I’m back in Saint Louis, where the railroad meets the river. I spent last night in my own bed, with my roommate and my evil cats (who have let me know that they will forgive me for going away and leaving them for so long. Eventually.)
It was an interesting trip.
The first leg was via commercial aircraft, which was fairly horrible. I have a pathological fear of bureaucracy and the whole experience of waiting in line and having to present papers and being searched for contraband is very difficult for me to endure. I have to fight off visions of being yanked out of line and put on the train to Auschwitz. This, of course, makes me exhibit the standard symptoms of nervousness, which makes me a target for intensive processing. Vicious cycle.
Fortunately, my roommate has a mutant ability to walk unscathed through the Kafkaesque labyrinth of officialdom, and her calming influence helped me immeasurably. (That and a shot of rum with a hard cider chaser at the airport bar. The bartender was so cheerful and so lovely that only being able to see her human eyes convinced me that she wasn’t an ambimorph.)
We, of course, got to the airport early, like we are supposed to, in case there were delays in being processed. There weren’t any, which meant I got to wait for a couple of hours in a no smoking area before we even got on the plane.
The plane itself was proof that the aerospace industry is controlled by aliens who do not intend for man to reach the upper stratosphere, much less the stars. Those seats are not designed for human beings, and the airplane bathrooms simply cannot be described in terrestrial terms at all.
But we did get to El Paso, TX, eventually, with approximately the same number of functioning limbs I left St. Louis, MO with. I met my sister and we had a nice visit. We toured the area and my roommate got some chances to photograph the rather spectacular landscape. It is a beautiful area–stark, unforgiving, hostile, brutal, yes, but beautiful.
We left early the next morning, and it was at that point that I found out that my roommate does not know how to drive a manual transmission automobile. It had never occurred to me to ask–that’s one of my blind spots. I learned to drive on a manual transmission and I have always preferred them (I want to be in the gear that I think is appropriate to the road, not the gear that some Detroit engineer thinks I should be in) so I tend to assume that everyone else does as well.
The initial plan was for us to share the driving going back. Clearly, such turned out not to be the case. However, even though it has been years since I did any long driving, the reflexes came back quickly and I settled into the driver’s seat with ease.
My sister’s car runs great, I opened it up on the highway and we just cruised, very smooth running, never getting hot or shimmying.
Since it was an unfamiliar car and I had no tools with me (God knows what mayhem I would have gotten up to if the TSA had permitted me to get on board an airplane with a socket set) we elected to take the Interstate the entire route.
I-25 to Albuquerque, then I-40 across the Texas panhandle and across to Oklahoma City, turnpike to the Missouri border, then I-44 across Missouri to home. Not the shortest route, but the simplest, and always under the watchful eye of the various Highway patrols. (I stay off local roads in the desert. I saw The Hills Have Eyes.)
So straight north through New Mexico, breakfast in Las Cruces, NM, lunch in Moriarty, NM, (Albuquerque, for obscure reasons, does not provide highway signage to let a traveler know where food and gas is available. I blame Walter White.) Dinner in Amarillo, TX and we stopped for the night at a lovely Best Western in Weatherford, OK.
We had a very nice breakfast provided by the motel and got back on the road. Then came the Oklahoma Turnpike (insert ominous theremin solo here.)
I have no problem paying to use a road–I think that collecting tolls is more honest than expecting everyone in an area to pay for a road, whether or not they ever drive on it. So it wasn’t the fact that it’s a toll road that bothered me. It was the fact that it was a) under construction, and b) traveled primarily by members of the Cult of Moloch who believe that dying in a fiery crash is the apotheosis of godhood.
Plus it started raining. My sister’s car, you will recall, spent most of its life to date in El Paso. It is a fine machine, but the windshield wipers had not gotten much use, and were slow to clear the windshield.
There is a lot of Oklahoma. I suspect that we, as a nation, have more Oklahoma than we actually need.
We did make it to Missouri, and I got to stop and have lunch in Springfield, MO with two out of three of my adult children, which was very nice. Then back on the highway and through the Adult Novelty Store corridor along I-44 between Ft. Leonard Wood and the University of Missouri at Rolla, (I don’t make judgments, just observations) and home before dark.
Then, of course, we had to deal with Flynt and Butch’s abandonment issues. We had left them plenty of food and water, and two boxes full of brand new clean litter, but–
We were gone! And we didn’t come home! And they had no petting! And no loving! And we were gone! Forever!
It was traumatic. At the moment they have provisionally decided that we don’t quite deserve to be summarily executed for our crimes, but there is much sulking going on.
It was a good trip, all in all. I very glad to be home, though. I am taking today off work, mostly to mentally decompress and get back into my work week headspace. I also have errands to run.
There is going to be the whole “get the title changed over and register the car in Missouri” thing to look forward , but I have some time to get that done. I’ll probably end up taking another day off for that.
As for now, I’m back in my Secret Hideout and getting re-acquainted with my manuscripts. I did a lot of thinking on the road, and a lot of talking things out with my roommate. I’m ready to write again.