Metatalktail Hour: Best Road Stories November 25, 2017 8:31 PM   Subscribe

It's been a travelly week for some people. I want to hear about all the best things you've seen this week, or alternately, your best fun road stories -- the time you got lost, the time you ran out of gas, favorite road trip games, other road travel stories, or heck, urban planning and road construction.

It's a conversation starter, not a limiter, but the rule is no politics, as usual.
posted by LobsterMitten to MetaFilter-Related at 8:31 PM (78 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

(Sorry about the late posting of this thread!)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:34 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


After graduating high school, my parents paid for a three-week European vacation, mostly escorted, in the sense that hotels and meals were fixed and there were daily activities but one could go do one's own thing. At some point in Italy I decided I was going to do my own thing, and I confidently got on a bus, and at some point the bus stopped at a place that looked like bus graveyard and not at all like the place I thought I was going to be and I did not speak Italian but I tried some hand-gesture-y stuff and then just cried a lot and then a driver somehow pantomimed that I should get on another bus -- and this was not like, "Hey, wait for the bus to show up as this stop" as much as it was "Hey, you should not have been allowed to ride the bus this far, because it's way beyond the rider stops, but since you did, we'll help you back" -- and I got on that bus and they drove me back and here I am! Someone who is generally confident riding public transit! I even managed to argue my way onto the opposing platform in Barcelona after getting on to the wrong direction on the subway and no one would speak to me in anything other than Catalan!
posted by lazuli at 8:42 PM on November 25 [1 favorite]


I have many road stories. Some where we were young and clearly VERY stupid and did things which should have gotten us killed. To this day, "we almost died" is a oft mentioned shibboleth in our household. Some of these things are embarrassingly idiotic and I will not be sharing them.

This week there was no travel at all. We parked it at home, ate good cheese, got a shit-load of chores and to-do list stuff done. I'm headed to New Orleans for a meeting next week, so if anyone knows of good stuff to see on December 2-5, I'll be in town.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:43 PM on November 25


I was on a road trip a few weeks ago through Real America (tm) and into a tiny hipster enclave and at a gas station in the middle of nowhere the two clerks were talking about what rifles and handguns they were gonna buy at the gun show and then in the hipster enclave the comic book store clerks were talking about Star Wars minutiae. Two conversations I had never actually witnessed and didn't think actually happened IRL. I was like holy shit I was really in the real America (I have only ever lived in coastal cities/suburbs).
posted by bleep at 9:02 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


LM and I swapped shifts for the holiday weekend and MetaTalkTails got lost in the shuffle between swappage and "wait, is it Saturday?" (In related news, my garbage did NOT go out on time because the extra-long holiday weekend means I have no idea what day it is!)

Oh, gosh, road stories. When I was little, we drove 17 hours from Chicago to DC every summer, and at first we did it in two days but eventually my parents decided it was better to power through in one day than to try to stay in a motel with four children. But my youngest brother (11 1/2 years younger than me) SCREAMED HYSTERICALLY the entire time he was in his car seat unless someone sang him the Jeopardy! theme song (specifically the music from final jeopardy). So I spent multiple years sitting in the back seat of a minivan singing the Jeopardy! theme song until I got hoarse, and then we'd stop at a travel plaza and swap around so someone else could sing it to him until they got hoarse, and so on, for SEVENTEEN HOURS. Breaks not determined by bladder needs or driver fatigue, but by the Jeopardy! singer going hoarse.

One time I was in an airport and a lady was lulling her toddler to sleep singing the Jeopardy! theme song and I was like "OH MY GOD!" (but very quietly so as not to wake him) "THAT WAS MY BROTHER'S CALMING SONG TOO!" and we bonded.

My favorite road trip was when my sister and I rented a car in Ireland, neither of us having driven on the left side of the road before, and I was like only by one week old enough to rent a car internationally (and she was not old enough at all), and we set off from Dublin into the south. We drove a Nissan Micra, which is a car too tiny to exist in the US (and my sister was almost too tall to fit), and I only almost killed us twice, and there are many fantastical sights to be seen if you drive around Ireland and escape the rail-and-bus-served attractions. This featured adventures like seeing dead Santa and having Valentine's dinner with the Irish Olympic Judo team and horse trekking with an insane Russian lady and her dog and meeting a lunatic glass-blower and several other nutty adventures we owe to our left-side driving and our complete faith that everything was going to turn out fine despite the fact that we were on a one-lane road with no road signs that did not appear on any maps that may or may not have cars or sheep coming the other direction and may or may not dead end at a human dwelling and that my sister may or may not have properly understood the Gaelic-language directions we got. It was great!

Really the only major problem we ran into was due to the poor signage for the Dublin Ring Road's tolls.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:06 PM on November 25 [8 favorites]


Also in visiting-family threads, folks may want to check this one out: show me weird stuff in your parents' house.

So - I was on the road today, visiting friends and then family, both nice visits and seeing people we haven't seen in a couple years. I'm good-tired. All the kids are a lot bigger! One got to try coconut macaroons for the first time ("it's kind of like cheese?").
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:12 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


About 6 years ago I planned a trip with a group of friends, 6 of us, all of us couples, with our partners. I had just finished working a night audit shift. Because of the timing of the trip and my work schedule, the only way I could go on this trip would be right after finishing my shift. So I literally worked all night and then went home, grabbed a shower and a change of clothes and boom...ROAD TRIP!

Thankfully I didn't have to drive and I was able to nap a little bit in the car, but not much. I was pretty wired and excited to be on a trip with my friends and my gf at the time, so I was mostly awake for the entire trip. It was only a day trip to Toronto which is only 1.5 hours away but we left at 8 a.m. and didn't get back until 8 p.m. that night and by then I had been up for almost 30+ hours. I was pretty silly towards the end. But it's a fun memory of a time when I was younger, when you do stupid things like give up sleep to be with the ones you love.
posted by Fizz at 9:20 PM on November 25 [5 favorites]


Oooh I have so many of these. The time I was hitchhiking in northern Norway, just outside the town of Alta. I'd just found an entire four-leaf clover plant, and suddenly a tour bus sighed to a stop next to me and its doors slammed open like lever-operated bus doors do. I climbed up into it, and it was a whole world of familiar and unfamiliar smells because in fact it was a traveling grocery store. The driver owned a store in central Sweden, but for one week every month he drove a bus, in which all first row of seats had been replaced with slanted shelves full of grains and spices of North Africa and the Middle East, to asylum seekers' communities all over northern Norway and Sweden. So we drove along winding coastal roads north of the fjords, in and out of rain and fog and sunshine alternating seemingly every fifteen minutes, past Sami houses and their A-frame fish-drying racks, all shut-up for the summer to follow the reindeer inland. The driver was playing Sixteen Tons (while driving the company store), the volume turned up loud, and he kept making friendly conversation, then turning all the way around in his seat to listen to my response and almost veering off the road. I rode with him for about four hours, then got out in the middle of nowhere (we were going different directions) and slept under a bridge in absolute torrential rain and woke up to discover that my tent actually was as waterproof as I'd hoped, and it was in three inches of water but I was completely dry. Which, honestly, is usually not the thing you discover in these situations.
posted by tapir-whorf at 9:26 PM on November 25 [29 favorites]


This is a story that no longer makes sense in the age of smartphones and Uber / Lyft, and really, only possible when you are an unassuming pale young woman.

When I was a young Microsoft intern, I lived in Redmond to be with all the other kids. But sometimes I went off on my own into Seattle to hang out, if you will. There's an express bus, the 545, that makes it very easy to get there from Redmond -- you get on, it stays on a highway for a while, you cross a bridge (oo, pretty, lake), you descend into Seattle (oo, pretty, Needle), and soon you're downtown.

Unfortunately, the 545's last return trip isn't THAT late, and I think I also didn't look up where to get on for the return trip. Also, no smartphone. The guy I was at the event with sent me off into the bus tunnel, which also has a bus that goes across the lake, and that bus's last run hadn't happened yet. Great! This bus went to Kirkland, another town on the east side; the east side was extremely safe, and if I could get across the water, surely I could use the gridded streets to find my way home. I wasn't physically tired, and a little walking would be good for me.

The bus came, I got on, crossed the water, hopped off soon after, since I didn't want to go too far north. I was getting kind of thirsty, so I check my purse -- d'oh, I didn't refill my water bottle before I'd left. Regardless, I walk around a little. Lo, a Microsoft building! I had my badge; there would be drinks inside, and maybe I could find some computer to log on to and figure out where I was.

I scan my badge, but it doesn't open. Maybe this is a side door that isn't meant to open from the outside. I try to find the main entrance, but that one rejects my card too. I continue skulking around the building seeing if anyone was working late and might be sympathetic.

I'm at maybe my third circling of the building when a car pulls up and an older woman asks if I needed a ride. Now, I've watched enough PBS to know that you're not supposed to get into strangers' cars, but I was getting pretty thirsty, and even a little cold. I get in.

She asks where I'm going, and it turns out that I would have been in for a long walk. She said she'd just gotten off her shift as a nurse, and had seen me skulking around the building; she wasn't sure what to do and circled a few times before finally stopping. "I wouldn't know what I'd do if I heard on the news the next morning about a young woman hurt." I get home and see my roommate waiting up for me; I divulge very few details, shower off the last of the rope marks, and go to bed.

My roommate heard the full story a few years later and asked why I didn't call her for a ride -- honestly, calling people for rides had never occurred to me as an option. Maybe it would have occurred to me if the woman hadn't stopped.

I guess there was also the time (also pre-smartphone) when I found my way from the Copenhagen Airport to my couchhost's apartment without having written down any instructions. It was Sunday morning so he let me in, gave me the wifi password, and went back to sleep; I used the remaining battery on my laptop to find a hardware store where I could buy an adapter plug, because my ill-traveled arse was unprepared.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:48 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


I have been sworn to secrecy on most of the details, but there was the time me and a friend hitch hiked from Charlottesville, VA to Syracuse, NY to see the Grateful Dead circa 1983. We are freed from our vow of secrecy when my friend's mother dies. To this day he has not told her about the hitch hiking and the trip.

It only took us 3 rides to get there. The first, a college student heading to NOVA dropped us at a truck stop in Gainesville, VA. We found a trucker to take us to the Vince Lombardi service station at the end of the NJ Turnpike and the trucker, via his CB radio, arranged for a ride directly to the Carrier Dome with another trucker. I ran into someone I vaguely knew from UVa in the parking lot after the show and she agreed to drive us back to C'ville the next morning. We bought the gas, natch.

I remember clearly the Revolution encore and the Shakedown opening. Here, listen for yourself.
posted by AugustWest at 10:29 PM on November 25 [3 favorites]


.... I divulge very few details, shower off the last of the rope marks, and go to bed. ....
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:48 PM on November 25

Is there a part of the story missing here, batter_my_heart? You know, the part where you got the rope marks -- is that just not important? I'm over here all totally "Now, wait just a cotton pickin' minute, there's more to this story."
posted by dancestoblue at 10:36 PM on November 25 [7 favorites]


I'm choosing to read it as ultra-suppressed-narrative erotica.
posted by tapir-whorf at 10:48 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


Heh, I read it as a jest—that naturally there's an omitted interlude in which the narrator was kidnapped, bound and gagged, and escaped, only to quietly and unassumingly go about her business.
posted by limeonaire at 11:04 PM on November 25 [4 favorites]


Two months ago, partially due to my cancer diagnosis, my mother bought me my dream car for my birthday - a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. Mine is retired from the Texas DPS (Highway Patrol) and is still black and white, although the spotlight/light bar/siren/etc and all markings were removed.

I drove back up to OK (500 miles one-way) on Tuesday for Thanksgiving. One advantage of driving an ex-police-car is that you can sit in the left lane, put cruise control on speed-limit-plus-5mph, and people automatically move out of your way.

At one point I had to pull over to the right shoulder to stretch, adjust the radio, etc.. and in my rear view mirror I realized that traffic was moving over to the left hand lanes. In TX it's a law that when an emergency vehicle is stopped on the shoulder, that you move over a lane. Heh. Even without markings, I get the people who think I'm a cop.

It was also strange, a couple of times, passing where a tropper, in an identical car to mine except for all the markings and equipment, had pulled someone over... so apparently DPS still has a bunch of these in service. I know that Austin PD bought a bunch of extras when Ford announced the discontinuation back in 2010-2011, and that Houston PD still has a couple hundred in their fleet...

Amazingly for a 4.6l V8, I got 23-25mpg consistently on this road trip, which ended up being about 1020 miles round-trip. Not bad for a six-year-old car with 145k miles on the odometer.
It's a GREAT road trip car. Like driving a couch, but a couch that MOVES when I put my foot on the gas.
posted by mrbill at 11:07 PM on November 25 [9 favorites]


Thought that pedal on your couch was to recline?
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:38 PM on November 25 [2 favorites]


mrbill, I say just leave it as is, scare ppl, plus maybe start dressing like Peter Falk in Columbo etc.

~~~~~

A million years ago my little ex-wife and I bought a nice little Ford Econoline van from a flower shop there in Clearwater for $850, six cylinder, auto transmission, pretty bare bones but in good shape. The name of the flower shop was painted on both sides and on the rear of the van, also -- Sweats Flower Shop. I didn't want to sand it off -- the paint on the van was great -- so I just bought a few cans of rubbing compound and set to work, rubbing those letters off.

Instead of having a blank to fill in, I had a canvas to remove things from.

I cannot remember what all we had on that van, as I took letters off one at a time. I *know* we had "eats Flower Shop" and "eat Flower" and of course "eat Flower S" and also "eat lower" and "eat low" and "low hop" and on one side just had "Sweat" and on and on it went. "Sweat Flow" was a fun one. No telling how long it took -- taking off paint with rubbing compound is not the easiest thing to do, plus it was fun to drive around a vehicle telling ppl to "eat Flow" or whatever.

So that's not a travel story but we did put some miles on that van, so maybe it'll count.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:16 AM on November 26 [6 favorites]


I’m traveling through a little town on the outskirts of a desert and see a used bookstore that’s actually opened. I wander in, nodding hello to the proprietor, an older white haired lady. Who looks up smiling, see’s I’ve never been there before, and orders me to stand still. I freeze and she bustles with something on the ground behind the counter, then comes around holding a pillow. And on the pillow is a tiny white poodle with a pink rinestone collar.

“You have to be approved to shop here” she said sternly and pushed the pillow towards me.

I did the only logical thing that a book desperat person could do, offered the poodle my hand and said hello. The poodle then, in the most grand manner a tiny dog could, placed a paw on the plam.

“Oh!” gasped the owner “You’ve been annointed by the queen!”

I bought To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.
posted by lepus at 12:49 AM on November 26 [55 favorites]


I have had people point guns in my face not once, but twice while driving. The first time was about a decade ago. I was riding a dirt bike around Laos by myself, waiting for my younger brother to fly in and join me.

Well this was prior to everyone having GPS and also at the time (maybe still?) there were no good maps of Laos, so it was a bit of a crap shoot. Well, I made a wrong turn or two because there were also no road signs. Anyway, I was zipping along and the road started to get much better maintained so I assumed that I was headed in the right direction. Wrong. I had accidentally and illegally crossed the border into Vietnam. The Vietnam border guards (police? I don't know) stopped me with their rifles out and were shouting and yelling. They didn't really speak English, and I speak no Vietnamese. After a solid 30 minutes of explaining that I had no visa because I didn't want to be in Vietnam and them yelling about a visa, they finally agreed that the best option was to send me back.

Then! On the way back these two young Laotian guys stopped me crossing back into Laos and asked to see my entry stamp. Of course the visa I got crossing into Vientiane wasn't right and blah blah blah. They weren't pointing guns at me though, so it was less stressful. However, they wouldn't let me leave until I gave them my last two cigarettes and the sun was low in the sky.

I was stressed out and exhausted, had no idea where I was and it was getting dark fast. This is way rural Laos, so there was zero traffic on these crummy dirt tracks and it was getting cold. In my exhaustion, I accidentally dropped the bike and seriously contemplated just crying myself to sleep in the middle of the road.

God thing I didn't, because a short while later I passed a sign that said "We are proud to have tigers here!" Phew. I finally pulled into Phonsovan at like 1:00am and all the guesthouses were locked up for the night. I finally found some hotel that charged me 20usd for the night (that was a FORTUNE in Phonsovan in 2006) but I had no other choice.

Well that story got a little long, so I will save the second time I got a gun pointed at me while travelling for another time.
posted by Literaryhero at 2:42 AM on November 26 [4 favorites]


I did my share of traveling this week, getting back home from a week in Edinburgh with my mom (kind of meeting each other in the middle, which is our habit for vacations). We had a good time, basically walking around looking at architecture and eating a lot, plus she went to a lot of museums and I bought a lot of books.
We also spent a day in Glasgow and looked at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibit thing, including pictures of the gorgeous (and now tragically wounded, but being gradually mended) Glasgow School of Art. "A lot of this stuff is really Wright-ish," we said to each other, and came to a display of quotations about Mackintosh, including "An American lady at the Mackintosh exhibit to her daughter: 'If this man had been in our country, he would have been Frank Lloyd Wright,'" which cracked us up. I bought a Mackintosh calendar for my sweetie (he likes Mucha, I bet he can learn to like Mackintosh) and an umbrella with a Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh painting on it for my mom (wondering the while about the alternate universe where Charles Mackintosh was mainly known as "the husband of Margaret Macdonald"...).
(We also discovered on the way back to Edinburgh that it is apparently totally acceptable in Scotland for groups of young men to get stupid drunk and loud on four pm weekday commuter trains? No actual unpleasant incidents per se, just...wow. On the other hand, there were large quantities of real honest-to-goodness sheep visible outside the train windows.)
posted by huimangm at 2:49 AM on November 26 [1 favorite]


> I was on a road trip a few weeks ago through Real America (tm) and into a tiny hipster enclave and at a gas station in the middle of nowhere the two clerks were talking about what rifles and handguns they were gonna buy at the gun show and then in the hipster enclave the comic book store clerks were talking about Star Wars minutiae. Two conversations I had never actually witnessed and didn't think actually happened IRL. I was like holy shit I was really in the real America (I have only ever lived in coastal cities/suburbs).

At the Raleigh NC flea market yesterday, I overhead these two conversations in the same stall with the seller and two different customers.

At a different stall, the seller buttonholed me for several minutes to pitch the quality of the handmade leather concealed carry holsters his father makes. The craftsmanship was very good, but I'm more likely to need glasses for my ajna chakra than a holster for a gun. And at yet another stall the seller specialized in used designer leather purses at pretty decent prices. She had attaches by Henry Louis and Coach with nice patina and I was tempted, but they're not things I can justify getting right now.

Anyway, I'm from the U.S. northeast, I live in the south now, and there's no real America except inasmuch as it's all real America. We're just really more diverse than we want to let on and some of the loudmouths use that to pander to a few of us, but don't let those assholes make you believe certain types of people have more of a claim to the nation, because we've had some really bad precedents here in that regard.
posted by ardgedee at 2:51 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


One of my favourite travel memories is also the story of the most impressive thing I ever did with a motorcycle. The one that makes me think 'Damn, Past Self. That was cool.'

We were in Sudan, on a motorbike trip across Africa, and we had a ferry to catch. It was a ferry across the Nile, and it went three times a day; missing it would not have been a disaster, but it was nicer not to. We knew it was leaving any moment so we were riding along at a good pace, my travel companion out in front because he did the navigation (and also because he'd gotten his goggles stolen so he could not ride in my dust trail). He rounded a curve, and was out of my sight; once I could see him again, he was on the ferry, and the ferry was leaving. It had not pulled its flap up, though, and was still close to the shore.

I had very little time to consider the best course of action. I was riding at a fair speed, on sand; the river bank was sandy too and if I decided not to head for the ferry, I would need to make a pretty short turn, on the sloped bank, and risk losing my grip and sliding right into the Nile. There was no proper space to slow down before making that turn.
In short, I did not slow down. I speeded up and JUMPED the gap and landed on the ferry. There was a small round of applause. I even managed to brake properly once I was on the ferry, and not fall over or hit anyone. It was glorious.

The ferry was loaded with people and a truck and the truck was loaded with cumin. Big bags of the stuff. The load stuck out at least a meter on either side. The whole boat was engulfed in a cloud of the aroma of cumin. Man, that was a nice ferry trip.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:19 AM on November 26 [39 favorites]


On Saturday I got up at 4:45 to get a 5:30 bus then a 6:00 train and a 8:30 flight. The temperature was so extremely cold the trains were getting stuck getting across a viaduct because there was too much ice on the line. We made it eventually but were treated to an impressive lightning show with great showers of sparks (which you sadly can't see from that angle).

Oh yeah, and the extreme temperatures? 1°C. I mean this is the British railway network we're talking about here. We can't expect it to cope with these Arctic conditions.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:32 AM on November 26 [6 favorites]


Were there chilly leaves on the track?
posted by pracowity at 5:36 AM on November 26


My favorite road-trip memory is the time my mom and I checked into a hotel where there happened to be a Saluki convention or show or something. I don’t have an actual story with a narrative or anything, we just saw a lot of cool dogs.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:42 AM on November 26 [9 favorites]


When I graduated from college, my parents said they would buy me a plane ticket home from anywhere in the US. I'd never been to California, and I desperately wanted to see the San Diego Zoo and Monterey Bay Aquarium. I flew from St. Louis to San Diego, spent THE MOST BLISSFUL DAY at the zoo where not a single person suggested we move more quickly or stop watching the swamp monkeys frolic or mocked me for eating Dippin' Dots and observing the putty nosed monkeys. After a few days in San Diego, I was due in Monterey. So I got the train up to Santa Barbara, and then took a bus to Salinas, and then another bus to Monterey. Again, my trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium was amazing, and then I sat and read Cannery Row on Cannery Row.

My flight home was from San Francisco, and I wanted to spend some time there, so I got the bus from Monterey to Salinas. After wandering around Salinas, I got the greyhound from Salinas to San Francisco, and *there* is where my magical road trip moment happened. I was walking towards the back of the bus, and passed an empty seat next to a truly beautiful guy who smiled at me when I walked by. I walked a few more steps, and then turned around and asked if I could sit next to him. I could. We chatted for a while. He had come up from Mexico to visit a brother living in CA. His dream was to open a restaurant in Mexico City, and he promised he'd name one of the dishes after me. I basically swooned. I was sleepy, and he said I could use his shoulder as a pillow, and I did, and it was excellent shoulder pillow height. I got off the bus in San Francisco and he stayed on to go somewhere else but he kissed my cheek when I left and there is totally still a part of me imagining life as part-owner of a restaurant in Mexico.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:45 AM on November 26 [27 favorites]


(Then jdherg drove me to Petaluma where we met Zippy and several other exciting mefites!)
posted by ChuraChura at 5:52 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


A few months ago we offered to take our 15-year-old son on a trip anywhere he wanted to go. Seriously, if he'd said Paris or Tokyo or whatever we'd have done our best to make it happen. This past week we took the kid's-choice trip - to Atlantic City, to see the biggest pipe organ in the world. We stayed in Philadelphia for a couple days, so he also got to see the second biggest pipe organ in the world. This is a kid who knows what he likes.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:53 AM on November 26 [28 favorites]


I have a few hitchhiking stories. My favorite is from when I was hiking the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 1979. I'd gone into Gatlinburg TN for a night and was trying to get back to the trail the next morning. It was always tough getting rides out of vacation destinations and I waited awhile for a ride. Finally, I got picked up by a guy who was just out driving around while his wife shopped. He was originally from Czechoslovakia and got to talking about the difference between living in the US and living behind the Iron Curtain. The think that really summed this up for him was that he could walk into a store in Gatlinburg and buy a topographical map. He didn't need to get it from the state, he didn't any special permission. He could just walk in, buy a map, and trust that it was accurate. That really blew his mind.
posted by maurice at 5:58 AM on November 26 [10 favorites]


Oh and our flight home from Philadelphia was on Thanksgiving morning, and they have a big Thanksgiving parade with floats and balloons and marching bands, and the hotel we were staying at was apparently one of the ones being used by people in the parade, so while we waited in the lobby for our cab we were surrounded by groups of people dressed as Ghostbusters with Santa hats, snowmen, reindeer, high school kids with instruments, a couple of fully costumed mascots - one a dinosaur, the other a blue cylinder we could only see from behind, perhaps a beer can? That was a nice little surreal episode to end the trip.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:01 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


We did not travel for Thanksgiving this year, mostly because no one wanted to but also because we had to butcher pigs yesterday.

We opted not to travel out to the farm this time; instead, one of our pig share members (who is still fresh in the "I just bought a pickup" phase of truck ownership) drove up to the slaughterhouse, got our shares, and brought them back to our very urban neighborhood in town. We did all the work in their driveway with neighbors walking dogs down the street. The dogs were very interested in what was going on, and surprisingly no one called the cops on us.

It's always a grueling day, but it was even more work than usual this time since we bought more pig than we ever have before. We managed to break two meat grinders, so we didn't end up finishing the processing until close to midnight.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:01 AM on November 26 [1 favorite]


There was the time I was hitchhiking from Whitefish, Montana (where I'd been thrown off a freight train, but that's another story) to Middlebury, VT (for the famous and somewhat prestigious writer's conference held there every year, which is an entirely different story). I'd spent the night in the truckers' lounge with my hoodie pulled low over my face and woken up before 7AM since it always pays to get an early start on the road, but I didn't have high hopes. For one, it was August and just about everyone was headed to Sturgis, and I was headed away. Also, everyone was on motorcycles. Also I was hitching from the truckstop where I'd spent the night, not the highway, which I tended to prefer in those days because it felt safer to talk to people before I got in their cars (I was a solo woman in my twenties), although in retrospect it was mostly just slower. It was around 10AM and I was about to throw in the towel for a while and go hunt up truckstop breakfast when an older biker came up to offer me a ride. He was going across the state, away from Sturgis, to pick up his sometimes-girlfriend, so his bike was unloaded which meant there was room for me and my backpack (which is usually the dealbreaker for scoring a ride on a motorcycle). Five hours later he dropped me off at a different truckstop in Sioux Falls and I slept in the tall grass of an empty field and woke up early again the next morning, and that might've been when I got another long ride from a woman who took me all the way to Indiana Dunes, outside of Chicago, where we shared a campsite and the next morning she dropped me off along a street full of elegant old modernist homes built for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair (maybe these?).
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:11 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


> and then I sat and read Cannery Row on Cannery Row

I took a copy of the Odyssey along with me on a trip to Greece and read it on a boat crossing the Aegean.

My best travel story is about my cross-country bus trip and layover in Harrisburg, but I already told that, so I'll tell you about the time I was visiting my brother, who then lived in LA, and after a nostalgic trip to Occidental College, my alma mater, we were heading back west to Palms, where his apartment was, when he stopped the car in ecstasy and said "Look at that sunset!" I said "It's really nice, now could you start moving again, we're on the onramp to a freeway!!"
posted by languagehat at 6:46 AM on November 26 [7 favorites]


I have written here before about two of my best road stories, the one when I hit the moose and the one where my car breaking down resulted in me and my buddy getting taken into protective custody in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. They're out there and I will not tell them again right now.

This Thanksgiving was quite interesting and almost didn't happen. Around 10:00 PM on Wednesday night my son got a minor spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and had to spend the night in the hospital, so I got to also spend the night there on this terrible pull-out chair/bed thing. At about 6:00 AM on Thanksgiving morning the thoracic surgeon told us he'd have to stay another 24 hours, which of course meant no Thanksgiving for him.

Fortunately, the pediatrician told us she'd fight to have him released if his 3:00 PM X-Ray wasn't any worse. They moved the X-Ray up to 2:00 PM, it looked good, so they got us out of there at 4:00 PM, just in time to go home, shower, and head out to my in-laws in Dorchester.

Despite everything it turned out to be one of the best Thanksgivings ever, partially due to the emotional rollercoaster ending on a good note.

My son is fine, just needs to take it easy for a bit, and if things keep happening there's some easy surgery to fix it. These things are pretty common with tall, thin, teenage boys. Remember that little kid in the Death Star costume? He's 6'1" now. He's outgrowing his lungs.

Lots to be thankful for this year.
posted by bondcliff at 6:59 AM on November 26 [17 favorites]


Most of my hitchhiking experiences involved sitting nervously while the driver shotguns beers, trying to decide if it's better to get out and wait for another ride or gamble that they aren't really that drunk yet. It never actually ended badly and the people were always nice, but the venn diagram between "willing to pick up hitchhikers" and "loves to drink while driving" was pretty tight in my experience.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:03 AM on November 26 [5 favorites]


Oh, here's an old story (by someone who, um, definitely isn't me) about staying at Dugout Dick's Ice Cave Motels just south of Salmon, Idaho and listening to peacocks crying across the valley at night.
posted by tapir-whorf at 7:03 AM on November 26


Ah hitchhiking... I've done some of that too.
Once I hitchhiked to Portugal with a friend, and it went pretty well. We met a very friendly Portuguese truck driver in the south of France, who took us through Spain, fed us lunch on his boss's dime, and even hooked up up with a collegue who brought us further into Portugal.

Some very memorable moments were had when we were crossing the Pyrennees, on a narrow and winding road with dizzying depths next to it; there was a low concrete barrier at the edge of the road with a steel rail on top. The whole construction was about knee high so it didn't do much to reassure me. Every now and then there was a gap in the barrier; at three or four of those gaps, our driver crossed himself and said quietly: "Friend of mine."
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:11 AM on November 26 [4 favorites]


I've seen a lot of the country from highways and interstates in the last few years, thanks to road trips with my family. Unfortunately, we generally had Places To Be, so there wasn't a lot of time to stop, plus we had one to two little boys with us, so our days were limited by their patience to be in their car seats.

Last summer, we went to California, which was a nice short drive from New Mexico, relatively speaking. On the way out, we enjoyed Holbrook, home of numerous "cementosaurs". On the way back, I wedged in the back seat between two car seats, as my sister-in-law joined us on the ride back. Fun fact: car seats are wider at the top, so wedging your hips in between them isn't the worst part, it's squeezing your ribs into some comfortable position, which will likely result in you getting bruises on your chest.

My more interesting road trip stories come from college years, particularly when we went to Coachella when it was still a new festival and we had no idea what we were doing. The first year, my roommate and I drove down and didn't get a hotel room, so we found a place for $75 a night. It looked dirty and gross, but it was cheaper than the other dirty, gross place that was $100 a night. In the room, there were a number of cigarette burns on the comforter and a mirror at the end of the bed, a half-burnt shower floor mat, and other unsavory features to the room. We were really tired and didn't think twice about it. In the morning, the hotel owner opened the door, saw us still there, and promptly closed it without saying a word. We talked to some locals the next day, and they laughed at us. Of course you don't stay there for the night, those are hotels to stay for a short while.

A few years later, I foolishly agreed to drive a car full of friends back from Coachella to college right after the last night ended, and I decided everyone could sleep while I drove solo, because my first class was in the afternoon while everyone else had morning classes. Toward the end I was really loopy, to the point I should have traded off with anyone. For example, I thought a truck was a tunnel, which I realized wasn't possible or logical, so I decided to not try and drive through it. Lack of sleep is one helluva drug.

My other major trip misadventure tale is of going the wrong way on a water shuttle in Venice. My brother and I hopped on a boat to meet our parents, but we got on one going the wrong direction, and then we spent much of the day trying to get back to our hotel. After hours on boats, we were pretty woozy. Meanwhile, our parents were worried, and the hotel manager laughed it off, telling them their boys probably found some girls.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:19 AM on November 26 [1 favorite]


I have two, both about dirt roads. You'd think I'd have learned the first time to never ever trust Google and always have detailed paper maps, but noooo.

The first was on the lost coast of California. My ex and I were camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and we thought we'd take a day trip to Shelter Cove. To do that, you take 101 south for awhile and then Briceland Thorn Road. It's a twisty nailbiter with some sheer dropoffs, but it's all two lanes and paved. We spent some time at the coast and then decided to go back. I'd previously downloaded some Google maps since there was no service, and I thought it'd be nice to take a different way back. We backtracked up the way we came and then turned left to take the western part of the loop shown here.

Wellllll... what Google doesn't tell you is that several miles later, it turns into a DIRT ROAD that is 1.5 lanes if you're lucky. We had rented a totally unsuitable Dodge Charger. We assumed there would be a driveway or something we could use to turn around, so we kept moving forward despite our misgivings. About ten miles (?) in, we had found nothing, and there was A. a fork in the road and B. both options were still dirt and equally rutted. We took the northbound option since that was our ultimate intended direction, and within 500 feet we were nearly mired in mud. It was maybe an hour until sunset. We had no food or warm clothing (it was October). No one knew where we were going today. It's bear country. This was a classic episode of I Shouldn't Be Alive, except maybe we wouldn't be.

My ex put forth superhuman effort to get us out of the mud. It was enormously stressful for both of us and I felt terrible that I'd set us down that path. We didn't get back to the campsite until around 10 pm; we'd probably turned off down that road at 5 pm. It's 45 miles.

Second story is a similar level of stupidity but the story is not as long. I was driving alone from the Grand Tetons to Pearl Lake State Park, Colorado. Most of that drive is so boring I literally had to pull over and take naps. Miles and miles of sage brush. ~40 miles from my destination, it suddenly got REAL INTERESTING when Google led me on (you guessed it) another dirt road. I thought surely this is only temporary but NOPE, it was a snaky 15' wide dirt road for about 30 miles. There were often cows blocking my way. There was no option to turn around since this was the only way to the campground. I was tired, in a car with low-ish clearance, and it was rapidly approaching dark. (This time I had about a week of food and clean clothing.) I white knuckled it and forced myself through it but I will forever hate Google. I would have been absolutely fucked if it had snowed or rained. However, the campsite was worth it. Look at this shit.
posted by AFABulous at 7:36 AM on November 26 [7 favorites]


I was hitchhiking across North Dakota on I-94, glanced over to the other side of the highway, and saw a motorhome towing a car with the car facing backward. The pattern recognition part of my brain reported this as someone backing a trailer down the interstate at 65 MPH. The human neuromotor response intuition part of my brain rejected that report as "Not humanly possible!" On further consideration, probably not even robotically possible.
posted by Bruce H. at 7:40 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


I really like taking long road trips and staying in motels that are so small/bad/random that you can't even find them on Trip Advisor. I should update this list of road trips from back before cell phones and back when GPSes looked like this. My road tripping has settled down some as my airplane trips have increased. I think 2013 may have been my last multi-day road trip. I should do something about that.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 7:43 AM on November 26 [5 favorites]


Better living through MetaFilter! AskMe commenters helped me put together a fun little week-long vacation for my niece and myself; we returned Thanksgiving day. We had to wait until the 16th to leave so she could get her buck on opening day of deer season; don't get me started—ruralfolk freak me out just a little, I admit—but it's pretty impressive that she single-handedly puts food on her table the way she does (she grows her own vegetables too, canning and freezing a lot of stuff every year). She's scrappy, smart, and really fun to hang with.

I'd originally just wanted to hang alone and sort of chill in silence without responsibility for a week, but since that wasn't the easiest thing to put together, I just went with the flow and listened to pazazygeek instead, since their advice sounded like a fun time! We ended up taking Amtrak from Chicago to L.A. in a little private roomette (the only way to travel more than 10 hours by train, I've realized), which was new and exciting. Neither of us has been so far out west, so we took a day in L.A. to chill and see some art (loved MoCA!) and different architecture. The weather was so lovely! I totally get the L.A. weather thing now. (I didn't think I'd be interested in going there, but yeah, that was actually pretty nice.) We hung out in Chinatown for a bit, and my niece learned what dim sum was, and she loved it—did I mention she's newly pregnant and so eats everything in sight? Ha! Perfect.

Next morning, we took the Amtrak Coast Starlight train north, which was stunning—we just sat there, looking out at the California coastline for hours and hours that morning/afternoon, listening to the train. Next day we awoke to gray skies and rain, and the first thing I saw as I opened my eyes was Mt. Shasta, which like never happens in Chicago!

But oh man, that day. The train wound up through and around the mountains in Oregon, and the rain became thick, heavy snow, and it was nothing but trees. Bazillions of them! It was amazing. I mean, you read about it, you see it in documentaries, but holy shit, that was a lot of trees! It was the highlight of my whole trip, it was just so gorgeous and green—and no billboards, you know? God, that was cool.

We ended up in Seattle, end of the line for that train. We got a fancy hotel room with a great view, and we lived in comfort for a few days, then flew home (niece had never been on a plane and loved it!). It was a great vacation, and I'd never have taken it had I not decided to AskMetafilter a question. Thanks, every person who pitched in with comments! But pazazygeek, you really planted a seed—oh, and the taquitos at that fun little stand were indeed very good. (And my niece had her first horchata!)
posted by heyho at 7:46 AM on November 26 [17 favorites]


Thanksgiving weekend so a pleasant story. I was hitchhiking in Scotland, got a ride from a man who said he had a stop to make as he was in sales. It was a B&B next to Loch Ness, and the road to it was single lane with passing spaces. He made his call, we turned to go back to the main road, and he pulls over in a passing space. Oh great, this is where I get raped and murdered. He says his wife always packs him a really big lunch, shares his sandwiches and tea with me.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 AM on November 26 [13 favorites]


I've told this story before but it was at the long end of an old Talktail hour and I suspect many haven't read it yet so, at the risk of being redundant, I'm going to share it again. It's probably more appropriate here, anyway.

In 1976 my older sister, Chris, and I were young and horrible teens. Because it was the nation's bicentennial, my maternal grandmother decided that she and her third husband, a cigar-smoking-Texan named Jewel, would take my sister and me on a cross-country road trip that would eventually bring us to our nation’s Capital just in time for the big 4th of July celebration.

After about the third day on the road we crossed into Tennessee and it was there we saw our first roadside billboard for the first Stuckey's on our route.

"Grandma, can we stop at Stuckey's? Pleeeeze."

"Why? I don't need gas, and we stopped to pee less than an hour ago. If we want to get to the next campsite before dark we should keep driving."

"But we want pecan candy. Pleeeeze, pleeeze, pretty pleeze."

"But we just stopped an hour ago."

"PECAN LOGS and DIVINITY, Please?"

"We can stop another day."

"No, now. We need candy. We're starving. Plllleeeeeeze."

"No." That's when the chanting began.

"Divin-it-y, Pee-Can Logs. Div-in-it-y, Pee-Can Logs. Divin-it-y, Pee-Can Logs. Divin-it-y, Pee-Can Logs. DIVIN-IT-Y, PEE-CAN LOGS."

"Alright, fine."

Once inside the store, we picked out our pecan delights and gave them to our grandmother for purchase. But what she didn't know was that my sister had her own money, and had spotted in the souvenir aisle some practical joke and gag items, including cigar loads.

For the uninitiated, a cigar load is a sliver of soft wood with a few grains of gunpowder injected into the middle. You'd slip them into the end of an unlit cigar and then replace it in the stogie-sucking stooge's supply. Once lit, it was only a matter of time before the ember hit the grains of gunpowder and the whole thing popped, scaring the crap out of the smoker, and anyone else in the vicinity.

My sister was exceptionally good at slipping these into Jewel's cheap and stinky cigars.Jewel's cigars were usually in his coat pocket, and she'd slowly and silently, from the back seat, reach into his pocket, snitch a cigar, insert the load, slip it back, and then without a beat, notify the occupants that there was a Florida plate passing us, and she’d mark it on her Travel Bingo card.

The first load went off at the next fuel stop. Jewel had stepped out to take a leak and lit a cigar, then proceeded to puff as he walked to the Men's Room. Chris and I went too, pretending we also needed to go but were really there to see if this was the cigar with the load. I followed Jewel, quickly pretended to pee, and then left only to find my sister standing right outside the door listening in. And then it happened. BLAM, followed by a loud, "THE FUCK!"

My sister and I looked at each other and our eyes and smiles grew wide. We wanted to laugh at the top of our lungs but we were right outside the door of the Men's Room and didn't want Jewel to hear us so we covered our mouths and took off running. After about 100 yards and on the other side of the building, we fell to the ground laughing. After about a minute we attempted to gain our composure and headed back to the car.

"I don't know what the hell happened. Musta been something wrong with that cigar. Never had one pop on me before. Maybe the tobacca wasn't all the way dry. Damndest thing..." he was muttering to our grandmother when we arrived.

Two nights later she tried it again. This time at our campsite. She'd snuck into their tent and slipped one into one of his cigars by his sleeping bag. We weren't actually there to witness this one's pop. We were fishing. Well, technically Chris was fishing. I was throwing rocks in the little pond near the campsite.

"What's that on the water over there?" she asked, pointing to a zigzag little wave moving our way.

"Can't tell." Then the pole bent.

"I got one. I think I got a fish."

"Well reel it in."

"I'm trying."

"Pull your pole back while you do it. That's what Dad does."

"That wave's still coming."

"Yeah, I see. Keep reeling."

"I almost got it. Wait, look at that wave. It's not a wave. It's a snake!"

"No, it's not. You're just trying to scare me."

"I think it is. And it's heading right for us."

"Are you sure? I'm pretty sure snakes can't swim."

"You know what kind of snake CAN swim? Water Moccasin."

We both looked at each other, looked at the snake growing larger as it approached, again at each other, turned, and ran screaming, "SNAKE! KILLER SNAKE! DEADLY POISONOUS KILLER SNAKE!"

If we weren't screaming we might have heard the second load explode. By the time we arrived at camp all we could enjoy was the aftermath. Approaching the tents, we found them both sitting wide-eyed in their lawn chairs holding PBRs, but with Jewel's face covered in tiny specs of tobacco.

"What in the hell are you kids screaming about?"

"There was a Water Moccasin in the pond and it was trying to kill us."

"Were you on shore? Just leave it alone. It'll go away. Stay away from it. Why were you at the pond anyway?"

"I was fishin'" Chris explained showing them the pole, whose reel clicked as she thrust it forward to show them.

"What's it caught on?"

Then we all looked back following the line to the dirt and debris covered, stick-in-the-eye, twig in the mouth, fin missing, little sunfish still on the end of her line.

"Oh, man" my sister moaned, "I wanted to eat that."

"It's still good," Jewel said, still splattered with tobacco, as he pulled the hook from its mouth and then proceeded to clean, fry and eat the paltry little meal, just to prove a point.

Three days later came the next. This time in Virginia, while on a tour of historic Monticello. It was on the tour of the gardens where you were allowed to light one up back then. BAM! The whole tour jumped a bit, but this time my sister and I couldn't hide it and began to laugh. He looked like Elmer Fudd after his rifle exploded in his face, soot covering everything but the circles around his eyes. She'd used three.

Unfortunately, our laughter betrayed us, revealing that this was all our doing. Well, technically Chris's doing. That was why on July 2nd, 1976, my grandmother marched us both off that sacred and historic site, back into the little Chevy, and drove us over thirty hours straight back to our parents, delivering us at 4 am on the morning of the 4th.

But Chris had the last laugh. She took the remaining 10 loads and put them all in one cigar. Apparently, he lit it in the hallway outside their apartment as they were unlocking the door to get in. They later told our parents that a neighbor immediately called the police thinking someone had been shot.

That was probably my favorite road trip, even if it was cut short. It's also my sister's favorite story about our childhood. Though I don't think she realizes we kind of come off as terrible little monsters in that story.
posted by Stanczyk at 8:15 AM on November 26 [21 favorites]


When the mister and I had been dating for three months, I decided it would be a great idea to drive to Montreal for his birthday. This was in the time of paper maps.

I normally have a great sense of direction (despite not being able to figure out that whole left/right thing) and I spent many a childhood vacation literally reading road atlases in the backseat on the way to our destination, so I know my way around a map. Unfortunately, as I would soon learn, these abilities do not apply in Canada.

The mister and I were still in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship, hadn't even had our first argument yet, and since we were about to spend five days together outside of the country, we really didn't want to start arguing now.

Then we started saying things like this: "Sweetheart, I think we should be going est." "No, darling, I really believe the hotel is oust." "Honey, haven't we crossed this bridge twice already?" All gritted teeth and aggressive politeness.

The next time we went to Montreal, eight years later, we had a GPS. The hotel really was est. My bad.
posted by Ruki at 9:06 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


The Monkees' tour buses passed me on the NYS Thruway once.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:47 AM on November 26 [3 favorites]


One afternoon, I was hanging out in my college music library, a little outside of Philadelphia. Somehow I discovered there was a sold out Mountain Goats concert that night in my hometown NYC. I thought, oh, that's too bad I can't go. Then realized maybe I could. I frantically emailed people on Craigslist, got a ticket, hopped on all sorts of regional rail, and made it to NYC in time for the concert.

It was a pretty small, intimate show, and at one point the audience had gone silent as John Darnielle related a personal story. So of course a phone beeped loudly. What kind of jerk would leave their phone on at a time like this?? I wondered. Turned out it was me. A college friend was inviting me to make s'mores, not realizing I wasn't even in the same state.

I think John Darnielle probably forgave me, but I haven't turned my phone's ringer on in years.
posted by ferret branca at 9:59 AM on November 26 [5 favorites]


(PS: I am not much of a road tripper since I can't drive! I am an enthusiastic train tripper though.)
posted by ferret branca at 10:03 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


ferret branca, a rail road is a road too... it's right there in the name.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:09 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


In fact.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:21 AM on November 26 [2 favorites]


I flew from Austin Texas to Rochester Minnesota to get a vag installed by Mayo Clinic.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:46 AM on November 26 [20 favorites]


Aaaaand your arms are tired? (Also, best wishes!)
posted by heyho at 12:04 PM on November 26 [2 favorites]


Was driving down Route 2 between Fitchburg and Leominster, MA, looked at the car to the right of me, that I was passing at 65 mph, and the driver of said car was driving with his knees while he sprinkled weed into a rolling paper and rolled a joint... at 65mph in the middle lane during the murderous Wednesday PM commute.

I was horrified and impressed at the same time.
posted by KazamaSmokers at 3:27 PM on November 26 [5 favorites]


Nobody tell my mom about the time I went out dancing with two friends from library school and then we sat around one friend’s apartment all night drinking and talking, and around seven in the morning I was pretty sober when the other two of them decided we should drive to the beach. I didn’t have anywhere to be, and I was feeling pretty third-wheelish and wanted to cement myself as an essential part of the operation in that moment, so I said ok, give me a hair tie and a Coke and let’s go. They cracked a big bottle of wine and passed it back and forth in the backseat while I drove for about four hours. n.b. there was a “the beach” considerably closer than four hours away, but I have a very bad sense of direction and we were all transplants and had no smartphones and two thirds of us were plastered, so we didn’t quite think this through from first principles is what i’m saying. We found the best possible dive bar and had a bunch more wine. Nobody got arrested and only one of us, not me, dropped a pair of glasses in the ocean.
posted by clavicle at 4:31 PM on November 26 [2 favorites]


I don't get to drive much these days (and I don't really miss it) but I had an excellent little trip to Kansai, the region around Osaka and Kyoto in Japan, a few weeks back. I flew up overnight from Hong Kong and landed, then picked up the great-value Kansai Wide Area Pass at the airport railway station.

My first two days were a joyous return to Kyoto, where I met up with friends from high school and colleagues who just happened to be in the area and visited Kurama-dera in torrential rain (wet but atmospheric!), but my third day was one of my best travel days ever.

I woke up early and had resolved to go to Himeji Castle, which I'd missed on a previous Japan trip. I got a local train down to Shin-Osaka, then switched to a slower Shinkansen that stopped at Himeji. I walked up to the castle, toured the inside and was...underwhelmed. Architecturally it's fantastic, but between the crowds and the fact that there's not much to read about inside and I didn't see a way to take an English tour, I was sort of done after an hour, but it was only 12:30. Could I go somewhere else?

And then I remembered: Horyu-ji. I'd need to get the Shinkansen back to Shin-Osaka, then take a local train to Horyu-ji station out in the sticks southwest of Nara. There was only one Shinkansen I could get to make my connection and make it to the temple with enough time to poke around and it was leaving in 20 minutes. There were no taxis. So I ran back to the station along the one main road of Himeji, jaywalking once to the apparent horror of an older lady who audibly gasped, shot my train pass through the gates, ran up the stairs and escalator and ignored the safety engineer saying 'no! no!' as I leapt into the carriage while the doors were closing, praying I was on the right train. I looked up: destination Tokyo.

Mild panic, until I realised the train would definitely stop at Shin-Osaka. I sat, I bought a 120 yen water, all was well. The connection to Horyu-ji was comfortable and I even had time to get a katsusando.

Alighting at Horyu-ji from a train that was entirely full otherwise with secondary school students, I found myself the only person walking along the slightly windswept road toward the temple. The temple is the only reason tourists visit the town but its distance from the station makes it a bit of a trek through random suburban Japan to get there; along the way I saw a parking attendant shepherding cars into and out of a supermarket lot and bowing to each one, as well as a vegan (?) cafe that looked like it had never actually opened.

The temple itself is stunning, and one of the highlights of any trip to Japan I've taken - I'd seen the 'Gallery of Horyu-Ji Treasures' at the National Museum in Tokyo but seeing the artwork and statues and pagodas in context - at a nearly-closed, very empty temple on a Monday afternoon, in beautiful late-afternoon light, made it worth the run back in Himeji. The Kannon statues, dating from nearly the dawn of Buddhism in Japan, were truly stunning, and a monk raking the gravel asked me where I was from - when I told him I was from Los Angeles, he said 'Ah! Dodgers!' and went right on back to raking.

I got the last bus back to Horyu-ji station, went back to Kyoto via Nara, and after leaving the train had the foresight to stop at the Kyoto Station tourist booth to ask about temple illuminations - happily, three temples had already started being open that evening - Kodai-ji, Entoku-in and Shoren-in. I wasn't dressed warmly enough and was starting to get hungry once again, so picked up a snack at 7-11 and a coat at Uniqlo inside the insane Yodobashi Camera store near the station and grabbed a taxi out to Kodai-ji. The leaves had jussssst started to turn and the temple was relatively empty - Kyoto's temples are always busy but it felt festive and it was the first crisp evening I'd had in months. Entoku-in was tiny and perfect, but Shoren-in was the masterpiece - they let me in with just 40 minutes to go before closing and I was the only person there. It was silent and the breeze through the bamboo leaves was magical.

I wandered back to my hotel via Beer Komachi, where I had some scrumptious mackerel sashimi and a lovely local pint, and got into a grill-your-own-meat place I definitely couldn't find again right before last orders.

Now, I wouldn't recommend planning a day like this, particularly given its dependence on a run, but in one day the rail pass paid for itself. Hong Kong can feel awfully compact sometimes and the ability to hop on basically any train and zoom across hundreds of miles of landscape still makes Japan's rail passes my favourite way to get around up there.

I've already planned a return to more of Japan this coming summer and this time might drive a bit! - thanks to gotanda and any portmanteau in a storm for their sage wisdom!
posted by mdonley at 4:56 PM on November 26 [13 favorites]


One time I jumped on the wrong train from Euston and ended up in Watford Junction instead of Willesden Junction. Barely made it back alive in time for afternoon tea.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 7:48 PM on November 26 [2 favorites]


I saw a woman chase down her runaway car at a gas pump, said nozzle left lying on the ground, octane selection lights blinking incessantly. It is to this day unclear if the car was running and in drive or off and in neutral.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:02 PM on November 26


The first time I drove The Bears Ears Pass road, it was in 1969, I was nineteen and had a 1958 Triumph Spitfire, convertible. My good friend went with me, and we had some adventures on our way to Natural Bridges National Monument. At that time the Bears Ears Pass road was 65 miles of gravel, going west out of Blanding, Utah. We were going to meet up with friends and hike to the bridges. It is a breathtaking drive, and lengthy, just as I like them. I have driven it since, you can wander off and up and over and end up more north in Utah, by some magical route I cannot name at the moment. We were outside of Moab, when I got pulled over, and I realized my license was expired, and we were scared. My friend handed me her license and put on a hat, turned her head away, and the officer let me go with a warning. Never exceed the speed limit anywhere around Moab. Never, even to this day, and doubtlessly beyond. We were about 35 miles into the drive, and we came up on a big ess curve maybe a half hour before sunset. There on the right was a light blue, beat up pickup truck, with the tailgate down. Three men were standing in the back bed with long guns, and a fourth guy was bound and gagged lying down. Right then we realized, instantaneously, it was best to appear as if we were looking at scenery on the other side of the road, and not vary our speed, or gaze. I drove maybe a quarter mile this way listening for the sound of someone coming up behind, and then drove like mad for Natural Bridges. Once there we parked the car away from the campground, and buried it in brush. We met up with our friends, discussed our fear, what we saw, and got up in the morning to hike. A day later we set out in a different direction home. To this day, that friend is still my friend, and we both well remember the incident. It didn't keep me from driving that road at least twice again, and then kick around that entire area as much as possible as time went by.
posted by Oyéah at 8:06 PM on November 26


Today on a plane, in the row in front of me, was a man who I have to think has sleep apnea. He had on headphones and slept the entire 2hr flighte, past landing, until the gate. In a 100% full plane, he snored, LOUDLY, the entire time. Like, people were craning their necks several rows up, and this is not a large plane (we were row 18, the man in question in seat 17A). The poor woman sharing that side with him, her husband was taking pictures and video to send to the airline, which earned him a rebuke from a flight attendant for photographing other passengers (TIL), and sympathy conversations from other passengers once we landed. To her credit, during the food service the flight attendant complimented him on how impressive his snore was, and that she could hear it from the front of the plane. "Oh really?" he replied with certain surprise. After eating his biscotti it was straight back to sawing logs. I hate hoping someone will stroke out.

It was the new worst flying experience I've ever had, and it was a short flight (PDX->OAK). No reading. No talking. No napping. I am going to look into whether I can get him banned from flying unless he brings a CPAP.
posted by rhizome at 9:55 PM on November 26 [1 favorite]


A few years ago, I took my first trip to officiate a roller derby game. We were a full team, plus me, travelling in a rented van plus a car. The game was against Bolzano, but was actually taking place at an ice rink in a village north of the city.

To get from Vienna to Bolzano, the normal route, and the one Google Maps gave us, is that you cut through Bavaria, then head southwest through Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass. As we made it into Südtirol, the sun was down, and a few dozen kilometres out from Bolzano, we were told by the map to leave the highway. So far so good.

At that point, though, Google Maps, unbeknownst to any of us, none of whom had been there before, rather than suggesting the paved road that led into the mountains, instead chose a gravel path that cut a narrow switchback directly up the slope. By the time that we were sure that this wasn't going to get any better, there was nowhere that a van was going to be able to turn around. The fact that it was now completely dark out was a blessing, because as we moved around the van in an attempt to keep all four wheels on the ground, no one could see that there was a hell of a lot of down behind or beside us.

A very long hour later, we re-joined the paved road that we should have been following the whole time, and on the way back, we waited until we had followed road signs down to the highway before opening Google Maps again.
posted by frimble (staff) at 1:31 AM on November 27 [3 favorites]


I'm sure I have more legendary road trip stories, but this weekend RhysPenbras and I took a mini-roadtrip to meet our new nephew for the first time. He's 17 months (my brother and sis-in-law adopted him at just over a year old) and is SUCH a blast. He's hesitant with close contact with adults that aren't his parents, but he fist-bumps like a champ, loves pretending to vacuum, and OH MY GOSH is he just the best.

It was also really great to hang out with my brother and sister-in-law in a no-stress not-official-big-family-holiday environment.
posted by okayokayigive at 6:52 AM on November 27 [1 favorite]


I am (was) a nice Canadian boy from Ontario. I got a intern job on the west coast of the US many years ago. I drove out there so I could have my car while I was there and to see the country.

FYI there is not much to see on I-90.

So one morning I stop at a typical midwestern diner for breakfast. It's a buffet. There is a large pot of what I assume to be oatmeal as it's off-white and thick and lumpy. Southeners, you know what's coming. I take a bowl of it. I return to my table and put a spoonful in my mouth. It is not oatmeal. It is really thick sausage gravy. Which isn't bad per se, but if you've never even heard of sausage gravy and were expecting oatmeal, it will come as quite a shock.

Anyway, watch out on those breakfast buffets while travelling.
posted by GuyZero at 8:51 AM on November 27 [2 favorites]


* pulls up chair and sits down *

When I was 30 I drove solo almost-cross-country from NYC to Vegas. I was deliberately looking for tacky Americana so I stuck to the smaller two-lane highways the whole way, and timed things so that I would be getting to Vegas at the same time as a reporter friend was covering a convention in Vegas so I could mooch half the free hotel room. Here are some moments from that trip.

* I discovered a proto-hipster coffee shop in Pennsylvania where every table was decorated with a different theme (one was an old anesthesia table and had medical instruments doing double duty as all the table implements, the other one had everything with a cow motif, etc. and they decorated the rest of the place with random thrift store stuff (which was for sale) and with pieces of paper with weird quotes on them tacked up in between (one by my table read "What's the speed of DARK?" and I still am thinking about that one). The mens' and womens' rest rooms were differentiated with empty album covers - a copy of Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" on the women's room, and Good Bye Yellow Brick Road on the mens'.

* About a day and a half into the trip I named the rental car I was driving "Lolita", for reasons I no longer remember.

* I hit both the Cahokia Mounds and the Gateway Arch in the same day and was more impressed with the former.

* I tried doing laundry in Missouri at 5 am (I was still on Eastern time and woke up early), but some idiot in my hotel was also awake and tying up all the dryers so I ended up strewing it all on the back seat. Fortunately I discovered this made it easier to spot my car in the parking lots (there may have been more than one red Chryslers, but only Lolita had the tacky hot pink glow-in-the-dark diner-order-pad jammies on the back seat).

* I saw the Precious Moments Chapel with my own eyes.

* Somehow I got totally lost in the middle of Kansas - I was trying to head west toward Witchita, but at some intersection I got totally turned around and ended up heading north on a road that wasn't even on my map. I pulled over at this chicken restaurant in the middle of nowhere to get dinner and get my bearings, but instead had this meltdown that sent me sprinting out to the lobby, calling my reporter friend (then still back in NYC) collect and sobbing about how I DON'T WANT TO DRIVE BUT IT'S JUST ME AND IT'S SO FAAAAAAR. He talked me off the ledge, i pulled myself together and hung up - but when I turned around, there were two waitresses and a trucker looking at me with concern. "You need directions'r somethin', hun?" one asked, and I just lost it all over again. The three of them rallied around me and gave me another pep talk, and one of the waitresses drew me a map to the Interstate on the back of one of her order pad slips (I still have it). They bucked me up, I paid for my meal and went on my way.

* I was supposed to be on the road for 90 minutes after that chicken place, bound for Witchita where I planned to stay the night. But after only 20 minutes, I saw a "gas food and lodging" on the sign for the next exit and decided fuck it, and stopped there. I got gas, and in passing discovered I was in a town named Fredonia, population about 300 or so. I next pulled into a hotel, where the proprietor went through the usual questions as he was checking me in:

"Model of car?"

"Chrysler."

"Length of stay?"

"One night."

"Number of guests?"

"Just me."

When he heard me say it was just me, he looked up, and I swear he leered. "Really?"

"Yeah, I'm driving to Vegas to meet my fiance," I blurted out. He blinked, then went back to his paperwork; and that's when I saw my left hand did not have a ring on it and promptly shoved it into my pocket. I conducted the rest of that transaction one-handed.

* I called my reporter friend from the hotel again to tell him I was doing a little better, and happened to mention that I was in a town called "Fredonia". He and his boss are both big Marx brothers fans, and so he begged me to get a copy of the local paper for them to peruse. I stopped in at the same gas station before I hit the road to pick up a paper; the town was so small it was a weekly instead of a daily, and it had the single-best small-town headline I have ever seen: "Tractor Accident Sends Local Man To Witchita."

* I got to Dodge City mid-day the next day, and decided to just stay put - check out Dodge City's tourist center (a single block of reconstructed forts) and then just chill at the pool the rest of the day. I very nearly joined in the can-can lessons they offered for free but it was just too damn hot.

* Driving over the Continental Divide consisted of some very steep switchbacks with sharp turns, and I was doing about 15 mph. I got over the pass and was on my way down when suddenly one of the warning lights on my dashboard turned on. I pulled over and spent 15 frantic minutes looking through the car's manual from the glove box trying to figure out what the warning light was before I finally discovered it had to do with an obscure element of the automatic steering system; it was meant to be something about reducing unneccessary wheel spin. Just as I discovered this, it switched back off. I can only conclude that the super-sharp turns sort of overwhelmed the car and it was having a temporary strike.

* I took tomahawk throwing lessons at Fort Uncompaghre, from a docent who looked exactly like Uncle Jesse from Dukes of Hazard.

* Finally got to Vegas - and discovered that my friend's magazine staff had all saved up their per diems and got tickets to see Sigfried and Roy's show, and he had gotten one for me as well. Even better - they were front-row seats.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on November 27 [7 favorites]


I took a cross country Amtrak trip in winter 1997 after finishing school, on one of those tickets where you can get off and on three times. Montreal to NY, (family and friends visit,) NY to DC (I think I took a bus for this leg, visited college friends, slept on their couch, HATED DC SO MUCH I think because I was really still very Canadian and I found the national architecture super oppressive, plus everyone I met was a lawyer and an asshole,) DC to New Orleans.

People, New Orleans was a revelation to me.

And it was Mardi Gras. I was actually scheduled to leave on Tuesday (had never heard of Mardi Gras, I think) and my friends all laughed and said no, Wednesday, trust us. And it was perfect. The streets smelled of sweet orange and the air was soft and warm on my face and my hair curled perfectly and I made a friend and then some more. It was sexy and easy and everything was good. Two years later I moved back.

On Ash Wednesday I climbed back on the train and spent 52 hours getting to Oakland. Most of it was crossing Texas. I had a bag of groceries and a journal and a camera and not much more. I had to take a bus between LA and Bakersfield because of construction, and when I made it to Oakland I called my grandma and she told me just to take a taxi over to SF, don't be silly. It felt so extravagant to be a solo passenger!

The plan was to live in my grandparents' spare room and find a job, but I had no documentation of dual citizenship and instead took the Green Tortoise up to Seattle a few months later. Another interesting way of getting around! Who here has done that, it was a shuttle where they stopped every few hours in every hippy town and all the others too, 24 hours up the coast. In the middle of it all us passengers, notional strangers who had been sleeping head to toe, got out, had a sauna (clothing optional,) and made breakfast. It was their regular stop in the middle of a national forest. Once in Seattle you can get a bus to Vancouver and then plane tickets home were cheaper.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:27 AM on November 27 [6 favorites]


Another memorable one: my newish person and I on our first road trip. I had no driver's license and we went from New Orleans (I had successfully moved there a year and a half or so before, see above) to Memphis and Nashville. It was August - a good time to get out of New Orleans - and his car was a Volvo whose a/c did not work. We went to Graceland and did it right (as he said, when were we ever going to come back?,) then headed off to Nashville with plans to go to the Opry that night. An hour or so out, the car began vibrating wildly with thumping noises and pulling heavily against the wheel - we were of course in the left lane. After successfully slowing and pulling off, we tried to diagnose in a gas station parking lot, with me nervous behind the wheel and him peering underneath. No clue. We slowly made our way into Nashville and got to our hotel.

We were late to the Opry (Porter Wagoner, Little Jimmy Dickens, and the Del McCoury Band I think) and the next day invested in 4 new tires to replace the ones that had delaminated, spontaneously and simultaneously. Expensive!!

On the way home we drove through rural Mississippi and went to Tupelo to see Elvis's birthplace which was interesting, after Graceland. They don't have access to any of the trademarked stuff Graceland controls.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 10:17 AM on November 27


My first year of Peace Corps in West Africa, my friend K and I decided to take a bus down to Ghana for Christmas. We thought it'd be nice to see beach sand instead of desert sand, I guess. Also, I was really looking forward to speaking English instead of French, which I'd only learned while there (which was not so much a thing for K, she already spoke great French).

So on the way back from the coast, we decide to take smaller cars and bush taxis and stop in a few towns along the way, rather than do the whole thing in another 20+ hour bus ride. We'd heard there was a great market in Techiman or Tamale, I forget now which. In either case it was supposedly especially great on Fridays when all the fabric vendors come into town, but unfortunately our bush taxi was very late, as is their wont, so we didn't get into town until a bit after sunset, too late for the market. We were already there, though, and accepting that Peace Corps frowns on night travel for very good reasons, we decided to try to find a hotel in the neighborhood of the bush taxi stop. We found one, but at $40 a night it was too expensive for our meager Peace Corps budgets, so assuming that was par for the course for hotels, we instead hopped in a cab and asked the driver to take us to a "cheap guest house."

Now, my earlier excitement about speaking English had turned to frustration early in the trip. It turns out that Ghanaian English is spoken differently enough from American English that their mutual intelligibility requires considerable concentration. I'd quickly come to miss speaking in French. Since I'd studied it in that region, even if it did also require a lot of concentration, I was at least used to hearing it in that accent, and speaking it similarly. Case in point: our driver did not understand us to ask for a "cheap" guest house, he heard us to ask for "C Guest House," the actual name of a specific one in the area. He seemed a bit incredulous: "Do you really want to go to C Guest House?" "Yes, really, we want to go to a cheap guest house." "Ok, if you're sure, I will take you to C Guest House."

The reason for his incredulity may have in part been the distance. You will note I said it was in the area. I did not say it was in town. It was not in town. It was about a 25 minute drive through a long stretch of nothing much, by which the place was wholly surrounded. We realized the source of confusion once we saw the sign, but we were tired, and it had been a long drive, so we agreed between ourselves that we'd scope it out at least.

I went into the front office, where I first saw a man sitting on the couch who, having looked outside and seen my traveling companion, stood up to shake my hand and greet me with "What's your name, white man? I like your style!" That man did not work there. In fact, there were many comings and goings of men and women who did not work there, despite the nothing-much surroundings. I was confused, but the room seemed fine, so K and I paid the cab driver, paid the desk clerk and settled in.

The room had a window not to the outside, but facing rather the inner hallway of the building. Through this window we saw enough to deduce what was going on: this guest house's business was not in spite of its remoteness, but because of it. We'd found the guest house where many of the aforementioned fabric vendors stop on their way home for the night and purchase companionship away from prying eyes.

Reader, we were in a(n at least) part-time brothel.

The only dinner option was to walk a path through unlit empty lots to a small store that sold candy bars and cokes - the desk clerk walked with us. I don't know if it was in fear for our safety, in recognition of the likelihood we'd get lost, or just a need to stretch his legs, but we were glad for the company. He seemed nice, and besides, other than us all of their clients had clearly all already arrived and made their own arrangements.

The next morning, a different clerk tried to convince me we had not paid for our room yet and should still. I demurred. He demanded we show our receipt. We had none (few transactions are papered there, but still normally I would have asked had I not been a haze of fatigue the night before). He threatened to call the cops.

At that I grinned, thinking of all the tired people in the other rooms who would be particularly unhappy to see anyone in uniform come in to look around, and said, "You know what? Let me," pulling my phone out of my pocket. Realizing his error, he frowned and waved at us to leave.

The rest of the trip home was comparatively uneventful.
posted by solotoro at 10:35 AM on November 27 [7 favorites]


Oh, Solotoro, that reminds me of my first trip in Cote d'Ivoire. I was driving from Abidjan to Tai with a new stove and three men I had just met, none of whom spoke English. About three hours into the trip, we pulled off to the side of the road and all three men turned around and urinated. I looked around, but there was really nowhere even a little bit secluded for me to pull down my pants and pee. "Well, how long could it be?" I said to myself, and we all piled back into the car to drive some more. And then, for the next twelve hours, the same thing happened and I couldn't get up the courage (or muster up the French skills) to say "OH MY GOD PLEASE STOP SOMEWHERE SECLUDED I AM MADE OF NOTHING BUT MY NEED TO PEE."

We finally made it to the town of Tai after a long and harrowing trip, including getting menaced by an 18-wheeler full of heavily-armed Dozo. By then, it was dark, and we were all really hungry in addition to some of us being made of nothing but urine. There was a maquis where we stopped to eat some fried chicken, and it was being staffed by nice, competent ladies, and I caught someone's eye and said "S'il vous plait, madame, je dois pisser!" and she showed me to this place between two crumbling huts and told me "Allez-y" and left me a flashlight, and I realized that both huts were full of chickens staring at me and clucking and we were about to eat them, but man, nothing has ever felt quite as amazing as peeing after that drive.

After we ate the chicken (which was delicious), we went to find a place to sleep for the night. Hotel Beau Sejour was full, and Hotel du Park National was also full, and the driver looked at me, panic stricken, and said (in English) "But the only place left is the fuck hotel! And you cannot sleep in a fuck hotel!" So we went back to the competent ladies at the Maquis, and he explained the situation, and one of the ladies said "Aah, I know where she can sleep!" So we all got into the truck and drove over to the Catholic Diocese of Tai, and the driver knocked on the door of the nun's house, and this tiny elderly white nun opened the door. And the driver explained to her the situation: "Good evening, sister, we are driving this American lady to the rainforest and we have gotten to Tai late and cannot go into the forest yet, and we tried to get a room for her at a hotel, but the only rooms left are in Fuck Hotels and it is her first night here in Cote d'Ivoire, she cannot stay in a Fuck Hotel. Could she sleep here?"

While I'm wincing every time Anderson says "Fuck hotel" to the nun, she takes it all in stride. "Yes, there's a room here for her, but you men can't sleep here." So they give me my backpack and drive off (I assume to a fuck hotel), and another nun shows me to a dormitory room where I am installed in a bed underneath a crucifix and a mosquito net, have the pit latrine pointed out to me, and promptly fall asleep next to a group of women I assume are nuns. No fucking, I assume, happens at this particular convent.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:57 AM on November 27 [13 favorites]


I come back with a word of advice, borne from having to make frequent trips from NYC north and east either to Eastern Connecticut or further on into Rhode island or Cape Cod.

Do absolutely everything you can to avoid the stretch of I-95 between New York City and New Haven. Going either direction. Doesn't matter. It is some of the single worst traffic you will ever come across. At any time of year - in either direction. Seriously, it's BAD. Slow, bumper-to-bumper, for no reason at all.

Instead.

1. If you're coming from New York City going east - make your way to the Hutchison River Parkway, and just keep following that all the way into Connecticut. When it crosses the Connecticut Border it becomes the Merrit Parkway. Just stay on that, at least until you get to the town before New Haven. Then depending on where you're going next, you can either stay on the Merrit (it eventually shuttles you onto I-91 North towards Hartford) or drop off and onto I-95 from there (you've skipped past the worst of the I-95 traffic, and there's a big service area about 2 minutes after you feed onto I-95 if you need to pee). Past New Haven, I-95 heading east opens up way more and the crowd thins out and it's a lot better, even if you're following it all the way to Cape Cod and thereabouts.

2. If you're heading towards New York City from the East, you can just as easily hop onto the Merrit Parkway in Milford. You'll have to cross New Haven to get there, but it's not that bad lately. Follow that on a straght shot until it crosses the border with New York and magically turns into the Hutchison River Parkway. Then follow that until it ends; at the ending you can easily get onto about 3 different interestates and a parkway across the Bronx.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:40 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Oh gosh, so many good ones.

I've driven my 1990 Volvo wagon for over half my life, and with 225K miles on it we've seen some shit together. Once I was driving myself, my best friend, and our two boyfriends from one city to another in the Midwest. We'd just hit the highway after gassing up and getting some road snacks, and I merged to the center lane to be able to easily navigate merging traffic from the right and left as we approached the city center exits. By this point we're going about 65 or so, cruising along, and the hood flies up. Like in a movie, no warning, just one minute, I can see out the windshield, the next, the yellow hood is all I can see. The two men in the car start screaming their heads off, while my female best friend opens the window, sticks her head out, and talks me through what's ahead so that together we could navigate safely to the side of the road. We were able to jury rig the hood closed, exit the highway, and find someone at a gas/service station downtown that hammered the hood back in place enough to latch. There were rumors that there had been a hood latch recall back in the 90s, well before I was of age to drive, but I always wondered if I hadn't latched it properly the last time I opened the hood to check the oil.

Another time, in a different city, I was driving to the mechanic because my car had been making a strange noise. I'd called for an appointment and was taking it in to see what could be done; IIRC this was around the 120K odometer marker where things got pretty dire before they got better. I'm driving along, late afternoon, it's going to be dark soon--and all of the sudden my CAR CATCHES ON FIRE. Black smoke is just billowing out of the hood. That can't be good. I pull over, pop the hood, poke around, and come out with a charred and disintegrating air filter. I ended up getting towed to the mechanic and we had a good laugh about the irony of being on your way to the mechanic when your car catches on fire.

There's many more I could write about, like the time I stalled out in a canyon with no cell reception and waited for eight hours in 110° heat until someone with a CB called the sherriff who called AAA for me, but those two stand out as being the most dramatic. My partner always laughs when we take his car on road trips and I pack gallons of water, space blankets, food, an axe, flares, one of those life hammers, and other assorted gear, but I've learned it's better safe than sorry and that waiting in heat or cold is way easier if you're comfortable and fed and watered. I've also learned it's worth every penny for the gold AAA membership!
posted by stellaluna at 1:15 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


As we prepared to leave Kentucky for our drive back to Nebraska, we stopped at a big liquor/general awesome party foods store. My husband stopped in front of a six pack of Ale-8-Ones but got distracted and didn't put them in the cart. At a rest stop in Illinois, we were stretching our legs and he commented that he was disappointed that he had forgotten them. A lady stopped us, said she had overheard us, asked if we were born again, dropped Jesus' name 15 times in two minutes, gave us a case of Ale-8-One and said it was obviously given to her by the Lord to give to us.

So we had good soda the rest of the way back, given to us by the Lord.
posted by PussKillian at 2:58 PM on November 27 [6 favorites]


Oh my god, I just remembered: I have another auto-related story, which is actually about how car trouble kept me from seeing the Perseids in 2009. I wrote about it on the Livejournal I had back in the day, in two parts:

Part 1: "At some point in every episode of TOP GEAR, the three hosts have some impossibly silly challenge -- and the host Jeremy Clarkson describes the nature of the challenge. Then he shrugs and says, "now, how hard could that be?"

Part 2: "So. When we last left our story, I was standing beside a car with a stuck horn in Robert Moses State Park at about 6:15 am. I was an hour and three expressway rides away from home. But nevertheless, the rental agent was telling me that since the car was technically driveable, they'd rather I try driving back if I could."

Yeah, the problem was that a rented car had a horn that spontaneous would start sounding and then finally just got stuck on, as I was driving through Long Island at about 4 am.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:56 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Reader, we were in a(n at least) part-time brothel.

I wish I had a dollar for every brothel, full- or part-time, that I've stayed in. In a lot of places, there isn't such a clear separation between a hotel, brothel, and nightclub and one place can serve a number of functions at the same time. I always found them fine to stay at, except for when there is crazy loud music until dawn.

In the US the warning sign in a motel is usually when there is bullet proof glass in the office with a little portal for passing money -- those places are never great, and I've had much better sleep in the afore-mentioned brothels.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:58 PM on November 27 [3 favorites]


Many years ago, my dad was going to the annual convention of the Institute of Food Technologists. For a kid, this was a great convention; the exhibit hall had lots of food samples of strange and exotically flavored foods (I remember sampling a chocolate-flavored soda there). My mom & I took the train across the country to meet him there. I was maybe 5 or 6, so I only remember bits of the trip, like how we got off the train in Denver and then had to run to get back on it. We spent a few hours in Chicago, long enough to go to Marshall Field's, where my mom got me a Monopoly game (which I still have), and I think we went to a Tad's Steakhouse.

Eventually we got to Miami, of which I remember nothing, and then took the train up the east coast to New York City, where my mom was chosen from the audience to be a contestant on "Sale of the Century"; she got the question correct and won a $500 Spiegel catalog gift certificate. We got a couch, a grandfather clock, and my first two-wheel bike with the winnings; the couch and the clock are still at my mom's house.
posted by mogget at 7:33 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


Ha I am writing this from Bedrock City, a somewhat decrepit Flintstones theme park just outside the Grand Canyon, which is where I was bound today until a windstorm and night temperatures supposed to be in the teens kept me here an extra day. Now I’m sitting here hoping against hope that the black tank doesn’t freeze. . . say a swift prayer to the Hanna Barbara deity of your choice, please. But that’s all on the blog because all I’m writing these days is travel stories as I trundle oh so slowly around the country. So instead I will tell you about my first trip to Spain, when I was a very bad 16 year old. I may have told this before here, forgive me if so.

My aunt the painter lived in Deia, a tiny artist’s colony village on Mallorca. My parents in fed up frustration sent me to live with her after I got myself kicked out of yet another school. So, off I went on a plane, first time traveling alone, let alone across the ocean, and all I had was the address, Lista de Correos, which means general delivery, although I didn’t know that yet, and vague instructions to go to Richards Bar and ask someone where Annie lived.

First I had to get to Deia at all. I think I was supposed to change planes in Barcelona or Madrid, but somehow or other, the flight was cancelled and I ended up in Bilbao. My luggage went elsewhere. At that time there were two air terminals in Bilbao, a national and an international and they were not close. I was at the international but I had to go to the National, and while I was looking for my bags my flight to Palma left without me. I didn’t speak any Spanish, just high school French. The man who was helping me finally announced that he had figured it out: I would go home with him that night and tomorrow morning I’d be on the first flight to Palma. He washed his hands of me, insulted,after I said no. And maybe he was genuinely just a good guy. But maybe not. Anyhow, I gave up on the bags, got myself to the National terminal in a taxi and somehow cried and begged my way onto a flight to Palma. In French.

When I got there, I got into a taxi but by the time we got to Deia - about an hours drive or more - it was 3 am and Richards Bar was closed. The taxi driver wanted nothing more to do with me - we had had a big fight, me in French and teary American, him in Mallorcan and Spanish, both of us thoroughly filled with loathing, when he swerved to hit a cat - and unceremoniously dumped me on the deserted village street. That’s how I found out what lista de correos meant. It was not a good moment. But I remembered seeing a Hotel sign up the road so I walked it and woke up the French concierge.

He didn’t want to give me a room either. “Toutes plein” he said, you could sleep in the pool shed if you’re out by 6, or something like that, but I pointed furiously at the rack of keys behind him and said Regardez LA! And he walked me up to a room, but at the door he had to get in one last comment: “Mademoiselle,” he said, affronted, quivering with indignation, in French, “you do NOT speak French.” And I will never forget how hard I laughed.

The next day I found a chemist and bought a toothbrush and then, finally, Richards bar opened and I did indeed find someone who knew where Annie lived. About a mile and a half out of town, through the olive trees, down a dirt road. So I walked it and climbed a wall at the very end and there, lo, was my aunt who peered up at me on the wall and said, oh, wow, here you are, do you want to smoke a joint?
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:23 PM on November 27 [12 favorites]


Oh and it goes without saying that this all happened long long before cell phones and in fact I think there were only like two or three phones in the whole village of Deia, so I couldn’t just call someone.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:27 PM on November 27


So I missed this thread until now, because travel (to Thanksgiving on Wednesday, came home Saturday, left 12 hours later on Sunday for a work trip). Then I get to come home from the work trip on Wednesday— this time I will get almost 60hrs home before leaving!

And I was supposed to travel less this year.

As for good family travel stories, I was going through my childhood things over Thanksgiving and found a project from when I was about ten. In this project we were supposed to make a timeline, drawing a picture and writing a sentence for each event (including such greats as “I was born” complete with stick figure baby).

I described our family trip the previous year (1990) as “We went to DC and the government shut down”. Which was true; for several days all the governmental attractions were shut down, and we couldn’t have rescheduled since the shut down happened while we were on the plane there. So we went to the few open things (eg Lincoln Memorial) with what seemed like a million of our fellow tourists.

The trip also had a strange ending, in that we got stranded at Dulles for several hours because our pilot had a heart attack and so they had to find another one before we could take off, but I guess that one didn’t fit in a one sentence description.
posted by nat at 11:53 PM on November 27


It's not exactly a road trip, but I was thinking of this incident, just this week.

Growing up on our farm, we lived on the side of a valley (really, the top of a plateau, the "valley" being a wrinkle in the side of it). Our main cattle paddock was on the other side of the valley, by car it was probably 1.5 km, a mile or so away.

These paddocks were a regular weekend location for us kids and our Dad - 5 of us crammed into the front of his three seater ute (pickup, I guess you'd call it), along with a dog. We'd head over there to pick bananas from our paddock at the bottom, or round up the cattle for spraying, selling, moving, whatever. Dad would enlist our help - required it - to get our cattle from the bottom paddock into the crush at the top, without them running around him and disappearing into the far reaches of farm.

If you've spent a lot of time around cattle, you'll know that mostly they are pretty dumb, predominantly docile creatures - and the ornery ones are obvious. However, to anybody under ten, a full sized cow or steer is gargantuan.

When a small herd of cattle is barrelling down at you, and you're eight years old, you might intellectually understand that swinging your PVC pipe and yelling "Ooga Booga" will divert them, but it's hard to know it in your heart. Consequently, there would be more one occasion where my will broke before the cattles' - or these pretty dumb animals would simply outsmart my brother and I.

Shenanigans like this can add a lot of time to a round-up, and after one such occurrence, Dad - swearing like a maniac - hopped in the ute and drove off, leaving us to walk home. But there were three things he didn't factor in:
1) Without his little helpers, he'd be forced to stop the car, and open then close not one but two gates on his way out.
2) Situated as we were at the bottom of the valley, my brother and eye could cut through the bush, reducing the distance to a maybe four hundred metres.
3) My brother's burning desire to show Dad up.

"Quick!" he says, "If we take the shortcut we can beat him home!"

So off we set, huffing and puffing, snaking through scratchy lantana, slipping through barbed wire fences; scrambling up small cliffs. I thought I was going to run out of air.

We pop out of the bush into our yard, and tear around to the driveway at breakneck pace. My brother quickly adopts a haughty mien, standing with his arms crossed as Dad pulls in. I had no such poker face and was grinning like a Cheshire cat. I like to imagine Dad was secretly proud of our chutzpah - if not our aerobic prowess. I don't have a tonne of great memories involving my brother, but this is certainly one of them.
posted by smoke at 2:59 AM on November 28 [9 favorites]


Wrote a long tale and realized it was my worst road trip. But, two friends from the States came to visit over this last weekend. "T" has been friends with Mrs. Gotanda since college (and she really stood by me through the death of a close friend years back) and her now husband "R" has become a good friend even though Mrs G and I left California before T and R got hitched. We just got to hang out with them on their road trip--which is kind of the best--we did the tourist stuff through fresh eyes and went to eat amazing food all weekend.
posted by Gotanda at 3:16 AM on November 28 [1 favorite]


Mygothlaundry, I would read the heck out of a book about your aunt.
posted by theora55 at 5:57 AM on November 28


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