It is a truth universally acknowledged that wanting for high-end retail in the wilds of Pennsylvania and New York, you are never far from a fireworks outlet. And so it was, armed with Blue Thunder rockets and a prodigious amount of roman candles, that I made my way to Ithaca, NY for the first leg of my cross-country trip.
The weather didn’t get the memo I sent about “amping up the poetry” on my drive through western Pennsylvania, but this just gave me time away from scenery-shooting — plenty to follow over the next 16 days! — to concentrate on becoming one with my ride. Day one saw a lot of firsts, actually: first gas pumping (both alone and with company, as NJ forbids us juicehead gorillas from doing it ourselves), first cruise control experimentation. That you can actually get the car to drive for you sort of I still marvel at like a kid building a science fair volcano, or discovering cheating through your calculator. Just an amazing world.
That night I met up with my brother, who offered my first taste of local culture (I think) in the form of a combination energy/alcohol drink known as Four Loko. It is named either for the number of times it makes you consider your sanity or the number of health codes — to the Loko power — violated in its production, but whatever the case it’s as close as you can get to God without actually dying. Where straight alcohol is a depressant, designed to make you hit the floor, the taurine content of Four Loko balances that sensation with one of energetic flight. They meet somewhere in the middle, where halfway through a $2.99 can you’ve reached a weird paralysis. It is the quickest and cheapest way to get drunk of which I am currently aware.
After miraculously waking up alive the next morning and exchanging some NO TEARS goodbyes with my brother, I headed off to Starbucks for a locally-sourced cup of joe. Or less Ithaca flavor — however bountiful! — than confirmation that, as promised, I’d be able to access the Internet from every Starbucks chain in the country. Success! Knowing that I’d be able to check Facebook replaced the hopelessness I’d woken up to with a boundless optimism for life and my ability to keep up with pokes.
On to Chicago, and the promise of heart-attack inducing foods!
- The Great American Highway is often so lacking in traffic that you could seriously write a whole book — one hand on the wheel, the other writing — while mowing it down. This is not advised or endorsed but, you know, it could be done.
- A lot of states look exactly the same, but our preconceptions often color the way we view them. Indiana and Ohio are pretty much visual twins as far as their Interstate(s) go, but of course Ohio is a shithole.
- There are two more truths universally acknowledged. One is that everything changes. Two is that the highways you’ve chosen to drive will always be under construction.
- One more, actually: you can’t beat Google Map’s times. Those guys should be arrested.