The Great Odyssey–Part 2

The Bandit's got nothing on us.

The Bandit's got nothing on us.

9:00 Sunday morning, Phoenix, AZ.  I awoke with a hard pillow under my head and my brother Jack to my left.  Breakfast sure sounded good and the best thing about staying at an Embassy Suites is the free breakfast in the morning.  Not just a ‘continental’ breakfast, where ‘continental’ apparently is Latin for ‘crappy’, but omelettes, waffles, fruit, bagels, juice, yogurt, the whole nine yards.

Jeff flew through the breakfast line and Jack, Dan, and myself crawled through it, taking in all of the Eagles fans that were populating the courtyard inside the hotel.  There were enough McNabb, Westbrook, and Dawkins jerseys to go around, but not enough Terrell Owens’ #81.  Jack informed me that no self-respecting Eagles fan even mentions that name, let alone wear his jersey.

10:45 Sunday morning, Phoenix, AZ.  We were out of our liquid fuel for our journey, which was Goose Island Root Beer.  I get it at the Costco in West Des Moines and figured the Costco up the road 2 miles would have some there too.  After we walked through the store, wasting valuable minutes before heading to the stadium, we soon discovered that there would be no ‘booze’ for the return trip.  Jack made the fatal flaw of buying an economy sized box of Fruit By The Foot, which I may never eat again.

12:15 Sunday afternoon, Glendale, AZ.  Up until 2 miles from University of Phoenix Stadium, the flow of traffic was great.  Then things got tangled up, in a hurry.  That was to be expected, considering it was just a couple of hours before gametime and the Cardinals had not experienced this kind of success before.  Our parking pass indicated we could take the first exit to the complex, and we thought we were going places.  Wrong.  It took a minimum of 20 minutes to get through the light at the bottom of the exit on Northern Street, as a traffic cop was controlling the light and reveling in the frustrati0n of all drivers as all 4 directions were looking at each other and at the comically constant red lights.  Jeff yelled at the officer, who laughed and said “See you inside.”  Right…you’ll pick us out of 80,000 people and do what?  Best keep to your terrible job.

1:45 Sunday afternoon, University of Phoenix Stadium parking lot.  Yes, it’s 15 minutes to game time and we finally are parked, only a stone’s throw from the front gates to the field.  I am beginning to wonder if leaving is going to be a problem as the rows are closer together than any parking lot I’ve ever been to before, leaving only the width of one car to traverse through.  That’s before tailgaters and their tents, grills, lawn chairs, coolers, and those plowed drunks they belong to clog up the works.

2:10 Sunday afternoon, in the stadium.  We finally got inside, long enough to realize that every ticket taker is a complete tool.  Our line did not move at all and every person outside, Eagles fan, Cardinals fan, or indifferent were eager to get inside.  It was 83 degrees at this point and Cardinals fans had LONG SLEEVES on!  Eagles fans (like us) had shorts and flip flops on.  Talk about a difference in perspective from cold weather and warm (fair) weather fans. 

We finally get to our seats in the upper deck and miss a Cardinals touchdown (Larry Fitzgerald’s first of 3 in the first half) and are pleased to find our entire row is wearing green. 

The Eagles lay an absolute egg in the first half and Kurt Warner and Fitzgerald nearly deliver a deathblow in the opening 30 minutes.  This made the whole trip almost become a joke, as we drove 1500 miles (and had that much more to go), only to watch our team get pasted.

2nd Half.  Luckily, Andy Reed’s beard got angry at halftime (I can only assume), and the Eagles came roaring out of the gate in the second half.  We, and the numerous Philly fans around us, were completely ecstatic when DeSean Jackson hauled in a long touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to go up 25-24.  Thanks to David Akers having the worst kicking day of his life, the Eagles had to settle for the 1 point lead instead of being up 3 (at least).  With plenty of time left on the clock, we all knew Warner had one more drive in him at least.

After converting a 4th down on a toss right and converting another 3rd down and long, the Cardinal offense was in the red zone.  With just under 3 minutes left, they set up a screen to Tim “Ed” Hightower, who magically avoided tacklers and stretched the ball over the goal line right in front of us to take the lead.  An easy 2 point conversion later, and they had themselves a full touchdown lead.

I figured the Eagles would have no problem advancing the ball downfield and getting the tying points.  With 3 minutes left and a timeout, they should be able to find some holes in what was a porous Arizona defense.  Wrong.  They managed to get to mid-field, but on a 4th down play (with apparent pass interference overlooked) ended our hopes of a Super Bowl berth.

I think we had left our seats and were heading for the exits (along with most Eagles fans) before that pass even hit the ground.  We had “a long way to go, and a short time to get there” and dilly-dallying around in the microscopic parking lot was going to do nobody any good.

5:30 Sunday afternoon, parking lot.  We endured some of the typical snide remarks from jubilant Cardinal fans and some rather dumb comments too.  We were the first ones in our section of the parking lot to come out that had actually attended the game, as there were a few tailgaters remaining from before we went in.  Luckily, there were no cars directly behind me as I started to back out, because I would have been pulling an Austin Powers with the Yukon in order to get out.

The aforementioned tiny lanes out and those lanes chuck full of reveling tailgaters  coupled with a hot car is a bad combination.  I had my window down and some drunk guy reached in through my window and starting giving me titty twisters and saying “Go back to Philly!”  Would it have done any good pointing out I was from Iowa or would the best thing have been to put a root beer bottle through his beer-addled brain? 

I choose to drive away, but he would have lost a pound of flesh had he done it again.  Jeff probably would have drug him into the vehicle by the collar and we might have  been booked for homicide, so it’s a good thing I happened to be the pilot.

We proceeded on without incident, avoiding the traffic jams by leaving early and being Eagles fans in enemy territory, we left with our bodies and ride home intact.  There’s nothing quite like having a daunting physical endurance test in front of you when you are upset/mad/furious.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Trip:  Phoenix, AZ to Ankeny, IA     Atlanta, GA and back, via Texarkana, TX

Miles:                 1500                                                       1330

Time:               24 hours                                                28 hours

Speed Limit:    Various (65-75)                                      55 mph

Direction:     Northeast, Up                                 Eastbound, Down

Vehicle(s):  2000 GMC Yukon Denali    ’77 Pontiac Trans Am/’73 Kenworth

“Handle”:        Buff Hamster                         Bandit/Snowman/Frog/Smokey

7:30 Sunday evening, Flagstaff, AZ.  I-17 winds its way back up to the plateau Flagstaff sits on top of, and within the 2 hours since leaving the game, the temperature had plummeted 50 degrees, down to a chilling 33.  We needed fuel for both man and machine, and while we were looking for a Papa John’s to call ahead for pizza on the GPS, none were to be found in the greater Flagstaff area, and we settled for McDonald’s.  Gassing up in near freezing weather with shorts and flip-flops draws the oddest looks from passersby, and we each changed into cold weather attire before leaving the Mobil station.

Dan took over, assuming the role of trans Arizona/New Mexico driver he held on the way out.  We were listening to several AM stations as they faded in and out, trying to get snippets of the AFC title game between Pittsburgh and Baltimore before finally getting a strong signal from Dallas of all places. 

Jack retired to the back for rest required later on and I attempted to snooze as well.  Finding this impossible, I tried to squeeze in next to Jack and stretch out.  This also proved futile, and after about an hour and a half, I was back up in the middle seat.

12:15 Monday morning, Albuquerque, NM.  Perhaps the most amazing scene played out on the entire drive occured as Dan approached Albuquerque.  After traveling four over 300 miles in the deepest dark night one can imagine, the city blazes orange seemingly instantly when you cross over a ridge on I-40.  Our trusty driver had a mini freak-out, and the scene from atop the ridge drew the obligatory “Albuquerque, New Mexico.  You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villany.  We must be cautious.”

We fueled at a Flying J and the sub-freezing temperatures were not well received by anyone in the party.  While filling my thirsty steed, a homeless man approached me with a hunk of measley beef and asked if I:

A)  Wanted to purchase said meat.

B)  Would give him a ride.

C)  Would give him spare change.

I told him I was decidely from out of state and no want or need for steak, and no place to store it if I did.  On the counter-offer, I told him we had no room.  As for the last part, I gave him the 30 cents floating around in my pocket, but should have whipped out a Grandpa Simpson-esque quote of “Spare change?  Yes, I have spare change!  And you’re not gettin’ any of it!”

I decided to drive from Albuquerque to Tucumcari and hand off the two-lane chores to someone else, figuring I had only a few hours of productivity left in me and interstate driving would suit me best.  Jack rode up front with me as Dan and Jeff slept in the back.  South Park was again featured on the DVD player, and we clocked 28 miles per episode rolling through the empty New Mexico night.

3:15 Monday morning, Tucumcari, NM.  Hard to believe, but we were here in this dusty town less than 48 hours ago, fueling up for the hard press across I-40.  Now, Jack was ready to tackle his forsaken stretch of road, the 207 miles to Liberal, KS.  An awful tasting energy drink which tasted like grapefruit, carbon dioxide, and battery acid sustained him and Tecmo kept me going.

5:45 Monday morning, Dalhart, TX.  The drive was getting long and a stop in this Texas panhandle city was required due to an impromptu train rolling through.  When a body has been jostled about in motion for the past 12 hours (and over 36 hours in the previous 65), sitting idly while a train creeps by is enough to push one over the edge.

7:00 Monday morning, Liberal, KS.  The sun was just starting to awake on the eastern horizon when Jack guided the Yukon into Kansas, and it couldn’t have come too soon.  I went to the back and crashed with Dan, while Jack switched off to co-pilot.  That left Jeff to take over, who hadn’t driven since pulling the graveyard shift coming into Albuquerque way back on that first night of the excursion.  He had been sleeping since refueling in Albuquerque and was thankfully well rested.

9:00 Monday morning, Pratt, KS.  I woke up rolling through Greenburg, long enough to catch the tornado damage by daylight.  The devastation we guessed was there Friday evening was shown to us without a doubt.  We stopped in Pratt at a decrepit gas station for a restroom break, one that involved a key to an outdoor bathroom. 

11:15 Monday morning, El Dorado, KS.  We jumped back on the Kansas Turnpike and the friendly open environs of four-lane freeways again.  We stopped in El Dorado to get something to snack on as I was starting to fade after only sleeping for about an hour and a half.  There’s nothing quite like a bag of pretzels, a king-size Twix package, and a bottle of strawberry milk to wish you had a good meal and a bed in your future.  All in good time, I kept telling myself.  All in good time.

1:45 Monday afternoon, Overland Park , KS.  We found a Subway in this suburb of Kansas City to eat at, having gone since the night before in Flagstaff without eating something that doesn’t take life expectancy away from you.  That was 5 states ago! 

Jack and I both got chicken subs, and mine was terrible.  Dan got a Dr. Pepper, which curiously tasted like root beer.  Too bad we didn’t have any more of our Goose Island booze to suck back on… 

Dan took over for Jeff, who had driven all but about 5 miles of the return trip through Kansas.  For those uneducated in travel through western states and nominate Nebraska as the most boring drive around, I point you towards Kansas.  At least Nebraska has I-80, whereas Highway 54 is a life-draining force that cripples all inhabitants of any vehicle.

5:30 Monday evening, Ankeny, IA.  After dropping off Dan and Jeff at their respective dwellings, Jack and I drove back to my house.  I was very glad to be home and was greeted by my wife Dana upon coming into the garage.  We told her a little of our great adventures and of the game, but mostly I wanted to sleep.  I didn’t even eat anything, just went to bed at a quarter to 8 and didn’t stir until 6:00 the next morning, when my alarm goes off for work.

Back to reality.  Back to the salt mine.  Back to real-life.  Yuck. 

At least we beat the Bandit back.  He should be coming anytime now, with Jackie Gleason hot on his trail…

FINAL TALLY:  Greg–825 miles, Jeff–850 miles, Jack–415 miles, Dan–910 miles.  Note~Jeff no miles turned on Sunday.  Dan no miles turned on Friday.  That’s how far it is to Phoenix.

~Greg

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~ by goetgre on February 4, 2009.

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