Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the Road Again

Now that I’m off the campaign I’m back on traveling for pleasure instead of business.  My first trip is a big one.  Wednesday I flew back to Los Angeles.   I think the city didn’t want me to leave as much as I didn’t want to—it took me a full hour to get out with the giant knot of traffic  that was tying up the roads. 

The rest of California was pretty uneventful.  The buzz around the election was still audible.  I overheard the gas station attendant and an older African-American lpady debate where one could find a copy of the LA Times from the day after the election.  Apparently  peole were stealing them off neighbor’s lawns and copies were going on ebay for hundreds. 

The terrain grew less and less lush as I continued, until I finally hit Las Vegas.  Perhaps this place once held some kind of hedonistic charm back in the rat pack days, but today it looks like one big neon covered construction site.  I detoured off the highway to drive through the downtown and saw no less than 3 people getting arrested.  I also cruised by the Elvis chapel which was surrounded by an Elvis-dressing wedding party. 

I underestimated the toll that 14 hours of driving takes on one, especially after a 100 hour work week.  By the time I turned east toward the mountains in Utah, the sun was setting.  I had lost an hour with the time zone change and my eyes were growing weary.  I refilled my coffee cup for the 5th time, which wasn’t anything new since giving myself over to caffeine weeks ago.  It got really bad as the snow started.  The weather combined with the feeling that the curvy roads could send me off the cliff at any moment erased any of the relaxing benefits from the Korean health spa. 

When I made it to the resort I had missed most of the fun.  As I was dragging my suitcase to my condo I spotted several groups of drunk campaign workers stumbling back to their rooms.  So I did the same, snuggling up gratefully in my bed.

Keystone was more relaxing after 8 hours of sleep.  I spent my afternoon drinking a thick Malbec and floating around the hot tub.  That night I joined the party at a local Mexican joint, danced like crazy and rang up a modest tab.  One day in Keystone was definitely not enough.   Tucked in a nook in the mountains with steep, tree-covered slopes rising on every side, I felt worlds away from the suburban stretches of Colorado Springs.  Being surrounded by smart, political, hip people probably did just as much to ease the tension I had built up from canvassing ridiculous undecided voters and dealing with less-than-bright staff.

My early morning wake up shake was later than I wanted to get started, but probably earlier than my body could handle.  (I have to figure out how to kick this hang-over problem I’ve gotten in old-age.)   I picked up my dad at the Denver airport and after a brief reunion, we set out.  Colorado really is beautiful—both the mountains up close and the snowy caps in the rearview mirror. 

Nebraska is, well, beautiful for a time, but 8 hours of wheat fields can be tiring.  Our one detour turned out to be a big disappointment for Dad.  The Great Platte River Archway.   The Archway during the day, I imagine from the large parking lots and bus lanes, is swarmed by children and tourists coming to learn about all the folks that have traversed the Great Plains—from settlers to cowboys.  I had a feeling there was a reason all these travelers kept going, so we did too. 

We ended the night in Lincoln.  Seeing the state capital building glowing across the wheat fields, we headed to ‘downtown’ to the Haymarket.  I was surprised to see a gorgeous old renovated factory district.  It was a Sunday night so the bars were fairly deserted, but there was a trio of bustling coffee indy coffee houses.  After dinner it would have been nice to curl up in a comfy chair in one of them, but my eyes were so droopy by this point, that I don’t think even my beloved coffee could pick me up.    

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