Archive for Adventures in travelling.

Some fun beers. Or, How I gave up and became one with the Guinness.

Posted in Funny! with tags on December 17, 2009 by hotpoo

What’s the plural of Guinness? Guinnesses? Guinni?

Anyway, I’m back, but not quite into the swing of things yet. My body is still set in Derry time, and I’m having a hard time breaking the jet lag this time.

Oy… the Irish are brutal. I was warned before coming over to not try to keep up with them. Wise advice that I wish I would have heeded. I hurt myself Monday night, and was not doing so hot Tuesday morning.

Day 1 (Saturday)- I left Portland at 7:30am, and suffered through a 6 hour layover in Newark NJ. Got to see some snow, but that was the extent of my fun there. Plane was about 1.5 hours late leaving the terminal, as we were waiting for another plane. Ironically, 2 of the late arrivals were an elderly couple seated next to me. Nice folks returning to Ireland from a trip. Very chatty folks. I ended up getting a wicked neck and head ache, and was only able to sleep for about 20 minutes the entire time. Needless to say, I was a bit punch drunk when we landed in Belfast.

I picked up my car at the airport, and suddenly realized two things. 1) I could understand about 3 words in 10 that were spoken to me. More than half of what they said either sounded like mush mouth, or some sort of secret code. 2) I might actually kill myself or someone else on the road. The boy at the rental car place was very nice, and I guess I bullshitted well enough for him to give me a free upgrade. Originally, I was to get a compact with an automatic transmission. Instead, he gave me a full size sedan (Vectra? I think that’s right) with a manual transmission. Nice car, but probably too big for someone just learning to drive on the opposite side of the road. Let’s just say that was an interesting experience, as I managed to embarrass myself right away by stalling the car out 3 times in front of the cops). I managed to flub my way through the round abouts, and not hit anyone. Let me have my small victories!

Since is was still pretty early (about 9:00am), I decided to head into Belfast for some breakfast and a few pictures. In Ireland, shit doesn’t really open up on Sundays until 1:00pm. I wandered around the city center for a while, taking pictures of buildings and stuff. I eventually found a little eatery that was open. Had myself my first all day fry (lots of meats, eggs, beans, toast and what not), and a couple cups of coffee. Since it was bright, dry (i.e. patchy rain, not a deluge), cold, that there was fuck all to do in Belfast on a Sunday, I opted to drive to Derry. The drive was nice, and I didn’t get lost thanks to excellent road signs (and a bit of sanity checking ye olde googly maps). Flubbed my way through a few more round abouts (kept forgetting what side of the car I was on, and kept bumping curbs with the left side of the car… didn’t hit anything, thank the gods), enjoyed the scenic landscape, and tried desperately to stay awake.

I was bone tired when I reached Derry. I’ve never understood what that really means. Anyway, I got lost like a dress on prom night within my first 5 minutes in the city. 7 round abouts later (one was a near accident), I managed to find my way inside the city walls. This is the point when I though I was going to shit the proverbial brick. This car is way too wide (not really, but it seems that way on these roads), the streets are too small, there is too much traffic, and I’m too god-damned tired, I told myself. Since the inner portion of the walled city is pretty small, I lucked into the hotel right away. Found a place to park a few blocks away, and wandered over… and was still too early to check in. They were nice enough to take my bags, and told me there was a parking area “under the hotel.” I couldn’t find it, so I figured they weren’t speaking literally. I picked a random spot, parked, and decided to go for a walk.

I killed enough time walking, then did the official check in. Turns out there was a parking garage directly below the hotel, so I moved the car before it disappeared. This is about the point were I decided to piss in the face of common sense, and go check out a couple of the 90 some odd pubs I found in the last hour. Per reccomendation from my Irish mate at the home office, I opted to check out Peadar O’Donnell’s first. It did not disappoint.

Thus begins my new weight gain diet. Guaranteed to work, or your money back.

If  you are ever in the area, I highly reccomend going there. After a few of those, I wandered around for a bit more in hopes of finding a pub that served food. I did find one that claimed to have the best pub food in Derry. Alas, they stopped serving food at 4. A couple of pints later, I wondered if I was just going to have to live with a liquid dinner.

Good for what ails ye, as long as it's only sobriety you suffer from.

After a bit of chatting with the locals, they pointed me in the direction of a little pub eatery at the bottom of the hill called Ramsey’s. A real greasy spoon kind of place. In it, I found my new hearts delight: battered sausages! With chips and curry sauce! I could practically hear myself getting fatter.

Oh god... I've just been orally satisfied by a sausage. And I liked it.

Yum.  Back to Peadar’s for more beer and atmosphere. It has more brick-a-brack than your grandmother’s house.





Lost count of the pints at some point (was beginning to realize that this was going to be a very long week), but did end up crashing about 8:30pm. That was a mistake. Should have just stayed up later.

Day 2 (Monday)- Woke up at 3:30 completely confused as to where I was. And hung over. Nice work, Bill. Nothing a little water and Advil cannot fix. Got up again a few hours later feeling a wee bit better, and had a breakfast I can only describe as epic. Sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, toast. I passed on the baked tomato (not much of a mater kind of guy), and tried the blood pudding hockey puck of death. Didn’t really care for it, but at least I tried it.

Took the cab to work, and discovered that training was going to be a bit more complicated than we were informed. No surprises there. Made due with just one on one sessions, and limited access to the tool. It’s pretty dry stuff, so I’ll spare you the details.

After work, I went back to Peadar’s for a couple of pints. Pubs in Ireland stay pretty quiet until later in the evening… like 10pm. I went down the street and had another delicious sausage supper. Man… I could eat those things ever day for a year. After a bit of soakage, I went back to the pub. Big surprise there. I chatted with a local for a bit, and offered to buy a shot of whiskey. When I asked for a Bushmills, he practically exploded. Turns out the Bushmills distillery has a history of not hiring Catholics… until recently. Like I’m supposed to know that sort of thing. So we had a shot of Powers instead. He and  I were pretty much alone with the bartender for about an hour before a group of girls showed up. One of them was already tanked… apparently they were mourning the loss of one of their friends. I chatted with them for a bit, as the pub slowly became more busy. After a hour or so, all of them but one left as well as my more than intoxicated new friend. I ended up hanging out with the straggler (cannot remember her name) and another group of young men. We had some entertaining conversations… one of the young men had a giant scar on his arm from a gangrene infection. Nice.

By that time, it was about 10pm, and the pub was really hopping. I chatted with another group of young men and women, and met a young schoolteacher named Roisin. I bounced back between the 2 groups for a while, and ran into my drunken friend again. We had an odd exchange:

“Bill… see those blokes over there? They are going to beat the piss out of me.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because, I’ve been looking at them funny.”

I walked up to him, palmed the top of his head, and shook his head back and forth violently.

“Stop doing that,” I tell him, then walk away.

Back to group #1, I ask if I can buy them all a round of shots. The girl decides she wants to pick the shot, which none of us argue with. This is what she delivers:

Dear god... what is that thing?

Sorry for the poor picture quality. My phone doesn’t deal well with low light. It’s something called a TriColor. It’s actually very colorful, but the pic doesn’t show that. It was quite… minty. After a bit, they decided to go to club called the Metro. I opted to tag along. Another pint or 2, and I was spent. I said my good byes, and stumbled back the hotel. I think it was about 1am…

Day 3 (Tuesday)- For the love of Pete… tasted like a cat shit in my mouth. And I still feel drunk.  I set my phone for 3 repeating alarms, starting at 6am and going to 8am. I guess I turned each one off in my sleep, then crammed the phone into my armpit and went back to sleep again. I woke to a perfect imprint of the phone and the power cable etched into my side.

Had to pass on the epic breakfast, and just buzz into work… so to speak. As soon as I walked in the door, the boys started to laugh at me. Guess I looked as good as I felt. Gave some more training, and felt a little more human after lunch.

As could be expected, I returned to the pub after work again. A couple more pints, then another nice dinner at Ramsey’s. I mixed it up a bit by having fish and chips this time. As I was leaving, a grizzled little old man was trying to get into the eatery. Looked like a piece of driftwood, and must have been in his 90’s. He had a can of Guinness in one hand, and was drooling profusely from his toothless maw. I asked him if I could help him with the door, and he responded with “Mwaaarg farrrg blaarg phaw.” I told him to have a very merry Christmas as well, and bounced back up to Peadar’s.

Half empty or half full?

And another one bites the dust.

Beginning to see a pattern here?

I then met up with a gentleman from Cork. Very odd fellow. He was a chef by trade that was following a band around Ireland. After a few drinks, he convinces me to go to the concert with him. That Petrol Emotion, or some such thing. I had never heard of them. Before we went to the show, we stopped by the pub next door to have another drink. I ran into Roisin again, and her parents. Everyone was going to same show apparently. Roisin’s dad worked at Seagate (where I was training), so we talked shop for a bit over a fag. I love that. Smoking a fag.

The concert was interesting. Not really my type of music, but worth going to anyway. It’s funny, the little differences between countries. In America, everyone crushes to the front of the stage, and you have to be willing to get sweaty and close to get close to the stage. In Ireland, it was just the opposite. Everyone was in the back, with a large open area in front of the stage. Sure, there were a  few people against the stage, but I was basically standing in a large open area in the front almost by myself.

Aging Guitarist

Aging Lead Singer

Aging Band...

I was a good boy, and made it back to the hotel by midnight. Didn’t even feel that tipsy, but I was beginning to feel the Guinness becoming one with every cell in my body. And in my bowels… good lord. I thought I was shitting solid loaves of bread…

Day 4 (Wednesday)- Woke up on time, and not in pain. Nice. Passed another Guinness loaf, and had another wonderful breakfast. Made it to the site on time, and training went without incident. Even with the lack of time, training material, and access to the tool we were still making good progress. The regional sales manager was in the area (Gwen), schmoozing Seagate into buying more tools. She stopped by with her team to chat for a bit, and I got a ride back to the hotel with them.

Once again, settled into my evening routine. Pints, eats, and more pints. There wasn’t much going on that night and no one was really interested in chatting, so I decided to call it an early night at 9. 30 minutes later, Gwen is calling and demanding that I go down to Peadar’s with her and the other salesperson for some pints. No was not an option… she actually called me a pussy. How can I resists such sweet talk? Away I go, to a now very crowded and noisy Peadar’s. An Irish folk band was playing, and everyone seemed to be having a very good time. Once again, I ran into Roisin. I poked her in the arm, and accused her of following me. She laughed and told me it was the other way around.

2… or maybe 3 hours later, I stumbled back to the hotel. I literally felt like I was breathing Guinness at that point…

Day 5 (Thursday)- Damn you Gwen. Woke up feeling like I shat in the cat’s mouth, and it returned the favor later. Blerg. Was pretty sure I was still drunk again… perhaps my body is simply storing the Guinness and releasing it into my body every few minutes.  Doubled up on my protein, and headed into work to get laughed at again. Sure sure. Laugh it up boys.

Gwen took the entire team out that night to dinner. It was a nice little place over the border in the Republic called the Fire Box. Good eats and good drinks, but really slow service. We didn’t get our orders taken until almost 10pm, and didn’t actually leave the place until well after midnight. We went down to the Metro after that, and laughed at Graham hitting on everything with breasts in the place. What made it truly comical was his jacket… visualize a grey plaid girls jacket (complete with big buttons and a wee belt around the middle) that is one size too small on a tall man. He kept asking every girl in the bar, “What do you think of my jacket.” It was hilarious watching him get shot down time after time. We figured the law of probability would win out eventually… we were wrong. In fact, the ugliest man in our group was the only one to walk away with a phone number that night. It’s not about how you look… it’s all about personality.

At one point in the evening, a fight broke out in front of us. Gwen took my arm and said, “The women are beautiful here, but the men are ugly. And I’m not just talking about looks.” She’s right. It’s a great place for fighting, if that is your thing. They definitely seem eager for it most of the time, and almost every one of them had some sort of story that involved either a run in with the police or beating the tar out of someone.

We closed the place out at 2:00am, and headed back to the hotel. I had to fold and go to bed, but they apparently stayed  up all night drinking. I was beginning to suspect that none of them actually had a lower colon. Instead, the lower abdomen was simply a large filtering device. I tried to keep up, and failed miserably.

Day 6 (Friday)- Ended up just sleeping in on Friday. I didn’t figure anyone would be in very early. When I got to work, the only one there was Graham… looking more than a little green. Not much was going to get done today, I was certain. The other two (the third took a vacation day) wandered in at about 1pm. Both looked ill at best. We did a bit more training, then called it a day. They invited me to a holiday party for the vendor team area (all of the third party support people were in a specific area), and said we were going to go out drinking again. Lovely. I needed to completely destroy my liver before I could get a new one anyway.

The holiday dinner was amusing. The guys in the group were fucking cracking me up the whole time. Talk about a country full of potty mouths. We ate too much, drank too much, and paid too much… no one told me beforehand how expensive this would be. Oh well. Graham wore his little girly jacket again, and was also wearing… wait for it… a sequined tee-shirt. I dubbed him “Sparkles.” Afterward, the lot of us walked to a bar called DaVinci’s. Think of it as a meat market for the 30 – 50 somethings. One of the guys walking with us was a gentleman from Scotland. Shorter than me, and built like a fucking keg. The man spoke like he damaged his voice after yelling out the largest crap of his life. Never in my life have I met a man that could use the words “fucking” and “cunt” so eloquently, and in so many different combinations.

The bar was chaos, as everyone was out for their holiday parties as well. I drank as hard as I could, but could come close at all to keeping up with they guys. Eventually, I succumbed to the siren’s call of sleep, and took a cab back to the hotel. I had to wade through an ocean of drunken men and women (mostly older women) to get into the hotel. Looks like everyone was out with holiday party groups.

Day7 (Saturday)- Took my sweet time waking up and having breakfast. I had scheduled a tour for the morning with one of the ex-prisoners. He was going to take me on a history tour of the city walls, and through the area of the Troubles (i.e. the bog side where Bloody Sunday occurred). I met up with Seamus at about 10:30, and we began our tour.

View of the outside of the city walls, with the Tower Hotel in the background.

We walked around the walls, and Seamus gave me a breakdown of the 130 (180?) day siege of Derry. Interesting stuff, even if Seamus was a bit of spitter. Hell… they all are. Every conversation I had with an adult male in Derry thus far ended up with me receiving an unexpected saliva shower. Good times.

Some Protestant building. Gathering hall?

Awww... pretty...

My illustrious guide, Seamus.

From the inside, looking out.

From the outside looking... up?

Eventually, we wandered down to the Bog Side, and went on the formal Derry tour. It’s good history to know, and I would encourage anyone visiting to take one of these tours. Terrible things were done, and people were treated badly. Still are, to a lesser extent. Hopefully, our children can do better.

Just another Bill at the wall.

After the tour (I took many more pictures, but this is getting a bit long winded anyway), we drove up to the Derry cemetery so I could take some more pictures. The day was cold, but dry and beautiful. Any picture I put up won’t do it justice, so I’ll just leave it at that. At this point, I think a part of my heart fell out. I realized that I had fallen in love with this little city, and didn’t want to leave.

After the tour, I decided to do a bit of shopping. Nothing terribly expensive, as the dollar was pretty weak here. I did manage to find a couple of trinkets for presents and what not for the family, and checked out their mall. It was a… mall… albeit a very compact one. I screwed around in the hotel room for a while, and went to have a couple of last pints at Peadar’s. Had one more delicious battered sausage dinner, and a few more pints. I ran into a social worker I had met earlier in the week, chatted over a few more pints, and got his email address. I called it a day at about 10, finished getting packed, and hit the hay. Or, tried to, rather.

As I mentioned before, this is the height of the holiday party season. I should have just stayed up instead. As it was I woke up about once an hour to shouting, screaming, doors slamming, or the sounds of loud rutting. I think I woke up at 3 some time to someone breaking bottles in the streets, and again at 6 for the same reason.

Day 8 (Sunday)- I should have gotten out of bed at that point… stupid. Instead, I slept in util 8, and had to bust ass to get out of there and on the road. It was a frosty, foggy, frozen drive, but I still made good time. I missed the airport, and ended up at some other airport in Belfast. By the time  I got on the right route again, fueled the car up, got to the airport, parked the car, dropped off the key, checked in, got through security, and got to the gate, the plane was almost finished boarding. Yeesh. Cut that close.

Leaving was depressing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been someplace that seemed to fit me so well, and felt so right. It made me a bit sad to leave.

The flight back was long, and tiring. I watched a couple of movies, and read for a bit. Getting through customs at Newark took forever. I had another 6 hour layover there, and then another 7 hour flight back to Portland. By the time I got home, it had been about 24 hours since I had seen a bed.

The trip was wonderful, and I hope I get to go back some day. I still feel like part of me (and not just the jet lagged portion) has been lost to Ireland. At least I got to bring a little of it back with me. Most of the Guinness has been passed by now, but I still feel a bit clinging in the lower recesses of my bowels…


Going to Ireland

Posted in Work with tags on December 2, 2009 by hotpoo

Ha! Eat my shorts! I’ll be wandering through the pissing rain from pub to pub, trying to replace my bodily fluids with Guinness and Bushmill’s. I’ll be thinking of you all while I do it.


I do actually have to work for most of it, and it’ll be nothing but rain and darkness when I’m done. However, I have an extra spare day I wasn’t expecting, so I’ll be able to wander around Belfast and Derry for a little while. Much drinking will occur, I assure you. I’ll take some pictures of the debauchery…

Wut’s, uh, the deal?

Posted in Work with tags on November 14, 2009 by hotpoo

Been a busy of couple of weeks for me at Camp Dork:

  • Completed an escalation in Fishkill, NY.
  • Visited the Big Apple.
  • Flew back to Portland and took care took my mind off my money, and my money off my mind (finally!).
  • Beat off conficker again with a mighty stick. Finally convinced the Powers That Be to follow my instructions to keep it out of the environment.
  • Flew back to NY to install another tool in Albany (at SUNY). Did this one in record time, as the install was supposed to take 10 days. Good thing, as they closed the fab 5 days early…
  • My little sister brought new life into the world. Welcome to the circus, Phynley (or however that is spelled)!
  • Found out that the new tool I installed at Sematech (the Albany nanotech consortium) is fucked, for lack of a better adjective. Spent 3 weeks trying to help the field service guys with various issues, including our first field stage replacement.
  • Helped my buddy Guy move into his new casa. I am VERY happy that I will not have to move his television ever again. Especially down a flight of stairs. Ouch.
  • Bid my boss a fond farewell. There goes one of the few competent people I’ve ever worked for.
  • Gave up on trying to help the field service guys remotely, and I’m back in Albany again. After about 16 hours of tuning the motors (yes, it is as exciting as it sounds), and uncovering a kink in the vacuum line, I think the tool is finally going to behave. If it doesn’t, I’m going to hit it with a hammer…

So, here I sit in soggy Albany, trying to decide what the hell it is I’m going to do for the weekend. The customer will not have their new wafer ready until Monday, so I’m going to be cooling my heels all weekend. Not that this is a terrible place to be stuck, mind you. I’ll gladly take Albany over Fishkill any day. I have to admit, I’m a bit  bored though. It’s wet, and not really conducive to adventuring, even though I thought ahead enough to bring with the rain gear (also know as my normal day to day clothes in Portland). I did the downtown tour last time I was here (i’ll upload pics soon). I didn’t plan on being here this long, so I didn’t bring the camera with… not that I would really want to bring it out into the rain. Good thing the hotel has a customer laundry facility. I’m down to my last clean pair of… well… everything.

I guess it’s going to be a fine evening of Yeunglings, Kindom of Loathing, getting a bite and a couple of beers at the Albany Pump Station (highly reccomend going there, if  you are ever in Albany), some Diablo II (yes, you heard me right), and some more beer. Beer beer beer beer.

Better get to it. Getting thirsty for some reason…

Holy Crap! I’m in New York!

Posted in Funny! with tags on September 18, 2009 by hotpoo
I always wanted to shine on broadway. Does a greasy sheen count?

Holy Crap!

I completed the escalation this week, well ahead of the estimated schedule. I actually did much more than I was sent here to do, but the field service guy here seemed pretty overwhelmed. It would cost about $750 to send me home a day early, so I opted to go into the city for a few hours on my “day off.” I’ve never been to the Big Apple, and I’m opportunist anyway… you never know when this will be the only chance you get to do something stupid, so you better jump on it! Or… off it, as the case may be…

Anyway, I took the metro from Beacon to Central Station. The trip was more expensive than I expected, which was silly of my. Everything out here is more expensive than I expected. I feel bad for the people who have to pay that everyday (almost $40 for a round trip peak time ticket), but I’m operating under the assumption that the cost of living adjusts for it. I know… I’m an ass. Train ride was about 1hr 20 minutes, which is enough time for 3 small naps. I’m getting old, and I need to catch up on my beauty sleep. Um. Yeah. I’m just really, really behind on that.

I walked up from Central Station to Times Square. It was just as chaotic as I expected it to be. No mugging excitement, but I did get accosted by a group of wanna-be rap stars. One of them wanted me to buy a cd, the somehow I was buying cds from all 4 of them. I was tired, confused, and an easy mark apparently. Failed that test, so I rewarded myself with some delicious NY Pizza for lunch. Wow. That last sentence makes just about as much sense as I thought. I wandered up from Times Square towards Central Park. I wandered into a souvenir shop on the way, and thus completed the rest of the adventure with a medium size “HI! I’M A TOURIST” sign in my hand. Like the frequent picture-taking wasn’t bad enough.

Central Park. This was my favorite part of the trip, probably because it was so calm and quiet compared to the rest of the city. It was filled with nice live music (live jazz and classical, mostly), kids playing, and really cool glacially formed rock formations.

Fine. I'll just grow around you then.

Fine. I'll just grow around you then.

I didn’t get very far through the park, though. I made it as far as THE LAKE (seriously… that’s what it’s called on the map), took some pictures, and decided to park it in the park for a while. This is about the time when I really started feeling stupid for not brining my camera on this trip. I never actually planned on having the time to go anywhere, but this is the first time I haven’t taken in on a trip. Most of the pics taking on my cell phone were substandard at best. Ah well. I hung around for a while listening to music and smoking cigarettes when I came to a sudden realization: where were all the infamous New York douche bags? New York is legendary around the world for the high surplus of general douche-baggery, and I had gotten to witness (or be on the receiving end) of any of it. I thought perhaps New Yorker’s had discovered some sort of odd sense of community and goodwill towards one another. Or maybe there was something in the water. I was not to be disappointed, however…

On the way back to Central Station, I was waiting on a corner for the light to change. A gentleman next to me lit a cigarette, and the man in front of us exploded. Figuratively speaking, of course. Picture your typical Hollywood italian mafia thug, and add a heavy dose of a strong New York city accent. He swings around as soon as the cigarette is lit, sweat beading on his chubby Sicilian forehead, eyes blazing with anger, and says,

“Who the fug is dis fuggin guy? I’m offa heeya coffin, and he’s lighting up? Fug this fuggin guy! You heas me?”

Ad nauseum. At this point I expected him to say something like, “My fuggin granmudda died of lung cansaw, and yous smoking next to me? I otta shoot you in you fuggin head.” That would have been funny, I suppose, but it never happened. Instead, his buddy pushes him away down the block, even though he is still turning around every few feet to tell this guy how he really feels about having his personal space invaded by icky second hand smoke. As they are “walking” away, I look over at the smoking man. He looks at me, smiles, shrugs, and says, “Takes all kinds, I suppose.” I laughed, and agreed.

While I only spent about 4 hours in the city, that is more than enough to satisfy my curiosity for a while. Someday, I’d like to come back, do the tour bus thing, and visit the museum. Until then, they can keep the chaos. An interesting place, but not for me.

The Ill Fated Montana Trip, 2009 – Part I

Posted in Funny! with tags , on July 10, 2009 by hotpoo

Have I ever mentioned that I’m an asshole? Well, I am. Not the “road rage,” “parking handicap spaces,” “pissing on public toilet seats” kind of douchbaggery, but more of a general “not paying attention to what you are saying,” “inserting myself into random conversations,” “taking advantage of the stupid” kind of thing. It’s just who I am. I’m a reasonably calm person most of the time, and generally deal well with stress without snapping. I learned a long time ago to bend like a reed… my Kung-Fu is strong. This is my lame attempt at literary foreshadowing, for those of you that took the short bus to school today.

Earlier in the year, an old college friend of mine asked me to be the wors… er… best man in his wedding. I agreed, and began formulating a financial plan to make the trip to Montana. As I get to see my family very rarely (once ever 1 to 2 years), my sisters came up with a plan for holding a family reunion (I come from a very small family, so having 5 of us there is practically all of us) while I was in the area. I isolated a couple of days for travel, 3 days for the wedding, and 5 for the family. I worked out the travel plan / itinerary, and was able to sell my car right before the trip. Nice! Financial bases covered!

A week before we were set to take our trip, my wife decided to make a last minute request. She wanted to go camping with one of our mutual friends, which overlapped with the latter half of the family visit / return trip. I wasn’t happy about the idea of shortening time with my family, but she doesn’t get adult time very often (stay at home mom). So, grudingly acquiesced, and decided that I would just need to fill as much time as possible with the family.

We took off Wednesday morning, at about 10am. This was 3 hours later than I was hoping, but exactly the time I expected my wife would be ready. I’ve made this trip many times before, and I knew how long it would take to get to our destination (Missoula, Montana… about 550 miles away from Portland). I’m one of those types of people that likes to leave at the butt-crack of dawn for long road-trips, and will drive as long and as fast as is humanly possible to maximize “vacation” time. Or my perception of the amount of vacation time, as the case may be. You know, one of those starry-eyed dreamers; the insipid optimist. However, I’ve known my wife long enough to have learned how these things will actually work out. I wasn’t really sure what kind of time we were going to make leaving that late. To add some complexity estimation, we just finished potty training my 4 year old son. This would be his first really long trip in big boy pants. My hope was that we could make it to Missoula by late supper time (drive fast enough, and limited stops), but I figured that we could always stop in Spokane or mid-Idaho (like Kellog or something) if we were just moving too slowly. I wasn’t too worried about it… the wedding wasn’t until Saturday, and as long as we were there by Friday afternoon for the rehersal the brides head would not explode.

Before I push forward, let me delve briefly once again into the shadowy land of foreshadow… delve forth breifly… briefs for shadows… meh… stupid prose. A week previous to our departure, I took my wife’s truck to our normal mechanic. I wanted them to fix the AC (needed a recharge), fix the lighter socket (so we could plug my son into my favorite electronic baby sitter, the portable dvd player), fix a bit of chop in the engine, and to make sure the breaks were roadworthy for a 1,300 mile round trip. Dun dun dun. AC was recharged and didn’t seem to have a leak, lighter socket was a snap, choppy engine was caused by idiot mechanics not gapping the spark plugs when they installed the new engine for us last year (they fixed that for free and came clean with me), and confirmed that the front pads looked fine (about 65%) and the rear shoes were acceptable (40%). Dun dun dun! I checked the air pressure and inspected the tires the night before we left, and all seemed well. DUN DUN DUN!

Back to the present… er… past. Whatever. Once we actually hit the road, we made pretty good time. We were about 30 minutes west of Umatilla, Oregon when my wife felt an odd vibration in the truck. We pulled over, and took a look at the wheels. Nothing seemed out of place, so we pressed on. DUN DUN DUN!!! About an hour later, we were pulling into Kennewick, Washington. As we came down the hill to the first stop light, my wife hit the breaks, and the driver’s side front wheel goes sailing towards the intersection ahead. That’s right, the FUCKING. WHEEL. CAME. OFF. DUN DUN… oh enough of that. As we felt / heard the steerage assembly thumping into the asphalt, a dreamlike quality decended on the scene. I turned and yelled at my wife, “HEY HONEY! WE JUST LOST A TIRE!.” Thanks Captain Obvious! Without skipping a beat, my wife responded calmly with, “I know that, Bill.” The truck ground itself to a stop at the side of the road, and we watched as the wheel (apparently content to continue the journey without us) sail through the intersection at 45 mph. It barely missed two compact cars (I shudder to think what that would have done), and opted to end its brief solo journey by smashing into the front of a commercial class flatbed.

No one was hurt, with the exception of the flatbed’s shattered bumper. Insurance information was exchanged, and insurance companies were called. I jacked the truck back up from its precarious angle, and inspected the bolts for the lug nuts. Nothing seemed wrong with them. The bolts weren’t stripped, bent, or sheared. Weird. The lug nuts were no where to be found, but there was a tire shop nearby that had the correct size. The steerage assembly looked ok to me (it was actually damaged, but more of that later), so I re-mounted the wheel and tightened it back down. I inspected the other 3 wheels, and made sure that the bolts were tight. Satisfied and thankful that this didn’t happen when we were going 85 mph, we decided to keep going. As you might imagine, this was a bad plan. We decided to pull off at the last exit in Pasco (Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco are called the Tri-Cities locally, due to their extreme proximity to one another) and gas up. As we pull onto off ramp, IT FUCKING HAPPENS AGAIN!!! This time, our wheel decided it has had enough of this journey. In an explosion of lug nuts and silt, it bounces, skids, and hops over 4 lanes of highway into the sagebrush, never to be seen again. I spent about 40 minutes strolling through the prickle weeds and sagebrush (cheap foam bottom sandles and shorts were a bad plan for this trip, apparently),  but could not find it. Insurance was called again, and a tow truck driver was located. A nice police officer came by to slow traffic on the off-ramp (no one bothered to stop or slow… asses), probably because he was wondering what the bald, sunburned, dipshit was doing wandering across his highway. Eventually, we get towed to a mechanics shop.

*sigh* Ever the optimist, I’m still calculating this into our travel time. “It’s ok, self,” I tell myself. “We’re only 3 hours behind now. We’ll just spend the night in Idaho.” A the mechanics shop, we wait another hour for them to inspect and make their assessment. Fuck. Four hours behind now. Maybe we can make it to Spokane. Bolts are definitely shot now (threads are full of aluminum), and we are out wheel with custom rim. Turns out all bolts on both front wheels were broken free from their mounts… probably due to a goddamn phneumatic hammer being used to tighten the nuts by the last mechanics during the brake inspection. All 12 will need to be replaced.  *angry choking* In addition, the steerage assembly is shot, as the majority has either been ground down to a shiny nub or bent out of shape. *grinding of teeth*. ETA, tomorrow morning, at best. Shit…

So, after spending 2 hours at the mechanic’s shop, we get a cab ride to a local Super 8. It’s now 6ish, and the day is shot. We get a room, drop off our bags, and go next door to Applebees for some supper. Burgers and beer later, our outlook on things is better. I take my son for a swim in the pool, and we call it a night.

The next day, we wait. And wait. And wait. I made a trek up to a Value Village (kind of like a goodwill… cheap used crap kind of store) to replace my shredded and thorn filled sandles and get a coat for my son (we forgot to bring his in our haste to leave the house). Finally, we just check out of the hotel at 11, and go down to the shop. They still aren’t done. 2 hours later, they are. The manger takes the truck for a spin, and is gone for about 10 minutes. When he returns, he doesn’t look happy. Ashen is a good word. He tells me that he needs to show me something, and asks him to take a ride with him. About a block away, he says “Watch this,” and slams on the brakes. The truck lurches suddenly and violently to the right. *urge to kill, rising* The new wheel is the same size, but the rim is a little smaller than the other tires. However, he believes that this problem is being caused by damaged brakes. “How much, and how long?” I as, wearily. 2 hours or so, he says. Fine. Whatever. Just get me out of here. Today.

They drop us off at the local mall so we can eat, and keep the kid entertained. 3 hours later, they are finished (4:00… we can still make it, but it will be very late). Turns out the rear shoes were disintegrating. Looked kind of like marbled cheese. Stress fractures throughout both, and you could pick it apart with your finger. One more test drive to confirm the issue was resolved… much better now. $1700 later and 27 hours behind schedule, we finally get to continue on our trip.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone there was great. The mechanics busted ass to get us out as fast as possible, and with a minimum of unlubricated shafting. The cop kept us safe. The tow truck driver was an interesting conversationalist. The waitress was sweet (Will kept calling her Gramma). The clerk at the Value Village with the cleft buttock gave me a 20% discount because I am so drop dead sexy to… uh… other guys, I guess. It’s the most time I’ve ever spend there, and I have to admit it was a pleasant experience… if I close my eyes really tight, and leave out the whole hemmoraging cash thing.

We make it to our destination 6 hours later. It could have been 4. My buddy mentioned that they were doing road construction between Missoula and Arlee (very near the place they rented for the wedding), and that the highway was a “little rough and torn up.” Ha ha. Just like I’m a little bit bald, the Hindenburg was a little bit burned, and George W Bush is a little bit of an idiot. Christ on a crutch, as my father liked to say. They mechanics did a good job. If the thrice-damned wheels were going to come off, that would have been the place. Wasn’t sure we were going to have any shocks or even an oil pan by the time we located the place. It was 11ish pm at that point, and I was just so damn happy that we made it with most of our vehichle still under us.

Greetings were made, beer was guzzled, and sleep was attained. Albiet, briefly. It would seem the blushing bride to be is also a practicing slave driver, and that this wedding would be perfect… no matter the pain!

To be continued…