173 LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND

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LONG DISTANCE RUNAROUND

We had voted to drive straight through. (Nobody else had liked Texas much either, apparently.) We could always pull off at a motel in the night, we figured, if no one was up to driving. Carynne had mapped us a route that clipped through a corner of New Mexico, 969 miles to be exact from parking lot to parking lot. This was the expensive part of the trip, with lots of overhead and little income. In the planning stages of the tour we’d come close to deciding not to cross the Mississippi. But somehow we ended up going for it.

If the drive to Cleveland had felt long at almost six hours with two pit stops, imagine this: twenty hours. As I stood pissing in a rest area northwest of San Antonio, I calculated that would be ten pit stops at minimum. I felt like a dog, pissing every so often to mark my trail. Jeezus.

If I hadn’t already been numb, the miles would have made me numb. Bart and Chris would sometimes banter with each other as if Ziggy and I weren’t there. Z wasn’t saying much and neither was I. I rode one stretch in the truck with Kevin and it was a minor relief. But to keep on going we had to rotate drivers and riders and eventually me and Z. would be in the van again. No one suggested we two take the truck, which was just as well. And regardless of any angst I might have been experiencing, while Ziggy drove the van, I fell asleep.

When I woke up Chris was saying “What’s the difference between a raccoon and a violist squished in the road?”

And Bart answered, “The raccoon was on his way to a gig. And don’t you dare start in with bassoon player jokes, asshole.”

In New Mexico we stopped at a roadside diner to piss, rotate, and eat. The placemats were paper maps of New Mexico with illustrations of various tourist attractions, none of which were particularly near to our route. It was night, and I’d slept some, and I had no idea if it was before or after midnight, nor did it occur to me to wonder. Besides the placemats, the place featured more variations of the “Western” omelet than I’d previously seen, and you could get a side dish of rice and beans as well as fries or toast. In all other respects, though, we could have been in any of a hundred diners anywhere in America and I was finding it hard sometimes, eating grilled cheese or standing at the urinal, to remember where we were or where we were going.

After a while I almost forgot that there would be an end to the trip. By the middle of the next day I was settling in to traveling as if it were itself the main activity, as if we’d be doing this forever.

I had to pee one and a half times as often as the van needed gas.

Around sunrise Bart asked “How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?” and was greeted by total silence. (We all knew the answer: none, they have machines that do that now.)

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