Upstream Route 66

November 30, 2008

31 hours of driving later, I’m sitting in 3 more layers of clothing across the US, listening to the Dead Kennedys in Aaron’s new Chicago pad. I have to wait until Monday to get my keys as the real estate office is closed for turkey/genocide day.

I don’t have too much to show from my cross-country drive. A third of it was torrential downpour, a third in complete darkness, and all of it with the Penske truck pegged at 75 (it had a speed cap, which is quite annoying on long stretches in the midwest) surrounded by a mountain of empty Lipton Unsweetened Iced Tea bottles, Jolt gum, chocolate, Coke cans, old scratched mix CDs, and banana peels. The combination of not having a second driver, getting 10mpg if I’m lucky, the weather being such crap, and it being Thanksgiving made any detours or sightseeing less attractive than normal. That said I did take a few photos out the truck window (equally riveting as out-of-plane-window photos) and a few movies. When I dig out my cable buried in the hopefully-not-broken-into-over-the-weekend Penske truck, I’ll upload more.


Overall it was a pretty fun and beautiful drive with a suspicious lack of tragedy. The truck freaked out on me in New Mexico, barely starting after all the analog dials did some frightening twitching. I decided to ignore it, pulled over for Lipton Unsweetened Ice Tea #46 in New Kirk, NM, and when I got back in the truck and turned the key — nothing. The dials started twitching again, which looked like the truck’s computer trying to reset itself, and then they stopped altogether and there was no battery power. I had all my tools packed last in the back, and have quite a bit of experience fixing dilapidated autos, but like an idiot I instead decided to call Penske. An hour and half later, Big Rig Truck Services pulls up, wiping fresh gravy and Bud Lite from their lips, and after a 2 second look in the engine compartment, tightened a very loose ground cable. The truck started right up. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, that’s totally embarrassing and idiotic. I hope Penske pays you well for coming out on Thanksgiving.” “Nope, they pay the same.” Long pause. Slow Nate not realizing he should fork over a $20 tip. Instead drives away beating himself up for not looking at the damn battery connections, which was obviously the problem, barks into iPhone audio notetaking app “send gift to Big Rig in New Mexico.” I’m an idiot on so many levels it’s painful just writing this out.


I opted to take the southern route across the states, hoping to avoid any snow or ice on mountain passes. I didn’t realize that this meant I’d be taking Route 66 for much of the trip. This reminds me of when I went to Gibraltar during a 3-week visit to Spain at age 16. Once again, I’m the numbskull American trudging forward ignorant of where I am, of what history I’m surrounded by.

Regardless of my unawareness of my historical upwater swim from Los Angeles to Chicago along the famed “Main Street of America” or “Mother Road” “through the most romantic and celebrated portions of the American West,” I can definitely see where the romanticism comes from. And though I’m essentially moving backwards along the route, from a healthy paycheck back to freelance scraps, from a perpetual sunny day to bitter freezing cold, from companionship to solitude, west to east, I’m still on my way to an optimistic new beginning.