Sunday, February 9, 2014

No. 116 – Seasons

Performer: Chris Cornell
Songwriter: Chris Cornell
Original Release: Singles
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None.

The thermometer was at 106 when Scott and I made The Badlands on our epic Seattle trip in 1993. It was like we left the Black Hills and someone turned on the furnace.

That was the hottest air temperature reading I’ve experienced. I have no idea what the heat index reading was, but it felt hot enough to fry an egg on my face, if I may quote Miami Vice. We ran the AC liberally from the time we left the Black Hills to day’s end in Madison, S.D., which I think was the only time the whole trip we had it on.

After we pulled off I-90, we were greeted by some of the local fauna. Scott wanted to make a phone call—my memory is to his galpal at home—so we stopped at the first pay phone we found, which seemed to be at a long-closed gas station in what seemed to be a town that was abandoned sometime in 1978.

I took the opportunity to dump our lunch trash in a can. Within seconds, and that’s no exaggeration, I must have had 20,000 mosquitos on every part of my body, which might be only a slight exaggeration. It was like they were lying in wait for us, and it was so thick with mosquitoes that there was no sense in stopping and trying to swat them.

Scott and I sprinted back to the car. OK, I’ll call when we get to the hotel. For the next couple of miles, we drove through mosquitos like they were raindrops on the windshield. I guess that explained why the town we drove through rolled up the sidewalks: No sense being outside. You’ll get eaten alive.

After we checked into our motel, we went out for a drink and to the car wash to clean up all the bug debris. Besides, after a week on the road, the ol’ Sunbird could use a good wash anyway.

The next day started early. We had only one thing on our to-do list: Get home. Originally, I wanted to go through Iowa to the Field of Dreams, but we altered our plans early on because of the calamitous flooding of the Mississippi River. I wasn’t sure whether we’d be able to cross it. The only solution, it seemed, was to go over the top, which meant driving up to Minneapolis and down from there.

This route would require about nine hours behind the wheel, so it was going to be a long day. Scott was behind the wheel when we started out by hitting a gas station to fill up.

All trip I’d been behind the wheel when we stopped for gas, which meant that all trip I told Scott that he was on “bug duty.” Bug duty meant he cleaned the windshields while I pumped. Seizing the opportunity for much merriment, as soon as we pulled up, I told Scott, “I got bug duty.” As Scott looked out the clean windshield—we washed the car the night before, remember—I fired the guns in the air knowing I’d shot and scored.

Actually, we did have one final destination. It occurred to me that I wasn’t certain whether I’d ever seen a picture of North Dakota. I mean South Dakota has lots of tourist destinations, but North Dakota doesn’t. What did it look like? I had no idea. In some ways, it was like Mongolia. No one’s ever seen a photo of Mongolia. What does it look like? Mountains? Prairie? Desert? What?

So we drove up I-29 until we crossed the state line, and I had my answer. North Dakota, it turns out, looks a lot like Iowa—gently rolling hills and miles and miles of green and golden farmland. OK, I’ve seen it—took a picture, even—now let’s get home.

Not long after we crossed the Minnesota border, the skies opened up. We drove through a massive thunderstorm the entire time we were in Minnesota. About the only time it eased up was as we passed through Minneapolis.

It was a pretty hairy drive, and Scott bore the brunt. OK, man. As soon as we hit the Wisconsin border, I’ll take over. He was more than ready to relinquish control when it was time. It turns out that was the driving equivalent of “I got bug duty,” because as soon as I got behind the wheel, the rain stopped, and the rest of the drive back to Chicago was uneventful.

It was dark when we finally pulled in front of Jin’s apartment. Scott’s car was parked out front from where Jin drove it after picking it up at O’Hare and close to where mine had been left more than a week before. For me, the only way to celebrate was with pad se eu and pot stickers at Penny’s, but Scott wanted to get immediately back on the road to Indiana to see the galpal. We parted ways.

It was an incredible trip and probably my favorite vacation until I went to Mexico in 2008. On the heels of Toronto in 1992, Seattle was the second excellent vacation in a row that Scott and I took together.

It also was the last, barring a trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas in 2002, which doesn’t quite count. We planned a trip to New England for 1994, but it didn’t happen. Aside from the fact that Scott didn’t have the money to travel, he also now was engaged, so he no longer wanted to roam far from his newly betrothed.

Oh well, we’ll always have Seattle, Glacier Park, Medicine Hat, Devil’s Tower, Crazy Horse and the Badlands, as well as the Singles soundtrack, which bound the odyssey together, not unlike the commemorative 1994 calendar that Scott made from our vacation photos as a Christmas present that year.

Good times.

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