I'm behind schedule and tired. And still here. I must be due for a site renewal soon. If the site goes down, it just means I've missed an email.

I was about to write that I've been driving through California's Inland Empire on the way to Oregon. That's partly correct, but I mistakenly thought the term applied to the great agricultural breadbasket that runs parallel to the California coast. Turns out it's the region adjacent to Los Angeles.

99 is a fast-moving, stressful drive. I saw a few wrecks and thought I was going to involved in one. This trip has reminded me that I no longer like driving or flying. I'm glad I didn't buy a van, an RV, or a Learjet during the pandemic. Hello, Credit Card company, can I raise my limit by a few million?

I hit a figurative wall in Sacramento. I would have liked to re-visit the city, but I'm behind schedule. It was refuel, recover, and rest time. Probably for the best. Arizona and California in the summer are dusty and hot as hell. I kept wondering what the actual numbers for Valley Fever are. I suspect the reported cases are much lower than the actuals.

I've been re-reading Kerouac's On the Road, and I think my 25 year old vs. Of a Certain Age old selves are out of order. At 25 I thought that as an aspiring adventurer, I really needed to dig the story. I think I did, but I know I also thought Sal had questionable taste in friends, they treated women terribly, and he should stop asking his aunt (in real life, mom) for $50 all the time.

Fast forward too many years - I'm glad I returned to this book. I might try to explain why in another post, but I'm too tired to attempt it now. My copy has an incredible introduction by Ann Charters. I often skip the introductions. Don't skip the Ann Charters intro. It's a 30 page grad school seminar on Kerouac and the book.

1949 America. The conversations are Shakespearean. I don't mean poetic (they're that, too). I mean that they sound almost foreign. I asked my parents recently if they thought today's lexicon and speech differed completely from the 40s - 70s. They answered yes, but it was a hmmm, let me think about it yes. I suspect it might be similar to the boiling lobster/frog metaphor (which is a cruel metaphor).

Kerouac describes people and places effortlessly. I don't know how he did it. Hitch-hiking, scrambling for cash, racing across the desert. And yet he saw it all. I've inadvertently retraced some of his California steps, but between Boron and Bakersfield, the most I got was Jesus Christ, where is the shade, and people drive really goddam fast here.

I had hoped to make it to Redding or southern Oregon, but I was exhausted and settled for making it past, ever so slightly, Sacramento. I stopped to check distances and hotels near the Sacramento airport and surrendered. I dropped my bags and headed for Applebee's, the only restaurant open. I'm glad it was.

I haven't been to an Applebee's in 25 years. 24 years ago I'm sure I was a city snob who said no way to Applebee's. That changed to not being around them and unfairly thinking it was all fried foods and wings. Yes, those are still on the menu, but the restaurant I went to tonight was a local tavern, doing what local taverns have done for thousands of years - providing a place to safely gather, talk, and break bread.

The bartender was tired and a little sad (her words). She and the servers knew just about everyone in there. I've become a big fan of caesar salads, so I ordered one to go. I just wanted to get back to my room. A group of four came in. Siblings or extended family (they made a casual reference to that). The oldest brother, sibling, or cousin exuded charisma. The bar was his court; the others would give him a hard time, but it was his court. He knew everyone at the bar, and he said everything for all to hear. 90% of the time, that bar guy is annoying as hell. Not so when a popular local figure is holding court.

He asked Karen "With the Great Hair" why she hadn't been into the restaurant (not Applebee's) recently. Karen was caught off-guard, even though the question was laced with faux malice. She pivoted.

You know what my absolute favorite thing is on your menu...it's...
...the margarita. You said it was the best margarita you'd ever had. And then you came into Applebee's the same day and said they made the best margarita you'd ever had. I have the video of you saying ours was the best. (again, faux malice)
You close so early!
We're open until 9. We have to close at 9 to make it here. Everyone knows Applebee's is the after hours party. This guy (gesturing at me) knows. He comes in all the time. Right? (gesturing at me again)
Yep, every day.
See you Friday, right?
Yep. Can you remind me how to spell the name again?
Sol.

Karen knew she was being out-flanked and laughed. She promised she'd be in on Friday when he'd be there.

I wish I could stay until Friday. I'd go. Sol. I did some internet sleuthing, but I'm not sure I've found the match. We have margarita and a group who occasionally spoke Spanish, so I've ruled out Vietnamese. But I'm not confident that I've found the place, so I'm not going to provide a link.

I was in that restaurant for about 30 minutes, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I stopped on the way back to the hotel and got two airplane-sized bourbons. I got out of my car, grabbed my $30 cowboy hat, stuffed the bottles into my back pocket, and walked into the hotel. A walking cliché, and a fraudulent one at that. I'm secretly hoping that someone will say, "You can't wear a cowboy hat and drive a Subaru." I have a lie at the ready. Oh, haha, I can see why you'd say that. I'm just visiting. I've got a big ranch in Japan. Kobe beef.

Subaru Cowboy. Song or band name?

Speaking of the Subaru, I think she's ready to get off the road for a spell. I'm not sure if it's common for 2014 Outbacks or just mine, but she leaks oil. I've been told several times by the dealer that there's nothing wrong. But the oil light always pops up on long road trips, and it looked like there was oil around the...oil thing. Thank goodness for the Loves and Pilot truck stops. Usually I have to grab a this'll do in a pinch 5W something, but the Loves/Pilot (I think Loves) had the one the manual recommends. Their bathrooms even had GOOP, the abrasive hand cleanser. Love that stuff. My grandfather and dad always had that in the garage. Liquid sand-paper.

Hearing a few that sounds ominous rattles on the Subaru. That's the extent of my car knowledge - hmm, that sounds ominous. Just need to get to Portland without this turning into The Oregon Trail.

I'm one night away from Lifetime Silver Elite with Marriott. They stuck me in the room right next to the elevator. I thought that was pretty funny...loyalty! To be fair, I couldn't hear the elevator, the parking lot was packed, and I'm always grateful for a roof over my head. Wasn't so thrilled with the gymnastics squad in the room above me, though.

I've been fixated on the drought(s), heat, and wild fires. TB, that closed system sure makes a lot of sense to me. The water is decreasing, the temperatures are rising, and the number of people and demand are increasing. The math seems worrying. I've taken a lot of screenshots recently of front pages - so many heat and drought articles. I was going to post some of them, but it's late, and you don't need me to be a second Google.

I hope you're all doing well.