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Day one. (95aug26)

In 1993, Scott Berk and I decided to go to a festival in the desert of Nevada called "Burning Man."

In 1994, Scott Berk and I decided to really go to a festival in the desert of Nevada called "Burning Man."

In 1995, Scott Berk and I decided to forget this elusive "Burning Man" thing and go on a cross-country road trip. We picked the dates. We were going to visit Lady Kathy, a friend and magazine publisher, and Doc, another friend, philosopher, author, and jack of all trades, among other people scattered around the West coast. To our surprise, Burning Man fell perfectly in the middle of our scheduled vacation days. Kathy and Doc expressed interest in going; Lady Kathy had already been there in 1994. We changed our destination to Burning Man.

Scott is a newly-married-type person, and suspects that this will be the last time that he can take a long buddy-buddy road trip. I haven't had a long, meandering vacation in over five years. Weeeoooo, do I need it.

With that out of the way, let's go through the cast of characters.

"Scott": A dangerously happy chemist from New Jersey.
"Jeff": The Detroit ne'er-do-well writer/artist/waiter/actress.
"Lamm": A stuffed eight-inch lamb from IKEA.
"Back-up Rabbit": A small stuffed brown rabbit, the smaller of a set of two.
"Viking": A small wooden viking from Sweden.

I stopped sketching stuff around day two.

Scott made his way to Detroit from New Jersey, arriving at my apartment at 1am. We're so hopped about the trip we end up talking until 4am.

Scott: "Hrmmm. Maybe we should go to sleep, huh?"
The next morning, we pack massive amounts of safety and survival supplies that we'll probably never use. Our most prized possessions of these lots are our twin canteens.

Scott and I careen on over to Lansing, MI (our fine state's capital; ALL HAIL LANSING) to pick up our rental Sport Utility Vehicle, a 1995 Ford Exploder. We bring the SUV to Steve and Suzanne's, friends of ours who live in East Lansing.

scott approves of my terrycloth bathrobe.

The SUV is packed to the gills with camping/survival equipment and tons of X Magazine issues to pass out along the trip. Our constant companions are placed in various cupholders, nooks, and crannies in the front seat with care. SUV assessment follows in short order.

"What's this 'LOW RANGE' button?"
"Dunno. Try it."
"How big's the gas tank?"
"Where's the manual?"
"Glove compartment's empty."
"Why does the speedometer only go to 85mph?"
Our starting statistics:
Car smell: .10 SLI (explained much later)
Time: 5:00pm
Triptik: I-94 crosses level to gently rolling, semi-wooded farmlands noted for production of vegetables, fruit, livestock, and swine. He's probably armed, too.
The Triptik, for those of you across the oceans of this great planet of ours, is a flip-book road map custom-created according to your travel destination(s). An official Automobile Association of America Triptik representative will orange-hi-lite the appropriate roads you should take; there is precious little detail given outside of this route. Scott clutches dearly to his revered customized Triptik. I am not a believer in the Triptik; to be blunt, I think it sucks. Maybe because I get lost...and like it. Dunno. I carry a large AAA World Road Atlas (I am not a member of the AAA; they also make road maps for the "common folk") with me wherever I go ("How the hell did I get in ARGENTINA?").

As we crossed the oft-traversed I-94 and pass St. Julian's Wine Tasting Emporium (formerly Stuckey's), our first encounter with road construction leads to a spirited discussion concerning the smiley faces which accompany construction signs. Is the Mona-Lisa-like sleepy half-smile actually technically described in some Michigan traffic code book? To me, this is important.

Remember being wild about your first car?
-- Buick dealer billboard
No, but I do remember being nauseous about my first "car," a 1980 AMC Concord, but that's neither here nor there; our sturdy SUV glides across the Indiana state line in what appears to be record time.

INDIANA: "Most of the state is not Gary"
95aug26 7:24pm EST

As we travel through Gary (properly lionized by a completely horrid rendition of "Gary, Indiana" by a young Ron Howard in The Music Man), the powerlines are playing random hi-snare static on the radio. It sounds nice, so we leave it for awhile. And Indiana as well.

ILLINOIS: "There's Chicago, and Chicago, and Chicago..."
95aug25 7:00pm CST

It's 79 degrees at 7:38, according to a bank sign. Traffic in Chicago is a little sticky, but manageable. Still haven't figured out what "Kiss-n-ride" is all about, but I'm intrigued. Later, the Medieval Times looms on our right. From what I understand, this is a chain of restaurants (visit your local Medieval Times, also located in Secaucus, New Jersey, Kissimmee, Florida, and Buena Park, California) in which diners watch fake jousting while feasting themselves on a King Henry-size dinner. Diners get to wear a cheesy crown - everyone's royalty at Medieval Times. "Afterward," according to a local television ad, "a disco!" The worst of two very different centuries compressed into the Ultimate Dining Experience.

We stop at a Wendy's in Rockville. This is the first time on the trip we both left the SUV. Scott has valid concerns about this, having had his rental minivan broken into during his honeymoon.

Scott: "A car is parked next to ours."
Jeff: "So?"
Scott: "Every car is suspect."
As we're leaving Wendy's, Scott discovers that the Sony fifty-prong power adapter he brought doesn't fit the Sony CD player. The Sony Standard(s)! Looks like a long string of AA battery receipts for Scott, who argues that he should pick up the tab for this indiscretion alone.

WISCONSIN: "Home of the Cheese Weirdos"
95aug26 9:30pm CST

In the dark of the night, a blood-red "Naughty But Nice" sign floats off to the North. It looks like it was put there by satan himself. I'm game! No time. Wisconsin suddenly seems to be suffering from the omnipresent smell of burning cows [.37 SLI]. I started to fiddle with the cruise control. Cruise control seems like yet another Big Car Mistake, more specifically during long journeys. The kind you get tired on, the kind you fall asleep on as your car merrily crashes through the front wall of Naughty But Nice at a constant 73mph, exposing a local politician determining the constitutional veracity of non-stop table dancing.

"Our studs contain no duds - ABS"
-- roadside sign

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