Lacking an internet connection most of the rest of the way, I’ll just highlight excerpts of Days 4-7 on our wondrous Truck ride through the American south up to NYC.
Day 4: OK City to Memphis, TN
Billboards advertising God. It makes one pause to contemplate why an everlasting all-powerful omniscient Creator would require billboards notifying interstate drivers of His existence. Apparently God also has hotlines, as well as graffiti, working in His name. I haven’t investigated this yet, but I have a suspicion that He may have set Himself up with a MySpace page as well by now.
We just missed a storm (by minutes) in Arkansas apparently, as we passed by recently flooded fields, a minivan stuck in the mud in the grassy median, and a semi rolled onto its side down an embankment.
I was tuckered out on this day, and Vincent, the little green one (aka ‘chicken’, ‘worm’, ‘penguin’, ‘pigeon’, ‘duckling’, ‘dinosaur’, ‘gargoyle’, ‘turd burglar’, amongst many others, all with the interchangeable preface of ‘baby’ and/or ‘little’) was also looking a bit beat, so we stopped in Memphis for the night, one of the first real cities we’d seen since. . . well, since San Diego, and I don’t even know if you can call San Diego much of a city, for that matter. Phoenix, similarly, is a sprawled tesselation of suburbs in the middle of nowhere in the desert, dotted with retirement communities that are like Disneyland for the old and complacent. OK City isn’t much of anything to look at—in fact, I tried not to look at it at all. Memphis is set on the banks of the Mississippi, and one can tell immediately you’re in what has been a booming port town for ages. We stayed in a hotel which we found through it’s coupon which advertised it’s pet-friendly policies and high speed internet. A sign was posted in the lobby stating “no pets”, so we smuggled in the parrot surreptitiously, and no internet in the nearby airwaves was to be found.
Day 5: Memphis, TN to Abingdon, VA
Vincent seemed to be adjusting to the truck ride. He stayed fairly quiet all day, closing his eyes as he rocked in the sway of the highway through the corridors of trees just awakening into bud. We’ve been waking up at 6 am (local time) on the dot each day on our trip, so we’ve adjusted ourselves to the time changes we’ve been undergoing along the way as we fight against ebbing time.
As we drive along rolling green fields and trees and winding rivers, I envision the Civil War, which is furthered by all the museums and battlefields commemorating it along the way.
We’ve been eating mostly Subway and other assorted types of junk on our trip, and I can feel my ass losing its firm mold and spreading outwards across the seat like jelly as the journey progresses. For our dinner in Abingdon, we ate sandwiches which consisted mostly of mayonnaise and cheese. Our cheap motel smelled like a mixture of cigarettes, semen, perfume, and scented spray sprayed to in a hopeless attempt to mask the other smells. We had to listen to the forced bovine moans of a not-so-classy couple next door through a separating door between our rooms which was nailed closed with a strip of siding, as it rained bucketloads and we worried about our stuff inside the truck and wondered if the truck was waterproof. On a side note, all of the cheap hotels we’ve stayed at between New Mexico to Virginia have been operated by what appears to be Bangladeshi or Pakistani folk. I comment on this because it’s strange when you arrive in what seems to be a rural town set out in the Appalachian hills, and the motel is run by an Indian family.
Day 6: Abingdon, VA to Waynesboro, VA
This day was a truncated day, because we were stopping to stay with my girlfriend’s friend in Waynesboro. So we slept in for the first time and then wended our way through the hills there, and spent the best night of our trip there drinking wine, beer, and whiskey, and eating a homecooked meal and telling stories. Vincent also seemed very happy to be there, and gorged himself ravenously on seed, clucking happily and preening himself with delight at his own beauty. He was very upset in the morning when we had to leave, even though we reassured him that this was to be our last and final day.
Day 7: Waynesboro, VA to NYC
A week on the road with an Amazon parrot in a 10 foot Budget truck is exhausting. We were extremely, extremely thrilled to have this be our last day. The roads through Pennsylvania and New Jersey are terrible. I thought the wheels of the truck were going to fly off. Vincent had started off the day very upset, screeching in unhappiness, but by the end of the day when he had settled down, he was even singing and talking, as if he knew the trip was almost over for him.
As we crossed over the George Washington Bridge on a Monday afternoon, and the city loomed across the river, I felt exhilarated and also just plain tired. New York City once had a glimmer of ‘bright lights big city’ to me when I was younger, but right now it’s just another city, another place to live and struggle in.
We unloaded most of our stuff, once again, into long-term storage, not knowing when my drums, books, and hookah will ever see the light of day. It’s been 5-months since we’ve been living out of our travel bags, and it will most likely be 5-months more. We unloaded the parrot and got him situated in his new temporary home, and he began straightaway cracking open seeds, a new travel-experienced bird.
In NYC, you can’t park a commercial truck on the city streets overnight. So we had to turn in our truck. The place we were returning the truck to was down on 35th and 10th, and we are on the very northern tip of Manhattan, so it wasn’t a journey we were looking forward to, especially in rush hour traffic. So we drove all the way down there, since on-line it said the place was open til 11. It was a crazy journey, akin to driving in Colombia, rocketing over deep sewer covers and cutting around taxis in a truck.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way on our road trip, I’d lost the contract papers for the truck. I figured that it wasn’t a big deal, since we’re on the computer. Problem is, we got down there, and the only guy there was a security guard, and without the papers, he wouldn’t take the truck, and the office was closed so no one could look up the information. Panic began to set in as we realized that we had nowhere to park this truck, we had just filled it up with gas to return the tank full, and we didn’t want to drive it all the way back to NJ to park it at my girlfriend’s aunt’s house. We called Budget and negotiated another drop-off location, this one way over up on the east-side. Evening was beginning to descend. All we wanted to do was shower, eat, and go to sleep. But the trip was still not over.
Afterwards, I discovered that I actually kind of enjoyed getting a little scenic tour of the Manhattan streets in a Budget truck, discovering first-hand the craziness of New York drivers, and gunning the truck through narrow passages where I wasn’t even sure if I would scrape or not, but didn’t care anymore one way or the other. I figured that if someone hit me, then that was their problem. The New York City streets are ridiculous. Just like in Colombia, lanes don’t really seem to signify much, at least not to taxi drivers. Also, there’s no ‘green arrow’ when you’re trying to turn here. Good luck. But all said and done, it was like Toad’s Wild Ride through Manhattan. Since I wasn’t driving my own car, I happily gunned the engine and bounced over the deep depressions in the street at full speed, no longer concerned about whether the wheels fell off or not, and no longer burdened by a sensitive and terrified parrot.
We filled up the gas, again, and finally dropped off the damn truck, once and for all, after having put over 3,000 miles on her in the course of a week, and pumped probably over 800 dollars worth of gasoline into her belly. Fittingly, the guy who checked our truck in was Colombian. It seemed fitting because in a way, Colombia was the first step on the journey that led us to NYC. And after all that crazy Colombian-like traffic, it was the final book-end that closed that chapter on the road-trip. We then took a ‘gypsy cab’ back.
So here I am, at my place of destination, a bit frazzled and fattened but otherwise OK, with my stuff intact and my bird sitting contentedly out of reach of the crazy old dog that resides here. The job hunt now begins in earnest, and my new life here unfolds.