If there is one thing everyone should do, it is drive cross country. Or is it drive across country? AMC did make the Rambler Cross Country, so we will go with cross country. Whatever you prefer, before you die, do it because if you wait until after you die, you won’t be able to see out back of the hearse. They have curtains over the windows as if the sun would bother your eyes.
I am going to blame my rambling on altitude sickness since I am in Salt Lake City. No, I am not converting to Mormonism. They don’t drink coffee, and I drink at least twelve cups a day, which means I would need a twelve step program to get over my twelve cups. Besides, I have just come back from walking around downtown at the church square, and they make me look like a fashionista! I do have to say that their gardener is a genius. Oh my God, the flowers were breathtaking. With my crazy magnet in full force, a little old lady in white slacks, pink shirt and matching hat struck up a conversation with me about the flowers, and I, being so shy and demure, engaged her. She wanted to know if my gardens looked like these. Poor little crazy lady had no idea she was talking to the Gay Jew in the Trailer Park … until I told her.
This is not my first cross-country trip (now see, cross works there). In 1986 with my brother and an overly-packed Chrysler New Yorker, we trekked the southern route, so I could start a new life in Los Angeles and become a famous comedy writer. How did that turn out, you ask? Talk to the crazy lady in the pink shirt and hat. One doesn’t go from the writer’s room on the Alan Brady Show to a trailer park in Jessup easily.
As I was saying somewhere in the previous paragraphs, I am on a cross country trip. I am also doing everything I swore I would never do. I am posting constant updates on Facebook about where I am along with photos taken from my car while driving, so burglars can break into my trailer and redecorate. They say you shouldn’t text and drive, but no one said anything about snapping pictures. I am totally against texting and driving, and when I see that billboard that says, “Text 312 for more information about texting and driving,” I do. My friend Frank texts while driving a 1965 Falcon with a three-on-the-tree. You can always tell when he is texting. He starts driving 30 mph in a 55 mph zone. One day he got into a heated text argument, and he came to a complete stop on I-95. Of course, no one noticed because no matter what time of day, you are always at a crawl on I-95.
Speaking of crawls, I don’t want to hear another word about how none of the stimulus money is being used. So far, every state I have driven through has a twenty-five mile long construction zone with two-lane traffic, and at the end of each zone is a sign thanking President Obama for the funds to repave and repair – even the red states! However, unlike my home region, they know how to detour traffic without backing it up. In South Dakota, they use early 2000s Buick Lesabre lead cars to guide traffic through detours in shifts. It is the most brilliantly choreographed thing I have ever seen.
Let me tell you how I ended up on this trip. I signed up for a retreat in Saratoga Springs. After paying my fee, I figured I would drive to New York. It was not long before I found out it was at the Saratoga Springs Retreat Center in Upper Lake, California. Quite a difference. Rather than get into a tizzy, I decided to drive cross country (there he goes again) and visit friends I have not seen in years along the way. Simple enough right? To me it was.
To everyone else it was too simple. There is nothing I love more than overly complicated crap, but my friends and colleagues and acquaintances and neighbors apparently love overly complicated crap. The biggest issue was my truck. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to know how I would drive cross country in a compact pick-up. I thought nothing of it. I took it to Cleveland with no issues. It has air conditioning and cruise-control; what else do I need? Apparently, when you drive cross country alone, you need a four-door car. I guess, so you can pick up hitch hikers and do your own remake of that Valerie Harper “Movie of the Week” about the housewife in the station wagon who picks up a hitch hiker who goes bananas when she plays classical music. Or was it Cloris Leachman?
I was advised to rent a car. “Why do you want to put those miles on your truck?” Ummm because I bought the truck to go places? Why would I buy it if I had no intention of using it? This I have never understood. Although my other car is vintage, I treat it like a car. After all, it is a car. I used to own a 1979 Lincoln Continental, which I would drive to the supermarket and K-Mart (before they went completely downhill) and everywhere else I wanted to go. People would ask how I could drive it so much. Ummm because it’s a car? Although I have two vintage cars, and God help me, I am about to have three, I don’t collect things. If I buy something, I use it. I have three vintage percolators, and I use them. I guess this is why I don’t get excited at car shows. The cars are just sitting there. To me, it would be like a vintage appliance show. Unless you are going to wash a load of my whites, don’t invite me. I guess I just don’t like staring at things.
My neighbor, the former dog walker, Mrs. M, was obsessed with the truck, and when I asked her to stop talking about it, she became obsessed with what I was going to pack and wear and where I would stay? She went on and on and on. She completely freaked when I said I would stay where I ended up for the day. I also asked her to stop because nothing makes me more annoyed than someone trying to make me a nervous wreck.
Here is where I am anomaly. Nobody is more anal than I am. My day is completely planned before I get out of bed. I can get more done by 10:00 am than most can do in a week. I know what I will be doing and where I will be every minute of the day. I do not like idle time. On vacation, which is rare for me, I don’t give a shit. I will be where I will be, and I will go where I will go. I once vacationed with someone we will call Roy, not to protect his identity but because that was his name. We went to Paris. He planned every single moment we were there. It felt like work. I kept looking for a time clock. He also forgot to allot time for relations, which was fine because he was lousy in bed, and my friend Christian said he looked like a cadaver. No wonder some people return from vacation exhausted.
With my pick-up packed, much to the chagrin of everyone, including my mechanic (who actually called yesterday to ask if I ran out of room in the truck), I began my journey. My first stop was to see my friends Danny and Michael in Lansing, Michigan. On the way there, I noticed they had the most beautiful trailer parks in Pennsylvania and Ohio – very uniform with all the mobile homes on an angle with manicured lawns and matching sheds and car ports. Lansing is another story. This is where the economy really hit rock bottom. Danny informed me it is the capital, but you wouldn’t have known that by the three cars on the main drag. No one can afford gas.
We had a great visit, and then it was off to Minnesota to see a man about a horseless carriage. I decided to take a quick trip into Minneapolis to have my picture taken with the Mary Richards statue because I am Gay after all. Of all the cities I have seen, none is cleaner than Minneapolis. You could eat off the streets. There was no evidence that it had snowed there just days before my arrival. Also, everyone in Minnesota is nice. They talk as if they stepped off the set of Fargo, but they are just as polite, friendly and helpful as they can be.
From there, it was off to Salt Lake City to visit Anthony and Jeff. I thought it would take three days, but I decided to do the second and third legs in one trip. That was seventeen hours of driving. I crossed three states and a time zone. I saw parts of this country many have not seen except on post cards. For the record, it was supposed to be sixteen hours, but I forgot about the time change. Oh well.
When you live on the East Coast, especially in a metropolitan area, where you are stuck in traffic three hours a day, you forget how beautiful this country really is. I am so glad I am seeing the USA in a GMC.
Also, I have washed the truck twice already. I hate a dirty vehicle. I know the people are looking at me while they pass wondering how that clean truck made it all the way from Maryland.
One last word about speed limits. We have them in the DC metropolitan region, but they are useless. The fastest I can go on I-95 during rush hour is 25 mph. I love when someone asks me if any of my cars has enough power to keep up with traffic. A Hoveround Power Chair with Chris Christie (pre and post lap-band) at the helm can keep up with traffic where I live.
I have now experienced rush-hour in the Midwest. The speed limit by the way is 75 mph. I think Caroline Appleby (that is the name of my truck) actually smiled when she saw that. During rush hour, they drive 75 mph. I could get easily get used to that.
To everyone, yes, my truck has enough room. Yes, it can keep up with traffic. Yes, I am comfortable. And to Mrs. M, I did not pack dress shoes. I didn’t even pack a dress.
If you want to see the USA in a GMC, follow me, get on my email list, share this with your friends and buy my books at www.miltonstern.com.