it’s not that bad, pt. 2

I completely forgot there was a new Muse album. It was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday

For obvious reasons, it was extremely slow going Saturday morning. For a chunk of it, we watched Bill and Karen’s kid play and closely scrutinized children’s songs and the videos accompanying them. Eventually, we felt up for the task and Bill, Brandon and I got ready for our day out. It was the day of the Kansas-Kansas State game, and we couldn’t get tickets. It was cold, so I’m a little glad we didn’t. 

We took an Uber into Aggieville. I deleted my Uber back when it was fashionable, so I would have gotten a Lyft. But, if I was in charge of hailing a ride, we would have missed out on our delightful driver. A native Texan, she immediately told us not to be alarmed because she needed to take her knife out of her boot because it was uncomfortable. She then went on to regale us of her verbally abusive childhood. But, seriously, she was a hoot.

Our first stop was Kite’s Bar and Grill. It was crowded, as was every other place in Aggieville, so we spent the entire duration of the football game standing or leaning against the bar. I had nothing but water, for obvious reasons, and some of the surprisingly delicious nachos they served.

The most disappointing thing about this entire trip was that I didn’t really experience a lot of local food. I was warned that this would happen.

After a football’s game worth of water, I recovered enough to head to Keltic Star Public House, where the hair of the dog, a lamb slider and rebel drumsticks rejuvenated me. From there, we called Karen to pick us up and went to So Long Saloon to some more drinks and its chipotle raspberry and black bean dip. Bill and Karen did not tell us there were raspberries in it before we tried it because it sounded a tad odd. I would have tried it anyway, though. (It was spectacular, by the way.)

Back at Bill’s house, we analyzed the absurdity of children’s programming once more before I drove us back into Aggieville and we headed to The Varsity Truck.

I keep forgetting to do Alt Text. Butts.
One of its slogans is “The Varsity Truck for some late night back alley fun!” Oh, college towns.

The Varsity Truck is the back half of Varsity Donuts. Legend has it that the historic building housing the doughnut shop lacked a kitchen and the shopkeepers were not allowed to install one. The solution was to permanently park a food truck in the alley to cook.

As this is a college town, drunk students were lured into the alley by the smell of doughnuts cooking in the moonlight and began asking for food. This led to the truck becoming a late-night food spot. Its wares include corn dogs (I love corn dogs, so of course I got one) and grilled macaroni and cheese sandwiches. (I love the occasional gross, fattening food, so of course I got one.) We ate them in the alley as The Walking Dead played on mute and a grossly inappropriate song — I think it was Andy Gibb’s An Everlasting Love — played.

We ended the night with ranting at Tiny House Hunters, which might be my new thing, and the house was asleep by 11:30. Because we’re in our 30s, and multiple days of rallying all night long are out of the question.

Sunday

After waking up at about 8 a.m. and subjecting ourselves to more children’s programming, Brandon and I decided against breaking our ride back into two parts (I initially planned to stop somewhere in Kentucky). When then dedicated the day to Karen. She’s been as much as a integral part of our college experience as Bill. And before Bill and Karen were dating, our road trips began to include her (which led to me realizing Bill liked Karen before Bill knew he liked Karen).

Karen gave us a driving tour of the city that included all of the places that weren’t Aggieville. Although we went to Aggieville. I needed to get a magnet for Renée, and I also got a key chain. Because why not?

As the tour began winding up, Karen mentioned that there was a winery. So we went.

I didn’t take a lot of photos, and this was the only one I enjoyed.

The winery was called Liquid Art. We each did a flight and briefly sat outside. It took a while for us to figure out the fire pit, and then the wind picked up.

Back inside, I decided that the winery’s boldest, reddest wine was pretty good. But I decided against buying a bottle.  On the way to Kansas, we brought in Virginia beer and cider and Kentucky bourbon. There was a brief mishap with the bourbon in transit from St. Louis to Manhattan, so I decided against carrying any other quantity of booze over state lines. 

Unless the ghost of Burt Reynolds could be my blocker.

We could have been East Bound and Down, though.

Afterward, we went to Little Apple Brewing Co., where the featured meal was Memphis loaded sweet potato fries. I ordered supplemental food, because I wanted soup and it somehow didn’t register that a flatbread was a small pizza, 

While we were eating, Mandy visited because I hadn’t seen her in seven years and just getting a cup of coffee just didn’t seem right for the only other person who know as much as — if not more — about me than Bill.

FINALLY, A LOCAL RESTAURANT.

 After Mandy left, we decided it was time for dessert, so we headed to Vista.

If I hadn’t had entirely too much food that day, I would have gotten a Vistaburger. Although it’s a hamburger, I at least would have been able to say I ate something unequivocally local. Instead, I got a hot chocolate float. I’d never heard of one before, so I guess that counts.

We wrapped up the night with more Tiny House Hunters, two shots and a beer and an early bedtime so Brandon and I could hit the road at 6 a.m.

Monday (and about 40 minutes into Tuesday)

Brandon and I woke up at 5 a.m. so we could leave by 6 a.m. Brandon had to get to work on Tuesday, so we had to get going early. If we only stopped for gas, we could have made it back to Charlottesville by midnight. I was shooting for 12:30 a.m. (and I probably would have made it too, if I noticed like all the locals that there was a cop up ahead, as I mentioned in the first part).

Once we got to the St. Louis Metro area, I drove the portion that I missed while passed out in my backseat and completed driving the entire length of Interstate 64. I stopped short of doing the entire Hampton Roads Beltway earlier this month, so I can’t say I did the entire thing in less than a month. But I did it. I’ve wanted to do it ever since the early ’90s, when I found out where 64 ended.

We made a few stops in Missouri to get gas and then for me to get a Mountain Dew. I was still a little sleepy when we started, and nothing perks me up lie doing the Dew. I rarely drink it because a 20 ounce bottle keeps me moving for about 18 hours.

Oh, I forgot to mention that it snowed from Kansas to the Mississippi River. It wasn’t sticking to the pavement, but that was awful. It was also interesting to go from scraping ice and snow off my car to effectively driving into a sunny fall day.

We didn’t make another real stop until we grabbed food in Mount Vernon, Illinois. It was an arbitrary stop, but we went from Manhattan to Times Square.

Yes, it’s at Broadway and 42nd.

Seriously.

Again, we did not plan this at all.

A few hours later, after stopping for gas in Kentucky, it began to rain. A lot. A whole lot.

And it was foggy in West Virginia, too.

But I soldiered on.

“Years of playing driving simulation video games with a steering wheel and gas pedal prepared me for this,” I said to Brandon, who sometimes woke up to me more or less navigating by dead reckoning along some higher elevations.

We got back at 12:40 a.m. The rain still was coming down in buckets. The Mountain Dew kept me up till nearly 3 a.m. I slept until nearly noon Tuesday.

I’m grateful that tomorrow is Friday.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed this trip. Again, it was great to see people I’ve known for between about 13 years, in Karen’s case, and as much as about 25 years, in Mandy’s case. (Mandy and I knew of each other since fourth grade but didn’t truly become friends until 10th grade.)

That saying about being able to pick up where you left off with good friends is true. If stepped into night out with Pete and our banter felt like my favorite, most comfortable pair of shoes. Both coming and going from Kansas, Brandon and I went a good four hours before the conversation tapered off. Bill, Karen and I have have quiet and raucous times in equal measure so mostly sitting on the couch as their child played seemed like a natural progression. I talk to Mandy so much, there wasn’t exactly much to catch up on. Unfortunately, we’ve drifted away from some of our mutual high school and college friends to the point that there isn’t as much gossip as there used to be.

Since I’ll still have three weeks of vacation to Renée’s two, I might split those days into weekend trips to St. Louis and then another trip to Manhattan.

Although I want to explore St. Louis, I’m looking forward to returning to Manhattan more.

This is the key chain I bought.

If you didn’t see this coming, I’m disappointed in you.

it’s not that bad, pt. 1

This song really is unrelated. I just happened to hear it a few minutes ago.
I didn’t grasp why everyone ahead of me slammed on their brakes until it was too late.

Thank you, Sgt. Wooten. I was absolutely going well over the speed limit on Monday when you pulled me over on Interstate 64. Everyone else with Indiana plates was doing it, so I figured, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  I guess that only counts when you have Indiana plates.

When I pulled over, my first thought was, “Well, he’s got me dead to rights. It kinda sucks because I’m certain a lot of people were going faster than me.”

That was true. Those faster people weren’t stupid enough to continue driving slowly so he could catch up. But I’m 35 years old. Fifteen years ago, I probably would have punched it, and I would you be telling you the funny story of how the home stretch of my trip went disastrously wrong.

Thursday, Nov. 7

It was sleeting in Kansas when Brandon and I left. I was told that it wasn’t likely to stick to the roads, but it was a little disconcerting. Either way, Kansas is good at clearing roads, Bill said, so there shouldn’t be a problem by the time I arrived on Friday. Bill called me at 9 a.m., 8 a.m. his time, to tell me this news. My alarm had just gone off. I was set to leave at 10. This definitely was going to be a TauDelt adventure.

Bill, my best friend and best man, currently is stationed in Fort Riley, Kansas. He plans on leaving the Army soon, which is why he bought a house. His current plan is to finish his masters and become a history teacher. He and his wife — Karen, a friend from college who also is a great friend — decided they were fine with settling in Kansas because they were surprised that they were OK with living in Manhattan, Kansas.

My reasons to visit Bill and Karen a week ago are varied: I’d been meaning to visit Bill since he finished basic training. I wanted someone to go with me so it could become a grand adventure. I wanted to take a road trip with fraternity brothers like in the old days. Due to where they lived, I could fulfill a childhood dream of driving the entire length of Interstate 64.

Everything finally came together.

The plan was simple, and it managed to stay simple. Brandon and I were going to power through Thursday morning and arrive in St. Louis in time for another brother, Pete, to get home from work. On Friday, we would go the rest of the way to Kansas and see Mandy, my friend since Hampton City Schools, on our way to Bill and Karen’s house. On Saturday, we would spend all day out with Bill. On Sunday, we would start the first leg of our trip. Monday would be the remainder of the drive home. On Tuesday, I would sleep.

Pete partially threw a kink on those plans. We expected to stay at his place Thursday night. I only wanted to buy a hotel room for the ride back because, again, I wanted to have the whole crashing on couches or whatever experience. At the same time, I also did not want to be stuck in horrible conditions, so I figured we’d have to get rooms both coming and going to Kansas. Pete on Wednesday night said we couldn’t stay at his place. Old Pete wouldn’t have given us that much notice. It wasn’t too bad — I would have liked to have locked in a lower hotel price — but we were at the Hotel Avyan, which wasn’t that far from his place.

In West Virginia, we stopped at a Wendy’s. The cashier called me Eleot. That’s a new one. Also, that sandwich wasn’t as awesome as the name states.

The drive there was pretty uneventful. The weather was great, and when we stopped for gas in Louisville, we also found this curious fellow.

Stop giggling at the name of the tutoring place next door.

“Is that? …” Brandon said.

“That’s a Kroger-brand liquor store,” I said.

I had seen a Kroger that sold hard liquor the first time I was in Indiana. This was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on a standalone Kroger liquor store.

Since we were in Kentucky, we had to get bourbon. I decided that that I was going to get something that I’d never had before. One charming little bottle caught my eye because it made a bold statement. I like bourbon, so I decided that I would be the judge of that statement.

It was called Old Bardstown. It said it was ruled the finest bourbon in Kentucky. I took a photo of it, and I could have sworn I downloaded it with the other photos from the trip, but I did not. I could just hop on the app and do it from there, but I’m testing out the new CMS for this entry, and I don’t know if I can do that without undoing everything I’ve done thus far.

Anyway, it was very smooth and delicious. As far as I can tell, it isn’t sold in Virginia. Bill said he really likes Four Roses, and that’s sold in Virginia, so I’ll settle for that for now.

But enough about the bourbon.

After we were settled in St. Louis, where it was sleeting, we met up with Pete and his girlfriend. We barhopped, but I only remember one of them because I had a tab at two, Mission Taco and The Beale on Broadway. The night was a bit of a blur. Because it was a good night.

Friday

Technically, we did not check out on time. I set an alarm before we went out, and that two hours wasn’t enough. As I was having an extremely tough go a things, I told Brandon to go downstairs and check out for me. He got down there right before the buzzer. I crept out about a half an hour later. I’ll say I was about at 70 percent at that point. It didn’t help that we were up for a very long time, too.

We then met up with Pete to get lunch. We headed to Southern, which touted Nashville hot chicken. It wasn’t melt-your-face-off hot like Prince’s, but no one can compare to Prince’s. 

Spicy foods are my hangover cure. This wasn’t spicy enough, so I passed out in the backseat while Brandon drove across most of Missouri. 

I woke up about when we needed to stop for gas. While Brandon pumped, ran over to Sonic. What I should have done is gotten this vaguely racist pizza.

You eyes deceive you not.

Really? Really? Trap Haus Pizza?

If you can’t read it, the slogan is, “It tastes so good, you’re trapped for life!” It’s probably good, but it’s also attached to a gas station. But that’s probably what makes it good.

I was back at 100 percent, so I got back in the driver’s seat.

As we neared Kansas, I found that Mandy’s husband had been transferred from Leavenworth, so I was meeting her in Manhattan. We got coffee at Bluestem Bistro in Aggieville. We didn’t have an awful lot to catch up on because there are times when we talk as much as we did in person. But I haven’t seen her in about seven years.

When I wrecked Nicole back in January, I lost my dad’s commemorative plate for when he was stationed outside of Savannah, Georgia. My mom found it a while back and gave it to me. I had all intentions of putting it on my desk at work but I kept forgetting. In the wreck, I was in a spot I couldn’t readily see when I was cleaning the car out and I didn’t realize it was there until I turned over the keys.

I recently posted on Facebook about how I wish I had it still, and people suggested that I contact the 260th Quartermaster Battalion and tell my story. I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, but Mandy’s husband, Mike, saw it.

While we were in Bluestem, Mandy told me that Mike obtained a challenge coin for me. I quickly looked at it and pocketed it because I knew if I acknowledged its existence any longer, I’d make like a Carrie Underwood song and not cry pretty. 

That night, after we got to Bill and Karen’s and drank in the basement, I went the room I claimed and held that coin for a long time. It’s now in my wallet. After I measure its diameter, I might buy a holder so I can wear it as a necklace.

That singular event was worth the entire trip.