As promised (threatened?), today marks the beginning of the fifteenth anniversary of the 1997 Planet SOMA US Tour. To celebrate, I’m sharing some of the video here for the very first time.
This was a great trip, taken during what was still sort of the infancy of the internet: pre-Wordpress, pre-WiFi, and definitely pre-iPhone. Traveling around the country and updating from the road was a bit trickier in 1997 than it is in 2012 and involved a borrowed Mac Powerbook, dialup connections (sometimes at long distance rates) and a lot of patience. And I’m not sure if people today would be quite so anxious to have a more or less complete stranger from San Francisco land in their homes for a couple of nights. I met great people who demonstrated a great love for the cities they inhabited. And the trip gave me a wake-up call, reminding me that the world doesn’t end at the western approach to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. In fact, it begins there.
So let’s get started…
Fifteen years ago today:
My first online road trip begins and I go from San Francisco to Reno. Highlights include Leaving SF on the Bay Bridge; I-80 through the East Bay, Sacramento, and the Sierra; Reno motels, many of which are probably no longer standing; Mapes Hotel and Casino, now demolished; Reno by night; Motel 6.
My first online road trip enters its second day and I go from Reno to Salt Lake City. Highlights include Winnemucca and Wells, Nevada; Utah and Mountain Time Zone;
Bill & Nada’s in Salt Lake City (now demolished); Salt Lake City by night.
A tour of Kansas City with my host Bernie. I can’t help feeling that much of what we saw is no longer standing (or at least no longer looks the same). The day ends with beer and Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch.
This is actually one of the longer videos and yet I felt less compelled to do heavy editing.
Touring Madison, Wisconsin, a thoroughly pleasant sort of place that I might not have visited without an invitation from Steven, who later moved to the Bay Area. I think I’d have stayed in Madison if I’d been him.
…to alert you all that I am still very much alive and relived that I autopopulated all this 1997 stuff because I am really incredibly busy this week month. Back soon with info and pictures from a more recent road trip, etc. And now, back to Madison or Chicago or wherever the hell I was fifteen years ago tonight.
From Madison to Chicago via Milwaukee and the very first McDonald’s east of the Mississippi. Listen for a Sentry supermarket commercial and a very early one for “King of the Hill.” Joe, my host, offers a nighttime tour.
Last day in Chicago with an emphasis on the projects (many of which are no longer standing), followed by the drive to Indianapolis, hanging out in Fountain Square, a nighttime drive, and a pretty amazing hotel room courtesy of Bob, my host.
Coast to coast tour of Indiana, part one, including Indianapolis, Brazil, Terre Haute, Clinton, Rockville, and Billie Creek Village. Much of this takes place along US 40, formerly known as the National Road. This chunk of the trip was spent with my friend Bob in Indianapolis, who suggested the whole trip to begin with.
Coast to coast tour of Indiana, part two, covering Centerville, Richmond, Greensburg, and Shelbyville, and including covered bridges, giant pork tenderloin sandwiches, and courthouses with trees growing out of their roofs.
In case you care, photos from my Labor Day weekend trip to DC are here (or below).
Random thoughts on DC:
I hadn’t really spent any significant time in DC in over twenty years (and not much even before) but I have spent a fair of time in Baltimore and the DC ‘burbs in my life. It was good to dive into DC proper.
There is construction everywhere. Seriously. It’s as if DC is preparing for a sudden influx of about three times as many people as are there currently.
It’s much whiter than I expected. Apparently the black population has declined from seventy to a bit over fifty percent in the past few decades due to a surburbanizing black middle class, a growing Asian and Hispanic population, and your basic, old-fashioned gentrification.
I didn’t wander by accident into any neighborhoods that gave me the willies. Of course, I also didn’t venture south of the Anacostia River, either.
Except for Dupont Circle and environs, DC didn’t seem nearly as tight-assed as I’d remembered it being.
Good trip, all in all. I’ll probably be back soon. It’s kind of a perfect three-day weekend destination for me.
Indianapolis to Detroit with a stop in Ft. Wayne, where I realize that one of my favorite radio stations as a lonely teenager had become the home for drooling dittoheads and other assorted morons. The night finished with some Canadian TV.
Highlights include a quick trip to Windsor in the rain (and another to drink later on), the Henry Ford Museum, Brush Park, and downtown Detroit. This was my first trip to Detroit, a city I was a little obsessed with at the time, and I was very excited.
A quick circle through downtown Detroit, followed by an unpleasant drive through Toledo and free passage on the Ohio Turnpike. I landed in Pittsburgh, which was not on the original itinerary, and thus began somewhat by accident a love affair with the place that endures to this day.
A momentous day: I have my first breakfast at Ritter’s Diner and fall in love with Pittsburgh. David (my host) and I cover a lot of ground and if you look closely you can see things that no longer exist–like Isaly’s, Three Rivers Stadium, and the East Liberty projects.
If you’re starting to get weary from the trip, today also marks the halfway point.
Lunch with my late friend Taylor (who drove up from Norfolk) in Baltimore and then a drive around the city with Risa. I have pie at the Overlea Diner and get reacquainted with the Fixin’s Bar at Roy Rogers.
Back in my hometown of Greensboro, I drive through town with my dad, drink with friends at New York Pizza on Tate Street, visit the Kinko’s where I worked during college, and continue drinking at “rock and roll drag night” at the now-demolished Palms bar downtown.
Some relatively big issues at work are threatening to transform my annual Thanksgiving trip to Canada into a two-weeks-after-Thanksgiving trip to Canada. And that sucks big time.
Some of it couldn’t be helped and some of it is due to some semi-major screw-ups by a department outside the library. But it’s forcing me to change some long-held plans and forcing me to travel at a time that won’t be as enjoyable for me for a variety of reasons. And it’s making me think about how these days I let my work dictate a lot more aspects of my life than I used to. In some ways I fear I’ve become something I used to scorn: one of those people who substitutes a job for a life.
In some ways this is understandable, I guess. I have an actual career and a profession for the first time in my life, so it stands to reason I would give work more attention than I used to when I was working a collection of freelance gigs and pointless jobs that held no real future for me. There’s actually a reason for me to pay attention to work now. Even more importantly, I like my job. Most weeks, at least. And right now, I’m chasing tenure. There are dues to pay, dammit.
But I often find myself worrying that I’m expecting work to give me more satisfaction than it can really provide. Over the past year or two, I’ve been sort of leaning on work to make up for all the rest of the stuff that’s missing in my life–and also to provide me with an escape from the giant pile of misery that dealing with my family has become. With so many nights now having to involve a visit with one of them on the way home, I actually look forward to being able to stay late at work because it means I get to actually decide what to do with my evening rather than having a predetermined commitment. I’m really worried that I’m going to burn out if I keep expecting my job to take up so much of the slack. Especially if I let it keep me from traveling, which is about the only other thing I really get excited about these days.
Anyway, just navel-gazing again, I guess. Admittedly this fall is a particularly hectic time for me at work due mostly to a lot of staffing issues and the fact that I have some major things due much sooner than I care to admit. It’ll get better in a few months. Probably just in time for my mom or dad to have another major episode.
And now back to your regularly-scheduled fifteen-year-old road trip.
I walked into a convenience store (a Great Stops, as I recall) tonight to use the bathroom after buying some gas. It struck me midstream that I almost never go inside convenience stores anymore now that I don’t smoke…at least not local ones. Since buying gas hasn’t required a trip inside for about twenty years (except for my dad, who always pays cash) my only reason for entering one is to buy a drink or take a whiz, and I usually only do these things in a convenience store when I’m traveling.
I used to visit convenience stores all the time. In fact, I used to consider myself something of a connoisseur. I really think that removing the need to buy cigarettes (November marks nine years) was the big catalyst for this change. I used to know where the cheap smokes and the best beer and soda selections were, where I could find Funyuns and Bugles, and exactly where I could get cash back with no fee. Not anymore, alas.
Of course, I also used to be able to compose a simple post without resorting to random babbling about convenience stores, too. Things change…
Had my annual physical today. I’m amazingly healthy considering what shitty care I take of myself. But imagine my surprise when the doctor told me specifically to eat more meat (including red meat), cheese, and eggs along with vegetables, nuts, and berries. When presented with a low fat option, I am supposed to choose the high octane version instead. Seriously. He wants me to eat more meat and more fat. That will actually be kind of hard for me because I already eat more than my share.
The less surprising tradeoff is that I am also supposed to cut way down on the carbs and eat fruit only in moderation. And to lose weight. This is evidently related to my freakishly low cholesterol and my slightly high blood sugar.
I apparently have pretty good genes and if I’d eaten better and exercised more over the past forty-eight years, I’d probably be in rather good shape now.
On other fronts:
I got my first flu shot ever this morning and my arm hurts like hell.
I just finished editing the last US Tour 1997 commemorative video clip and I am much relieved. You can enjoy (or ignore) them for another week and a half, but I’m done.
By the time I finally get to leave on my October vacation, wherever that may be, it’s going to take me two days just to wind down from work. I can’t remember when I’ve been quite so overloaded. And it’s mostly of my own making.
Time for some bacon-wrapped cheese or something now.
The first is from two days of low carb/high fat per doctor’s orders. I’m also feeling seriously dehydrated and peeing a lot. But that’s apparently normal and probably nothing anyone really needed to know.
The second is from watching some of the US Tour 1997 video. I hadn’t realized YouTube’s image stabilization would make the titles I added jump around and act so crazy. Sorry about that. Not sorry enough to fix it, though.