Achievement Unlocked: Online Map presence

A few months ago, we were driving from A to B and saw a Bing Maps camera car mapping parts of Denver. We followed the car for a few blocks on Grant Street heading toward Speer. I was curious if and when we would appear on Bing Maps. I started checking every couple of weeks and today found me driving.

bingmaps

My left arm looks great in the shot, doesn’t it? I had no idea my windows looked that dark. COOL! It’s like I drive a cave.

And sure enough, this is the one shot that doesn’t have my licence plate obscured. So now y’all can track me down. Because of my license plate being visible online.

See it live here.

Full URL: http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=39.728197~-104.983614&lvl=16&trfc=1&sty=x~lat~39.728197~lon~-104.983614~alt~1590.171~z~30~h~28.7~p~-13.3~cz~0.336~pid~5082&app=5082&FORM=LMLTCC

Salmon, non-sequiturs and meatballs

We were in Ikea late this morning during what’s turning into a blizzard, looking for a new office chair for me. Long story short: the search for a chair was a bust.

However, one of our Ikea “to do’s” is to eat at the cafe. We had a good view of I-25 and the cars driving in the blowing snow, not to mention a “bobcat” with a plow constantly clearing the driveway while munching on smoked salmon and sauce-covered meatballs, drinking strong black coffee (me) and sparkling pear drink (Sheri).

It was a pleasant, quiet moment in our lives. I usually don’t notice the background music at Ikea, but moth full of meatballs, I recognized the Beastie Boys (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!). That song does not conjure up the image of inexpensive self-assembled furniture. Nor meatballs. Nor smoked salmon.

I couldn’t hear it well enough to determine if it was the original Beastie Boys version or a later, possibly neutered cover by someone else. But I recognized the tune. It didn’t sit well. It was completely out of place among the sterile yet whimsical Scandinavian lamps:

maskros-pendant-lamp__0114725_PE267328_S4

I’m not sure how Ikea picks their music, but I’m pretty sure this lamp doesn’t want to fight for its right to party. It knows that right is inherent to its existence.

Yesterday Was A Weird Day

Yesterday was one of those weird ones where a confluence of the absurd should have caused me great distress, but was so improbable and ridiculous as to make me laugh at it all instead.

It started first thing as Sheri gave me new bottle of hair conditioner that she won’t be using. I just used up another bottle of the same brand and liked the rosemary herbal scent. I was happy to get the new one and planned to use it during my morning shower.

So I showered. I shampooed. I rinsed. I put on the new conditioner and started rubbing it in. It smelled great. It sure foamed up nicely.

Huh? Foaming conditioner?

Let me look at that bottle. Oh! It’s shampoo! YAAY!

So I finished lathering (again) and rinsed (again) and used a different conditioner on my extremely clean hair. This will serve as a lesson to me to read the bottle before using the product. I’m glad it wasn’t Nair.

Morning beautification processed complete, I took my vitamins, meds, got dressed, headed out the door. For logistical reasons, I usually drive to work on Wednesdays. Plus I enjoy my car. It’s a nice place to be.

The drive in was, by far, my longest drive to work in Denver, possibly ever. In light-to-moderate traffic, my drive is usually around 20 minutes. I-25 was backed up as soon as I got on and stayed backed up for five miles until right after a fairly minor-looking accident on the left shoulder. The cars involved were sticking out into the left lane enough that a police cruiser with lights flashing had block the left lane. Hence the multi-mile slowdown.

Once past the accident, traffic was back up to cruising speed. For another mile. And then on the brakes again. This was about 40 minutes into my 20 minute drive.

After about 15 slow minutes and couple of miles, there was another accident, this one entirely off the road but still slowing things down. YAAY!

By now my diuretic had kicked in and it was time to pee. With a vengeance. Fortunately the rest of the drive was at regular speeds and I arrived after over an hour on the road.

I usually park at the Pepsi Center parking lot, but I knew the 3-block walk to my office would be painful, possibly wet, so I opted to park in front of my office and feed the meter for a few minutes while I did what needed to be done. I could move the car to the Pepsi Center lot once my immediate biological needs had been taken care of.

My office building has two entrances: front and side. The side entrance is the shorter route, so I went to that one. It was locked, and I don’t have a building key. Oh $deity, why are you blocking my access to blessed relief? The added stress of denied access didn’t help the mounting internal pressure any.

I did the pee-pee walk (you all know it so I won’t describe it) to the front door and down the hall, unlocking the office fumbling with the key while doing so. I had the piss jitter.

We have a private restroom in the office. I trotted to it, jacket still on, backpack perched on my back. And the light was on. Occupado! Damn.

Fortunately, there are public restrooms in the hall, so my options were not exhausted. I grabbed one of the keys to them from the office coat closet and went to the men’s room.

All systems go! Open the flood gates. Ahhhhhhh … finally. That felt good.

I flushed.

The water started climbing up in the urinal and got to the tippy top. No! Do. Not. Overflow. There’s that moment of sheer terror as you watch the water rise and hope it stops before overflowing. It usually does. Today was not that day. Over the top it went and onto the floor. And it didn’t stop. kept right on coming. Lovely.

This is where you’re at a crossroads. Do you jiggle the handle and hope that stops the flow or do you just hope it stops on its own accord? I opted to the route of least resistance: doing nothing but staring in shame as the diluted product of my kidneys poured out upon the lovely stone tile in the bathroom.

The amount spilled onto the flooe wasn’t that much: not gallons, but certainly more than a few ounces.It was, however, way too much to soak up with paper towels. So I did the only thing I could think of: I went back to work.

About an hour later, I realized that the private office bathroom was still occupied. Hmmm… so I went over and checked the occupancy by knocking (no answer) and then entering.

Empty. Nobody home. Sans occupant.

I guess someone left the light on from the night before. At this point, there was way too much silliness to worry about anything. My bladder was blessedly empty and the mess of the public restroom behind me. So I chuckled at my weird luck and did the only thing I could think of: I went back to work.

Moving to Vegas: Arrival

Previous installment: Moving to Vegas: Vistas

Williams, Arizona is only about a 3.5-hour drive to Las Vegas. Knowing this, Dad and I were in no hurry to get going on this last day of our journey. We slept in a little late and went to the Denny’s next door to the hotel for breakfast.

The visit to Denny’s was unremarkable as most are.

After breakfast, we got the Crown Vic loaded back on the trailer, and got back on the road. I think Dad and I had both pretty much reached our limits of driving endurance and were ready to get off the road. It’s not an unpleasant drive, but the scenery west of Williams on I-40 isn’t nearly as nice as the scenery east of it.

We did have a decision to make about which route to take into Las Vegas. I had never been to Hoover Dam and wanted to drive over it, but had heard that due to post-9/11 terrorist paranoia, commercial traffic over the dam was forbidden. All trucks were re-routed from US Highway 93, which goes over the dam, to US Highway 95, which cuts a different route through Laughlin, Nevada and then up to Las Vegas.

Not sure if our moving truck was considered commercial or not, we decided to take the safer, if less scenic route. There was no sense getting stuck in security lines at the dam, or worse, being turned back and having to take a 150-mile detour.

With our route set, we drove.

My notes on this leg of the journey are sparse, which I think was caused by the desire to Simply Get There. In the intervening years, I have driven this route a few times, and it’s nothing really exciting anyway. Once you get a few miles west of Laughlin and turn onto US 95, it’s a straight shot north through some Southern Nevada desert.

We would be approaching Las Vegas form the south, coming up US Highway 95 until it met US Highway 93 near Boulder City, NV. The only notable thing on this route is Searchlight, NV (home of the truly awful and evil US Senator Harry Reid). If you’re driving throughSearchlight, slow down to the speed limit. Not one over. Do the speed limit. They also frequently put a mannequin in a patrol car on the edge of town, but sometimes it’s a human. Just watch your speed carefully in Searchlight, endure it for 5 or so minutes and you’ll be fine.

Once past Searchlight, it was more driving on US 95. Eventually we met up with US 93, took a left, and then it was onto I-515 to I-215, getting off at the Stephanie St. exit.  A short drive on surface streets and we’re there.

This last part of the route is amazing the first time you drive it. Once you turn from US 95 onto US 93, there are some signs of civilization. As US 93 turns into I-515, you see more civilization, but nothing too big or jaw-droppingly wonderful. About two miles from the I-215 junction, you pass over a crest and the entire Vegas valley suddenly appears.

It’s large. It’s impressive.

So here we were, about ten minutes away from my new life in Las Vegas and I was already in awe of the place. We arrived safely at our brand-spanking new condo on time. Sheri, her mom, and Grandma were all there waiting for us. I was thrilled to see my wife, and happy to be off the road with have access to home-cooked food.

Unpacking was out of the question that day. Instead, I ate a great lunch in an empty condo. There was an inflatable mattress set up in the master bedroom. After lunch, I went upstairs and took a nap.

I was in Vegas. I was home.

Moving to Vegas: More Driving

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Search for Rest

It was day 2 on the road from Orlando to Las Vegas. We had made excellent time on day one despite some rain. Day 2 looked like it was going to turn into another fine day of driving with Dad. I figured since this was my show, I was obligated to do more driving than Dad. I took the first shift again. This was also nice because I usually got to take a post-lunch nap if I felt like it. Well as much nap as you can get in a moving truck.

As we started, Louisiana was still intact. Katrina was days behind us, so the drive out of state was a quick one: about 90 minutes or so. That’s when we hit Texas. For those who have been to Texas, you know everything is bigger there. It just is. And Texas itself is big. Very big. Big in a way that you can’t drive through the thing in a day big.

Texas also doesn’t look like I thought it would. The stereotype in my mind was that Texas is all pickup trucks and longhorn steers. We saw enough of those, but there are also lovely mountains, sloping hills, plains, and pretty much any other geological configuration you can imagine. Despite the fact that it seems to take forever to drive through Texas, it’s a drive worth taking.

At a little before 1:00pm we reached Dallas, which is a huge city. It sprawls on and on and on. As beautiful as the mountains and other scenery were, Dallas was impressive for its sheer size. We didn’t even drive through downtown. We simply skirted around on one of the many loops around the city. The drivers are a bit crazy and aggressive, but nothing we couldn’t manage. After all, we were in a state that thrives on BIG and we were bigger than most. When driving a Honda Civic, a jacked-up F250 can be intimidating. When driving 25-foot Penske truck with a Crown Victoria in tow on a trailer, the F250s get out of YOUR way. It’s nice.

When in Texas, if you’re in a city, you’re in a city, damn it. But when you’re in the country, you’re in the middle of nowhere. It can get lonely out there. Miles and miles and miles of straight, mostly-flat road and some fields were pretty much the order of the day. The long stretches of nothing were occasionally punctuated by a train on the tracks that ran parallel to the roads we were taking.

I have always loved trains, but that’s probably a story for another day. By some odd coincidence while a Floridian I have always lived very close to active train tracks. Usually within a mile or two and nearly always close enough to hear them as they come through. Because of this continual proximity and the youthful like of All Things Railroad, I have find train whistles rather comforting. But I digress.

The trains in Florida were about a 50-50 mix of passenger and freight. The passenger trains would wheel through quickly and be gone within a minute or two of their initial audible approach. The freight trains lasted a bit longer, but were usually gone within 5 minutes or so.

Staying with the Texas is BIG theme, they had some mighty long trains there. One train had politely stopped on the tracks and enabled me to gauge its approximate length at 2.3 miles using the truck’s odometer. This particular train was carrying hundreds of cars with shipping containers, some double-stacked. We also saw at least four other long-ass-trains (LATs) that were carrying exclusively coal that day. It was really impressive, especially when I did a quick mental calculation of how many semi trucks would be on the road if all this cargo were loaded onto trucks rather than trains.

Thanks to the trains, this absence of trucks hauling stuff on “our” interstate made for easy driving. At this point, we were well north of Dallas and Ft. Worth, probably 50 miles or so. It was past 1:30pm and we hadn’t had lunch. Two Mospaw tummies rumbling in a truck is not a good thing, so it was decided that it was lunch time.

Another rule of this trip was to avoid national chains unless absolutely necessary; to try to eat in places that reflected the local flavor a little bit. Unsure what the local flavor in the middle of Nowhere, TX was, we relied on the roadside signs with the blue backgrounds and friendly white text that told you what kind of food, lodging, and fuel (if any) were available at the next exit.

In a “town” called Sunset, TX, there was one such eating establishment listed on the sign, Jack and Coco’s Diamond S Café. (I could have the names wrong, since I didn’t write them down, but I’ll call them Jack and Coco to keep it consistent.) We were hungry, and since this was about the only place we were likely to encounter for the next hour or so, we stopped in.

At this point, we were on US highway 287. It’s not an Interstate, but looks and drives like one, complete with limited access. We took the exit. Each exit, as you know, typically has four corners. At these exits, you usually expect to see two or three corners occupied with gas stations, convenience stores, perhaps a restaurant, and maybe one undeveloped corner when out in God’s Country.

This was apparently a few miles beyond God’s Country, since only one corner was occupied. By a small building. And on the small building was a small sign that read Jack and Coco’s Café.

This was local flavor.

Although it didn’t look too bad or run-down on the outside, the place was surprisingly clean and bright inside. There was a man in a scooter chair with his wife at one table, a gentleman sipping a huge glass of iced tea, talking on a cell phone at another, and a lone waitress/cook/chief bottle washer milling about and taking care of everyone.

Dad and I selected a table and sat down, waiting for acknowledgment from the waitress/cook/chief bottle washer who turned out to be Coco of Jack and Coco’s Diamond S Café fame, one of the owners.

When you’re on the road, you have a bit of a “hurry up” mentality. It’s not really rushing so much as when you sit down, you want whatever you are about to do – be it eating, pooping, or driving – to take place as quickly and efficiently as possible, without getting too hurried. In other words, you’re not going all out, but you’re not relaxing, either. It’s pretty much the attitude of wanting to keep up a good pace at everything so as not to lose momentum, both physical and mental.

Unfortunately, Coco didn’t know about this. Despite not doing much, it took her easily five minutes to come over and get our drink orders and drop off a couple of menus.

The gentleman with the tea on the phone was quietly chatting away, taking the occasional sip of tea. Further inspection of his table revealed that there were a couple of one-dollar bills and some random change in a pile, presumably a tip. From all appearances, he was done as a customer and was simply soaking up the air conditioning and finishing his tea while taking the opportunity to chitty-chat on the phone. Coco didn’t seem to mind, but she also didn’t have to pay him any attention and didn’t.

Apparently Dad and I weren’t interesting enough to warrant any attention or order gathering, so Coco focused on the older couple who were preparing to leave. Now when I prepare to leave a restaurant, it’s usually a 15-second thing. Grunt at Sheri along the lines of “You ready?”, heft my mass into the air, and walk out. This couple was different. The gentleman in the scooter apparently really needed to be in that scooter. He was barely able to move on his own. Any part of him. I mean no disrespect, but damn he was slow. Mrs. Old-Man-In-The-Scooter made sure that their belongings were properly gathered before leaving. This was all done very quietly and with a minimum of fuss. Unless you were looking for it, you might have missed it. Even with basically nothing going on, it was still enough fuss that Coco decided that she needed to supervise the entire process of these folks leaving.

Roughly seven minutes later (which seemed more like 3 1/2 weeks on the “Waiting for Something to Happen in a Reasonable Time but Knowing it Won’t” Scale) the old folks were properly hugged, kissed, led through the door, loaded into their van and on their merry way.

At least our drinks had been delivered previously, so that we had liquid sustenance while watching this slow motion parade. Mr. Cell-Phone-and-Iced-Tea was still quietly chatting. He may have been a fixture. While he chatted, we waited.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: Waiting for Lunch

Moving to Vegas: The Search for Rest

Previous Installment: Moving to Vegas: The Drive Begins

The first day of driving was nearly over, but we still had miles to go before we could rest.

It was at this gas station that I discovered one really huge annoyance of $2.60 diesel fuel and 35-gallon fill-ups beyond the simple math of paying nearly $100 for a tank of fuel and knowing I would need about 9 of them to make this trip. I discovered that my credit cards (debit cards actually) only pre-approved $75.00 on most pumps, which meant two transactions and two receipts for each fill up.

I don’t need this, but what can I do? I grinned and put up with it. Pump $75. Switch cards, pump another $25 or so. Bleh.

We weren’t exactly lost but we sure weren’t any closer to the Ramada we were seeking. Even asking for directions from the clerk in the store didn’t help.

“Three lights up and then right” is what we were told.

Three lights up and then right is what we did. And a few blocks later, no Ramada was in sight.

So after a chorus of “fuck its” from Dad and me, we chose a new hotel: the Holiday Inn. This one was right by the main exit and we remembered seeing it. And they had a restaurant and pool, although no Continental Breakfast. Even though it was $69 a night, it was still within budget, as long as we found cheaper accommodations the next night. We would just have to do without pastries and juice the next day.

I used to travel a lot for business, and usually checking into a hotel is about five minutes of work. Of course, this usually done with a clerk who has been on the job for a while and knows their job. That wasn’t my luck this particular evening. I got a very friendly clerk who had been on the job for about three weeks and still did stuff by the book, and I mean that literally.

She didn’t do a damn thing without paging through a three-ring binder and making sure that the procedure she was undertaking was the correct one, followed to the very last letter. And she liked to double check things, sometimes twice.

After twenty-five minutes (conservative estimate) of checking in, I asked where I could park my truck, since with the trailer, I was a bit more than 45 feet in length. He response was “Oh Jesus!”. Now I know I told her ahead of time I had a large truck, but I guess in the nearly half-hour of looking stuff up in her magical instruction book, she forgot about this. Now we had to re-assign me room so that I could park reasonably close to it. UGH.

I admit I’m not a patient guy, but I’m pretty proud of myself. I kept my cool during this ordeal. I didn’t get sarcastic. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t even ask for someone who could take care of this before we had to check out. I suspect 13 hours in the cab of a truck and a fruitless search in questionable neighborhoods for a non-existent Ramada makes one tired enough that being clever doesn’t matter so much as securing appropriate lodging for the evening.

Despite my patience, half-an-hour of checking in is ridiculous by any standards. I did ask for some sort of little thank you for putting up with this. Since they had a restaurant and bar, I figured a couple of drink coupons would work. Drinks would take the edge off. So I asked if I could have a few.

According to “The Great Book of All Things Holiday Inn” (of course she looked up what to do when a customer has been delayed unreasonably, called you on it, and wants drink coupons) the only way she could issue drink coupons was if I joined their frequent guest club, whatever it’s called. I forget the exact name, but it’s something important-sounding like “Priority Club” or “Presidential Lackeys” or some such thing. And that’s when I remembered that I was already a member since I had stayed at several Holiday Inns in the course of business a few years ago.

After seven more minutes of fruitless searching, she couldn’t find my name, despite the fact that there cannot be that many other Chris Mospaws who ever lived or worked at the three addresses I gave her.

Sigh.

I filled out my application and got my coupon … good for $6 at the bar. I’m not sure it was worth the effort, but it was a small victory.

This woman absolutely would not budge on price, either. I reminded her that half hour of time it took her to check me in at the rates I charged my customers at the time is worth nearly the price of the room, but it was still no go on any discount. Since I had room keys and $6 worth of drinking to do, I decided it wasn’t worth further effort to save a buck.

I suspect one of the other clerks would have done me better, but one thing that you can’t do is make a fuss in a hotel lobby. It simply doesn’t do anybody any good, especially at 9:00pm. Doubly so when you’re tired and cranky, and there really weren’t any other viable hotel options within a reasonable distance (in other words, within sight).

Of course, if the room was in perfect shape that would be in someone else’s story, so no fears there. The room needed, um, help. It was old and tired, kind of like Dad and me at this point. There was a piece of shower stall missing and an ugly mildewed area of broken caulk left in its place. The coffee maker looked OK except that the pot was gone. At least the sheets were clean and the pillows didn’t stink. Either that or my senses were failing one by one, with smell going first.

We had a couple of minutes to soak in the luxury and grandeur of our room when my favorite hotel clerk called to make sure the room was OK. I was honest and told her it wasn’t really OK, but that getting a new one would take too damn long and that we didn’t want to deal with changing room and having yet another delay. I didn’t even bother asking for a reduction in room rate at this point. I was tired and defeated. It was time for dinner and then sleep.

Dad and I went over to the bar and ordered our scotches. This was after having a couple in the room to prime things. Nothing on the menu of snack foods sounded too appealing, so we decided to drink dinner instead. We each had two, and the bartender, who was kind of cute, decided to buy us a third round. I don’t remember her name, but the third scotch at the bar sure tasted nice and had the desired effect.

I slept well.

Next Installment: Moving to Vegas: More Driving