I woke up around nine or ten AM with an aching head, once again a victim to the local wine stash. Rolling back over, I fell right back asleep on the couch, doing my best to ignore the cloud-dimmed sunlight streaming in from the backyard.

Around noon, I was woken up by the return of gwenllian and eldest daughter, who was out four WIS points and understandably pained by the means by which she'd lost 'em. I seized upon alex as he left for the pharmacy to get painkillers. "Need coffee. Gnurgh."

He took pity on me, insomuch as copious amounts of snickering constitutes pity, and took me to the Starbucks across from the pharmacy. A few minutes later, I had a latte in hand, and was slightly closer to something resembling a state of humanity.

A few hours and a trawl through the computer-infested bowels of alex's workshop later, I was feeling human enough to hit the road again. I shot vandewal a message, obtained a poorly-transcribed copy of StuartO)))'s number, and hit the road. Or tried to.

"You've got lights out..."


Off to AutoZone. On arrival there, I discovered that not only was the rear driver's side brake light out, but one of the front corner lights was dead as well. Bulbs and lube were bought. On further inspection, it turned out that there were no readily visible or readily accessible screws on the brake light. Headscratching ensued.

"It's got to be under the bed liner," alex opined.

"Yeah, but that's going to be a bitch," said I. "Let's ask one of the guys inside."

"It's got to be under the bed liner," the guy inside opined. "That's going to be a bitch. Would you like to buy some cleaning rags?"

I'm still not sure what I make of alex, except that he reminds me entirely too much of my coworkers back in Virginia at an older and more idealistic age. Dude's good at dirty banter and hand tools, though. Also stockpiling ancient server hardware.

One bolt and several bed liner fasteners later, we discovered that not only was the brake light enclosure fastened under the bed liner, but that the lower bolt was stubbornly resistant at any angle I could get with the vise grips. Back inside for the third time to buy a ratchet and socket set.

With this bought, the proper socket was applied to the bolt. Movement was made. The bolt head snapped cleanly off inside of the socket.


This was when we discovered that I'd picked up the wrong brake light. Back into the AutoZone. Back up to the cashier. Once again, they offered to sell me cleaning rags. Once again I demurred.

About an hour later, the lights were replaced, and worked, and the brake enclosure and bed were bolted back in. The lube was placed, unopened, in my glove box: the ratchet set was carefully put away, and alex drove off into the rather gloomy afternoon to fetch cake for gwenllian's birthday. Meanwhile, feeling optimistic about my chances with traffic in Chicago, I shot an IM off to vandewal, got gas, and hit the road. As I drove north, I passed out of Lafayette, out past the vast white pinions of the windfarms, and west into the outskirts of Chicago.

Four hours later, stuck on I-290, I found myself taking half an hour to move a mile.


Sensing a theme. I was not in a good mood, March 18th of 2011. The stress from the trip was starting to set in. The wide expanse of road was wearing at me, and I was aware, maybe for the first time, exactly how long it takes to get from Virginia to Oregon by car.

Traffic crawled on for miles. Finally, fed up, I fought my way left and off onto the surface, relying on the GPS (which knows no traffic, only the widest and fastest roads) to give me schizophrenic measurements of distance to the coffee shop where I was meeting vandewal. About this time, I noticed that I'd somehow gotten StuartO)))'s number wrong. On arrival at Elijah's, I discovered he'd gone to bed. Curses were repeated, but nothing for it: off to dinner with vandewal.

No offense, Stu. Mostly, I was cursing Chicago's hideous, hideous traffic. They say the Bay is bad - I'm convinced Chi-town is about a thousand times worse.

Dinner was great. Kona Grill makes some mean sashimi and some great steak. It turns out that vandewal and I work (worked, in my case) similar hours with similar consequences. Sixty to eighty hours a week are actually pretty terrible, and take their toll over long periods of time.

After dinner, we said our goodbyes, and parted, him to head back into Chicago, and me towards Iowa at 70-80MPH in the warm spring night. Around 2219, I crossed the Mississippi River, and was bombarded by the stench of hundreds of cows. Rolling the windows up, I breathed deeply, enjoying the scent of dust and tightly-packed belongings inside the cab of Natasha.

Iowa was mine. I was looking at the trip as half-done, but as I was to find out, the West is wide and far apart.

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