & Trips was really out of date for the Phoenix area, as with Las Vegas. But as I headed west on SR-60 towards I-10, I had a thought, about the 101. So I called a store near where my map showed that freeway ended, and I learned that I could take the 101 to the 202 out to I-10 and save a few minutes. By coincidence, the radio reported that Arizona was now the fastest-growing state.

As I neared I-10, and old man driving a white sedan started to veer into my lane. I looked at him as I veered away, expecting him to pull the steering wheel back once he saw me. But he seemed oblivious to me, and I was forced into the other lane. I continued on and soon forgot about the dottering old fool. A while later, as I cruised east on I-10 as fast as the left lane would permit, I had to slow down as I approached a collision scene. My eyes were by necessity focused on the slowing traffic ahead, so I could not pay close attention to my rearview, and I was caught completely by surprised as a white car suddenly darted in front of me. hen same fucker did against when i sslowed for collison wifer asleep so no compain 3rd time, call 911

Met Nathan in time for two quick games, and then I rushed over to Tens for my mandatory $7-lap dance (used to be $6 even). I was just past 5:00, and there didn't seem to be very many girls working. I was in a hurry to reach Las Cruces so I grabbed the attention of an older, less attractive, clearly-enhanced dancer when she got off stage. For just 14 bucks, the two songs well worth the price, but then I spotted a young, blonde, extremely cute dancer with natural breasts. Unfortunately, the waitress I'd been ducking finally spotted me and insisted I had to buy a drink--two, actually.

Doing the math, $4s for a domestic beer, plus two dances would only be $18, still less than the price of a dance at most clubs. So I ordered the beer, but I was still irritated on principle. When the drink was slow to arrive, I started to think about just bailing. Still, watching the young blonde give a dance to a dirty old man, I was really anticipating getting her on my lap. But when I spotted the waitress run into the back, my indignation over the drink minimum policy trumped my lust. So I gave the club the finger (figuratively speaking) and waltzed on outta there (more skulk than waltz, really).

$2.22 gas in Tucson--lovin' that!

Needed quick food, so it was a burrito again, from a place called Nico's Tacos pointed out to me by a cute (in a low-rent kind of way) brunette. She loses points, though, for saying the burrito would be good--it was blah.

$2.17 in Las Cruces--even better!

Oh, hell yeah!!! 91.5 in Las Cruces, a college station I presume, playing A Tribe Called Quest, "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo".

Almost 11:00 when I finished in Las Cruces, and it was decision time. Would I take my chances heading north to Denver despite the coming storm?

Wanted to push as close to Albuquerque as possible, so I passed up the first rest area despite my fatigue. I regretted my decision almost immediately as fatigue hit me hard. It was a struggle to keep going, but Streets & Trips reported another rest area about 20-30 miles away, and that knowledge helped me focus. Unfortunately, S&T could not tell me that those fucking fuckers closed the rest area and didn't post a sign!!! I had to drive almost 10 miles to the exit for Truth or Consequences and then drive around a bit before I found a parking space where I wouldn't stand out. There were plenty of cops to be seen about.

December 25, 2006

Felt good enough to drive at 5:00, but about an hour later I was starting to feel some fatigue. I was glad to spot a roadside table along US-93, and I pulled in and slept from 6:40 to 7:30. I was sacrificing some light for much-needed sleep, but at least I was able to drive faster and safer. Although...

WHAT THE FUCK WERE THOSE??? WOLVES??? That's why I prefer driving the US highways during the day.

Getting hungry, grabbed the Odwalla tangerine juice I had not finished two day's earlier. Was it sour, or just naturally tangy? Oh, well... if I die, I die.

I'm the pelican!

Reached the new store at Bell & Brookside at 8:29. Couldn't actually visit, but I could at least take the photo. There appeared to be a security guard sitting in a pickup at the back of the lot. I found that odd--not because it was Christmas, and Surprise is located pretty far away from Phoenix proper, where I presume most of the the criminals and deviants are concentrated.

Yes! The NY-themed Hot Bagels & Deli at Bell & Grand was open for breakfast. With real fried eggs even!

Grrr... at 99th & Bell and encountered one of those well-intentioned drivers who just sit there waiting for me to take my photo while I motion for them to go, go, go. It doesn't occur to them that it might take me several minutes to get the right shot.

Arrowhead Towne Center closed???

I finally encountered a store that was open, 43rd Avenue & Thunderbird, and I went in to use the restroom, brush my teeth, and have my venti cup of ice water refilled. The store was mad crazy busy, and it was perhaps because of this that whe the cashier handed my cup to another barista, he did not realize that I had brought the cup in and dipped it into the ice bin. I had to tell him he needed to dump out that ice, because my cup was filthy. Did he? Who knows, but watch the news for a possible outbreak of disease by everyone who went to that store Christmas Day.

Up in Anthem, I had to waited for several customers who drove up and tried to get in. One, a black man with a white woman and a tan-skinned kid (reminding me of DL Hawkins, actually) seemed irritated that I was staring at his truck intently as I waited for him to move. As soon as they left another stupid SUV pulled in front. This customer seemed very irritated that Starbucks was not open on Christmas Day. I told him it probably had to do with the difficulty in staffing all the stores. He replied that they were usually not properly staffed anyway.

Heading away from the Loop 101 & Beardsley I spotted a cop car all by itself at the far end of the lot. I had a sudden urge to ram the fucker! He was probably crooked, as I suspect most cops are, and probably deserves it. As I pulled away, I was once again thankful that I possess impulse control.

Another security guard, at Park Central. I expected that, given the proximity to the homeless and other criminal element that tends to infest the urban. This guard drove towards my car but parked in the next line of spaces. No idea if he was going to question me or not, but by the time he go out of his truck I was already leaving.

"Where'd You Go"

I've heard it said that a person cannot smell his own odor, but after a mere three days my odor was mighty inescapable.

Odd rattling coming from inside camera. Not a good sign.

A attractive but clueless young blonde parked right in front of Tatum & Shea when tho it was evident I was trying to take a photo and the store was closed. She proceeded to make a phone call, forcing me to go up to her window. She seemed hesitant to lower her window (perhaps my unkempt appearance had something to do with it), but I was persistent and she backed into another parking space and then drove off.

Despite all the problems with my particular Civic, I really wanting to keep driving it. I was dreading the prospect of the unfamiliar Accent. The Civic is just such a good car that I couldn't imagine being satisfied with a step down.

I had been making such progress running while in California that I was a bit disappointed to interrupt my regimen during my inter-contract break. But I think the rest was actually doing my right calf some good, because it had started to hurt during that last week, and it was still hurting (towards the back) every time I sprinted. And as the sun started to dip in the sky I was hustling

Shortly after 5:00 the sun finally dipped behind the mountains. 47 reshoots total in under 9 hours, plus Bell & Brookside that I needed to visit in the morning. 200 miles driven in greater Phoenix. My most ever reshot on Christmas Day. Of course that number was likely to increase with time, because the greater the degree of saturation in a city, the more stores I could visit in a day.

Not too many food choices on Christma Day, but I happened to have ended up on Scottsdale Road, where many restaurants are concentrated. A bit south of Thomas I spotted Super Burrito. They weren't kidding. It was huge!!! Exactly what I needed.

SON OF A BITCH!!! Third time in two days that I bit my lip while eating! What the heck was going on???

My Starbuck blitz over, I finally had time for a movie. We Are Marshall only got 49% on, but I'm a big Matthew Fox fan, and it was playing in just about 15 minutes in Tempe, just 5 miles away. I made it with a few minutes to spare, but first I had to deal with the repercussions of the previous-days DoubleShots I'd been downing throughout the day. The effects were dramatic--there were bubbling, gurgling, and explosive sounds. Twice I thought I had finished and had to sit back down for more. I barely made it across the hall into the auditorium in time.

From Tempe I headed out west and found a suitable side street near Van Buren and 40th, next to a school I think. I slept for a few hours, and then the caffeine kicked in and I kept driving I continued out towards Tolleson, in no particular hurry, wandered around a bit, and finally found the Starbucks sometime after 2:00 I think. While I drove I started composing another rap song, "put it in ya like a ninja". Given my prodigious rhyming talent, I sometimees had to wonder if I was not doing the world a disservince by having gone into computer programming instead of rap.

Behind the Tolleson store was a Target, and there were plenty of cars in the parking lot of the entire shopping center, enough that I felt safe parking. But for the remaining early-morning hours I kept hearing odd sounds. Some sounds were no doubt enhanced by all the caffeine in my system, and others were probably just figments of my imagination. But some of the voices were real--I'm sure of it!

December 24, 2006

Woke up at 5:23, too early, and tried to get back to sleep. Definitely drifted off, because I had some odd dreams in the next 27 minutes. When I looked at the clock again, 5:50, I had a decision to make. Getting up immediately and risking being so tired later that I couldn't even make it to Utah, or try to get more sleep and risk not finishing all the new Vegas area stores in time. I laid there for minute or two and decided to go for it.

The Starbucks wouldn't open 'til 6:00, so I used the time to rush into the Vons. Actually, I would have had to pick up groceries regardless. When drinking so many samples in so short a period, nibbling a little at a time worked best. And with its being December 24th, I had to be ware of getting caught without enough food in my stomach when Christmas Eve rolled around and everything closed.

While in the store I also had an ambitious thought, that if I could finish all the new Vegas stores, including the two open on Christmas, by 2:00, then I could make it up to utah and then all the way down to Phoenix without having to kill Christmas Day in Vegas.

Hit the first store at 6:10, trip meter at 1055 miles.


Something odd as I drove down the ramp from the parking lot to street level. My radio, tuned to 88.9, suddenly switched from Morning Editionto slower-tempo version of "Come As Your Are" by a group called The Mammals, I think, on a show called "Acoustic Cafe", KUNV. Were there two competing public radio stations sharing the same frequency in the area?






Top Pot donut, have to eat gradually.

Talking really really fast.

Went into pass-through mode, wherein my first task at each store was to find the bathroom so I could keep the coffee passing through me.


hard to focus


Besides just doing the usual in every Starbucks bathroom, I was also possessed of the need to make random noises. Part of the reason was I was high as a kite, but the other part was that a Starbucks bathroom is irresistible for vocalizing because nearly every Starbucks bathroom has perfect acoustics. Suitable for recording even. In fact, many of the albums released on Starbucks' Hear Music label were actually recorded in a Starbucks bathroom!


Hint of a headache.

Still considering heading to Denver from Utah, but the store in Glenwood Springs along I-70 reported snow since 5:30 AM--not a good sign.

At the Buffalo & Washington store is a cool display of Starbucks cards, many ones that appeared rare--in my altered state I had half a mind to grab the frame and run. Ebay, baby!!!


After 9 stores in less than 3 hours, it was time for a more intense bathroom stop, during which I experienced a bit of stinging in my urethra, which I presumed was from the stress of urinating so much. With just 8 more to go, it was time to start accumulating the samples for the drive to Utah. A venti cup would hold five, and the two or three others would be DoubleShots to give me something to drink on Christmas Day so I wouldn't suffer withdrawal.

Now that's something I don't see every day. Turning left onto Tenaya from Ann, right along suburbam neighborhood, walking along the sidewalk was a young girl on horseback.


Next store, another long pit stop--it was going to take a while to pass all that coffee yet.


The next store should have been just a few minutes away, but construction had left the roads such a mess that, without a current map, I was hopelessly loss. Once I spotted the shopping center across the freeway where the Starbucks had to be, it took me a while to figure out how to get across. Grrr...



Pollo Loco

The ant invasion of my car persisted. As much as I wanted to keep my Civic running as long as possible, the ants were getting ridiculous. I couldn't figure out where they were coming from. I was starting to suspect that I had an honest-to-goodness ness somewhere in the car!



Whew!!! 17 stores in exactly 6 hours!!!

Not only did I reach Cedar City in time, but with perfect sunset lighting. I even had time to pop into Wal-Mart and do some of the shopping I'd been putting off, like replacing my socks and briefs as I often do upon finishing a job.

When I finally reached Las Vegas (North, actually), I was exhausted. I pulled off at the first major exit, Craig, and I found a side street in an industrial area. It was about 6:30 when I tried to get sleep. I think I dozed off, because suddenly I woke with a start when I heard a loud whack, like if I had hit my head against something. Except I hadn't. No pain. It was just the caffeine messing with my mind. Once woken, I couldn't get back to sleep, and I kept hearing things. But when I opened the car door--nothing but the wind. I finally gave up and decided to start driving again.

December 23, 2006

6:39, and I could tell instantly that I had not slept nearly enough. But the sky was light, and I needed to readjust my internal clock to take advantage of that light. So I poured some motor oil into the engine (alread on empty after some 469 miles), some fake Excedrin and a multi-vitamin into my body, and got a move-on.

I felt fuzzy-headed and a little queasy as I drove towards downtown on a very curvy I-10 at around 80 MPH while calling about new store openings--that just can't be safe!

Sitting in my car outside the Katella store, I saw a man leaning against a wall, tan skinned, pudgy, bearded, all in all fairly unattractive. At the very moment I glanced at him he did this weird thing with his lips, kind of like baring his teeth and maybe licking them, like maybe trying to clean some food off or something. Strange, but I thought nothing of it. But then, as I pulled away, after checking my e-mail, I glanced at him again, wondering why he was still leaning there. Once again, the same gesture with his teeth and lips. Maybe just a coincidence, but I had to wonder if this was some kind of code, some kind of come-on. There's like a whole world of strange signals outhtere that I am not privy to.

Since I did not have time to get the new Atascadero, there was no point in making a 60-mile detour down to visit the one new store in San Diego. Another one was about to open, and probably many more over the coming months. So one extra store really wasn't going to make a difference, unless it got hit by an asteroid before I arrived.

I did make a 40-mile detour to Visa under the rationalization that, at 80 MPH, it was only 30 extra minutes. Unfortunately, there was a traffic backup on I-5 southbound, and I cursed whatever fucktards were responsible. At the same time I was greatly relieved that I was not driving northbound, because that delay seemed to extend for 5, 10, maybe even 20 miles.

Took a slight detour through Hemet (shorter in distance, actually, but slower) to have lunch with Khara at a place she picked, the Pizza Factory.

Rollin', rollin', rollin' took on a whole new meaning in Victorville when I started to back up my car to another parking space to clear the shot for a photo but then changed my mind about the angle when an SUV pulled into the adjacent space. I forgot to reset the parking break, and as I started to frame my shot I heard honking and shouting and saw my car rolling backward.

I pushed on into Nevada, and to my dismay traffic slowed to a crawl a few miles across the border. It was 9:00 PM, and I though it ridiculous for a 6-lane highway (3 each direction) to be so backed up. I considered stopping at the next exit, in Jean, but, go figure, just when I reached it speeds picked up. I was able to make it all the way to the newest store in Henderson, but that was it. I went ahead and drove to the next store and found it in the parking lot with a 24-hour Vons where I was able to stay the night. Sleep came more easily, but a headache persisted thru the night.

December 22, 2006

In the words of Morpheus, "Here we go."

Well, not quite yet. I wrapped up at work and pulled away from the parking lot right around 12:05. A few minutes later I entered the freeway with eager anticipation of finally opening that fianl, long-awaited bottle of Tradewinds tea. But then I noticed my Belkin Tunecast sitting on the seat, sans, batteries, and I immediately realized I had left those batteries, plus my camera batteries, back at the ofice charging. AARRGHH! I quickly pulled off at the next exit and turned around, grateful that I had discovered my mistake when I did, and not 100 miles later.

So I left, for the second time, and finally, finally I opened that bottle of sweet, sweet Tradewinds tea that I had been saving for nearly 3 months!

14 miles later, I passed the Hacienda Exit on I-580, and traffic came to a stop. I wondered if there was every a time during the daylight hours when that stretch of freeway trough Dublin and/or Livermore was not backed up. I was pretty glad I wouldn't have to deal with Bay Area traffic anymore for a good while. At least I had that bottle of Tradewinds to soothe my nerves. Every sip was like a taste of heaven.

Traffic finally got moving again on the east side of Livermore, where the reason for the delay finally became apparent--a collison. east side of Livermore, wreck, somebody was in for a bad Christmas

I stopped at the Kansas Ave store in Modesto for a reshoot. As I returned to my car, I caught out of the corner of my eye bearded young man walking across the parking lot. He was not wearing a Starbucks uniform--maybe he was involved in whatever business was under construction in the building across from the Starbucks. I'm not sure, because I was ignoring him, but he might have motioned to me as I got in my car to pull away. I ignored him regardless--I didn't have time to answer questions.

Reached Fresno shortly before 3:30, with probably an hour of sunlit left. But it wasn't long before I started to wonder if I would make it to the second new store while the sky was light, because traffic was just crazy Eddie insane. The store was cool though, the flagship store for the Fresno area. And I had an rare repeat encounter with a customer who had met me when I rolled through Fresno with Bill in '05. Running into the same barista o manager two, three, and even four was not at all uncommon, but a customer--rare. I had a fuzzy memory of its having happened once before, but I wasn't sure. One thing that was definitely new, though was what I signed for him--a book. A paperback copy of Grisham's The Last Juror that I had just finished and decided to donate to the store. I was rather proud of myself for promoting such classic literature.

7:00 PM finally arrived, and I was able to use my mobile phone. First call was to several stores in Atascadero and Paso Robles to find out if the new store had opened. The first barista I spoke to told me it had opened and hung up before I could ask for a number--bitch! The second hung up right away when I asked if the new store had opened--what a dick!! I really worry about quality of people Starbucks is having to hire to operate so many stores. Finally the third one gave me a # and also an opening date. Unfortunately, that new store's opening meant that I would not be able to clear out California for one shining moment like I had hoped, because cutting 120 miles across the Central Valley to the coast was more a detour than I wanted to make. That time could cost me multiple stores farther east.

I finally confirmed that the Hear Music location in Santa Monica is a real store. The manager, who had met me before over in the Inland Empire, insisted over and over that her store was real, and she even confessed that she had contacted headquarters to have the store listed on the web site, but to no avail. I was at a loss to explain how something as simple as putting a company-owned store in a frickin' database could be so hard.

With its being Friday night, I managed to visit three more stores besides the new Santa Clarita one, bringing my first day total to 6, more than I had expected. This also introduced the possibility that I might finish up SoCal early enough on Saturday to make it up to Las Vegas and make enough headway on Saturday night that I could then reach the two stores in St. George and the one in Cedar City, UT by 6:00 PM Sunday night. That would cut quite a bit of time off my schedule, because Christmas Day would be dead for most new stores. But all that was contigent on getting up early Saturday, and that was contingent on being able to sleep easily Friday night despite the 24 oz of coffee.

There was a Wal-Mart in the same shopping center. It was not a 24-hour one, so I went in and confirmed with the manager that they authorized overnight parking. Turned out not to matter, because after about an hour, during which time I might have dozed off for a few seconds or minutes, I just couldn't get to sleep. I drove around a while, and then I headed back towards Baldwin Park, where I would be reshooting the store in the morning. A parking lot with a Kinko's on Asuza had plenty of cars parked

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