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.

  • our roadtrip inferno

    We saw the fire from the freeway, big, bright, smoke like a cloud factory, flames high enough that we thought it was only a fifteen minute drive away. With that in mind, we took the next turn-off, conveniently close, onto a gravel road to investigate, thinking we might get some pictures of a house on fire or a barn, our theories dying one by one as we continued to drive and the fire didn’t seem to get closer. “That’s too big to be a house.” to “Do farmers still burn fields?”

    The first turn we took turned out to be incorrect, a south road, yes, but ending in a driveway and too far west. From that vantage, though, it was possible to gauge the true size of the fire, easily a mile wide and with flames so high they were dwarfing five story trees, making them into toy-like silhouettes that didn’t look real but seemed intricately cut from black paper.

    By the time we finally found ourselves at right location, it was too late. The massive, incredible flames had burned themselves out with improbable speed while we were driving, as if a knob that controlled the rate of burn had been suddenly turned to “off”. All that was left was a dark field of sparkling coals even bigger than we figured, dotted with bonfires, poisonous smoke like a scarf of thick brambles along the ground, and a few scorched oil wells, blackened with soot but still moving. It was eerie, a certifiable vision of somebody’s hell, but not a tenth so impressive as the reason-defying wall of fire had been.

    Our guess is that we happened to witness some sort of industrial accident, an oil well maybe exploding or some kind of pressure failure. It would make sense, too, to explain how quickly the fire vanished – once the oil burned off, there would be nothing else for the fire to feed on except grass.

    yes, I have a favourite sixty belgian girls. don’t you?

    Spending this weekend in Seattle to attend the Ainsley baby shower and take some pictures of Rebecca’s baby bump. It’s going to be a great trip. Not only am I staying with some of my favourite people on the planet, there’s plans in the works for an obscenely epic Friday. If you’re in town, you should come! The rest of you, start your jealousy engines revving. I’m starting with an early dinner in Belltown, the better to attend the opening of a Kris Kuksi show at La Roc La Rue, (also featuring monochrome pop-alt darling Travis Louie), then dropping South to see the Scala Choir hit the stage at the Showbox. Oh yes. YES. Favourite tumbled upon favourite upon favourite. I’m drooooooling. Drooling like a happy kitty. Meaow purr durr.

    Also, reading that over, I am considering that my considerable lack of sleep lately has left me with temporary brain damage.

    tonight, dinner with Aiden

    On an odd whim, I’m going to a shooting range in Bellevue with Scott on Tuesday. Tuesday, of all things, is Ladies Night. “The best way to try before you buy.”

    It started as a joke, an improbable way to temper the stiff sticky stress surrounding Heart of the World, but it stuck. Never having been to a shooting range, I’ve no idea what it will be like. Guns are a gray area. Normally, rifles are fine, handguns are not, with the logic being that any object made for the express purpose of rendering damage to a human being is unconscionable, but hunting for food is completely acceptable.

    I know some of the basic heart-breaking rules. Never put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire; never put a loaded gun down without checking that the safety is on. I wonder what problems being Canadian might inspire. I suppose they’re not going to let me in with bare feet