Sunday, March 29, 2009

Road Trip!

Well, this week I survived the cross-country trip with the family to visit the folks. Yes, both kids survived as well, and surprisingly I didn’t say “Don’t make me come back there” even once. All-in-all it was a pretty enjoyable trip. The kids got to see my old people, and I had the opportunity to sneak out and catch-up with some old friends. When we left we were ready to be home but still sad to leave, which (at least in my mind) is the perfect gauge of how a trip went. I mean, at least people weren’t chasing us out of town with torches and pitchforks, and we weren’t trying to tunnel out through the sump-pump under cover of night. So I thought that I’d run some of the vital statistics of the trip. So here we are:

Number of miles traveled: Just about exactly 2000 miles we put on the family truckster.

Gallons of gasoline consumed: ~95 gallons got us from here to there and back again.

Pounds of pre-historic plants and animals it took to create that gasoline: 18,620,000 pounds, or about the same amount of organic matter that would be found in a 100 acre wheat field.

Pounds of carbon dioxide that we pumped into the atmosphere: 1881 pounds.

Wildlife seen: If you leave out our visit to the Chicago Shedd Aquarium we saw pretty much the expected Midwestern laundry list of creatures (with one notable exception, and I’ll get to that in a second): whitetail deer, pheasants, turkeys, hobos, etc. The notable exception was that we somehow managed to time our trip such that we drove through the annual north-south migration of the sandhill crane. At first I noticed a couple of birds in the fields along I-80 in the middle of Nebraska, but then they swarmed in the hundreds of thousands in the air and on the ground. The extent of the migration was impressive to say the least. We must have seen millions of birds spread over at least 110 miles of that horrible state. You can check their progress here. As a side note, this is the second avian mass migration that I have been lucky enough to witness this year. In the fall hundreds of thousands of red-wing blackbirds flew directly over my house on their annual trip to warmer climes. That was amazing, but nowhere near the scope of the crane migration.

Notable road kill: Although we didn’t squash any wildlife other than insects along the way we did see hundreds of unfortunate little guys strewn about the highway. Most of them were of the hum-drum variety that appear to be sleeping along the side of the road, but there was one over-achieving piece of carnage that stood out from the rest. I came across it in the wee hours of the morning as we were entering Nebraska on our return trip. As I said, most road kill just appear to be bloated and resting on the side of the road like John Belushi after a week-long bender. However, this mess was not even recognizable as animal matter anymore. In fact I am only assuming that it was an animal (or a group of animals) although it could have just as likely been the scene of an accident between a tomato soup tanker and a fur-coat delivery truck. I mean, the fact that I nearly hydroplaned for a ¼ mile should give you some idea of the mess.

Strangest cargo: I like to drive at oh-dark-thirty when it’s just me and the 18-wheelers on the road. That way I don’t have to stare at cornfields all day and the kids can get some sleep. If I leave out the dozen or so milk tankers that I saw, which I think is both gross and weird there was one strange bit of cargo that stood out. On the return trip through Iowa I passed a flatbed trailer that’s sole contents was a single red tricycle, tassels and all. On the back of the truck was stenciled “Daddy’s Little Nightmare.” Needless to say, that’s a bit strange when you’re trying to fight sleep at four in the morning. Wonder if it was the new DoD experimental anti-aircraft trike that I’ve been hearing so much about.

Best political sign: Saw this one in DeKalb, Illinois – “Elect Jay Walker for County Transportation Commissioner.” I couldn’t even make that one up if I wanted to.

Best purchase: A Belkin power inverter for $30 from Newegg. Easily ran any of the myriad electronic devices that kept the kids and the wife quiet for the journey.

Musical selections: I believe the type of music that you select for a long trip sets the mood for how well or how shitty things are going to turn out for you in the long run. And music is the one thing besides booze that has the power to keep me sane. So here is a list of artists that found their way onto Daniel P.’s media player for the trek across the Midwest (alphabetical by artist)- Bill Monroe, Borris Karloff (The Grinch for the kids), Bruce Hornsby, Buddy Holly, David Allan Coe, Doc Watson, Dwight Yokam, Earl Scruggs, Evanescence (A bit dated, but still good), George Strait, Hank Williams, Jr., Interpol, Jack’s Mannequin, John Mayer (Say what you want, but the guy can shred that guitar), Johnny Cash, Junior Walker, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Kings of Leon (Their new album “Only by the Night” is a furious drum assault punctuated by the addicting song “Sex is on Fire”. A brilliant track.), Los Lobos, Marvin Gaye, My Morning Jacket, Pearl Jam, Ray Charles, Seu George, Shawn Colvin, Silversun Pickups, Sonic Youth, Spinal Tap, Steve Miller, Stevie Wonder, The Animals, The Beatles (George saved the trip with “Here Comes the Sun”), The Fixx, The Kinks, The Velvet Underground, The Who (An absolute necessity for any long road trip…or any road trip in general), Tim McGraw, Waylon Jennings, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Yonder Mountain String Band, plus a couple of Motown compilation albums. A little top heavy with the country greats, I know, but it seemed (and in fact was) fitting for a trip into America’s heartland.

Two additional notes that I would like to share:

First, I just want to say that if you drive a Crown Victoria, Caprice Classic, Dodge Charger, or New Chevy Impala that is either white, black or navy blue and you are not a police officer, then you are a complete douche hole. If you are in fact a police officer then it goes without saying. I mean, how in the wild, wild world of sports am I supposed to make any time on the road if I have to keep slowing down to the speed limit whenever I see your stupid fekking vehicle? It’s not funny. Your poor vehicle selection causes traffic issues and is the primary reason my middle finger is so sore right now. Trade the thing in so I can set my cruise control at mach 2 will ya?!? Geeeezus!

Second, Nebraska sucks. The state is 500 miles long for fek’s sake! I mean, if it wasn’t for you bastards that eat beef for every meal of the day then I’m pretty sure that we could just excise that state like a cancerous mole from the ass of the United States without even knowing it was gone. Alternate suggestions would be to pave the whole thing so you could at least get some sleep while you’re driving through it, turn it into a national toxic waste/ nuclear waste dump and landfill, or create a magic carpet similar to a moving walkway that you can just park your car on that moves at 200 mph so you can get through that time-sucking hell hole as fast as possible. And I don’t know what these people that complain about the U.S. being overpopulated are talking about. I was trapped in Nebraska for 1000 miles and about 14 hours and I saw maybe six houses. Plenty of room if you ask me.

There you have it. The Daniel P. Daniel family trip in a nutshell. We all had a good time, and for those of you that were part of it we miss you already.


Anonymous said...

gee, no comments about working your ass off, when you are suppose to be glad i could spend time with you.i see that jay walker sign all the time and think i should send it to leno.well had a great time now its our turn to be sick,thanks. love ya jewels

Nancy said...

It was wonderful to see you guys!! With our own road trip comming up, I am going to look into that power inverter...sounds like a must. I am definately going to have to update the I-pod too. I'll have to update you when we get back with some of our own observations.

TJ said...

A good account, Dan. That much country music combined with the breathtaking Nebraska scenery would probably have depressed me enough to make me drive my car into a telephone pole, but I'm glad you go there and back safely.

I couldn't help but wonder about the death trike. I'll have to ponder that one for a bit.