On the Road: Looking at America Through a Layer of Filth, Grime and Bug Guts

The Beginning

Rain falls on a husband and wife, their tears fall to the ground. A train's smoke surrounds them. A sad song plays on the public address system. Which sad song? Take your pick, but pick the one by R.E.M. The Conductor barks, "All aboard!" The lovers kiss one last time. The train begins to pull away from the station. The kiss ends. The man runs to the train and hops onto the moving locomotive. The woman turns from the sight of her husband leaving. The man watches his lover disappear into the cruel distance.
Okay, that's not exactly how it happened, but you don't know that! You weren't there! Besides, as far as the movie going public will know that's exactly the way things happened when I left Durham, NC on June 2. In reality the train was a blue 1993 Saturn, the depot was an auto garage, the conductor was a mechanic and the train's exhaust was an angry mechanic's cigar smoke and he barked something along the lines of, "Hey, this is only ten 6 dollar bills, you owe me another 6 bucks!" The rest happened almost exactly like I said.

Bojangle's Cajun Chicken and BiscuitsAfter crying and driving for about thirty minutes, I made my first stop. I pulled off Interstate 40 in Burlington, NC and found a Bojangle's -- a cajun chicken and biscuit fast food joint throughout the south. I bought a large sweet iced tea. I was heading west and I knew that it was only a matter of days until I wouldn't be able to order that wonderful sweet nectar that flows through every southerner's urinary tract.

My second stop was Thomasville, NC. This was one of the several places that I called my hometown while growing up. I wanted to talk to an old friend of mine, my college roommate. We had some catching up to do, I needed to tell him about my move to LA and he needed to introduce me to his 3 year old daughter. You see, I used to think that an hour and a half drive was a chore and I let that hinder me from seeing more of my friend. Now, I know better. In LA, you can't get to your ear without it taking at least 20 minutes. My friend and I talked for a while and I got on my way.

I drove across town to see my first tourist sight of the trip. In the town square of Thomasville, there sits the world's largest Duncan Phife chair. People call it "the Big Chair". It goes well with the world's largest chest of drawers that is one town over in High Point. The chair is a symbol of the industry that has fed the people of Thomasville for many years -- the over sized furniture industry. The one thing you learn quick on the road is America loves to celebrate itself by building over sized objects. From Thomasville's Big Chair to the giant peach of Gaffney, SC, exaggerated objects stir American pride and lure the traveling public.

Thomasville's Big Chair

I rolled into Charlotte, NC at about 8pm and picked up my traveling companion, Wendell Black. You may notice a resemblance between my name and his, we share parents. We headed off to Asheville, NC for our first night's rest. But before we got far, we stopped for dinner. Now a general rule I try to follow while traveling is to avoid chain restaurants, or at least national chains. But I do make some exceptions, at least one meal of the trip I like to have at a place called Waffle House. Waffle HouseDon't confuse it with Pancake Haus, or French Toast Hut. You can find a Waffle House at about every other interstate exit in many states. It's open 24 hours so you always kind find a meal on the road. It's sort of a poor man's truck stop. The food may be a little greasy, but where else can you find a juke box with the "Waffle House Song".

Our dinner, was a wonderful meal of grease and oil, with a plate of fat on the side. I didn't know whether I should have the side of fat, but I was on the trip of a lifetime and I told myself to go for it. Myself argued for a while, but I reminded myself that I was driving and I would leave him stranded at this road stop if he wasn't careful. He reluctantly agreed to my dinner choice.

A few hours after dinner we stopped in Asheville, NC for a night of sleep. Lucky for us, our parents lived only a few feet away from where we stopped. Mom and Dad had a bed ready for us and we settled in for a short summer's nap.

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