July 4th, 03:00.
In order for you to truly appreciate this story you must get into the right frame of mind to read it. So turn off the AC, roll down the windows, crank up the cheap yellow Radio Shack speakers you have hooked up to your discman, sit back, and drive like hell.

This is your vehicle. A 95 Honda Civic. Matt described it as a grayish, bluish silver color. I am inclined to agree with him. Standard transmission, no AC, and no radio. But it looks pretty nice, and drives very smooth.

The adventure began on Wednesday, June 26th when I went to pick up Matt. After waiting for him to pack we went straight to Grammy's, where our chariot awaited us. A few days before Chris had bestowed upon me a list. A magic list, of sorts, of all the things he wanted. So after two hours of careful packing, arranging and re-arranging we had managed to cram into the trunk and the back seat the following:

Pool Cue Case
19 inch monitor
Duffel bag
Black suitcase on wheels
Chris' sterio system (remember the BIG system that was at Ben's New Year's Party? Yup)

Plus some random articles from his mother, and a box from Carmen for Chad. I should charge people for this stuff. Oh, and Matt and I each had a backpack and duffel bag. And our hats. Actually, as I write this now my trusty Navy cap is still plastered to my head. You think I'm joking when I say plastered? I haven't showered since Sunday night. Ha.

Our original plan was to leave Thursday morning, but Matt told me that since he had slept all that day anyway, why not leave right then? I didn't have any valid arguments as to why not, so I said sure. First stop: Sonic. Where I happened to run into the Sapios, and spent a few minutes talking with them and some friends of theirs who had just driven I-40. They said there was some construction, but it wasn't that bad. We'll get to how wrong they were in a few moments. After a brief stop at Wal*Mart to grab some batteries for our discmans, we head out. And already we're having a disagreement. I say we take the quickest route, Matt wants to take the scenic route to Flagstaff.

"It's a pretty drive!"
"Matt, it's night time."

Well, he was driving so I couldn't really argue with him that much. And it was a very nice drive. We drove all night, and I didn't manage to sleep much because I was so excited. We were in the middle of New Mexico, doing 80, when Matt started swerving back and forth. Now, I wasn't sure if he was doing it intentionally because he was tired of listening to me, or if there was wind, or…we blew a tire. Well, this can't be good. Matt and I sat there a moment, thinking. We figured that Grammy would never let us leave without a spare, but where is it? The only answer: Under all the crap in the trunk. Doing some clever detective work we call Grammy and ask her nonchalantly if there's a spare in the trunk. You know, just incase. Indeed there is. So we pull out of the back the big speaker, the smaller horizontal one, the two little ones, the pool cue case, the duffel bag, the black suitcase, and all the books we had so carefully arranged so they wouldn't get damaged on the trip out there. Lifted up the flap, and pulled out the spare and the jack. I have never seen a jack like this in my life. It couldn't even support it's own weight. The best way I can describe it is that we were both sure there was a piece missing. After some experimentation Matt gets the car up, the hubcap off, and swaps tires. I took a picture. The blown one goes into the trunk, along with the speakers, pool cue case, duffel, suitcase and books. We're off again, resolved to get it fixed at the next town. The sun was rising.

After stopping at Sonic (again) for breakfast, we found a Goodyear tire place. Out comes all the crap in the trunk again, and they patch the tire. The spare goes back in the trunk, the patched tire goes back on the car, everything is crammed back in the trunk (Matt: Chris is going to be pissed about his books. Steph: He can deal) and we're off again.

What follows from there is miles and miles and miles of road construction. Apparently I-40 is getting re-paved from Texas to Tennessee. There was one detour in particular that royally pissed me off. Where the interstate crosses the Arkansas River, a barge apparently ran into the bridge, completely destroying it. Matt got a nap and I got two hours of driving around Arkansas back country. We celebrated the end of that by having a nice sit down dinner at a Cracker Barrel I swear I've been to before.

We crossed the Mississippi and entered Memphis under the cover of darkness and over a brightly lit bridge. We had to stop for gas. Let me tell you. 3 am in Memphis is an interesting experience. People were just hanging out at this gas station. For no reason! I mean, in Memphis, you'd think there would be a more interesting spot to chill than the local 76. Come on. Even in Prescott we at least have Denny's. Matt finished the night out and I took over the next morning, just before we entered one of the most beautiful National Parks I've ever seen. It is right on the Ten. North Carolina border. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So many shades of green my eyes could hardly take it. Clouds hanging so low they met up with the mist rising from the forest. It reminded me of Austria. I turned off the radio (not that I could hear it anyway with the windows rolled down) and enjoyed feeling like I was in a car commercial. That little civic has magical handling. I made a mental note to tell Chad about it. What a fun place to bike! I got us through North Carolina and into South before I yet again turned the wheel over to Matt. Out of the 40 some odd hours of driving, I did maybe 6. Go Matt.

We swung into Goose Creek around 2, and it was up to me to remember exactly how to get to the Days Inn. I managed it on the first try, and checked us into our room. There Matt crashed while I jumped behind the wheel and swung over to the Naval Weapon's Station to pick up Chris. He appeared with a bunch of his cronies and they unloaded the car. I said hi to Chad, and Chris and I went back to the hotel.

The weekend consisted of sleep, movies (Minority Report is excellent), meals, driving around and moresleep. Oh, and bug bites. Damn bug bites. One notable experience was when we were driving to the movie theater, and two peacocks flew out into the road in front of the car and just…stopped. And looked at us as if to say, "What do you want? We're walking here! Want to make something of it?" They didn't even move when Chris honked. We had to wait until they decided it was worth their wile to move.

Monday morning began the Greyhound Adventure. Right offthe bat let me tell you that I will never go Greyhound again if I can avoid it in any way. Oh, the buses are all right, and most of the drivers are nice, but the terminals are INSANE. It started with the crappy one room terminal in Charleston, and went down hill from there until Atlanta where we missed our bus. Cue the 7 hour wait. No one knew what they were doing. We spent 5 hours in front of door number 2, then an hour in front of 5, then another hour hovering before slipping into line at 2 again and just getting on the first bus we saw that was heading west. Atlanta Terminal consists of one big room with 8 or 10 glass doors all leading onto the same platform, and room for you to make your own line.

And these doors don't open from the inside or the outside unless someone with a magical key card makes them open. It was amusing for the first 3 hours to watch people come up from the outsideand try to open them, then look at you as if it's your job to let them in. Idiots.

Lucally the terminals got better from there. Dallas was a breeze, only an hour there. And we somehow managed to get bumped to the front of the line and get on a less crowded bus. We had a cool driver from Dallas to El Paso, even though we left someone behind at a Wendy's in the middle of Texas. At least, we think that's what happened to him. No one really knows for sure. From El Paso to half way between Phoenix and Tucson we had this poor guy who was used to driving the east coast, and just "wanted to see" what it was like driving in the west. In Tucson (after we finally found the station) he noticed that one of the tires was low on air. Someone pointed it out to him and he just shrugged. "We'll stop somewhere and put air in it."
So much for that. An hour south of Phoenix we hear a pop that I recognize all to well. The people in the back shouted, "The tire blew!"

"We've got 16 more back there, one isn't going to make much difference." The driver shouted back.

Silently we continue on, going slower and slower. He finally pulls over to get out and take a look at it. The smell of burning rubber catches up with the bus and it's so strong I nearly gag. He gets back in and we crawl along until we find a mile marker. 216. And an Adopt a Highway sign proclaiming this stretch as belonging to the Members of the Fennemore Craig Foundation. He calls for help and we sit on the side of the road. Our driver finally consents to let people smoke, but warns, "If you start a fire, I don't know shit. I didn't let you off, I know nothing." I wander around stomping out sparks, much to the bemusement of the people heading to LA. I don't know how long it took to get the truck and second bus out there, after 3 days on busses everything runs together. Regardless we finally get to Phoenix, and Mike Jones picks us up from the station. We ditched our bus ride to Prescott and head up with Mike after a detour to Taco Bell and the apartment. Now I'm home.

Over all I had a blast on the way out, and think riding Greyhound was a good experience but you'd have to bribe me to do it again. Those minimum 2 hour waits per terminal while they "clean the bus" is nuts. The Civic is a good little car, Chris loves it and is really going to put a lot of work into making her a fantastic vehicle. As for me, I'm going to sleep for a few hours before heading over to the Levenson's to start house sitting. And to take advantage of their shower.

Happy Fourth of July, wake me when we get there.

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