The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 14, 1994 - 3
On the roadwith
and Jack Kerouac
A Daily staff reporter takes a
tongue-in-cheek look at a Fantastic
Voyage' across America's roads
EAR GRAND LAKE, Colo. - It
was snowing. Like the road trip
which preceded it, this was another
day that was not going as planned. Having
ditched the idea of going skiing again, and
Dwight and Vic as well, we braved the treach-
erous roads of Northern Colorado to visit
ORacky Mountain National Park.
We drove as far as we could into the park,
got out and looked around. Seeing the Colo-
rado River and the many ski trails along it, we
decide to go cross-country skiing.
"Having been directed to numerous rental
agencies, among them snowmobiles and lawn
care equipment, we headed to a golf course,
where, once again, we are directed to another
, Finally, we make it to downtown Grand
Lake, to the ski rental place across from the
restaurant and the lake, and we got our skis.
The difficulty in getting skis reminded us'
of our difficulty getting to Colorado in the
Students are already gearing up for roads
to all-points civilized and similarly points
uncivilized for "spring" break in February.
But for those who have not taken a road trip,
getting there truly is "half the fun." And the
following account is one testament to that
December 18, 2:30 p.m. I have been
awake for several hours. Impatient to leave
Ann Arbor and fretful because the bank was
closed and I am now facing the prospect of
leaving on the trip without any money, I
decide to call my fellow travelers, Max and
Dwight. Neither are home. I begin to panic.
4 p.m. Max having arrived, I hastily pack,
inadvertently choosing to bring a seventh pair
of jeans along instead of a pair of boots.
Minutes into the trip, I realize that I have
forgotten my boots. We trudge on.
Jack Kerouac in hand, we leave from Ann
Arbor, travelling on Interstate 94. It begins to
snow. A good sign. After all, it is December
and this is the first snow we have seen. There
would be much more snow.
4:21 p.m. We see our first accident, a
tractor trailer jack-knifed in a large
unwelcoming ditch. Max asks where the term
"jack-knifed" comes from. Dwight says it has
something with Swiss Army knives. The all-
purpose knives come complete with a plastic
toothpick that falls out constantly. In this
case, the driver reaches down to pick up the
toothpick - having just finished a fine truck-
stop meal - and consequently, the truck
careens into the ditch.
Little did we know, this incident was fore-
shadowing of things to come.
5 p.m. We stop in Albion, Mich., at our
first of many Burger Kings. After recently
breaking off from the Pespico Corporation,
Burger King has decided to offer free refills
oq 811 of its many fine Coca-Cola products.
We take full advantage of this feature,
stopping a half dozen times before leaving the
state. However, coupled with the many trips
,to roadside bathrooms, this proves to be del-
eterious to our progress.
515 p.m. Every trip needs its requisite
sing-a-long. Lionel Ritche's "Say You, Say
Me," comes on. We say it together, naturally.
-5:30 p.m. Dwight does Baryshnikov-esque
pirouettes coming out of the Philips 76 gas
stion bathroom. He tells Boris, the cashier,
demand has dropped off at the birthplace, it is
no longer open 24 hours a day.
"I say we camp out 'til morning and be
first in line to see Reagan's grave," Dwight
Puzzled, I promise to stop at the John
Wayne birthplace in Desoto, Iowa, which is
12:56 a.m. Now 521 miles from Ann
Arbor, we pass over the North Skunk River in
central Iowa. To pass the time, I ask about
1:50 a.m. We reach Desoto. John Wayne's
birthplace is - alas - also closed. Dwight
rails about the collapse of civilization.
"What is this world coming to? Next,
we'll see them close EuroDisney world," he
Max says he thought we were going to see
John Wayne Bobbit's birthplace.
1:55 a.m. Before leaving DeSoto; we spy
another convenience store and deli. The Kum
& Go. We laugh. While not Zingerman's, Bob
"I'll take a full rack (of ribs)," become equally
Max puts in "Grateful Dead: The extended
3:30 a.m. We are still in Iowa. After
countless Burger Kings, we stop at a truck
stop diner. Petrol and Protein. Dinner with the
great unwashed. Dwight walks in late, having
slept a few minutes in the car, thought we
were already in Nebraska, and loudly said,
"I'm glad we're not in a hole in Iowa."
About an hour and a half later, Nancine
Taylor brings us our waffles. In reading the
menu, we come to an irrefutable conclusion:
Every restaurant has the same breakfast spe-
cial - eggs, toast, coffee and links or bacon
for $1.99. Later we learn there is a federal law
that requires this.
"Well what else do you want for breakfast:
curly fries?" Dwight sniped.
5 a.m. We pass a semi, and nearly get hit.
"We almost died," Max yelled. I ask if
there is Crunch 'n Munch in the backseat.
5-10 a.m. Much like the dream sequences
in Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound," the hours
drift by, because, well, sometimes I was asleep.
But the road kept on.
10 a.m. As we talked about Nebraska, the
cornhusker state, I mentioned that road condi-
tions were ideal. "These are some pretty
straight roads." Minutes later, adjusting the
radio to Nebraska's own 89X, we hit a stray
highway marker and plunged into the ditch at
75 miles per hour.
But we didn't flip over. I was screaming,
the earth was quaking and my mind was
shaking but I refrained from using the brakes.
And somehow - like a beacon of heavenly
light - Max awoke from a dream of world
peace to save us. He put his right hand on my
shoulder and whispered calmly to me: It's
okay, I've got you.
"You've got me! Who's got you?" With
the strength of Superman, I managed to guide
the car back onto the shoulder.
11 a.m. We arrive in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Eating breakfast at Arby's, I propose a toast,
"Here's to love on my terms, Jedediah."
"Who the hell is Jedediah," Dwight
grumbles, eating his curly fries.
1 p.m. As we near the end, something
about the majestic Colorado Rockies reminds
us of America's greatest propaganda tool, the
Wonder Twins - Zan, Jana, and Gleek -
and other members of the Hall of Justice.
We try to name the members of the Legion
of Doom. "Braniac." "Lex Luthor." "That
upside down Superman." "The Gorilla Dude."
And of course, everyone knew, "Solomon
But what were his powers? It remained a
It is snowing harder now and the only light
comes from the moon, which seems much
farther away when seen above the 75-foot-tall
white pine trees. We are on cross-country skis
and still miles away from the car, the road,
civilization and beyond.
At some point - this was my first time on
skis, mind you - the skis came off and I
began walking down the long and winding
trail, sore from running into nearby trees. The
slope had been so steep that I had been sweat-
ing earlier and visions of Jack London's "To
Build a Fire" danced in my head.
To trudge on was, indeed, a test of mettle.
In the quiet beauty of the peaceful mountains,
I thought of what Jack Kerouac wrote in "On
the Road." He talked of "having to understand
the impossible complexity of life."
Away from the road and society, as the
phrase echoed across the trees and mountains,
I turned to the most basic thought of all:
survival. Beyond all else, the seemingly im-
portant problems and travails of modem life,
we must endure from day to day, month to
month, and year to year.
Until we no longer survive - and then we
My skis growing heavier and the wind
growing cold, I reached the end of path,
yelled to my friend, and left the barren woods
of Rocky Mountain National Park.
While this sounds, admittedly so, like the
philosophical ramblings of a 20-year-old adrift
and grasping for answers to questions that
have none, it is exactly the stuff that taking to
road is made of. To find answers to questions
If not, to have a few laughs in the process.
* Later, Dwight returns to this subject.
"Things are getting smaller all the time.
And mini-Ritz Bits, mini-Oreos, and now
to tread on that sacred cookie - the wind-
mill - it's unconscionable," Dwight said.
As part of the miniaturization of our
society, we discuss the release of the 1966
film "Fantastic Voyage," starring a 20-ish
Racquel Welsh. Later we discuss more
about Welch than the movie.
6 p.m. I discover that I have been
sitting on a banana the entire trip. Al-
though now soft and mushy, it is still
edible. Having decided against eating the
banana, we stop at a road side gas-grocery-
pharmacy-orama. Central to roadside stores
are bad country tapes and bad T-shirts - all
for only $4.99. Tapes like "The Chiltins'
Greatest Hits" and "Conway Twitty - The
Bootlegs" sell well under the hot glare of the
turbo dog heat lamps and the constant rattle
and hum of the fountain drink machines.
Max remarks, "Hey, someone could do
their Christmas shopping here.... And get a
raspberry slushie for the road." We opt for the
7:47 p.m. Something no doubt of impor-
tance happened at this time, but my notes are
undecipherable. One clue is a large red ketchup
stain on the page.
8:57 p.m. We are now in Joliet, Ill., home
to the Blues Brothers. At this point Max plays
"Joni Mitchell: A Six Hour Celebration." To
which Elwood might say, "We gotta get the
band back together."
Sipping another refill at the local Burger
King, we discuss with Night Manager Joe
Hazlewood the hot tourist spots in Joliet.
"You can visit the jail if you want. They
Simms, says "We slice a good beef tongue1
3 a.m. We begin talking about divorce,
and I mention my fascination with the
term, "Splitsville." Perhaps it is the hour of
night, or the extended time imbibing fumes
from the automobile, but I find this term
extraordinarily amusing. Later in the trip,
the terms, "Thank you, Mr. Wizard," and
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