Thursday, September 29, 2005

Day 25 - Final thoughts

Day 25 – the final day – from Amarillo, where this Best Western is located in one of less-than-desirable parts of town. Come to think of it, when speaking of Amarillo, isn’t that redundant?
So why did I do this in the first place? One word sums it up: hatred. Well, gosh that’s harsh, so let’s go with extreme dislike. And the focus of such feelings? Airlines, airports and air travel. I can’t stand any of them, so I drove.
There was a time in this nation when it was exciting to fly on an airplane and those who worked for the airlines made it extra special. They made you feel special – from curb to seat. You were more than a customer; you were an invited guest and made to feel welcome. Meals were free and edible, personal needs were accommodated and everyone enjoyed themselves.
Today, you are just a number on a seat and nothing more. Personal service? That went out the window like Goldfinger in the finale of his fight with James Bond.
Airports are collectors of all things bad in society from oppressive security measures to being forced to congregate with idiot people (many of whom walk around talking to themselves wearing stupid Star Trek-like ear devices fit only for Vulcans). Delays are so common that ought to be the norm. God forbid that a plane should depart and land on time or that it should actually taxi directly to the gate instead of sitting for hours waiting for a parking space. Perhaps they all need those blue handicap placards.
Nothing is worth wasting precious time of life to be in an airport for any length of time or to be subject to the ill treatment of airlines. I especially hold plenty of wrath for American Airlines because the biggest carrier is also the worst. My prime example (aside from fares that are too high and AA’s role in the Wright Amendment) is that AFTER advertising how they retrofitted their planes to provide more legroom (it was small for pygmies), the company rescinded that directive and squeezed out the extra room for another row.
At 6-6 and more than 350 pounds, I simply don’t fit – no matter what. Buying the coach seat next to me does nothing if you can’t put your knees down from your chest.
Besides, as an old guy from a union town, American avoided bankruptcy on the backs of their employees while their executives continued to garner large bonuses. I don’t like it; I don’t like them: and I won’t do business with them … or any other airline. So I drove.
You might wonder if the added cost because of the ridiculous skyrocketing price of gas made driving unaffordable. I calculated the cost for the trip to Los Angeles and it was $214, which included (conservatively) two tanks in exploring the countryside. With one more fillup to go, I’m at $195 for the return trip, having done a little less exploring. The cost of a round-trip plane ticket might have been equivalent and there was always the chance that I would have had to pay double since I am so much bigger than the average bear. The cost of a first class ticket would not even come close to the gas costs.
I am comfortable with the decision and the whole trip. I just wore out at the end.
In the spirit of commenting about different eating experiences, I must mention a Southern California legend - Tommy’s Hamburgers – another one of Los Angeles’ unique fast food places that cannot be found outside the state’s borders. Although the menu is not as limited as In and Out, it does not carry many more items than our other new favorite joint.
And at Tommy’s, everything, unless told otherwise, comes with … chili. The standard one patty burger has chili, as does the double meat and triple meat, and the French fries and hot dogs.
The fries (sans chili) were disappointing, but the burgers offered a different eating experience. They were topped with lettuce (not shredded), slice of fresh tomato and pickle slices, not the jarred Vlasic kind.
Imagine if Whataburgers were chili burgers instead of mustard burgers. Perhaps they would be more worthy of their over-praise.
In New Mexico, the state franchise is Blake’s Lotaburger and, frankly, it was a whole lotta nothing, especially without a drive-through window. Fries were frozen and burgers lacked any kind of unique taste. However, when driving in the middle of nowhere, beggars cannot be choosers.
As I have written extensively, there is nothing wrong about driving out in the middle of nowhere. You get to experience the kind of magical moments that words can’t describe; yet the images are burned forever into your mind.
Along I-40, you get to see the unique mountain formation known as the Continental Divide. In New Mexico, it looks like a long series of squared-off mountains, magnificently painted in purples, browns and golds. On this morning, clouds topped the mountains like Reddi-Whip on a chocolate sundae and within them was a needed rain, hitting the ground like winning coins from a slot machine.
On my CD player was a song by Bruce Springsteen, a live version of “Human Touch,” one of my favorites by one of my favorites. To me, it was perfect.
Most of the trip had been a continuing series of such moments, sharing them with my wonderful wife and, in turn, sharing them through this blog. I hope it has been interesting reading and slightly insightful. I have been known to make some lucid statements from time to time in the same manner that a blind squirrel finds acorns from time to time.
But once upon a time, I used to be very, very good at this thing called writing. It earned me a less-than-modest existence (living would be a stretch) and I enjoyed sharing my thoughts with readers.
I hope you appreciated receiving it. I hope to share more thoughts in the future. Pass the blog to other people; it won’t be boring.
In the future, I’ll do it from my office, not the front seat.

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