November 28 -
Depart 6:00 am (Oakland) America West Airlines
Arrive 8:55 am (Phoenix)
Depart 10:02 am MST Northwest Airlines #264
Arrive 3:47 pm EST (Detroit)
Depart 5:15 pm EST Northwest Airlines #3058
Arrive 6:05pm (Toledo)
I have broken some personal records this week, in travel distance, time and patience. At the behest of my life long friend Steve, I left Oakland Airport to parts known. Toledo Ohio home of the Mudhens, Jamie Farr and Tony Packos Café, amongst others. Steve helped his mother relocate to Florida as the winters in Ohio can be harsh. My assistance is needed to help pack heavy items and help make the two day drive tolerable.
Three planes, three airports, and 9 hours of terminal education. Traveling up, down and across, it became a crossword puzzle of the physical. Airports spend a great deal of money on art and people rarely have time to see it. Friendly conversation can be found, but the risk is great as your temporary flying companion may be a rambler of the inconsequential, and less knowledgeable about the myriad subjects he or she projects than they assume. Patience Icarus, patience.
Lacking a window seat, I peer over my forced companion to take measure of the distance between me and the safety of mother earth. I am not a flyer, nor am I a white knuckler, but grounded, I certainly feel more at home. I can report no alien space craft, gremlins or unforgettable sunset in my semi unfettered view. My third plane to Toledo gained me a window seat during a clear night sky. A short hopper, twin engine vibration machine, gave me a front seat and window directly across from the right propeller and the unwanted but unavoidable visions of severed blades careening through my window and directly into its nearest target. Maria, our nice but English challenged flight attendant, flew through the in-flight instructions faster than the rotation of the spinning swords out my window.
Toledo was small airport, our landing was two points shy of smooth and mother never looked so good, even covered in tarmac and grey. My bag arrived mostly unmolested and sporting only two unrecognizable scuff marks, but still intact. Tired of sitting and too tired to stand without swaying, 9 hours after my departure I simply became with one with Steve's truck seat as we drove to his home in Ohio.
As with all real friends, it had seemed time had not passed and no bonds had been broken as we spoke of things then and now. The air was brisk but not intolerable. We ate, we talked, I showered, I slept and then an Ohio morning rose before me.
The next afternoon, Steve gave me the tour of Toledo and other cities and is good at telling bits of history about a place. We ate at Tony Packos but spent more time reading the autographed hot dog buns than we did fueling our heart burn generators with oversized, world famous chili dogs.
Arriving home we worked up enough motivation to start packing the truck and the U-Haul with household items, Momma Crowder’s Christmas decorations and Steve’s African hunting trophies. For those of you who have never been to Africa, take two North American Forrest animals, deer, bears etc. , and put them together to equal one African beast. The male Lion was the size of a large desk, stuffed in a prone position for all eternity.
We left on a crisp Thursday morning, a light covering of snow highlighted window seals and tree branches, small flakes drifted into my vision and disappeared. It is a long road to Florida from Ohio and with each pit stop and fill up, language inflections would begin to change. Occasionally I had to take assessment of my surroundings and remind myself I was still on the planet earth, as people would say things like “Thank you" and “Good morning" without provocation or asking for your credit card number. After three rest stops in Georgia, I found myself saying Y`all and I was quite A`ppalled.
We checked into a Hamilton Inn just in time to catch Bill O'Riely, but had trouble catching sleep in our first attempt. Forcing our brains to stay awake for 11 hours of driving was playing havoc with our body clocks. The complementary breakfast was quite good and the free USA Today helped pass the time as I read exerts from the worldly news.
Before I can continue with this traveling tale, I must report blight on the American landscape. A misguided, franchised, fascist, food trough known as Waffle House. It's black and urine colored fluorescent sign, with its undistinguished common font blots the happy traveler’s otherwise scenic view.
This bastion of baked, fried and boiled breakfast bouquets appears at every exit and sometimes even on opposite sides of the same direction opposed freeways. I will live a long and happy life if I never chance to see one again. Now, back to our tale of traversal. . .
The southern states must buy stock only in buffets as they seemed to be half of the culinary options available to a hungry traveler. We frequented these establishments twice on our voyage to the south eastern United States, and I was hard pressed to find someone smaller in girth than I am. I cannot completely blame them, the fried chicken was awesome, but another sign I was no longer in California is that whole butter, milk and other sundries were offered without any dietary restrictions.
Day two arrived and went, as we made our way into Palm Bay, Florida. The air and the view changed from rolling and green to nothing but green and flat. Subtropical and wet, Florida is liken to Fiji in the summer, or so I am told. After a day in this American paradise I began to long for stucco and concrete as every direction of vista provided me only green, green, and green. Finally we arrived at Mother Crowder’s home where I knew hugs and cherry cheesecake awaited me.
The housing prices are phenomenal, what would cost you ten years pay in California would cost you two in Florida, with a view and no alligator tax. Drenched in cherries and cradled in Graham, Mom Crowder’s cheesecake was superb. We ate, we talked, I slept and a sunny Florida morning rose before me. I heard creaks, cracks and groans, and my body had only made it to the bedroom door. Revel in thy youth Oman.
Tourist attractions hold no sway over me, I prefer to mix with locals and get a sense of how they live and possibly make long distance friends. But we did stop by the Ron Jon surf shop boasting its own indoor waterfall. Damn, these places can be craftily laid and planned to dull your senses and create a shopping urge.
I did have one desire while in this region of Americana, and that was to visit Kennedy Space Center. Baby this place is cool, a nerds delight to satiate any space flight dreams just short of shooting through the troposphere itself.
These may look like unused rockets to you, but actually they are time folding machines. Let me explain, as you approach the rockets and as they begin to grow larger in your vision, your age begins to reduce to previous numbers you thought forever lost.
In other words, the closer you get the younger you feel. The closer you get the more you remember watching Buck Rogers, and Star Wars and dreaming of your own rocket ship built to take you to the stars.
This was an eye opening journey, starting in California and ending only when I pass from this Earth. There were no perilous adventures, or flaming dragons along this long road to another ocean. I simply stepped out and put my foot on the road without expectation, but ended up on a different path in coming home. Thank you Steve, for your generosity. Thank Mom Crowder for the cheesecake and tell her I will return. I am forced to think and ponder what may be and will become. There is a catharsis in letting go of ones control and putting into a man made flying machine. There is a certain degree of stepping outside of one self. So I am to conclude and no longer to wonder what my epitaph will not read, and you may ponder the same. Will your tombstone say “He flew too high" or “He never spread his wings"?
I prefer “His feet never seemed to touch the ground. " More to come, years to go, always on my way to somewhere. . .
Dennis Sweatt, is a father of three, an artist, webmaster, sometimes writer, and single male living in California who plays harmonica in the shower when no one is home. Stepping foot on every sovereign U. S. state or province is just one of his lofty goals. His Blog is. . . http://ca2ohio2florida2ca.blogspot.com/