Friday, November 30

Where the Clouds Take Their Places for You

Odometer: 17,457
Location: Los Angeles, CA
States Visited: Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California

Well, I made it to the Pacific again. I can’t believe this is the end of the season. As the Iron Bowl came to its close, I found myself melancholy at the thought of no more college football games. This new life for me has been every bit as exciting as I hoped it would be. I’ve made new friends, visited 43 states (and counting), and will soon have no more games to watch. I’m going to miss all the fans extolling the virtues of their schools, towns, and teams. Pretty soon there will be no new places to drive. And there’s nothing quite like the “yyeeEEAAAHH!” from crowds at a big third down defensive stop. I don’t know what I’m going to do in a week when this is all done. I’m certainly a changed man in many ways, and I know I’ll look back on these days with nostalgia and perhaps a bit of pride.

At least there is one game remaining. I left Lake Martin, AL with over 2,000 miles ahead of me. The initial part of the drive was a frustrating one. State roads in, out of, and through Birmingham featured many lights and stop-and-go traffic. It was an unfortunate reminder of my hated commute back when I made an honest living. Once free of Birmingham’s congestion, the interstates were smooth sailing, save a pit stop. It struck me that Mississippi is one of the slowest places on the planet. Both at the gas station and the sandwich shop, the customers, employees – heck even the gas pumps moved a pace far too leisurely for this city boy from the north. Perhaps with so many miles in font of me, I grew overly impatient, but I certainly didn’t expect to be in New Albany, MS for over a half hour.

When I visited my friend Rob in Charleston, he said he had a question for me that he assumed no one else had asked. His question: “What do you fear?” Astute as ever, Rob's query was a new one. It took a second to give him a response, but only a second. My greatest fear is getting into a horrific car accident. I’ve been lucky with weather, construction and all other traffic issues to this point, but that all evened out over my Arkansas leg. Mother Nature was delivering some much needed rain to the South, but the timing and velocity couldn’t have been much worse for me. I could barely see ten yards in front of me and the bumpy road was full of tractor trailers. I would have exited, but without any tail lights in front of me, I feared missing the off ramp. After two hours of white-knuckled, fearful driving, I made my Motel 6 in Russellville, Arkansas. Of course, as soon as I exited, the rain abated and the wet roads intimated a serene calm. Incidentally, long ago, I mentioned a shower that resembled a low-quality time machine. People asked for a photo which I neglected to take. I give you, the Time Machine 2:
Beam me up, Scottie

I made the mistake of allowing a very sick girl to serve me dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I asked, “Are you sick?” “Yes, I can’t even swallow.” I said to myself, “I’m taking my vitamins. I’m going to get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Ooops. Two mornings later, I was clearly coming down with a cold despite the fact that I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

But I chose to ignore any illness for at least 24 hours because my next stop was at The Grand Canyon. When I was 20, I spent a summer in the UK and visited Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher. I was blown away by their enormity and beauty. The Grand Canyon is a whole different thing. I can’t fathom anything on the planet that s better defined by the world “awesome.” When you first look at the canyon, you get the feeling that it’s looking back at you. It’s totally motionless and everything is quiet. But after enough time, you realize that it’s not doing anything. It just is. The Grand Canyon cares not of your worries, your life, or how your team fared in the Iron Bowl. It’s six million years old and will be here long after all of us are gone. Many tourists chattered loudly with one another while looking over the rim. It was wholly irritating. As I said, there is very little sound and no reason to shout. I met a man from Tyler Texas who was there with his wife. He spoke quietly of the awesome visage in front of him, “It’s amazing. You can’t put it into words, you can’t put it in a picture, you can’t capture it. Your brain’s trying to take it all in, you can’t even describe it.” I nodded, not wanting to break the silence. A moment later, he stated, “It’s eye candy, that’s for sure.” “No doubt,” I said.
Grade: A++

I took in as much pristine air as I could, knowing I was heading to Los Angeles, where I would be forced to fight my cold along with smog and cat dander. The drive from Arizona is all downhill and tranquil as can be. My friends who are putting me up are unfortunately out of town, and I quickly realized I know hardly anything about this city. No better way to experience it than to just get out there on my own. With one game to go, I’m staring my fatigue in the face, longing to be home and be finished. All I can say to myself is, Fight On!

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