I have driven across the United States twice as an adult, literally from coast to coast as we moved from San Diego, California to Savannah, Georgia and then back again three and a half years later. I highly recommend the cross-country drive to anyone, particularly if you're going to do it in a large diesel-fueled moving vehicle of the type rented out by U-Haul, Budget, and Ryder.
Because you see, when you make the cross-country trip you realize how frickin' weird this country can be. Life on the open road, especially if you take the time to stop off now and then to check out the local attractions at the many small towns you pass through, quickly takes on a decidedly surreal cast.
The reason you do it in a diesel truck is that it puts you a step closer to the men who live this strangeness almost every day of their lives: the truckers. Now sure, there are women truckers out there. I've known one or two, but I sure didn't see any on my trip. At every truck stop (which is the one place you are always sure to find diesel fuel) I saw lots and lots of men. Guys. Fellas. Dudes with Willie Nelson beards and sunglasses. Some lean and ropy, some with enormous jiggling guts straining at t-shirts with images of lone wolves on a rocky outcropping, or fierce American eagles superimposed on Old Glory. Some of them had girlfriends and wives with them, which is sort of what I'm leading up to.
See, I was just passing through this absurdly large land of ours, drinking date milkshakes in the middle of the Arizona desert, goggling at castles built in the heart of Texas, buying gasoline at a station called the BAR-F and laying down 75 cents for a look at "The Thing -- What Is It??". I was traveling from point A to point B and then I would return to Normalsville. But truck drivers? They live here, on a road that never ends, sleeping in their vehicles and showering in stalls at the Flying J. All the necessities of life can be found at the truck stop: food, a place to sleep, and a place to bathe.
And somehow, there's also sex. With whom I don't know. There's the old saw about the trucker with "a girl in every town", and I am of course familiar with the concept of lot lizards (though try as I might I never caught sight of one), but the idea of hooking up with someone in a place that you're rolling out of tomorrow, and might not return to for months, is foreign to me. I don't know where the women are that would go for this kind of a man. I have clearly led a very sheltered life.
But one thing I do know, and it's that the sex is wild, man. I know this from going in the truck stop men's room, where chrome vending machines bolted to the wall dispense numbing creams, lotions, oils, herbal supplements for additional stamina, tiny illustrated copies of the Kama Sutra, plugs, and of course a selection of condoms featuring various surfaces designed for her pleasure.
I the last day of the move to Savannah, where my wife was waiting for me in our new apartment, I emerged from the last men's room of the last truck stop we would visit and climbed into the cab next to our friend Belinda, who had accompanied me on the journey. "You know," I said, "I haven't seen Angela for a long time. Do you think she would like to be electrified by a studded rubber nub?"
Belinda stared at me in horror. "Excuse me?" she finally managed.
"There was this vending machine in the men's room, you know?"
"Well, one of them had a sign on it that said, 'Electrify Her With a Studded Rubber Nub'. So do you think..."
"I mean, I don't know what it is exactly, but the girl on the sign looked REALLY happy."
On reflection, I think she was right. These machines were built to serve worldly men, long accustomed to the mysteries of love on the road. I am probably not ready to electrify anyone with a nub.