the 24 hour road trip: wherein things take a turn for the stephen king

  • On March 3, 2014, Kickstarter passed $1 billion in pledges.

    Thankfully there was an exit near with a visible gas station, so I limped the car into their parking lot, examined the shocking damage, and began to text people. “Can you send me the address of a tire shop?” It wasn’t repairable. A significant chunk of the tire had come off like something huge and vicious had taken a bite out of the black rubber. There were practically teeth marks. It smoked.

    A truck pulled into the gas station while I was pulling the spare out of the trunk, the sort of pick-up that farm types drive, all roll bars and massive, with a big front winch. Two large men got out who matched the truck. “Ah! People with real tools,” I thought. I was right. I asked if they had anything that could help and they offered me pneumatic tools to remove the bolts, then helped yank the broken wheel off and put the spare on. I hugged one of them in awkward thank you, then asked where I should go next to get a real tire.

    Both the people I texted came through with an address for a tire shop and the direction the good old boys pointed me in seemed to match the direction I was meant to go, so I set off into the wet, soggy landscape, following the GPS as it mysteriously led me west.

    This was a mistake. I should have immediately turned around and tried again. The buildings dropped away, leaving me driving through progressively emptier territory. I didn’t worry, I was sure the GPS would tell me to turn left soon. I had been making good time, traffic had been light, and good people and adventures were waiting for me in Seattle.

    Then I realized that I hadn’t seen any sign of civilization since the fruit-stand I passed ten minutes ago. Where did the other cars go? Why hasn’t the GPS told me to turn? The satellites should know better than I do, but stories of people who turned down train tracks following their GPS directions started coming to mind. I double and triple checked the address and input it again. I started texting people, casting for assurance and telling them where I was.

    “That’s not right,” came the replies, “You’re going entirely the wrong way.” Well damn. But precisely as those messages came in, the GPS instructed me to turn. Relief! But right? Not left? Well fine, North. Not the way I wanted to be going, but at least it was a better direction. Perhaps this would turn out to be the only back-road that traveled alongside the I5 for as far as I needed to go. (Perhaps, given enough time, I could construct any number of reasons why I should trust the on-board computer, yet still be wrong.)

    My friends tried to shepherd me, but it was too late – I had already entered the Twilight Zone. The GPS instructions led to me a copse of trees the size of a city block and took me in a circle around it. I was about to ditch when I noticed a small track leading into the trees. Barely a road, but it seemed that was the turn I had missed that the computer was taking me around for. On the off chance that there was an unlikely old tire shop in the middle of the woods, I turned down the track. I might as well! I had already come this far. Why take off before getting to the bottom of the mystery?

    I decided this was ill-advised as soon as the car was enclosed by the trees. There was no way to turn around, branches were gently brushing both sides of the car, and if it wasn’t someone’s driveway that I was now stupidly creeping up, I would have to suck it up and back out. I would probably, mercy forbid, even have to endure the awkward experience of accepting directions through text message. A couple of minutes later, though, and the trees opened up into a clearing with a building in the middle.

    When I say it was a building, really what I should say is that in the middle of the clearing was a massive clapboard barn with white flaking paint that had been converted into a church topped with a sharp metal cross. I stopped the car dead as soon as I saw it. Then the GPS intoned YOU HAVE NOW REACHED YOUR DESTINATION. I blinked. How.. ominous. What the hell, GPS? You trying to get me killed? That church felt like the creepiest possible thing I could have found. Or so I thought until a hawk suddenly ducked out of the sky and scooped a rabbit out of the grass in front of me in a spray of blood!

    For the record, I am not a superstitious person in absolutely any way. But I am a writer. I know my tropes. As far as I was concerned, that hawk was the last straw. I’ve seen that movie and I know how it ends. It does not go well, especially for girls, and especially, especially not for city girls with ridiculous hair.

    So no, I did not go up to the church and ask for directions and risk being kidnapped into an 80’s horror novel. The entire world was telling me to fuck that noise, so that’s precisely what I did. I noped right out of there, went to the fruit-stand and had them write me new directions down on a tourist map of the area like a reasonable person. I followed that, got to the tire place, had the tire replaced, turned my music up loud, then drove straight to Ballard, two hours late yet weirdly relieved.

  • the 24 hour road-trip: the way it began

  • Rent the St Pancras Clock Tower Guest Suite on AirBnB.

    The invitation to Seattle arrived while I was in the middle of helping put together a six person dinner. “The onesie-themed birthday bar crawl rides again tomorrow!” It was already 9 o’clock at night. The chicken had been cooked, people had food on their plates. Wine was being poured, conversation crackled through the room, but I knew I had to start planning. I deeply regretted missing it last year, so how could I resist? I had less than 24 hours, but Seattle isn’t that far, not really. It takes as long to drive as a good film. Ah, but only if you’re driving. The bus schedules are another matter and I had unshakable plans for Sunday afternoon. A volunteer shift, a piano lesson. And I had no car.

    So I sent out feelers; I posted to Facebook, I messaged some friends. I worked to the soundtrack of verbal jousting, of new people crookedly thrown into a room together. I twanged the strings of the web while the dinner party continued until late became early until around 4 o’clock in the morning, my efforts delivered. I had a borrow car. I could drive to Seattle and come back the next day. It was just as much success as I needed, no more, no less. So I went. I took a quick nap on Claire’s couch, then I collected the car, popped home for overnight sundries, and left.

    The right rear tire exploded somewhere just past Mt. Vernon. The weather had been inclement, rain and sleet and dry flakes of snow that swirled above the highway like a mystical fog, so I had been extra careful of the road. No matter, there was a bang and the car jumped, sliding a little like it had been pushed by a giant hand of strong wind. The white car behind me flashed their lights as I slowed, looking for a safe place to pull over, then came up beside me and rolled their window down to shout at me at 70 miles an hour. I looked over at the driver as we rolled out windows down. “You’re in my way!” I thought, “I need that lane to pull over!” But I turned off my music to hear him better over the wind of our transit anyway. “Your back tire blew!” he shouted. “Thank you!” I shouted back, equal parts glad that he took the effort and amused that he was blocking my only path to safety.

    Thankfully there was an exit near with a visible gas station, so I limped the car into their parking lot, examined the shocking damage, and began to text people. “Can you send me the address of a tire shop?” It wasn’t repairable. A significant chunk of the tire had come off like something huge and vicious had taken a bite out of the black rubber. There were practically teeth marks. It smoked.

  • cleaning and driving lessons, satisfaction and fear

    A user’s guide to websites, part 1: If it wasn’t broken why fix it?

    Last day in Seattle, I’m using it up the best I can, tidying the chaos, taking on the bedroom, battling the entropy Tony’s apartment seems to have developed in my absence. (This entire trip has been well spent: conquering the post-burning man disaster, finally introducing Tony to Jake Appelbaum, running into Rafael, bringing a successful dinner to newly-pregnant Becca…) It comforts me, seeing how much of my influence is still embedded here, even as I’ve been feeling shut out, trapped in Canada, by sickness, injuries and finances.

    So far I’ve unearthed six full loads of laundry, a number of books we’ve been meaning to read, two previously buried suitcases, two large boxes of miscellany, a full length mirror, a bed canopy, and the floor. Also, I must admit, a significant amount of housewifely satisfaction. There’s a possibility that he may not notice how much effort I put into improving his surroundings, but it brings me comfort anyway, just to be able to give back.

    I also signed up for driving lessons with Young Drivers of Canada today. My mother’s ex, Pat, offered a few months ago to pay for driving lessons, and now that I’m on the dole, I can afford to take the time to follow through. My first class is on Wednesday, October 13th, somewhere out by Metrotown, and continue for a total of eight classes, Monday and Wednesday evenings, until November 8th. I’m vaguely terrified, given that cars are big, speedy, heavy death machines, but on the other hand, if that idiot down the street who catcalls me at the bus-stop can learn to drive, so can I.

    beat me to it because I forget

    I tried to dye my hair bright pink today. It didn’t take, something deep in my physiology rejecting such a painfully vivid colour, but it’s coated my hands adequately as proof of after the fact. Otherwise, there would be no sign. I suspect it’s the first time I’ve ever attempted to paint myself something so.. cheerful. Here’s hoping that it didn’t take because my body’s learned how to reject falsities.

    Ms. Kelly Foxton does very unusual things with her pet squirrel. Her website is mostly photo galleries. When I link to this sort of thing, can you believe I forgot the day before yesterday to link to the incest baby-death news story here? (similar somehow to the ‘only in the land of the free’ man charged for shocking his 8 year old daughter with electric coller.)

    It’s like I’m slipping.

    Another nice bit of news, a mysterious ‘half-animal, half-plant’ marine microbe was discovered by Japanese researchers.

    Today I had my first time on a scooter and my first time driving one. It was terrifyingly easy. I’ve decided that I need to drop by ICBC and find myself one of those horrid little books on The Rules Of Our Roads so that when I play with such things, it’s legal. oh canada, we stand on guard for thee. My papers from the government should have arrived by now, the ones confirming my english citizenship, so I don’t think that I can stand to trust the office that said they would mail me one. Instead, this might become this weeks miniature crusade for meaning. Seems likely I need one.

    no it’s not batman forever

    three legged boy
    Originally uploaded by Foxtongue.

    Tonight has been set aside for cinema. Dominique is visiting with a copy of Alphaville to watch before the midnight showing of Corpse Bride at the Van East. As ATIC has announced they do indeed have my power supply in today, today seems to be shaping itself into a day far more pleasant than yesterday. (Excepting you people in Houston, though hurricane Rita has just been marked down from a Cat5 into a Cat4, I still recco hauling ass out of there. In fact, escape the states entirely, I can put you up for a week or two depending on how well you cook. More permanent settling in will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis, and those who bring glitter, chocolate, and pretty dresses will get first dibs.)

    Tyler‘s birthday was pleasant, (minus the being egged on the way and the drink knocked directly into my lap), as the company was splendid. We had a chance to talk about something that had been misunderstood a few months ago that had been bothering him, which is always positive, and I was reprimanded by the staff for being up on the tables, which is also usually a good sign. My real moment of excitement, however, was earlier.

    My very first driving lesson in a four wheeled vehicle. Ray drove Ryan and I out to the airport and let me slide behind the wheel of his Element box. It was a tiny bit terrifying, that distinct feeling of being on the wrong side of the car. What we were doing was vaguely illegal, I don’t have a learners license yet, but as I didn’t hit anything or anyone, and didn’t flub the clutch thing half as often as I thought I would, I’m willing to say that it was a success. The cyclist even managed to get away safely.