Monday, November 29, 1999

Traveling Man

For those of you who have not had the luck to travel with me (sign up now!), one thing that is becoming more and more clear is that the trips I take are never uneventful. I'm not sure if that's because my advancing old age has just naturally led to more "eccentric" moments, or if I truly am a magnet for misadventure.

Last Monday I drove my signed out state car, a shiny silver 1998 Ford Taurus, all the way up to Fergus Falls to hear our constantly moving Governor address the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affair Committee. The auditorium was full of personality gazers ready to let out a whoop on whether or not the state should adopt an unicameral legislature. I won't say much about the hearing itself other than the atmosphere around Mr. Ventura as he entered the Fergus Falls Middle School was akin to that surrounding a rock star. There was a certifiable buzz in the air, as the young crowd members positively oozed excitement from merely being in the same room as their Jesse.

I must say the drive to Fergus Falls is one long mother of a drive. I kinda missed having my beat up little Honda Civic, but didn't exactly want to put any more miles on it than I had to. Plus the damn Taurus (that only seemed as if it was twice as wide as my Civic) didn't have a tape or CD player. I brought with me my boom box but had inadvertently left my "A" collection of tapes in my own car. Thus I was forced to grab a handful of tapes that I had no idea the content. Turned out all right if listening to "Wolverton Mountain," "Afternoon Delight," and "Puff the Magic Dragon" (still makes me cry every time I hear it- it's bad enough Jackie Paper and Puff's friendship ended but Jackie just abandoned the woebegone dragon for Pete's sake) is your idea of all right.

I got to sunny Fergus around three in the afternoon and checked into the Super 8 right off the freeway (you know the one with a potholed plagued parking lot). The check in lady was Super 8 nice and as I found my room the stress of the drive definitely dissipated. I went back to my car to get my stuff, all the while being quite paranoid that I had my room key as to not lock myself out. (The check in lady seemed so impressed by me when I said I worked for the House, "You a member?" she asked... tee hee) I grabbed my suitcase from my car, made sure the vehicle was locked (wouldn't want to be stranded with no wheels in Fergus!) and headed back to my room. Again I made sure I had my room key in my pocket. I continued feeling my pockets (not a habitual quirk of mine trust me) only to notice a distinct absence of my car keys. I quickly wheeled around, looked inside the thoroughly locked car and saw the keys sitting quite serenely on the back seat. Gulp.

Luckily I'm a member of AAA so I called them and they were quite kind (both the person who took my call and the actual tow truck guys that opened up the car in no time flat). They didn't at all make me feel like the fool I actually was. And with that turn of events I figured the rough part of my trip was now behind me. Au contraire mon ami.

After the hearing was over I looked at the gas gauge and saw I would need some gas to make it back to St. Paul. I pulled into the Holiday station (suitably ironically named with the dread this season is bringing) I got out of that silver Taurus that earlier had the audacity of locking me out in the vast middle of nowhere. I turned on the pump and noticed the gas tank was on the other side of the car and the hose didn't reach. Darn the luck. I sheepishly got back in the car and turned it around all the while hoping the clerk didn't wonder what in the hell I was doing. I got back out and noticed for some inexplicable reason the tank was still on the opposite side of the gas pump. I ain't no physics genius but I was too tired to try and figure out how that happened. I got in the car and turned it around once more. Once again the gas pump and the gas tank didn't correspond. I gave it one more effort and this time I was able to fill the tank.

I was due at work the next day for a 9:30 meeting that I knew I'd never make but still I diligently hit the road at precisely 7:00 a.m. I, as I often do while traveling, was measuring time and my progress by the number of tapes I played along the way. As I hit the lovely town of Alexandria I gauged my progress and thought, "Damn, I'm making good time here..." No sooner than I was thinking I could stop and enjoy a rare breakfast when I had to slam on the old brakes. What had been unusually balmy conditions when I left Fergus (no frost on my car windows! None of that dreaded scraping!) quickly turned into swirling snow and quickly icing roads. Right as I hit Albertville things came to a complete standstill. I was right in the middle of the largest parking lot in the state as we awaited a turned over semi to be removed from the traffic grid.

By the time I finally reached my often under appreciated lil' home I was thinking that this end of the world unseasonable weather has ill equipped me to face the inevitable winter (of our discontent?). I don't want to brave the elements no more, and I don't find any of the past comfort of being a hearty midwesterner sufficient. Conditions these days are too slick, too messy and I just want to take it easy for a while.

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