The Fell Clutch of Circumstance

A blog detailing a road trip by two brothers from Seattle to Albuquerque. There will be beer!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Come to Jesus

Well we drove to the Big Texan, getting there around 3pm Central time. There was a line for dinner, if you believe it. I ordered a BBQ brisket sandwich and Mike got the Buffalo burger. Neither one of us was particularly impressed. The place definitely had atmosphere though.

Then we got back on the road with Mike behind the wheel. Somewhere after Amarillo we spotted the above, ginormous cross off the highway. We had a good laugh at the absurdity of a gigantic cross visible from I-40, and then shortly after Mike noticed we were dangerously low on gas. By the car computer we had all of about 55 miles left to go. Luckily we had the GPS and were able to locate the nearest gas station (no joke in the middle of nowhere, Texas). If Mike spots the gas another 15 minutes later, we would've been in a pretty good jam. I guess the big JC was looking out for us.

Anyway, a few Bill Simmons' podcasts later, and we made it to OK City. We caught a couple of brewskis at the local pub (TapWerks), and even played along in the Tuesday night Trivia Bowl while enjoying dinner. Once we saw that the prize was a free round of Amstel Light though, we got the check and got out of there.

On The Road

We hit the road today. The car is loaded up, and I pick up Mike at the airport in about an hour. We've got about four hours to Amarillo, where we'll catch a late lunch at the Big Texan, home of the free 72oz steak. See if you can catch us on their live WebCam.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The $1 Burger is a Loss Leader

At least, that's my guess - they get you in the door so they can make money on you buying stuff like soda (want some water with your corn syrup?) and fries (potatoes with your sodium?). So that's the explanation - which has absolutely no bearing on my opinion of the food. Maybe once a year I get a craving for McD's or BK, then when I'm done I feel awful and totally regret it. They really should get into a marketing deal with the Catholic Church - "Working hard to make you feel bad about yourself like never before! Over 1 bazillion served and/or tortured."

When I traveled cross-country with Robin, we made a commitment to each other to only eat greasy fast food once and successfully kept it (eating at the World's Largest McDonald's in Oklahoma). That was a 3000-mile, 5-day journey. This trip is just over half that, so I think we can ban it from the options. As long as Subway and Jimmy John's are on the table, we should be fine. Not that those are absolutely terrific, but at least they don't make me want to vomit.

You call that "tight" in the Volvo? You should have seen our Accord on previous trips - of course, that has probably half the cabin space. Seeing out the back is a good goal, but with decently aligned side mirrors, all you have to do is pay close attention and you're in pretty good shape.

Good call on the snacks. Yes, none of that sugar-free crap! I'll try to fit some in the ridiculously small backpack I'm bringing, but it's good to know you've got a few. I'm always big on gas-station standby's like the "Chipwich" (vanilla ice cream wedged inside two chocolate chip cookies) and Oatmeal Creme Pies. (This from a guy who just dissed McD's as unhealthy.) I hope we at least get a chance to stop at one of these lovely establishments:

What was your old formula for staying awake on the road? Skor bars and Jolt?


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Road Warrior

Well I admit I'd not heard of Rubio until I'd read that post. Kind of looks like a poor man's Steve Nash. Unfortunately I think the Wolves have a track record for making incredibly bad decisions with players (see the life and times of McHale, Kevin).

The Volvo is packed up (almost), and it's pretty tight in there. I've tried to keep things so that we can actually see out the back, and I think it'll work out OK. I shipped a bunch of stuff in four fairly large boxes. I've no idea how we got all this crap out here in the first place.

I picked up a couple of bags of trail mix today, as well as a bag of Werther's. I got the real stuff, not the sugar-free crap Dad buys. I'll probably pick up some more so that we can drive to the moon if we feel like it.

One thing we have not talked about is where we plan to stop for lunch. I pretty much abhor Mickey D's and BK, but can stomach them if need be. Aside from the fact that the stuff is basically garbage (how else to explain the $1 burgers?), it has the effect of sucking all the blood out of my brain. So we need to figure out a strategy beyond day 1, when we'll stop at the Texas Steak House for a late one.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nah, I'm fine. The Wolves drafted Ricky Rubio!

It's amazing how much an enticing draft pick can lift your spirits. Even if we will have to spend the next year convincing him that we can build a skyway from his house to the Target Center so he never has to go outside in the winter.

Well, even if I did have the piggers, typical symptoms are like a summer cold. Just one with a slightly higher fatality rate. But no runs (yet) or intestinal disasters so far, and I'm pretty sure there won't be any on the horizon. I'm just coughing and tired. It might not be the flu thing. It's probably SARS.

Bummer you were sick in Hawaii. Sounds like our trip to Jamaica. I wasn't physically sick, just mentally ill from the constant steel drum bands. But it's good to know you had something go wrong with that Blue Audi. After I inherited it, I had to change a tire, re-string the accelerator, and devise ways to tell people how the rear doors worked. "It's one-way: you can go in ONE door, and OUT the other door, but not the other direction!" Still, that was a sweet car.

The fact that I just enjoyed a Full Sail Pale Ale speaks to the fact that I figure I'm going to be fine. You sure Oregon isn't on the way between New Mexico and North Carolina?


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Well That Doesn't Sound Promising

I think this is probably what your typical rest station looks like in Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas, so if you're feeling a little loose in the shorts, then just don't get on the plane brother. Remember, discretion is the better part of valor.

I actually had some 24-hr bug the first day we were in Hawaii last week. God that sucked. Pretty much everything that was in my intestinal track got the frick out of Dodge in a hurry. And then it was gone about as fast as it came. So hopefully this passes quickly for you also.

Worst car trouble I've had? Mine barely registers. Remember that old, eighties blue Audi I had in college? I think the alternator died one day when I was driving home from school. That's about it. I tend not to have bad luck when it comes to cars. So I can change your basic flat tire, but that's about it. If anything more serious happens to us, we're screwed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I'm pretty sure I have H1N1

Or as it's better known, the swine flu. This doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to buy the farm, but it probably does mean that I'll be on the tail end of a sickness during the trip. Thought you all should know. The good news is that I'll be able to spread the joy across the country like that first police officer in The Stand. The other good news is that I've always been a hypochondriac, so this could just be allergies. Or Monkeypox!

Here's hoping that plenty of sleep and fluids in the next 6 days will speed this thing along.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One week and counting

As we head into the final week before the trip, I've burned 3 mix CD's to add to the 3 or 4 I've already got in my car, hunted around for hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, and posted a question to about music in Memphis. On the To-Do list: book a cab for 4:30 (!) AM Tuesday, pack, check my cell coverage, and try to cut back on my morning coffee.

Dad saying that he hopes the car doesn't break down poses an interesting conversation game - what's the worst car trouble you've ever had? It speaks to the reliability of today's cars (and mobile phones) that we're planning an 1800 mile trip and not worried much about mechanical difficulties. Knock on wood. Or knock on the blog. Just don't knock on "The Final Countdown".

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dude, keep your eyes on the prize

Just relax, and remember, a nice cold beer is at the end of the rainbow. Or the end of the interstate. Something like that.

So, what, you're not into fitting in with the locals? Me, I see it as kind of a personal challenge. Sure, there's no way I'm going to grow an afro and a smoker's rasp overnight, but if I can avoid being a poster boy for Stuff White People Like, I consider that a notch in my coolness belt. I've only got like two notches now, so I'll take what I can get. Of course, not getting mugged or killed is also high on the priority list.

Glad to know that we're booked in some digs. My last two cross-country trips we just "winged it" in terms of accommodations. I like having a set destination in mind instead.

No gun rack needed, but I have a few comedy albums by the immortally un-PC Doug Stanhope and doughboy Jim Gaffigan. If you're interested in those, let me know and I'll rig 'em up.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm Starting to Have Second Thoughts

After reading that string of posts, this could be more than I bargained for. Let's just try not to get killed or mugged in Memphis. Mmmkay? Kay.

So we're booked at three hotels. The Courtyard Oklahoma City Downtown, the Hampton Inn on Beale Street, and the Renaissance Asheville.

I've downloaded roughly twenty Sports Guy podcasts, and about the same number of NPR's The Story. I haven't burned them onto CD yet, but I'll probably do that the weekend before we leave. Is there anything we're missing? Gun rack maybe?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Question of Etiquette?

Normally I could give a crap about clothes. I'm definitely not a fashionista. I buy as little as possible and try to stick to a few basics - otherwise I'm highly likely to screw something up. What I DO care about, however, is fitting in when I'm in a new place. Not that I'm going to fool anyone who looks twice, but if there's any chance I can not stick out like a sore thumb, and thereby avoid some street hustlers and other pain-in-the-arse tourist-leeches, I want to do it. If I can slink by while the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing couple from Salt Lake City gets suckered by a hustler selling "VIP Club Passes", I'm psyched.

So while reading this article, "How to Avoid Looking Like an American Tourist" (which could have easily been titled, "How to Avoid Looking Like a Dorky White Guy in a Memphis Blues Club"), I'm pondering packing a pair of jeans for the night out in Memphis and maybe even Asheville. Because the shorts and athletic socks I plan on using for the plane and the drive are just NOT "night on the town" gear, and probably considered offensive in some circles. Obviously we have to try and look at what the locals are wearing (and I'll ask my friend Stacy, who has been to Beale St. a few times), but my first guess is that a pair of jeans is a good idea to pack. Of course, the "Dress Code" sections in this listing are no freakin' road map.

You might not have such a worries with access to more clothes - it's your car - but me, I'll be packing it as light as possible.


Monday, June 15, 2009

So far, Bing Blows

So much for a new "decision engine": "Lodging near Cinema Oklahoma City" produces nada useful. C'mon, you mean it's tough to find two things near each other? Fortunately for me, I have other tools at my disposal, like Marriott's mapping engine.

Lo and Behold, a Brewery nearby! And if we stay in one of these "Bricktown" hotels, we'll be able to walk to the Bricktown Cinemas, which look like pretty much the only Cinema along I-40 in OK City.

And this area looks fairly walkable by Midwestern/South standards. Check out the birds-eye map.

Oh, and before you praise the "Bing" maps, those were available under, Microsoft's OLD search engine. So no new "bing" there. And please don't tell us about the ballfield across the street...we've already checked the schedule. No games for June 30th...

Thought I'd go ahead and find this now before waiting for you to ask...


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book it, John-O!

Sounds like a plan. My only suggestion is to try to find lodging within walking distance of our nighttime activities, since after driving all day we'll want to stretch our legs...and the last thing we'll want to do is get back in the car. Memphis should be covered, and it'll probably be easy to find what you want in Asheville, because I'm assuming you have a brewery in mind. So if you'd like me to find a hotel near a movie theater in OK City, let me know and I'll get to Googling. Or maybe I'll Bing and Decide.

Speaking of Asheville, I don't suppose you'd be up for entertaining the tree hugger in me by visiting the American Chestnut Foundation. But I just came across them via a friend when randomly talking about trees and thought it was serendipitous that I'd be driving by their HQ soon.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reviewing the Itinerary

OK, so let's go over this again as I think I'm going to start making some hotel reservations.

Tuesday June 30: Mike arrives in ABQ in the morning. We drive to Amarillo and stop at the Big Texan for a late-ish lunch/early dinner. Push onward 4 hours to Oklahoma City, where we don't mention the name of our blog to anyone packing heat.

Wednesday July 1: Drive 7 hours from OK-city to Memphis. Stay in a hotel close to Beale Street. Catch some Blues, drink some beer. Crash.

Thursday July 2: Drive 8 hours from Memphis to Asheville. Stay in some random hotel. Get some good beer.

Friday July 3: Go for hike in the Smoky Mountains. Drive to Durham. Drink some beer at Tyler's Taproom (the picture at the top of this post). Crash at our home in Durham.

Saturday July 4: Mike flies home to MSP.