Out of the frying pan…

As you read this I’m on a road trip from San Francisco to Philadelphia, ostensibly to take on a new adventure in life. Yes, you read correctly. I’m driving cross country, in a rented car, in the heat of summer, when gas prices are at an historic high. A more sensible person might ask why, but I ask, why not? (Don’t answer that question, please).

I’m not leaving San Francisco because of the forest fires, but lately it seems as though SF is getting smoked out in a way it is not accustomed to. The city is hecka smoky, and in the mornings, when the fog usually keeps us cool and oblivious to the outside world, we’re getting choked out by the smoke from the fires burning to the south, east and north. So as I leave my apartment of nearly seven years (and my city of nearly 10), it’s as though I’m escaping the relative safety of the city to take my chances in the fires that consume our immediate environs, and the unknowns that lie beyond.

I’m traveling in a rented Suzuki with my self described “lady friend” Kelly and my cat Theo. I had no worries about traveling with Kelly, but I was a bit worried about Theo.

Attack Cat

Theo seems to have settled in just fine.
Theo Chilling

We’re fully tricked out on this trip: GPS, 4 iPods, two Macs, two cell phones, and a PC for good measure.


Plus the aforementioned attack cat. Paws that kill.

Theo attacks

And looks that kill too.

Screwface Theo

Day 1

From SF, we took I-80 across the Bay Bridge, through Sacramento and into Nevada. The first night we crashed in a quality establishment called the Val-U Inn Motel in Winnemucca, NV. Recommended if you like fleas, smoke, fuzzy TV and no Internets.

Day 2

We passed through Utah on a Sunday, which I highly recommend if you’re a tee-totaling Morman, but would suggest skipping if you aren’t. In Salt Lake, we took a left and headed north on the I-15 into Idaho.

Day 3

Day three brought us into the heart of our trip. Done with the ‘escape’ from California, and through Nevada and Utah, we were eager to check out the beautiful country in Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota. As this photo suggests, Kelly likes really giant things. Oh behave!!!

Kelly and Potato

Later that day, we passed through Grand Teton National Park and Jackson.

Jackson Airport

In the afternoon, we entered Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park

Right after I snapped this picture, Jesus, Mary and Gandhi came walking up to me and told me they loved me. I told them I loved them back and then we hugged. I told them if they really loved me, I’d see a moose in the next 5 hours.

Sun Behind Clouds

I have full coverage on my car and all the belongings inside. I tried to get this bison to bum rush my car, but to no avail. Evidently, “sissy” is not an insult in Yellowstone.

Bison in Yellowstone

One of the most beautiful sites in Yellowstone, Artist Point. Made more fetching, of course, by the Greatwhatsit T-Shirt I’m rocking.

Artist's Point

Day 4

After Yellowstone, we made our way east on the 14 through Bighorn National Park, which I highly recommend. It is scenic and quiet and well worth the countless “point of interest” scenic view turnouts along the way. Best quote from Bighorn (as I relieved myself on the side of the road): “Ooh, look this mini-van is going to pull over and check out my point of interest!”

Towards sunset, we made our way into South Dakota and headed over to check out Mount Rushmore. It would be downright unpatriotic to take a road trip through the South Dakota and not check out these 4 dead white dudes. And with the exception of Teddy (who I don’t really care about), these guys are awesome, and here they are, carved in granite!!

Mount Rushmore

But let me warn you: Mount Rushmore is like a fat, middle American petting zoo; and if you get here around sunset, be prepared for a major league patriotic cluster fuck the likes of which you will never see again in real life. I do not kid.

Clock it: Kelly and I arrived around 7:30. We planned to snap a few photos and bounce, but low and behold we were told to stick around for the “lighting ceremony” where they turn on the lights after the sun sets. A “lighting ceremony, what?” How could we miss that?

So we settled in amongst our country men and women, ate ice cream cones wrapped in the American flag napkins, and waited to witness this splendiferous display. What we did not realize (but should have predicted) was that such an event would occasion an expression of patriotism the likes of which would kill the average man.

We waited until 9:00PM, when it was good and dark. At that point, a perky female park ranger bounced onto the ampitheater stage below the monument to lead us in the pledge of allegiance. Following the pledge, it was time for a trivia session regarding the four presidents (“Which president hired a person (i.e. bought a slave) to brush the teeth of his white horses?”) . And then the fun got going.

Our jolly park ranger began recounting the many good qualities of America. Freedom, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness. She described the two most prominent milestones in American History: the moon landing, and the 9/11 attacks. And then, my beloved readers, she burst into fucking song. And not just any song. She burst into “God Bless the USA.” And then she bounced off stage.

Following this 10 minute inspirational speech and song, we were treated to a 20 minute video memorializing the memorial in front of us. Nowhere but in America would we be so fortunate to be able to sit in this beautiful natural setting, with nature all around us, and watch a video describing how beautiful the nature around us was! And it gets better. The video did a spot on job of summing up our nation’s history in a nice clean nutshell. We were treated to such lovely distortions as “and thus began a series of events that eventually led to a significant reduction in the population of the Native people.”

You think I’m making this shit up, but here’s a video collage to prove it:


And then the lights finally shone upon our beloved Presidents. They would be so proud!

The presidents, bathed in light

We’re in Rapid City tonight. Tomorrow we’ll reach Minneapolis, then onwards to Chicago on Thursday. We hope to land in Philadelphia on Friday or Saturday. For more photos, visit my flickr stream for the trip, which I’ll keep updated with photos from this fanciful trip through our beautiful and flawed nation.

20 responses to “Out of the frying pan…”

  1. trixie says:

    brookie’s coming! brookie’s coming!

  2. That picture of the cloud in Yellowstone (or “immediately after the Yellowstone entrance photo”) is just gorgeous.

    who I don’t care about

    Hey! No dissing Teddy — that’s Sylvia’s favorite president you’re talking about! (She finished the childrens biography and at the library last night, checked out his autobiography.)

  3. Awesome travelogue. The Bison photo made me hungry. The potato photo made me horny. So did the photo of all of your electronica. The cat photos scared me. The bit about the patriotic display at Mount Rushmore got me misty eyed. Has anyone written about Rushmore’s homoeroticism? Jefferson’s cuddle puddle with Teddy can’t hide the fact that he is giving Washington a reacharound, which makes Washington’s stoic gaze even more impressive. If the Lincoln lust in Teddy’s eyes wasn’t enough, the ‘stache has got to close the deal. And poor Lincoln, the gayest of them all, has no physical contact with his fellow men. Perhaps that can be fixed with the addition of Barak Obama. If you include Sitting Bull, this would make up most of the Village People.

  4. Rachel says:

    Brooooke! Glad to hear you’re having a good trip. Stop by in Madison if you have time, or if you can swing through on the way back. Give those Philly folks a hug for me!
    p.s. Theo is cool.

  5. he is giving Washington a reacharound

    Nice — a very discreet one, as he looks proudly off to the side. I will totally have this in mind next time I look at a picture of Mt. Rushmore. (And North by Northwest — Cary Grant getting in on the action!)

  6. Scotty says:

    The video of that ranger woman breaking into song is one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever seen. How did you sit through that? I can imagine the deep desire to sneak out, but the fear that such an action would be seen as an affront to this great land of ours, causing a torch and pitchfork mob to chase you down before making it out of the park. Truly frightening shit!

    3: All fascism is, at its core, homoerotic.

  7. Ted, Jeffy, and George
    Stand on the cliff together
    And they cover each other with soap,
    Cover each other with soap…

  8. Hey speaking of cross-country trips: I will be in San Diego soon, from the 19th to the 21st inclusive; if any of you Southern CA types want to meet up and drink a beer, drop me a line to that effect. I think I can’t do anything on the 19th because my cousin’s wedding will occupy the full day.

  9. LT says:

    americuh! americuh! your video made me…vomit.

    but i still like living here. my husband wants to know if you stopped at Crazy Horse. i want to know how Theo relieves himself on your journey. and i hope there’s a Part II to this blog.

  10. lane says:

    wow great post, worthy of some cynical French academic that would go on about some dumb post modern point.

    Those photos of Rushmore, wow, now I see it in all the “plagent banality” that my freshman art crit seminar professor smeared it in. As a youngin’ I could understand how he could trash this “great American monument” ( I understood his point but couldn’t really exercise those critical muscles yet.

    BUT NOW ! My god that thing is a piece of crap. And the randomess of Roosevelt being stuck in there. Bizzare. Horrible taste. Tacky.

    I can’t wait to see it someday!

  11. Dave says:

    I was cringing all through your description of the Rushmore thing. “Don’t stay! It’s a trap!” At BYU, they’d play the national anthem over loudspeakers all over campus every afternoon while the ROTC lowered the flag, and nearly everyone stopped and faced the flag until it ended. Jesus, the dirty looks I got when I kept walking.

  12. Tim says:

    Mt. Rushmore is truly, truly godawful. I was appalled on my visit there. Crazy Horse, too, is kind of an aesthetic disaster. I can understand the impulse to build a competing monument to Native America nearby Mt. R. to counteract the rampant patriotism on display there, but destroying another beautiful mountain with a hideous out-sized sculpture because somebody earlier had done the same thing doesn’t accomplish much at all. Two wrongs, I’ve heard, don’t make a right.

    On the other hand, Wall Drug is the coolest thing about South Dakota, just beating out the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Don’t miss those two!

  13. Marleyfan says:

    Unpatriatic bastards…

  14. 13. No kidding. What a bunch of pinko bastards.

    9. I had meant ‘Crazy Horse’ and not ‘Sitting Bull’ in my reference to the Village People, once they get Barak Obama up on the mountain. Yes, Rushmore is an atrocity, but I still hope they carve Barak’s face onto it.

  15. PB says:

    Excellent Post –
    #12 I too love Wall Drug and the Corn Palace – must see!! and the Spam museum – somewhere off 90.
    I can’t wait to hear what you say about the Midwest, hmmm nothing rocks like OHIO . . . next week????

  16. jeremy says:

    yes, this is such a funny, enjoyable post…

    (i’ve never driven across the country, but i’ve always wanted to–i wonder if even the idea of a road trip will become obsolete at some point. what price would gas have to reach for that to happen, i wonder?)

  17. LP says:

    16: I’ve also always wanted to drive across the country and have never done it. Let’s go, Jeremy! As soon as gas drops back to $3 a gallon. Or I trade in that gas guzzling midlife-crisis car for a sensible Toyota.

  18. LP says:

    PS: Brooke, I like how you managed to reference your “point of interest” twice in one post. Very subtle! Unlike the giant potato.

  19. Dave says:

    As soon as gas drops back to $3 a gallon.


  20. LP says:

    That was for you, Dave.