Notes From The Road

“The road is like a lover, she calls to me in the dark, and I run to her, she soothes my ragged soul, she fills my spirit.”

The guy with the duffle bag and the beard looks at me and says, “You got a smoke in your hand, aren’t you going to lite it?” and I say, “No.”  Then he says, “Why not?” and I say, “I don’t want to lite it.”  Then he says …. “Why you bother holding a smoke in your hand if you are not going to smoke it?”  So then I say, “‘Cause they might come over here and tell me I only have five more minutes to live, and I don’t want to spend it all looking for a smoke.”

On some days, it don’t pay to get out of bed.

So here I sit, 7.5 miles south of Travis City, Michigan, in my old tired, worn out motor-kamper, writing stories about doomed cities of the future and it occurred to me … No wait, that aint right.  What was I thinking?  That my friends, is a fabrication, sometimes sprinkling a little lie here and there improves the story.

I call it embellishing in order to clarify.

That is the nature of the beast, I have to fill my word count for the month, don’t I?  I am not really in Michigan, I am deep in the Lone Star State, just across the road from a root n scoot in Houston, Texas, munching on a Mr. Goodbar and drinking a diet Dr. Pepper.

It’s a tough job … but someone has to do it.

Meandering thru the channels on television last-night, and I came across a National Geographic Special on “Gold and Guerrillas” in Columbia (some people refer to this as surfing, but I don’t really know why).  Most of the time I don’t turn the television on, when I am on the road, but for some reason I did last-night.  Found a little nugget of truth sprinkled amongst the trash of man.

Y’know, after watching this documentary, it is apparent to me, that no matter how bad things get in this country, we still have it pretty good.

Columbia is rich in precious metals and stones, very poor in human rights.  Making a living is not only hard, but often complicated.  I watched this poor guy, working in a river, washing gold in a pan, from early in the morning to dusk.  And his total take for the day was just a pitiful amount of the precious metal, and he had to use a toxic substance to retrieve it (Mercury).  The sum total of a days labor … about enough to buy two meals, $36.  The guerrillas in the mountains now depend on this income (gold), cocaine is on the down side in this country now, so they have moved over to a new way to finance their particular brand of terror … Gold.

Columbia is a beautiful country and has much to offer, but sadly it is like a lot of South America, corrupt and full of danger.  If you have something of value, the guerrillas in the mountains are prone to take it from you or at best if you are lucky, force you to share it with them.  The government on the other hand cannot protect you, and they too, extract their pound of flesh along the way.

I came away from this one hour show with the profound awareness of how good I have it here and a feeling of gratitude for being born in a nation that has some semblance of law and justice, along with a smattering of freedom.

Which is something that is basic in nature, something we all want.

Here is an example.

Life is good here in the U.S.A. where we are all considered regular people and have all the advantages and benefits that there are to offer.  Personally, I have not come across one of these so-called social animals of American Society here lately (regular people), but I have my eyes wide open, and when I spot one I will let you know.

You then can stick a colored pin in a map … either red or blue … Unlike the folks in Columbia YOU still have a choice.


Thanks to Mike at Tau Zero for the photo, check ’em out, eye-candy for the soul.

Houston Mixer

Dry parked in Boom Town Texas (Houston America) .  Houston, the 4th largest city in the U.S.A. and is doing well these days … Wish you were here.  A quick note or two.

Forgot my laptop workstation I need to get one and keep it handy (store it here in the bus), and do not leave it on the footstool at the house.  It makes working on the computer a lot better, this holding it in your lap, is frankly, “for the birds.”

Pringles in the can are not the same as chips in the bag, make a note of that.  Chili tastes better on top of some Frito’s.  Good food on the road, costs more these days, bad food is still about the same.  Here is another interesting wrinkle I have found.

Seafood costs more the closer you get to the ocean and gasoline-diesel fuel increases in price in direct proximity to the closest refinery.  True Texas mysteries and/or observations we have noted this time out.

Fresh cup of coffee and the morning sun is breaking on the horizon, the day has promise, could be a good one and then I spot the tow car, sitting lopsided on one side.  Flat tire .. Go Ahead Make My Day.


Welcome to the foot-Patrol

This is not good, very un-good as they say deep in the heart of Alabama.  First order of the day is not peace or enjoyment, it is fix a problem.  So much for the R&R prospects of the trip.

Soon it will be warm.  Houston will be hot and muggy, but then again, it is always hot and muggy here.  Rolled in late last night on the shank of the dying day (8:30 P.M.) only to find that there are no available RV spots in town.  This is because all of the refineries are shut down to do yearly maint. and there are some 87,000 workers here in town doing this chore.

They also told me that Houston’s bay is full of barges that are full of oil.  It is quite apparent that like campgrounds, you cannot find an empty barge anywhere to store the black gold.  B’sides the regular maint. on the refineries, there is a huge influx of construction workers and welders here at this time, they are manufacturing huge storage tanks and increasing their capacity to store the product at this time (and I suppose hold it off the market to increase their values).

Not to worry, I also understand that their current media campaign to convince all of us that “they are our friends and make our lives much better” is well entrenched and in place at this time.

That will not change.

Anyone who says that Big Oil is not running this country, is a complete moron, their presence is everywhere.  In Texas and Oklahoma, the oil field is now spilling out of the company yard, and filling the highways.  What used to be sitting in the dust and gathering rust is now changed considerably, all of the rigs are brand new, squeaky clean and shiny.

American Oil has big deep pockets and it shows, just about everywhere you go.  You should think about this each time you drive up to the pump, as you are their main sponsor or benefactor, and from what I have seen on this trip your generosity has paid off considerably.

With current supplies ample you would think the price would come down, supply and demand, aint that what they taught us in school?

No way, hovering right on the $4 mark, the highways are chocked full of pilgrims and the roads are full, deep in the heart of Texas … The oil rich Lone Star State … Eight lanes wide in most places, and a car in every lane … Biz is good.

That is the story for today.  Dry camping in the church parking lot, east side of oil city, running off the generator (which is an expensive solution to the loss of a campsite) and wondering where it will all lead us to in the end?

Please Lord … Give us one more oil boom … We promise we won’t blow it this time.


Down Under …

Not a good day for scuba diving on the The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Ian Cole of Michigan took the vacation of a lifetime and made the trip down under.

Wonder how long the flight down there would be? 

I always like the part where the stewardess takes the microphone and says … “In the unlikely event of …. “  This is always to me, a very suspect phrase, especially coming as it does from an industry that is willing to lie to the public about arrival and departure times.

So, Ian is having the time of his life, swimming and frolicking on the Great Barrier Reef.  Perhaps later they will throw another shrimp on the barbie …  He was diving with a group of divers, and he said that he surfaced to get his bearings and that is when he noticed the boat that brought him and the other divers to the reef, was now gone.  Man-Man, if that doesn’t give you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, nothing would.

Realizing that he was alone.  He said “he almost panicked there for a moment or two.”  Fortunately, another boat came by and they picked him up.  And you thought Disneyland was bad.

The Cracker Boy has a good take on it here.  

Nice article on reefs and Huge Sharks!

(Make sure you click on the link to the photo … It is well worth the trip trust me)

Here is a good rule of thumb for all you Motor City tourists southbound to Austrailia. When an animal this size comes close enough to you to look you in the eye, and its third eyelid nictitates like the blazes, it is time to pack it in … leave the area.

I don't need the boat ... I just need the sand and the sea.

Australia sounds interesting as all get out, it really does. But for my money, the Caribbean is looking much better.  For one thing, I have yet to read of any great white sharks down in that neck of the woods.  Some place like Bermuda, Nassau in the Bahamas, maybe a white sand beach in Jamaica, an old hammock, a glass of sweet tea sipped slowly from a small Mason jar.   Like the song says … I am gonna lay in the sun, roll me up a big fat one, grab my guitar and play.  My toes in the water, my A** in the sand, not a carry or worry in the land.

Because such a high percentage of our time as humans is spent in the pursuit of personal goals in life, we must strive to make every minute count.  We often find a way to enjoy the actual day-to-day, moment-to-moment process of living.  Instead of waiting for the boat that left you adrift, you could be lying in a hammock, lit up and oblivious to the world and not having to worry about being the lunch time entree of some huge swimming carnivore.

Life is all about choices, remember that.  Maybe a tree house in Belize … I dunno.  No Barrier Reef that is reserved for the adventurous types (those guys who can paddle really fast), not old geezers like me.


Attitude Adjustment

Being as I am terminally afflicted with a modern illness termed “Road Rage” it is often that I have to self diagnose myself and quickly take measures to protect not only myself, but also the general public at large.  This morning, I am cruising down the boulevard; all is well in my world.  Traffic is light, most of it has cleared out, and the road for the most part is quite empty.  I am pleased, I chuckle and think, “If I was any happier I would have to pay an amusement tax.”

The radio is playing Keith Urban, and I think to myself, “this guy isn’t country; he wouldn’t make a pimple on a country singers …. Uh, he just isn’t country.” Once again, I have to remind myself to …. Leave it alone.

And there he is … Out of the corner of my eye, I see him.

The dumb-bell in the Little Debbie’s Snack Cakes truck, he is going to blow thru that yield sign and push me over.  I feel the heat building; road rage is coming on board to make another trip with me this day.  It doesn’t take much in my old age to set me off like a rocket at Cape Canaveral in Florida, I don’t even hit simmer on most days, just go straight to boil.

I have him figured right, here he comes.

Bigger than Dallas, in less than a New York minute, he blows thru the sign and I have to move over, no sense in seeing who has the best insurance this day. Face it, Eagle bodywork is not like taking the family hoopie into the local Ford dealer.  I succumb to his rude entry into my world, and I note that he is also talking on his cell phone.  Man, that rankles me, only thing worse than this would be text messaging, currently illegal in five states and in my opinion worthy of five to ten in the state pen.

Okie drivers (and I suppose drivers in other states) these days leave a lot to be desired.  Most of them have their head so far up their collective hinnies, they need a plexi-glass stomach just to see where they are going.  Adding a cell phone, the modern equivalent of a cigarette in the twenty-first century, just makes it worse.  Often technology does the exact reverse of what it was designed to do, mainly, improving the quality of life.

I heat up, I growl, I wish bad things on this person AND his cat.

Knowing full well that this volatile behavior on my part, is not conducive to good mental health or otherwise, I sit back in the seat, I smile and say to no one in particular, “get out of here moron, I have better things to do with my time this day, than mess with you.”  (When it gets really bad, I find a exit ramp, walk around the bus four or five times, stopped in New Mexico one time and got a piece of apple pie …. Whatever works, right?)  I was in Sweetwater, Texas a few summers back and this woman in a mini-van with a little faces in every window, loaded to the gills with kids, blew thru a stop sign right in front of me.

Standing on the breaks hard, shifting the contents of just about everything to the front of the truck, I wanted to kill her.  But I understand that even in Texas, this is illegal.  So I shouted out at her, “Don’t you know when to stop!”  She yelled back, “these aint all my kids!”  Texas, it is like a totally other world ….. Y’all.

Most truckers look at bus drivers with disdain and something less than outright disgust.  They feel we do not have a right to be on the road with them, same as four wheelers and the like, and have told me so on several occasions.  But the simple truth of the matter is we share a common problem, and that problem is bad drivers and attitudes.  When you get right down to it, where the rubber meets the road, we actually share the same universe, our world’s are not all that different.

The sign reads “Flyin J at exit 194” and a nice looking KW, clearly a garbage hauler, with a half-million dollars in chrome, naked women on his mudflaps and at least five dozen made in Hong Kong LED lights, comes barging onto the scene with a vengeance.  I move over, the lettering on the back of his trailer reads, “Every courtesy of the road is yours.”

Now isn’t that ironic?

Time to back out of it, and get some pie.  Won’t help my boyish figure any but it will almost certainly improve my attitude.

Life is short … enjoy the ride.


The Short Rows

I like the country
Can’t stand all this city strife
Guess I want to be on the boulevard … rollin’
Rollin’ all my life.

Open the east gate of Yellowstone and let me in!
Thinking about Bear Tooth Pass,
Cooke City, Red Lodge Montana
two-lane highways and cheap gas.

Crater Lake,
Junction City,
Clear water streams
What a hopeless romantic,
a man of many dreams.

No adventure in my life,
No more icing on the cake,
Ho hugs, soft kisses, warm hello’s,
No backrubs, or calls on the telephone,
No important dates for me to make,
My coffee cup has developed a pinhole leak on the bottom,
My first problem of the day.

Wednesday morning, my idle mind draggin’ my heart around. I can hear the low muffled sound of my own heart beating. It disturbs me, a distressing reminder of my own mortality. A slow steady drum beat of how fragile life really can be, and I stop to consider the fact that we seldom realize the frailty of it all.

Sitting here at my window with my cup of Joe, meditating. Today, this day, my thoughts should be concentrated on other things, not so much on leaving, getting out of here. But rather, just making it thru another Oklahoma winter day.

Much like the fading last embers in a dying campfire … the memory of the weekend is fading … Two quick short days in heaven, often just isn’t enough. Perhaps a trip north to Yellowstone or a quick visit to Orlando and some white sand, might just be what the doc ordered up?

I need a two-week placebo for my winter time blues.


Rude Awakening – Strange Expressions

This month in Bus Conversions Magazine I have a story published.  For those of you who do not receive this magazine, here is a reprint of the article.

When I was but a small lad, which was quite awhile ago, trust me.  I would ask my Dad for money, and he would reply, “Do you think money grows on trees?”  I of course, would reply … “Yeah.”  He would then say, “well, go outside, find a tree, and pick me some!”  This of course never happened, I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I am also a fast learner.

Strange expression.

My daddy used to have this other saying (expression) he would use, he would say, “One of these days’ boy, you are going to be in for a rude awakening.” I used to sit around and wonder about that, and of course, why we had Volleyballs, important stuff like that.

We have Volleyballs incidentally, because we need a place to store air, I thought everyone knew that.  My mother bless her heart, used to say, “If you think this is over Mister, you have another think coming!” … My little sister’s favorite was … “I was so upset I was b’side myself!”

Here is another one, my buddy recently offered up …. “I slept like a baby” …. What does that mean? A baby wakes up every other hour for cryin’ out loud, someone sleeping like that suggests to me, that they could possibly have an over-active prostrate, serious stuff.

Strange expressions, each and every one.

My very first encounter with bus people I met some interesting folks, and I heard some expressions that I had never before heard of.  For instance, I am sitting talking with a guy, and out of the blue, with no prompting from me, he offers up …. “I Love My Eagle.”  I immediately thought to myself … Strange expression.  I can’t believe a guy would say something like that.  How do you love an inanimate object such as a bus?

Not knowing this person’s mental history or his thought processes, I just shrugged if off and filed it back somewhere for future reference.  I mean “Jeeze Louise, I just met a guy named Norma Jean and another guy they all called Cat Skinner,” perhaps it is best to just sit back and observe for awhile.

While we are at it?  If you hear the expression, “there is more than one way to skin a cat?”  STOP IMMEDIATELY and seek professional help. (Now all you cat lovers, don’t email me on this, the box is full)

 So anywho …. Not long ago, late one night, outside Van Horn, Texas, (a place where 3.6 billion people have never been) I dropped off a hill and reached over and set the jake.  Opening the small turnpike window, the air was thick with the smell of summertime, the aroma of grease wood and the desert filled the cab.  All is right in my world, no serious traffic, the old bus barked in the night sailing downhill at seventy plus.  The grand-kids are crapped out in their respective haunts, the old hoopie porpoised a little and purred a deep throated melody in the dark.

The reverberation from the jake sliced the night like a sharp knife, not a trooper in sight and the fast lane is all mine.  One more item off my bucket list of life, I am circumspect.

Reaching over and lowering the volume on the CD Player I listen intently to the sound of the Detroit which I have to admit, was playing music to my ears.  Slowly I turned to the right and said to my wife out of nowhere  … “I Love My Eagle!”

Then, almost immediately, as if by reflex I muttered …. “Gawd, I don’t believe I said that.”

My wife of course, did not have a clue as to what I was talking about.  She had that calf looking at a new gate for the first time look on her face and I offered up nothing in return.  She just shrugged her shoulders and blew it off.  And believe it or not, that was okay.

You see, some things are better left unsaid and unexplained, and that includes strange expressions.

See you in the fast lane * …


Photo credit:  Larry Jones, Albq. New Mexico

*  Any resemblance to anyone living or dead, was most likely on purpose.