Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lessons Learned

About twice a year I manage to drive out to Illinois from DC. Surprisingly, every single time you learn something new. This isn't a good thing. This time I got stuck towing a 15x7 Trailer behind me. Here's some stories and/or observations:

Woke up: 5 AM (CST)

DC Experience
I headed over to the U-Haul place as soon as it opened. I'm pretty damned sure that I was the only one there that spoke English (aside from the black girl doing her nails way behind the counter who acted as a reluctant interpreter for such pressing questions as "Which size trailer hitch do I need?" ). Luckily I had a reservation, and a rudimentary grasp of Spanish, so we were on our way.
I never have towed anything larger than a small motorcycle cart with the Jeep, so driving from the U-Haul place towing a huge-ass trailer through the heart of downtown DC during the morning rush hour was sort of a baptism by fire. Hot, hot, honking, swearing fire.
We loaded up the trailer, and I got to drive back through downtown DC again. This time I headed through the 'hood - Bad move. Up on Georgia I could hear kids trying to get into the trailer while I was at a stop light. I knew that the $25.00 U-Haul lock was a good idea.
Like an idiot, I showered before loading up the trailer. I was soaked through with sweat from loading a metric ass-load of crap in 90+ degree weather, so I grabbed a quick rinse-off and a change of clothes before heading out.

Left DC: 11:15 AM (CST) Tuesday

Trailer + Mountains = Bad (Bad + Rain = Worse)
Holy Shit, I must have made this trip a dozen times, but I was white-knucklin' it through this whole leg of the trip. No, not that Ed.
I did learn the importance of shifting while driving automatic. Shift it from drive into "12"* gear for ascending steep inclines and kick it to neutral for the downhill. Repeat endlessly. Pounding outbreaks of rain make it all the more sporting.

Wood Chucks
There are a shitload of groundhogs up in Pennsylvania and Ohio - Those little bastards were everywhere. I'm just sayin', is all...

Reign of Rain
In Western Ohio I was treated to weather phenomenon that is normally reserved exclusively for Jan de Bont films or biblical epics. It was actually really fucking cool, but...
Sometime in the afternoon I was heading along and then all I could see in front of me was a wall of black punctuated by lightning bursts. Pretty fucking scary. I headed into it, and immediately regretted doing so. It was midnight-dark, sideways firehose rain kept trying to push over the trailer, I couldn't see 10 feet in front of the windshield, an blinding lightning was crashing down on all sides of me. I slowed down to 35MPH turned on my hazard lights, ,and hunkered down behind the Semi in front of me - It was fine. This lasted for about 10 miles, and then... bright sunshine, weird.

Indiana at Night
You know what? I always pick on Indiana, but this time I actually enjoyed that leg of the trip. Well, except for the omnipresent "Indiana burning plastic" smell, which would freak out anyone who had been towing a packed 3000lb trailer for the last 10 hours straight.
By the time I got to the Ohio/Indiana border it was already dark out. I had been going for so long that I was starting to see tracers, but I figured that if I could get through the Indiana and Illinois construction fiascoes without traffic, it would be worth it.
Driving through Indiana in the dark was actually an unexpected treat. It's a lot like being in junior high, getting drunk on Boone's Farm Pina-Colada "wine", and porking the one really ugly girl in your class with the lights off. You know full-well what's going on, you're kinda queezy, but it really ain't so bad, and (plus) you're making great time.
My favorite part of driving through Indiana after dark was flying through all of the mind-bogglingly-stupid construction projects. "Let's take 3 lanes down to 1 on a bridge right after a sharp turn - What could go wrong?" I was freakin' giddy that I missed that crap.
Indiana should just give the fuck up and accept it's place as the Arkansas of the North. Fixing roads? Who the hell do they think they're fooling. Just change the state slogan to: "Indiana - This Is As Good As We're Gonna Get", and go back to watching the WWE in the state's collective double-wide. Everybody's happy.

Jesse White - Conceptual artist
I finally escaped Indiana only to be greeted back to my home state by approximately ten thousand orange and white striped barrels everyfuckingwhere.
My theory is that some asshole bought (IL Secretary of State) Jesse White a Marcel Duchamp coffee-table book for his birthday, and now he considers himself a surrealist installation artist. I missed the press conference where he stated "This piece is called 30 miles of highway with endless barrels over the one good lane that isn't riddled with potholes".
What the fuck? There's one good lane on all of the IL 80/94 stretch and it's covered in motherfucking construction cones. Are they saving that pristine lane for if the Pope visits?
I finally got through all of that shit and then was greeted by Secretary White's "deconstructionist period" once I hit I-88 - It's like he just had to top the Minnesota 'Dadaist Bridge' installation piece.

Crazy bouncing action is awesome for mexed-out vintage low-riders, not so much for 1999 Jeep Cherokees towing a 3000LB trailer. For some fucking unknown reason the Reciprocating action between truck and trailer kept making my Jeep bounce like a motherfucker . This phenomena kept happening throughout the trip, but really intensified up on 88. At that point I was queezy already from eating nothing but 1 bag of Nacho-Cheeze Combos and a handful of pep-pills over the last 24 hour period. The last thing I needed was the bouncy. I tried to stop the bouncing by (alternately) coasting, braking, and accelerating. That really did little to stop the bouncing, but really did a great job of looking like I was moving drunk. The only thing that stopped the bouncing cold was if I hit a pothole or a risen crack in the asphalt - Luckily, I was driving down I-88.

I had traveled 740 fucking miles and 10 miles from my destination I almost got wiped by some drunk asshole in a pickup. I've seen a lot of drunken driving in my day, but this takes the fucking cake - This sort of drunken driving is usually reserved for silent-film serials and DMV "awareness" videos. Jerkass was driving down the center of 56 at 30 miles an hour and swerving to the edges of both lanes all the way between 88 and 47. I finally saw a window and jetted past as fast as I possible could. Drinky pickup guy got spooked, went off the road, corrected and almost came back right into the trailer. He missed the back by less than a foot.

Arrive at Parents' House: 1:15AM (CST) Wednesday

I love WMA CDs. I threw together about 5 WMA CDs with different albums on 'em for the trip. I used one of 'em. That's right - one CD lasted me from just north of DC to Naperville. 13.5 hours straight.
I started the DC leg with the Summer WILT.
Just after leaving the DC region I threw on the roots/country mix I made, because country is the ultimate road music. I'm really picky about "country music". I love the old stuff, and I like the alt-country stuff, but almost everything that has come out of Nashville since 1962 is total shit.
Here's the mix:
Patsy Cline: "12 Greatest Hits" & "The Patsy Cline Story"
Drag the River: a B-Sides comp I threw together
Greg Graffin: "Cold as the Clay"
Chad Rex and the Victorstands: "Gravity Works, Fire Burns"
Son Volt: "Trace"
Stanley Brothers: "Complete Columbia Recordings"
Uncle Tupelo: "89-93 - An Analogy"
Whiskeytown: "Pneumonia" & "Stranger's Almanac"
Wilco: "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"
Willie Nelson: "The Essential Willie Nelson - Parts 1 & 2"
Great fucking driving music.
At Naperville (when Patsy came back on), I threw on the second Comp and listened to (most) of the new Against Me! album.

Breakdown of Trip (By People Passed)
People I Passed:
- An elderly Asian lady driving a Cadillac
- 3 or 4 tractor-trailers going up mountain**
- A mini-van with a half dozen bikes piled up and haphazardly strapped to the roof
- 3 Hispanic guys in a smoking*** Malibu
- Drunk-Ass

People who passed me:
- Everyone else (including a fucking cement mixer)

* Wow, This thing has 12 gears? I'm assuming that it stands for 1st and 2nd, but having 12 gears would be so much sweeter
**Later passed by same trucks going down mountain
*** Literally. Smoke was pouring out from under the hood. They just kept booking along at 45 MPH


KT said...

'Taint nuthin wrong with Indiana--nuthin a little napalm can't fix. But seriously, I'm a (reluctant) Hoosier now, so I felt I must defend my state. :)

Chris B. said...

Yeah, I kept hearing Dueling Banjos in my head during the Indiana part of the post.

I have a theory on these guys: *** Literally. Smoke was pouring out from under the hood. They just kept booking along at 45 MPH

They probably needed a few minutes to build up more piss to put in the radiator. Were they drinking anything?

p.s. - We'll be near New Glarus tomorrow morning (Friday). If you think you'll really stop, perhaps we could coordinate a visit. It's easier to move shit with a beer buzz.

edP said...

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is an awesome record. Have you seen I Am Trying to Break Your Heart yet?