Kerouac had Moriarty, I have Anthony.
While the famous Beat poet traveled the American landscape, fueled by substances legal and otherwise, moving to the rhythm of Bird, Burroughs, and Miles Davis, boy, me and mommy hit the road this past week loaded up on sippy cups, bottled water, beef jerky, and coffee, blasting the sounds of cartoon soundtracks.
Our goal on this nearly 800-mile, 12-hour trip was to make it in one shot, and as a younger man, this was not unheard of.
At the age of 17, accompanied by a friend who was older and should have known better, I made the trek from Sacramento, Calif., to Macon, Miss., a journey of more than 2,200 miles, in a little less than 33 hours.
But that was a lifetime ago, and as we motored towards I-40, it soon became clear that those hours of nonstop driving were a thing of the past. With this realization comes wisdom. Well, maybe not wisdom, but at least a list that with the right font might pass for wisdom.
So, as a public service to our readers, here are just a few rules of the road:
1. When gearing up for a long trip, coffee seems like a good idea. For an hour or so. That large thermos of French Roast becomes a stop before leaving Chino, thinking about stopping at the Depot 89, wishing you made a stop in Ash Fork, and then risking a speeding ticket and practicing your behind-the-wheel dance moves until you hit Seligman.
2. That little bottle promising five hours of "long lasting energy with no sugar and zero net carbs" is full of ... of... stuff with really long names like citicoline, tyrosine, phenylaline, and several other "ines." Those "ines" keep you awake, but I think they rank right up there with the Kerouac and Moriarty supply list in terms of side effects. Spilling half a bottle on your shirt just means that the shakes last two and a half hours instead of the full five, allowing you to seek out a motel earlier than you thought.
3. The motel that leaves the light on for you should also mention that a freight train thunders past the window of Room 136 every 20 minutes on the dot. Like clockwork. All night. The good news is that all of those dump trucks leaving the quarry across the street drown out most of the train noise. Sort of like two penalties cancelling each other out.
4. Beef jerky plus coffee plus roast beef sandwich and horseradish sauce equals at least one more stop.
5. And speaking of roast beef, that piece of meat you didn't pick up when you dropped your sandwich last night might look a lot like this morning's beef jerky but don't be fooled. LOOKS like and TASTES like are two very different things. There's a BIG difference between teriyaki and floor mat.
6. Choice of music is very important. The 59th consecutive performance of the ABC song sounds a lot better if you assign different accents to each set of letters. H, I, J, and K, are best with a cockney accent, while L, M, N, O, and P really lend themselves to a southern drawl. W, X, Y, and Z always get a laugh with a high-pitched falsetto. Also, cartoon soundtracks have gotten much better over the years and it appears Route 66 is where my son gets his kicks.
7. Mooing at cows you pass on the highway was, is, and always will be funny.
8. When leaving a rest stop in the middle of the night, always take a roll call before driving off. ALWAYS. That's all I will say about that. Further inquiries should be directed to my lawyer.
9. Teaching your son to ask strangers, "Are you circus people?" while very funny, can create some tension at gas stations.
10. Nothing can relieve the strain of 20 hours in a car better than watching a little boy play on the beach. Nothing.
So even when old bones, a stiff back, and lack of sleep make a long trip even longer, the destination, while enjoyable, is not always the highlight.
Sometimes the best part is the getting there.
Oh, and by the way, the reason for the trip? A family wedding - congrats to nephew James Robinson and his new bride Donja.
Some advice for the new couple: go on a long road trip together and meet some circus people.
Makes for an interesting weekend.