CA Road Trip, Part I

In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of my posts lately have been in a series format. Apparently, I am constantly going on trips to everywhere. (This is news to me? Yes.) I drove to Sacramento this past weekend for a friend’s wedding. I totally thought it was in San Francisco and went out of my way to tell people it was there, but it wasn’t. I was simply confused. When I get stressed out by travel plans I usually get confused. It must be the panic that seeps into my common sense and colors everything I do with a tint of insanity and confusion. My dad will never let me live this down but I don’t really feel that bad about my major geography mistake because, well, I know I will be watching my dad with the utmost vigilance waiting for him to make an error of some kind. (I won’t be waiting for too long.)

So, the road trip. I can tell you this, you do not know if you are friends with somebody until you travel with him or her. I was apprehensive going on this car trip because I was worried my two friends and I would start off as pals but end up with a Capulet-Montague feud on our hands. Luckily, we are all still friends and going strong!  Nobody died!

Part of our getting-along success was due to our creation of a safe word. This safe word was to be used when any of us were verging on an argument or other heated interaction. It was “seabass”. Of course, it was completely abused:

Friend 1: “So, I was talking to so-and-so the other day and…”

Me: “SEEEEEEEABASS!!!!!!!!!!!”

We took a route that was supposed to take around 8 hours. However, a friend – who, ironically, was asleep during the “scenic” part – advised us to go up a certain way along the coast because it was prettier than the direct route. Well, yes, she had that part right – it was gorgeous. The trees and mountains juxtaposed with the coastline was a beautiful sight to see. It made me feel like I was in a music video. The kind of music video that ends with a car careening off a narrow mountain road into the rocks and sea below. Sort of like an updated ending to the original Grimm brothers retelling of The Little Mermaid where Ariel falls into the sea and dies instead of the Disneyfied version where she bags the man and a nice gang of servants and a cool house. I digress.

I could have lived without the hairpin turns and the motorcyclists weaving in and out of lanes like it was their job though on this scenic route. I hate motorcyclists. Conditionally, that is. I hate the ones that are a few inches from crashing into you just because they want to get wherever they are going NOW – no, not even now – YESTERDAY.  Who goes into the oncoming lane around a blind curve to get ahead of me? MOTORCYCLISTS. Who almost rams into me after deciding they didn’t want to pass me yet? MOTORCYCLISTS. Who killed JFK? MOTORCYCLISTS.

My artistic re-interpretation of the scenic route. Not shown: almost driving off cliffs and kamikaze motorcyclists.

Anyway, we stopped here and there along the way and played lots of throwback CDs. We didn’t notice somehow that 11 hours had elapsed when we finally arrived at a friend’s house for the night. I don’t know how we added on those three extra hours. It must have been driving up and down the mountain roads at 10 mph. But that still doesn’t explain how it took that much time. My theory is that we passed through some sort of other dimension and when we came back into our dimension, time had passed. I watched a show on PBS about it – I can’t explain it to you plebeians though – it’s all very complex and science-y.

The 11 hours went by pretty fast, I have to say. A lot of it was taken up by dancing and blasting music. These were my go-to moves:

Everybody else on the road:

There were many parts of Day 1 where my friends and I made casual educational references that sort of made me proud. For example, we noticed that the terrifying bridges we crossed were all built in the early 30’s (not super confidence-inspiring driving over bridges that are 80 years old, however) which maybe were Public Works projects during the Great Depression (?). And, as we passed through the Salinas Valley, I remembered that East of Eden was set there. I pat myself on the back when I remembered that one – you done good, California education system! I haz a smart. I just don’t know California geography. Whatever.

- Daughter


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Attack of the Killer Cabrio – Part I


“Yeah, I think I can fix that.”

Let’s face it.  I’m cheap.  Really cheap, but not as cheap as I used to be.  After all, the women in this household have gotten me hooked on a variation of the foo-foo coffee they seem to consume in ever-increasing quantities.  I’m sure there was some cunning master plan involved there, but maybe not.  To be honest, I can’t even understand what they order most of the time (double-pump soy what?), so I just let it go. 

Just let it go.  However, I digress.

Anyway, since I mentioned being frugal, when it comes to Do-It-Yourself projects around the house, I usually step up to the plate if I have any time at all to spare.

I look at it as therapy.  And saving money, of course. 

But I’ve also been known to get in over my head with a few of these deals over the years.  The kitchen remodel comes to mind.  The head gasket replacement on the old pick up –things of that sort.  It’s not that I don’t have the intellectual ability to complete the projects; it’s either the real-world know how or the particular tools necessary that I usually lack. 

While Zen-me’s War Cry is “No Professionals!”, I’ve learned enough over the years to apply what I euphemistically call “The Rule of My Father” to any potential project I contemplate tackling.  That particular benchmark was developed as I was growing up, and it roughly equates into whatever time span I think is going to be required for project completion, I simply multiply by three to achieve an estimate much closer to reality. 

By now you’ve probably guessed it came from my Dad and his inability (planned or otherwise) to provide a best guess for knocking things out around the house. 

“Go ahead and clean the garage, son.  It’ll take about an hour,” (I knew that meant three minimum, and so on).

Well, I’ve made mention previously of Daughter’s prime time ride — a VW Cabrio, which she has orphaned this semester since she kidnapped my truck and brought it to school instead.  To be fair, I wouldn’t allow her to take the convertible cross county because:  a)  I didn’t think it would make it out of California, and b)  See a). 

The convertible top on her car, no doubt, helped give rise to the phrase “rag top,” because it is, indeed, very raggy.  Very raggy, and holey, and ripped. 

Rather than spending seven hundred bucks for someone to replace it, I bought a decent used one a few months ago for one-third the price, and I’m now just getting around to trying, yes, trying to install it. 

Today was the day — at least part of the day.  To prepare myself mentally, I watched some show on the Discovery Channel last night about excavating tombs around the final resting place of King Tut.  When the Dog Archaeologists finally opened the main sarcophagus, it did not contain a mummy.  Rather, it held a cornucopia of trinkets, jewelry, and eleven herbs and spices.  Far from being disappointed, the Diggers were overjoyed, because it provided important historical context for the entire complex. 

Removing the top off of Daughter’s car today was something like that.  Applying the aforementioned RoMF, I figured this job was going to take two, multiplied by three, so six hours. 

I’ll know more in 24 hours, but I think that estimate is fairly accurate.  I’m about half-way done today. 

I jumped into the thing head first, and as I peeled back layers of carpet and unhooked seats and panels, various objects of wonder came to light.  In no particular order, I found a complete set of blue earrings, a remote control for a solar system mobile, eleven cents, three pens, two bags of clothes in the trunk that were supposed to be given away several months ago, one pencil, one Nintendo DS2 stylus, a cassette tape iPod adapter, one pair of sandals, and one pair of shoes. 

Sure, the objects provide a somewhat sad commentary on Daughter’s transportation life, but the main lesson I took away is the entire automobile exuded a slightly musty, filmy vibe.  Maybe not as bad as Hoarders, but getting there, I think. 

After much wrangling and gnashing of teeth, I did finally manage to remove what was left of the old convertible top.  And because I had a few hours of sunlight left, I launched Plan C, which was to get a head start on tomorrow’s work by at least nominally installing the frame for the new (used) top.

At this point, my Significant Other wandered by, looked and the expanse of tools and bits and pieces scattered about and commented, “Don’t you need a book or something for help?  Do you know what you’re doing?  Wouldn’t you rather pay someone to do that?”

Great encouragement around here, I tell you.

My reply was simple:  “The book is on my shoulders.”

However, that doesn’t take into account the 2,359 nuts, bolts, and fasteners that are now strewn around the driveway and car. 

I think I remember where most of them go.  Maybe not.  But time will tell.  Stay tuned. 

After all, tomorrow is another day. 

- Dad

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part IV

Before I start this blog post, I want to have a moment of silence to show respect for those we lost during this road trip. They have been with me for many years, close friends I’d even call them. But they have been wounded and killed in this great battle fought on the interstates of America. Rest in peace, we will always remember you, dear cuticles. Seriously, though. My cuticles are dead and dying. This is the winter of their discontent… literally. They are terrible and bleedy. Lotion does not assuage them nor kind words. I have given up trying to heal them and instead, I try not to look at them. Or I sit on my hands.

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

We actually got back on the road today  and palled around with some semi truck drivers! If “palled around” means playing a game of tag with huge tons of metal and the semi is always “it”. STOP TRYING TO TAG US, TRUCK DRIVERS.  There was one semi in particular that really, really irritated me. So much so that I changed nationalities and transformed into an Italian. I did a lot of exasperated hand gesturing. I could be wrong, but I think this means I’m fluent in Italian.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

After a successfully-completed quest to get coffee (bad things always happen when we try and find coffee, maybe we should consider switching to tea?), I hit a curb while turning because I can’t see out the right side of the truck and some coffee splashed out of my dad’s cup. No Big Deal, right? WRONG. Obviously, my dad has NEVER EVER so much as run over an errant piece of rubber on the road because he was so disgusted with me. How dare I accidentally run over a curb? HOW DARE I WASTE HIS TIME OFF-ROADING FOR MY OWN AMUSEMENT. He actually asked me: “Have you ever driven a car before?”  And then, later, a semi was drifting into my lane so I moved over and went on the rumble strip for three seconds. Not long, but long enough for my dad to yell at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” And I said, “THIS SEMI IS ON TOP OF ME, BRO.” Except I didn’t call him ‘bro’ because that’s weird. Good times. This is what father-daughter bonding is all about.



The most exciting thing that happened today is when we got lost in Tennessee. Despite having a GPS, an iPhone, Google Maps, and old-fashioned paper maps, we got lost because there was an unexpected detour. We apparently drove on a road that didn’t exist in our world, it existed in some other dimension. The same dimension where all your missing socks go  and where I have friends. It was like the Bermuda Triangle of roads. I’m pretty sure I saw a chupacabra out there. My poor iPhone was heating up from its attempt to locate us, but its efforts were in vain. We weren’t in this world, or if we were, we had ripped a hole in the fabric of spacetime because… physics.

We made it back to our dimension, all parts intact but I have a feeling of deju vu… nope, wait, it was just a burp.

- Daughter


And on the fourth day, God created semi-tractor truck drivers.  But I digress.

Yesterday was an unscheduled rest day, which presupposes one actually rests when given the opportunity.  When I awoke and took stock of the thick blanket of snow outside, it wasn’t hard to quickly make the decision to hang tight for a day with our wonderful relatives in their immaculate mansion.  Please note that, in comparison to our house, most other homes seem like castles to us – but theirs really is.  It is wonderful.

One quick check on Daughter simply confirmed my decision – she was dead to the world.  Two days in cramped confinement with a parent sucks the life out of children, evidently.

So, Daughter made an unconscious, slumbering assessment to replicate what is known back in our household as a “Pajama Day.”

It goes like this.  In the spirit of calling “shotgun,” declaring “Pajama Day” is governed by approximately the same rules.  Yep, all you have to do is say, “Pajama Day,” and, thereby, you eliminate the requirement to become fully attired and fully humanly functional for however long you want.  Technically, Pajama Day could become “days” or even a week, in extreme circumstances.

Also, male members are not allowed to play, even though we completely and thoroughly understand the rules.  Though hurtful, I am all right with the exception.

I knew we were in trouble this morning, however, because Daughter did not sleep well and was more tired than she had been before our rest day.  Makes no sense, I know, but it’s nothing a foo-foo coffee usually can’t set right.

Unfortunately, Daughter’s fatigue manifested itself in many uncharacteristic ways.  During her first driving stint, she inexplicably had no idea how she turned on the windshield wipers, but also couldn’t figure how to turn them off, as well.  Not long after she ran over a curb exiting a gas station.

Her defense?

“I can’t see anything out of the right side of the truck, and stop yelling at me.”

Only one of us had her voice raised by the way, and it sure would have been nice to know you’ve been blind on the right side of the vehicle the past two days, Daughter.

And even though she deployed her now trademarked FaceTent early on, she had little to no patience for the truck drivers hogging the interstate highways.

Daughter using FaceTent (tm)

Daughter using FaceTent ™

I have to admit, a little warning sign went off in my own pea brain when the landscape northeast of Dallas became littered with hundreds of the following road signs:  “Left Lane is for Passing Only.

Let’s think about that, shall we?  If you have to post directions to the multitudes about staying out of the left lane, there clearly must be a problem somewhere.

There was.  And is.

We were blocked, hindered, slowed, and just plain annoyed by the numerous Left Lane Truck Bandits today.  I’m sure they are all really nice people, but, geez, folks, let’s get with the program.

As you might have suspected, Zen-me wrestled with the situation for a few miles, but I eventually made my peace and counted my blessings.

For Daughter, however, it was a continuing struggle, no doubt fueled by her lack of rest during our “Rest Day.”

If we consider the eleven stages of Driving Consciousness, she never made it by Number Four:  Annoyance.

Even if she had, we always have tomorrow.  And if we don’t have tomorrow, there’s still me.

- Dad



This is going to look great on someone's car!

“This is going to look great on someone’s car!”

It’s official: I’m famous… enough to be hated! I don’t know if it’s because I have talked sh about some people on this blog, because I drink fancy water, or because I’m just not cool, but somewhere on this big blue marble we call Earth, I have enemies. Enemies who have made their presence known.

As usual, I was running late to work this morning. I had had pancakes and sausage for breakfast but little did I know, the second course would be served all over my windshield in the form of raw eggs. Not only were they splattered all over the glass, the yolks had congealed into a gelatinous mass. No wonder there was a bird sitting on my car when I got outside, he was at a fine dining establishment with air-chilled yolks served on my main mode of transportation, very pricey and rare in this economy. Before I did anything else, I tried to see if there were some sort of divine image to be found in this amalgamation of baby-chicken-jello; maybe this was my sign from God, Buddha, Mohammed etc. that work was to take a backseat today and that I should, instead, reflect inward and examine my life as a new year dawns. But not even a swaddled Baby Jesus was to be found.

One positive aspect of this incident is that these eggers had the human decency to concentrate on the glass parts of my car. There are rips in the canvas top definitely big enough to fit eggs through, but like I said, these were good, decent people who chose not to egg the inside of my car. (You da best!)

Now, this could have been a completely random event that had no bearing on my identity or associations but it makes me feel special to think otherwise. I like to imagine that somebody took the time out of his or her busy day and carefully chose to arrange egg yolks on my windshield as a post-modern art installation evoking Jackson Pollock. These egg-throwers were obviously very well-read and knew I appreciate art, especially as a protest medium against offensive things (such as this blog). If I had to grade the piece, I would give it a 7.54/10.00, mostly for Creative Use of Medium and Materials.

Full Fathom Five by Jackson Pollock aka, He Who Splatters.

In fact, I don’t know if it’s haters any more at all, the more I think about it. Maybe these eggers just didn’t know how to express themselves and chose egg yolks on my windshield to proclaim their love and loyalty. Thank you, haters, I love you too.

Oh, and thanks, Dad, for cleaning it off. You also da best!

Do you think in the olden days they used to egg horses? I should ask my father.

Do you think in the olden days they used to egg horses? I should ask my father.

- Daughter

The Legend of the 1000-Point Turn

As my dad mentioned in his last post, I learned to drive on a truck (in between bouts of crying because Dad felt I would better understand how to drive if he yelled me into proper driving form). After I obtained my license to kill, I was gifted with Oscar, my VW Cabrio. I love that car and will be truly sad to see the day when Oscar goes to that big garage in the sky. It’s a fun car to drive and fits into any parking space with relative ease. The only real problem is that people LOVE to almost-merge into me on freeways because it’s a tiny little thing and light-colored. This would be a great characteristic if I wanted to die in a fiery car crash (free cremation!!!!) but, alas, I do not want this fate.

Despite being a perpetual death machine, I still love Osky. He is able to whip into a parking space with the bravado of a Kardashian. Unfortunately, his has given me parking hubris. I found out the hard way that all cars are not created equal with respect to their ease of parkingness.

My first mistake was driving my dad’s truck to work because it was raining again and I was worried about another hydroplaning incident. I should have just changed my middle name to “Dangerous”, driven my car, and hyrdoplaned all the way to work for all the trouble I went through.

The truck is considerably bigger than Oscar but I figured that since I learned to drive on a truck, I could handle this thing fine. And I did. Except when it came down to parking.


I wish I had a Calming Manatee to help me park.

Downtown, there isn’t a whole lot of room to get into a parking space if your car is a fat behemoth. It’s like a manatee trying to maneuver through a mud puddle – very difficult and nigh impossible – but probably hilarious to watch. I finally got into a parking space and only had to re-park three times to fit within the lines. I was so relieved after I got the truck into that space because I wouldn’t have to get it out for another 8 hours. At that point, there would be fewer cars in the lot and it would be more like a manatee navigating a small creek instead of a mud puddle.

I walked to the office for my internship and happy forest animals greeted me with song. As I went about my work, I felt an ominous presence. It was a lady from the art department – Uh oh, this won’t be good, I thought. She asked me if I could do her a favor. Of course, I immediately agreed because I’m eager and annoying. My task is to pick up some flowers five blocks away, meaning I have to move the stupid truck. Of course I do.

I walked to the truck, crying about my lot in life. Within about ten minutes’ time of rage-inducing parking maneuvers, I was able to get out without so much as a bumper kiss. I may have won this battle but the real war had just begun.

After finding the flower place, I pulled into an unassuming parking lot. This is when things got difficult. A tiny little parking space was left in the parking lot, surrounded by fire-breathing dragons on each side: a huge SUV and two other big cars I can’t name because I’m not my dad. Instead of backing out and trying to get into a space that involved less skill and experience, I decided that I was capable of parking in this particular spot. Hey, you can DO this, remember that time you got a participation medal for that cross country race in 6th grade? If you can do that, you can surely do this. Because you’re amazing. 

I had to make a ten point turn to get IN to the space. Slowly but surely, inch by inch, I eased the truck into that Hobbit-sized space. Then I retrieved those dastardly flowers and headed back to the truck. I jumped in the car, backed out, and then, disaster. FU, SH, THAT SUV, I’M TOTALLY GUNNA HIT IT. I jumped OUT of the car, put it in park, and examined the space I had between the back of the truck and the SUV. I stared at it for a solid minute, trying to figure out how to magic the space bigger. Eventually, I gave up my hopes of witchcraft and inched back and forth at least 15 times. I even stopped midway through the backing-out process and thought about what would happen if I just stayed there forever. My body would probably be eaten by rabid dogs and later, after being digested, I would fertilize the earth and maybe a flower would grow. Probably a weed though. At least I am biodegradable. And for about each half inch I moved, I got OUT of the car to make sure I wasn’t going to hit anyone or anything. It took probably 20  minutes for me to back out of there. And when I finally cleared all the obstacles, I waved an American flag and gave myself a pat on the back. It’s the small victories that count.


- Daughter

Cars Cannot Fly . . . .

Yeah, these are my pants.  Give me a break.

Yeah, these are my pants. Give me a break.

Are we now this litigious?  Or stupid? 

There are few television commercials I enjoy watching.  Having a DVR further helps out — just press that fast forward button and get back to the show.  But among those ads I have enjoyed recently are from car manufacturers.  Last year, I think, Chrysler released an imaginative play on US patriotism with George Washington’s Continentals (soldiers, not cars) rousting some nasty British Redcoats by driving a new Dodge Challenger at them.  But if they really wanted to scare the Brits, they should have rushed them with a faux-wood minivan.  But they didn’t.

Anyway, the tag line was something like, “There are two things Americans do well:  defend our freedom and make great cars.” (Daughter, please note yet another recent media reference from me.)

Now I can’t really verify with 100% certainty that the foregoing tagline is accurate, but the idea that was planted is, and isn’t that the point of all adverts anyway?  In terms of influencing my automotive purchase decision, maybe it wasn’t that effective, because I still don’t own a Chrysler, but it was funny.  And that’s good for something in my limited book of truisms.

Last week (not on DVR) I viewed a new Ford Fusion commercial.  The marketing guys had the vehicle doing all kinds of things:  jumping, swimming, flying.  I got the message.  It’s a truly diversified ride.  Then at the end of the ad, I managed to read a few of the disclaimers that were posted in microscopic print.  Included among them was, “Cars cannot fly.”

Not that I care, but the more I thought about it, the more “stupider” it seemed.  Do we really need to be told this by Ford?  Did someone sue them because they drove a car off a cliff, under the mistaken impression it could fly?  Actually, now that I think about it, that wouldn’t surprise me.  I’m sure it’s the same mentality that has forced hot beverage makers everywhere to print on their cups: “Careful.  This beverage is hot. It may burn you.”  Well, no sh kidding. 

Fiat has some imaginative ads floating around, as well, with their new 500 driving off a European cliff into the ocean and appearing on our shores a little later, none the worse for wear.  I haven’t noticed any excessive disclaimers on that ad — maybe Fiat hasn’t been sued yet because someone took a leap of faith and thought their 500 could swim.  Probably just a matter of time, however.  You heard it here first. 

So, where does all this leave us?

Daughter drives a VW Cabrio.  She drives it a lot.  She drives the bejesus out of it, from all appearances.  I think at some point I covered with her all the associated disclaimers with said vehicle, but to repeat for the benefit of all:  if you spill a drink, it will most certainly stain  — and you have to clean it up (never seen that happen, actually — the cleaning part); if you leave a purse visible, someone will steal it; lipstick, lip balm, and make-up all melt; gas requires money to purchase; leftover fruit does eventually desiccate all on its own and will hide under both front seats; and you can never have enough pairs of cheap sunglasses. 

I take care of the maintenance, and Daughter populates the interior with said disclaimer items.

To my knowledge, she understands the Cabrio cannot swim and does not fly.  Disclaimer:  I have verified neither with her. 

- Dad

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