The day when I last knew the day was Friday. I hefted my bag over my shoulder, hoping I hadn't brought too little (I had not, by far), or too much (I had, by far--not a comic book was cracked). The journey began seperately, on foot, a walk through Uptown and meeting at the Army Supply Store. It was a fitting place, though by the end such a scene would have made me roll my eyes and make a mental note to blog about it later, how it was all about conflict, or the safe illusion of it. We bought last minute supplies--a new belt, lighter fluid--and my partner of the next two weeks, Halloween Jack, and myself set off for grilled cheese sandwiches and train to the north country.
On the train--the first train--we stood near the doors, holding our bags, ready to hop out. A suburban mom stood beside us as we neared a stop (not ours) and announced, "Which way to the doors open?"
Jack and I looked to each other. I was suspected she wanted us to answer. He was frowny and uncomfortable.
She said it again, "Which way do the doors open?" this time turning to face Jack.
"Well, I don't know," said Jack. "I suspect it's either this way," and he nodded his head behind us, "or that way," and he inclined his head before us.
She sniffed derisively and Jack and I avoided eye contact.
He disembarked from the train deep into the suburbs, which is not the sort of place you want to disembark anything, for any reason. We were to wait here for the Deuce, who would be taking us to meet our third traveling companion. We stepped from the train and looked around for the Deuce's machine, the Forest Moon of Endor, but it was nowhere in sight. We sat down on a grassy knoll and let the world happen around us.
A couple biked past, through the parking lot that flanked the train tracks on either side. They were on a bike, one of those two-seaters, the dude in front and his lady behind him. At first I thought it was typical, the male feeling the need to take charge. Then I thought it was funny, and I pictured the lady with an imposing strap-on, leading her man where she wanted to go. He was a pudgy red-headed lad, hiding his face behind wrap-around sunglasses. She was thin and blonde. She waved at me.
"Hello," I said, though she couldn't hear, and wiggled my fingers.
"She waved," said Jack. "At you."
"It's a good beginning," I said.
The Deuce and the Forest Moon arrived and we drove to Madison, Wisconsin. It was a few hours, but nothing compared to the next two weeks--compared to the ultraday awaiting us down the line. We met Jack's folks, who had brought our #3, the Coyote, down to meet us:
We thought of food, but no . . . the open road was calling. We shook hands with the Deuce, with Mr. and Mrs. Soiree, Jack introduced me to the Coyote, we loaded up our gear, and we were on our way.
* * *
Dodgeville was our first port of call. We saw the signs for Pizza Hut, and we said to one another, yes, Pizza Hut is precisely where we wanted to be. Dodgeville is small Wisconsin town, if a town is even what it is. It's a hilly conglomeration of restaurants and gas stations, the sort of place made precisely to accomodate nighttime travelers. We walked in, we sat down, and Jill, our waitress, approached. She was blonde and smiley and plump.
"Midwestern Stout," Jack told me.
"What's goin on tonight, fellas?" she asked.
What luck! Our first stranger, and already an excust to tell our story!
"Why, we're on our way to the ocean!" I said.
"The ocean?" We were far from the ocean, and Jill knew it.
"We're going to California," I said.
Jill was tickled. She was glad to meet us, she said, happy to have been a part of our journey. "I've never met anyone going to California before," she told us.
My gut said we should invite her along, by god . . . but no. The Coyote had not room for a third, and besides, there were would be many friendly strangers on our path, I was certain. Our pizza was delivered, we ate it, and Jill undercharged us. She was reprimanded before we were even out the door.
But out the door we went! Iowa City was our next destination, and in our path would be twisting county highways, pickup trucks with testicles, and phone directions by hosts who did not want our company.
Next: Our Story Takes a Turn