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This is a question Road Trip

Gather round the fire and share stories of epic travels. Remember this is about the voyage, not what happened when you got there. Any of that shite and you're going in the fire.

Suggestion by Dr Preference

(, Thu 14 Jul 2011, 22:27)
Pages: Popular, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

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buffalo buffalo BUFFALO
**First post to the boards, apologies for length, I've been drinking red wine and this topic sent me into a reverie**

When I was 18 I was lucky enough to win a scholarship for a year to a university in the States, the home of the road trip. Cheap gas, abundant (cheap) motels and endless highways. There's a saying that in America, 100 years is a long time, and in the UK, 100 miles is a long way. I got to understand what that meant over the course of the year: with a 24 hour drive to Colorado for Christmas, an 18 hour drive to New York at Thanksgiving, an 8 hour drive to Chicago on a weekend and in the spring a 13 hour round trip to Graceland where we spent... 2 hours. I thought then - and still think now - how little I visit my grandparents, only 90 minutes away.

But the road trip was part of the fun - if not the whole fun itself. Driving to Graceland listening to tapes of Elvis, telling jokes, smoking. I thought *I* was the King.

After the academic year came to an end I was due to return to Blighty. But first, a 3 week grand tour: the plan was to go from Detroit (my friend's home town) across the midwest to Yellowstone, north to Glacier National Park, west to Seattle, down the west coast to San Francisco and back across the south through Arizona and past the Grand Canyon... About 7,000 miles in total.

We packed the car with a tent and tapes and books, stocked up our cool box with iced tea, bread and cheese slices, bought a few cartons of cigarettes and hit the road. Most days were just spent driving, which should have been quite wearing, but it wasn't. We took turns at the wheel, listened to music, talked, read books aloud to each other, sat in silence and admired the view. I appreciated at the time how lucky I was to be with someone in whose company I was so comfortable. No awkward silences, no desperate attempts to communicate. Perfect for such a long trip. And we stopped when we wanted, drove where we wanted, did what we liked - perhaps for the first and only time in my life.

Cal was 4 years older than me, a graduate, enjoying her last hurrah before entering the real world. I was young and foolish and still with a full 3 years of Uni ahead of me back at home. We made a perfect team.

Two events stand out for me, in addition to the massive strides taken during that time in my sexual education. The first occurred as early as day two of the trip. We left Detroit and headed around Lake Michigan into Wisconsin to stay for a night with our friend Klos - camp, eccentric, and dazzling in my impressionable young eyes. We stopped en route to phone ahead, let him know our ETA that evening. Cal left a message on the machine - "...we're so excited to see you". At this point, bouncing like a 7 year old after too many sweeties, I shriek "I've got an erection!" Hilarious.

So hilarious, in fact, that Klos decided not to delete the message from his home machine. Cal and I arrived at the house, his mother greeted us at the door with a look of disapproval. Klos let us know that he'd saved the message for his parent's enjoyment. I was appalled. Polite, sweet, unassuming - the last thing I want is to be embarrassed like this in front of my friend's parents - especially ones I haven't met before. I'm normally excellent at this sort of thing, I love charming the oldies, and the Yanks are so easy! But he's fucked that right up.

So I was standing in the kitchen feeling like things just couldn't get any worse when his dad came through the door, carrying a broom. "Where's that young fella with the erection? I've got something to beat it down with."

That evening we rented "Reservoir Dogs" and I was blown away by Tarantino for the first time.

After that we headed west, through the dusty plains, stopping off here and there at random or unexpected places, as the signs and the maps presented their wares. A mystical, magical house in the woods where a ball rolled uphill. Mount Rushmore. Little Bighorn (General Custer - what a cunt.) We slept in cheap motels, all the more romantic and evocative for their filth and disposability. We camped in car parks and made love by torchlight.

Eventually we came to Yellowstone National Park. Stopped at the warden's gate, paid our entrance fee, got our map and a leaflet about the buffalo. ("WARNING - Many visitors have been gored by buffalo. They weigh up to 2000 pounds and can sprint at 30mph, three times faster than you can run") Wow, I think, buffalo! I'd love to see one of those.

We drive south and stop at the large visitor centre, with exhibits about the wildlife and panels explaining the geology and the crazy volcanic scenery. At one point, I was standing in a doorway, when Cal pointed above my head, laughing. I looked up and nearly shat myself when I saw the hugest buffalo head right on top of me. I ducked and probably screamed a little, before realising it was just a good ol' hunter's trophy, stuffed and mounted. But, fuck, that thing was big.

We drive on, and on. Stop here and there to look at various bubbling sulphurous lakes. Drive a bit more. (Yellowstone is about 100 miles from top to bottom.) After a while I get grumpy that we've not seen any buffalo, I'd been promised damn buffalo and so where are they. We drive more. Then we see some cars stopped by the side of the road, but no indication why. We overtake slowly, I have my face pressed against the window, desperately trying to see over and beyond the car... FUCK! A buffalo stood right in the road in front of the car and hidden by it until we passed. Face to face with another beast, only this time it's alive.

Late afternoon we reached Old Faithful - the famous geyser that shoots up about 30m at regular intervals. I took photos, we laughed at a miserable old man who looked like Matlock, a US TV detective. It's late, we're tired - we've driven miles. We need to head out, back to a town for somewhere to stay for the night, and thence to the north, to Glacier National Park on the Canadian border.

Cal's driving, it's getting dusky, that terrible half light when your eyes haven't quite shifted yet to night vision. The picture flickers from colour to black & white like a TV on the fritz. Things merge and fade; shadows wink. Not a good time to be driving, especially on unfamiliar roads when you're tired.

We are on a straight, it's a long road ahead, slightly dipping - and as we crest a small rise the headlights flash from high to low over the road ahead. I'm sure I saw something, a shadow - a bulk - at the bottom of the dip that we're driving into. But the headlights now point down at the road as we descend, and while there's ambient light, it's blue-grey, hazy, the headlights ruin my night vision, I can't see what's ahead. But, there was something, wasn't there? Cal drives on, and on, and I can't believe she hasn't seen, like I did, but perhaps I was mistaken, it's right here, why doesn't she slow down, the hooves appear in the downward beam of the headlights and I look left at her, why isn't she braking....

BANG. My first car accident. Part of me giggles inside, like the time I broke my arm and I lay there in pain wishing "I hope it's broken". Then the smell hits me. Molten plastic - which, when I open my eyes, I realise is the shattered windscreen, and the weird polymer they use to keep all the pieces glued together so they don't spray in your already concussed face. The music's still playing, the engine's still running - hell, even the headlights are still shining... And in the dim light stands a very confused buffalo, shaking its head from side to side, like a cartoon missing the speech bubble: "What the fuck was THAT?!!"

I look over again at Cal, still with her head down, unprepared, even more shocked, her door window shattered and gone, the pieces of which I find sprayed all down her back as I put my hand there in an attempt to comfort and she flinches away.

A car coming the other way has seen the impact, stops. The driver is out and encouraging us to leave, waking us from our dream. As I look to my right for the door handle to get out, it's not there. The whole inside of the door has softened and disappeared, just humps and small mounds giving the suggestion of previous articles. It's like snow has fallen and hidden the handle, the lock, the armrest, as it would a bicycle, a ball, a hedge in the back garden. Only when I dig my fingers into the warmth and pull the handle do I realise that this snow is buffalo shit. And I thought I was scared.

In the morning when we returned to the wrecker's yard and reviewed the damage, we realised how lucky we had been. The buffalo was sideways on; we were going at a reasonable speed, and downhill: we had merely clipped his ankles and flipped him, full weight, onto the bonnet, whereupon his head had whiplashed sideways into Cal's side - one horn smashing her window, the other scarring the bottom of her door - and his arse had skidded right up and through my side of the windscreeen, shitting all the while, until it was right inside the car and spraying all over the door. Moments later, as the energy dissipated, we stopped, he slid off and regained his feet, and we all sat/stood around, shaking our heads, wondering what the fuck happened.

If he was head on, it could have been one horn each, right through our foreheads.

The car was written off: the engine and headlights were fine, but the roof over my head was totally busted. Cal's own car, now fucked, another debt to add to her $40,000 college fees.

Unfortunately it was Labor Day weekend - one of the few 'Bank Holidays' in the States, so everything closed for 4 days, which we spent holed up in Bozeman, Montana, where there was nothing to do but go to the movies. After 2 days we'd seen everything that was on so we went out and rented a video player and a stack of tapes.

Eventually we rented a car, adjusted our plans and went via Salt Lake City to San Francisco and the Grand Canyon, and then spent the final two days driving non-stop through Texas and all the way back to Detroit.

More amazing times, great sights, amazing memories... but something had changed. I don't imagine either of us were the same after the buffalo - I doubt he was, either. It was an intense moment, a bonding experience, a unique story. Poetic. But prosaic. How quickly things change, or something like that. Looking back, it seems to make me sadder than it did at the time. I see in it more of a fatefulness than perhaps I did then.

Things change. Time goes on. You never know how lucky you are.

All great road trips are cliches, though, aren't they?
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 2:15, 18 replies)
Cracking story there chap.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 4:24, closed)
I like this

(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 5:40, closed)
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 7:45, closed)
i fucking love this.

(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 8:41, closed)

(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 8:56, closed)

I reckon this is probably the best-written post I've ever seen on here. More stories please!
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 9:55, closed)
More like this please
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 12:18, closed)
Very well written!
And a well-deserved click.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 12:53, closed)
So Jealous
Brilliant story, how they used to be before the "this didn't happen" briggade spoiled every single post and scared people off.

Well done
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 12:57, closed)
Good work with the keyboard there.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 13:10, closed)

Excellent, well done
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 13:27, closed)
Thanks for all the kind comments. Much appreciated.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 14:56, closed)
Great read.
Well told.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 14:57, closed)
do you ever still hear from Cal?

Also have a click
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 15:52, closed)
Yes, but...
...increasingly less frequently over the years. I've visited her a couple of times, she's been here once. We still call/write/send birthday gifts every once in a while.

It's a shame, she was - and is - a great friend, but it's difficult to maintain anything across the Atlantic. We often talked about how great it would be to live nearby so we could just meet up for a beer.
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 16:29, closed)
well this is awkward
i've clicked "i like this" so hard i've broken my mouse.

quality story. and i didn't see that coming!
(, Fri 15 Jul 2011, 23:09, closed)
Amazing story!
(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 10:02, closed)

(, Sat 16 Jul 2011, 22:55, closed)

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