Driving to San Francisco

Woke up at 6:30am because of rain pounding on the window. Was a little surprised since I didn’t remember rain being in the forecast this week. I got up to start packing for my trip to San Francisco and the downpour continued. Then I got a surprise – thunder and lighting. Not wimpy thunder, either. Super loud, house-shaking thunder. It ruled. In my 2 – 3 total years of living in Oregon, I’ve never heard a thunderstorm here. I seriously didn’t think they existed here. Soon after that it started hailing and the power went out 3 times.

I got everything packed and was on the road by 7:30am. And I was quite disappointed to find the donut shop closed. I had to settle for some gas station powdered donuts. The trip was uneventful and traffic was light until I got into San Francisco. There was a wreck I had to maneuver around right before I crossed a large bridge. After that, about 5 motorcyclers flew past me going way too fast. Just a minute later one of them got into an accident ahead of me along with 3 other cars. I passed right next to the motorcycle and it was really fucked up.

I continue on, past the wreckage and I see the other 4 motorcyclers stopped in the left lane, looking back. Finally they decide to just wrong way on the bridge to get back to their friend. So they all pass me going in the wrong direction. Guess I can’t blame them, though.

Made it into San Francisco and found the hotel easily enough. I can’t check in until Jammie gets here and I think she’s still a few hours away from here, driving up from L.A. I took a walk around the neighborhood for awhile, ate at a diner and now I’m in the hotel’s lobby, catching up on emails and LJ.


8:30am EST: On a plane to Chicago right now. Had to get up at 5am this morning to make it to la guardia by 6am. Jammie made me breakfast – pancakes and scrambled eggs – then took me to the airport.

I’m listening to lots of lame podcasts that I downloaded last night. Right now its the Mary and Karla Show. Before that it was 3 episodes of Digital Flotsam which were all great. Been downloading lots of random podcasts this week to listen to on my train rides to the city. Last week I listened to a group of nerds obsess over Harry Potter movies and theorize over all
kinds of mundane details on Mugglecast. I like Harry Potter but not enough to put that much time and thought into it. Also listened to lots of RBPC (Really Bad Podcast). This is all much more entertaining than the old 1940’s radio plays I downloaded for the plane ride to NYC.

Apparently I get the kids immediately after arriving home tonight, all weekend, all day Monday (no school) and Tuesday morning. Which is nice since I’ve really been missing them the past couple weeks.

Jammie has gotten me completely addicted to American Idol over the past week. This season started last week and we watched all the episodes. I think this will be the first network TV show I’ve been into since the late 90’s. Last show I remember being into was The Pretender. Jammie’s most frequent quote during the shows: “You know that guy is on your forums.” Every time some weird spaz was auditioning.

Captain just announced 50 minutes until Chicago. Now on episode 14 of Mary and Karla.

12:48 EST: After 90 minutes in the airport, now on my way to Portland. Four hour flight. Started reading The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain which Jammie found at a street vendor for me the other day. Already halfway through it since it’s very short. Reminds me of Stephen King’s Needful Things.

Colleen wrote me another email during my layover, asking if I could take the kids until Wednesday morning instead. At this rate, I’ll make up my two weeks absence by the end of this week. So yay!

Just used my Pocket PC to search for other bluetooth devices in range. At least one person has their cell phone on. OMG FAA HAX!

1:15 PST – Made it to Portland. Sitting on a city train, waiting for it to leave for the Amtrak station. If all goes well, I should be in Albany within 3 hours. This day has gone by surprisingly fast. I finished the new Mark Twain book which was a really great read.

2:45pm PST – My Amtrak is running 90 minutes late, of course. Ugh… Saw a cool arcade a few blocks away. Might go there and play some games.

10:30 PST – Man, Amtrak SUCKS. When I got there and bought my ticket, I was happy that I arrived just 5 or 10 minutes before it was scheduled to leave. The guy told me that it was running an hour late. No big deal, I sat around outside and listened to some guy play his guitar for an hour. During that hour they added another 30 minutes. During the 30 minutes, they added another 45 minutes. During the 45 minutes, they added more time. Then more. Then they teased us by calling everyone up to exchange our tickets for boarding passes and had us stand by the door to wait for the train which would be there in about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes passes, they announce that it will be another 20 minutes. It finally left the station 3 1/2 hours after it was scheduled to.

The part that really sucked was the way they kept gradually increasing the delay time. If they could have just told me from the beginning that it was going to be 3 1/2 hours late, I could have found something fun in Portland to do for 3 1/2 hours. Instead I was stuck in the Amtrak station for 3 1/2 hours. Everyone I know who rides Amtrak has these insane delay experiences. Next time I take a trip to Portland, I’m looking into Greyhound. I should find that guy in the Albany Amtrak station and punch him for assuring me that Amtrak is rarely late, nearly making me miss my plane.

It took a little under 2 hours to get to Albany, which is the normal time by train. I started up another book, listened to more Podcasts and chatted on Yahoo for most of the ride. When we arrived in Albany it was drizzling a little and I couldn’t find my unbrella in my suitcase, so I quickly walked home. House was freezing, 55 degrees, since I turned the furnace off for my 2 weeks. Colleen brought the kids over. Stayed up for just a couple hours, watched some ALF, went to bed.

Pranked in Chicago

Got to the Chicago airport 20 minutes early. They didn’t have any food that I wanted so I settled for chips and cheese and Sprite. Pretty much every flight leaving Chicago was delayed by an hour or two, including mine. At some point I’m talking to Jammie when she gets a call from Nate, wanting to know what my flight number is. After I hang up with Jammie, I eventually end up calling the PLA Voice Bridge and hear Nate and Mgross (and somebody else I think) in a phone call with some airport lady, trying to contact me with some kind of an emergency. Something to do with my wife being pregnant and me being in Chicago to visit my girlfriend.

Eventually I get paged at the airport so I go to the desk and tell them that I’m Brad Carter. This really nice old man seems genuinely concerned and tells me that I got an emergency phone call from a doctor. He tells me the doctor’s name and asks if I know him and I tell him yes. The entire time, I’m on the bridge with my cell phone so everyone can hear me retrieving my message. The old man hands me a note, telling me my doctor’s name and the phone number to the bridge. He tells me good luck and that he hopes it all works out okay. I respond with something like, “Yeah, my wife, when she had her last baby she died so we’re hoping that doesn’t happen again.” Both the old man and the lady next to him give me an, “Oh my!” (or something like that) to let me know they understand what I must be going through. Then I walk away, leaving them to be confused about the statement.

So that was fun. Thanks for making my flight delay a little more interesting!

My flight finally left at 11:20 and got to NYC about 2 hours later. There was a big thunderstorm over the airport so they had to circle around a few times, waiting for the storm to pass which seemed to take forever. We landed at 3:00am. Here’s countykid’s take on last night’s events.


I just barely made my 1:30pm flight. Barely, as in running up to the gate, out of breath, just as they were going to close the door.

The Amtrak got me to the station around 12:15. Just 30 minutes late which wasn’t so bad. I resisted the urge to get into a taxi, and instead walked 8 or so blocks through Chinatown in the rain to the Max stop. By then it was 12:30 and it’s a 30 minute train ride to the airport. We arrived at the airport at 1:05.

I walked as quickly as I could to the security checkpoint, to find 3 horribly long lines. I picked the shortest one and spent my time sending nervous text messages to Jammie.

The line moved quickly enough, then the guy wanted to hand search my jacket pockets since I had so much weird-looking metal stuff in there. By now it’s 1:25. A text message from Jammie reads, “RUN!” So I do, carrying my shoes, laptop, jacket, backpack, suitcase, lucky bowling pin and my glow in the dark snorkle.

The overhead PA announces a final boarding call for my flight and thankfully tells me the gate number since I hadn’t managed to get that yet. Luckily it’s fairly close – gate A9. I arrive right at 1:30, the closest I’ve ever come to missing a flight.

I’m on the plane now and it’s 3:13 PST, drinking a Pepsi, bored to death but happy not to be stranded in the airport for the night. Only 2.5 hours til Chicago.

I skipped breakfast this morning and we didn’t even get pretzels or peanuts on this flight. I’m gonna be starving when we reach Chicago. Hopefully the bar there has decent food.

Train ride

So Vanessa set me up on a flight on a Friday the 13th AND on a full moon. If I still had life insurance, I might be suspicious. Pretty uneventful train ride so far. Lots of flooding in the scenery. Looks like we’ll be just 20 minutes late arriving in Portland. Hey, Mgross, I’ll be in Chicago for an hour if you’d like me to buy you a beer. Oh wait, Mgross doesn’t use LJ. He uses Cal’s.

Ugh, our train is completely stopped right now. Maybe we’ll be more than 20 minutes late. Ah well, I should still have plenty of time to catch the plane.


It’s a rare thing for me to have a “hectic” day but I think tomorrow will indeed be hectic. Or maybe just a little stressful. No, not stressful. Worrisome. Perhaps not so worrisome as …wait, yeah. Worrisome. Just for a few hours in the morning, then it worrisome is upgraded to just plain bored for the rest of the day. Assuming that I make it to my plane on time, that is.

So tomorrow I get up, get the kids ready for school and take them 30 minutes earlier than usual which is 8:30am. (School doesn’t start until 9:00 here. WTF.) Then I speed back home, park my car, get my suitcase and backpack and WALK to the train station. Probably in the rain so add an umbrella to that. Hopefully it’s just a drizzle. But it’s only maybe a 10 – 15 minute walk. I’m supposed to be at the train station at 9:15 but it doesn’t leave until 9:45 and I don’t have baggage to check.

I’m supposed to arrive in Portland at 11:45am and my flight to NYC leaves at 1:30pm. The metro train is 6 blocks from the Amtrak station and it leads right into the airport. It takes maybe 20 – 30 minutes to get from the metro to the airport. All this is pretty easy but my worry is that the Amtrak will get delayed. And if that happens, I’m pretty screwed. And Amtrak sure seems to get delayed a lot from what I’ve observed. There’s the el_jefe incident from last year and then Nate’s delays this year. I remember my trip from Portland to Texas 10 years ago was delayed consistently for the entire trip. The Albany Amtrak guy assured me today that this is a very reliable train. It’s only got a couple of stops along the way so there’s not much that can go wrong with it. And if it’s late getting to the Albany station, I can always just run back home, get my car and drive to Portland.

If I didn’t have the kids, I could just take the 6:30am train and have hours to spare in Portland. But since this is the last time I’ll see them for 2 weeks, I didn’t want to not have them here.

I got everything packed tonight and got my laptop all primed for the trip. The damn battery is dead again. I just replaced my laptop battery a little over a year ago and now it’s dead already. It holds a charge of maybe 5 minutes. My other laptop’s hard drive quit working last week. At least my Pocket PC seems to be doing well. I just realized today why I had problems with it on my last trip – I didn’t have the box checked in the options that told it to charge the battery via the USB cable. I ended up buying a Pocket PC battery that I didn’t need. But at least I have twice the Pocket PC power now. Both batteries are completely charged for the trip. I have no book to read for this trip.

Yesterday I did laundry. And I brought my laptop with me to help pass the time for an hour. That’s when I discovered that my battery wouldn’t hold a charge. As I came back into the laundrymat from the convenience store, some guy sees me and goes, “Uhh…is that your car out there? The white one with Illinois plates?!?” I’m thinking, “Oh shit, it’s got a flat tire or he’s smashed into it or something.” Turns out he just wanted to ask me what the weather was like in Illinois.

He got a call on his cell soon after that and he told me he was receiving harassing phone calls on his cell phone. He was waiting for them to call back just once more so that he could officially file a police report. He said whoever it was wasn’t blocking their caller ID. All ready to impress him with some elite phone company social engineering skills, I asked him for the number. Unfortunately it was a local land line and that billing office would already be closed. I put the number into my laptop’s phone book database but nothing came up on it. Right about then is when my laptop battery died. It’s probably a good thing that I couldn’t find any info, because this guy seemed a little crazy and I think it was just some lady who got a wrong number and he started yelling at her. That’s what I got from his story, anyway.

Moving to Oregon

Oct. 30th, 2005|12:36 am: Got up at 7:30 this morning, got everything left in the house packed and was on the road by 8am. Stopped at Angel Cream for donuts. Man, I’ll miss their donuts. Anybody who has not had Angel Cream donuts simply does not understand how great their donuts are. So I drove all day and it was very uneventful. Traffic was light and boring. A saw an 18-wheeler tipped over in Missouri in the middle of the road with all it’s contents spilled out of the top. I ate nonstop today – donuts, Fritos, Oreo Blizzard, Pepsi, water, Pringles. I was really tired for awhile in the afternoon so I kept eating in hopes of staying more awake. In the evening I finally stopped being tired.

I got about as far as I expected – Wyoming. Right now I’m pulled into a truck stop for the night. In fact, I noticed after I pulled in here that I’m at the exact same truck stop and in the same spot as I was earlier this year. It’s 37 degrees out right now but it doesn’t really feel that cold. The low tonight is supposed to be 35 and no snow.

I didn’t end up writing anything on my car window. I suck. Maybe I’ll do that in the morning. Tomorrow I expect to make it to Montana before stopping for the night. I think that’ll take me about 11 hours to get there from here. I think I’ve set a personal record for myself for the number of states I’ve visited in a single year. I’m not going to try and list them all, but I think I’ve been in 20 – 25 states this year. Maybe less, depending on which way I drove to Oregon and back earlier this year. I think also a record for the most vacations I’ve taken this year and the number of airports I’ve ended up at.

Time for sleep.

Oct. 30th, 2005|10:09 pm

That’s what I saw pretty much all day today. It was boring. I think I’ve made this trip by car 9 times in the past year and a half. Like, 5 times to Oregon from Illinois and 4 times to Illinois from Oregon. Or maybe it was just 7. Still a lot, though. Nothing interesting happened today. I ate lots of junk food and listened to lots of random radio stations and mp3s. Listened to lots of public radio and lots of religious shows. Those religious shows are like stand-up comedy to me. My phone stopped working halfway through Wyoming so I couldn’t talk to anyone without paying crazy roaming charges.

Stopped in a hotel tonight in Montana. I’ve got lunch with a friend in Polson tomorrow, then I’m going to Idaho for a day or two, then to Oregon.

Halloween Horror Night at Universal

Oct. 21st, 2005|10:50 am: I’m the middle of my 2 hour layover in North Carolina right now. I’m sitting in some airport bar called The Stock Car Cafe which appears to worship all forms of Nascar. This is my first time in this airport. I’ve visited a lot of airports for the first time this year – Salt Lake City, Kansas City, JFK, Minneapolis, Charlotte, San Francisco and soon Orlando. I guess most of my airport experiences were limited to the west and the south before.

Had to get up at 5:00 this morning to make sure I got to the airport on time. Got some Angel Cream donuts to eat on the drive there. Been a pretty uneventful trip so far, just reading more Mark Twain biography. Tried to sleep for some of the flight but that didn’t work too good so I resorted to reading again. Guess I should go find my gate now…

Oct. 24th, 2005|6:10pm: I’m sitting at my gate right now, waiting for them to start boarding our flight. There’s this guy a few seats away from me who’s playing all his voicemail messages on speakerphone at full volume. It’s really obnoxious. Funny thing is, he’s broadcasting the phone number and message of everyone that has called him to everyone in listening range. I can tell by the automated prompts that he uses T-Mobile. I bet I could easily SE his phone number out of the people that have called him, then SE his passcode from T-Mobile. Wonder how he would react to me playing his messages on my own speakerphone at full volume. Of course, that’s evil and I just wouldn’t do that.

6:30pm – Okay, on the plane now, waiting for takeoff. My weekend was great. Jammie and I just split ways since we leave from different terminals. Our friend yo_mama and his wife flew out too, so we all spent the weekend together. On Friday I met up with them, we checked into our hotel, ate steak, then picked up Jammie. We did the Halloween Horror Night thing on Saturday evening until 2:00am. Then Steak N Shake until 3:00am, then back to the hotel.

Jammie and I got up the next morning and spent some time in the various pools and the hottub. Then checked out of the hotel, checked into a new one, ate lunch at Carabbas and went back to Universal. Yo_mama & company had to leave after just one show (Terminator 3-D) since we arrrived kind of late.

Me and Jammie stayed behind and did a lot of the basic Universal-type things such as E.T, Back to the Future (I got a picture with a Doc Brown lookalike!), Men in Black, the earthquake subway ride, etc. I am now officially spoiled with the Express Pass which lets you cut in lines. We didn’t have them for Halloween Horror but we did for regular Universal. Never again will I not get them!

The park closed at 7:00pm and we caught a cab back to the hotel. This morning Jammie and I decided to get some breakfast at Dennys which was 2 or 3 blocks away. Normally this wouldn’t be such a problem but there was the outskirts of Hurricane Wilma passing through town. It had been storming all night and I thought it looked better outside when we left but I was wrong.

After just a few minutes our umbrellas were broken and, for the most part, useless . The wind and rain were really strong and we had to cross two busy highways. I think the entire walk/run took maybe 15 – 20 minutes and we were soaked and a little disappointed that Denny’s didn’t didn’t have electric hand dryers in their bathrooms.

We dried off, had some breakfast, filled out a few postcards and then TOOK A CAB back to the hotel. A few hours later the rain and wind disappeared and the sun came out. Jammie and I took a stroll around the huge hotel property for awhile, then got a cab to the airport. And that brings you to now – I’m in a plane and nearing the Charlotte airport. I did this entire entry with my Pocket PC’s on-screen keyboard. Impressive, eh? It’s actually quite speedy with its word-completion feature. Hopefully there aren’t too many typos.

One of the more bizarre things about the past 24 hours were our neighbors at the hotel. Our room had a connecting door with theirs and all they seemed to do were scream at each other and beat their kids. At one point we heard the dad (we assume) yell at a kid to stop crawling on the floor, lots of slapping, lots of crying, then the dad screaming at him to stop crying. Sheesh, poor kids. This went on all Sunday evening and today until we left. Luckily they slept at night. It must suck to be angry and screaming 24/7. It must suck even more to be their kids. You’d think people like that would eventually die of a heart attack from being so stressed out all the time. And to think, they were in a resort, likely on vacation. Wonder how pissed off and stressed out they get when they’re not on vacation.

Ahhhh, landed at last. Time to upload all this dribble while i wait for my connecting flight. Here are some pictures…

Our hotel room View from our balcony – the hotel’s atrium Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure show
Jammie – she’s not posing, she’s actually gripped in fear here Jammie holding a crocodile Forgot to mention the kickass present Jammie got for me from Ebay – a Mark Twain doll! Mark hung out with me all day.
Mark getting a little crazy after a few drinks Be somebody! First my name in the phone book and now this! At some hotel, while waiting for the water taxi to take us to Universal
Me and a Doc Brown Apparently this is the actual Delorean used in all the movies Me feigning genuine shock and surprise as a Delorean crashes through the wall towards me.
Me by the Universal globe Us and Jaws

Oct. 24th, 2005|09:04 pm: I think this flight attendant is either hitting on me or screwing with me. Before we departed she sat next to me and the dialogue went something like this…

“I’m going to sit next to this cute guy for awhile.”
“I’m not cute. I think you’re mistaken.”
“Oh, you’re cute. Believe me, I’ve seen some dogs get on this plane before and you’re not one of them.” (her rant actually went on longer than that but that’s the most I can remember.)
“Well, okay, you win.”
“You want me to bring you back some first class food?”
“Ehh, that’s okay.”
“How about some of their popcorn?”
“Nah, I’m really okay.”
“A cocktail?”
“Hehe…I’m not that much of a drinker. I’m pretty happy with the Pepsi and pretzels we usually get.”
“You don’t drink?? I like you even more now.”

Eventually she left to make flight announcements , but 30 minutes later she comes over, puts my tray down for me (seat in the middle since I have a whole row to myself), sets down a full can of Coke (as opposed to the half can we usually get), apologizes that it’s not Pepsi, and 2 bags of pretzels. It’s so nice to have a delusional flight attendent mistake me for cute and give me extra stuff.

Only 30 minutes or so left until St. Louis…then a 45 minute drive home to Alton. My house will probably be freezing since it’s in the lower 40’s out and I haven’t had the furnace on since last Spring.

Oct. 24th, 2005|11:30 pm: As I pulled up to the booth to leave long-term parking, I noticed the booth attendent was sleeping. I waited for a few seconds but she didn’t move. I revved the engine and she didn’t budge. She appeared to be in a pretty deep sleep, mouth hanging open and all that. It’s too bad they had the thing blocking me from leaving or I could have saved paying the parking fee. I tapped the horn a few times and she stirred. A few more taps on the horn and she finally awoke and took my money. One thing I didn’t think to do was take a picture of the sleeping parking attendent. Ah well…

Visiting Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri

Oct. 20th, 2005|08:33 pm: Yesterday I convinced Tami to spend an entire day with me, driving to Hannibal, Missouri and visiting all of the Mark Twain landmarks. I’ve been really itching to do this for the past week since I plan to move soon and probably won’t have many other opportunities to drive up there. So I got up around 7:00 this morning, went to her house and we started driving there. The drive was just under 2 hours from her house in Jerseyville. We took various highways through Illinois all the way up since there were no convenient interstates to drive on. Crossed the bridge and we were in Hannibal!

The first order of business was lunch since I hadn’t eaten anything since yesterday. We checked on a bunch of restaurants and settled on the Jumping Frog Cafe. Ate some sandwiches and read some brochures. A mere $8.00 each got us access to buildings all over downtown. Museums, inside Mark Twain’s house, inside Laura Hawkins house and other miscellaneous buildings that I can’t remember. We also went through a really lame (yet amusing) haunted house, we climbed 250 stairs to the lighthouse, hiked around the woods for a short time and then headed back towards downtown.

Stopped at an ice cream parlor for milkshakes and to fill out a bunch of postcards. I think we stopped by a few more places after that, then headed back to the car and started driving home. In all we spent nearly 4 hours in Hannibal and got to see a lot of things. We missed the tour bus since we were so busy with everything else but I don’t really think there’s much we didn’t see. I would have liked to explore the caves and the lake a little, but there’s always next time. I also really want to see the live show, where some actor who looks like Mark Twain does some of his old routines.

The weather was pretty nice for us. A little cold but no rain while we were there. As soon as we got out of town and on the road, it starts pouring. It keeps pouring for much of the trip home. We drove back home on the Missouri side of the Mississippi this time so that the drive didn’t feel like so much backtracking. Got stuck in rush hour traffic once we reached St. Louis which added an extra 30 minutes to the drive, but finally reached my house. Stopped in for a few things, then continued to Jerseyville to drop her off at home.

And that’s my day. I don’t think Tami was quite as into the Mark Twain stuff as me, but she says she plans to read his books again, now that she suddenly knows so much about him. Now it’s time to pack for Orlando which begins tomorrow!

Me standing in front of Mark Twain’s house. You have to wonder how such a poor family was able to afford that nice vinyl siding.
Mark Twain’s house as seen from inside Laura Hawkins’ living room window. (Laura was the inspiration for the Becky Thatcher character) Note how they painstakingly recreated a perfectly authentic-looking bad 19th century paint job on those windows!
Tami and I, in front of the lighthouse and exhausted from the 250 stair hike.
Stairs leading back to downtown.
View of the Mississippi from halfway down from the lighthouse.
I think that’s a Tom & Huck statue, next to the steps leading up to the lighthouse. We didn’t bother looking at it too closely.
I think this is the first Mark Twain Pepsi machine I’ve ever seen.
In the olden days, pay phones were made out of whiskey barrels. Red boxing them was an impossibility during those days.
This is the ice cream parlor that we filled out our post cards in. It took forever to get our drinks because of a wild band of Tennessee junior high school kids wrecking havoc inside.

Orlando weather

Oct. 19th, 2005|06:35 pm:

I’m not feeling too positive about my weekend in Orlando that begins in just a couple of days. I know it’s supposed to happen way south of Orlando, I just hope they don’t go closing down theme parks for our safety.

Clicking on the image above will take you to a page full of updated hurricane Wilma information.

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