We drove across the country, from New York to Long Beach, CA and back. We went to visit our friend T, whose large white-stucco house on the peninsula is practically a vacation resort with a guest room and bath, sauna, and hot tub, and a prime location between two beaches, the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. This was my first ever visit to the west coast; it took me days to get over the palm trees.
First night out, staying with a friend of E's in Philly. Went to our first game -- one of the main purposes of the trip was to hit up ballgames around the country (this was also the first baseball game I'd ever seen) -- and afterwards met Sarge, a friend of our host, who treated us to drinks in the amazing 400-bottle Irish bar located off the living room of his parents' house. The antique bartop is apparently a relic from a tavern in Valley Forge once frequented by George Washington and his men. Sarge serves 'em strong, and when we returned home, J, overcome, lay in the parking lot of the apartment complex and rolled around and puked until the cops showed up a few hours later and encouraged us to try harder to get him indoors.
After the Reds game in Cincinnati, we visited a Hooters in Florence, KY where they offer ten free wings to every ticketholder if the Reds score more than 10 runs. We gorged ourselves on greasy free wings, had our pictures taken with the obliging Hooters waitress (they're trained to bend over for photos in order to show off their cleavage -- it's amazing), and drove as far as the banks of the Mississippi, where E puked it all up.
Unfortunately, there was little to no vomiting for the duration of the trip, although it had been agreed that each of us should puke at least once. K and I managed to refrain, although the saltwater we swallowed in the ocean waves nearly did us both in.
Broke down at a Wal-Mart an hour out of Little Rock, AR at four in the morning, and had to be towed back to wait for six hours at a VW dealer while it was fixed. They kindly drove us to a Cracker Barrel for breakfast, where we fooled around with the toys in the shop, and played giant checkers and Mad Libs while we sat in rocking chairs on the porch.
Saw the Grand Canyon, and hiked a ways down it in one sunny, sweaty interlude away from the car. Magnificent.
On one perfect day in LA, we woke up to watch an LA car chase live on the news, then felt the rumblings of a brief earthquake. In more regional weather, we also got to see a baby proto-tornado during an impressive storm we drove through in Oklahoma.
On the way back from Long Beach, we visited Las Vegas, which was more fun than I would have believed a few years ago. The two spots K and I have had tentative plans to visit have been Montreal and Vegas, which he campaigned to convince me was a great place with cheap lodging, food, and entertainment. I resolved to give Las Vegas a shot, but I doubted we'd ever make it out there. I still have trouble believing that we made it all the way to Vegas before ever visiting Montreal, which is only a few hours away.
They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I will say that I did enjoy it quite a bit and was pleasantly surprised. We stayed at the Sahara and the Tropicana, and visited most of the major hotels on the strip. K and I made modest amounts of money playing poker, blackjack, and roulette (I learned and stuck to blackjack, and was surprised to win eight dollars on nickel slots), and J lost a fair amount of money at the tables and accidentally bought a $200 shirt to wear to dinner.
Drove back through Utah and Colorado, which were spectacular, despite growing tensions in the party. We ended up having to cut our trip short, skipping Chicago and Washington and blowing through St. Louis without seeing the city or the game. We got back a few days early, frustrated and exhausted, but it was still a hell of a trip.
Pictures to come soon, I hope.
reading: Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation; Ben Bradlee, A Good Life; all the issues of Harper's and The Week accumulated in my absence
saw: Batman Begins; Ice Age; a documentary about Evel Knievel; parts of Vegas Vacation, The Core, and White Men Can't Jump; episodes of Firefly (I can't wait for Serenity!)
playing: Oregon Trail (it's been a frequent topic of conversation lately...I just downloaded the game and an emulator out of nostalgia)
game of the day: The Fridge, a crazy, cute game where you play an egg roaming around the kitchen on an epic quest.