Saturday, October 22, 2011

American Gods and Roadside Attractions Tour: On the Way Home

Before I tell you about that last night/last half day, I wanted to clarify something. After I re-read the last Road Trip entry the morning after posting it (and, truthfully, I wondered about it just after I'd posted), it dawned on me that, perhaps, I'd implied something about the nature of our relationship - Acr0nym and me - that is not and has never been the case...

We are not romantically involved. I know to some of you - those who continue to gossip about it (it's OK, we've reconciled ourselves to the fact that some of you will not let sleeping dogs lie) - this isn't believable. I promise you though, it's true. While total strangers ask us on a semi-regular basis how long we've been married, they only ask because we've bred a familiarity with one another that's, apparently, unusual without a sex life...I mean, a sex life with each other.

But, no, seriously, folks. We do not have, nor ever had, sex together. OK? The closest we've now come to this is that, on the Road Trip, we saw each other briefly in various states of undress. Namely pajamas.

I mentioned it once back here...that this kind of road trip either kills friendships or strengthens them. It strengthened ours...immeasurably. A large part of that - a HUGE part of that - was because of that last night, driving through the dark of Nebraska, as we - OK I (because Acr0nym does NOT want anyone else to know he has actual just [redact] any mention of it on your own, OK?) - let ourselves be vulnerable in ways people just aren't under normal circumstances and during the light of day...although sometimes they do happen under the influence of gin. Those vulnerabilities just kind of happen long about mile 1,000 when you've run out of polite conversation and shit starts to get real. Especially when it's in the dark.

I've always loved driving and/or riding in the dark. The darkness is just as much a cocoon as blankets or pajamas or silk tend to be. As a teenager, having long since obtained my driver's license, I would often announce to my mom I was going for a drive. She probably thought I was going out to look for drugs. But I didn't actually really do drugs. I was, in fact, going out for a drive...listening to a favorite cassette (shuddup), cigarette smoke billowing out my window.

I felt cocooned that last night in the Intrepid. Even though we were both tired when we'd arrive in North Platte, NE - our agreed upon stopping point - I didn't want the drive to end. Maybe that's because, in the morning I knew, the bubble would burst - our liminal bubble - and we'd find ourselves dumped off at the curb in front of our respective homes with reality knocking insistently at the door.

Even though the GPS was indicating there were 2 or 3 locally owned motels a couple of miles off the freeway, we were both tired and not particularly interested in an extended hunt for a place to stay. So, when I saw the HoJo sign, I asked Acr0nym to turn in. Room available. Good room. Possibly the nicest room we'd had and cheaper than the Crest. *sigh* I hate you for that, Corporate America.

We wouldn't eat supper. We wouldn't do much of anything beyond unload, surf a little internet, drink a little (read alotta) wine, and turn in. It was our second early-ish (just before 10) night in a row but, by then, we were ready to sleep no matter the time.

That night, Acronym would have a strange dream...a dream that something was crawling on his face. He'd awaken to find a wasp trying to spoon with him. Being the guy he is, he didn't panic loudly enough to startle me or even get me to do more than roll over and mumble something about...I don't even know what. Cows or corn probably. He just...managed to get the wasp onto a surface (pillow) that was not his face and then carry the wasp out the door into the wild.

The next morning - the last morning - would dawn gray and dreary. It wasn't unpleasant but there was something about that weather that signified to me we were on the very last leg of our journey and that there was a turmoil of mixed emotions ahead regarding the end.

We didn't have many stops planned for the day - just a couple - and the first was a mere half mile down the road. Fort Cody Trading Post right there just off I-80 in North Platte.

Buffalo Bill Cody outside Fort Cody Trading Post

 Now, having grown up in Wyoming, having spent time in Cody with good friends over the years, and living for the last 20 years just a few miles from the grave of Buffalo Bill, I'll admit, I am a fan. OK, let's face it, I'm just "a fan" of whatever comes across my path - the kitschier the better. And there was not one, single, solitary thing about the Fort Cody Trading Post that wasn't full 'o kitsch. But it was western kitsch of the Buffalo Bill variety and that tugged at my roots.

Hans Gothwökkit in the jaws of a bear outside Fort Cody Trading Post
Entrance to Fort Cody Trading Post
We had barely ducked in the door before the salesclerk announced to us that the "show" was beginning. I turned to Acr0nym, who had been there before, in confusion, unclear as to what she might have been referring. He led me back to the southeast corner of the building where there was a large diorama of hand-carved figurines re-enacting Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show along with a recorded narrative describing the various scenes. The recording was horrible and I couldn't understand a word of it but the diorama itself was simply incredible!

Part of a smaller diorama - my favorite scene - the "Death Rack" located next to the empty "Meat Rack" EEK!
There was a little museum of western fashion and tools of the time along with a two-headed calf - much better preserved than the one we saw at the Wonder Tower a few weeks before...

Two-headed calf
Hans says, "Look! A two-headed calf! What the hay?!"

The rest of the establishment was an assortment of western style clothes, gifts, and tchotchkes with the random oddity thrown in for good measure.

One of these things is not like the other.

And you're darn tootin' I bought some mementos from this place *laughing*. But not the Enterprise T.P.

We'd hit the highway around 9:30 or so, a light rain would begin to fall but not hard enough to clean the 5 days' worth of summer bugs from the windshield or Intrepid grill.

About 45 minutes into our drive, we'd pull off I-80 briefly at Ogallala, NE - former home of the Sioux Trading Post (which I would have loved to have experienced back in the day) - to take the last pictures of a brilliant western high plains water tower. This one, I suspect, is my all-time favorite.

Ogallala, NE water tower. I love the alien eyes!

After we made a brief stop in Ogallala for morning coffee relief, caffeine replenishment, and moon pie purchase, we'd get back on the road, turning off I-80 onto I-76...almost home. I-76 would be our last out-of-town road into Denver.

Bittersweet Colorful Colorado

We were, for the most part, quiet those last two hours on the road. I asked Acr0nym, "Are you tired of me yet?" His reply, "I'm almost ready to be done." *laugh* I didn't take it personally. I knew what he meant. I was feeling the same.

There were still a couple of relevant stories to share along our path. We'd share them and then the conversation would sputter and die out as we'd lose ourselves within ourselves.

Approaching Denver from a direction we, neither of us, rarely travel was a good way to end our trip. It meant we kept our Road Trip eyes open until the very last possible moment. I was seeing my town - our town - through the eyes of a stranger. Our surroundings were "home" and yet strangely, vaguely unfamiliar.

When Acr0nym pulled up to the curb in front of The Grotto, my neighbor and friend, modchen, stood on her balcony encompassed in a full-body plaster cast (it's better not to ask) and greeted us cheerfully. Lex came out to help unload the Intrepid. I was shaking from road weariness and caffeine.

We didn't hug or prolong the parting. We quickly made arrangements to divvy up our Road Trip bounty later, waved hurriedly at each other before he pulled away from the curb, and I ducked into the comforts of home so that we could both slip quietly back into reality.

It was over. Just like that.

And we'd likely never be the same.

Hans, Jane, and Acr0nym - American Gods and Roadside Attractions Tour 2011

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